Recently in Emerging Threats Category

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Apocalypse: en route or ongoing? I won’t argue whether something terrible will happen. It’s a flawed premise. Something terrible is already happening, just not where your computer is plugged in. It is not necessary for the entire planet to be threatened for a single region to be thrown into chaos. It wasn’t necessary for the whole state of Louisiana to be in peril before New Orleans turned medieval after Katrina. The mistake in logic occurs with the base assumption that a survival scenario is the end game. If that’s your assumption, there’s no need for extensive preparations. All you can hope to do is postpone the inevitable. For the rest of us, disaster will bring about a dire, though temporary state of more primitive living conditions. It’s temporary because we are working to make sure it doesn’t last. Everyone’s survival objective should be to rebuild and sustain. Adapt does not mean devolve.

Civilization is usually restored in a matter of months after the most catastrophic disaster. Push that period of primitive lawlessness out to several years and you’ll get no argument from me. What I’m talking about is realigning your survival paradigm with the realm of the probable. You will never be prepared for everything possible, and you will probably never hunt feral cats with a bow in a radioactive ash storm. Even if you do, I submit there is no conceivable way to prepare yourself for that eventuality while maintaining a tolerable existence in the pre-apocalyptic world. It makes more sense to concentrate on the remaining 99-point-something-percent likely scenarios which, combined, will take 4,000% less preparation and worry. This paradigm shift takes about as much time as reading this article.

Still not sold? Well, I still won’t argue. Please see Robert Heinlein’s quote about teaching pigs to sing. But let’s assume you recognize the benefit in an approach based on overwhelming probability. I’m going to reward you with the single biggest life saving strategy you will acquire this year, and it costs nothing. In fact, it’s going to save you money. Ready? Stay home.

You heard me. Don’t go anywhere. Metaphoric pause inserted here to allow for knee jerk reactions. Someone exclaims, “I’m not staying in this city!” Another asks, “Why should we listen to this guy, anyway?” And that’s a reasonable question.

As a rescue technician, I’m qualified in high angle (dangling from a rope), trench, excavation, and underwater environments, as well as vehicle extrication, wilderness search and rescue, confined space safety and response, unexploded ordnance (bombs), mine fields, and HazMat operations. There are very few rescue scenarios I have not trained on, drilled on, commanded, or otherwise participated in. The rescuer’s creed is simple. I am the most important person on the scene, my partner is second, and the victim is third. This means I am primarily trained to keep myself and my team safe while we do all we can for someone else. Or, survival, for short.

What I am not: I may be the only survival expert who was never associated with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Quite frankly, if you are getting all your survival tips from a SEAL Team member or any other individual whose primary qualification is combat experience, then you fall into the threat category for the rest of us. I dig special ops as much as the next guy, but they are trained to kill people. At night. With suppressed automatic weapons, helicopters and Zodiac boats. Is killing really that big a part of your overall plan? Or, do you envision saving yourself and your loved ones from the perils of a disaster-stricken city or suburb when additional resources may be hours or even days away? Because that’s what I do on a regular basis.

What I don’t often get a chance to do is speak to people before trouble finds them and explain how to best avoid becoming a victim in the first place. This information is hard won, paid for in some cases with life itself, and not the product of idle web surfing. I hope it strikes a chord with someone. I hope never to see you in need of rescue. That’s a result that benefits us both.

Here, I’ve enumerated the reasons for staying in or near your home (what we call “sheltering in place”) as opposed to immediately fleeing to an alternate location when disaster strikes. Do not lament any bug out preparations you have made or might be in the process of making. Survival is first and foremost a matter of options – having them, realizing them, and implementing them. If you can afford a subterranean bunker and it makes you sleep better at night, knock yourself out. Can’t hurt, right? I’m simply saying, in the most probable survival scenarios, the greatest number of us stand the greatest chance of helping ourselves by shifting the bug out option down the list a bit. For the vast majority of people who do not have bunkers, piling into the truck and heading for the hills is a very bad first option. And here’s why:

1.) The more familiar you are with your surroundings, the better your chances of long-term survival. All else equal, meaning your immediate surroundings aren’t grossly contaminated, you will live longer in the neighborhood where you’ve spent the last ten years than you will in the forest. Yes, this takes into account roaming bands of armed thugs. Yes, it’s true even if you’ve found the last virgin wilderness where the ground is fertile and game abounds. There is no substitute for, nor any advantage that trumps a thorough knowledge of your surroundings. You can “feel” when something is not right in your neighborhood. That’s because it is your habitat. In the best of conditions, animals struggle outside their habitat

2.) You will need support. Because you can’t anticipate every eventuality, you will not know from whom, or from where, aid might come. When you flee the worst of human nature, you also hide from the best. Okay, you may discount completely the kindness of your neighbor, but are you going to ignore the benefit of trading with him when supply caches are lopsided? And what about when your interests align with his? When, for example, those armed thugs show up, they won’t be coming just for what’s in your house. They’ll be going door to door. You will suddenly discover allies all around you and it will have nothing to do with philanthropy or humanitarian principles.

3.) Have you ever heard, “Train how we fight, and fight how we train”? It’s an accepted strategy by now, from athletics to the armed forces. You will perform in the same manner you practiced. This holds true for your environs. Football isn’t practiced on a soccer field just as jungle warfare techniques aren’t honed in alpine forests. The better you know your surroundings, the better able you are to use them to your advantage. Near your house, you already know which streets are dead-ends, which drainage and choke points to avoid, where the nasty dogs are, and you know all routes from there to everywhere else in a 20 mile radius. Unless you are at least that familiar with your bug out location and spend at least half your time there, you are safer at home. Note: companies like onPoint Tactical offer urban survival courses customized to most metropolitan areas. Check for one where you live and improve upon your turf advantage instead of trying to learn new terrain.

4.) After shelter and food, your psychological well being is the most important factor in your survival. I cannot overstate the importance of your surroundings on your psyche. All of those familiar, comforting belongings that you cannot pack in a go bag will make the difference in morale when things get really tough. These morale stabilizers will translate to poise in the face of extraordinary circumstances, when every decision matters. But let’s say you’ve adopted the Spartan lifestyle and everything you own already fits into that go bag. My question to you is, why defend any ground at all? Find yourself a mule and go nomad. Most of us social animals, however, need our territory. And the psychological benefit we derive from home territory – the home field advantage, in other words – is no myth. It reminds us what we’re struggling to preserve.

5.) If you have put any thought into a remote shelter, you have grappled with the problem of supply. Everything from food to first aid and farm implements must be transported there and stored there. You probably already have all this stuff at home. Consider how much easier it would be to simply increase your stores in that one location. You can maintain equipment in your garage. Rotate fuel and food into consumption before it expires and replace it with fresh goods. Keep your medicine and vitamins in the refrigerator that’s already running and extend their shelf lives. Yard not good for growing things? Let the dog poop somewhere else and rehabilitate your soil. Take the money you would have spent driving to your remote shelter on a monthly basis and construct some raised vegetable beds. Start a compost heap. Raise fruit trees and perennial crops now instead of depending on your ability to learn this skill under life and death pressure.

6.) There will be an “after”. There may be several. Hollywood is largely responsible for our warped vision of a post-apocalypse world. They share the blame with unscrupulous fear merchants and a several religious sects. Disaster and ruin are not end states. Ever. Populations regenerate and societies rebuild. That means that there were more than a few people left after every catastrophic occurrence in history, and there have been some big ones. What has happened before will happen again, including the healing process. What kind of shape would you expect your property to be in after you abandoned it to looters and the elements for a few months? What if, instead of a single big bang Hollywood style disaster, a much more likely succession of smaller disasters strike? You have the option to weather them one at a time and rehabilitate in between, or isolate yourself at the onset and forsake your home. The latter could well prove to be an irreversible decision.

There are more reasons than I’ve given here – some technical, some the lesser of two evils – but I’m hoping this is sufficient to compel many readers to pause and consider the basis for their assumptions. If something about your plan of action is troubling you and you can’t quite get a handle on it; if every problem you attempt to solve creates two new ones; if the amount of money, worry, and time you’re spending on this somehow doesn’t make sense, it’s because your premise is flawed. It’s likely you inherited someone else’s premise and didn’t ask the right questions of it. There’s time to do that now. Take another look at what you already have before buying anything new. Then get some qualified advice on how to maximize it.

The latest economic recession was, for thousands of people across our nation and millions worldwide, apocalyptic. Vast numbers of those people are still in survival mode. One of the benefits to being less severely impacted by this disaster is the unbelievably cheep expertise available to us on the open market. Security consultants, architects, builders, fire fighters, self defense specialists, farmers and firearm instructors (to mention a very few) are scouring the want ads for any kind of employment. Offer them a day’s wage to help educate you and your family. It’s money wisely spent because it helps you and it helps a skilled individual without a job. We will need those skilled people nearby when the worst comes to pass. This is symbiotic, community recovery without going all Kumbaya around a campfire. It is practical, sustainable, and it will serve you much better than an individualist approach. I promise.

So, my advice reiterated is this: ignore the microscopic possibilities and concentrate on some solvable problems. Learn to separate practical survival from movies and video games. Go back to the beginning and question everything. It’s not hard. It will make you feel better. It will save you money. It will save your life and possibly many others. Be safe out there.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
Can you provide more detailed information on what you believe will happen East of the Mississippi River in and around major population centers in the event of a collapse.  You briefly addressed this when you were interviewed by Michael Ruppert in his Collapsenet podcast program last year.  Most of the population simply can't relocate to the Western mountain states much less realistically get out of debt.  As I believe it was stated on your web site some years ago it will be a "Come as you are collapse" and that is what we all will get.  I'm perhaps half way to where I need to be in preparations, having moved to a small farm about 40 miles away from a major population center in Ohio.

