How a doorstop can be a lifesaver in insecure settings

By: Kathy Mueller, Canadian Red Cross​
Doorstop. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, a doorstop is a “fixed or heavy object that keeps a door open or stops it from banging against a wall”.

It can be made of wood, or rubber, or metal.

Chances are, you have one in your home right now.

For me, a doorstop is all that and more. It can also be a lifeline.

I am a humanitarian aid worker with the Red Cross.

I have worked in countries where security isn’t always a priority at the local level. Where the risk of being kidnapped or ambushed is higher than here at home. Where hotel staff think nothing of walking into my hotel room at 10 p.m., unannounced and uninvited.

My doorstop stops that from happening – or at least slows it down long enough to call for help.
And it’s the latest addition to the kit I take overseas.

I was reminded about this simple but effective tool during a recent week-long personal security training course put on by the Canadian Red Cross, Security Unit.

We talked, on so many levels, about the importance of being prepared, from psychologically being ready to manage high stress environments, to what important personal items should go in your “Grab Bag” in the event you need to get out quickly.

We talked about pre-planning, knowing what route your convoy would take to get from Point A to Point B, and having an alternate route, just in case.

We learned practical ways of helping to improve the odds of surviving an abduction, and where to run for cover if bullets start flying (turns out a metre-wide pile of dirt is better than a concrete wall).

Practising security exercisesWe talked about “hibernating”, stakeholder mapping, and communicated using two-way radios.

But we didn’t just talk. We role played. We were outside in the snow and frigid temperatures for two straight days taking part in simulations of experiences we could face in real life. We learned about wilderness first aid, how to triage the wounded, and how to spot buried landmines.

We learned the importance of team work, of doing more listening than talking, of how to put on a tourniquet and just when you think it’s on tight enough, to turn it once more.

The organization I work for recognizes that safety and security of personnel is of paramount importance and has what’s called a “Duty of Care” responsibility. This is informed by our humanitarian mission, takes into consideration the key risks we may face, and identifies actions to reduce risk. This can include ensuring that accommodations have been vetted and approved, that staff are properly trained – for example, that drivers know how to manoeuvre the landscape in a safe manner and that vehicles receive regular maintenance, and that adequate security regulations are in place for each context.

But ultimately, my safety starts with me. As we heard repeatedly during the training, “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.”

I can predict someone may try to get into my hotel room at night. I can prevent it by including a doorstop in my kit.
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