April 27, 2017

Awareness and Security in Crowds

Awareness and Security in Crowds
I did something recently that I have not done in many years! I went to the mall; not just any mall, mind you, but the Mall of America, the nation’s biggest mall! I went for a work event, and since I hadn’t been there in almost a decade, I thought I would walk around and see what I could see.

I came up with several observations and suggestions that could help one stay alert and safe in a crowded situation. This could be a mall, a state fair, or, in an emergency, it could be an evacuation route or center.
 
 
Awareness

Practicing situational awareness in any public setting can be difficult at times. It can be nearly impossible when you add hundreds or thousands of people. I’m a big believer in the Cooper Color Code. For those unaware, this is a system of mental readiness that uses four colors to differentiate the levels.
Read the link above for a deeper explanation. Below is a brief overview.

White: This is a state of being unaware; the state you’re in when at home.

Yellow: Relaxed but aware of your surroundings; the state you should be in any time you’re away from home. This is where you scan for potential threats.

Orange: Alerted on a single threat; must make decision on when and how you will react if the threat escalates.

Red: You are ready to fight.

Using the Cooper color code is an effective way to gauge potential threats in low to moderately busy situations. However, if you are in a situation where you have, not only to scan for threats, but also need/want to take in the sites or look for someone you’re meeting, it is quite difficult to assess every passerby for more than a second or two.

In large groups of people, I change my scanning method somewhat. For example, a young teenage girl who is giggling with a friend is usually not going to be a threat. This being the case, I then dismissed groups of teenage girls as potential threats. The same could be said for a group of elderly gentleman, or any group of similar people. Now, of course, they would get a second look if they did something that got my attention, such as following me.

Because I was in a setting where people were there with purpose, I expected them to act in certain ways; looking at merchandise, walking to or from a store, looking for the next store to shop at, you get the idea. Anyone who did anything outside of these expected behaviors got more of my attention.

For example, there was a group of people sitting on benches. Some of them were talking, others were people watching and one of them was watching me. Because I thought it odd that a man in his late thirties or early forties was watching me, I made a point to look behind me as I passed. I then noticed that he got up and followed me. This could have been a total coincidence, but knowing my biggest threat in the mall is pickpockets, I decided to act instead of waiting to see what happened. I moved off to the side of the walkway and stopped, watching him as he passed. When he got a bit ahead of me, I went on my way again, making sure I knew where he was.

Maintaining awareness also makes you much more polite than the average person. At 6’0 tall and 220 pounds, I’m a fairly big guy. I lost count of how many people I had to dodge to keep from knocking them over or, in one case, getting run over by a motorized scooter. Playing this kind of leapfrog and trying to keep people at as much distance as I could also made me a harder target to pickpocket.
 
 
Sliding Into Condition White

I don’t care who you are, it is impossible to maintain perfect situational awareness at all times, especially when you’re in an environment where you need to split your attention between looking for someone in particular, finding a gift, maintaining a conversation, eating a meal and so on.

One sure fire way to slide back into condition white is using your phone. Below are some tips I used both on the occasions when had to use the phone, or when I was looking at an item.

I only used the phone in a non-busy area, and made sure my back was to the wall. I made sure to continue to scan every five to ten seconds. I also kept the phone close to my body and kept a solid grasp on it. I’ve watched footage of people getting their phones stolen right from their hands. They almost always have it as far from them as possible, yet not quite a full arm’s length away. I had my wrists touching my frame and checked my peripherals frequently.
 
 
Limiting Mr. Murphy

Because I dislike Mr. Murphy and his law and want to limit the amount of things that do go wrong, special precautions should be taken in large groups of people. Below are some random security related ideas when in a large group of people.

  •  Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. The front is much harder to pickpocket from.
  • Women, if you carry a purse, carrying it cross body won’t keep it from being stolen but can limit pickpocketing.
  • At the mall there were some parents using those kid “leashes”. I used to think those were a bad idea until I watched a young couple with two kids. The wife was pushing the stroller, the husband was carrying bags and had the kid that could walk tethered to him with one of these. He frequently checked on him but the tether gave them a little more freedom than they would have had otherwise.
  •  Men – When using public restrooms, either do like the ladies and use the buddy system, or if going solo, use the stall. There was a crime wave here a few years back where a man was targeting men who were alone standing at the urinal. He would walk behind them and give them an elbow strike to the back of the head, then while they lay there unconscious he would empty their pockets.
  • Women – When using a public restroom, the safest stall is the one with a solid wall to one side. You can place your purse on the floor in the corner. There is then no risk of someone taking it off the door hook or reaching under and grabbing it.
    Always know the quickest way out of the area as well as an alternative route.
  • Pay attention to anyone paying more attention to you than they are anything else. A nod and a smile can let them know you are aware of them. They might just think that you remind them of someone or they may have sinister intentions.
  • If there is an emergency and everyone is heading for the exits; depending on the emergency, it might be best to let the crowd pass by and then leave. If you did as suggested above, you know where an alternate route is.
  • One would think that evil couldn’t hide in large groups of people. However, some very evil things were done at the Superdome during hurricane Katrina. The point here is that even in large crowds of people, those who want to do you harm can find pockets where foot traffic is light. This is one of the reasons to use the buddy system.
  • Make your valuables hard to get to. I usually wear cargo pants and button the pockets. If you carry a bag or purse, make sure it is zipped. If you have one that doesn’t close, while it might be handy, it is not secure from someone willing and with nimble fingers.

