Archive for Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

Bug Out Bags Part II: Washington, DC

Map of Washington DCFor Part II in our series on bug out kits, I will look at some specifics for planning your kit if you happen to live in or around the nation’s capital.  I chose to address DC first, because it is a city where the conditions that trigger bugging out are likely to occur and it offers some very specific challenges that are applicable to many urban centers across the US.  Hopefully, you have had a chance to read my intro post on building your bug out kit.  If not, first review thin information we posted at: http://www.lastminutesurvival.com/2014/10/13/location-specific-bug-out-bags-part-i/.

Why would you worry about having to bug out if you live in DC? Read more

Overcoming the Greatest Prepper Weakness: The Individual versus the Community and a Plan for the Future

One of the greatest assets to preppers is that they are self-reliant and able to independently operate.  However, it is also their greatest vulnerability.  No matter how tough, how well-trained, how well armed, or how well prepared an individual is, there is only so much one person can do.  Numbers matter.  As an individual, you must eventually sleep and can’t stand guard indefinitely.  You can only be at one place at one time.  A second set of hands on nearly any labor intensive task is better than one.  If sick or injured it is very difficult or impossible to provide prolonged self-aid or surgery.  If directly confronted by an organized and numerically superior force, the odds are decidedly against the individual.  You can only accurately fire one weapon, at one target, at one time.  Further, your best odds of survival if attacked by superior numbers would be to try and escape, but even then it is pretty easy for a larger number of pursuers to head you off and corner even the craftiest of evaders.  As such, for any realistic, long term survival plan, one must build a prepared community.  A community is the foundational bedrock of a society and a nation.  The community is where the individual can truly make a difference and build a better life.  Today’s article is my appeal to you to take action to improve your life, to create new and better communities, and to take back our nation.  I will provide each of you with the template to not just resist, but triumph.  Each one of us has the ability to change the status quo in the present day and no longer be at the mercy of the state, which at one time, represented us as citizens.  Make no mistake, survival is a long term struggle against both nature and tyranny that comes with sacrifice, but we can overcome the odds best through collective action.

Man is neither designed nor equipped to be a solitary animal.  Individually we are weak and vulnerable and would have long ago become easy prey and gone extinct if it wasn’t for banning together.  Since the earliest prehistoric times, man has grouped together in bands and tribes to survive.  Modern man is no exception as we live today more interconnected than ever.  This interdependency has allowed us to specialize, to survive, and to even have leisure.  Man was designed with neither the long claws and fangs of apex predators nor the acute hearing and swift speed of prey.  We don’t come with fur to protect us from temperature extremes and have long since lost our immunities to many parasites commonly found in food and water.  Man’s greatest asset, his mind, combined with strength in numbers has demonstrated that he can overcome nearly any extreme and challenge.  This maxim is as crucial for survival today as it was ten thousand years ago when small bands of Ice Age hunters and gathers grouped together to fend off ferocious predators and take down massive game.

Communities and villages sprang to existence out of the mutual need for security and distribution of labor.  Someone always needed to tend to the fire and be on the watch for predators so that others could safely sleep.  While some hunted the others cooked and farmed.  In modern times, these families became bands, then tribes, and then nations.  As nations grew, man’s greatest threat ceased to be lions and tigers, but his fellow man.  Nation state violence led to the need to collectively organize in even greater numbers or risk being numerically overwhelmed by a neighboring nation.  Internally, the rise of nations led to the rise of brutal tyrants and the further need organize the masses in resistance in order to escape slavery and death at the hands of the king’s mercenaries.

Today, the modern prepper faces all of these challenges.  At the most local level, the prepper must find a way to accomplish the daily tasks of a subsistence existence.  The chores of simply acquiring and preparing food and water, staying warm or cool, maintaining shelter, and creating or fixing the means to accomplish the former are enough to rapidly overwhelm anyone.  However, the prepper must also provide for his common security against potentially large bands of hostile people and what appears to be an increasingly hostile government.  Individually, or at least as a family, it is certainly possible to scratch out a subsistence level of existence as long as you are never confronted by a hostile group.  However, it is simply not realistic to believe that one could independently sustain for the long term when faced with hungry bands of violent, armed, thugs or a hostile, state sponsored tyranny.

As previously stated, I don’t care how prepared you “think” you are; if you are trying to subsist with just a handful of people, an organized group of basically trained thugs with a proclivity for violence will quickly overwhelm you and certainly seize whatever preps you have stored.  This is not a situation of maybe, but an absolute.  The preppers that fail to learn and internalize this are living in a fantasy world.  Preppers that ardently stick to their small groups in remote and isolated areas only delay the inevitable.  This paradigm may be best illustrated by how law enforcement represents a small percentage of the population, but effectively controls the masses by being able to quickly mass and achieve local (tactical) numerical superiority against any resistance.  Individually, there have been literally millions of people arrested that were tough, prepared, and well-armed, but I can’t think of any in recent memory that have successfully fought off a determined attempt at seizure by the police.  Sadly, government has never proven capable of leaving individuals alone and hungry mobs have never shown the proclivity to take the moral high road and starve when the option to loot for food existed.  Eventually, preppers that failed to organize BEFORE a collapse or crisis and build communities will each be independently identified, targeted, and wiped out by thugs or hostile government forces.

The solution to this is not a new one.  It is as old as mankind.  Like minded individuals will once again need to band together to collectively survive.  This is and will be an essential, critical, FACT that preppers must accept.  Preppers need not build communes or cede their independence, but do need to build communities.  These communities need to be aware, prepared, and organized in a manner that they are effectively self-sustaining and self-governing.  It is equally essential to also build the population numbers in a concentrated manner that will change the voting demographic so that elected representatives will not only properly represent, but be of the same mindset of their constituents.  We have seen some of these successes in Montana and Idaho, but are failing to coalesce in an organized manner nationwide.  Only by achieving, at minimum, at first, tactical numerical superiority in targeted regions will free, independent, liberty minded individuals be able to live a life of freedom with liberty in something more than their imagination.

Communities built around self-sustainment are by their very nature resilient to natural disasters, grid failures, and crime.  By locally producing food, water, and power a community can almost completely eliminate the major vulnerabilities of today’s societies.  The society is healthier, happier, and more connected.  By once again localizing industry, the community can build, fabricate, or repair nearly anything and have a vibrant localized economy.  Further, by having a large pool of like-minded citizens, the community can fend off both political and physical attacks.  One threat can be defeated through the ballot box and the other through tactical numerical “superiority.”  To illustrate this point, 100 groups of eight preppers could disperse across the 50 states (two groups to a state).  These small groups have zero political influence or protection and could be rounded up and wiped out in a single night by either hostile thugs or government forces operating in groups so small local law enforcement could field them.  However, if you combined these groups in one area, you would have the local tactical strength of upwards of 800 people.  This is a sufficient number to not just swing, but control elections in smaller districts, install a like-minded sheriff and deputies, and present a unified defense requiring at least a battalion of military regulars to engage with any chance of success.  Imagine getting back to a time and place where instead of fearing police, the local police actually acted to “defend” the locals and keep the peace with the full weight of the people and the law behind it.  Imagine a place where you could walk down the street and not be filmed, photographed, tracked, and fined for violating one of a seemingly infinite number of overbearing regulations.  Now consider the literally millions of like-minded “preppers” that exist in the cities, towns, and the rural expanses of America.  If the media is to be believed, tens of millions of these people are already organized under the nebulous title “Tea Party.”  By concentrating these numbers we not only make being prepared and living free mainstream, but the lifestyle sells itself.  Don’t waste your strength and try to fight the numbers in states like California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.  Let those states wallow in their own filth, debt, and ever increasing taxes.  Instead, take charge and opt out of them.  Stop paying into those defunct systems and move away.  Concentrate in places where we can control the elections, the schools, the local law enforcement, and ultimately empower our way of life.  To use the cliché, “if we build it, people will come” is justified.  As we set ourselves apart and demonstrate a workable better life, more and more people will turn away from their current unsustainable, rat race existences and seek something better for themselves and their families.  People want this and are thirsty for leadership, but to date, few have stepped up.  If we lead, the masses will follow.

