Stepping out of the taxi I arrived at the site. I had only the vaguest idea of what to expect. I had been sent to complete a hostile environment training course by my organisation and had no previous security training.
HEAT courses are designed to equip and prepare those of us who will be travelling to, or living in, remote, fragile, or dangerous environments. For four beautiful days in July here I was to take part in one.
The Safer Edge course is long both long and intense both in terms of the daily hours we put in as well as the nature of the content. The course covers a diverse range of topics ranging from how to increase your chances of surviving a grenade blast, to best practice to follow in a car-jacking, to lots of first aid.
While my organisation frequently deploys people to hostile environments it’s unlikely that I, as a fresh-faced MA graduate, am headed off to one soon. However, I was surprised at how much of what I learned can be applied within in the UK as well as on regular travels – such as holidays. We’re lucky in the UK that we likely don’t have to worry about car-jacking or being kidnapped so some readers might wonder what I would apply from my HEAT course to daily life.
The first aid is what comes to mind first. The first aid sessions were probably the most useful and interesting parts for me. Especially given that up until this point, the entire first aid ‘training’ I had was a twenty-minute talk from the St. John’s Ambulance while at school. Calling it a training might even be stretching it slightly. When asked whether she carried a first aid kit even while in the UK, the Safer Edge First Aid Facilitator paused and then said that she does. Even in the UK she said she wanted tourniquets and to be ready to help in events like an accident or terror incident.
Another topic of the HEAT course that will also prove useful in the UK was the session on Sexual Harassment and Violence reminded us how common and underreported this still is and that people of every gender can be victims – something often overlooked.
Even the aspects of the HEAT course that I’m not likely to use tomorrow were still useful. Mainly because all of the information is presented in a way which means I can apply it wherever I am – not just in hostile environments. I also never know when my role might change and I’ll find myself deployed in one or two year’s time and this training will kick in. The training also helped me push past the boundaries of my preconceptions of these courses and my own personal limits.
I arrived at the HEAT course with no first aid knowledge and not really knowing what to expect. I left four days later with a good grasp of first aid ranging from the recovery position, to use of defibrillators and CPR, to dealing with major traumas such as treating gun-shot wounds and catastrophic bleeds. I also learned how to deal with military and government officials, what to have in a grab bag and why it’s useful.
Am I likely to find myself in a dangerous part of the world tomorrow? No. But, I look forward to applying my learning in my daily life and places I normally travel to. HEAT training, coupled with a large dose of common sense, should keep me out of trouble no matter where in the world I end up.