Staying alert and secure in crowds of people has different challenges and might need a different approach than around a low population setting. Please add any other thoughts or security ideas to the comments section.

 
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What You Need to Know About a Pandemic

I have covered this topic in the past, but with the outbreaks of Ebola popping up and the number of new readers, I decided I would cover it again. A true pandemic is one of the “big ones” that scares me the most, partly because we are so limited by what we can do to prepare for it, and partly because I think it has a better chance of happening then an EMP over American soil.

I used the word “true” because the last pandemic we had, H1N1, aka the swine flu, wasn’t a true pandemic. It had the “morbidity rate” or rate of infection, but the mortality rate was actually lowered compared to past requirements.
 
 
Modern Day Pandemic Dangers

The last worldwide pandemic was the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, killing 20-50 million people, including 675,000 in the United States. The population of the United States in 1918 was 103,206,000, meaning that roughly .65% of the population was wiped out.

I believe that if we were to see a pandemic today, we would be in much worse shape. In 1918, if someone wanted to come to America, they had to take a boat. I don’t know the travel time of a vessel in 1918, but I would guess 10-14 days. With modern day air travel, an infected person could make it stateside in 24 hours, infecting everyone onboard in the process. In turn, those passengers would infect everyone on their connecting flights and eventually their families. One infected person could literally infect people travelling to the majority of states within in 24 hours.

The scare right now is Ebola. While Ebola is incredibly nasty and I mourn for the families who’ve been affected by it, it isn’t what scares me the most. Ebola most often comes from West Africa and patient zero is infected by direct contact with infected animals, some of which are used as a food supply, such as bats. It is then possible for human to human infection via the exchange of bodily fluids. Some of the numbers I have seen for mortality rate of Ebola are 50%-90%. However, I found data that suggests there have been less than 4,000 cases since Ebola was discovered in 1976, including the cases from the recent outbreaks.

What scares me is the illness that doesn’t exist yet or a mutation of an existing one that takes on more deadly qualities. For example, if a form of SARS, which has a high mortality rate, married a version of H1N1, we could then be faced with something that infects a large percentage of people and kills 15%-25% of those infected. To be clear, I am not saying that Ebola isn’t a threat. It is decimating countries in Western Africa, killing civilians and healthcare workers. We need to be vigilant and stay informed on any local cases of it. I’m just not sure Ebola has the same threat level as a more virulent strain of the flu. Here is an article from Canada published on June 23, 2014 where a physician and professor stated the following:

“If we had a case in Canada we’d isolate the case, the patient would live or die, and we’d be highly unlikely to have it transmit,”

While it is true that medical care has made incredible strides since 1918, there were no antibiotic resistant superbugs either, such as the recent Resistant ‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Increase Fivefold in Southeastern U.S. While we have far advanced scientific ability and equipment, for a vaccine to be developed, the scientists first have to be able to reproduce it, successfully test it, and then get FDA approval. This could take three months or more.

In case you were wondering, current US population is 318,559,000. If we saw 6.5% of our population die, that would be 2,100,000. When you consider the number of people taken out of the workforce, not just from death by pandemic, but those who are sick, those who are taking care of the sick and those self-quarantining, you can begin to see how quickly essential services could be overwhelmed and collapse.
 
 
What Can We Do?

In Flu and Pandemic Preps to Buy Now, I list three items that I own and believe you should as well; Hibiclens, Surgical N-95 NIOSH-certified masks and latex free gloves. Read the article for in depth information. Below are the highpoints.

Hibiclens was prescribed to me during an MRSA scare a few years back. Not only does Hibbiclens kill viruses and bacteria on contact, it will protect you for up to six hours after use.

Surgical N-95 NIOSH-certified masks are not the same as the N-95 masks you can buy at the big box store. These are the masks OSHA requires for medical personal exposed to potential pandemic victims.

