Bill Badzmierowski is CPI’s Prepare Training® program Director of Instructor Services.

Early today, we were stunned by a tragic shooting that took place in Aurora, CO. The thoughts and hearts of the dedicated staff at CPI are with the loved ones of all victims and with the survivors, facility staff, emergency responders, and direct witnesses to this horrifying event. We are deeply saddened by this painful situation.

The world stood witness early today as the media photographed, wrote, reported, taped, broadcast, emailed, Tweeted, and blogged to a stunned international audience. Anxiety, speculation, fear, and rumors abound even as I write. Reports point to “panic,” “chaos,” and “craziness” during and after the shooting. Questions and theories about motive began immediately as we all attempt to make sense of something that defies sense.

We encourage this worldwide audience to be cautious in making assumptions. Human behaviour during and after any crisis may be much different than we might expect.

Despite common beliefs, most people are quite resilient. People seldom respond completely irrationally during any crisis. Despite headlines and eyewitness reports, the reality is that individuals experience both productive and unproductive responses during and after a crisis event.


In the immediate crisis moment, people frequently experience anxiety, fear, confusion, and disbelief. Hysteria and panic are rarely seen. A situation may be abnormal, but, in general, people’s reactions are not.

A far more common reaction is for affected individuals to first attempt to ensure their own safety and welfare. Many will then make every effort to help others. Such behavior has been well documented in high-profile emergencies worldwide.

Coping with painful emotions at a time like this can be very difficult. Feelings of anxiety, apprehension, concern, fear, and worry may haunt some people. These and similar reactions are quite normal at a time like this.

Dealing with distressing emotions can often be a matter of shifting perspective. We offer the following tips for anyone attempting to maintain perspective in the hours, days, and weeks following the tragedy in Colorado:


  • Keep yourself safe physically and emotionally. It’s important to stay aware of the suggestions made by authorities. It’s equally important to keep these suggestions in perspective.

  • Focus on the facts. Be careful about making assumptions or adding to rumors. Rumors can spread quickly and the energy of a rumor increases as it spreads. A rumor can quickly get out of control, lead to panic, and further lead to serious danger.

  • Consult with reliable and authoritative sources. These could include your local emergency management agency (EMA) and state, regional, and federal authorities. 

  • Make positive choices. Remember your priorities. Only you know what they are! People are their own best experts and know best what they need. It is very important to seek out any resources that you feel may be helpful to you.

  • Maintain a support network of family, friends, and colleagues and keep in touch with them. Note the things that really matter, and take the pressure off from nonessential concerns.

  • Focus on what you can do. You can do all of the above, but you cannot do everything. Continue routine activities. Maintain realistic expectations for yourself and others.

  • Do something small for yourself and for someone you care about. Small things matter!

  • Ask for professional help if you feel you need it. There are resources available to assist you. These may include community social service programs, your local public health service, and resources available through your employer-sponsored employee assistance program (EAP), medical insurance, and other employee benefit plans.

We can’t escape the news of horrifying tragedy that surrounds us every day. But planning, training, and ongoing practice can help us with our reaction to the unthinkable.