Archive for March, 2011

A Primer on Situational Awareness

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I thought it this article was a great compliment to a previous article I wrote entitled, The Color Code of Awareness: Developing a Combat Mindset. It’s a long one so be sure you’ve got time to sit down and digest it properly because it’s packed with some great information.

The following article, A Primer on Situational Awareness is republished with permission of STRATFOR. (STRATFOR — officially known as Strategic Forcasting Inc. — is a private global-intelligence company that provides excellent analysis of foreign and domestic intelligence and which I highly recommend).

The world is a wonderful place, but it can also be a dangerous one. In almost every corner of the globe militants of some political persuasion are plotting terror attacks — and these attacks can happen in London or New York, not just in Peshawar or Baghdad. Meanwhile, criminals operate wherever there are people, seeking to steal, rape, kidnap or kill.

Regardless of the threat, it is very important to recognize that criminal and terrorist attacks do not materialize out of thin air. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Criminals and terrorists follow a process when planning their actions, and this process has several distinct steps. This process has traditionally been referred to as the “terrorist attack cycle,” but if one looks at the issue thoughtfully, it becomes apparent that the same steps apply to nearly all crimes. Of course, there will be more time between steps in a complex crime like a kidnapping or car bombing than there will be between steps in a simple crime such as purse-snatching or shoplifting, where the steps can be completed quite rapidly. Nevertheless, the same steps are usually followed.

People who practice situational awareness can often spot this planning process as it unfolds and then take appropriate steps to avoid the dangerous situation or prevent it from happening altogether. Because of this, situational awareness is one of the key building blocks of effective personal security — and when exercised by large numbers of people, it can also be an important facet of national security. Since situational awareness is so important, and because we discuss situational awareness so frequently in our analyses, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the subject in detail and provide a primer that can be used by people in all sorts of situations.

Foundations

First and foremost, it needs to be noted that being aware of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations is more of a mindset than a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not something that can be practiced only by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security countersurveillance teams. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so.

An important element of the proper mindset is to first recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat — or completely tuning out one’s surroundings while in a public place — makes a person’s chances of quickly recognizing the threat and avoiding it slim to none. This is why apathy, denial and complacency can be (and often are) deadly. A second important element is understanding the need to take responsibility for one’s own security. The resources of any government are finite and the authorities simply cannot be everywhere and cannot stop every criminal action. The same principle applies to private security at businesses or other institutions, like places of worship. Therefore, people need to look out for themselves and their neighbors.

Another important facet of this mindset is learning to trust your “gut” or intuition. Many times a person’s subconscious can notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. Many people who are victimized frequently experience such feelings of danger prior to an incident, but choose to ignore them. Even a potentially threatening person not making an immediate move — or even if the person wanders off quickly after a moment of eye contact — does not mean there was no threat.

Levels of Awareness

People typically operate on five distinct levels of awareness. There are many ways to describe these levels (“Cooper’s colors,” for example, which is a system frequently used in law enforcement and military training), but perhaps the most effective way to illustrate the differences between the levels is to compare them to the different degrees of attention we practice while driving. For our purposes here we will refer to the five levels as “tuned out;” “relaxed awareness;” “focused awareness;” “high alert” and “comatose.”

The first level, tuned out, is like when you are driving in a very familiar environment or are engrossed in thought, a daydream, a song on the radio or even by the kids fighting in the backseat. Increasingly, cell phone calls and texting are also causing people to tune out while they drive. Have you ever gotten into the car and arrived somewhere without even really thinking about your drive there? If so, then you’ve experienced being tuned out.

The second level of awareness, relaxed awareness, is like defensive driving. This is a state in which you are relaxed but you are also watching the other cars on the road and are looking well ahead for potential road hazards. If another driver looks like he may not stop at the intersection ahead, you tap your brakes to slow your car in case he does not. Defensive driving does not make you weary, and you can drive this way for a long time if you have the discipline to keep yourself at this level, but it is very easy to slip into tuned-out mode. If you are practicing defensive driving you can still enjoy the trip, look at the scenery and listen to the radio, but you cannot allow yourself to get so engrossed in those distractions that they exclude everything else. You are relaxed and enjoying your drive, but you are still watching for road hazards, maintaining a safe following distance and keeping an eye on the behavior of the drivers around you.

The next level of awareness, focused awareness, is like driving in hazardous road conditions. You need to practice this level of awareness when you are driving on icy or slushy roads — or the roads infested with potholes and erratic drivers that exist in many third-world countries. When you are driving in such an environment, you need to keep two hands on the wheel at all times and have your attention totally focused on the road and the other drivers. You don’t dare take your eyes off the road or let your attention wander. There is no time for cell phone calls or other distractions. The level of concentration required for this type of driving makes it extremely tiring and stressful. A drive that you normally would not think twice about will totally exhaust you under these conditions because it demands your prolonged and total concentration.

