Thursday, November 20, 2014

Off The Grid

generatorPeople interested in survival often talk about living "off the grid." That means living without outside support by utility companies, municipal water systems, etc.

Depending on advance preparation, life off the grid would range from living caveman style to living like Little House on The Prairie. If you're doing it voluntarily, that's one thing. But if life off the grid is suddenly forced upon you, that's an entirely different situation.

In an escalating scale of life off the grid conditions, the situation would look like this: No electricity (heating, refrigeration, cooking, lights). No running water. No toilet facilities. No communication devices (radio, TV, phone, computer). No transportation (gas stations unable to pump fuel). No commercially available food supply (stores closed due to no electricity and no transportation). No pharmaceuticals. No hospitals. No police and fire departments.

In a worst-case scenario, after a short time you would be pretty much on your own.

But assuming you're not anticipating a volunteer life off the grid … should you be concerned about any of this?

Well, if we can believe the leader of the National Security Agency (NSA), maybe we all need to start taking a closer look at our own personal preparation for living off the grid. In a recent meeting of the House Intelligence Committee, Admiral Michael Rogers, the director of the NSA and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, told lawmakers that he believes China (and one or two other countries) have the ability to launch a cyber attack that could disable the electric grid in the U.S.

Further, Rogers stated that if the U.S. remains on the defensive, it would be what he called "a losing strategy." He went on to describe the threat as "so real."

Rumors about the disastrous impact of a cyber attack have circulated freely in the past, but never before has such a threat been publicly confirmed by the nation's head of national security.

At the hearing, Rogers confirmed that U.S. adversaries perform electronic "reconnaissance," on a regular basis so they can be in a position to attack the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

This suggests that it's time to take stock of our own personal preparation to survive off the grid. If the country is hit, there will be general chaos at all levels. There won't be anybody coming around to your neighborhood offering to keep you warm, to cook your food, to flush your toilet, or to calm your fears.

It's time to ask yourself the "what if" questions about how you would carry on with your personal survival needs if the grid suddenly ceased to exist.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Survive Kidnapping

The man came out of nowhere, grabbed Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, and dragged her into his car. She'd been kidnapped.

It's the kind of story that happens all too often, sometimes in broad daylight and in public places. Most of the victims are women, sometimes grabbed from a parking lot and dragged into a vehicle adjacent to the victim's car. And most of the time the victim ends up dead.

But this time there was a happy outcome — Carlesha was found alive, and her kidnapper was taken into custody. So we should take a look at what Carlesha did that helped her survive.

A spokesman from the Philadelphia police department reported that Carlesha's fighting spirit was probably what kept her alive. "My understanding is, even after she was in the car and bound, she continued to struggle with this guy."

When authorities located the car used in the abduction, the rear window had been kicked out. Indeed, a witness to the kidnapping told police that Carlesha kicked out some of the car's windows before it sped away. Her glasses and cell phone were found at the site of the abduction, along with a pile of broken auto glass. That gave law enforcement something to look for — a car with the windows broken out. That was a clue that led to her eventual rescue.

There's a survival principle at work here. Fight for your life, and be creative in the ways you can attract attention to your plight. In my book, The Ultimate Survival Manual, I include this piece of advice:

To signal other drivers that you’ve been abducted and are in the trunk of a car, defeat the taillights altogether or use them to send an SOS. To gain access to the taillights, you might have to remove or break through a lightweight panel. Once through the panel you’ll probably be able to see the light operating. Find the wiring harness. Best solution is to cut one of the wires and strip back the insulation so you can alternately make and break contact to make the light flash. Dit, dit, dit, dah, dah, dah, dit, dit, dit for SOS.

Do whatever it takes, but by all means never give up. Fight as if your life depends on it — because it probably does.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola — The Hard Reality

Hasmat SuitOne of the biggest survival issues to come along in nearly a century is the Ebola virus outbreak.

There hasn't been a potentially global threat to survival as serious as this one since the Spanish Flu pandemic that ran from January 1918 to December 1920, and is estimated to have killed up to 100 million people worldwide. That amounted to a death toll claiming up to 5% of the world's population.

Of the Spanish Flu, it has been said that it was "the greatest medical holocaust in history. It may have killed more people than the Black Death. It killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years, and more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century."

Some might say that comparing the current Ebola outbreak to the Spanish Flu pandemic is not a fair comparison. So far, only 4,000 ebola patients have died, so the numbers aren't even close. But what, in my estimation, makes it fair to compare these two diseases is the fact that:
  • They are both virus-based, so antibiotics won't work
  • They both originated in primitive locations (the Spanish Flu in rural China, ebola in rural West Africa)
  • They both spread human-to-human, crossing national borders easily via modern transportation
  • They both exhibit extremely high mortality rates — Spanish Flu killed up to 20% of those who were infected — Ebola kills up to 70%. 
  • Both caught the medical community unprepared to properly diagnose or treat the illness.
  • Both begin with flu-like symptoms that are not extremely alarming, but then escalate rapidly into death-dealing complications.
  • Both diseases escalate rapidly, spreading exponentially as carriers transmit the virus to other people. With the Spanish Flu, it was detected by a doctor at Fort Riley Kansas treating a soldier on October 4th. Within a week, over 100 soldiers were sick. Days later, 522 were sick. With the latest Ebola outbreak, it began with a 2-year-old child in December 2013 who is suspected of contracting the virus through contact with an animal. In the 10 months since that time, the disease has spread across West Africa, to Europe, and to the United States. Although there have been only 4,000+ deaths so far, the World Health Organization predicts that within the next two months, there may be as many as 10,000 new Ebola cases PER WEEK. 
The Centers For Disease Control has gone to great lengths to downplay the risks to the public, but here is the official information from the CDC website.
No FDA-approved vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) is available for Ebola.
  • Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
  • Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
  • Treating other infections if they occur
Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It isn't known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola. Some people who have recovered from Ebola have developed long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.

Already, there are active cases of Ebola being spread to health care workers who were wearing full protective clothing while treating patients. Nevertheless, the CDC insists that Ebola is difficult to catch and can only be contracted through direct contact with bodily fluids. That does not seem to be the case, and I expect that we will see the CDC release more honest information in days to come.

