Welcome to our Fall Newsletter
September 16, 2013
We at CRA hope that you are all doing well and have enjoyed your summer.
I am writing this just as news is breaking about the incident that has just occurred at the Navy Yard in our nation's Capitol.
Another organization is again confronted with what is commonly referred to as an "active shooter" event, resulting in multiple casualties, and there will be an increase in interest on how to best respond to the active shooter - as there should be. As a point of reference, the city of Houston has developed a very good five-minute video entitled "Run, Hide, Fight" that you can find on YouTube, that bears watching. I recommend it.
However, we are not well served if we spend our time just concentrating on how we should respond to an event where the response options are limited to running, hiding or fighting. And that is not what I'd like to comment on in this brief newsletter.
We will be flooded in the next few days and weeks with developing information attempting to answer all the questions of why, how, and who - and hopefully we will learn from the experience.
There will be many who will line up on various sides of the issue and try to attribute this to (or deny that this is due to) a specific cause or interest. And there may also be a tendency to focus blame on some various, specific "human errors", as if this somehow grants us the ability to wipe our hands clean and walk away from this, satisfied that we have done our job.
The bottom line is that human behavior is complex and rarely exceedingly predictable. And I am saying that as someone who is expected to help predict behaviors.
We cannot always easily change or easily influence many human behaviors. However, we can develop systems that can influence the context within which human behavior occurs, that can better manage the consequences of this behavior (i.e., cause less harm).
I just attended a workshop by Dr. Todd Conklin, an expert in human performance and safety issues, and who serves as one of CRA's associates and colleagues. Todd often uses the automotive industry as an example of the above concept. Over the course of the past 60 years, the number of automobile accidents has risen astronomically with the increase in cars, drivers, and overall miles driven, as would be expected. But extraordinarily, the number of overall fatalities on the road last year in the United States (about 32,000) is actually less than it was in 1953 - sixty years ago! People still fall asleep at the wheel, still get distracted, and still are far less-than-perfect drivers. The more severe consequences (injuries and fatalities) of these behaviors have been managed down, primarily by addressing issues involving the context within which these behaviors occur - the car, the highways, laws, etc. People have not changed, but the surrounding system has been changed.
Events on the scale of the Navy Yard shootings are happening with a frequency that is not acceptable in a civilized society - and there are many more similar events and almost-events that may involve fewer casualties that do not make the headlines. It is important for us to remain open to discussing all of the factors and parameters within our system that have led to or have facilitated the consequences of this individual's behavior. We cannot afford to just accept these events as part of our culture, with our only remaining options being to run, hide or fight.
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
CEO, Critical Response Associates