Another Terrorist Attack proves you don't need  gun or a bomb

Here we go again. In
another terrorist  attack in Nice, France a large truck was driven at high speed through a crowd celebrating France’s Bastille Day. At least 80 people are dead. According to a BBC report, President Francois Hollande said the attack was of a "terrorist nature."

It seems that terrorists don’t need guns to launch an attack (although police did find guns and explosives in the truck) and the terrorist was shot dead by security forces.

 In America, our President and others seem to believe that reducing the number of guns held by law-abiding people will make Society safer. In fact, the opposite is true. The gun is the great equalizer. It allows the old and the weak to protect themselves from bullies rapists and tyrants. If we ban all things that can hurt us, we’d better ban cars and trucks as well.

 And if the President truly thinks that a world without guns will make us all safer, he could set an example by disarming his own Secret Service detail.

 I have thought for a long time that whatever happens in Europe will eventually come to America. But that is a subject for another posting. Tonight our thoughts go out to the people of America’s oldest ally.

“Aujourd'hui, nous sommes tous français.”

America's New Minute Men and Women

As a firearms instructor, I have been seeing an uptick lately in new shooters attending basic firearms classes in order to apply for their state concealed pistol carry permit. This is hardly surprising. You only have to watch national TV news or read a news paper to know that the world is changing and not always in a good way. The people who come to class are average citizens who may only be able to vocalize concerns for their safety in single worlds like “crime” and “terrorism.” Some have never shot before and have no real interest in the recreational aspects of shooting; they are there simply to add another layer of personal security. In addition to the tactics of running away or sheltering in place, they want to be able to shoot back if they are involved in an “active shooter” situation.

This is not the first time that Americans have been faced with a deadly threat to their security. During World War Two the Japanese High Command contemplated an invasion of the West Coast of the United States.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto made the famous comment that: "You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass."

It seems that many Americans share that sentiment.

Mirrror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Most Aware of All?

Situational awareness is a skill that must be learned, practiced and performed in order to achieve our goal of ending each day in the same or better condition than when the day began. Part of being aware of our surroundings is the ability to process information received via our five senses: See, hear, touch, taste and smell.

In this posting, I’m going to focus on one aspect of our ability to see and how we can develop skills to see potential physical threats to our security in time to deal with them or avoid them altogether. Motor vehicles: cars, trucks and motorcycles all have a rear view mirror installed so that drivers can see other vehicles behind them. It allows drivers to have near 360 degree awareness of changing traffic patterns around them and to avoid colliding with other road users.

As pedestrians in a city environment, we can use reflective surfaces to enhance our 360 degree awareness of what is happening around us. Think about walking down a city street. There are all kinds of reflective surfaces that will show us what is happening above and behind us: Store windows, rear view mirrors on parked cars and trucks, highly polished granite facades on banks and office skyscrapers—any clean, smooth and shiny surface that can reflect light. Depending on the angle they are positioned, we may even be able to see around corners! Would that be useful in avoiding a potentially dangerous situation?

With a little practice, we can condition ourselves to automatically look at these reflective surfaces and analyze the image to see if it’s a threat to our security. Try it for yourself. You may be surprised what you discover just around the corner.

Here's an obvious scam that is going around on e-mail, possibly with a subject line of: "I'm fine"

In addition, it may also delete the contents of the receiver's email address book.

At first glance, it looks like a legitimate message because it comes from someone you already know and who is on your mailing list. The spelling and grammar in this scam email are good, which may also help the email to seem authentic.

This is an obvious fraudulent sob story designed to steal money or personal information.If you receive this message from someone you know, delete it and inform them that their email address has been hacked.

The sender says that she and her husband made a trip to Odessa, Ukraine, and were mugged there. All cash, bank card and mobile phone was stolen, and her husband was hurt and is in the hospital. She received No help from the embassy or the police. She contacted her bank at home but it would take 3-5 working days to access funds in her account. She says she has her passport and says her flight home will be leaving soon, but she cannot pay her hotel bill and the hotel manager won't let them leave until she pays the bill. (How does a hotel manger intend to prevent her from leaving?)

