Medical science uses the term ‘golden hour’ to describe those critical minutes at the beginning of a traumatic event in which swift and correct action will reduce the extent of the damage suffered by a patient and increase the chance of saving his/her life.
As managers of crisis centres , we must be aware that in all times of crisis, whether police, terror, natural disaster, etc, that golden hour also exists.
Actions that are taken swiftly and with professionalism may reduce the extent of injury and damage and save many human lives.
The responses of all organizations dealing with emergencies, whether police, army or any other, are naturally slower than the events themselves. Managers need time to receive information on what has occurred, to form a situation picture and estimate of the danger, make decisions about how to proceed, collect special forces and move them to the area – and all the while the clock is ticking away the minutes of the golden hour.
For all the above reasons, the organization must prepare its first responders in such a way that they can function in uncertain conditions, lacking equipment, manpower and infrastructure such as electricity and communications.
In effect, manpower must be trained for exactly the same assignments as the crisis managers of the organization, but on a local level. In this way, the officer, police or fireman become crisis managers in the field in which they find themselves – on the street, in a building or any other locality.
In lessons learned from the earthquake in Haiti, we can see the importance of immediate response. There, hundreds of thousands of people were extracted from the rubble by neighbors and relatives using improvised means, while all the well-equipped professional units that arrived afterwards, altogether managed to save only 16 people.
The same is true for a terror attack: terrorists deliberately and intentionally take advantage of the time lapses discussed above. They measure the response time of the security forces, study the latter’s operations and organize themselves to exploit what they have learnt to their own best advantage. Any immediate and professional response to a terror attack will significantly disrupt terrorists’ plans and actions, thereby obviously reducing the damage and allowing containment of the event in a way that is advantageous to the security forces and injurious to the terrorists.
The Mumbai attack taught us the importance of immediate response and the efforts of local forces in terror assaults.
As managers of organizations and crisis situations, we naturally try to prepare ourselves by means of workshops, in-service courses, exercises, etc. However, every organization must also try to take the complementary side into consideration – those people in the field who will be on the spot when an attack takes place and whose immediate actions and professional responses will determine the initial conditions within which the organization must work to contain the number of wounded and the extent of the damage.
These people must undergo suitable training to be able to deal personally with crisis situations, to work in small, organic groups while collaborating with parallel organizations, citizens and anyone who is able to be of assistance.