The model outlined above is feasible, suitable, and something that could be quickly accomplished in the near term.  Much debate surrounds the “optimum” prepper retreat location, but it is unnecessary because few states truly fit the bill.  Further, most of the debate is academic because true survival will not come from hiding and hoping tyranny will overlook you.  Instead, we must recognize “prepping” is not just an action but a way of life that must be protected and nurtured.  To truly survive, we must come to terms with reality and engage in an effective course of action with a chance of long term success.  We must change the debate and public perception of preppers.  We need to show the public we are absolutely no threat, peaceful, and reframe ourselves as a persecuted minority requiring protection, much like the Amish or Mennonites.  To effect this we must concentrate our numbers in specific localities.  The best prepper locations to concentrate at first will be areas of low population density, but ample natural resources.  Further, it is only reasonable to first target locations within states that predominately tend to support freedom, liberty, and independence or in short, support a prepared lifestyle and are not burdensome with respect to taxes and regulation.  This means that an ideal state probably will not have a large, leftwing, urban center like New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco that disproportionately biases the elections.  That immediately rules out states such as California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York.  You would also want to avoid locations with staggering debt or other lingering problems that would be materially detrimental to building new communities.  Out west, states such as Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming offer the best options to concentrate.  Idaho has long been recognized as an ideal redoubt and is already demonstrating that this model works.  Not only have local and state leaders been elected, but representatives at the federal level have been elected and are now insulating Idaho from many of the problems facing the rest of the nation.  In fact, businesses are also moving to Idaho.  Gun and ammunition manufacturers in particular have found Idaho a great place to set up business.

In the east, West Virginia may well be on its way to becoming the prepper redoubt of choice.  West Virginia’s topography is well suited to the defense and has a very low population density.  There are entire areas of West Virginia that have zero electronic emissions.  The federal government has also recognized West Virginia’s suitability for surviving an apocalypse and has built various “hollow mountains” throughout the state.  Unlike many other potential redoubts, West Virginia is a realistic location to bug out to from most areas along the East Coast and is not prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or large earthquakes.  It is also well protected from potential nuclear blasts and is not seen as a high value target for terrorists.  Further, West Virginia really doesn’t have any major metropolitan areas that will spill millions of refugees into the surrounding hinterlands.  The climate is very suitable for growing a variety of crops and the state is rich in natural resources that range from salt and coal to timber and natural gas.  West Virginia tends to not be heavy on regulation and the people are generally conservative minded and live already as semi-preppers.  West Virginia also has the potential to be a leader in alternate energy.  It has endless ridgelines for wind and solar power as well as many streams and rivers suitable for various scale hydroelectric systems.  West Virginia is an outdoorsman’s paradise, yet is still located close enough to eastern population centers that it will have increasing influence.  Given the low population density and the affordability of homes and property in West Virginia, it would be relatively easy for preppers in the mid-Atlantic to relocate and take up residence in a few targeted counties such as Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, and Grant counties in the eastern panhandle.  By concentrating in these counties and gaining a strong percentage of the voting block, like minded preppers could essentially establish a food hold in the heart of the mid-Atlantic and establish their own model community.  Note that it is not necessary to even gain a voting “majority” in these counties because the influence of a well-organized and active electorate will be more than sufficient to sway, skew, and control any local election.  Further, voter turnout; especially at the local level and during primaries, tends to be extremely low so it would be possible to not only oust incumbents on tickets, but stack the local and state governments with our candidates.  From those initial gains, we could fundamentally change how local and then state governments operate in the near term and demonstrate a better way of living to the nation.  Ultimately, we will fundamentally change the thinking nationwide and to this end, achieve our goals of independence, liberty, and sustainable living.

I challenge each of you today to disseminate this message as widely as possible, to as many people as possible.  Sow the seeds of liberty and freedom again in people’s minds.  Let them know that they don’t have to accept the status quo and can change their situation now.  There are no longer empty frontiers to escape to and waiting till the SHTF will be too late.  We must pick our ground wisely now so that we can stand our ground later.  By doing something as simple as moving your state of residence (even if that doesn’t mean you physically move) so that you can (and must) vote in Idaho or West Virginia, we absolutely can improve our lives and the lives of others.  Follow my lead and begin the process of stacking the deck in these two states where as little as a hundred votes can control the officials elected at the local and state level.  Idaho and West Virginia are not the end, but the beginning.  From these two localities we can expand our communities to the surrounding regions and states, but we have to begin somewhere and we have to begin now.

 

By Guiles Hendrik

November 3, 2013

All rights reserved.

Sgt G’s Story Time: SHTF Marksmanship, Pt. 1

America fell apart after the October 2013 Debt Ceiling/Obamacare fiasco.  The politicos ‘running’ the country agreed-to-disagree and inevitably kicked off the national default.  The pain of endless magical government money disappearing had no ripple effect, it was more like all the dominoes falling down at the same time.  Thousands of honorably disabled military veterans, some just home from Afghanistan, took the hit straight to the gut when the VA ran out of money.  Many of these vets depended on these hard earned monthly checks from the VA to keep up with bills and keep themselves and family fed.  Poverty quickly moved their way.  Thousands of vets using the GI Bill to pay for college also got the ‘sorry but…’ letter from the VA as they too became victims of their government’s inability to do anything efficiently, responsibly, and honestly.  Welfare recipients were not exempt from the economic crash.  Honest blue collar workers down on their luck and barely making ends meet lost the financial aid, they knew nothing more than to take it on the chin and keep pressing on.  The equivalent of career politicians in the welfare receipt world suffered the most from the demise of welfare.  These individuals, able bodied masters of ripping off state and federal governments, depended on welfare for every aspect of their lives.  Food stamps, free medical coverage, etc., they had it all but lied to get it.  Ms. Karma struck with a vengeance as they would soon become very hungry able bodied individuals with no free rides to keep them alive.

Our imaginary friend Kenny was around for all this drama.  He was smarter than the average bear and relatively prepared for a short term nationwide crash.  Days spent on YouTube guided his emergency preparedness buys like food and water storage, ammunition and firearms, and barter items.  Unfortunately, he was never able to buy common sense and sound judgment, especially when it came to using his ‘Prepper/SHTF’ toys.  Kenny saw the news coverage of big city riots where hungry maddened people took to the streets in a Rodney King-esque fashion.  He understood their looting of grocery stores as they were not OK with starving.  Eventually the looting grew to include murder and rape on a grand scale.  The bloody snowball was going wild and rolling out of big cities into not so big cities.  Martial law by way of the military became the norm but fell apart when troops could not be paid and decided to head home to care for their families.  Organized banditry was the new threat to be fought and Kenny was part of fighting the good fight.  Refugee camps sprang up along the US-101 north of LA (aka: Hell-A) as the thuggery got worse in the city.  The better organized gangs occasionally raided these camps a la Viking with typical raping, pillaging, and burning.  Although a citizens defense force was forming to keep the criminals at bay, Kenny preferred to play the lone-wolf card.  Bad idea.

So there goes our dumb friend Kenny into the beautiful rolling hills of southern California in search of ‘bad guys’.  Along the way he befriends a fellow lone-wolfette, Ms. Stone of the ‘Green Hill Rangers’.  Stone eventually dropped out of the operation due to unseen ‘blisters’ on her feet, “I just know they are there” she said. Her exodus had nothing to do with his creepy stares and insistence on walking behind her while they hiked uphill.  As a parting gift, Stone gave our idiot hero Kenny a scoped SR-25 rifle, magazine inserted and ready to rock and roll.  Now he would really ‘bring it’ to the marauding scum that prowled what he called the “Central Southern Highlands.” The next morning Kenny rolled out of his 13 pound modular sleeping system and got ready for breakfast.  From his half-ton Alice pack he produced a bag of powdered eggs, some pancake mix, a bottle of maple syrup, a cigar, a cast iron skillet, and a propane stove.  This guy traveled in style.  His stove didn’t work so he fired up some twigs and branches to get his breakfast cooked, bad idea.  Hours later he got back to work and found what he was looking for, one platoon sized unit of motorized thugs stretching their legs just off the US-101.  From behind absolutely no cover and concealment, Kenny flipped the SR-25 to fire and pulled the trigger on his nearest target.  He heard a quick ‘pfffft‘ sound and saw no effects on target.  He thought, “Ms. Stone said nothing of an internal silencer?”.  He sat up for a second shot at his 500 m target and was annoyed at the wind pushing dust into his side and rustling leaves.  ‘Pfft‘ again, then the lack of recoil woke him up. He removed the magazine and saw a white pellet near the top.  He cried, “DAMN YOU GREEN HILL AIRSOFTERS!”  His loud objection drew the attention and incoming fire from his would be targets.  Kenny had one good thing going for him, a Colt 6920 Carbine.  The 5.56mm firearm was nearly stretched to its limits at 500 m but more than capable of accurately engaging his targets.  Kenny chambered a green tip round, set his rear sight elevation to 5, and began engaging his targets.  He had no idea that his centered rear windage was allowing the wind to move his rounds almost one foot to the left of his targets.  Three magazines worth of zero hits later and Kenny was toast.  The thugs had common sense and bounded towards him at a steady pace.  He was eventually suppressed by their fire and one well aimed AK did him in.

Slowly, Kenny’s soul drifted up from his cooling lifeless body.  He noted the following:

“Why was I carrying so much unnecessary gear?”

“Why don’t my clothes match the terrain?”

