Category Archives: Situational Awareness

Urban Survival

In the United States, 80.7 percent of the population lives in an urban area, according to the 2010 census which is the latest census data available. Many of us would love to live on our own plot of a thousand acres, off grid and self sufficient or our own private island, but for most of us it’s just not a reality. When life gives you lemons, you can just be sour, or you can look at the bright side, take stock of your resources and make lemonade. If you are like me and although you would truly prefer to live on a mountaintop somewhere, but due to the circumstances you find yourself in, created by the choices you’ve made over your life thus far; your preference has to take a backseat to the realities and responsibilities of the life that you have created. Just because you work and live in an urban area, doesn’t mean you’re any more or less vulnerable than the person that lives on the mountain. highway

In the city you don’t normally have to worry about wolves or bears, but there is the potential of human predators that can cross your path. When living in the city there are two different times of concern: everyday life and life after TEOTWAWKI. Generally speaking in everyday life, minimizing your chance of becoming a victim can be done through situational awareness, attitude, and body language. One thing about living in or near the city; if you want to protect your family and prepare for any emergency, embracing technology is a necessity.

One night last May the wife and I were sitting in an upstairs room of our house that overlooks our driveway, watching a movie. The following morning, my wife got in her car to find out it had been burglarized! They didn’t take a whole lot, just a few CD’s, a box of .380 ammo and her garage door remote.home-security-cameras-480pix I zeroed out all the garage door codes and paired new remotes and installed a day/night vision HD security camera system. Lesson learned, no matter how nice the neighborhood, there is always the potential for theft. Another thing that I am in the process of doing is converting my home to a smart home system, utilizing the z-wave and zigby technologies as well as wifi. I have a hardwired security system but want the added flexibility of a wireless system.

Other basic steps for hardening your home against intruders:

Doors, make sure all your exterior doors are solid core and deadbolts go without saying. Take the screws out of the existing plates in your door jams and replace them with 3 inch screws, do the same with the hinges. The longer screws will go through the door jam and into the double studs inside the wall on each side of the door. If the hinges face outside replace them with hinges that the hinge pins are not removable. Consider installing a separate steel security door in addition to other external doors.

Windows, during normal life there isn’t much you can do except lock them and have window sensors and breaking glass detectors, unless you wantwindowBars to live with bars on your windows. However, you can precut plywood for each of your windows. In the event of a storm or an SHTF event you will have the plywood sheets cut and labeled; use 3-3 ½” hex head lag bolts with washers to bolt them to the studs and plates inside the wall around the window opening.

Security lights and motion sensors are a big deterrent for criminal activity. Turn on the lights floodlightsand the cockroaches run for cover. Inexpensive exterior lights can be purchased with motion sensors attached from most hardware stores.

Monitored security systems and their signs are also a huge deterrent. Actually it’s the signs that scare off the bad guys. Actually the average response time of police to a 911 call in the U.S. is 10 minutes, if they come at all to a house alarm. In cities like Los Angeles or Salt Lake police won’t respond to home alarms unless they have an eye witness like a private security company.

In an SHTF event, more often than not the best course of action is to shelter in place, unless like in the case of a storm or other emergency where burglarcompetent governmental agencies have called for an evacuation. If after such an event, a real and legitimate government has not been reestablished in the area, you may need to defend borders until such time as it has been reestablished. In that case, what you have or more accurately what people think you have can make you a target. In an urban area your greatest threat is the rest of the starving, sick and scared population.

Another thing about an urban area is the plethora of resources in a post TEOTWAWKI event. While there is game to hunt in the country, in the city and surrounding area there are rail yards, steel plants, lumber yards, warehouses, cold storage, dry storage and many other places, even national guard armories in a post apocalyptic world.

 

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Having FON Yet?

According to international law, all sea bordering countries are allowed to claim 12 miles off their coast as their sovereign water. Outside 12 miles from every country is considered international waters and can be used by any other country for any internationally legal use. With every rule there are always exceptions. One such exception is that if the sea lane is less than 12 miles wide and there is international water on either side of the sea lane, free travel must be allowed. There are other exceptions as well, but the primary one that I want to discuss is when a country tries to claim more than the 12 miles. This is pretty common because the 12 mile limit is supposed to follow the coastline, however sometimes a country will have a gulf that exists adjacent to their  country and although they’re only entitled to 12 miles off their coast they will claim the whole gulf. After a period of time, that country will then go to the United Nations and claim that since no other countries use that waterway, it should be internationally recognized as theirs.map In places where there are internationally contested waters the US Navy will periodically conduct Freedom Of Navigation (FON) operations. Where a ship will navigate through the contested waters and their movement will then be sent to the UN to prove that it is indeed not undisputed water and that other countries do use it. You may be thinking right now that it’s not their place, why doesn’t the US just mind their own business? Great question let me give you an example. Say Country B claims the whole gulf instead of just the 12 mile limit. If left undisputed, the fishermen from countries A and C couldn’t fish the very rich fisheries in the gulf which they should be able to do.