The fourth level of awareness is high alert. This is the level that induces an adrenaline rush, a prayer and a gasp for air all at the same time — “Watch out! There’s a deer in the road! Hit the brakes!” This also happens when that car you are watching doesn’t stop at the stop sign and pulls out right in front of you. High alert can be scary, but at this level you are still able to function. You can hit your brakes and keep your car under control. In fact, the adrenalin rush you get at this stage can sometimes even aid your reflexes. But, the human body can tolerate only short periods of high alert before becoming physically and mentally exhausted.

The last level of awareness, comatose, is what happens when you literally freeze at the wheel and cannot respond to stimuli, either because you have fallen asleep, or, at the other end of the spectrum, because you are petrified from panic. It is this panic-induced paralysis that concerns us most in relation to situational awareness. The comatose level of awareness (or perhaps more accurately, lack of awareness) is where you go into shock, your brain ceases to process information and you simply cannot react to the reality of the situation. Many times when this happens, a person can go into denial, believing that “this can’t be happening to me,” or the person can feel as though he or she is observing, rather than actually participating in, the event. Often, the passage of time will seem to grind to a halt. Crime victims frequently report experiencing this sensation and being unable to act during an unfolding crime.

Finding the Right Level

Now that we’ve discussed the different levels of awareness, let’s focus on identifying what level is ideal at a given time. The body and mind both require rest, so we have to spend several hours each day at the comatose level while asleep. When we are sitting at our homes watching a movie or reading a book, it is perfectly fine to operate in the tuned-out mode. However, some people will attempt to maintain the tuned-out mode in decidedly inappropriate environments (e.g., when they are out on the street at night in a third-world barrio), or they will maintain a mindset wherein they deny that they can be victimized by criminals. “That couldn’t happen to me, so there’s no need to watch for it.” They are tuned out.

Some people are so tuned out as they go through life that they miss even blatant signs of pending criminal activity directed specifically at them. In 1992, an American executive living in the Philippines was kidnapped by a Marxist kidnapping gang in Manila known as the “Red Scorpion Group.” When the man was debriefed following his rescue, he described in detail how the kidnappers had blocked off his car in traffic and abducted him. Then, to the surprise of the debriefing team, he said that on the day before he was abducted, the same group of guys had attempted to kidnap him at the exact same location, at the very same time of day and driving the same vehicle. The attackers had failed to adequately box his car in, however, and his driver was able to pull around the blocking vehicle and proceed to the office.

Since the executive did not consider himself to be a kidnapping target, he had just assumed that the incident the day before his abduction was “just another close call in crazy Manila traffic.” The executive and his driver had both been tuned out. Unfortunately, the executive paid for this lack of situational awareness by having to withstand an extremely traumatic kidnapping, which included almost being killed in the dramatic Philippine National Police operation that rescued him.

If you are tuned out while you are driving and something happens — say, a child runs out into the road or a car stops quickly in front of you — you will not see the problem coming. This usually means that you either do not see the hazard in time to avoid it and you hit it, or you totally panic and cannot react to it — neither is good. These reactions (or lack of reaction) occur because it is very difficult to change mental states quickly, especially when the adjustment requires moving several steps, say, from tuned out to high alert. It is like trying to shift your car directly from first gear into fifth and it shudders and stalls. Many times, when people are forced to make this mental jump and they panic (and stall), they go into shock and will actually freeze and be unable to take any action — they go comatose. This happens not only when driving but also when a criminal catches someone totally unaware and unprepared. While training does help people move up and down the alertness continuum, it is difficult for even highly trained individuals to transition from tuned out to high alert. This is why police officers, federal agents and military personnel receive so much training on situational awareness.

It is critical to stress here that situational awareness does not mean being paranoid or obsessively concerned about your security. It does not mean living with the irrational expectation that there is a dangerous criminal lurking behind every bush. In fact, people simply cannot operate in a state of focused awareness for extended periods, and high alert can be maintained only for very brief periods before exhaustion sets in. The “flight or fight” response can be very helpful if it can be controlled. When it gets out of control, however, a constant stream of adrenaline and stress is simply not healthy for the body or the mind. When people are constantly paranoid, they become mentally and physically burned out. Not only is this dangerous to physical and mental health, but security also suffers because it is very hard to be aware of your surroundings when you are a complete basket case. Therefore, operating constantly in a state of high alert is not the answer, nor is operating for prolonged periods in a state of focused alert, which can also be overly demanding and completely enervating. This is the process that results in alert fatigue. The human body was simply not designed to operate under constant stress. People (even highly skilled operators) require time to rest and recover.

