I first started this post a month ago and then put it to one side. I didn’t consider a terrorist attack would be imminent. Of course, the threat has always been there but the longer that nothing happens the less likely it seems it will happen in our country, our city, on our street.
There’s much sadness about the senseless loss of life in Manchester. The month of May 2017 will be etched in our memories just as July 2005. We should remember those who lost their lives, support those whose lives have been shattered, and commend the bravery of so many people who tried to help.
As the terror threat is raised to ‘Critical’ the question of how we protect our children is at the forefront of every parent’s mind.
But how do we protect them against something as barbaric as a terrorist attack, designed to create the most hurt and carnage possible?
The first thing to remember is that, while these things happen, they are fortunately quite rare. In fact, society is safer than at any time in our history. Read Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature for further background. And try to take some comfort that we live in a progressively peaceful world.
There are a few small precautions that may help protect our families and others around us if we are ever caught up in an incident.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Our field of reference shrinks when we focus on things immediately in front of us, particularly phones. When we take pictures of friends or selfies, our view is limited to only the things closest to us. If you’re in a busy place or at an event, take a moment to be aware of what’s going on around you. Especially where our children are concerned. Where are they? Who are they talking to? Who else is around? Quite simply, is there anything out of the ordinary? We’re surprisingly well-attuned to the unusual, our brains subconsciously pick up on it. Of course, it may not be possible to spot danger, but at least being vaguely aware of what’s going on may help. If something doesn’t feel right, report it.
Learn about the place you are visiting.
Try to take in some basic information about the place you are in. If it’s a big event, take a moment to read through the safety information. If it’s simply walking around a shop or eating at a restaurant, identify where the key officials are. Are you travelling on a train? Read those safety signs just in case. This is why the safety drill is repeated every time we take a plane journey. If we know what to do in a crisis we are better able to respond.
Know your exits.
If you are with your family and something terrible happens, your job is simply to get away where it’s safe to do so. Moving away from the affected area is the best option, and often you don’t have to go far to be in relative safety. Wherever you happen to be, it’s important to be mindful of your exits and how you can get out if you need to. For example, when walking through a shopping centre pay attention to the green fire exit signs that lead directly out of the main building. The same applies in a shop. Most fire exits are towards the back of a department store. If you know the exits you can help to direct other people, too.
Check official advice.
The emergency services often issue advice about how to respond in an emergency situation. You can read about it here. A lot of the advice pertains to getting to safety and staying out of the way to let the emergency services do their jobs. They are trained to respond to these situations and, if a crisis occurs, it’s important to follow their lead.
Learn first aid.
This may seem a simple one, but if we all had basic first aid training we would all be a lot safer in our day-to-day lives. Most first aid training isn’t designed around a terrorist attack, but the recent course I attended did include some additional points that were helpful. Can you get on a work first aid course for free? Or sign up to the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance. Read more in my other post on this topic. If you are able to assist in delivering first aid to someone it may be the difference between life and death.
None of these points may have made a difference in Manchester against the relentless determination of one person to hurt indiscriminately. There’s nothing anyone could have done to change things but there were so many examples of human courage and bravery in the moments afterwards.
These are just my observations and don’t represent official advice. In all cases refer to the official guidance and follow the lead of the authorities; and try to stay vigilant without letting fear rule our lives.