B. Staying safe

This section gives information and advice on how to protect yourself and how to deal with situations that threaten your safety.

Please remember that these guidelines are merely advisory and do not supersede instructions, standard operating procedures (SOPs), contingency plans, etc. issued by the security office of your particular mission.

The following topics should be covered in greater depth during safety and security trainings, such as the Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) that you should try to participate in before deployment.

1. At your residence, at work and during recreational time

On mission, daily life and work may be very different from what you are used to at home. This section gives you basic safety instructions and advice on infrastructure at your residence and at work, as well as on how to behave during recreational time.

Residential safety and security: there are some important matters to take into consideration when choosing a residence.

First, choose a safe neighbourhood to move to. Make sure the access routes to and from your residence provide alternatives and avoid dead-end or narrow one-way streets. Check out the parking possibilities, e.g. carports and driveways within fenced or guarded areas. An apartment, especially one above the second floor, presents a more difficult target for criminal intrusion than a house and provides the tenant some degree of anonymity. Perimeter security (e.g. a fence or security guards) can improve the safety of your residence, as can solid doors, grilles on the windows, secure locks, an alarm system, adequate fire safety, emergency exits and safe rooms (if needed).

When you first move into a house or start working in a new environment, use your initiative and common sense to identify hazards. For example, look out for exposed electrical wiring, windows without mosquito mesh, areas where it is easy to slip or fall, hazards from unlabelled bottles or substances, or containers handy for water storage which may have contained pesticides or may be breeding-grounds for mosquitoes. Be aware of fire hazards such as open stoves, open fires or cooking pans, and the use of charcoal fires without adequate ventilation. Make sure that the owner of your apartment or house is legitimate and that you have the proper legal paperwork to rent the place. In
general, the security section of your mission should be consulted in the process of selecting your residence. A specialist engineer should be consulted when selecting accommodation in an earthquake-prone environment.

Recreational time: these rules are obvious, but all too easy to brush aside when other things seem more important. Having survived the mud and potholes on mission, take care during times of leisure. At the seaside, be aware of dangerous currents, undertow or rip-tides, and areas known to have jellyfish, crocodiles or sharks. Stay within your depth unless you are a strong swimmer. Use life jackets for offshore water sports or when using inflatable craft. Never run along the side of a slippery pool; never dive into cloudy water or into a pool of unknown depth. Do not drink alcohol before swimming or diving.

During your rest and recreation, do not lean against any balcony that could be unsafe, especially after drinking alcohol! Some may be less well built than your body. Binge drinking brings many risks ranging from killing yourself – or your friends – in a road accident to contracting HIV because you forgot to take the necessary precautions.

2. Fire safety

Fire extinguishers

Make sure you are familiar with whatever types of fire extinguishers you are provided and how to use them. If possible, you should also have access to a fire blanket.

The five main types of fire extinguisher, and the types of fire they can be used on, are displayed in the diagram below.

Remember: never put water onto boiling oil. It will explode!

In the event that someone catches fire, you should:

In the event of a small fire in a building or vehicle:

In the event of a large fire in a building or vehicle:

Fire exits

Fire safety

At night

3. On the road

Road safety

Road accidents are more likely to harm you than any other incidents on mission. For this reason, it is important that you keep the following in mind at all times:

Checkpoints and road blocks

Checkpoints and road blocks are quite similar: a manned position on the road designed to monitor and control movement in a particular area. Checkpoints can be operated by legitimate authorities (e.g. police or military) as legal checkpoints or by illegitimate individuals or groups as illegal road blocks, often set up by local gangs to extort money from passing civilians. When you move into a new area you can expect to be stopped at these control points. As you gain more experience and credibility with the group manning the barrier, you may be allowed to pass unchecked. Never rely on this, however, and always be prepared to stop.

Some checkpoints are well constructed and established for long-term use with sandbagged bunkers, a tent or rest areas, and a clearly visible and raisable barrier across the road. They may well have mines placed across the road for added security. In other cases you may simply encounter a tree or even a branch pulled across the road, with one or two men plying their new-found, lucrative trade as toll collectors.

So how do you deal with checkpoints and road blocks? The following information and advice is valid for legal checkpoints. When approaching illegal checkpoints, consider the advice below, but use your common sense.


An ambush is an attack by assailants in a concealed position. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening situation. Avoid travelling in areas where a threat of ambush exists. In most cases, ambushes are deliberate operations, carefully planned and coordinated. Take the following precautions to reduce the risk of being ambushed:

How to react if caught in an ambush?