Because of this, the basic level of situational awareness that should be practiced most of the time is relaxed awareness, a state of mind that can be maintained indefinitely without all the stress and fatigue associated with focused awareness or high alert. Relaxed awareness is not tiring, and it allows you to enjoy life while rewarding you with an effective level of personal security. When you are in an area where there is potential danger (which, by definition, is almost anywhere), you should go through most of your day in a state of relaxed awareness. Then if you spot something out of the ordinary that could be a potential threat, you can “dial yourself up” to a state of focused awareness and take a careful look at that potential threat (and also look for others in the area).

If the potential threat proves innocuous, or is simply a false alarm, you can dial yourself back down into relaxed awareness and continue on your merry way. If, on the other hand, you look and determine that the potential threat is a probable threat, seeing it in advance allows you to take actions to avoid it. You may never need to elevate to high alert, since you have avoided the problem at an early stage. However, once you are in a state of focused awareness you are far better prepared to handle the jump to high alert if the threat does change from potential to actual — if the three guys lurking on the corner do start coming toward you and look as if they are reaching for weapons. The chances of you going comatose are far less if you jump from focused awareness to high alert than if you are caught by surprise and “forced” to go into high alert from tuned out. An illustration of this would be the difference between a car making a sudden stop in front of a person when the driver is practicing defensive driving, compared to a car that makes a sudden stop in front of a person when the driver is sending a text message.

Of course, if you know that you must go into an area that is very dangerous, you should dial yourself up to focused awareness when you are in that area. For example, if there is a specific section of highway where a lot of improvised explosive devices detonate and ambushes occur, or if there is a part of a city that is controlled (and patrolled) by criminal gangs — and you cannot avoid these danger areas for whatever reason — it would be prudent to heighten your level of awareness when you are in those areas. An increased level of awareness is also prudent when engaging in common or everyday tasks, such as visiting an ATM or walking to the car in a dark parking lot. The seemingly trivial nature of these common tasks can make it all too easy to go on “autopilot” and thus expose yourself to threats. When the time of potential danger has passed, you can then go back to a state of relaxed awareness.

This process also demonstrates the importance of being familiar with your environment and the dangers that are present there. Such awareness allows you to avoid many threats and to be on the alert when you must venture into a dangerous area.

Clearly, few of us are living in the type of intense threat environment currently found in places like Mogadishu, Juarez or Kandahar. Nonetheless, average citizens all over the world face many different kinds of threats on a daily basis — from common thieves and assailants to criminals and mentally disturbed individuals aiming to conduct violent acts to militants wanting to carry out large-scale attacks against subways and aircraft.

Many of the steps required to conduct these attacks must be accomplished in a manner that makes the actions visible to the potential victim and outside observers. It is at these junctures that people practicing situational awareness can detect these attack steps, avoid the danger and alert the authorities. When people practice situational awareness they not only can keep themselves safer but they can also help keep others safe. And when groups of people practice situational awareness together they can help keep their schools, houses of worship, workplaces and cities safe from danger.

And as we’ve discussed many times before, as the terrorist threat continues to devolve into one almost as diffuse as the criminal threat, ordinary citizens are also becoming an increasingly important national security resource.

How to Dehydrate Foods without a Dehydrator

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Dehydrating foods is one of the oldest long-term food preservation methods known to man. If you think about it, it must have been exciting for early man to discover that small pieces of raw meat, fruit, and vegetables — when left outside in the sun or wind — did not go bad but were actually preserved for quite a long time and retained much of it’s original flavor.

Since those early beginnings, technology may have changed how we dry foods but the principles behind process has not. In this article I want to share some methods of dehydrating foods that don’t require the need of a store-bought dehydrator.

Alternate Dehydrating Methods

Most everything that we eat contains some amount of moisture; and it is this moisture that causes food to go bad. Dehydrating is nothing more than removing water from food which inhibits decay and the growth of microorganisms. If you can remove the moisture from foods than you can extend their storage life way beyond their normal shelf life.

Here are some methods that you can use which don’t require the use of a dehydrator. These obviously aren’t the only methods (they are just the ways I like to do it).

The Sun

Place food on or between two screens (window screens work just fine) and place outside on a sunny day. It does not have to be necessarily warm outside (you can do this in the winter). Just be sure that it is not wet outside as this will defeat the purpose of drying.

