Everyday carried items

What a person carries with them every day says a lot about them. Make sure at least some of what is carried can serve a defensive role if needed. For the mundane items of everyday life, ensure they are safeguarded in some ways. Here are some Every Day Carry (EDC) thoughts.

Author’s note: This article draws upon previous articles about everyday items as weapons and items designed with tactical use in mind. Please consider adding a tactical pen, flashlight, kubotan, and training in them to your personal inventory and skill set.

A cell phone, car keys, and wallet are standard fare, and are generally needed in today’s society. Look at ways to ruggedize the phone, such as a sturdy case or picking a a rugged phone like the Casio G’zOne) Clothing should allow for easy access to key fobs and car keys, and likewise be difficult for pickpockets to get at your wallet. These things allow you to call for help, escape a situation, and in the case of the wallet, contain a lot of information about you.

Another precaution with cell phones, personal data devices (PDA’s) and GPS devices is to enable the power-on password protection. Yes this can be a hassle, but if these devices become lost or stolen, a significant amount of personal data can become accessible to others. The business trip for next week scheduled in the PDA and the “Home” address in the GPS tells a criminal where a target is, and when to hit it.

With the advent of the USB memory sticks, people are carrying around a significant amount of information. This digital information may be personal or professional, and can be damaging or dangerous in the wrong hands. If carrying data in this manner is necessary, consider looking into a basic encryption program to keep the data in an inaccessible format unless the intended user is the one opening it.

Several programs are available via freeware, such as Axcrypt. If the items become used again, the unintended user will be forced to simply delete  the files and use it to his own ends. None of the original owner’s data is available.

A simple point and shoot digital camera can be a very useful tool in an EDC kit. Whether integrated in the cell phone or a stand-alone device, it can serve as an in-field “scanner” (I have copied several notes by camera), or can be used to document car accident damage, video record events, etc. Of course, the same data precautions apply to the memory card as above. Keep the camera’s memory as cleaned as possible.

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

A Michigan family’s ‘threat matrix’

Originally published on 18FEB2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

In preparing contingencies for emergencies or other events, it is essential to start by assessing exactly what one is preparing for. These events, which are simply called “threats,” are really a way to categorize and determine the probability of their occurrence. In evaluating the threats the typical urban/suburban family faces in Michigan, we look to the local weather, infrastructure, and socioeconomic histories. The “matrix” part of the phrase comes when the contingencies and preparations for each of these threats is addressed and evaluated. Some of these contingencies will be addressed in later articles.

For local severe weather events, Michigan has a history of strong thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, and snow storms. Luckily, these occurrences are generally well predicted and some advanced warning is usually available. So while severe, some preparations can be made ahead of time. Michigan does not see hurricanes, tidal waves, or widespread drought.

Infrastructure threats, such as power failures, are commonplace in Michigan. Detroit residents face poor medical and police response times from overworked public service providers.  Having many industrial areas, Michigan has faced forced evacuations in the past due to chemical leaks. Rural Michiganders have faced forest fire evacuations. All families face house or apartment building fires. Michigan does not typically face water shortages or sewage issues, nor are there any wild animal or insect plagues that can leave areas decimated without warning.

Socioeconomic threats consist of unexpected layoffs, being fired, or facing involuntary pay or hour reductions. These are threats, in that it affects a family’s financial capability to maintain itself and grow. Other threats in this category are violent crimes acted upon family members, home break-ins and robberies, or areas of civil unrest (think Detroit circa 1969).  These can be at home or wherever a person visits, such as the workplace, school, or en route to places.

Locally, Michiganders face national threats as well. The Cold War brought a long and sustained threat of thermonuclear warfare. Acts of terrorism normally assumed to happen only in the Middle East have happened in the USA and may continue to. A poor economy has contributed to a decline in the US Dollar’s value, which can cause alarming price increases and could lead to hyperinflation. Some scientists believe that Global Warming will have unforeseen effects on our climate. The Peak Oil theorizers believe that oil will become so scarce that it will cost more energy to obtain it than the oil itself.

The purpose of this article is not to tell the reader what to think, or what to prioritize, but rather to understand the threats that each Michigan family may face, and begin to determine what preparations each family can make to reduce the risk of harm from these threats. As stated above, this side of the “threat matrix” is just the threats. When contingencies are created, it will be realized that being prepared for one of these threats can actually carry over into being prepared for many.

Lessons from the under-prepared

Originally published on 16FEB2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

The power goes out in Livonia. It’s 7 p.m. in February, and it’s already dark. The television our example family was huddled around has dimmed. After a few moments, their eyes adjust to the new light level, and a flashlight is found at the bottom of the junk drawer. With a quick twist of the bevel the little two AA battery lights up to provide a meager amount of light. As the room is scanned, the little light goes out leaving the family in the dark once more. The batteries in that thing were three years old, never replaced since the thing was bought at the Do-It-Yourself store on sale. After much fumbling, raiding a kid’s toy for some batteries while wishing fresh batteries were in hand, and using the dim light of a cell phone screen for illumination, the little light is operational once more.

“Daddy, it’s getting cold in here. I’m scared.”

The furnace ignition runs on electricity, as do the blowers. With the 22° F temperature outside, with lows dropping into the teens, the house’s insulation will not hold in the warmth for long. After this half-hour ordeal, it’s time to consider the power won’t be back on tonight. It’s time to get to a hotel.

“Honey, I’ll get the kids packed, you make reservations”, the wife says.

The husband agrees, and goes to the computer to look up the nearest hotel and the number. Of course, the computer is not working, and the cable modem is down. Where’s the phone book? Do we even have a phone book? Never mind that, just getting to the hotel should be enough, they have rooms.

After everyone is packed for the night’s stay at the hotel, the house has dropped 10 more degrees. Loading everyone into the car, the garage doors are opened… wait… there is no power. They aren’t opening. Getting out, pulling the emergency handle and lifting manually, the car is finally clear to be taken out. Lowering the garage door, the manual pull cord doesn’t seem to snap back in place.  Back inside the garage to shut it. The handle is finally pushed back in place so it locks into the automatic opener’s track.

Walking through the house to the front door, the husband exits and goes to lock the door. The keys are in the car. After getting the keys, locking the door, getting in the car, and going, it’s been over an hour, and probably longer, before the family is on the road.

Add in rounding up multiple kids, worrying about pets, and other concerns, this time could easily extend into two or three hours, only to arrive at a hotel that is full, or doesn’t allow the family cat.

This example has played out countless times in the southeastern Michigan as well as any metropolitan area. There are so many “oops” moments in the example above, yet they are continuously repeated time and time again.

In the example above, simply routinely changing batteries in the emergency flashlight could have saved 20 minutes or more. Having multiple flashlights stashed in various rooms will cut down on the “zombie walk” through the house while searching.

Having wood for the fireplace (if the home is equipped) or a decent fixture for gas fueled fireplaces can take the edge of a winter night without power. Knowing how it works is essential. Without a supplemental heat source, having a set time to wait for the power to come back on before deciding “bug out” to a hotel is a good idea. Worst case, some money is spent on a room and the kids can enjoy the pool.

Having an actual phone book can be an indispensible resource. Additionally, use some post-it notes to mark off certain anticipated things, such as hotels, the pet’s veterinarian or kennel, the local urgent care, etc. Cell phone towers usually have back-up power, so make the necessary calls quickly before too much cellular traffic makes it difficult to get through.

Having pre-prepared bags with a couple changes of clothes, toiletries, small reserve supplies of medication required, a few comfort items, and a small book of other important information can eliminate the packing-up phase. Having a supply of cash in the bags can help buy needed items when the credit card readers aren’t working.

Knowing what devices in the house run on electricity and how to operate them without electricity can save time and headache. During a situation is not the ideal time to learn this, knowing and practicing ahead of time is. How hard are the garage doors to disengage and reengage from the automatic system? Does the house alarm have a battery back-up? How does the water get shut off and pipes drained so they don’t freeze? Which one is that handle? Is the sump pump going to work? Will there be flooding?

What hotels are in the area? Were they affected as well or do they have power? Do they take pets? Will they in an emergency such as this? What’s the best way to get there?

The fact is, there are actually very few “emergencies” in our lives, but lack of preparation or emergency equipment elevates these situations into far more uncomfortable or dangerous scenarios. Having even basic preparations for simple scenarios can save a lot of discomfort, injury potential, and worry.

The 72 hour kit

Originally published on 17FEB2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Emergency preparedness is not something that can be bought. Knowledge, training, and know-how are far more important to make a bad situation more bearable than merely having “stuff”. Adequate knowledge on what to do in a given situation can save a lot of time, which can save lives. Conversely, knowing how to fix a car and not having a wrench to do so is equally ill-minded. So, having the right tools in place can make a difference. The “72 hour bag” is one such item. At first, the concept of a 72 hour bag sounds like the stuff of survivalists and tin foil hat wearers. The people that load up an expedition sized backpack with enough junk to rebuild society have given an unfortunate stigma to the preparedness concept. The 72 hour bag detailed here will be far more tailored to family preparedness. Taking the basic requirements of food, clothing, and shelter as well as extended requirements such as hygiene/medication, protection, and documentation, some basic lists for the contents of the 72 hour kit can be determined.