For now, we know that there is no treatment for Ebola. We know that if you become sick with Ebola, you will likely die. There are indication that, contrary to official propaganda, it is easily transmitted from person to person.

All of those realities give me reason enough to say that the Ebola outbreak has to potential to rival the Spanish Flu as a global pandemic.

Survival advice:
  • Avoid personal contact with anyone who exhibits flu-like symptoms; fever, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • When out in public, be careful what you touch. Disease can be left behind by others, and picked up by you. Use hand wipes or wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth (the easiest entry points for Ebola). 
  • If you have symptoms, call the hospital at once. Let them come and get you — don't go wandering around in public, because you may transmit the disease to others.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life In A Disaster Zone

Forest fireI recently received a letter that was written by a smoke jumper who is describing conditions of life in an area of Washington State where a disastrous wildfire has turned life upside-down. There are vital lessons to be learned from this information, and I urge everyone to take stock of where you stand in your preparation to survive a disaster. Here's the letter:

Hello All,

We have had many inquires as to how things are going here in the Methow Valley of Washington State in reference to the fires, so I am writing a quick letter to all.

For the last couple of weeks it has been very hot. About 100 degrees every day. Nearly two weeks ago we had an intense lighting storm and multiple fires were started, mostly on public lands. A few days later, VERY strong winds arrived and ultimately all the fires became three large ones, and eventually one large one. The largest in the history of the State of Washington. The fires burned about 200 homes, many outbuildings, vehicles, cattle, horses, etc., and destroyed the electrical distribution system. The fire burned down the valley for a distance of nearly 70 miles, all the way into the Columbia River Valley east of us. We found ourselves without power, telephones, cell phones, or internet service. All the stores and gas stations were closed except for Hanks in Twisp, about 13 miles down the road. It is a large store and the owner had installed back up power years ago.

Needless to say, many people today depend on credit cards and debit cards. Most people do not keep any cash at home. The results were that people could not carry on any transactions.... CASH WAS KING! ....Cars were lined up more than 3 city blocks in Twisp that had the only working gas station. Cash and no out-of-town checks!

It took on the average several hours to get fuel for cars and generators. Gas cans were in high demand! People were trying to borrow cash from those that had it. The local bank was swamped with demands for cash loans and they were working without power. Frustration was everywhere! Not even potable water to drink. People started stealing gas, generators and food.

Several friends lost their homes and I ended up with four additional people living here for the last week. Most only had the clothes they had on their bodies. No identification, drivers licenses, nothing! It is literally a scene from a war zone!

We were very lucky because our portion of the valley is west of where the fires started and the upper of the valley did not burn. Wolf Creek, adjacent to our property, provided water for everything and we had plenty of stored potable water. We also make it a point to have stored fuels, food and cash put away. After a couple of days I pulled the electrical meter from the service and wired our generator into the main panel. We now had well water and things got a lot easier.

Yesterday afternoon, after 8 days, the power was restored with help from throughout the Northwest and the internet was up a couple of hours later. People returned to other places and we found ourselves very tired, but thankful we could offer the support to those less fortunate.

Lessons learned. Be prepared! One never knows what the future will bring. Check your insurance; many had none! We are purchasing a larger generator to keep the house and everything running. By this experience we learned where our weaknesses are and what to do to make life easier for the future if need be.

We are very thank full our blessings, considering many families will have months, maybe years, for their lives to return to normal.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fire Straws

CampfireWhen it's time to build a fire, the most important component is the tinder. Without it, the attempt to build a fire will fail.

The job of tinder is to catch a spark and turn it into a flame that is vigorous and long-lasting enough to ignite the kindling. Along that same line, the job of kindling is to catch fire and burn hot and long enough to ignite the fuel wood. The process works up from very fine flammable material, to wood that is a little heavier (maybe the thickness of a pencil), and from there to wood that is the size of your wrist or even larger.

But it's the tinder that gets the whole process started, assuming you have a method of igniting the kindling. That can be accomplished by many techniques such as with a spark from a "flint and steel" kit, or from an electrical source such as a battery, or a hot coal created by friction, or the heat of the sun focussed through a "burning glass," or a small flame from matches or a lighter.

But getting back to the importance of tinder — no matter what ignition method you have at hand, unless the tinder is good, the attempt to make fire will fail.

So let's take a look at a homemade tinder packet that is cheap and easy to make, and is utterly reliable even if it gets wet. It's called a Fire Straw, and here's how you make it.

You need the following items:
  • plastic drinking straws
  • cotton balls or dryer lint
  • petroleum jelly
  • scissors
  • a candle
  • pliers
  • toothpick

To make the fire straws, use the scissors to cut the plastic drinking straw(s) into short pieces, preferably about half or one-third their normal length.

Light the candle and hold one end of the straw a few inches above the flame to soften the plastic. But be careful not to ignite or fully melt the plastic. You want it to be soft, but not dripping and not on fire.

Use pliers to crimp the softened end of the plastic straw together to seal it. You might even bend the soft plastic over on itself before crimping to ensure the seal.

Place the cotton balls or dryer lint in a baggie, along with a smear of petroleum jelly, and mash it all together until the cotton or lint is fully impregnated with the jelly.

Pull out a pinch of the cotton (or lint) and roll it into a thin "worm" that will fit down into the open end of the plastic straw.

Use the toothpick to poke the cotton (lint) tightly into the straw. Keep adding more until the straw is full to within about a half-inch of the open end.

Now, hold the unsealed end of the straw above the candle flame to repeat the softening/crimping/sealing process.

The fire straws are now waterproof and prepared for action. When it comes time to build a fire, slit the straw open and pull a bit of the jelly-soaked material out through the slit, leaving the rest of it inside. You might be surprised by how willing this material is to catch a spark and leap into vigorous flame that will then ignite the plastic straw and become a long-lasting ignition source for the kindling.

Put a bunch of these fire straws in your pocket and pack, so you're never without a reliable tinder that can help you build a fire when you need one.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Five Critical Questions

Evacuation Route SignA disaster is looming!

Maybe it's a wildfire that threatens your region, a hurricane, an earthquake, tsunami, pandemic, flood, or perhaps a chemical/biological/nuclear attack. Whatever it is, it's got you thinking seriously about evacuation to a safer area.