An Oven

I would not recommend this method of drying if you have an electric oven (it’s too expensive). Here’s the process:

Set your oven temperature to very low (140 degrees F) and leave the fruit or vegetables in the oven until completely dry and nearly crisp (between 4 and 12 hours). It may be necessary to turn the cookie sheet(s) around in ovens with uneven heat distribution.

Fire Drying

This method is best used for drying meats. Basically you’ll want to hang strips of meat on a rack and place these in front of a fire. Vegetables and fruits can be placed on the ground near the fire, however be sure that you are protecting the food from nearby critters.

Wind Drying

Form a bag out of some netting (or use an existing netted bag) and place the food inside it. This is then hung from a clothes line or tree branch outside. This method also works inside the house in front of a fan.

A Word of Caution about Home-made Jerky

Even though I’ve been making jerky outside for many years now without issue, I need to caution you that the USDA does not recommend drying meats at home. Given that in a survival/major-collapse type of situation, normal medical facilities may not be available, food-borne illnesses like Salmonella are a very real issue and it may be a good idea to follow their recommendations.

This warning also applies to many store-bought dehydrators. Since many of these can only heat up to 140 °F, it will not reach a high-enough temperature to kill the microorganisms. Here are the current recommendations per the usda.gov:

[The USDA’s] current recommendation for making jerky safely is to heat meat to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F before the dehydrating process. This step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed by wet heat. But most dehydrator instructions do not include this step, and a dehydrator may not reach temperatures high enough to heat meat to 160 °F.

After heating, maintaining a constant dehydrator temperature of 130 to 140 °F during the drying process is important because:

  • the process must be fast enough to dry food before it spoils; and
  • it must remove enough water that microorganisms are unable to grow

Dryness Test Guidelines

Here are some guidelines on how to know if your dehydrated food is sufficiently dry.
Source: BackWoodsHome.com

GUIDELINES FOR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Food Preparation Dryness test
Apples, pears, peaches Wash, core, and peel. Cut into 1/4″ slices or rings Leathery with no moisture when cut
Apricots, plums Wash, halve and pit.
“Pop” backs.
Leathery and pliable No moisture when cut
Bananas, rhubarb Peel, slice in thin rounds Brittle
Berries Sort, wash, and remove stems. Brittle and hard
Cherries, grapes Sort and wash. Pit cherries. Slightly sticky, like raisins
Asparagus tips Wash, blanch 3 minutes. Leathery to brittle
Beans, cabbage, peppers Wash, chop into small pieces. Blanch 4 minutes Brittle
Broccoli, cauliflower Wash, trim, and chop. Blanch 3 minutes. Brittle
Carrots Wash, cut into slices. Blanch 3 minutes. Dry and brittle
Corn Husk, trim, cut off cob. Dry and brittle
Mushrooms Wash, sort, and slice 1/4″ thick. Dry and brittle
Onions Remove outer skin, then chop. Brittle
Peas Shell and sort. Blanch 3 min. Brittle
Squash, zucchini Wash, peel, remove seeds. Blanch 2 minutes. Leathery and tough
Tomatoes Scald, chill, and peel. Slice into quarters. Leathery and tough

Slatt's Rescue Belt: Part 2

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

After writing the post on How to Make a Slatts Rescue Belt, I’ve had a number of requests come in for instructions on how to start the Slatt’s Rescue Belt knot on a belt buckle. So I thought I’d take some time in this post to explain/show how that’s done.

Since it’s kind of difficult to see the details of the paracord, I mixed it up a bit showing examples of the process with some thicker rope attached to a handle (to represent the belt buckle). Hopefully those images will help you see the process a little better.

How to Start a Slatt’s Rescue Belt on a Belt Buckle

Step 1: The first thing I do to get the slatts-rescue-belt knot started on a belt buckle is to put a thick marker (or any marker-shaped object) above the buckle.
Step 2: Then, I begin to wrap the paracord around both the buckle and the marker. I continue the looping process until I’ve reach six loops around both the marker and the buckle. Notice that there is a length of paracord trailing at the beginning of the loops. This will later be tied off and burned so that it doesn’t come undone. It helps — at least initially — to tie this off to something stable (not visible in the photo).
Step 3: After the six loops have been created, pull the marker out until you are left with just the six open loops.
Step 4: (So that you guys can see this better, I’ll switch views to the large rope and saw handle). With the six loops open and leaving a gab between the paracord and the buckle (again, in this case a handle), tunnel a bight (a loop) through all six loops until the first loop peeks out through the end.
Step 5: From in-between each of the six loops, begin to pull the standing part of the rope (the source of rope that you fed into the six loops) out until it forms the second small loop.
Step 6: Continue with the third loop (as shown in the photo) and onward until there are six loops.
Step 7: As in step 4, tunnel a bight through all six loops that were created in the previous step.
Step 8: Repeat steps 5 through 7 again.
Step 9: Continue the steps above and watch your belt grow!

