Last week I arrived at my home a few minutes earlier than usual. My wife’s vehicle was in the garage, so I assumed she was home. As I walked into the house, the lights were on in the kitchen and I noticed her purse and keys laying on the counter. I knew she had taken our 2 year old son on a trip to Kansas City that day and had probably arrived just prior to me. My next thought was, why do I not hear my wife, my son or a TV on, or any noise in the background? I listened for a moment, and heard nothing. I called out, waiting for a reply… no response. I looked downstairs and noticed all of the lights were off. Doubting they were downstairs in the dark, I moved on, walking a bit more softly, attempting to listen more deliberately for some sound, indicating they were there. I looked up stairs, and no lights were on. I called out again, no response. I walked into our room, checked the bathroom, checked the closet, neither of them were anywhere to be found. With no noises, no responses and not a sign of them, I pulled my Glock out of the lock box and began checking the silent house room by room. I canvassed the house checking closets and utility rooms. I slowly made my way up the stairs, still listening for any sign of my family. As I rounded a corner in the upstairs, I found my wife quietly rocking my son in a dark, silent room. She looked at me like I was crazy for having my gun in hand. With a lot of animation but a soft voice, I asked her why she had not responded. She countered with as much animation she had not heard me call out. While having my handgun in-tow might seem as an overreaction (debatable), I was using a technique called “pattern matching” when I observed something was different in the house when I arrived. I actually didn’t even realize it until reflecting back on that home search days later. I expected my environment/home to appear and sound like it did every other day I had arrived there in the past. But this day, it sounded and appeared differently. I was so familiar with my home, when something was out of place or missing, I easily noticed. However, if a stranger, law enforcement officer or highly trained security expert walked in my house, they would not realize the silence and the lights off were “odd”.
A lot of research has been conducted to uncover what a “gut feeling” actually is. Moments leading up to an emergency, many people experienced a “gut feeling” or had the sense that something wasn’t right, out of place, or unusual. Many of these “gut feelings” are attributed to pattern matching. Pattern Matching is an individual observing the everyday environment they interact within, like a classroom, has been modified in someway. For example, an unfamiliar bag is against the wall, a stranger who seems out of place is acting differently than expected, or students discussing something that sounds out of place. These are immediate clues teachers, administrators, employees and/or students can investigate or communicate to emergency response or administration much more quickly and more accurately than law enforcement or security experts can. Individuals and organizations trained to deal with these threats do not have the daily experience in our classrooms, hallways or offices to recognize the “odd” or the “out of place”.
One of the most effective ways to thwart or stop an emergency event in your school or work is to stay aware of your environment and to pay attention when you “feel” like something is out of place or not right. Often, your mind is using its sophisticated processing power to tell you that it “sees” something off or wrong.
For more information on “Pattern Matching” I recommend the book: Staying Alive by Safe Havens International, Inc. written by Michael and Chris Dorn.
SOS Systems manufactures and sells a patent-protected, active-shooter interior door security device. It stops, slows and/or thwarts active shooters from access classrooms or offices or any other type of room. For more information how you can protect your employees, staff and students, click here. or call us at 660.227.1123.