In the run up to the World Cup Nigerians will congregate at bars and viewing centres to enjoy the games and support the Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles. One would think watching the Super Eagles was traumatic enough but unfortunately some of our compatriots will have to contend with even more heart stopping events than missing an open goal. Recent events show that these places are easy targets for insurgents in Northern Nigeria. The following piece seeks to identify the potential threat and ways to mitigate it.
Insurgents in Northern Nigeria have used IEDs to extremely effective and deadly effect in several states. Recent events show that IED networks in the North East and North centre have been reconstituted since they were destroyed and disrupted in 2013, with attacks in Maiduguri, Jos, Nyanya and Mubi to name a few.
Recent attacks have utilised two device variants
- Large IEDs: Vehicle borne IED’s: contained in cars, pickup trucks and tricycles. These devices are generally collocated with gas cylinders, which magnifies the blast and creates shrapnel and petrol which creates a fire ball
- Small IEDS: contained in bags or back packs. Attacks prior to this current cycle have utilised IEDs contained in soft drink containers.
These devices have 3 main methods of detonation:
User detonation: in which the bomber activates the device using remote means, such as a mobile phone or an infra red device (like a garage door opener)
Suicide detonation: in which the bomber manually activates the device which is either carried on their person or in a vehicle they are inside.
Timed: in which the bomber leaves the vehicle or bag in the target area to be activated by a mechanical or electronic timer
These devices have the following effects:
Blast: casualties are caused by the shockwave generated by the explosion, this can cause instant death or traumatic amputation, with limbs being ripped off by the force of the blast.
Fire: the heat and fire generated by the explosion creates high temperature fires which incinerates people, vehicles and structures within the blast radius, these fires can cause secondary explosions from vehicle fuel tanks, gas cylinders in buildings etc. This causes death and injury by burning, smoke inhalation and suffocation
Fragmentation: the gas cylinders, vehicle body, road surface, garbage and debris around the area are generally pushed outwards by the blast, creating a shrapnel effect, these particles moving at high speeds cause penetration injuries and traumatic amputation
Structural damage: the blast and fire cause structural damage to nearby buildings, causing them to collapse completely or in part either trapping people inside who are harmed by fire or smoke or creating crushing injuries through falling debris.
Countering the Threat
As discussed in previous articles we can define 3 key stages in an IED attack; Pre –emplacement, post emplacement, detonation
- Pre Emplacement: we identified 2 counter IED tasks in this stage Prediction and Dissuasion
a. Prediction: the enemy is targeting public gathering points such as bars, viewing centres and markets. The enemy is using large devices contained in vehicles and small devices contained in bags and detonating them either by timers, by suicide user operation or normal user operation. The enemy has also begun using secondary devices to target first responders, curiosity seekers and ‘good Samaritans’. Thus we can predict that the enemy is likely to attack public places with small to large devices and might use multiple devices to maximise casualties
b. Have a plan for everything: the key to surviving or succeeding in virtually anything is planning and a number of plans must be designed and rehearsed
- Evacuation plan: each residence/ business should have a plan for how to evacuate the building, with clearly marked exits leading to an agreed upon meeting point. A register or some sort of roll call should be held at the evacuation point to check who is missing. It is imperative that in businesses such as viewing centres etc, these exits are kept clear of obstruction, checked at least once a day and all staff are familiar with the plan. A well organised neighbourhood will link their plans together, ensuring that people are all moving in the same direction
- Fire plan: a fire fighting plan will ensure buildings have clearly marked fire exits, inflammable material like gas cylinders, fuel or even cooking oil are stored away from the main building. Fire fighting equipment should be provided such as fire extinguishers at doorways or even local water tanks kept at convenient locations which are kept filled in order to aid local fire fighting until the fire service arrives. Liaise with the local fire brigade, get their phone number, identify their likely approach routes and get fire fighting tips. In the event of a fire ensure those routes are clear to speed up the fire brigades response. If a neighbourhood watch is formed, a firefighting section should be organised within it, which will lead the local firefighting effort.
