Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Survive a Shooting Incident

In an earlier post, I discussed some steps you can take to survive a shooting incident wherein a shooter comes into a building intent on killing people.

Here is a 6-minute video that gives more details about how to survive this kind of incident. I recommend that after you watch this video you pass it along to everyone you know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wildfire Safety

The largest wildfire in Arizona history was started by a couple of guys who let their campfire get out of hand.

It all began in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona, then spread into New Mexico. The campfire was evidently not properly contained nor monitored by the campers, and it escaped into nearby flammable foliage. Then all hell broke loose (if you consider hell to be a place of fire). The blaze took off and eventually cremated more than half a million acres before it was brought under containment.

Because they were responsible for all this distruction, and the costs incurred in trying to contain it, Caleb and David Malboeuf eventually ended up in court where they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of building a campfire without clearing flammable material and leaving it unattended.

There are lessons for us in this tale of woe. To save yourself from all this grief, and possible injury or death of yourself or others, pay attention to Smokey Bear — Seriously!

  • Do not build a fire when there are hazardous, dry conditions. Find out what the local fire safety designation is beforehand, and don't build a fire if the campground or the region is prohibiting open fires at the time. 
  • If open fires are permitted and there is an existing fire ring or pit, use it. If there's no pit or ring, find a spot at least 15 feet away from grasses, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Also look up, and check for low overhanging branches that present a fire hazard. 
  • Pick a spot that is protected from wind, so embers are not kicked up and carried on the breeze. 
  • Clear the ground around the fire for a distance of 10 feet in all directions, removing grass, twigs, leaves and bits of wood. 
  • Dig into the ground until you reach mineral soil, making sure there are no underground roots or other organic matter that might transport the fire or hold a coal. 
  • If there are flat rock slabs available, use them as a foundation beneath the fire. This is a special technique that can be used when the ground is wet, but can also be employed in dry conditions. 
  • Surround the fire pit with stones to help contain the coals and to prevent someone from accidentally kicking a burning bit out of the fire. 
  • Be ready to snuff out the fire at a moment's notice. A bucket of water or a shovel and a loose pile of soil (from the pit you just dug) are good things to have on hand. 
  • And never leave the fire unattended. Of course, that's a difficult doctrine to follow if you are in a survival situation totally alone in the wilderness. Under those conditions, if you must step away from the campsite to gather more wood, check traps, work on the shelter, or for some other reason, double-check the fire before walking away. Don't leave it with huge flames reaching up into the night sky. Tone the fire down until it's mostly coals and perhaps just a small active flame, Make sure there's nothing nearby that can catch a spark and ignite. You might even consider banking the fire by burying it under a thin layer of dry soil, preserving the coals so you can blow them back into flame upon your return. 
In the end, the misuse of a campfire can cause a survival situation — not only for yourself, but for others who might be in the area. Just imagine how many lives were impacted by a wildfire that turned half a million acres into ashes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Survival Physical Conditioning

I'm a firm believer that 90% of survival is mental (including emotional). But there is no doubt that every survival situation creates abnormal stress on the body, so we can't ignore that as a vital factor.

You might have to run for your life while trying to calm a racing heart and lungs that are struggling keep up. You might need to use muscles that haven't been put to the test in quite a while. There's no question that being physically prepared to face a survival challenge requires additional strength and endurance. And because we can never know when something unusual is going to plunge us into a survival situation, it's a good idea to be ready to face the challenge when it arrives.

So let's talk about physical conditioning — not body-building or rigorous athletic conditioning, necessarily, but the kind of conditioning that will enable you to live through whatever you're dealing with. Here are my recommendations:

  • Before engaging in any exercise program, it's a good idea to consult your health care provider to make sure there are no hidden monsters in your health profile that might rise up and kill you while you're trying to become more conditioned. 
  • Assuming you get the go-ahead from your doctor, begin slowly with the changes to your daily routine. The worst thing you can do it think "if a little is good, more is better." Injuries cause major setbacks in training, leaving you worse off than before you began. So take it easy, use correct technique, and be sure to warm up before beginning the real workout, and a cool-down when you finish.
  • For strength conditioning using weights or a resistance machine that simulates the use of actual weights, focus on increasing reps, not on increasing the amount of resistance (weight). Find the weight or resistance level where you can comfortably do 10 reps. Continue at that level for a week and then try 15 reps. If you have no problem with that, it's time to move up. Continue using that method, moving up in 10-pound increments when you can comfortably do 15 reps at the present weight. Work the whole body — this isn't about getting big biceps or six-pack abs, it's about conditioning the muscles of the entire body. Stagger upper-body and lower-body workouts on alternating days, giving time for the muscles to repair and rebuild before working them again. 
  • For endurance conditioning, there's nothing simpler or more effective than standing up and moving. I'm talking about walking. Depending on your present condition, you might have to begin with slow, short walks. Don't worry about your starting level. You are where you are, so just deal with that and move on. Gradually increase the lengths of your walks, and maybe work on increasing your pace. If you can do power walking, that's almost as good as jogging. If you enjoy jogging, work on increasing the duration of the runs. Uphills are where the real work is accomplished, so work in some hills when you're ready. 
  • Vary your endurance training by including some cycling, swimming, and trail hiking. Set some goals to work toward, like cycling for 25 miles, swimming for a mile, hiking 10 miles. When you reach those goals, set the bar a little higher and keep improving. 
The point of all this is to get you in better condition to handle emergency situations that will require more physical effort.