Thanks for your work, - J.H.

JWR Replies: I realize that the majority of my readership is in the eastern United States, and my oft-repeated "Go West" advice antagonizes some folks. If I were a people-pleasing opportunist, I could probably get away with claiming that some selected areas in the East are "extra safe because of geographic isolation", and they therefore were "ideal retreat locales", but I simply cannot do that with any intellectual honesty. No matter how anyone tries to sugar coat it, the population statistics are like the proverbial "elephant in the room." So I'm standing by my longstanding advice to relocate. Granted, in a "grid up" situation, large portions of the Eastern U.S. will indeed be fairly safe places to live. But if the power grid goes down, then your chances of survival will be pitiful. There are simply far too many mouths to feed. I don't think that even northern Maine will be safe. Statistically, your chances will be substantially higher in the lightly-populated western states, particularly in the American Redoubt.

Just how bad could it get in the eastern states? Here is a quote from the fictional Provisional Government President Maynard Hutchings from one the novels that I authored:

   “My fellow Americans: The United States is slowly recovering from the greatest tragedy in its history. I have recently been provided a detailed report on the extent of the catastrophe from the administration’s chief scientist. Some of the report’s findings are as follows: In the past three years, an estimated one hundred and sixty million of our citizens have died. Most died from starvation, exposure, and disease. Of the deaths by disease, more than sixty-five million were caused by the influenza pandemic that swept the eastern seaboard. Without antibiotics available, the disease simply ran rampant until there were no more hosts left to attack in the heavily populated regions.”
    “At least twenty-eight million are estimated to have been killed in lawless violence. In addition, more than five million have died of complications of pre-existing medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, hemophilia, AIDS, and kidney disease. Hundreds of thousands more have died of complications of tonsillitis, appendicitis, and other ailments that were heretofore not life threatening. The distribution of population losses ranged from in excess of 96 percent of the population in some northeastern metropolitan areas to less than 5 percent in a few areas in the High Plains, Rocky Mountains, the inter-mountain areas of the West, and the Inland Northwest....”

If you are serious about providing for your family and protecting them in a societal collapse, then the wise thing to do is to move out west, soon. But if you cannot because of either work or family obligations, then I recommend that you stock up to the very best of your ability, arm yourself, get the best training available, and harden your home. In the event of a grid-down collapse, you might have to hunker down in a blacked-out house on a property with spring water or a shallow well for 18 to 24 months. This will necessitate living with absolutely no outside contact or resupply. Unless you have the requisite deep larder and a big wood (or coal) pile, then you are likely to become a statistic.

Why 18 to 24 months? I predict that it will take two winters for your neighbors to eat up all the food in their pantries, then the local livestock and wild game, then their pets, and then perhaps even each other. In the absence of grid power, only after the population has dropped to a reasonable carrying capacity will there be any chance of a recovery and a return to law and order.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Some people say you can’t prepare for every situation.  I say, you can because every situation has one common element that can and will hurt you outside of the event itself: other people.  Lets face it, if you die in a storm, a nuclear/biological/chemical event, or terror attack, then you are dead.  There is nothing from stopping God’s will. 

You don’t prepare for those events, you prepare for surviving those events.  There are many events, (and not far-fetched crazy extreme events) which people should be prepared to deal with to protect themselves and their families when it’s over and you are alive. Some include:

  1. Storms (Hurricanes/tornados/floods/earthquakes, droughts, Tsunami)
  2. Financial collapse
  3. Biological emergencies (natural or weaponized)
  4. Chemical emergencies (Living near DuPont?)
  5. Nuclear emergencies (Attack/Power grid failure resulting in leak)
  6. Civil unrest (Riots/Revolution/Civil War/Race war/Looting)
  7. Power Grid failure (EMPs/Solar flares/ attack on grid)

The interesting fact is that just one event on the above list, can and will cause another on the list.  If you don’t believe me, look at Hurricane Katrina. Not only did this storm devastate a region, but what else happened? Civil Unrest, chemical emergencies from refineries, Biological emergencies with contaminated water and disease from bodies, and financial collapse of the region and lets not forget the looting and power grid failures. Look at the recent tsunami in Japan.  No one ever dreamed the nuclear reactors would so easily fail, melt down, leak, or kill (wait for it). The Japanese can probably site all the above listed events as a result of an earthquake. There is a common denominator shared by each item on the list that represents the biggest threat to survivors, outside of the event itself: People.

People will react in the most amazing ways after a horrible event.  Events like these bring out the best and worse in people.  This was seen in New Orleans. I was there in the aftermath. I saw the best and worst in mankind – Mostly the worst.  Normal, law-abiding people (well, it is New Orleans), when put in a survival situation, will kill you, if the stress of the event makes them believe they need your stuff to stay alive.

The dichotomy is that people are the biggest threat, but you can’t survive without the cooperation of other people.  You can’t make it through the listed events alone; you have to rely on other people to pool all your resources to survive. Every event on that list will cause people to lose their minds and cause chaos. Give it a couple of days, then the looting, crime and civil unrest explode like a powder keg.  Sure, you can crawl in your bunker, but for how long? You can buy 20 guns, but you can only shoot one at a time. You need to get organized, with a group of trusted friends/family, to provide, protect and plan your hopefully short term situation.  The well-organized, well armed groups will get passed by the marauders for easy pickings down the road.

Just in the last 10 years or so, we have seen some horrible events that touch every item on the list above….9/11, Hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi,, Haiti, Japan's Tsunami, Worldwide Earthquakes, Eastern Seaboard Power failure shutting down New York, Euro collapsing, Japans Nuclear reactor failures, Iran’s Nuclear prowess, Missing former Soviet nuclear devices, Los Angeles riots, Tornados Midwest rampage, Ohio/MS River flooding, Texas droughts, and I could list a whole page .
Preparing doesn’t sound so crazy now does it? It’s not some right-wing doomsday fantasy, but if it makes you concerned, perhaps it should – No one is saying we should build an underground bunker (although I would love to).  All I am saying is having a plan, with people you trust while pooling resources just may save your life.

So now you realize you aren’t crazy- lets take a look at the basics:

What are the basic needs we will need as human beings?

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Shelter
  4. Security

WATER – Take stock if you are staying put or bugging out. You have what is available to you, but I would recommend having 3 sources of water either in my home or bug out location.

  1. Natural water sources (Creeks, rivers, springs that flow year round)
  2. Well water (How is it powered? Electricity/ manual pump/ solar?)
  3. Water storage (Ponds, stock tanks, water catch systems, barrel storage, bathtubs)
  4. City/County (Keep in mind this source is dependent on upkeep by people who will not be showing up to work in our scenarios)

FOOD - I know a lot of people have their 3-day bug out bag with survival food bars handy, but I believe you need to take stock, not only of your pantry, but other potential sources in your locations.

  1. Stored and saved canned goods with shelf life and extended life usage.
  2. Staples (oil, flour, beans, wheat, salt, sugar- Think food grade barrels)
  3. Natural Resources (Fish, wildlife in area for meat, Feeders/traps/snares)
  4. Seed (growing, farming, reproducing your own food – heirloom seeds)
  5. Livestock animals
  6. Food as a trading commodity (honey, spices,  alcohol, Etc)

SHELTER –We have our homes we currently live in whether its an apartment, house etc. Think about if you leave or bug out, it’s important to have shelter not only where you end up, but keep in mind it may take a few days to get there. Do you know anyone between you and your bug out location? Is there someplace safe you can leave a cache?
Some things to think about shelter:

  1. Size, capacity (how many are in your trusted circle? Will everyone fit?)
  2. Power options (propane, electric/generator, wood for warmth)
  3. Portable/semi permanent (shipping container, RV, tents, Trailer)
  4. Underground (storm shelter, root cellar, buried shipping container)
  5. Ability to create lean-to and basic shelters
  6. Alternate locations (when things get too tough, you may need to relocate)
  7. At your bug out location, is there a secure place, if there is a bio event, that someone can be put into quarantine until incubation period is satisfied before joining the rest of the group?

SECURITY – This means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Lets list out a few things that are important keeping in mind safety in numbers- however a smaller group of well prepared and well trained people can be the most important asset of security.

  1. Personnel (large enough to make the average band of marauders move on to easier targets)
  2. Weapons  (pistols, mid range, long range firearms.) One important need for quiet registered suppressed smaller caliber weapons for stealth and hunting.  This will be very important- Texas is mostly flat and sound carries for miles.) It is good to have .22, .223, .40/9mm, 12ga, 30.06/.308, 7.62x39. These are most plentiful and easily found.  Stealth and being quiet is something that not many presently talk about, but will be important.  If someone is looking for food/water etc, man-made noises are a beacon for people to come and find you. At some point, you will want to put your big bang stick away and opt for suppressed/small caliber or conventional bows.
  3. Ammunition: Having similar calibers among your group members makes ammo go further and able to work with more than one weapon. This coordination could be extremely important in long-term situations.
  4. Night Vision (or Thermal but expensive) There are many Gen 1 NV scopes out there that are priced so reasonably that they make it a must.  Those who own the night, control the day.
  5. Dogs (trained ones, not purse dogs)
  6. Fuel (including storage- This will make you mobile while gas is scarce)
  7. Alternate Transportation (ATV, Bicycle, UATV, mopeds) Don’t laugh – You can ride 10-to-20 miles on a bike without being in Olympic shape.  How long does it take to walk 10 miles?  Not so silly now is it?  Do some research on the Japanese in WWII being able to move mass amounts of troops in a short timeframe catching their enemies by surprise.  And bike is quiet…….

