Today, May 6, is National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The City of Austin held a seminar this morning to discuss the latest efforts to improve the community's readiness for wildfires, held at the Austin Board of Realtors office. As you can see from the agenda, this was a very robust discussion:
What impressed me the most about this presentation was the city's emphasis on creating a culture of wildfire preparedness. The leadership of the Austin Fire Department readily conceded it cannot make the city prepared for wildfires on its own - citizens must do their part by working with their neighborhood to establish FireWise communities which can, among other things, reduce your homeowners' insurance premiums.
As one speaker put it: think of FireWise as your neighborhood watch for wildfire threats.
For those of us who live in the wildland-urban interface (WUI, which is pronounced WOO-eee), wildfires are a significant concern. Note the definition of WUI can be quite broad:
The WUI is not a place, per se, but a set of conditions that can exist in nearly every community. It can be a major subdivision or it can be four homes on an open range. According to the National Fire Protection Association, conditions include (but are not limited to): the amount, type, and distribution of vegetation; the flammability of the structures (homes, businesses, outbuildings, decks, fences) in the area, and their proximity to fire-prone vegetation and to other combustible structures; weather patterns and general climate conditions; topography; hydrology; average lot size; and road construction. The WUI exists in every state in the country.
I was really pleased to see so many homeowners and neighborhood associations with significant WUI exposure represented at today's seminar. This is exactly the type of event and type of citizen participation we need to create a broader culture of preparedness.
I'd love to see some sort of "community watch" program - combining the efforts of neighborhood watches, FireWise activities, severe weather awareness, emergency communications and first aid training - into a larger program where communities work to mitigate multiple hazards rather than just focusing on one or two. The enthusiasm I saw at today's meeting makes me think that concept is viable with the right leadership and planning.
Once we're moved into the new place in a couple of weeks and get settled in, I'm looking forward to getting more involved with my new neighbors to address how we can be more prepared for wildfires and other emergencies.
Paul's Note: I sent the following email, verbatim, to my co-workers Friday evening. Like me, all of these individuals travel a fair amount as part of their job. It's my hope some of you may find this information useful.
Friday, 9:10 PM NAMIC Time
Operators: I trust your weekend is off to a good start.
I wanted to share a few thoughts as you make your travel plans for the next week or so. By now, you have seen the news that President Trump and others are expressing grave concern over the possibility of war with North Korea.
I am no national defense expert, of course, and so I don't know how credible this threat really is. I am not overly concerned. Nonetheless, I am taking certain precautions when I travel over the next couple of weeks should we find ourselves in the middle of a national emergency. You may find some of these helpful to you as well.
First and foremost, make sure you have the resources to get yourself home in case of an emergency. For most of us, this means making sure that any rental car you have stays gassed up as much as possible. While you're at the convenience store getting gas, make sure your car has a water bottle in it, along with some high energy snacks. Note well - if there is some sort of emergency and people begin to become fearful, anticipate longer lines at the gas station and grocery stores, along with possible shortages of gas, food and water.
Speaking of rental cars, if something big happens and you don't have a rental car, consider getting one immediately. When 9/11 happened, Kendel had just landed in Houston with co-workers. The airspace system had shut down, and the rental car companies quickly ran out of cars. If you don't have one when the airspace system closes, get one ASAP. Be reluctant to give up your rental car if you already have one.
If you're not accustomed to carrying cash with you, I would suggest that you do. Any sort of shut down of the banking system due to a hack or other disruption will make your credit card useless. You want to be able to buy food, water, gas and even a rental car if you don't have one using nothing but cash.
What is the best route to get home? I always send Julie and Joe, along with Kendel, my itinerary which includes my best estimate of my "get home" route if I have to drive home instead of fly home.
Plan to be out on the road longer than you expect. I generally carry enough "stuff" to manage out on the road about twice as long as I think I will be there. For me, this means additional clothing (usually in form of additional underwear, socks, and a pair of comfortable tennis shoes) and supplies (toiletries and snacks) in addition to whatever cash I am carrying on me. This would also include extra medications you might be taking.
