We live in exciting, innovative, and often uncertain and volatile times. Older generations reminisce about the ‘good old days’ when it was safe to walk at night and social media was inconceivable. As our world rapidly evolves with mind blowing advances in technology, social media platforms, and accessibility to the internet, communication and sourcing information becomes easier, and this unknown entity is the reality that all generations must learn to navigate.
There are many benefits arising from this amazing technology, however, these positives can be closely accompanied by darker intentions. New dangers have arisen that threaten our personal safety with increased violence in our community, internet security breaches and terrorism.
The likelihood of a major terrorist attack occurring in Australia is assessed at ‘probable’ according to the National Terrorism Threat Advisory System. This means that individuals or groups have the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist act in Australia.
Events such as the Martin Place siege in Sydney, the Parramatta police shooting, and the Bourke Street hostile vehicle attacks are a testament that we are not immune to these devastating occurrences, and sadly, we hear news reports of such incidents daily.
Although as individuals we can’t predict what, when, and where an incident may occur, we can build our awareness to recognise the dangers around us. In Australia, we are more likely to be involved in a car accident than a terror incident, but it does us no harm to think about the “what ifs?”
THE IMPORTANCE OF MINDFULNESS
Not just the latest catchphrase for diet and stress management, mindfulness and being present is a simple concept that can achieve great things. Being present in the moment is what we in the security industry refer to as, ‘situational awareness’. How often do we find ourselves distracted by our mobile phones or even just caught up in our own thoughts? To be mindful requires us to take a moment and observe our surroundings.
Mindfulness can be as simple as entering a public building you are unfamiliar with and looking at the layout and noting the emergency exits. By observing the occupants and security officers in the building you may determine who you can call on should something occur.
In your workplace, familiarising yourself with the emergency evacuation plans and knowing who your trained emergency responders are, is a great start. Looking for and reporting safety hazards, and ensuring action is taken to mitigate the risks is also important.
POSSIBLE TERROR ATTACKS
Crowded places or places of mass gathering are potential targets for terrorist organisations. Crowded places or mass gatherings may refer to a sporting event, festival or religious gathering. The Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee in conjunction with police departments and other experts, have developed strategies to prevent, respond to and recover from terrorist acts, providing a framework for owners and operators responsible for the management of crowded places. The key risks for crowded places include:
- Active armed offender – attacks involving firearms or other weapons
- Hostile vehicle – where a motor vehicle is used as a weapon
- Improvised explosive device (IED)/chemical attack – where household materials/chemicals are used to make explosives and toxic weapons
The National Security Strategies can be accessed online and provides important initial action advice for individuals and businesses. We highly recommend you familiarise yourself with these resources.
HOW CAN YOU BE PREPARED?
There are some simple steps that can be taken in everyday life that can help you to ‘be prepared’.
As individuals we can prepare by:
- Connecting with our environment
- Familiarising ourselves with emergency and evacuation procedures of frequently visited venues
- Knowing what our threats are
- Completing training – e.g. first aid skills are extremely valuable to have
- Keeping first aid kits in our homes and motor vehicles
If you are a business owner or manager, you may consider:
- Developing and implementing specific procedures for your workplace in the event of a terror attack
- Ensuring your team know the procedures
- Practicing your evacuation response plans
- Creating an Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) made up of a team of trained chief/emergency wardens and first aiders
- Maintaining first aid kits that are relevant to your workplace and location – high risk areas might require customised kits
- Ensuring staff are appropriately trained to use specialised emergency response equipment
WHAT TO DO IN AN ATTACK
If an attack occurs, it is important to be prepared to act quickly. The conditions will be stressful and chaotic – this is where your preparation, as discussed above, will assist you.
You may have already familiarised yourself with the area and noted the potential escape routes and areas where you could take cover should you need to.
In Australia we have strict gun laws that have contributed to the reduction of firearms in the community. Incidents such as the Parramatta police shooting, and the targeted drive-by shootings tell us that while curbing these incidents, gun laws have not eliminated them.
ACTIVE ARMED OFFENDER
In an active threat situation, remember the catchphrase ‘Escape – Hide – Tell’. This is the recommended response options provided in the Australian National Counter Terrorism Plan.
Your priority should be to remove yourself and others from the proximity of the offender/s, or areas that they might reasonably access. If under immediate attack, take cover and attempt to leave the area as soon as it is safe to do so. For nearby attacks, move quickly from the area, but only if it is safe to do so. In this stage:
- Leave most of your belongings behind (except for mobile phones)
- Do not congregate in open areas or wait at evacuation points
- Provide guidance to people that might be unfamiliar with the area
- Make good use of available cover and concealment opportunities
If you don't believe you can safely evacuate, then you may need to consider sheltering in place. Constantly re-assess the situation and your ability to leave the area as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Contact the police to advise of your location and situation
- Silence mobile phones and other devices that may reveal your presence
- Avoid congregating in open areas, such as corridors and foyers
- Consider locking or barricading yourself and others in a room or secure location
- Move away from doors or windows, remain quiet and stay concealed unless the situation changes and location is no longer safe
- Assess and re-assess better options for sheltering in place either within your current location or at an alternate location
- Consider (only as a last resort) options for arming yourself with improvised weapons to defend yourself if you are located by the offender
The more information you can pass on to the police the better, but NEVER at the risk of your own safety or the safety of others.
