Since the atrocities of the London and Manchester attacks and the following Barcelona attacks there has been a renewed focus on the role of the private security and indeed private citizens and their capability to act as ‘zero responders’ in the event of further incidents. Despite the superb response times of police and other first responders in these recent attacks there still emerged heroic stories of security operatives acting in the interim to save lives. Recent guidance released in both the UK and Australia specifically aimed at those tasked with protecting crowded places refers to the use of emergency or crisis response kits. In this article we will look at the concept of the emergency response bag and show that this not so new idea has applications far wider than terrorist attacks.
We have long advocated the preparation and staging of emergency response bags in client venues for over a decade. People who have worked with me over the years will remember me keeping stocked response bags in the control rooms of various venues (this earned me the nicknames ‘Mr Prepared’ and ‘The last Boy Scout’ over the years). This wasn’t because a terrorist attack was a likely occurrence , in fact it was such a low likelihood/high impact event that it hardly figured high on the risk register of most of the venues I have worked (although never say never). The emergency response (we prefer this title to crisis response kit) bag however has applications far beyond terrorist incidents and outside the realm of a first aid kits capability. Take for example a shopping centre or large city centre department store. Public disorder, looting, escalator accidents or armed robbery are all more likely major incident/mass casualty events that such a kit may be required for. Similar instances might also apply to a university campus . In the night-time economy hotels, nightclubs or concert venues may encounter mass violence, stage collapses or multiple drug overdoses as situations more likely than a terrorist attack. The point we make is that just because a kit is designed with one type of emergency in mind doesn’t confine it application to that situation only.
The original concept of a fire bag or evacuation bag is not new. It has been around for decades and is mentioned in most good evacuation plans. There is often one left gathering dust in a corner somewhere which is checked periodically by security or facilities (usually found to contain out of date equipment and a set of dead two-way radios). The reality of today’s emergency incidents is that evacuation is not always a priority or an option. In fact invacuation (shelter in place) may be more applicable to many situations. Also the traditional approach of a single evacuation bag/box may need to be reconsidered. We may encounter situations where certain areas of a building which are inaccessible or we have multiple scenes ongoing at once.
The emergency response bag is also not just a large first aid bag. It falls somewhere between an evacuation bag and a first aid kit. While a first aid kit caters for all sorts of bumps bruises and minor injuries the emergency response kit contains more trauma related items and in much more volume to manage larger numbers of casualties.
Emergency response bag contents
The list of suggested contents below are generic recommendations based on the guidance referenced above,our own training on the subject and our own experience of building these kits. Some of the contents we have listed may not suit your venue and others you may not agree with. The content list is simply a start point to get you considering what you may need at your own venue. My suggested contents include:
- Hi- visibility vests: In an emergency there may be lots of dust, smoke, movement or darkness. Responders need to be visible to the public, casualties and to respond emergency services.
- Torches: For the same reasons as above. I’m a fan of something bigger than the standard small security operatives basic equipment torch. Something I can use to throw a lot of light a long distance to get attention but also something that can be used to smash windows to escape or use as a protective tool from an attacker. I’m a fan of LED Lenser torches in all of my kits.
- Bleeding control kits: The major risk is obviously large amount of casualties all with major trauma. Having specific bleeding control kits with the facility to treat large numbers across a variety of incidents. These kits contain items such as large wound dressings, a tourniquet (see footnote) and gauze. Having a number of small packs allows them to be deployed to different casualties at once.
- Water: As much as you get in without making the bag too heavy. Smaller bottles are better so they can be shared out. Consideration may also be given to some food items if there is sufficient space.
- Space Blankets: Shock is a huge risk in any emergency situations. Having as many of these small space blankets in your kit is essential.
- Door wedges and cable ties: To secure doors,gates etc. This might be used to create a barricade or even to seal an entry point to an accident scene or a burglary.
- Dust masks: For all of the above mentioned situations with dust, chemicals or smoke. If thick smoke is a risk then even consider a smoke hood.
- Accident Kit: I have already written an article about my own accident kit contents here
- Mobile phone: Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A charged mobile phone (this has to be checked regularly) with key staff, contractor and emergency contact details. There are also some excellent apps that can be downloaded to help in emergencies but at a minimum a map application capable of giving accurate directions to emergency services for larger sites. a back up power supply is also a handy item to keep.
- Two way radios: A simple set of two way radios might be considered to link the emergency response team communications. Remember if these are stocked they need to be checked and charged periodically.
- Site plans: A site map is a very handy thing to have both during an emergency and for liaising with emergency services. take the time in advance to mark in key areas on the map such as first aid rooms. Electricity and gas shut offs, water mains etc. It may also be a good idea to place utilty keys for these rooms in the bag.
- Incident control paperwork: Any documents or paperwork required to set up an incident control room off site. This might include emergency plans, contact sheets and any logs required
- Gloves: Plenty of extra nitrile gloves to hand out for first aid treatment of multiple casualites. A couple of pairs of work gloves is also advisable for working in areas where hot, cold or sharp materials may need to be handled.
- The bag itself: Make it bright (or at least recognisable). It should be durable and waterproof. Consider having some form of tracking tile attched to it so it can be located in an emeregency of somebody moves it.
Of course there is much more that could be added but we are always conscious of not creating another evacuation bag and filling it with nice to have items. I prefer accessibility and mobility and I think this kit does just that.
Having an emergency bag made up is one part of the jigsaw but it’s absolutely worthless without staff who are trained and willing to use it. I strongly believe that if an employee is willing to carry out medical duties then they should be trained to the highest possible standard. In today’s risk climate I believe that this goes beyond occupational first aid (first aid responder) level and should be at emergency first responder (EFR) level. Aside from medical training for security staff all employees should receive detailed and regular briefings on what is expected of them in an emergency. We always encourage clients to merge this in with their fire drill practice and discuss other emergencies at the same time. I know that practicing for emergencies can be costly and time consuming but its worth it.Having staff who are confident in what is expected of them in an emergency is a great advantage and working to a plan only improves that advantage.
We are going to continue on the theme of planing for and managing emergencies over the coming weeks and this article is the first of probably 4 or 5 on the subject. When it comes to emergencies planning and preparation are vital. But planning based on traditional and generic responses is futile. Take the time to bring together your team over the coming weeks and discuss realistically what equipment you will need in your emergency response bag to make it work for your venue. Someday you may be glad you did.
Footnote: We are aware that the use of tourniquets is not approved or taught by PHECC in Ireland but we have included them here anyway. From extensive conversations with medical and other first response professionals in Ireland, UK, USA and Australia they have a place in an emergency. Current Home Office guidance from the UK is even showing private citizens how to apply in an emergency.