In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed SB 1857, entitled "The Texas School Safety Training Act." This bill established a process by which license to carry (LTC) instructors can provide a state certified training program for school districts and school employees who wish to have employees with LTCs carry handguns on campus.
I spent the last two days at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Tactical Training Center in Florence, Texas in the first official training class for LTC instructors to earn the certification to provide this training to school employees.
I attended this course (which is limited to twelve students at a time, more on that later) with a friend of mine and the only lady in the class - Tina Maldonado. She is a fellow LTC instructor and active participant in A Girl And a Gun Women's Shooting League. If you're looking for a good LTC instructor in Austin, I highly recommend her. (I don't consider good LTC instructors to be my competition. They are my colleagues.)
I realize many are skeptical about having teachers and administrators trained to carry gun in the classroom. Suffice it to say in rural Texas counties, law enforcement response times can be as much as 30 minutes or longer. And that's for the first law enforcement officer to arrive on scene. For schools in remote parts of the state, the teachers, administrators and students are the first responders for their school. They will have to fend for themselves, providing their own security and first aid until help arrives.
It's also important to note that a teacher is not allowed to carry on campus even after completing this training. Each school district can decide what level of training, if any, it wishes to impose on employees it permits to carry guns on campus. A school district could allow any LTC holder to carry...or it could allow no LTC holder to carry on the premises of its schools. This course is simply a training course that school districts may utilize as a way to qualify and prepare school employees to carry on campus.
A school employee wishing to get this certification must do more than sit through two days of classes. For example, they must:
DPS has requested instructors not speak in detail about the curriculum of the course. I can however tell you that it is based largely on the work of Texas State University's Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT)™ Program.
This training is not your typical LTC training. It is robust and is not for the average LTC holder. Students need to know how to manipulate their firearms well. They will be trained and encouraged to take on a leadership role during a self defense emergency to protect not only themselves but also their students.
Class size for both instructor training and for students taking the course for certification is limited to a student/teacher ratio of 6:1, with the maximum class size capped at 12. Students in this course are not able to simply coast through the classroom portion. They will be expected to demonstrate proficiency not only on the range but during in-class exercises as well.
My takeaways from the training:
Google is a wonderful tool for so many reasons. One of my favorite uses of Google is to see what is trending.
After a post-election lull, searches for the term “prepping” in the U.S. spiked during the week of January 8, tying its second highest score set back in October 2012.
When these results are broken down by city, we learn that Austin area Google Trends users were the second most likely to search the term “prepper,” behind Portland and just ahead of users in Nashville, Denver and Seattle.
A number of preparedness bloggers and advocates have recently lamented the lack of enthusiasm for preparedness since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November. Many of these advocates hypothesize that nascent and casual preppers believe that the need to prepare has waned due to Trump’s win.
I don’t know that there any empirical data to back that up. If Google Trends is any indication, we’re starting to see a significant uptick in an interest in preparedness. I suspect the advocates are on to something, however. Anecdotal reports from preparedness supply vendors suggest demand has dropped significantly since November 8.
For the more serious (or curious) prepper, I think it’s worth our time to analyze what a Trump presidency might mean for the preparedness movement.
Few would argue that President Obama’s choice to head FEMA, Craig Fugate, represents one of the best choices Obama made to head any government agency. A career first responder and emergency management professional, Fugate has won over supporters in both political parties. He helped rejuvenate a governmental agency which suffered tremendous PR damage (much of which was unfair, in my opinion) after Hurricane Katrina.
To date, Trump has not named Fugate’s successor. Whoever assumes the helm at FEMA will have big shoes to fill. Many have opined that Trump should follow Obama’s lead and choose another professional emergency manager rather than make an appointment based upon political affiliation. (For the record, I have not been asked by the Trump transition team to head up FEMA.)
FEMA remains a lightning rod for controversy among many in the preparedness and liberty movements, who can still remember the problems of Hurricane Katrina and believe the specter of “FEMA internment camps” to be real. The reality is that FEMA openly advocates for citizens to have adequate food, water and other emergency supplies available to take care of themselves in a crisis, warning citizens that the government response during a disaster may be slow in coming.