If it is safe to do so, think about obtaining the following information:
- Exact location of the incident
- Description of the offender/s (physical description and any verbal cues that may assist in identifying the perpetrator/s e.g. accents, names etc.)
- Which direction they may be traveling in
- Details of any weapons being used
- Number of people in the area and any that have been injured
- The motive or intent of the offender/s (if known or apparent)
Provide this information immediately to the police if this can be achieved safely. You may be asked to remain on the line and provide further information as the situation develops.
In an Active Armed Offender scenario, a police officer's priority is to protect lives. To achieve this, they will need to locate the offender and effectively manage that threat as quickly as possible, which could mean initially moving past people who need help.
As more police resources become involved, they will attempt to quickly provide support and guidance to persons affected by the incident.
When police arrive, it is possible they may initially not be able to distinguish you from the offender. Avoid quick movements or shouting and keep your hands in view. Be aware that police may enter your location at some stage to secure the building and locate people that have hidden from the threat. Promptly follow any instructions given by emergency responders.
The Australian National Security website provides Active Armed Offender Guidelines for Crowded Places:
Protection from hostile vehicle attacks starts with business owners and operators taking responsibility for the implementation of strategies to protect the safety of their staff and members of the public. Control measures to reduce access for vehicles and lessen the speed of impact can include:
- Barricades and barriers to prevent vehicles entering a pedestrian area
- Landscape features including trees, water features, statues, walls and bollards
- Raised footpaths, steps, verges and medium strips
It is recommended that you apply situational awareness techniques such as those listed below when entering an area at risk of vehicle access.
- Familiarise yourself with the location or venue
- Identify features within the environment that will provide you with some protection should it be needed
- Be aware of your escape routes – don’t try to outrun the danger, run towards safety instead! Street corners, alcoves, laneways or open buildings can all provide cover from a hostile vehicle threat
- Pay attention to what is happening around you – be aware of any vehicles that are moving erratically and note any unusual sounds such as tyre screeching and people screaming
- Be aware that there may be more to the situation than you can see – there may be more than one perpetrator and/or an armed offender may be waiting in the direction the crowd is being herded by a hostile vehicle
Attacks involving IEDs may be unlikely, but it is important to be prepared to respond to such incidents.
If you are at the immediate site of an IED attack, your top priority is to get out of the area. This increases your safety in case a secondary device is present in the same proximity and minimises your exposure to hazardous substances that may be released due to the blast.
IF YOU ARE IN A BUILDING
- If objects or debris is falling around you, take cover under a sturdy table or desk
- If viable, exit as quickly as possible (leave personal possessions behind)
- Assist casualties to leave the area if safe and possible.
- Use stairs instead of elevators
- Be aware of weakened floors and stairways
- Watch for falling debris as you exit the building
ONCE YOU ARE OUT OF THE BUILDING
- Move away from windows, glass doors or other potentially hazardous areas
- Use caution to avoid stepping on/over or touching debris
- Distance yourself from the blast site and follow instructions from emergency officials
IF YOU BECOME TRAPPED
- Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand to avoid inhaling hazardous materials
- Avoid unnecessary movement so you don't kick up dust
- Signal your location to rescuers by using a flashlight, whistle, or by tapping on a pipe or wall
- Shout only as a last resort as it can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust and drain your energy
If you are nearby, but not at the immediate site of an attack, assess the environment around you before taking any action. Avoid moving closer to see what is happening until the area is deemed safe by officials.
If you are travelling on public transport and witness an IED attack, remain inside the train carriage or bus unless you are in immediate danger. Follow instructions from officials, and if required to exit the train/bus, be aware of hazards as you depart. Make your way to the closest point deemed safe. If unable to exit, open windows or doors if possible as this can reduce the severity and number of injuries from a secondary explosion.
The above information is supplied through the Australian National Security website for Improvised Explosive Device Guidelines for Crowded Places: (https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Securityandyourcommunity/Pages/Improvised-Explosive-Device-Guidelines-for-Places-of-Mass-Gathering.aspx)( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
INFORMATION OR ADVICE
In life-threatening situations or in the case of an emergency, dial 000.
Suspicious or unusual behaviour should be reported to local police by phoning 131 444 or by contacting the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.
In any terror-related attack, individuals should remember to always follow direction of officials or law enforcement personnel.
While this may be worrying, we can’t allow occasional occurrences to interfere with our daily lifestyles. At Tactical, our training is based around empowering our graduates with approved strategies and techniques to protect themselves, their team members and others.