The 3 Pillars of Survival: How to Stay Alive During a Violent Incident

True Security Design - The 3 Pillars of Survival: How to Stay Alive During a Violent Incident

Getting the right mindset is critical if we are to survive a violent event. Taking advantage of the technology and equipment that is available to us is just as critical, and it’s something that can’t be ignored or avoided.


We need to consider what actions will enhance our odds at surviving a deadly encounter. I have summarized these actions into Three Pillars of Survival during a life-threatening situation, such as an active shooter, mass killer or terrorist attack.


The first pillar is Preparation; mental and physical. We must have a response plan, and we must practice our responses before we face danger. The first pillar is personal, and you must confront your fears about being in a deadly situation and find a way to overcome that fear.


This is not easy, so how can we do it? One way is to visualize ourselves in a bad situation and ask what we would do. This visualization should happen before danger shows up at your door. Preparation is all about thinking ahead to figure out what to do before violence happens.


The second Pillar of Survival is Communication. We must be able to communicate that there is a dangerous situation to our co-workers, students and staff as quickly as possible, and we must be able to exchange vital information during an incident.


There are many excellent products on the market today that can provide that second pillar of protection, allowing us to communicate when it is most important.


When it comes to communication, the police and other first responders must also be able to talk to each other. If we, who are hiding or fighting for our lives, can communicate to the police, then our chances of surviving a violent incident grow exponentially.


The Third Pillar of Survival is Notification. We must be able to notify the outside world that we need help, and we must be able to do it quickly, easily and clearly. During a violent event it will be hard to remember intricate code words and operate clumsy equipment. The equipment we use must be ready in an instant and get the word out to the police and others immediately, and in some cases, silently.


Fast notification of authorities like the police and first aid units can mean the difference between life and death. The police can’t save us if they don’t know we’re in trouble.


Avoiding this conversation and the actions required leaves us unprepared and vulnerable. All of us must get ready to react while at the same time hoping we never have to. But if we are aware and prepare, we might just survive if the violence comes.


The biggest obstacle to being prepared is the thought that “It will never happen here.”


That single belief, while it is based on statistical fact to a large degree, could get people killed. Even though the chances of us or our kids being in the presence of a killer or active shooter is small, I ask my audiences all the time this simple question- “When and where will the next active shooter or deranged mass killer strike?”


To this day no one can answer that question. The only thing we can do is be prepared. The three pillars of survival are our guide. Learn them, act on them and be safe.


Joseph Pangaro is a retired police lieutenant from Ocean Township, N.J. and the former director of school safety and security for a large school district in New Jersey. He is a Certified Public Manager  and is the owner and CEO of True Security Design. He can be reached at


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