Preparing For Hand Sanitizer-Resistant Infections

Recently, I was reminded about the importance of being able to self-support. Earlier this month, hundreds of passengers on two cruise ships, the Voyager of the Seas and the Crown Princess, contracted norovirus and experienced extreme “digestive system distress.”

This particular virus has a couple of interesting features. First, it has a dense outer membrane that is very resistant to alcohol in general and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in particular. No amount of alcohol-based hand sanitizer is going to kill it. You simply must remove it from your skin with an advanced hygiene technique called “soap and water.” Second, people who contract this particular virus normally remain contagious for two weeks after recovering.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see an increase in viruses like this over the next several years. Had this virus been engineered, I’d say the creator was an evil genius. In reality, viruses are simply rugged survivalists that embody the credo of “improvise, adapt and overcome.” It seems only natural that as people use hand sanitizer more and more in place of soap and water, virus mutations that are impervious to alcohol will emerge as the dominant strains.

This isn’t a criticism against alcohol-based hand sanitizers, only a clarion call that hand sanitizer may not always be the cure-all that it’s made out to be and that solid, fundamental hygiene skills should always remain a primary habit.

In fact, Medical News Today reported last August about a presentation at an American College of Preventative Medicine meeting on 161 long-term care facilities that either had a preference for alcohol-based hand cleaners or a preference for soap and water. The report showed that 53 percent of facilities that had a preference for alcohol-based cleaners had norovirus outbreaks as compared to only 18 percent of facilities that had a preference for soap and water.

To be fair, the statistical significance of this study is questionable because of the small sample size, the fact that the groups were segmented due to “preference” and the fact that we can’t know for sure that 100 percent of the outbreaks were accurately identified. Nonetheless, it does mesh with the biological reality that the norovirus isn’t as vulnerable to alcohol as other viruses and bacteria.

This story should also serve as a reminder that large groups of people in close proximity encourage the development, mutation and spread of disease. We’ve seen this with every major flu outbreak for the past 100 years. We see it in dorms, prisons and shelters. We’ve seen it with OWS. We saw it with the two cruise lines. We will see it in the future anytime people, particularly stressed people with weakened immune systems, are in close proximity for extended periods of time, such as in food lines, disaster shelters, etc.

Timing affects the severity of the flu virus each year. In parts of the country where the flu starts hitting critical mass right before Christmas break (and spring break and Thanksgiving to a lesser degree), the flu tends to peter out when kids break for these holidays. But in parts of the country where the flu hits critical mass outside of those holiday times, the close proximity of large numbers of children with questionable or undeveloped hygiene habits helps the flu to spread like wildfire.

What should you do? Here are three quick tips from

  • Get Vitamin D: Aim for 20 minutes of daily full-body (mostly) sun exposure. (Optimal Vitamin D levels can lower your chance of getting the flu by 80 percent.
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods.
  • Get enough rest (so you don’t need caffeine to function). Getting less than six hours of sleep each night increases your chance of contracting illness by as much as 300 percent.

I devote an entire section to this topic in the Urban Survival Course, but a few other quick tips are:

  •  Wash your hands often. Doing so will kill viruses, bacteria, etc. on your hands, and remove them from your hands.
  • To the extent that you can, avoid touching your face. If you have to touch your face, avoid touching your eyes and nose.
  • Use a paper towel to open the restroom door when leaving. Remember that 50 percent to 75 percent of people leave restrooms without washing their hands.
  • Consider using a saline nasal wash (with purified water) at least once a day to help physically remove viruses, bacteria, etc. from your sinuses. Read up on this technique before trying it, as there are some techniques that can spread infection in certain cases.
  • Limit your caffeine intake as much as possible so that you’ll be able to reach the deeper levels of sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours. That means that if you have 200 mg of coffee at noon, approximately 100 mg will still be in your system at 6 p.m. and 50 mg at midnight. Regardless of whether you think your body is immune to caffeine, it does negatively impact your sleep. Sleep is one of the primary tools the body uses to build and recharge the immune system. If you need lots of caffeine to function, it’s a warning sign of a sleep deficit. If you are able to go to sleep immediately after consuming caffeine, it’s most often an indication of exhaustion and/or a blood sugar issue, and the negative effect on deep sleep remains.

If you still want a portable hand cleaning solution, try Wet Ones. Their active ingredient, benzethonium chloride, is effective against norovirus.

More fundamentally, the stories from the cruise lines serve as a reminder of how important it is to be able to self-support after a disaster and to aggressively quarantine sick people if you find yourself in a crowded situation, such as multiple families joining together. It’s also a lesson to people doing large-scale disaster planning to look for post-disaster solutions that are distributed in nature and not centralized.

As an example, a church stocking supplies to be able to feed people after a disaster may want to consider having five, 10 or 20 smaller locations rather than one big centralized location. Distributing supplies is more expensive, requires more people and is less efficient, but it is also more stable and less likely to be wiped out by a single problem.

A Book Suggestion

I just finished a book that I’ve been telling friends that they have to buy called Harbinger. It is an absolute page-turner fiction novel that lays out the real-life parallels between the fall of Israel to the Assyrians as told in the book of Isaiah to 9/11, the 2008 crash and more. The book refers to the Bible throughout, so if that’s a problem for you, you’ve been advised. If, though, you’re like me and enjoy biblically based fiction, you are going to fly through this book in a couple of sittings.

What are your thoughts on the cruise line virus? Do you have any plans for this or future flu seasons in the event that it’s particularly widespread or particularly deadly? If you’re part of a church or group that is active in disaster planning, I’d love to hear whether your approach is centralized or distributed and why you came to the conclusions you did. Please share your thoughts and comments by commenting below:

God bless and stay safe,
–David Morris

Geocaching As An Introduction To Land Navigation And Orienteering

Survival and preparedness is serious business. The quality and quantity of survival skills that you have may very well mean the difference between living and dying after a catastrophe. From time to time, I like to share ideas for fun activities that you can do on your own or with other members of your family that have a “hidden” preparedness component. The way I see it, if you can have fun with your family while also learning skills that could save them or prevent them from experiencing unnecessary pain in the future, it’s a win-win situation.

Geocaching is an activity that fits into that category incredibly well, and it can be as much fun or as serious as you want it to be.

Geocaching is basically a global treasure hunting game that combines navigation, critical thinking, creative thinking, following directions and luck. People hide containers containing trinkets, called geocaches, and post clues on on how to find them using a GPS-enabled device. There are more than 1.6 million geochaches worldwide.

If you’re interested in learning land navigation or getting a family member interested, geocaching is a great way to get your toes wet and get exposure to some of the most basic elements.

An easy way to get started with geocaching if you have a handheld GPS is to go to, sign up for a free account, plug in a location near you where you’d like to hunt for a geocache, plug the coordinates into your GPS, and go hunting.

Alternatively, if you have a smart phone, you can download the app, which uses your phone’s GPS feature, and start hunting for nearby caches. This, of course, depends on your comfort level with enabling GPS on your phone and agreeing to share it with

Initially, pick easy caches that have been found recently and that look like they have good hints. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to start off with easy geocaches to build confidence and then switch to more challenging ones.

Once you get to the coordinates listed for the cache, you’ll learn a valuable lesson in navigation: +/-, otherwise known as accuracy, is a big deal when you’re looking for an exact location.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say that when the person who placed the cache originally placed it and recorded the location, their GPS was accurate to within 20 feet. When you go to find it, your GPS is telling you that it’s accurate to within 20 feet. That means that when you get to the exact coordinates listed on, you’ll be within 40 feet of the cache.  Depending on the location and the description/clues, a circle with a 40 foot radius can mean the cache will be very easy or very difficult to find.

When you find a geocache, it will usually range in size from a small pill bottle to an ammo can and be filled with trinkets, stickers and other stuff that you might get from a gumball machine. In geocaching culture, it’s customary to take something and replace it with one or more items of equal or greater value. The prize isn’t really what you take from the cache: It’s the thrill of the chase and finding the cache. The goodies are just for fun. It’s also customary to sign a log with your name or handle and the date that you found the cache. Personally, I rarely, if ever take anything from the cache unless I have my boys with me, but I do sign and date the log with whatever random handle I decide to go with at that moment.

Some caches are under rocks, under fake rocks, inside of fence posts, attached to the bottom of sculptures with magnets, inside the leg of a specific table at a restaurant, hanging in bushes, behind a loose brick/loose mortar, behind a book in a library, in a tree, etc. The locations are limited only by the creativity of the person placing the caches.

Another aspect about geocaching in populated areas is “muggles.” Muggles are non-geocachers. As a geocacher, one of your goals is to find the caches you’re looking for, open them and replace them without any muggles realizing what you’re doing. This is a fun spy-vs.-spy component that adds both an element of frustration and excitement to the process. Alternatively, you can just find the cache and forget about whether or not anyone sees what you’re doing.

As you get more into geocaching, you’ll learn some valuable lessons that you can apply in survival situations, including:

  1. The incredible variety of places to hide things in both urban and wilderness environments.
  2. The incredible variety of containers to use as caches.
  3. The benefits and limitations of GPS technology.
  4. Using GPS or map and compass navigation to find something other than a street address.
  5. The clandestine skill of retrieving and depositing “dead drops.”
  6. The ramifications of GPS and navigational accuracy.
  7. If you use a map and compass, the importance of current magnetic declination (magnetic north and true north are different in most places and the difference varies from location to location and changes over time). The north on your map and the north on your compass may differ by up to 10-20 degrees in the United States. You have to account for the difference when navigating.
  8. The importance of clear communication with navigational clues and the frustration of trying to interpret poorly written clues.
  9. Ideas for setting up your own caches, either for geocaching or for your own personal preparations.

Try geocaching this weekend, if not sooner. Two big hints:

  1. If you have a dedicated GPS, use it. The increased accuracy will make a huge difference.
  2. If you don’t have a smart phone, print or write out the coordinates, description and hints.

Do you have any experience with geocaching? Did you get introduced to caching through geocaching and move on to caching preparedness supplies? If so, please share your comments and experiences by commenting below.

–David Morris

You Should Consider Owning A Silencer (Suppressor)

Most firearms enthusiasts would agree that suppressed firearms are some of the most fun and most desirable firearms toys you can play with.

In addition to the cool factor that comes with seeing James Bond, Jason Bourne, special operations units and other action heroes use them throughout the years, they have a tremendous amount of practical value for firearms enthusiasts in general and preparedness-minded people in particular.

Just to dispel any preconceived ideas that you might have, the vast majority of the benefits of suppressed weapons can be enjoyed without having to endure a “Mad Max” scenario.

Before we get into the benefits of suppressed weapons, let me give you some quick background.

(For additional easy-to-digest information, I encourage you to go through the short course that Advanced Armament offers at (AAC Can University).  It takes five to 10 minutes to complete. When you finish, they send you a diploma granting you a “Bachelor of Silence” degree.

To begin with, a “silencer” doesn’t silence a weapon, it only suppresses the sound level of the firearm, which is why there has been a shift from calling them “silencers” to calling them “suppressors.” When a firearm discharges, particularly a semi-automatic firearm, there are several sources of noise:

  • The bolt/slide assembly going backwards, the spent round being extracted, and the next round being loaded.
  • The muzzle blast.
  • Bullets traveling faster than roughly 1,150 feet per second that break the sound barrier and cause a sonic boom.
  • The sound of the mechanical percussion that ignites the round.
  • The sound of the round hitting a target.

For the most part, suppressors suppress the sound of muzzle blasts and don’t affect the other four factors, but simply suppressing the muzzle blast can often mean the difference between needing to wear hearing protection to shoot and not needing to wear hearing protection.

Suppressors use the same noise suppression concept as automobile mufflers. In fact, they were developed at the same time and the words “silencer” and “muffler” are used interchangeably with both technologies in many parts of the world. Both allow the expansion of gases inside of a container rather than in the open air.

And just like there are several non-tactical benefits to using an automobile muffler, there are several non-tactical benefits to using a suppressor in addition to the tactical ones.

To begin with, it’s just polite. In England, New Zealand and several other “civilized” countries around the world that allow firearms of one type or another, people use silencers so that they can talk while shooting, hear after shooting, shoot while their friends and family sit and chat nearby, shoot near their pets without damaging their hearing, shoot without bothering the neighbors, and shoot at night without waking the neighbors and/or causing unnecessary calls to law enforcement.

With the benefit that suppressors have when shooting around animals, it would be ironic, but understandable if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals became a big proponent of the loosening of laws and expanded use of suppressors.

Expanding on that list, there are an increasing number of “suppressor only” firearms competitions where the non-competitors of all ages can comfortably have normal conversations without hearing protection just a few yards behind the line.

Many low-light training courses have had to be canceled in recent years because of neighbors complaining about the noise when they’re trying to relax for the evening or sleep. Suppressors are an obvious solution to this issue.

Also, nighttime is the best time to shoot one of America’s most costly animals: wild hogs. I said “shoot” instead of “hunt” because hogs are estimated to cause $200 to $800 in damage apiece per year and sows can deliver as many as 10 babies per year. As a result, hog control becomes a mix between hunting and eradication. What this means is that in addition to bothering the neighbors less when hunting with a suppressed weapon, it also can allow the shooter the opportunity to take more hogs per engagement. This is because the shooter will be able to see better and get back on target quicker and because the decrease in noise might allow for multiple shots before the herd scatters. Whether you can hunt hogs with a silencer depends on where you are. Eighteen States allow either varmint eradication and/or hunting with a silencer. In some States, you can use silencers, night vision and/or thermal vision. In Texas, you can even shoot hogs while hanging out of a helicopter.

Great Learning Tool

When you consider the fact that suppressors decrease sound levels, improve accuracy, reduce felt recoil and reduce muzzle flip, it quickly becomes evident that they are almost the perfect tool to use when introducing a new shooter to the sport — particularly young shooters and females who may be apprehensive of firearms in the first place.

They will be able to hear your range commands easier since they don’t have to wear ear protection. They won’t feel like they’re being yelled at since you will be able to use your normal voice. They won’t be as afraid of the blast and recoil as they might be. And the reduction of muzzle flip leads to a significant reduction in anticipatory flinch. (This is when you “push” the barrel down in anticipation of the round going off to try to counteract recoil. It is one of the most, if not the most common problem that shooters of all skill levels have.)

In a non-tactical survival situation, hunting with a suppressor also has the benefit of considerably shortening the radius within which other people could direction find you based on the report of your shot.

Tactical Considerations

Even though tactical benefits won’t be nearly as useful to most people, there are some notable ones that I want to share with you.

