Saturday, May 7, 2011

We Are NOT Ready!

There are some things you don't forget. The feelings I, a young soldier stationed on the East German border, had when placed on alert after the November 22, 1963 JFK assassination; the feelings I had January 28, 1986 when I walked in the door to our store #1 and saw the look on my wife's face as she watched on TV as space shuttle Challenger disintegrated in mid air; and the feelings I had on September 11, 2001 as my wife and I watched together, on live TV, as terrorists crashed the second hijacked airliner into the south tower. I thought to myself "This is this generation's Pearl Harbor." Osama Bin Laden here's your first batch of virgins; the rest will be along as soon as they finish loading.

You remember where you were when you heard about the 9/11 attacks. You may also remember the attacks had an immediate and overwhelming effect on the U.S. population. (My wife placed American flag stickers on the gateposts in front of our house – they're still there.) At the store we sold out of American flags, all sizes, in an hour and couldn't get any more for months.

Of course the Internet went ballistic. I recall reading posts by guys warning us all to carry our battle rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammo in our vehicles. Others were talking about carrying rifles, pistols and shotguns with us at all times. (I'll admit to throwing an extra spare ammo magazine pouch on my pistol belt for a few months.) People were calling the cops on "suspicious" men carrying cameras seen near "important" buildings and bridges.

The military locked down its bases as police and military tried to increase security everywhere at once. Of course, you can't guard everything all the time.

Our local Army base went from an "open" to a closed base almost overnight. Temporary concrete barriers were set up channeling traffic into checkpoints. I knew a large local fence contractor who ran crews seven days a week for over a month to get the base surrounded with razor ribbon topped galvanized chain link.

The local Veterans Hospital must have gotten their order in late because the barriers they set up were Jersey barriers and it would seem doctors don't know how to do security. The main entrance to the twelve story hospital was set up with the water filled plastic barriers down the centerline leading up to the checkpoint. Once drivers got past that first plastic barrier they were forced to drive up to the checkpoint.

Problem, if a terrorist driving a bomb laden truck chose to steer to the left of that first plastic barrier and drive about 100 feet going the wrong way on the wrong side of the road he could bypass the checkpoint and drive into the parking lot and thence right up to the hospital's main entrance.

But of course we all know a terrorist wouldn't want to violate a traffic law on his way to commit mass murder.

Fearing truck bomb attacks like those at Oklahoma City and Khobar Towers authorities tried to put up barriers at all potential targets. Of course there weren’t enough barriers to go around.

The situation at the local National Guard armory was almost comical. Like the VA hospital they were worried about a truck bomb, but didn't have the pull to get a hold of the then scarce barriers so a single orange traffic cone was placed in each of the parking spaces next to the building. Of course we all know that terrorists won't risk getting a parking ticket to blow up a building.

That armory lies along one of my regular walking routes. The armory's motor pool contains 16 M119 howitzers plus the normal assortment of Army Humvees, trucks and trailers.

Near the back gate of the fence around the motor pool, there has been a hole in big enough for a skinny man to crawl through for as long as I've been walking there (over a year). I've told a sergeant and a major about the hole. It's still there.

With the killing of Osama Bin Laden it was announced that security levels were raised all over the USA. I don't know about the rest of the country, but locally things didn't improve much.

I had occasion to go to the VA hospital the day after the announcement of Osama's death. The only improvement in security that I could see was a sturdy pole on a pivot which would have stopped a bomb laden truck, unless, of course, the terrorist was willing to drive over the surrounding grass lawn to get around it.

The Armory has upgraded its anti terrorist defenses too. There's now yellow "Police Line Do Not Cross" tape strung between the orange traffic cones in the parking places.

Immediately after 9/11 real off duty cops had been hired to guard the local airport. Mostly they just walked over and told you not to stop next to the building while waiting to pick someone up. (Question; once you're next to the building, how long does it take to set off a bomb?)

Airport security has long since degraded as administrators sought to reduce costs. Now it's unarmed rent-a-cops. As of last Monday night, local news quotes an airport administrator as saying: "no upgrade of airport security is contemplated at this time".

Hopefully by the time you click on this link to the United States Army Public Health Command (Provisional) page on Emergency Preparedness & Response the links to
Biological Emergency, Chemical Emergency, Explosion Emergency and Nuclear Emergency will have something to say other than "Web content on this subject is currently in development, please return soon!"

It will take a few more bombings and the loss of hundreds of lives before our leaders get serious about Homeland security. When they do they'd do well to look to Israel for some tips from the pros.

Superfluous Survival Tip of the Week:

(A friend of mine, Dan, recently passed on to me a pack of "Urban Survival Playing Cards" each of which has a survival tip printed on the face. Dan's generous gift has inspired me to start this Survival Tip of the Week feature which will continue for at least 52 weeks. Thanks, Dan! I don't want to plagiarize the cards so I'm using the subjects from each card as a jumping off point for my own tips with my own research. I have an advantage over the cards in that each card tip is restricted to the space available on the face of that card whereas I can ramble on for pages as I seem to be doing here.;-)

Emergency water from your water heater:
1. Turn off the water to the entire house.
2. Turn off the (gas/electric) heating element.
3. The lower outlet drain valve will probably accept a screw on garden hose. If you cut the hose, be sure to cut it long enough to raise the cut end up higher than the top of the water heater in case the heater's valve won't close properly.
4. If you don't have or don't want to use a hose be sure to have all your water containers on hand when you first open the valve so you won't loose precious water if the valve won't close.
5. Open the pressure relief valve near the top of the heater.
6. Open the drain (lower) valve. You may be able to control the flow of water from the heater with the pressure relief valve.
7. Close the lower valve (or raise the hose end) when you're done.
8. Be sure to close/reset all valves before turning water on to the house after the emergency. You may want to call a plumber.

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