I read something, somewhere, at some point, that made me scratch my head then and still does to this day. It said that if you are searching a house, turn on all the lights. That way, you take away the night vision of someone hiding inside.
I understand the logic behind this advice, but I think it is flawed for a few reasons.
I’m a big fan of controlling all the variables in a fight that I can, but if I turn on the lights, the suspect and I are on equal footing.
Be the Firefly
Wouldn’t it be better for me to be able to effectively blind a suspect with a beam of light directly to his or her eyes rather than simply illuminating a room from a light fixture?
Do an experiment. Sit in a dark room for a while, and then have someone come in and snap the lights on. Maybe your eyes get a little sensitive, but could you fight?
I think you’d say “yes.”
Now, go sit in the same room for a while and have someone come in and put a tactical flashlight in your face.
You see the difference?
There are other things we need to think about, too. I like to use a term I heard from Move Shoot trainers I took a class from years ago.
They told us to “be the firefly.”
They taught us to take ‘snapshots” with our flashlights and then move to the places we saw in our “camera" flash.
If someone was looking for me, when they saw the “flash” they may shoot at the light, but if I’ve moved under cover of darkness, I won’t be where they shot at.
Breaking the OODA Loop
This is breaking the OODA loop at its best. The suspect Observes my flash, then Orients himself to it, and Decides what to do about it. But before he can Act on his decision, I’ve moved.
So, being the firefly, I can light up, move, and light up again. I can move through the structure in this way until I clear it, or contact a suspect. If a suspect is encountered, keep him / her illuminated and take appropriate action. If you illuminate a suspect and then cut your light off, they now have the advantage.
Basically, while searching for a suspect take snapshots; when and if a suspect is encountered keep them illuminated. Also, I would advocate constant illumination while holding positions behind cover waiting for team assembly for movement. In other words the first man watching a hallway keeps it illuminated while the second and third men clear a room.
Another reason I don’t want to go turning on lights as I go is it telegraphs my position. Yes, so does using a flashlight, but not to the same extent or in the same way.
If I turn on lights as I go, I have to deal with shadows on the floor which can often fall in a direction that will telegraph to a hidden suspect that I am about to enter a doorway (try this in your own home with your kids — they LOVE to be included in training).
I don’t want to get deep into the dynamics of building clearing here, but I will offer this one thing. If you clear a building, you’re better off doing it with three people.
Two people enter each successive room at the same time (NEVER clear a room by yourself), and while those two are clearing the room, the third watches their back.
If you work in a jurisdiction where there are not three people working, call someone.
If you’re a local police officer, call a sheriff’s deputy to come help. Call anyone with a badge and a gun and wait as long as it takes to get the right number of people there.
The only time I would advocate going cowboy and clearing a structure alone would be an active shooter or something like that. Property crimes are, in my opinion, not worth your life.
With two people, you can set a 1-2 / 3-4 perimeter and wait for a third person.
Listen to advice — it is usually intended for good — and think critically about it. Then file it in the appropriate bin.
Stay safe. We need you out there.