Terrorism is, in its broadest sense, the use or threatened use of violence (terror) in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim. It is classified as fourth-generation warfare and as a violent crime. In modern times, terrorism is considered a major threat to society and therefore illegal under anti-terrorism laws in most jurisdictions. It is also considered a war crime under the laws of war when used to target non-combatants, such as civilians, neutral military personnel, or enemy prisoners of war.
A broad array of political organizations has practiced terrorism to further their objectives. It has been practiced by both right-wing and left-wing political organizations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments. The symbolism of terrorism can exploit human fear to help achieve these goals.
Terrorist attacks have become a common occurrence–not just in the Middle East, but all over the world. From the notorious disaster on 9/11 in 2001 to the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels to last weekend’s murder of 49 people in Orlando, it seems terrorists have the ability to strike anywhere at anytime. The only question is where they will strike next. (I know the Orlando nightclub shooter wasn’t involved with a terrorist network, but there is evidence he was motivated by jihadist propaganda.)
You may think terrorists will never strike your town, but when the attack happens you’ll wish you never thought that. It’s important to be prepared, not only for your own safety, but for the safety of your loved ones. Believe it or not, it’s possible to survive a terrorist attack even as catastrophic as one with a nuclear weapon.
The ultimate objective of any terrorist, generally speaking, is to cause widespread fear and panic as a means to support their political or religious goals. It doesn’t matter how many members of their own side they lose; as long as they terrify their enemies and get them to argue among themselves, the terrorists will believe they are winning.
To put it more bluntly, right now someone halfway across the globe, maybe even closer, is devising a plan to kill you. It’s scary to think about, but it’s the cold hard truth.
With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do I know how to look for the warning signs of a terrorist attack?
Do I have the knowledge and skills necessary to survive a terrorist attack?
Do I know what to do if a terrorist attack happens in my town?
Do I know how to find my family members and get them to safety?
Answer these questions honestly. If you find yourself answering “no” more often than “yes,” the information presented in this article will be of great value to you. You will learn about five things you absolutely must know to prepare for and survive a terrorist attack.
But first, let’s talk about what the next terrorist attack might look like
What Would a Terrorist Attack Look Like?
We don’t need to look any further than 9/11 or any other terrorist attack to know what one would look like. Here is a rundown of things to expect from a major terrorist disaster:
It Will Happen When You Least Expect It
When a terrorist attack happens, it will likely be while you’re going about your usual business on a typical day. You’ll have a lot of other things going through your mind related to work, your personal life, or whatever when you suddenly hear the sound of bullets or a deafening explosion. Fortunately, there are some warning signs of a terrorist attack that you can look for.
There Will Be a Lot of Casualties
There’s almost always casualties in a terrorist attack, and more often than not the casualties are high in number. People will be dead and dying on the ground around you, screaming in pain in various states of injury.
Infrastructure Will Be Damaged
Maybe you’ve already survived a natural disaster such as an earthquake or cyclone and have already seen a devastated city. But if you haven’t, the intense damage will be like nothing like you’ve ever seen. Entire buildings could collapse or be set ablaze. Windows will be shattered, cars will be overturned, and street signs will be riddled with bullet holes. In just a matter of seconds, your once normal and idyllic city block will resemble a war zone.
There Will Be Utter Chaos
Remember that the main goal of terrorists is to spread fear and panic, and the best way to accomplish that is through chaos. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, all sense of order will be nonexistent. Schools and work areas will be shut down. Entire sections of the city will be closed off. Evacuation will be slow and disorganized. Looters and mobs could be in profusion if law enforcement or the military can’t keep things under control. What’s worse is that this chaos could last for days or even weeks.
Resources Will Be Stretched to the Limit
Communities will be devastated during a terrorist attack. That means the resources meant to keep these communities safe will be stretched to their maximum limit in an attempt to take care of injured people and restore order. Hospitals and medical clinics will be overwhelmed with patients. Shelters designed to take in stranded or wounded people will be overflowing. Virtually every firefighter and police officer will be responding to the terrorist attack. To put it simply, the resources of your local community or city are going to be completely drained.
The Police and/or Military Will Be Out in Full Force
I just mentioned how practically every police officer is going to be responding to the attack. That means you’re going to see police cars on nearly every street and an officer on almost every corner. If the attack is severe enough, National Guard and military units may also be on the scene with armored vehicles and tactical units swarming the area.
