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Boston Bombing: How to Stay Safe During an Attack

by James Tarr   |  April 19th, 2013 0
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Boston Police officers respond as 78-year-old runner Bill Iffrig struggles to stand after the first explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. (John Tlumacki/Boston Globe)

We at Guns & Ammo stand with everyone else in this country who is outraged at the attack at the Boston Marathon that left three dead and many injured.

The reaction from Boston Police and federal agents was swift and immediate. After the FBI released photos of the suspects Thursday, one of the suspects, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed after a car chase and shootout with the police early Friday morning. The second suspect—Tamerlan’s 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who apparently ran over his older brother after that morning’s events—was captured Friday evening in Watertown, Mass., seriously injured from an apparent suicide attempt, but alive.

The normal human instinct, when confronted by atrocities such as the Boston Marathon bombings, is to wonder, “How can I help?” The second reaction is usually, “What could have been done to prevent it?” The question you have to ask yourself is, if you’re somewhere a bomb or other similar weapon is used, are you going to run toward the injured to help, or run in the other direction in an attempt to stay safe?

There’s no right answer to that question, and your answer may change depending on the circumstances. If I’m attending a parade with my children and somebody starts shooting up the crowd—and they’re not directly in front of me—my first responsibility as a parent is to get my boys to safety. If I’m there on my own, then my response will probably be a little different. Every one of us has to make our own decisions, and then live with them.

Just be aware, a common tactic of terrorists is to set off one bomb, and after a short period of time—long enough for EMS to respond and another crowd to gather—set off another, possibly bigger bomb in the same location. I’m not recommending not helping the injured, but everything in life, even just crossing the street, involves risks.

No one who isn’t employed as a first responder ever wants or expects to be somewhere where there are a number of injured and bleeding people on the ground. That said, apart from terrorist attacks, anyone past a certain age has either been in or witnessed firsthand a serious car accident. Whether the injured persons are strangers or family members, the last thing you want to do is panic or do something that makes the situation worse.

Nobody likes feeling helpless, but even if it’s a major accident, police and EMS are still minutes away, and those minutes can be the difference between life and death. I highly recommend everyone get basic first aid training. Not only should this include CPR, but how and when to apply bandages. Don’t know where to go for training? Every community has many venues which offer CPR and basic first aid classes, but when it doubt, contact the Red Cross.

In a car accident, the basic rule is don’t move anybody if you don’t have to, because they may have head or spinal injuries. The majority of the injuries at the Boston bombing were from shrapnel. Bleeding is stopped, or at least slowed down, by direct pressure. Beyond that basic advice, the way to learn is to do—if you haven’t taken a first aid class in a few years, now is better than later.

But how could this bombing have been prevented? Given this is the work two individuals with an unknown motive at this time—the Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechen descent, but authorities still haven’t called this attack politically motivated—it’s impossible to stop people from going nuts, or to predict who is going to do what.

Unless you want to outlaw every chemical than can help you clean your bathroom, fertilize your garden or power small engines, people with even the crudest grasp of chemistry or access to the Internet will be able to make homemade bombs. Forget bombs—do you want to outlaw the hard liquor that is the basis for Molotov cocktails? That didn’t work so well during Prohibition. No, the price of freedom in our country means that crazy people have the opportunity to do crazy things.

If you are going to be at an event where there will be a lot of people, keep your eyes open, use your common sense, and don’t be afraid to listen to your inner voice if it’s telling you that something just doesn’t look right. Also, if you are somewhere where a bomb goes off or something similar happens, keeping your wits about you, and looking around for anyone acting strangely, may make all the difference in stopping additional attacks.

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Ben McCormick, 8, right, and 4-year-old cousin Conor Gillis take part in a vigil Tuesday for victims of the Boston Marathon attacks. (David Friedman/NBC News)

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