Keeping Your Family Safe During a Terrorist Attack

While many of us in the UK and around the world anticipate future terror attacks, few of us will have considered any type of family emergency plan in place. It is highly unlikely that any of us will forget the 7 July 2005 London bombings (often referred to as 7/7) and most recently On 26 June 2015, an Islamist mass shooting attack in Tunisia to mention only a few. (Follow this link for more examples)

After attacks and incidents such as these, often ask themselves how can I keep my family safe and ask, “What would I do?” So, if we think or believe terrorist attacks are inevitable, why do so few of us prepare themselves? The answer may lie in the term “terrorist attack” itself.

There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. One definition of Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.’” It is difficult to be fully prepared for something when it’s not clear exactly what it is that you’re preparing for or when it is going to happen.

Examples of Acts of Terrorism:

  • Assassinations
  • Kidnappings
  • Hijackings
  • Bomb scares and bombings
  • Cyber attacks (computer-based)
  • The use of chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons

High-Risk Targets for Acts of Terrorism

  • Military and civilian government locations
  • International airports
  • Large cities
  • High-profile landmarks
  • Large public gatherings
  • Water and food supplies
  • Utilities
  • Corporate centers
  • Mailings (explosives or chemical/biological agents may be sent through the mail

Signs of Terrorism

Fearing future terrorist attacks does not mean that people have to live in fear every day as this would mean that the terrorist has already won.  There are steps people may take to help prepare and protect their families.  One such action is to become familiar with the Signs of Terrorism,

Surveillance:

Be on the lookout for someone recording or monitoring activities.  The type of recording does not have to be as obvious as a camera or a video camera; the person may be taking notes, drawing diagrams, annotating maps, or using binoculars, etc.

Elicitation: Be wary of people or groups who attempt to learn information about military operations, capabilities, or people.  The attempts do not have to be face-to-face.  They may be made by social media, email, mail, telephone, etc.

Tests of Security:

If someone is attempting to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of security measures, or if he is attempting to record and analyze reaction times to security breaches, contact your local authorities.Acquiring Supplies: Be vigilant about people who purchase or steal explosives, weapons, ammunition, etc.  Other supplies that may be needed for a terrorist attack are  uniforms, flight manuals, badges or the equipment to make them, and any other controlled items.  And, as we learned in the Boston bombing, materials such as pressure cookers and fireworks also may be supplies that terrorists purchase in large quantities.

Suspicious persons out of place: 

Of course, we are wary of people who don’t seem to belong in our neighbourhoods.  But, people also may arouse suspicion at work, businesses, or anywhere, for that matter.  Also be alert for people who suspiciously cross the border, stow away on board a ship, or jump ship in port if you are travelling.

Dry run/Trial run: 

Terrorists may practice their attack prior to carrying it out, so watch for people who move around but don’t seem to have a true purpose.  A terrorist also may map out routes or time traffic lights, so be on the lookout for these types of activities.

Deploying Assets: Terrorists have to get people and supplies positioned prior to committing the terrorist act.  If you suspect these activities are occurring, immediately contact the authorities because this may be the last chance you have to do so before the terrorist act takes place.

All families in the UK should take the time to prepare for terrorist attacks.  There are some steps to help you get started on protecting your loved ones from acts of terrorism:

  • Know your work, school, and community disaster plans.  If you do not know the plans, contact your supervisor, school administrators, or local fire department for information.

  • Identify an alternative hospital.  Hospitals closest to the event always are the busiest.

  • Use online resources to create disaster plans and review steps for protecting yourself and your loved ones.  We have provided a downloadable Family Emergency Plan.

A Terrorist Attack: In a Public Place

Terrorists typically attack public places with large crowds because they want to cause the most damage and get the most attention for their cause.  One of the best ways to keep your family safe from terrorist attacks in public places is to share and discuss the Seven Signs of Terrorism with age-appropriate children.

A simpler way to discuss the signs of terrorism with children is to focus on “Look and Listen.”  This approach narrows the Signs of Terrorism to a more kid-friendly version that includes looking for:

bags left unattended in public places.

  • people checking areas or buildings.

  • people trying to enter secure areas.

  • people at events wearing too much clothing.

What to do in Response to a Firearms or Weapons Attack.

Following evidence from victims of the assault on the Bataclan music hall, where gunmen burst in and fired indiscriminately at the crowd.

In the event that escape your routes are cut off it is important that one of the essential things you understand is what may give you cover from view does not always makes good cover during and attack such as this bullets can go through glass, brick, wood and metal

What to do during an attack:

RUN, HIDE, TELL

RUN

  • Escape if you can

  • Consider the safest options

  • Is there a safe route? Run, if not hide

  • Can you get there without exposing yourself to greater danger?

  • Insist others leave with you

  • Leave belongings behind

  • HIDE

  • If you can’t run, hide

  • Find cover from gunfire

  • If you can see the attacker, they may be able to see you

  • Cover from view does not mean you are safe, bullets go through glass, brick, wood and metal

  • Find cover from gunfire e.g. substantial brickwork / heavy reinforced walls

  • Be aware of your exits

  • Try not to get trapped

  • Be quiet, silence your phone

  • Lock / barricade yourself in

  • Move away from the door

  • TELL

  • Call 999 – What do the police need to know?

