Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Life saving skills from movies

What have you learnt from all those action movies you’ve seen till date? I’ve made few notes, but hope I’ll never encounter a situation wherein I’ll have to implement them for survival.

Listing a set of instructions or best practices for emergency situations involving armed conflicts, crafted after viewing lots of action movies. Feel free to add.

1. Avoid unnecessary communication
When you’re on a mission and away from your loved ones you may have a temptation to call them and tell them you’re fine. Avoid such communications and maintain absolute radio silence to the extent possible. Though your call can comfort the other person it can compromise your position-your phone could be trapped/there could be bugs planted in your home or your loved one himself/herself might be working for your enemies.

2. Sanitize the place
Assume you’ve just achieved your stated objective (freeing your loved one from the hands of goons, searching for a treasure, arresting the criminal). Your immediate temptation will be to celebrate (hug your loved one and express relief and compassion/jump with joy on finding treasure, or tease/give a speech in front of the person you arrested). Initiating this sort of unsecure, lesser important activities without a security all clear can be dangerous. So once you achieve your primary objective, perform what’s called as Sanitization Process, which involves:
  • Ensuring that those who are supposed to be dead are fully/properly dead. (these half dead men are the ones who create all the trouble by picking up a nearby weapon and harming our Hero/Heroine when they just shift from action to romantic mode)
  • Ensuring that there’re no booby traps and no weapons around that could be easily accessed by an enemy
  • Reloading your weapon and ammunition collection for a possible threat
  • Ensuring that there’s no further danger like timed explosives, self destructive systems
  • Assessing the situation and identifying a safe exist passage
  • Communicating your team mates, if any, briefing them on the matter and giving/receiving all clear.
  • Moving injured team mates to a relatively secure place (say behind some cover, away from open space to protect from possible gun fire) and first aid, if possible
  • Moving to a more strategic place (if you plan to stay there for some more time). An elevated place, a place with better view, a place near exit, a place behind some barricades etc are more ideal than standing in open space.
  • Destroying any possible evidences (if that is one of the mandates) and other precautionary measures as the case may be.
3. When you have a gun, shoot
Bollywood film actors are required to deliver a mandatory 15 minute dialogue after they catch the villain. The dialogue is aimed at making the later understand all the misdeeds he did in his life, which is about to end now as our hero has a gun pointed towards his head. But life is like a game of chess and other player thinks his best to outsmart you. So you’ve captured the bad guy and decided to kill him, then just shoot. By giving lectures you’ll only allow him buy time.

4. Watch your back
The way you were sent to eliminate someone, there could be someone behind you to keep a watch or eliminate you if necessary. Keep your safety measures in place to be alive at the end of the day.

5. Think
When the British wanted to rule India, they had a nice way of conquering kingdoms- they would grab an insider, tempt him with money and power and make him betray his king and help British win the battle. Post victory, when these people approach the British for their reward, they would be promptly beheaded, with a statement- you weren’t loyal to your king, why should we expect you to be loyal to us? So think twice before trusting someone’s promises or betraying your friends.

6. Do not fall for blackmails
When you have an important asset (diamonds/some secret code/money/evidences to a crime), a standard practice adopted by goons is to kidnap someone from your family and threaten that they will be killed if you don’t handover the asset you have in your possession. In such cases, there’s every possibility that both you and your family will be killed after you handover what they wanted and you and your loved one will be alive only as long as you have what they wanted. So in case you’ve decided to exchange it for your family member, always insist on a safe passage. Refuse to compromise till they free the hostage and send them home or provide you with a fool proof way to escape etc.

7. Have a checklist
Lots of stories take dramatic twist because of some simple mistakes. Have a checklist for each scenario (like- verifying the identity of the person on the other side of the phone before speaking confidential info, checking your vehicle/gun for fuel/ammunition before starting and so on. Have a basic checklist as to what all needs to be verified for a particular activity.

8. Shoot at right place
What if the other person is a Hero and director wants you to fire 30cm away from his leg when he is running? Fire at chest level for better success rate (head shots will be less accurate for moving targets). The gun given by film crew might be fake- carry a backup one.
Similarly if you’re fighting some gigantic and hitherto unknown animal which has a very strong body, firing on its body may not help. Fire at its eye to make it blind.

9. Consider different possibilities
If you are working for secret service or any underground group, you’re not supposed to think or question your superiors. But understand that those above you can have personal objectives which could be different from stated mission objectives. So an unquestionable faith can get you killed. So have your own information network, validation mechanisms, backup plans, evidence backups and escape money.

