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Defend Thyself Personal Defense

Family Self Defense Plan – Movie Theater

by George Wehby   |  September 14th, 2011 24

The last time I wrote on the subject of family self defense plans those that took the time to comment wanted concrete examples of developing and putting one into action.  If everyone took the time to develop these types of plans, I believe it would greatly decrease victimization in our society. So, let’s go over a family self defense plan for a movie theater.

If you have children, you have probably already developed numerous plans to get them from point A to point B. I know in my family of six, each has a responsibility in just packing the car up before going out to eat. We don’t think twice about giving our children mundane tasks to ease our load, but giving them a crisis response plan is completely foreign. It is a simple change in mindset.

Whenever we head out, we must make it a habit to give them a quick plan in case of an emergency. Look at it in the same way as the flight attendant’s brief before traveling. For instance, I have my children identify the exits.  In the example of a movie theater, they are generally located in front and back. If they have never seen the exit in the front, I will allow them to wander down prior to the show to scout it out.  We try and sit toward the front exit, because if something goes down, most of the people will rush to the back exits, because most are not use to exiting out the front. We sit as close to the aisle as possible, so we can get in and out quickly. Cramming ourselves in the center of the aisle would not be good if things break bad. We use at least two rows, so that each adult can sit next to the aisle and can run interference, engage a threat or lead them to safety. A basic seating and exit strategy is followed up with individual orders.

Each one of our children has someone they are responsible for. The oldest daughter is responsible for the baby–if my wife or I cannot grab him–and the middle daughters have each other. They know that if things go bad and we give them the get out order the rally point is the car. They know the route to the car from either exit.  My two older daughters each have cell phones and know how to call the police. In the event of gun fire, they all know how to bear crawl (fast running on the hands and feet) and to keep a low profile and to only stop once they are out of danger.

Things like practicing the plan can be really fun. If the situation never allows you to physically practice, quiz your children while waiting for the show to begin. The bear crawl training has come from years of mat drills in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, I would not advocate practicing in your local movie theater.

Remember, this is a basic plan and you can add or subtract tactics and variables depending on your family dynamic. Just remember, have a plan is better than no plan at all.

What kind of family self defense plan have you come up with for movie outings?

Enjoy the show.

  • bigjohn

    I use to think that a movie was pretty safe and never really thought much about a emergency plan. I guess I was to excited about seeing the lastes block buster. That is until about 15 years or more ago in Denver, Co. A black man with a white female were both shot in head while attending a move simply because some racist didn't like seening black people and white people together reguardless of their relationship. It just reminded me that no where is safe in a crowd. Each time you attend any social function you take a risk.

  • Randy

    I agree with you. Your plan is great and we all hope you never get to do anything but practice it. Our kids are on their own so we generally just go together. I sit on the isle and my wife one seat in. I am the one carrying though she also has a permit. My sitting on the isle allows me to offer a "traffic break as you called it" for her to get out. Where we generally sit, and being retired we almost always go at off hours and we are close to being first out the rear exit but not that far from the front exit. It is rare that we have more than a small handful of people in front of us. If we have some of the grand kids they are between us.

    • bill

      aisle, unless you are surrounded by water.

  • Cool Ridge, WV David

    Our local theater poses a different scenario. It has stadium seating. The entrance to the theater from the lobby brings you into the individual theaters near the front and close to the screen. The only other exit is directly across from the main entrance, on the opposite side, but also near the screen. 95% of the seats involve an upward climb towards the back row. The only exits are down toward any assailant that may have just entered the room. It sort of makes escape from the situation much, much harder. I still practice occupying the aisle seat, but as high as I can go. I feel that this vantage point gives me the best opportunity in the theater to spot the problem before being spotted myself and presents the best opportunity to react with my CCW weapon…..however, it is also the furthest position from which to seek an escape. Probably better off renting movies………

  • Hiram Davis

    I believe in caution and alertness but my god, if you are that full of fear about going to the movies, perhaps you should just rent or stream them.

    • hicusdicus

      Perhaps instead of buckling up your seat belt you should just quit driving your car. Remove your door locks and don't cross streets. Hiram is an incident just waiting to happen.