- Casualty evacuation plan: casualties will need to be moved to hospital as quickly as possible. If there are trained first aid personnel they should be used to identify the most serious casualties, if not then maximum effort should be made to extract casualties to the nearest hospitals. Hospitals in the immediate area should all be visited with key personnel practicing driving or walking different routes to these hospitals. Hospitals with specialised departments that can deal with certain injuries, such as burns, head injuries etc, should be identified and routes and contact details exchanged. If possible, regular rehearsals should be held for casualty evacuation and mass casualty event
- IED discovered plan: it fundamentally defeats the object of detecting an IED if people simply crowd around it to point, gist and take photos. Thus it is imperative that a plan if formulated so that everybody knows how to react, what to do and where to go. The steps highlighted in Item 2.e should be briefed to and rehearsed by all.
- IED detonated plan: once a device activates it is important that people follow through with the evacuation plan. Standing around lamenting or taking pictures on ones phone does not help the victims, impedes emergency vehicles and presents a juicy target for follow up devices, thus it is imperative that if a device goes off people know how to react, what to do and where to go
c. Dissuasion: the enemy can be dissuaded by overt and proactive security measures. This current campaign consists of targeting vulnerable, high density locations. As part of their attack plan the enemy will reconnoitre their targets. They will be dissuaded from attack targets that:
- Prevent vehicles from parking close to the building or anywhere large crowds might gather. Operating a parking exclusion zone of at least 5-10m (20m would actually be preferable but is generally unrealistic in a packed urban area). This can be done by using parking wardens, water drums, blocks, fencing, bollards, plants, sandbags or any other method to prevent vehicles getting too close.
- Operate a neighbourhood watch programme: ensure everyone in the street is fully briefed on the threat and trained and rehearsed in basic counter measures. Nominate a neighbourhood watch coordinator, make each business/ residence account for people who normally live or work there and take responsibility for its visitors. It is everyone’s duty to challenge suspicious people or vehicles.
2. Post emplacement: if the device or bomber is already on site, then it is important to:
d. Detect the threat: the best method of detecting devices is local knowledge coupled with training, thus basic public education as to the characteristics of IEDs broadcast over the radio, television and internet, with posters, billboards and other material.
- Warn people to be on the lookout for strange vehicles parked near target areas or unknown people (with bags/ backpacks or dressed in bulky clothes like overcoats, agbadas or niqabs) hanging around
- Suicide bombers might be praying, nervous or dressed as above to conceal the device, they are vulnerable to detection and will most likely detonate the device prematurely if they think they are discovered, thus challenge everybody.
- In areas packed with bars, checkpoints at all entry and exit points with random bag and vehicle searches will prevent devices getting to their targets
- Ensure people know the characteristics of an IED, i.e it basically consists of an explosive, a means of detonation (i.e. phone, clock, switch etc) a container (vehicle, bag, box, case) and a power source (battery)
- Every venue should have a search policy, with bags and people (male and female) searched as they go in. If they have car parks then vehicles should be searched as well. The search area should be slightly segregated from the main venue and the queue or crowd of people waiting to get in so that if a device is detonated casualties are reduced. It also allows women in purdah to preserve their modesty.
e. IED discovered plan: if an IED is discovered the following steps should apply
i. Confirm: The first task of anyone discovering a potential IED is to confirm that it is indeed an IED not just someone transporting wires, gas cylinders or petrol, however one would suggest erring severely on the side of caution and moving to the next step.
ii. Warn: give a warning, the warning can be an agreed upon signal such as a bell or whistle. If possible mark the IED spot with something distinctive such as a coloured cloth, stones etc to aid the security services when they come to neutralise it
iii. Evacuate: once the warning is given everyone must evacuate the area around the IED for at least 2-300m and once out stay out until the area is declared safe. While keeping their distance people should also shelter behind hard structures such as walls or at least around a corner from the device. It is imperative then to ensure that the area remains clear until the authorities can attend to deal with the device. If people are trapped in the cleared area and unable to evacuate for some reason then lie down and if possible get below the level of the device for example in gutters, basements, rubbish pits and/or behind hard surfaces such as walls
iv. Neutralise: professional bomb disposal experts will be required for this task. The person who discovered the device should describe to them in as much detail what they saw, its location, any method of marking etc.
