Over the weekend, hundreds of angry migrants took over Terminal 2 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. They were demanding papers that would allow them to stay in France indefinitely.
For me, the question in these scenarios is always, “What would I do if I was caught up in a similar situation?”
Let’s talk through this. Your answers may be very different from mine and that’s cool because the goal here is to come up with not only Plan A but the whole darned alphabet. And if you want to smugly proclaim “I wouldn’t be there in the first place because I don’t travel” please just go away and let the grown-ups talk. Any of us at any time could get caught up in an unexpected situation and war-gaming it ahead of time can really help us to take action quickly. Crazy stuff happens in small towns too – you don’t have to go to Paris to encounter aggressive or insane people. If it makes you feel better, pretend you’re at the post office.
As a side note, there was an exercise in Selco’s Urban Survival Course for Women that would have prepared me for it. During the course, we were sent into a mall to locate exits, cover, and concealment throughout. We found some pretty interesting ways out as well as locating a map with fire exits. I found it interesting that this lesson was immediately relevant and it just goes to show how timely the information in Selco‘s course is.
How can you escape?
When you are in a dangerous and evolving situation, your first strategy should always escape. I know that a lot of you aren’t going to like this suggestion because it feels cowardly. But how could you possibly take on 500 people and win? They don’t even need weapons to collectively kick the snot out of you.
Toby Cowern, the big Kahuna at Tread Lightly Survival (be sure to check out his YouTube channel, too) has top-level qualifications as a risk management specialist and is a former member of British Military Intelligence. I asked him for his advice regarding the Terminal 2 situation. Here’s what he had to say.
To address this issue could be a book in and of itself, with various and multiple influencing factors that would demand consideration. But at the heart of it all, the simple and best advice is:
- When a group is looking to clash with an authority, regardless of size or location it is in your best interest to not be there.
- Be mindful and observant. Take a moment to identify escape routes and exit options. BE PREPARED to use them. A huge amount of social conditioning occurs especially in ‘higher security’ environments. The signs saying ‘door is alarmed’ should not cause you ANY hesitation in using it in an emergency…
- If in doubt, go early, if you feel a moral/ethical responsibility to ‘help’, encourage people to go with you.
- Once successfully exiting from the immediate problem, KEEP MOVING towards safety. Don’t just stop and stand outside the exit door…
- If possible communicate with authorities (this maybe face to face or via the ‘phone or similar) and provide as much relevant information as possible about the emerging problem(s) you are moving away from…
With Toby’s advice in mind, here’s a map of Terminal 2.
Terminal 2 is a long corridor. Each gate offers a potential escape route but there’s a long drop if you can get the doors open. Keep in mind the doors in an airport are usually alarmed. But remember what Toby said? You don’t care about an alarm going off. You have to overcome your social programming and open the door, alarm or no alarm, in order to escape. It could be good in that it will alert security to a problem. It could be bad because it will alert the folks who are taking over the facility that someone went astray.
If you decide to escape, as Rory Miller says in his book, Facing Violence, commit fully to your action. Don’t do it halfway. Drop everything and run like a gator is snapping at your butt. And for the love of cats, don’t stop when you get to the other side of the door. You don’t want to be anywhere near that situation.
Here are a couple of videos from the bombing of the airport in Belgium back in2016. Yes, this is different, in that it is the aftermath of a bombing. But there are definite similarities and you can learn a lot from the mistakes people are making given the situation.
Do you see how people are paralyzed? They’re hiding, keeping their heads down, instead of getting out. Instead of running full speed, they’re gathering up their luggage. And when they get outside, why on earth are they standing right by the door?
So many people wait around for someone official to tell them what to do, but in situations like these, you’re going to have to make decisions.
Can you hide?
There aren’t a whole lot of hiding places. Here’s a photo of the terminal.
If you’re going to hide, stealth is your friend. You want to just slip away and blend into your surroundings with no fanfare whatsoever. Keep in mind that in a situation with 500 aggressors, there could be a lot of eyes on everyone, so make it appear nonchalant. If you generally travel with children, this can become a game that you play on a regular basis. Just slipping away and hiding silently.
If you try to escape or hide and you get caught, it’s probably not going to be pretty. You’re accepting the risk of becoming an example to deter others from trying the same thing.
How can you blend in?
If you find yourself in a situation like the one at Charles de Gaulle airport, blending in is the best way to hide in plain sight. Search for the baseline of people around you. Do they look scared? Angry? You don’t want to stand out. Don’t look as though you’re calmly plotting an assassination when everyone else looks terrified.
I know that you want to be defiant. “You don’t scare me, Mr. Bad Guy. Eff you.”
That is a horrible idea, regardless that you want to do it down to your little pink toes. Do nothing that captures the attention of the folks who are in charge.
I always travel with a scarf that I can quickly put over my head if I’m in a situation where I feel it might be a better option to cover my hair. Aside from this, try to keep your expression similar to everyone else’s. If you have children, do your best to keep them quiet. Don’t make eye contact with the hostage takers or deliberately engage with them. You are invisible.