After the masks, Latex free gloves are quite possibly the most important PPE (personal protection equipment) you can own. The two most common ways to spread a virus are through the air and through contact. If you wash with Hibiclens and wear gloves, you’ve greatly reduced the risk of direct contact.

We can also be prepared to hunker down and shelter in place to ride things out until we’re sure there is either nothing to worry about or there is a vaccine. This is one event I believe bugging out might be best, if you live in an urban environment and have somewhere else to go.

To either shelter in place or bug out before things take a bad turn, you need to stay on top of current events and be alerted for any stateside outbreaks, especially those in your local area.

One of the best resources for this is one of my sponsors, AlertsUSA. I have received alerts from AlertsUSA for quite some time now and they consistently provide news faster than I can find on mainstream media. They have important connections who pass information along to them, which they in turn pass along to their subscribers. As a reminder, Preparedness Club Members get a 25% discount at AlertsUSA.

Another site you can keep an eye on is the page that the CDC is keeping up to date on the Ebola outbreaks.

My personal plan would be to put the entire house in quarantine when I either a.) hear of multiple cases near me or b.) see local cases announced on the local news. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home occasionally, so I can pull the trigger faster than if I had to go in every day. If I had to go in, I might still impose quarantine and take a couple days of impromptu vacation time.

As stated above, it could take 90+ days to develop a vaccine. For this reason, I think we should have a minimum of 90 days’ supply of food and medicine on hand. The water will probably continue to run, but we should be prepared for waterborne illnesses as well. Having that much water stored is not realistic for 99% of us. Have some stored as well as a means to purify more.

Around the time I started blogging 4 years ago, I read an article that spoke of how woefully ill prepared large communities were for a pandemic. Since that time, some state governments have started taking action. Minnesota is just one of many. I attended a conference on how local hospitals will respond. They said that if any clinic or hospital begins to see an increase in patients with the same symptoms, they activate a call center who then calls other local clinics and hospitals to make them aware and to see if they have any patients to report with those same symptoms.

There are several sites that have been predetermined to use for housing patients. Cots and medical supplies will be brought in quickly. There are caches of medicine scattered around the area, which can be distributed to these locations very quickly when needed. The local media will be kept up to date so they can relay information to the public. There are also various locations around the area that have been chosen as mass vaccine distribution centers. I was also invited to attend a meeting at my church, with high ranking law enforcement officials, local Emergency Managers and medical personnel to discuss the church being one such center. The discussion focused on the best way to quickly and safely distribute the vaccine. One potential option was drive thru style; with people pulling their cars up, vaccine given and they go on their way.

My first thought is that a mass vaccine center is the last place I would want to be. However, when looking at this from a logistical standpoint, it is the fastest way to get the vaccine to the public.

Here is an article from the CDC with information on the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). While this isn’t a perfect solution, I am glad to see that government is being proactive on this topic.

 
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Food Stamp Cuts Starting November 1st

Food Stamp Cuts

Not long ago, I posted an article called Nine Meals From Anarchy; a Food Stamp Melt Down. In it I explained that there has been looting and small outbreaks of violence in the past when there have been problems or delays with the food stamp system. I also made the point that I think the reason violence and looting were not sparked into large scale rioting was because of “nine meals”.

I mean “nine meals” both figuratively and literally. Figuratively in the sense that, to date, the problems with the food stamp system have been corrected within a day or two at most. Literally because when people go hungry for three or four days in a row, they tend to act on it.

“If you look across the world, riots always begin typically the same way: when people cannot afford to eat food,”

That is a quote from Margarette Purvis, the president and CEO of the Food Bank for New York City, in an article from Salon.com. The article goes on to say that:

“Purvis said that the looming cut would mean about 76 million meals “that will no longer be on the plates of the poorest families” in NYC alone – a figure that outstrips the total number of meals distributed each year by the Food Bank for New York City, the largest food bank in the country. “There will be an immediate impact,” she said.”

In the last five or six years we have seen civil unrest and rioting due to the price or unavailability of food and the cutting of government entitlements in the following countries; Bolivia, Egypt, England, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

You might be thinking that the people in those cultures are different that the American citizenry. I disagree! I think people are people, hunger is hunger and entitlement is entitlement.

The following video from Fox News says that the government is spending $80,000,000 to prepare for potential riots related to the cutting of food stamps. Here’s a thought; money is tight, so we have to cut food stamps, but we’re going to spend $80 million to prepare for possible riots because of this cut.


 

What Can We Do?

For starters we can remain calm and wait to see if anything does happen. Just in case, prudence might dictate that you get any grocery shopping you might need done before Friday. Keep in mind that we very well might not see any unrest on November 1st but we could see situations later in the month, when the realities of the cuts are felt.

