Monday, October 29, 2012

Daily Briefing for Monday, October 29, 2012

The Adrenaline Dump - A Cautionary Tale

In case any lawyer ever asks me about this blog entry, what you are about to read is a subsequent remedial measure.  If you're not a lawyer, don't worry about what I just said.  If you are, you will understand why I said it shortly.

So I'm trying to go to sleep last night.  I'm skimming through YouTube looking for Bob Ross videos (who would have turned 70 years old today, by the way) to help me sleep.  Instead, I stumbled upon the Gentleman's Rant channel, also on YouTube (which, by the way, is absolutely hilarious, despite its anti-gun bias).

As I lay in bed around 12:15 AM, chuckling at the irreverent humor, I heard a very loud pounding outside, so loud and rapid that it sounded as if someone was banging on our back door.  My endocrine system dumped a massive load of juice into my system.  It was go time.

Just as a side note, don't ever knock on some one's back door in the middle of the night.  Unless their house is on fire and you're trying to get them out of it, it's just not a good idea.  I had no idea why someone would be knocking on my back door.  I speculated that perhaps our dogs had gotten out and that one of my neighbors knew that they belonged back inside the back of the house, but even then, DON'T KNOCK ON SOME ONE'S BACK DOOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.  You will learn why that's a bad idea momentarily.

Since switching to the V Line safe for my Glocks, I've had to learn a new system for getting my gun out of the safe.  Not that the system if difficult to use - quite the contrary - but nonetheless it works differently than my other gun safe.  The buttons are smaller and closer together, which means that under stressful conditions, it's hard to open.

Here's why.  When your body releases a large amount of adrenaline into your system, a number of physical changes happen right away.  One of those changes includes the degradation of fine motor skills.  Pushing little buttons in the right sequence when you think someone is pounding on your back door in the middle of the night is much, much more difficult than you can imagine.  I found that out last night, when it took me two attempts to get the safe to open.

I realized at that moment, Glock in hand, that I wasn't dressed appropriately.  In hind sight, I shouldn't have worried about it - whoever is pounding on my back door will be far more focused on the Glock 34 in my hand than the Under Armor logo stitched in the waistband of my boxer briefs. 

I finally pull on a pair of shorts, sprint to the stairs, and try to hit the light switch.  On this particular switch plate, there are three switches.  I manipulate these switches at least once if not several times a day.  For the life of me, I struggled to get the light I wanted on to come on.  I ended up just taking my hand and in one motion, throwing every switch into the up position so that enough lights would come on so as to allow me to get down the stairs without falling down.

Let me digress here for a minute.  I've left the bedroom at this point.  When I did, I left the flashlight I keep in my gun safe for emergencies.  I also left the iPhone I was using to watch videos moments earlier lying on the bed.  Think about that - two hugely important tools, just lying there, because I didn't think to grab them on the way out of the room.  "All  you have on you is all you have," to quote the great Tom Givens.  I'd unnecessarily deprived myself of two things I could really use.

Back to the story.  I got down stairs, quickly walked down the hall to the back door where I thought I heard the banging.  I went through the laundry room, where our dogs are put up every night.  Interestingly, the dogs were not alarmed at all, which should have been my first clue that everything was okay - had someone been banging on that door, their heads would have been exploding at that point.  I disarmed the alarm system so I could start opening doors without setting off the alarm.

I stepped into the garage where the back door was.  I hit the flood lights right above the back door, which gave me a sense of comfort, knowing now that if there's someone out there, they will be illuminated.

Dropping the muzzle of the gun to low ready, I opened the door, staying back inside the garage.  I immediately noticed that my next door neighbor's back yard flood lights were on, and I heard someone talking back in his yard.  I immediately surmised he was the one doing the banging (their pool pump is on the side of their house nearest ours) and concluded that it wasn't on our back door after all but rather on the privacy fence adjoining us. 

I stepped out onto the back step and yelled out my neighbor's name.  No response.  I did it a second time.  Still no response.  (The pool pump is quite loud).  The back yard flood lights from his house went off.  I heard a door close.  I went back inside, locked the doors, armed the alarm system, and went back upstairs.

My pulse was racing once I got back upstairs - well over 150 BPM, if I had to guess.  It took well over 30 minutes for me to calm down enough that I thought I could go to sleep.

Admittedly, there were a lot of things I didn't do well last night.

  • I lacked clarity of mind when I decided to get out of bed.  That in turn slowed me down in getting out of the bedroom.  I should have had the safe set up to make it easier to access the guns quickly.  I should have practiced getting the flashlight out first thing, and then taking the gun out.  I should have also practiced getting my phone into my waistband before leaving the room.  Fail.
  • There was no need for me to turn on the hall light to go down the stairs.  I don't always do it anyway.  I've even counted the steps so I will know where I am.  Last night, I completely forgot all of that.  Keeping the house dark would have provided me with a lot of protection from someone trying to break in.  They can't shoot or stab someone they can't see in the dark.  Fail.
  • I should not have opened the exterior door.  There was absolutely no need to do that.  The alarm was on; the dogs weren't upset.  After checking to see if the dogs were still inside and not snuck out (as they are prone to do from time to time) I should have taken up a defensive position downstairs, in the dark, and waited.  If the dogs started to bark or the alarm system went off, that would have been the time to act.  I could have even turned on the flood lights from inside quite safely.  There was zero reason for me to go poke my head out there.  Looking back on it, I did experience a degree of tunnel vision (a normal response during an adrenaline dump), which means there were probably things outside I was missing when I stepped out of the doorway - things that could have killed me had they been there.  Fail.

Now I know all of you are perfect and none of you would have ever made those mistakes.  Nor would any of you had an adrenaline rush in those circumstances.  And I can hear you right now: "why don't you practice for those types of scenarios?"

The truth is - I do.  However, I'd not practiced that particular scenario.  I'd not practiced getting the right gear on me before leaving the bedroom.  I haven't practiced going down the stairs in the dark in some time. 

Experience is often the best teacher.  Despite a fair amount of advanced training, last night's event will certainly make me more diligent about training for a wider spectrum of situations.  Some changes in the training curriculum and nightly procedures, effective immediately, include:

  • Getting the safe ready to open without a lot of drama.  This is an easy fix.
  • Practicing to take the flashlight out of the safe first, along with grabbing the cell phone, before leaving the room.  This is easy to train for.
  • Looking and listening for clues, like the dogs barking or the alarm system going off.  If either of those things happen, we are dealing with a completely different scenario.  This will take some practice.
I share this with you in an effort to get you to be more purposeful in your training.  Don't go easy on yourself.  Have a friend come over and walk you through scenarios and challenge your response to them. 

Speaking Of Training, This Is A Good Idea.  I Think.

Doyle sent me a link to this article entitled "Marines, police prep for mock zombie invasion."  I pooh-pooh a lot of this zombie nonsense, because it's just that - nonsense.  Dead people aren't going to walk around eating brains of non-dead people.  It's just not going to happen.  Sorry to burst your bubble.

The article however makes some very good points about training and using zombies as the bad guys.  It's worth the time reading it if you're done overdosing on Hurricane Sandy coverage. 

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