Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Will the Gangs Do?

I recently watched a story on the local news about four gang members arrested in an undercover sting trying to trade guns for drugs. Then the question occurred to me; "What will the gangs do after TEOTWAWKI? Then I had a disturbing thought.

Many years ago (before the term "Political Correctness" was coined) I read a post TEOTWAWKI Science Fiction story wherein the AmerIndians had recovered from a TEOTWAWKI disaster faster than the "whites" because of their tight knit communities and adherence to heritage. With command and control already in place the AmerIndian chiefs were able to organize a recovery much more quickly than the surviving "palefaces" were. The second generation whites were the ones who couldn't hold their lacquer and so on.

At this point it would be helpful to remind readers of the main difference between a WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) event and TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) event.

In a WTSHTF event federal, state and local governments survive and eventually restore order. That is to say law & order, infrastructure and commerce.

With TEOTWAWKI established governments don't survive and new governments must eventually be carved from the chaos.

Looting and other opportunistic crimes common in the temporary turmoil following a WTSHTF event are committed with a guilty glance over shoulder as everyone awaits the return of governmental control in the form of police and National Guard troops.

Once survivors become aware that the troops aren't coming (TEOTWAWKI) the gloves come off as survivors realize they won't be held accountable for their actions.

Such a situation exists now in many parts of Mexico.

When the Mexican military started using aircraft to find drug cartel camps in the wilderness the cartels began hiding in established structures i.e. ranches and small villages. Today along the Mexican American border Mexican cartels are demanding entire towns evacuate so the cartels can hide their illicit activities in the buildings thus conducting their drug business out of the view of airborne surveillance.

The following is an account of what happened when one Mexican man chose to resist such a takeover of his isolated ranch.

The story began in the morning of Saturday November 13, [2010] when a group of armed gunmen went to deliver an ultimatum to Don Alejo Garza Tamez: He had 24 hours to turn over his property or suffer the consequences.

Instead of packing his belongings and fleeing Don Alejo loaded his weapons placing them (and ammunition for them) at every door and window of his home. The "hunting rifles" referenced in the link below is a rather broad description of his armament. It could include semi autos as well as bolt action rifles and even single shots. Although not "rifles" I'm sure shotguns and pistols were included in the mix too.

[The next day] The trucks entered the ranch and took up positions surrounding the house. The gunmen got out of their trucks, fired shots in the air, and announced they came to take possession of the ranch. They were expecting the terrified occupants to run out, begging for mercy with their hands in the air.

But things didn't go as expected. Don Alejo welcomed them with bullets; the entire army of gunmen returned fire. Don Alejo seemed to multiply, he seemed to be everywhere. The minutes would have seemed endless to those who had seen him as easy prey. Various gunmen were killed on sight. The others, in rage and frustration, intensified the attack by swapping out their assault rifles for grenades.

When everything finally fell silent, the air was left heavy with gunpowder. The holes left in the walls and the windows attested to the violence of the attack. When they went in search of what they had assumed was a large contingent, they were surprised to find only one man, Don Alejo.

The surviving gunmen did not take over the ranch. [In fact they were so shell-shocked they fled without even stealing Don Alejo's guns.] Thinking the military would arrive at any moment, they decided to run. They left behind what they thought were six corpses, but two of their gunmen had survived.

The Last Stand of Don Alejo

The street gangs you see on the nightly news aren't going away after TEOTWAWKI. Indeed they are armed and they already have a command structure in place. More to the point, today's controlling factor in their existence (the police, jails & court system) will be gone.

The weapons and modus operandi of the cartels (automatic weapons and hand grenades bought or stolen from the Mexican military) are known and we can expect our own street gangs to try mightily to acquire similar armament as post TEOTWAWKI time goes by.

Reading ancient history we see intimidation used by barbarians to entice walled cities to surrender without a fight in an attempt to reduce causalities among the attackers. Of course once the city surrendered the ill-mannered barbarians often forgot their promises of safe passage and ravaged the city's now defenseless inhabitants anyway.

A post TEOTWAWKI situation could rapidly deteriorate into something similar to ancient times when bands of barbarians roamed about seeking food and plunder.

So... what'er ya' gunn'a do to prepare to defend your Bug Out Location (BOL) from gangs after TEOTWAWKI?

