Terrorists target public places where people are gathered en masse. These public places include schools, shopping malls, large public buildings, public events and in Belgium’s case, a major international airport and an underground metro station It is best to always avoid these types of areas. If you must go to a public building such as a shopping mall, then do it at an off peak time such as late in the afternoon when fewer people are there. A terrorist attack is least likely to take place when there are few people in a particular area. Terrorists deliberately choose places and pick times where they know there will be huge crowds assembled.
Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be paranoid, just be aware. Scan your environment. Look for people who fit the description of an Islamic radical. If you notice out-of-the-ordinary, suspicious behaviour, report it immediately to the authorities. Part of being situationally aware is knowing the layout of the building your in, any safe havens, escape routes and evacuation plans. Mentally make a note of the escape exits nearest to you, potential cover (e.g. walls, solid objects etc), building security officers and fire wardens, first aid equipment and fire extinguishers – they may come in handy later.
When you hear the sound of shooting, get down immediately. Get under a table, chair or behind some other solid item such as a desk, wall or other piece of furniture. Help others around you do the same. Immediately call the national emergency number (000 in Australia, 911 in the USA and 999 in Britain and so forth). Let the police dispatcher know the exact location, the situation, the number of shooters, what sort of weapons they have, whether explosive devices are involved and a description of what they look like and what they’re wearing. Be sure to let them know how many people are deceased or wounded.
If trapped in a room, immediately lock the door, turn the lights off, barricade the door with a table, chairs or heavy piece of furniture, turn your phone or other mobile devices OFF, get down low behind a solid object such as furniture and stay still and quiet.
If trapped out in the open, if possible, make a run for it, but do so with your head down low and run in a diagonal zig-zag pattern. Running in an angle away from the shooter will make it hard for him to shoot you as moving targets are always harder to hit. Doing so may increase your chances of survival, but don’t count on it as the shooter could be highly trained and may be able to take down moving targets easily – you just don’t know.
There are many cases where people have covered themselves in blood from other victims and lied still whilst the gunman shot others. This may be something that you may choose to do and may be your saving grace. But again remember that this does not guarantee your survival. Sometimes the terrorist(s) shoot indiscriminately at bodies on the ground to make sure they’re really dead.
If someone decides to do the heroic deed and take the gunman down assist him/her with getting the job done as quickly as possible. You can get creative with taking the gunman down as the element of surprise may be on your side. Items such as fire extinguishers, chairs, brooms and other objects may be used to knock out, trip, injure or severely incapacitate the gunman, or else you may create a diversion allowing other people to ambush the attacker and take him down. If the weapon is wrestled away from the gunman (such as during a jam or malfunction), immediately wrap it up in a jacket or rug and move/drag it out of sight and reach of the gunman. Be sure not to touch anywhere near the trigger and ensure the weapon is pointed away from others around you. If the gunman is reaching for ammunition to load his assault weapon, kick it out of reach. The more people who restrain the gunman the better – work in a team. Take control of the situation if possible. Calm everyone down, speak words of reassurance and give everyone a job to do. Multiple people can be holding the gunman down by his arms and legs and sitting on his back. If a belt, rope or cable ties are available, tie his arms behind his back and bind his legs firmly together. Get several people to attend to the wounded and instruct them to stop heavy bleeding by applying direct pressure with the casualty’s hand, a cloth, shirt or better yet medical gauze from a first aid kit (if available). When police or tactical response team arrive, follow all instructions, place your hands on your head if asked to do so and don’t make any quick movements. Someone else should be give the task of calling emergency services. When police officers enter, their job is to neutralise the threat as soon as possible, so do not expect them to stop and render assistance to survivors – that is something that you and other able bodied people can do. When the building is given the all clear, only then will paramedics and rescue workers be allowed in to render medical help to casualties.
In many terrorist attacks, bombs are involved. If a bomb goes off remain calm. In the moments after a bomb goes off, people will be screaming and panicky which often gets them killed so its important that you remain calm and level headed whilst acting quickly. Take cover under a desk or chair or some other solid object to shield you from flying debris and shrapnel. Stay away from anything that may fall or implode on you (e.g. windows, items stored on top of furniture etc). After a bomb explodes, keep in mind that terrorists often finish of the victims by raking the area with automatic gunfire so stay down. Leaving the area or building immediately may not be the safest or smartest thing to do as terrorists often lay bombs along the most likely evacuation routes to kill any survivors. You should stay where you are and wait until police first responders arrive. Assist any injured people around you if safe to do so. Ensure that emergency services are responded as soon as possible. If the building is declared safe and you are ordered to evacuate, do so in a safe, calm and orderly fashion.
Carry a ‘go bag’ and pocket everyday carry (EDC) set or kit with you at all times. This should include basic survival equipment such as a mini survival kit, lighter, torch, lightstick, folding knife, tactical pen, multitool, maps, emergency food and water and a PPE kit (N95 mask, tight fitting glasses or goggles, leather gloves and earplugs) as well as a small trauma pack which should include a tourniquet such as the SWAT-T, an Israeli trauma bandange, trauma shears, gauze, chest seals, medical tape, CPR shield, triangular bandage and QuikClot haemostatic gauze.
Keep calm and level-headed. Armed with knowledge and the ability to think quickly on your feet, you can be in control of the situation helping others out to safety in a calm and moderated fashion. Doing so, may save the lives of fellow human beings.
And as Jim Wagner Reality Based Training would say, “Be a hard target!”