What is Hostile Environment Awareness Training, otherwise known as HEAT? Why is it important for journalists to attend and get the training required to work in hostile and conflict zones?
HEAT training is designed for non-government organizations, journalists, and workers or volunteers in hostile regions. The training helps people recognize risks, stimulates environments, and teaches introductory and some advanced medical techniques that can be essential in the field. A few of the scenarios in the program test ideas, medical training, and how to deal with stress that we learned in the classroom.
In April, I attended the Bluespear HEAT training in Brussels, Belgium. During the first two days of training, we learned about situational awareness, threats, how to communicate effectively, security, and medical training. We also stimulated different environments outside of the room and trained in how to deal with gunshot, intensive bleeding and how to transport victims in tight and hostile spaces.
During the third training day, we had different scenarios that mentally and physically challenged us. In our first scenario, we were in a room of multiple victims, and we had to understand the room to see if it was safe enough to tend to victims. Once we determined it was safe within the first few seconds, we could treat the victims who had broken bones, intensive bleeding, and unresponsive behaviors. We then needed to safely transport the victims to a more accessible location away from the threat.
In the following scenario, we were en route through a protest with intense gunfire. Our camera operator was shot and was bleeding uncontrollably. The team applied a tourniquet on him as quickly and safely as possible. We had to transport him another fifty meters to our safe house where we could apply more advanced medical procedures.
The fourth training day was in the classroom and particle training on location. Joanie de Rijke taught about the risks of kidnapping and what to do. She told us about her capture in Afghanistan in 2008 and her experiences with the Taliban. She is a journalist who has been covering wars and conflicts for decades.
We also learned about driving in extreme situations, getting unstuck, 4×4 driving, and driving in conflict zones. Overall, it was an informal and action-packed day with much learning.
In the final scenario, we were ambushed during a party by intruders and taken hostage. We were taken underground to stimulate and understand the stresses the body goes through. Understanding your body’s breaking point is important during these extreme situations.
During this five-day course, I learned so much that it is hard to put it all into words. I highly recommend this course to any journalist, NGO worker, or volunteer in hostile regions to take before heading out.
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