But before you decide to evacuate, there are five critical questions that you need to ask yourself. And unless you can come up with the right answers, now's the time to start getting more prepared.

You'll notice that each major question contains sub-questions that are directly related. If you use these questions as prompts, they can help you make your disaster preparedness plans ahead of time, including the issue of potential evacuation.  
1. Why? — Why do you feel the need to evacuate? What makes you think that is the best course of action, given the circumstances? You realize that if you leave your home behind, you also leave behind all of your supplies (except those few things you can carry with you as you flee), and leave yourself exposed to all the unknowns that lie ahead. Are you really ready to do that? Of course, if the threatened disaster is serious enough, maybe you have no choice but the evacuate. If your home has been destroyed (or is in imminent danger of destruction), this whole question answers itself. At that point, I hope you can answer the next few questions correctly.
2. Where? — Where are you going to go? Do you have arrangements made with a friend or relative who lives outside the evacuation zone where you can go and be safe? Have you already prepared a "go-to" spot outside your region that you intend to use for vacations or for just such an event as this? Or are you planning to just wander until you run out of gas or, hopefully, find someplace that looks good? Are you going to throw your fate into the hands of the federal government to come and save you? Are you willing to live in a FEMA camp?
3. How? — How are you going to get there? What will you use for transportation, and what route are you going to take? Do you have alternative routes in mind, in case Plan A is a no-go? Do you have enough fuel to reach your intended destination? Do you have alternate transportation modes, in case the roads are so broken up that you can't drive a regular vehicle? Would you be able to go on foot, and do you know the best paths that can lead you out of the area in any of several different directions?
4. What? — What are you going to take with you? Do you have a "grab and go" kit already packed and ready to sling over your shoulder? Do you have one for every member of your family? Or are you just hoping to share someone else's toothbrush wherever you happen to land? Assuming that you have a bugout bag, when was the last time you went through it to check expiration dates and the general condition of supplies? 

5. And then what? — What is your post-evacuation plan? How will you survive the long-term aftermath of a major disaster if you make the decision to leave everything behind and evacuate to another region?

If you work toward having good answers to all these questions, you'll be more prepared to make what might be a life-or-death decision when a disaster looms.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Survive A Lightning Strike

lightningAlthough lightning can strike at any time of year, even during a snowstorm, summer is the season when it poses the greatest danger for people.
That's because this is the time of year when we're outside hiking, fishing, boating, playing golf and placing ourselves in an environment where  lightning can be a problem. 
Dr. Mercola ( presented an excellent article about lightning strike on his website, and gave permission to share it. 
From 2003 to 2012, nearly 350 people died from being struck by lightning in the US.  Many more are struck by lightning and survive, as only about 10 percent of lighting-strike victims are killed (though many do suffer from serious long-term effects).
Contrary to popular belief, what you do during a lightning strike can make all the difference in the outcome, helping you to survive and potentially suffer only minor injuries.
You might think this will never happen to you, but when you consider that the Earth is struck by more than 100 lightning bolts every second, it doesn't sound so far-fetched, does it? If you live in the US, you have a 1 in 3,000 chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime. Knowing what to do if it happens can save your life.

How to Survive a Lightning Strike

The illustration above, done by Ted Slampyak for The Art of Manliness, shows the best position to assume if you're caught in a storm. In a nutshell, here's what you should know:
  • Don't lie down: If you lie down, an electrical current passing through the ground from a nearby lightning strike can pass right through your body.
  • Crouch low: Crouch low so you're not the tallest object around, and at the same time keep your feet close together with your heels touching. This will help the electricity to go in one foot and out the other. Crouch as low to the ground as you can.
  • Crouch on the balls of your feet: This way, a minimal surface of your body is touching the ground and, if a lightning strike does come through you off the ground, the current will most likely travel up one leg and down the other,  missing  vital organs like your heart.
  • Cover your ears: Placing your hands over your ears can help minimize hearing loss from the forthcoming (loud) thunder boom.
  • Beware of hair standing on end or skin tingling:  These are signs that a lightning strike is imminent. Get into the crouching position immediately if you feel them (but be aware that lightning may strike without these warnings).

If You Can Make It to Your Car, Go There

Have you ever heard of a Faraday suit or Faraday cage? This is what some electrical linemen wear so they can work on live, high-voltage power lines without being electrocuted.
Named after Michael Faraday, a scientist who invented them in the 1800s, the suit or cage is made of a mesh metal or other conducting material, which allows the electrical current to pass through the conducting material without reaching whatever is inside. It moves the current around you rather than through you.
Your car is actually a Faraday cage, which is why you're safe inside one if lightning strikes (it's not actually the rubber tires that protect you, as often believed, it's the effect of the Faraday cage).
So, if you can make it to your vehicle, do. If not, you'll want to crouch low to the ground on the balls of your feet with your heels touching, but avoid lying on the ground, as described above.

You Can Be Struck by Lightning Even If the Sky Is Blue

According to an analysis by the National Weather Service, in many lightning-strike deaths, the victims were either headed to safety, or just steps away from safety, when the fatal strike occurred, so if you think a storm is approaching, don't wait to seek shelter! Many wait far too long, believing the storm is too far away to be a threat. As reported by National Geographic:
"Most people do not realize that they can be struck by lightning even when the center of a thunderstorm is 10 miles (16 kilometers) away and there are blue skies overhead… If you can hear thunder, you are within 10 miles of a storm—and can be struck by lightning. Seek shelter and avoid situations in which you may be vulnerable."
Furthermore, lightning is not only a concern during a thunderstorm. It can also strike during other weather events, including:
  • Heavy snowstorms
  • Hurricanes
  • Forest fires
  • Volcanic eruptions
Generally speaking, if you know a storm is approaching, don't risk it. Seek shelter immediately. You can also use the 30-30 rule when deciding if you need to take cover. When you see lightning, begin counting until you hear thunder. If the time is 30 seconds or less, it means the storm is within six miles and you should move to safety immediately.  Even after the sun comes out, you should wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before heading back outside.

