Saturday, May 11, 2013
Disaster struck when a fire broke out somewhere on the lower floors of an 11-story garment factory. Smoldering acrylic material created a lot of smoke that rose through the upper floors of the building, setting off a panic among workers. They rushed for the front stairwell, but the toxic fumes overwhelmed them, and the victims suffocated.
Mamun Mahmud, deputy director of the fire service, reported that the building had two stairwells at the front and an emergency exit in the back. "Had they used the emergency stairwell, they would have survived," he said.
"They also would have likely survived the slow-spreading fire had they stayed on the upper floors. We found the roof open, but we did not find there anybody after the fire broke out. We recovered all of them on the stairwell on the ninth floor."
This tragic incident points out the importance of always knowing where the exits are, and having a plan to use them in an emergency. It doesn't matter whether you're in a garment factory in Bangladesh or a nightclub in Rhode Island (the 2003 Station nightclub fire comes to mind), or your own home — your ability to find a way out is a primary survival strategy.
Whenever you enter a building, make yourself aware of every possible way to get out of that building. Be especially cognizant of the "secondary" escape routes, because human nature will cause most of the people in the building to attempt an escape through the front door. In the case of the garment factory fire, all of the victims were found piled up on the primary stairwell, and according to the authorities, if the workers has used the secondary (rear) exit, they would have lived.
Realizing that most people trapped in a room will rush for the main exit, plan your survival strategy to use a secondary exit — be it a door, a window, or another room (or a different floor, such as the basement or roof) that gets you out of the way of the immediate danger.
In the Station nightclub fire, the crush of people trying to flee out the front door became an immediate gridlock that trapped 100 victims inside. Others were injured by being trampled in the stampede.
Switch on your situational awareness whenever you enter a room, and have an escape plan in mind so you can get out alive.
Monday, April 22, 2013
- A policeman is not your personal body guard.
- The police department is not your personal security force.
- Cops are not hired to protect your life and property 24/7 from the bad guys.
Lest you think I'm bad-mouthing the police by writing these things, let me quickly set the matter straight, nothing could be farther from the truth. I used to work for a major city police department, and have nothing but respect and admiration for the men and women who put on the uniform and risk their lives daily in the battle against crime.
But the reality is that, as well-trained and dedicated as they are, they can't be with you every minute of every day to protect you against criminal acts. Your personal protection is your own responsibility.
When it comes to personal protection, there are two things to note about police officers and sheriff deputies:
- They carry firearms.
- They know how and when to use them.
If you hope to survive against armed criminals, it's necessary to be at least on equal footing. When I say "at least" on equal footing, I allude to the other old adage, "if you find yourself in a fair fight, there's something wrong with your strategy." Always be prepared so you will have the advantage.
In other words, you don't want to find yourself less than totally capable to take care of your own personal protection. Whatever it takes to protect yourself, that should be what you do. That doesn't mean that you have to carry bigger weapons than the bad guys. What you do need is superior training. I believe everyone should participate in a combat shooting course, learning to recognize the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in a heartbeat, and take appropriate action. If you're going to carry a gun, you really ought to become proficient in its use.
You know what they say, "When seconds count, the police are just minutes away." Actually, the average response time for a 911 call is 23 minutes! If you're satisfied to wait for the police to show up and start an investigation after the fact, well, good luck to you.
Note that when they do show up, they'll be packing guns — which should be a clue as to the value of being armed to stop a perpetrator.
"Ah," some might say, "but the police have to carry guns, because it's part of their job. We don't have to carry guns, because the police will protect us."
Really? Do you want to guess about the percentage of retired police officers who carry firearms for personal protection? And just why do you suppose they do that?
Is your life any less valuable than theirs? Is your family any less valuable than theirs? Are your rights to self protection any less valid than theirs?
After reviewing statistics about tragic shootings, it's impossible to come to any other conclusion than the fact that the most dangerous place to be is a "gun free zone." That's where the bad guys can carry out their evil deeds without resistance. For them, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
How long do you think that would last if the fish could shoot back?
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Letter bombs, poison letters, and booby-trapped packages are part of the arsenal of weapons used by terrorists to kill or injure their victims. Sometimes, they are even used by mindless teenagers holding a grudge against someone at school.
To avoid being the victim of such a weapon, there are some things you can do.
