The recent events that have unfolded in London, Manchester and other places have people scrambling for answers as to what to do in a terrorist incident. We as a people must maintain our way of life and go about our daily business. Otherwise, the terrorists win. Because they ultimately want to disrupt your lives and if they can fill people with enough fears as to keep them from going to large public events then, they’ve won.
We’re not going to get into a long philosophical discussion on terrorism, the mentally unhinged or the common criminal. While the number of these incidents are rising, they’re still pretty rare. But regardless of how you feel about any particular group or activity, you can still get caught up in one of these types of incidents… so what are you to do? One is to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Hotel/Airports: Try to alleviate any potential situations, when staying at a hotel, try to get a room between the 3rd and 5th floors. You don’t want the bottom two floors because those are too easily attained by terrorists when attacking. Above the fifth floor isn’t ideal as that will take the authorities too long to clear and leaves you vulnerable to continued assault by the bad guys.
A good rule of thumb is to try to get a room centrally located between the elevators and stairwells. It gives you better options to egress from danger.
Avoid the long lines at the airport ticket counters. If you must, get there early to avoid the long lines. Our airport security is lax until you go to the gates. Anyone can enter around the ticket counters and there is little to stop a catastrophe from occurring during peak times or at the Holidays.
No one’s bags are scanned or checked and no one goes thru a metal detector in the US until AFTER the ticket counter. Passing thru Israel many times, you have to go thru multiple checks as well as metal detectors before reaching the ticket counters. Our airport terminals are ripe for a disaster. But having tried to bring this to someone’s attention has fallen on deaf ears.
Situational Awareness: Most trained members of the military and law enforcement have an excellent situational awareness that the average person isn’t trained in nor pays much attention to. But once they become ingrained into your being, those traits never leave you.
Today, whenever my family and I go to large public gatherings, my instincts tend to go into a higher level of alert. Kind of a relaxed alert where your senses are heightened but you aren’t facing imminent danger. We all think that “this will never happen here” but I’m sure if you asked the people of London or Manchester that prior to those incidents, they’d say much the same thing. So, make yourself and your family into a hard target. How do we do that, if we aren’t all Special Operations trained, steely-eyed commandos?
Above all, always trust your gut instincts. In the vast majority of problems, you’ll encounter, the people making the fuss will stand out prior to the incident. Suspicious people and objects are a dead giveaway. And what makes them suspicious? Sometimes their dress or choice of apparel doesn’t fit the surroundings. Three guys enter a building wearing heavy jackets on a summer day? Easy to spot and maybe they’ve got something under those to start a problem. If their mid-sections seem unnaturally rigid, that could be evidence of a suicide bomb or vest.
Their body language and mannerisms are often a dead giveaway. Despite the trying to blend, most people aren’t trained well enough to mask their heightened anxiety and will appear nervous, sweating, or jumpy before an incident.
Report any individual taking pictures of security measures, cameras, and such. And some are even so bold as to draw diagrams, blueprints, or maps in the open.
See someone timing the traffic lights or the response times of a police call to at or near a specific area? You may be witnessing a “dry run” where terrorists or criminals go thru a practice run before the real thing.
But for the average person out there who may not recognize these, use your peripheral vision and scan your surroundings. And the first thing one should always be aware of are the exits. How many are there and where are they located? And never forget that sometimes, the nearest and most easily accessible exit is behind you. In stores and restaurants, the “employee only” signs don’t count during a terrorist incident. And usually, there is a rear exit that can be used. We’ve become conditioned to never go there, but these aren’t normal times.
Are there natural or man-made barriers that will stop or slow your family from exiting? Will those turn into choke points where panic could ensue and create even more problems and carnage?
OK, you’ve taken all the precautions but what happens if you still find yourself in an active terrorist incident… what the heck do you do now?
First thing is, don’t panic. While that sounds overly simplistic it may mean the difference between living and dying. Always keep your wits about you and you’ll have a better chance of getting out of this alive.
