The Atlantic: "In mass shootings and terror attacks, perhaps civilians could be their own first responders."
It's not often The Atlantic weighs in on issues pertaining to preparedness. (Note that's not a criticism, but rather an observation.) In the wake of the Paris attacks, however, media outlets of all sorts ran a plethora of articles about terrorism and how to survive it. The Atlantic was no exception.
Karl Rehn of KR Training shared with me this piece from November 20 in which the magazine states that a number of doctors believe you and I ought to be the first responders. Tactical first aid, as it is called in the medical training community, is simply first aid provided in dangerous conditions. Those dangerous conditions might be an active shooter, a car wreck, or other environmental hazard.
As many of us in the firearms community are prompt to point out: "when seconds count, the first responders are minutes away." A response time of several minutes for someone who has experienced a traumatic injury with severe bleeding may not be sufficient to save their life. Those victims need first aid immediately, and sometimes they require it in less than safe conditions. That's where tactical first aid comes in.
Many often ask "what can we do to reduce the risk of terrorism or random violence?" Often those discussions turn to various ideas about gun control. Regardless of where you stand on the gun control issue, it's highly unlikely any one person is going to advance the ball one way or another in that debate. However, there are some things we can do on an individual level - and one of those is getting quality first aid training, to include training in tactical first aid.
I have done a fair amount of tactical first aid training with Lone Star Medics in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. This company, along with others, provide various levels of tactical first aid training across the country. In a country that embraces preparedness, we would all have some first aid training, including exposure on how to provide aid in dynamic environments.
Many years ago, I practiced law in Memphis. My practice was mainly limited to what we call "insurance defense," meaning insurance companies hired my firm to represent their policyholders who were sued for causing various accidents - car wrecks, airplane crashes, slip and falls, "whoop ass" cases (also called "use of excessive force" in more genteel circles), and other similar tort matters.
We associates always had a sense of dread when the first cold snap of the fall hit Memphis, because - without exception - the next day our phones would ring off the hook from plaintiff's lawyers whose clients all of the sudden wanted to settle their case. This was great for our clients (i.e., the policyholders who had been sued) but not so great for those lawyers who enjoyed taking cases to trial (like I did.)
The hypothesis explaining the phenomenon went something like this: The first snap of cold weather reminds people that even colder weather, along with the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, are fast approaching. People like having money in their pocket when the weather gets frightful in order to be able to afford warmer clothes, increased utility bills brought on by the colder weather, and Christmas presents. The day the cold snap hits, personal injury plaintiffs call up their lawyers and ask them to try to settle their cases ASAP...which means the next day the insurance lawyers in town get lots of calls from plaintiff attorneys willing to settle cases on favorable terms."
I have absolutely zero data to back up our (e.g., the astute team of young associate lawyers at my firm who routinely concocted theories and hypotheses about many things) hypothesis. But there seemed to be a strong correlation between the first cold snap of the fall and the ability to settle cases for very reasonable amounts.
I've noticed a similar trend when it comes to preparedness. I know I am more focused on prepping when the temps drop dramatically. This weekend, we will have our first cool snap, as temperatures fall into the 30s late Saturday night here in Austin. I'm hoping to get some time outside in the bivvy bag I mentioned earlier this week to see just how warm it can keep me in cooler temperatures.
I'm curious - does cooler weather motivate you to work on your preparedness?
I am just a new boy
What is the preparedness community to make of the current debate on whether the United States should accept refugees from Syria?
Here's what I've learned in the last few hours, perusing my social media feed:
Liberals/Progressives: Yes, we should be taking in Syrian refugees. As many as we can. (Insert New Testament Bible verse to make my point but that really doesn't make my point because it's being taken out of context, which just shows I haven't read the Bible in a while). We took in Jews after World War II so we should take in Muslims now. These are refugees, and the data shows that refugees don't cause terrorism. It's the right thing to do.
Conservatives: What we need to do is secure the border. Suspend all necessary laws and rights to do so. (Insert something about the government's obligation to protect American citizens that sounds unconstitutional on its face.) Muslim refugees can commit acts of terror, just like they did in Paris the other night. It's the right thing to do.
I'll be honest - I have no idea what the correct answer is. I don't want to turn on the news one day and see that we've had a Paris-style attack in New York. Or a Beirut-style attack in Dallas. I also don't want us to forget that we are a nation of immigrants, and that - dare I say it - we value human life and humanity more than any terrorist.
A few weeks ago, I made a donation to a charity that is funding efforts to rescue Christians from Syria. For those of us who are Christians, I think we have an obligation to help others in need - especially other Christians fleeing persecution. But if we say "no" to all Syrians, aren't we then saying "no" to the ones who share our faith? And if we are willing to admit that "not all Muslims are terrorists," then are we not obligated to take on some share of the burden this crisis has created, in our role as global citizens?
Moreover, shouldn't some of those people be staying behind to defend their country from (insert the enemy du jour here)? Why are we committing military assets (and U.S. tax dollars) if able bodied people are fleeing the enemy?
Oh, a quick minor point here - we helped to create ISIS. Just wanted to mention that.
What is the preparedness community to think? For me, it's pretty simple:
Always look to do what is right. Set fear aside. Help others. Beat evil with a stick and without hesitation. Think for yourself. Do your homework. Prepare for the unexpected. Set an example.
