Steps that can save your life during a hostage situation or a bomb blast

Published: September 30, 2013
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Prevention is better than cure. We live in a society where bomb blasts, terrorist attacks and hostage situations take place more than normal, which is a dilemma for all of us. PHOTO: INP/FILE

In an emergency situation regarding terrorism, being prepared can make a difference between life and death. Such events can turn from a scarring memory to a compelling  anecdote which you can share with your friends, if you know how to react. Here are some guidelines that will help you ensure that if, God forbid, such an event does come up, you are prepared to handle it.

1. The immediate response to an attack

a. First and foremost, keep your distance from the source of the blast or attack. Avoid standing in large crowds after an attack, as there is always a high risk of a second wave of attacks or a second blast. This usually happens as the first attack is just to attract attention and gather people close together, making them an easier target for a second and high-carnage attack.

b. Identify the hostiles. You need to know whether or not you are still in danger, before you react to the situation. This requires you to locate the source of the danger. Do not start running without knowing what you’re running from or running towards. Do not start running in the direction where everyone else is headed towards.

c. Avoid using main entrances when evacuating after an attack. If possible, use an alternate, back or side entrance. But if there is no other option, stick with the main entrance. It’s much better and more feasible than loitering around.

d. Inform the local authorities. Once you are clear of any danger, call for help. Sometimes, due to a large number of calls, the mobile network can be overloaded and jammed. Thus, if your call isn’t going through, it is best to send details via text message to a friend or family member and ask them to report the situation to the police. Don’t forget to begin the message with an assurance that you are okay and that networks are down. Otherwise chances are your loved ones will immediately try to reach you and panic when they can’t.

2. If you are in the midst of an attack situation and you cannot escape immediately

a. First of all, you should change your cell phone settings to silent mode with the vibration option turned off. Then make a call to a close friend or family member and apprise them of the situation you are in. They would be better equipped to explain your situation to the authorities than you would during that time. Key information in this said call should be your location, number of hostiles, number of people in danger and the form of attack (hostage situation, blind firing, or what the attackers’ motives are).

b. During a hostage situation make an effort to remain calm and do not draw any attention to yourself. Screaming or running will only put you in further danger and will aggravate the attackers. Compliance and calmness will keep you under the radar until the law enforcement agency can manage the situation. There are many tricks to keeping calm. Some people prefer prayer, while others find that mentally calculating difficult mathematical equations helps abate the panic. Some might be more suited to simple breathing exercises. You can find out what suits you from the many options available online.

c. Avoid eye contact with your captors. If they feel you are watching them, they might react either because they don’t wish to be identified or because they think you might be up to something.

d. Don’t be a hero. Courage isn’t always the absence of fear. Sometimes it is the absence of good judgment. Don’t try to be heroic as you will be not only put your own life at risk but everyone else’s as well. There are trained personnel who are better equipped at responding to such situations. Leave it to them.

3. When tending to injuries of the wounded

The recommended reaction to a situation with injured people is commonly known as the DR ABC response.

D – Danger: Check whether or not there is a risk of further injury. If the affected area is unstable or if the attackers are still around, your top priority should be to relocate to a less visible or safer location if possible. Once you’ve determined the area is safe, you can proceed to the next step.

R – Response: Check whether or not the wounded is responsive. If they are conscious, check for bleeding and manage their injuries.

A – Airway:  If the subject is unconscious, check their airway to ensure that they can breathe.

B – Breathing: Hold your hand over their nose and mouth to make sure they are breathing.

C – Circulation: Find a pulse, either by checking the victim’s wrist or their neck. Make sure your check is thorough as sometimes the pulse is very faint and difficult to detect. There is also a possibility that you might be in shock and it is your own throbbing heart that you are feeling instead of their pulse.

4. When faced with injured victims, prioritise them in the following order

a. Unconscious people. Tend to these people immediately and determine whether their airway is clear or blocked. Place your hand under their neck and lift it up so that their head tilts back, thus clearing the airway. Then turn the person onto their side and prop them up in such a position that in case they vomit or cough, they won’t choke. Also, loosen any clothing that might have bunched up and you suspect is hindering their circulation or breathing.

If you are faced with an unconscious person who is not breathing, you need to immediately find someone trained in Expired Air Resuscitation (EAR) or mouth to mouth or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation –CPR (chest compression and mouth to mouth). EAR is administered to those with a pulse while CPR is for those who neither have a pulse nor are breathing.

b. Wounds that are bleeding. First and foremost, you must question the injured person about any blood diseases they might have, like Hemophilia or if they are taking any blood thinners (people with heart diseases or high cholesterol are usually prescribed blood thinners without being told what they are, so you must ask about these conditions as well). In the event that any of these conditions are present, you must immediately demand help as the person is at risk of dying even with the smallest of wounds. Immediately administer a tourniquet, apply pressure and maintain a vigilant eye on whether the bleeding has slowed down or not.

Obviously gushing wounds come first. Gushing wounds require a tourniquet right before the nearest joint followed by putting pressure on the wound itself. Next in line should be wounds that are bleeding not as severely and require only pressure.

If the wound has a foreign object in it, do not remove this object as it usually stems the bleeding of the wound.

c. Internal injuries. When it comes to injuries to the head, most cases require that the victim does not lose consciousness. If the person has trouble turning his head left and right, if his jaw is stiff, if he has nausea or vomiting, chances are he has a concussion and must be kept awake until taken into the care of doctors.

If you suspect a person to have broken ribs, ask them to cough softly into a tissue paper and check for blood. This must be done every 10 minutes as ribs can puncture lungs. If the person is coughing up blood, he must be made to sit in an upright position as it slows down the pulmonary edema (blood in the lungs).

d. Fractures. If you are not a medical professional do not attempt to set the bone yourself. There are chances that you might set it wrong, while it could have waited for a few hours. If the bone is exposed, wrap the wound and the area around it gently. Limit the movement of whoever has a fracture. Do not set the bone and apply support if movement of the injured person is absolutely necessary.

Prevention is better than cure. We live in a society where bomb blasts, terrorist attacks and hostage situations take place more than normal, which is a dilemma for all of us. However, if these steps can help someone in the future during such situations, I believe it’s useful to inform others about these responses to better equip them.

Ruquia Essa

Ruquia Essa

Mother hen by nature, teacher by profession

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.