Don't accept mail or packages at your residence. That way, if a piece of mail or a package shows up at your door, you know it didn't come through the regular system, and might have been dropped off by someone with ill intent. When you pick up your mail or packages, look for the following telltale suspicious indicators:
- No return address, or a return address from a location different from the postmark. This indicates a package or letter that was mailed from one person to another before being sent to you (a conspiracy of more than one perpetrator trying to hide the trail of evidence).
- Incorrect spelling, awkward use of the language or addressing format, or poor typing of the mailing label.
- Restrictive markings such as "Confidential" or "Personal" on the package. These labels encourage the receiver to open the package immediately.
- Excessive postage indicates an unusual urgency that the sender wants to make sure the package gets to you.
- Unusual odor or oily stains on the package.
- Protruding wires, string, or tin foil might indicate intentionally sloppy workmanship intended to terrorize the receiver, even if the package doesn't contain an actual bomb.
- Unusual size, shape, or weight balance of the letter or package, or if the envelope is rigid.
- Excessive tape or twine to bind the package might indicate that the sender wants to ensure that the package doesn't accidentally come open until you receive it.
- Noise or vibration from inside the package.
Monday, April 8, 2013
You don’t have to go deep into the wilderness or be trekking some exotic land to get into a survival situation. It can happen right in your backyard on a simple day hike.
A perfect example of this can be seen in what happened to 19-year-old Nicolas Cendoya and 18-year-old Kyndall Jack when they went for a quick and easy day hike on a pleasant Southern California day.
It was Sunday when these two set out along the popular and well-marked Holy Jim Trail in Cleveland National Forest. But it wasn’t until 4 days later on the following Thursday that Kyndall Jack was finally found. When she was discovered, she was near death from dehydration and exhaustion. Her hiking companion, Cendoya, had been located the day before, also in serious risk due to dehydration.
As news of this incident is still so fresh, there is no clear indication about how these two teenagers got into trouble. When they were discovered by rescuers, they were both without shoes, they had become separated from each other, they were out of water, and they were totally lost and disoriented.
Cendoya was actually found severely dehydrated on Wednesday by another hiker, who then reported the incident to authorities. Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Park reported that Cendoya was “extremely confused and disoriented.” He was surrounded by so much vegetation that the rescue helicopter crew had trouble keeping track of him, even after they initially spotted him. In fact, during the search two volunteers got lost themselves and had to be airlifted out. ”That’s how thick the brush was,” said Division Chief Kris Concepcion of the Orange County Fire Authority.
The search continued for Kyndall Jack, and on Thursday searchers heard a faint female voice calling for help. They followed the sound of her voice across a canyon and up a near-vertical slope past a series of waterfalls to a small rock outcrop described as no bigger than a yoga mat. That’s where they found Kyndall Jack clinging to life in a severely dehydrated condition, disoriented and having difficulty breathing.
“She was filthy from head to toe,” reported sheriff’s deputy Jim Moss, a paramedic who was lowered to her from a helicopter. “Her lips were black with dirt, her eyes were barely open, and she had on no shoes. She was just kind of clinging to the ledge on the cliff side, going in and out of consciousness.” Despite her extreme dehydration, the rescuers were afraid to give her water because her mouth was so full of dirt she could choke. “She was limp and lifeless,” Moss said. “She wouldn’t have made it much longer. She’s really lucky.”
Her rescue brought to a close the search that had Southern Californians holding their breath for most of a week. How it all began, and some of the details of the incident are still a mystery. What is known is that, at some point in their hike, Cendoya called 911 to report that they were lost and out of water. During the call, Cendoya said he thought they were about a mile or two from the car. It turns out they were less than a mile from the car, but the information he gave was in totally the wrong direction. Not long after that, the cell phone battery died. Sometime that first night, the pair became separated. Somehow, they both managed to lose their shoes.
Cendoya was found just 500 feet from a heavily-traveled dirt road. According to Lt. Jason Park, an Orange County sheriff’s spokesman, Kyndall Jack was found “very, very close” to where Cendoya had been found. “I have no doubt that they came out here with the best of intentions, but this is a complicated environment and, before you know it, you’re lost.” He continued that having civilization so close at hand, it can lull hikers into a false sense of security.
Amen brother! Four days is too long for a day hike, but this kind of thing happens all the time. It’s what I call Day Hike Syndrome. It starts with the mistaken belief that since you’re going on just a short hike, and perhaps on a trail you’ve hiked before, no special preparation is needed because nothing can go wrong.
Wrong…as this incident proves.
In a heartbeat, a simple day hike can turn into a struggle for life in the wilderness. All it takes is an accident that results in an injury, a sudden illness, a mistake that takes you down the wrong trail, or an unexpected change in the weather.