Now that we have some of the basics identified, there are other things that could have been listed above that many of us have lying around or have access to its usefulness.  I like to refer to these items as assets.  You should put a checklist together of your assets, keeping in mind, some assets are intangible.  Here is a quick list of both:


Communication. This is number one for a reason- ham radios, CB radios, Walkie-talkies, field phone with wires, and radios. Information equals knowledge, and knowledge is power.

  1. Boats (rafts, canoes, jon-boat, fishing and pontoon, inner tubes/pool toys- sometimes you need to get across a river/creek and need to keep stuff dry and they take up no space at all – deflate and use again later)
  2. Vehicles (some of us have multiple vehicles…or toys, that carbureted vehicle can be more valuable than you know if there is a solar flare or EMP)
  3. Trailers (we have a lot of stuff and people to bug out)
  4. Generators (these need extra fuel so prep accordingly, and don’t forget the oil)
  5. Tools (welder, chain saws, wire cutters, bolt cutters, etc)
  6. Bikes (these don’t need fuel and can get you miles in minutes)
  7. Land/property (even if it is not ideal bug out territory, it could be used as a cache to store items in alternate locale, or a safe place to stop and resupply to your ultimate destination)
  8. Reloader (The ability to load and reload your own ammo is a huge asset)
  9. Medical equip (all inclusive down to the band aids – don’t forget toothaches and tools for extraction if necessary) People never think about dental as part of their first aid kit…until they have a cracked tooth or toothache.
  10. Silent weapons (crossbows, bows, arrows/bolts, snares/traps)
  11. Fishing Poles (self explanatory)
  12. GPS/Maps (You need both because at some point tech will fail, oh yes, learn how to use a compass with that map) You don’t need static electricity with a needle on a pool of water- Bear Grylls is cool to watch, but go buy a handful of cheap compasses and put them in everyone’s bag and teach some online land navigation basics.
  13. Force multipliers (trip wire alerts, motion sensors, noise making material for areas you cant always see) An easy fix, battery operated motion lights.  If you need eyes in a location you can’t see at night – Set these up in those hard to see areas – It’s like having an extra person to alert you. Fishing lines and cans with rocks will make noise when tripped.
  14. Battery charging devices (Commercial, solar,  also think non conventional like a stationary bike with a belt to an alternator to battery to inverter to outlet) Hook it up to a wheat grinder and make some flour.
  15. Alternative energy (like my bike idea above, there are available sources on the market like solar, wind, hydro- research hydro – It only takes 10 foot of head to turn a turbine – I would love to explore this idea with my creek)
  16. Wood (Gotta have heat in winter, and have to cook)
  17. Clothing for all seasons (doesn’t hurt to have chest waders, mosquito netting, and sewing kits for repairs.  Not everything needs to be military or camo )
  18. Hammocks – I’m getting everyone in my family hammocks with a cheap tarp to go over the top.  There is a whole group of campers out there using only hammocks – Very cool, light weight and fit into the 3 day bug out bag nicely.

Now lets look at a list of what I call Intangible Assets.  What knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) do we bring to the group that can be passed along or taught?

  1. Training  (Firearms, tactics, military, safety/chemical, survival)
  2. Certifications (CPR/First Aid, EMT, MD, paramedic, dentistry)
  3. Skills (Farming, hydroponics, carpentry, mechanics, cooking, fishing, welding)
  4. Knowledge (Can you fix things? Make things, butcher, chemical knowledge, canning, pickling, reloading, armorer, water purification)
  5. Abilities (climb trees, make candles, negotiate, bow hunt, make a zip line, fish with a net. Think outside the box)

These are just a few things to think about when starting to prep.  Take your own inventory, and then take the next step. This step is just as important as your safety.  Unless you are going to live by yourself in a bunker (Okay, perhaps I have bunker envy)- you need to incorporate your trusted inner circle to share your ideas and make a plan. Choose wisely- I have seen a lot of people utilize their family- Most of the time, that works. But some folks don’t live near their family, or if they do, they don’t always get along with an in-law or each other.  Don’t be that guy that chooses his best friend that doesn’t believe in prepping, and if by chance they do, won’t prepare, wont bring anything to the table and will end up mooching off of your hard work and the others in your group.  Here are some things to keep in mind when you find your bug out group.  Ask the hard questions with your group now.

If you plan on leaving your home to your bug out location, you may be faced with some tough decisions, table these with your group and ask:

  1. How many people are invited to the location?
  2. What is the group going to do when some other “friends” not in the trusted circle show up?
  3. Uninvited family vs. uninvited friends – Is there a difference? Oh yes!
  4. When others show up looking for a handout or help- what are we prepared to do?
  5. In a bio situation (bird flu) how long should you quarantine others before letting them into your location- What if they are sick – What is the group prepared to do? What if they are family?
  6. Leadership roles vs. democracy vs. clans (family leaders)
  7. What are group pooled items vs. individual (mine) items.  What is shared vs. kept?

Meeting with your trusted inner circle (bug out crew) of people now and discussing these items will be crucial down the line.  Lets face it, it’s hard to find couples that all like each other much less entire families. Face the fact and embrace the fact there will be disagreements in advance, No one will ever completely agree on everything- That is reality.  These disagreements may become amplified in a stressful environment, but come to grips with it together and talk about it now. Talk about that family or group that finds you and wants to join your group to bolster their security (who, what when where, why and how- will be the name of that game). I can create an endless number of scenarios for and against accepting – But the group needs to come to an agreement.  What style of leadership are we going to use? Talk about it now.

Have a plan and several routes that everyone knows to get to your bug out location.  This is where communication devices are essential – Know what routes are inaccessible, have your back-up routes from each alternate points of entry (back up routes to your back up routes) Timing will dictate your routes.  Depending on situation and spread of the event, smaller towns that you would normally drive through could be barricaded and controlled by organized militias/groups like you, limiting access. This goes for any area.  Think of your bug out location, you may want to limit the access too, out of fear of travelers/hordes looking to pillage.  Depending on the situation be prepared to negotiate, barter, trade and or shoot your way to your bug out shelter. You may end up using all those methods along the way.

Bug out to a secondary location comes with its own set of pros and cons.  To me, the hardest question is: When is it time to bug out? No one can predict the best time, but I will say before all of the gas is used up. In our area of South Texas, you can hear a V-8 engine a couple miles away.  Remembering that a panicked society wants to take your stuff because they did not prepare and believe they will die without your stuff-What I am trying to say is err on the early side of bugging out.   The Bottom line is that if you wait too long, you will have herds of “zombies” trying to catch, shoot and kill the caravan of people who still have gas and a way out of town. 

At this point, being quiet is the name of the game. Noise attracts attention- Hunting is a good example; an AR-15 is deafening and can be heard 5 miles and more away. If you use it, use it only once. You will have everyone’s attention waiting to vector the second shot and move in that direction. Get skilled with a bow/crossbow or get a suppressed weapon. .22s are relatively quiet and are good small game calibers. Generators are loud and will attract attention. What are some fixes? Underground, ventilated areas/ mufflers? This opens the door to learning to trap, lay snares, or take serious advantage of the hog trap.  Stock up on rat traps and keep them at your bug out base (the snapping closed kind).  Not for rats, but for small game and birds.  These force multipliers will help you catch your needed protein.

As your group comes together, start training together.  You can start out with a  “survivor man” weekend where you can try your wares. Sight in all your weapons, start fires utilizing various methods, cook using only a fire-pit.  Walk your perimeter, know your weak spots, where are you vulnerable?  Where are the best vantage points on the property, escape routes, choke points, fallback areas, and cache spots.  Bring the families out.  Make sure everyone of responsible age knows how to load, fire, unload each weapon system each family owns. Make training weekends fun, but cover the basics and have everyone hone a skill. If they don’t have one, have them choose one, learn it well, and teach the rest of the group. Empower everyone in the group because we all need to not only feel we contribute to the whole, but we actually all really do need to contribute.  Make weekends to learn how to:

  1. Fish
  2. Shoot
  3. Plant/Harvest
  4. Gather
  5. Hunt/trap
  6. Security patrol/force multiplier utilization
  7. Communications
  8. Prepping vehicles/Trailers/ bags with supplies (what should be in them)
  9. Survivor man trips using your 3-day bug out bag. Know what works and what doesn’t.
  10. Make flour from wheat and bread from flour.
  11. Make alcohol – Uses are many, from drinking, fire starting, trading, sanitizing, cleaning wounds, sterilizing….and did I say drinking?
  12. Bee keeping many uses from pollinating, honey, candles, trading. Edible honey was found in Pyramids buried for centuries.

Each aforementioned training topic could be a whole chapter in a book.  Remember there are no wrong ideas, some may be misguided or implemented incorrectly, but most of us have not gone through this before. Getting ideas together is the first step to getting prepared which leads to taking action and responsibility for you and your loved ones which just may save your life one day. Good luck to us all – we might just need it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In 1919, the Spanish flu killed around 75 million people in a single year (Knobler, pp. 60–61). In 1931, the China floods killed over two million people (NOVA). In 1945, America dropped two atomic bombs that killed around 200,000 people (Radiation Effects Research Foundation). In 2010, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 hit Haiti and killed 316,000 people (USGS). In the past century alone, 29 countries have had to deal with hyperinflation, causing severe economic depression, during which millions died from starvation, disease and looting. These events go to show that disaster has always been an unavoidable aspect of life, and will continue to be unavoidable as long as sin is still in this world. However, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Although it is nigh impossible to avoid these events, it is possible to lower the death toll and effect of damage by being properly prepared. Individual households can take responsibility in making their city a better and safer place to live. To learn how to be properly prepared for events like this, we must look back at these terrible catastrophes, and learn.