It’s all very interesting but, so what? Why am I bringing this up? Well its relevance is very simple. We, all must occasionally conduct FON Ops. I’m not talking about buying a boat and heading to some disputed water. I’m talking about exercising your rights sometimes just because you have the right to do it! I’m talking here about peaceful protest, speaking your mind and letting your voice be heard, carrying a gun if and when you can (NOT ILLEGALLY!),chl if the police want to look around your property or search your car, make them get a warrant. Look I’m not saying from now on lets all just be argumentative, I’m not saying that at all. Let me relate an experience that happened to me recently.

People that know me can attest that I’m a pretty big gun rights advocate, not that I’m an activist or anything. I just believe passionately in my Second Amendment rights, that it’s the 2nd that give the rest teeth, and if it goes away the others will follow. As I’ve stated before, I live in Texas and have had a Concealed Handgun License for years. For those of you that don’t know, as of January 1st 2016, anyone that possesses a CHL in Texas, can now carry an open handgun. In other words, handguns, if carried in a designated manner, no longer have to be concealed. I have a full sized 1911 .45 ACP that I have rarely carried because it’s so large that it’s difficult to carry concealed, but it’s also my favorite gun to shoot and the one that I am most accurate with. When the new law passed, I thought “I will finally get to carry my 1911” and occasionally I do, in a shoulder holster.shoulderholster Last week I was shopping in Costco warehouse near my home. I’ve been a member there for over 11 years and have been in there several times, open carrying since it was legal to do so. I was approached at the back of the store by what turned out to be a manager, who informed me that my gun was not allowed in Costco, I asked if it was because I was open carrying, because they didn’t have the required signage prohibiting it. He asserted that all guns were prohibited. To make a very long story short, I left with a refund of my membership fee and vowed I would never go back. I then appealed to the corporate office, hoping that it was just an antigun manager and that I could at least carry concealed in the store.  The response that I got from Costco corporate headquarters was actually more ridiculous than what I was told at the store. I was told that for the safety of Costco guests and staff no firearms were allowed on the premises. I say more ridiculous because most mass shootings happen in gun free zones, so by banning guns they’re actually increasing their risk factor. DS-mass-shootingsI have been asked by friends and associates why, I didn’t just leave and come back either without a gun or just carry concealed. The answer is this: to carry after I have been verbally notified that it is not allowed makes my doing so a crime; to not carry and continue to shop there, requires that I compromise my beliefs and in my eyes at least, put the lives of my family and myself at risk.

Folks, like I said earlier, I’m an advocate. I truly believe more guns make a society safer. To that end, I refuse to do business with companies that don’t allow some form of handgun carry. I understand property owners have rights too, if they don’t want people walking around their store with a hand cannon on their hip, I will still do business with them if they will allow me (and others) to carry concealed. If, like in the case of Costco, they ban all firearms from their store, I believe their policy is foolish and dangerous and I will spend my money elsewhere. Studies show that 32% of Americans own guns. If those gun owners stopped doing business with companies that are openly hostile to gun ownership, those companies profits would tumble to the point, they would necessarily be required to change their policies or go bankrupt.deathsUS

I’m merely using gun ownership as an example; there are many issues out there that people feel strongly about. Take a stand and stop supporting something that you disagree with by blindly going along. Before you start with, one person can’t make a difference, you’re right, one can’t, but it has to start somewhere and if everyone took a stand for what they believe in, then we will make a difference. This includes these Hollywood celebrities that use their popularity to further a cause. If they come out against something you’re passionate about, blacklist them. There are several stars that I won’t watch a movie just because they’re in it! And I’m a big movie fan! I have purchased over 500 movies.

Go out there and exercise your Freedom Of Navigation! Are you having FON yet?

