In recent times, many questions have been asked about what one should do in the event of a terror attack.
The first thing to say is that there is excellent advice on the British Government, GOV.UK site, which I would suggest everyone takes time to read and digest.
Realistically the probability of getting caught up in a fire or terror attack are exceedingly low but in the unlikely event that one is caught up in this it helps to have an idea of what to do.
Please note that this is not in any way a recommended guideline, merely an illustration of a particular way of thinking.
At all times please follow official advise and guidelines particularly from the police or emergency services.
A personal guideline is summarised below is broken down into 5 stages;
- Have a plan
- Be prepared
- Be Aware
1. Have a plan: in every situation have a plan.
It might not be the best plan or even a good plan but simply by having a plan in the first place, puts you one or two steps ahead of everyone else.
A plan can be as mundane as identifying alternative transport modes if your car breaks down or as complex as identifying every potential location a someone could plant an IED along your route home.
Getting into the latter level of complexity is absurd and pointless unless you are trained in what to look for and are bored and need a mental exercise.
The easiest way to come up with a plan is to:
- Identify the objective e.g. I wish to go to work.
- Identify how this will be achieved: leave home, enter mode of transport, get to work, leave work, enter mode of transport, return home
- Identify potential obstacles: terror attack, vehicle breakdown, fire, robbery, traffic jams, vehicle accidents etc
- For each potential obstacle, ask yourself the simple question “What do I do then?”
- The answer to that question is then your go to contingency
- Once you’ve thought of something run it through a sanity check and that is the basis of your plan, i.e. in the event of a shooting, do not plan to dodge bullets Matrix style and take out the bad guys
Initially this can be difficult with people agonising over multiple choices but with practice it becomes easier.
Summary: identify key problems, identify solutions
Key takeaway: a rudimentary plan is better than no plan
2. Be prepared: having a plan is the first part of being prepared.
Being prepared involves ensuring you have the basic tools to implement the identified contingency plans.
Thus if you contingency plan in the event of a vehicle breakdown involves taking a taxi or the bus ensure you have cash. If there is a possibility of walking, ensure shoes are comfortable (or have walking shoes to hand).
Being prepared involves having as much of the right knowledge, such as first aid or fire safety as possible.
Being prepared also involves how you place yourself, depending on your plan and perception of the threat, you might want to sit near the exit (so as to rapidly escape) or away from the exit (as an attacker will target the people near the exit first). You might want to sit near the window (so as to see if there is anything happening on the street) or away from the window (so as to be away from flying glass in the event of an explosion).
Summary: ensure you are able to follow your contingencies by having the correct knowledge and equipment.
Key takeaway: simple everyday items are sufficient for most situations but you can’t use them if you don’t have them.
3. Be Aware: following on from having a plan and being prepared, situational awareness is key.
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Be aware of the people around you
- Try and be aware of anything happening in the local area, such as festivals, sporting events that you might encounter.
Being aware of your surroundings is as basic as identifying the nearest exits or noting where doorways or side streets are when on the street. If you are really keen you can try and identify the best places to hide if needed, what places would give you protection from a blast or bullet or if there is anything nearby you can use as a shield or a weapon.
Being aware of people is not about stereotyping a particular type of person it is literally a matter of being aware of who and what is around you. In this case cursory glances to identify who is around you, what they are holding or carrying and what they are doing.
Knowing what might be happening in the local area helps in managing your expectations, thus if there is a sporting event there are likely to be crowds, delays to traffic but also more police or emergency services to hand.
Summary: be aware of your surroundings, the nature of the place you are in and the atmosphere. Be aware of the people around you. It aids rapid reaction
Key takeaway: however absorbing your book, video game, phone conversation, movie or music, periodically take a few seconds to look up and look around
4. Escape: simply means moving as quickly as possible in the direction of safety or at least as far away from the danger as possible. If you have planned for this eventuality, prepared as best you can and are aware of your surroundings you will react quickly and have a higher chance of success.
Summary: rapid escape is aided by planning, preparation and awareness
Key takeaway: run
5. Resist: the Government advice in the event of a marauding attack is Run, Hide, Tell, which should be followed at all times.
If you are unable to escape the danger completely then hide and contact the emergency services or if not someone else who can do that on your behalf.
A final, personal variation on this is Run, Hide, Tell, Resist.
This is in no way an injunction to seek out and engage an attacker, however if you are unfortunate enough to have your hiding place breached by the attacker, or you are cornered with no where to run, then resisting is better than begging or pleading.
