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Reflections on Las Vegas

Rania Mankarious
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Festivals

Rania Mankarious reflects on the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, and provides tips on how to attend festivals and concerts with a safety plan in mind. (Photo: ID 39231486 © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime)

I had less than 15 minutes to grab something from Tootsies. But while there, my dear friend, Shelley Taylor Ludwick (their media and events manager) stopped me. Before even saying hi, she put her hands to her face and uttered just two words, two words that were now filled with meaning beyond measure, two words that were jam packed with questions, two words that required hours of conversation, study and follow up, two simple words: Las Vegas.

Between our silent expressions and sadness, we still communicated so much: How? Why? And the surviving families? Our hearts were shattered… And what is the real story with the shooter? We want so desperately to put him in a category, to try and understand his motive (Religious? Political? Hate speech? Mental illness? Workplace violence? Family violence?)… My goodness, such a tragic loss of life couldn’t have happened “just because…” And in light of all the details, what on earth is next?

And, of course, what does this mean for us and all the plans we have in the days and weekends to come? Many of us are planning to attend any number of the historic festivals here and across the state starting this weekend; we have concerts to go to, playoff games to attend, exhibits to see and life to enjoy.

But how will it all work, now, post Vegas? The Austin City Limits Festival is offering refunds to any ticket purchaser who is uncomfortable following the mass shooting in Vegas. So do we go? Not go? How do we navigate this new world and what do we tell our kids? Here are my 10 tips to get us through this awful time.   

  1. Go. Go, go and by all means, GO! And have the best time!
  2. Know and follow the rules. There are safety measures at every venue. Know the rules. Follow them. Don’t be that person that argues at the door. We need our security personnel focused on identifying danger, not wasting time arguing with guests.  
  3. What’s the plan? Talk, talk, talk about what’s going on in the world as well as the potential of what could go wrong while you are out and about. Then create a plan with the group you are going out with. If an emergency were to erupt, what door will you exit from? If the threat is near you, will you fight and what tools are around you to use? Are you near a waste basket, a speaker or a chair? Is there something on you that you can throw? How many entrances and exits are in the venue and what’s the nearest one to your group? Identify all of this and have a plan in case the unthinkable happens. You don’t want those moments of panic to be the first time you think of your survival.  
  4. If you get separated… In the chaos, try to stick together but you may get separated. Decide beforehand where a meeting point will be. Have option A, B and C.  
  5. Cell phones. Always have your cell phone. Go out with a charged phone or bring a portable charger with you.
  6. Have a designated outside point of contact. To preserve battery life and to limit noise that draws attention to you, have one designated family member or friend assigned to call you should news of a tragedy break (the worst thing is to have to navigate a life and death situation when your phone is ringing off the hook).
  7. There’s an app for that. Make sure you have identification on you as well as information on your medical health. And guess what, your phones are already equipped to do this. For iPhone users, this technology appears through the Health App and is accessible even in the phone’s local screen. Androids have the same function but you must download the medical ID app. These medical apps keep a list of your allergies, medicines, contact information and is of critical importance to first responders or any other time you are being treated in a time of emergency. 
  8. Talk to kids. It’s critical to include your kids in on your safety plan. Here’s how I’ve handled this in the past. Let’s say we are at the movies, I tell my kids in advance – we are totally safe and I can’t wait to see the movie, that said, it’s always good to be prepared so if a fire breaks out or an accident happens in the movie theater and we need to leave quickly, we are going to exit that door right there. Now, we may need to go fast and leave our popcorn or blankie or toys behind. Don’t argue with mommy about this and trust me when I say we can come back later and get you popcorn and I will restore any item you’ve lost. When dealing with older kids, kids who may be of age to attend a concert or large festival with other friends – make sure you talk to them beforehand about potential risks and that they have personally followed tips 1 – 7 above. If you’re hesitant to tell them what could go wrong because you think you’ll scare them or they are not mature enough to handle the information, then they are absolutely too young to go without parent supervision.
  9. Focus on survival, not video footage. I am always amazed at how many people stop to take video during a disaster. On one hand, I understand it and I know many are thankful to get a real glimpse of what went on but, on the other hand, I think it’s extremely dangerous and takes your attention off survival. Be careful before you take out that phone…
  10. See something, say something. We say this all the time but I don’t think people really stop and think about what this means. If you are committed to saying something if you see it then you are probably committed to paying more attention than normal at your surroundings. This is wonderful. We want people to always go out and have fun but we also want you to be carefully examining your surroundings at all times, taking note of strange people or events. Be prepared to say something if you must. Your life and the lives of others could depend on it.

I’m not going to say that active shooters are a part of our lives now but I will say that if the thought never even crosses your mind when you are out and about, you are doing yourself a disservice. Your survival depends on your ability to think clearly, quickly and strategically. Trust me when I say the best way to accomplish this is with a plan.

Whatever your next few days and weeks hold, the shooting in Las Vegas grows father away in time but not in significance. We will never forget and together, my hope is that we can work to eradicate this type of horrifying activity. For all our sakes.  

For more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston, go to crime-stoppers.org and follow Crime Stoppers on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Email her directly at rmankarious@crime-stoppers.org. Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter. Read past Sundays with Rania posts here.

Editor's Note: Views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Buzz Magazines.

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