The Worst Places to Go in a Thunderstorm

If you're caught in a thunderstorm, resist the temptation to hide under a tree. Trees are typically the tallest objects around, making them perfect targets for lightning and one of the worst places to seek shelter. If you're near one, the lightning can jump over to you and follow your body on its way to the ground.
Rivaling trees as the worst place to go in a thunderstorm would be going near (or in) any type of water, as water is an efficient conductor of electricity (and if you're swimming, you'll also be the tallest object around). You also can't depend on wooden, vinyl, or metal sheds or structures to protect you, unless they're specifically designed to be lightning-safe (and most are not).
Small shelters common to picnic sites, parks, golf courses, and athletic fields will not typically protect you from lightning because they have no mechanism to conduct the electrical current to the ground (such as plumbing or wiring).
Toward that end, if you're indoors be aware that if lightning strikes, it can travel through electrical and telephone wires, which is why you should avoid contact with electrical appliances, plumbing (don't take a shower, do laundry, wash dishes, or even wash your hands), and landline phones (phone use is a leading cause of indoor lightning injuries).

Where Are You Most Likely to Be Struck by Lightning?

Contrary to popular belief, it's not on the golf course, although it is while you're engaged in leisure activities. According to a National Weather Service analysis, two-thirds of lightning deaths occur in people enjoying outdoor leisure activities. As you might suspect, the deaths spiked during the summer months of June, July, and August, and on Saturdays and Sundays, when people are most likely to be outdoors. Interestingly, golf didn't even make the top 10 list of leisure activities associated with the most lightning deaths (it was #12). The top locations revealed by the analysis were:
  1. Fishing
  2. Camping
  3. Boating
  4. Soccer
  5. Beach
  6. Farming or ranching
  7. Riding a bike, motorcycle, or ATV
  8. Social gathering
  9. Yard work
  10. Walking to/from home

What to Do If You're Struck by Lightning

Most lightning strikes are not fatal, but that doesn't mean they're without consequence. Lightning can injure your nervous system, leading to brain and nerve injuries. It can also lead to cardiac arrest from the electrical shock (and this is typically the cause of death in fatal lightning strikes). Rarely, serious burns may occur. If you're near someone who has been struck by lightning and they become unresponsive, it is safe to help them (there is no risk of being electrocuted if you touch them).
After calling for emergency help, administering CPR, or CCR, may keep them alive until help arrives. Aside from cardiac arrest, a lightning strike can lead to short-term symptoms such as muscle soreness, headache, nausea, upset stomach, confusion, mental slowness or fogginess, dizziness, and balance problems. In the longer term, other symptoms may also emerge, some of which may be delayed, including:
Problems coding new information and accessing old informationDifficulty multitaskingSlower reaction time
DistractibilityIrritability  Inattentiveness or forgetfulness
HeadachesChronic pain from nerve injuryRinging in your ears, dizziness or balance problems
Difficulty sleeping, sometimes sleeping excessively at first and later only two or three hours at a timePersonality changes, self-isolationEmbarrassment because you can't remember people or your responsibilities
Difficulty carrying on a conversationDepression
 In addition to finding a knowledgeable health care provider to treat and help resolve your physical symptoms, the Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors, International (LSESSI) support group can offer you and your family emotional support.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Survive The Predators

There is a correlation between survival in the wilderness and survival in civilization.

If you were camping in grizzly bear country, it wouldn’t be wise to encourage the bears to come into your camp looking for their next meal.

How would that happen?

The rule in camp is that you don’t leave food and garbage lying around in the open, because that will attract predators such as bears.

So, to keep from doing that, all food and garbage needs to be stored in bear-proof containers, or strung up on bear wires high above the ground where the bears can’t get to it. But in any case, you keep the containers or bear wires a good distance away from your camp, so even if the bears find those things at least they won’t be in your camp.

So that’s how it goes in the wilderness. But what’s the correlation between this and survival in the city?

In the city, there are predators. And just as surely as a grizzly bear goes on the prowl looking for its next meal, so do the predators in the city. 

You read about them every day in the headlines. Homes are invaded. Women and children are abducted. People are taken hostage or murdered.

In fact, your chances of becoming involved in that kind of predatory incident in the city are far higher than your chances of being attacked by a grizzly bear. 

Survival in the city is a much bigger problem than survival in the wilderness.So, how do you keep from encouraging the city predators from coming into your camp — your home, your life?

One strategy is to stop advertising. Stop displaying publicly any details about yourself or your family

One of the ways people publicly advertise details about their family is with bumper stickers. You’ve seen them — the cute little window stickers that show stick figures of a dad, mom, children and even the family pet. That immediately tells a predator that there are children who could be abducted and held for ransom — or worse.

Or the bumper sticker proudly proclaiming that you have an honor student that attends a particular school. Or that you are members of a particular country club or fitness center.

If you have parking passes, don’t stick them permanently to the vehicle, but attach them to a bit of card stock that you can place on your dashboard when needed, and then hidden in the glove compartment when not needed.

Another huge problem is social media. People who post their travel plans, vacation photos and comments, or even just idle chatter about the day’s events are, in essence, ringing the dinner bell for the grizzly bear. Don’t use Twitter and Facebook and other such communication technologies to advertise to the world what your plans are.

Keep your personal life private. Use your vehicle for transportation, not as a billboard to advertise details about your life and your family.

In the wilderness, you have to understand the nature of the grizzly and then take the proper steps to stay alive. In civilization, you have to do the same thing with city predators.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Core Essentials For Outdoor Survival

TentIt’s that time of year when people start abandoning their couch and TV and heading outside in search of adventure. It doesn’t matter whether your brand of adventure is hiking or camping or fishing or mountain biking or river kayaking.

No matter what you like to do when you leave civilization behind and head into the backcountry, you should stop and think — "What if something forces me to stay longer than planned? What do I need to survive?" This is a key concept, because you never know when you will unexpectedly end up in an emergency situation that turns into a survival incident.

It’s so easy for that to happen. All it takes is a simple injury, like a twisted ankle, on some remote trail. Or getting turned around and not knowing the way back to camp. Or a sudden storm that strands you a long way from your shelter.

