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Forewarned is forearmed: staff safety training

In our series on security, safety and risk mitigation, we have highlighted various risk situations along with preventive measures. But despite every precaution, risks can always arise. We need, therefore, to be prepared to protect ourselves, our colleagues and our families. To obtain guidance on how we can train ourselves and others to confront risk situations when they arise, we invited Stefan Spiess, a martial arts expert and operator of Advance Conflict Training (ACT) to explain how he trains security professionals, business groups, families and children in security awareness and response. Stefan can be reached at Web site: Stefan offers the following advice:

What kinds of training in safety and security do you provide?

We offer a wide range of services called Advanced Conflict Training (ACT) covering safety, systems upgrading, business and commuter travel security and risk assessment. We provide Law Enforcement Military and Security Services Training for professionals, Personal Safety Services for business, families and individuals, educators and children. These include special guidelines for transport vehicles, protection for women, conflict avoidance and defence against armed attack.

ACT latest service is designed for schools, called ACT BEAR, standing for Barriers and Boundaries, Escaping and Evading, Awareness and Recognising. Children have the right to grow up in safety and security, happiness and confidence. Our program mascot, Max the Bear, guides children along a path of safety. For adults, courses have been introduced to offer guidance in defending against armed attackers and office or home invasion.

How can such training assist in times of emergency and how would trained people act differently to untrained people in times of crisis?

We guide trainees step-by-step through the process of making critical decisions, before they have to face potential conflict situations. Apart from learning how to act in the safest way possible, they also gain an understanding of the criminal mind and behaviour. They learn key aspects of personal awareness, decision-making, having a plan in place, as well as how to use the appropriate weapons needed to overcome violent confrontations. We include demonstrations of conflict situations and effective ways of dealing with them.

If one is in a life-threatening situation, how should one react?

If they find themselves in a life-threatening situation, people usually panic, or freeze and don’t know what to do. Taking immediate corrective action is next to impossible when one is thrust into a life-threatening situation. That is, unless one has a plan in hand and can draw on the relevant resources required to counter the threat or the attacker. The ACT courses teach how to react in a hostile situation and apply a pre-determined strategy. This will firstly reduce the risk of attack and ultimately enable one to survive, should such a situation arise.

What does a typical training session consist of?

The Personal Safety Training is usually a one-off session, sometimes with refresher sessions at a later stage. There are also additional courses on special subjects such as hijack reactions. There may be small or larger training groups, each session lasting from one to five hours, some with practical training. The ACT Bear Program is on-going, with continuing contact with teachers. The Advanced Conflict Training is a 12-hour session conducted over a weekend or over several weeks, including measures to deal with violent confrontations.

If confronted with a serious suicidal-type or terrorist situation, what are the best ways to protect oneself?

If the event takes place in a familiar environment, such as an office, there should be emergency plans in place, along with action procedures. If in an unfamiliar place, one should try to get away from the area of impact as quickly as possible. One should keep calm, moving from one sheltered area to another, looking out for instructions from security personnel. If in a shopping mall, that mall should have emergency plans in place, with staff on hand to evacuate people.

Since most robbery or terrorist perpetrators are armed with lethal weapons, are there any effective ways for unarmed victims to successfully confront them?

Robberies and terrorist attacks are different in kind and have different objectives. Armed robbery criminals have the objective to obtain valuables. Therefore their purpose is to take those valuables and escape as fast as possible. Civilians are only at risk as hostages or by being caught in crossfire. The greater danger is resistance without any plan. An individual has to make a decision, to escape, to hide or to fight. The training courses help participants to make their own personal decisions, based on the context: whether one is alone, or with family and children. The decision on what action to take depends on how one analyses the situation.

In a terrorist attack, however, the perpetrator’s goal is to kill as many people as possible and the killing starts immediately. The terrorists have the aim to maximise the number of casualties and to create the maximum impact in media. Escape is not usually as important for them as seeking all possible victims. The objective of a potential victim is therefore to escape or to conceal oneself in a darkened room, waiting until the door of the room is opened, then defend oneself by throwing furniture while seeking to distract the attacker.

Conclusions: Prevention is better than cure: well-organised security is better than individual heroism.

Recent escalation of violent terrorism from the Far South extending to Western Thailand, along with some Bangkok incidents, have shown that a higher degree of self-protection is necessary. One has to rely to the greatest extent possible on public security in public places and privately-provided security services in non-public areas. Public areas are often poorly protected. It is necessary, therefore, to exercise caution in streets, parks and other public places such as transport centres. These are the places where robberies and terrorist attacks happen most frequently.

Private locations such as shopping malls, hotels and places of entertainment convey the greatest risks. Individuals and families should routinely check the provision of security at every place they enter and judge its effectiveness. They should also check exits and be prepared to use them at any time, whether in case of fire, civil violence, military intervention, or terrorist attacks. For families, only the safest locations should be visited, with particular vigilance to keep family members together at all times. It is always good to develop capability by training for self-protection, not only for adults but also particularly for children. But best of all is never to have to use defensive capacity in real-life situations.

Christopher F. Bruton, over 46 years in Thailand, is Executive Director of Dataconsult Ltd, a local consultancy. He can be reached at Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides meetings, seminars and extensive documentation to update business on present and future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.