What to do if the environment is hostile

August 08, 2004|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder / Tribune

When I got into journalism, I expected to do many things. None of them involved standing on a colleague's groin.

But recently I learned that I might be called upon to do exactly that. I learned this in Fright School, which is known formally as Hostile Environment Training. This is a course, taught by corporate security consultants, that teaches you what to do if you find yourself in a situation involving dangerous elements such as terrorists, kidnappers, robbers, rioters or fans of the Oakland Raiders.

Along with many other journalists, I was ordered by my company to attend Fright School because this summer I'm going to the Olympics and the political conventions. I hope that, by the time summer's over, we'll all be heaving large sighs of relief from knowing that nothing bad happened, and nobody had to actually stand on anybody's groin.

But just in case you ever find yourself in a hostile situation or, God forbid, a Raiders home game, today I'm going to pass along the lessons I learned in Fright School.

My first note says "cargo pants," because that's what the instructor was wearing. He was a muscular, military-looking British guy who was quite cheerful, considering that he ended roughly every fourth sentence with: "And if that happens, you're going to die."

Among the specific threats we discussed were "dirty bombs," germ warfare, mines and booby traps. Because we took only the truncated one-day version of the course, the instructor couldn't go deeply into these threats, other than to note that they are all fatal. (He also pointed out that his company had the world's foremost authority on booby traps, and "he does a presentation that's quite entertaining.")

The most sensible way to avoid these threats, according to the instructor, is to remain alert, use common sense, be inconspicuous and avoid dangerous areas, such as the planet Earth. He also recommended that we carry water, food, protective eyewear, protective headgear, an "escape hood" for gas attacks, a whistle, a personal alarm and a first-aid kit. He didn't say how you could look inconspicuous while carrying all these items: Maybe you could put them in your cargo pants and just pretend to have enormous thighs.

Here are a couple of other survival tips that I wrote down:

"If you're going to use an escape rope, try to get some knots in it."

"Try to anticipate any strikes or blows."

In first-aid training, we learned about the Trimodal Death Distribution, with the three Modes of Death being: Instant, Late and Delayed. The instructor said: "We're interested in the delayed diers."

I missed a lot of what he said next, because he was showing graphic color slides of injuries, and one of them, titled "Impaled Object," required me to put my head between my knees for several minutes. But I definitely recall hearing the instructor say, several times, that if your colleague is bleeding profusely from the femoral artery, you should stop it by standing on his groin. This may be solid advice, but before I follow it, I intend to confer with the colleague.

Me: Do you mind if I stand on your groin?

Colleague: Thanks, but I'd rather bleed to death.

Me (relieved): OK, then!

But we're talking worst-case scenarios, here. I'm hoping that we all have a peaceful, hostility-free and fun summer. Maybe I'll even see you at the conventions or Olympics! Assuming there are eyeholes in my escape hood.

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