One such catastrophe was the Great Depression. Besides being the greatest economic crisis this country has ever seen, the Depression starved to death perhaps up to 12 million Americans--10% of the population. ( [JWR Adds: This figure is disputed, primarily based on the difference between the 1930 and 1940 census, which showed a 7.3% population increase, but for comparison between 1920 and and 1930 there was a 13.7% population increase. Even excluding immigration deltas there were significant numbers of starvation deaths.] Two major events that caused the downfall of our economy are the failure of banks, which led up to the stock market crash, and the Dust Bowl, a dust storm that left 500,000 Americans homeless and destroyed most of the farmable land and crops in America (First Measured Century: PBS).

Compare the events that caused the depression to the conditions of today. For example, in the past twenty years the average number of natural disasters for a twenty-year time span is up by four hundred percent (Natural News). Yes, natural disasters fluctuate throughout history, but the severity of these events is greater than we have ever seen before. Just look at the beginning of this century: it started in 2004 with Hurricane Katrina, which caused $180 billion worth of damage. Even though the final death count of 1,833 does not seem significant, Katrina also left over 12,000 people homeless, and 25 percent of Louisiana jobless (National Climatic Data Center). Furthermore, rioting and looting became rampant because people were desperate for food and resources. However, Katrina is only one of the numerous natural disasters. Out of the ten biggest earthquakes on record, three of them happened in the past ten years. The earthquake that caused the tsunami in Japan in 2011 cost their economy $235 billion, killed 15,850 people, injured 6,011, with 3,287 missing (Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures). Nevertheless, experts speculate that the natural disasters will not subside. Sooner than later Mt. Rainer will erupt, creating a mudslide that will result in the death of thousands, and kill miles of environment (Popular Mechanics). Expert Seismologists estimate that more earthquakes of higher magnitude will hit Mississippi, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, which would cause an enormous tsunami. We live in delicate times, but not only because of these natural disasters.

Our country is in an enormous economic crisis. According to the United States National Debt Clock, provided by the Federal Reserve, our current national debt at exactly 8 o’clock pm on February 27, 2012 amounts to $15,404,053,723,986, and is increasing at an average of $48,998 per second. If we were to divide this debt between taxpayers in America, each one of them would owe $136,167. In just one month, it has increased over $180 billion, and the average taxpayer would owe another $1,000. This debt is seemingly impossible to get rid of. What is even worse than this debt is the inflation of the dollar bill. Since the beginning of the decade, the dollar has lost 24 percent of its value. Furthermore, many countries have recently dropped the dollar as their reserve currency, such as China, Japan, Switzerland, Kuwait, Libya, Iran, Russia, and Syria. They have done this because they do not trust the dollar and do not want to lose any more money than they already have. In addition to the devaluation of the dollar, more and more banks today keep closing because of the inability of Americans to pay off their own debt. From 2000 to 2009, the Federal Deposit Insurance Company recorded seventeen banks failing and having to close. Between 2010 and 2011, over 150 banks closed. The amount of debt we are in and the devaluation of our money is a very real threat to this country, one that will not end well.

As well as suffering from a fragile economy, this world is experiencing a major food shortage. According to the World Bank, 44 million people have been pushed into poverty because of rising food prices. The earth is also losing its topsoil due to the new methods of farming we have adopted. In addition, the earth has not been reproducing the natural amount of topsoil that it used to produce (Seattle PI). The World Bank also states that food prices have increased by 36 percent in the past 12 months. Even though we may not feel the effect where we live, neither did those of the 1920’s. Hedonism dominated the 1920’s, as well as the increased movement in liberal thinking. This same attitude is thriving in the times we live in today, and has taken an even greater extreme. Every type of event that led up to the Great Depression we have experienced in this past decade. The extreme natural disasters, food shortages and insane increase in bank failures are the precursors of something that will be much worse.

Nevertheless, why should we care? These events are frightening, and it is not comfortable to dwell on such things, but there comes a point where we must deal with the inevitable. The magnitude of these events is truly incredible, and is seemingly outside the scope of our influence. Fortunately, this is not the case, and there is a practical way to be prepared for such events as these. Though it is not comfortable to dwell on these events, we cannot stand around and do nothing. In light of these events and this principle of action, there are three points to show how Christians ought to handle these events. First, there is Biblical justification of a Prepper mentality. Second, the Biblical examples of physical preparation give us an example to follow. Third and finally, the practicality of Survivalism is a justifiable use of resources. Therefore, based on Biblical principles and the events of the past century, Christians have a moral and practical obligation to prepare for catastrophes.
Before dismissing what I am about to say as extremely right-winged, back woods redneck, or an advocate for the zombie apocalypse to come tomorrow, listen to why I am presenting this argument. Many Christians in America have jumped to the wrong side of the topic because liberal America has exaggerated, skewed, and falsified the reality of Survivalism.  I am presenting this argument in its true light from two different standpoints: the cost to benefit aspect, and the morality of preparation.

When a Christian is facing any decision, the first place to look is the Scriptures. Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the Beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, written by the wisest man to ever walk the earth, Solomon. Proverbs 2:1-5 describes how we need to cry out for wisdom, and seek her as silver. Verse 5 declares, “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” To find the knowledge of God, it is necessary to have wisdom.

Therefore, when Proverbs 22:3 states, "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished,” we need to listen and act upon this insight into becoming godly men. Seeing how important it is to align our views with the Lord’s, look at the man who does not listen and take action, but rather continues in his folly. Different versions of the Bible calls the person in this verse different names, such as simple, thoughtless, naïve, gullible, and fool. Throughout Proverbs, we see how much God disdains the fool. In this case, the fool is the one who disregards preparation and continues with his life like there is nothing wrong in this world. Do you want to be in that category of person who ignores wisdom, scorns prudence, and disregards foreseeable danger? On the other hand, will you listen to wisdom, and acknowledge the Biblical standard of living?

This Biblical standard of living is one of action. The ethic of working and collecting for yourself is spread throughout the Bible. Proverbs 6:6-8 gives an example. “Go to the ant you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers food in the harvest.” The ant creates and stores up food for when she will need it, while the sluggard does not, and will pay the consequences. We are to rely on Christ, but that does not mean we stand around and just wait for Him to come back. Look at the example of Noah. God told him he was going to destroy the world, and then told him to build an ark. God demanded action of Noah, just as He always expects action from us. James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead. Many Christians apply this to their life, but it also needs to apply to the upcoming catastrophes. Christians need to see the danger coming ahead, and take action by preparing for it.

As well as the Biblical example of reason why to prepare, the practicality of preparing for catastrophes makes it inexcusable to be unprepared. Almost everybody will agree that preparation is necessary for certain events, such as fire drills and lock downs, because people see the cost to benefit ratio as much more practical than a hassle. It is worth the time for the reward. Why do these people not apply this to preparation of emergencies on a much larger scale? To fathers and future fathers, how much is it worth to you to keep your family safe? You buy life, automotive, house, medical, and who else knows what type of insurance, but what are you going to do when an earthquake hits and the grocery store is empty. Alternatively, maybe the bank cannot give you your money because it just does not have it due to others not paying off their debts. Will you have to look into their eyes and tell them you will have to deal with being hungry for a little bit? What if that little bit has been a week, and one of them is getting sick. No good father is going to sit around and let his child die. Citywide anarchy, starvation, and a gigantic increase in crime are to be expected once more people come to the same realization. I realize this seems very far-fetched and there is little chance of this happening. That is what Sarah Luker thought, an average Betty Crocker housewife. Then Hurricane Ike destroyed their house and her family had nothing to live on. Since then, Sarah has embraced the Prepper mindset, canning food and storing resources so that she will be ready for catastrophe the next time it strikes. More and more “normal” people are seeing the benefits of preparing. Costco is now providing survival kits in handy backpacks, with food for two weeks, knives, hatchets, a tent, and other essentials to survival. This is the reasoning of ordinary people who see the danger coming, and the obvious reason to prepare for them. Nevertheless, people question how much of a priority this should take. You apply this same reasoning to insurance. You pay so that when something bad happens, you will be able to fix your care, or get a new house. Apply this mindset to preparing for catastrophe. Is it not identical to buying life insurance? People pay money just in case they die and cannot take care of their family. How about buying resources to sustain your family just in case something goes horribly awry?  Christ says to love your neighbor as yourself, but if you are unable to love and take care of your own family in times of trouble, how are you going to be an example of Christ like love for his children?

Nevertheless, how much is enough? While some will buy a two-week survival kit and call it good, others will pay thousands of dollars to have a nuclear bunker in their backyard. Where is the line drawn that says this is enough? Frankly, there is no such line. However, the principle I am advocating requires one to know what is going on around them. Therefore, when the time we live in is in direct comparison to the time of the Great Depression, one ought to prepare to be ready for an event such as this. It is your responsibility to be well informed on the current events of today that will affect whether or not you are prepared enough. Proverbs declares that the wise man seeks out council; this applies to understanding how much to be prepared! There are hundreds of books and web sites about preparation and today’s current events. There is no excuse to ignorant of the world around you.

However, many Christians are still weary of embracing this Survivalist mindset, for three overarching reasons. First, that the events that people prepare for are farfetched and blown out of proportion by the stereotypical doomsayer. Another is that the call of dependence, that to depend on God implies dependence in all things, and that we need not worry about tomorrow. Finally, many object to Survivalism because they cannot afford to spend the money, and that it is a waste of resources.

