Can you blame a guy for not running towards a fire?

When faced with an extraordinary life or death situation, can you blame someone for running away from the fire instead of battling it? Or, as a crew member and first responder, are you 100% obligated (legally and morally) to risk your own life at any cost? I’m talking when the shit has already hit the fan.

Curious what you guys think as I’m sure some of you have been in or know of a situation when someone did or didn’t perform as expected.

Are all the men out of the space and safe?

Risking ones life for other life is a much different situation than risking ones life for a hunk of insured steel.


People panic or chose safety in an emergency. It happens. To say that he shouldn’t have froze up is like saying people shouldn’t have to take a dump or piss on watch. To do so denies an inherent weakness in humans which is to say humans are not fail-proof.

The human factor should be taken into account when developing a system involving humans. In this case, more redundancy by having more guards on duty might have reduced the chance that all would freeze up.

It will be interesting to see how he is demonized for doing something many people do: fail under pressure.

It was a pretty major failure of his primary job. I don’t think he’ll weather this any better than the original situation.

Be better to pair them up.


No one knows if they will perform in the heat of the moment until it happens. It’s easy for even trained pro’s to freeze up in a catastrophic emergency. Morally I’m sure that’s between him and his maker, legally no more responsible beyond loosing his job.

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I’m assuming we’re talking about Florida here… that said up until 5-10 years ago (and in some cases more recently) most LEO training was “hold position and wait for SWAT”. The deputy had been a cop for 30 years. So for at least 2/3 of his career the predominate thought was you don’t enter without bigger guns/backup. Creatures of habit we are, and add some (reasonable) fear it can cause hesitation that can cost lives.

I went thru active shooter training in early 2015 at Glynco(Fletc) as part of a basic LE academy. I’ve been working as a fed LEO since then. They treat active shooter training like a science but the only thing in common with these scenarios is nothing is ever the same. I’m curious how good the training was/is on a state level, especially for follow on training. I did like 80 hours of entry and respond type training including simunitions, blank firing, actors present. As an individual, with partner, with partnered… etc. I always thought this is all well and good but no amount of training can make up for just being lucky- you enter a building and guy kills himself, or you are right behind him and can issue a coup de grace quickly, or 5 other LEOs are down the street having pre-shift coffee and get there as you’re pulling your patrol rifle out of the trunk.

Until one is in the actual shit they don’t know how they’ll respond; four minutes is both a very long time and a very short time.

I was on a ship that had a man overboard in very bad wx conditions- 8 foot seas, 40 knot winds, dark, cold. The coxain of the “rescue boat” did not hesitate to get in and go. The other guy who was supposed to get in the rescue boat was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, the welder, jumped in and did his non-assigned duty. He was in shorts and a t shirt. The saved the dude but the guy who should’ve gone in his stead froze up. Happens.
That’s why it’s generally luck that wins over skill in a lot of these situations.


I was on a vessel that experienced an engine/stack fire a few months ago. A crewmember who was on watch seen me dumping extinguishers into the flames but bolted out of the engine room. An oiler who was asleep off watch ran to the engine room with an extinguisher in his hands from 3 levels up. Togetger, attacking the fire from 2 directions we two managed to put it out. The assistant engineer who ran away said he did so because he needed to help one of the fire teams suit up. 8 minutes after the alarm sounded none of the fire teams where ready to fight the fire. It was over before any of them started. I don’t hold any blame or grudges against the guy who ran or against the reluctant fire teams. A person can only be what they are, especially in a flight or fight scenario. Even though I don’t hold any blame against the guy who ran off I could see the guilt & shame on his face any time the fire was mentioned. He is a nice guy & I feel sorry for him. If I have to choose between attempting to put out a fire or spending my life thinking of myself as a coward I will surely try to put out a fire.


There is specific training for this but most “trained pro” don’t have it. It’s called Stress Innoculation Training and it’s pretty intense. I took my course with a guy named Kevin Reeve who trained under Tom Brown Jr. Basically they simlutate intense levels of stress to measure your baseline reaction then, with additional stress sessions, you learn to react in a positive way.

This type of training was first implemented by NASA and there is a scene in the Movie The Right Stuff where they are doing it.

But people have been doing this type of training for centuries without really knowing why. Boot Camp is a form of stress innoculation and so is the dentist chair.

I scored well on the test and didn’t need additional training but some of the guys I was with really freaked out. Most sailors who have been through a few really bad storms and have responded to a few trauma emergencies (I was a EMT for a few years) are pretty well innoculated to stress… as are most combat vets.

The negative side of the coin, however, is that if you have been innoculated to stress natrually then it’s likely that you have aome level of ptsd. (There is a test for that too… I scorred well below average). But if you get proper stress innoculation training you can get the benefits without the residual ptsd.

Thebest book on the subject is David Grossman’s book On Combat.


