I would be remiss this week if I did not write about safety at public events following the devastating attack at the Manchester Arena in England Monday night. So many people have asked me, "What could we have done if we had been there?"
Please understand that identifying a threat often only applies if you physically observe an individual that gives you a gut feeling that something isn't right. As of this writing, not enough video surveillance footage and cell phone video/photos have been released to determine if the bomber did anything to look overtly suspicious.
Even then, it stands to reason that only a few (by percentage) people at the event would have actually had visual contact with the subject. So that leaves the majority of the attendees with no idea that a sinister act like the premeditated, targeted bombing of young people was about to occur prior to 10:40 that evening.
While we cannot prepare for every event, let me specifically address what you can do, as your personal "standard operating procedure" when attending an event at a large venue.
First, select a seat that is both close to an arena exit and also close to a facility exit. This will give you an immediate escape route should it be needed. But do not depend upon just that one route. Always be aware of an alternate route should it be needed.
Second, be aware of your immediate surroundings. We cannot have influence over everything, however, we can definitely have some security-based influence over our immediate surroundings. What I mean by this is your ability to see the actions of others and also the presence of such things as abandoned bags and suspicious items left unattended.
As you walk to your seat, pay attention to such things as the locations of any fixed security posts where officers may be stationed during the event, the location of a security office, and the location of fire extinguishers, AED's or other emergency response equipment placed in the public areas of the venue that are intended for use by event attendees.
Any law enforcement officer will tell you that they cannot do everything to protect you. You must take a certain level of responsibility to protect both yourself and those for whom you are responsible.
Remember that law enforcement is intended as a response to an incident. Should a serious event occur in your immediate proximity, then you, the attendee, are more likely to be positioned as a good witness and possibly be close enough to make a difference for yourself or others.
A few more things you can do include making sure that your cell phone remains charged (carry a portable power supply if necessary), let someone close to you know when the event starts and when it ends, and learn how to utilize a tourniquet as a simple first aid device.
We have seen the absolute value to tourniquets after such incidents as the Boston Marathon bombing and again at the Manchester arena bombing. Carry a tourniquet with you not just to use on someone else, but to primarily utilize on yourself should you receive a wound on an outer extremity. This occurred to many of those we saw being carried from the scene in Manchester. Tourniquets are small enough to carry in a purse or larger cargo pocket so there is no reason not to have one with you.
More than any other piece of advice I can give you, pay attention to your gut feelings. If something does not feel right, take heed of that feeling that has been a part of our human defense mechanism for thousands of years. Do not just brush off that weird feeling you get when you "just know" something isn't right.
Terrorists' goals are to make us change our way of life through instilling fear. There is no reason we should let this happen. We must continue as a free society. Be vigilant, not afraid. Continue to enjoy the life that you have made for yourself. No one has the right to take that away from you. Most of all, do not let the bad guys win!