I have covered what civil unrest might look like in What Does Civil Unrest Look Like and How Can You Stay Safe Near It? If there are riots, keep a safe distance and be prepared to defend your family. Also be on the lookout for the police response. I covered some of how the government has been gearing up for civil unrest in Government; the Good the Bad and the…What are They Planning

We can donate food to local food shelves or churches to help them meet the needs of the destitute. This is a much better option than giving the food out yourself.

Above all else, we can pray. Pray for those who are in legitimate need and will now not have food to put on the table. Pray that those who might be taking advantage of the system would change their ways. Pray for one another, that we may be blessed with wisdom and knowing God’s will as we prepare and navigate our future.

 
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Nine Meals from Anarchy; a Food Stamp Melt Down

Nine Meals from Anarchy; a Food Stamp Melt Down

“Nine Meals from Anarchy” is an expression coined by Lord Cameron of Dillington, a farmer from England who was speaking about Britain’s food supply. I believe he is absolutely correct! In modern society when the populace hasn’t eaten, whether because there was no food or it was too expensive for them to buy, civil unrest ensues.

Disclaimer: I don’t touch on politics often and sometimes get complaints when I do. I am going to get into politics today as I believe our governmental practices could have a direct impact on the populace. If you disagree, that’s fine, but keep the discussion civil please. I will tie this back into preparedness.

Over the weekend there was a problem with the EBT (think food stamps) system that was not showing the amount allowed to spend, thus leading to allowing unlimited purchases. Once discovered, the EBT system was temporarily brought down. There were two Walmart’s in Louisiana that decided to let people make purchases anyway. This resulted in crowds so large that one Police Chief said the store was so packed, it was worse than any black Friday. Many shelves were stripped bare. Once the system came up, it was obviously discovered that people were abusing the system. There were other stores that didn’t allow purchases to be made and many shoppers took to social media threatening to riot.

Civil unrest related to food is nothing new. Many of you will remember the world-wide food riots in 2008, but we can go all the way back to Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793). She was the queen of France who said “Well, let them eat cake,” when told that her people did not have bread to eat.
 
 
What is the Real Problem?

The problem is so much bigger than a computer glitch and the temporary shutdown of the EBT system. It is my opinion that we have a large portion of the population that has become takers. We have over 47,000,000 people on food stamps, which is over 1/6th of our population. These are people who CANNOT feed themselves without government assistance. I have no problem with people who have fallen on hard times and need the assistance. My parents had to use it when I was a child, welfare and food stamps are the only reason we were able to eat at times.

Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of people who are cheating the system. With a quick internet search you can find ways to game the system and claim benefits that they should just not have. There are also people who live off of government assistance as a way of life, instead of assistance during a rough time.
 
 
Cloward-Piven Strategy

Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven were professors at the Columbia University School of Social Work. Their strategy was to overload the American welfare system by having it be so large that it would lead to a crisis that would put an end to the welfare system, replacing it with a socialist guaranteed annual income. These radicals and others like them have ties to and are friends with President Obama.

We now we have over 47 million people collecting food stamps, over 12 million on welfare and roughly 5.5 million collecting unemployment. Government handing out “Obama phones”, giving subsidies for childcare to people who are not working and on and on. With the policies of this President, we are approaching that tipping point faster than ever before.
 
 
EBT Being Defunded?

On 10-15-2013 I got an alert from AlertsUSA that said:

“USDA: States told to withhold foodstamp / EBT payments for Nov due to funding lapse. If directive holds expect dangerous societal impact, partic in urban areas.”

Since I had planned on publishing this article today, I asked my contact if he has any more info. He sent me the following link; Foodstamp Program Shutdown Imminent? The article is worth reading and the video from a local Utah Newscast is worth watching. For those with limited time, I’ll summarize.

The Crossroads Urban Center in Utah obtained a memo from the USDA (the memo can be seen by following the link). Among other things, the memo states:

“understanding the operational issues and constraints that States face, and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility, we are directing States to hold their November issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice.”

Essentially, because of the government shutdown, the USDA is recommending that states not fund the food stamps systems.

With this in mind, remember what I said about Cloward and Piven. It makes a person wonder if the government shutdown isn’t just a means to an end.
 
 
What Does This Mean for You?

There have been a few hiccups related to food stamps in the last few years, as well as threats of rioting. Violence, in varying degrees, has broken out each time. What kept these threats and minor violence from breaking into utter chaos and anarchy? Nine meals.

When people who have been led to believe that their government owes them money for food, rent, childcare, cell phones and other related things, and that money is either reduced, or doesn’t come for a week or two, watch out! This is purely speculation on my part, but I believe that this could lead to widespread rioting and looting after just after a few days. If you live in an area with even a moderate percentage of the population on the government teat, pay attention to stories like this in your area and have a bug out plan.