If you are caught in a deliberate ambush, you are in an extremely dangerous situation. Your options might be limited:

4. Individual protective gear

The flak jacket

If you receive a flak jacket, familiarise yourself with the jacket before you have to use it. It provides a low level of protection for the chest, back and neck, being designed to protect these parts of the body against the effects of blast, shrapnel and splinters of glass, wood, etc. It is not designed to stop a bullet. It is comfortable and light to wear and should be used in conjunction with a helmet.

The ballistic jacket

Ballistic (bullet-proof) jackets offer varying levels of protection. The best can give protection against all known rifle and pistol rounds up to 7.62 mm. They are expensive. They too are designed only to protect certain parts of the body. Additional neck and groin protection options are available. They can come with a large front pocket for your ID cards and first-aid pressure bandages. With the high level of protection comes weight: some 12 kg. At first you will find them very difficult to wear, but you will soon become accustomed to them. There are male and female versions. Make sure that you have the correct version and size, and that you are familiar with the protection level and correct usage. Use the ballistic jacket as follows:

The helmet

Helmets are designed to protect the most vulnerable part of the body from blast and shrapnel. They are not normally designed to stop a direct hit from a bullet. Use the helmet as follows:

Unauthorised possession or carrying of weapons of any kind is a no-go for civilian personnel.

The handling of weapons by civilian crisis managers is not only unnecessarily dangerous, it can irretrievably undermine the image of the mission. This applies whether you use a weapon, possess it or simply pose with it.

Positions occupied by personnel with police or military backgrounds can require the carrying of weapons. If that is the case, carefully check the details with the mission you are deployed to.


5. Mine hazards

When deployed on a crisis management mission, you may be confronted with mine hazards in different ways. Mines or minefields can be leftovers from an earlier conflict. Mines or IEDs are used, for example, to protect property, to pose a threat or even to attack an enemy. This section provides basic information on mines, IEDs, UXO and booby traps and offers some basic advice on dealing with these threats.

There are two types of mines that you need to watch out for: anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines.

Anti-personnel mines

Anti-personnel mines (AP mines) are designed to cause injury to people rather than to equipment. They might be laid in conjunction with anti-tank mines or by themselves.

Some exceptions to the classic pressure mine are:

Anti-tank mines

Anti-tank mines are designed to disable heavy vehicles. They are normally laid in fairly large numbers to achieve their aim. In an active conflict zone you can be fairly sure that mines of this type will be kept under observation. They are valuable weapons and they are protecting valuable routes or objectives.

Do not go too close to such mines. And, obviously, never, for any reason, touch them. In areas where fighting has ceased, the mines may remain in place though their guardians are long gone. Nevertheless, you should not yield to the temptation to interfere with them.

Some important features of anti-tank mines:


IEDs – Improvised explosive devices are essentially ‘home-made’. The term covers a range of devices similar to small grenades and anti-personnel mines, which are made up of metal fragments and explosives. However, such self-made explosives do not necessarily have the same shape or size as mines. IEDs are often made of and look like an article of daily use – a small box, a bag or a parcel – and can be triggered either through contact or by remote detonation.

UXO – Unexploded ordnance refers to all types of explosive ordnance/ammunition that did not explode when it was used and that still poses a risk of detonation. This can include all types of explosive weapons, such as bombs, bullets, shells, grenades, etc. All UXO should be treated with extreme caution: even if ammunition has been fired, it can be in a very unstable state and still pose a risk of detonation!

Dealing with mine/IED/UXO threats

Now that you have some idea of what mines are and what they look like, how should you deal with them?

Remember, if you identify a mined area or are informed of one, spread the news. Record the information and mark it on your maps.

Actions in a minefield (MINED):

Avoid booby traps!

A booby trap is an outwardly harmless object designed or adapted to kill or injure by exploding unexpectedly when a person disturbs or approaches it. A booby trap can be triggered when you perform an apparently safe act with it (for example, opening a letter or a door, or picking up an attractive article lying on the ground). The device is deliberately disguised as, or hidden inside, a harmless object.

Withdrawing troops may place booby traps in all sorts of places so as to inflict damage on their advancing adversaries. Booby traps may be left on paths, by wells, in houses or just lying in the open and attached to an appealing object.

Do not explore deserted houses, towns or villages. You should not be tempted to snoop around or use the houses to ‘answer the call of nature’. Most importantly, do not touch apparently interesting objects lying innocently on the ground. Just leave them alone.