 (Here comes the request for money) I need your help/LOAN financially, you are my last resort and hope, all I need right now is $2250, I'll appreciate what you can give if not all and I promise to make the refund once I get back home. I thought I would contact you directly" (a mass email isn't a direct contact. A phone call to someone who recognizes your voice is a direct contact).

 Have you ever thought about how people react in an emergency?

If you watch some of the disaster movies that Hollywood has released over the years it would seem that most people scream, panic and run in circles. That's fine for a fictional movie that is made to entertain us by creating dramatic situations, but in reality, most people's behavior in a crisis is far less dramatic. The 9/11/2001 attacks on the World Trade Center were some of the deadliest and most frightening incidents in american history. We might expect to have seen some behavior similar to the old "Towering Inferno" Hollywood blockbuster from the 1970s. In reality, the occupants of the Twin Towers did not scream and panic. After the two airplanes hit the towers, many of the people inside took the time to consult with their colleagues, close down their computers, call home and check the internet for news before thinking about evacuating. Individuals later reported considering how much actual danger they were in and how important it may be to evacuate; how leaving their desks may be looked at in a negative way by their supervisors and if they may just be wasting time or even lose pay by doing so. Almost everyone acted calmly. A common thread was that individuals kept their cool because those around them were calm. When the majority of people finally began to evacuate, some tended to stop along the way to help others or because  they had lost or damaged their shoes. In some cases, stairwells were clogged with people, or were blocked by debris and people had to find different routes to the ground floor. This resulted in them emerging onto the street at unfamiliar locations.

My online interview, talking about Dealing with Danger

Here's an interview on Youtube that I did with The Book Kahuna, talking about the principles pf personal security that I cover in my book,
"Dealing with Danger"
Click here to view the interview

 Wildfire Season is Right Around the Corner. Are You Ready?

Is your home in a high-risk fire zone? Your local government zoning planning & office can tell you. Now is the time to start thinking about forest fire mitigation. Fires need fuel to grow. Create a 30 feet-wide zone around your house that has no combustible material; no grass that dries out and dies during the summer, no firewood pile, no old building materials that you keep meaning to take to the dump. Even wooden lawn furniture should be kept a safe distance from the house. Cut back grasses, bushes and shrubs too. If in doubt, ask yourself “Can it burn?” and if the answer is “yes” then it needs to be removed from that 30-foot zone.

Next, clean out debris from roofs and gutters. A hot ember blown by the wind from a nearby fire may ignite combustible material. Before you plant trees and shrubs, consider selecting types that won’t be a fire hazard in dry weather and think about planting them outside the 30-foot fire zone.

For more information, take a look at or your state and county websites

Commercial Airliner Passengers Stop Man from Opening Door in mid-flight

In the news today, a passenger on a commercial flight from Chicago, Illinois to Sacramento, California had to be restrained by passengers when he tried to open the emergency exit door in mid-air.

A passenger, Dr. Scott Porter, a married father of two, was quoted as saying, “I just knew if it was a terrorist, the only way I was going to get back to them was to take the matter in my own hands.”

He’s right. Sometimes people are forced to fight and win to save their lives and, in this case, the lives of everyone on the plane.

Most of us are familiar with the pre-flight safety demonstration by the flight attendant when they show the passengers where the emergency exits on the aircraft are located. I’ve noticed in recent years that they also directly ask the person seated next to the emergency door if, in the event of an emergency landing, that passenger is willing and physically able to open the emergency door and assist other passengers to leave the aircraft.

It looks like the airlines may also have to start asking passengers if they are willing and physically able to fight another passenger to prevent them from opening the door in flight.