Lastly, I have shared these before, but I will share them again just in case. Here's my packing list for business travel, and for you more adventurous souls, here are my thoughts on when, why and how I carry gold and silver when I travel.
I want to stress to you I don't think we're going to end up in an armed conflict with North Korea. We should be mindful, nonetheless, that conflict with North Korea would not be akin to bombing Syria. An attack would have significant world security ramifications. In the unlikely event that happens, you want to be in a position to get back home quickly.
I join with those of you praying for our nation and for peace. Let me know if you would like to visit further about this.
Building the culture of preparedness isn't hard work. It's just work.
It means talking to people who might be interested in the message. Of course, if you can tailor and target that message to those most likely to be receptive of it, you'll increase your chances that the message will stick. Plus, it will do your soul good to talk to people who appreciate what you are saying and take it to heart.
Last weekend, we had a perfect example of it here in Texas. Friend and fellow KR Training assistant instructor John Kochan spoke at the Fifth Annual A Girl and A Gun (AG&AG) Conference near Burnet, Texas. John spoke on creating a culture of preparedness as well as being prepared for home emergencies, both large and small.
Here's what he had to say about the event:
As John points out, many people are already preparing for other risks in life. Preparing for a wider spectrum of perils is a logical extension of that interest.
When we are advocating preparedness, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to identify groups of people with whom the message will resonate. And so I'm not surprised that this had such a strong interest at AG&AG. What I am finding is that the gun community remains one of the top prospects for recruiting people to become prepared themselves as well as to be preparedness advocates.
We are also finding - and John's experience is anecdotal evidence of this - that the message of preparedness resonates strongly with women in the gun community.
Along these lines, Australian public policy experts began to look at how gender plays a role in making preparedness decisions. A series of deadly bush fires in 2015 prompted researchers to examine why more men die than women in such situations. I recommend you read the short article on this, as it really highlights some interesting data points in how different genders view preparedness.
One of the first things that jumped out at me in this article dealt with how men and women responding to the survey viewed preparedness:
The influence of gender on planning and preparation was evident in interviews with survivors. Men often talked about “hard” preparations, such as reducing fuel and setting up sprinkler systems. Women often spoke about “soft” preparations, such as planning household responses and measures to ensure the safety of children and other household members.
Perhaps the most important conclusion from the article is this:
The tendency for women to reflect more critically on their level of planning and preparedness suggests there are opportunities to develop bushfire awareness and education programs designed specifically to engage and meet the needs of women.
Similarly, the finding that women were more receptive to bushfire-related advice suggests opportunities for tailoring and communicating information, advice and warnings to women. It is also important that residents in bushfire risk areas plan and discuss the intended responses of all householders to avoid last minute disagreements and decisions.
The Australian research and our recent efforts here locally to encourage preparedness seem to support one another. Preparedness advocacy is not a one size fits all approach. It needs to be tailored so that it resonates with a diverse audience. Gender, faith, political leanings - these are all factors we should consider when helping others find their Pivot Point. We have to present the idea to them in a way that touches on their values and priorities.
I'm pleased to announce the development and scheduling of the next evolution in preparedness training I've helped create. In collaboration with Karl Rehn at KR Training, we've developed (and continue to develop) a series of training courses to help prepare people for a variety of situations.
On July 15 and 16, we will be offering two courses, one day in length, designed to help you get started or to advance your efforts if you've been prepping for a while.
One of the great features about this training is your ability to tailor it and just purchase the portions of it you wish to choose.
Preparedness Training (Level 1) or PT-1 is a 7 hour class which involves both live fire on the gun range and a classroom component. The live fire portion will be conducted in the morning, before the heat of the day becomes challenging, and the indoor classroom portion will be held in the afternoon.
