“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.”-John Ogutu, Securex Senior Operations Manager.
It would probably be 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 political talk shows are the talk of the town these days. With less than 40 days 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 Police Training College in April this year.
We’ve also been busy, gearing up for the polls by adding to our operational fleet and investing in our surveillance and intelligence networks to keep you informed leading up to and beyond the August 8th polls.
“In Nairobi for instance, we’ve relied on our past experience to map out potential spots where we feel trouble could escalate. This allows us to strategically distribute our manpower and response units to cover these areas,” said Mr. Ogutu.
Now, with this in mind, what can you do to prepare for the coming elections? Staying up to date on current affairs would be a good place to start. You should subscribe to a security briefing or a security alerts service. It would also be advisable to monitor local media before leaving your house in the morning, just to be in the know on what’s happening along your daily commute to work.
How many polling stations are in the area around your home? How far are they? How many police stations do you have in your locality? Do you know where each of them is? 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 beforehand and have a spare gas cylinder for the kitchen, just in case. Speaking of which, be sure to keep your car’s fuel tank at least half-full at all times.
We also believe that it would be prudent to ensure that your family is also prepared to deal with any eventuality that may arise. You should, for instance, maintain a grab bag, which should contain necessities from your medical supplies to identification documents and family photos, toilet paper to a change of clothes and a First Aid kit.
You should also come up with an emergency evacuation plan with your family, and be sure to practise this at least once. Consider and prepare for any kind of scenario, including one where you’re at work and your kids are at home and you can’t reach them for some reason. Establish an “emergency rendezvous” point, somewhere a safe distance from home but easily accessible for all of you. You could even go a step further and draft a text message that you can quickly send to the rest of the family when in distress.
Lastly, it would be wise to keep a list of local emergency service contacts nearby for good measure. Help your young ones memorize your mobile number so they can easily reach you when in distress. The next time you’re driving home, be sure to make a mental note of where private security providers (not just your own) park their response vehicles, this could come in handy as well! 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.
Remember, it’s always safer to be prepared.