A Note on Finishing

When you’ve reached your desired length you will have trailing cords at both the beginning and the end. To get rid of these, what I like to do is weave them back into the belt and when there’s only a small piece extruding, I’ll melt this piece down with a lighter and flatten the melted tip into the belt.

Hope this helps! Be sure to comment with any questions you may have.

Get-Home Bag

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Imagine this, you’re 40 miles from home doing some errands in the city and the Big One has just hit. It cripples communication and power lines, halts public transportation, and has just left your car buried under a heaping pile of concrete. With the power down, your bug-out bag stuck in the car, and some of the zombies coming out to take advantage of the situation, your family is depending on you to get home NOW. But there’s just one thing…

Do you have the resources to make the trek back home by foot? Or are you going to remain where you are, hoping for the government to come help you and possibly risking an attack by looters or worse? This is where you need your Get-Home Bag.

What is a Get Home Bag?

The purpose of a Get-Home Bag is to get you to your home or to some other shelter-in location safely and as quickly as possible.

A Get-Home Bag is different than a Bug-Out Bag in that it is designed to be carried with you at all times (or at least readily accessible) any time you’re away from home. While a typical Bug-Out Bag is stocked full of items to support you for at least 3 days, a Get-Home Bag should contain the minimal amount of items to support you in getting home within a 24-hour period.

What Type of Bag Should I Choose?

If you are caught in a situation where looting and other forms of lawlessness is breaking out (remember Katrina), the last thing you want to do is stand out from the crowd. It’s at those times that you want to be the Gray Man and fade into the background.

If your Get-Home Bag screams “tactical” or looks like you’re carrying a load of preps, you could be a target. For that reason, the main thing you want to ensure is that the bag is discreet.

If you’re female, you’ve already got it made. A purse is discreet but also the larger handbags are often seen being carried by women so not only do they blend in well but they can carry a bunch of stuff.

For you guys, a simple messenger bag works wonders. Especially in the cities, messenger bags are seen being carried by guys more and more so they blend in real well.

I carry 5.11’s PUSH Pack everywhere I go. It’s not overly tactical looking, it has a small footprint (it looks like a camera bag) with multiple compartments and has strategically placed MOLLE webbing so that it can carry a bunch of stuff for its size. Since half the time mine has a baby bottle in one of the outside water-bottle compartments, it looks like a glorified diaper bag — perfect for blending in.

If you can’t deal with the Man Purses, go for a standard back pack. Just be sure not to abuse its size with a crap load of gear. Keep it under 15 pounds. Anything over that and you’ll soon give up carrying it around on a day-to-day basis.

In most cases, try to stay away from the Alice Pack or MOLLE Pack type of look. If it’s overly military looking or you have a bunch of MOLLE webbing with all sorts of gear riding on it, you’ll attract undesired attention since it looks like you’ve got a bunch of supplies on you (and they’d be right).

Just keep it simple and go for what blends.

What Should Your Get-Home Bag Contain?

What you pack in your Get-Home Bag is obviously dictated by personal preference and what your needs are. However, if you’re unsure as how to organize it, perhaps I can share what I carry in my Get-Home Bag and hopefully it’ll give you some ideas on how best to organize yours.

As with all my preparations, they are organized into what I call the 5 Pillars of Survival: personal security, shelter, water, fire, and food.

pers_sec

Personal Security

The Personal Security portion of your Get-Home Bag has to do with those items which will keep you safe and keep you alive (in the case of injury).

If you have the option to carry a concealed firearm in your state and you are comfortable with that, by all means I would recommend that. Otherwise, if it’s not an option, you can carry a knife, pepper spray, stun gun or any other item that can protect you from animals of both the 4-legged and 2-legged-walking-upright variety.

Here’s what my GHB contains:

  • Glock 22 with 15 rounds of hollow-point 40 caliber ammunition
  • Benchmade RSK MK1 folding knife (this, I clip to my pants)
  • stripped-down version of my trauma kit containing: Quick-Clot (combat gauze), Israeli bandage, pain-killers and nitrile gloves

shelter

Shelter

The Shelter portion of your Get-Home Bag includes those items that protect you from the elements. Since you will most likely not be carrying a tent around with you at all times of the day, your limited with regards to size and weight.

