Personal Safety Tips over the Election Season
By Llyod Gitonga
“Elections have always been a sensitive period world-wide, not only in Kenya. We remain confident in the contingency plans that the government of the day has put in place, but nevertheless, it would be wise to prepare for any eventuality,”-says John Ogutu, Securex Senior Operations Manager.
It is safe to say that the election season is now in full swing and campaign fever has hit a high pitch. Political rhetoric dominates our headlines, party manifestos and opinion polls have taken over the evening news and presidential debates are the talk of the town these days. With less than two weeks to the August 8th polls, it’s really all we can talk about at the moment.
With bitter memories of the 2007/2008 post-election violence to learn from, the government of the day has gone about making significant investments to mitigate any fall-out from this year’s polls. The much-publicized acquisition of over 500 vehicles for use by the Police was quickly followed up with the graduation of nearly 4,000 Police recruits from the Administration Police training college in April this year. State security agencies have also been holding regular meetings to ensure coordination of resources and that any fall-out as a result of the polls is quelled in good time.
With this in mind, what can individuals do to prepare for the coming elections? Staying up-to-date on current affairs would be a good place to start. According to the Securex Senior Operations Manager John Ogutu, staying informed could be crucial to your safety over the electioneering period.
“One should subscribe to a security briefing or a security alerts service. It would also be advisable to monitor local media before leaving the house in the morning, just to be in the know on what’s happening along your daily commute to work,” Ogutu said.
Citizens have also been encouraged to map out the areas around which they live and work to get a better understanding of any threats to their safety and ensure they can easily get help when needed.
“You should ask yourself questions like: How many polling stations are in the area around my home? How far are they? How many police stations do I have in your locality? Do I know where each of them is?” Ogutu added.
“If you’re not sure about the answers to any of these questions, be sure to find out as soon as you can. Polling centres will be beehives of activity as the polls draw nearer, and the chances of unrest starting at these points are high. You should also identify any grounds that are commonly used to hold political rallies in your area and avoid driving past these parts especially when a rally is going on, just to be safe.”
In the height of the unrest witnessed in 2007/2008, supplies such as dry cereals, maize flour, milk and sugar dried up in most towns. In the spirit of preparedness, it might be wise to buy food in advance, enough to last 72 hours, and set this aside in case of any eventuality. One should also buy enough airtime in advance and also have a spare gas cylinder for the kitchen, just in case. Citizens are also advised to adopt a “fuel-before-you-park” approach, to ensure they have enough fuel in reserve.
Lastly, it would be wise to keep a list of local emergency service contacts nearby for good measure. It’s also advisable to help your young ones memorize your mobile number so they can easily reach you when in distress.
“Another tip that could come in handy would be to make a mental note of where private security providers (not just your own) park their response vehicles around where you live or work. And while you’re at it, you should identify an alternate route from home to work should your daily route be blocked or otherwise inaccessible,” Ogutu concluded.