When I was at the local yesterday, the news on TV as has been recently was about Garissa and the atrocious attack that took place there. Everyone watched quietly and when it was all over, an elderly citizen ranted angrily about people being armed in order to fight back. In his view, it was unacceptable that each attacker killed about 40 people, no mean feat considering they first had to round up and sort their victims. All this while resisting the KDF soldiers. His opinion is debatable, question is “Can we fight back”
It would be grossly insensitive to suggest at this point that the victims should have reacted differently, the fear at that point must be paralysing and without a plan death is certain. In Mandera, victims of the attacks on the bus and quarry were rounded up and executed one by one. When shots are fired, the first thing we all do is run, and when there are no exit routes. We hide.
We’ve seen it before with the Westgate attack where people hid in all sorts of places and survived to tell the story.
What happens when you are cornered and facing certain death?
My search for knowledge ended on the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) website where they have a page that advises on running, hiding and fighting as ways of surviving an active shooter in an enclosed area. To this end, the city of Houston in 2012 produced a short video that shows citizens how to deal with a shooter in an office, school etc.
Interestingly, this video is published on the Houston disaster preparedness website and youtube channel in both English and Spanish. The video shows how to coordinate exit with others, calling for help, how to hide and importantly staying out of harms way when law enforcement arrives. Watching it, you realize how powerful knowledge can be when preparing for disaster.
The last option according to the city of Houston, is to fight and with all you got. In this case, the characters have a chair, fire extinguisher and a belt to fight back.
When fighting back, you are adviced to;
- Act with physical aggression.
- Improvise weapons.
- Commit to your actions.
Should Kenyans now change their thinking? Terror attacks have become frequent and the manner of attack is similar. The Americans have recognized the threat and damage shooters have caused and given the people a last resort option – Fight back when facing certain death. If you (individual or group) are face to face with a shooter, then there’s nothing to lose by fighting back. If anything, rifles are much less effective at close range.
The police department of Houston has made the Run, Hide, Fight presentation available for high school students and older citizens. Empowering them with knowledge that will improve chances of survival during an active shooter event. Shouldn’t we do something to educate our people as well?
We don’t know where and when the next attack will happen, but perhaps we should prepare ourselves to fight back when it is the last option. Knowledge is power and maybe being prepared for all eventualities could save lives.
Comments by Pius Masai Mwachi, the acting Director of National Disaster Management Unit that compared the Garissa victims to cockroaches are in poor taste and insensitive especially to mourners and survivors. Mwachi, a police superintendent was quoted as saying,
“If you are in the hands of terrorists, free yourselves as soon as possible. Don’t just be killed like cockroaches.”
This article on the other hand is about a different approach to disaster preparedness. Borrowing heavily from the city of Houston model which has been adopted by other cities in the USA. A proper plan would involve research, educating the public and changing mindsets. Certainly, poorly thought out comments by the likes of Mr. Mwachi will not help the situation.