El Paso: Hope Amid Chaos

Recently America experiences a weekend was filled with horror, death, fear, anxiety, panic, and dread as news spread of the El Paso shootings and the second shock of the shootings in Dayton.

Even as this tragic news was breaking, I was anticipating being called to respond to the tragedy in El Paso. Early Sunday evening, I was asked to head to El Paso early Monday morning as a Grief Counselor for a business that was directly impacted by this tragedy. I chose to focus on El Paso, because I was there.

In those two days, I talked with 21 people who were directly affected by this event. Some had lost friends and family members, others had experienced prior violence. All were nearly immobilized with fear, and others were angry.

This article is a direct result of the freshness of this week’s response as well as 150 plus responses to disruptive workplace events in my work as a Crisis Response Specialist.

With that in mind, I want to share some practical steps you can take to deal with some of the potential toxic emotional aftermaths of such a horrible and tragic event.

When any mass shooting or act of terror occurs, it is reasonable to feel anxious, scared, and uncertain about what the future could bring. With time and appropriate attention, these strong, sometimes immobilizing fears, thoughts, and feelings can begin to fade as life begins its return to a new normal.

Returning to a New Normal

You can accelerate the process by doing the following:

• Limit media exposure! On a practical level, the half-hour evening newscasts will give you enough information to stay current. There is little added value to hearing the 24-hour pundit input.

• Ignoring your feelings about the event will dynamically impair your recovery process.

• Talking about what and how you are feeling may be difficult, but it will help you and others heal.

• Being proactive about you and your family’s situation and well-being (rather than passively waiting for someone else to help you) will help decrease the feelings of powerlessness, anger, anxiety, and vulnerability. Focus on anything that allows you and your family to feel safe, calm, and secure.

Recovery Tips

• Re-establish the routines of your personal and family life.

• Connect with others in your neighborhood, workgroup, and place of worship. For those who exercise spiritual discipline, one of best practices to enhance your recovery is to regularly attend worship services and be a part of a small group.

• If you work a regular 9-5 job, there is a strong possibility that you have an Employee Assistance Benefit which provides free, short-term counseling for you and your family. Be sure to check with your HR department or the benefits link on your company’s website.

• Challenge any thoughts of helplessness.

• Minimize media exposure

• Make stress reduction a priority.
• Get out and exercise.

Tips for Helping Your Kids Cope

• Provide your kids with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they may be feeling.

• If you don’t know the answer to a question they might have, don’t be afraid to admit it.

• Restrict their exposure to media.

• Remember, children often personalize situations. They may worry about their safety or that of their family, even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure them and help them understand the situation in context.

• Watch for the signs of stress: crying, insomnia, tummy aches, excessive fear, and worry.

Moving Forward

Humans are designed to be resilient. In several studies, resilience and post-traumatic growth and hope are three of the critical components of healing as well as personal and spiritual growth. By resilience, I mean the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.

While we are still reeling from the events of the first week of August, I can tell you based on my years of work in the field that we as individuals, families, and Americans will honor the dead, and care for those who are injured with both visible and invisible wounds. Also, we, as a nation of immigrants (my ancestry is Northern Western European, Wales, and England) will support each other and experience positive, post-traumatic growth.

One of the most important things we can do in the days and weeks ahead it to comfort, console and encourage each other.

This passage from the New Testament Book of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 have helped people for over 2000 years. Take a moment and read it for yourself.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

A Personal Note of Preparedness

These are dangerous times in our country. I thought long and hard about adding this portion, and I would never want to promote fear, I do want to be crystal clear about what I am about to say.

The best way to overcome fear is preparedness.

Many of you have been through Active Shooter Training at work. The Department of Homeland has a great link and a 90-minute training film that, in my opinion, is worth the time to view, whether you are a private citizen, and small business owner, or a part of an international organization.

You should know the drill by now. Flee if you can. If you cannot flee, Hide. If you cannot hide, Fight. I would add a fourth: know how to stop the bleeding. Incident after incident reveals that if a person does not immediately die from a gunshot wound, they will most likely bleed out.