Learn to Change a Wheel--it may save your life

Venezuelen beauty queen Monica Spear Mootz and her estranged husband were murdered while on a driving vacation in Venezuela recently. Media reports indicate that the couple's car had a flat tire and that they were waiting in the car for a tow truck to arrive when they were ambushed and shot dead. Newspaper photos show their car with bullet holes in the windows, and report that the couple had locked themselves in the vehicle along with their young daughter, who was also shot, but survived.

It's a pity they didn't try to drive away at the first sign of trouble. Most vehicles can still be driven at least a short distance with a flat tire, even though doing so will eventually shred the tire. I don't know how much time elapsed from when they called the tow truck to when they were attacked, but it might have been better if they had at least started to change the tire while they were waiting for the tow truck. An alternative would have been for them to leave the car and walk to a safe place where they could wait until the car was fixed. I don't know if any of these options would have guaranteed their safety. I'm just offering some suggestions for consideration.

There are two lessons to be learned from this very sad situation. First, every driver who is physically capable of changing a wheel should practice it until they are able to do it properly. Second, it's better to drive to safety on a flat tire and risk damaging it than it is to stay in a place that is not safe and hope that roadside assistance arrives before the bad guys do.

What lessons can we learn from 9/11? Wherever we are, make it a habit to identify at least one additional way out that is different from the way we came in. Climbing over rubble or wading through dirty water where we cannot see what we are treading on is likely to injure feet and ankles. "Sensible" shoes may help us to escape. Yes, I understand that climbing boots do not go well with an evening dress. However, for our day-to-day activities, what's wrong with keeping a pair of  walking shoes at work, or at least in the trunk of the family car? When your gut tells you it's time to leave, then leave! Don't wait to be told. We probably won't ever have the perfect plan for every situation, but anything we can do to prepare for a specific emergency before it happens will increase our chances of surviving.

A few thoughts on vehicle security:

There are various physical methods of securing a vehicle. First, the most obvious and simple to do is to wind up the
windows and lock all the doors (and the trunk if there is one), even when leaving the vehicle for a very short period of
time. People who gas up their car and then leave the keys in it while they go into the gas station convenience store are
giving a passing thief a great opportunity to steal a car with a full tank of gas. With gas prices today, that's just adding
insult to injury. There are other physical means of securing a vehicle, such as a locking clamp on the steering wheel, or
fitting one of the many electronic devices to disable the ignition system or block the supply of fuel to the engine.

Another good idea is to have the vehicle's VIN number etched into all the windows. This may deter thieves from stealing
the car to resell it. Some police and Sheriff's departments offer this service, or can refer car owners to organizations that
can help.

A thin polymer film can be applied on the inside of all the windows--similar to tinting, but stronger--that serves as physical
deterrent to thieves smahing the glass and stealing valuables through the window. Be sure to get an appropriate product.
Ordinary window tint isn't designed as a security feature.

Whenever possible, park in places where it's possible to keep a visual check on the vehicle. Don't expect neighbors or
passers-by to prevent someone from stealing your car. We don't live in Mayberry any more. There are many more things
to take into account when it comes to vehicle security; not least of which is what to do in a carjacking--someone tries to
take the car while the driver and passengers are in it. The main thing to remember is that cars can be replaced, people
cannot. Let's be sensible about this.

Writing my Bugout Book

I'm writing another book. It's about escaping or evacuating from dangerous situations, which is commonly called "bugging out."
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about bugging out. It's become the reason for some people to buy a 4x4 vehicle and
fill it with water, ammo, and freeze dried rations. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with that, in fact I think it's great that more people are considering the possibility of having to go somewhere else to avoid a dangerous event--whatever that event may be. It's just that there are a lot more mundane, but more likely events that can harm people than "The Big One."

By all means, prepare for a major catastrophe if your time and budget allows, but let's not forget the smaller, less exciting episodes that are more likely: A chemical spill on the expressway that forces people to leave their homes for a few hours; forest fire, house fire, home invasion, fire in the workplace, bomb scare or active shooter alert in a public place; flood or hurricane warning.