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3 Minutes to Midnight

clock

It’s not an Iron Maiden song, what is it? Have you ever heard of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists? Yeah, it’s not a magazine I subscribe to either, but in a nutshell; it’s a group of atomic scientists and climate change scientists (not sure how they got in there, I guess they’re everywhere) that predict the total destruction of the world. They use this clock, the doomsday clock that counts down to midnight, where midnight is the destruction of civilization and the earth. Well in truth, it isn’t much of a clock. Since its inception in 1947 the farthest it has been from midnight is 23:43, sorry that’s 11:43 pm for those of you that don’t understand 24 hour time. The closest it has been was 2 minutes to midnight, in the height of the cold war between 1953 and 1960. Then it backed off quite a bit and it’s farthest point was 1991-95, but since 1998 it has dropped pretty hard and steady with a small uptick between 2010 and 2012 but dropped to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015 and at the end of January the group announced the clock would remain there for 2016.doomsday

So yeah, many global scientists have been beating the climate change drum for years… I truly don’t want to debate climate change! All I will say, is that if climate change is truly a threat, it will be 50 to 100 years before the climate is changed so significantly as to affect life as we know it. On the flip side of that coin, there is the atomic threat. There are many atomic/nuclear threats in the world, real or perceived that really do need to be addressed.

Beginning in the late 1990’s there began a general worldwide scare that Russian suitcase nukes or mini-nukes went missing after the fall of the Soviet Union. There was an Australian television documentary that claimed, out of 132 mini-nukes only 48 were accounted for. The question became, where were the rest? Hollywood released a series of movies based on the subject including Peacemaker and Bad Company, the television series, “24” ran for 9 seasons 2001-2010.suitcase_threat Many of the movies have claimed these nukes could take out an entire city, however in reality with a warhead measuring about 23 inches long and weighing about 70 pounds, would have a yield less than 1 kiloton, less than 1/10 the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. I don’t mean to minimize the threat of these nukes. They’re small, portable, and the perfect terror weapon! They may not level an entire city but would still kill millions!

In addition to the suitcase nukes, there are rogue nations pursuing their own nuclear weapon programs. North Korea has conducted 4 nuclear weapons tests in the past 10 years including one last month (January 2016). Don’t get me started on Secretary Kerry’s Iranian nuclear deal. In short, yes there is a very real nuclear threat out there.nudet However both Iran and North Korea are still in the infant or toddler stages of a nuclear weapons program. For them to develop a strike capable nuke, they’re still several years away unless maybe you are their neighbor. In the case of North Korea, they have to know that any nuclear aggressive action on their part toward any advanced nuclear country would result in the entire country of North Korea experiencing a heat wave, like a 100 million degree Celsius heat wave. Iran on the other hand, due to the fundamentalist nature of their leadership, may actually use a nuclear weapon, consequences to their own country be damned.

My question is, “does it warrant 3 minutes to midnight?” One minute farther away than the height of the cold war. Its 4 minutes closer than the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when many in the west thought nuclear war was imminent! We’re sitting at one minute closer than when NATO ran their “Able Archer” war game in Germany in 1983. So why is the threat of world destruction so close in 2015-16? I don’t think it’s the nuclear threat from rogue states since the real threat there is still perhaps 10 years away. The missing suitcase nukes, if indeed they do exist have been floating around out there for 30 years. True, we didn’t have the ISIS threat for the last 30 years, but we did have other brands of radical Islam. After all they did detonate a truck bomb under tower one of the world trade center in 1993 in an attempt to topple both towers. I don’t even think it is about climate change, with all due respect to the current President of the United States, climate change is not the number one threat to America! Since the earth’s climate is cyclic and has been warming and cooling for many millions of years, the fact that humans could cause, let alone prevent global climate fluctuation is arrogant at a minimum.nuclear-winter

There is definitely the ability for the nations of the world to engage in a thermonuclear war, the fallout from which could block out the sun and throw the globe into a nuclear winter, because the weapons do exist. However please forgive my skeptical cynicism, but I think the “Doomsday Clock” is a way, for a group of scientists that have not had a meaningful scientific contribution to the world in years, to bring some global attention to their group and attempt to promote funding for their research. I find it highly doubtful we are closer to a nuclear or any other type global disaster than we were during most of the cold war.

 

 

 

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What’s the plan?