“Why did I shoot from an unconcealed/uncovered position?”

“Why did that cute girl give me an airsoft gun?!”

“Why did I miss?”

 

Kenny’s last drifting soul question is what we will cover in our next post.  One reason why Kenny missed was due to his lack of a wind call.  An accurate wind call is one of the factors that separate hits from misses.  Our dearest Kenny would have had a fighting chance if he applied the fundamentals of marksmanship.  Don’t be fooled by anyone that tells you wind can’t be beat.  If a platoon of Marine recruits can punch holes in a man sized target at 500 meters against wind, so can you!  Put yourself in Kenny’s shoes.  What you have done about your surprise SR-25 airsoft rifle?  Best comment gets a t-shirt courtesy of Guiles Hendrick.

 

Sgt. G, LMS Contributor

All Rights Reserved

Radio vs Gun

We live in a time where many citizens are being illegally deprived of their Second Amendment right.  In cities like Chicago it is still nearly impossible for an average citizen to “legally” carry a firearm for self-defense.  This situation becomes even more pronounced when traveling overseas in countries with total gun control.  As such, the issue of how to protect yourself and your family against predatory thugs when disarmed is a situation we have all likely experienced and had to endure.  This article does not seek to diminish the necessity of firearms, but does provide an expedient option that has proven time and again to be highly effective at deterring criminals.

A few months ago a veteran Special Forces operator and I were chatting about the degree to which the US had moved toward tyranny and a police state.  We discussed strategies we had successfully employed when confronted with threats where we desired a firearm, but for one reason or another were unable to carry one.  One tactic we employed domestically as well as overseas was carrying a policy style radio.  At times the radio may have been even more effective than a firearm as its presence alone dispersed a crowd much larger (and likely armed) than someone armed would want to confront.  To employ this tactic, one should consider carrying a Motorola style “police” handheld radio in a manner that looks covert enough to appear cop-like, but overt enough to be clearly seen by thugs. We both used this simple strategy very effectively.

In both our experiences, the moment the radio was seen by the circling predators, they immediately backed off and left the area.  Criminals hate cops, but rarely look for a fight with a cop when they are not cornered.  It is this perception of law enforcement that is so effective at deterring potential assailants.  Further, the radio is generally not a restricted item that security will take from you or that you can be punished for possessing.  As such, it can be carried concealed, overseas, and even through airport security.  It is also an object that is recognized worldwide as associated with official government activities that the public generally would prefer not to be involved with.  The effect can be amplified by purchasing and using the stereotypical “pigtail” earpiece often associated with Secret Service Agents.  Finally, if the radio is actually functional, you can even use it to legitimately call for backup if in trouble.  Employed properly, the criminal will generally pick another target and you live another day.

We are not suggesting that carrying a police style radio is going to stop all potential attacks and may not even be visible during low light conditions or at night.  However, it certainly causes any potential assailant to hesitate and second guess whether or not to go through with their criminal act.  It is within this window of opportunity created where you can effect escape, execute a defense, or potentially avert the attack completely.  Further, when no firearms are available or allowed, it is one item that is available, but goes overlooked as potentially useful for deterrence.  Also, the weight of the radio makes it suitable as an expedient bludgeon.  Although new Motorola XTS 5000 style radios can be extremely expensive, plenty of very affordable Motorola radios such as the Motorola CP185 have the look and function you need for effective deterrence.  Ultimately, you must evaluate your own personal defense plan, but in a pinch, this Last Minute Survival Tip is certainly one to consider.

 

By Guiles Hendrik

The Owen Technique®: Perfecting Night Shooting with a Handgun

Why you must train at night:

I find it interesting how many fellow gun owners discuss preparedness and training with their choice home defense weapons, but few have actually practiced low light shooting.  This leaves them woefully unprepared to operate under the condition most likely for situations where they will require the use of a handgun for defense.  Home invasions, robberies, sexual assaults, and a host of other crimes are all too often committed during the hours of darkness.  The reason is simple.  Criminals operate when people are least prepared and when they are most unlikely to be detected.  This article discusses some of the key considerations for using a tactical light with a handgun.

If you own a firearm and intend to use it to defend yourself, your family, and your home, you must practice with it at night.  Learning on the fly after awakening in your bed to glass breaking in the middle of the night is not the time to learn.  In fact, if you haven’t prepared, it is unlikely you even have a flashlight collocated with your handgun.  This may be one of the first rules to remember.  Always collocate your combat light and weapon together.  Without the light, you risk failing to properly identify your target and cannot effectively engage it should it be a threat.  Many will be quick to suggest that one should just turn on the lights, which is a good idea.  However, during disasters such as Katrina when power was out for extended periods of time and looting was extensive, you did not have that option.  Further, one may be confronted in poorly lit parking lots, streets, or in areas where artificial lighting is not available or sufficient.  Remember, there is good reason why every police officer carries AT LEAST one flashlight.

If you do not have access to training ranges that allow for low light firearms training, you still can prepare.  At night or in the dark, practice various techniques of holding both a firearm and flashlight while clearing your own home until you find one that is comfortable for you and then become proficient with that technique.   Training should include situations where the target is dimly lit (low light), back lit, and is completely hidden in the dark (requires use of a flashlight).  Many good websites discuss various methods such as the Owen®, Harries, FBI, and Chapman techniques for using a handgun with a flashlight so try them all.  Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages.  Further, watch YouTube videos of various close quarters combat methods for individually clearing a room, structure, and or home.  Couple these techniques to fit your needs best.  Remember to always discuss and rehearse any plans with family members.  These plans should include preparing and rehearsing movement to and/or hard pointing in safe areas so that family members are not confused with criminals by accident.

Selecting the right light:

Selecting a good flashlight for shooting can be daunting today with all of the choice.  Flashlight technology has come a long way.  The days of the giant Maglite have passed and today’s market is ruled by tiny, lightweight, super tough, high intensity “combat lights.”  Further, incandescent bulbs, which had a tendency to break from shock proved inadequate for combat situations, have been replaced by much brighter, more robust, and highly efficient LEDs.  Flashlights using LEDs can produce a brighter beam with less heat much longer than the older incandescent bulbs using the same type and number of batteries.  Further, these flashlights typically use compact and powerful lithium or rechargeable batteries to maximize the lumen output.

The market offers a wide variety of quality tactical lights.  Many law enforcement and military personnel have found Streamlight, SureFire, ICON, Fenix, Inova, Insight Tech, and OLight brands some of the best, but shop around.  There are dozens of great manufacturers offering a host of lights and accessories.  This allows one to pick the right flashlight for their individual needs, body mechanics, weapon, etc.  My everyday carry tactical flashlight is the Surefire Z2X Combat Light with a high intensity LED.  Nearly all combat lights have a push-button switch at the base of the flashlight for one-handed operation.  This is a mandatory feature, but make sure the switch has some type of built in safety to prevent accidently turning on the light or running your battery out.  Select a light with a high intensity LED that can produce very intense light at over 160 lumens.  This can temporarily disorient an attacker at night giving you a tactical advantage in reaction time.  Finally, nearly all come in rugged, lightweight, aluminum housings, but make sure the light you get is bullet proof and has good O-rings to prevent water and humidity from getting into the light and ruining it.

Respective of weapon mounted lights, they are great if one trains with them.  However, they are expensive and in the case of handguns require a special holster that is much bulkier and harder to conceal with the light already mounted.  Further, because the light shines in line with the barrel of the weapon, anything you point the light at will also be “flagged” by the rifle/shotgun.  This violates the primary firearms safety rule of never pointing a weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.  As such, it does not sit well with many users and instructors since the potential for a scared and nervous person to shoot the first thing illuminated is high.  For those willing to accept the risk and properly train, it is indeed very convenient to have a light pre-mounted on a rifle or shotgun since the effective operation of a rifle requires two hands.  Nonetheless, one can still operate a rifle or a shotgun with a handheld flashlight using proper techniques that will be discussed in a later post on night fighting with rifles and shotguns.  For handgun, many believe the hand held light is still best due to its versatility and the ability to effectively fire a pistol with one hand.

How to fire my pistol with a flashlight:

Most techniques teach the shooter to hold the handgun in the strong hand and the light in the weak hand.  This provides the shooter the choice of illuminating a danger area to first determine if a threat is there before quickly aiming the pistol at the target or simultaneously sweeping for a threat while pointing the weapon in the same direction.  This also allows for offset holds that do not give away your exact position.  Further, you may need to clear around a corner or get down on your stomach in a prone position where it would be much better to have a flashlight free in the weak hand.  Based on how you intend to employ your weapon and light, various techniques can be used.  Try various methods and positions and practice often.