Preppers should analyze Trump’s choice to run FEMA closely, as it will give us insights as to what we should expect from the agency moving forward.
A Trump Victory Creates A New Group of Preppers
The BBC reports that since the election, a new group of preppers have emerged – liberals and progressives. What was once generally thought of as an activity of those in the political right has now become in vogue for those in the political left. These new preppers are concerned that Trump’s policies may lead to "fascism" and "local chaos." Such claims sound familiar, as many long time preppers have been preparing based on similar fears of previous administrations and government agencies.
Changes to the Healthcare System Will Likely Impact Emergency Medical Responders
Congress is already hard at work repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. The ACA has created a number of challenges for medical first responders and the emergency rooms that accept their patients. According to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, the ACA will have significant impacts on how EMS systems provide care:
What’s most likely to change for EMS is how we deal with chronically ill patients who call 9-1-1 because they have waited too long to address their medical problem or because they lack health insurance and use the ED as an entry into the healthcare system to address their problem. For Medicare patients, these needs will most likely be met through accountable care organizations (ACOs), which are just starting to form.
With a repeal of the ACA, EMS systems will have to recalibrate their expectations on both reimbursement expectations as well as how patients – particularly the chronically ill – utilize their services.
What does this mean for preppers? At the moment, I don’t know that we can say with any certainty what it means, other than we should expect a fair amount of uncertainty as Congress and the new president determine how they plan to replace the current system. One thing is for sure – the ongoing shortages of emergency medical responders will mean local governments will likely struggle to fully staff operations. This shortage, in turn, means preppers should make basic first aid, CPR, and trauma care a priority both in terms of obtaining training and equipment to deal with the problem until help arrives.
Relaxation of Gun Laws?
Let’s be clear – President Elect Trump has, in the past, been an ardent supporter of the Assault Weapons Ban. He has since reversed his position and now supports a national right to carry and eliminating restrictions on the types of guns and magazines citizens are allowed to own.
He is expected to sign into law, assuming it passes, the National Hearing Protection Act which would eliminate many of the restrictions on firearm suppressors, often called “silencers.” Interestingly, the laws regarding the use of suppressors in Europe are much more friendly than they are in the United States.
It’s difficult to predict what impact a Trump administration will have on gun sales. Some of the biggest spikes in gun sales have come after President Obama threatened regulation or legislation to make ownership or transfer more difficult. Will a Trump presidency increase gun sales? Only time will tell.
Law And Order…What Will It Beget?
President Elect Trump has promised to be a “law and order” president. Presumably this means intensified law enforcement activity at all levels of government. Many preppers may very well welcome such an approach, although increased interactions between law enforcement and citizens may lead to more friction and the civil unrest that we’ve seen over the last few years stemming from those interactions. And as protesters plan to attempt to disrupt the inauguration through the “Disrupt J20” movement, many citizens may increase their support for such intensified law enforcement efforts.
I would anticipate further use of 1033 programs which will allow state and local law enforcement agencies to acquire military surplus hardware for law enforcement applications.
The Things He Cannot Control
As a preparedness advocate, I do get frustrated when I hear stories of people thinking preparedness is no longer worthy of our time and efforts just because their candidate of choice was elected president. Similarly, I am perplexed when I read that supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are just now beginning to prepare for the possibility of civil unrest, especially after the last few years of riots in various cities across the nation. We will still have severe weather, power outages and local emergencies in the years to come. Many believe we face a significant risk of another financial crisis as well.
No presidential candidate can protect us from all harm. Neither a Trump Administration nor a Clinton Administration would be good substitutes for citizen preparedness. As President Obama stated in his 2016 proclamation for National Preparedness Month:
Preparing ourselves to meet the unknown challenges of tomorrow is a duty we all share, and when confronted with crisis or calamity, we need to have done everything possible to prepare…it is each citizen's responsibility to be as prepared as possible for emergencies.
Regardless of one’s political persuasion, I doubt seriously any prepper would disagree with that statement.
Any changes in the makeup of Congress or a new occupant in the White House brings uncertainty to a host of political and policy issues. The perils that are not president-specific, such as natural disasters, will continue to affect the country at all levels and in all states. Preppers need to keep prepping, regardless of who is in the White House or Congress, while analyzing how policy changes may improve or exacerbate the perils we face.
