Five Nights That Could Save Your Life: How to Survive a Bank Robbery

Do you know how to react in a bank robbery?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Do you know what to do if your bank is being robbed while you are there?

    According to the FBI, North Texas has had 168 bank robberies so far this year -- which works out to about one robbery every 48 hours.

    Richardson police Officer Lee Rhinebarger is part of a team that trains tellers how to react in a bank robbery.

    "Tellers are trained to take that threat as serious," he said. "If they say there's a gun, they're going to take it like there's a gun. And the bank robbers know this."

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    He said the same skills he teaches tellers can help customers.

    "If you're prepared for a situation, you know what to do," he said. "You're not going to be afraid of it."

    The first thing you can do is beware of the people around you in the bank.

    "You may be standing in line -- the person behind you, you really don't know -- he could be a bank robber, " Rhinebarger said.

    Rhinebarger said most of the bank robberies are the "pass the note" types, in which the robber passes a teller a threatening note demanding money.

    That type of robbery can happen in front of other customers without them even knowing the crime is taking place.

    But if you do notice a bank robbery going down, stay calm and don't panic.

    "Don't get antsy," Rhinebarger said. "Don't get all, 'I have to do this, I have to do that.' That's not the case here."

    The third thing to remember is important if the robber is near you. Take mental note of him or her and try to remember details of the person's clothing, eye color and hair color.

    "Start from the head down to the toe," Rhinebarger said. "Get a description. Do you have any scars, marks, tattoos, anything on the face, neck? Work your way down."

    And the last step is the most important, especially if the robber is flashing a gun.

    "Don't be a hero -- no tricks, no quick movements. ... Do what they tell you so they can get in and get out quick," Rhinebarger said. "That way, it's a lot safer for everyone involved. You hear about that happening every now and then, but being a hero is not going to be safe. It may backfire on you."

    Rhinebarger reminds tellers and customers that the event might be traumatic, but it's not personal to the robber. That perspective can help guide customers to do the right thing.

    "A bank robbery is just about money," he said. "It's not about the people inside -- it's money. It's money; it's a tangible item. It's not human life. Human life is a lot more valuable than a few hundred dollars."