The live fire training is designed to help students in home defense situations. After covering safe gun handling and marksmanship skills, students will advance to shooting from cover and moving with a firearm in homes, businesses and other locations where you might find yourself in an emergency. Students will have the opportunity to train with both handguns and long guns during this session.
The classroom portion of PT-1 focuses on how to get started in preparedness, using strategies and skills the student can implement right away. We plan to cover such things as how to get started in preparedness without feeling overwhelmed, making a "get home bag," building a food and water plan, doing some taste tests with storable foods, creating a home defense plan, and other topics.
Preparedness Training (Level 2) or PT-2 is also 7 hours long, building upon the skills learned in PT-1. Like PT-1, we'll be on the range in the morning and in the air conditioned classroom in the afternoon.
During the range portion, students will run drills with pistols and long guns useful in situations occurring outside the home.
In the afternoon classroom portion, we will help students develop a home medical emergency plan and a robust neighborhood watch, practical gold and silver investing, creating a 60 day plan to become disaster ready, preparing your workplace for emergencies, and other topics as well.
You can mix and match this training - if you only want the firearms training with PT-1 but you also want the classroom portion for PT-2, you can do that. If you only want the classroom on both days, you can do that as well. We have designed this so that students can customize their training opportunities to meet them at their skill level.
We've kept the registration fees reasonable for the amount of training offered:
All day: $150
Half day: $90
I hope you'll sign up and take advantage of this opportunity. After two days of training, you will be much better equipped to develop full spectrum emergency plans for you, your family and your place of employment.
Click here to get registered.
I don't know when "gender reveal" parties for a baby became a thing. But let's appropriate that new tradition for our own benefit.
Back in 2005, we bought the home we currently live in. It was about that time that I filled three water jugs with tap water, treating each with some bleach (a half cup or a full cup....I can't remember) before storing them in my garage.
I put the jugs sit on the concrete floor (and yes, I know that's a controversial practice) where they've sat, summer, winter, spring and fall for twelve years, three presidents and a high school graduation. Until now.
Tonight, I opened them up. Behold - The Great Water Stored In Jugs Sitting On Cement In A Texas Garage For 12 Years Reveal!
I'd drink that water, with some additional filtering through a Berkey or similar filtration device.
A few thoughts from this:
One of the great things about attending high quality seminars on firearms training is that we learn a lot of pithy sayings that have application both in firearms and self defense training, but also in everyday life.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I attended the Rangemaster Tactical Conference as a presenter. When I wasn't presenting, I was free to attend the other presentations of my choice. One instructor - fellow attorney Manny Kapelsohn, speaking on "Lessons Learned from Use-of-Force Cases," discussed ways to reduce the chance of a negligent discharge. One of his sayings immediately stuck with me:
"Train on drawing and then NOT shooting."
In other words, train on drawing your weapon without actually having to pull the trigger.
It may seem self evident that this is good advice. The problem is that most instructors don't cover this needed skill, since they are spending time a) helping the student learn to draw safely and b) getting accurate hits on target as quickly as possible. The whole "train on drawing and then not shooting" doesn't get covered except in the better firearms training programs.
The more I've thought about this over the last few days, the more I've realized this advice applies to a lot of things in life, with some modifications:
Train on gaining knowledge and then NOT starting an argument.
Train on physical fitness and then NOT injuring yourself by overdoing it.
Train on developing your faith of choice and then NOT being overbearing when sharing it with others.
Train on first aid skills and then NOT treating every patient as if they are dying.
Train on preparedness skills and then NOT presuming the worst case scenario will happen.
My point is this: while training for the worst case scenario or running full speed at something can help develop us, not everything requires us to pull the trigger, argue with a friend or colleague, push ourselves beyond what is safe or pontificate to others.
Make no mistake: this is a problem within the preparedness community. Many within the movement like to argue, to be bellicose, or to pontificate. The media does us no favors, regularly portraying us a "doomsday preppers," readying ourselves for some apocalyptic scenario, rather than the more likely ones which can kill us just as easily.
