In the event of an attack, what you do matters.
Although Australia is a safe country, we are still at risk from terrorist attacks.
In the unlikely event you are facing an attacker armed with a gun, knife or similar weapon, it is important to be prepared to react quickly.
You need to remember three words: ESCAPE. HIDE. TELL.
- ESCAPE – move quickly and quietly away from danger, but only if it is safe to do so.
- HIDE – stay out of sight and silence your mobile phone.
- TELL – call the police by dialling Triple Zero (000) when it is safe.
All situations are different. You will need to make quick decisions during an attack and be prepared to change your plan. Remembering the ESCAPE. HIDE. TELL principles will help in deciding what to do.
In some situations you may still need to hide once you have escaped the immediate area.
Be aware of your surroundings. If you see a commotion, hear screams, gunfire or loud noises, try to identify where it is coming from. If you think it is dangerous, consider what you can do to stay safe.
If you see a safe route, ESCAPE and leave the area immediately.
Take your mobile phone with you if you can, but do not go back to get it if it puts you in danger.
Leave your other belongings behind.
Encourage others to go with you, but don’t let their hesitation slow you down.
Try to stop others from entering the area, but only if it doesn’t put you in any danger.
If you are unable to escape, or are unsure if it’s safe to do so, HIDE.
Silence your mobile phone and other devices and turn off vibrate.
Secure your environment by locking doors and windows and barricading entries.
Move away from doors and be as quiet and still as possible so you do not give away your hiding place.
Be aware of your exits.
A safe hiding spot in an armed offender situation is one that puts a sturdy physical barrier between yourself and the offender.
Constantly review the situation and your options based on your surroundings.
If you come across any injured people while hiding, providing first aid may help save their lives. But only help if it does not put yourself and others at risk.
Do not move closer to see what is happening—this may put you at risk.
Consider looking for something you can use to defend yourself as a last resort if you are found by the offender.
When it is safe to do so, TELL.
Call the police by dialling Triple Zero (000). But never at the risk of your own safety or the safety of others.
The more information you can give about your location, surroundings, the attackers and the events that have occurred, the better.
You may be asked to stay on the line and provide further information that the operator requests or if the situation changes.
If it is safe to do so, think about obtaining the following information:
- exact location of the incident
- description of the offender/s and whether they are moving in any particular direction
- details of any weapons being used
- number of people in the area and any that have been injured
- the motive or intent of the offender/s (if known).
Attacks involving explosions, chemicals or vehicles
Attacks involving weapons such as guns or knives are one of the most common types of attack and under these circumstances ESCAPE. HIDE. TELL is the best advice to follow.
However, you may find yourself in an attack involving an improvised explosive device, chemical weapons or a vehicle. In these circumstances you may need to consider different actions.
Improvised explosive devices
In attacks using explosives such as homemade bombs or other devices, leaving the area will help you to avoid falling debris and minimise your exposure to dust and smoke. It could also help keep you safe if there is another device nearby.
Use the stairs instead of lifts or elevators. But be aware of weakened floors and stairways.
Once you are out of the building, move away from windows, glass doors or other potentially hazardous areas.
If you become trapped inside, get under a sturdy table or desk.
If it is safe and you are able, signal your location to rescuers by using a flashlight, whistle, or by tapping on a pipe or wall.
In a chemical weapons attack, it is the toxic chemicals that are designed to cause harm, rather than the explosives that propel them.
Signs that you can look out for include leakage of gas or vapour, or a chemical reaction, or strange smell or an unexpected powder or liquid.
Some chemical agents can produce obvious signs of exposure including eye irritation, coughing/breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, seizures or skin irritation.
In some cases there may be no obvious sign of a chemical attack.
If you are in an enclosed space, try to find uncontaminated air as soon as possible. This may mean breaking a window.
If you are outside, avoid any obvious plume or vapour cloud and move away from the direction it is going.
If you think you have been exposed:
- tell an emergency responder ASAP that you think you may have been exposed
- seek medical attention
- remove outer clothing if contaminated and place in a sealed bag
- wash yourself with soap and water, flush skin with lots of water, and flush eyes with water if they are irritated
- put on clean clothes if possible.
If you encounter a vehicle heading towards you, escape the area as quickly as possible.
Move to an area that puts as many obstacles between you and the vehicle as possible but doesn’t leave you trapped.
A hostile vehicle may also carry an explosive device.
When police arrive, follow their instructions.
Their first priority will be to deal with the immediate threat to prevent further injury. This may take time.
It is important to remember:
- upon arriving at the scene, it is possible police officers may initially not be able to distinguish you from the offender/s
- one of their priority actions will be to locate the offender—which means they may move past people that need help
- police officers will be armed and could point guns in your direction
- police may treat you firmly
- avoid quick movements or shouting and keep your hands visible
- police may initially move past you in search of the offender/s
- stay where you are hiding until police tell you it is safe to evacuate
- be aware that police may enter your location at some stage to secure the building and locate people who have hidden from the threat
- promptly follow any instructions given by emergency responders.
You will be evacuated when it is safe to leave the area. Learn more about Australia’s strategy for protecting crowded places from terrorism.
Training materials for businesses
Training materials have been developed for businesses and owners and operators of crowded places to educate their staff in more detail on what to do in the event of an attack. This should form part of standard emergency training.