The first daunting enemy that stands in the way of justification for Survivalism is the stereotype people have given those who are labeled as Survivalist, Doomsayers, Preppers, or even Zombie hunters. Though being a Prepper or Survivalist is what I am advocating, the baggage that society associates with these groups is unjustified. Though there are antisocial groups who would love it if they had the opportunity to blow a couple zombie heads off or maybe start a fire sale, Survivalists or Preppers do not fall into this category. All that Survivalists or Preppers stand for is the mindset of being prepared for the unpredictable events of life; they are not hoping for the end of the world to come tomorrow.

These same people also claim that the coming events Preppers warn society of are “doomsayer exaggerations.” This comes only from ignorance of the current and past events. Looking at the events of the past century, it would be foolish to disregard them just because it is socially awkward to accept the solution that Preppers are providing. As I explained earlier, these events are in direct comparison to those of the Great Depression. In addition, the numbers and examples I gave came from sources unrelated to the topic of Survivalism, such as PBS, The Federal Insurance Corporation, and the World Bank. The events are not skewed or twisted to try to advocate the end of the world. They are only to show that there are events that have the potential to destroy lives in the future, and it is only wise to prepare for events such as these.

Finally, the next objection many Christians have is the call of dependence on God, which is based on the Scripture passage in Luke 12:22-29, where Christ gives the Parable of the lilies.
Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?  And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Most people look at this verse and automatically jump to the conclusion that we cannot justify Survivalist principles because they imply that we are worrying about tomorrow. The problem with this judgment is that these people misinterpret the principles of preparation as worry. The principles I am justifying are not those of worry, but those of preparation. Again, we come back to Proverbs 22:3, which tells us the wise man foresees danger and hides himself. He takes action. Yes, the Bible tells us to be dependent on God, but this does not absolve us from preparing for catastrophe or storing resources for hard times. Look at the example of Joseph. When God told Joseph there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, did Joseph just sit back and expect God to do the work? On the contrary, he immediately went to work, preparing for this time of hardship by storing food and taking action so he and his country would be ready for these seven years of famine. This is the same action Christians need to take when preparing for foreseeable catastrophes in the nearby future.

The final objection is that many people do not have the money to prepare for these events. There is no set amount on how much money you should spend: there is no percentage or complex formula to show what is enough or not. The principle I am advocating is a mindset, not a calculated amount. Only the person preparing can know what enough is. The only way a person can be certain they can know this is by doing research, and analyzing one’s budget to match a survival plan. The amount of preparation can only come from a knowledge gained through research and understanding of the world around us. Then will we know how to prepare for the future.

Nobody wants another Great Depression. Nobody wants another Hurricane Katrina. Nobody wants worldwide pandemic, food shortage, or any other catastrophes. Nevertheless, catastrophes are inevitable, no matter how much we despise them. God has placed these trials in our lives to fulfill His ultimate plan. However, that does not imply that we sit back and watch these events destroy us. There are many Biblical examples of physical preparation that coincide with dependence on God; examples that we need to follow. I pray that you do not just leave this room and keep on living your life as if nothing bad will happen to you, but rather, as Christians, step up to the examples set for us. Therefore, based on Biblical principles and the events of the past century, it is vital that we as Christians prepare for disasters.


Works Cited:
"Biblical Inspiration For Troubled Times." Emergency Preparedness - Practical Survival and Disaster Planning. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
Fire, The National. "Family Disaster Plan." The Disaster Center - Home Page. National Disaster Education Coalition, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
Gano, Ray. "Survival 4 Christians." Survival 4 Christians. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
Gano, Ray. Survive the Coming Storm. Crane, Missouri: Defender, 2011. Print.
Government, Federal. "FEMA | Federal Emergency Management Agency." FEMA | Federal Emergency Management Agency. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2011
"Home |" Home | N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
Moses Et Al, and John MacArthur. The MacArthur Study Bible New King James Version.. Los Angeles, CA: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005. Print.
Piper, John. When the Darkness Will Not Lift. Wheaton, Illinois : Crossway Books, 2007. Print.
Rawles, James Wesley. "" James Wesley Rawles, Web. 8 Dec. 2011.
Rawles, James Wesley. Patriots: a novel of survival in the coming collapse. 4th ed. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press :, 2009. Print.
Rawles, James Wesley. How to survive the end of the world as we know it: tactics, techniques, and technologies for uncertain times. New York, N.Y.: Plume/Penguin Group, 2009. Print.
Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Balancing the Christian life. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969. Print.
"Should Christians stockpile food/supplies in preparation for a possible future disaster?" Bible Questions Answered. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
Taylor, Gene. "The Role of the Man in the Home." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.
"The Christian Survival Guide Blog, Video Channel, and Forum." The Christian Survival Guide Blog, Video Channel, and Forum. WordPress, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
"The Christian Survivalist: A Biblical View of Preparedness" - Mark12 ministries Weblog."  Mark12ministries’s Weblog. WordPress, 9 Oct. 2008. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
Welter, William, and Jean Egmon. The prepared mind of a leader: eight skills leaders use to innovate, make decisions, and solve problems. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006. Print.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thank you for posting the article regarding Executive Order-National Defense Resources Preparedness. It was a very illuminating article regarding where our country is currently at economically, politically, and militarily. I understand that some of the vague language used in government documents often allows the government to exercise more power than may be found on the surface of the writing. The best example in this document is, as you pointed out, Section 201b. However, I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves in saying that the government will show up in times of peace and magic away our preps. I would also like to point out that this type of Executive Order is not WHOLLY unprecedented, as you say in SurvivalBlog. 

There is a very interesting book called The Homefront U.S.A: America during World War II  by Allan M. Winkler, a renowned WWII expert. I think that it should be a mandatory reading for all Americans that label themselves as Patriots. In this book he goes through the many changes implemented by FDR's Administration which allowed America to quickly mobilize its armed forces and prepare for war with Germany and Japan. Of note in the book are discussions regarding business, industry, and the best allocations of manpower. Mr. Winkler describes in sufficient detail the formation of the War Manpower Commission, whose soul purpose was to determine how workers could best be used. The Selective Service (the draft) fell under the authority of this commission. The commission at first did not have much power, but by 1943 was able to direct where people should be finding jobs (true, they could not mandate it, but many people found themselves in complete agreement with the commissions assessment of their skills and followed their decrees). You may know that by the end of World War II the unemployment rate was 1%, and most of those unemployed were unable to work due to disabilities. What you may not know was that over 500,000 small businesses between 1940-1945 failed. Big Business ruled during World War II, under a Liberal Democratic President, fueling the so-called "Arsenal of Democracy." So how was the government able to achieve such a low rate of unemployment? They offered incentives and fair wages (even in the face of some inflation), even to women, Black Americans, and Latino Americans ("fair" is a relative term as these groups still made less money than white males). The point I am getting at is that the government understood that to have a successful wartime economy, people needed to be making money. Indeed, despite rationing at home, most folks that lived on the home front of WWII quite enjoyed themselves after the previous decades economic woes. I would wager that if people had experienced the war with little pay and no luxury, the effort to support our troops would have been equally different, perhaps with disastrous implications. 

Furthermore, Mr. Winkler mentions agriculture in his book. While the number of actual farms and farmers shrank during WWII as others went to work in factories, the amount of crops grown and distributed grew. Many of the nations policies regarding agriculture were formed in this period of mobilization, and many resources were allocated to the boon of these farmers.

Even in the face of hard decisions and unpopular political sanctions, equal rights groups made large advances.

I know that Barack Obama is no Franklin Delano Roosevelt, not by a long shot. However, even though BHO is unpopular among your readers, I do not believe it is his notion to throw working class America under the bus and steal everything they have dedicated their lives to.

I believe that if the government DID try to force people into jobs with no compensation (as is provisioned for in Section 502), we would have reached a truly desperate point in whatever struggle we faced as a nation. I also believe that in times of total war, such as this executive order hints at, our nation would unite as we did after December 7, 1941, or September 11, 2001. We would be willing to accept the terms our government was providing, even if we did so grudgingly. Many of your readers have named themselves as veterans of our Armed Forces, you yourself served, and as the title of your first novel implies we as preppers mark ourselves as some of this countries most ardent patriots. I believe we would step up if our turn came to aid this country in a time of war. At least I hope we would. The current prepper mindset seems to say that the end is near, but wouldn't it be amazing if somehow we pulled together to save this country? It is easy to read this document in a time of relative peace (because even though our country has troops deployed, it is nowhere near the 16 million men and women that served between 1940-1945) and despair that our President is quickly turning into a dictator. I am not naive enough to say that our country is not in dire straits, but I will still approach this document with an open mind. Yes, some of the implications are certainly worrisome, but I think that our country is a long way off from a time in which our Government would make such totalitarian moves.

I am not urging anyone to lower your state of readiness, and I am by no means a fan of who our politicians have turned into in this day and age. If there was a man in the upcoming election even half the man that FDR was, you can bet that I would be voting for him. What I am urging, instead, is to keep an open mind to the decisions our government makes. I myself will approach this executive order the way I approach everything else in life, with cautious optimism. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Right?

Keep Safe and God Bless. -The Cautious Husky

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rabies – a legitimate concern or fear-mongering? 
As I watch my pet Golden Retriever "Doodles" cautiously sniff at the curb sewer, I believe the threat is real.  A family of raccoons lives in the sewer pipes, and just a few months ago a local dog died of raccoon rabies.  Could my children be next?