And we often take the bait, happily telling people we're ready for the next riot/financial crisis/terrorist attack, often failing to prepare ourselves for a medical emergency, a kitchen fire, or a short term power outage. In other words, we draw and we shoot: we prepare for and default to our worst case scenario plan when the situation may not call for it.
Train on drawing and then NOT shooting. Train for the possibility that you may not need the most extreme measure or solution to solve a problem. Train for the possibility that a less robust response may be all that is needed from you.
We need to be demonstrating this to others, especially those in the preparedness community. So many new to preparedness think it's always about preparing for the mother of all emergencies. And when that happens, it's often hard for them to process how best to prepare for those scenarios. By demonstrating to others that the worst case scenario may not always call for a full on response but rather for a more nuanced approach, we will greatly increase the likelihood the newer prepper sees the value in learning the basic readiness skills all Americans should have.
At the 2017 Preparedness Conference, I gave my usual end of conference/locker room pep talk, this time entitled "Is 2017 The Year Of The Prepper?" Admittedly, I started working on it in the fall, believing that Sec. Hillary Clinton would likely win the presidential election. That win, I estimated, would cause more people on the political right to get involved in preparedness.
One thing you learn when training to be better prepared is to count on things not going as planned. Donald Trump's election has caused a number of ripple effects - if not outright waves - in the business sectors that cater to preppers. These include:
I don't normally cite to World Net Daily in my blog, but there's an interesting debate being fostered there about preparedness in the post-Trump election. Patrice Lewis opines that people should not let their guard down (I agree) because "Trump's election has done nothing but purchased us a bit more time" (with which I disagree, discussed infra). Pat McLene, on the other hand, argues things are much worse than they seem and that Trump's election may actually accelerate the United States towards times of unrest and discord.
I would offer the following observations.
Find what motivates you to become better prepared, use that to get you to where you need to be, and then help others do the same.
So the college freshman plans to study abroad this summer.
Regular readers will recall my efforts to get her prepared for college with her updated get home bag, complete with emergency quarters for things like putting air in her tires that she did not use to put air in her tires despite the fact they were there for that purpose.
And so I am facing a new challenge in preparedness - getting a smart, pretty, 19 year old college student ready to spend six weeks in Europe doing whatever college students do in Europe. (Editorial note: immediately upon typing that sentence, I grimaced. Straight up.)
She survived a week in Destin on college spring break earlier this month, which, statistically, was probably more dangerous than six weeks in Spain she will be spending. Nonetheless, I can get to Destin fairly quickly in an emergency if I had to. Getting to Madrid and parts beyond when things get hot is not as easy.
I've already reached out to my contact at Ole Miss who heads up emergency management to see who I might talk to about the University's plans for doing hot extracts should things at a study abroad venue become dicey. I'd like to know if a) the University has a plan for this contingency and b) if so, what are the details? I'll be impressed if we get to part (b) of that question. I'll be relieved if the answer to part (b) is robust.
Most parents would likely be concerned about the welfare of their child studying abroad, of course. Most parents, however, would not likely go through the exercise of preparing their kid for the possibility of a worse case scenario that would require them to leave the country for another European country or to return back to the U.S. due to an emergency.
The prepper mind tends to think about terrorism these days when it comes to possible threats one might face in Europe. To wit:
Exhibit A - Time Magazine's article entitled "Terror attacks in developed world surge 650% in one year"
Exhibit B - WaPo's "45 years of terrorist attacks in Europe, visualized"
Exhibit C - Europol's "Islamic State Changing Terror Tactics To Maintain Threat In Europe"
And yet other concerns could lead to significant impacts to societal stability:
Exhibit D - Reuters' "EU would be less stable without UK"
Exhibit E - Carnegie Europe's "The Threats to Europe's Democracy and Stability"
I hasten to add: I'm not a helicopter parent, ever dissuading her from doing this activity or going to that place. Part of growing up is learning how to respond appropriately if you find yourself in harm's way, learning to take and appropriately manage the risk of any activity or opportunity. We do our kids no favors when we tell them "don't go to X place because terrorists might kill you."