I will also be clear that the objective is not to defeat the attacker and save the day but to buy enough time to escape.
The attacker has the initiative, of all the people in that place at that time he is the only one who has planned and prepared for this exact situation.
While they have this advantage, they are not expecting resistance, thus any form of resistance irrespective of your size, gender or fighting ability will surprise the attacker and hopefully deter them long enough to buy time to flee.
We will look at various different circumstances;
- Aim to always walk towards oncoming traffic
- If headphones are in, keep one ear free or at least the volume low enough to hear what’s going on.
- If a vehicle is seen approaching run into a nearby alleyway or door way, if this is not possible for example on a bridge then rather than running in the vehicles direction of travel run away at an angle.
- Move away from the site of the explosion as quickly as possible
- Explosions are magnified by confined spaces try and get into the open
- Be aware of the possibility of other devices
- Avoid congregating with a crowd or in likely places of restricted access such as doorways, hallways etc
- Most injuries are from flying glass so try and avoid windows or glass doors
- In an urban environment avoid parked cars, dustbins, whilst this is difficult the key is to get into an open space
- If in a building, read the buildings fire instructions
- Identify all exits, not just fire exits
- Identify what fire fighting tools might be available and their location
- If there is time walk your evacuation route and identify where you will end up
- Ensure your route to the exit is clear
- If in a burning room, stay low, the air is clearer.
- Touch doors before opening them, if they are hot it is likely there is a fire on the other side and opening that door will feed it oxygen
Marauding attacker with firearm
- If you cannot escape and must hide, try and get into a room and lock or barricade the door, stay as far away from the door as possible and lie down. If the assailant fires through the door, they will most likely aim at body height
- Hide or take cover. When hiding be aware that being hidden from view does not automatically mean protection from blast or bullets. Brick walls, solid metal structures, etc will protect you.
- In a situation where your hiding place is breached, you are unable to remain concealed and you are cornered, then run or at least keep moving, if possible behind something solid, a moving target is relatively difficult to hit
- If caught up in gunfire, lie still and play dead. In the UK in particular the assailant will have little ammunition and will most likely not waste it on people he believes to be dead. Even in regions where ammunition is cheap and plentiful, assailants will want to get as many victims as possible, thus if they think you are dead they might move off
Marauding attacker with knife
- In a situation where your hiding place is breached or you are cornered and unable to run, unfortunately one must prepare to engage in unarmed close combat
- It is always best to turn and face your attacker, from a psychological point of view it lets the attacker know he is facing someone ready to fight and might weaken his resolve, more importantly you cannot see what they are doing if you are not looking at them
- A knife needs to be closer than arm’s length to be harmful, thus keep moving to prevent them getting close enough
- Use any weapons to hand to keep them away, every conceivable item is a weapon, a lady’s handbag swung like a club, a rucksack, high heeled shoes, flat heeled shoes, a mobile phone, umbrella, newspaper, book, a chair
- The main objective should be to separate them from the blade
- Fight dirty. There are no rules or chivalry in a fight for your life, when fighting males, blows to the genitals are almost instantly debilitating, for females blows to the genitals or chest have a similar effect. If striking to the head, the cheek, nose, lips present good targets as you are less likely to damage yourself. If you are able to scratch or get fingers in the eyes do so. The abdomen is a large and excellent target but getting close enough to strike it effectively puts you in range of the assailant. Likewise the shins and knees are painful when kicked and can be hit from a distance
- If you are able to disarm or in anyway disable the assailant then run.
- Even if you are a trained and experienced unarmed combat practitioner I would still suggest running as the attacker could be on drugs and thus impervious to pain or more importantly there could be more attackers whom could join them.
- If you are unsuccessful and no longer able to resist in anyway then play dead if at all possible, hopefully the attacker will then move on to other targets
There are numerous unforeseen events that can befall an individual in the course of daily life, in order to be in the best position to successfully negotiate them individuals should
- Have a plan for most actions with contingencies
- Be prepared to implement those contingencies
- Be Aware of your surroundings
If one is unfortunate enough to be caught up in an unforeseen event then planning, preparation and awareness will help you to:
- Escape the immediate danger
- React if escape is no longer an option
If I was asked what is the most important tool, I would say it is situational awareness.
One cannot plan or prepare for all eventualities however one can always be aware of all that’s around, which might give one time to escape.
In all cases take the time to read and understand official advice and guidance and follow the guidance and instructions of law enforcement, the emergency and security forces.