  • Joe Six-pack

    Interesting thing to think about, and, one should always have a BOP (bug-out plan) regardless of one's location. We in my family had a simple rule: if bad stuff starts to happen, the family takes their cue(s) from me….and the rally point is the place indicated as we enter the facility. Now that it is just the frau and me, same rules, just a shorter parade to lead!

  • Steve

    I don’t think the point is fearfulness, but preparedness, at the movies or anywhere else. Do you go to the bank or ATM? Do you eat out? Go to the mall? Buy gasoline? Stop in the grocery store for food? All these places are subject to robbery by armed thugs. And these guys might just kill you for fun. Shouldn’t you be mentally aware to the chance of a predator in your midst? Here in South Florida we had some very bad “gang” members shotgunning compliant customers at a “Coffee and Donut Chain” to build “street creds” – wow. Sorry I refuse to stay away, just as I refuse to lie on the floor and die for them. They come in with a shotgun I want to have a chance to end it with my CW.
    I fear no one, but I am prepared for the chance that a threat may appear in a normally placid arena. Why not join the sheeple and go unarmed if you aren’t willing to be prepared?

    Some of us are sheepdogs…because there are still wolves out there.

  • Danny

    I have always used the same type of drill with my family. I'm a firefighter so my kids are use to me drilling them on the exits of buildings.

  • David

    Sorry, Steve, but I have to agree with Hiram on this one. There comes a time when so-called "preparedness" is nothing more than unchecked fear in disguise. Subjecting your family to this level of paranoia is a miserable way to live, especially for children. Sometimes the better self-defense plan is to defend one's mind against fear, and refusing to let it control the way you and your family live.

    • George Wehby

      Well what happens when there is no fear? I am a professional martial artist and train everyday, sometime twice a day. Am I just fearful I will be attacked or is it something else that may drive me? I think your opinion is restricted to you. If you were to that prepared then you would have to be afraid, well I am not. I am prepared because that's what I do. My children are not being subjected to anything harmful, matter of fact they are learning to be critical thinkers. Thanks for the feedback.

      • Tory II

        Too much physical activity can damage your body AND requires too much of your time. This is the reason conceal/carry is so important – guns are equalizers.

        What's the most important aspect of these topics ? They compel us to think about important things we never think of. And people who seem to be obsessed about survival are the best qualified to teach these subjects. They invented the 'safe room' idea. Nearly all the measures in place at my home come from the gun nuts and survivalists.

        Rather than having a fire escape rope ladder near a kid's bedroom window, just have your kids practice traveling to the nearest exit IN THE DARK. Leave reliable flashlights near their beds, cheap plastic bag oxygen masks and a pair of slippers. I taught my kid to slide down the stairs in darkness, and then to open the door. Leave a hammer near the window (and a blanket) and show your kid how to smash a glass window with the hammer. I think a house fire is the greatest threat to kids (which one kills more kids, fire or guns ?)

    • Keenan

      There is nothing wrong in being prepared and having a plan. Panic usually comes from people that don't have a plan. They get caught in the moment, didn't think things through and now act on impulse which in most cases the perpetrators have counted on to unleash their dubious deed.

    • John

      It is simply thinking ahead. How many small children do you and Hiram have? Apparently none. I have to constantly remind my children (all under 10) how to cross the street, get in out of the rain etc. They need guidance, especially in an emergency, but you have to prepare them ahead of time before that emergency happens. Emergencies are not just limited to armed thugs shooting up the place. Think about the aftermath of a car wreck etc. These are not the times to start the lessons. Those lessons should have already been taught in order to get through these incidents without further injury.

    • hicusdicus

      I will say the same to you. Buckling up your seat belt is just unchecked fearfulness. So is watching where you step.

  • Rob


    One thing I do is that everyone has a flashlight and knows where the escapes lead. So that in case of a fire you don't circle around into it.

  • Kilroy

    Great advise!

    There is nothing paranoid about being prepared. It is often the prepared that survive fires, plane crashes, getting lost, armed encounters, etc.

    Prepare for the worst and hope for the best is always great advise. It is no secret that al Qaeda has planned and practiced for scenarios involving American movie theaters and schools. Don't forget the goal is to interrupt our freedoms and inject fear into our daily lives and routines.