If a trip suddenly becomes a survival situation, there are some basic things to consider. These are core essentials to survival in the outdoors. So here we go. The number one thing to consider is that:

• Exposure to the elements poses a threat to human existence. In a survival situation, maintaining proper body temperature is critical. Shelter from the elements — rain, wind, heat, and cold is vital. Your clothing is the first line of defense when it comes to shelter. Clothing with long sleeves and long pant legs is important in both hot and cold weather, because it helps control body temperature and dehydration. Long clothing also helps prevent sunburn, scrapes, bug bites, and other minor injuries. Every person should have windproof and water resistant clothing (an inexpensive pocket poncho works), as well as insulating layers to help maintain the proper body core temperature.

• Food is important. Even though a healthy individual can survive for a prolonged period of time without eating, the problem with going too long without food is that you literally run out of fuel and can't function efficiently. It might take several weeks to actually die of starvation, but in the meantime you will be operating at a progressively lower level mentally and physically. No matter how long your trip is planned for, take along enough compact, high-calorie emergency food to last a few extra days. It's good insurance.

• Water is absolutely essential to survival. Each person should have a couple quarts of drinkable water every day — and more if there is much exertion or if the ambient temperature is high. Take three-times as much water as you think you need for the outing. For greatest safety, a portable water purification system should be included in your equipment inventory. Filters are available in backpacking stores or from outdoor equipment mail order catalogs. Get one that removes dangerous waterborne microorganisms, such as giardia.

• And finally, Fire — take redundant methods of starting a fire, so you can have one in your jacket, and your pants, and your pack. You don’t want to be without a means of starting a fire, even if you happened to leave your jacket or pack in camp, then wandered away and got lost. Fire can be used as a signaling method, or for cooking food, purifying water, for warming you up and drying wet clothing, and for cheering up a gloomy night.

• Before leaving on your trip, file a flight plan with trusted individuals back home. These are your family members and friends or co-workers. Tell them where you're going, when you'll be back, and any side-trips you have in mind. Include information about who you’re traveling with, what vehicles are being used, and what type of equipment you’re carrying. That way, if you don't show up back home in a reasonable time, a search can be initiated. Don’t alter the plan, unless you call and notify the people back home that you are doing so. This might seem like a lot of trouble, but it is nothing compared to being stranded for several days on your own because the search teams are looking for you in the wrong location.

• Once you’re in camp, don’t just wander away without letting someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Discuss your plans with a responsible adult who can organize a search if you don't return at the appointed time.

• Talk with everyone in the group about the rules of conduct in camp. If there are children along, make sure they understand that everyone needs to know where each person is all the time. If someone turns up missing, conduct an immediate search, looking for footprints and calling out to the missing person. If your efforts don’t result in finding the missing person quickly, don't waste any more time before calling for reinforcements. While you’re waiting for the search and rescue team to arrive, continue to search actively. But make sure every person in your party remains in contact with each other. You don’t want searchers getting lost and making the situation worse.

• Prepare each person with knowledge and basic equipment for survival alone in the wilderness. Each person should have an age-appropriate kit that could include some of the following items: a pocket full of emergency rations, a bottle of water, a small first aid kit, a whistle and a signal mirror, a means of starting a fire, an emergency shelter, a knife, and a small flashlight. That might sound like a lot of stuff, but believe it or not, all this can be carried in a small fanny pack or in the pockets of cargo pants.

• Youngsters of responsible age should be taught how to prepare an emergency survival camp, signal for help, use a pocket poncho for shelter, and make their position obvious to searchers through audible and visual signals.

• Get some first aid training, and carry a good kit that you have assembled yourself, so you know what’s in there and what to do with it. The most common injuries are cuts, scrapes, burns, sprains and fractures. You should know how to handle those kinds of medical emergencies. If someone in your group is sensitive to bee stings, you need to know that and be prepared to handle that kind of situation. If someone is diabetic, you need to know that and understand how to handle insulin shock or diabetic coma. Contact your local fire department and ask where you can get emergency medical training. They’ll point you in the right direction.

If everyone in your group is prepared like this, there’s a better chance of a positive outcome if something does go wrong and you end up in a survival situation.

Search & Rescue

Emergency vehiclesRecently, there was a devastating landslide in Washington State that wiped out an entire community.

So far, the search and rescue teams have discovered 41 victims who died. There are still members of the community who are missing. Even though a month has passed since the landslide, the search and recovery effort continues. And it will continue for a long time to come.

When something like this happens, lots of people want to jump in and help in some way. That’s understandable, and it’s admirable that so many folks want to volunteer to lend a hand to relieve the suffering of people who have gone through a disaster.

But timing is everything.

At the moment of the disaster, if you’re a survivor and you can help other people get out alive, that’s great. But when the search and rescue teams arrive, or when the situation evolves into a search and recovery effort, that’s when things change insofar as your ability to help.

And this is what I want to talk about today. What is actually helpful, and what just gets in the way of the search teams?

One of the local officials went on the radio recently to talk about how people who are not part of the official search and recovery effort can help. And while he was thankful for all the volunteers, he also mentioned some things that people do that are not helpful.

Let’s go there first.

An event like this one, a natural disaster that wipes out a large area, is going to take a long time to recover from. Not only was the town wiped out, but the slide closed off a mile of state highway under mud and rocks and trees to a depth of up to 25 feet. The reason they can’t just bulldoze the rubble off the highway is because there might still be victims who are missing buried in that rubble. Clearing the area is going to take time. And until every missing person is found or the search is terminated, and the highway is cleared, the area will remain cordoned off so search teams can do their work.

This tragedy has been all over the news, and there are people who just want to drive up and look at it in person. The local official I mentioned earlier made a plea for people to stay away and let the workers do their jobs. “This isn’t a tourist spot,” he said.

For those who want to volunteer to help out in the wake of a disaster (not only this one, but any disaster), the best advice is to call the Red Cross or the local disaster relief organization and tell them you would like to volunteer to help. They’ll put your name on a list, and they’ll call you when the scene has been secured enough to allow volunteers to come in and help.

It’s nice of people to want to send things to help comfort survivors, but even that can become overwhelming for the relief agencies. The best thing to donate or contribute is money. Give it to the Red Cross or to your church, if they’re organizing a humanitarian relief effort.

Doing things in an organized way helps avoid more chaos in an already chaotic situation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Giardia, Cryptosporidium & Other Bad Stuff

water faucet
Giardia and Cryptosporidium are waterborne organisms that make the water unsafe to drink.