3. Detonation: if a device activates casualties and damage can be reduced by the following steps
f. Reaction to detonation
- Take cover: get down to the ground as quickly as possible, remain flat on your front for at least 30 seconds, covering the head with the hands protecting both the head and vital organs fron falling/ flying debris
- Prepare for a secondary device or secondary explosions: identify potential IED locations such as parked cars, discarded bags, natural choke points such as junctions, bridges etc. Burning cars will produce secondary explosions
- Evacuate yourself: check yourself and companions for injuries and then move away from the blast area and assess the situation, contact the emergency services
- Evacuate casualties: having assessed the potential dangers, return and aid casualties, walking wounded should be directed to an evacuation point, somebody must check this area for IEDs prior to people congregating there, if walking wounded are dazed or shocked then a non injured person should be tasked to escort them to the evacuation point. Casualties should be evacuated according to priority of need. The dead should be left in situ.
- Clear evacuation routes: if proper plans have been drawn up then route from the fire station and to hospital should be cleared
- Statements: It is vital that all the people who witnessed the event pass all they know to the authorities, vital clues as to the attackers or their method of operation can be gleaned from this blast/ shockwaves follow the path of least resistance, when it does meet resistance it is either bounces off or goes through the obstacle. If the latter occurs whaterver material that obstacle is made off (i.e. a glass window, car body, stones, walls etc) becomes shrapnel creating further damage. To limit the effects of blast:
g. Damage limitation: blast/ shockwaves follow the path of least resistance, when it does meet resistance it is either bounces off or goes through the obstacle. If the latter occurs whaterver material that obstacle is made off (i.e. a glass window, car body, stones, walls etc) becomes shrapnel creating further damage. To limit the effects of blast:
- Make sure windows are open, if they must be closed then ensure they are covered with clear tape, like sellotape, blast will shatter a closed window, turning the glass into shrapnel. Sellotape will ensure help to prevent fragmentation is far enough away
- Use absorptive barriers like sand, mud, water and other materials that can absorb some of the blast, e.g. a parking space segregated by drums of water will not only absorb blast but will douse resultant fires.
- Ensure that fire exits are clearly marked and staff are well trained and briefed on safety measures such as evacuation plans etc
h. Appropriate Equipment: Each business should have a first aid box and at least one person trained in first aid as well as fire extinguishers and handheld metal detectors. These are particularly useful in the absence of female searchers to run over a woman’s body particularly if she’s in a niqab
The tips can thus be summarised as:
- Have a plan for everything:
i. Evacuation plan
ii. Fire plan
iii. Casualty evacuation plan
iv. IED discovered plan
v. IED detonated plan
- Predicting that the enemies likely to attack target, type of device and method of detonation
- Prevent vehicles from parking close to the building or anywhere large crowds might gather.
- Operate a neighbourhood watch programme
- Warn people to be on the lookout for strange vehicles parked near target areas or unknown people hanging around
- Pre-empt Suicide bombers
- Institute random bag and vehicle searches will identify devices at all entry and exit points to the general area
- Educate people about the parts and characteristics of an IED
- Every venue should have a bag and person search policy
- Know what to do if you discover an IED
- If an IED detonates
o Take cover
o Prepare for a secondary device or secondary explosions
o Evacuate yourself
o Evacuate casualties
o Clear evacuation routes
o Pass on statements to the authorities
- Mitigate the IEDs effects by
o Keep windows are open
o Use absorptive barriers such as sand, mud or water
o Ensure that fire exits are clearly marked and staff are well trained and briefed on safety measures such as evacuation plans etc
o Each business should have a first aid box, fire extinguishers and handheld metal detectors.
The threat of IED attacks against bars, markets and viewing centres are real, yet this threat can be mitigated by following these steps none of which is complex or needs high tech equipment or specialist training (other than maybe First Aid).
It simply requires people to be proactive, coordinate and plan.
I hope the example of watching a Nigerian coached team combining the talents of local and foreign Nigerians to the glory to the Federal Republic is a good portent for the future and that these tips will be useful as we watch Nigeria’s (hopefully) glorious performance.