  • If you’re on a tactical team where everyone is using suppressed weapons, it will be very easy to differentiate friend from foe.
  • If you’re not an audio blocker (some people’s ears mysteriously compensate for explosions and firearms noises in high stress situations — a phenomenon covered in David Grossman’s book On Combat), your hearing will probably be shot pretty quickly after you fire your first shot and you won’t be able to communicate as effectively with your team. If you and your teammates use suppressors, then at least your weapons won’t blow your hearing, even though your opponents’ weapons may.
  • With most normal powder loads, suppressors contain most of the muzzle flash and allow shooters to maintain their night vision longer than with unsuppressed weapons.
  • Suppressors can significantly increase muzzle velocity and terminal ballistics of a short barreled rifle.
  • Suppressed light and noise and the alteration of the frequency of the muzzle blast make direction finding much more difficult than with non-suppressed weapons.
  • Some SWAT teams keep suppressed .22s on hand for shooting out lights during high risk raids. Since everything that goes up must come down and since they are responsible for every round that leaves their weapons, this is not incredibly common.

Who Can Own A Silencer?

If you’re a legal U.S. resident aged 21 or older, a non-felon, and live in Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia or Wyoming, you can own a silencer. You just have to buy it from a firearms dealer who has a Class III license and pay a $200 tax for each suppressor. Right now, the wait is about six months for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to approve your application.

If you don’t live in one of these States, you can still buy sub-caliber inserts. See the editor’s note.

As a note, firearms dealers are required to have a Class III license to sell silencers.  Silencers are technically called “Title II” items. Another way of saying it is that a dealer has to have a Class III license to sell Title II items. More on Title II items in a few paragraphs.

In other countries where suppressors are legal, they are generally less expensive and easier to obtain.

Unfortunately, in addition to making it unnecessarily cumbersome for law abiding citizens to legally obtain a silencer, it’s also very easy to mess up once you own one.

Technically, if you buy a silencer in your name, you are the only person who can use it or have access to or control of it without committing a felony. That means that if you own a safe and keep your suppressors in your safe, nobody — including your spouse — can have the combination.

If you’re at the range, you can’t legally let anyone else fire your suppressed weapon or handle your suppressor.

This can be interpreted to apply to both civilians and law enforcement and is an especially big tripping point for law enforcement who personally own short barreled rifles or suppressors and who think that the law doesn’t apply to them and their families.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: the National Firearms Act Gun Trust. A properly done NFA Gun Trust will allow you to bypass some of the more onerous aspects of the process to buying and using a suppressor. If you’re going to have any suppressors or other NFA Title II items (fully automatic weapons, short barreled rifles, suppressors, destructive devices, etc.), you really want to have a properly done NFA Gun Trust.

I said “properly done” twice because there are several attorneys and gun stores who are giving or selling people defective NFA Gun Trusts. In some cases, it has meant that when people who had several Title II items in a defective trust went to buy another Title II item, it lead to the ATF confiscating all of their Title II items.

I don’t agree with the need for an NFA Gun Trust. I would like to see the items simply covered under the 2nd Amendment, the tax stamp requirement abolished and for the need for the trust eliminated. Unfortunately, that’s not reality, and reality has convinced me of the need to do everything according to the laws on the books and have an NFA Gun Trust to protect myself, my family and our firearms.

What I did was go to the granddaddy of NFA Gun Trusts, David Goldman. Title II owners across the country owe Goldman a huge debt of gratitude for deciding to focus on NFA Gun Trusts and figure out all of the tweaks and changes that needed to be made to make the process of buying, storing, using and transferring Title II items as legal and painless as possible for law-abiding people who just want to stay out of trouble.

Goldman has done thousands of these trusts. If you want one, contact his office at and provide your information. (His site is a treasure chest of good solid information on Title II weapons.) His office will do the majority of the trust and then forward it to an attorney in your State who will do the final customizations to make the trust legal in your State. When I went through the process, it was painless and informative. I strongly encourage you to contact him if you have any interest in getting Title II items. He offered to discount his fees for my readers; so if you want to save some money, tell him I referred you.

Goldman includes a guide with his trusts that explains how to buy items, how to set up banking correctly so you don’t make the trust defective, how to fill out the forms correctly and what you must include and shouldn’t include with your application. I can tell you from personal experience that this is incredibly valuable, as is the ability to call the office (sometimes multiple times) while you’re in the process of buying your Title II items to make sure you’re doing everything correctly. The guide also includes instructions how to legally buy private party, travel with Title II items, move from State to State and more.

Also, if you currently have a NFA Gun Trust, you may want to have Goldman review it to make sure that it’s not a defective trust that could expose you to considerable unnecessary liability.

As a note, we all know how much the Administration of President Barack Obama wants to limit the rights of gun owners. It’s a fair guess that the sale of Title II items would be an easy early target. That’s why I buy suppressors whenever I can. They’re kind of pricy, so it’s not something I get every week or even every month, but it’s something that I’m making progress on.

Do you have any experience with suppressors? Do you intend to buy any in the future? If you had a choice, would you rather have a fully automatic weapon, a suppressed weapon or a short barreled rifle? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

–David Morris

Editor’s note: Sportsman’s Guide has some very neat tools that will let you shoot .32 ACP ammo through bolt action .308s (and a few other .30 caliber rifles).

They are called “sub caliber sleeves” or “rifle chamber inserts.” I have a handful of these little treasures, and they have a few important uses for preppers.

To begin with, when you shoot a .32 ACP through a .308 barrel, the report is much quieter than with a .308. It’s almost like using a silencer. Next, if you’re training someone to shoot a high powered rifle, it’s less expensive to shoot .32 ACP than .308, and there’s almost no recoil. Lastly, if you shoot small game with a .32 ACP, there will be a lot less meat destroyed than if you make the same shot with a .308.

Relay The Prepper Message

Sometimes, it gets frustrating continually trying to convince friends and loved ones that there is a need to prepare for hard times and/or complete breakdowns in the economy, the grid and/or civil order. Other times, it’s difficult to figure out how to inject the topic of preparedness into conversations without seeming like “preaching.” Over the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing notes on paper or on my phone whenever I hear news stories that relate to preparedness.

To begin with, the simple act of writing down the note makes the memory stronger. But more importantly, when I’m having a conversation with someone, I sometimes step away to look at the notes on my phone to figure out a current story from the news that I can use to introduce the topic of preparedness without giving away the fact that I’m a prepper.

As we go into the Christmas season, this is particularly valuable. With Christmas parties and gatherings with friends and family, this time of year usually has more social interaction than any other time of year and is a great time to talk about preparedness.

Keep in mind that there is enough talk about the need to prepare that it’s not a foreign concept anymore.  Furthermore, you don’t need to be the one person who tips the scales and convinces someone to prepare. When people get the same message from enough different sources (friends, family, TV, radio, newspaper, Internet, etc.) in a short enough period of time, it soon takes more effort to ignore the message than to accept it and act on it.

With that in mind, I want to share a few current stories that are particularly applicable, both to preppers and for preppers to use as a segue when talking with non-preppers.

Last Monday, Verizon sent emergency text messages to customers, telling them to “take shelter now” in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey.  The message said it was from the U.S. government (actually, U.S. Govern).  It was an accident.  It was supposed to be a test, but evidently somebody forgot to include that minor detail.

Also on Monday, OWS protesters shut down operations at ports in Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Longview, Wash. I’m sure this hurt some big, evil corporation in some way, but the biggest things it did were take money out of dockworkers’ paychecks at Christmastime and highlight this weakness in our infrastructure. I hope they’re proud of themselves.

Similar to what Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University has said, it appears as if we’re on a course where OWS protests will become more targeted, more militant and more disruptive.

On Tuesday, a rumor was spread that Iran had closed the Strait of Hormuz, causing the price of oil to spike before the rumor was dispelled. Roughly one-third of the world’s oil supply goes through the Strait of Hormuz and alternate routes are considerably more expensive.

One of the interesting things about this is that the rumor started because Parviz Sarvari, a member of Iran’s Parliament on the National Security Committee said, “Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”

So, the good news is that the Strait wasn’t actually closed, but the bad news is that Iran wants to practice how to close it and isn’t opposed to instability in the region.

And, a couple of weeks ago, one of the big news stories in Texas was that new government regulations are causing so much power generation capacity to be taken offline that Texans should expect rolling blackouts in 2012.

Add to that the National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens (even in the United States) based on whatever set of criteria the current Administration hands down, and we really are living in bizarre times.

What does all this mean?

One of the big lessons in these seemingly disparate stories is how vulnerable our way of life is from almost every direction.

Bureaucratic inefficiency, socialists bent on overthrow, extremists halfway around the globe and power-hungry politicians are all factors that could completely disrupt our (relatively) cheap supply of food, water and fuel as well as the ability to heat our homes.

These aren’t crazy conspiracies cooked up by people with too much time on their hands. They are events that are unfolding in real time that are being covered by the entire political spectrum in every form of media.

Oftentimes, it seems like we have so many threats that are so huge in nature that there’s nothing that we can do. Truth be told, there isn’t much that an individual person can do about what Iran does, what businesses OWS protesters disrupt or what regulations create energy shortages.

What you can do is continually make progress toward protecting you and your family from disruptions in the systems that you depend upon on a daily basis.

In some cases, it means stocking up, in other cases it means finding alternative ways of doing things — maybe ways that aren’t as dependent on technology.

John Giduck shares an anecdote in his book, Terror At Beslan, that is very applicable to people concerned about preparedness.

During the space race between the USSR and the United States, people involved in the space program realized that writing pens don’t work in zero gravity. The United States, being a technologically minded country, spent millions of dollars on research and development creating the “space pen” that would write in zero gravity, upside down and, I believe, under water. It became a model of U.S. ingenuity and resourcefulness and it is a really neat pen.

The Soviets decided to use a pencil. It also wrote in zero gravity and upside down. The research, development and production costs were much less expensive.

Since the end of World War II, we as a society have become increasingly dependent on Fisher space pen solutions and have forgotten about having pencils as an option.

As we approach Christmas and the new year, I want to encourage you to thoroughly enjoy all of the Fisher space pens in your life: fully automatic furnaces, cars that always (or at least usually) start, faucets and switches that always work, gas pumps that always pump gas, store shelves that are never empty, high-quality coffee shops on every corner, wide varieties of semi-fresh food in grocery stores, and more. Enjoy these things. Take advantage of them. These things have never been available the way they are right now, are available only to a relatively limited number of people in the world, and may not always be available the way they are now.

At the same time, don’t forget to practice using pencils.  Know how to build a fire, regardless of whether you have a blowtorch, flares, a lighter, matches, fire-starting tools or two sticks. Know multiple methods of purifying water. Know how to defend yourself, whether you’re fully armed and ready or in the shower with shampoo in your hair. Know how to identify threats and spot danger. Know the fundamentals of first aid, CPR and trauma care. Practice bartering, dickering and negotiating. Almost everyone else in the world thinks these are acceptable practices, and these skills have only fallen widely out of favor in the United States since World War II.

The combination of enjoying “Fisher Space Pens” and knowing how to use “pencils” will, in a sense, give you the best of both worlds while times are good. For some people, it will lead to a complete change in lifestyle; but for most people, it will simply lead to more stability — both now and in a survival situation.

Last-Minute Christmas Thoughts

The other day, after I made a purchase, the lady who was helping me said, “Happy Holidays!” I was in a particularly obnoxious mood and replied, “Thank you!  I don’t celebrate ‘Holidays,’ but I wish you a Merry Christmas!” The lady who was helping me and the lady next to her broke out into two of the biggest grins that I’ve seen in quite a while and said “Merry Christmas!”

If you’re still looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, one that you should consider is a deck of Urban Survival Playing Cards. They were featured on Glenn Beck’s 2010 My Favorite Things Christmas special as a must-have gift to buy for the people you love.

In addition to being a deck of playing cards that you can use for entertainment, they also include 52 survival tips, tricks and tactics that people are likely to forget in high-stress survival situations. I released these two Christmases ago, and they’ve been a hit since then.

–David Morris

Did The Fed Handcuff The U.S. Economy To The Euro?

Last Wednesday’s 490 point run-up of the Dow was a great day for many people. It gave the temporary sensation that things were actually alright with the economy. For others, it provided an opportunity to get out of risky positions at less of a loss, or even a gain. Still others saw it as an equivalent to nitrogen narcosis that divers experience at depth or the warm feeling that people suffering from the later stages of hypothermia feel that makes them remove their warm clothing: simply a short-term euphoric feeling before a predictable end.

One of the main factors credited with the jump in the Dow is the deal that was announced to prop up the euro by continuing to tie the euro to other currencies through low-interest loan guarantees. In many ways, this is like handcuffing yourself to someone getting ready to jump off of a bridge or hoping that the prospect of mutually assured destruction will prevent an enemy from attacking you.

The concept of mutually assured destruction was widely popularized during the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union had so many nuclear weapons pointed at each other that both sides knew that launching a single one would escalate to the point at which both sides would be completely destroyed.

At the same time as we were putting a system of physical mutually assured destruction into place, we were putting a system of economic mutually assured destruction into place with Breton Woods in 1944. Breton Woods was a huge nail in the coffin of a U.S. dollar backed by gold, as well as the start of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In short, Breton Woods put a framework into effect that would intertwine the world’s economies to the point that future economic failures would be global rather than national or regional.

There are several nefarious components to Breton Woods, but the mad one was that countries wouldn’t be able to attack each other without hurting themselves economically.

Fast-forward to late November 2011. The European Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the central banks of Canada, Japan and Switzerland all agreed to open up “bilateral liquidity swaps” as needed through February 2013. They agreed to loan each other money at below-market rates. One way to look at this is that the agreement will continually pump money from the healthiest central banks to the sickest ones. There’s a slim chance that this will help make the sickest central banks healthier. More than likely, unless all of the countries involved agree to cut entitlement spending and balance their budgets by spending less than they take in, the measure will just serve to spread the sickness in their economies to the other central banks and ensure mutual destruction.

What will this destruction look like? When will it happen? All we can do is guess. Markets are not rational, as shown by the flight to U.S. dollars last Wednesday and the Dow Jones industrial average going up 490 points. Americans are lucky right now because, regardless of how sick our economy is, other economies are sicker; and their citizens, corporations and even governments are fleeing to U.S. dollars for relative safety.

What can you do? Prepare. The simplest and most powerful thing you can do is to stock up on the items you regularly use. Buy as much as your budget, space and expiration dates allow. Remember, when you buy the things you already use, you can always consume what you’ve stored instead of buying more when you need money. Many people have taken my advice and buy extra food, vitamins, paper products and other consumables from January through November. When December rolls around, they go to their storage instead of going to the store and spend the money they would have spent on supplies on Christmas gifts. It’s a little late to put that strategy into practice this year, but it’s definitely something that you can start doing when January rolls around.

One of the best aspects of taking this fundamental preparedness step is that it will help you regardless of what disaster or survival situation you find yourself in. It won’t matter if your survival situation happens because of economic collapse, pandemic quarantine, terrorist attack, natural disaster, medical emergency, short term breakdowns in the supply chain or the loss of a job. Having a basic stockpile of consumables that you already use is one of the best preparedness steps you can take.

Unique Considerations For Winter Driving Preparedness

Winter is upon us, and along with winter comes cold — or at least cooler weather and greater consequences in the event that you have an emergency while in your car.

