Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of business and personal safety guidelines developed by Jessica Robinson, Founder & CEO, PurePoint International. Click here to read Part I, “The ISIS War on Soft Targets: Is Your Business Vulnerable to a Terrorist Attack? Top 5 Ways To Prevent Threats on Your Business.”
By Jessica Robinson, Founder & CEO, PurePoint International
As President Obama said on Friday after the Paris attacks, “This was an attack on all of humanity.” What was once a “war on terror” by Western counties has become a “war on humanity” by violent extremists where no one is safe.
President Obama wasn’t just talking about the three horrific attacks in Paris killing 132 people, the worst attack in France since World War II, but the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 43 people on Thursday, in a Shia community. The worst attack since the Lebanese Civil War ended in 1990. In both cases ISIS has claimed responsibility. The Russian Metrojet Flight 9268, exploded over Egypt killing 224 Russians two weeks ago. Russian and U.S. Intelligence now support ISIS as the perpetrator. Though it is not confirmed, ISIS was also suspected in Turkey’s equivalent of the 9/11 attacks that occurred last month by twin suicide bombers. It’s the deadliest attack to occur in the nation’s history killing 97 people in the capitol Ankara.
In his statement, I believe President Obama also referred to the 14 people killed in Maiduguri, Nigeria at a mosque by Boko Haram in October, and an additional 30 individuals killed at a market and infirmary in Cameroon in September. In July, in Cameroon, three female suicide bombers, at least one of them a teenager, killed 31 people in a matter of days at a crowded bar, market and nearby neighborhood, respectively. Boko Haram is most known for the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria and the Baga Massacre in January where 2,000 people disappeared. They have been a potent force for six years and is responsible for displacing 2.5 million Nigerians and killing 17,000 people in Nigeria and Central African countries according to the Guardian.
While Western allies have not launched a joint offensive attack against Boko Haram, like ISIS, the African Union countries, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger have responded to Boko Haram incidents. President Obama has recently sent 300 military troops for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to the region as support against Boko Haram.
These attacks beg the question what can people do to protect themselves? In Kenya, Al-Shabaab, has claimed terrorist attacks at Garissa University College, killing 147 people in April, and at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, in 2013, killing 67 people. Overall, Islamists attacks have gone from 41 attacks in 2011, in Kenya, to 115 in 2014. The U.S. recently announced a $27M reward for information on the leaders of Al-Shabaab. Pope Francis who is planning an upcoming visit to Kenya, and other African nations, later this month said in response to recent terrorist attacks, “Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events.”
The problem with non-state actors, like ISIS, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram, initiating violent conflict is that they are instigating clashes in the territory of sovereign states. Meaning there is no choice, but to target innocent civilians. When sovereign states find themselves in combat, they are governed by “rules of war.” It’s usually armies fighting other armies, and when innocent civilians die it’s called “collateral damage.” In the case of violent extremists, or non-state actors, there are no rules. Therefore, all violent attacks are collateral damage for sovereign states, and simply murder for violent extremists.
Whether we are taking about mass shootings in a school, a church, or a movie theatre in America, or another terrorist attack on bar or coffee shop in Pakistan, Benin, or Chad, it isn’t just scary, but psychologically terrifying because is it a reminder that there are no boundaries and that no one is safe.
The question remains, how can individuals protect themselves from these attacks? The truth is there is no 100% answer to keep anyone safe, but here are a few tips to help you respond in case of an emergency:
- Pay attention to your surroundings: Paying attention to your environment, don’t text AND walk (yes!), or walk and look at a map. Good rules of thumb are: don’t get so caught up in a conversation, or reading, that if someone took your wallet or purse off a table, or brushed against you, you wouldn’t notice. How many times do we sit next to someone, but once we get up, if someone asked us for a description of the individual we wouldn’t be able give one. Training yourself to consciously pay attention when walking down the street or in public places is a great first step. You may be surprised at what you see that could help you or someone next to you.
- Have a plan: If an incident occurs don’t panic (this takes mental training)! When in places that are unfamiliar to you take note of stairwells, hallways, entrances and exits in case you need to make a move to a safer location. If a violent altercation occurs call 911. Stay low and look for cover below, or behind, a solid object, assess whether you can move to a more secure location, and check yourself and others for injuries.
- Use your intuition: You know that feeling you get when you know you should make a left instead of a right? How about when you “feel” there is someone behind you yet you don’t hear anything? Yes, that’s your intuition, your inner knowing or reasoning that causes you to take a specific action. Pay attention to it, especially while traveling alone. In many cases, it will help steer you out of a challenging situation.
- Keep updated with law enforcement communication: Living in New York City, the New York City Police Department and the Metro Transit Authority are constantly engaging New Yorkers with their campaign “If you see something, say something.” Have the same mindset wherever you are. Share information that you think would be important for law enforcement to know. Stay current with local law enforcement or Department of State updates. Follow them on social media for the most current information.
- Be Resilient: In writing this article and The ISIS War on Soft Targets, my work, and my life’s mission, to help others live a more consciously secure life, is not trumped by the need to live a life so secure that it becomes a life of anxiety. This information is meant to inform, not evoke fear. I love traveling more than anything. My advice to you is live life, travel, experience cultures, and use this information as you see best to make informed decisions for yourself and your family.