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French Government Issues Poster on How to Survive a Terror Attack

The poster, which is part of a larger awareness campaign, will be displayed in universities, museums, stores and public buildings.

by Pierre Longeray
Dec 4 2015, 9:27pm

Immagine via Gouvernement.fr

Three weeks after Islamist gunmen went on a rampage that left more than 130 people dead in and around Paris, the French government has issued a poster with advice on how to survive a terror attack.

Designed in the cartoon-strip style of the aviation safety cards stowed in the seat back pockets of planes, the poster will be displayed in public places, including museums, city halls, department stores, universities, and stadiums.

The government released images of its "Flee, Hide, Alert" campaign on social media today.

"Given that the times are changing and that we are going to have to learn to live with this lasting threat, we have to develop a culture of life-saving techniques and solidarity," Prime Minister Manuel Valls' office told AFP.

Some of the drawings featured on the illustrated advice poster echo actual situations described by survivors of the November 13 Bataclan attack, when three gunmen stormed the busy concert hall in Paris, killing 89.

Flee
The first piece of advice is to "flee" the scene of the attack, after "locating" the source of the danger. The poster also urges members of the public to "help others flee, if at all possible." Underneath the recommendation is an illustration that echoes the harrowing images of a young man helping a pregnant woman back in through one of the windows of the Bataclan on the night of the attack.

Related: Man Who Rescued Pregnant Woman During Bataclan Attack Recounts Ordeal

People are warned "not to expose" themselves to danger as they leave the scene of the attack — a recommendation illustrated by the image of a person crouching behind a wall, his hands around his ears.

Finally, the "flee" section urges the public to warn others about the danger and to dissuade them from approaching the danger zone.

Image via Gouvernement.fr

Hide
If fleeing is not an option, the poster suggests "hiding." One of the images is an illustrated close-up of a hand bolting the door shut, while another shows a man dragging a sofa across a door to barricade it shut. Several survivors of the Bataclan shooting told reporters they had hid in offices or locked themselves inside the bathrooms during the attack.

The poster also advises turning off all lights in the room, as well as any electronic equipment that could make noise. Those hiding from the attack should stay on the floor, away from windows and openings. If that is not possible, they should seek a pillar or a thick wall to hide behind.

The government also recommends cutting off ringtones and vibration alerts on mobile phones, to avoid alerting the attackers.

Image via Gouvernement.fr

Speaking to Swiss daily 24 Heures two days after the attacks, one of the survivors said that attackers had targeted victims whose phones were ringing. "Luckily, my phone was on vibrate," said Samuel, who described playing dead by the stage. "Another guy who could see them said they were shooting those whose phones were ringing."

Alert

The third section of what the government has described as its survival "triptych" outlines what to do once members of the public are out of harm's way. The poster urges the public to "alert" the authorities, by dialing 17 for the emergency police hotline or 212 – a Europe-wide emergency hotline.

Image via Gouvernement.fr

It also calls on the public to "obey" the authorities and to approach police forces slowly, avoiding sudden moves. It advises people to keep their hands up above their heads, in order to help the police differentiate between attackers and victims.

The public is also reminded not to release any information that could inform the attackers of the whereabouts of the authorities, and not to spread unconfirmed rumors on the internet and on social media.

Speaking to AFP on Friday, a spokesperson for the prime minister's office said that following the government's advice would ultimately help response teams on the scene.

The government has said it will expand the campaign over the coming months to include video advice and a "good practice guide."

Run, Hide and Fight
In 2014, British police handed out similar "Run, Hide and Tell" leaflets in train stations as part of "counter-terrorism awareness week." At the time, critics of the campaign accused the government of scaremongering.

Two years earlier, the city of Houston, Texas, released a six-minute video advising people how to handle an active shooter situation. The video, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, was also published on the FBI website.

Like France's survival poster, the video recommends flight as the first response. If an escape is impossible, hiding is the next best option.

But unlike the French government pamphlet, which ends with the intervention of the police, the video's third recommendation is to "fight." Describing a situation involving one active shooter, the narrator urges the public to "act with aggression and improvise weapons" in order to disarm the attacker.

In August 2015, US airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and student Anthony Sadler helped foil a terror attack on a high-speed train linking Amsterdam to Paris when they tackled and overpowered a heavily armed gunman.

Related: 'We're Ready To Bounce Back': We Visit First Paris Cafe to Reopen After Terror Attacks

Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray