Monday, April 22, 2013

Guns — Time For The Truth

Here's the truth.
  • 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:
  1. They carry firearms.
  2. They know how and when to use them.
There's a reason for that. It's not that they're afraid, and it's not because they hope to shoot some bad guys. The reason they carry firearms is because the bad guys carry guns. The old adage holds true — don't bring a knife to a gun fight.

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?

My opinion.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Letter Bomb

We live in a crazy world, where someone with bad intentions toward you might send something in the mail that can do serious damage.

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:
  1. 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).
  2. Incorrect spelling, awkward use of the language or addressing format, or poor typing of the mailing label.
  3. Restrictive markings such as "Confidential" or "Personal" on the package. These labels encourage the receiver to open the package immediately.
  4. Excessive postage indicates an unusual urgency that the sender wants to make sure the package gets to you.
  5. Unusual odor or oily stains on the package.
  6. 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.
  7. Unusual size, shape, or weight balance of the letter or package, or if the envelope is rigid.
  8. 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.
  9. Noise or vibration from inside the package.
Any of these suspicious indicators should prompt you to leave the package or envelope untouched. Call the police and report a suspicious package, then stay away from the package. Let the professionals determine what it is.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day Hike Danger

It’s surprising how quickly a simple day-hike can turn into a tragedy, so be prepared to stay in the wilderness longer than you planned

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

Avoid Survival Situations

Prevention is always better than cure. That is especially true when it comes to preventing or avoiding survival situations.

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.