140410-bostonclock-explosion-inline_324925319053c9bef195bf73c6fb9312-1024x683I’ll leave the politics to the politicians and the prognosticating to the prognosticators. But I think we can all agree on two things:

*Terrorist attacks, shootings, natural disasters, car accidents, etc. are not going away any time soon.

*No matter how well we train and equip our first responders they can’t be everywhere.

So here are a 5 ways to mitigate risk and save lives once the sh*t has already hit the fan. Some of these can be done without even getting off the couch. Pick one or two and do them right now. Feel free to add to the list.

  1. Every second matters. Searching for a phone number at the moment of truth wastes time. Pre-program emergency numbers you might need into your phone right now and add them to your favorites so they are easy to find. In my home state of Massachusetts, for instance, calling 911 from your cellphone gets routed to the State Police first and then to the local department. Sometimes you end up explaining yourself twice and those few seconds can be costly. Pre-program your local police and fire departments’ numbers into your phone and call them directly when you’re in town.
  2. Stop the bleeding. Many people survive initial bombings and shootings but combat-application-tourniquet-cat-new-item-available-in-febuary-5.gifend up bleeding out before the first responders arrive. Putting pressure on a wound and applying a tourniquet isn’t very difficult. Get one of theseone of these, and some of these. Or use your belt, a shirt, or a towel if you have to. Ask an EMT how to do it safely. Stopping the bleeding quickly can mean the difference between saving a life and a kid being told that his mother/father won’t ever be coming home again.
  3. Don’t like guns? That’s understandable but stay with me for a second. You know the whole “stop, drop, and roll” thing we teach kids to do in case of a fire? The NRA – no, I am not a member – teaches kids something similar for firearms. If you see a gun “don’t touch it, run away, tell an adult.” Good advice for kids. As adults though, it’s useful to at least know how to “make safe” a firearm. Specific steps vary but “making safe” essentially means you’ve ensured the gun cannot fire and therefore cannot hurt anybody. But I don’t want to touch it! And I don’t want my fingerprints on it! So you’d SIG_0214741rather roll the dice, hope it’s not loaded, and perhaps put people at risk? Trust me, nobody is ever going to get mad at you for preventing a shooting. If guns repulse you – get over it and learn the skill so you can keep people safe if you ever stumble across one of the 300 million guns in the U.S. Ask someone to teach you or check out the many articles and videos online. Better yet – consider taking a basic safety course. You can still be as anti-gun as you want, but at least you’ll know how to make one incapable of hurting anyone.
  4. Plan for a blackout and/or state of emergency. The lights can go out and 72-Hour-Emergency-Kitstates of emergency can happen for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s bad weather or some other cause – the last thing you want to do is leave the safety of your home. A backup generator is a luxury not everyone can afford but most people have the resources to follow FEMA’s basic advice (i.e. have enough food and water to sustain everyone in the house for at least three days). Anything longer is a plus.
  5. Read these three books on how to detect, avoid, and deal with dangerous situations. Take a few nuggets from each.

The threats we face aren’t going away any time soon. We can simply be scared, or we can be ready without getting too paranoid. Thankfully, just a little bit of planning goes a long way and these tips are not particularly difficult or expensive. Please pass them along to people you care about.