I for general use, I recommend the Owen Technique® of tactical night shooting as one of the most effective means of employing a handgun simultaneously with a small, high intensity, tactical style flashlight.  The advantages of this grip over other previous methods are many.  For starters it allows one to fire with the weak hand wrist tilted and locked out for better accuracy.  This weak hand grip technique is employed by many professional shooters, law enforcement, and military personnel as well as being the technique taught to federal agents such as the US Marshalls, BATFE, and DEA.  Since the grip allows for a locked wrist with forward hand placement on the gun, it also allows for significantly better recoil management.  This allows for accurate shots in rapid succession that are virtually impossible using methods such as the Harries technique.  Finally, it allows for the light beam to be focused in line with the muzzle so that what you illuminate is what you are aimed in on.  For those familiar with the Rogers/SureFire Technique, it is similar, but as stated above, allows for better weak hand placement for improved accuracy and recoil management as well as easier and more controlled manipulation of the lights on/off switch.  Those more comfortable with the older Chapman Technique will find the Owen Technique® very easy to adjust to since it is equally effective with old style top mounted push button lights like the Maglite and smaller, rear cap equipped push button flashlights.

2 1To perform the Owen Technique®, the flashlight is held by the thumb as the light rests inline and on top of the area between the knuckle and middle joint of the index finger when using a shooting grip with the wrist pointed forward and locked out.  The hand and light positioning allows for the weak side index finger to point forward with the gun or wrap the trigger guard depending on shooter preference and size of the light and handgun.  The remaining weak hand fingers wrap around the pistol grip over the strong side fingers per a normal grip.  The strong side grip is virtually left unchanged other than the thumb, which still wraps the handgun’s pistol grip but stays slightly

straight with the thumb pointing up at about a 45 degree angle so that the pad of the thumb can depress rear equipped push button switches.  In the event of a top mounted push button switch, the thumb is simply rested along the top edge of the flashlight along the frame of the handgun and the weak side thumb is used to activate the top mounted push button.   For rear cap equipped push button lights, the shooter has a choice of lightly pressing the light back into the thumb of the strong side hand or using the thumb of the strong side hand to directly press the button to turn the light on/off.

 

For additional information, I found the below website to be useful and succinct:

http://www.floridacarry.org/education/self-defense/23-using-a-tactical-flashlight

 

By Guiles Hendrik

June 8, 2013

All rights reserved

 

Essential Survival Equipment: Rocket Stoves

Basic Rocket Stove Schematic

Basic Rocket Stove Schematic

For anyone that has traveled extensively in the developing world, they are all too familiar with the fact over a billion people on this planet still prepare their meals over an open fire.  Most of these fires are inefficient, waste precious wood, release large amounts of Carbon Dioxide and smoke, and can be hazardous to health when used indoors.  To address these problems, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and aid organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have sponsored development of cheap, highly efficient, and brutally simple means of making cooking fires.  The result has been an explosion of what we popularly know as “rocket stoves.”

Rocket stoves are of particular interest to any outdoor enthusiast and survivor for the same reasons they appeal to many across the world.  For starters, they can be built cheaply from everyday materials widely available such as soda or soup cans, sand, and nails.  Further, they are highly efficient and when properly constructed, can boil water in less time than a typical backpacking stove with just a handful of readily available twigs and branches.  The fact just a few scraps of cardboard and a few sticks can be used to fuel the stove and cook a full dinner makes them infinitely more sustainable for use in a grid down situation when liquid fuel for camp stoves or propane may be unavailable or too expensive.  They also can be extremely light weight making them great for travel.  Even better is the fact that modern commercial versions take advantage of the heat generated to produce electricity.  This heat converted to electricity is then used to power small fans to improve burn efficiency and chargers for cell phones and laptops.  Finally, they emit very little smoke making their use very low signature for times when a large smoky fire may draw unwanted attention.

Rocket stoves work better than conventional three stone cooking fires or wood cooking stoves by taking advantage of a super-heated combustion chamber that draws more and more pre-heated air from below as the fire gets hotter and hotter.  This principle is the same in modern, highly efficient, high-dollar, sealed wood and pellet stoves.  It is also why they seem to be able to burn much longer on far less wood.  When maximum efficiency is reached, the fire will be so hot that it burns the fuel nearly completely leaving little smoke.  Respective of the smoke, it is drawn through the hot flame and effectively re-burned so that minimal emissions are released by the stove.  Many enjoy experimenting with various designs to try and get the optimum efficiency.  A simple Google search for “rocket stoves” will yield thousands of examples, pictures, plans, and videos.  Mastering the construction of improvised rocket stoves will yield both an excellent skill for your survival portfolio and a useful camp stove on the cheap.

See below images for examples of improvised and commercial rocket stoves.

Improvised Soup Can Rocket Stove

Improvised Soup Can Rocket Stove

 

Improvised Ammo Can Rocket Stove

Improvised Ammo Can Rocket Stove

Source:http://www.bearridgetradingpost.com/2011/07/ammo-can-rocket-stove/

Biolite Amp Rocket Stove

Biolite Amp Rocket Stove

Source: http://electrictreehouse.com/ultra-efficient-camper-stove/

Biolite Commerical Rocket Stove

Biolite Commerical Rocket Stove

Source: http://electrictreehouse.com/ultra-efficient-camper-stove/

 

By Guiles Hendrik

 

 

 

Native Survival Foods: The Pawpaw

Clump of Pawpaws Source: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/438/438-105/438-105.html#L10

Clump of Pawpaws
Source: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/438/438-105/438-105.html#L10

Today, it is hard to not hear of people talking about stockpiling food.  The media and markets are loaded with options for non-perishables and foods packaged so that they can be stored for years.  This is great and LMS fully supports those that commit to long-term storage and stockpiling of backup food supplies.  However, it is equally valuable to know what foods nature readily provides often right in your backyard.  This post looks at the little known, native, North American super-fruit known as the pawpaw.

The pawpaw is a native fruit that grows on smaller trees that are almost tropical in appearance.  The fruit weighing on average about 8 ounces looks similar to a mango from the outside with a green skin and large, dark, pumpkin like seeds on the inside.  The fruit has a custard like yellowish inside that has a taste reminiscent of a banana, mango, and pineapple and ripens between late August and early October.  The fruit is super rich in protein, anti-oxidants, and is reported to have cancer fighting qualities.  Further, the fruit produces its own insect repellent and in a concentrated form can be used to even treat resistant head lice effectively.  The tree is so well adapted, it doesn’t require the use of pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides to grow healthy unlike other non-native fruit trees such as various apple and orange trees.  However, the tree does play host to the beautiful Zebra swallowtail butterfly, whose larvae feed exclusively and harmlessly on the tree.  The trees are typically found along fertile, well-drained soil lining the banks of streams and rivers stretching from the mid-Atlantic to Michigan.

Pawpaw fruit has a rich history in America even though in recent years it has been nearly forgotten.  The pawpaws were so sought after, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are said to have grown and cultivated them on their farms.  Further, not only were they valued by Native Americans, but American history tells us that Lewis and Clark cheated starvation by surviving on the fruit during their return trip along the Missouri River to St. Louis.

By studying a bit online, one can quickly become familiar with the pawpaw and learn to identify it in the wild.  For those fortunate enough to have access to one of these bountiful fruit trees, just a few fruits in the late summer/early fall can yield a delightful and refreshing addition to your diet.  Further, they make excellent additions to fruit smoothies, yogurts, and ice cream.  The fruit puree can also be used to make a host of other items such as jams, wines, breads, and desserts.  Just remember, the pawpaw does not keep well once it ripens and must be used or frozen within three days of peak ripeness.

If you are not fortunate enough to have access to one of these trees, you can buy both the pawpaw fruit and the saplings online from a few boutique sources such as http://www.owennativefoods.com/ , which specialize in selling varieties of native super-foods such as the pawpaw in an organic and sustainable manner.  Note:  Sources such as Owen Native Foods sell the future season’s crop early (usually between December and March) so it is best to place orders far in advance of the harvest season.  Under the proper conditions, you can grow your own pawpaw trees and have a sustainable super-food industry right in your backyard.

Experimental Pawpaw Orchard Source: Blandy Experimental Farm

Experimental Pawpaw Orchard
Source: Blandy Experimental Farm

For additional information on this outstanding, but little known native fruit, visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which gives the following information about paw paws on its website: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/438/438-105/438-105.html

The crop is well adapted to the Eastern U.S. climate and soil conditions. Pawpaw is adapted to humid temperate zone growing conditions.  It is hardy to the USDA growing zone 5 (-20°F or -29°C), and needs at least 400 hours in annual chilling requirements (time exposed to 35° to 45°F during winter months, depending on the cultivar).  This is a low chill requirement compared to other tree fruit species (apples 800 to 1,700 hours), and once met, the trees will begin to flower early in the spring.  A long, warm season is required to mature fruit (2,600 degree days; ~160 frost-free days).  From 30 to 35 inches of rainfall is needed annually, with the majority falling in the spring and summer.  Contrary to popular belief, pawpaw performs best in full-sun exposure.  However, sunlight protection is needed in the first year in the field, as young tree shoots are sensitive to sunlight.  In an orchard setting, this is accomplished by using commercially available tree shelters.

