Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Four Universal Rules of Gun Handling: TEEX's Lee Santo

One of the subjects we teach police officers at the TEEX Firearms Training Range is the safe use and handling of firearms. There are four universal rules of gun handling we work to instill in all of our firearms students. The Four Universal Rules of Gun Handling are included here with a brief explanation of each rule.

First Safety Rule: Treat all guns as if they are loaded ALL the time. A lot of people are injured, or even killed, by the mishandling of supposedly unloaded firearms every year. There is no excuse for this happening. Treat guns properly and with respect, then there should be no problem. If you see a gun and you don’t know what to do with it, leave it alone. Treat it like it’s loaded. Don’t touch it if you’re not sure how to handle it.

Second Safety Rule: Never point the muzzle of a firearm at anything you are not willing to DESTROY. By muzzle, I mean the end where the bullet comes out. That’s where the projectile leaves the weapon. Do not point the gun at anything that can’t be fixed or replaced. Do not point the gun at yourself or someone else unless you intend to shoot them. This means anywhere inside your own home, or wherever you may be that you don’t want the projectile to hit, injure or kill someone. Remember, firearms by their design are inherently dangerous, especially if mishandled. So, don’t point the end of the gun, the muzzle end, at anything you’re not willing to destroy.

Another important point about the second rule: find a safe direction to point the muzzle when handling the firearm. On the TEEX firearms range it is pretty easy to find a safe direction—it’s where we post our targets.  If you are handling a firearm inside your own home, you need to be sure what direction is a safe direction. Are the interior walls of your home made of sheetrock? Sheetrock doesn’t stop bullets. Consider what is on the other side of that wall. That might be your children’s bedroom. You might live in an apartment where there are people living on the other side of that interior wall. Do you live on the top floor of an apartment complex? If you do, pointing the weapon down, towards the floor, may not be a good idea. Consequently, if you live on the bottom floor, pointing it up may not be the safest idea either. If an exterior wall is made out of brick—that might be the safest direction to point the gun because the brick might stop a bullet should there be an inadvertent discharge. So, always be aware of where you’re pointing the muzzle and don’t point it at anything you don’t intend to hurt, destroy, or kill.

Third Safety Rule: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you’re ready to shoot. The vast majority of modern firearms have a variety of safety mechanisms to keep the weapon from firing unless the safety mechanism is disengaged.  These safeties also prevent the weapon from firing even if it is accidentally dropped. The gun will only fire when the trigger is depressed. So, when handling weapons, keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you are ready to shoot. It’s just a good rule. Whether you are drawing the gun from a holster or putting it back in the holster, getting it out of a gun case, gun cabinet, gun safe, car trunk---WHATEVER, keep your finger off the trigger. Remember, your finger stays off the trigger until your sights are on target and you are ready to shoot.

Fourth Safety Rule: Know your target and what’s beyond your target. On the TEEX Firearms Range where we train the police officers, we have a large bullet trap behind the target line that catches all the bullets. But if you’re going out for recreational firearms use, you may not always have the luxury of a bullet trap. You need to be aware of where you are shooting and where the bullet will stop. Bullets, even small caliber bullets, can travel as far as a mile. Make sure there is a backstop capable of stopping the caliber of bullet you are firing.

Even when training police officers for deadly force confrontations--situations where they may have to shoot a perpetrator committing a violent crime--we emphasize the need to know where the bullet will go in the event the bullet passes through the offender. There is no criminal or civil protection for a police officer, in an otherwise justifiable shooting, should an innocent third party be injured by the bullet the officer fired. The officers are always responsible for where those bullets travel and so are you. So, if you’re going out for a day of shooting to practice your skills, make sure you know your target and beyond--know where the bullet will stop.

Lee Santo is the Training Manager with TEEX’s Public Safety & Security Training Division, a part of The Texas A&M University System. After serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Santo has served in law enforcement for 20 years and has worked at TEEX since 2005. He has operational responsibility for the TEEX Central Texas Police Academy and supervises the scheduling and delivery of all law enforcement extension training programs. TEEX offers a variety of courses in the public safety field and law enforcement, including the Central Texas Police Academy’s Basic Peace Officer course. For more information, visit the Law Enforcement page or visit TEEX’s Public Safety & Security division page.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spanish Fire School: Unique Training Delivered by World Class Instructors

Things have been heating up this week as temperatures have soared over 100 degrees F at the Brayton Fire Training Field, which is hosting the 45th Annual Spanish Fire Training School for more than 630 firefighters from more than 15 countries.  Firefighters are taking courses, not just in firefighting, but in rescue, hazardous materials and fire instructor training. And every course is taught in Spanish with the assistance of 173 guest instructors and safety officers from across the world.