The hard reality is this: if you are not able to take care of yourself, you sure can't help take care of anyone else. Improving your physical conditioning is a favor not only to yourself, but also to anyone else who might depend on you in an emergency — family, friends, neighbors, the community.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Desperate Escape

What would you do to escape a raging fire? Would you jump off a 164-foot cliff?

Not long ago, a 60-year-old man, his wife and two children faced that question when a furious wildfire trapped them at the edge of a 164-foot seaside cliff.

According to reports, the family was driving home from a vacation when the fire swept across the highway. They abandoned their car and ran. They weren't alone in this situation, as approximately 150 other tourists also abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot, heading down steep hills toward the beach.

Unfortunately for the family in question, they got separated from the rest of the group and found themselves trapped between the wind-driven fire and the top of the cliff.

The deputy mayor of the nearby town (Portbou, France) told reporters, "The fire started to close in on them, and they couldn't climb up or climb down. The only way out was to jump into the sea."

So, facing the desperate situation of trying to survive the fire or jumping off the cliff, they chose to jump.

What would you have done? What would be the odds of getting out alive by jumping off the cliff?

Here's what happened —The father died instantly when he hit the rocks below. His 15-year-old daughter made it into the water, but drowned. The mother survived, but in critical condition with a back injury. The son and other daughter survived without life-threatening injury.

A wildfire is a catastrophic event that can kill you in short order if you don't do things right. It's good to know the kind of actions that will give you the best probability of survival, so you don't have to face the decision of taking a desperate, and probably lethal, gamble in an attempt to escape.

Here's the doctrine about surviving wildfire, as published by FEMA.

If you are in a vehicle:
  • This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but you can survive the firestorm if you stay in your car. It is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot.
  • Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
  • If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Roll up windows and close air vents.
  • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
  • Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.
  • Stay in the car. Do not run! Engine may stall and not restart. Air currents may rock the car. Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle. Temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.
If You Are Trapped at Home:
  • If you do find yourself trapped by wildfire inside your home, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked. Keep your entire family together and remain calm.
If Caught in the Open:
  • The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. On a steep mountainside, the back side is safer. Avoid canyons, natural "chimneys" and saddles.
  • If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire's heat.
  • If hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Create a "Safe Room"

Unfortunately, home invasions are becoming ever more popular among punk criminals who feel like they can get away with breaking into someone's house, terrorizing them (or worse), and stealing whatever they can get away with. 

That's why it's not a bad idea to consider building a "safe room" in your house. Think of a "safe room" as the ultimate refuge from outside attack. Of course, a determined criminal with all the tools of the trade available can break into just about anything. But unless you're a high-profile target, there's probably no motive for a high-tech assault on your property. If you are a high-profile target that would be ripe prey for hostage-takers looking to collect a hefty ransom, you should really pay attention here.

For most folks, the likely event is that someone(s) will smash down your door and come inside to steal your stuff. While they're stealing your stuff, you don't want them to be assaulting your wife and children (or you for that matter). That's why you would use a "safe room" where they can't get to you.

In a minute, we'll talk about what makes a good "safe room" but right now consider the time element. You need to be able to get into the "safe room" before the bad guys get to you. That means some kind of advance warning system like motion-sensors that trigger lights and sirens (the sound of barking dogs, or a shotgun shell being jacked into the chamber and a snarling voice that says "come on punk, make my day"). This takes some planning and coordination, because you don't want to scare the crap out of your guests when they arrive for an evening dinner. But you do want the system to be active when you're not expecting anyone.

If you have defensive weapons close at hand, when someone breaks through the door, you might be able to solve the whole problem right there, or at least hold them at bay while you make your way to the "safe room."

So, no matter how you do it, let's assume you have time to get to your "safe room." Now let's talk about that place. Ideally, it should be an interior room where there are no windows or doors to the outside of the house.

The walls and doors should be hardened against attack. That means the walls are made of concrete, and each door is steel.

Every door leading into the room (yes, you might have more than one door — using a secondary as a "backdoor" escape route) should be able to be secured with multiple locks (lockable from the inside only) that deadbolt into a steel frame.

The room should be supplied with provisions that will last a week or more for every occupant. That's food, water, sanitary supplies (including toilet facilities), the ability to cook, medical supplies, and communications with the outside world so you can call for help. Basically, it's a house within a house, totally independent of outside needs.

You should have a cache of weapons and ammunition in the safe room, in case you need to fight your way out or someone manages to break in and you need to defend the room.

It's a good idea to have a filtered vent for air, with the inlet concealed so it can't be used against the occupants.

And finally, the ultimate "safe room" might have an escape tunnel that leads to the edge of your property, emerging under the concealment of bushes or some other clever disguise.

Never, under any circumstances, reveal the fact that you have a "safe room" to anyone. Loose lips sink ships.