The pawpaw is a unique/unusual fruit crop with high nutritional value and potential for both fresh and processed market uses.  As a food source, pawpaw exceeds apple, peach, and grapes in vitamin, mineral, amino acid, and food energy values.  The current and primary market for fruit is as a fresh product in farmers markets and other direct sales outlets.  Though large-scale commercial processing markets do not yet exist, the fruit’s intense flavor and aroma have significant potential in blended fruit drinks, baby food, ice cream, and as a substitute for banana in various baking recipes.  In Kentucky, various entrepreneurs are utilizing pawpaw as a local cuisine item for restaurants and in frozen custard and ice cream products.

There are valuable natural compounds in the plant, which have both anti-carcinogenic and pesticidal properties.  Aromatic compounds in the fruit have potential for use in cosmetics and home products.  Research has shown that pawpaws have a diversity of natural compounds in fruit, leaves, bark, and twigs.  One class of compounds known as annoaceous acetogenins occurs in leaves and twigs and has reported anti-tumor properties.  Currently, Purdue University has patented an extraction procedure and the development of an herbal formulation is underway by a private company.  Commercial drug manufacturers, however, have shown limited interest in the compounds.  An alkaloid, asimicin, is found in the seeds, leaves, and bark of pawpaw and is reported to have pesticidal properties.  Pawpaws are resistant to insect and disease pressure.  This may be due to asimicin and other natural defense compounds.  With proper management, organic production of pawpaw is feasible.  Aromatic constituents isolated from fruit may hold potential for marketing as well.

By Guiles Hendrik

Safe Water in a Survival Situation

Frontier Filter by Aquamira

In LMS’ on-going review of products, today’s article focuses on the water filtration market.

Commercial water purifying units, based on filter technology, have proliferated in many forms primarily catering to the backpacker and world travel market.  There are dozens of popular units out there to choose from, but the buyer should understand the pro’s and con’s of these filters.  Ultra-light weight, handheld filters are designed for solo backpackers and outdoorsman.  These can be very rugged handheld systems, but do not have a high level output capable of providing a long term water solution to multiple people.  Nearly all handheld filters use some sort of force such as a hand pump or squeeze bag to force the water through the filter.  This can be quite physically taxing in some models.  The good thing is that they are readily available in outdoor stores making them feasible to obtain right up until a crisis develops.  After that, they will fly off the shelves and will become unobtainable like most other items.  You can find great models made under brand names such as MSR®, PUR®, Sawyer®, and Katadyn®, but there are numerous other excellent manufactures so shop around.  For now though, they are available and affordable.  Other, larger filter systems do not reach the industrial scale, but are well designed to provide safe, potable water for larger groups on a sustained basis.  These are much bulkier, more expensive, and also harder to obtain as only specialty stores will stock them.  Big Berkey® and ProPur® are two leading manufacturers of this type of big gravity fed filters.

As with all purification technologies, it is very important to understand what they will and will not do.  Filters do a good job of removing many of the larger microorganisms that will make you sick such as protozoans like Giardia and life threatening waterborne bacteria.  However, they do next to nothing at stopping viruses.  This major vulnerability in your filter is the result of an inherit conundrum with filter technology.  If you attempt to filter out particles as small as viruses, your filter will clog.  So in order to allow a reasonable throughput of filtered water, manufactures have opted for a larger membrane that doesn’t trap viruses.  As such, the happy medium has been struck where “most” harmful pathogens are filtered out.  Some filters offer an extra iodine or chemical cartridge to kill any pathogens the filter didn’t get, but this treatment adds a nasty taste and potential health side effects.  This chemical taste and potential for side effects defeat the inherit benefits of filtering water.  The benefits of filtered water are it tastes better and can be used indefinitely as a purifying mechanism or at least as long as the filter lasts.  If you are going to add chemicals to the water, you might as well just do that and skip filtering.  However, if there is any chance of viruses infecting your source water, it would be better to go ahead and chemically treat or boil the water.  It is not worth the risk of severe and possibly life threatening viral illnesses.  In urban areas where hygiene and sanitation can break down quickly, this will be a major concern and could mitigate the effectiveness of a filter device.  In non-tropical regions, most unpolluted (free of sewage contamination and animal waste) streams, rivers, and lakes would be good candidates for filtration systems since protozoans and bacteria are your primary threats.  Considering the above, if your plan is to rely heavily or solely on a water filter for purification during a crisis, choosing the right one will be a vital decision.  Durability, dependability, and a system’s proven track record are important factors to consider.  Consider whether you need a light portable device for bugging out or a device for producing larger quantities of water for a family.  Always practice with your filter to learn its operation, strengths, and weaknesses.  Pump type filters can be quite strenuous to use in some models making them unsuitable for physically weaker individuals.  Note that if a pump type filter becomes too difficult to pump, it may be a sign your filter is clogged and requires cleaning the filter element.  Filter elements usually can be cleaned many times before they wear out.  Even with what appears to be clear, clean water, a filter can quickly clog if there are algae or other contaminates.

You should also know how effective the filter is against pathogens.  Most will filter larger Giardia protozoans, but not all will filter bacteria, and none do a good job against viruses.  For example, the company Aquamira® sells an extremely lightweight, compact emergency filter that looks like a fat straw and is marketed under the name of the Frontier Filter.  It would make a great addition to a high end bug out kit designed to sustain someone for 72 hours while moving fast and light by foot.  Further, the Frontier Filter is an item included in high quality survival and evasion kits carried by elite US military forces and government agencies making it appear to be the ultimate filter.  However, its filtering capability is designed for limited, short-term use and will only reliable remove common, larger pathogens like Giardia and Cryptosporidium from about 20 gallons of water before it is no longer usable.  This is certainly a great emergency backup (and that is how it is correctly marketed), but is not something that can be relied upon as a long term or broad spectrum solution.  More information on the filter can be found on the manufacturer’s website http://aquamira.com/military and it can be bought from sites like http://preppertactical.com/index.php.

Understand that no filter will be 100 percent effective.  There is always some risk.  Finally, make sure you can obtain (do obtain) replacement elements and parts for your filter if it will be your long term solution.  Eventually, even the best systems will break, O-rings will wear out, and filter elements will need to be replaced.

Food Poisoning FAQs for tough times learned abroad

One thing no one wants to deal with during a survival situation is illness.  In many parts of the world today, food poisoning is one of the most common ailments afflicting countless millions annually.  Typically, the onset of symptoms occurs rapidly after ingesting spoiled or contaminated food and includes violent abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea.  The symptoms usually pass within a few days, but in severe cases of being sickened by bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella, death can occur.  Further, studies now have linked even mild cases to long-term health problems such as immune system disorders, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.

The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.  The 2011 estimates provide the most accurate picture yet of which foodborne bacteria, viruses, microbes (“pathogens”) are causing the most illnesses in the United States .  According to the 2011 estimates, the most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/facts.html

When traveling in less developed parts of the world, food poisoning is even more common.  Conditions in many of these countries mimic conditions one may experience in the event of a major collapse to include long-term power outage.  Compounding the problem in both the underdeveloped world and in a disaster situation, advanced medical help is not likely available.  As such, knowing how to prepare for, prevent, and treat it, as well as what not to do will be critical to a quick recovery and potentially survival.

The first thing is to dispel some common myths.  Drawing from my experiences over the last decade in impoverished and war-torn countries around the world, food borne illness will eventually afflict everyone given enough time.  No matter “how tough” you think your stomach is, I guarantee, there is a stomach bug out there meaner with your number.  Further, you never really seem to be able to become “immune” to getting sick.  The bottom line is if you eat bad food, you will get deathly ill for most likely at least 24 hours and during that time wish you were dead.  Anyone that has experienced true food poisoning knows this first hand.  Thus, the first rule is better safe than sorry.  When in doubt about food, just ask yourself; is it really worth violently throwing up while simultaneously having uncontrollable diarrhea for 24+ hours?

Next, although foods like seafood and mayonnaise can go horribly bad very fast and certainly are infamous for making people very sick, they are not the only culprits.  In fact, anything you put in your mouth that is contaminated can cause severe illness.  This includes not just meats and poultry, but vegetables and even the water you drink.  Further, if you are one of those people that like to put your fingers in your mouth, pick your teeth, or some other nasty habit, don’t.  Your hands will pick up some of the worst of the worst stomach bugs and if you put them in your mouth you are likely to get sick.