The Recovery Period Will Last a Long Time
If you think the only frightening time in the terrorist attack will be the attack itself and the immediate aftermath, you’re wrong. The recovery period of any terrorist attack could last a very long time and the healing time for the community will be even longer. No one involved in the attack is going to forget about it for the rest of their lives, and a memorial and anniversary memorial will almost certainly be set up.
How to Survive a Terrorist Attack?
Now that we know what a terrorist attack looks like and what to expect from it, let’s outline and discuss the five things you need to know to survive such a catastrophe. Remember that each of these things revolves around your primary goal: to survive.
Know How to Look for Warning Signs
The first thing you need to know to survive a terrorist attack is how to look for warning signs. Granted, there’s no denying that terrorist attacks are largely random events that can happen anywhere at anytime. The goal of terrorists is to spread fear and panic via chaos, and it’s very easy to do that when surprise is on their side.
Nonetheless, there are still some ways you can be on the lookout for danger or a terrorist attack in your day-to-day life. While you will likely be caught off guard by a terrorist attack no matter what, if you see any warning signs right before one happens, it can help to minimize the effect of the surprise and enable you to react faster, which can mean the difference between life and death.
Here is what you should watch out for:
Anyone Appearing to Be Conducting Covert Surveillance
Terrorists almost always survey areas before making their attack. It’s part of the planning stage. Usually, the surveillance will be conducted a day or more before the attack takes place. The reason terrorists examine an area before attacking it is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the location. They’ll take note of evacuation routes, security measures, monitoring devices, and any law enforcement units nearby. If you see someone who appears to be taking surveillance shots of the area discreetly with a phone or camera, specifically at the above things, it could indicate that something isn’t entirely right.
Unusually Suspicious People Who Don’t Seem to Fit In
Don’t monitor people for what they look like. Monitor them for how they are behaving. Examples of suspicious behavior in an ordinary environment include: using unusual language, asking weird questions, having an ‘off’ demeanor. In addition, if a person is wearing excessively large clothing for their size, it could be because they are trying to conceal weapons.
Anyone With Unusually Large Bags
If you see someone carrying a bag that is unusually large or heavy, it’s possible they’re just carrying gym gear or some kind of luggage. But if the person with the heavy bag is also acting suspicious, or if they leave their bag behind somewhere, it should cause concern.
Any Sign of Potentially Dangerous Tampering
Don’t just pay attention to suspicious people; pay attention to suspicious scenarios. If you smell something strange in your building, if something is leaking, or if you see evidence of physical tampering with something in a public transportation vehicle or building, you should alert the authorities immediately.
Anyone Getting into Position for An Attack
Finally, if you see a group of people getting into a coordinated position to make an apparent attack, you should definitely alert the authorities. In fact, this is probably your last chance to do so before the actual attack takes place.
Know How To Survive
If a terrorist attack happens at or near your present location, you need to get out of there immediately! Here are some tips to follow that will increase your chances of surviving:
Keep Emergency Supplies In Your Car
Before a terrorist attack even happens, you should already have emergency supplies in your car, just in case. Even if you don’t have these things with you when the attack happens, there’s still a chance you could make it to your car and get them. You could very well become injured in the middle of the attack and require immediate medical attention. And if that happens, you’ll never be more thankful for a first aid kit and the knowledge of how to use it.
Get Out of the Building
If you’re inside the building where the attack is happening, you need to leave as quickly as possible (obviously). Hopefully you already know where the exit doors are (if not, you should make a habit of always looking for exits wherever you go, an important part of situational awareness). Take the stairs rather than the elevator in case the power goes out; the last thing you want is to get stuck in an elevator. Carefully check around corners before moving, and move quickly from cover to cover. Keep in mind the situation will be chaotic so you may have to move through crowds of people.
Find REAL Cover
You’ll notice that I just said to move quickly from cover to cover. By cover I don’t just mean any cover. I mean real cover. Real cover is not behind a desk or a couch. Neither of those things have any chance of stopping bullets, so terrorists can easily shoot through them and hit you. Ideal cover would be behind or under things such as concrete, which actually stand a good chance of deflecting bullets. (Here’s some more information on how to survive a public shooting.)
Keep Your Mouth and Nose Covered
This especially applies if there are people falling down and choking around you. Use more than just your hands. You should use an article of clothing to keep your mouth and nose completely covered. Anything from a T-shirt to a handkerchief will work. The clothing will work even better if it is soaked in water.
Avoid The Windows
Explosions can cause glass windows to shatter into thousands of pieces and inflict open wounds on you, so stay away from windows if at all possible.