Apart from these national tragedies, you and I still need to know basic First Aid, this video from FEMA is an exceptional training video on how to Stop The Bleed or hemorrhagic control.

If you are authorized to carry a concealed weapon legally, are you proficient in your use of arms? Are you prepared to engage the shooter if that is your final option? If you choose to carry these are some of the serious things you need to consider.

A few days after these mass shootings, an off duty firefighter who was authorized to conceal and carry a weapon stopped an armed individual outside a Walmart in Missouri.

The day of the shooting in El Paso, a young soldier, who is authorized to conceal and carry a weapon, drew his pistol and helped rescue several children when he heard gunfire; unfortunately, he lamented that while he asked people to help him evacuate the children, only one other man helped out. In my opinion, he is one of many heroes that day in El Paso—men and women who ran toward trouble rather than away from it. God bless our First Responders.

There will be lots of lessons learned from these recent tragic events.
While many will attempt to use these events as political currency, why don’t you and I, regardless of politics, socio-economic background, ancestral heritage pull together and do what we can to make this country and this world a better place to live.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I’d like to take a quick trip down memory lane to some truths and principles that we need to remind ourselves of.

As a former Boy Scout, the oath and creed I learned as a boy is in my mind me today. For those of you who grew up in the Scouts, remember it with me.

Scout Oath

On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law

The Scout Law has 12 points. Each is a goal for every Scout. A Scout tries to live up to the law every day. It is not always easy to do, but a Scout always tries.

A Scout is:

TRUSTWORTHY. Tell the truth and keep promises. People can depend on you.

LOYAL. Show that you care about your family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and country.

HELPFUL. Volunteer to help others without expecting a reward.

FRIENDLY. Be a friend to everyone, even people who are very different from you.

COURTEOUS. Be polite to everyone and always use good manners.

KIND. Treat others as you want to be treated. Never harm or kill any living thing without good reason.

OBEDIENT. Follow the rules of your family, school, and pack. Obey the laws of your community and country.

CHEERFUL. Look for the bright side of life. Cheerfully do tasks that come your way. Try to help others be happy.

THRIFTY. Work to pay your way. Try not to be wasteful. Use the time, food, supplies, and natural resources wisely.

BRAVE. Face difficult situations even when you feel afraid. Do what you think is right despite what others might be doing or saying.

CLEAN. Keep your body and mind fit. Help keep your home and community clean.

REVERENT. Be reverent toward God. Be faithful in your religious duties. Respect the beliefs of others.

Maybe we should thinks about what it would be like if we took some of these principles and integrated or reintegrate them into our live.

What if we spend less time in the blush’s screen and more time looking into each other’s eyes as we talk and live out lives.

Ancient Wisdom on day-to-day living:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15 NLT

Ancient Wisdom on dealing with fear.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified

Live in Grace and Peace
John

Blessings,
John

Crisis Leadership & Mass Shootings

To me, this image is the most powerful photo from the high school shootings in Florida, a mom, most likely a Roman Catholic who received her ashes earlier in the day is shown both terrified and comforting as she and others attempt to grasp what is unfolding.

How many of you asked yourself something like, “What would I do in a situation like that?” Here are some tips that I have learned over the years in my work as an International Crisis Response Specialist.

Crisis leadership is more about who you are than what you know.

I am deeply saddened and angry over the shooting that occurred yesterday in Florida. In my work as a Crisis Response Specialist, I have been involved in helping people directly impacted by school shootings, workplace violence, and natural disasters. Having lived in my adopted home state of New Mexico, I have seen, smelled, and have sat with victims, survivors, and first responders as they have shared their stories with me. In the days and weeks ahead many of my friends and coworkers in this unique line of work will be doing the same with victims, survivors, families, firemen, law enforcement and other individuals impacted by the horrific event. I would ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers also.

Over the next several days, let’s not get caught up in all of the political frenzies of this shooting, instead, let’s talk and listen to each other. Let’s comfort one another, pray with and for each other, and grieve this loss together.