Whether it’s hitting an animal, getting a flat, running out of gas, driving in a blizzard, having mechanical issues or experiencing something else, cold weather is a factor that can take any one of these situations from being a minor annoyance to being a life-or-death situation.

I’m not going to go into the details of what you want to have in your car preparedness kits and/or first aid kits in general, but I am going to talk about some items to consider keeping in your car during the winter.

  1. Hand, body and/or foot warmers: Buy pouches that heat up when exposed to air. You can put the small ones in your gloves or boots or the big ones in your coat or sleeping bag. I never truly appreciated these until I found myself in a situation in which my hands were too cold to start a fire. Jumping up and down and running around may help warm your hands, but the combination of activity and glove warmers do it a lot quicker. The larger pouches, called body warmers, are a much better option than using candles or other fuel-based heaters in a car. They will last 10-15 hours, and you can put them inside of your clothing so that you absorb as much of the heat as possible. While 100-hour candles don’t put out much carbon monoxide, I would feel much more comfortable going to sleep in a car being warmed by a body warmer or a couple of hand warmers than a candle.
  2. Blanket(s): I prefer wool, synthetic or one that has one side that’s waterproof or water resistant. The waterproof and water resistant ones are normally sold as picnic blankets. They are very handy for giving you a dry place to sit on wet grass, snow or pavement.
  3. Emergency reflective blankets: You can use the inexpensive, compact, Mylar® ones, but SOL™ has some great alternatives that are quieter, more flexible, less likely to rip and suitable for multiple people.
  4. Trash bags: Trash bags are almost, but not quite as multifaceted as duct tape. In a winter survival situation, you can use them as a moisture barrier to keep you dry when sitting or lying on snow. You can melt snow in them on a sunny day (although you will get a significant number of nasty chemicals in your water from the plastic that affect the taste and quality of the water.) You can use them to make improvised rain or snow gear. You can stuff them with leaves, crumpled paper or other debris to make an improvised sleeping bag. You can even boil water in plastic bags over indirect heat, although you have the same chemical-leaching problem that you have with melting snow. One other timely benefit: If you find yourself in a 60-100 mph sustained-wind storm, like what Utah had last week, a set of improvised trash bag clothes will protect you from the bone-chilling effects of cold wind.
  5. Warm clothes, coveralls, socks, gloves, hat and boots or shoes: This is especially important if you wear heels or dress shoes, drive to the gym in workout clothes or ever find yourself leaving the house during a warm time of day and expect to come back at a cold time of day.
  6. A way to make warm drinks: This means having a fire source, liquid and a container. Here’s why this is so important. Let’s say you have a gas camping stove and you have two options: Run it for one minute close to your body with your hands as close to it as possible to get warmed up or run it for one minute to heat up a cup of water that you’ll hold in your hands and put into your body. Heating, holding and drinking warm water will convert a much higher percentage of the fuel to perceived and actual body warmth than simply warming yourself by the fire for a minute.
  7. A standard shovel or camping shovel: Carrying a standard shovel has saved me from a long, cold walk more than once when I found myself trying to drive through a fresh snowdrift during or shortly after a blizzard. Speed and aggression are vital in this situation, as you’ve got an incredibly short window between when your vehicle starts compressing the snow, it melts and starts to re-freeze, perfectly forming to the contours of the bottom of your vehicle. In situations like this, a long, sturdy handle not only makes the job quicker, it also allows you to keep your arms out from under your vehicle, thus keeping you safer. Of course, there are less extreme reasons to have a shovel with you: excavating to make changing a tire simpler, digging a hole for a fire, using as a defensive tool, scooping gravel and/or rocks under or in front of your tire if you’re stuck.
  8. A sturdy snow scraper and brush: This isn’t much of an issue if you’re not in snow-and-ice country; but if you do run into ice and snow, the bigger and stronger your scraper and brush, the easier life will be.
  9. At least a half tank of gas at all times. There’s nothing like the sinking feeling of running out of gas and realizing that the only reason it happened was because of a series of bad choices to postpone filling up — except for running out of gas when it’s freezing cold outside. The combination of no fuel and cold weather is another case where a simple inconvenience can quickly turn into a survival situation.

You can also carry salt, sand, kitty litter or a number of other items with you to help with ice and snow. Because of the effect that cold weather has on batteries, we make sure our battery jump packs are charged and in our cars when the temperatures get below freezing.

What other winter-specific items do you carry in your vehicles? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

–David Morris

DHS Policy Is Criminal

It’s always bizarre to me when I hear people talk about wanting to deport only those illegal aliens who are criminals. The Department of Homeland Security said it will start focusing on deporting illegals with criminal records and leaving alone illegals without criminal records.

Call me crazy, but if someone breaks our immigration laws and is in the United States illegally, he is a criminal.

Keep in mind that my in-laws immigrated to the United States. I’m not anti-immigration. I’m anti-illegal immigration. I would like to either see open borders (not my first choice) or I would like to see the border locked down and the creation of a simplified process for non-residents to be in the United States legally.

But this current in-between system that we have in which laws are selectively enforced and ignored isn’t good for anyone. It teaches both immigrants and our kids that laws don’t necessarily mean anything. If someone’s breaking the law by being in the United States illegally, why should he obey the law and get car insurance? Why should he worry about breaking the law by drinking and driving?

Most countries have streamlined processes to let people stay in their countries long-term if they obey the law and are productive members of society. I’m good with that. At one point in the 60s, when my in-laws immigrated to the United States, they had to have a job lined up, a place to live lined up and $500 cash before they could get into the country. They didn’t have $500, so they pooled money with other friends who wanted to get into the United States. Once my in-laws got into the United States and on their feet (my father-in-law was working three jobs by the end of their first week in the United States), they sent $500 back to their friends so that the next family could immigrate.

What does this have to do with preparedness? The connection, in my mind, is that when you become known as being a place where unproductive people can come and live comfortably, you create a form of adverse selection, attracting non-producers and repelling and penalizing productive members of society.

In Central Texas, there is a mass migration every spring and fall. Illegal aliens who do landscaping come up in the spring when the grass starts growing and go back to Mexico to work for the winter when the grass stops growing in the fall. They want to work, and I would love to have many of them as neighbors in a survival situation.

But when illegal aliens aren’t productive members of society, it strains budgets during good times and creates large groups of helpless people who don’t know how to take care of themselves in a disaster situation — like what we saw at the Super Dome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

So this is just one more factor that I keep an eye on — both to gauge strain on government budgets and to anticipate what the general response of the people around me will be to adversity in a survival situation.

National Right To Carry Reciprocity Act passes the House!

On Nov. 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 822, the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act by a vote of 272-154. The bill, if left intact by the Senate, would cause concealed carry permits issued by any State to be recognized by any other State that issues concealed carry permits — similar to the reciprocity we currently have with driver’s licenses.

H.R. 822 would not create a national registry, despite what many emails floating around claim. I received several warnings from readers saying how bad H.R. 822 supposedly was; but, fortunately, the claims made in the emails didn’t match up with the content of the bill.

As a concealed carry permit holder in multiple States and a frequent traveler, I’m excited about this. It has been frustrating over the years to visit the same place a few times per year and have the laws randomly change between visits. Nevada was one particular example of this for me. I’m also excited to see how this pans out in places like California, Hawaii and Maryland — States that technically have concealed carry permits but who make it difficult for travelers with out-of-State permits.

The next steps are for it to pass the Senate, for differences to get ironed out in committee, if necessary, and then for it to be sent to the President. If it gets vetoed, there’s a chance to override the veto. I’m not sure how long the bill can be stretched out, but I wouldn’t mind waiting until late January 2013 for it to go to the President’s desk.

One objection to the bill is that it doesn’t give residents of Vermont reciprocity, since the bill requires a physical license. Frankly, I’m OK with that. This is my opinion, and I welcome comments and criticisms on it.

Right now, the requirements to get a concealed carry permit in most States are fairly lax. In my mind, this is the worst of all worlds. Permit holders get an official-looking document giving them a false sense of ability, and the 2nd Amendment is usurped to a certain extent.

I would much rather see concealed carry recognized as a 2nd Amendment right and for the requirements for concealed carry permits to go up considerably, or for there to be two tiers of concealed carry permits. The first tier could be a criminal background check and whatever is necessary to waive the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives waiting period for buying firearms, but would include no training. I see the possibility that this could also double as a “preferred traveler” document for flying, but it wouldn’t be necessary for concealed carry since that is covered by the 2nd Amendment.

The second tier carry permit would be much closer to an armed security license, and I see it including advanced training as well as continuing education. I see this as being a certification to which people would naturally aspire. It would not be required, but it would be a standard of training that firearms schools, shooting leagues and security companies across the country could use.

Since the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are coming up, I want to tell you quickly about how I travel with a firearm.

I’ve flown with at least one firearm a few times a month for several years. This means that I’ve had hundreds of interactions with the Transportation Security Administration in numerous airports involving taking guns on planes. To date, I have not lost a firearm or been detained or harassed in any way. I have had only one snarly interaction because I put my declaration form inside of my gun case (where the ticket agent told me to) instead of on top of my gun case inside of my luggage. Here are a few of the things that I do. This isn’t necessarily what you should do. Policies vary from airline to airline and from airport to airport and change over time, so make sure to verify on the TSA website and your airline’s website that what you’re planning on doing is legal.

  1. When I’m talking to the ticket agent, I never say “gun.”  I say either “I need to declare” or “I need to declare my sidearm.” Sometimes, I just open my bag with my gun case visible inside and ask for a declaration form.
  2. I used to carry ammo in an ammo box, but I don’t do that anymore. I simply load two magazines with ammo and put them in the case with my sidearm. If I need more ammo, I buy it where I’m going.
  3. I used to run a length of 550 cord through my firearms so that it was poking out of both the breech and the end of the barrel so that it was obvious that there was nothing in the firearm. I don’t do that anymore.
    I simply disassemble the firearm and put it into the case. With my Glock, that means that I’ve got the lower, the slide, the barrel and the spring assembly in the case. The difference is that many ticket agents used to look at the gun in the case with a little bit of fear from not understanding what they were looking at. With the disassembled gun, the look is more curiosity along the lines of, “What are all of those parts? That’s what a gun looks like?” In short, I haven’t felt even a slight bit of conflict or disdain since I started disassembling my firearms for flight.
  4. I try to make sure that I have either a military or law enforcement shirt on the top of my luggage that the gate agent will be likely to see when I’m declaring my sidearm. I’m always very clear to say that I’m not an officer or soldier if they ask, but I want to give them every possible assurance that I can that I’m one of the good guys.
  5. Depending on the airport, you might have to take your luggage to a TSA agent or wait a few minutes until TSA searches your luggage behind closed doors. I’ve gotten into more gun conversations with these TSA agents than I have at ranges during the same time period. These have never been the full-body patdown goons. They are often retired military or law enforcement. I’m not saying this to defend TSA. I’m just letting you know that things will probably go more smoothly if you go into a conversation about carrying a gun on a plane with the mindset that there is a good chance that the person you will be interacting with is a fellow gun owner. Things generally go more smoothly with law enforcement when you’re kind and happy than when you’re snarling, defensive and apprehensive.


Thursday is Thanksgiving, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’re not going anywhere or having any guests that we know about yet, but Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

Revisionist history says that the original Thanksgiving was a celebration of Indians saving a bunch of stupid white men from starvation. Original documents tell a different story: It was more of a celebration of the abundance of crops that the Pilgrims had after embracing free enterprise and abandoning Communism. The first three years of experimenting with communal living resulted in a lack of productivity that almost killed them. The difference was stark and the resulting abundance was seen as a gift from God for which they were very thankful.

One of the things I’m going to do is to smoke a turkey. While I’m smoking the turkey, I’m going to be smoking cured pork belly right above it to turn into bacon. It ends up being a good combination, with the juices from the pork butt dripping down onto the turkey for the first few hours.

Here’s a trick for you if you like to “cheat” on your barbeque and use injections. Store-bought injectors always seem to break, so I went to a livestock supply store and bought the biggest-gauge needles it sold and a big syringe. Unlike the store-bought injectors, this setup is bomb proof.

If you aren’t familiar with barbeque injectors, it’s a way to inject oil, marinades, beer, citrus juice, etc., into meat before you smoke it. This helps the meat stay moist during the cooking process, so the flavor is consistent throughout, and help make the meat more tender. Many serious barbequers see this as cheating, because it allows you to get away without tending your meat as often as you need to if you’re basting it to keep it moist.

I’m not a purist and am mainly trying to get the best end product to put on the table, but I do still try to use progressively less injection each time I smoke a particular cut of meat. Keep in mind that this is the exact opposite of what you want to do if you’re trying to preserve meat. When I cook meat, I try to keep it as moist and juicy as possible; but when I’m preserving meat, I’m trying to lower the moisture level so that the moisture/salt level is too low to support bacterial, mold, fungus and virus growth.

In the early stages of a breakdown of the grid, I’d cure/smoke/jerk as much meat as I could to preserve it as long as possible.

What are your Thanksgiving plans? My prayers go out to people who are planning Thanksgiving Day conversations with friends and relatives about preparedness (both Earthly and spiritual).  Remember, some will get it and some won’t; keep trying. What are your thoughts on the National Right To Carry Reciprocity Act? Is it a camel-under-the-tent scenario, or is it as good as it looks?

Also, give a shout-out by commenting below if you were at the LaRue Tactical Day At The Range last Saturday. It was a great event in Liberty Hill, Texas, with at least 1,000 gun enthusiasts spending the day together shooting tricked-out LaRue OBRs (Optimized Battle Rifles). More on the OBRs in future newsletters…

-David Morris




Creating Water Out Of Nothing

Water is one of the most important things you need to consider in a survival situation. I want to share a few thoughts I have on things that can be done on a city or regional level to increase the amount of water that’s available in drought situations. These are measures that can be taken both now and in a grid-down survival situation.

First, plug leaks. The effect of plumbing leaks is incredible. In Austin, Texas, a plumbing company is offering to replace up to 1,000 leaky toilet flappers for free. At a water savings of 10 to 100 gallons per toilet per day, this amounts to a savings of somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 gallons per month. Some places may be able to absorb that kind of waste, but Austin is in what many consider to be the 11th year of a drought that is expected to last at least another year. This is enough water to provide a gallon per day to between 10,000 and 100,000 people, so it’s potentially serious business.

Second, remove cedars. Another Texas water creation story comes from ranches in the Hill Country of Texas. Several years ago, a friend of mine would buy up ranches that had lots of juniper trees (mountain cedar) and seasonal springs. He would then clear out all of the cedars, which would increase water flow considerably and in many cases cause the springs to become year-round springs. Then, he would sell them for a profit, since land with running water is generally worth more than land with a dry creek bed.

The last paragraph will surely bring up a lot of debate. Getting rid of cedar trees was shown to free up 35,000 gallons of water per year per acre in one Central Texas study referenced here (I am unable to find the original study). The issue that complicates the whole matter is that while cedar trees use up to 33 gallons per tree per day, they don’t use up that much more than other plants and the water “savings” remain in effect only as long as the cedars aren’t replaced by high-demand grasses or other trees.

