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7. Dangerous Behaviour - The Red Zone

The red zone is not difficult to spot but it is much more difficult to respond to.
The Red Danger Zone

While it is not always too easy to spot the Amber Zone, there is usually little doubt when you find yourself in the Red Zone. It's when you go "Oh my giddy aunt", "OMG!" or some version of "****!" Everything changes in that moment - your visual field narrows and you lose your peripheral vision, you may become hyper-vigilant, your sympathetic nervous system activates and primes the body, your thoughts may start racing but thinking becomes very difficult. The natural reaction is to fight against this to remain in control, but, as we will see, this may be a thankless task and even increase the danger - because you end fighting against yourself and may end up becoming unreadable to the aggressor.

Sometimes, however, that is not what happens - particularly if staff have to face a lot of aggression and become desensitised to it. That can be a helpful survival mechanism and may work under lower levels of threat - but as the situation escalates this may lead the staff member to become under-responsive.

Because the situation is imminently dangerous and may unfold faster than the member of staff can think it is essential that they can activate an effective response as soon as they enter the Red Zone. However, there cannot be a "one-size fits all" strategy as there is a great deal of difference according to whether the aggressor is being driven by high levels of hot emotion, psychological disturbance (delusions, paranoia, hallucinations) or coercive control (a goal).

This means that the staff member, like it or not, has to make a very rapid assessment of the behaviour, often faster than they can think - and then know already how to respond to that snap judgment. This is the focus of my next blog!

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