The security drill that went horribly wrong at Strathmore University, claiming at least one life while inflicting life-threatening injuries on scores, yet again highlights gaping holes in our state of preparedness to situations of grave threats.
Although the drill planners informed some individuals, perhaps on need to know basis, the vast majority of Strathmore community were caught absolutely flat-footed.
This explains narratives of frightening sight of gun-totting “al Shabaab attackers.” Some could be seen hanging precariously from ledges from upper floors ready to take the perilous plunge.
It is good gesture the university undertook to pay for medical expenses for the injured during the botched, even if well-meant drill. However, that is unlikely to assuage grieving parents, relatives and friends now preparing to bury their kin or those whose loved ones remain admitted to hospitals.
So the question must be asked: could the drill have been done differently? Last April, a student died while more than a hundred were injured in a stampede sparked off by an explosion at the University of Nairobi’s Kikuyu campus.
A number of students leapt from as high as the sixth floor of a hostel to escape “terrorist attack”. No drill warrants loss of life or injuries like happened at Strathmore. Man’s most elementary preoccupation is self-preservation, hence the often impulsive reaction to threat.
Drills are most effective when internalised so impact can straddle both the conscious and subconscious realms. In a country like Israel where terror threats are a fact of life, citizens live in state of perpetual alertness.
Truth is, we need more drills in work places, places of worship and learning to enhance levels of preparedness. Most Kenyans are at sea over what to do when they find themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of being under terror or related attacks.
Few rules of the thumb, include staying within the confines of location,avoiding dashing into the open, unless expressly instructed, being alive to unusual behaviour, strange devices and movements. Adrenalin flow may dictate otherwise, but keeping ones head is best.
If within building close to site of attack, stay away from the windows. If within vicinity of attack, staying to watch is not an option as one is likely to get in the way of rescue or emergency operations. Making mental note of safe passages can be invaluable.
Kenyans, however, can be outrightly annoying. Crowds dashing to see what is going on instead of leaving sites of threat quickly and in orderly manner is common phenomenon.
What happened in Strathmore must not provide grounds for finger-pointing but instead prompt serious introspection. The idea of drills is itself impeachable. We grieve with the mourning and wish quick recovery to those in pain.