I firmly believe that a prepper should guard the fact that they prepare, as well as what they have in their preps. I have no problems if hard times fall and you feel compelled to share with others, but as I have previously written, Jesus told us to give in secret. This way, if you feel God leading you to share, you can, but it honors God and not you.

 
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Caffeine as a Prep Item

Caffeine as a Prep item

Have you ever been so tired that you know your judgment is impaired but for whatever reason you couldn’t get any shuteye? What about getting up in the morning and feeling more tired than when you went to bed?

As I pointed out in Keeping Watch Once It’s Hit the Fan, if things go sideways there might be a need for you to stand watch. If it’s just you and your family, how can you make sure you stay alert enough to stand watch and keep everyone safe? The potential solution to this problem is caffeine.
 
 
The Upside

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that is found in a variety of plants. It can heighten your alertness and provide a boost of energy. Caffeine is commonly found in coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks as well as some medications.

A safe daily limit is 200 – 300 milligrams, which equates to 2-4 cups of coffee. When used in moderation, caffeine can be used to wake you up in the morning or help you keep going through the day.
 
 
The Downside

As was just stated, caffeine used in moderation has an upside. However, overuse can lead to dependency. If you’re drinking four cups of coffee to get going, a diet soft drink mid-morning, another with lunch and a couple throughout the rest of the day, there is a good chance you’re dependent on it. Diet Dr. Pepper is my drink of choice. I used to drink 8-10 a day! I used to say caffeine had no effect on me, that I could drink a Diet Dr. Pepper right before bed, go to bed and fall asleep just fine. I was abusing it and was dependent on it.

Once dependent on caffeine, the withdrawal headaches can be horrific. If you decide to being limiting your intake, it is suggested to cut it in half for a day or two, and then in half again and on and on until you’re consuming a healthy amount.
 
 
Final Thoughts

I am now only consuming two cans of Diet Dr. Pepper a day. I made the mistake of having a couple cans late one evening and I am definitely affected by it now; I think I saw the clock strike 02:00.

The idea of getting some of those energy shot drinks has occurred to me in the past. Before I limited my intake I took one on a day with little sleep, and surprise, surprise, it didn’t affect me. It only made me yawn louder. Now however, I think having a few on hand to help me be aware, should I ever need to be awake and alert late at night, is probably a good idea.
 
 
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Disaster Probability

It has been some time since I covered this topic. There are enough new readers that I think it’s time to discuss again. Disaster probability is one of the fundamental building blocks of preparedness. By understanding it, we have a better idea of what our potential threats are and what we should actually be preparing for.
 
 
Possible, Plausible and Probable

If you’ve watched any of the prepper shows like Doomsday Preppers, any preparedness related youtube videos, or read any preparedness forums you’ve no doubt heard people give a long list of events they’re preparing for. While all of these things might be possible, they aren’t all plausible or very probable.

There is also a relationship between how possible something is and the area of its effect. In the image below, you can see that in the inner ring there is a picture of a house, which represents you. The things that are most probable to happen are likely to affect only you or your neighborhood in some instances. This is sometimes called the “pebble in the shoe” effect. If you’re walking with other people and you have a pebble in your shoe, it might really affect you but doesn’t really impact those around you. For an example, when I lost my job it had no effect on my neighbors but had a severe impact on my family.

Disaster Probability

As we move further from the probable ring, there is less of a chance that the events in the outer rings will actually happen. If they do happen, they will have a larger area of impact. The events that fall in the “plausible” ring have a less likely chance of actually happening but if they do, they could impact a county or state. The events in the “possible” ring are possible but unlikely. However, if they do happen, the area of effect is very large and could happen on a regional or national level.
 
Here are some examples of events in the various rings.
 
Probable: Affects home, possibly neighborhood
Job loss
House fire
Theft
Neighborhood power outage
 
Plausible: Affects County to State
Are-wide blackout
Wildfire
Severe weather (tornado, flash flooding, hurricane, etc.)
Flu epidemic
 
Possible: Affects Regional or Larger
EMP
Pandemic
Economic collapse
Caldera eruption
 

Applying This to Our Preparedness

I don’t think we should prepare for specific events but, instead, have a general level of preparedness. However, we still must be aware of our greatest threats in the areas in which we live, in case we must take specific precautions. For instance, if I was brand new to preparedness, it makes much more sense for me to prepare for an ice storm or blizzard than it does for me to prepare for an EMP. Sure, an EMP is possible, but in Minnesota, blizzards and ice storms actually happen. Since ice storms often bring power outages with them, it makes more sense for me to make sure I have a means of keeping warm, keeping the food cold and so on. By being prepared for the most probable threats, we eventually become much better prepared for the less likely events that will have a far greater reach.