Instead, I'm a big believer in telling them "there's evil and danger everywhere. Be on the lookout, steer clear of high risk situations, have a plan and resources to deal with problems, and help your friends do the same." My job is to help her understand the risks and prepare her for them.
So What Are The Risks?
Let's go back to the frequency/severity model I've talked about from time to time. The higher frequency threats she faces include:
The more unlikely but more dramatic risks include:
So what are those contingency plans/skills?
I realize many will read this and think I am being overly cautious. Perhaps I am. But living a prepared lifestyle means you identify and manage the risks you will face, knowing the limitations of the environment you are in. Her environment for six weeks will be 5,090 miles from home, according to Google, in a land where she does not speak the local language. Such trips require additional efforts to be prepared. I look forward to helping her get there.
Over the last few months, a number of articles have appeared in mainstream media regarding the alleged proliferation of "doomsday bunkers" for well heeled customers.
For example, here are three articles from 2017:
CNN: Billionaire bunkers: How the 1% are preparing for the apocalypse
The New Yorker: Doomsday Prep For The Super-Rich
CNBC: The super rich are preparing for the end of the world
The inference comes with little left to the imagination: really smart, successful people are terrified that the wheels are coming off of society, and so they are taking steps to hedge against that risk. Which means most of us are screwed.
The New Yorker piece is the most in depth of the three and well worth your time to read. From the article:
But élite survivalism is not a step toward prevention; it is an act of withdrawal. Philanthropy in America is still three times as large, as a share of G.D.P., as philanthropy in the next closest country, the United Kingdom. But it is now accompanied by a gesture of surrender, a quiet disinvestment by some of America’s most successful and powerful people. Faced with evidence of frailty in the American project, in the institutions and norms from which they have benefitted, some are permitting themselves to imagine failure.
Should we be using the surge of bunker purchases as a barometer of where things are heading? The permadoomers at Zero Hedge point to the divergence in the interest in prepping between the "elite" and the average prepper since the Trump election. If most preppers are taking their feet off the gas pedal now that Trump is president, but the "elite" are preparing faster now than ever before, does it not suggest the elite know something we don't?
I would submit the very wealthy and elite assess risk differently than you and I do. Again, from The New Yorker article:
Yishan Wong, an early Facebook employee, was the C.E.O. of Reddit from 2012 to 2014. He, too, had eye surgery for survival purposes, eliminating his dependence, as he put it, “on a nonsustainable external aid for perfect vision.” In an e-mail, Wong told me, “Most people just assume improbable events don’t happen, but technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.” He continued, “The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”
Wong perfectly describes my fourth axiom of prepardness: the odds are low, but the stakes are high. The elite are in a position to spend a relatively small part of their net worth to have a sweet bunker/bug out location, complete with air purification and underground bunker providing protection from a nuclear weapons strike.
You and I are likely not in a position to do that. If someone with a net worth of $25M elects to spend five percent of their net worth on a doomsday bunker as a hedge, they would spend $1.25M. That can purchase a fairly nice set up. Meanwhile, someone with a net worth of only $85,000 - the average American's net worth for those 45-54 years old - who could only spend five percent of that on preparedness would have an effective budget of $4,250. That's not going to get you a luxury bunker anywhere.
And so the wealthy have extra capital to burn on nice retreat locations in case things "get bad." But do they really know anything more than us? Many of these elites were not able to foresee the 2008 economic crisis or the possibility of 9/11. We're supposed to believe that they're now paying more attention to what's going on, with information you and I don't have?
I'm not buying it.
The reality is this: there's plenty of information out there for those who consume a steady diet of doom. The wealthy who are buying bunkers and gold are not doing so because they are privy to some inside intel that you don't have access to. They are reading the same bearish outlooks about the economy and the future of the United States that you are. They do not have access to information you can't see for yourself.
