How to survive a terror attack?

With the recent spade of attacks, we came to understand that the world is no longer safe. An attack can happen anywhere at anytime. It is not a matter of will it happen, but when it will happen. As human beings, at the very least we could do is to ensure our own survival for the sake of our loved ones, if not for ourselves. Singapore, although safe, is not invulnerable to attacks. We have vigilant authorities and efficient policing, but there is a reason why the Singapore government did not send combat troops to the middle east. We probably would not want to get ourselves involved in the conflict. We abide by this “If you have nothing better to do, don’t find trouble” rule and thus able to avoid many conflicts. Regardless, Singapore’s stand is still against terrorism and this probably increases our danger.

Note that I’m writing this from the point of view of a Singaporean boy.

Nevertheless, be it Singapore or elsewhere, be it going home from work or travelling in Europe, if there is an attack, do something to survive. There is always this excuse that when one is under shock, he freezes like a kangaroo in a spotlight. So apparently, this is a good enough excuse so that the victim of a gun attack or a pedestrian car accident can be spared the blame. Or rather, it is an excuse for lazy people not to equip themselves with survival skills. You know what? When you panic and you don’t know what to do, you die. When you stop there in your tracks like a kangaroo in spotlight, you die. Worse, because of you, others could die. Period. Excuses? Do they mean anything when you feel your last breath fading out?

So, if you would like to at least increase your chances of survival, listen. Now, I am assuming you are not in direct fire or bomb blast. If that happens, you probably won’t have the chance to execute any action. My advice would just be to reflect on your life in the few seconds you leave this world.

1. Take cover

I remembered my platoon commander in command school telling us this: “The Singaporean lady who was killed in the Mumbai attacks could have survived if she had undergone military training and knew this thing called ‘take cover’.” As we don’t know the exact sequence of events for that case, we can’t judge. However, in the army, the first thing we trained for a fire movement as a recruit was to take cover. Well, actually that’s the second thing to be specific. The first action we were trained to do was to prone once contacted. Thereafter, move to the nearest cover swiftly. This is called a reaction. It is actually a human instinct to cower when you sense something dangerous coming towards you. So put that instinct into action and go down, instead of standing there and becoming a target board. Of course, depending on the situation, finding the nearest cover instead of dropping down is the best option. By cover I meant something that can stop bullets at the minimum. A small flower pot is not a cover. A curtain is not a cover. Get behind a concrete wall or a door thick enough. A wooden door is probably not going to stop bullets, much less a partitioned wall. If no solid cover is available, your next best option is to conceal. Although a bullet will tear through a curtain, if the assailant doesn’t spot a target, he probably will not fire. So your next best option would be to keep out of sight and pray that you don’t get hit by a stray bullet, and that the assailant doesn’t have x-ray eyes. While you are hiding, keep still. The human eye is very sensitive to movement, even towards shadows. This is part of the principle of cover and concealment which I used to teach.

At your hiding or cover, take in new information as much as you can. Every single piece of information is useful. The direction of fire, the number of assailants, what kind of weapons are they using, the number of dead bodies, the nearest exit…and before I move on to escaping, what if an assailant comes your way?

Skip to part 3 if you can’t fight, don’t have to fight, or fighting will not be an option for you. However, let me just say that you must make fighting an option in the worst case scenario to preserve your life.

2. Attack

If you sense the assailant approaching, you have two choices. One, stunned like a vegetable and get killed. Two, take him off guard by attacking first and if you’re capable or lucky, grab a kill. If not, the worst is to be killed (Which you will end up with choice one anyway). So the obvious course of action would be to attack that fucker.

If you are visual with the assailant, take note of his attire and position. Look out for any other weapons besides the rifle that he would probably be holding. Look around you for any object you can use as a weapon. A chair, a book, a pen, whatever. The moment he approaches your location, strike him with whatever you have on the head several times (assuming he is not wearing a helmet of course). He will be disorientated for a few seconds, and this few seconds determine your odds of survival. Position yourself at his 10 or 2 o’clock position to avoid being in the line of fire.