 
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Preparedness Tip; Safety at the Pump

gas pump

I have seen a couple news stories recently about theft at the gas pump, crimes other than the price of the gas (hehe).
 
 
Skimming

The first type of theft is called “skimming”. I found out about it from a local news story. You can read the story and watch the video from the Twin Cities here. A couple from California drove through many states and inserted an electronic device into the inside of gas pumps that “skimmed” peoples credit card numbers. They came back later to collect those numbers. They racked up thousands of dollars in debt on the collected card numbers.

You might be wondering how the thieves got inside the pumps. The article points out that there are only two companies that make gas pumps and both use a universal key to open them. Gas stations can have the pumps rekeyed at a cost of around $450 for 8 pumps.

If the Mr. and Mrs. Dirtbag who were arrested can figure this crime out, you can be guaranteed others have as well. The only way to know for sure if a pump has a skimmer in it is to open the pump and check. The only thing we can do as consumers is check for the inspected sticker on the pump you’re going to use. If it’s broken or there isn’t one, move to another pump. Since these dirtbags need to open the pump, chances are they will only install the skimmers on pumps that are furthest from the watchful clerks. Using a pump that is closer to the building and faces the clerks also might limit vulnerability.
 
 
Sliders

This second type of theft is targeting women at the pump. You can read the article and see the video reported from Virginia here. These thieves look for a woman who is pumping gas or has gone inside to pay and has left the window down or door unlocked. They “slide” below level of the window or sight-line and grab her purse.

To prevent this, the most important thing is to practice good Situational Awareness and utilize Levels of Alert; The Cooper Color Code. Put your window all the way up at the station and make sure your doors are locked, even when you’re standing right there.
 
 
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There is no Such Thing as Privacy and yes Big Brother is Watching

Big Brother

You know that feeling you get when you’re in public and realize your zipper is down? Exposed, uncovered, vulnerable and maybe even a little violated? Some of you are going to feel that way after reading today’s article. Some might accuse me of needing a tinfoil hat after reading this, but I assure you this information is credible. I have used the best sources I can find. If I had to guess, this is only scratching the surface.

There is no such thing as privacy…at least in the modern age of technology; oh and Big Brother is watching. What you say on your cell phone, data you save on your smartphone, write in emails, post to social media, search on the Internet for, say near a cell phone (even if it’s off) and more is all susceptible to being actively stored, cataloged and monitored.

I realize what I have said so far might seem a bit dramatic, so instead of writing my opinion I will give sources for the statements I have made and give you my $.02. Before I go on, I want to address what some of you may be thinking; “I’m not doing anything illegal! Why should I care who tracks what?” You may not be doing anything illegal now but there may well come a day when simply living out our Christian beliefs may be illegal. Saying that marriage should be between one man and one woman could, in the future, be viewed as a hate crime. Don’t think so? Here is an article from the Christian News network called “Canadian Supreme Court Rules Biblical Speech Opposing Homosexual Behavior is a ‘Hate Crime’.” As I will explain below, some of what you say now, can come back to haunt you.
 
 
Internet

There are so many security and privacy concerns when it comes to the Internet that I can’t cover them all. Here are some that I think you should be aware of. As Forbes.com states in their article called “Google Hands Over User Data For 94% Of U.S. Law Enforcement Requests”

“When law enforcement comes looking for evidence hidden in your Google search history, Gmail or the uncountable other Google services that touch many Internet users’ lives, don’t expect Google to turn the investigators away. In 19 out of 20 cases in the second half of last year, the company handed over at least some of the data the government demanded.”

I have read from multiple sources that in some cases, Google didn’t require a warrant.
This means that every search term, every site visited, every document in Google Documents or similar online document hosting software, every download that is done from your computer has the possibility of being compiled and stored about you. I don’t know about you but I have done some research related to preparedness and potential threats that, if taken out of context, could make me look like a homegrown terrorist.
 
 

The National Security Agency (NSA)

Here is where things get a little spooky. I have read quite a lot about the abilities, practices and plans of the NSA and it is all very concerning to me. In short, the NSA has put nearly every American on virtual surveillance by keeping track of every email and other online habits, storing them for possible future use. This has all been done without warrants and according to one of the videos shown below, one whistle blower from the NSA claims it was all done under something called “Terrorist Surveillance Program”. It’s not that the NSA is actively monitoring all digital communications, but that they are storing it and, if the need should arise, they can do a search for a suspect’s name and pull all digitally stored data relevant to that person. In one of the videos below, NSA whistleblower William Binney states that the NSA has been collecting this data for at least the last ten years.