Another myth is that people often think that as long as they don’t swallow “bad” food they will be okay.  False.  Again, going back to the, “if you think it is bad it isn’t worth it,” motto.  Once the bacteria or parasite is introduced to your mouth and digestive track, it can make its way via your saliva into your digestive track and make you very ill as it grows and multiplies.

Another myth is that in cases of food poisoning you immediately get ill.  That is indeed the case in some circumstances, but in many others, it can take on average 24-48 hours as the pathogen embeds in your digestive track, multiplies, and releases toxins into your blood stream.

All bottled water is good.  Be very aware that not all bottled water is the same.  In fact, the U.S. State Department tested all of the major brands of bottled water in Pakistan, which includes U.S. name brands, and found only TWO in the entire country met minimal safe drinking standards.  In fact, water table in some countries is so contaminated that the only water that is suitable for drinking is water that has been distilled or purified through a mix of processes that include adding chemicals, exposing it to UV light, filtering it, and reverse osmosis treatments.

I especially like the myth that if you drink hard liquor it will kill any potential stomach bugs.  Although, anecdotally, I have seen some cases where there may be some truth to parasites such as worms that are adversely affected by alcohol and spicy foods, it doesn’t protect you.  In fact, heavy drinking probably means you are more likely to eat some nasty stuff from a street vendor at a late hour and then not only be deathly ill, but also add a hangover and dehydration to the mix.  Poor choice.

Okay, so besides knowing what doesn’t work, know what does work.  Wash your hands with hot soap and water as if you have an obsessive compulsive disorder.  Use alcohol based hand sanitizer before you eat any meal or touch food.  Always wash anything that was used to prepare raw food with hot soapy water or even boil it.  Before eating “fresh” fruits and vegetables grown in local soil, soak and or scrub them lightly in a weak solution of bleach and water.  Cook everything “well done.”  Yes, raw eggs and bleeding steak may be macho, but you are not going to be tough when you are balled up in the fetal position on the ground.  Drink only purified or water bottled by a reputable dealer from a known source.  Finally, when in doubt, don’t eat it.

Now, as I mentioned before, I don’t care how careful you are, if you spend enough time in underdeveloped places, you are going to get sick.  That is a fact, 100% true, can’t get around it.  It is just a matter of how often, how bad, and what type of illness.  Celebrate if you only are sickened by short duration treatable and or curable diseases and illnesses.  So, if you have access to pharmaceuticals, stocking up on the following drugs will go a long way to take the edge off of a bad case of food poisoning.  The following is a baseline treatment for an average, healthy adult, with no allergies.  Always consult a doctor before taking any medications.

  • Phenergan in 25 mg tablets taken 1 every 6 hours will alleviate nausea and vomiting (*cease taking once symptoms subside)
  • Azithromycin in 500 mg tablets taken 1 a day for 3 days to kill the bacterial infection (*note, it is critical to complete the full cycle of antibiotics once begun)
  • Tramadol in 50 mg tablets taken once or twice every 6 hours for pain (*Tramadol is a controlled pain reliever)
  • Bentyl in 20 mg tablets taken 1 every 6 hours to alleviate serve stomach cramping
  • Oral Rehydration Salts mixed with the proper ratio of water (usually one packet for a liter or quart).  Make sure you stay hydrated. Dehydration is one of the biggest problems in cases of severe food poisoning and only makes your situation worse.  Drink as much fluid as you can keep down (*note, ORS tastes nasty, but IS what you need as it is properly formulated to not cause increased cramping, bowel irritation, and diarrhea)
  • Imodium tablets for diarrhea taken as needed (*note, don’t take anti-diarrhea tablets right away so as to let your system cleanse itself…only take if diarrhea persists after the second day)

At the end of the day though, if you could only have two of the above, get the Azithromycin to kill the bacteria and ORS to keep from dehydrating.  Phenergan may be a tie for second place if you can’t keep anything down and certainly makes you feel much better.

Finally, a few short lines on what not to do.  Don’t immediately run to take anti-diarrheal medicine.  Let your body cleanse itself.  Only use anti-diarrheal medication if symptoms persist for more than a day and dehydration is becoming a factor.  Do not allow yourself to become dehydrated.  With that said, use ORS for rehydration.  If none are available, attempt to find Pedialyte used for infant rehydration.  If that is unavailable, you can mix a very weak mixture of Gatorade and water or add a bit of salt and sugar to water.  If you mix full strength, such as in the case of Gatorade or drink pure water, it is difficult for your bowels to absorb and will cause increased cramping and possibly worsen the situation.  In fact, if you consume a mixture of Gatorade or some other electrolyte replacement that is too concentrated, it can actually pull water from circulation into the bowels and cause greater dehydration.  Nonetheless, if nothing else is available, it would still be better to plain drink water than dehydrate.  On a final note, be cautious about misdiagnosis.  Be very careful not to confuse the symptoms of food poisoning or stomach flu with those of more serious situations such as a ruptured appendix, which will cause death if the patient isn’t able to undergo surgery within a short period of time.  The most common way of assessing this is to locate where the pain is localized and if it is off to one side or in the lower abdomen.  Normally, cramping from food poisoning comes in waves and is centrally located in the abdominal region.  Symptoms of a life threatening appendix rupture are persistent, acute, and the abdomen can become inflamed and very painful to the touch beyond the central region of the abdomen.

Storm Survival: A Case Study of Mass Power Outages

Hurricane Sandy about to impact Mid-Atlantic

With plenty of warning on the approaching super storm Sandy, one known impact will be massive power outages stretching up and down the East Coast.  Sandy is unprecedented in its size, track, and confluence of fronts, tides, and moon phase.  All of this will combine for what will be a once in a lifetime, 100 year storm.  As such, we may not have a similar event to compare in modern times, but we do have a glimpse of how catastrophic even a short regional collapse of the power grid looks, which should serve as a lesson and warning.  The following two case studies illustrate the widespread effects of what should be considered relatively minor and focused events in comparison to Hurricane Sandy.

The August 2003 Cascade Failure of the North East

On a hot August day in 2003, a string of seemingly innocuous events led to an estimated 55 million people losing power across the Northeast and Canada.  On August 14th of 2003, the nation was experiencing usual high temperatures during the dog days of August, which increased the demand on the power grid.  This increase in demand coupled with some seemingly minor mistakes, software glitches, and oversights by the power company led to a major collapse of the grid.  This cascade of power outages began as power lines heating up from the increased current, sagged, and then came into contact with trees.  These lines went down causing power to be immediately switched to other lines, quickly overloading them, and causing them to also shut down.  This further triggered automatic shutdowns, redirection, and overloads of an ever increasing area of the grid.  Within two hours, multiple grids had separated and shutdown leaving most of New England and Ontario without power.  Immediately, TV and radio stations, cable, and the internet without reliable backup power were knocked offline.  Untold numbers were trapped in elevators, electric trains, and subways.  Temperatures in homes and business began to rise to dangerous levels for the elderly and frail as air conditioners lost power.  Traffic signals and street lights also went dark snarling traffic in cities like New York.  Soon big factories, refineries, and local businesses were shutdown causing immediate backlogs in supplies and fuel prices to spike.  Even Wall Street and the United Nations went dark.  Making the situation worse, gas stations were unable to pump and vehicles became stranded as they ran out of gas.  Looting began to break out in the dark streets of many cities by nightfall, but no one could dial 911 because the 911 service was also offline and both cellular and hard-wired phones were overloaded.  What responders were available were already over tasked dealing with everything from traffic control to freeing people trapped in elevators.  In short, no one was coming to help in the near future.  Soon backup generators began to fail and compound the crisis.  This lead to cellular networks going down, hospitals losing power to critical life support equipment, and municipal water systems failing.  Failing municipal water systems led to contamination of drinking water and massive amounts of raw sewage escaping into local waterways.  Water became non-potable without boiling, if you could even get it from your tap.  Restaurants and other food focused business were then forced to close even if they had backup power because of the health risks of untreated water to the public.  Even if they remained open, electronic registers, ATMs, and credit card services were rendered useless without power causing most other stores to also close.  Emergency services were simply overwhelmed.  A few simple acts…a tree falling, a power company operator not paying attention, and some ignored alarms and suddenly 55 million people are stranded in the dark, all within a couple hours.  This is illustrative of just how fragile our society is and how quickly things can deteriorate.  Communication, sanitation, emergency services, financial markets, and logistics and supply networks all broke down within 120 minutes bringing the world’s sole superpower to a grinding halt, but could it happen again?  Could it have been worse?  The answer is a definite yes.