More often than not, it's the small, familiar things that can be the most dangerous because we don't perceive them to be a threat until it's too late. One example is a stronger than normal wave surge or tide at the beach. Some people heed the lifeguard's warning to stay out of the water, but a few actually gravitate to the beach to see what's going on. One example of this was the huge earthquake off the coast of Japan in 2011, which generated a tsunami wave that traveled across the Pacific Ocean to the California coast. Media outlets advised observers in California to stay away from the sea shore, but some people actually moved closer to the surf. One person died when they were swept out to sea. My bugout book is taking much longer to write than I anticipated, partly because it explores so many more attributes of bugging out than just packing a bugout bag for an emergency. I'll post updates on my progress from time to time ... 

Fire and Zippo

Fire is possibly the oldest and certainly one of the most useful tools for both short and long term survival. It's a source of light and heat, it can be used to signal for help, cook food, boil water for drinking, sterilize equipment such as knives before medical procedures, seal the end of a nylon rope to prevent it fraying ... and a thousand other things. Therefore, it seems to be a good idea to include a method for making fire in a survival, medical or bugout kit. There are lots of fire making tools available. The mountain men who hunted and trapped the western United States two centuries ago carried a piece of steel,  flint and some charred cotton cloth as a firemaking kit. Today, many recreational backpackers and campers carry a disposable plastic cigarette lighter,  book or box of matches. In more extreme climates, they may invest in the specialty waterproof matches for greater reliability.

And then there's the Zippo lighter. Since 1933, this simple steel and flint cigarette lighter has produced a strong, windproof flame for millions of people around the world. During World War Two, the lighter was so popular, the Zippo company devoted its entire production of lighters to supplying American troops, who purchased them at the PX (although it was never an official government item).

To this day, the Zippo is still an icon of design and style. Zippo makes other useful tools such as a dedicated firestarter with the traditional flint wheel ignition and a supply of  water resistant waxed tinder sticks, rather than an actual flame. The company also makes campfire starter material comprised of sawdust and wax, and a butane lighter. The standard Zippo lighter is a bit heavier than a box of matches or a disposable plastic lighter, and that may be a consideration for some people who have to carry  a heavy load. However, I'll follow the lead of all those World War Two GIs who slogged across Europe and Asia, carrying heavy weapons and packs, and who valued their Zippo enough to take it with them.

(And while we're talking about the World War Two generation, let's take a moment to consider what they did: survive the Great Depression; win World War Two; build post-war Western democracies and robust economies in America and Europe.) Something to remember every time you flick your Zippo.

Flashlights! Because In The Land of the Blind, the One-eyed man is King

  I believe that next to a cell phone, a compact flashlight is the single most useful tool to carry on a daily basis.

Several years ago, I was volunteering at one of the police departments in our county as a role player for some of the officers who were getting some additional training in dealing with domestic disturbances. In one scenario, I played the role of a guy who was being interviewed by officers in his home following a noisy disturbance that had prompted neighbors to call the cops. Prior to the beginning of the session, for safety reasons I had removed my pocket knife, but I forgot to remove my compact tactical flashlight.

As part of the exersize, a young officer was politely searching me for concealed weapons when he found my Surefire 6P light in a pouch on my belt. (The light is about 5 inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter.) He held it up in front of me and asked, "What's this for?" I wasn't trying to give him a hard time, but I couldn't resist saying, "It helps me to see in the dark." He shrugged and we continued with the exersize.

Being able to see in the dark isn't just about seeing at night. It's about seeing in dimly lighted areas: underground parking lots, pedestrian tunnels under roadways and railroads, inside large buildings during electrical outages, etc. A few years ago, I was driving through a remote mountain area when I came upon a car accident. The vehicle had flipped over on its roof and was blocking half the narrow mountain road. Even though it was broad daylight,  oncoming drivers were not seeing the accident until they had to brake sharply to avoid hitting the car.