As you can imagine this would require a massive datacenter to store all of this data, which is why the NSA has recently built a “spy center” in Bluffdale, Utah. To help put the amount of data they will be capable of storing into perspective, FOX news, in their article called NSA data center front and center in debate over liberty, security and privacy” says:

“The agency will neither confirm nor deny specifics. Some published reports suggest it could hold 5 zettabytes of data. (Just one zettabyte is the equivalent of about 62 billion stacked iPhones 5’s– that stretches past the moon.”

As an example of what the NSA is capable of, the Blaze, in an article called “NSA Whistleblower Explains Chilling Interview: ‘Everyone in the U.S. Is Under Virtual Surveillance’” notes:

“Binney then discussed the recent resignation of Gen. David Petraeus over an extra-marital affair, and how his private communications were intercepted.
“As far as the actual government goes, [adultery] is not a high crime and misdemeanor here,” co-host Stu Burguiere weighed in. “It’s sort of secondary, and they’ll go to that extent to out somebody who may have had a political issue. That’s frightening.”

Here are two more articles on the Bluffdale “Spy Center”; one called “Is the NSA building a $800 million data center to spy on Americans? Utah desert facility code-named Bumblehive ‘will monitor emails of U.S. citizens’” and another called “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)”.
Here is an article on NSA whistleblower William Binney from the NY Times whistleblower, as well as two videos with Thomas Drake and William Binney.
 
 

 
 

 
 
Cell Phones

I have seen different reports of this over the last few years, but here is a good article from the Seattle Times called “Even if they’re off, cellphones allow FBI to listen in”

“The FBI converted the Nextel cellphones of two alleged New York mobsters into “roving bugs,” microphones that relayed conversations when the phones seemed to be inactive, according to recent court documents.

Authorities won’t reveal how they did this. But a countersurveillance expert said Nextel, Motorola Razr and Samsung 900 series cellphones can be reprogrammed over the air, using methods meant for delivering upgrades and maintenance. It’s called “flashing the firmware,” said James Atkinson, a consultant for the Granite Island Group in Massachusetts.”

As if that weren’t creepy enough, here is an article from the New York Times called Build Up Your Phone’s Defenses Against Hackers

“Chuck Bokath would be terrifying if he were not such a nice guy. A jovial senior engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, Mr. Bokath can hack into your cellphone just by dialing the number. He can remotely listen to your calls, read your text messages, snap pictures with your phone’s camera and track your movements around town — not to mention access the password to your online bank account.”

Believe me, if the good guys can think of this, you had better believe that Joe Dirtbag can as well.

Here is a video from CNN where the host is interviewing a former FBI agent. He claims that when it comes to national security, “there is a way to listen to all digital communications in the past”. That means that all digital communications are stored and may be pulled if needed.
 
 

 
 
Final Thoughts

I have nothing to hide. The only “offense” I might occasionally commit is going a bit over the speed limit. So why does all of this concern me? Partly because of how the IRS was used to target Tea Party and other conservative groups. There have been accusations from different people in Washington calling veterans, fundamentalist Christians and “far-right-wingers” potential terrorists. I am sure that at some point I have said something on or near a cell phone, written something online via a forum or email that, if taken out of context, could paint me in a negative light. The fact that the Attorney General has stated the President has full authority to use drone strikes on Americans, on American soil, against potential terrorists, also has me a bit concerned.

Don’t get me wrong. I like technology as much as the next guy. But it has come at a great cost. If you’re “plugged in”, there is no such thing as privacy and yes, Big Brother is watching!

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Presenting the Preparedness Club Giveaway

One of the added benefits of joining the Preparedness Club is that each month, every member is automatically entered into a contest for a giveaway. To keep things fair, members will only be eligible for one prize per year. I will send the winner an email each month to get their mailing address.

Some of the prizes have been donated by some generous companies. I will be buying other prizes myself. Here are some of the prizes that have already been donated:

  • Midland Weather Alert Radio
  • Multiple copies of Total Home Prep Now DVD
  • Multiple books from Paladin Press
  • Multiple 100ft hanks of paracord from Paracord City
  • A copy of Making the Best of Basics
  • An exclusive (banned) pressure canner (haha) and a canning kit
  • A Bucket of Wise Food from Best Price Storable Food
  • And more

This Month, Midland Radio has been kind enough to donate a WR120
Desktop Weather Alert Radio


Radio Features are listed below.