Some people think that giardia and cryptosporidium are only found in rivers and lakes in the wilderness. But the bad news is that the worst outbreaks of these water contaminants in the U.S. happen right in our city water supplies.

One of the most memorable outbreaks was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993. Over the span of two weeks, more than 400,000 residents became sick, and 104 people died from a cryptosporidium outbreak caused by a malfunctioning city water treatment plant.

When the public water supply is contaminated, and the contamination is discovered, a boil order is usually issued by the community health department. A boil order is an advisory telling residents that they need to boil their drinking water to prevent illness.

The illness may be caused by any number of bacteria, virus, or other living organisms that find their way into the public water supply. The causes of contamination can be a natural disaster such as flood, earthquake, landslide, etc. Or it can result from such things as a broken water line, broken sewage lines that permit intermingling of sewage with the community water supply. Or it could be the result of equipment failure in the water treatment or delivery systems.

A boil order usually advises to boil drinking water for one minute. The word boil mean maintaining the water at a rolling boil, with vigorous bubbling for the entire minute. And this should be done to all water that will be use in any aspect of food preparation such as diluting soups or juice concentrates, rehydrating mashed potatoes, mixing gravy, even making ice cubes. This is not just for the water you drink.

Another consideration is that the water you use to wash dishes needs to be clean, or else you risk contaminating the dishes. To help minimize the amount of dish washing that needs to be done, it’s a good idea to have a few days’ supply of paper plates, plastic utensils and cups in your emergency storage. You can use large zip baggies to serve as mixing bowls and storage containers for leftovers. Throw this stuff away after use, conserving your purified water supply for consumption rather than sanitation.

An alternate method to boiling is to bring the water temperature up to more than 165 degrees F and hold it there for six minutes, effectively pasteurizing the water. Use a cooking thermometer to verify that the water temperature is high enough. Pasteurization is a process that you can even do in a solar cooker on a sunny day.

A good filtration system is an excellent way to remove pathogens from the water. A filter rated at .10 microns will stop giardia, cryptosporidium, and bacteria. For versatility and effectiveness, I recommend the Sawyer 3 Water Filter ( that has a million-gallon guarantee.

Another alternative is to treat water chemically. You can do this by using a mixture of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 5 gallons of water. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes before using. But not all organisms will be killed by chlorine, giardia being one example. Iodine is better at inactivating giardia, but iodine causes health problems for some people. Effectiveness of chemical treatment is affected by water temperature, pH level, and clarity. The colder and cloudier the water, the longer it takes for the chemicals to be effective.

Water used for bathing doesn’t usually need to be purified first, but the water used for washing and rinsing hands and face should be sanitized before use. And be careful not to allow contaminated water near open wounds or rashes.

In any survival situation, pure water is a top priority. So make sure you have enough on hand in your emergency supplies to last a couple weeks, and have the ability to purify more water when your supply runs low.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Top Ten Emergency Items

You never know when you’re going to find yourself in a sticky situation, so it’s a good idea to always have some basic emergency equipment close at hand.

There have been many incidents in which people became stranded with their vehicles, so I’ve put together a Top Ten list of things you should carry in your car. These are in no particular order — I recommend you have all of them.

1. Cell phone and charger — Your ability to call for help is what will get you out of your situation faster than anything else. Make sure to carry a cell phone charger that can keep the phone powered up through the vehicle’s battery. You don’t want your cell phone battery to die just when you need to call for help.

2. Emergency blanket — In fact, you might want two blankets of different types. One can be a nice fluffy car blanket that rolls up in a tight little sausage shape, and the other is a pocket-sized Mylar emergency blanket that is reflective on one side and takes up almost no space.

3. Water — Carry a gallon for each person in the vehicle. If you end up stranded for a couple days, you’ll appreciate having this.

4. Food — Have granola bars or other high-calorie snack foods tucked away in the vehicle. The nice thing about trail bars is that they’re compact, they last a long time and they’re not messy. Rotate food items out of the vehicle and into your pantry every six months, and replace with fresh.

5. Fire starting stuff — A fire can be useful for signaling, purifying water, cooking, drying your clothing, keeping you warm, and just keeping you company at night. Have a few methods of fire starting in the vehicle.

6. Medications — If you’re taking medications, carry an emergency supply of them in the vehicle. Some medications, like insulin, might require refrigeration. If so, carry a small ice chest that will preserve the meds for a few days, in case you get stranded. When you go on a trip, bring medications fresh from your house, perhaps in a small duffle bag, so they don’t sit around in the vehicle and get old.

7. Sanitation items — This includes hand sanitizer, toilet paper, perhaps baby wipes, and feminine products that might be needed.

8. First aid kit — Assemble the kit yourself, so you know exactly what’s in there. It wouldn’t hurt to get some basic emergency medical training. Contact your local fire department to find out about available training.

9. Extra clothing — Toss a coat into the vehicle, even if it’s summer and you’re not expecting to stay out late at night. You never know what might happen, and having a jacket, some gloves, a cap, maybe an extra pair of socks will come in handy. For sure have some 5-mile shoes in the vehicle, in case you need to walk to find help.

10. Tools — You want to be able to take care of minor breakdowns. Have a jack, lug wrench, spare tire, and the knowledge of how to use these items. Carry road flares (they make great fire starters, and they also warn other motorists that you’re having a problem). Carry a powerful flashlight and extra batteries. And carry a tarp, in case you need to work on wet or muddy ground.

So there’s my Top Ten emergency items to carry in your vehicle. Feel free to add to the list.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wild Mushrooms

The toxic Fly Agaric mushroom
The toxic Fly Agaric mushroom
This is the season when wild mushrooms start to poke up out of the ground, and that prompts many people to go hunting for wild edible mushrooms. I enjoy hunting wild edibles, including mushrooms. That might sound like fun, but there’s some significant danger involved in eating wild mushrooms. When I say significant danger, I mean illness or death by poisoning. If you happen to eat a poisonous mushroom, the risk is high because it doesn’t take very much of a bite for the toxins to take effect.

Of course, not every poisonous mushroom is deadly. Some of them just cause a great deal of misery such as gastrointestinal upset, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, heart palpitations, or neurological problems. But the truly deadly ones cause liver damage, respiratory failure, kidney failure, destruction of blood cells, and even the loss of limbs prior to death. Serious symptoms don’t always show up immediately after eating a toxic mushroom. Often the problems don’t emerge until the poison has had a chance to attack the kidneys or liver, which might be days or even weeks later. So this is nothing to play around with.