Ohio is on the frontier of raccoon rabies, but despite yearly aerial and ground baiting programs for oral rabies vaccination, the uniformly lethal infection is moving westward.  Bat rabies, the other common threat, is distributed more evenly across the United States.  (If you’re wondering about your own state, check out the maps at Rabid Raccoons Reported in the United States during 2010 and Rabid Bats Reported in the United States during 2010

Odds are you’re unaware of anyone who’s died of rabies. That might not be the case if you live in India.  In the U.S., human rabies is so rare that every case is investigated by the CDC (only 2–4 per year). In India, annual deaths top 20,000, with someone dying of rabies every 30 minutes. (Read this article.) This is largely due to under-vaccination of the dog population.  Per the World Health Organization, 15 million people worldwide are treated with post-exposure vaccination, which is estimated to prevent 327,000 rabies deaths annually.

So what would happen in America if the vaccine became unavailable and the population of stray dogs exploded? This could well occur in a true end-of-life-as-we-know-it scenario.  Though our population density is not that of India, clearly the number of cases would skyrocket. 

The next logical question is: what can be done about it?  Avoiding contact with bats, raccoons, wild canines, skunks, and suspicious dogs is obviously indicated.  Even pacifists may be motivated to acquire a gun and the knowledge to use one safely.  Clearly you should vaccinate pets and other domestic animals now

But what about pre-exposure vaccination in humans?  This is already recommended for veterinary students, spelunkers, and travelers to endemic regions where dog contact is likely.  In 2009 a Virginia physician diagnosed his own subsequently fatal case of rabies a few months after returning from India – and without suspicious animal exposure! His agonizing end is detailed at the CDC web site

If you ask your family doctor whether you should be vaccinated against rabies in case of widespread disaster, the answer will likely be no.  At a cost of up to $800 for the series of three shots, your insurance is unlikely to cover immunizations without a clear indication. However, if you visit a travel clinic, perhaps at your local health department, you may be able to obtain the vaccine, especially if you fall into one of the high risk categories mentioned above.  The low-risk state of Indiana has a nice summary regarding vaccination on their web site. Your own state should offer something similar, or read the CDC’s guidelines on Human Rabies Prevention.

If you do desire vaccination, how long is immunity expected to last?  Unfortunately only a few years.  Current recommendations for those at high-risk include blood testing for effective immunity every 2-3 years, followed by re-vaccination if titers are low. (Pets simply receive repeat vaccination.)

I have also investigated the question of using canine rabies vaccination on humans.  This has not been tested and likely never will be.  I expect the likelihood of allergic reaction might be increased.  However, per the doctors I consulted, they felt canine rabies vaccine has a good chance of effectiveness in humans.  If I were bitten by a bat or suspicious raccoon, skunk, or dog, and the only thing I had available was animal vaccine, I would certainly use it.  Curiously, some states, including Ohio, allow purchase of veterinary rabies vaccine by non-medical personnel, although most states limit sale to veterinarians only. The same dose is used for dogs of all sizes, with twice as much administered to horses.

So where does this leave us?  As a family physician, stockpiling human rabies vaccine is cost-prohibitive.  On the other hand, at $20/dose, stockpiling dog rabies vaccine is a consideration, both for professionals and laymen.  Vaccines do require refrigeration and commonly list a shelf-life of only a year or two, but having something on hand may be preferable to having nothing.  

While I cannot offer a one-size-fits-all answer on this topic, rabies vaccination is a valid question for serious preppers.

Dr. Koelker is the SurvivalBlog's Medical Editor and hosts the popular medical prepping site   

James Wesley:
It has been said that you can boil a frog to death by putting it in a pan of water then putting the pan over a burner. However, if you drop the frog into a pan of boiling water, it will instantly jump out. I’ve never tried this experiment, but the metaphor for The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) seems appropriate.

Too many of us fit the first scenario. We’re “comfortable,” even though we recognize that the water is getting hotter and hotter. By the time we realize it is way too hot, it will be too late.

Many Preppers fixate on threshold events that will usher in TEOTWAWKI overnight. Whether asteroid impacts, super-volcanoes, or electro-magnetic pulses, we find the romance of extreme events irresistible. We imagine what we will do to survive when the lights don’t light, the faucets don’t flow, or there are marauders in our front yard. And, what if it is an even more likely event such as martial law (e.g.: New Orleans in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath) where U.S. soldiers arrive to confiscate your firearms or to tell you that your home has been commandeered?

These are exciting things to ponder, but the greatest threats are on our doorsteps right now. Hyperinflation, for example, doesn’t happen overnight, it starts with creeping inflation. The government says that inflation at this time (March, 2012) is about three percent, but anyone who buys groceries, pays rent, or puts fuel in their cars knows better. Look at the cost of peanut butter (and the size of the container) today compared to the same time last year. Hyperinflation is just one TEOTWAWKI journey that we are already starting.

Preparation is a wonderful philosophy. “Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout Motto. The part we often miss, however, is what we could be doing to avoid catastrophic events in the first place. We can’t stop a comet impact, an EMP, or a super volcano, but we can influence the affairs that lead to even more likely TEOTWAWKI events.

Are you involved in community affairs? Think of your school, church, and local government as your redoubt community. Do whatever you can by participating to keep your community strong.  Something as simple as organizing a community watch program for your neighborhood might keep the bad guys away from your door right now and make more extreme threats less likely.

The same principle applies to Federal government issues. Study the issues, understand the implications, and make your best efforts to keep our republic on a course away from TEOTWAWKI. It matters little whether you are Democrat or Republican, Liberal, Conservative, or Libertarian. Common sense is the standard.

Pay attention! And notice that the “World as We Know It” today is nothing like we knew even 10 years ago. We can only keep from boiling to death by turning off the fire or jumping out. Jumping out is a tough option that might work for dedicated preppers, but is awfully drastic unless there is no alternative. Let’s work on turning off, or, at least, turning down the fire. - K.L.F.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Editor JWR:
To paraphrase an old quotation, those that refuse to study history and learn from it are condemned to repeat the same mistakes.
In the early 1970s, school classrooms in Israel were favored targets for PLO terrorists. They were favored for several reasons including maximum media coverage, maximum shock value (killing children) and softness of target (little security).

The solution was simple and effective: All teachers were required to keep a selective fire weapon and loaded magazines in their classrooms.

As another example of historical note of common sense, during the 1600s, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had a law that required every able bodied male to carry a rifle and ammunition to attend church services. This safety measure was required because some of the more belligerent natives learned that attacking unarmed churchgoers was a high yield target.

Humans have only one survival skill: the ability to think. Plenty of critters in this world are better equipped for survival than we are and they thrive. All survival comes down to one unchangeable natural law: Stupidity is suppose to be fatal. - Mike H.

Mr Rawles,
I enjoy reading your blog.  Great work.
I work at the university mentioned in this article.  We are a 'gun-free' zone which means it is against the law to carry, but not against the law to leave your weapon locked in your vehicle.  However, it is against school policy to do so (apparently because we cannot be trusted to be responsible with weapons.)  Getting caught will cost you your job. 
On Monday our university Chief of Police (they are a real police department) accidentally left his loaded Glock in a public restroom for anybody to come and find. Luckily, an honest student found the pistol and called the cops so they could retrieve their weapon.
What is even more remarkable is the lack of media coverage this is receiving as well as the lack of consequences for the Chief.  - Mike in Ohio

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I'm writing regarding A Parent's Guide to Surviving School Rampage Shootings, by Greg Ellifritz. One important item I think that was missed was allowing any/all adults who choose to do so to be armed.  In the October, 1997 school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi an assistant principal ran to his car, got a gun, and stopped the episode. 

Gun free zones give the criminal huge numbers of potential hostages and victims.   The presence of armed folks makes it a bit more difficult for the bad guys to prevail. - W.B.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I walked into the high school wearing two guns and a bullet resistant vest.  I had a rifle, six spare magazines, and a ballistic helmet stashed close by in my car.  It was Wednesday, April 21, 1999, the day after what had been the worst school shooting in United States history.  Two high school kids had just killed 12 of their fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado.  The television was awash in the news coverage and everyone was scared.

Parents, students, and teachers were worried about a copycat shooting in the town where I worked as a police officer.  My town was suburban, affluent, and had a great school system…just like Columbine.  The school administration had asked for extra security from the police department and I was the officer they sent.  I spent the next two days patrolling the halls of the high school trying to reassure the students and teachers that they were safe.  No one believed me.  I didn’t believe it myself.  For two straight days I pre-planned my responses to any possible violent scenarios that I could encounter.  I was confident in my shooting and tactical abilities, but I knew that I couldn’t be everywhere at once.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be any more of a deterrent than the school resource officer who had engaged the shooters at Columbine.

Students and teachers were asking me questions about what they should do in the event that their school was the next to make the headlines.  I feigned confidence, but I had to admit that I really didn’t have any good answers.  For police officers, Columbine was a game changer.  Everything we thought we knew about school shootings had changed…and we had yet to come up with any better solutions.  All we knew was that everyone; parents, teachers, and cops needed to improve their knowledge and tactics to ensure that another Columbine didn’t happen in our city.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with any violence at the school during my two days of patrolling the halls.  But my lack of knowledge about school shootings troubled me.  I wanted to be able to provide definitive answers to any questions that might be asked of me the next time.  Soon thereafter, I was assigned as my police department’s full time training officer and was sent all around the country to acquire the skills needed to teach our officers how to prevail in the face of lethal force encounters.  During my last 12 years in the training position, my quest for knowledge about school shootings has lead me to research the history of previous events and the psychology of the shooters.  I’ve read books, talked to school officials and interviewed people who have responded to school shootings in their own jurisdictions.  I’ve studied and analyzed the actions of students, teachers, and police officers who responded to critical incidents in schools.
There is a lot of conflicting information available about the phenomenon of school shootings.  Parents, students and teachers are often overwhelmed and paralyzed by the vast quantity of school shooting research that has been published during the last decade.  Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a single definitive source outlining any simple, easy-to-understand measures that parents can take to keep their children safe at school.  My goal is to remedy that with this article.  I’ve learned a lot in my last 12 years of study and I won’t again be at a loss for words when asked difficult questions like I was asked in that school in 1999.  Now I know the answers, and I will be sharing them with every parent here.