  • SAME Localized Reception
  • Continuous Backlighting Option- Keeps the LCD on
  • 25 Programmable Counties
  • Color Coded Alert Indicators
  • Alert Override automatically switches over to warn you of impending danger
  • Alarm Clock with Snooze
  • Silent programming
  • Single, Multiple, or Any S.A.M.E program settings
  • User Selectable Warning System -Voice, Display, or Tone alert types
  • 10 Reviewable Alerts
  • 7 Preset Weather Channels
  • Public Alert Certified
  • Receives over 60 Alerts
  • Uses 3AA Alkaline batteries for emergency power back-up
  • All Hazards Alert – In addition to important weather announcements your radio will also receive other emergency announcements such as:
    • Child Abduction Emergency (Amber Alert)
    • Nuclear Power Plant Warning
    • Biological Hazard Warning
    • Civil Emergency Message
    • Fire Warning
    • Landslide Warning

Here is a video that walks you through programming the radio.

 

My Take:

I like the features on this weather radio. It’s easy to distinguish between watches and warnings, simply by the tones and colors of the alert indicators. I also like that you can program different alert types. The combination of the monthly siren tests and our weather radio monthly test gets the dogs howling. While funny, it isn’t always welcomed.

The Preparedness Club costs $40 a year and this radio from Midway is a $50 value!

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Learning From Evil

I had planned on posting something else today but I feel the need to give some thoughts on the terrorist attack at the Boson Marathon.  First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out the families of those murdered and those who were brutally injured and their families as well.

We can learn from evil people and the evil deeds they inflict on others.  This article is not about me saying that those victims should have done something differently.  Instead, it is me offering something for you to grasp on to if you ever find yourself in any related type of situation.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

 

Avoid Brain Lock

In the book The Survivors Club, Author Ben Sherwood explores a theory developed by a man named John Leach called “The 10/80/10 rule”. In summary, the rule states that the top 10% of people in a crisis excel; they think clearly and take immediate action. The middle group comprises 80% of people; they are “quite simply stunned and bewildered”; “reasoning is significantly impaired and thinking is difficult”. The last 10% of people are the “ones you definitely want to avoid in an emergency”.

A few pages later, he explains something called ‘behavioral inaction’; “The current theory of behavioral inaction goes like this: As your frontal lobes process the site of an airplane wing on fire, they seek to match the information with memories of similar situations in the past. If you have no stored experience of a plane crash, your brain can’t find a match and gets stuck in a loop trying and failing to come up with the right response. Hence: immobility.”

One of the main reasons the following information is so important is to be able to avoid brain lock, allowing your mind to have something to pull forward.  Another way to build this skill is by mentally placing yourself in situations you see in movies or in the news and then thinking about what you might have done differently.

 

Situational Awareness

I have covered situational awareness in the past, as well as the Cooper Color CodeBoth of these are things that should be a part of your everyday life.  They can be harder to practice in large crowds, but that is probably the most important time to use them.  If you see someone who raises you from code yellow to orange (from the Cooper color code) try to keep tabs on them.  If something really seems off, let an authority know.  “If you see something, SAY something.”

If you find yourself in any type of terrorist attack, from a bombing to a mass shooting, situational awareness can save your life.  By practicing situational awareness, you can keep track of the closest exit, or fastest way to safety.  It can also help you avoid Mr. Dirtbag, who is committing the act of terror.

 

Cover and Concealment

I have explained Cover and Concealment previously but it is worth mentioning again.  Concealment is something that hides you, but will not stop a round.  Cover will stop a round and will usually hide you, except in the case of bullet proof glass for example.  If you are caught near a terrorist attack, getting away from the primary danger should be your first goal.  I suggest finding cover as a part of that goal.

 

Lone Wolves and Swarm Terrorist Attacks

I have written an article called Terrorism: Lone Wolf and Swarm Attacks, which goes into these types of attacks in more detail.   I think these are the types of terror attacks we will see more of.  Because these types of attacks consist of very few people, they are much easier to keep quiet and can be done on a very low budget.  A swarm attack of 10 people killed 160 people in Mumbai, India.  If there is one Mr. Dirtbag, there is always a chance he has a friend or two.  For this reason, if Mr. Dirtbag does show up, keep practicing situational awareness and the Cooper Color Code.

 

Emergency First Aid

I read about some of the carnage that occurred yesterday.  While absolutely tragic, that only three people died is a miracle.  There may have been some medical personnel on site but my guess is that the average Joe and Jane stepped in and assisted those who were in need.

Would you be able to assist a stranger or a loved one who needed emergency first aid?  I can’t recommend taking a first aid class strongly enough.  You can find a class from the Red Cross.

There are also items you can carry that will aid in stopping blood loss; QwikClot and Israeli Battle Dressings.  I will cover these items in more detail next week.

 

Summary

I think we need to learn from evil every chance we get.  Sadly, we’re given far too many chances to do just that.  By doing so, we can be more prepared to avoid brain lock and can put the above mentioned items into play.

 

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