Home TypeFeatures How can events prepare for the unthinkable?

How can events prepare for the unthinkable?

by Nicola Macdonald

Brigadier Tim Hodgetts, co-creator of philanthropic initiative citizenAID, on what event profs and members of the public can do to prepare for terror attacks.

In recent months, terrorist attacks have once more hit the headlines.

It’s a scary thought, for everyone in the exhibition and wider events industry, to consider the worst possible scenario.

Brigadier Tim Hodgetts, along with co-creators Sir Keith Porter, Colonel Pete Mahoney and Andy Thurgood, is endeavouring to take steps to change that with a new system, including a downloadable app, called citizenAID.

“citizenAID is a very simple system for the public, to help them be prepared for unlikely but not impossible events producing multiple casualties, including shooting, stabbing and bombing,” he tells EN. “It’s very much taking the hard-won lessons from military medical experience, making them simple and giving them to the public to be able to fill that gap in time from injury until the professionals can get to your side.”

The system has a number of elements, continues Hodgetts, which build on the basic national public safety message of ‘Run, Hide, Tell’.

“What we do is add ‘Treat’ to the end,” he explains. “Run, hide, tell and, when it’s safe to do so, treat. You may well have taken inured people with you if you have to run away from a particular threat.

“We teach the system of control then act, and that’s something we’ve been telling individual soldiers to do for nearly 20 years. Control, assess, communicate and triage. Triage being sorting patients quickly into priorities for treatment, so that you use your very limited resources on those who are most needed.

“In terms of treatment, we focus specifically – but not exclusively – on severe bleeding, because we know from military experience from the Second World War onwards that one of the most common reasons for avoidable death after blast or gunshot injury is rapidly bleeding out from limb injuries.”

In addition to bringing this specific medical knowledge to the attention of the general public, Hodgetts and his colleagues have been liaising with what he calls the ‘crowded place’ industries. These include anywhere that attracts large groups of people, such as a concert, shopping mall or transport hub.

“Fundamentally the information is free to the public,” continues Hodgetts. “Anybody can download the app, anyone can go to the website and look at the explainer materials, the FAQs and the videos.

“Beyond that, the next level of familiarisation and training is probably most appropriate for those professionals who are public facing, whether they are security guards or stewards in a venue, or the same in a shopping mall or transport hub. We just need a critical mass of people; we don’t necessarily need to have everybody trained, but we do need to have a critical mass of people who know what to do so that there can be the opportunity to save lives immediately after an event.”

Hodgetts draws an analogy to the number of people who are trained in CPR for when someone collapses in a supermarket with a heart attack.

“You expect all of the public to know how to perform CPR, you don’t expect all of them to, but you can bet that there are enough people who do,” he explains. “We need to change and develop the culture that is already there for training people to be able to respond to a cardiac arrest, to have people who know what to do if there is serious injury in a public place.”

The citizenAID team have teamed up with Clarion Events to put on some live demonstrations at defence and security event DSEI later this year.

“The medical demonstration area is one of the most popular features for visitors to DSEI, showcasing the very latest in medical innovation and operational practise, straight from professionals on the front line,” Duncan Reid, DSEI event director, tells EN. “High profile events are now seen to be targets, as recent events have tragically demonstrated, and in this respect the citizenAID app is an especially useful tool for event organisers. We would encourage everyone to download this pioneering, and potentially life-saving, app.”

The system, adds Hodgetts, can also provide a practical step for those feeling helpless in the face of recent tragedies in the UK and further afield.

“It’s not just about the practical response, it’s about the psychological resilience too,” he concludes. “If you’ve thought and planned and prepared yourself then firstly you’re going to perform better on the day, but also if you follow a system and do your very best, irrespective of the outcome for people you may have to help, you are going to be in better psychological shape. You will know you’ve done the best you could in the circumstances.”

citizenAID provides free familiarisation sessions for first responder groups, and will soon launch an accredited training course. To learn more go to citizenaid.org.

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