Tag Archives: #situationalAwareness

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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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:

http://wallacespuds.com/category/uncategorized/ Stop, don’t get caught up. Distance yourself.
buy accutane online nz Think, develop a plan.
watch 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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