Regardless, I do see situations where people sitting on 10 to 40 acres and a seasonal spring may want to clear out cedar to increase available groundwater — even if it’s only for a few years to fill a tank or get through a rough patch.

Third, don’t water your lawn. I’m always amazed when I have lived in or visited arid high mountain desert communities at the amount of grass that people have planted and how green it is. It’s not uncommon for people with .2-acre yards to use 15,000 to 30,000 gallons of water per month to keep their lawns looking green in these regions. In areas where the primary grasses die after a week or two without water (instead of going dormant), it becomes a choice between two evils during extended droughts: Spend money on water or spend money on replacing your lawn.

This is why, in many cities across the country, people are turning to rock gardens, wood chip gardens, xeriscaping and planting edible, native, drought-resistant plants in their yards. In some cases, people are making the change because they want to conserve water. In other cases, they have decided that it’s too much hassle trying to make grass grow and stay green when nature seems to have other plans. Still, in other cases, it’s because droughts have caused watering restrictions and dead lawns, and people want to “plant” rocks once rather than spending so much time and money on grass.

What are your thoughts on water and strategies to make more water available for drinking and irrigation? What about gray water recycling? Any thoughts on legislating water conservation vs. personal liberty? Where does my right to spend as much as I want on water intersect with other people wanting water to drink? Are stepped-up prices the answer (the more you use, the more you pay per gallon) or something else? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

As an aside, we changed our clocks this weekend. In addition to using the weekend to change clocks and change batteries in our smoke and CO detectors, we also used it as a time to make sure that our preparedness items are in good shape and make the appropriate changes for the seasons.

Here’s a list of some of the things that we did:

  1. Put backup cold-weather clothes in our cars.
  2. Made sure that supplies that we think are in our cars are actually in our cars. (I have a habit of wearing shorts and sandals in the summer, grabbing shoes and socks out of the car when we’re away from home and I need them and forgetting to replace them. We have the same habit with backup clothes for the boys and snacks for the boys.)
  3. Cycled out all food that was in our cars over the summer and eat or donate it.
  4. Checked the batteries in our 72-hour kits and go bags.
  5. Checked medical kits. Replaced expired items, items with compromised packaging and items that we used over the past six months.
  6. Bought another box of fresh daily carry ammo and shoot the stuff I’ve been carrying.
  7. Replaced CR123A Lithium batteries in my daily use lights.
  8. Recharged or replaced desiccant in our gun safe.
  9. Confirmed that all guns were cleaned and oiled.
  10. Did a quick inventory of our pantry to make sure we hadn’t used up stuff without replacing it.
  11. Confirmed that go bags and camping backpacks hadn’t been looted during outings.
  12. Evaluated goals from the past six months.
  13. Made goals for the next six months.
  14. Took pictures of or scanned any new critical documents, encrypted them and added them to our thumb drives in our Get Out Of Dodge bags.
  15. Evaluated our current state of preparedness in light of what we’ve learned over the past six months and/or what happened to be at the top of our minds at the time.
  16. Rotated and stabilized our fuel storage.

Did you do something similar?

–David Morris

Stay Safe When Order Breaks Down

So far, the Occupy events around the country have been relatively benign. Don’t get me wrong: They’ve been horrible for local businesses, a pain in the butt for sanitation workers, irritating for law enforcement and expensive for cities, but they haven’t been anything like what we saw in the Mideast earlier this year.

The people organizing the Occupy events are using advanced psychology and manipulation practices.

People might be dying in their cars in random accidents on their way to or from the protests or dying of drug overdoses after leaving the protests, but none have died at the protests that I know of so far. (Lest you think that the overdose comment is an unfounded low blow, there are about 100 Occupy events across the country, and cases of overdose have been reported at Occupy Wall Street.)

This week, things got a little more interesting. Until this week, for the most part, the worst “violence” has been when sanitation workers have tried to clean up the places where the protesters have been squatting.

Protesters in Oakland upped the ante this week, mostly vandalizing and throwing rocks, glass and paint cans at law enforcement — all the while blaming the police for their actions. The end result is that one protester — whose status I won’t mention out of respect to his 203,000 “brothers” — got a skull fracture because he was hit in the head with what the protesters claim was a tear gas canister but that could have just as easily been something thrown by the protesters.

After more than a month of putting up with the smells, sounds and expense of the Occupy events around the country, cities are getting tired of it and starting to be more active in arresting protesters who are breaking the law. This is causing an increase in arrests, but very little real violence.

Even so, the media love this. They are throwing around words like “riots,” “mobs,” “clash with police” and “violence erupts.” In Atlanta, news crews couldn’t get enough of one protester who walked around with a loaded AK-47. He thought it was his duty to be ready to protect the protesters from police.

But this brings to mind a serious question: How do you protect yourself in a true riot or mob situation? Mob mentality has been causing riotous behavior for thousands of years. Although it’s chaotic, there are things about mob mentality that we can recognize and use in order to keep ourselves safe. One of the most direct ways to do so is to look at and dissect mob behavior. Here’s a quick example that I shared last Christmas and want to share again:


You might have to click on the video twice, depending on your browser



In this video, we have some great examples of mob behavior. I wouldn’t really call this a “riot,” but it is a good example of a minor breakdown in civil order. I’ve set the video to start 40 seconds in… it’s 44 seconds of “boring and peaceful.” But a few seconds after that, you see someone reach in from the left hand side and take a box before he is supposed to. What happens next is that everyone starts grabbing at boxes. And this is important.

In a riot/mob/breakdown in civil order, there are some key components:

An agitator: Someone who’s increasing the intensity of emotions in the crowd. In this case, both the Wal-Mart employee is agitating the crowd and the crowd is agitating itself with pushing, facial expressions and talking. With the Occupy crowds, it’s usually some of the more intense participants.

An instigator: This is the person who takes the first non-civil action. It could be breaking a window, knocking over a barricade, damaging police property, hitting police, throwing something at police, shooting a weapon, picking out an “outsider” to attack or any other “kinetic” action that affects visual/physical antisocial change on the environment around him.

A trigger: If the crowd isn’t sufficiently worked up, the instigator will be a loner and looked at as an oddball by the crowd. If the crowd is sufficiently worked up, the actions of the instigator will trigger a common response by the parts of the crowd that are most worked up. It’s important to note that the trigger won’t do much unless it’s attached to a bomb. In the case of mobs, that bomb is primal tension, pain and/or rage. In Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria this past spring, people were worked up because of a lack of affordable food. We don’t have that with the Occupy movement at this time.

Aggressive follower: These are the people who won’t start the trouble, but are looking for any opportunity to cause trouble once they think they have immunity for their actions by being part of a mass of people who are breaking the law. This is the antisocial version of several cars speeding together on the interstate in the hopes of not getting stopped. Another example is when a group of pedestrians refuses to cross an empty street when the light is red; yet when a single person starts walking, the crowd quickly follows.

Sheep/Lemmings: These are the people who, once they see the instigator and aggressive followers breaking the rules/laws, will jump in because “everyone else was doing it.” This is when the unacceptable quickly becomes seen as acceptable, and people get caught up in the moment. People who normally obey authority figures suddenly ignore them with reckless abandon.

One example of this occurred at an intense outdoor concert I attended. There was lots of alcohol, a couple of mosh pits, stage diving and crowd surfing, fights, loud bass, screaming guitars, intense singing, etc. It was fun in the way that being on the edge of a little danger can be fun; it gets the adrenaline going. Two aspects of this concert weren’t so fun and are applicable to this conversation.

First, a girl was crowd surfing, having fun, and the crowd was being respectful with how they were passing her around. Then, when she was about 10 feet away from me, a turd-punk who might have been 18 started violating her. Some other people saw it, but nobody did anything. I pushed through the crowd, grabbed his arm and twisted it violently and was getting ready to strike him. At that minute, one of the biggest humans I’ve ever seen grabbed my hand, shook his head at me, grabbed the punk and threw him through the air like a kid’s rag doll. The kid never would have done something like that in a crowd at a mall or a football game. It was only because he thought he had cover for his actions that he acted so antisocially. The other point to note is that I was lucky that the big guy agreed with my actions and wasn’t a friend of the punk, coming to his aid. The fact is that you never know who’s alone and who’s got friends in a mob.

Second, a while later, I was at the front of the concert with the crowd behind me and a 4-foot-tall wooden “fence” in front of me. As the main band came on stage, the crowd started surging forward, but there wasn’t anywhere to go and people on the front row were getting crushed — screaming and passing out crushed. I had my arms outstretched against the fence to give my body some room, and the force of the crowd broke the wood in my hands and slammed me against the fence. People were getting pulled over the fence by security, and I eventually went over the fence to get some air, too.

The thing to keep in mind about these two instances is that they were from a fun event. People paid to go to dance, hear bands they liked and get a little crazy. It wasn’t a “protest,” “occupation” or “riot.” It was a concert. The punk-turd-kid was an anomaly and the surging crowd wasn’t malicious, but the results are the same if you happen to be on the wrong end of mob behavior, regardless of what the general intent of the crowd is. A crowd of friends trying to escape a fire in a church can trample you just as quickly as a mob gone crazy.

This next video gets a little more ridiculous, with a headbutt 20 seconds in by a guy in a striped shirt and pushing/pulling that escalates to punching after 30 more seconds:



So, we’ve seen how Americans treat each other when luxury items are up for grabs. How does it look when survival is really on the line?



This next video is a perfect example of why decentralized solutions, in the form of individual preparedness, are the only effective ways to survive disasters.



And one more food riot. This one occurred in Somalia when merchants suddenly stopped taking the country’s official currency. Residents holding Somali shilins that had value the day before were just stuck not being able to buy food for their families. Could this be what things look like here if the dollar collapses?



How do you avoid getting caught up in riots and mobs of people trying to get food after a disaster? One of the core fundamentals is to do everything you can now to make sure that you never have to become a refugee and depend on governments or aid organizations to provide food, water, shelter and protection. In short, you want to have the ability to hunker down wherever you happen to be and Survive In Place when disaster strikes. This will give you the luxury of being able to choose to time your escape to a retreat location, or ride out the disaster right where you are when it happens.

And if you do get caught up on the wrong side of a mob/riot?

First, breathe. Take a series of three to five or more deep breaths, belly breaths where your gut extends and your diaphragm gets to expand fully to get as much oxygen in your body as possible. It will calm you down, keep your vision wide and help you make better decisions.

Second, to the extent that you can, join the crowd. I’m not saying to hurt people, but join in their yelling and pumping your fist in the air as you move out of the crowd. It’s similar to what you’d do if you got thrown from a boat in a rapid river: swim with and perpendicular to the current, because a single person going against it doesn’t have a chance.

Third, look for natural seams in the crowd that you can slip through. If you have to push, push with the back of your hand/arm rather than the palm of your hand (it’s seen as being less offensive). If you’ve got someone with you, grab onto them tightly and say something like “We’ve got a bathroom emergency” or “We need to find medical!” to buy some grace as you’re pushing through the crowd.

Fourth, stay on your feet and keep moving. Don’t roll up in a ball on the ground or try to stop. Again, it’s like fighting a raging river. If you’re with other people from whom you don’t want to get separated, hold on hard and tight. If possible, have both people hold onto each other.

The biggest thing to remember is to keep your cool, keep moving and to make a safe exit as quickly as possible.

Do you have any experiences with mobs, riots, etc.? How about with the Occupy events? If you’ve been to them, what different groups did you see represented? (I’ve been to a few, and it’s amazing how drastically the makeup of the crowd changes from city to city, hour to hour and day to day.) If you have, please share your thoughts by commenting below:

–David Morris


Large Solar Flares Among Threats To Power Grid

Two major threats have the ability to partially or completely destroy the power grid: electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

You might remember Saddam Hussein threatening to use chemical weapons against both the United States and Israel during the first and second Gulf wars.

You might also remember that we responded to the threat by promising to “respond with overwhelming force and extract a very high price should he be foolish enough to use chemical weapons on United States forces.”

Many people thought that this meant dropping a nuke on Iraq. While that was definitely a possibility, it’s much more likely that our response would have been for us to use an EMP caused by detonating a nuclear bomb 100 miles to 300 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Buildings wouldn’t fall down, Geiger counters wouldn’t go off and people wouldn’t die of radiation poisoning, but the EMP would completely destroy the electrical grid and most unshielded electronic items in Iraq. In essence, a wave of energy would emanate out from the blast in the upper atmosphere and cause power-line transformers and integrated circuits in electronic devices to burn out, or “fry.” The damage would be permanent in some cases and temporary in others.

An EMP attack is subject of several fictional accounts: the book One Second After, the TV series “Jericho,” an episode of the TV series “24,” etc.

China and Russia have the ability to attack the United States with an EMP, as do North Korea, Iran and any terrorist organization with deep pockets.

In its simplest form, an EMP attack could be done by placing one of the many small nukes missing from the former Soviet Union on a SCUD rocket and launching it 12 miles off the East Coast from a container ship. There’s even a Russian arms dealer who sells missile silos that look, from the outside, just like a shipping container that can go on cargo ships, trains or semis.

It probably wouldn’t get up to the optimal altitude and wouldn’t knock out the entire country, but it wouldn’t need to. Our economy is so fragile right now that any hiccup, let alone a major attack, would most likely bring down the whole credit default swap scam, as well as be the final blow to many of our country’s insolvent banks.

How long would it take to recover? Well, it depends on how you define recovery. One of the casualties of an EMP attack would be the transformers that step up and step down voltage along power transmission lines. The power grid as we know it may never recover if several large transformers in the same region failed simultaneously. The transformers used in high-voltage transmission weigh from 100 tons up to 300 tons for one particular transformer manufactured by Siemens. They take a long time to manufacture, they’re expensive, there’s global demand, and they’re very difficult to transport.

It’s somewhat easy for some people to dismiss EMPs. On the one hand, there’s a tendency to discount threats that are so huge that you don’t have any control over them. On the other hand, many people simply don’t appreciate how much some people hate the United States, our freedoms, our wealth and our support of Israel. They don’t know us, but they want to kill us. They want us to live the same miserable lives that they live rather than to have individual liberty.

We’ve had several recent events that make the threat of EMPs very difficult to ignore.

You see, besides nuclear blasts, EMPs can be caused when solar flares happen on the sun that are big enough to cause CMEs. These are a big deal, which is why I reference solar flares and their potential to wreak havoc on our way of life every few weeks over at my blog at

Recently, we’ve had a series of harmless wake up calls reminding us that solar flares/CMEs do happen. The recent ones that hit the Earth were tiny; the biggest effects most people saw were an interruption of satellite TV and pretty Northern Lights.

If or when the sun has a large solar flare that causes a large CME to come our way, it could be like a series of hundreds of EMPs going off every few minutes for days at a time.