Run, Shelter in Place, Resist: These are the steps that experts agree on. Even if you’re carrying a concealed weapon, the last thing you want to do, [unless forced to] is to get into a shootout with your wife and kids in tow.
Run: If it all possible get out of the immediate danger area quickly and safely. Remember, the quickest, safest way out may be behind you or thru an employee only area. Try to get people to follow. If they don’t, leave them. The majority of people’s first instinct won’t be to run but to hide. You’re the professional, the sheepdog, lead them out but don’t dawdle.
If there are wounded people present that aren’t ambulatory, you have to leave them. I know that sounds like some really cold-blooded stuff but there it is. The first wave of police and/or Counter-terrorist [CT] types in will do the same.
This goes against our inbred compassion and as Americans, we never want to leave anyone behind but turning one casualty into two or three isn’t the answer. Move quickly out of the danger area to a safe location and call 911. While moving out of the shooting zone, keep your hands visible so that police on-scene don’t mistake you for one of the bad guys.
Leave any items that you’re carrying and get the hell out of Dodge. You can replace shopping items, laptops, etc. but you can’t replace the life of your family members or yourself. Travel light and sleep at home that night. Use any cover to get out and do so quickly.
Shelter in Place: What if you’re stuck in the middle of a shit-storm and there’s no way to safely exit? Then hiding in a safe location comes into play. You want as much cover and concealment as possible. In an office building or school, find an interior room that has a lockable door. Barricade the door to prevent anyone from pushing thru the doorway easily using tables, chairs, or wood that is available. They’re looking for easy targets and by presenting a barricade will buy you valuable time.
Close the blinds, shut off the lights and if possible the air conditioning. Place cell phones on silent not vibrate, be as quiet as possible. Use other desks, chairs, etc. as cover inside the room. Try to call 911 and let an operator know what is going on. If the shooter/shooters are too close, leave the line open so that the 911 operators can hear what is on-going at the site.
Under no circumstances open the door for anyone that you can’t positively identify as either the police or a Hostage Rescue Team [HRT]. I’ve heard that the terrorists in Mumbai used the ruse to yell for help or falsely identify themselves as police in an attempt to get people to show themselves. Don’t make their job easier.
If all else fails and if you can’t hide in a covered and a concealed area, that’s when we get to the least preferred method of handling an active terrorist incident and that is also the most dangerous and that is to fight.
Resist: So, you can’t run, shelter in place and the terrorists are moving in your direction. You are left with basically two choices, be shot out of hand execution-style or fight. But once again, it is the people that keep their wits about them that have a better chance at survival.
Even if you have a concealed weapon, odds are you’re going to be out-gunned. So, you have to be creative and quickly task organize. Gather anything that can be used as a weapon. Is the area dark or close to it? A mini-Maglite can temporarily blind someone just long enough for others to jump a gunman.
Chair legs, any sharp instruments, such as knives, box cutters, and scissors, or a fire extinguisher are usually readily available. Surprise will be your advantage. Most terrorists or criminals don’t expect and aren’t prepared for their victims to fight back. So you’ll have to strike and strike quickly.
Get mad-dog mean. Don’t be like the victims in every teen horror flick, attack the gunman from as many different angles as possible and take him out. The Marquis de Queensberry Rules don’t apply here. Survival, your survival is at stake here. Don’t stop until he’s completely incapacitated or dead.
Get the gunman’s weapon out of his hands and be prepared for follow-on attacks in the case he has other gunmen who come looking for him. The more people involved in attacking a terrorist, the better odds of taking him down and surviving to live another day.
These incidents are happening with increasing frequency today and there is no substitute for preparedness. There will be times that some people will die because there was no way to foresee, prevent or survive some terror attacks. But to survive an on-going one will require a cool head and clear thinking. Because if you lose your composure and the will to resist, you’ll neither win nor live.
Photo courtesy UK Daily Mirror