For reasons that shall remain undisclosed, I have recently made some observations viz train and bus travel.
Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start:
The bus stop: Imagine someone walks up to you just before your bus arrives and tries this ruse: Oh, no. I forgot my computer. I need to run get it but going back for it will make me late… unless somebody can take this bag to my Mom who just so happens to be waiting for me at the Main Street stop. It's just got her favorite red rain jacket in it… oh, and her meds. Anyone take twenty bucks to do me this teeeeeeentsy-weentsy favor?
You gonna be the sucker?
Let's say somebody takes the bait and the bag and the bribe and the busy but forgetful fella walks around the corner shouting sincere thanks over his shoulder. Now what?
The sucker gets in the bus with the bag; the nice but busy fella comes back around the building he just went behind, dials a number on his cell phone and BOOM! No more bus. No more you.
Are we getting enough B?
Hey; don't take packages from strangers. Your Mom taught you something like that when you were a kid. Make her proud. Somebody tries to pull this caper on you, at least call the cops.
Stay away from trash cans or newspaper dispensers. Bad guys put IEDs in them and then detonate them by remote control when you're around. Yea… you. "Only the dead have seen the end of war."
When I get off the train, there is a set of stairs going up to the street. They're wide enough to take two adults walking abreast; you know... next to each other. When the train empties, 90% of the riders head up that closest flight of stairs. It fills up quickly as you can imagine. Lots of people packed into a narrow, long space. But, there is another flight of stairs exactly like that one about 50 steps to the south. It goes to exactly the same street.
The crowded stairway is an excellent target for a shooter or bomber, especially a shooter. The less crowded stairway is not so inviting to a bad-guy. I think you get the point.
So, on we go...
Don't bunch up at crosswalks, no matter where you are. Stand back from the curb, preferably close to something solid which is implanted in the ground. A tree. A blocking post. A telephone pole. The corner of a nearby building. Any life-size bronze or concrete statue of an adult human.
Not a newspaper box. Not a restaurant sandwich sign. Not a trash can.
If an attack is to be launched as you're at the curb, it will most likely begin, whether by a shooter or bomber, when the most people are there, ready to cross the street. Logically, this is just before the "Walk" sign lights, which you can predict by watching the light signals for the vehicle traffic crossing in front of you. When you see the vehicle light change from green to yellow, the crosswalk light is about to change, stopping traffic and allowing you to cross. You've got about five seconds. But you knew that already.
If there is a bomb about to be detonated in that curbed crowd, one that's already concealed there or on the person of a mule, you might see something like this:
Crowd forms at the curb, waiting for the "Walk" light. A man or woman appears across the street, either standing there or in a vehicle. As the light goes stale green, ready to switch to yellow, he pushes a few buttons on his cell phone... but doesn't put it to his ear like everyone else in the world does when they're about to make an actual phone call. Maybe he even points the phone at the crowd.
BOOM! goes that little scruffy-looking guy with the brand-new backpack.
Do millions of people punch billions of cell phone buttons all day long, all over the world, at intersections? Sure. But do they point it at you?
Do they have a mule on the other side of the street? You're looking for the mule. The guy with the bomb. On your side of the street. That dirt-bag right over... there.
He's the guy who has some of these things going for him, or against him as the case may be:
- Shuffling into the center of the crowd
- Trying to look inconspicuous and maybe avoid security a/o the police
- Wearing a bulky coat
- Smelling like he's been doused in floral perfume because he wants to smell good for his "god"
- Sweating because he's either doped up or not sure his "god" is actually gonna come through for him on this one
- Clean shaven when just yesterday he had a full beard
- Muttering something that sounds like a prayer in a foreign language
- Looking over his shoulder as if to see if someone's following him
- Adjusting lumpy things under his clothes… for other than amorous reasons
- Und so weiter
If you see what appears to be the handler across the street and the mule in the crowd you're in; you better do something right away.
If you're not sure you're seeing a bomb about to go off, turn and walk quickly away from the scene at the curb. You choose then and there if you want to warn anyone else about what you might be seeing. Get as far from the possible boom as you can as fast as you can. If you can't get away, then maybe all you can do is crouch with your back to where the blast may come from. Pretend you're tying your shoe? Do you want to go prone? I don't know. It depends on just how convinced you are that there is a bomb. Let me know how it turns out.
If you're sure there's a bomb, well, you'd better do something right now. Shout: BOMB! GET DOWN!
Bomb blasts have a somewhat predictable pattern ~ they tend to go up and out. Only very sophisticated bombs send out equal blast energy at all horizontal levels. So, the lower you are the better.
Drop and turn. Drop and turn.
Drop to the ground. Turn your body as you're going down so your feet face the bomber. Where do you want shrapnel? In your noggin or in the soles of your shoes?
So, what if there's a shooter? If you're at the curb, the easiest thing for shooters to do is to set up to your left, so they're the first car waiting at the stop line, no one blocking them from the front. When the traffic light turns yellow, they drop the windows or pop up from the back of a pickup truck or through van windows and open fire on you.
At that point, there's nothing you can do but throw yourself to the ground and pray. In that order.
What can you do to prevent this from happening to you? And the loved ones who may be accompanying you? And the other innocents around you?
First thing is to scope out where shooters could be, or might come from. Each day. So instead of strolling up to the curb trying to get your iPod ear-piece to stay in place and keep your latte straws from going up your nose, take a look at what danger may lie ahead of you.
Is there someone on foot in the area of the intersection who seems to be watching it from a distance, perhaps carrying a long bag ~ one in which might be concealed a rifle or shotgun of some sort? We're not worried about hobos with foam num-chucks. Perhaps you see a suspicious, distant someone wearing a long coat, under which he may be holding guns?
