Preventing Future Tragedies: A Call to Action for Youth Program Emergency Preparedness

Recently I’ve been getting asked a lot about youth sports programs and coward shooters. In case you’re not familiar with our naming convention yet, we refer to “active shooters” as coward shooters- because that’s what they are.

 I digress, parents, school administrators, and youth sports programs supervisors are concerned about the safety of these kids trying to live positive and happy lives. They are worried someone from the outside might view them as a vulnerable target and inflict massive harm and tragedy by opening up fire at a sporting event.

 So, I have designed framework specifically designed around keeping kids safe while attending youth sports programs.

 Keep in mind, this is a responsive framework, not a preventative one. Unfortunately, external coward shooter threats are a much larger problem at whole, however, by controlling what we can (our response to external coward shooters), we can keep ourselves as safe as possible in these rare, but very real situations.

 In order to keep youth sports as safe as possible we must concentrate our efforts and focus on providing a training framework for the on-site leadership of the youth sports programs- the coaches and youth mentors.

 A couple questions that also need answering are:

–       What do we want to train them on?

–       How do we train them?

–       How do we test/ certify them?

 While all of these are very valid points I’m going to briefly focus on the, What do we train them on answers.

 Here is a small list and guide framework on what we should be training our youth mentors and supervisors on.

 Also bear in mind, you must hire an expert at this stuff! Not just anyone otherwise the effects will be even more catastrophic in the event of a tragedy.


We hear about “situational awareness all the time, but what does that really mean? It means breaking down 3-types of Potentially Harmful Behaviors (PHBs).

–       Obvious

–       Anomalous

–       Nefarious

By teaching people how to identify these specific Potentially Harmful Behaviors we are giving everyone on site a frame of reference as to what exactly it is they should be on the lookout for, how they can confirm it, and what they do to intervene properly so it doesn’t make a scene.


First Aid

Knowing how to stop a bleed, provide effective CPR, or handle a heat casualty is just great knowledge to know for life in general. Giving the program supervisors the ability to perform these skills pays a lot more dividends than just in times of crisis.

 If they already are certified, then great, let’s take that training up to the next level! You can never go too hard when training for first aid especially when it has so many ancillary benefits to an organization’s kid safety.

 4 Cardinal Direction Rally Locations

Due to the dynamic nature of coward shooter incidents, it is important that we have places to go in each cardinal direction. Having pre-designated rally locations about 200-500 yards away from the field the youth sports are being used on is critical, so our kids know where to go when they get separated from their group and coaches.

 I know what you’re thinking… Only 200 yards away? Yes, that CAN serve as a very effective distance for a rally location. Not always, but sometimes.

 Public Message To Parents On What To Do If They Get Notified Of A Tragedy

Having a public affairs message to send out to the parents is imperative to prepare, respond, and recover from a tragedy.

 Inform the parents that you have a great plan in place, that you consulted with an expert, and that they should do x,y, and z if they are ever notified of a tragedy. Not only will you make the parents feel good about the proactive measures you are taking, but they will also have a very specific set of instructions on what to do if ever notified of a tragedy which will contribute to everyone’s safety.

 Notification System

Informing parents and stakeholders about incidents as they are unfolding is incredibly important to everyone’s safety. How do we accomplish this? It’s easier said than done.

 Since cell phone towers can only pass so much information at once, it’s important to have contingencies in place to notify anyone who may have a loved one on site. Not only will this give clear guidance to stay away, but it will also let them know where they need to go to reunite with their loved ones.

 Accountability protocols

Having efficient accountability protocols in place can save lives. Giving your team the ability to take roll call proficiently can literally save the life of anyone wounded and out of sight.

However, there is a specific way this gets done so that there is no one left behind.

 Firearms Training

Some people might suggest this is controversial… Firearms training for coward shooter preparedness?!?

 And my answer is yes…

 There are many reasons behind this but just to hit the wavetops…

 Firearms training educates people on how they work, their effective ranges, gives them the confidence to handle one if they get a hold of it, and it also just allows us to think more clearly under times of confusion and stress.

Knowing how to handle firearms is a very precise skill that requires clarity of thought while being a little nervous. Fortunately, this is easy to develop and it ultimately will pay huge benefits if chaos ever strikes at one of your events.

The Southern Cross Safety Formula

What we believe is the number 1 thing you can be teaching your staff and mentors about coward shooters is, The Southern Cross Safety Formula.

Distance = Time = Safety

When caught in a coward shooter incident you must remember this. The farther you get away from the shooter, and the more time you can offset yourself from the shooters time at a location then the safer you will be!

Get far away, fast, and stay far away from the shooter and they cannot shoot you!

However, when corralling kids with you along the way, it must be done very specifically to maximize everyone’s safety.

This is a quick framework and not an in depth solution. I leave a lot of questions open and on the table here, but this is designed just to give you a very basic idea of what to consider when creating an emergency preparedness program for coward shooter’s at a youth sports event.

 Take care, stay safe, and Always Be Kind!