It can happen to anyone, but there are lessons we can learn from every incident like this one.
- Be prepared to survive longer in the wilderness than you originally planned. That means carrying some shelter such as a lightweight emergency blanket or bivvy, extra water and food. Have multiple methods of starting a fire, and the means to filter or otherwise purify additional water when your original supply runs out.
- Stay together and work on the survival challenges as a team. There are very few justifications for becoming separated.
- Keep your clothes on. I have no idea why these two removed their shoes, but that was a critical error. Clothing is your first line of defense as a shelter and protection from injury. Your feet are your only means of transportation, so take care of them.
- Carry methods of signaling such as a whistle and mirror, or a SPOT Satellite Messenger, or a PLB (personal locator beacon). If these two hikers had any of those items, rescuers would have located them sooner.
- If you get lost, stop wandering around wasting energy and further dehydrating yourself. Make camp, stick together, and use signaling devices to call for help.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
I have a list of Top Ten things to do while wandering through the wilderness, and if I adhere to these rules, I stand a much better chance of avoiding falling into a survival situation. They are all equally important, and should be done all the time.
1. Stay dry — Even in a tropical environment where the day is warm and pleasant, as soon as the sun goes down or a storm blows in, you will be cold if you are wet. If you need to use water to cool yourself down during the heat of the day, make sure you have dry clothes to sleep in at night. Otherwise, you risk hypothermia.
2. Wear appropriate clothing — This is your primary shelter, so don't go skipping through the wilderness dressed like they do on the TV show Survivor. That is entertainment, not good survival doctrine. Cover your body, to protect against bug bites, scratches, sunburn, etc. Wear gloves as you work through the forest or jungle, because an injury to your hands can render you unable to perform necessary tasks for survival. Wear a hat with a wide brim, to protect against rain and heat loss through the scalp, or heat gain during a sunny day. Wear the best footwear you can buy. Your feet are your transportation to safety — take care of them. Don't pretend you're a native, going without shoes because you think it's cool or somehow heroic and puts you in closer touch with the land. What it will put you in closer touch with is an injury, infection, and possibly a serious survival situation.
3. Maintain situational awareness — This includes knowing where you are and what's going on around you at all times. Be aware of the possibilities — the slope that might slip into a landslide, the snow field that might avalanche, the gorge that might suddenly fill with raging water during a flash flood, the shadow that might hide a rattlesnake, etc. Constantly be aware of your best escape routes.
4. Avoid unnecessary (unacceptable) risks in route planning — As you move across the land, there are always alternate routes. Don't fall into the trap of thinking there is only one way to go. Even if the safer route will take longer to reach your destination, swallow your ego, realize that you're not Tarzan and can't safely swing from vines as you rappel down a waterfall. Choose the safer route. Forget what you see TV performers do on so-called survival shows. Again, that's entertainment, not good survival doctrine. Remember, you don't have a back-up crew with helicopters and a medical team to save you if you get in trouble. And you are not a former British Special Forces soldier, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Get over it.
5. Move deliberately — This means you move slowly and cautiously, picking the place where your every step lands. If you want a TV guru to follow, watch Les Stroud (Survivorman). He's the real deal, and you'll notice that he doesn't take chances that can get him injured. He moves at a pace that uses his energy efficiently. If you move too fast, you not only risk injury but you also expend your internal resources too fast. And that costs you food and water.
6. Stop and make camp 3 hours before dusk — The temptation is to press on while there's still light, but the smart money is on the person who stops early, makes camp, gathers firewood and water, and settles in to rest for the night. Dry out your clothes, if they've become sweaty. Massage your feet and dry your socks and air out the boots. Morning will come soon enough, and then you can hit the trail again with a full day ahead of you. Don't travel at night, because the risk of getting lost or injured is extremely high.
7. Never put anything in your mouth that you can't positively identify as edible — The world is full of plants that can be used for food and medicine, but it is even more full of plants that can do you harm. With some, a bit the size of a pencil eraser can kill you. Of the more than 300,000 plant species, less than one-third of them can be used for food. That sounds like a lot, but unless you know which ones are edible, chances are you're going to do yourself some damage by indiscriminate grazing. My advice is to start studying about wild edible plants, and then enjoy the ones you know. Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know a plant — I've been doing this for decades, and am still unfamiliar with lots of plants I come across.
