Tag Archives: survival

right now

The Rule of Right Now.

By: Chris Warren

This summer there has been so many natural and man made calamities that I’ve become desensitized and hardly notice them anymore. There is no way to completely avoid being a victim, but there are plenty of ways the average person can, right now, decrease the odds of being involved in a tragedy and increase the odds of living through it if they are.

I call it the Rule of Right Now and here’s how it works: Wherever you are physically located while reading this, stop for a moment and look around you. Ask yourself: What is the most likely emergency/disaster event that could happen to me? And what is my plan if it happens right now? The Rule of Right Now states that we should train ourselves to always be aware of what could happen and have some kind of plan for dealing with it.

If you are at home in a safe neighborhood, coming up with a scenario may be difficult. That is the exact it can’t happen here complacency that makes victims unwitting participants in their own misfortune. Getting your head into right now requires some practice, and if you feel uncomfortable with the process, then you’re probably on the correct path.

The biggest barrier to being ready is denial. Denial creates at least as many victims as the tragedy itself.

The Rule of Right Now is universal. It goes beyond acute personal emergencies (such as a fire breaking out in your house) to very serious, widespread disasters that can effect an entire region or country (such as an economic crash). The biggest barrier to being ready is denial. Denial creates at least as many victims as the tragedy itself. A majority of people do not put even the smallest thought into what they would do if something horrible happened because they refuse to accept that anything horrible can happen in the first place.

It’s important to understand that the Rule of Right Now should not be interpreted as an endorsement for paranoia or an expectation that we should obsess over every conceivable disaster. Paranoia is a barrier, a distraction, to preparedness. It’s not sensible to be concerned with way out there scenarios that have a cosmically low probability of happening at the expense of ignoring obvious hazards. I personally know people who are think they are bad ass survivalists prepared for a Mad Max style societal collapse but do not have a functional spare tire in their car!

Every single time I board an airplane I memorize how many rows away and how many seats over the nearest two emergency exits are from where I am sitting. It’s not enough to glance at a card or look around the cabin and passively think, oh yeah, it’s over there, with no thought as to how I would find it if I could not see it. I also take notice of who is sitting between me and the exits. Even if completely blinded by smoke or darkness or injury, I will greatly improve my chances of escape by “counting” my way to an exit. That is how the Rule of Right Now is supposed to work. It does not require deep thought or intense training. It’s about having a thoughtful, controlled, predetermined response to plausible incidents.

Situational awareness is the act of knowing who and what is around you at all times. The Rule of Right Now goes a step further: You also have to contemplate what could happen and how to react to it. In my airplane example, I come up with a clear plan to get to the exit, as opposed to having only a generic awareness of where the exit is and calling it good enough.

Being prepared for disaster does not have to involve stockpiling guns and freeze dried food (although I strongly recommend doing exactly that if you are able). It also means paying attention and having a plan at all times. It means not having one’s head in the sand, nor consuming oneself with an unlikely future while overlooking the very real possibilities of today. Before anyone sees next time, they must first find a way to get through Right Now.

Amateur Radio Is A Voice Through The Chaos

By: Chris Warren.

A few weeks ago the tiny nation of Nepal experienced two major earthquakes that killed thousands and left tens of thousands, nearly all of whom are poor and didn’t have much in the first place, homeless, injured, and desperate. The world responded with aid, but with Nepal’s communications infrastructure crumbled and broken, rescuers turned to the only communications medium that has never been known to fail because it has no formal infrastructure and does not require commercial power: amateur radio.

The average person thinks amateur (ham) radio is some offbeat anachronism their grandfathers dabbled in. They would be be surprised to know that it is still vibrant and thriving across all age levels. Even today, with modern satellites and fiber optic cables and cell towers all over the place, amateur radio still reigns supreme as the one and only unbreakable worldwide network still chugging along when a calamity takes the high tech stuff offline. It has no peers and no substitutes. There is nothing else even sort-of close.