I stationed myself a hundred yards up the road and used my flashlight to warn drivers to slow down. Most drivers saw me, but some weren't paying attention and had to brake hard at the last moment. Since that day I have always carried a fluorescent orange hunting cap in my vehicle with my emergency gear. That hat is designed to be seen a long way away, even in low light conditions.

Modern flashlight technology has come a long way in the past few years. The lights are smarter--many can flash a strobe light and step up and down in brightness. They can now be made considerably brighter, smaller, and less expensive than they were even five years ago, and LED technology has all but replaced the older technology bulbs. A small flashlight with an aluminum body that isn't much bigger than a roll of quarters and with an LED bulb can be purchased quite cheaply. The aluminum body protects the light and can also be used as an improvised impact weapon against a violent assailant.

In The Land of the Blind, the One-eyed man is King, but in the dark, the person with a flashlight is able to find their way to safety.

It's 11 o'clock in the morning ... Do you know where YOUR bugout bag is?

You are sitting at home one morning when there is a knock at the door. It's a police officer and he tells you that there has been a huge chemical spill near your home, a toxic cloud has formed and is drifting in your direction. You have five minutes to evacuate. Don't expect to be allowed back into your home for about 24 - 36 hours. The clock starts now!

What do you do?

Here are some things to consider:

1. What do you absolutely need to survive away from home? (Always assume that whatever the estimated time is--in this example, 36 hours--that you can double it. So think 72 hours.) Make a list of those items that are absolutely necessary. Some things might be:
House and car keys, wallet and cash, prescription medication and a first aid kit, food and water, spare clothing appropriate for the weather conditions, Special Needs food for family members such as baby formula or puppy food.

2. Who will evacuate with you? Family members, don't forget pets! Perhaps a next-door neighbor who needs help to evacuate.

3. Where will you go? A friend's house? Red Cross shelter? A hotel? (Make sure you have cash or credit card to pay for the stay.)

4. How will you get there? Car, public transportation, horse (If you own a horse, you need to include it in the evacuation plan anyway).

5. How will you notify family and friends that you are leaving? How will they be able to contact you or meet you at your destination?

These are just a few issues. I'm sure you can think of others for your specific situation. Have a plan, write it down. Have a checklist of
things to take and write that down too. If possible, put together a bugout bag and store in it the things you absolutely know you will need.

If you live in an area which is prone to specific threats such as flooding, earthquake or forest fire, then the first sentence in your written plan could be "If there is a forest fire, I will ... " When planning, think about things that could affect your plan. For example, "If the main road out of the subdivision is blocked, I will take the alternate route, which is located at ..."

Know when to execute your plan. What circumstances would cause me to have to evacuate the building at short notice?

Be a competent survivor

 It is part of human nature to strive to be the best that we can be in some chosen field or occupation. People who are Number One, whether it is in sports or academic achievement or professional entertainment, are applauded by the rest of us.

That’s fine, but the problem is that very few people are number one at everything they do. And many people who are at the top of their game in one field fail dismally in other activities because they have put their lives into being the very best at one thing.

So often, society rewards us for being exceptional, for being number one in our chosen endeavor. Nobody remembers who finished second in any major race, competition or political election.

But in reality, in day-to-day life, isn’t it often the people who are “adequate but not exceptional” who are often the most useful because they are “adequate but not exceptional” in several different fields. In other words, the people who finish in second place are still finishers. They still accomplished their goal (or at least a major part of it).

On a sinking ship, an adequate swimmer is more likely to survive than a world class professional rock guitarist. When we talk about a mugging, a sixty-year-old retired police officer may well do better than a thirty-year-old dentist.

Most of us don’t have the ability to be number one in a single field. But in many aspects of life, being a good all-rounder actually makes us more useful for ourselves and other people.

I recently listened to a short piece of a radio interview with musician Billy Joel where he said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that he knows how to play a piano, how to sing, how to write songs, how to record songs, how to perform in public, but that he did not consider himself to be really good at any of those skills. What he does consider himself to be is competent.