  • Location – Where are the suspects?

  • Direction – Where did you last see the suspects?

  • Descriptions – Describe the attacker, numbers, features, clothing, weapons etc

  • Further information – Casualties, type of injury, building information, entrances, exits, hostages etc

  • Stop other people entering the building if it is safe to do so

Source: National Counter Terrorism Security Office

Terrorist Attack: Explosive Devices

Unfortunately, information for making explosive devices is readily available online and in other information sources, and the materials necessary for making the explosives easily are found in many places.  Because of the portable nature of explosive devices and the ease with which they may be detonated from remote locations, terrorists rely on this type of weapon frequently.

One way to keep your family safe from these explosive devices is to know which types of parcels are suspect.  Look for parcels that:

  • are unexpected or from someone unknown to you

  • have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified

  • are marked with restrictions such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” or “Do not X-ray”

  • have protruding wires or aluminium foil, strange odours, or stains

  • show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address

  • are an unusual weight for their size or are lopsided or oddly shaped

  • are marked with threatening language

Be proactive about checking packages and share the information with your age-appropriate children.  They may be responsible for getting your mail after school, or they may love to pick up the boxes left on your stoop during the day, so it is important that they know which types of packages may be unsafe.  Of course, if you or your loved ones suspect a parcel for any reason, do not touch it, leave the area, and immediately contact local authorities.  It is always best to alert authorities, even if you are unsure whether there is a true danger.

Protective Measures for an Explosion

Because most bombings occur in public places, your family should know what to do in the event of an explosion.  As with any emergency drill, parents should practice the following tips with age-appropriate children and discuss what to do in the event of being trapped in or being near the scene of a bombing.  Remember, the goal is to empower your children with knowledge, not to frighten them.

If your family is trapped in debris, you should:

  • use a torch  to signal your location to rescuers, if possible.

  • avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t stir the dust.

  • cover your nose and mouth with some sort of material that is nearby, to breathe through.  Dense-weave cotton material acts as a good filter, or you may wet the material before breathing through it to help filter the dust.

  • tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.

  • use a whistle to signal rescuers, if possible.

  • shout as a last resort, only.  Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amount of dust.

If your family is near the scene of an explosion, you should:

  • get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you.  When the items stop falling, leave quickly.  Watch for obviously weakened floors and stairways, and be especially vigilant about falling debris.  Do not use elevators.

  • follow your family, job, or school emergency  plan for leaving and staying away from the explosion.  Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make any calls or texts.  Do not return to the scene because you will increase the risk of danger for rescue workers and your family.

  • avoid crowds.  Crowds of people may be the target of a second attack.

  • avoid unattended cars and trucks, as these may contain explosives.

  • do not stand in front of windows, glass doors, or other potentially dangerous areas, including damaged buildings.  Move at least 200 meters away from damaged buildings.  Also remember to move away from streets that will be used by emergency officials or other people still exiting the building.

  • follow directions from people in authority, including police, fire, ambulance, military personnel, school supervisors, or workplace supervisors.

  • call 999 once you are in a safe place, but only if police, fire, or ambulance has not arrived to help injured people.

  • help others who are hurt or need assistance to leave the area if you are able to do so.  If you see someone who is seriously injured, seek help.  Do not attempt to manage the situation alone.

  • listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.

General Guidelines for Preparing for a Terrorist Attack

  • Be aware of your surroundings.

  • Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if your instincts tell you something is not right.

  • Take precautions when travelling.

  • Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behaviour.

  • Do not accept packages from strangers.

  • Do not leave your luggage unattended.

  • Immediately report unusual behaviour, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to police or security.

  • Know where emergency exits are located in buildings that you frequently visit.  Plan how to get out if an emergency arises.

  • Be prepared to function without services you typically rely on, including electricity, telephone,  mobile phone service, natural gas, fuel pumps, cash points and Internet transactions.

If you work or live in a large building, work with building owners or managers to be sure the following items are located on each floor of the building:

  • Portable, battery-operated radio with extra batteries

  •  Torches and extra batteries

  • First aid kits and manual

  • Hard hats and dust masks

  • Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas

The unfortunate reality is that there have already been numerous terrorist attacks around Europe and around the world. And there will be more. With counter-terrorism measures advancing every day, the hope is that our technology is capable of predicting attacks and even halting terrorists in their tracks. Preparing for a terrorist attack, and devising a response plan for various scenarios, is the best way to keep your family safe.

What to Do If a Terrorism Event Occurs

  • Remain calm and be patient.

  • Follow the advice of local emergency services.

  • Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.

  • If the event occurs near you, Look for further danger, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.

  • If the event occurs near your home while you are there, check for damage using a torch. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the boiler. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.

  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.

  • Confine or secure your pets.

  • Call your family contact—do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.

  • Check on your neighbours, especially those who are elderly or disabled.

What Could Happen?

  • As learned from previous events, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:

  • There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.

  • Heavy Police and Military involvement at all levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature.

  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.

  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.

  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.

  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.

  • Clean-up may take many months.

  • have inappropriate or unusual labelling

  • have excessive postage or packaging material such as masking tape or string

  • have misspellings of common words

  • are addressed to someone not at the address listed or are otherwise outdated

  • have incorrect titles or titles without a name

  • are not addressed to a specific person

  • have hand-written or poorly typed addresses

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