Last week, I alluded to an incident where I got to use my recently acquired EMT skills before I'd even taken the final exam. I'd like to share that story with you tonight.
On Sunday, November 20, I completed the medical skills training portion of my EMT certification program. One of the skills you must demonstrate in the medical skills portion is the ability to perform high quality CPR: compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute, two inches in depth allowing time for the chest to fully recoil after a compression, providing compressions and rescue breathing at a rate of 30:2. I'd gotten some significant practice compressing the training mannequin's chest that day, making slight adjustments to my form and positioning at the suggestion of the instructor.
On Wednesday of that week, my parents flew in from Tennessee to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with us. We had a good holiday, with plenty of food and even a ride in my new Jeep with the front doors and front top taken off.
That Friday evening, after another day of visiting and shopping, everyone had gone to bed around 11 PM. I was the only one awake, sitting at our kitchen table studying the chapter on cardiac emergencies in my EMT textbook. Around 11:45 PM, I heard a heavy object hit the floor in the guest room located directly above the kitchen.
Nothing that heavy should be hitting the floor at any time in our house, and especially not at 11:45 in the evening. A few moments later, Dad called downstairs with the three words I never wanted to hear:
"Paul, call 911."
I had no idea what the problem was, other than Pat (we call our mom Pat now, because that's what her granddaughters call her) had fallen down. I immediately woke up my wife Kendel as I dialed 911 and told her to expect an ambulance, asking her to secure our dogs (we often put our dogs in the laundry room if we are expecting visitors just to keep them from getting in the way of visitors coming over to the house).
I then walked to the front door, unlocked it and turned on the outside lights. We had company coming, and I knew it was about to get really busy for all of us. I wanted the first responders to be able to find our house and make easy access.
I continued to talk to 911 as I jogged up the stairs, telling them my address and providing a description of our house, still not knowing what had happened to Pat. I made my way into the guest room right as the 911 operator asked me to tell him what was going on, only to find Doc (which is what the granddaughters call Dad) performing CPR on my mother.
I immediately reported to the 911 caller that we had CPR in progress on my unconscious mother, providing her age, all while taking instructions from Doc to move her away from where she had fallen (between a doorway and a small walkway in front of a sink.) The 911 operator kept peppering me with questions from his script: Is she conscious? (I'd already told him she wasn't, and the fact I'd told him we were doing CPR on her was further confirmation of that.) Did we have an automated exeternal defibrillator (AED) and if we did to go get it. (We did not.)
I put the phone into speakerphone mode so that I could work on Pat while talking to the operator. I immediately took over chest compressions, doing it as I had been trained - counting to 30, and preparing to do two rescue breaths - when the 911 operator told me we were not going to do breaths, that I was to only count to four, over and over, while doing compressions and that my CPR pace was too fast.
Needless to say, I was fairly frustrated with him by this point.
Meanwhile, Kendel was preparing the house for arrival. She had turned on the interior lights and had moved some furniture around to accomodate was was sure to be a house full of first responders in a matter of minutes. Unbeknownst to me, she had sent my stepdaughter out to the street with a flashlight to flag down the first responders in our darkened neighborhood.
I continued to perform CPR while Doc watched. In my mind, I actually had two patients - Pat, for whom I was giving CPR, and Doc, about whom I worried would be stricken with grief and fear. From time to time, I would tell Kendel or Doc something which would alarm the 911 operator, because I'd have to stop counting (I never stopped chest compresssions, however) to talk to them. I didn't even realize Kendel had already sent my stepdaughter to the street to be the flagger; once Kendel told me she was already out there, I told EMS to look for the person with the flashlight out on the sidewalk.
Upon the first responders' arrival, Doc took over CPR and I helped get them (Austin Fire Department, or AFD) into the house and showed them where Pat was. They quickly took over, moving her to a larger room upstairs where they could all work on her. We all stood and watched as they took over CPR and began setting up their AED on her. Austin EMS arrived shortly thereafter, attaching more devices and giving her medications in order to help resuscitate her.
