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Safety Preparations in case of a terrorist attack

Keep calm and don’t panic


1 It is worth remembering that this scenario is highly unlikely and most people won’t encounter anything like this in their whole lives. We can’t live our lives in fearfulness of this sort of event, but a couple of minutes alertness to potential dangers is a very small price to pay in order to live your life and minimise dangers. A “what if” plan can actually cover many scenarios, not terrorism alone: you may escape a fire, a burglary, or a drunken fracas.

2 Also worth bearing in mind that you don’t know how you would react in any sort of emergency. If you happen to be one of the people who are paralysed by fear, the sort of planning I’m suggesting really could save your life, or your children’s lives. This sort of situation is terrifying enough, but to be responsible for young children at an event which is then targetted by terrorists, is unimaginably awful. Do what you can to give those in your charge a chance of surviving.

3 Learn to be aware of what’s around you. Study your destination beforehand and when you get there, whether it’s a building or a transport intersection of any kind. I started to draft this after the Paris attacks, but now the smaller weekend attack at Leytonstone Tube Station (and I used to live half a mile away from there) has just happened. What are your options? Check for exits and emergency exits. Check for personnel and security personnel – how many are there, and of what sort? Are there bottlenecks? There often are, especially to help check tickets, for instance; try to plan to avoid them if you need to get out. In emergencies, many people apparently make for the main exit, but subsidiary exits are often much easier to use. And in a life threatening situation, nobody’s going to care if you go through a door marked “Staff Only” – though it would be great to know where that door leads before you do it, it’s better than nothing.

4 Make prior arrangements with friends about where to meet up if you get separated. In the news that came out of Paris, nobody mentioned the mobile phones not functioning, so maybe they would, for longer than we’d hope, but making a prior arrangement would probably help. It might not, if the meet area is threatened by the terrorists (or a fire), but that’s always the chance you take.

5 You could make “layers” of emergency routes: out of the building, out of the immediate area, and even out of the town, though the latter is contrary to recent advice.

6 Get a map – even a single page printout. Just something basic to orient yourself, let you know the possible routes to safety, if the ones you choose are blocked for some reason. It might even be helpful if you were to mark hospitals, police stations and embassies – there will be armed guards at all these places, and people whose function it is to help you.

7 Check what each member of your party is wearing and remember it: at a big event, if you lose one another, it’s potentially an easy way to check around. As for children, if you’re going to a big event, or a big place, or you’ve travelled a long way from home, take a photo with your phone as you leave – it saves the stress of describing them to the security guards in the heat of the moment, and it’s astonishing how you can just forget what they’re wearing.

8 It pays to talk to younger family members about safe rendezvous points if mobile phones are down for any reason. With the best will in the world, members of the same party can easily get separated in emergency evacuations, and if it’s a big enough situation, the mobile phone network will go down from gridlock, let alone the security services actually shutting it down.

9 Report any unattended bags, suspicious items. And don’t then return near them.

10 If there is a security alert, whether because of a suspected gun attack, or a suspect package at a travel hub, follow instructions from the security staff immediately. They’re really not doing it solely to inconvenience you.

11 Think about what you’re wearing at likely target venues, especially at times of high alerts – if you’re going out to have fun, you want to dress in a fun way too, but do think about the “what ifs” here, if it’s the sort of event that terrorists now seem to target, or if there were a fire. What if there really was an attack? How high are your heels? If you really had to run for your life, are they good enough for that?

12 Consider the situation for the less able members of your group, maybe you yourself, up to and including wheelchair users. If the only way to save your lives was up a flight of stairs, do you know how to band together to carry that person? Is there a refuge area? It might be safe from fire, but not necessarily from a terrorist. What if the wheelchair user wants the others to go, and to save themselves? Parents would often want to save their children rather than themselves. This kind of thing needs to be talked about, and any exit strategies you can manage need practising. And remember, it will be different at different venues.