Recognizing the Shooter and Preventing the Shooting

Contrary to popular belief, there is no single profile that describes the school shooter.  Shooters have ranged in age from pre-teen to adults.  Both men and women have pulled the trigger in schools.  The majority of school shooters are young males, white, non-urban, and have been victims of bullying, assault, or intimidation.  There is no other useful physical “profile”.  Most school shooters were known to have difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures.  Many had been prescribed anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications.  Most also had easy access to weapons. 
The idea that school shooters are always trying to “get even” with people that have bullied them is not accurate.  Killers have initiated shooting events by targeting certain individuals, but generally they soon move on to the school’s population as a whole.  In Columbine, one of the first victims was a student with Down’s syndrome who had never bullied anyone.

This physical profile doesn’t really help us.  There are dozens of kids who match it in every school.  What does help us to recognize the shooter is looking at his or her behavior.
The one behavior that precedes almost every school shooting is detailed planning.  School shooters are influenced by past events.  They study and learn from the successes and failures of past shooters.  Infamy has become their prime motivator. Many shooters recognize that they will be captured or killed and want to “live on” through their body count.  They will create written “manifestos” and YouTube “training videos”.  Occasionally those publications, plans and videos will be released before the shooting actually occurs.  Parents should be alert and must be able to recognize these written or recorded plans when they see them.

Most school shooters told at least one other student about their plans for the attack before they acted.  Harvard University did a study to determine why the students who knew about the shooting plans didn’t tell the authorities.  The students reported that they didn’t believe that the shooter would actually follow through with the plan.  Teach your children to tell you about anyone who talks about planning a school shooting, whether your child believes the potential shooter or not.  This may be the single most influential action that you as a parent can take to prevent someone from shooting your child or someone else in a school.

With the increase in numbers of School Resource Officers (police officers assigned to a school, also called SROs), part of the shooter’s planning process involves taking their presence into account.  School shooters are wearing body armor and helmets, anticipating armed resistance.

Kip Kinkel had more than 1,100 rounds [of .22 Long Rifle] on his person during his shooting at Thurston High School.  Cho had over 800 unfired rounds on his person when he died at Virginia Tech.  Thomas Hamilton had 743 rounds on his person when he shot up a school in Dunblane, Scotland.  They know the best way to achieve lasting infamy is to score a high body count.  They need guns, ammunition, and body armor to do that.

All of the weapons and equipment have to get into the school somehow.  Usually the shooters carry it in themselves.  Teach your children to be especially aware of fellow students or adults carrying large packages into the schools.  Any massive duffle bags, large boxes or huge backpacks should be viewed with suspicion.  If the packs seem larger than normal, much heavier than average, or carried in a manner inconsistent with the way other students are carrying them, it might be a valuable early warning sign.  A school policy that limits the carrying of backpacks between classes would help to more easily identify students who are carrying weapons and ammunition.

The recent school shootings at the Platte Canyon High School, the West Nickel Mine Amish School, and Virginia Tech all involved the shooter using some method to barricade doors.  This both slows law enforcement response and limits the victims’ opportunities for escape.  The carrying of building materials or anything that could be used to fashion a barricade into a school should be a warning sign that teachers and students should look for.  If your child sees someone carrying chains, locks, zip ties, handcuffs or any type of lumber at school, he or she should immediately notify school officials or call the police.

Student Response During a School Shooting and “The Myth of the Lockdown”

Since that fateful day in 1999 in Columbine, schools have become much more proactive in planning for a shooting event.  Many states now mandate that every school submit formalized emergency plans to both the state board of education and the local police department.  Some states even mandate that every school conduct a certain number of emergency drills during the course of the school year. 
School administrators have complied with these directives with varying amounts of forethought and planning.  Some schools with which I have worked have virtually perfect tactical plans for almost any conceivable encounter.  Some others have barely complied with even the most basic of legal obligations.

Most schools have settled on the “lockdown” as the centerpiece of their response strategy.  When teachers or administrators become aware of a threat in the school, they make a general announcement (either overt or coded) triggering students to “lockdown”.  That means that all students are to immediately enter the closest classroom and hide down on the floor in a position where they cannot be seen from the hallway.  Teachers are responsible for directing the students, securing their classroom doors as best they can, turning out the lights and blocking the windows with paper or curtains.  Other teachers, administrators, or custodial staff members are responsible for clearing hallways and other public areas as well as locking all exterior doors. The students and teachers stay in this “locked down” mode until they get some type of an “all clear” signal from administrators or police.

The lockdown idea is not a bad one.  Lockdowns are generally helpful if the school is located in an area with a rapidly responding police force.  They provide temporary marginal protection for students and teachers and deny some areas to potential shooters.   They also allow rapidly responding police officers to find and neutralize the threat in the school.  Lockdowns can also be used to protect students from a threat that has not yet entered the school.  They are often triggered to deny entry to an armed criminal who is fleeing from police in the vicinity of a school.
The problem with lockdowns is not with the concept, but with the execution.  Most schools do not train for any exigency except the lockdown.  They lock students down in poorly defensible positions and don’t tell students and teachers what to do if the lockdown fails or is breached.  In essence, there is no “Plan B”.  If the students can’t quickly lock themselves down or a police response is delayed, there is no other plan.  Students and teachers must just cower in fear and hope that they will be rescued.  That’s unacceptable.
Lockdowns have failed in the past. The shooter in Red Lake, Minnesota killed an unarmed security guard purposely to trigger a lockdown.  He wanted the lockdown so that he could easily find and target the victims he most wanted to kill.  After the lockdown was triggered, he went to the classroom where he knew his victims would be hiding, shot a hole in the glass window of the door and entered the locked down room.  He then killed the teacher and five students before he was shot by police.
Students at Virginia Tech attempted unsuccessfully to lockdown individual classrooms once they knew a shooter was prowling the halls.  Only one classroom out the three that attempted this tactic was able to deny entry to the shooter.
Some other issues that come into play (but are rarely considered by school administrators) are the following:

  • What if the classroom door cannot be locked from the inside?
  • What happens if the shooter pulls the fire alarm during a lockdown?
  • What should teachers do if the shooter has a hostage and is threatening to kill him or her unless the lockdown is breached?
  • How should severe medical emergencies be handled in a locked down classroom?  Is there any plan to evacuate gunshot victims safely?
  • What should the teachers and students do if the door to the locked down room is breached by the shooter?
  • What are teachers instructed to do if the shooter kills a staff member and takes a master key or ID card that gives him access to the entire school?
  • How would a school administrator respond if an armed student orders the administrator to give the “all clear” signal to end the lockdown?
  • Some school shooters have utilized explosives to augment their primary weapons.  What should locked down students do if the school becomes structurally unstable due to the effects of any bombs that the shooter has placed?

As a parent, you should confer with school officials to verify that they have plans to address any such contingencies.  If they don’t, your child isn’t likely to be safe in the event a shooter enters the school!

Escape- The Best Option
In studying every school shooting that has occurred in the United States, as well as many that have happened in other parts of the world, I have come to the conclusion that escaping the school is the best option for individual students in a school shooting situation.  Virtually all students who get out of the school (even if they have already been shot) survive.
In the Virginia Tech shooting, the students who did not get shot were those who jumped out of a window or ran to another part of the building.  Most of the students who attempted to lock down the room, hide, or play dead were shot.  There are many other examples of fleeing students surviving while their counterparts who locked down in a room were shot.
If you as a parent are unsatisfied in the preparations of your child’s school, you should teach your child to run at the sound of gunfire and not be locked down.  Note explicitly the advice I just gave; if your child hears gunfire within the school, he or she should flee via the closest exit in the opposite direction from where the gunfire is coming.  I did not say that your child should never go into lockdown!  If there is an external threat (like a fleeing criminal outside) or a different type of hazardous situation (like a domestic violence incident between divorcing parents), lockdown is likely the safest response for your child.  But if your child hears gunfire in the school, escape will almost always be the better option.

Ideally, your child should escape to a location that has been pre-identified by you.  Pick a couple of safe locations, ideally public areas that are some distance from the school.  Instruct your child to flee to the safe area and call you to be picked up.  Make the location far enough away from the school that it isn’t enclosed within the barricaded traffic perimeter.  In the event of a shooting, police will shut down all the roads adjacent to the school.  You’ll want your “safe place” far enough outside this perimeter that your access to it won’t be limited.

Children who haven’t thought about safe areas run AWAY from danger during shootings.  They end up getting lost or hiding in sub-optimal positions like under beds or in bathroom stalls.  In the event of gunfire, people should run TOWARD safety, preferably your pre-identified rendezvous spot, and not just AWAY from the shooter.

Teach your child what type of materials stop bullets (including rifle bullets).  These materials are called “cover”.  If under fire, you child should run toward the nearest piece of hard cover that will deflect a bullet.  Concrete walls, car engines, filled bookshelves, and steel doors will likely stop or deflect most bullets.  Practice by playing a game of making your children identify pieces of cover occasionally when you are out together in a public location.  That will help build your child’s awareness skills and refresh their knowledge base.