My GHB contains one of the simplest and lightest shelters available: a space blanket. These ingenious devices are waterproof, windproof, and can reflect up to 97% of the radiated heat your body throws off. The down side is, since they are so reflective they aren’t very discreet.

If you are worried about being observed, then you’ll want to be sure to cover up the space blanket some how. Or if you can afford the space in you GHB, the military has a field version of a space blanket (often called a “Casualty Blanket“). The casualty blanket is olive drab on the outside so it’s a bit more discreet. It also provides greater durability and warmth than a basic space blanket, but at the cost of greater bulk and weight.

Unfortunately my GHB can’t afford to give up that space, so for now — until something better comes along — I’m stuck with a standard space blanket. (Update: 9/15/11 – I was able to find an olive drab space blanket here)

water

Water

The Water portion of your Get-Home Bag includes water itself or those items that allow you to hold, filter, and purify water.

If you were forced into a 24-hour trek back home, dehydration will quickly become a very real issue. That’s why it’s so important that you have either water on you or some means of getting and purifying it. The benefit of living in New England is water is always a stone’s throw away, however it may not always be the cleanest. For this reason I carry the following:

  • small hydration bladder
  • iodine crystals (Polar Pure) for purifying
  • bandanna (for sediment filtering and many other purposes)

If you live in a more arid environment, consider carrying at least a small water bottle along with you.

fire

Fire

The Fire portion of your Get-Home Bag includes those items that you need to reliably start a fire.

I wouldn’t recommend packing some obscure “cool” fire-making implement like a battery and steel wool or a fire piston. Remember, this isn’t about impressing your friends but about survival. Instead, pack something you know you’ll be able to start a fire with (especially in wet conditions) like a lighter or waterproof matches.

Remember, redundancy is a good thing so pack in a firesteel and some Vaseline-coated cotton balls while your at it. These implements hardly take up any space so if you can carry more than one option, by all means go for it.

Here’s what’s in mine:

  • lighter
  • matches
  • firesteel and Vaseline coated cotton balls

food

Food

The Food portion of your Get-Home Bag includes enough food to carry you through a 24-hour period.

Food is the last on the list of importance in a survival situation (in this case, getting home). You can actually go for quite a bit without food (~ 3 weeks) however, in a high-stress situation liking humping it though a disaster area, you’ll be burning up calories like crazy so having something on hand will give you that needed boost.

For the food part of your Get-Home Bag you’ll want to avoid any high-water-content containing foods like canned goods or fresh foods. Instead pack some simple, dense, calorie-rich foods that save space and take no extra preparation beyond tearing open a wrapper. Dehydrated foods and dense candy bars are more along the lines of what you want.

For my bag I carry four 400-calorie emergency bars. It’s not gourmet but it will carry me through until I get home.

Beyond the Essentials

The elements of your GHB that make up the each of the five Pillars of Survival above should be the minimum required to get you home, but if your bag still has some room in it, may I suggest a few more things which can greatly aid you in the getting-home process.

What I Currently Have in My Bag

Beyond the basic items listed above, here are the other items I am currently carrying:

  • Maps: I carry foldable topo maps (homemade from MyTopo via Google Maps) of my area. This encompasses where I work, my home, and the areas in-between. This way, I can figure out how best to navigate around potentially unsafe or inaccessible areas.
  • GPS: This would be my primary means of navigation if satellite coverage is available.
  • A compass: Since I have experience and training in orienteering (navigating by compass), I carry a small compass that can provide a back-up in case my GPS were to go down (via EMP or otherwise):
  • Survival Knife: I carry a Bark River Bravo 1.
  • Paracord: Too many reasons to list here.
  • Lock-Pick and Bump-Key set: You never know what types of buildings you may need to get into or through in your attempts to get out of an area or into a safer shelter-in location.
  • Surefire E2D LED flashlight: Flashlights not only light the way in darkened areas but provide a tactical advantage.
  • Leatherman Wave multi-tool: The name speaks for itself.

What I would like to carry if I had the room

Given my current configuration, here are some items that I would like to carry but do not quite fit:

  • Breaching tool: A crowbar or modified Stanley Fatmax makes for an excellent breaching tool for getting into and out of areas in an urban environment.
  • Alternate footwear: The chances are good that the stuff could hit the fan while I’m at work. A 45-mile hump in a pair of dockers is not my idea of fun. Unfortunately at the present time I can’t fit a set of running shoes in my GHB. I am currently looking into a pair of Vibram Five Fingers as a potential solution to this issue.
  • The Importance of Planning Ahead

    The key to safely and successfully getting home is to plan ahead. Since your situation is probably different than mine, you need to figure out what potential hazards and obstacles you’d face given the area you’d likely be egressing from. This will dictate what types of things you’ll need to equip.