Has it happened? Yes. In 1859, we experienced a CME so strong that telegraph wires shorted out and fires started from coast to coast.

Whereas an EMP would damage only electronics over a region, a powerful CME would affect the entire planet.

Farfetched? Not really. Unlikely? Four hundred years of data say an increase in CMEs is very likely. Below is the chart of solar activity since 1610 from NASA. There’s a peak every 11 years or so. We were at the bottom of the current cycle in 2008 and are now on the upswing. The red arrow points to what some experts believe our next upswing will look like: fairly weak in comparison, but strong enough considering our dependence on electronics.

Chart: Sunspot NumberSo, while the worst-case scenario may not be likely, it is likely that we will experience several solar flares of varying sizes within the next five years.

The solar flares could simply cause pretty Northern Lights and bad shortwave propagation. They could cause regional blackouts like what happened in Canada in 1989. They could knock out satellites. Or a major CME like the 1859 CME could knock out electronics and our electrical grid.

Our infrastructure is much more interdependent and fragile than it was in 1859. Most of the world wasn’t affected by telegraph lines going down, but most of the world will be affected by air conditioning, cars, refrigeration, heating systems, communication and banking simultaneously going down.

How do you prepare for such a scenario? It depends on where you are in your process of preparedness. One of the simple things that you can do is to make sure that your house has at least one solid ground. In most areas, this means driving a 1/2″ copper stake 10 feet into the ground, but it could mean burying/driving copper as far as 40 feet into the ground, continually watering your ground rods or periodically adding minerals to the soil near your ground rod.

If you have a metal shed, you can ground it. If you have a metal safe, you can ground it. You can also create mini poor-man’s Faraday cages out of aluminum foil or Mylar®.

It’s very important to note that these improvised methods may or may not work. The strength of a pulse will depend on several factors concerning the blast, the construction of your house, how much dirt/concrete/metal the pulse has to go through to reach your items, whether they’re plugged in and the random nature of a large-scale event.

What I mean by “random nature of a large-scale event” is to think about the effects of a forest fire going through a developed area. It’s not uncommon to have three houses of identical construction in close proximity where two burn down to a pile of ash on the slab and the third one have no damage whatsoever. On April 27, a multiple-vortex tornado just missed the Personal Liberty office. In other words, you just can’t discount or account for random outcomes in large scale events.

On aluminum foil, most Faraday cages are made of copper, sometimes simply copper mesh. Aluminum has 60 percent of the conductivity of copper, so it’s still a very good conductor. The electrical engineers I’ve talked with about this have had two major reasons why they think that aluminum foil makes a good field expedient Faraday cage.

1. The amount of shielding needed for an EMP blast depends on the size of the EMP, the efficiency of the EMP (whether it was purpose built to be an EMP or a “normal” nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude), your distance from the EMP and atmospheric conditions. In other words, aluminum foil probably wouldn’t work if a purpose built EMP went off directly overhead, but it might work great if you were 1,000 miles away from it, if it wasn’t a purpose built EMP, or if it was a small blast.

2. It’s a guess as to whether aluminum foil will work as a Faraday cage in an EMP attack. We are fortunate in that we haven’t experienced enough EMPs to have a large enough dataset to make definitive statements on what will work and what won’t work in the real world. That being said, aluminum foil doesn’t cost much compared to full-on Faraday cages and still gives people a lot of potential bang for the buck. It’s a case where everyone can keep aluminum foil and wire on hand, but most people have more pressing things to spend money on than certified Faraday enclosures.

With an EMP, it’s unlikely that the general public will have any warning of an attack. We’re getting better and better at identifying CMEs. That means we’ll have between 17 hours’ (as in 1859) and three to four days’ (as in August 2010) warning to unplug, shield and possibly even bury sensitive equipment.

Hold On A Second!

Before you go off and spend a bunch of time and money preparing for one specific potential event, make sure you have all of your fundamentals in order. What I mean is that instead of preparing specifically for an EMP/CME, you’re much better off taking steps that will help you prepare for all causes of breakdowns in civil order.

I’m talking about having a store of food on hand and a way to supply yourself and your family with water, shelter, fire, security and medical skills.

With a well-thought-out preparedness plan, you can be ready for disasters ranging from unexpected short-term unemployment to short-term natural disasters to catastrophic events like a collapse of the dollar to EMPs and CMEs, so focus on the fundamentals and you’ll be ready for whatever disaster happens.

Stay Safe & God Bless!

–David Morris



Develop Situational Awareness

With time being limited and the economy being the way that it is, it’s important to identify as many preparedness and survival skills as possible that you can learn and practice quickly and inexpensively. One of the most important survival and preparedness skills that you can learn, fortunately, happens to be free to practice: situational awareness.

People tend to throw a lot of jargon around when they talk about situational awareness. One of the most common phrases is talking about always being in “condition yellow.” Oftentimes, people have heard the term so much that they simply nod their head in agreement without really understanding what it means or where the term came from.

Condition yellow comes from famed firearms instructor Jeff Cooper, who wrote the book Principles of Self Defense in 1989. More than two decades later, it’s still a great book.

You may know Cooper as the founder of the famous Gunsite Firearms Training Academy. Although the book is quoted often, few people have actually read it. It’s less than 30 pages, and it’s only $10. I’ll warn you now, if you judge the value of a book by its weight, skip this one. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and appreciate quality over quantity and fluff, it’s one you should buy and read soon.

Let me briefly tell you about Cooper’s color codes. He maintained that people walk around in one of four states, or conditions:

Condition White: This is the baseline in America. Unaware. “Tuned out” listening to music, texting, talking on a cellphone or just daydreaming. The belief in condition white is that everyone around you will look out for you and that nobody would have any reason to do you harm. People who walk into fixed objects like light poles, walls, etc. are generally in condition white. They don’t see danger coming and are surprised and confused when bad things happen.

Condition Yellow: This is the condition in which you are relaxed and aware of your surroundings. You observe people around you and look for exits, possible improvised weapons and environmental threats (like icicles hanging from a roof or a young child playing by a railing with 1-foot gaps in the slats). In this state, you’re also more likely to see opportunities, recognize friends and identify situations where you can help with information or by taking action. Being in condition yellow allows you to be proactive and avoid problems or create favorable outcomes that other people don’t see as possibilities.

Condition yellow is not necessarily being on edge, irritable, having a hair trigger and thinking that everyone is out to get you. In fact, simply “people watching” is a form of condition yellow. It’s simply about proactively observing what is going on around you. If you observe good things, that’s great. If you observe bad things, you’ll usually do it early on and have more time to plan and execute your escape or reaction.

More often than not, once you’ve trained your mind to observe your surroundings, you’ll start picking up things without even consciously looking for them. You will recognize bulges, know knife brands when you’re only able to see the clip from across the room and be able to identify someone who’s angry out of the corner of your eye by his clenched jaw, tense body and the way he walks.

These observations will pay off every day as you’re just going about your life. You will see dog mess sooner, recognize doors that open out toward the sidewalk, see people getting ready to open their car door in your path and recognize the potential for people to come flying around blind corners.

Condition Orange is the next stage. It happens when something has made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

It could be something that you consciously identified, or it could be something that your subconscious mind has picked up that your conscious mind hasn’t.

A radical example of this would be looking at a sociopath in the face who is showing a genuine smile, but who is also pulling his hand out of his pocket where there is the slight outline of a knife. Your conscious mind will want to focus on the genuine smile, and your unconscious mind will be screaming to focus on the knife.

In any case, when you’re in condition orange, it’s time to set concrete triggers for fighting, fleeing or capitulating. “If he comes toward me and asks for my money, I’m going to throw my money on the ground. If he tells me to lie down, I’ll eliminate the threat.”

A more ordinary example of condition orange would be spotting a concealed weapon holder whose firearm has become exposed. It’s probably nothing, but it’s worth watching.

An everyday example is when you’re around young children in a new environment where you haven’t had a chance to look for dangers. Or when you are introducing dogs when one or more are sometimes aggressive. Or when you are approaching an aggressive panhandler or see someone who looks like he just got released from 10 years in the penitentiary.

It’s important to set your triggers or have pre-determined triggers that you will use in condition orange. With introducing dogs, it could be: “If my dog growls, I’ll pull sharply on the leash. If the other dog growls, I’ll pick up my dog and walk away.”

With the robber, it could be: “When he leans down to pick up the money, I’m going to kick his head with my shin.”

In a holdup situation, it could be: “If he turns his back to me, I’ll draw my firearm, drop to one knee so I’ve got a safe backstop and order him to drop his weapon. If he points his firearm at me, I’ll shoot him to stop the threat.”

Most times, when you’re in condition orange, the stimulus will leave, you will downgrade your assessment or you will remove yourself from the situation.

If you find yourself in condition orange on a continual basis, it’s called “hypervigilance.”  It’s not healthy, and it’s something you need to seriously address before your body literally eats itself up by releasing too many stress hormones and chemicals.

Condition Red: When something triggers condition orange and running or giving in are not options, sometimes you will move into condition red, which is the fight.

This is simply the execution of the trigger that you decided on in condition orange. It’s actually running away. It’s actually giving in. It’s actually eliminating the threat because things have escalated to the point where the benefits of acting outweigh the risks.

How do you get better at seeing things around you?

It’s a skill. You’ll want to start simple and build on the basics. I’m going to give you some tips you can start using immediately to help you be more aware of the people around you. Simply put, it’s comparing people around you to yourself or someone you know well. When someone comes in a door, ask the following questions. They’re a fairly common set of questions that police detectives ask witnesses after a crime to help them to recall details.

Is the person:

  • Male or female and what is the person’s skin color?
  • Older than, the same age or younger than I am?
  • Smaller, the same size or larger than I am?
  • Thin, fit, fat or obese?
  • Taller, the same height or shorter than I am?
  • Less aware, as aware or more aware than I am?
  • Dressed casually, formally or for a purpose?

You can add dozens of additional questions and observations, but this is a great place to start. As you answer the questions, you will naturally start to see other things that help you start to form a picture of the person.

One easy thing to identify is clothes. People usually don’t wear clothes to show people what they don’t like; rather, they wear clothes that show their favorite teams, activities or causes.

Accessories such as watches, sunglasses and jewelry are also identifiers. Sometimes, they are just thrown on; but, often, they help tell the story of the wearer.

Tattoos are another storyteller. Are they a reminder? A tribute? A message to others? Some people want to look tough because they were victimized when they were kids. Some people want to look tough as a defense tool to prevent actual physical conflict from happening. Some people just want tough-looking tattoos so they can feel tough. Others want to look tough because they live a violent lifestyle, and they use the tattoos as a form of psychological warfare when they get into verbal and physical altercations.

Like I said, there are dozens of other questions you can ask and things you can observe. As you increase the number of things that you observe about others, remember to add on slowly. If you go immediately from being unobservant to trying to observe 20 different factors and profile people like a Secret Service agent, you’ll just get frustrated.

On the other hand, if you start by observing a few things until it becomes natural and then add on a few more, you will soon be able to make fairly accurate observations and judge whether someone is a threat quickly and almost subconsciously.

If you have other tips, tricks and shortcuts for being situationally aware, please share them by commenting below:

Until next week, God Bless and stay safe!

David Morris

Efficient Food For Survival

Just like with a car, if you run your body on the fuel that it’s designed to burn, it will have more power, run more efficiently and have less waste.

Even more importantly from a preparedness perspective, if you eat foods that your body can burn and use efficiently, you don’t need to eat as much. In the case of storing food for emergency situations, it also means you don’t need to buy or store as much.

What makes food efficient? How do you absorb as much benefit as possible from the food you eat? There are a few factors, and they are different from person to person. This topic gets really complex in a hurry, but the following factors will address the majority of the issue:

  • Complexity of the food.
  • Glycemic index.
  • Enzymes.
  • Allergies.
  • Bacteria.
  • Bioavailability.

Complexity Of The Food

Foods that have more complex structures require more digestive energy to break down into usable components. From a pure calorie/energy perspective, some foods take more calories to digest than they provide. In general, protein requires more calories to digest than fats, which require more calories to digest than sugars. Protein has other benefits besides calories, so the fact that it is more complex doesn’t mean that you should avoid it.

Glycemic Index And Insulin Response

The glycemic index is a measure of how rapidly carbohydrates break down into glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index break down rapidly, and foods with a low glycemic index break down more slowly.

This is important because if your blood glucose levels get too high or rise too quickly, your pancreas will release insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels. The problem with this is that the pancreas usually overreacts, releases too much insulin and causes blood sugar levels to drop lower than they were to start with.

Most people understand this intuitively and know that when they eat high fructose corn sweetener or refined sugarcane they get quick energy that quickly drops off. But if they have fruits and whole wheat bread, their energy levels go up nice and slow and stay level for hours.


Enzymes are very complex and amazing structures that can cause chemical reactions to happen more or less quickly. In relation to food, enzymes break complex food particles down so that the intestines can extract as many nutrients as possible from them.

If you can figure out which foods your body is efficient at digesting, your eating becomes much more efficient. Also, many raw foods contain some of the natural enzymes required to digest them. When you cook them, you kill some or all of the enzymes and put more of the stress of digestion on your gut, causing you to get fewer net calories.

Enzymes are temperature sensitive and are killed off by cooking. Many people, to avoid this, have switched to a “raw” food diet. Personally, we cook a lot of our food, but we supplement with enzymes to take some of the strain of digestion off our bodies. This, in turn, causes the food to “burn” more efficiently, taking some of the load off of our livers.

I talk more about this in a presentation I recently recorded on how to get three to 10 TIMES more nutrients from your food. You can see it by clicking here.


If your body identifies a particular food as a threat, you won’t be able to digest it as efficiently as someone whose body doesn’t identify it as a threat. In fact, the reaction could cause your body to rapidly expel the contents of your gut, cause general inflammation or even kill you.

Bacteria In The Gut

With the help of enzymes, bacteria in your gut break down the food that you eat into forms that your body can use for building, repair, energy and other chemical reactions. Your gut has both good bacteria and bad bacteria in it. It’s good to minimize bad bacteria and maximize good bacteria to get the most benefit from your food. A couple of things that will kill the bacteria in your gut are antibiotics and Sucralose (Splenda.) This lack of good bacteria will cause you to extract less from your food and have more waste.

In addition to avoiding things that kill good bacteria in our guts, we also take probiotics to keep our good bacteria levels high.


This has more to do with supplements than it does with food, but it’s still important. One of the best explanations of this is in Dr. Michael Colgan’s book, Optimum Sports Nutrition. Colgan became relatively famous in the late 80s and early 90s by showing Olympic athletes how to achieve steroid-like performance gains without destroying their bodies. My copy is 16 years old and well worn. In the book, Colgan talks about the various forms of calcium, how much calcium is in each form and how well the body absorbs the calcium.

As an example, calcium carbonate is 40 percent calcium (60 percent carbon and oxygen) and only 39 percent of that calcium gets absorbed. Calcium citrate is 21 percent calcium and 30 percent is absorbed. Calcium lactate is 14 percent calcium and 27 percent gets absorbed. This issue of bioavailability is present with every vitamin and mineral you take.