Like Toby, Selco‘s best advice is “Do not be there.” However, if you do find yourself in the midst of a situation like this one, the author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival talks about hiding in plain sight.
If you are there go with a flow until reach safety. Be a new press reporter, a volunteer, carry a sign of support, be pregnant, sick or whatever.
In this situation, being just another scared passenger would be a good way to avoid being noticed.
There are certain dangers signs that should compel you to take more dramatic action.
A question I would ask in a scenario like the one in Terminal 2 would always be “What do they want?” because this will somewhat influence my response. (Although not being there, by escaping or hiding, should still be your first choices.)
In this situation, it was a protest, not an attack. Because the group had a goal other than “kill all the people” your response could be slightly less dramatic. But remember, even when the initial goal is something other than killing people, things can go sideways fast.
In an attack, the chances you’re going to die increase dramatically, which means your plan should be likewise dramatic. Attackers usually hope to spread terror by hurting or killing as many innocent people as possible. In an attack your goal should be 1) getting away or 2) fighting back.
If someone gets hurt you’ve learned that the hostage-takers aren’t afraid to commit an assault or even murder. If a hostage is injured or killed, you know that the situation has the potential to escalate dramatically. Escape just sped up your list of potential actions (if it wasn’t already there). You should make every effort possible to get yourself and your family out of the situation.
If the situation shows signs of being an Islamic hostage siege, your chances of dying have also increased exponentially. This isn’t a Muslim-bashing thing, but a realistic warning that ties into numerous attacks in recent history.
Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training wrote a fantastic article about this topic. It was written with law enforcement in mind, but we civilians can get a lot from it.
Look at every event worldwide where Islamic terrorists have taken hostages. In EVERY event, the terrorists refused to negotiate or used the negotiation time to build better fortifications or attract more media attention. Every minute spent in negotiation with Islamic terrorists strengthens their position and gives them the media attention they crave. They don’t want to get away. They want to kill all the hostages and die a martyr’s death. Your negotiation tactics just buy the terrorist the time he needs to optimally complete his plan.
Need some examples? How about starting off with the Beslan school hostage siege. That’s the most famous event of this type. The terrorists used the government’s attempts to negotiate solely as a delaying tactic. While the military was “negotiating,” the terrorists were killing hostages, ringing the school with explosives, and setting up machine gun nests to prepare for the inevitable raid to come.
For more recent examples of Islamic terrorist hostage sieges, look at the Australian Lindt cafe hostage siege. Or the Bangladesh restaurant hostage siege. The French Bataclan Theater hostage incident fits the profile as well. (source)
In the article, which you really should read, Ellifritz discusses the signs that you are not just in an average hostage situation, but a martyr situation. And here’s where it applies to civilians.
How does this information affect the reader who isn’t a cop? If you get caught up in a terrorist hostage siege, you must fight or escape. You cannot wait for the police to save you. They aren’t coming. They are too busy trying to “negotiate” with a terrorist who is only leading them on and buying time to increase his fortifications, media exposure, and body count. By the time the cops figure this out, it will be too late for you. (source)
This is the reason why I personally want to understand why the event is occurring. In the case of Terminal 2, there were no signs that this was a martyr situation. A person present would be better off blending in than taking on one of the hundreds of attackers. But if it had been, for example, if you witnessed the hostage-takers rigging up explosives, then your response would need to escalate to fit the threat.
When you’re outnumbered and/or outgunned, fighting back isn’t always the sensible choice. Fighting back in these situations should generally be an option of last resort.
But if you know that you are about to be killed, then it’s time to take action. If the hostage-takers have already killed a hostage, that increases the likelihood that others are going to die, too. If it’s obvious that you are in a martyr situation, then fighting back is the only choice left if you cannot get away.
This is the point at which you have nothing left to lose. If there are others in the crowd who are willing to fight, you will have a slightly better chance. In the article How to Survive a Terror Attack, I wrote about the 2015 attack that also took place in Paris.
In Paris, unarmed hostages were at the mercy of their captors. One hundred people were kept in line by just a few men with guns. Keep in mind that fighting back doesn’t always mean a fancy Krav Maga move that takes down two armed men with one trick maneuver. There are many ways to fight back, and not all of them require physical prowess. Don’t let fear incapacitate you. Your brain is a weapon too.
Are you going to wait for someone to save you or are you going to save yourself? Don’t be a kamikaze, but look for your opportunity. There comes a point in some of these situations in which survival is unlikely. Don’t go down without a fight.
To do this, training on a regular basis is essential. Being fit, practicing self-defense skills, and being strong will serve you much better than being a couch potato with dreams of glory. Check out this article about fighting back for more advice.
Again, take care that you are not escalating the situation by fighting back. You don’t want yours to be the dead body that makes hostage-takers decide they have nothing left to lose.
So, what would you do?
It’s very important to understand that this article isn’t about migrants demanding their paperwork. It’s not about France or being at the airport.
It’s about being in a situation outside your control, where you’re suddenly outnumbered and things have become dangerous.
After reading the analysis and looking at the photos, what would you do if you were in a similar situation? Please share your thoughts in the comments and let’s learn from this.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. She lives in the mountains of Virginia with her family. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.