Amateur radio is remarkable not only for its amazing utility, but even more for the people behind the signals who respond to trouble. They are ordinary citizens stepping up as unpaid volunteers using their own equipment to help people they will likely never meet. Within minutes of the Nepal earthquake, ham operators in India we relaying messages from the disaster area to the outside world. Organized rescuers and the government were depending on the hams because nothing else was working.amateur radio

Here in the United States, amateurs have answered the call when Hurricanes Katrina & Sandy struck our shores as well as for wildfires and floods. On a lesser scale, amateur radio operators are key players in providing communications and support for countless large public events such as parades and marathons. Amateur radio is considered so important, many hospitals and public safety agencies have installed ham equipment at their facilities so it will be at the ready when the unthinkable happens…and the unthinkable has and will happen.

Amateur radio has a low barrier to entry. Anyone who can pass a fairly easy test can be a licensed operator. There is no age limit. From there, some people go all out with elaborate stations costing tens of thousands of dollars. Others simply want basic personal communications and own nothing more than a $50 handheld radio. Amateur radio can be as complex or as simple as your interest and wallet allows.

When I was in junior high, I talked my parents into letting me get a CB radio. All my friends were on CB; it was the social media of its day. It was a lot of fun, but yapping with the locals is interesting for only a little while. At the age of fifteen I earned my amateur operator’s license and scraped up enough cash for a used Heathkit radio and a busted up antenna I had to repair myself to make it useable. Without any internet, I was soon chatting with Asia and Europe and Africa from my bedroom in the middle of the USA. I wasn’t sure of what I was doing, but I knew it was cool. To me it never gets old. Decades later, I am still an active operator and I still feel the same excitement I had as a teenager.

The main problem with modern communications technology is that it depends on many interconnected things to work right, and it always breaks when it is most badly needed. Technology has not been able to come up with anything as reliable or simple as amateur radio. Without the burden of complicated infrastructure or multiple points of failure, ham radio can reach out through any adversity. Earthquakes, hurricanes, ships at sea in peril, tornadoes, floods, forest fires, blizzards, riots, wars…amateur radio is always a soothing voice bringing order to the chaos

Graphic courtesy businessinsider.com

A Drought of Wisdom.

By: Chris Warren.

In California they are facing a drought the likes of which make it seem like something from a science fiction movie. Governor Jerry Brown has the thoughtful wisdom to mandate everyone cut their water consumption by 25% on top of already aggressive conservation measures. Being the regulatory labyrinth that it is, California even has a state law that prohibits restaurants from serving water unless the guest specifically asks for it.

It seems lost on the governor that this epic hot mess is caused in no small part by liberal politics and rabid environmentalism that, in deference to wildlife, spent decades successfully halting plans to build aqueducts and dams. Jerry is going to dehydrate human Californians one glass of water at a time while tens of millions of gallons of perfectly drinkable water is flushed out to sea in order to protect a two inch long fish. By the way, would someone please ask the governor how much water all those illegal aliens in California’s sanctuary cities use every day?

The day is not too far off when the completely predictable results of bizarro activism and legislation come to fruition. The drought will be most acute in southern California. On full display will be the pathos of stuffing nearly ten million people into a region that gets only 15 inches (38cm) of rain per year.

Very few of those ten million people will honestly be able to say they had no idea this was coming but they will undoubtedly act surprised and demand quick action. California politics has conditioned its population to an ethic of nanny state dependence and a belief that all problems can be solved with more laws and tax dollars.

No matter how far one may be from the California drought either in geography or personal interest, what happens out there matters to all of us. The reasons are almost too many to count: Environmental policy that treats humans as an invasive species. Urban planning that squeezes tens of millions of people into an area without enough resources to support them. And if you still don’t care, here’s the biggest reason why you should: California’s artificial irrigation-intensive farming methods.

A lot of what America eats comes from California, and it’s going to be more expensive and harder to find. Billions in tax dollars have been spent on schemes to fix these problems with almost no return on the investment.

When the well finally goes dry, the price of lettuce will be very far from the concerns of Los Angeles residents. They will face the hard truth of living in a place where the water that comes from hundreds of miles away…stops. Some will leave town; most will stick around and cling to their blue-state default group think of trusting that the government will save them. Social unrest and violence will reach every corner of a city that is a rough place even on a normal day.