What happens to the rest of the pill? Your body has to process it which puts stress on your liver, kidney and other organs — all of which takes energy.

This is why I tell people to buy food that they already eat for their food storage. And, if you want to buy packaged food for long-term storage, be darn sure the food is compatible with your digestive system before you buy hundreds of meals.

This would be a great time for any nutritionists, biologists or even chemists to chime in with either more technical explanations, expanded explanations of the factors mentioned or other factors that I didn’t address by commenting below.

–David Morris


Preparedness While Traveling

We’re going to a football game on the weekend of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. One side of my brain says there’s no extra danger. The other side of my brain says terrorists love anniversaries. In any case, we’re going to go see some football. Am I going to have some stuff in the car in case something happens? Of course I will; I always do.

Some people get to a point in their preparations where they never want to leave the comfort and safety of home. There’s nothing wrong with this if it works for you, but my wife and I are adventurers. We made a conscious decision that we wouldn’t become prisoners of our preparations. As a result, we travel together whenever we can. That, combined with business travel, means we spend a lot of time with only the items we have on our backs or in our vehicle.

I have traveled a few times a month for business for several years and make four to eight trips a year to Washington, D.C. My list of equipment has constantly evolved.

Due to new airline luggage restrictions, I have pared down my travel gear considerably. I now have the challenge of fitting everything I check into one bag that weighs less than 50 pounds, including my sidearm (when not in Washington), clothes, toiletries, work items and preparedness items.

Here’s what I carry, broken down into the four major survival categories:

Food: It depends on the trip, but I usually carry a few packages of jerky, five to 10 CLIF bars, Hammer Gel, instant oatmeal, breakfast-shake powder, meal-replacement bars or whatever is decently healthy that I can buy in bulk at Costco.

I also carry fiber capsules and meal-replacement capsules. The combination will allow me to function at about 85 percent to 90 percent capacity for a few days without food and without feeling hungry. Best of all, they take up almost no space and weigh very little.

When I combine a little bit of food with the fiber/meal replacement combo, it’s possible for me to carry a week or more of food in a very compact form.

Fire: I keep a few fire-starting tricks with me, including two from the Adventure Medical Kits (AMK) mini survival kit, which fits into my cargo-pocket sized REI first aid kit. (You can get both from REI.)

The two fire starters that are included in this kit are a Fresnel lens and a tiny orange stick with a “spark wheel” like you’d find on a lighter. Most importantly, they include three pieces of braided cotton to use as tinder.

I also carry a BlastMatch. The BlastMatch is a one-handed fire starter that uses a combination of 4 metals to create 1,400 degree sparks. From a pure survival standpoint, it’s not necessary. The little orange “spark wheel” does just as well with the proper tinder, but I honestly just enjoy using the BlastMatch.

Two items I carry that double as accelerants for making fires are ChapStick® and fish oil capsules. Adding either to tinder makes starting fire so much easier that it is almost like cheating.

The laws on matches and lighters in checked and carry-on baggage seem to change so often that I don’t even bother with them.

Water: I carry a Sawyer 2-liter water purifier. It is guaranteed to purify 1 million gallons and is one of the very few mechanical filters that will filter out viruses. It’s truly an impressive purifier. I also carry the Katadyn carbon cartridge to filter the chlorine out of hotel water.

If needed, I can use my bandana or a cotton shirt as a pre-filter.

I also carry a Nalgene bottle so I have something to put the water into besides a tiny hotel glass.

Shelter: My shelter options are very limited due to size and weight restrictions. I carry a Mylar® blanket from the AMK kit, a poncho and a couple of contractor garbage bags. My primary strategy is to pack layered clothes and acquire or create shelter if necessary.

Medical: I carry a simple REI day pack first aid kit along with Super Glue®, electrolyte replenisher, an extra triangle bandage and some beefed up blister gear. I don’t carry any CPR gear and, frankly, I don’t intend to do CPR on anyone other than immediate family while traveling. This kit is to fix myself. If I have to fix anyone else, I’ll use their supplies or supplies that I acquire.

That last point is very important. If I find myself in a mass casualty incident, I’m not going to be using my little pocket first aid and trauma kit on strangers. I would use it on family; but if I’m working on strangers, I’ll use what they have and/or cut and rip off parts of their clothing rather than use the limited supplies I have.

I also carry a bottle of prescription pain medications. I’ve learned the hard way that I have to jam-pack the bottle with cotton balls to keep the pills from dissolving from vibration. (Because I don’t take them and I carry the exact same pills for months and even years at a time, the vibration of airline travel adds up.)

Security/Tools: Some of the other items that I have with me are:

  • A fixed-blade knife. I carry a 4.8-inch partially serrated Gerber LMF II that I have abused enough in the woods and around the house to know I can trust it.
  • A few zip ties of various lengths.
  • A multi-tool.
  • Two lights: a Surefire Backup and a Petzl Zipka.
  • Backup batteries
  • Two pepper sprays: a traditional “jogger” Saber spray and a Kimber Guardian Angel.
  • Pocket/neck knives to the extent that they’re legal where I’m traveling.
  • A belt, boots, a bandana and a few cotton T-shirts.
  • A roll of black electrical tape.
  • Lots of paracord.
  • Magnetic intrusion alarms.
  • A lock pick set.
  • Urban Survival Playing Cards from

I’ll usually throw in a couple of new things to test out each trip, but that’s the core of it. The best part about this setup is that, other than my knife, it’s all small, light and very usable.

I normally fly with a firearm a few times a month and have never had a problem with the Transportation Security Administration. I’ve read about several incidents in which people did have problems with TSA, but my personal experience has been different.

There are times for me, though, when carrying a firearm is not an option: on a plane, on Amtrak, in Washington, D.C., California and other locales that don’t allow concealed or open carry, even at amusement parks. During those times, I’m quite happy that I have solid empty-hands fighting skills. It’s what makes me comfortable and confident in situations where I can’t carry effective self-defense tools and may have to fight to be able to acquire an improvised weapon.

Let me know what preparedness items you carry with you when you travel. How do you deal with the fact that you’re basically choosing to be unprepared hours or days away from your home, family and supplies? What systems do you have in place should a disaster hit your family while you’re gone? As you get more and more prepared, do you tend to spend more time at home or have you figured out how to feel comfortable leaving everything behind?

Tell me by commenting below.

Building Walls

Following an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario or even a severe economic collapse, one of the most practical security measures that homeowners, neighborhoods and small towns can take is to find ways to increase security with minimal manpower.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to use physical barriers. The type of barrier depends on your resources, budget, time-frame and the threat that you are defending against. As an example, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire will keep most two- and four-legged predators out of your garden, but won’t stop a truck, tank or helicopter.

What I will address is one of the ways I see good people responding to long-term breakdowns in civil order — not defending against tanks and helicopters, but defending against robbery, home invasions and other violent attacks. In particular, I will explain how to create small safe zones within cities.

Of course, there’s a precedent for this. From the time that people started creating population centers to expand commerce and to join together for common defense, people have used physical barriers to keep hostile invaders out.

Some historical physical barriers were purely functional. Others are beautiful after the fact, like Old West forts, castles and the Great Wall of China.

Fast forward to today. Walls are used in countries around the globe to protect individual houses and neighborhoods from outsiders. My friends from Mexico City weren’t upper class, but they still lived in walled neighborhoods with guards armed with Uzis. One of them ran a home-based daycare for wealthy families, and several of the preschoolers had their own armed guards who stayed outside the house during the day. Interestingly enough, the guns the armed guards carried were illegal.

Regardless of what towns and cities will officially do in an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it situation, people with the means to do so will protect themselves. One of the best ways to ensure that you live to a ripe old age is to make sure you never look like the easiest target. Physical barriers go a long way toward helping criminals decide to go after someone else’s stuff instead of yours.

Almost all houses in the United States are vulnerable to attack. Flimsy interior doors, sliding glass doors, multiple big windows, insecure entry doors and non-rock/brick/cement construction all add up to big vulnerability from determined attackers.

One thing in particular that I see happening is that wealthy, urban U.S. homeowners follow the example of wealthy homeowners from around the world and wall themselves in — with walls around both their individual properties and bigger walls around their neighborhoods.

Walls can be made with HESCO barriers, prestressed concrete, silage, conex boxes (shipping containers), brick, stone, lumber or whatever happens to work best in a particular area used alone or in conjunction with trenches and/or barbed wire.

HESCO barriers are large, stackable “boxes” of dirt. They come in several sizes, but are basically collapsible weaved fabric boxes measuring 1 meter tall, 1 meter deep and 10 meters long that you fill with sand or dirt using a front end loader. They are effective against firearms, small bombs and vehicle assaults. You can set them up single or double thick and stack them several layers high. Our troops have used them extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have saved countless lives and are much more efficient than sandbags if you have the equipment necessary to load them.

If you’ve ever seen a cement commercial building go from nothing to all four walls being up in a few hours, you’ve seen prestressed concrete in action. Silage walls are also prestressed concrete, but they are generally made with wider bases so they are self-supporting — like highway barriers, only taller.

I bring this up because I see opportunity here, and you can take advantage of it. First, if you are in a neighborhood, apartment or condominium where it might be practical to pool money to build a common defensive wall, you might want to start looking for resources as you’re going about your daily life. Identify people who use heavy equipment, companies that own heavy equipment, concrete companies, independent truckers, etc. Also, start thinking about where you would place the walls and openings/checkpoints. How would you alter it if you can’t raise enough money?

I would love to say that the need to build improvised walls around your neighborhood has little to no chance of happening, but we just don’t know. People probably thought protective walls weren’t necessary at some point in most of the places in the world where they are in use today.

In any case, the sheer volume of low probability threats that we currently face adds up to a significant risk. Even so, this is an idea to consider and start identifying solutions for, but I wouldn’t dedicate money or a significant amount of time to it at this point unless it makes sense in light of your current level of preparedness. You’re much more likely to benefit from taking the steps necessary to have 40 days of food on hand than you would be to benefit from spending the same amount of time and money on physical barriers. Even so, just introducing the concept will help you start identifying opportunities around you.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen and talked with officials from cities in the U.S. where they either have concrete barriers pre-positioned near where they’re needed or have heavy equipment operators on standby to close off access to the town by outsiders in the event of a disaster.

Second, if you happen to have skills or assets that could be used to help secure semi-wealthy or wealthy neighborhoods, start thinking about how you would sell your services after a disaster. Would you sell your services for money? For a place to live within the wall? For a share of water? Maybe you don’t currently live somewhere where it would be practical to put up physical barriers, but you might be able to figure out how to provide enough value to people who do live in areas that can afford to erect physical barriers to be able to move in.

Third, think about what skills you have that would be of value to people inside of communities that might put up walls. Are you a master hydroponic, aeroponic or conventional gardener, and do you want to expand your operation? Are you skilled and experienced at raising animals, but don’t have the secure space to do it? The answer to both of these questions may lead you to growing food or raising animals on someone else’s property within a walled neighborhood or property — especially if it’s more secure. Heck, I even see opportunities for armed house sitters to watch over people’s houses while the owners are on vacation or at other (rural) properties.

This brings to mind a conversation that I had last fall when I was visiting with a friend of mine 2,000 miles away from home. He asked me what I would do if a fictional “Jericho” type event happened that day and my family and home got wiped out by a nuclear bomb, shortly followed by an EMP that knocked out power across the country. My answer was that I’d find the wealthiest neighborhood I could find and figure out what their particular needs were and how I could make myself so valuable that they’d be eager to give me food, fire, water, shelter and medication — even though I was a complete stranger visiting from out of town.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on walled neighborhoods after a breakdown in civil order. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people who have lived overseas in walled “compounds,” whether they were U.S. enclaves or simple civilian neighborhoods. I know many of you have been Department of Defense or Department of State dependents stationed overseas, and I would appreciate any insights you have to share.

–David Morris


Convince Reluctant Loved Ones To Prepare

Once you realize how important and urgent it is to prepare your family for disasters, getting loved ones on board can be one of the most frustrating and heartrending parts of the process. Whether it is getting someone in your own house to “see the light” or getting a friend or loved one to take threats seriously, this can cause almost as much stress as the disasters you’re trying to prepare for.

I’ve got a couple of approaches that I want to share with you today that will help you with people who have investments or see the wisdom in saving.

I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s financial radio show on the way home earlier this week, as I often do. He was suggesting, as usual, that someone needed to follow his steps to financial peace.

The first step that he suggests is to get a $1,000 emergency fund. Interestingly enough, the reason for doing this is “for those unexpected events in life that you can’t plan for… It’s not a matter of if these events will happen; it’s simply a matter of when they will happen.”

The second step is to pay off all debts except the house.

And the third step is to build up three to six months of savings to serve as an emergency fund.

I can’t remember ever talking to anyone who thought that having an emergency fund was a bad idea. Even people who are dead set against preparedness or even simple food storage will agree that having a rainy day fund is a smart idea.

I’d venture to say that every adult has either benefited from having an emergency fund or wished that they had one at some point in his life. I’ve experienced both of those situations, and I can tell you that when you find yourself in “emergency” mode, you will always wish you had more in your emergency fund than you do.

Most people stop with the thought that an emergency fund is a good thing. But if you peel this onion back a little bit, it opens up a whole new way of looking at emergency funds/rainy day funds and preparedness and will give you a solid foundation for talking about preparedness with someone who believes in having an emergency fund.

Let’s start by looking at the kinds of expenses that people think they’ll use their emergency funds for. In many cases, it’s for a car repair or medical expenses. But in today’s environment of high unemployment, people generally accept the fact that they might be using their emergency fund to pay for basic necessities like food, shelter, fire, water and possibly fuel for transportation after losing their job(s).

Forget about the fact that there may be a regional disaster; people lose jobs every day and experience their own personal emergencies. Unemployment rates are on the news almost every day. And if you know more than 10 people, chances are very high that you know someone who’s lost his job in the past year or two. The loss of a job is much more realistic and easier for the general public to accept than the possibility of a failure of the electrical grid, rioting, fuel or food shortages, or any other major disaster that could cause a breakdown in civil order.

So, if you’re talking with someone who has an emergency fund set aside for a rainy day, ask him if he found himself in a situation in which he needed to use it, if some of that money would go to buy food.

This makes sense for a few reasons, namely:

  1. If he simply buys larger quantities of the items he currently eats, there’s a good chance he will save money. If he has three to six months of expenses set aside, then he is already planning on spending a portion of that money on food. There is no additional expense to holding some of his emergency fund in food rather than dollars.
  2. If the disaster that causes him to tap into his emergency fund causes a breakdown in the supply chain for stores, he will be able to eat his emergency fund if some of it is in food rather than dollars.
  3. If he is keeping his emergency fund in the bank and there is an emergency that affects the banking system, he is stuck. If he converts some of his emergency fund from dollars to food, then he will still be able to feed himself.
  4. This is one of the most important points: food inflation. If you convert some of your emergency funds to food right now, you could get significantly more for your money than if you wait until an emergency happens. Food prices might go down; but droughts in China, bad U.S. money policies causing a weaker dollar and wasting farmland and corn to produce ethanol will all serve to keep food prices high and possibly push them higher.

