Mission: To significantly improve the safety and well being of the people we advise and train

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6th November 2014 A Matter of Principles

Author Paul Brennan – Stand2 Director

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old you don’t understand it yourself.”
Albert Einstein

Picture the scene…you are asleep in your bed; dreaming blissfully, when you are rudely awoken by your alarm clock. You look around in a state of confusion and then realise that it is not the alarm clock that is ringing, it is the fire alarm! Your first thought is for your children whose bedroom is down the corridor; which by this time may be engulfed in smoke and flame. You can hear the children screaming… Now please hold that thought and pause for a moment to consider: would it be better to:
a) Have had no prior training to prepare you for this situation
b) Have learnt some simple principles that may help save your life and those of your loved ones.

If your answer was a) then this is probably as far as you need to read. If your answer was b) then you are probably thinking that it was a stupid question. Of course it would be useful to know that we should briefly touch the door with our hand to see if it is hot before opening it or that we should crawl on our hands and knees so that we can breathe the fresher air nearer the floor. Knowing that we can protect our lungs by using a wet towel and biting it so that we will be reminded not to breathe through our mouth may be critical as we crawl along the corridor. So what would you think of a training provider who offered you a fire training programme that did not teach those principles? Would you buy into that programme?

A fire is a useful analogy when explaining aggression and violence. When a person is angry, the fire may be lit but as long as we or somebody else does not add fuel to the fire it will eventually die out. Nobody can stay angry forever. If on the other hand fuel is added to the fire we can reasonably anticipate an explosion and it is when this explosion occurs we are most in need of effective training. Unfortunately it is at this point where most training providers and those who commission the training draw the line. No doubt because they have visions of martial arts training, broken bones and lawsuits. This image could not be further from the reality of the training we provide. We do not generally teach techniques, rather we teach those simple principles which allow people who are caught in the fire to think for themselves, act appropriately under pressure and survive.

Once students understand those simple principles we then use likely scenario’s, which are often suggested by the students themselves to put those principles to the test. Such scenarios could include a client who has stumbled who we feel obliged to help, a first aid situation or a scenario where an aggressor attempts to physically attack you or your colleague. The way the training is structured ensures those scenarios are practised safely, with a healthy dose of humour thrown in for good measure. But at the end of the exercise, if a student subsequently finds themselves caught ‘in the fire’ and the aggressor is not giving them a choice other than action or inaction, they know what they need to do.

Whilst it is critically important to survive the inferno, it is just as important to reduce the chances of the fire occurring in the first place by recognising the first signs of danger. If that fails we should know how to avoid, contain and manage the fire until the fire brigade arrive or the fire goes out and this logical step by step approach is the training model we use. But it does not stop there, because when those efforts fail due to forces that are often beyond our control, that is the moment when we need our training most of all. Hopefully that moment of truth will never come but if it does, remember that wishful thinking is a poor substitute for proper training. Understanding those simple principles when dealing with a crisis will not only improve your chances of survival it may just save your life!