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Before you head out, consider the following:
• Ensure your accreditation is in order and easily accessible.
• You may wish to alert the authorities that your news organisation plans to cover the protests, if it is appropriate and not dangerous to do so in the country you are in. If so, obtain the mobile number of the person in charge; the more senior the better.
• Take protective gear. This can include helmets, gas masks, escape hoods or bullet proof vests with protective plates. Your decision regarding this may depend on what weapons the local police force uses for crowd control.
• In case of tear gas, use either a gas mask/respirator if available to protect your eyes and lungs. (If you plan to take a respirator/gas mask, ensure that you have an appropriate riot control canister fitted and not a generic industrial/military canister as these can offer little to no protection from CS).
• If you do not have access to this the next best thing is to escape hoods, which are cheaper than gas masks and aren't subject to the same export rules as military respirator.
• If you do not have access to either of these, you should use a dry cloth over your mouth to try to protect your lungs and move away from the area as soon as you can. Consider using goggles to protect your eyes, while you move away. Ladies – consider not wearing make up as tear gas sticks to it.
• If you do not have a dry cloth, you could use the inside of your coat or jacket to protect the airway by pulling it up and over the nose (note that the outside of the jacket is likely to be contaminated with CS).
• Try not to wear contact lenses as the tear gas will get under the lense. Bring eye drops and spare glasses.
• Wear comfortable boots that you can run in.
• Wear natural fabrics, which may be less flammable than synthetic fabrics.
• Prepare a backpack with supplies to last a day: lightweight raingear, energy bars and water, spare batteries for electronic equipment, protective equipment.
• Pack a medical kit and know how to use it.
• Carry a photocopy of your press accreditation and telephone numbers of your editor and lawyer. Make sure your editor knows how to reach your family in case you’re arrested or hurt.
• Set your mobile phone to speed dial with an emergency number pre-set.
• If possible, ensure you have studied the map prior to going on the ground. Consider filming from high vantage points. Agree a rendez-vous point in case you lose your team and agree a “safe” place where you can retreat if the situation becomes too dangerous.
On the ground:
• Try not go alone and if you can, take someone to watch your back if you’re shooting pictures.
• As soon as you arrive, look for escape routes and ensure you know the landmarks to head for if you become disorientated.
• Try to stay on the edge of the crowd and do not get caught on the line between police and protesters.
• Crowds have a life of their own. Be constantly aware of the mood and attitude.
• Alert your editors if the mood starts to change and begin to think of what your plan is.
• If planning to change direction, seek advice from people who have just come from the direction you’re heading.
• Television crews should travel as light as possible. If experiencing aggression, ensure your backpack is big enough to hold the tripod and pack it away. Be prepared to leave it behind if you need to run away.
When trouble erupts:
• Avoid horses. They bite and kick.
• Try to avoid getting in the line of the water being fired as it will damage your kit. It often has dye in it for the security forces to be able to identify the protesters after.
• Try to stay upwind of CS gas and stay as low as you can, in order to remain under the plume of CS which will rise. Once the area is clear, or you have moved away, consider standing legs apart and arms raised and face into the wind until the effects have subsided. This will allow the wind to blow the CS gas off any clothing and ensure that you get plenty of fresh air.
• Consider laundering your clothes when you return to your base if not the gas will remain on the clothing for many months if not washed
• If the police detain you, try to ask them to call the person in charge if you have their number. Try to speak to a senior officer, as this will have more impact.
• Call your editor, ensure legal advice is available through your organisaiton.
• Try to avoid violence if you can and move away to film if necessary.
Photo: Bahraini anti-government protesters clash with riot police firing tear gas in Malkiya village, Bahrain, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Some of the information above has kindly been provided by SecureBio