‘Sometimes instinct kicks in…’: What to know about Fight, Flight, and Preparation


Luna, Danielle

2022 Golden Valley High School Shakeout Drill

Fight or flight is an instinct that is present in every human being and although one may believe to know how they will react, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Fight or flight is a natural human response that exists in each and every person. The definition of this instinct, by Google, is “The instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away”. There are many possibilities when it comes to the final instinct, known as fight or flight, and it raises the question: Are we safe in our own surroundings with this human instinct?

Flight or fight changes with age and because of various strong reactions, it is common for consequences to happen after situations and fight or flight is biologically designed to help humans survive. During this natural response, it can affect memories at the time leading to blacking out or forgetting which is human nature, it is a survival instinct that can definitely work against humans at times.

Survival reactions depend on brain development. Seeing the campus’ surroundings and peers, younger people have a harder time coping with stress induced triggers since they have a less developed brain, it’s dealt with in different ways but in a huge setting, school staff plays an important role in keep all these reactions under control. However, natural stress responses can still lead to tantrums, breakdowns, emotional reactions etc. For older people, this capacity is expanded with more age. “Plasma epinephrine” is found to be decreased or absent in their brains, compared to young humans, which is adrenaline that triggers fight or flight.

Having this response doesn’t justify wrongdoings whatsoever. There has to be consideration for what bad actions can be possible during this instinct. It’s not impossible to keep in mind but however it is hard to think about future consequences while you are in danger and how a small time frame can change lives.

There are careers such as first responders, for example, who are confronted every day with occurring danger and certifications for these jobs include being specifically trained for exact situations and having to follow certain protocols. First responders are trained physically and mentally to prepare for such events, the results of this is unknown since different people have different reactions, one of the more reasons fight or flight is made to be unpredictable.

Public settings increase the possibility of danger occuring, anxiety is more common among peers in high schools, a pretty large public setting. While it’s perfectly normal to have that unsettlement with your surroundings, at the end of the day it’s very important to not stress over rare occurrences.

Taking into consideration, campus security is fairly active and protective of students which aims to serve as a security blanket for students. Hart District holds emergency drills during class time to train students on what to do during emergency or natural disaster related situations. Although it might be rare for events to happen during school or class time, knowing the basics of what to do in case of emergencies can help a lot when coming to impactful events. Being curious about the training staff and student protocols that are carried out each year and if it would be as accurate.

Assistant Principal Yvett Landeros explains, “The training and the practice is so [students and staff] are aware [of campus safety procedures]… it’s not going to be a perfect scenario, and you can only try to prepare the best you can, but then sometimes instincts kick in and you try to make decisions on what’s best at the moment”.

Even proper training, as mentioned, doesn’t guarantee predictable reactions. She also adds, “I tend to be on the calmer side, I don’t get rattled too easily, so I try to remain calm and assess the situation.”

People can’t accurately predict what might happen, but it’s best to follow advice on what can be done. Just a suggestion can go very far. Landeros adds “I hope students would listen to the adults since they might have been through situations before and have some training. I know they might get an emotional response, but hopefully they can trust the adults would be the best thing since there are 2,000 of you and 90 of us, safety is our number one goal.”

It’s best to be open minded on what type of reactions people can have and in what situations possible. In the end as long as safety is ensured and securely carried out that’s what is most important, with a natural instinct or not.