I'll leave it to terrorism experts to dissect why Paris was attacked this evening.
I want to talk about what you and I can do moving forward to deal with such risks.
I sit in a hotel room tonight, overlooking beautiful and vibrant downtown San Antonio. I'm quite sure Parisians and visitors did the same thing as they went out earlier in the evening for dining and entertainment at the end of the work week - like many of us did this evening.
No one thinks they will need first aid supplies, a flashlight, or a firearm when they leave home for an evening in town. If we did, we wouldn't leave the house.
Terrorism happens. Car wrecks happen. Tornadoes happen. Workplace accidents happen. Violent crimes happen. Making that observation doesn't make you paranoid. I'm watching cable news coverage of the event in Paris right now, proof positive these things do happen.
Meanwhile, Ted Koppel has a new book out in which he tells people he has stocked up three months worth of food in preparation for a cyber attack on the grid. He also dedicated three chapters of his book to analyze the preparedness efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the Mormons. Ted Koppel. The Nightline guy. Who is now giving interviews saying "[The Mormons] have made a culture of preparing for disaster."
It's good to see others talking about building a culture of preparedness.
If you don't want to listen to me, that's fine. But please listen to Ted Koppel. Prepare yourself and your family, and then continue the conversation - at work, at school, at your house of worship. What we saw tonight will happen again. As will other disasters. Take the steps now to ready yourself in the event your family faces this.
And while you're at it, thank those in the first responder community when you can. I picked up the tab of the two San Antonio Police Department officers sitting in the booth next to me at dinner tonight. They were very gracious and came over to thank me; I thanked them for their service and asked them to stay safe tonight. As they walked away, I said "God bless you." They stopped, turned around, and said "thank you very much."
Paris is why we prepare.
Every month or so, I'll come across an article like this showcasing one of the growing number of Cadillac apocalypse bunkers.
Such well-equipped retreats can lead to doubts in the minds of those of us who cannot afford a zombie timeshare. When things get bad, will those of us outside of one of these prepper country clubs survive?
Adding to this discussion are the cold realities of a worst case scenario during which these wealthy individuals would retreat to their prepaid compounds. One blogger recently opined that 40 percent of Americans would be dead within 90 days in the event of another American revolutionary war. I cannot find any data to support that estimate. We do know that 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War - the largest national crisis since adoption of the Constitution. The 1860 census revealed that the U.S. population was approximately 31 million...meaning we lost approximately two percent of our population to combat losses or for reasons collateral to combat in the four years of the Civil War.
Of course, America 1860 looks much different than America 2015. More Americans produced their own food back then. They also had far less technological advances at their disposal than we do. So pick a mortality rate - two percent, forty percent, or some number in between. In a crisis where infrastructure becomes inoperable or dramatically hampered, we should expect serious injuries and death to rise dramatically.
Will only those in Blueblood Bunkers survive such an event? Are we kidding ourselves by preparing for that worse case scenario if we don't have access to such a facility?
Let me share three thoughts on this.
Don't let your lack of a doomsday bunker make you a defeatist. We can all take steps to increase our odds of surviving that worst case event, which hopefully will never come to fruition.
Finally, don't let the fear of a worst case scenario consume you. Start by focusing on the more common threats - severe weather, wildfires, earthquakes, job losses, serious illness or injuries - as we are far more likely to face these threats on a daily basis.
David Paulinson, former head of FEMA, writes in yesterday's Washington Post:
"To be exact, $30.06 billion of the $47.9 billion set aside for relief [efforts for Hurricane Sandy, from 2012] remains in the coffers of two federal agencies whose primary missions have nothing to do with responding to disasters — the Transportation Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development. This fact alone should cause all of us to stop and question our current approach to disaster recovery."
During my interview last week on The Survival Podcast, host Jack Spirko asked me what role I believed the government can play in disaster mitigation and recovery. I listed a number of the public policy initiatives outlined in Pivot Points, such as better building codes, disaster savings accounts and tax incentives for preparedness purchases.
Paulison outlines a part of his recommended plan in the article:
"In addition to enhancing FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, our investment strategy creates incentives for states to adopt and enforce strong statewide building codes, provides tax credits for builders and homeowners who use cutting-edge techniques when constructing homes, and establishes a FEMA pilot program that would provide grants to states and localities to help defray enforcement costs for qualified building codes. Taken as a whole, these reforms would protect Americans in the place they should feel safest — their homes — while saving tax dollars."
No doubt some policymakers will be reluctant to implement such a program, especially those who believe in limited government and reduced burdens on taxpayers. How can those in the resiliency movement address such concerns?
I wrote in Pivot Points:
"If we accept the notion that people will expect the government to provide disaster relief as a political reality, then what is the libertarian response to that? Some might argue that the best approach, assuming that political reality is true, is to take steps to ensure that those who benefit the most from disaster aid undertake mitigation efforts to help reduce the need for tax dollars going to them after a disaster. Put another way, homeowners need to have more skin in the game if they expect the government to provide them with federal aid after a disaster. Enhanced building codes are one way we can make that a reality."
At the end of the day, I'm not convinced that the tax dollar savings will be a sufficient incentive for some policymakers. We may need to change our approach a bit, towards issues of life safety and personal responsibility. As I like to say, "good building codes keep my roof out of your living room after a storm."
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.