How-to-Develop-a-Business-Plan-in-Six-Easy-Steps

So if you’ve read any of the other posts on this blog, you know that I’m a big advocate of planning. For example, last week we talked about situational awareness and the OODA Loop. I won’t rehash the OODA Loop but the general premise is, whoever completes the loop first has tactical advantage of the situation. In New Year, Fresh Look, I talk about having a plan, a backup plan, a contingency plan, and an emergency plan. Through planning we set ourselves up to have a head start in the OODA Loop, through plan redundancy we minimize the risk that when we do get hit, we’re caught flat footed, and then we have a plan for that too.

“Well where do I start?” you may ask. First, let’s start with developing your own personal threat matrix. riskSignBasically, what do you see as the primary threats to your/your family’s safety and security? Earthquake? Tornado? Martial law? Alien invasion? Zombie apocalypse?  Joking aside, only you can establish your realistic threat priorities. Your planning is only as good as your imagination and your ability to foresee your true threat priorities. If you set your priority on planning for an event that although, if it occurred would be devastating, the odds of occurrence are astronomical, then you’re setting yourself up to take that hit. So, if you live in California and spend more time planning for alien invasion, than for earthquake, maybe your threat matrix isn’t… realistic. Look honestly, do I think you should prepare for an alien invasion and a zombie apocalypse? Why not? The US Government and CDC have plans in place; I just don’t think they should be a priority.

“How do I prioritize my threat matrix?” In my opinion, you should have the most detailed plans on the threats that are the most imminent. If you are a 5 foot tall, female emergency trauma nurse that commutes alone on the subway in New York City at 3 am, six days each week, maybe a can of pepper spray and a Krav Maga class should be in your future, more so than the plans for a nuclear fallout shelter.preparedsmallsmall There is nothing wrong with planning for a nuclear strike, little green men, or a virus that reanimates the dead, but develop those plans after you are sufficiently prepared for all the threats that impact you daily.

Let’s start with lifestyle… Identify the risks you face every day. Develop a plan to mitigate those risks, and then look for weak points in your primary plan, things that could go wrong and develop a backup plan. Now come up with contingencies for your backup and finally if sh!t goes south and everything goes wrong, have an emergency plan! Do this for all the risks you can identify based on what you do, where you go, frequent and infrequent activities and the people that go along with them.storm2_2865528b In addition to lifestyle, identify the risks you face geographically. How common are storms, earthquakes, volcanic activity? What is the local population and will the geography support them in a catastrophic event?

As we peel back the layers of this onion and consider all the different possible scenarios, it’s easy to see how mind boggling the planning can be. When planning use the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid! The more complex the plan, the more that can go wrong, so keep it simple! Even with all of our planning, there will be events that we don’t foresee. That is why situational awareness is so important.

Be your own boss, you are responsible for you. The chances are that if you’re reading this, you read other survival material as well and you are accumulating knowledge, so trust your instincts. During the 9/11 tragedy many lives were lost that could have been prevented, because people were told “the building is fine” and “stay put unless authorities tell you to leave”. sheepYou are responsible for yourself and your family; use your common sense, listen to your gut and take the appropriate action. Whatever you do, don’t follow the crowd! People are like water, they take the path of least resistance, usually that is the wrong path to take. According to psychcentral, there is a new study that shows it only takes a minority of 5% to influence the crowd, 95% will follow without even realizing it. The study was conducted by scientists at the University of Leeds and shows humans flock like birds or sheep while in a crowd. If you’re in a crowd during an emergency think of the acronym STOP:

watch Stop, don’t get caught up. Distance yourself.
http://gutfeelingszine.com/the-batmobile-breakfast-and-the-ocean/ Think, develop a plan.
http://mykrumlov.com/jakub-restaurant/?share=facebook Orient, take stock of your surroundings.
Perform, take deliberate action.

Good luck with your plans! See you next week…

Other resources:

CDC Emergency Action Plan Template
OSHA EAP Checklist
National Fire Prevention Association EAP Guidelines
Ready.gov

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Head on a Swivel

PayAttentionAfter a survival mentality, what is the one skill a person can possess that will save their life? There are many important skills, many that will improve your chances of continued survival, but the most critical is situational awareness. What is situational awareness? There is more to this than simply paying attention to one’s surroundings.