Each person in the family should have a 72 hour kit.

First, look at food requirements. There should be enough food in the kit to provide 9 decent meals for its owner. This is a total of 9000 calories for an adult (factoring in extra calories in case of exertion). Of course, this is emergency food, so ideally something that supplies required nutrition and has a long shelf life is available.  One such suggestion is a high energy food bar, such as Millennium Bars, Power Bars, etc, that are designed to provide high calorie content and energy. These have the added benefit of being a peel-and-eat item rather than something that needs to be prepared. Similarly, drink mixes like single serving Gatorade can add calories as well as provide electrolytes if the situation calls for a lot of exertion. If there are any dietary restrictions, the food selections must be chosen to address these restrictions. If children are also being provided for, having a few treats can go a long way to making a bad situation more bearable.

For clothing, include some items that are versatile. Sturdy work gloves can be included, as well as a wool cap. Include a pair of pants and shorts, as well as a couple extra pairs of undergarments and socks. A fleece jacket should be added, as well as a couple short sleeve shirts. This allows for layering. Ensure seasonal gear like a scarf or mittens is included.  In a kid’s bag, ensure the clothing included is updated often enough so the clothes actually fit. Include swim suits in case the “bug out” is to a hotel with a pool.

Shelter options can depend greatly on how a person may bug out of any given situation and what their destination is. If prepping for a power failure and a hotel bug out is anticipated, then there are virtually no shelter requirements. If bugging out to a friend’s house, having a “car camping” type sleeping bag for everyone may be wise, or at least a decent blanket or two. If the bug out involves going to a cottage, cabin, or deer camp somewhere, it may be necessary to have a decent sleeping bag and tent.

Some hygiene and medication considerations should be considered. For women, feminine hygiene products should be included for 3-5 days. For regular toiletries, the usual soap, shaving cream, razor, toothpaste, etc should be included, as well as a wash cloth and towel. The complimentary hotel-size containers are ideal for this application. If medications are regularly taken, include a supply of them, possibly even longer than the 3 day requirement. Those little 1-week dispensers are a good idea for pills and vitamins. For things like insulin, consider a special battery powered cooler with a solar recharging kit. If an emergency is anticipated, move a portion of the medication supply to the small cooler.

Consider at least one protection item for the family. If the state allows it, consider obtaining a concealed pistol permit. Have at least a couple loaded magazines and a firearm available (in a safe), and transition it to a holster (not in the kit itself!) when a bug out occurs. Failing that, a knife, small baton, or other tool that can serve a defensive role should be considered. Emergencies bring out the finest qualities as well as the most despicable in mankind, and protecting one’s family is a priority.

For documentation, have a small binder with hardcopies of important documents as well as printed scans of others, such as insurance policies, birth certificates, house titles, social security and other identification, etc. These can be printed on waterproof paper or put in a protective sleeve (such as a zip-lock bag).  Also consider using a USB thumb drive with more documents as necessary. It is advisable to create a self-extracting encryption file from these with a password you will remember.

Borrowing from camping, also consider some of the “Essentials”. Map, compass, sunscreen, flashlight, first aid kit, matches, rope, and knife.  Have a spare set of car and house keys for all the vehicles and locks.

The last thing to consider is the bag itself. Depending on the full intent of the bag, it can vary from a reasonably large school-style bag to a mid-size backpacking bag. It should definitely be something that is easily carried, so a shoulder strap is a good minimum, if not a backpack style with a moderate waist belt. The quality of the bag should allow it to be durable to storage and usage elements. Decent commercial-grade bags are sufficient. Dollar store, free promotional items, or thin material and inadequate construction should be avoided. Some go so far as to get military specification gear, but this isn’t necessary. Of course, some military surplus gear, or easily obtained items in this genre should be considered. A good “overnight” backpacking bag is a very good size to go with.

In upcoming articles, this kit will be a basis for many emergency preparations. Doing some research on the 72 hour bag and what should go in it is a great way to start to understand the concept of preparedness and is a relatively easy way to at least ensure some tools are available in a bad situation.