13 This might sound offensive … but several terror attacks by Islamist groups are reported to have quizzed their captives about Islam … recite a verse, name the Prophet’s mother, that sort of thing. If you think a destination of yours might be at risk, it could be worth memorising a few lines, a few basic facts. Is this pandering to terrorism? Maybe … I love languages, I love the architecture of mosques and Islamic decoration, the call of the muezzins in the morning in a city like Istanbul, it’s no hardship to me to think of memorising a few facts, and a few quotes, though I hate the reason for it. There are free copies online:

14 Local self defence laws. If you’re heading abroad, try to check out the self defence laws of the country to which you’re heading, possibly from their embassy: there might be something you know how to use thats legal at your destination while being illegal in the UK. It will need to be discarded or destroyed before you return, of course, but it’s still an option. Do bear in mind that in the heightened situation immediately after an attack, you might well be searched when crossing borders etc, make sure you’re keeping to what’s legal within the jurisdiction.

15 A list of emergency phrases, if you’re heading abroad, is always useful – that’s why we have phrasebooks, after all. But some of the newer phrases we need aren’t in the books yet: not only “I’m British”, “I’m lost”, “Do you have any water”, but also “the gunmen are over there”, “I have been shot at”, “my family have been taken hostage by terrorists”. Think about it.

16 Who would you want to call in an emergency, to let them know you’re safe? Parents, partner, children … You might not be able to get on to Facebook or WhatsApp or Twitter. Make sure you have contact numbers with you – hotlines and friends and relatives too. Your memory will probably be shattered by the stress, so write them down somewhere. Your phone might not make it through whatever you need to do to escape.

17 Identity papers: this might be as simple as your driving license, but in other parts of the world it might be your passport and an entry visa. Follow the laws of the land about whether or not you’re supposed to have that paperwork on you. It might be safer to have it, or it might be recommended you keep it in the hotel safe, and carry around a photocopy. If you need to scribble a note to yourself about the hotel and it’s name and phone number, so you can prove who you are more speedily, then do that. You might even want to make notes for yourself and your partner/friends about blood types, allergies and drugs. Many people with chronic conditions are requested to do this as a matter of course.

18 What kit to carry? So far, I’ve mentioned six items: a map, a phone, possibly an item for self defence that’s legal in your destination country, a list of emergency phrases, a list of emergency contacts and identity papers.

You could also carry a few other things, even if you’re restricted to a bum bag: a torch, more cash than you think you’ll ever need, a first aid kit, an emergency foil blanket, some water, some snacks, an extra day’s meds if you need them. Another seven items, thirteen in all.

16 And finally … what if I think there’s a terrorist attack, and there isn’t, and I overreact? The web is full of stories of overreactions – to small fireworks, backfiring cars and the rest. Let’s look at this sensibly. What would your over-reaction actually be? Are you going to prick your ears up and look around tensely until you can find what the source of the noise was? Are you going to duck down and hide behind a room divider? Are you going to start knocking people over and screaming at them to eff off out of your way? Your answer to that question tells you how embarrassed you’re going to be, and that some forms of overreaction are really, really unhelpful. If your reaction is panic, either freezing or freaking out, you’re going to harm your survival chances in a real event, and the chances of those around you. But if all you do is crouch down or check things out visually, then really, so what? There’s a great quote from Bernard Baruch, an adviser to American Democrat Presidents in the mid twentieth century:

Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”


Overview of Growing Houseplants as a Prepper

The first prep that makes sense when you become a prepper is to stock up on food, by buying extra of some of your normal shopping. More baked beans, more salmon, more rice, more vegetable oil, more sugar, more tinned potatoes (I have an addiction to those, I confess). All sorts of things. More of that another day.

Then people realise they need water – water’s cheap, but its heavy, really heavy, so thats often a question of some 5 litre bottles and a few bottles of purification tablets, maybe a water butt. More of that another day too.

The question of growing your own comes up then: for people with a garden, the obvious answer is to get out there, and start digging and planting. Much, much more of that another day, another week, another year, its an endless topic!

But plenty of people don’t have gardens, or aren’t physically able to garden. And people with gardens want even more space. What can we do? This post is an introduction to answering that question. All of the topics I’ve listed below will eventually have their own posts on the blog, sometimes several of them, this is just a preliminary overview.

Making growing space inside the house
I have some ideas about houseplants that might help. They’re not the complete answer, naturally, but neither is the average suburban garden, you couldn’t feed a family on the produce from a garden, nor even a single person. But little bits help, they really do, and if there’s an emergency of some kind during winter, or an Icelandic ash cloud much worse than the last one (so much so that its dangerous to go out because of the size of the jagged ash particles), growing more inside the house is really the only way to get extra produce.