After two full cycles of CPR from AFD, and two cycles of analysis from the AED which advised she did not have a shockable rhythm, one of the firefighters found a pulse on her. They continued to assist her breathing as they put her on a backboard and took her to the emergency room.
Long story short, she survived the heart attack. Unfortunately for her, when she fell, she damaged her spinal cord when her head hit a door frame. She is in rehab now, working on getting off of the ventilator that has been helping her breathe and to regain use of her arms and legs.
Based on the research I could find, your chances of surviving a heart attack outside of a hospital when you have a non-shockable heart rhythm (one for which the AED cannot help you) is around 1.5%. For someone her age to survive an event with a 98.5% chance of fatality is quite remarkable.
The doctors and first responders credit our quick application of high quality CPR - good chest compressions at an adequate rate and depth, administered immediately after she fell - for helping to save her life. Conservatively, we (me, Doc, AFD and Austin EMS) peformed CPR on her for at least 12 minutes before regaining a pulse.
One of the reasons I know so much about the details of that evening that I would likely have forgotten due to the adrenaline rush is the fact that I did the Texas equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the 911 recording I made. I've listened to it several times and asked friends who have experience in dealing with medical emergencies and first responders to do the same, hoping we could glean out some lessons for future reference.
As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I did a presentation on this event at the preparedness conference last Saturday. Preppers often get focused on some worst case scenario - economic crisis, or an EMP or cyber attack knocking out the grid. They fail to realize that a heart attack will kill you just as quickly as any major disaster, and unlike major disasters, occur with alarming regularity.
I learned a lot from that evening's events. Candidly, I'd never done any planning for such an emergency other than to call 911. Yet it took four adults in our house that evening - working hard - to get the house ready, the dogs secured in a separate room, the lights on, the funiture moved, a flagger out on the sidewalk, CPR peformed on Pat all while talking to 911. One thing became apparent - we need to train to handle medical emergencies (as well as self defense emergencies and fire emergencies) in a more robust manner, assuming that one person is down and that the other person or persons there will have to do all of the work to provide first aid, get the house ready and let the first responders into the home. Simply saying "we'll peform CPR and call 911 and wait for help to arrive" is not a viable plan.
My hope is that people will recognize how imperative it is to be ready for those high frequency events - those events that happen more often than terrorists attacks, pandemics or other large scale disaster. One of my Six Axioms of Preparedness is to "Execute The Basics Well." Knowing what to do in a medical emergency will serve you well, be it a crisis in your home or a crisis in your community.
We had a great conference on Saturday - great speakers, solid turnout, substantive presentations.
On January 7, we (myself and Karl Rehn of KR Training) reached a milestone: five years of annual preparedness conferences in Central Texas.
We started our first one in 2013, in many ways as an experiment. We didn't know how much interest there would be for the first event and whether there would even be a second one. Yet every first Saturday after the New Year since then, we've hosted this event. We've learned a lot about putting on conferences and about the prepper culture along the way.
The conference has also served as a laboratory of sorts. I beta tested the thesis of Pivot Points during the 2015 conference in large part to see what kind of response I would get. The data we get from the evaluations has also been insightful, allowing us to drill down a bit into areas of interest for this audience.
This year's new twist: we featured an out of state speaker. Omar Hamada, M.D. spoke to the group on two topics: Prepper Medicine and Building a Home Preparedness Plan. As I told the group when I introduced him, I could live five lives and not accomplish what he has accomplished in one. A true Renaissance man, Dr. Hamada cut through a lot of the wishy-washiness that can sometimes accompany the standard medical presentation at a prepper conference and got down to it, telling us what medications we should have on hand and when we should take them. He also covered efficacy of drugs past their "expiration date" and how to have conversations with your physician about getting an extra presciption for medicines you take on a regular basis.
One of the big weaknesses in the prepper community is the ability to find physicians who will provide candid and actionable advice on medicines and training for a prepared citizenry. Needless to say, he did a stellar job outlining exactly what we needed to know and what we needed to acquire.
