Safety is critical

When you attend training, pay careful attention to the safety brief

NBC news photo

The armorer from the "Rust" film set was sentenced to 18 months in prison for her role in the on-set tragedy that resulted in the death of another woman. One is dead, one is losing their freedom, more are facing charges and a family is shattered. As an instructor and student, it's important to recognize the lapse of safety precautions when handling weapons in this case and how to avoid such situations ourselves. This is especially true when conducting force-on-force training, anytime weapons are handled off the firing line but also with less lethal training. With such amazing replicas available I do not understand why live firearms were used on set, and even more why anyone thought it would be a good idea to bring live ammunition there and actually shoot live rounds in between filming sessions. Unfortunately, negligent deaths like this occur in police training as well (see my FB post on 11/07/22, where I discuss how a Texas officer was shot in the face during training ).

Any time you participate in weapon training, pay close attention to safety protocols - those that are followed, those that are ignored. If there is no safety briefing before *any* practical session (anything which involves handling any weapon system or dynamic movement), that's a huge red flag and you should be prepared to walk away. The more complex the training, the more involved the safety brief; a force on force class neccesarily has more restrictions than a pepper spray training. Everyone has a responsibility to be safe, and it's important that the students see the instructors follow the same safety rules. So what should a safety briefing include? While each training (live fire, force on force, less lethal, etc) has unique adaptations, the minimum should include the following.

- All instructors should be introduced, and you know their name. They should be highly visible if a large class (red polos/vests are usually a give away)

- Review of gun safety rules - including basic rules, range commands, loading areas, weapon handling expectations, etc. (hot/cold range, etc). I literally hand out a sheet with these, and each student signs/initials after they take turns reading them out loud and everyone understands each rule. This includes a way to recognize an emergency and stop training - as an instructor I have a whistle on my shoulder, but all students/instructors should recognize "cease fire" or yelling a word to stop the training (Police often yell BLUE). If you hear someone else call for a stop, you also repeat the phrase until everyone is yelling it.

- Physical address of the training - if you call 911, where would you tell them to respond to?

- Who is the primary designated person for :

a) providing medical care in the event of an emergency (usually I ask who has medical training - if I'm the most experienced, then it's me)

b) calling emergency services - ensure they have a back up means of communication (either second cell phone, police radio, etc). For police training, I keep my portable radio on.

c) meeting emergency personnel at the entrance/gate if remote or multiple shooting areas (to make sure responders are directed to the correct area)

*A back up person for each of the above, in the event that person suffers the emergency*

- Medical equipment, where it is, and is readily available (If your instructor does not have at the minimum a trauma kit, that's a problem. Full EMT bag and AED is ideal)

- Equipment check - everyone has proper hearing & eye protection, and any other safety equipment that is situation dependent.

- Any medical conditions the instructor(s) should know about; I usually ask the students to see me individually, so I'm not advertising. But it's important to know if someone has a history of a heart condition, diabetes, severe allergy (especially bees), or other situation that is relevant. Many years ago when I attended the three week long Massachusetts Police Academy Firearm Instructor course, on Day One during the initial briefing on the line we had a student instructor wobble then pass out, face planting in the sand on the range. An ambulance was called, she was checked out, then allowed to remain on the line. No explanation, just pretended it didn't happen, and the lead instructors had no idea what the cause was. Not one of us was comfortable with that decision.

Note that this 'safety brief' is beyond the course introduction, location of facilities (restrooms, food/water), expected length, etc. Each type of training involves it's own variation of the above; for my defensive sprays class, the safety brief is adjusted as hearing protection and ballistic vests aren't required, but the above rules are still covered. When I conduct force on force 'active shooter response' classes, everyone is told that no weapons (even batons, OC spray, etc) are allowed in the designated training area. Each student is then double (minimum) patted down, then 'wanded' with a metal detector before entering the training area to ensure absolutely

Simmunition rounds - useful (& painful!) training

no live weapons or ammunition are introduced. This includes the instructors, in front of the students! We don't procede until everyone agrees the training area is safe. If you leave the training area for any reason, you are re-searched before entering. While using Simmunition (simulated ammunition where compressed 'soap' projectiles are fired at each other), there are more rules - what is/is not allowed in the training area, the above noted full body searches including metal detector, training areas clearly defined and secured, more safety equipment, etc.

In the end, this was another preventable tragedy where it appears safety protocols were either not in place or were ignored. While it sounds cliche, safety really is everyone's responsibility and we all share that burden. If you sign up for training and you see safety violations, don't hesitate to walk away. I've done so several times as a student, and I've never regretted it. Stay safe.