10. Think Safe before cutting that red wire
There’s a bomb and you’ve to defuse it by cutting a wire- you don’t know which one, but your instinct says it’s the red one. That may not always work right. Bomb makers do not necessarily have to follow colour coding-after all its all copper wires inside-any combination will work. So before attempting to defuse get behind some impact absorbers (Sandbags or any available material which can absorb the impact of explosion and shrapnel (shrapnel are sharp and tiny objects hidden inside explosives with an intent of maximizing damage as they fire in all directions after an explosion- each of them can act as a bullet and cause more damage than the bomb). Better still, dump impact absorbers on the explosive, isolate the place and wait for the bomb squad to arrive. Also note that explosives needn’t necessarily have a LED display indicating time left.

11. Get a physical wheel lock for your car
Hindi film heros will always have a car or bike with ignition turned on at their disposal when they need a vehicle urgently (vehicle owner might be away attending nature’s call). So be sure not to leave the key inside (the central locking facility cars these days lock themselves automatically if you leave the key inside-even more dangerous). But this may not work all the time- Hollywood heros know how to pull out the wires and complete ignition circuit. So get a physical wheel lock which will prevent the vehicle from moving.

12. (New)Learn to stop the car when brakes aren't working

(contributed by a reader) If someone has intentionally disconnected the brakes of your car you'll usually know within few kms of starting, because its hard to drive in the city for long without braking. Still in case you speed up and realize brake fail, remember that vehicle will slow down and eventually stop if you stop accelerating. (except downhill) Try hand brakes, try taking an uphill road, so that vehicle will stop faster, get two left side wheels off the road- higher friction offered by rocks and otherstuff on the roadside will slow down the car faster. Also one can stop the vehicle abruptly by keeping it in higher gear for lower speeds (down shifting at higher speed will also help limit the speed if brakes don't work) (Related: Safe braking distance)

13. Observe for anything out of ordinary
A maid wearing an overpriced shoe/ornament, a nanny mentioning your boyfriend's name when you've never revealed it to her... Keep your senses open for anything remotely suspicious.

Last but not the least: Put your mobile in Silent Mode

Too much of GYAN? It may save your life one day- you never know. Images from,, and respectively


Mohan said...

Well articulated, I could only wish nobody gets into such horrific situations in real life. Me being an 'Emergency Response Team' member at work place, I know lot more life saving skills which everyone should know.

My sincere suggestion to readers here is that please take part in ERT trainings if you get a chance and you never know when you will be a 'Hero' in real life.

On the lighter note, Shrinidhi is either watching too many movies off late or reading too many fictions! It may also be that you are thinking too much about 26/11. Get over it Shri, all it needs is some timely due-deligence.

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Me too a certified first respondent for medical emergencies, but never got to use that so far... Its a good idea to take part in ERT training.

But unfortunately most of the employees never take mock drills seriously.

These observations were made over a period of time...

Mridula said...

I am also wondering what brought this post on? Good one though.

Durga Prasad said...

Good One (as usual) Shrinidhi!

I don't know If i have implemented some things which i have seen fromt he movies or not, But my english had improved alot because of these. :-) Souds funny. But true.

Moreover, Being an active member of a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Team in my company, we relocate the missed/abandoned kids back to their homes. We, then feel heroic seeing the happieness and reactions of the kid's parents.

Durga Prasad.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

People one big error.. In my first para I meant "but hope I’ll never encounter a situation wherein " and not ""but hope I’ll encounter a situation wherein.

Mridula, no specific reason.This topic was waiting to be published since long time, just released it yesterday.

Good to know that your english has improved from movies and appreciate your efforts in CSR.

Ruchi said...

Hi ,

Great article. How you think so much while watching movie? When i
see movies i just keep my mind aside .:)
But really thoughtful .Never thought about this.

Karuna said...

hahahahaha.. good one man...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Ruchi and Karuna,

hari said...

Haha... the best advise is how to stop a car when the brakes have failed.

How stupid that most heroes don't even think of decelerating naturally and using the gear-shift to achieve slower and manageable speed.

Most (Indian) cars slow down dramatically if you stop accelerating and when you shift down gears.

Ricardo Sergio said...

blog has a great layout

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hari and Ricardo,


iTs My WorLd said...

Brilliant observation, analysis and description.