Terrorism is a fact of life in our world today. It is not something that we as individuals can control and, frustrating though it may be, we must accept the fact that terrorist acts happen every day in countries all over the world – including the United States. For generations, Americans have developed a sense of security based upon our geographic situation and the fact that we are insulated by oceans east and west of us, and friendly countries north and south of us. Well, it is a small world after all and we must accept the fact that terrorist attacks can happen anywhere at any time. That being said, it is time that we realize that there is something we can do to give ourselves a better sense of security and control over situations that we may find ourselves in.
Rather than waste our energies worrying about when and where the next terrorist attack may occur, we should focus our energies toward preparing ourselves to respond after an attack. Terrorists, by their very nature, do what they do to instill terror and a feeling of helplessness in their victims. If victims of a terrorist attack remain calm, as ridiculous as that may sound, then the terrorists will have wasted their time and money and, in effect, lost the battle.
“But how do we prepare for an attack that occurs with speed, surprise and violence?” you may ask.
That is exactly what I am about to tell you.
First, consider the basics. If you should find yourself in a situation where a terrorist attack has occurred, you’ll need the three “C”s: Command, Control and Communication.
Be ready to take charge, if necessary. Too many people expect that emergency services will arrive like the cavalry to save the day. This may happen, and I hope it does, but in the worst case, people just like you and me will have to be prepared to take command of a situation and help those who are unprepared and in need of assistance until emergency services arrive. The key to command is to know in advance how you will respond after an attack. Confidence is key. You may be just as scared as everyone else, but if you appear confident, others will think you are confident and their sense of panic and fear will pass and enable all of you to recover more quickly. If you aren’t confident, fake it!
The first step in taking charge is assessing the situation:
What happened? Was it a natural or man-made disaster? (Responding to a flood or tornado is a bit different than responding to a car bomb or chemical attack.)
Who are you with? Are you with children or adults? Is anyone trained for such situations? (For example: military, medical or emergency services personnel.) If anyone you are with is wounded, learn their name and try to keep them as calm as possible.
Where are you? Are you in immediate danger where you are? (The safest place to be is usually always at ground level and at least 500 feet and up wind from the center of the attack.) If you are under or above ground level, use the nearest stairway to get to ground level. Never use elevators and have those who can assist any wounded in escaping.
What resources are available to you? Look for first aid and food supplies, communications devices, transportation or shelter to remove your self and others from immediate danger and any weapons that should be secured. (Any weapon in the hands of a panicked person who doesn’t know how to use it is the most dangerous weapon of all.)
You must gain control of the situation as soon as possible. At the very least, send someone for help, get yourself and others out of immediate danger and then provide treatment to any wounded that are with you.
The person you send for help should be able to tell emergency services where you are, what happened, how many people are involved and what sort of injuries they should be prepared to treat.
In removing yourself from danger, use common sense. Do not make yourself a target. (Running around in the street is the last place you want to be when there is gunfire.)
To provide treatment for wounded, keep it simple and fast. Insure breathing, stop bleeding and treat for shock. To stop bleeding, apply pressure and bandage the wound. (Sanitary napkins and diapers make ideal bandages.) Anyone who is wounded can fall prey to shock. The first step is to keep the person calm, awake and lying down in a safe place. Then make sure that they are warm. Use whatever you can to conserve their body heat (newspapers, clothing, blankets, another warm body). Lastly, raise their head or feet as necessary. Here is a phrase to help you know when to do what: “Face is red, raise the head. Face is pale, raise the tail.” Use a pillow, books or whatever you may have available to raise their head or feet about 6 inches from the ground.
If you are unfamiliar with basic first aid, contact your local American Red Cross for the dates and times of upcoming classes.
In the event of emergency, phone circuits may be cut, busy or otherwise out of order. If you have a phone available, contact emergency services (police, fire, ambulance) and a family member or friend. Let them know what happened, whether or not you are all right, where you are, where you are going and how they can contact you. If phones are unavailable, send someone for help.
These steps wont solve all your problems in the event of a terrorist attack, but they will help you to respond properly and survive. The best defense is to be prepared for any emergency. For more information on preparing for emergencies, visit the websites of the American Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security. Being prepared can make all the difference.