Due to our being born and raised in a civilized society for hundreds of years, most humans have had many of their natural instincts bred out of them. In a world of smart phones, tablets, personal computers, internet, email, text messages, social media and the 24 hour availability of hand-held electronic entertainment, it is far too easy to be sucked into that device and become oblivious to the world around us.situational-awareness We can however, with effort and training get those instincts back. We need to retrain ourselves to use all of our senses, when analyzing our surroundings. Am I saying trash the smartphone, move to the Klondike and live off the grid? If that’s the lifestyle you desire then knock yourself out, but it’s not at all what I’m suggesting, nor is it a conceivable reality for most people. Most of us still have a 9-5 (or in my case a work when the phone rings) that we depend on to pay the mortgage, bring home the groceries and put braces on the kids! What I’m suggesting is master the technology, don’t become its servant.

At home, in your environment you can be totally relaxed, watch movies, listen to headphones and be blissfully unaware of your surroundings, but when you walk out that door you should go to relaxed alert. You should put the cell phone in the purse or pocket, have your eyes and ears (and nose) open and functioning. If you don’t have a good feeling about something or someone listen to your instincts. It’s that primal part of your brain waking back up and warning you that danger could be ahead.

Because your brain can only process so much information and there’s little chance that it possesses the capability to be aware of every person or situation in your environment, you need to take some shortcuts.brain In your daily life establish a normalcy baseline for your environment, and then analyze anything or anyone that falls outside your baseline. For example, if you’re in Aurora Colorado walking to a Starbucks on a snowy January morning and if you see a woman in a tank top sitting beside the road, that is someone that deserves a second look. Now this woman may not be an obvious threat, but there is a story here and that story is what we want to figure out. If she’s muttering to herself and has blood on her clothes, we may want to keep clear and notify the authorities. However maybe she just got out of her car to get coffee and locked her keys in her car and is upset at herself for doing so and she just needs to use a cell phone to call a locksmith. Similarly a guy in tactical dress with a bulky jacket on an August afternoon in Manhattan is also outside any normal baseline.

When you observe people around you look at their eyes, the old saying, “the eyes are the window to the soul” is true. If you’ve been in combat or know people that have you’re probably familiar with the “thousand yard stare” when you see it, that is a person that is alone within and attempts to make contact may be met with hostility. This is a person you want to keep at a distance. Likewise squinting of the eyes narrows your vision and increases your depth perception and is a classic attack stare.Mugger-and-Woman

Similarly according to Psychology Today criminals frequently pick their victims based on body language. A person that is aware of their surroundings, walks like they have a purpose and meets the gaze of other people is far less likely to be targeted than someone who is distracted, disengaged or fearful. In other words, shuffling down the sidewalk, with ear buds in your ears checking Facebook or your Twitter feed makes you a prime target for criminals no matter what sex or age you are!

We’ve talked about what situational awareness is, but why is it important? How is it beneficial? As we have discussed having situational awareness is the practice of using your senses to establish and be aware of baselines of appearance and behavior in your surroundings. Once those baselines have been established we note behavior outside the baseline and interpret those anomalies using an OODA Loop.

The OODA Loop is a decision making loop developed by USAF Col. John Boyd who was a military strategist and pilot. OODA is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decision, and Action. Boyd’s theory was that the person that completed the loop first had the tactical advantage. The loop then continues based on the new observations of the actions taken. So utilizing the OODA Loop, if you are constantly observing and orienting your surroundings, you will not only see a threat before it becomes a threat, but will know possible escape routes, barricades or hindering terrain to avoid and/or exploit, allowing for immediate decision and action because you will already have a head start in the OODA Loop.OODA_Boyd_svg

As you go through your daily activities and begin to practice your situational awareness, often you will observe the sheep of society with their heads and attentions absorbed in their electronic devices. You will see families or people at restaurants that although they are sitting together each has their attention focused on their personal device. So much so, in fact, many places this will become a normalcy baseline in your environment.

Although I have talked about setting a normalcy baseline, this is much different than a person’s normalcy bias. A normalcy bias is a person’s attempt to fit some outside behavior into what’s normal.normalcy-bias-wwz-800x510 Many times when you hear eye-witness accounts of shootings, people often times describe what they thought were firecrackers. That is the persons attempt to fit gun shots (a very abnormal thing) into what is normal so they don’t have to deal with this new and uncomfortable situation. By setting a normalcy baseline, it allows us to observe and act on anything that is outside the baseline, what is not normal, it doesn’t try to fit anomalies into our baseline. So a normalcy baseline allows us to notice things that are not normal and can save your life, while a normalcy bias is the minds tendency to rationalize abnormal things as normal and can get you killed!

 

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