Joseph Malone

In the world of personal safety, sharp instincts and acute situational awareness aren’t just important; they’re lifesavers. While training and experience play a role, there’s a neural guardian, quietly and consistently working in the background, that deserves our attention: the Reticular Activating System or RAS.


The Neuroscience in Brief

Imagine a bustling airport. Hundreds of announcements blare over the intercom, travelers chat, and footsteps echo. But amidst this cacophony, when the last call for your flight is announced, your ears magically pick it out. That selective attention? Thank the RAS.

Our brains are bombarded with sensory information every second. The RAS, nestled within the brainstem, acts as a vigilant gatekeeper, deciding what gets our attention and what remains background noise. Think of it as the brain’s radar, finely tuned to pick up on relevant stimuli.

Illustrative Example: A Marine on patrol in unfamiliar territory doesn’t just scan the landscape. He is tuned into specific cues – a rustling bush, an odd footprint, or the unusual silence of birds. His RAS, shaped by training, primes him to detect these anomalies, ensuring his safety.


A Story of Keen Awareness

Meet Maya. A college student, she often studies late at the library. One evening, as she walked back to her dorm, she felt an eerie stillness. The regular evening sounds seemed muted. Many would attribute this to mere intuition, but it was her RAS at work.

Two days prior, Maya had attended a personal safety workshop where she learned about being more observant of her surroundings. This training had unintentionally “programmed” her RAS to be more attuned to environmental anomalies.

Walking past an alley, she caught a faint shadow moving against the dim light. It was irregular, unlike the usual dance of tree branches. Her heightened RAS signaled this as important, pushing it to her conscious awareness. Instead of dismissing it, Maya chose to change her route, later learning that another student had been mugged in that very alley shortly after she’d passed.

It wasn’t just luck that saved Maya. Her RAS, fine-tuned by recent safety training, played a pivotal role.


Tying it all together

In the high-stakes world of a Special Operations Marine, a sharp RAS is indispensable. But even in our daily lives, understanding and honing our RAS can make the difference between obliviousness and keen awareness, between danger and safety. Every experience, every piece of knowledge, contributes to programming our RAS. So, invest in your safety; feed your RAS the right information. Like the most advanced radar system, it will watch over you.


Priming the RAS – Cultivating Awareness Without Fear


Understanding the RAS is only half the battle. Now, let’s delve into how to prime it effectively, ensuring it works for us, not against us. The goal is to cultivate an alert yet calm mind.


Step 1: Educate Yourself

Awareness starts with knowledge. Attend personal safety workshops, read books on body language, and learn the basics of human psychology. This knowledge becomes the data your RAS uses to identify potential threats.


Illustrative Example: Knowing that someone frequently touching their face or avoiding eye contact might be signs of deceit can prompt your RAS to alert you when it happens in real-time.


Step 2: Environmental Scanning

Regularly scan your surroundings. It’s not about being suspicious of every person or thing, but more about understanding the norm so anomalies stand out.


Step 3: Role-playing

Mentally or with a group, simulate scenarios and work on your responses. Over time, this ‘rehearsal’ refines your RAS, making your reactions to real situations swifter.


Step 4: Mindfulness Meditation

Engage in mindfulness exercises. These train you to stay present, making your RAS more effective in sifting through current sensory data.


Step 5: Reflect and Debrief

Review situations where you felt uneasy or where your RAS was triggered. Was there a genuine concern? Why? Reflecting helps you recognize patterns and calibrates your RAS more finely.


Awareness vs. Paranoia

Now, an important distinction: Priming the RAS for safety isn’t about inducing paranoia. Instead, it’s the difference between walking through a garden and knowing which plants are poisonous versus fearing every plant you see.


A well-tuned RAS provides peace of mind. You’ll trust your ability to detect anomalies, which inherently calms the subconscious. The body’s autonomic nervous system, responsible for our fight-or-flight response, is soothed when the mind is confident in its ability to discern threats. With trust in your tuned RAS, the autonomic system doesn’t need to be in a constant state of high alert.


In Conclusion

Life is a balance of vigilance and relaxation. With a properly primed RAS, we can stride confidently, knowing our internal radar is ever-watchful, but only raising the alarm when

necessary. Far from inducing fear, a sharpened RAS grants us the serenity of preparedness.


Don’t Let Your Students Suffer From A Lack Of Decisive Action

Rediscover Excitement In Your School And Take Proactive Measures With Experienced, Educated, And Empathetic Professionals

The Real Cost Of Procrastination Is The Constant Presence Of Fear, Worry, and Anxiety. Uncertainty in your school’s safety erodes away at its ability to transform lives

Everyday your school goes without a universally accepted violence prevention program is a day that your staff, and subsequently your students, lack comfort and confidence. Eliminate this subsurface level of fear and discomfort so your teachers can focus on teaching and your students can focus on growing.

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Every day, educators and staff in our schools face the daunting challenge of keeping our students safe.

But what if there was a way to empower those on the front lines of violence prevention with the tools they need to make a difference?

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Surviving An Active Shooter

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