The instructors volunteer their time for the brotherhood of the fire service that knows no borders.  They recognize the importance of training and are vocal supporters of this unique school for Spanish-speaking firefighters. Some have been coming every year for 10, 20, 30 years or more!  One of them is Ramón Domínguez from Mexico City, who leads the training in hazardous materials.  He has been attending for 35 years, well before the HazMat program at the school started in 1992. 

Missing the school for the first time in 50+ years is Chief Salvador Lambretón from Monterrey, Mexico.  Chief Lambretón, who helped establish the Spanish Fire School in 1966, was unable to attend this year.

TEEX officials make no qualms about the fact that the school would not be possible without the dedication of guest instructors and safety officers.  To show their appreciation this year, the school reinstated a tradition of handing out a special bright red Spanish Fire School cap to each of them.  The caps are easy to spot around the field - a symbol of respect for those who come each year to share their knowledge with the next generation of firefighters.

Ten guest instructors who had taught at Annual Fire Training Schools for 10 or more years passed away during the past year and were remembered in a moving ceremony on Wednesday morning at the Guest Instructor Memorial Wall at Brayton Field.  The names of the 10 instructors will now join hundreds of others already engraved on the wall. The ceremony was marked by the laying of a wreath, an honor guard, tolling of 5 bells, lowering the flags to half staff, a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace," and bugle calls delivered by 16-year-old Julio Robles. Robles, the son of guest instructor Juan Jesus Robles of Nuevo Laredo, has played at the ceremony for three years.

See more about the annual school on the Bryan/College KBTX.com website or read the story in the Bryan-College Station Eagle newspaper. Photos from the weeklong school can also be viewed on the TEEX Flickr page.

Escuela para Bomberos: Instrucción sin igual en manos de instructores a nivel mundial

Ha hecho un calor impresionante esta semana, con más de 100 grados F  en el Campo Brayton de Capacitación, donde se ofrece la 45ª Escuela para Bomberos en Español a la que asisten unos 630 bomberos de más de 15países. Los bomberos toman cursos de combate de incendio, rescate y materiales peligrosos, entre otras materias, impartidos en español por 173 instructores invitados y oficiales de seguridad de todo el mundo. 

Los instructores se ofrecen como voluntarios en honor a la hermandad que no reconoce fronteras a la hora de responder a incendios y demás emergencias. Todos entienden la importancia de la capacitación y saben que la que se ofrece en esta Escuela es de un nivel muy elevado. Algunos han venido todos los años desde hace 10, 20, 30 años o más. Uno de ellos es el Ing. Ramón Domínguez, de la Ciudad de México, el Director de los cursos de materiales peligrosos, quien asiste desde hace 35 años, mucho antes de establecerse el programa HazMat en la Escuela en 1992. Lamentablemente este año ―por primera vez en más de 50 años ― falta el Jefe Salvador Lambretón, de Monterrey, México. El Jefe Lambretón, uno de los fundadores de la Escuela en 1966, por desgracia no pudo llegar esta vez.      

La dirección de TEEX reconoce que no sería posible la Escuela sin la dedicación de los instructores invitados y los oficiales de seguridad. Este año, para hacer constar su agradecimiento por la contribución de estos voluntarios, se ha vuelto a introducir una antigua tradición de regalarles a todos un gorro rojo con el nombre de la Escuela. Ahora, en el Campo Brayton se pueden identificar por su gorro rojo a los que se ofrecen desinteresadamente para compartir sus conocimientos con la siguiente generación de bomberos.

Como de costumbre se reconocieron a los instructores invitados (con diez años o más de servicio en cualquiera de las Escuelas de TEEX) que fallecieron durante el último año. Se realizó la ceremonia conmemorativa el miércoles frente a la lápida donde se inscribirán los nombres de los diez instructores difuntos. Durante la ceremonia se colocó una corona, la Guardia de Honor puso las banderas a media asta, se escucharon los toques simbólicos de campana y una versión de la canción tradicional “Amazing Grace,” y tocó la corneta Julio Robles, hijo del instructor Juan Jesús Robles, ambos de Nuevo Laredo. El joven Robles ha tocado la corneta en las últimas tres ceremonias conmemorativas celebradas en el Campo Brayton.