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  • Writer's pictureJoe Miller

Pro Tip: Response to Suicidal People on Bridges and Elevated Roadways

Editors note: I'm no Kevin Briggs, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Here's my take on it.

Few things make me reach for tummy pills more than a suicidal jumper. IMO, not too many other incidents have the witches' brew of lethality of method, negative public interaction/crowd control, and the potential for unintentional mayhem.

Location, Location, Location

Psychologists tell us the motivation of a suicidal jumper is often avoidance of physical, emotional, or psychological pain. There is often a quasi-spiritual belief system that suggests a “do-over” or an opportunity for a new life once this “bad life” ends.

It is widely theorized that locations like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and similar structures become beacons for people with this worldview. The natural beauty of these locations combined with almost constant low clouds and fog can be attractive to the personality that feels a strong desire to step off into the unknown and see what’s next.

If I’m responding to a report of a suicidal jumper and it happens to be low visibility due to weather or at night, my lip gets a little extra sweaty. That isn’t to say that suicidal jumpers who present at 5 pm on a major bridge aren’t also an issue. They are. I have personally been a lot more successful determining external drivers and motivations of suicidal jumpers with full sun and daytime than I have been with nighttime or inclement weather suicidal jumpers. I don’t have the research skills to do the study, I’ll Venmo you if you do.

Low-stim Response

Keeping your resources a block or so away until you have a plan beats bringing a lot of wanted, or unwanted, attention to your scene. On my last day-time bridge jumper, we staged a city bus in the lane closest to the suicidal jumper, put out a few cones, and put on the hazard lights. We only occupied one lane of a 3-lane roadway. Much of the motoring public thought they were seeing nothing more interesting than a disabled bus. That’s right, no renditions of that 80’s classic “Jump”, or other disparaging comments from frustrated drivers to complicate your rapport-building efforts.

Make these connections with your local bus service before you need it. Chances are, your tactical guys have the contact info already because they are practicing tubular assaults on their busses a few times a year.

Coming soon: Safety considerations for your negotiators.



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