Awareness – Avoidance – Evasion – Escape

Awareness – Avoidance – Evasion – Escape

People survived on the floor of the Bataclan Theater because they reacted.

The following is an article set by my friend Ed, who has many years or experience is dealing with life threatening emergencies.  He is a strong believer in Awareness – Avoidance – Evasion – Escape,  unless you are armed and are part of a functioning group, only fight as a last resort.


A good article on BBC summarizes fundamentals:

Be Prepared: Many survivors of the Paris attacks have said that they mistook the first gunshots for fireworks. This is typical, says John Leach, survival psychologist and military survival instructor.
People not expecting gunshots will assume that they are something else because it does not fit in with their expectations. “We respond to the model in our head and we don’t respond directly to the environment and that is what makes us vulnerable,” he says.

React quickly: Only 15% of people in events studied responded in a way that helped them to survive. Up to 75% will be too bewildered by what is happening to react at all. The other 10% will react in stupid ways that reduce their chances of survival and get in the way of others.  Acting decisively makes survival more likely, but human nature is to wait for other people to act first. In the classic experiment, psychologists put people in a room and fill it with smoke to see how they react. People on their own were more likely to take action than those who were with others. (About thirty years ago, I was in a classroom of public safety personnel, we were all sitting at desks, when a significant earthquake hit.  We all sat there like fools and nobody dove for cover.  We just looked at each other and waited for the other guy to go first. Howard)

Make yourself a smaller target: “Where there’s cover from sight, there’s cover from fire,” advises Ian Reed, a former British soldier, military instructor and chief executive of the Formative Group security firm. Get out of the way and make yourself a smaller target. This can involve simply dropping to the ground but ideally means getting behind some sort of hard cover such as a concrete wall is the best option. “Hollywood portrays cars as bulletproof but that’s not the case,” says Reed. Despite this, hiding behind a car is better than being in the open. When an attack happens in a tightly packed space, a single bullet can injure several people. Keeping out of sight reduces the risk that you can be targeted deliberately and
reduces chance of being hit by ricochet or penetrating rounds.

Many survivors in Paris did this instinctively – turning tables over to use as makeshift shelters or hiding behind speakers in the concert hall. But the lack of cover on the main floor of the Bataclan meant not everyone there was able to hide. An Irish couple survived by playing dead. Be quiet, stay alive and don’t move. “They are looking for movement – it will catch their eye,” explains Reed. This is especially true if it’s dark. Some people in the Bataclan did run for the exit when the attackers paused to reload. This can be risky, but in some scenarios running away is a good idea. According to eyewitnesses on Friday, several people chose to stay hidden in offices and toilets until help arrived.

Fighting back: Rushing a gunman has worked in some situations. In August, a train attack was foiled in France after passengers overpowered the lone gunman. The men only made the attempt after the shooter’s weapon jammed.

Basic precautions for hazardous material incidents also apply here:

Time – minimize the time you are exposed in the open
Distance – move to put distance between yourself and the threat
Shielding – move behind substantial cover, not just concealment

Your actions should be guided by:

Awareness – Avoidance – Evasion – Escape

That doesn’t mean that Engagement isn’t on the table – but it’s a last resort, if you have no escape, you must fight for your life! Improvise a weapon if you don’t have one.

Tactics taught to off-duty cops consider that without anyone knowing where you are, without instant communications, or back up, and lacking normal duty gear a cop would normally have, it’s best to be a “good witness” and to move on – if you can.

The best fight is the one you never attend.

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One Response to Awareness – Avoidance – Evasion – Escape

  1. Ed Harris says:

    Uk government is now telling people to run:

    ‘Don’t play dead…run!’: Official advice on how to save yourself from terror attack – National Counter Terrorism Security Office guidance was published in error on government website, it is claimed

    The government has urged people to run away or hide rather than play dead in the event of a terror attack.

    In fresh guidance issued after the Paris massacres, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office also advised businesses to develop procedures for a “dynamic lockdown” to deal with attacks.

    It is intended to outline what to do in the event of a “fast-moving incident such as a firearms or weapons attack”.

    But it has been suggested that the advice was issued in error and was not intended to be published on the government’s website.

    The guidance was published after victims of the Paris attacks, in which 129 people were killed, relayed tales of survival.

    Several survivors of the massacre at the Bataclan music hall, where gunmen killed 89 people when they fired on a crowd indiscriminately, told how they dropped to the floor and remained still as the massacre.

    But the Nactso guidance said those caught up in such an attack should “escape if you can”, “insist others leave with you” and “leave belongings behind”.

    In the event that escape routes are cut off, then officials advise finding cover from the gunfire behind “substantial brickwork or heavy reinforced walls” as “cover from view does not mean you are safe, bullets go through glass, brick, wood and metal”.

    After finding a hiding place, victims should “be quiet, silence your phone” and barricade themselves in before phoning 999 and reporting the location, details about the suspects and whether there are any hostages and casualties.

    The guidance also suggests companies train staff in how to lockdown buildings and react to an attack.

    “Dynamic lockdown is the ability to quickly restrict access and egress to a site or building (or part of) through physical measures in response to a threat, either external or internal,” said Nactso, a branch of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

    Alarms, internal messages or a PA system could be used to inform workers of a terrorist assault and firms should hold regular drills.

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