QUESTION :"We are a group of Syrians in Aleppo. Our government is bombing us with explosive barrels. Russia is now bombing us too. The rebels are weak and they fight with ISIS so they are useless and can't protect us.
We don't want to migrate to Turkey or Europe. We love our country and we want to stay here, so what should we do to deal with air raids? It's the real problem. We can deal with other things. We want practical ideas and advice, like how to build good shelters and trenches, or how what is the best place in a building where we can have a bigger chance of surviving if it collapse, etc."
ANSWER:My name is Jon Davis and I was in the United States Marines. I deployed twice to the War in Iraq. I heard about this question from friends on Facebook. I want to extend my deepest sympathies for the plight of your country and your people, not only from myself, but from my people. You are in the daily thoughts and prayers of my family.
That said, you're not helpless, so I am glad that you are reaching out for support, aid, and mostly education, rather than just accepting the situation as it is. That mindset is what has kept more people alive than anything else in hard times. I have some advice to add to what you already have heard in 's excellent That will protect you well in the home, but I believe that your people also have a need for safety when moving about the city, where you must. I think you should build a series of fighting holes.
Fighting holes are used by the United States military (called fox holes in the Army) to serve as immediate fall back positions in the case of airstrike, artillery strike, or unknown enemy assault. This should provide any passerby unlucky enough to be caught by a random airstrike or ISIS attack to have an immediate place of refuge until conditions become safer.
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The walls of the pit provide a person with protection from exploding debris, weapons shrapnel, or stray bullets in the event of a sudden fire-fight in the streets. It doesn't have to be very large because the dirt, sand, and rocks from the hole become the walls of the tiny makeshift fortification (which we call a burm, or parapet). When you cover them, say with a piece of metal or plywood, they become what is known as a Modified fallout shelter. This answer will teach you how to build these modified fallout shelters in the same manner in which the US military builds them and for, effectively, the same reason.
The following demonstration by a former Marine survival specialist demonstrates how to build a fighting hole better than I could in this answer. I've also dug up the military guide to creating them.
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That will teach you more than enough to get started. Here are also a few diagrams.
Immediate Fallout Shelter:
I don't mean to make it sound like these are more difficult to build than they appear. Three able adults should be able to build these pits in about an hour with no skill and a reasonable set of shovels.
I would advise, if it is safe to do so, that teams of Aleppo citizens should go out into the city and build these fighting holes with adequate pacing so that a person caught in a dangerous event can have a safety hole close by. I'll demonstrate with this image of what I believe to be a street in Aleppo.
About every thirty to fifty meters, there should be a hole in any sandy or dirt area. These men walking in the picture above could easily sprint to the nearest hole, whereas their only option now would be to run into one of those buildings you see, which may itself be a real danger of collapsing. If three adults could build these holes in an hour, then ten could build at least twenty in a day. Building twenty immediate safety shelters can provide a great deal of protection for a neighborhood, and with more people and more time, much more security for all the people of the city who are unlucky enough to be outside in the event of an attack.
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Inside the shelters, volunteers should place blankets. Blankets actually serve as very good protective devices in the event of falling debris. They won't stop you from getting crushed by large objects, but they can protect you from many thousands of tiny rocks and shards of glass flying through the air. Outside, there should be a large piece of either metal or plywood, large enough to absorb the impact of a destructive blast nearby, but small enough that you could move it over whoever is in the hole. Lastly, notice the picture above and all the bush and shrubs. All of this can be used to hide the hole and the large burm created by it. Use this as natural camouflage to prevent the hole from standing out. You want your people to know where the hole is, but you don't want bad people to be able to target them easily once they are inside.
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Having said this, a realization must made about the immediate safety shelter, they are built off fighting holes. In places where the Americans are bombing ISIS, the Russians are bombing the rebels, Assad's government is bombing both, and everybody involved is fighting everybody else... fighting holes are going to be used for fighting. Your people are going to need to discuss if they see doing something that will definitely help someone control your territory through force. If you wish the rebels to be those people, then this might be an important tool to help them win, while you plausibly remaining legal noncombatants by any real international law. That will protect you some from people like Assad or the Russians. If the bombs are landing as close as you're indicating, this will bring safety to a lot of your innocent people. It may, however, bring other dangers. It's important that that discussion is made before the digging starts.
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I want to redirect the conversation, though. Just as important as what you're asking for, in the terms of shelters, is what you're missing, namely warning. This lack of an early warning system is what worries me most for us. Shelter is one thing, but time saves many more lives than the strongest shelters. For that, I would advise that there is no better example than that posed by the British during World War II.
The Royal Air Force's subdivision known as the Royal observer corps set out to create an early warning system for German planes bombing the country during the Battle of Britain. The Royal observer corps were calling for volunteers to form aircraft spotters clubs throughout Britain to be called the National Association of spotters clubs. These spotter clubs were made of volunteer farmers, factory workers, preachers, homemakers, and even kids and the elderly. The effort was so successful that these clubs formed all over the island. Communication through telegraphs allowed these volunteers to communicate to targets across the UK almost instantaneously, and far faster than the planes they spotted.
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A playing card deck issued to British spotter clubs featuring various WWII planes.
The spotters were so enthusiastic at their jobs that old men and housewives taking shifts on a homemade radio networks were able to clearly identify the number, direction, and even recognize not just friend from foe, but name the exact planes which were flying towards allied cities and strategic locations. Their information and dedication was a valuable asset to the British Royal Air Force and were vital toward the defense of the nation prior to the end of the war.
Nowhere in the world right now, do you need that more. The Syrian people need an early warning system and, whoever is in charge, civilians are going to have to do the work. They are going to have to place themselves in places between key cities and the bases where these weapons are being launched. Spotters over Assad's bases may need to be on the phone every time they see a helicopter launch. Since planes move much faster than WWII, as well as much higher, networks may need to be maintained with people many, many miles away - between where Russian bombers and fighters are being launched, perhaps deep in Turkey.
The nature of flight today may mean that there is little more warning than very faint trails in the sky, or the sound of a plane flying above, but patterns could still be found that would provide your people with some form of advanced notice of a possible attack. Frankly, even though spotting isn't as easy as it was in WWII, it won't always require advanced radar if there is someone willing to wait, watch, and listen with a fully charged cell phone. That cell phone is a big asset to you, because you don't need the massive infrastructure that the United Kingdom had to provide for its people in WWII. All you need now, is knowledge and the willingness to organize. That said, I can guarantee you this, based on my understanding of insurgency warfare, both the rebels and the Islamic State are already doing this. It would be nice if eventually the Syrian civilian population could find a way to development a system that could provide some form of early warning.
Actually, the Brits have helped us again. Apparently, owing to their legacy of keeping their eyes to the skies, immediately after a Russian bomber entered the UK's area of interest, they were angered enough that the BBC put out a post educating the entire population on how to spot modern Russian planes a full 70 years after the spotter clubs made their first valuable contributions.
With this as a guide, I believe you at least have the beginnings of something worthwhile to give your people some extra time towards avoiding disaster. Honestly, it's a bigger problem than can be handled by a single neighborhood, but hopefully enough Syrians are willing to work together to do it.
Sadly, this isn't my first answer like this. Last year, a friend from the Ukraine reached out to know how to potentially defend himself from Russian assault. Together with other military vets, we compiled a list of tips to help the people of the Ukraine survive the Russian invasion that was happening around the time that question was asked. The advise on that question would be useful for your people to know.
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