July 4th Holiday Storm of 2012

Some may disagree that these ripple failures could occur again and think that the grid has improved.  Consider the unexpected severe outbreak of storms that ripped across the mid-Atlantic just before the July 4th holiday of 2012.  This band of storms had wind speeds that reached hurricane force on the leading edge of the front that shredded trees bringing down thousands of power lines from Ohio to D.C.  Immediately, tens of millions were again plunged into darkness during a record heat wave where daytime highs exceeded 100 degrees.  No air conditioning, no refrigeration, no lights.  For those with their own wells, water was also shut off.  Within hours store shelves were stripped bare of essentials like bottled water, ice, batteries, flashlights, and food.  Gas stations also shut down and anyone without cash relying on credit cards or ATMs was out of luck.  Vehicles ran out of fuel, AMTRAC trains were stranded, elevators stopped, and 911 services were disrupted just like in 2003.  Many cell towers and hard line phones were also knocked out by severe lightening.  Soon water services to city areas began to break down and mandatory boiling of drinking water rules were put into effect for those still with water pressure.  In parts of West Virginia, the state hardest hit, nearly every county was without power and the outage persisted for up to two weeks in many areas.  This was just one afternoon storm and proves that even after almost a decade since the massive 2003 blackout and billions of tax dollars being funneled into infrastructure improvements and repairs; the North American Power Grid is as vulnerable as ever.  Some may suggest this is the effects of “global warming,” but a closer examination reveals some much simpler truths.  In fact, graft, corruption, and bureaucracy seem to be the real culprits and have siphoned off most of those funds dedicated to updating the power grid.  Things may have actually gotten worse not better.  To this day, one can easily see this truth as trees grow over, around, and through power line right of ways that haven’t been maintained in years.  Remember, it is hard to have a tree knock down a power line if the tree is not hanging over it.  In both examples, it all happened in a matter of a few hours!  What one should take away from this is that things are trending worse and not better.  You can be sure that massive power outages and brownouts will not only become more frequent, but persist longer even while you pay higher and higher electric bills.

The case studies highlight what many people experienced during rapidly collapsing conditions post power failure.  Hurricane Sandy will dwarf the impacts of the above case studies.  The mandatory safety regulations governing the operation of nuclear reactors in the United States during storms will automatically force the shutdown of at least 12 nuclear reactors in the storm’s path.  This event alone will mean tens of millions will lose power for at least 48 hours even with grid rerouting.  Americans across the entire East Coast WILL experience sustained disruptions and should expect and prepare for the following:

  • No power for one to two weeks
  • Fuel shortages
  • Inability to use ATMs or credit/debit cards
  • Cellular communications to fail within 48-72 hours
  • Hard line phone disruptions
  • Water disruptions, contamination, and shutdowns
  • Civil disturbances in urban areas
  • Overwhelmed emergency services to include failure of 911 services
  • Runs on food, water, batteries, and fuel (store shelves stripped empty)
  • Financial market disruptions
  • Stranded travelers and vehicles running out of fuel
  • Mail and trucking disruptions (no supplies getting to affected areas)
  • Widespread low-lying flooding
  • Down trees, power lines, and roof damage
  • Blizzard conditions with up to three feet of snow in some areas

At minimum, everyone in the possible strike zone should immediately prepare respective of your location and specific circumstances.  Although you are now well within the “Last Minute,” here is what you can still do to prepare.  At minimum ensure you have done the following with the expectation of at least two weeks of self-sufficiency:

  • Have plenty of cash on hand
  • Fill your vehicle(s) and fuel containers
  • Charge and/or buy fresh batteries
  • Operationally check critical equipment (vehicles, generator, chain saw, flashlights, etc.)
  • Procure a generator, extension cords, work lights and bulbs if possible
  • Procure chainsaw, extra blades, fuel oil mix, safety glasses, gloves, and bar lube if possible
  • Stage all gear such as flashlights, candles, and lanterns so you can find them in the dark
  • Charge all cell phone and other portable electronic batteries
  • Contact family members, neighbors, and friends to coordinate a disaster plan
  • Ensure multiple people know your location, situation, and plans for storm
  • Consolidate family and those members least able to take care of themselves
  • Consolidate supplies with others if you are in the most dire circumstances
  • Prepare to evacuate low-lying areas and sand bag against high water
  • Move any important items to upper levels of home in low-lying areas
  • Stage duct tape, nylon rope, and tarps in the event of roof damage from heavy rain
  • Trim any branches or trees immediately threatening buildings or parked cars
  • Secure any loose items outdoors
  • Buy or store at least one gallon of water per person, per day (plan for 14 days)
  • Buy or store high calorie, non-perishable food stuffs to include staples like powdered milk
  • Make sure any issues such as bald tires are fixed and maintenance completed on vehicles
  • Security plan if you plan to evacuate or hold at your residence
  • Assemble, inspect, and stage medical kit(s) at home and in your vehicles
  • Have hard copies of maps in all vehicles (don’t rely on GPS)
  • Have extra supply of any essential medications
  • Do remember your pets and prepare for their welfare
  • Make sure you have a radio with batteries, preferably a weather radio
  • Do stay calm, make a plan, and execute
  • Do monitor local news and emergency reports

The safest place will likely be at your home so stay put if you don’t have to travel.  However, if you live in a coastal or low-lying area and need to evacuate, leave as soon as possible and try to stay with a friend or family before resorting to local shelters where conditions may be less than comfortable.

It is always better to prepare early and often, but it is never too late to improve your situation.  Follow Last Minute Survival for the latest breaking news, tips, and information related to disaster preparedness and survival.  Last Minute Survival will soon be releasing a new book on survival strategies tailored to our readers so be the first to request free advanced copies.  Please plan smart and stay safe!

How to Protect your Privacy in the World of Smart Phones

You are being watched.

Spy technology has advanced at an incredible pace.  Capabilities today make Cold War era spy tradecraft not only obsolete, but silly.  However, perhaps the most remarkable espionage gadgetry ever employed against a target has been self-inflicted.  Our digitized world of wireless communications and uploaded lives has given intelligence collectors a bonanza of information that only a couple of decades ago they couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams.  Imagine the capability to turn on all of the phone cameras in a given area such as an airport or even a city and run facial recognition software to identify a targeted person?  This technology exists and is in use today.  This rapid advance in spy technology has not only been used by intelligence agencies, but criminals, media outlets, police, and marketers.  This growing obsession to acquire your personal information has made you a target for collectors of all sorts.  If you value your privacy and do not want to be completely vulnerable the following tips will help you protect yourself when using a smart phone.

First, understand that anything you do electronically can be monitored if you carry and use a smartphone.  This includes tweets, posts, purchases, bank transactions, text messages, conversations, pictures, and where you go.  Your smart phone can also communicate with other wireless enabled devices to trade information from your pocket or purse without your knowledge.  Even more Orwellian is the fact all of these data are mined and run through algorithms to create profiles of you.  These profiles are used for everything from learning your shopping habits and targeting marketing to flagging you as a terrorist.  Of course some of you are saying “well I have nothing to hide so I am not worried.”  If you think you have nothing to hide and are that dumb or naïve, read closely.  This is important to you and you DO have a vested interest in privacy…that is unless you wouldn’t mind a thief knowing your credit card numbers and when you purchase a new TV, a pedophile knowing when and where you drop off your kids, an ex-girlfriend or spouse reading your emails, your family photos being posted on the world-wide web, your private medical data being made public, or being placed on a terrorist watch list.  Oh, and for those that think you could never be falsely placed on a terrorist watch list or no fly list, suffice to say we all know algorithms “never” make a mistake or fail.  Just ask around how the late “Senator” Ted Kennedy wound up on a no fly list!

The bottom line if you insist on using a smart phone, but want to maintain as much of your privacy as possible, follow these rules:

  • Don’t take pictures with anything that transmits a wireless signal or GPS tags it;
  • Don’t store pictures on your phone or take any pictures you don’t want others to see;
  • Remove the battery when not in use;
  • Always remove the battery from the phone during private face-to-face conversation;
  • Don’t speak about sensitive issues over the phone;
  • Cover your phone’s camera with a Band-Aid when not using it;
  • Disable and do not use Bluetooth devices;
  • Use complex passwords;
  • Do not store passwords on your phone;
  • Encrypt data
  • Do not download or enable GPS software on your phone;
  • Use rechargeable throwaway phones bought with cash;
  • Don’t conduct financial transactions over a phone;
  • Avoid using email on a phone;
  • Never auto update your position to social network sites;
  • Avoid downloading social media to your phone;
  •  And make sure others around you employ the same safeguards.

