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10 Steps To Survive A Terrorist Attack

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By Bruce Newsome:

Multi-method terrorist attacks—like the ones in Paris on November 13—are becoming more frequent and deadly, while official authorities are struggling to protect their residents. So, how can we protect ourselves?

Terrorism is still extremely rare compared to other crimes, but its risk is increasing. Also, terrorism tends to be more consequential than other crimes, particularly “new terrorism”, defined by religious motivations and networked structured. Moreover, our exposure is widening under the pressures of globalization: more open borders, easier travel, urbanization, more leisure time and the diffusion of technologies, ideologies and malicious skills. We are all exposed, so we should not reproach ourselves for thinking of sensible precautions, most of which are applicable in any emergency.


Chances are that you are not important enough for a terrorist to target you personally, or that you will ever coincide with a terrorist target, but if you still worry about your exposure, then avoid poorly protected, crowded sites with political, economic or religious significance. New terrorists are seeking to maximize fatalities inside the most significant sites, in order to terrorize people where they feel most comfortable.

At the same time, the most significant sites tend to be well-protected, such as parliament, financial institutions, an international sports game or a major concert hall. Terrorists adapt by targeting sites of medium value—those that are not as well-protected but with capacity for hundreds of people, and with some local political or economic significance—such as local judicial buildings, town halls, schools, theaters or shopping and dining centers. You can minimize your exposure by spending less time in significant sites, just the same as you can minimize your exposure to road traffic accidents by spending less time on the roads.


As you enter crowded spaces, identify your exits, particularly the nearest, quickest, widest, non-electrical exit. Identify these exits as you enter, so that you don’t need to search for them during an emergency.

Don’t use the elevator or escalator, which tends to be a chokepoint and may lose electrical power. Use fixed steps. If you have a choice of stairs, use the building’s main staircase, rather than the narrower stairways that are more frequently and conveniently located.


If you visit a site repeatedly, practice entering and exiting by the safest route, so that you train yourself to it. If you must flee, don’t get sucked into fleeing the way you came in just because it’s the way you came in, or get sucked in the direction that the crowd is moving. Comply with your prior evaluation of the safest exit, unless a threat gets in the way.

Act Decisively

Once you’ve identified a threat, flee immediately and don’t consider any other action. In other words, don’t think about it, just react. Don’t take time to consider what happened. Some people will do nothing—they may be cognitively overloaded. Some people will question what is happening. Some people will panic without completing a single choice.

If you’re confident of an emergency, act immediately, stick to your emergency plan and get out via the best exit as soon as possible. You’re helping everybody else by removing your body from the crowded space, after which you can consider helping others.


If you can’t flee, then lay down behind the hardest cover available, ideally reinforced concrete or masonry. Forget everything you’ve seen in the movies. Don’t rely on tables, cars, chipboard/pasteboard walls, appliances or furniture—except to hide from view or to shield you from falling objects. Don’t err toward metals: Most metals in buildings and automobiles are thin sheets of soft aluminum or mild steel, which are easily perforated by bullets and blown into secondary projectiles by blast.

Get out of the way of windows, which are easily blown into hundreds of projectiles. Bullet-proof walls are 7-8 inches (15-20 cm) of reinforced masonry or concrete; most load bearing walls in that material are only 6 inches thick; most non-load bearing walls are of thinner, inferior materials. Be aware that even if the material is bullet-proof, bullets can flow through joints in masonry or paneling, bounce around corners and even bounce backward with enough energy to kill, while objects overhead can be dislodged by blast, so don’t be complacent about the many directions in which you need protection. Stay prone on the ground: A standing target offers more surface area to projectiles traveling horizontally; blast tends to travel upward; and collapsing structures can be held up by objects around you.


If you can’t find hard cover, at least hide from the attackers’ line of sight. If you find a good hiding place, barricade yourself in, wirelessly communicate with officials if safe to do so, be patient in waiting for official help and be wary of threats that pretend to be official helpers. Popular culture tends to describe modern multi-method attacks as “simultaneous” or “coordinated”, as if they finish in seconds to minutes, but in fact they can be consecutive over a period of many hours, as terrorists strike at different responders in the same area or move to different locations.

At the Stade de France in Paris, the second bomber blew up around 20 minutes after the first, while the third bomber blew up nearly 60 minutes after the first. The gunmen in central Paris were still fighting about 200 minutes after the first bomber. Accomplices escaped overnight, and some remained at large days later.


If, while hiding, you identify an exit, take it as soon as the attackers are distracted or reloading. To be discovered or taken hostage by a new terrorist is usually fatal. If you’re confronted by official personnel as they approach to rescue you or to confront the threats, keep your hands open, up and away from your body. If you can, point out the threats with an open hand and verbally identify the threats. Obey official instructions to get out of the way and exit.


Once you’ve exited, follow any official instructions to a safe area, or keep putting distance between you and the threats, or put taller buildings between you and the threats. Don’t just stop in the open. Blast, blown objects and bullets can travel more than a kilometer (1,000 yards) with enough energy to kill.

Be mindful that terrorists sometimes prepare a second attack on the route by which survivors are likely to flee the first attack. Get away from any further chokepoints or confined spaces until you find official help, and then calmly describe to the officials what you observed—your accurate observations could save lives. Don’t embellish, assume, exaggerate, conflate or imagine: Inaccurate observations could waste time or misdirect resources.

Remain Safe

Don’t be tempted to leave a safe area in order to see what is happening at the attack site, and don’t go back to help unless you are sure that security personnel have made the site safe and will not mistake you for a threat.


If you are confronted with an unavoidable threat without an exit or cover, fight with everything available and encourage the crowd to overwhelm the attackers. Some may die, but eventually the majority must triumph.

This article was originally published on Fair Observer.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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