The dictionary defines competent as “… having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified; adequate but not exceptional.” Notice those three words: “suitable,” “sufficient,” and “adequate.” They define the person who has a wide range of skills that may not be complete, but will be enough to help them to survive a wide array of threatening situations. If, for example, you can think on your feet quite well, run quite well, punch, kick, stab and shoot quite well, you are probably “adequate but not exceptional.” And if, on top of those skills, you are constantly aware of what is happening around you, and you have a good plan for how you will deal with specific threatening situations and which of your skills you will use and when to use them, then you are probably much closer to being number one than most people around you.

When we think about surviving disasters, it would be nice if we were all experts of whatever disaster threatens our lives, but in reality, we are better off having a core set of skills and a highly developed survival mindset that allows us to be competent to deal with a variety of threatening situations that we cannot avoid. You don’t necessarily have to be a champion boxer or cage fighter to survive a mugging. Of course it helps if you are, but many people survive knowing just a handful of fighting moves: kick, punch, block, throw etc, but what few moves they do know, they can perform very well. In the same way, the average driver knows enough to avoid car accidents most of the time, without having to become a world class NASCAR or Grand Prix racer.

By all means, strive for excellence; be number one in your chosen field, but remember also that true survivors are likely to be competent in several different areas.

Three things to consider when parking your vehicle

Regardless of whether you drive a car, SUV, pickup truck, convertible, motorcycle or bicycle, whenever you are approaching the place where you intend to park look around you to see if it's safe to park.

If you see someone just standing around with no obvious reason for being there, consider them as a potential threat. If they are standing at a bus stop for example, it's likely they are waiting for a bus, but you don't know for sure. If they are simply standing there with no apparent reason to be there, then perhaps they are a planning a mugging or even a kidnapping. You won't know unless you see them make a move on you or someone else.

The most dangerous time when you are parking your vehicle begins when you turn off the motor and ends when you are safely away from your vehicle and in a secure place such as a building or at least in a public place with plenty of people present. But as soon as you turn off the motor your seat belt is securing you inside a large cage, making you vulnerable to an attack. Your goal is to get out of the vehicle quickly and smoothly and become mobile again.

Plan ahead of time to have any bags or packages close at hand so that you can quickly pick them up, exit your vehicle and lock it, and be on your way. Remember to keep looking around you from the time you drive into the parking space until you are safely at your final destination.

If you do see someone hanging around and you get that funny feeling that something is wrong with the situation, the worst thing you can do is to tell yourself, "It's nothing really, I'm just overreacting, it will be fine." The chances are that your first impression is the correct impression. Keep driving and find a parking place elsewhere.

To recap:
1) Look around for suspicious people as you are approaching the place where you plan to park.
2) Minimize the amount of time you are sitting in the vehicle with the motor turned off.
3) Keep looking around you before you exit the vehicle, don't be distracted while you pick up any bags and packages, and keep looking around as you walk to your destination.

The Lesson of the Japanese Tea Bowl

In Japan, drinking tea has been a carefully orchestrated ritual for centuries. The tea is served in a bowl, rather than a cup with a handle. If the tea is too hot to cradle the bowl in the palms of your hands, then it's too hot to drink. Think of it as a warning system to stop the tea drinker from scalding their mouth.

Here in the west, we go to the local Starbucks or similar coffee place and drink tea and coffee from mugs and cups with handles or get it to go in a paper cup with an insulating cardboard sleeve, or our own insulated container with a lid.

Most of us have scalded ourselves at some time or another with that first hasty sip from a cup containing near-boiling liquid. Why? Because we have circumvented the Japanese warning system. By insulting and protecting our hand with a mug handle or a protective sleeve, instead of our hand being the first thing to be scalded, it's our mouth.

We insulate ourselves from an early warning system in other ways too. Any time we are out in public and we are listening to music through stereo ear pieces, or we are texting while driving and not watching where we are going, we risk becoming a victim of an attack or an accident.

Don't insulate your senses from what is around you. Remember the lesson of the Japanese tea bowl.

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