, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 – Stop, drop and roll! That’s what you do when your clothing catches fire. It’s what children are taught to do in school.
In Japan, where earthquakes are an ever present threat, children as young as two are taught to, “duck and cover.”
During World War II, the procedure was simple: When you hear the sirens, head for a bunker.
Kenya is waging a war of its own, a war against terror, but do Kenyans know what to do should they find themselves in a situation similar to that at Westgate on September 21, 2013 or the Joy In Jesus church in Likoni on March 23 when gunmen came in firing?
Or when, like the patrons of an eatery in Joska, Eastleigh, they find themselves in the radius of an explosion?
“I would run for my life,” Jackson, a waiter, told Capital FM with Akoth saying she’d lie flat on the ground.
But given you can’t outrun a bullet and just lying flat on the ground only works when you’re not the target of the shooter, we spoke to the General Manager of Senaca International, Reuel Kariuki, on the best course of action to take.
Kariuki served in the military for a decade where he received training on how to handle himself in a combat situation.
He has also been in the private security business since 1995 and having buried a good number of victims of gun attacks; these are his top 10 tips for staying alive should you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. Always know where all the exits are – I was reading the story of the lady who owned the eatery in Joska that was blown up by suspected terrorists and I remember she said her son survived because he knew where the exits were. And so he managed to get out before the second and fatal blast.
2. Don’t panic – This is the worst thing you can do in a life and death situation. So take a deep breath and use your head. Because that’s what these are, commonsense tips but this is exactly the kind of situation where commonsense flies out the window if you’re not careful. This is especially important if you have someone under your charge. Take a deep breath, take charge and give clear instructions to your children or whoever you’re responsible for. You can’t afford to be panicked in such a situation.
3. Hit the floor – Kenyans usually have this part down. The minute they hear shots fired they hit the deck so they’re not caught by a stray bullet. And staying upright only makes you a bigger target as you’re more visible. So get down and out of sight. If you run and they see you they will kill you. Remember an AK-47 which is usually their (terrorists’) weapon of choice has a firing range of up to 400 metres so even if you are Usain Bolt, you’re not going to outrun a bullet.
4. Don’t just lie/stand there, move – If you hear an explosion don’t stand around waiting to see if there’ll be another one. Head straight for the exit. If it’s a gun attack and you’ve hit the deck don’t just lie there, move. Move away from the sound of the gunshots and head for the exit. Even if you’ve been hit by a stray bullet or shrapnel but can move, move out of the line of fire. In the military we were taught something called the leopard crawl. Use that. Once you’re out of harm’s way immediately alert the first responders to your injury.
5. Use the stairs, not the lift – Unless the sound of gunfire is coming up the stairs, you’re safer using them than the lift. This is because when you’re in the lift you’re a blind target. You don’t know what’s awaiting you on the other side of those doors. You also don’t want to be trapped in there in case the power’s turned off.
6. If you can’t get away hide – As I said earlier, if the gunfire is coming in your direction get out of sight. You should also consider your choice of a hideaway carefully. You don’t want to ‘hide’ on the other side of a glass display should you find yourself in a mall for instance. Head to the back room. Most stores will have a back room where they store their merchandise. If their walls are solid a bullet shouldn’t be able to penetrate. Banks and stores that handle large amounts of money are an especially good choice because they usually have a strong room. If I remember correctly, during the Westgate siege one of the ladies who worked at a restaurant hid in the air vent. Get creative if you have to.
7. Call for help – Once you’re out of harm’s way alert the police on what’s happening. Information is power. The more information they have the quicker they can resolve the situation. A lot of the security agents interviewed after the Westgate attack said they thought it was robbers that had stormed the mall. It took a while before a clear picture of what was going on emerged. Whatever you may have witnessed could be final piece of the puzzle. Don’t hold on to that information. No matter how trivial you may consider it to be.
8. Trust yourself – Man is an animal and animals instinctively get out of harm’s way so don’t ignore them, follow your instincts and know that you are stronger than you could ever imagine.
9. Don’t go back in – This sounds rather obvious but it’s not for the person who may have left a loved one behind. As difficult as it may be, fight the urge to go back for them. Keep moving forward and as soon as you can let the concerned authorities know and let them do their job. Don’t make their life harder by making yourself one more person they have to worry about. Give them as much information as you can about where you last saw the person and allow them to focus on saving them not running after you.
10. Curiosity killed the cat – Kenyans never cease to amaze. They hear shots fired or an explosion and head straight for it. Fighting to get a glimpse of the crime scene. A couple of things to remember when you’re tempted to follow the herd. Remember that there could be a subsequent explosion timed to claim the lives of the crowd that forms around crime scene. Second you risk not only you’re life but that of the victims of the attack.
You make it harder for the first responders to give them some much needed attention. You make it harder for them to breathe and survive and you make it harder for the security personnel to clear the scene of threats or chase down the criminals. The only one whose life you make easier is the terrorist you helped get away by allowing him to blend in with the crowd.