Can Your Staff Perform Life-Saving Tasks Under Stress?

Training can counter the effects of stress during emergencies so staff will be able to perform appropriate life-saving tasks.

Taking a key out of your pocket, inserting it in a lock and locking a door is an easy task – until your heart rate hits 115 beats a minute or more. Dr. Randy Atlas mentioned such a case during one of his presentations. He related how a store clerk was shot and killed by an armed robber who became upset when she was unable to open the store safe because her hands were shaking so badly due to fear. 

The effects of increased heart rate on human performance have been thoroughly researched by a number of experts.  Several techniques, including controlled breathing, participation in quality training and properly run drills and mental simulation, have been proven to help reduce heart rate and with it, improve human performance.  Lt. Col. Dave Grossman provides insightful discussions on these types of effects in his book, On Combat, as well as in his presentations.

If we consider how much of an impact the inability of a staff member to lock a door or dial a telephone can have during a major event, it underscores the importance of appropriate emphasis on proven efforts to help campus employees and (when appropriate) students perform critical action steps to minimize the loss of human life.

It is easier to write words in a plan than it is for people to apply them under pressure. Taking the time to teach people how to perform under extreme stress can be just as important as providing them with solid plan components.

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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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