In most areas of the country, it's generally held that you may use lethal force to protect yourself if you are in immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily injury. One of the factors which can contribute to that perceived danger is known as "disparity of force"; that is, a marked difference in the ability of the parties involved to inflict injury.
If your attacker is much larger than you, or if he's much stronger, or if he brought friends with him to help, are all examples of disparity of force. This disparity can also be due to an infirmity on your part, making the attack one of the able-bodied against someone who is disabled (if only temporarily.) Unfortunately, it's a disability which might attract a predator in the first place!
How do you defend yourself when you're recovering from an accident (or perhaps elective surgery?) What adjustments might you need to make to your routine and your practiced responses? My colleague Andy Loeffler has written a good article for the Personal Defense Network about how and what to do!
His wife Julie was recently knocked off her feet by an injury, and what she and Andy discovered may be of use should you find yourself in similar circumstances. Recommended reading, and especially check out the comments where others weigh in on their experiences.
(Speaking of injuries, it's probably not a bad idea to have a left-hand holster around for your primary gun. Hand and arm injuries and surgeries are not unheard of, and just try to find a lefty holster when you really need one! This is one of the few times I recommend preparing for a relatively low-probability event, simply because of the availability of the necessary equipment.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
As I'm sitting here looking over the list of Friday Surprise topics I've collected, none of them seem "right" for this week. This week has been dominated - fairly or unfairly - by the destruction wrought on the eastern seaboard.
News reports are full of stories about long gas lines, fights over food, people dumpster diving just to get sustenance, union thugs turning away non-union utility crews, and much more ugliness. The most astonishing thing, though, is the number of reporters and anchors who proclaim on camera their shock that "things are getting worse, not better."
To those of us who study this kind of thing (I actually pursued an emergency management degree a few years back simply because this stuff interests me) this comes as no surprise. The initial damage to a complex system like a metropolis invariably cascades and the result is a level of damage that might not have been predictable at the outset. Fukushima should come immediately to mind.
The trouble is that this stuff may not be completely predictable, but it's not a surprise either. A local weather blog (this is Oregon, remember) noted the unprecedented potential of the east coast storm many days before it hit land. People knew this was coming and it still caught them off guard.
Luckily this disaster has ignited an interest in 'prepping', which is a good thing!
But the country is still not out of the woods. Not only is a new storm now threatening the east coast, there is a very real risk of massive riots breaking out in that region in wake of next week's elections. Think about it: you have millions of people already pushed toward their breaking point, large gangs of organized looters reportedly descending on darkened neighborhoods all over the hard-hit areas, no gas, no food, no heat or water, and a very large entitlement mentality amongst all the players. It’s only going to get worse this weekend as a stricken New York City, under the control of people who don’t have to live in the dark or dumpster dive for their food, diverts precious recovery assets to putting on a gigantic marathon.
It's a powder keg, and when you throw in the results of a very contentious presidential race the possibilities are downright frightening.
We could see riots that make the 1992 Los Angeles event look like a birthday party. Given the disaffection I've seen all over this country, it's not a stretch to believe that they could spread across the nation. It's not predictable, but if it happens it should not come as a surprise.
As I told someone yesterday, next week will be very interesting - in the (purported) Chinese sense of the word. Don't let yourself be caught off guard.
-=[ Grant ]=-
The storm that hit the NE part of our country was more devastating than I expected - and I expected it to be severe. The original projected pressure of 939mb turned out to be very close to the actual 940mb recorded - the lowest ever for the eastern seaboard. When I saw that forecast pressure a week ago I knew it was going to be very bad, but even I was shocked at what eventually transpired. My thoughts are with our countrymen at this hour.
Watching the news from the area I was struck by a reporter's comment: she saw hordes of people wandering the streets looking for food. They didn't show any video, but I can imagine in an area where seven million homes and businesses are without power (and not expected to get power restored for many days yet) there would be a lot of scavengers. It becomes a survival tool. I can't, however, think of anything I'd want to do less than roam the streets looking for scraps and warmth.
That's why we prepare. Everyone reading this faces dangers simply by virtue of living, and while the ways in which we each prepare might be different the goal is the same: survive the event so that we can bring ourselves and our communities back to something resembling normal. Sometimes, though, in our preparations we forget the little things that turn out to be bigger than we expected.
After my Monday post about prepping I got an email from a reader who related the story of a friend of his. Seems this lady turned her hall closet into a canned goods pantry, which was probably a good idea given that she lives in hurricane country. The next hurricane wiped out her electrical service for a few days, but this time she was ready! Well, except for a little problem: seems she didn't have anything other than an electric can opener, which of course was inoperative. All her food was locked in those pesky metal cylinders!
Now you or I may have used a knife to gouge open the cans, but that didn't occur to her. Yes, adaptation and flexibility are important aspects of being prepared but there is a more important point in this tale: if you make decisions about your preparations, you need to think through all of the ramifications of those decisions. Simply investing a buck or two in a couple of hand-operated can openers was all she really needed, but didn't think of doing.
I was struck by this same problem watching the news footage from the East Coast prior to landfall. In one scene a gas station was being mobbed by people filling up their gas cans in advance of the power outages. Most of them had a couple of tiny 1-gallon plastic cans; how long would that stash run their generators? A couple of hours, if they're lucky. Then they're right back where they started simply because they didn't think their plans through. Generators need fuel, and you have to think in terms of hours of power. How many hours might you expect to be without power and how many gallons will the generator use per hour (or vice-versa) will tell you how many gallons of fuel you need. It's more than you might think.