Also need to add his book “On killing”. Both of those books are both must reads. They will explain most likely why he froze up and also why these kids are so effective at killing people.


Regarding the historical context of policies being to wait for backup - and perhaps the Supreme Court decision (in 2005?) that police have no duty to protect but only to stop crime - it is being reported now that FOUR sheriff department deputies waited outside the school while the shooting was in progress.
This is showing up on several sites but here is a link to one of the articles:
If true, this seems very unfortunate, not at all heroic, and not in keeping with the social contract implied that peace officers assume extra risk on behalf of others and have the benefit of the doubt and protections in the form of qualified immunity for when things go wrong.


No easy answers to this problem but . . .

The “Cowards of Broward County” are absolutely disgusting.

I am really tired of hearing cops talk about how they “put their life on the line for us every day”. If you look at worker’s comp rates you will see that being cop is pretty safe. Loggers, fishermen, farmers, and roofers are the ones who “”put their lives on the line for us every day.”

The police offer very little “protection” to the average person. Most of our protection comes from the fact that the vast majority of people voluntarily follow societal norms the vast majority of the time. The best source of protection is to teach and reinforce values and normative behavior in our society.


Who’s normative behavior are we supposed to reinforce nowadays? That may be tougher than the tide-pod challenge…

I spent a lot of time in Bronx firehouses as a kid and this conversation would come up often! And if you compare the budgets of the NYPD with the FDNY you will start to learn why.

But the thing that pisses city fireman the most is the method of first response. Firemen all run towards a fire including the chiefs. But City Police work by cordoning off areas and falling back with the Inspectors usually positioned many blocks from the danger zone.

The second biggest complaint was with the slow response rates of SWAT. These guys arrive then they develope a plan then they gear up, etc… all of which burns time on the clock. Conversly the FDNY’s elite teams, Heavy Rescue, get inside the fire then come up with a plan of attack.

I could add volumes more to this thread but I’ll just conclude bu saying there are major cultural issues in most large police forces that have not been updated in many, many decades.


Yes! And don’t forget Bulletproof Mind. Here’s the video presentation of that work which focuses a lot on school shooting specifically.

Warning… this video is not for the faint of heart! I debated posting this because the conclusions he makes in regard to schools are truly eye opening horrific and Grossman doesn’t pull any punches here… and if you haven’t read the books you might just put him off as being a crazy right wing gun nut… which he’s not. He’s a West Point academic with a ton of field experience and a high sucess rate in solving problems the military faced in Iraq and Afganistan.

His bottom line is that these shootings are about to get much worse.

If you would preffer to watch something a but more hopeful, here’s his video on how we can solve the problem:

Youth, Violence and Education - David Grossman 1/1 - Dawson College - YouTube

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My first ship, we had a major fire and I suited up & was pacing to attack… the c/m had to get me to pump the brakes… fast forward 8 years as 3/m, I was standing bridge Watch with the standard MSC gear to repel pirates… I was primed to shoot pirates. But now 9 years later with a wife and 3 kids, I’d probably be a little more slower to act and way out the action/ reaction… I’d look at all the angles…I’d follow policy before looking to shoot or get shot at…

With a wife that’s a school teacher, I’d like to have more non lethal methods used by non professionals and wait for the pros… I believe that reaching kids before they lash out is best but prepare for the worse…

For a more nuanced thought on the subject…

Who is a coward and who is just being a human?


Dave Grossman is not without critics. Professor Carnage

Dave Grossman teaches police officers to think like “warriors.” But is the rise of a militarized mindset turning black citizens into targets?

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Very true. He believes in an agressive armed approach which puts many people off (hence the warning I posted on the video).

The problem is that his background and areas of study and successes are all military based. The job of a military is to destroy while the job of LEO is to protect. Very different mission statements.

Few people question the effectiveness of his approach but many (myself included) take issue with giving these tools of destruction to the police… whoch he advocates.

That said, regardless of your thoughts about his conclusions, the underlying science is fairly sound and much of what he writes about is applicable to mariners.

Now just because tou have stress innoculation training doesn’t mean you will rush in guns blazing… there is another factor at play.

Provides you are able to stay calm there is easy test to find out what your likely to do in an emergency scenario.

If you had the option to be teleported to the morning of 9/11, where would you like to be sent:

  1. No thanks, I don’t want to go
  2. I’d like to be sent just outside the danger zone so I can help the victims after the crash.
  3. I want to be on the plane that hits the 1st tower

Now most sane people would choose three and many good people like Scot Peterson would choose number two. A much smaller percentage of the population would choose option three. Only the people who choose three ahead of time are likely to respond.

Those who choose one have a natural self defense nature. There is nothing wrong with that. The number two’s are the good samarians who feel sympathy during emergency and want to help. The few of us who choose three have an inner deive to help others and naturally run towards danger… they almost can’t help it.