I want to warn you that there are folklore rules for mushroom hunting that are wrong, and can lead you into danger. For example the erroneous rule that poisonous mushrooms are brightly colored, or that if you put a bit of toxic mushroom on a silver spoon it will turn the silver black. You cannot believe such old wives’ tales, because they are not true.

Another bit of bad advice is that by watching the animals and insects you can tell which mushrooms are safe to eat, because animals and insects won’t touch poisonous mushrooms. Well, that’s not true either. Fungi that are harmless to animals and insects might still be toxic to humans. In fact, the Death Cap mushroom is frequently infested by insect larvae.

There is no taste test for detecting a toxic mushroom. The old myth that poisonous mushrooms taste bad is false. Some of the deadliest mushrooms taste quite good — as reported by lucky survivors who didn’t die after eating them.

Or, how about this myth — poisonous mushrooms have pointed caps, while edible ones have round or flat caps. Totally wrong. The shape has nothing to do with toxins.

And just being able to identify a general species of mushroom is no guarantee, either. There can be both edible and toxic members of some mushroom species. And while cooking may eliminate the toxin from some mushrooms, that doesn’t work for all of them.

So how do you know which mushrooms are safe and which are poisonous? The only safe way to deal with wild mushrooms is to make absolute positive identification. This is one area of wild food gathering in which it is extremely important to know what you’re doing.

There are some good books about mushroom identification. I depend on a book called Mushrooms of North America by Orson K. Miller Jr. It’s filled with color photos and precise descriptions that help determine which mushroom I’ve found.

Books are good, but I also recommend that you link up with a class on mushroom identification. Or you might find a local mushroom hunters club. The study of mushrooms is called mycology, so you might do a search by that name to find a club or group of avid mushroom hunters in your area.

Going into the field with experienced experts is the best way to learn how to enjoy and survive the hunt for wild mushrooms.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Disaster Preparation

When disasters hit, it’s common for store shelves to get stripped bare in a real hurry. Sometimes, the transportation system is hit so hard that highways are closed, and trucks may not be able to deliver supplies to refill the store shelves.

Eventually FEMA or some other relief agency might show up, but that might take days or even weeks. Depending on where you live, you could be on your own for a long, long time, leaving you wondering where your next meal is going to come from.

Well, that’s what I want to talk about right now. How can you avoid being in such a vulnerable position that you have to depend on someone else to provide the basic needs for your survival?

It comes down to this — if you’re wise, you’ll take responsibility for your own welfare. This might sound harsh, and I don’t mean it that way, but I just want to keep things real — when a disaster hits, you’re either part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. There’s no middle ground.

If you’re prepared to take care of your own needs, that takes pressure off the relief agencies, and allows them to help someone else. That means you’re part of the solution. If you fail to be prepared to take care of your own needs, then you become part of the problem that the relief agencies need to solve.

One of your basic needs is food. When the store shelves are stripped bare, and the trucks aren’t able to resupply the stores, you’ll be out of luck unless you’ve prepared in advance.

You should have at least a 3-week supply of food in your house or apartment, so you don’t need to depend on the store. That’s a 3-week supply of food to make meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s 21 breakfasts, 21 lunches, and 21 dinners for each member of your family. You need to plan what you would feed your family, and have that much emergency food supply stored in your residence.

The best emergency supply of food consists of what your family normally eats. Don’t fall into the trap of buying bulk dehydrated or freeze dried foods that nobody in the family has ever eaten before, and nobody even knows how to prepare. Simply stock up on extra cans, bottles, and packages of the foods you normally eat. Mark with the date of purchase, and rotate these packages of food into your everyday meals, then replace with fresh ones each time you go to the store. That way, nothing ever gets too old, and you have a sort of mini-store right at your house.

Figure out how to cook if the power is out, and how you will store foods if there is no functioning refrigerator or freezer. One hint is to prepare only enough food for the meal, with no leftovers that need to be refrigerated or frozen. It’s all about planning and preparation.

One final word on this topic — don’t stop with just food. Have on hand enough water for drinking and food preparation. Also, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, medications, and other supplies that you use on a daily basis. Think of all the things you need to keep yourself going, and then imagine you can’t go to the store to buy any of it. That’s the first step in making your plan. Then go out and buy enough of those items so you wouldn’t be left wanting if the stores were suddenly unavailable. Start with a 3-week supply, and build from there.

Disasters strike suddenly. The key to riding it out is to be prepared.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cotton Ball Fire Starter

You’ve probably heard it on TV — Fire is Life.

Well, in a survival situation, having a fire is way better than not having one. So let’s talk about how to make sure you are successful when you try to start a fire.

One of the easiest ways to guarantee success is to have some kind of Super Fire Starter. The function of a Super Fire Starter is to catch the spark from your flint and steel set, or catch the flame from your lighter, and then create a hot, long-lasting blaze that will ignite the kindling and then the fuel wood so you can have a good campfire.

You can go out and spend your money to buy fire starters from a sporting goods store, or you can make them yourself. I’m going to tell you how to make your own at home, and the cost is next to nothing.

It’s simple. Light a candle and drip some melted wax into a cotton ball. Before the wax cools and solidifies, press the cotton ball and wax together until you end up with a waxy pellet about the size of a large marble.

Make several, and stow them in a zip-lock baggie. Stuff this in your pocket along with your lighter or striker whenever you go hiking or camping, hunting or fishing.

You might ask why not use just a plain cotton ball? Well, you can do that. A regular cotton ball catches a spark very well and leaps into a vigorous flame. But without the wax, it burns out very quickly. The waxed cotton ball behaves similar to a candle. When a candle burns, the wax provides the primary fuel for the flame, while the wick burns very slowly and lasts a long time. It’s the same thing with a waxed cotton ball — the wax fuels the flame and it burns for a long time, so the cotton ball itself doesn’t get consumed too quickly.

I did a test to compare the burn time of a plain cotton ball against the burn time of a waxed cotton ball. The regular cotton ball caught fire and burned briskly right off the bat, but it wasn’t long before the size of the ball got smaller and smaller, and the fire went out after 1 minute and 3 seconds.