    There is a condition called the normalcy bias, where people refuse to believe something terrible could happen because it never has happened. Don't fall victim to this. No one is saying you should board up your house and stay home. Far from it. Just be prepared and don't be one of those people who are unknowingly waiting to be a victim. Just because you didn't recieve an email or text that something bad might happen to you doesn't mean it won't.

  • TheTruthisalwaysTrue

    Prepardness as a mindset is the goal. If you start mentally thinking through how you would respond should an emergency occur as you go around your daily activities it will lead to your mind doing it subconsciously eventually. It will also lead to your keeping with you certain tools that can assist you in many emergiencies (i.e., high/low intensity flashlight). One person with a plan can save many others. A young man wearing a red bandanna shouted instructions and led dozens to safety repeatedly during the twin towers attack.

  • GunRightsInAmerica

    Great tips and suggestions for preparing your family for an emergency at the movie theater. I have recommended a book for a number of years, and although it is out of print, you can still find used copies. Sanford Strong's book, Strong on Defense, is excellent. He was one of the security experts/consultants on America's Most Wanted TV show. Sanford would discuss what had happened at the crime scene, and then make suggestions and recommendations. Sanford's daughter fought off a rapist while in college, using some of the training her father made sure she received as a young girl. His advice, BE PREPARED for the sudden and unexpected. Your response in those first few moments will be critical. His advice is applicable in many scenarios.

  • frank ludwig grossma

    Good advice, especially these days in the US; France has less of a problem with guns, but fires and panics can happen anywhere.

    However, fifty years ago, when my brother and I went to the movies with my father and mother, we were always told to point out the exits and to plan out which way to move if there were a fire or part of the building started to collapse–which might result from over-enthusiastic organ playing by the owner's daughter, taking place before the movie. The theatre, as was common in those days, was loaded with fake plaster Egyptian motives.

    Our outdoor rally point was not just the car parked nearby, but the little window ledge where my father had hidden his nice Havana cigar.

  • Mike Kelley

    I'm an armed guard working in the armored transport industry. My routes makes 50+ deliveries a day, I have to have a plan for all of those locations. Top that off with the fact that I, my partner, or the truck will likely be the target, and that makes knowing escape routes vital. With that as my mindset at work, it inevitably bleeds over into regular life.

    Anywhere that I may be, I'm checking exits, routes and making sure that I can get out if I have to. A little caution and preparedness, especially in locations that you frequent can go a long way. Get to know what's normal for a given location, and be alert for anything that seems out of place.

    When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

  • the_grey_rider

    Funny this topic should be mentioned. I carried hundreds of times, both concealed and openly in dozens of movie theatres during the past 15 years. Recently some liberal America hater complained to management I was packing heat, and the manager along with security confronted me and my family in a packed movie theatre, I was asked to remove my firearm and leave it in my vehicle, or just leave. I was embarrassed, plus I didn't bring my lock box to lock my unloaded firearm in as an incident like this wasn't anticipated. Plus, a packed movie theatre of patrons heard the conversation, so everyone would have know I had a firaem in my vehicle had I decided to remain for the show. Having this information compromised I decided to simply leave, than risk theft of my firearm while I was watching a movie. I apologized to the manager stating I hadn't seen a firearms prohibited sign on the entry doors of the building, at which point the manager, in an angry tone attempting to start an argument with me, stated 'WE DON'T NEED TO POST A SIGN". Actually, according to Arizona state law, the business HAS TO POST SIGNAGE. I was offered my money returned, but was given free passes to another venue, like I'd return after embarrassment like this. Funny, the movie we were going to see was "Rango", a cartoon which features gunplay…I did some calculations when I returned home, totals of monies spent annually in HARKINS theatres was roughly $2000, I wrote a letter to the company notifying they hyad lost a customer for life, and to avoid situations like the one I experienced they could simply hang a sign on their door. If not, then I guess they like altercations. I also wrote a letter to my state firearms' association, ARIZONA STATE RIFLE AND PISTOL ASSOCIATION notifying them Harkins Theatres doesn't like armed patrons, to post on their website.

  • Lannister

    Mental masturbation.

  • dub


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