I then gave a presentation on Interacting With 911. As many of you know, my mother suffered a heart attack while visiting us over the Thanksgiving holidays. My father and I performed CPR and, with the help of the first responders, were able to revive her. I shared over six minutes of the recording of my 911 call with the audience, so they could hear for themselves how challenging it is to not only peform high quality CPR, but also to get your house ready for the arrival of first responders in the middle of the night all while appeasing the 911 call taker's instructions and questions.
My key messages in my presentation included:
Karl Rehn served as our lunchtime speaker, outlining many of the new course offerings at KR Training in the coming year. We expect more training opportunities in preparedness and fitness, along with more opportunities to have on site consulting at your home or business.
Tarek Saab, Chief Operating Officer of Texas Precious Metals, spoke on Basics of Gold And Silver Investing For Preppers. Tarek is the Chief Operating Officer of Texas Precious Metals and a co-founder of the company. It's not often we can have a finalist from The Apprentice as a speaker at our conference, but we had that opportunity with Tarek.
I've been reluctant to bring in a speaker on gold and silver investing, in large part because I never felt like I could find anyone that I felt comfortable putting in front of our audience as a source of reliable, non-fear based information. Tarek's presentation really demonstrated why he has accomplished so much at Texas Precious Metals in such a short time - by providing clear guidance and explanations of how the precious metals markets work. I highly recommend you download their buyer's guide, which served as the basis of much of his presentation.
Mike Legatt, Ph.D., spoke on human resiliency during periods of extended grid down operations. Formerly an engineer with ERCOT, Mike applied the technological realities of an extended grid failure with the psychological factors that affect both the employees of the grid as well as consumers sitting at home in the dark. Understanding how the grid works is key for anyone interested in preparedness, and Mike's insights helped educate attendees on what to expect during the next significant blackout.
Kelli Kochan spoke on the issue of getting reluctant spouses more involved in prepping. I get this question quite a bit, and so I was thrilled that Kelli agreed to share her thoughts on the subject.
Despite what many think, convincing your spouse to get on board with prepping isn't best accomplished via osmosis. As Kelli pointed out, it's imperative to find common ground and to find ways to make preparedness seem less like prepping and more like other activities your reluctant spouse might enjoy, such as camping or gardening. Allowing your "reluctant" family member time to adjust to your preparedness efforts is critical as well.
Darrell Ayers of Texas Law Shield provided guidance on how to react during an active shooter situation. A recently retired law enforcement officer, Darrell pointed out that police response times to active shooters may very well require citizens to fend for themselves for an extended period of time, during which the shooter could inflict significant harm.
Taking action during an active shooter situation requires a tremendous amount of mental focus. Darrell pointed out that you must be able to calm yourself, breathe and shift your emotions to be productive rather than to be fearful.
I concluded the conference again this year with my usual "locker room" presentation to help motivate people to get better prepared in the coming year. In "Is 2017 The Year Of The Prepper?" I made the case for the fact preparedness is now more mainstream than ever before. I cautioned attendees not to slow down in their preparedness efforts. I also encouraged people to start talking about preparedness not only in their own homes, but also in their churches, work places, and community groups.
Another twist to this year's conference: this year in the course evaluations, we asked attendees to tell us what they did in 2016 to get better prepared. The three most common answers were:
This is a good data point, in that it helps us understand what people actually "do" when they say they are getting prepared. These are three good activities that can pay big dividends during an emergency.
So I've been away from this blog awhile.
Back in July, I decided I needed to improve my emergency medical skills. And so I enrolled in an online emergency medical technician (EMT) course.
This has been challenging for me from a number of perspectives, including:
It's been a lot of work.
Today, I've finished the most challenging tasks. I have some homework assignments to complete, a few open book quizzes, and rotations with EMS and ambulance services, but that's relatively easy compared to what's behind me.
I wanted to take a few minutes and explain why I did this. In no particular order:
Should everyone take the EMT course? No way. It's a tremendous time suck that will take away from other worthwhile obligations. For most people, regular and recurrent first aid/CPR training will suffice. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, seek out additional training that addresses common issues faced in the wild. Anyone in the shooting sports should seek out first aid training specific to the possible injuries one might face on the gun range (heat related illnesses being chief among them).
In the next few days, I will share the story of how I got to use my training before I'd even taken the final exam.
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.