Tactical Tailor

Canipe Correspondence – The Safety Brief

Earlier this week, I got into a discussion with two of my buddies about a heated argument they were in over some of the nuances and semantics involved with staying safe on the job. Not long after, as most of you know from an earlier article this week, an instructor shot his assistant multiple times in a well publicized incident. There has been a surge lately of instructors who seem to take pride in being unsafe, almost wearing it as a badge of honor and taking a very in-your-face approach to showing “the real world.” “It’s dangerous, but so is combat…” is another one I hear. I never hear it from guys with a background in that “real world”, but that doesn’t surprise anyone I guess. It’s funny how a training gunshot looks a lot like a real world gunshot. Funny how the Nation’s top tiers of Special Operations units can factor safety into every aspect their training but some guys can’t make a flat range run without waving loaded guns at everyone. Ponder that for a minute. There is no doubt in my mind that an unsafe guy is an unqualified guy. They’re multiplying, and they’re everywhere. That’s another tangent for another day, but for now there are a lot of ways to mitigate risk in your training without sacrificing what can be gained.

A detailed safety plan and accountability of personnel is not nerd stuff. It’s not micromanagement. It does not have to water down training. When I plan safety measures into events I stick to what I know, and that is the military cycle for risk mitigation. We all loathe it, getting the Risk Assessment signed, re-doing it 5 times to add stuff like “inadvertent exposure to genetically enhanced assault bunny rabbits” or whatever other bizarre crap the commander asks for, making dozens copies to file with various offices of no importance, and other various ass-pain. The good news is the cycle and methods themselves are easily applicable on the fly as well as prior to conducting training. The even better news is that it works well, and the reference material is free. If you’re not familiar with it and have an interest in finding a good balance of real vs. safe, Google “FM 5-19”, save it, use it.

Here is a key passage, with an underline for emphasis:

Accept no unnecessary risk. Accept no level of risk unless the potential gain or benefit outweighs the potential loss. CRM is a decision making tool to assist the commander, leader, or individual in identifying, assessing, and controlling risks in order to make informed decisions that balance risk costs (losses) against mission benefits (potential gains)

It’s an easy process, 5 simple steps to prevent the preventable.
1. Identify Hazards
2. Assess and determine risk
3. Develop controls and make risk decisions
4. Implement controls
5. Supervise and evaluate

As an example, a hazard during a CCW class would be accidental shootings. You determine the risk to be high due to a diverse group of inexperienced or poorly trained shooters. You decide to use small relays and a 1:1 instructor to student ratio as controls. On the ground you stick to the control plan, and evaluate its efficiency and adjust as needed. Identifying the hazards and accepting the real possibility of an accident is the key step that seems to be overlooked; otherwise the next steps cannot occur.

Another key element is a medical plan in the event an accident does occur. Know where the nearest treatment facilities are, and have medical supplies as well as multiple qualified users. Have a plan to travel to those facilities, and make sure your communications work. Know your location in a format that local authorities and emergency personnel can use to find you.

You can’t remove all risk from self-defense or tactical training, as there are inherent dangers that are simply a byproduct of that environment. However, they can be controlled to a degree, and the unnecessary risks can be eliminated with a little forethought and planning. Risk is perfectly acceptable when the juice is worth the squeeze, make sure you know where that line is.


6 Responses to “Canipe Correspondence – The Safety Brief”

  1. Good post Jon, I used to teach this subject.

    The military, in the lower ranks, has an aversion towards risk management (the higher ranks love it for all the wrong reasons), the excuse being it’s unnecessary for training and seen as admin busy work; I’ve even heard people say it proves our mindset is wrong. Anyone who says this is just proving they are not mentally rehearsing their training event, many are just proving arrogance shrouded behind their qualifications.

    A good risk assessment (RA) is simple pre-event rehearsal, and possible things that can go wrong based on institutional knowledge and likely contingencies. Good planning and rehearsals can easily be translated into the safety brief (SB) for the event. Conversely if one does not know where to start with an RA all they need to do is look at a previous SB and realize that it covers risk mitigation, after all, a SB is the means of conveyance to those attending an event of how risk will be mitigated for that event. Example: the four rules of firearms handling are not only a safety brief, but a method of risk management.

    Bottom line, risk management is proof of good planning and rehearsals, and the SB is a means of disseminating an order to attendees of an event, it SHOULD instill attendee confidence in the leaders of the event and thus set the stage for how the event will go, much like pre-jump (a method of RA and SB) instills jumper confidence in their Jumpmasters.

    Jon, OPT

  2. Will says:


  3. Bill says:

    Spot on. I’ve found the USCG operational risk management and California POST training safety policy manuals to be great templates and guides. Instructors who write and more importantly religiously adhere to good training policy also tend to draft great operational plans with resultant clean execution.

  4. Will says:

    I hate doing ORM’s but no shit, they cover the bases and prevent complacency, the baseline is great but JO’s and above like to take it to the extreme, to include admin transportation and weekend libo … basically, officers and admin types suck but ORM’s are legit.

  5. WillG says:

    Totally agree, safety is paramount in all tactical training and even active recreation. I would add, for most folks, get some medical training; Wilderness First Aid, First Responder or TCCC (CLS).

    Have a medical plan. Wear PPE especially for anything remotely dynamic. Have a kit appropriate to your activity as well. Be thoroughly verse with all the gear in that kit.