It’s human nature to protect oneself from a problem by pretending it doesn’t exist. The issue is compounded because once it can no longer be ignored, it’s usually too late to do anything. If you knew your water was going to be switched off, say, on some random date in the next two years or so, what would you do right now? For Californians, and pretty much every American, the answer is obvious: Go about your normal business and be confident that the government has a drought plan B.

One of the incidental benefits of writing about preparation/survival topics is that there are so many real world examples to draw from as well as the assurance that almost everyone will shake their head yes in agreement with me but take no action to prepare themselves. Drought has been an underlying reason behind many conflicts, and always happens to someone else. That is why my message is accepted in the cognitive sense and rejected in the practical sense. To put it another way, everyone likes the idea of being prepared, but only as an idea. 

So once again, the rest of us have a golden opportunity to mitigate the effects of disaster in our own lives by paying attention to others’ poor judgement and taking the lesson to heart. It may come to your world in the form of a drought, flood, terrorism, or economic collapse. When fill-in-the-blank calamity arrives at your door, there will be other people watching from a safe distance reassuring themselves that kind of stuff happens to someone else.

(Graphic courtesy businessinsider.com)

When Your Daily Bread Is Down To Crumbs.

By: Chris Warren.

Yeah, it’s a hassle to shovel snow and be stuck at home, but most people make the best of “snow days.” Snowstorms are seldom serious disasters. We come out of the mess unharmed if not relaxed from the unplanned day off. The kids especially love it because they don’t realize they’ll have to make up the missed school day another time.

These small pleasures are unknown to people whose jobs don’t get snow days. Public safety and medical professionals come to mind first, but there is also the unseen ones who keep the lights on and the water flowing and the internet up. There’s no yippee I get a day off! moment for them. After all, we can live without pizza delivery and Starbucks for a while, but no one likes to think about what they would do if the infrastructure that makes modern life so comfortable suddenly wasn’t there.

Seeing this is as only about snow misses the point. The bigger picture is that high profile calamities both natural and man made never fail to beat the hell out of us year after year. Twenty First Summer has before attempted to stress how sensible personal disaster planning does not mean a last-minute run to the store to grab up all the milk and bread one can carry. Still, hardly anyone gets it.

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There is a well tested theory that society is “nine meals from anarchy.” What it teaches is that the average person has only three days’ worth of food & water in their house, after which time they will turn to violence to meet their needs, or become the victim of violence themselves. Government relief efforts may extend this period somewhat, but if the crisis is not resolved fairly quickly, the only endgame is chaos. I’m not making this up or exaggerating. There are dozens if not hundreds of real-world examples.

I’ve been called a kook and worse because I refuse to accept that “shit hits the fan” won’t happen, and even if it does we can all sit quietly and wait for the government to save us. What my detractors can’t see (or don’t want to see) is that the people who do the saving have their own lives and priorities to think about. There is not a single doctor, firefighter, or soldier anywhere who is going to leave his or her own loved ones vulnerable to go help a stranger. I don’t say that to be disrespectful or question their sense of duty; it’s just a simple acknowledgement that sense of duty weakens the farther one gets from their own front door. If relief workers have to make a choice between everyone else or their families, we’ll all be kicked to the curb. Can anyone blame them? I am that stranger. So are you.

The obvious choice is not to be the guy running through the store grabbing up bread as the world outside becomes unglued. Or the guy standing in a blocks-long line to get a jug of drinking water. There is a very real possibility that a crisis will last longer than the help is willing to hang around, or be so severe that help never arrives in the first place. To those who think being prepared beyond a flashlight & first aid kit is the province of paranoid nuts with a basement full of freeze dried food and more guns than a South American dictator, let me put it in terms you can relate to: Rescuers and first responders are not going to care about you more than you care about yourself, and they certainly are not going to care about you more than their own families. Plan for the unthinkable as if you were the only one who cares, because when shit gets real, you’re the only one who will.