If you have ever served in a military branch that dominantly conducts ground warfare, or have served in the smaller elements of the other two branches that don’t, then you already know the difference between cover and concealment. (LEOs, you get a pass on this one, as well.) A lotta people out there do not know the difference. No biggie.
Until it IS a biggie, and you’re trying not to get shot or blown up.
As probably most of America has heard or learned at this point, when some sort of kinetically derived emergency happens–active shooters, explosions, etc.–you are supposed to do one, two, or all, of three things:
For this little ditty, we’re assuming you are out on the town, and not in any status or disposition to engage; you are focused *away* from the pops and bangs, not *toward* them. (That establishes Course of Action 1: Run.)
Run. Remove yourself immediately, if not sooner, from your current location to a location that is as far away from whatever is going down wherever the shit is going down, as possible. If you can keep moving, do so. (We should all know by now what my policy on a safe finish is, right? You’re not safe until you are back home and no one is coming after you.)
We’ll assume you can’t get as far as you want to get, and have to shift gears to Course of Action 2: Hide. COAs 1 and 2 both adhere to what Mr. Miagi referred to as “the best defence”: No be there. But in the event that you can’t “no be there,” you can do your damnedest to be out of sight (which is effectively the same as not being there, if you’re good enough).
I, personally/unfortunately, have got a pretty damn good running record of performing all three of these COAs. And although the root of my need to do any of them is completely different than those listed here–as well as self-inflicted–dynamically there is no difference in how you would proceed, in any event.
So, you’re hiding. You’ve got two kinds of places you can head for. One of those will *conceal* you from your aggressor’s view, but will not protect you from stray (or targeted) fire, or explosions. That one is what we in “the business” refer to as Concealment. Because Joe does not need complicated nomenclature for shit that will save his (or her, these days; welcome ladies–I’m not assuming anything) life while out on the line.
Concealment–as its name explicitly states for you–“hides” you from view. But that’s it. You’re hidden. But if you’re in a bar when shit goes sideways, and you think hunkering down in your booth, or on the street behind a hotdog stand, out of sight, is going to keep you safe… you may be unpleasantly surprised.
Every bullet and bomb has a different amount of shit that needs to be between you and it, in terms of what will keep you safe. (JTACs [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] have a good idea of this kinda shit when they are running 9 lines and calling fire. As do marksmen, when they are working bullets around armor or equipment so they can hit the meatier stuff that tends to make bad guys fall down.)
In an office setting, let’s say… your cubicle walls are concealment. That lowest-bidder mesh-over-cardboard stuff barely stops your neighbor’s annoying ringtones. Shit ain’t gonna stop a bullet.
BUT! Being hidden is better than just standing there screaming, fetally waiting to be a victim. So, as you are hauling balls out to get away from whatever you are getting away from, keep in mind that a shooter can’t generally shoot you if they can’t see you. So, duck behind stuff as you’re moving. Get any object–as many objects!–between you and any and all aggressors’ eyes as possible.
The other “no be there” option we have here in COA2, is Cover. Cover does two things: hides you (exactly as concealment does), and *protects* you.
Cover is the shit you wanna get between you and shit that goes bang. First off, Baddies can’t even see you. Second off, even if they knew you were there, the shit they [theoretically] have to send at you can’t get through that wicked cover you are chillin’ behind.
Cover is what you want in a firefight. Cover is what you want in a movie theater, when you’re not close enough to the exit to bounce. Cover is what you want on the street–which effectively is no different from literally THOUSANDS of fire fights in dozens of countries over the last nearly two decades. Cover keeps you safe–even if it’s only for a second before you shift position to an egress route.
Concealment buys you time. Cover buys you more time. But hunkering down typically dictates that you are sheltering *IN PLACE*, and not moving anywhere until the cavalry (not the actual Combat Arms branch, in most cases; results may vary) arrives to kick ass and take names. So, if you have no wherewithal to RUN, and you are forced to HIDE… do your absolute fucking best to get over/under/behind something that not only blocks your mug from a shitbird’s view, but also protects you from whatever he or she is trying to give you.
Harder, thicker objects and structures are better. (Sickos.) Concrete. Enbankments. Brick walls. The engine block and tire of a car (this one always gets me in movies). Trees thick enough to hide your fat ass will generally also stop bullets, and the average asshole murderer (terrorist, or otherwise) is usually not setting up shop on a rooftop slotting people with a .50 cal.
So, to recap:
1) “No be there.”
2) Get your ass out of Dodge.
3) Not being seen is a good thing.
4) Not being shot or blown up is an even better thing.
5) Not even having to mess with any of this bullshit is an even BETTER thing. But since you never know… See items 1-4.
Featured image courtesy of BBC