So, this is about a regular prep, as well as for potential medium-term emergencies: a bad winter can see a lot of snowstorms, so that ekeing out your stores becomes something that’s really useful. It can save you money and food miles, as well.

Growing plants indoors, of course, needs work: the temperature can’t vary too wildly for some of the plants I’m describing, though some, frankly, are as tough as old boots!

Long lasting herbs are great to grow indoors – mint, rosemary and lemon balm in particular. All are best grown out of doors, to be honest (except maybe in the very north of Scotland?), but they’re reliable producers of greenstuff with lots of micronutrients, so they’re worth having. They can all be used for teas as well as for food.

If you have a conservatory or even a large window or French doors, you could actually use the space nearby to grow ballerina trees, or some form of mini fruit bush. It would be a talking point, which you might not want, and in any case most people need their conservatories for extra living space, but its possible, thats the thing.

One perennial plant thats very easy to grow indoors is aloe vera – its so easy to grow that anyone you know who has one, will actually be eager to give you a plant – it grows like crazy. Its great for the skin, to help blisters, rough patches, healing burns. It also helps clean the air.

Some plants are always going to be house plants because they help purify the air inside a house. There are a few basic ones, pretty unremarkable: Spider plants, mother in law’s tongue and English ivy are the most common. There are plenty of others, such as weeping figs, Warneck dracaena, ferns and peace lilies are all helpful in their own way.

Annual plants that are usually grown under cover such as chili or basil can be grown in the house too. A little bit of care is needed, especially to ensure that they get enough light, but its definitely possible.

Plenty of shop-bought vegetables can also be recycled once or twice in the kitchen, to provide extra salad greens. Carrots and spring onions, in particular – once you’ve eaten the bit you want, pack the root into a little flowerpot, or in the case of carrots into a saucer of water, and They Will Come.

Small, fast-growing salad veg can also be usefully grown indoors in ordinary times, especially in early spring when you want some salads but the weather isn’t really cooperating, and the shops are charging for the equivalent weight in gold. Radishes, lettuces, salad burnet, cress, baby greens of almost any food plant, all sorts of things.

Starting off your seedlings indoors can be a real help – even if you’re not trying to get a start on the season, your little seedlings will be safer from pests, and from bad weather like late frosts and hailstones. Nowadays, its recommended to grow them in plugs, or the insides of toilet rolls, or pouches made from newspaper – their little roots won’t be disturbed by onward planting, as they would be if they were being taken from a seed tray.

Sprouting is an incredibly important way of providing fresh greens for you and your family from stored food. I’d never spend money on a sprouting kit, when the home made version will do perfectly well, but I’ve found that the jar needs to be a fair bit bigger than the average jamjar, so a store of bigger jars – that used to contain mayonnaise, or beetroot, for instance – is a good idea.

Locations in the house
What about where the pots go? You want as much light as possible for nearly every plant mentioned above: if you have a secure conservatory, a lot more options open up for you. If you have a porch, many of the same options exist there (although there’ll be a lot more winter traffic in a porch, and any plants still there could well be quite stressed by that environment). Windowsills that are wide enough are helpful to put plants on, or a shelf opposite a good-sized window for a lot of plants, or hung from the ceiling. Big plant containers can go on the floor, of course, and all of these ideas will look good in the present day, in mostly ordinary times.

However, if there’s a medium-term problem such as I described above, with ash clouds or a prolonged spell of bad weather, we need more than a pleasant amount of greenery: we need as much as we can get. So you can line your windowsills and your conservatory floor with plants, pots and saucers all touching one another; you can have a row of a dozen or so old jamjars with sprouted seeds in various stages of growth. You could even fit an extra plant shelf halfway up a window, to double the available growing space, as long as it wasn’t too noticeable from outside. Venetian blinds, for instance, hide a good deal, as long as there’s no light on inside the room.

If things need to be even more intense, you could get going with vertical indoor planting – I have quite a few spare pieces of trellis, for instance, and that could be secured to a wall and hung with plantpots that are each secured by a long twist of wire.

There are some even more complex systems to get into, if you have the room, the money and enough available time to study it and get it going – keeping it going is even better: aquaculture, aquaponics, hydroculture and hydroponics are all possibilities. For me, they’re still in the future, and I’ve still not even researched them, but if anyone has any experience of them, I’d love to hear.