Tips & Resources

Brussels Attacks: A Security Perspective

By the Intrepid 24/7 Content Team

Terrorist attacks are often perceived as unpredictable and random events, which increases societal levels of fear. Despite their randomness, however, there is often a logic behind the attacks that draws from underlying geopolitical, sociological, and security conditions. For instance, prior to today’s attacks in Brussels, the national terror threat level in Belgium was 3 out of 4. The general security environment in the region had been drastically altered following the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, particularly in light of the attackers’ potential links to areas of Belgium (specifically, the Molenbeek municipality within the Brussels-Capital Region).

Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspected Paris attackers, was arrested just four days ago in Brussels. Stopping one terrorist cell, or apprehending its members, can push other cells into action. Some have wondered whether Abdeslam, speaking through his lawyer, could have used coded language to trigger members of the cell to carry out attacks. It may be difficult to unpack these clues prior to (and even after) an attack, but understanding the underlying security environment and knowing what to do and who to contact in the event of an incident can help you be prepared.

How to prepare

How can you prepare for a terror attack? You need to know the security environment of the location you live in or may be travelling to. Take the following steps:

  • Be informed about geopolitical, cultural, societal, economic, and other factors that all contribute to a location’s overall security environment
  • Stay alert when you are in areas that may be targets, such as government facilities, police stations, transport hubs, markets, restaurants, military posts, and business districts
  • Try not to walk around in a daze, as many individuals do during their daily commutes, and refrain from wearing headphones, which further dull awareness of your immediate environment
  • Know where to go or who to call in the event of an emergency. This means knowing local emergency numbers (e.g., 112, 911, or 999) as well as the number for your assistance provider (through your insurance company)
  • Register with your government or embassy prior to departure if you are travelling

How to respond

How can you respond to a bombing? If you are in the immediate vicinity of an explosion, you should

  • Stay low and get behind something large and dense, covering your neck and head with your hands, and expect that a second explosion will occur (which is common); then get away as fast as you can
  • Never use elevators and avoid standing near windows or hazards that may produce dangerous shrapnel
  • Follow the advice of local authorities, including police and medical personnel. Usually, their advice will consist of sheltering in place, i.e., securing yourself inside of a building and remaining there until authorities tell you it is safe to leave
  • Contact local emergency services (especially if you are injured) as well as your insurance company’s assistance provider
  • Be aware that communications may be slow or blacked out at this point in time.

How to recover

How can you recover from a bombing?

If you are trapped in a building or in other debris:

  • Avoid unnecessary movement to refrain from stirring up any dust
  • Cover your nose and mouth with any material available
  • Tap on a pipe or a wall to get the attention of rescue personnel, but avoid shouting, which could cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of debris

Once you are safe

  • Monitor the reports of local authorities and follow their instructions (they will likely tell you to shelter in place)
  • Be prepared to see large numbers of police and other authorities in the vicinity of the attack, and expect local, regional, and international transit networks to be shut down; communications networks may likely be slow, if not shut down completely
  • Seek medical care for any injuries you may have suffered; if you witnessed an event unfold, it may be wise to seek medical consultation for any psychological effects that might result

Our team at Travel Navigator™ has been closely tracking the unfolding events in Belgium after the attacks were carried out early this morning. We offer travel risk management services that allow organizations to track and communicate with their members, whether they are at home or abroad. Being able to locate your members via GPS tracking and communicate with them immediately after an event like the one in Brussels today is crucial to providing vital duty of care functions, giving organizations the peace of mind that their members are unharmed. In addition, we provide travellers with the education, consultation, and destination-specific information they need in order to be prepared for their trip, along with real-time alerts and one-touch connection to 24/7 emergency assistance.

While there are steps you can take to prepare for terror attacks, you should remember that the chances of witnessing one are extremely low. Other dangers like car accidents are much more likely to occur, so keep this in mind and make sure any personal safety measures that you take are proportional to the likelihood and severity of the threat.