The waxed cotton ball caught fire a little more gently at first, because the fuzziness of the ball was hidden by the wax coating. But as the wax ignited, the flame was at least twice as vigorous as the plain cotton ball. And it continued to burn with the same intensity right up until the end. The waxed cotton ball stayed ignited for a full 5 minutes 42 seconds.

Out in the woods on a cold, dark, perhaps rainy night, you need all the fire-starting power you can get, because it’s tough getting a campfire started under those conditions. I recommend having a few waxed cotton balls tucked into your pocket, alongside your lighter. They’re cheap, easy to make, and they just might be a lifesaver.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Shoes You Choose

ShoesModern society has created some ridiculous footwear — especially dress shoes that people who work in an office environment wear to work. Not only to work, but also to church, to social gatherings, out on a date, and sometimes just to drive around town.

I suspect the problem stems from the misbegotten belief that “clothes make the man” (or the woman).

I’m all for dressing appropriately for social activities, including going to work. But when it comes to footwear, the fashion industry has gone to extremes to give us shoes that are all form and no function. This is especially true for women. But men also wear dress shoes that aren’t much good anywhere except in an office.

Imagine a situation in which you’re at work when some kind of disaster strikes — a massive power outage, an earthquake, flood, or violent storm. Let’s say the disaster shuts down the flow of traffic — subways aren’t running, public transportation isn’t operating, traffic lights fail and the roads become gridlocked. And you end up having to walk home or to a shelter. A lot of folks wear shoes that will betray them in an emergency like that.

I believe in what I call 5-mile shoes. These are shoes that are built strong enough and comfortable enough to allow you to walk 5 miles without foot problems.

Why 5 miles? Because in an emergency situation you should be able to walk at least 5 miles without your feet complaining. It might take that much distance to get you out of the danger zone, especially if there's a hazmat (nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical) incident and traffic is so snarled that walking is your only option. If your shoes aren’t up to the task, they don’t belong on your feet.

In an emergency, your feet might be your only means of transportation. Put the wrong shoes on them and they’ll fail quickly, leaving your stranded.

If you must wear inappropriate footwear for they place you work, I recommend that you carry a pair of 5-mile shoes in your vehicle and have a pair stashed away somewhere at your place of employment. In fact, here’s a better idea, leave your work shoes at work, and travel to and from work in your 5-mile shoes. That way, if something happens on the way to or from work, you’re prepared to walk.

A few years ago, New York City and the region around there was hit by a massive and long-lasting power outage. When the electricity went off, elevators stopped working, all the traffic signals shut down, the subways ceased to operate, and transportation basically came to a halt. Millions of people were trapped in the city, with no viable way to get home unless they walked. Most of them were wearing shoes fit only for a torture chamber.

Did you ever run out of gas, or have some other type of automotive breakdown some distance from home? These days, motorists are reluctant to stop and pick up a hitchhiker, because there are too many crazies out there. So if you break down, you’re probably going to have to hoof it. If you’re wearing the wrong shoes, you’ll regret it.

My recommendation is to examine your footwear, try it out and see how well you do on a 5-mile walk. Then make adjustments to your shoe collection. Fortunately, there are some semi-dress shoes that will pass the 5-mile test. Soft soles with some traction (not smooth leather that gets slippery when wet) and cushioned insoles are a must. Flexible material that needs no break-in is a benefit. For the ladies, low heels (I know they’re not cute, but you know I’m right).

Your choice of footwear is as much a survival issue as any other item of clothing. When something happens and the times are tough, your ability to walk or hike might be a lifesaver. Make sure you’re prepared.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Surviving Domestic Terrorism

Did you know that the terrorist organization Al Qaeda has its own magazine? Well, they do, and the most recent edition has an article calling on American jihadists to detonate car bombs and suicide vests in major U.S. cities.

Your best chance of surviving a terrorist attack is to understand the tactics used by jihadists. And this article is very open about the strategies to be used. The good news is that this tells us how to avoid becoming a victim. So let’s examine the tactics and see what we can learn.

Specifically, the article urges jihadists to target heavily populated events. That could include major sporting events, political rallies, concerts, or any other activity that attracts large numbers of people into relative confined spaces such as stadiums, shopping malls, or other gathering places.

The plan is to target large numbers of people, not necessarily the buildings. It takes a lot of explosive to bring down a building, but a small amount can do a lot of damage to soft targets like people.

Jihadists are advised to disguise themselves so they fit in with the crowd. You won’t see them wearing their traditional clothing and beards. They might be wearing extra layers of clothing to make them appear fat, because they think most American’s are fat, and because that is also a good way to conceal a suicide vest.

During periods of celebration, jihadists are instructed to disguise themselves and join in the festivities, wearing clothing appropriate for the occasion.

So, how can we use this knowledge to help us avoid becoming a victim? This is kind of a Bad News / Good News thing.

The bad news is that, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, there’s not a thing in the world you can do to avoid either being injured or killed by the explosive shock wave or the shrapnel created by a bomb blast. You can’t outrun it, and you can’t duck fast enough once there’s been an explosion. When the detonation happens, everything is pure luck at that point.

The good news is that you can avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time, if you’re willing to make some changes in your life patterns.

The best strategy is to simply not be in a target zone at the wrong time. That sounds easy on paper, but it takes planning, effort and some sacrifice to keep yourself out of potentially dangerous situations. It means you have to be thoughtful about the places you go and the activities you engage in.

Avoid unusually large crowds, especially during holiday celebrations. Avoid major sporting events, and political rallies. Take a lesson from what happens in Israel when there are bomb attacks. Restaurants, theaters, and shopping mall food courts during peak hours are all likely times and places for a terrorist to strike.

If you use mass transit, find alternative ways to get where you’re going. Busses, subways and trains are especially vulnerable, because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel — you’re trapped in a crowded space, and you’re an easy target. Remember, a jihadist is hoping to take out the greatest number of people possible with a single blast.

So the number one rule is to avoid being in large crowds. That might mean you have to give up some of the activities you want to do. But if that’s what it takes to stay safe in a world where holy war has been declared against you just because you’re an American, it’s probably worth the sacrifice. It’s a decision you have to make.