How to survive a terrorist attack

10 tips to save yourself from terrorism

The number of terrorist attacks and threats has grown exponentially in recent years. The likelihood of falling victim to such an attack remains small, but it is growing. So what can you do to best protect yourself if an attack occurs and you’re in the middle of it? The following tips and videos offer important information on how to survive a terrorist attack.

1) Avoid large crowds

Football matches, pop concerts, busy train stations, airports: just a few places where terrorist attacks have taken place over the past years. The Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK, and The Bataclan in Paris; the train bombings in London and Madrid; the explosions at Brussels Airport. Terrorists like busy places, so you might choose to avoid them. On the other hand, you don’t want terrorists to interfere with the enjoyment and practicalities of everyday life. If everyone avoids busy, public places, the terrorists win. It’s what sociologists call a “commons dilemma.” In the end, it’s a personal decision, but you have to be aware that busy places have a higher risk of being targeted.

2) Locate the emergency exits

Whenever you go into an office building, a stadium, or a train station, make sure you know where the emergency exits are. In case of an explosion or fire, dust and smoke will make it hard to spot the exits if you haven’t already. Find the nearest, widest, non-electrical exit. Don’t use an elevator or escalator; take the stairs.

3) Run when you hear “fireworks” or explosions

When the police or media questioned witnesses of prior terrorist attacks about what they saw and heard, a lot of people answered “fireworks.” Fireworks sound very similar to automatic weapons being fired, such as Kalashnikovs or AK47s. So the advice is very simple: If you hear something like fireworks and it’s not New Years Eve, start running in the opposite direction of the sound source. Insist that others come with you, but don’t let their indecision slow you down. Leave your belongings behind. Flee through a safe route, one that’s not in the line of fire.

4) Warn the police that you’re in danger

Call the police and tell them exactly where you are and what the situation is. Don’t call friends or family during the attack; your priority is safety, nothing else. Don’t use social media during the attack, because it may give clues to help attackers.

5) Set your mobile phone to silent

If you’re trapped in a building that’s under siege by terrorists, turn off the sound of your cellphone. If your phone makes any sounds, it can reveal your location. For the same reason, it’s better not to make calls, but to use SMS and chat apps like WhatsApp to communicate with the outside world. Don’t cry for help; use electronic means of communication.

6) Lay down or hide

If you can’t flee, you should lay down behind the hardest cover available, such as reinforced concrete. Don’t stand near windows, as bullets may penetrate them easily and they may be blown into hundreds of sharp pieces. If you can’t find hard cover, at least hide from the attackers’ line of sight. Avoid dead ends, and keep alert for accomplices of the attackers who may try to harm you as you are fleeing the scene.

7) Defend yourself

Should you have to hide: Barricade doors from the inside with heavy objects and use belts if possible. Look for hard and sharp objects that you can use to defend yourself from attackers (such as fire extinguishers, chairs, or knives). But don’t try to be a hero; fighting off automatic firearms with a knife or chair is basically suicide. But if the attacker also carries a knife, you may have a chance if you carry a bigger one.

8) Tell the attacker you’re Muslim

Most attacks in the recent years have been perpetrated by radicalised Muslims, targeting non-Muslims. In the worst-case scenario, when you’re face to face with a jihadist on a killing spree, you could try to save your life by saying: Ana musalimu, yrja tajnib hayatia. Allah ‘akbar. Which translates to, “I’m Muslim, please spare my life. God is great.” Of course you could also say you’re an atheist, Christian, Jew, or Buddhist. It would be more honest and heroic, perhaps, but would diminish your survival rate.

9) Obey the authorities

When the police or military arrive, follow their orders. Put you hands above your head so you won’t be confused with the terrorists. Keep your hands visible so it’s clear you’re unarmed. Don’t make sudden movements or gestures that may be perceived as a threat.

10) Call home

News travels fast, so your family and friends may be worried that you’re still under attack. When you’re safe, tell your loved ones that you’re okay. Change your voicemail message into one that says you’re safe so people who cannot reach you will still get the message automatically.


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