This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 22nd March 2015
There is no predicting when and where terrorists will strike, but if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be caught in such a situation, there are some basic rules and guidelines that could make all the difference.
What to do if an incident of terrorism occurs? In general:
— Listen to the local news and pay heed to instructions issued by authorities.
— Avoid the area of the incident until it’s declared safe by the authorities.
— Follow the advice of the emergency services at all times. In events that directly impact you
— Foremost, remain calm and check that those with you and around you are not physically harmed.
— Be prepared to prove your identity if stopped by the authorities; failure to do so may result in detention by law enforcement personnel particularly if you’ve no plausible justification for being in the vicinity of the incident.
— If the incident has occurred near your home while you are present.
Check if there are others present and pull them out to safety. Note, if they have serious injuries it may be prudent to leave them where they are and wait for rescue services to arrive if there’s no fear of further injury if they remain where they are.
Don’t switch on the power or use gas stoves as these could have been damaged and simply putting on a switch could cause an explosion in a place which may have a gas leak.
Don’t use matches or candles either until it’s clear that there are no gas leaks. Instead use a torch of electrically powered light.
Don’t forget to shut off the water supply if there’s a leak.
Secure your pets, especially dogs, as they may react adversely to the presence of rescuers.
Inform your family’s emergency contact of your welfare especially other family members who reside with you and aren’t on the property.
Check on your neighbours, especially the elderly or those who you know reside on their own.
— If the incident is ongoing and you are trapped then:
Exit the area only if it is safe to do so and that may depend on:
Knowing the emergency exit.
Awareness on the nature of the attack (is it an explosion, hostage situation or both?).
If you are certain that your staying in the property will ultimately prove dangerous.
Stay hidden until rescue has arrived even if this is for several hours (hostage situations)
The key is not to give away your hiding spot; therefore don’t try to gather others if in doing so you expose yourself.
Also if your family members have been separated from you and they’re hiding in a separate location let them be there, as in attempting to rescue them you don’t want to expose them to risk.
Switch cell phones to silent and switch off the vibrate mode.
Remember, if you are low on battery and power it off then ensure you first mute any start up tone.
Similarly mute the keypad tones for all devices.
How to manage individuals who may require medical care?
Whether you are at the site during the incident or are responding to a call for help at all times you must establish that you are not putting yourself in harm’s way but attempting to rescue others.
Here are some easy to recall steps that you must always apply:
— Ask the person if they are ok?
If they are able to respond you can ask further questions such as:
Can you walk?
Can you move your hands and feet?
Can you breathe normally?
What is your name? (even if you know it, the right response helps establish any impact on short-term memory from the trauma).
Are they alone at the moment and if not who is with them?
It is important to ask these questions particularly when there’s no overt sign of injuries as the individual may have internal injuries that could be fatal if they’re moved without proper care.
— If there are visible injuries
Establish that those are the only ones by asking the person if they can answer
Don’t move the injured in case of neck and spine injuries as wrong movements could cripple them for life or even prove fatal.
Ask the individual for their blood type and if they’re allergic to any mediation. (This is particularly important and will assist medical staff who respond to ensure that the right treatment is given).
If the person is unresponsive a quick check for breathing can be done by placing a glass surface near their nose and looking for mist to form.
If you know how to check for a pulse, do so (this should be taught to all family members as it can prove extremely helpful).
Defer to the qualified medical reps once they are on site.
There’s no alternative for preparation in an environment where terrorists strike at will. What you do before, during and after could ultimately prove to be the difference between survival and tragedy.
Make sure all your friends and family are trained in basic first aid. Most major medical facilities run such trainings regularly and if you are in the corporate environment make sure you sign up for any such offering.
Know your blood group (you’ll be surprised at the number of people who don’t).
If you are on special needs medication then carry a small card in your pocket listing them or ensure someone who is attending to you knows them.
Remember you don’t want to reach a medical facility only to suffer more because your medical records were incomplete. Finally, always carry your identity documents (or legible copies) on you at all times.