Let your children know that a backpack filled with school books is likely to stop handgun bullets.  If your child has a backpack loaded with a couple of books, instruct him to put it on (in front of the body if necessary) between himself and the shooter as improvised body armor.  Better yet, outfit your child’s backpack with armor panels from old bullet resistant vests purchased cheaply on EBay.  Even if the vest panel is expired, I’ve never had one fail to stop a bullet that it was rated to stop despite the panel’s age.  I’ve shot vest panels as old as 25 years and they still work.  As long as the panel has not been submerged in water or left out in the sun for extensive time periods, it will still stop bullets.

Make sure your child knows not to run to the police for safety. The police are often the ones drawing gunfire from the shooter(s). There have also been shootings (Norway is one example) where the shooters have impersonated police officers.  Have your child stick to your plan of getting to a rendezvous location and awaiting your arrival.  Don’t allow them to force a police officer to make a decision between protecting a single child and going after the shooter.  The officer must stop the shooter.  He may be the only one nearby capable of accomplishing that task. Ensure that your child isn’t the one who distracts the officer from his primary objective.

You must also teach your children to avoid denial.  In Virginia Tech, students rationalized the sounds of gunfire as construction noises.  Students in Columbine initially thought the gunfire was caused by firecrackers being lit as a student prank.  The students at Beslan thought balloons were popping. Students and teachers in shooting events universally express the thought that “I couldn’t believe it was happening”.  This denial and rationalization leads to a paralysis.  The waiting for verification of actual gunfire takes time that can better be used to escape.

Instruct your children that if they are in a school and think they hear gunfire, they shouldn’t await instructions.  They can’t delay while trying to figure out what’s happening.  If they think it’s gunfire, empower them to act!  Immediately escape!  The people in active shooter events who wait around to be sure that the noises they are hearing are actually gunfire typically delay so long that they no longer have any viable options except locking down

Building a Better Lockdown

If your child is unable to escape due to the physical proximity of the shooter or if he or she is forced to lock down by a school official, there are a few things that they should do to maximize the utility of the lockdown procedure.

If they have a choice about lockdown locations, tell them to avoid rooms that cannot be locked or rooms that have no alternate escape routes.  Rooms higher than the second floor should be avoided as well.
Talk to your child’s school principal about creating a door and window numbering system.  Numbers should be on the outside and inside of every classroom door and window.  All exterior doors should also be numbered.  If students are locked down in a certain room, they need to be able to easily see the room number (from the inside), so they can better direct emergency responders to help them.  Cops and firemen can also use room numbers written outside of windows to identify alternate entry/exit points.

Another topic of conversation between you and the school administrator should be the mandatory safety equipment that should be kept in every classroom.  Every school classroom should have a survival kit.  The kit needs to have different supplies depending on the age and needs of the students.  All kits should contain:

  • Resources to barricade doors (wedges, ropes, etc.)
  • Paper and writing instruments to communicate silently both within the classroom and with emergency responders outside
  • Medical supplies suitable for treating gunshot wounds (bandages and tourniquets)
  • Alternate communication devices (cell phones or radios)
  • Food, water, and entertainment options (for younger children)
  • A strong flashlight and dust masks.  They are essential to have in the kit in case of a power outage or if the shooter is also using explosives.  Smoke, dust and darkness are very common in more extended school shootings.

If the classroom has a drywall wall separating it from another classroom or hallway, consider adding a razor knife, hammer, or small hatchet to the emergency kit.  These items will allow you to cut through the drywall to create an alternate escape route.  Have a method to break window glass to facilitate escape as well.  Glass breaking window punches are available for sale online for around five dollars.

If the classroom is on the second or third floor and has a window, adding ropes, rope ladders or some alternate method of safely lowering students from the window to the survival kit is essential.
On lockdowns, teach your children to place desks, chairs and other furniture in the pathway of the potential shooter to slow his entry into the room.  PowerPoint or overhead projectors can be directed at the door to blind the shooter with bright light if he makes entry into the room.
Most importantly, you must instruct your child to break lockdown and escape or fight in the following circumstances:

  • If the door is broken down or unlocked and the shooter makes entry into the room where your child is locking down.
  • If your child sees large amounts of smoke or a fire that threatens the classroom.  If the fire alarm is triggered without your child seeing smoke or flames, they should stay put.  Some past school shooters (like the ones in Jonesborough, Arkansas) pulled the fire alarms to force students to move into an area where they had set up an ambush.
  • If the building becomes structurally unstable due to damage from explosive devices.

If lockdown is breached, your child will have to choose between either fighting or fleeing.  No other option will likely be successful.  As a parent, only you are in a position to determine which course of action is best for your child.  If you think that fighting would be a viable option (if your child is large, athletic, aggressive, competitive, or has specialized training), teach your child to push the shooter’s gun down and away from them as they attack his eyes or throat.  Those targets are likely to cause the quickest incapacitations and require the least amount of skill and strength.
Better yet, teach them to use improvised weapons such as sharpened pencils, fire extinguishers, or scissors against the same vulnerable targets.  If the students are old enough to comprehend, have them come up with a plan for a simultaneous attack with several of their other aggressive classmates.  Five or six children, even if they are pre-teens, can overwhelm a grown man if they coordinate their actions.

One additional skill to teach your children (depending on age) is how to operate common firearms.  Many school shooters are physically stopped by their potential victims while the shooter has a weapon malfunction or is in the act of reloading.  Older students should be trained specifically how to recognize when a shooter has a malfunction or is out of ammunition.  That is the moment when the shooter is most vulnerable and least likely to be a danger to your child.  If your child can stay behind cover until he or she sees that the shooter’s gun is empty, have them wait until that moment before fleeing or counterattacking.

Other viable options
Some children are emotionally incapable of acting with aggression.  Others are not athletic enough to flee from a gunman.  What can those children do?
Without a doubt, fleeing, locking down, or attacking the shooter are the most viable strategies to ensure your child’s safety.  If they cannot adopt one of those techniques, there may be other strategies they can employ.

Several shootings have been stopped when the shooter has been calmly confronted by another student or teacher telling him to stop shooting.  While it probably shouldn’t be a person’s first choice of tactics, it can work when potential victims have no other options.  Some teachers and students don’t have the temperament to fight back or lack the physical ability to escape.  Train those people to talk.  Telling the shooter: “Stop shooting.  That’s enough for today.  Put the gun down” may work and is a better strategy than freezing in fear. 

Hiding may be another option.  Don’t allow your child to hide under a desk in the same room as the shooter.  That seldom works.  Desks don’t stop bullets and some shooters (Cho at Virginia Tech, for example) specifically practiced tactics that included targeting students hiding under desks and chairs.   Every student who hid under a desk at Virginia Tech was shot. If your child can’t do anything but hide, have him or her hide in an area where a shooter might not look.  Someplace like a janitor’s closet or up in the drop ceiling might be a decent location.

If there is absolutely no other option, instruct your child to hide amongst the injured students and “play dead”.  It is the least successful option of any I have identified, but it has worked in a few situations.  “Playing dead” should only be used as a transitional strategy to buy time to implement another tactic.  You should tell your child to escape as soon as the shooter moves on to another location.

Educational institutions and police officers are much better prepared to respond to the school shooter than they were just a few years ago.  Tactics continue to evolve and we all continue to learn from these tragic events.  Now it’s time to do your part as a parent.  Take an active interest in your child’s survival.  Discuss these ideas with your school administrator and teach your children how to respond to the school shooter.  It may be frightening to think about.  It may put you at odds with your child’s teachers. But I promise you that your child will be more likely to survive a school shooting and you’ll be thankful that you made the effort.

As a police officer, I am committed to protecting your children from a school shooter.  My fellow officers and I will risk our lives to save your children.  Help us out by teaching your kids what to do when someone starts shooting at their school.  Every child who can keep himself safe frees an officer to rush in and stop the shooter.  Teaching your child how to be safe will ultimately protect the entire school.
If you are interested in learning more about previous school shootings and how to prevent future events, please check out the following books:

Terror at Beslan - John Giduck
Shooter Down - John Giduck
Ceremonial Violence - Jonathan Fast
School Shootings - Joseph Lieberman
Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill - Dave Grossman
Innocent Targets - Michael and Chris Dorn
Surviving a School Shooting - Loren Christensen

About the Author:
Greg Ellifritz is a 16-year veteran police officer, spending the last 12 years as the full time tactical training officer for his central Ohio agency.  In that position, he is responsible for developing and instructing all of the in-service training for a 57-officer police department.  Prior to his training position, he served as patrol officer, bike patrol officer, precision marksman, and field training officer for his agency.

He has been an active instructor for the Tactical Defense Institute since 2001 and a lead instructor for TDI’s ground fighting, knife fighting, impact weapons, and extreme close quarters shooting classes.

Greg holds instructor, master instructor, or armorer certifications in more than 75 different weapons systems, defensive tactics programs, and law enforcement specialty areas.  In addition to these instructor certifications, Greg has trained with most of the leading firearms and edged weapons instructors in the country.

Greg has been an adjunct instructor for the Ohio Peace Officer’s Training Academy, teaching firearms, defensive tactics, bike patrol, knife defense and physical fitness topics to officers around the state.  He has taught firearms and self defense classes at the national and international level through the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, The American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers and Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.  Greg holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management and has written for several publications including: ‘The Firearms Instructor”, “Ohio Police Chief”, “Combat Handguns”, “Concealed Carry Magazine” and “The Journal of the American Women’s Self Defense Association”. 

He currently teaches classes through his company, Active Response Training.  For more information, you can reach by e-mail at

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