    As with any form of survival training, be sure to practice with the tools you carry. Getting caught in an emergency situation is not the time to try out a new tool/technique for the first time. Be prepared ahead of time with both equipment and training.

Peace Through Superior Firepower: The History of an Iconic Air Rifle

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I thought you guys would dig this. The video, put out by the National Firearms Museum, gives a little history into one of the oldest air rifles in history: the Girandoni air rifle and it’s importance in establishing the United States of America.

The Girandoni is a late 18th Century .46 caliber 20 shot repeating air rifle. It was used in the Napoleonic wars and at least one managed to find its way into the hands of the Lewis and Clark.

Although the curator does exaggerate a bit with his geography (United States is not larger than half of North America…I think he forgot about the Canadians ;)) it’s nonetheless a great presentation.

Now if I can just get one with a rail system, thermal scope, and collapsing butt stock I’d be happy…(kidding guys, I’m kidding)

Check it out: (email readers will need to click on the title to be directed back to the blog)

How to Prepare for a Nuclear Emergency

Monday, March 14th, 2011

As Japan’s crisis continues to unfold, many of us (especially those who live on the West Coast of the U.S.) are worried about nuclear radiation reaching our shores. At this point it doesn’t appear like the radiation levels are high enough that the Westerlies will end up carrying dangerous amounts of it to the U.S.

Whether it does or not, I thought this would be a good time to introduce an excellent resource for those interested in how to prepare for nuclear as well as many other disasters.

This brings me to The Survival Mom who had a great guest post written earlier today by Janet and Bill Liebsch (authors of It’s a Disaster). In the article they lay out some quick tips on what to do if the nuclear situation got bad enough that warranted action on our part.

I thought I’d piggy-back on that by pointing you to the two free, downloadable resources they referenced which go into detail on how to prepare yourselves for nuclear disaster:

As a side note, I recommend purchasing their book It’s a Disaster. This 268-page paperback provides quick-reference instructional bullets on how to deal with many different types of disaster and is perfect to keep in a bug-out bag, car, home, or office. Here are just a handful of the subjects it covers (for a complete list check out the table of contents ):

  • Family Emergency Plan, Kits & Shelter
  • Disaster Preparedness & Prevention
  • What to do in case of…
  • Avalanches
  • Earthquake
  • Wildfires
  • Flood
  • Nuclear Power Plant Emergency
  • Terrorism
  • and more…

At just $14.00 this comes much cheaper than many of the other preparedness books out there and the eBook (in PDF format ) version is a steal at only $2.50, allowing you to download and have it instantly. Check it out!

The TI News Brief: Disaster in Japan

Friday, March 11th, 2011

What is Happening

Japan’s most powerful earthquake since records began has struck off northeastern Japan this afternoon. The 8.9-magnitude earthquake triggered a massive 30 foot tsunami, swamping the Japanese shoreline, shaking Tokyo and causing fires to break out.

According to the Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake was east of Sendai and northeast of Tokyo.

Watch the video footage (if reading this from the email be sure to click on this link if the video doesn’t appear):

What this Means to You

Disasters happen without warning

Even though we don’t live in Japan, this should be a wake-up call for all of us. Potential disasters can come to any of us at any time and we need to be vigilant and prepare for things that could affect us in our neck of the woods.

Natural disasters are on the rise

Whether you believe that climate change is due to man or the sun, we should all agree that the times they are a changin’. Natural disasters are on the rise and more and more we are seeing Katrina-level events happening throughout the world. This, I believe, is only going to increase.

A potential rise in oil prices

We are now a tightly linked world. No longer can we observe foreign events with detachment. Events in one part of the world can intimately affect us as well.

For example, this earthquake has shut down many oil refineries in Japan which will force them to seek for imports. Global suppliers, including refineries in California, may decide to go for the bigger buck and increase shipments to Japan instead of selling the fuel domestically, causing a bidding-up of prices.

What You Should be Doing

Brainstorm potential disasters in your area

It’s events like this that should motivate you to start thinking. What potential disasters could occur in your area? Do you live near a fault line? How about near a dam or a power plant? Is your area susceptible to major winter storms or summer hurricanes? How about power outages and water shortages?

Questions like these get your mind thinking about how best to prepare for the worst. It’s not negative thinking, it’s constructive thinking.