This one will be difficult since your adrenaline will be pumping and you’ll be right in the middle of the chaos. But you can’t allow yourself to be controlled by fear and panic. Instead, use common sense and control your breathing. Doing so can and will keep you alive.
Know How To Fight
Even if you try to evacuate your building or area using the above tips, you may have no choice but to stand and fight. You can use anything from concealed carry guns to knives to less common weapons. If you don’t already have a gun or weapon, it would be wise to pick up something to defend yourself with after the attack has occurred, that way you’ll be ready to fight if you have to.
Here are some tips on fighting a terrorist:
You may own a gun or even carry one concealed daily, but do you know the proper firing stance and grip, how to reload swiftly, or how to clear a malfunction? If not, you should take a course an train. You should also learn hand-to-hand combat. You can find a local instructor, or you can try an online program but it will be never the same as a body to body training.
Being physically fit will never pay off more for you more than in a terrorist attack, especially if you have to go hand-to-hand with a terrorist. Even as little as twenty to thirty minutes of exercise 6 days a week can get you in shape.
Fight to Kill
Either you’re going down or the terrorist is. Don’t just try to push them out of the way and run. Kill them! That terrorist is willing to sacrifice his life to kill you and will show no mercy, so you have no choice but to fight back the same way if you want to live.
Improvisation can be what keeps you alive. Go for the terrorist’s weapon if you don’t already have one, or just pick up something you can use as a weapon.
Know How to Communicate in an Emergency
Once you’ve escaped or fought your way out of the building or area of the terrorist attack, you’ll probably be thinking about how to get in touch with your family. Maybe they’re safe on the other side of town, but for all you know the other side of town has been hit as well.
Everyone in your household should know everybody else’s basic communication info by memory, such as e-mail addresses, social media profiles, cell phone numbers, and so on. In addition, everyone in your family should have a list of people to contact beyond those in the household, and everyone should have the contact information for those people as well.
It’s a good idea for at least two or three of your contacts to be out of the state or at least far away from your location. If they haven’t been affected by the terrorist attack, they might be able to lend you some kind of help or support.
In case you’re in a situation where you can’t use phones or computers to contact family members, you should have a back-up communication method. Satellite phones, Ham radios, CB radios, and two way radios are your best options for this. Let’s go over these options in more detail.
Satellite phones are very expensive, but if you can afford one, it’s worth the extra cost because they don’t rely on cell phone networks. This means you can call somebody with a satellite phone even if the cell network has gone down.
Ham radios have been used in practically every major disaster for nearly a century. Ham Bands can still function beautifully even when every other form of communication goes out. As long as you and your family have a list of set frequencies, you can make contact.
CB radios are an excellent communication system to have in your vehicle. The downside is that they are only useful in localized disasters since few have a contact radius of more than thirty miles. But at the same time, they will still function even when other forms of communication go down.
Two Way Radios
Most people–if they don’t already own a couple of two way radios–at least have some experience with them. Also known as walkie-talkies, two way radios have a communication radius of around thirty miles and are very simple to use. They’re also small enough to carry with you wherever you go, and they run on batteries.
Know How To Get Your Family To Safety
Let’s say you’ve made contact with your family using one of the above communication methods. Now what? You and your family will need to either meet at home and bug in or meet somewhere and bug out. This will depend on the nature of the attack (if it’s nuclear, biological or chemical, you’ll have to bug out) and how far your home is from ground zero (if it’s far way from the attack, then it should be safe to bug in).
If you decide to meet at home, here are some tips on how to get home after the SHTF. If you decide to meet somewhere, first you’ll need a designated rendezvous point. It’s up to you where to put your rendezvous point, but try to make it equidistant from where your family members might be (school, work, etc.), and make sure it’s a spot that won’t be overrun during a disaster (such as a city park or the parking lot in front of an abandoned building). Make sure everyone in your family knows exactly where it is.
If you have children who are in school and cannot drive, either you or another adult will have to pick them up. You should be authorized to pick up your children from your school so there’s no hassling with the teachers and administrators. Keep in mind that in an emergency situation, each of the schools will likely be receiving hundreds of calls, so you probably won’t be able to get in touch. Instead, head straight for the school and pick up your children, then head to the rendezvous point.
Once everyone is together, it’s time to bug out. Yes, evacuating the city could be a nightmare as the streets will become clogged with cars and entire blocks could be shut down. If danger is upon you and you don’t feel it’s safe to be stuck in traffic any longer, then you may need to step out and run to safety while carrying as much of your gear as you can. Other people may do the same–and yes, it will be chaotic–but what’s important is that you get yourself and your family to safety.