You might need to actually pull out a pad of paper and write out some numbers on this. Let’s say that the person you’re talking with has $3,000 in his emergency fund. Ask him how much of that he would be willing to spend on food in an emergency. Let’s say it’s 20 percent, or $600. It may be more or less, but let’s use $600.

Whatever number he comes up with, ask him if there’s any reason why he wouldn’t want to go ahead and buy $600 of nonperishable foods before the prices go up.

If the light clicks with food, you can use the same line of reasoning to get him to keep extra fuel for his car, grill and heating system on hand, as well as any other necessities. This isn’t a complete survival plan, but it is a good, solid baby step.

Preparedness as Asset Allocation and Diversification

Asset allocation and portfolio diversification are strategies financial planners have been pushing for years to try to protect their clients from market risk. One oversimplified way of looking at it is that someone in his 20s who’s saving for retirement can stick all of his money in high-risk investments that have the potential for high rewards. As you get older and have less time to recover from any losses in your retirement account, you allocate a bigger and bigger percentage of your retirement money to conservative investments.

I recently talked with a gentleman who sells ranches and ranchettes who uses this exact strategy to sell properties. He’ll ask people how much of their retirement they have in very conservative investments that aren’t making them any money. When they give him a number, he figures out how big of a ranch or ranchette they could buy and stock with the same money in case TSHTF. Normally, they are people who have car insurance, homeowners insurance, health insurance, life insurance and sometimes long-term care insurance. This is simply a way of converting money that isn’t doing anything for them into SHTF insurance.

If you or a loved one has a big nest egg, this may be an approach you can take to talk with them about preparedness that will ring true with them.

If you aren’t at the stage in life at which you have money to go out and buy land, but you are saving for retirement and some of your money is going into very conservative investments, you might want to take some time and look at food storage and preparedness items as a great way to diversify your savings.

Are you a financial planner or stock broker and a prepper? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach. Have you used this approach to get to where you are today? Have you used this approach to get loved ones to buy into preparedness? Please share your experiences below. Do you have other strategies that you’ve used successfully to get loved ones on board with preparedness? Please share them below.

Are You A Paranoid Prepper?

It’s amazing how many emails I get that start with either “I might be paranoid” or “My family thinks I’m paranoid.” The simple fact is, if you think that it’s smart to prepare for likely disasters, some people will call you prudent and others will call you paranoid.

In reality, the passage of time is all that will shed light on whether someone is being paranoid. For example, Joel Rosenberg wrote about terrorists flying planes into a skyscraper before 9/11. (It was after al-Qaida had started preparing, so he didn’t give them the idea.)

Many thought that idea was the creation of a fiction writer with an overactive imagination. And those who thought it was possible were considered merely paranoid — until it actually happened.

That’s the way it is with many threats. Some in New Orleans thought that preparing for a levee break was being paranoid — until it actually happened. For a while after Hurricane Katrina, there was only one operational hospital in the entire city. Ochsner Medical Center had been taking practical steps to prepare for a levee break since the 1950s.

Other threats never pan out… like Y2K. People who were myopic and focused on Y2K ended up looking paranoid after the dust settled. But those who kept their supplies and training up to speed look pretty smart right about now. They may have been paranoid about Y2K, but their understanding of the need to be prepared was practical and timeless.

“Paranoia,” if you want to call it that, isn’t necessarily a bad thing… unless it starts affecting your sleep, your relationships with others and your mood. Fortunately, there are some simple things that you can do to look at the threats we’re facing in a way that will allow you to keep balance in your life.

Here are some truisms about being paranoid/prepared:

  1. There will always be a “new threat” to worry about. They are kind of like waves in the surf zone. If you focus all of your energy on one, there’s always another one coming. Your best bet is to power through, keep moving and keep your eyes on the big picture.
  2. General preparedness will help keep you from the emotional roller coaster of going from one probable disaster to the next. EMPs, bio attacks, economic collapse and infrastructure attacks all share common elements. Focusing on these common elements will give you a broad preparedness base.
  3. TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) may or may not happen during your lifetime, so don’t waste all your time on Earth focusing on it. Someday, you’re going to look back on how you spent your life. Spend your time today in a way that you’ll be happy about tomorrow.
  4. If things do collapse, life will get really stressful, so don’t forget to stop and smell the roses while things are relatively stable.
  5. If you’re losing sleep now because of what might happen, you should learn how to get your mind under control for when things actually do happen.
  6. Spending time making forward progress on your preparations will always beat spending time reading about every possible disaster that could happen.
  7. Unless your plan is to live in a cave, completely isolated and alone, make sure to spend time on relationships with family and friends. They will make your life richer if disaster never happens, and they will make life livable if disaster does happen.
  8. Many of the things you worry about will never happen. Some might. But, as Matthew 6:27 says: “Who by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Try to convert worry into action and/or prayer.

Calm Down

The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath. In a survival situation, panic can kill you more quickly than a lack of oxygen. One of the best ways to prepare for the stress of a survival situation is to learn how to handle stressful situations in everyday life as efficiently as possible. This isn’t a switch you can flip… it’s a skill that’s developed over time — and a skill you can start developing today.

Practice calming down while driving, while talking with customer support that doesn’t speak English, and while spending time with friends and relatives. There are some situations where escalating conflict helps, but in most cases it doesn’t.

If you’re frantically preparing, you might also want to calm down a little. I believe preparedness is both urgent and a way of life. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to prepare at such a frantic pace that you quickly burn out or make expensive mistakes. But when you make it a part of your life, it becomes quite fun and enriches every day in addition to preparing you for disasters.

Make A Plan

The next thing you need to do is make a plan. What threats are you most concerned about? What preparations can you do that will help you no matter what kind of disaster you face? What skills and supplies do you currently have? Which skills do you need to develop and what supplies do you need to start getting? What if you have to bug out? What if you can’t bug out and you have to survive in place?

You will continually be modifying your plan based on opportunities and your unique situation, so don’t feel like the plan you make today will be set in stone.

Control Your Time, Control Your Mind

It’s easy to spend hours and hours reading, watching or listening about the next worst thing that’s going to happen. It’s also intoxicating to read about other people’s survival plans and about other people’s survival skills instead of actually doing stuff yourself.

I encourage you to control what you watch, listen and read. There’s no shortage of information out there about all of the threats we face. And it’s not a bad thing to be aware of them. But think about every potential disaster you hear about as encouraging your decision to be prepared rather than as something new to worry about.

One of the best illustrations of this is helicopter pilots. Helicopter pilots are a unique breed. Airplane pilots know that if their engines go out, their plane will naturally glide some distance and they have a good shot at being able to land safely.

Helicopter pilots, on the other hand, are basically flying a rock through the air. If the engine goes out, autorotation will buy some grace, but landing a dead helicopter becomes more like landing a rock than landing an airplane.

As a result, helicopter pilots are very aware of all of the threats they face and everything that could go wrong at any given moment and cause a series of cascading disasters. The ability to accept and deal with all of these potential threats, embrace them and enjoy finding solutions to them is what makes for great helicopter pilots. They learn that at some point you have to stop overthinking what might happen and just start flying.

Similarly, the more aware you are about the political, natural and terrorist threats that we face, the more you’ll want to develop the mind of a helicopter pilot… always aware of what could happen, but never dwelling on any one thing and letting it paralyze you.

Along this same line of thought, we used to watch Glenn Beck’s show every night. It was solid information, but it was overwhelming. I still listen to Glenn’s radio show and really appreciate his waking people up. But at the same time, I have to limit myself to how much I listen to his show. It’s the same with many blogs, forums and books. Every day, I would read about the end results of somebody’s lifetime of prepping. But I wouldn’t have time to do anything about it, and I found myself just as unprepared the next time I watched or read.

Fortunately, there’s a balance.

What I encourage you to do is watch and read just enough to spur you to action. Then, actually spend time doing things to get prepared.

That’s a big reason why I am so focused on not only writing about vulnerabilities that we face and big-picture preparedness, but also simple, fundamental things that people can do on a daily basis to get themselves prepared. I want every article I write to have actionable steps you can take immediately so that you become more prepared every day.

Take Action!

Once you’re aware of the threats we face, both in the U.S. and globally, the best thing you can do to get prepared and stay sane is to take action.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” “Slow and steady wins the race.” These are all good sayings to remind you to pace yourself. If you have to sprint, then look at your preparedness as interval training and plan for time to catch your breath and regroup.

Do something on a daily basis to get more prepared. Don’t just read about skills, practice them. Do things that will earn you the right to sleep soundly because you’ve made forward progress.

Don’t kick yourself for waiting to get prepared. It’ll only waste mental energy. Learn the lesson and get moving.

Don’t think you’re going to go from newbie to expert in every facet of survival overnight. It’s a process — and any progress that you make will give you that much more of an advantage over the general public.


For my wife and me, prayer is the biggest thing that gives us peace and strength. We’re facing some pretty huge threats to our way of life, and talking with God is the biggest thing that helps keep our heads from spinning around in frustration with what’s going on in the world. We’re living in crazy times, and we’re thankful to have a rock that we can hold onto.

What To Do Next?

Still don’t know what to do next? That’s a big reason why I wrote the Urban Survival Course. It’s a step-by-step guide to get you and your family ready for breakdowns in civil order after disasters. To read more about it and see if it’s right for you, please go to

Do you have any stories about how you went from being paralyzed or panicked by what is going on in the world to feeling more at peace? How about how you won over relatives who once thought you were paranoid? Please share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.

Top 10 Reasons America Depends On Survivalists And Preppers

There has been a lot of derogatory talk lately about “preppers” and “survivalists.” Here are 10 reasons why preppers and survivalists have always been vital to the United States and why it is essential that we have as many as possible to survive future disasters.

To start with, the titles “survivalist” and “prepper” would have seemed redundant a couple of generations ago. When the Greatest Generation was growing up, preparedness was simply a way of life. Before the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other Federal aid programs were around, people knew that they had to be able to take care of themselves in the event of natural and manmade disasters.

At the core, that’s what survivalists and preppers are. They are people who are aware that life is full of uncertainty and who have decided to put things into place for when bad times happen.

With that, here is the top 10 list of why America depends on survivalists and preppers:

1. FEMA: The cost for local, state and Federal agencies to plan, equip and staff for every disaster that might happen is cost-prohibitive. When disasters strike, government is quick to talk and quick to “ramp up,” but government help is slow to come and inefficient when it arrives. The irony is how often highly qualified and motivated front-line first responders are prevented from doing as much as they could by top-heavy bureaucracies.

Survivalists and preppers, on the other hand, are able to act quickly and efficiently to take care of their own houses and provide stability, structure and assistance for their streets, neighborhoods and beyond. Because they know the terrain and the players in the areas where they live and operate, they can quickly establish stable micro-environments for recovery to grow from.

2. Stable base: An organization (or nation) of people with narrowly focused, specialized skills may accomplish great things when everything is going smoothly, but it quickly falls apart when trouble comes and key people are knocked out.

The survivalist and prepper mind-set of jack-of-all-trades makes for a stable organization (or nation). If the specialist falls or needs help, others can help pick up the slack — even if it means they’re doing it at a slower speed or lower level of proficiency.

3. Joseph in the Bible: Preppers and survivalists have been around saving the day since the beginning of time. In Genesis 37-50, Joseph sees trouble coming and prepares for seven years. At the end of seven years, a severe drought and famine hit that last for the next seven years. Because of Joseph’s preparations, Egypt survived the drought and famine and was able to help the surrounding nations.

4. Founding Fathers: With the Constitution and Bill of Rights, our Founding Fathers pushed responsibility from the Federal government down to the individual citizen and promoted a survivalist/prepper mentality. They did it with the 2nd and 4th Amendments, they did it by example (Washington leading a mostly barefoot army across the Delaware), and they did it throughout their writing.

5. Siege warfare: Many of the things that happened after Hurricane Katrina are textbook examples of why siege warfare is so effective. The normal city has a three-day supply of food. The normal prepper has a six- to 24-month supply of food.

Which do you think is more stable in the event of a siege that is due to disasters or war?

If you focus only on food and water supplies, a city, county, region or country with many preppers will be much more resilient to being cut off from outside help than one with few preppers.

6. Independent from the government: How much leverage does an energy tax (or most other taxes) have on a family that’s living partially or completely off the grid? The more self-reliant you are, the less control the government can exert over your life through taxes.

7. Criminals fear the aware and prepared: This is fairly straightforward. Preppers and survivalists gradually become more aware and prepared than the average person. This will show itself in your walk, in your eyes and how you carry yourself. In short, you stop looking like a wounded gazelle and more like a badger… cute and cuddly, but ready to do anything necessary to stop a threat to himself or his loved ones.

8. Tyrants fear survivalists and preppers: In addition to living a lifestyle that insulates them from siege, some taxes and being nannied, survivalists and preppers are usually well-armed and seek advanced training. Good men have nothing to fear from an armed populace, but tyrants who seek to control the lives of others will always try to disarm them first through confiscation, taxation or pressure through media and the education system.

It worked for Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong and many more narcissistic, mass murders throughout the ages. It worked so far back, in fact, that Aristotle spoke extensively about how, in any society, those who control the arms control the state.

9. More preppers means fewer refugees and faster recovery from disasters: After a local, regional or national disaster, the number of refugees will be inversely proportional to the number of preppers and survivalists in the area. In other words, the more preppers you have in an area, the less strain the hospitals, volunteer organizations and government-run refugee centers will have.

10. More able to help their fellow man: After a disaster, you’re not going to see very many refugees donating their food, supplies or time. It’s not that they don’t want to, but rather it’s because they are in a fight for their lives and may be dehydrated, hungry and tired.

Preppers and survivalists who have food storage, water or water-treatment tools and who have prepared themselves psychologically for disasters will be able to help in several ways. First, they are less likely to become refugees or use the time and resources of first responders. Second, since they are prepared for disasters, they can help the people in their immediate area, which will lessen the load on first responders and reduce the number of refugees. Third, by helping themselves and their neighbors, preppers will increase the quality of care for people who do need first responder care or who need to relocate to a refugee center.

In short, the more survivalists and preppers we have, the more stable our families, cities and the country as a whole are.

Please let me know what you think about this by commenting below. Love it? Hate it? Do you have additional points to add? Let me know.

What Kind Of Seeds To Store?

Lots of people email and ask about what the best seeds are to store for long-term survival situations. With all of the deceptive and fear-based seed marketing in the preparedness market, it’s become confusing to try to figure out what kind of seeds to plant now and store for the future.

Here’s an example of an email I get fairly regularly:
Thanks for the info. Question: Dehydrated food lasts only so long. What is the best source for seeds, etc. to grow food? Online? Farmers’ markets? Country stores?