Begin with the basics

If you’re a complete newbie, then I would recommend first getting your food and water storage in order. Major disasters (and even minor ones) cause disruptions in our fragile communication and supply-line networks. Having at least a 3-month supply of food and (depending on your area) water stored up will give you some major piece of mind when disaster strikes.

Here is a list of articles that details where to begin and where to go from there:

Air Force Survival Training Manual – Free Download

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Given that there are so many survival manuals out there, it’s hard to know which ones are worth having in your survival library. Well, if there’s one survival manual that I highly recommend it is the Air Force Survival Training manual.

The Air Force Survival Training manual (specifically the AFR-64) is, in my opinion, the cream of the crop. In fact, many of the numerous commercial and military books and manuals are based off of this manual (much of which which is copied verbatim — both the words and text!). I feel it is much better than the Army Survival Manual (FM 3-05.70) and even has a slight edge over Wiseman’s SAS Survival Handbook (which is also excellent).

Here is just a portion of what this 600 page manual contains:

  • first aid for illness and injury
  • finding your way without a map
  • building a fire
  • finding food and water
  • using ropes and tying knots
  • mountain survival
  • concealment techniques
  • signaling for help
  • survival at sea
  • building shelters
  • animal tracking
  • predicting the weather
  • and much more…

I’ll be hosting a link to the PDF version of this text for as long as my bandwidth can take it (it’s 85 MB so it can take a bit to download). You can download it through this link: USAF Survival Training Manual

Although the PDF version is free, I highly recommend having a hard-copy version of this book (for obvious reasons). However, be aware that there are other versions of the Air Force Survival manual out there which aren’t the same. For example, they sell the next version (AFR-65) which is a watered-down version of this book. Instead be sure to get the AFR-64 version which can be found in the following link on Amazon (or other major booksellers):


End of the World Entertainment: Don't Forget the Fun

Monday, March 7th, 2011

One of my readers had recently commented on the importance of not forgetting entertainment as part of your preparations. Duly noted, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write about that in this article.

As we go about meeting our prepping goals, one aspect that rarely gets covered is the entertainment side of things. We get so focused on food storage, ammo, fuel, water and so on that when it comes down to it, prepping for fun things gets forgotten.

The thing is, during an end-of-the-world type situation, it’s going to be miserable. And life, for your whole family, is going to be turned upside down. Depending on how bad it really is, the stress caused by the change in lifestyle will be quite daunting so having something that can increase morale and give your family something else to focus on is very important.

Here is a list of items that you’ll want to consider as part of your preps:

  • Board Games: Board games like Monopoly and Scrabble were a family favorite during the Great Depression and are sure to be the same for troubled times ahead.
  • Card Games: A deck of cards is one of those things that can be used to play a myriad of games. If you don’t know many card games, be sure to buy a book like The Penguin Book of Card Games.
  • Toys: If you have little ones, its a good idea to pick up a few toys for their coming years so that they have something to grow into. In an end-of-the-world type situation, toy stores might not be around and if they are, you might not have the money to pay for them. Yard sales, Craigslist etc, are a fantastic source for toys at cheap prices. Stock up now.
  • Fiction Books: I’ve talked about the importance of having a survival library (books on gardening, hunting, outdoor skills etc). Let me add that having some light reading (fiction books) will also be an important escape for those dealing with the pressures of survival.
  • Spiritual Books: Although not exactly “entertainment”, spiritual books like the Bible provide hope, improve morale, and uplift the depressed soul.
  • DVDs and Other Media: Even in an extended grid-down situation, watching your DVDs and listening to your iPod is still a possibility. Laptops, DVD players, iPods and other similar electronics do not require a huge amount of wattage and can be run off of solar power. If you don’t have a solar setup for your residence, consider purchasing a portable solar charger like Brunton’s 26 Watt Foldable Solar Array. Although you won’t be able to run your laptop off of it in real time (your iPod can be), you can use it to charge the battery in time for family movie night.
  • Sports Equipment: In an extended grid-down situation, your kids may no longer be able to play the Nintendo Wii, but having a few balls, a bat, and other simple sports gear is more than enough to get you and them outside and enjoying themselves. Not only that, they’ll actually be doing some real exercise (sorry you Wii Fit fans).
  • Musical Instruments: Like spiritual books, music has a way of lifting the soul from the darkest of places. If you don’t know how to play then now is the time to get some lessons (or at least get some books that teach you how).

Don’t Forget the Bug-Out Bag

As you are putting together gear and provisions for your bug-out bag (or if you’ve already put it together), don’t forget to add something for entertainment as well. A deck of cards, a harmonica, or a small paperback book will go a long way in passing the time if you and your loved ones are required to bug out for a few days.