First, bars on all windows & bared gates, with double dead bolt locks, on all doors. (And, yes, those will help keep you safe in a WTSHTF scenario too. Come to think of it they'll keep burglars out in normal times as well.)

Second, chain link fence shutters on all doors & windows will keep out hand grenades while still while still allowing those inside to view shoot through at attackers. (OK so you probably wouldn't want to do this to your home right now.)

Next you can plant cactus gardens, if you live down south or rose bushes if you live up north, in front of all windows and on both sides of all doors. (This is a passive defense that'll discourage burglars from breaking in through windows and channel people knocking on your door out where you can see them.)

Oh, and did I mention the anti ramming 10 inch concrete filled iron pipes set four feet into the ground and extending four feet above it on either side of doors? OK, that's a bit much for home defense in normal times, but strategically placed ornamental rock walls would do as well.

When I posted a version of the above on a TEOTWAWKI board I frequent I received this well thought out response:

"You're going to need more than well prepared defenses. You're going to need backup, reserves, and cover. You're going to need other defenders. You're going to need a community."
-- HaltCatchFire

There were obviously enough weapons to arm a squad of defenders. However, Don Alejo Garza Tamez had chosen to fight alone. Was it because he didn't want to endanger his friends & workers?

Or maybe he knew they'd be too scared to fight?

In any case only rich friends would likely know how to aim and shoot guns because in Mexico only the rich, the military/police & crooks have guns.

Here in the USA it wouldn't be all that hard to put together a pickup squad of experienced shooters -- not so much so in Mexico.

In this case the gangs are looking for places to hide out of the view of airborne Mexican military. After TEOTWAWKI they'd be looking for the next store of food to plunder before moving on to another ranch.

HaltCatchFire is right. A viable post TEOTWAWKI community would look very much like frontier America with clusters of farms around a fort much like in medieval times. I don't expect to see castles, but rather fortified towns which surrounding farmers could flee to in times of crisis. Reading actual accounts of frontier battles would, very likely, provide a guide to the strategies and tactics (updated to account for modern weapons) that would evolve.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CERT Community Emergency Response Teams

I'm putting aside two articles I've been working on (one on water that a friend suggested and another on the similarities between hunting and combat) to give you this report while the experience is still fresh in my mind.

I recently graduated from a Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) class. CERT classes train people in "… basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations."

At first I was rather skeptical of the program, however having completed the class I can see where the training could come in handy in large scale disaster situations like the Northridge earthquake, Hurricane Katrina or the Great Chicago Fire.

In spite their size, all of the above were WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) situations and not TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) situations because state and federal governments survived and, despite widespread destruction, help was (eventually) on the way.

The concept behind CERT is to create a cadre of trained civilians that can be of great aid to local first responders in the critical hours immediately after a disaster. Until outside professional help arrives it goes without saying that local fire, police & medical personnel (and equipment) will be woefully inadequate to deal with such situations. With terrorists trying to double down on 911* it would seem to be prudent for us to be prepared.

So what's CERT got to do with your personal survival plans? Just this:

CERT volunteers are taught triage and to "do the greatest good for the greatest number" which means if you or a loved one needs Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to survive you're not likely to receive it from a CERT volunteer – they are taught to move on and save others rather than invest even half an hour saving just one life. CERT volunteers aren't even taught CPR (although they are encouraged to take the Red Cross first aid classes which teach CPR among other things).

Another example of this policy, taken from the class, is their position on remaining with a victim who needs to be held in the Head-Tilt/Chin-Lift position (page 3.4).

As you may know there is a tendency for the tongue to fall back into the throat of unconscious people blocking the airway. The first aid for that is the "Head-Tilt/Chin-Lift" which we were taught. However, the instructors stated that if the victim reverted to the tongue in throat state we were not to stay with them holding them in position to breathe.

When I suggested placing something under the back of the victim's head/neck to hold them in the Head-Tilt/Chin-Lift position I was told doing so might irreparably damage the victim's spine if s/he had a broken neck. Since doing nothing guarantees death to the victim and the Head-Tilt/Chin-Lift method has already moved the spine I think I'd take the chance rather than walk off and let someone die.

But this gets back to CERT's primary goal which is to "do the most good for the most people" reminding me that to the government you & I are not a people, but statistics.
[End Addendum]

You may have noted the term "light search and rescue" in the second paragraph.

