The concept of escape and evade is pretty simple: run away. However, to do this effectively it’s not as simple as only running away. There is one skill that is particularly important to effectively and safely escape and evade under stress: the ability to read the environment and terrain. Several of my previous posts have laid the foundation for reading the environment and terrain. This post is going to focus on tying together and expanding on those skills in order to escape and evade a threat.
When it comes to evaluating the environment and terrain, it will take practice and a change in mindset. At some point in the evaluation we need ask ourselves, “If I were a criminal, where would I attack from?” or “How would I set up an attack in this environment?” I look for choke points (outlined in Specialized Threat Assessment posts), areas where I am easily cut off and areas with a lot of dead space (any other area where assailants can hide). It doesn’t matter if we are pedestrians or drivers, these spaces make us vulnerable. We want to minimize these areas around us and along our routes or at least know where they are. I’ve already written about routes in the habits and specialized threat assessment posts, so I’m going to focus on other aspects of escape and evading for the rest of this post.
We have to have an exit in order to escape. In the habits post, I outlined my automatic scan; exits were the first item on that list. I describe an exit as any way that I can get out, not just the front or emergency doors. For example, what windows can I break and climb out? Does a drop ceiling lead between rooms, etc? The only way to find these exits is to explore. We should know every corner of the places that we most frequent, whether that place is our work, home or school. We need to take time to explore and know where every hallway, door or passageway leads. We need to know where the basement is, what’s in it and if there is a way out. This is going to allow us to understand where and how we can escape and evade, if needed, when at those locations. Realistically, if we are visiting a location for the first time or we don’t have access to all areas, it’s not going to be possible to completely explore the location. That’s understandable, but we still need to be creative in our thinking because our first options for exits may not be available when we need them to be. This also applies to our routes to and from these locations.
In his book, Facing Violence, Rory Miller states, “when things are normal, you color inside the lines. When danger presents, you have to be able to break the normal rules and habits.” We need to be able to think creatively to make our own exits. This means that traffic lines, lanes and signs or doors, windows, restricted areas and even walls become more of a suggestion rather than an absolute.
The first half of this post focused on preparation prior to needing to escape and evade. Let’s now switch to concepts that help when under stress. Understanding the difference between cover and concealment and using those differences to your advantage is a key aspect for safely escaping or evading. Cover is anything that will physically protect you from an attackers fire and concealment is anything that hides you from enemy sight. Cover can also be concealment but not vice versa. We should use cover and concealment, if available, as we are escaping and evading our threat.
The next aspect for escaping and evading is actually running. This seems like a no-brainer, but when was the last time that you actually full out sprinted? Pushing your muscles and tendons to the max without being warmed up can cause serious damage and slow you down or keep you from escaping. I addressed how to deal with this in my Know Your Body post.
Running can be advantageous for several reasons besides the obvious aspect of getting away from danger. Distance can be a deterrence for shooting and chasing. Likewise, if the individual loses sight, that individual is less likely to continue to give chase. This doesn’t mean hide in the nearest alleyway. It means running to safe havens and creating distances. When running, it’s important to run to safe locations. Typically, running towards groups of people and towards well lit areas are safe bets. Unlike in the movies, we want to avoid running to places that are going to isolate us in the dark with our attacker, such as, the forest, alleyways, or old industrial warehouses.
Running from someone does have its disadvantages too. For example, when I was about eight years old, my mother took me to a haunted house for Halloween. While going through the haunted house, a man with a chainsaw jumped out. As an eight year old, I was scared beyond comprehension. I sprinted up the nearest stairwell and out of the first door I saw. Once I was through the doors, I turned to see another set of doors and started pulling on the door, which happened to be locked. I screamed for help and yanked on the doors continuously. My mother, catching up to me, calmed me down. Once I was calm, I realized I was outside and completely out of the haunted house. This story illustrates that when we are scared, running can cause us to panic, which was exactly what happened in that haunted house. I had no idea I was out of the entire haunted house and was pulling on the doors to get back in. The point is, “fear breeds fear. [but] Panic is unacceptable.”
Being scared is normal. After all, we are running away for a reason but letting ourselves panic is only going to diminish our chances of getting away safely and keep us from thinking clearly. We can avoid panicking by being prepared and focusing on what we are doing and where we are running. Another disadvantage to running is that it can cause the person to shoot, if they have a firearm or can cause a chase response. Since adults rarely full out sprint, it will draw attention which is both good and bad.
As I write this post, I can’t tell you when or how you will have to escape and evade. Largely, this is something that will depend on the situation and environment that you may find yourself in. As an exercise, when you go to a location, (work, home, school, or local restaurant, etc.) take a look around. Look for those exits, cover and concealment and any safe locations nearby. Like I said in the Forgotten Aspect of Situational Awareness post, create a plan. Run through a plan of how you would escape or evade from that location and where you would go. Think about how you would use the cover and/or concealment to make it safely to an exit and safe location. Also, incorporate sprinting into your workouts. See how your body reacts to the intense physical output and how your breathing changes. Run drills at your house, running through your escape and evade plan. You can even have a friend role play as a “bad guy.”
These are just a few options. There are plenty of other exercises that can be done to help prepare you. Be creative and let me know what you come up with or if you need more suggestions, feel free to contact me.
1 Rory Miller Facing Violence ( Wolfeboro, N.H.: YMAA Pub 2011), 48
2 Rory Miller Facing Violence ( Wolfeboro, N.H.: YMAA Pub 2011), 49
3 Rory Miller Facing Violence ( Wolfeboro, N.H.: YMAA Pub 2011), 49