Andy Neal at Protaris has put together this instructive article on how to survive a lone wolf attack.

LONE wolf is used to describe a person who acts alone and unsupported while planning and carrying out an act of violence or terrorism.

These attacks are sadly on the increase, often inspired by extreme religious or political beliefs held by a larger influencing group. A lone wolf attack is a method in which an isolated individual can take on conventional security forces.

A significant number of terrorists, determined by authorities to have been lone wolf attacks inspired by ISIS and its ideology, were later found to have been recruited, trained, and directed remotely to carry out the attacks.

Mental health problems are thought to make some individuals vulnerable to being inspired by extremist ideologies to commit acts of lone wolf terrorism.

These acts are usually low tech, involving surprise attacks carried out by an individual who may use a firearm, bomb, blunt or bladed instrument or in the case of the recent Westminster attack in the UK, a car.

The result of these attacks is of course always human tragedy. The objective of a lone wolf attack is simple, the killing of as many persons as is possible. The culprit may not wish to escape the scene of the attack, often he or she may wish to become a martyr to whatever the cause or particular belief may be.

The aim is to terrorize, shock and raise the profile of the attackers through mass media exposure. Venues for such attacks have varied, ranging from open recreational spaces, as in the case with Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in two consecutive attacks, to churches, shopping centers and locations near military establishments.

As individuals we can do little to influence the underlying issues which cause a person to become a so called lone wolf. As travellers for both business and private purposes we can, however, plan and prepare a course of action which will enable us to survive such an incident. Primarily we must develop a survivor’s mindset.

First principles

When entering into any building or public space, always plan how to get out and make good your escape should you come under attack. Carry out a dynamic assessment.

Check the location of exits and escape routes on initial entry to an area and look for cover and concealment should you come under attack.

Concealment prevents the attacker from seeing you but may not always offer ballistic protection. If possible find cover and concealment which will provide a shield against gunfire and explosions. You can check the structural integrity of buildings such as your work environment, hotels, etc., for potential cover by simply tapping on walls and supporting structures. If it sounds solid it will likely provide a form of ballistic protection in the event of an attack.

The way you position yourself in any location is also a very important preliminary factor, especially if you are in a new location which is deemed as a higher risk. Position yourself in a way that allows good observation of exits and people entering the environment. Try never to sit with your back to an entrance or exit. Also try to locate yourself as close to an exit as soon as possible. If you are not close to an exit, is there concealment or cover en route to an exit?

Hand in Hand for Health


You must react if you hear gunfire or loud explosions. Initial inaction by persons is the cause of the majority of fatalities in lone wolf attacks. This is known as status shock.

Time is critical, the faster you react the better your chances of escape and survival. Seconds count! Keep your composure; this is not a time to panic. Panicking will limit your response and chances of survival. Deep breathing will oxygenate your brain and give clarity of thought in highly stressful situations. Tell others to leave and try to assist people, if they refuse you may have to leave them; your own survival is paramount.


On initial attack you must move quickly and escape! This may require the removal of high heeled shoes or other impediments to moving quickly. When running from the area of an attack do not move in straight lines, move at angles, this makes you a harder target to hit if firearms are being used against you. Stay low, move fast and run in zig zags. Most people can put 25 meters between them and an attacker in a few seconds. It becomes increasingly difficult to hit a target at distance, so create as much distance from the attacker as possible when making an escape.

If you cannot escape the building or area in which the attack is taking place, you should consider hiding.

Go somewhere that is dark and remote, and in the case of a firearms attack, offers ballistic protection. Keep quiet and turn mobile phones down. If you are hiding in the company of others, quietly try to reassure them. Lock doors and use what is available to barricade the door, make it as difficult as possible for someone to enter.

Obstruct the attacker by using whatever is available to form barriers that will surprise, slow, trip or injure the attacker. Do not allow access to anyone once you have locked or barricaded the door. The attacker may be using a ruse to gain entry.

If you are discovered grab anything that could be used as a weapon. If your life is threatened you must attack with as much force as you can to stop the attacker.


Rescue will come. The security forces’ main objective is to dominate the threat. You should move away from doors and windows, remember what provides good cover. Remain still and low to the ground. If you can lie on your stomach do so, this protects your center cortex, but make sure your hands are visible. Do not approach the security forces but comply quickly and fully with their directives.

In the event of a lone wolf or other terrorist attack, escape is always the preferred option. Remember, if attacked, inaction kills. React, act and survive.

Andy is the founder and director of Protaris – a unique specialist security training provider and strategic risk management adviser. Over a career spanning 22 years Andy has established a great record in delivering outcomes across regional, national and international projects in partnership with government, military and non-government agencies. Highly regarded in his field, Andy has extensive experience, specialist training and a unique style of delivery that gets results.

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Cardinus Connect Winter/Spring 2018