8. Treat all water as if it is contaminated — There is no such thing as a reliably pure source of water in the wilderness anymore. What looks like a pristine brook tumbling over rocks, coming from an untouched mountain may still carry biological contaminants that can do you harm. Waterborne diseases can take you down in a hurry, leaving you puking beside the trail or laid up for days with diarrhea. You end up dehydrated, weak, unable to continue. Carry a water filter, or take steps to chemically or thermally purify the water you drink and use for cooking.
9. Never step on anything you can step over, and never step over anything you can step around — This rule of land navigation on foot has been passed down forever by knowledgable outdoorsmen. Stepping on a trail obstacle (log, rock, etc.) can send you tumbling when the bark lets loose or the rock rolls underfoot. If you can step over it, don't step on it. Now, the other half of this rule is to avoid stepping over anything you can step around. When you stretch to step over an obstacle, you might end up losing your balance and taking a fall. Another reason not to step across something like a log is because of what might be hiding on the far side — perhaps a snake, ready to land fangs in your tender calf. If you can step around trail obstacles, that is the best strategy.
10. Surrender your elevation grudgingly — In mountainous terrain, you work hard to gain whatever elevation you're standing at. If you descend, you might have to work hard again to regain the elevation lost. Look for ways to follow the contour of the terrain. Even if it means you hike a greater distance, you might expend less energy by maintaining your elevation instead of descending and then climbing back up again.
These rules for dealing with outdoor adventure will stand you in good stead, if you put them into practice. They might help you prevent a survival situation.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Well, who needs Nebraska anyway, right?
Not so fast; Kansas stands at 96.4% of the state in a condition of Severe Drought. New Mexico comes in third at 89.9%. Colorado is not far behind with 89.0%. South Dakota has 86.3% of the state suffering Severe Drought. Wyoming ranks next with 83.7% and Oklahoma comes in at 83.2% of the state under Severe Drought.
Those are the top 7 states when it comes to current drought conditions in the U.S. Unfortunately, those states are also some of the most productive agriculture regions of the U.S. But this year, the outlook for ag output is grim.
The USDA already declared a large portion of the nation’s winter wheat belt, from Texas to North Dakota, as a disaster area due to the drought. In Wyoming, ranchers have lost about half their pasture grass and hay production, causing feed shortages and driving up the price of livestock.
But if you’re not a farmer or rancher, why should you care? It’s not your problem, right?
In the states with Severe Drought conditions, the USDA has identified large areas of the worst-off states as suffering Exceptional Drought (which is even worse than Severe Drought). More than 70% of the state of Nebraska is now classified as being under a condition of Exceptional Drought.
The prospect this year is for widespread crop and pasture losses, water shortages in reservoirs, failure of streams and wells, all of which will create water emergencies across a large portion of the country.
But the local water emergencies are only the beginning. With massive crop and livestock losses, the price of food will escalate. If it gets bad enough, it won’t be just the price we’re worried about but the availability of food as well.
According to USDA meteorologist and Drought Monitor team member, Brad Rippey, “You really need to go back to the 1950s to find a drought that lasted and occupied at least as much territory.”
In the 1950s, the population of the United States was much lower than it is today. Now there are many more mouths to feed. Worse yet, much of today’s farmland has been unwisely dedicated to the growing of corn for ethanol production. So there could be serious food shortages as a result of the drought. And with the failure of the ethanol corn crop, what do you think will happen to the price of gasoline?
So, what can you do about it? How do you go about surviving a severe drought? Here are the some points:
- You can’t eat money, so start trading in some of your money for something you can eat.
- Start stocking up now – don’t wait, because the prices are only going to rise, or the food will become unavailable at any price.
- Organize your food storage by type and by date. That way you can see at a glance what you have and when to cycle it into your daily food routine.
- Use your stored food on a daily basis, then replace what you have consumed. Rotate the supply, eating the older stuff first.
- Don’t go nuts in a panic. Shop with a plan — buy a few extras of everything and stash the spares in your food storage area.
- Figure out what you normally eat, and how much it takes to feed your family. That will guide you as to how much and what to buy.
- Don’t buy junk — focus on food that provides real nutrition and energy.
- Don’t stock up on foods you don’t know how to prepare, or don’t like, or have never eaten before. Stock up on foods you normally eat.
- It’s best to store food in a cool, dark place (a closet, under the bed, on a shelf in the basement, etc.)
Contrary to what the government would have you believe, it’s not their job to save you. Do yourself and everyone around you a favor, and be prepared to take care of yourself.