Following these rules will go a long way in protecting your privacy.  Disregard them at your own peril.  For example, everyone should know that with the right gear, wireless conversations via a Bluetooth device (Wi-Fi) can be listened to from well over a mile away under the right conditions.  With scanners, your entire cell conversation can be listened to anywhere it is in range of repeating towers.  Further, a phone can be turned on remotely to listen to your conversation, record conversation, film video, take pictures, and then send them to the hacker.  To protect this in your home, the simplest fix is to pull the battery out of your phone.  However, to be completely sure, you can also place your smart phone in a metal box that shields it from any electronic transmissions.  The thicker the metal the better, just make sure the inside of the box is lined with something non-conductive such as cardboard or plastic and it closes tightly.  Otherwise, you may inadvertently make a bigger antenna for your smart phone if your phone is in direct contact with the metal.  You can use aluminum foil layers to add to the shielding capability of the box.  Test this by sealing your phone tightly in the box and then attempting to call it or connect to it with Bluetooth.  If that fails, you have effectively shielded your phone.  Just place a box by your door and drop your phone in it when you come into the office, car, or your home.  Establishing this pattern will prevent much of your unwanted eavesdropping.

For those that want maximum security, but can’t do without a cell phone, use the lowest tech disposable phone you can find.  Buy it in cash and anonymously activate it.  Never place the battery in it or turn it on near your residence.  Not even once.  Only place the battery in the phone and use it when ready and in a public place so that you maintain location anonymity.    Never use a data plan or attempt to use it for instant messaging, chat, tweets, or email.  Never store personal numbers or any other information on it.  Instead, keep a hand written black book of contacts.  Change the phone regularly or use it only once for the most sensitive conversations.  When done with the phone, wipe it clean and place it in a public trash can or leave it on a bench for someone else to pick up and use.

Using spy lingo, your phone is a literally self-implanted bug that is better than anything the KGB could have ever hoped to plant on a person.  It tracks, it listens, it records, it takes pictures and video, and it even reads your email!  Ultimately, your best privacy will be to totally unplug from digital items, but in today’s world, that is nearly impossible within the United States and Europe.  Nonetheless, being cognitive of your digital signature and taking smart precautions will go far to protect your privacy.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/oct/2/new-software-uses-smartphone-camera-spying/#.UIhuLJT9WXk.email

Product Review: MAXPEDITION LEO S-Type Versipack

MAXPEDITION’s LEO S-Type Versipack

MAXPEDITION’s Jumbo Law Enforcement Officer S-Type Versipack (~$86.00)

http://www.maxpedition.com/store/pc/Jumbo-L-E-O-S-Type-4p1607.htm

Call it a shoulder bag, go-bag, or man-purse, MAXPEDITION’s Jumbo LEO Versipack is a hit with low profile operators around the world.  The bag is designed to provide easy and quick access to essential items you would want to have on your person no matter the venue.

I have used this kit bag for over a year now both stateside and overseas professionally in a variety of environments and find it very simple, user friendly, rugged, and with just enough space to force you take what you need, but only what you need.  My team has been provided many different carry bags, but this one tends to be the daily go-to bag.  I have found the bag to wear best over one shoulder with the pack resting on your weak side to prevent obstructing quick access to a concealed handgun.  Wear in this manner places the radio and phone pouches facing forward so that they are quickly and easily accessible.  However, the bag will function in an ambidextrous manner.

The design is well thought out and extremely rugged.  It has good retention over the shoulder via an ample padded shoulder strap and has a detachable waist strap that is great if you need to walk or run with the bag for an extended distance hands free.  Although, I have seen one quick-release buckle for the flap snap on a previous model (easily repaired with a spare clip kit), mine has performed flawlessly and the plastic is tough.  Stitching, material, and workmanship are all high quality and live up to MAXPEDITION’s reputation as a premier maker of tough equipment.  The heavy nylon is coated with Teflon so it sheds water and cleans off easily.  In fact, my bag still looks relatively new even after being drug through all kinds of dirt, sand, rain, and snow. Note that the bag is not waterproof and any submersion in water will certainly soak everything inside.

The layout of the bag is well thought out.  The pouches are the right size for the right items, where you need them.  Further, the pouches are all dual purpose.  For example, the magazine pouch on the side provides quick access to M4/M16 30 round magazines, but also holds a radio or water bottle equally well.  Internally, the bag is nicely compartmentalized and suitable for carrying various items in a host of organized configurations.

Everyone will have their own needs and specific configuration, but I find that any slim line Kydex or leather concealment holster fits nicely inside the zippered or main compartment.  The rectangular main compartment stores a host of items nicely to include a laminated street map, extra magazines, a survival kit, an extra water bottle and some power bars.  Depending on what I am doing, I usually have a few additional special items I carry in addition to the basic load and often toss in a lightweight windbreaker/rain jacket.  The zippered side pouch is perfect size for an individual first aid kit.  The zippered top pocket makes a nice storage spot for a GPS without restricting reception and or sunglasses.  The front zippered pocket is ideal for storing items like a note pad, reference documents, ID’s, a SureFire style flashlight, a multi-tool, spare batteries, keys, and a lighter with plenty of space to spare.  The side magazine pouch makes a good spot to put additional water, a radio, or as intended, two M4 30 round magazines.  The cell phone holder has good retention, but is not suitable for larger smart phones.  However, it is ideal for slimmer basic cell phones like Nokia, Samsung, and T-Mobile often sell.  Finally, you have a few slim pockets that can support additional documents, weapons, pencils, etc.

Tactically speaking, the bag can quickly be shouldered or taken off and doesn’t impede movement when wearing body armor.  It allows single hand access to the bag and its contents while keeping your shooting hand free to manipulate a weapon, steering wheel, door, or anything else.  Unlike a backpack, the bag can be spun instantly in front of you to quickly access additional magazines/ammo, first aid kits, or even just your radio or water bottle without having to first take it off and while still on the move.  The bag has a less tactical look and is appropriate for low-pro operations, but doesn’t sacrifice on the “pro”—tection or functionality.  Being less “tactical” in look, it makes this bag completely suitable for running around town without raising eyebrows.  Nonetheless, I would like to see MAXPEDITION produce this bag to look completely commercial and perhaps using some colors other than green, brown, and black.  For military and police, having the Molle straps for additional gear mounting is great, but for true low visibility activity, I would like to see them removed or appear much less noticeable.  The Velcro strip on the flap also has the tactical look making one expect to see an IR reflective American Flag stuck onto it.  This should also be removed for a bag to blend in better with the crowd.

For the prepared person, I would recommend this bag as an ideal one person kit to carry anywhere, be it in the mall or while commuting to work.  It has enough space to carry the key supplies for survival, but won’t weigh you down or draw unwanted attention making it something you can and will keep on you.  After all, a bag not on you when you need it is of no use.

The company’s website lists the below product features:

•Special edition of Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack that has been optimized for use by the Law Enforcement Officer

•Designed based on hundreds of L.E.O. customer feedback

•Excellent for active shooter scenarios

•Better For Left Side Carry

•Main: 9″ x 8″ x 3″ with front and back subdividers; bottom drainage grommet

•Front: 7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″ with divided 2″ elastic webbing to carry 4 handgun mags; web subdivider

•Side A: Mag pouch with lateral elastic retention; fits two M4/M16 30rnd mags or radio

•Side B: 7″ x 3.5″ x 2″ with double zipper slides, 3 rows & 2 channels of PALS

•Phone pouch: Accommodates up to 5″ cellphone excluding antenna

•Top of lid pocket: 6.5″ x 3″ x 1″ inside lined with loop field; 3/4″ webbing grab handle

•Rear/CCW Compartment: 9″ x 8.5″ with 7″ x 8″ loop field

•Shoulder strap: Integral 2″ quick release (min 33″ strap alone / max 56″ strap alone ; min 45.5″ loop / max 69″ loop) with 2″ non-slip shoulder pad

•Multiple PALS attachment points

•Removable/adjustable waist belt of ¾” webbing; max. waist size 48″ circumference

•Optional accessories (sold separately): #3501 Universal CCW Holster, #3502 Triple Magazine Holder, #3503 Dual Mag. Retention Insert, Grimloc Carabiner D-Ring

•Also #9846 Jumbo L.E.O. (Better for Right Side Carry)

Product Materials

•Tough PU-coated 800-denier nylon fabric for approx. 15% weight reduction

•Teflon® fabric protector for grime resistance and easy maintenance

•high strength zippers and zipper tracks

•UTX-Duraflex nylon buckles for low sound closures

•Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance

•High tensile strength nylon webbing

•High tensile strength composite nylon thread (stronger than ordinary industry standard nylon thread)

•#AS-100 high grade closed-cell foam padding material for superior shock protection

•Internal seams taped and finished

•Paracord zipper pulls

•Stress points double stitched, Bartacked or “Box-and-X” stitched for added strength

Cleaning Instructions

•MAXPEDITION’s nylon fabric is treated with Dupont Teflon for superb water and grime resistance.

•To clean, simply wipe down with a damp cloth. Allow gear to dry naturally.

•Do not machine wash.

•Do not use detergent or bleach.