How do I know this? Because I read the articles I linked to above. These elite and wealthy preppers are now becoming concerned about the same things those in the preparedness movement have been concerned about for years.
Where they differ is that they have sufficient assets to address the problem - and hedge the risk - differently than you and I do. They buy a bunker, while you and I might stock up on storable food and have some emergency cash set aside. They buy airplanes to fly them to their retreat in New Zealand; you and I make sure our vehicles are properly maintained and equipped so they can reliably get us home after a disaster or during an emergency.
Don't let the stories of bunker purchases lead you to believe they know something you don't. In many respects, I could make the argument their purchases and contingency planning is a sign not that they are ahead of the rest of us, but that they are playing catch up with the rest of us. They are just doing it in in their own way.
Rather than use this a fuel for further anxiety or class envy, let's embrace it for what it is - more people continue to accept the notion that we need to be more resilient and prepared as a nation for a wide spectrum of perils.
Earlier today, I posted this story on my Facebook page about how war veterans were the first on scene in London Wednesday and used combat first aid to try to save the fatally wounded policeman. According to the article, "they were first on the scene and shouted for a medic, but soon realised they were probably the best trained there and didn't flinch."
And in my Facebook post, I made the following comment:
Taken a CPR or first aid course recently? Are you ready to offer meaningful assistance to a fellow citizen at the scene of an accident?
We'd all be better off if we posted less and trained and volunteered more.
I'll save my thoughts about Facebook for another day, but the point I like to make is that we often conflate posting on social media with actually helping society. Robin Republican posts memes and stories about conservative issues, while Dan Democrat does the same with progressive issues. Mind you neither of them are very generous with their time or resources when it comes to charity, but in their mind, they are "helping" society by sharing the meme du jour for their cause.
Posting is not helping. Ranting is not helping. Doing is helping.
And so late this afternoon, I was loading up the Jeep to so that my dogs could ride with me over to where we're building our new home. I looked diagonally across the street where I saw a couple of my neighbors in the driveway of a home where neither of them live, acting a bit stressed, at times running from the drive way to the house next door. I got the sense something wasn't right.
I yelled across the street and asked if everything was okay. Turns out one of the boys who lived at that house had fallen off of his bike and "maybe broke his arm."
I walked over to the house and to the backseat of the car where the young man was sitting. It was clear he was in discomfort but was otherwise managing it well. I told my neighbors I'd just finished my EMT training and would be happy to take a look to see what I could do. The neighbors were happy to have the help.
I checked what EMTs call "CMS" or circulation, motor function and sensory deficit in his hand to make sure there wasn't a bigger problem. The obvious deformity and swelling in his forearm led me to believe he did in fact have a break. I quickly assessed both of his arms, noting a few abrasions, and also asking him questions about what he was doing at the time of the accident to test his breathing and cognitive ability. Falling off a bike can be rather traumatic to the body, causing multiple (and at times subtle) injuries.
I was about to get the gear out of the Jeep to start bandaging and splinting when his mom arrived. She had been with some other kids at a different part of the neighborhood when her son fell. Without flinching or otherwise showing any distress, she told her son she would take him to the ER. Knowing he'd be at the ER very soon, I passed on using him as an excuse to practice splinting, slinging and swathing a broken arm.
I texted his mom this evening to check on him. Her response: "Love how my neighbors got our back."
She sent me a picture of the x-ray and gave me permission to share it with you:
Here's what I hope I am conveying to you:
Learn some skills. Prepare yourself for the possibility of harder times. Be willing to help others. Be ready to be an asset to your family, neighborhood and community in an emergency.
This isn't rocket science, friends. Someone asked me the other day if it was hard to become a lawyer. My immediate (and honest) response was - hey, they let ME do it....how hard can it be?
Being prepared is the same way. Being ready to help others isn't hard. It's a decision you make to forgo spending time watching TV or some other mindless pursuit that doesn't matter and instead learn something that helps you and others. That's it. Anyone can do it.
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.