We were repeatedly told of the "100 rescuers who died trying to save others" in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. We were told over and over again that our safety came first. (Unspoken translation: becoming a casualty while trying to save someone else merely creates two casualties.) Although we were taught the correct (safe) way to raise heavy objects off of a victim we were not given any equipment to do it so we'll have to improvise in the event of a real disaster.

We were also taught light fire fighting i.e. with dry chemical fire extinguishers, but given that the "firing" time of these fire extinguishers is measured in seconds and they are few and far between I doubt that many CERT volunteers will be in the right place at the right time (before the fire gets too big) to squelch many incipient fires. But each CERT volunteer did get a chance to practice sweeping the extinguisher's chemical plume across the base of a small fire in a half barrel putting out the fire and building confidence.

But we were issued some equipment. A wrench for turning off natural gas lines going into houses and buildings (In my opinion one of the more useful things CERT volunteers will be able to do in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.), a role of duct tape, a pair of leather work gloves, a flashlight with batteries, a tiny first aid kit, a green hard hat, a good quality green backpack and a cheap green vest with reflective stripes. Oh, and since this is a government operation, about a pound of manuals, guides, lists and assorted forms.

So, what can you, as a survivor, expect from CERT volunteers in the minutes, hours and possibly even days after a major disaster like the Galveston hurricane?

CERT volunteers are told to first check the safety of their own homes and families before rallying. If not called up, via phone, CERT volunteers may "self activate" if phone lines are down. In either case teams (minimum two members) are formed and set out to assess the situation.

The way it is supposed to work is:

Search & Rescue teams are taught to do a "sizeup" before they enter a building and to enter only "safe" buildings. The criteria for "safe" buildings is ridiculous: a building with a few shingles blown off the roof is safe to go into, but a building with a wall or part of a wall gone is deemed too dangerous to enter despite the fact that the changes are there will be more casualties in the latter than the former.) Once walking wounded and those who can be safely moved are outside the S&R team moves on to the next building.

If someone is trapped inside a "Cribbing team" will go in and attempt to lever heavy objects (walls or whatever) off of the victim. A "crib" (in training) is alternating layers of four by fours put in repeating alternating tic-tac-toe patterns to form a stable support under the object until it is lifted high enough to pull the victim out from underneath. Then the victim is taken outside with the other evacuees to await further assistance as the cribbing team goes on to help the next victim.

Medical teams are trained to bandage wounds, improvise splints & transport the wounded to makeshift collection points where they will presumably be when the EMT's, military medics and ambulances arrive.

At our graduation exercise (final exam) I noted some problems. Namely in an emergency people don't want to wait for their team to be called into action. It was hard to keep people in inactive teams from wandering off to help teams that were actually doing something. The problem there is that if they wander off there's no team (or a reduced team) available when the Incident Commander calls on the team for a mission.

And yes CERT does have Incident Commanders, chains of command and paperwork; it is, after all a government entity. CERT's main purpose, it seems to me, is to start turning chaos into order. By collecting casualties, marking searched buildings and clearing ruble the CERT teams make it that much easier for the Red Cross, National Guard and LEO's (Law Enforcement Officers) to get right to work when they arrive on the scene.

But again, what's all that to you?

Since these are WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) situations and not TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) situations you'll probably be doing pretty much what the CERT people will be doing: checking your family for injuries, checking your home for damage then checking neighbors and the neighborhood for the same things.

Where appropriate you'd be shutting off gas lines leading into damaged buildings, fighting fires (garden hoses might be more useful than fire extinguishers), clearing ruble and setting up or staffing a neighborhood emergency center. The biggest difference between you and the CERT volunteers would be the green hard hat and vest.

Oh, and the CERT people might have a bit more pull with LEO's and other disaster officials when it comes to allocating resources.

Bottom Line

You don't want to be too dependent on CERT in the aftermath of something like the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake because, as outlined above, CERT volunteers aren't nearly as interested in saving you and yours as you are.

If your house collapses around you sure, CERT and the Red Cross shelter start looking pretty good, but odds are you'll be among that very large percentage (Did you notice that most people in the areas of the disasters cited did not suffer direct damage or injuries from the events?) of residents whose homes and health aren't affected.

That's a pretty good case for stocking up with 72 hours worth of food & water for your family like the civil defense people recommend.

But being a Prepper/survivor you'll probably want to at least double the recommended food & water and actually go down to Radio Shack and buy a battery/hand-crank powered radio instead of just planning to do it someday.