DISARM HIM! While striking, remove his hand from the trigger with your free hand. If his weapon is slung, your goal now for the next 5 seconds is to prevent the discharge of the weapon. Using the other hand, grab the barrel or the body of the gun, smash the butt of the rifle into his head to continue his disorientation, all the time controlling where the barrel is pointing at. If you are trained in firearms, and fast enough, locate the magazine release button and drop the magazine. You will probably not have time to eject the chambered round, so if possible, just discharge the last round away. If the weapon is not slung, grab the barrel with one hand (pointing it away from you) and the back body/butt with the other, and rotate the butt upwards to pull it away from his grip, at the same time hitting his mouth if possible. This method is a certain way to wrestle a weapon out of the assailant’s grip. You can add a kick to the groin while you do that. If it is a pistol, it should be much easier. Grab the slide, slide it backwards and hold it there to prevent discharge while pulling the gun away and striking him multiple times with your other limbs. For more methods, watch YouTube videos on defending yourself against guns. And remember, whatever you do, your goal is to control the weapon and get away from the line of fire.

If you are unable to disarm the weapon, which is most likely the case (because you have no idea what the parts of a firearm are), hit him with whatever you have got. Aim for the groin, the throat and the eyes. Remember to control the direction of the weapon. It is okay to stick your fingers into his eyes because you would want him dead anyway. It would be a bit gross, but at least you don’t die. If you notice any dagger or pistol at any part of his body, aim for that weapon after disorientating him. It is also worth to note that he would probably be attempting to withdraw that weapon too.

Now, this may all sound complicated and you only have that few seconds to execute. Especially for the untrained ones, how is this possible? Just remember that the only way to win a gunman is to go close to him (There is a reason why ranged characters in games usually have lesser hit points you know), get out of the line of fire, and subdue him. Or you die. Yes, we are civilized people living in a civilized society, but terrorists don’t talk civility with you. They don’t negotiate with you. So, get that “Killing is wrong” mindset out of your mind and make them die for their cause, which they gladly would. Can any average Joe do it? The trained terrorists could probably incapacitate an average Joe in a few seconds, but we are not talking about a fair fight here. Use your intelligence, leverage on objects, be vicious, take him by surprise and survive.

You will not get charged for murder for killing an armed terrorist who is on a killing spree. If you do, the authorities are fucked up.

If you succeed in incapacitating or killing the assailant, your next step is to establish an escape plan.

3. Get the hell out

After taking cover and you realise you are able to escape without confrontation, plan your escape route. The general rule is to get away from the source as far as possible. If the terrorists are concentrated in one location, without saying, go in the opposite direction. It is likely that the terrorists will come in from all available exits that leave you unable to get out without facing them. It really depends on the location you are at. So the best way to do this is to already know the layout of the location before the attack actually happens. This is one of the basic survival skills that you ought to learn if you want to survive. Really, nothing is worse than staying alive but knowing you are going to die soon because you don’t know the way out. For example, at a shopping mall, there are bound to be emergency exits especially where the sign points to the toilets. Basement carparks are exit points for you too. The main goal while you are moving to the exit point is not to get detected. Leopard crawl if you have to, jump over obstacles if you have to. Similarly, grab something that you can use as a weapon in case you are met with a confrontation. Go back to 2 if that happens.

If you are able to subdue an assailant, grab his weapon for self-defence. However, if you do not know how to operate a firearm, forget it. It is not as simple as pulling the trigger.

While escaping, throw out any unnecessary burdens like your bag and take off high heels if you are wearing one. Getting cut on the feet is much safer than making noise with the heels and getting shot after that. You have to be quiet and fast, in other words, stealth. A nickname I used to be called in secondary school because I can disappear and return without anyone noticing. Once you are out of the danger zone, get to the nearest law enforcement officer and discard any weapon you are holding in case they see you as a threat.


Once alerted, get down and get to the nearest cover available. Fight back if you have to, and escape intelligently.

Playing dead?

This would be a risk you have to take. A smart terrorist who aims to take as many lives as he can will put another bullet into your head if he suspects you may be alive. Now you are really dead. Well, if the injuries you sustained are such that you are better off playing dead than escaping, then you will probably make a convincing corpse and be spared that last round. It is also a good idea to cover yourself underneath a pile of bodies provided you are able to breath. Remember to smear some blood on yourself too.

What I have just written is not a 100% survivor guide, it is just to help increase your chances of survival. I am not a survivor of an attack, neither do I claim to be a pro at such events. I am not Liam Neeson. Let me just say that I have a strong will to survive, and I will eliminate any threat that stands in my way to do so. Do you feel me too? If you do, start doing things that increase your chances of survival like being more aware of your surroundings. Play such situations out in your head, prepare yourself mentally so you know what to do when it actually happens.

At the end of the day, you have tried your best to survive. The rest, leave it to God.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s