Or a car with deeply tinted windows into which you cannot see, that is sitting there waiting for the light to change. Or a car or truck that seems to be approaching you at the curb in a way that suggests it is trying to get to where you are just as the yellow traffic light goes on.
If you see indicators like these, maybe you should take a step back and look for cover. Remember cover is something that will stop bullets. Bullets ~ not paintballs. Bullets. Plural. More than one. Calmly get behind cover and wait to see what happens. If there's no shooting, then carry on with your bidness, of course.
But if your intuition was really tingling, make some written notes and call the cops ASAP because what you just saw could have been a dry-run.
If there is no cover and shooting starts, then just get down, feet toward the shooter if possible. Some streets have a slight rise running down the center to help shed water so don't be shy about rolling into the gutter if you have to, it drops you lower than just lying there at sidewalk level. And if there's nothing to hide behind, maybe running is the only thing to do.
If you're armed and decide to return fire, you may later have to convince a jury or judge who were not there with you that you did what any reasonable man or woman would have done in the same circumstance. It is your decision, not mine. In fact, any action you may take in any of the situations herein described, whether it's based on something you read here or not, is entirely your decision and you bear responsibility for it. Not me.
Okay, you made it safely to the bus or train. Now what?
The most predictable spot for a suicide-bomber to attack is where the most people are seated or standing. Okay, I know ~ that's an easy one. But, you need to think about things so you don't end up in that cluster, if at all possible.
Bus with one door at the front: A bomber won't want to spend much time near the driver who, among all those on a bus, has the most training at spotting suspicious people. Unless you're an Unerschrocken student here, of course.
So, the bomber will probably move quickly past the driver, being careful to pay the right fare/pass so as to not attract attention. But if he's discovered by the driver, he'll probably try to detonate right there and then, at the front. Assuming he's not detected upon entry, then he or she will
- Walk to where the most people are
- Wait until the bus is moving
- Then arm and detonate the bomb
So, the best spot for you to sit or stand is as close to the back as you can get. Maybe.
Why wait 'til the bus is moving? Doors are closed, so blast pressures will be maximized inside the bus. The explosion will also blow glass and metal out of the bus, possibly injuring people outside. Too, there is an increased probability of hurting bystanders with the out-of-control bus, after the blast. All these count as bonus points for our little barbarian.
Bus with two doors, one front and one back, not articulated: A bomber may try to get in the back door to avoid the driver at the front. Best spot to be? It seems you should be as far to the front as possible. Why? Because I think a bomber would try to get in the easiest way, the back door, and then detonate ASAP. So, if you're on a bus or waiting for one and the bus driver opens the front door but there's some stubborn jerk, who is really loud about the rear door being opened juuuuust for him and his little daypack, you might want to get off the bus right away or catch the next one. Maybe.
Or just duck until the driver gets to your stop?
Bus with two doors, articulated: A bomber probably won't try a center-of-bus detonation because the blast will easily blow through the material at the flexible, slinky joint. Internal pressures will not be as great as he hoped for so there will be less injury a/o destruction.
So a bomber will probably just
- Get in the back door so he can make it by that eagle-eyed driver
- Move a couple steps toward the front so the blast doesn't lose force flying out the doorway where there are no potential victims
- Wait til the bus is moving because the doors will then be closed
- Detonate then because the blast wave will expand through the coach and out the windows, not out the open door/flimsy joint
If the bus stops on an overpass and the driver doesn't make an announcement right away about the reason for the stop, this may be the first moments of a take-over... and you don't want to be there. If you look to the front and see what looks like a take-over, remember the best time to escape is at the beginning. So, get out the emergency escape windows or the door between cars, if possible.
If that's what you decide.
Again; it's totally your decision based on the totality of circumstances at that time.
So, next time that annoying voice comes on and tells you about the safety features on the bus or train, listen. And look at the directions on how to pop open windows and hatches and mentally practice the operation at least once a week.
Most safety instructions for buses and trains tell you to never do this or always do that. Well, when reality drops on you real hard, maybe you should just ignore the hyperbole and do what it takes to survive… or to protect the innocent and endangered.
Most probable spot for a suicide-bomber on a train? The center of the most crowded spot in the first car after the engine, while the train is going uphill. I'm sure you can figure that one out.
Best spot for you if it's just a bomb?
- If the bomb is detonated on level ground ~ the rear car
- If the bomb is detonated while going up a slope ~ the second car after the engine
- If the train is going downhill when a bomb is detonated ~ the rear car
- If the coach is double-decker ~ the top floor may be safer because the bomber may try to damage the train and tracks and he'll have better luck with that on the lower floor
But I'm no engineer; these are just my best guesses. Feel free to correct and comment.
If there are shooters on a train, it's probably a take-over/hostage situation. Maybe they're just going to kill everyone. They've done it before.
There are seats on a train that are better than others, from a tactical standpoint, and assuming you're armed and trained. I'm not going to describe them here but if you email me, we can have a discussion on the issue.
If it's a take-over, there are probably multiple armed terrorists throughout the train, probably at least two in each coach. The take-over will be sudden and loud, probably begun by radio signal from the group leader.
The take-over/train stop will probably commence, after much bad-guy recon, on the first bridge or overpass after the stop that gets the train coaches the fullest. Or, at a spot of flat land with few trees, rocks, waterways or other sorts of cover and concealment… so the cops can't sneak up on 'em.
This is when knowing the how and the where of the emergency exits will come in handy.
If this is what happens, no one would hold it against you if you pop a window and try to escape. I wrote some on the escape subject here.
If you're armed and intend to resist, you better have a good plan and lots of ammo.