Also, if you need medicines (that's what they used to call "medications") It'd probably be a good idea to keep at least a weeks worth on hand.

In my opinion CERT would not be appropriate for events like the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak (CERT volunteers wandering around neighborhoods would likely do more to spread disease than alleviate problems.)


*A persuasive argument can be made that the terrorists have already won in that for the thousands of dollars it cost to train a few fanatics they've forced us to spend billions of dollars defending against box cutters, explosive shoes & guncotton underwear.

Despite the fact that virtually all of these attacks have been carried out by young Moslem males from certain countries (or who go to certain countries for training) Political Correctness dictates that we treat millions commercial civilian aircraft passengers like murder suspects in order to avoid being accused of profiling.

To Hell With That, Let's PROFILE!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Can You Trust THE MAN?

Recently on one of the Survival Boards I frequent a new poster (let's call him Juan) asked whether we "peons" would be able to trust the man in a time of "chaos". First off let's define "chaos" for the purposes of this discussion.

There are three types of "chaos" we're talking about here:

1. Short term local disaster such as an earthquake, forest fire or very large explosion perhaps involving toxic materials and maybe involving evacuation.

2. Medium term regional disaster in which the infrastructure is overwhelmed such as occurred with Hurricane Katrina.

3. Long term True TEOTWAWKI such as continental or world wide disaster as would occur during and after WWIII, a world wide famine or a sudden and drastic reduction in the world's oil supply. (See the DVD or read The Death of Grass if you can find a copy.)

Juan wrote:
I have current and former cops as neighbors in semi-rural subdivision. The one is avid hunter and outdoorsman type but works for sheriff of major metro area. He's a good neighbor and lend us other a hand from time to time, but I've been trying to suss him out as to which side he is on, as it were. I mean, when the fit hits the shan is he going to do his master's bidding or is he gonna side with the peon?

First off I'd take issue with your basic assumption i.e. that your "peon" goals will be all that different from the goals of your local government. When you stop and think about it you and "THE MAN" pretty much share the same goals (e.g. safety/stability/order & protection). As long as federal, state & local governments exist I expect you'll be looking to them for help and protection.

In a type one chaos your sheriff neighbor will be in near constant contact with his supervisors and can be expected to perform his duties as he was trained to do because outside help is on the way!

Previously, he mentioned something about if it hits the fan come on over b/c "I'll have us covered", implying he has some type of bunker and/or provisions to weather the chaos. Sounds good, and since he carries and uses his gun in his line of work, I assume he knows what he's doing.

In a type two chaos your sheriff neighbor will often be on his own without supervision, but with the sure and certain knowledge that order will be restored and he will eventually be held accountable for his actions. He can be expected to perform his duties but with some leeway because outside help is on the way, but will be delayed!

Regarding his apparently casual offer to you: How much of his food & water do you think he'll be willing to share with you over an extended period of time? 50%? 20%? "The Lord helps them what helps themselves" as some Hillbilly once put it. Would you accept his invitation to dinner and not show up with a bottle of wine, a dessert or something? Bringing a goodly supply your own foodstuffs and an offer to help with security would likely encourage a heartier welcome.

Basically, how do you know if you can really trust someone who is hooked into the system, like the police, sheriff, etc.? Maybe I should just right out and ask him point blank? Any thoughts?

In a long term, type three, scenario the situation changes dramatically, but it will take a while for the realization to set in. Different people with access to information at different levels will come to the conclusion that the government ISN'T coming to reestablish law & order in different timeframes.

The general public (you) will still be hearing "public service announcements" about boiling water and remaining calm while your sheriff neighbor may well be hearing a different story at headquarters; a good reason to stay in contact with him during a crisis.

However, up until he realizes (emotionally and intellectually) that his paycheck and pension went up in smoke along with the government you'll probably not hear him say anything that would jeopardize the aforementioned rice bowls.

At the point of TEOTWAWKI epiphany when THE Sheriff realizes he and his men are the only government he may decide to form his own fiefdom using the former public servant deputy sheriffs as soldiers – think Sheriff of Nottingham.

As the realization that orders, support & money will no longer be coming from on high people will begin to realize that FLU23B* no longer includes repercussions from higher authorities.

*Every organism from the lowly ameba to the smartest human does that which it perceives to be in its own best interest.
-- Desert Dave -- (Quotation, with attribution, permitted and encouraged.)

