Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Protest /Civil Unrest First Aid

It's not unheard of for international humanitarian workers to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and accidentally get caught in a potentially violent encounter between protestors and security forces. (Or perhaps you're involved with an activist organization, and being part of the protest is the plan.)

Ending up in the middle of civil unrest, whether by fate or design, definitely increases the chances of your being injured. Even peaceful protests in Western democracies have a history of violence where law enforcement has occasionally used excessive amounts of force to deal with crowds.

The diligent NGO security practitioner identifies and understands threats and determines best responses. If there's a good probability that you or a staff member may be impacted by civil unrest violence, it makes sense to know what to expect and have a basic knowledge of protest first aid.

Unfortunately, standard first aid courses don't teach you how to treat exposure to tear gas and pepper spray or what happens if you get hit with a rubber bullet or some other less-than-lethal projectile.

The best place to learn such things is from a street medic. Street medics are people with varying amounts of medical knowledge and skills who volunteer and support large protests. Street medics trace their roots back to the American civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. They're out in the streets with protestors or run clinics just outside of protest areas. Thanks to the work of street medics all over the world, there's a large body of knowledge on common protest injuries and how to treat them.

Whether you advise staff members in countries prone to civil unrest or you're planning on getting involved with the emerging Occupy Wall Street (and elsewhere) movement, here are some Internet street medic resources to explore (if you're not into activism, just focus on the practical information and treat the political opinion and commentary as just that):



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