When military members transition into civilian life, we sometimes are surprised by how few civilians know survival skills that military personnel take for granted. Beginning with this post, I will cover some of the things that the military taught me, that all citizens should know. If you have any lessons or ideas to pass on in this series, please contact me.
After the recent tragedy in Oslo, Norway and the averted tragedy in Fort Hood Texas, “How to Increase Your Chances of Surviving a Terrorist Bomb” is a timely lesson to begin this series with.
In aviation vernacular, bold face actions must be memorized and executed to avoid serious injury, destruction, or death.
IF YOU HEAR AN EXPLOSION, IMMEDIATELY DUCK UNDER A DESK or other protective surface. DO NOT RUN TO THE WINDOW TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED!
Most fuels must be in a vapor state to explode: gasoline, jet fuel, ammonium nitrate fertilizer; they require oxygen and a spark to ignite the vapor. Consequently, almost all bombs require two explosions. The first explosion is compact and reliable to create an oxygen and shock wave through the main bomb fuel, so that the fuel will vaporize and ignite. Of course, a really high impact truck crash can also help detonate the bomb fuel. From a terrorist point of view, physics works to their advantage. People hear a crash or a small explosion, rush to the windows to see what happened, and are in the perfect location to be killed by the main explosion. The video below, from 3M, illustrates why you do not want to be near the windows.
A civilian friend of mine, married to a military attache pilot assigned to the American Embassy in Kenya, survived the terrorist bomb that killed 213 people, including 12 Americans, by following the one BOLD FACE ACTION above. The mother of two young girls worked near her husband’s office inside the Embassy. Fortunately, her husband was on a flight August 7, 1998, because his office incurred the greatest number of American casualties. A marine officer had once told my friend to never run to the window, but to always duck under something heavy, if she heard an explosion. Her action saved her life.
A victim who was injured but survived the Oslo bombing, who either did not hear the detonation or looked up as the explosion shook her office, fared less well. This is how she describes what happens if you do not take cover:
She told yesterday how she was at her desk on the 11th floor when deranged Anders Breivik detonated his deadly bomb. Line recalled: “Suddenly the window was blown out, the frame flew towards me and I was hit in my head. It went quiet, I was almost deaf. My boss had been thrown off his chair into a shelf. We could barely see each other through the dust.” Line and her manager Knut Fosli made their way down the stairs. As they clambered over debris and glass outside, Line realised she was bleeding heavily.
Her experience brings up the second BOLD FACE step for surviving a bomb: OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND COVER YOUR EARS.
The explosion’s shock wave creates a rapid change in air pressure, which can blow out your eardrums. Opening your mouth allows the air in your sinuses to equalize more quickly with the changing outside air pressure. If you suspect a blast is coming and you have time, cover your open mouth with a shirt or scarf to protect against toxic particles.
1) IF YOU HEAR A CRASH OR EXPLOSION, IMMEDIATELY TAKE COVER DOWN LOW.
2) COVER YOUR EARS AND OPEN YOUR MOUTH