The next portion is part of a training program that I provide business leaders regarding Disruptive Workplace Events. I hope you will take a moment to absorb it, and apply it where you need to.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic crisis leadership involves high-leverage skills that are vital to corporate recovery in the midst of a crisis of any sort. To be a crisis leader, you need to have the following skills:

  • Define the event beyond the obvious
  • Anticipate the impact on stakeholders
  • Assess the effect on core assets
  • Forecast the intended and unintended consequences of decisions
  • Follow the values and guiding principles of the organization and your ethical standards

Basic Components of Crisis Leadership

Three necessary components of leadership:

Be is all about who you are.

Be caring.

Be calmly assertive – when calmness is not maintained in the fast moving a chaotic of a crisis, a combination of frustration and a need to either dominate or avoid will tend to show up.

Know is about the skills and knowledge you have to acquire.

You must have a vision and know the values of your organization for crisis resolution. It is essential to understand your vision, values, and guiding principles of your organization who you are making decisions.

Do is about the actions you take.

With the core vision, values, ethics, and guiding principles of your organization act in a timely and decisive manner.

Keep communication channels open. Listen carefully and accurately, communicate, accurately, and in a timely fashion.

Five Principles of Crisis Leadership

  1. The well being of people first, with care and compassion.
  2. Assume appropriate responsibility for managing the crisis.
  3. Address needs and concerns of all of the stakeholders. (Know who they are)
  4. Make all decisions and actions on honest, ethical and legal guidelines.
  5. Be available, timely, in communication with all parties.

In a nutshell, an effective crisis leader must act deliberately, quickly, efficiently, and ethically with correct and high moral values.

How can you do this? Have a CIA mindset

C – Core assets-people, reputation, finances

I – involved stakeholders – all stakeholders who could be harmed (real and perceived)

A – anticipation – pray it never happens, but prepare as it will

Four ways you will get the news

  • Personally involved
  • Near but not on site
  • Remote from the incident
  • Social Media, which is becoming the new, unfiltered prime source

Four Questions you have to ask as an event unfolds.

  1. What happen?
  2. How bad is it?
  3. What is being done?
  4. What is the potential for escalation?

Psychological First Aid for leaders

  • Account for everyone and assess immediate needs
  • Establish calm and order and minimize confusion
  • Protect personnel from further exposure to traumatic sights and experiences.
  • Make contact with victims, witnesses, and others that might be experiencing traumatic stress reactions. Listen to and assist with their concerns.
  • Help meet needs during the event and the early aftermath-from contacting loves ones to finding lost phones.
  • Maintain timely and open communication.
  • Have a buddy system in place for your leadership team.
  • Your Employee Assistance Team in as your Grief Counselors, they have the training and experience.

Lessons from Church and School-Based Incidents

  1. Police will arrive first, make sure you and your team remember that the police will not know who the good guys or the bad guys are. If you have a weapon, put it down, and make sure your hands are visible and your movements are slow.
  2. Media will be right behind the police. As a good rule of thumb, in the immediate aftermath of an event, say nothing to the reporters, and encouraged those involved in the incident to do the same. As a leader, what you say to the press and the police could be used as evidence in any future legal proceedings. It is wise to have an attorney present during all questioning, both in there immediate aftermath of the event as well as during any later follow up. Only when such legal advice is present should statements be made.
  3. You will be inundated with spectators, media, and family members.
  4. Police and first responders, including trained chaplains will be on the scene relatively quickly. Many states and large hospital teams may be available to help with the immediate crisis. There are also some national ministries and agencies that can provide help.
  5. Media will want “exclusives.”
  6. Way too many helpers will show up. Some who will be appropriate, some who are well-intentioned, and some with hidden agendas, or for personal gain. I have seen all of these in my deployments as a Professional Crisis Response Specialist.
  7. Messages should be timely, factual, strength-based and forward-looking.

I have written this post hoping that you will find it helpful and informative, but praying that you will never need to implement any of it.

Action Plan: Check out these two articles. Putting on Your Psychological Body Armor. 

Healing from the Las Vegas Shootings.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.