How To Stay Safe In A World Of Opportunistic Terrorist Attacks
No one is more concerned about the safety and security of people than me. I am an ex-Marine who guarded Ed Koch when he was mayor of New York City while he was in office. I have also been in charge of the private security for an entire Queens, NYC, neighborhood with a large shopping area and thousands of residents. During that time I was able to reduce crime and cut car thefts to a fraction of what they were before I arrived. More importantly, I kept my family safe over the years from any and all threats. With seven children to look after that was never an easy task for my wife and I. If I could do all those things I can only hope you will take the advice I now offer to you which can help to protect you from terrorist attacks and other dangers.
Whether it is a carefully organized and well planned attack or just the work of some lone wolf ideologue, any successful terrorist attack depends on the element of surprise to be successful. That leaves all of us vulnerable to the whims of these terrorists unless we find a cave to live in. Since staying in one place or avoiding public areas on a regular basis is not a realistic option for most people, we have to do the next best thing. We must prepare ourselves and decide in advance what to do if the worst happens. I believe that both the safest and, equally, most dangerous people in the world are those who plan ahead and decide how they will react to situations before they occur.
A U.S. Government official recently said that it is impossible to intercept or stop every terrorist threat against U.S. Citizens both at home and abroad. I agree with that assessment that makes it all the more important to be vigilant and have a plan from the moment you step out of your home to the second you return. Part of that plan means that you should always be aware of your environment. Travel with friends or relatives whenever possible, especially if you plan on bringing younger children or disabled persons with you. Plan your outings carefully, tell a family member or close friend to call you while you are out and after you return. Be safety smart inside your vehicle: Keep the windows closed, the doors locked and make all your vehicle entries and exists as quickly as possible.
If you have been grocery shopping load your vehicle in front of the store or ask an employee to accompany you and have them wait until you are finished loading your purchases into your vehicle before they leave. If you go to the mall never park more than fifty feet away from a primary entrance area even if you have to wait a while for a spot. When going out at night take advantage of valet parking when it is available or choose well lit areas with many other cars and people nearby that are close to the entrance you plan to use to whatever place you are going. For example, most crimes of opportunity take place because criminals look for individual people who visit places like health spas, malls, convenient stores and entertainment venues late at night or early in the morning.
When you head out keep your eyes and ears open. Look for people or vehicles that seem out of place. If someone you do not know approaches you stop them in their tracks by telling them in a loud and clear voice that you do not know them, value your personal space and cannot help them with whatever question or problem they have while they are at least six feet away from you. Yea, it is rude, but it also might save you from being car jacked, kidnaped or worst. Always appear confident, avoid smiling at strangers and keep a generally stern look on your face. Executives are taught this trick all over the world which explains why many of them often look like they are angry out in public.
When you visit any public place such as a sports/entertainment venue, mall, store, restaurant, theater, airport or even a school or library, look for easy exit points and make a mental note of them. Sit near exits and avoid situations where you may be forced to climb over people to get out in a hurry. Given the recent movie theater attacks, I recommend that people avoid crowded show times and sit at the end of aisles near exits. If you hear gun fire afar off, head in the opposite direction and get out of wherever you are. Find a place of complete safety which means an area away from and locked off from the trouble. You can always follow conventional wisdom by waiting for law enforcement officers to arrive and instruct you or try to hide, but that might get you killed. Equally important, never stay in an area after an incident because most sophisticated attackers plant secondary devices or plan after attacks to take advantage of the false sense of security that exists after an incident ends.
If you have children teach them the best way to get out of their school in a hurry in case of a fire, explosion or attack. That could mean using an open window, emergency exit, kitchen or shop area door or loading dock to get out. Avoid gathering places like crowded classrooms, libraries, administration offices or lunch rooms which attackers are likely to target first. Teach them to always “run away from the trouble” and head in the opposite direction. Once they are out tell children to as get far away from the school property as they can before they call you. Identify safe areas with access to land line phones that exist nearby your child’s school. Waiting for emergency services directions is likely a must for kids in Kindergarten, but children in First Grade and on up can probably save their own lives by getting out and doing it quickly. It is a little known fact that most police agencies have a plan of action for school attack incidents that keep their personnel from actually going in and confronting attackers until they can be sure of their own safety.
When an attack breaks out in a crowded public area and you feel there is no good way to get out fast or safely, fall to the ground exactly where you are and play dead. Be sure anyone with you does the same. Even if people try to pick you up or check on you, remain still and appear lifeless until the attack has been neutralized by law enforcement or others. If you are surrounded by bloodied victims, wipe some on your head so that it is visible to attackers. Most people that panic or fail to get down on the ground in those situations risk being shot or hit with shrapnel. Hiding might be a mistake in such situations because attackers will look for people trying to escape or find places to hide. Again, it is all about deciding how you will react to any unsafe situation in advance.
When it comes to travel we are all in the hands of those who run the planes, buses and trains. Sitting in safer areas like the back of a plane, rear cars of a train or near any exit door or window that is not right in front of a bus is always a good idea. Travel light and keep the essentials on your person (passports, money, identification). If something happens during your trip having cash, cards and i.d. can be a huge help after the fact. Never board a plane, bus or train if you feel there is a threat. You can identify threats by noticing people who seem distracted, nervous, over determined to board or are wearing outfits that do not match or appear odd for the situation (Good clothes, bad shoes; Clothing that is not weather appropriate as if they know they will not need to worry about being hot or cold; People wearing clothes with home stitching or who seem to be favoring a pocket or other area on their person as if they are hiding something).
Should you go out and buy a weapon if you do not have one? Probably not, especially if you have little or no training on how to use in in emergency situations. That type of training means a lot more than just learning how to shoot at a gun range. If you do carry a weapon be sure that all applicable laws make it available for your use. For example, you might live in a area where you have to keep your weapon unloaded in your vehicle and have the ammunition stored or locked away from the weapon. That neutralizes the weapon and makes it all but useless in an emergency situation. That weapon would be better suited for protection in the home as long as it is safely stored away from children or people that are not qualified or able to use it.
You can always arm yourself with items like tear gas, a stun gun or a Taser designed for use by civilians. Even everyday items like umbrellas, large belt buckles, legal pocket knives and box cutters can quickly turn into defensive weapons. These can all be helpful, but require relatively close contact with a perpetrator to be effective. Remember, your brain is still your best defensive weapon against any terrorist attack or potential threat. Be aware, plan ahead and take care. Never try to be a hero unless you have the skills or tools to do the job. Trying to save someone else may get you killed.
Always teach your family or those you hang with to stay close to you while you’re out. If they have to go to another part of a building or area, make sure you set an emergency meeting place such as your car or another place out of the danger zone which is generally several hundred or thousand feet away from where you are. Always get out FAST. If you bike to a location, never try to use the bike to get away in a hurry if it is locked up. The few seconds it takes you to unlock a bike can make you a target for those looking to do as much damage as they can. Moving targets are harder to hit than you think, so perpetrators will always look for people who are standing still or moving slowly.
Dogs can be a terrific weapon to use against potential human threats. This is especially true if you happen to have an easily trainable, loyal and large animal like a German Shepherd. Just the appearance of a dog like that will often concern an attacker enough to avoid you as a target. If you can afford it, a number of excellent training programs and security dog companies offer animals that are carefully trained and exist to keep you safe. However, even a dog as small as a Chihuahua can scare off intruders or even attackers with their loud bark and often fierce stance. Whatever you choose to insure your safety, always be sure it includes using your own common sense and willingness to plan ahead before you arm yourself with anything else.