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Perils of Pauline

Recently an Internet female friend posted a query on a discussion board I frequent. Obviously she'd solved the problem or she wouldn't have been posting. She was just asking for our responses to the situation.

After giving us the basic information she promised to come back and tell us what she'd done after we'd all responded. Here's what happened and my response:

As I was driving along that afternoon, I passed a small car and noticed that the man inside it was staring fixedly at me, rather than at the road. (Hard to miss -- the car, the man, and the decorations were all... unusual.)

I took about 1.5 seconds to glance over at him before continuing to drive. I'd been going abouy 70 to this car's 60, so expected to just continue to pull ahead. Instead, the car sped up and kept pace with me. The man pulled up next to me again and continued staring, then backed off and followed me.

OK, we've got a guy who obviously wants to be noticed. ("he had a giant cowboy hat with feathers, drove a rather decrepit sports car in a bright color, wore sunglasses on a day too cloudy to need them, and had incredibly wild hair and beard.") And who may have taken umbrage at your passing him. Or he may have some other problem.

Option #2 the whacko picked a lone female for some "fun and games" on the highway where no one else was around.

The first thing to remember is that as long as you are in your moving car no one can grab you or pull you out of it so NEVER let them get you stopped! If he gets in front and cuts you off, then starts slowing down trying to stop you remember that reverse is also moving.

As long as you're in your car and it's moving he can't get out of his car to get to you. Never forget as long as you are behind the wheel you are in control of a multi-thousand pound weapon!

Second. Even on remote stretches of highway there's usually some traffic. Find another car and buddy up by getting in FORNT of your new found friend and going fast enough where s/he won't want to pass you. Drivers feel they own the road for a certain distance in front of their car, stay just ahead of that comfort zone. The stranger will have no interest in what's going on between you and Mr. Weirdo, but s/he's a potential witness and the mere presence of witnesses can dissuade reprobates.

Another way to gather witnesses is to pull alongside an 18 wheeler and stay there. Trucks, particularly loaded ones, tend to be slower than "four wheeler" traffic. By driving alongside of a trucker you'll create a backlog of witnesses around Mr. Weirdo.

Third, start looking for cops. Yeah, I know, there's never a cop around when you want one, but if you see one turn on your emergency flashers, honk your horn and stop him. It may take an illegal U-turn on the freeway to get to him but don't let the fear of getting a ticket cost you your life.

Be sure to use the official "Authorized Vehicles Only" crossover, this is no time to get stuck in a ditch.

If the cop is already stopped try to stop in front of his vehicle (cops don't like people pulling in behind them) and keep your hands in plain sight as you approach the patrol car.

"Just the facts, ma'am"
If you've ever watched Cops or any of the other cop shows on TV you know that the complainants waste valuable time explaining all sorts of nonessential details to the officer. Don't be that guy! The cop doesn't need nor want to know where you're going or why or how often you go there. If the cop wants any of that info s/he'll ask you for it.

If you've seen a gun TELL THE COP!

In short sentences explain why the guy with the feathered hat is creeping you out and what he's done so far. Then Obey the officer's instructions! S/he doesn't know you or your motives so you'll be treated as an idiot civilian who needs to be kept safe, but out of the way, until the cop can determine what's really going on.

Cops are all about control. With them controlling the situation ranks right up their with not getting shot. If you insist on exercising your right to free speech and expression look forward to spending some quality time in the back seat of a patrol car. Worse your interference (yes, that's what it is when you don't follow instructions) could distract the cop for critical seconds and get you both killed.

If you can't find a cop all is not lost. Are there construction workers? Pull up to the biggest group of the biggest hard hats you see. Pull all the way off the roadway, but not so far that you can't get back on by driving forward. After all none of the aforementioned people has a steak in your survival.

OK, let's say it's late and there's nobody on the road but you and Mr. Weirdo. What to do? Look for an open store or someplace with lots of people like an official Roadside Rest Area. Don't get out of your car unless there are lots of people there. The nice thing about Rest Stops is that they are built for driving through. You can keep moving if you don't see something you like. Of course Truck Stops are great too.

The standard rules apply: Miscreants are after what they want to take from you, not attention from witnesses. Whether it's running, yelling and screaming, from a mugger in the grocery store parking lot or fleeing from a highwayman, drawing attention to yourself (with flashing emergency lights & honking horn) discourages degenerates.

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