So you've got a generator and plenty of fuel? Great! How do you plan to get that power where you need it? Most people have extension cords, but they're typically too short and almost always of too small a gauge to be safe. The generator by necessity sits outdoors, and the run of extension cord into the house is also by necessity long. The longer the run of wire, the greater the diameter of that wire must be. If you're going to use extension cords with a generator you need the heaviest gauge your can get for both safety and usability. (I'm partial to these, which are both tough and easy to handle, because they stay flexible in the cold.)
Better yet is to have your electrician wire in a cutover panel and a special outlet into which you plug your generator. He can also wire up the super-heavy-duty cable you'll need to feed the output from your generator into the panel.
You do know that your generator, unless it's quite large, is unable to power your electric oven and range, right? In fact, depending on the size of the generator it may not even be able to run your refrigerator, lights, and microwave at the same time. How are you going to cook your cache of canned food?
How about a good, old-fashioned suitcase-type Coleman stove! Cheap, easy to use, safe, and if you get the propane type the fuel is readily available and stores for years. (Do you have a way to light the Coleman stove? How about one of the long spark-type igniters that you can find for a few dollars in the camping department of any outdoor store? Get several.)
Think through all your preparations; look for the weak points. Remember that just because you have a piece of equipment that works under a specific set of circumstances doesn't mean that you can ignore the support equipment necessary to utilize it properly. Sometimes, like our lady with the can opener, it means analyzing every single step of the problem and actively questioning your assumptions. Looked at in the proper frame of mind it might even be entertaining!
OK, maybe not entertaining…but you get the point!
-=[ Grant ]=-
As I write this the storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the East Coast. The remnants of Sandy are merging with a winter storm, sucking frigid air from Canada, and coalescing to form what's being called a "superstorm". The forecast is for extremely high winds, double-digit inches of rain, feet of wet and heavy snow in the mountains, and water level rises as much as 11 feet in some of the bays in the region. Current predictions say that many millions may be without power for an extended period of time - days, certainly, perhaps weeks in some areas.
This storm isn't just powerful, it's huge. Looking at the maps of predicted impact reveals possible tropical-storm force winds as far west as the Mississippi River, and from South Carolina up through Maine. A blocking high pressure region to the northeast means that the storm will stick around for at least a couple of days, perhaps through Wednesday. If you live east of the Big Muddy and north of Florida your weather for the next week is likely to be dominated by this event.
Given the incredible, almost unprecedented scope of the storm some people are very likely to die. It’s a sad thing to contemplate. For my friends, family, clients and readers in the impact zone I hope that you ride out this event as safely (and calmly) as possible. Please don't take risks, and make sure your families are as safe as you can make them.
I realize this is an emerging story but I think it's important to use it as a springboard to talk about the larger context of personal safety. I run into a lot of people who spend large sums of money on guns and ammo, but very little on other things that will keep them safe. I know folks who have very impressive gun collections but no generator and only a day or two of food. Yes, you might need those guns to keep yourself safe from the looters who scurry in after any major natural disaster - but you have to survive the disaster to even begin to be worried about the looters!
Personal safety isn't just about handling bad guys; it also means keeping yourself safe from auto accidents, burns, disease, diabetes, strokes, electrocution, and all the other things that can maim or kill you. I know it's hard to keep perspective because guns are shiny and shooting them is a whole lot of fun, but if you're serious about your safety and survival you need more.
The trouble is that no one has unlimited time, money, or energy to do everything. Even if you're in the top 1% of wage earners in this country your resources are finite. Preparing for an emergency, be it criminal or meteorological, requires managing those scarce resources to provide the best return for the most likely circumstances.
Instead of signing up for yet another Ultra-Advanced Warrior Operator Level 3 Ninja Team Houseclearing course (Walter Mitty, Instructor), how about using that money to buy a generator or take a class in trauma care or outfit a pantry with shelves and stock them with food? Needing one (or more) of those is probably just a tad more likely than having to clear an office tower of 'tangos'.
It's really easy to get caught up in the fun of Barbie-dressing yet another AR-15 while ignoring the fact that you have no trauma kit (and no training in how to use it.) In the final analysis a lever action rifle and a month’s worth of stored food beats the crap out of the latest red-dot equipped flattop AR and an empty refrigerator.
This week is going to be very bad for a very large number of people. If you're one of them, my thoughts are with you. For the rest of us this should serve as an object lesson in preparedness. Remember: preparing is all about managing scarcity. Do so wisely.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Friday, March 11, 2011 Filed in: Friday Surprise!
I've been a little peeved this week at the news outlets. While the Middle East is destabilizing and governments here at home experience financial and leadership deficits, the main story for many 'journalists' has been of the most shallow nature: the mental and emotional short-circuiting of a two-bit Hollywood denizen whose initials are 'C.S.'
In light of the incredible earthquake in Japan last night, the distraction that the Friday Surprise exists to provide seems a tad shallow as well. Today, I'd like to instead remind everyone that it's not always all about the gun.
Sometimes, it's about the first aid kit.
Sometimes, it's about the shortwave radio.
Sometimes, it's about the camp stove.
Sometimes, it's about the water purifier.
Sometimes, it's about the emergency generator.
Sometimes, it's about the stored food.
Sometimes, it's about the solar battery charger.
I know that your neighbors laugh at these things; heck, there are probably more than a few readers of this blog who laugh at such things. To those people I simply ask: if that happened here, would you still be laughing?
-=[ Grant ]=-