Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Essential Survival Gear

Not every piece of outdoor equipment is equally critical to your survival.

Some items are simply more versatile and valuable than others. And here's a surprise — one of the most important pieces of equipment is also one of the least expensive.

I'm talking about a cheap little rain poncho that costs only a couple bucks at your local WalMart, and is compact enough to fit in a shirt pocket. It might be small and lightweight, but when the weather turns bad this little sheet of plastic might save your life.

The truth is that most outdoor survival victims end up suffering some level of hypothermia, commonly referred to as "exposure."

You've probably read the headlines in which the media announces that someone was found dead of exposure. What they're really talking about is hypothermia, which is a lowering of the body core temperature. It doesn't take much of a drop in core temperature before you start losing the ability to do necessary tasks to keep yourself alive.

The biggest cause of hypothermia is getting wet. Damp clothing acts like an evaporative air conditioner, sucking away the warmth from inside your body. That's why, when I teach outdoor survival, I use a key phrase that says, "Stay dry or die." That's really the heart of the problem. If you get wet, it will be almost impossible to stay warm, so one of the most important principles of survival is to stay dry.

And that's where the cheap little pocket poncho comes into play. If you use the poncho to protect yourself from rain or snow, you are taking the biggest single step in avoiding hypothermia.

The second biggest factor in hypothermia is the wind. Even a slight breeze will chill you in a hurry, especially if your clothes are wet. The poncho is very effective at shielding you from the wind. So with this one inexpensive piece of equipment, you are well on your way to protecting yourself from two potentially deadly survival problems — wet and wind.

As a bonus, this is a versatile piece of gear. Other than wearing it as a poncho, you can spread it out on the ground as a rain collector for gathering drinking water. Or you can use it as part of a shelter roof or wall. Or you can wrap up in it as a lightweight blanket. Or you can use it as a signaling flag to attract attention of rescuers (especially if it is brightly colored). You can even use the thin plastic in a traumatic first aid situation to close a sucking chest wound.

I recommend that everyone carry a pocket poncho when venturing outdoors, and even carry a couple of them in the vehicle. You never know when you might break down and end up walking on a dark and stormy night.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How To Survive A Shooting Incident

Never bring a knife to a gunfight!

Those words of wisdom were told to me by a SWAT commander, after an incident in which a punk tried to attack him in a restroom. The punk had a big, bad knife. My friend had a Glock with 15 rounds in it. The punk lost.

The message, of course, is that you never want to be outgunned. But the reality is that sometimes you are. That's because shooting incidents tend to take place in "gun-free" zones where you aren't permitted to carry a weapon. The reason gun-free zones are such highly favored venues for killing people is precisely because there is so little risk for the assailants. If nobody else has a gun, there is little risk that the victims can fight back.

Such is the mentality of lunatics who go around shooting people in public places. And it doesn't matter whether is a public school in the middle of America or a shopping mall in the middle of Kenya. These events will continue to take place, and probably in greater numbers in the future. Those who are either crazy or have some personal agenda about eliminating other people will continue to become more emboldened by every similar incident.

It's up to you to prepare and train your mind to do the right thing if you're ever involved in such a horror.

So, if you find yourself outgunned in a shooting incident, how are you supposed to survive? You really have only three options — run, hide, or fight. Let's take a closer look at those three possibilities.

Run. If you're caught in a shooting incident and there is a way out, take it. Get out of the area as quickly as possible. The more distance you can put between yourself and the shooter, the greater your chance of survival. And the faster you can do that, the better. Don't stop or even slow down to gather up your stuff, just escape as quickly and quietly as you can. Encourage others to do likewise, but don't let them slow you down by their indecision to join you.

The first step is to instantly assess the situation. Hopefully, you'll be practicing situational awareness all the time, so you'll already know where the possible exit routes are. But in the surprise of the moment, you'll need to quickly scope out the situation and find the cleanest route out of the area. That means you need to know where the shooters are. If you can see them, they can see you, so you need to put some solid barriers between you and them. Then work your way out of the area. When you get clear, call 911 and keep moving away from the scene.

When law enforcement arrives, they will be on high alert, so don't rush toward them or they might think they're under attack. Approach with hands high and shout to them that you have escaped. They might put you on the ground and do an initial search to verify that you're safe for them to deal with. Go along with whatever they demand, and don't make a fuss. Answer all their questions, and try to provide as much information about what's going on in the incident zone as possible.

Hide. If you can't get out of the building, or the area, your next best strategy is to conceal yourself. If the shooter can't see you, he probably can't do you any harm. The most desirable concealment is a place that also offers some degree of solid cover that would stop (or greatly slow) a bullet — a metal desk, file cabinets, solid walls, etc. As you are moving to your hiding place, turn off your cell phone ringer, so it doesn't inadvertently announce your position to the shooter. If you move into a room to hide, turn off the lights and lock the door. Then find a place to hunker down unseen and become as quiet as the proverbial mouse. Noise and movement will give away your location, so don't be tempted to move to a "better" spot. Being absolutely still is your best bet. If places to hide are in short supply, you might try pretending to be dead, in hopes that the gunman will pass you by in favor of live targets.

Fight. As a final option, you might decide to fight back. You should only consider this option if your life or the lives of your loved-ones are at risk and you decide that you have a better chance of survival if you attack the attackers.

A coordinated attack is more effective than going it alone, especially if you can plan an attack to come from multiple points, so the shooter is surrounded and can't take out everyone at the same time. An ambush would involve luring the shooter into a spot where you can hit him when he least expects it. Surprise and exceptional violence should rule your attack plan. When you hit, you want it to be explosive and totally unexpected. Hold nothing back — do whatever is necessary to separate the shooter from his weapons, leaving him absolutely incapable of making any moves to regain the upper hand.

With what's going on these days, it is expected that there will be more shooting incidents in public places, especially in gun-free zones. Be aware of what's going on around you. Have an escape plan in mind whenever you enter a public building. Know how to get out, how to hide, and have a plan of attack in mind in case it comes to that final option.

Practice, train, focus your mind. Be ready to run, hide or fight for your life.