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.
Today, I spoke at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference (Tac Con), held at the Direct Action Resource Center in Little Rock. Tom Givens, the owner of the Rangemaster brand of training, is a 25 year veteran of law enforcement who now provides advanced training to both armed citizens and law enforcement. His wife, Lynn, is an accomplished firearms instructor in her own right. The two of them oversee the production of this annual Tac Con event.
Karl Rehn from KR Training suggested to Tom last year that I be added to this year's rosters of presenters. I emailed Tom a number of course suggestions regarding preparedness topics about which I thought his audience would enjoy. He selected my offer to talk about "Preparing For Things Other Than Violence: Strategies For Adding Preparedness Training Into Your Existing Firearms Course Curricula."
The overall themes of my presentation (you can download a pdf of the PowerPoint at the bottom of this post) were my standard sermon on building a preparedness culture: we need more people helping to build the culture, and firearms instructors are well positioned to help in that task.
After laying out the case for why I thought instructors should consider adding preparedness training to their curricula, I spent some time talking about the demographics of those who call themselves "preppers" and some of the challenges marketing to them. We also spent time outlining two distinct strategies in creating preparedness training:
These are not either/or options; a firearms instructor motivated to do so could easily do both. I think the former option is easier in many ways, and it gives the instructor the ability to test drive how well preparedness training will be received by their students. The latter takes a bit more of a time commitment, but it can yield benefits in not only creating more prepared citizens but also an increased customer base for instructors.
A few takeaways from the presentation and participant feedback:
The fact that a conference as highly regarded as Tac Con would offer something like this as a presentation is a testament to the growing interest in preparedness. It's my hope we can continue on the momentum we are building.
On Tuesday of this week, I officially graduated from the RC Health Services EMT program.
I'm not going to candy coat this. It was challenging, stressful and at times frustrating. But I certainly have much more confidence in my ability to help someone in a medical emergency than I did when I started.
But let's back up a bit.
Right now, there is a national shortage of EMTs, paramedics and nurses. One EMS agency I spoke with told me "we are hiring paramedics now that ten years ago we would not even interview," evidencing the extent of the shortage. Last weekend, while completing my ambulance rotations, I visited with an EMS shift commander in a small Texas town who told me that 50 percent of the paramedic positions in their EMS system are currently unfilled.
This shortage plays out in a number of ways. One way we expect to see it play out is in the response time for medical responders. EMS response time varies by city and location. In a rural area, it may be quite a while before a medically trained firefighter, police officer or EMS employee arrives on scene. Even in my suburban Austin neighborhood, complete with a fire station only two miles away, with a 911 call of "CPR in progress" (a story that I shared with you previously), it took over 10 minutes for the Austin Fire Department to respond. Austin EMS took even longer.
The lack of staffing and longer response times means all of us should expect to be on our own for a period of time before help arrives. It's just that simple.
I talk a lot about becoming your own first responder. Back in early 2016, I felt like I was not doing a good job of that when it came to medical training. So I began to seek out the training I felt would be the most beneficial to me. My criteria included:
The EMT training fit all of these, although in some ways it was like killing a fly with a shotgun. In a sense, it was a far more robust option than I really needed just for basic knowledge. But that rigorous training will enable me to volunteer with fire departments and EMS systems, which in turn will allow me to practice perishable skills and learn new ones.
Rather than doing an intensive three to four week course, I opted for a less expensive, on line option that I could do from home. Once you sign up, you are on the clock - everything must be completed within six months. The lecture portion was all on line - a series of 40 modules (one module for each chapter of the text book), which concludes with an online quiz on the chapter material. Like any other subject, some chapters were easier than others. I tried to do three chapters a week. Some weeks I exceeded that goal, while other weeks (when work or life was in the way), I did fewer chapters.
The "skills" portion - bandaging, CPR, splinting, administering oxygen, albuterol and epi-pens, doing medical and trauma assessments - were taught in a live classroom and then tested on as well. Skills training and testing days were quite stressful. It's hard to learn a skill by doing it once or twice and then be expected to do it in the right order and within the time allotted.
Once the classroom and skills training were completed, I sat for my written final exam and oral boards. I was behind in my training - I had hoped to be done with everything by Christmas - and so I had already decided in early January that if I failed the written exam, I would drop from the course. My busy season was upon me, and I had run out of gas and time to study. Fortunately, I made a 91 on my exam, prompting me to excitedly utter a swear word in the testing room so loudly that the proctor came in to see if I was okay.
This achievement entitled me to do clinicals - 24 hours on an ambulance, and 24 hours in a hospital emergency department (ED). These shifts were done in 12 hours increments, which I chose to complete over two consecutive weekends. Waking up at 4:30 AM to be across town on an ambulance for 12 hours, only to do the same thing the next morning in the hospital ED was quite tiring to say the least. But it allowed me to complete my hours and rush the training to completion.
I'll sit for the national EMT registry exam in the next few weeks. I need to do some studying on line for it (but as every attorney knows, if you have a standardized multiple choice exam and a good review course, it's just a matter of figuring out "the system"). While I was quite stressed about the final written exam and the skills testing in my training course, the national registry exam doesn't spook me. I'm making about 80% on the practice exams at the moment.
Once I have the state EMT license in hand, I'll be eligible to volunteer with a fire department, a medical mission trip, or other organization that utilizes EMTs. I could also pick up some shifts at a hospital ED as a technician (while it may seem odd to do so, it's a great place to learn a lot of great skills very quickly and get paid to do it.)
I am looking forward to getting more experience. We are far more likely to need to know medical skills than self defense skills, firefighting skills, or wilderness survival skills. And yet many in the preparedness community put gun and survival skills much higher on their priority lists than medical training. I can assure you: a heart attack or anaphylactic emergency can kill you just as quickly as a guy with a gun.
This training came at a financial and personal cost. Aside from the tuition, I spent a lot of evenings, weekends, and even time on my vacation completing the coursework. My very patient wife told me as I was concluding all of this that "you need to take a break from taking on any more projects - training, writing a book, whatever - for a while."
She's right, of course. I plan on taking the rest of 2017 off from any new time consuming initiatives and rather consolidating what I've already learned.
But I think it's worth mentioning - a number of people asked me how I found time to do these things. In some ways, it's easier for me than others, since I don't have small kids needing my attention. But at the same time, I get stuff like this done because I don't spend time watching television, attending football games, or going to the lake in the summer time. If being prepared is important to you, you will find a way to do it.
Would I do it again? Ask me that again in a few months. I'm fairly exhausted by all of it at the moment. If I were to do it again, I'd go about it much differently. I would spend as much time as necessary reading the text book before I even started the class, taking copious notes along the way. It would have greatly reduced my time and stress during the actual classroom and online training.
At a minimum, however, I'm convinced that every American should know:
We can make America stronger by learning new skills and being ready to help others. I hope you will consider doing so.
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.