Here’s part of what I wrote back… plus some more:

Ideally, you want to have seeds from a few sources that are heirloom, hybrid, short season and long season, so that if any of the batches are bad, you won’t be wiped out. This will also protect you from early season hail storms, floods, late frosts and other environmental factors like volcanoes that might cause a short growing season.

Don’t confuse “hybrid” with GMO (genetically modified). Personally, I am a hybrid. I’m a mix of German, Russian, American Indian and French. Put another way, I’m a typical American mutt… and I like it.

Back to seeds… many hybrids occur naturally when the plants from one strain of seed pollinate the plants of another strain. Usually, hybrids occur in a controlled setting when scientists cross-pollinate plants. In any case, most hybrids are made to have more output or be more resilient to drought, flooding, heat, cold, disease and/or pests, but the trade-off is that most have seeds that won’t produce the following year.

GMO seeds are sold primarily to large farming operations, and you usually won’t need to worry about looking out for them when you buy seeds. Many seed companies advertise that their seeds are “NON-GMO” to a public that knows GMO is bad, but they don’t advertise that no other seeds in the store are GMO seeds. I won’t say that they don’t exist for the home gardener, but I have yet to see GMO seeds available anywhere in pouches for home gardens.

I don’t like GMO, and I do like hybrid and heirloom. But what’s the difference between hybrid and heirloom?

In simplest terms, hybrid plants are generally more resilient and forgiving. Heirlooms are generally more flavorful, and you can harvest the seeds to plant the following year. These are generalizations. Some hybrid plants have stabilized and produce viable seeds for the following year. Not all heirlooms are more flavorful than their hybrid alternative.

Again, I suggest having both hybrid and heirloom and planting some of both, so that if everything goes well and your heirlooms survive the growing season, you get the benefits of heirloom produce. But if things don’t go so well, the hybrid seeds may be more resilient to whatever knocked out your heirlooms and give you a partial harvest.

But that kind of misses the fundamental issue with storing seeds for survival.

In short, you should store seeds that you have experience growing successfully. If you don’t have experience growing seeds successfully, then there are other questions that need to be answered before worrying about which seeds to buy.

You’ve got to remember that, while there is a lot of crossover, “survival” skills are different than “primitive-living” skills.

Here’s what I mean.

Survival skills are designed to help you “survive” a fixed situation of known or unknown length. Food storage is a good example of this. So is traditional camping.

Primitive-living skills are designed to help you be more independent from other people and, in a pure sense, able to survive indefinitely separated from others. Gardening is a good example of this.

Both are valuable skill sets, especially for preppers who are aware of all of the short- and long-term risks we’re currently facing; but it’s helpful not to confuse the two. Primitive living skills, like gardening, also have the advantage of helping you grow your own food during “normal” times.

Back to the issue of storing seeds for survival. Think through the scenarios that you’re planning for. Are you planning for multiple-year primitive-living scenarios or one- to six-month survival scenarios that you can simply stock up supplies for?

I have both survival supplies and primitive-living supplies that I know how to use and work with regularly, but I use modern conveniences for most of my day-to-day living. In a total breakdown situation, I view my survival supplies as a buffer that will buy me time to get my primitive-living skills to the point where I can depend on them for living and/or a barter or trade economy to develop and stabilize.

Again, there will be overlap, but you need to be clear on which one you’re currently preparing for. By focusing on one or another, you will make faster progress overall. I normally suggest that people focus on survival and preparedness before they spend too much time focusing on primitive living.

Why? Because in the event of a disaster like a hurricane, tornado, flood or wildfire, survival and preparedness skills (in general) are much easier to use and benefit from. You don’t necessarily have to transition to primitive-living skills like grinding wheat to bake bread and using a loom to make your own clothes. You can simply eat what’s in your food storage and wear extra clothes that you had in your go bag.

Another question you want to ask yourself is whether you are planning for a partial breakdown in services or a complete breakdown? To clarify, a partial breakdown could be due to a natural disaster or a local terrorist attack after which supply chains are repaired quickly. A complete breakdown could be due to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), infrastructure attack, earthquakes on the level of the New Madrid Earthquakes or other large-scale incident after which supply chains may be damaged for months or years.

You need to answer these questions to see just how much seeds will fit into the scenarios you’re currently planning for.

As an example, you won’t need seeds for a short-term survival scenario. (You might be amazed how many people have seeds in their 72-hour kits.) And if a long-term survival scenario starts right before your planting season, it’s likely you will have other concerns more pressing than tilling, planting, watering and weeding. It may be a year before you get a chance to plant your seeds. This is one reason why it’s important for everyone to have food storage — even if you’re a master gardener.

You also have to consider environmental issues. If you’re contending with acid rain, excessively polluted rain or a water shortage, a greenhouse may not only be a convenience, but a necessity to allow you to protect your plants from unfiltered water they might get in an open garden.

If you’re planning for an attack on the cyber and/or electrical infrastructure, it means municipal water will probably be hard to find. You should look for seeds that will grow naturally with the soil and water you will have available.

A great first step is to talk with local gardening stores to find out which plants and varieties of plants will work best with your soil type and start with those. If you live in an area where Indians lived, you may want to consider finding out what they planted and ate. In many cases, Indians simply took plants that grew naturally in their areas, harvested seeds and nurtured them in subsequent seasons to increase their yield.

As a note, for the first few years of gardening, I suggest either buying young plants from a nursery and replanting them or doing a combination of planting seeds and replanting plants. Why? There’s a lot to learn with a garden. The more variables you remove and the more early success you have, the more likely you are to continue your garden for years to come.

Keep in mind that if you want to start developing your skill at gardening, it’s not too late to start this weekend. You can still buy tomatoes, berries, herbs and salad fixings at local nurseries. If you can find them, they will probably already have fruit on them and be more expensive than early season plants, but they will give you a chance to practice the mysterious arts of watering, weeding and soil management.

One other thought… if you’re just starting out in your preparations, don’t have gardening experience and have a few hundred bucks available, go out and buy a few hundred dollars’ worth of nonperishable food and a couple tomato or strawberry plants to practice on.

This will let you dip your toes into gardening and also give you a good food supply in case you experience a survival situation between now and when you have developed the skills to grow your own food.

No matter where you are with gardening, keep taking small steps to improve your skills, knowledge and gardening area. This is a skill-set that will allow you to keep learning and improving for your entire life. Once you get soil gardening figured out, you can progress to hydroponics/aeroponics, controlling light cycles and changing up nutrient mixes to get five to 20 times more produce from the same amount of space.

What are your thoughts? How does gardening fit into your preparedness plan? How about hydroponics and aeroponics? And hybrids vs. heirlooms… which do you plant? Would that change in a survival situation? Let me know by commenting below.

Will Looters Target You?

Protecting your property — whether your home, your animals or your garden — is key, especially if there’s been a breakdown in civil order.

A reader asked: “What is the best way to misdirect potential thieves and looters from your property?”

Another reader said: “We’re in a rural setting, we’ve got chickens and, depending on the season, a garden that would make an inviting target. We’re currently in the process of hardening the house proper, but we still have sheds, a chicken coop and a workshop to keep in mind. I’d rather people just pass us by than have to fight anyone off.”

Protection is something everyone needs to consider, no matter his level of preparedness. I’ll cover the urban situation first.

Misdirecting Thieves And Looters

In short, make sure your neighbors look like better targets than you do. Criminals are creatures of opportunity and will, in general, pick the targets that offer the most potential reward in exchange for the least potential risk.

Also, look at your house as if you were a thief. Do you have a big-screen TV, a gun case or other valuables in plain view through your windows? If so, move the items so they aren’t easily visible.

If you have an alarm system, make sure you have signs advertising the fact and use your alarm. It won’t stop a truly determined home invader, but it will give you a few seconds’ advanced warning. If you don’t have an alarm, consider getting one or at least getting alarm stickers.

While you’re looking at your house through the eyes of a thief, do you see any places where you could hide — either because of bushes or because of shadows? One of the most basic things you should do is to add lighting with motion sensors on the approaches to your house. Also, consider clearing out the bushes that provide concealment or replacing them with roses or other thorny bushes.

The next thing is to look at your doors. Do they look secure? Is the bolt lock a high-end one or the $12 special from Home Depot that lock-pickers use for practice when they first start picking locks?

How about your windows? Fragile antique windows may look great architecturally, but they are also very inviting to someone who wants to break in. If replacing old windows isn’t an option, install some inexpensive alarms, back up old locks with a piece of wood or PVC cut to size to prevent someone from opening the window from the outside and apply security film.

Perhaps most important, look at your house and the other houses in your area and see which you would try to rob first. Which would be last on your list? Is your house closer to the top of the list or the bottom of the list? You may be able to get away with having valuables visible through your windows if you have Rottweilers, German shepherds, pit bulls or other guard-type dogs in the house or in the front yard.

If you find yourself in an urban-survival situation, you not only want to look like a bad target from the outside, you probably want to make sure you don’t look like a target to people who are inside your house.

You can accomplish this by separating and hiding as much of your survival provisions as possible so that, if need be, you can actually let people into your house to show them you don’t have much food or supplies worth stealing. This obviously isn’t an ideal scenario, but it is a realistic one when you’re dealing with hungry friends.

Historically, almost no urban-survival situation has been a “Mad Max”-type scenario. Instead, they are long-term, extremely fluid scenarios in which people are dying of starvation and struggling to get by in close proximity to healthy people who have jobs and food.

When most people think of survival, they think of a dramatic, instant, across-the-board breakdown in civilization in which people are eating one another within three to four days. Again, history proves this just doesn’t happen. One of the biggest reasons is because the majority of people will simply act like zombies and do nothing, unless they’re told to do something by an authority figure. They don’t know how to make decisions, they don’t know how to take initiative, and they sure as heck don’t know how to spend their time and resources in a way that improves their chances of surviving.

There’s no doubt that a complete breakdown is possible, but this melting pot of people in completely different phases of desperation living near each other is probable and requires a completely different approach.

In these in-between scenarios, you can reduce your risk of becoming a target by simply hiding the fact that you have supplies to steal.

This will be much harder to do with generators, solar panels, deep-cycle battery arrays and other large items, but the principle of hiding everything you can holds true.

Survival In The Country

If you have chickens, you might need to have a plan to move them inside your house if things get unstable. Again, your options are to hide them, increase deterrents or have a 24/7 watch.

If you need to protect a garden, there are a few options; but none of them are really easy. One would be adding a skylight to your garage or attic and switching over to a hydroponic or aeroponic garden.

Another would be surrounding your garden with weeds to disguise it.

A third strategy is to make sure you don’t plant things that will scream: “Food!” As an example, carrots blend in with green weeds because the orange is underground, but tomatoes stick out because the red is aboveground and visible from a considerable distance.

Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to grow enough food to provide all of the calories you need if you’re gardening part-time.

Considering the number of calories you’ll need and the amount of time it takes to maintain and protect the garden, combined with the potential shortage of water, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, it’s a 50/50 bet at best whether you will get enough food to survive or just end up wasting a lot of time trying. Add in vitamin, mineral and fiber requirements, and you start to see how big of a challenge this really is.

If you already live off your own garden, this doesn’t apply. But if you don’t have a garden or if you are just a hobby gardener and expect to be able to flip a switch and start growing everything you need to survive while adjusting to civilization breaking down and doing something to earn money at the same time, you might want to rethink your plan.

A better approach may be to switch to medicinal herbs or native edible plants that are low-maintenance. Plant native vegetables that grow easily and have low water requirements. A bonus is that they blend in and don’t look like food to passers-by.

This brings up an important point. Even if you have chickens, a garden and a rural location, you still need to have a good supply of food in the event of a breakdown in civil order.

Even without having to defend against looters and thieves, chickens get sick and predators get hungry. Bugs come, hail happens and, sometimes, gardens just don’t grow the way you expect them to or that they have in seasons past.

U.S. Houses Aren’t Made To Withstand A Determined Attack

Determined, focused attackers aren’t going to mess around with your doors and windows. If they want you badly enough, they’ll launch Molotov cocktails with a water balloon launcher over your neighbors’ house and smoke you out.

If they want your stuff, all they have to do is drive a truck through one of your exterior walls and use smoke, gas grenades or a mix of household chlorine and ammonia to take care of you.

Both readers wanted to learn how to “misdirect” thieves and looters instead of how to make an impenetrable fortress. They were spot on that a better approach is to do whatever you can to stay invisible, and that’s one of the points I hit repeatedly in the Urban Survival course.

If a fight comes to your front door in a survival situation and you have to defend yourself against a lethal-force attack, you’re setting yourself up to likely spend time in jail or looking out for people who want revenge.

I’m not suggesting you let people steal from you. I’m saying you should try to do whatever you can to keep from being a target thieves think is worth hitting.

What thoughts do you have for these two scenarios? What operational security measures are you using to keep your preparations under wraps? Do you have any “wicked-smart” strategies for hiding livestock and gardens from passers-by? What’s your top survival and preparedness question that you’d like David to answer in an upcoming article? Let us know by commenting below or by contacting David directly at:

Learn A Thing Or Two From Survival Shows

This week, we’re going to take a break and have some fun. Specifically, we’re going to talk about TV shows that actually might have survival lessons included. In recent years, there have been several survival shows that have come onto the market, and it looks like several of them are going to be regular features.

Now, don’t think that watching a survival TV show for 42 minutes a week is going to make you a survivalist. That’s about as ridiculous as thinking that watching UFC fights is going to make you a fighter. They are both entertaining, and you will probably learn some new skills and tactics, but you really need to practice the skills to become proficient.

So, let me go over some of the survivor shows that are on TV. I’ll tell you what they cover and whether my wife and I consider them being worth the time to watch to help you get more prepared for surviving disasters.

I’ll start with the better-known ones, but the better shows are actually at the end of the list.

Survivor on CBS: This series is one of the grandfathers of reality survival TV, and I’m thankful for it because of that. But there are few, if any, survival lessons to be learned from it. There have been some interesting political and human-interaction lessons from it; but for the most part, it’s become a glorified soap opera. Even though the series has a great name, we don’t watch it.

Survivorman on Discovery Channel: This series ran in 2004, 2007 and 2008 and featured Les Stroud in the wilderness facing various survival situations without support. In fact, he carried all of his own camera equipment. The shows emphasized focus on the basics and how little time there is to focus on anything other than the basics in a survival situation. I don’t know Stroud, but we have a common acquaintance. He’s the real deal. He’s not superman, but he is willing to stake his survival on how well he performs in survival situations. I’m not a fan of his new series, but I do still watch Survivorman repeats occasionally.

Man vs. Wild on Discovery Channel: This is a very entertaining survival show and there are usually one or two good tips or tactics in each episode. Bear Grylls knows his stuff, but he is supported by a crew. And in order to make things more interesting, he takes a lot of risks that are unnecessary in a true solo survival situation. It does make good TV, but you really need to keep in mind the fact that a lot of Grylls’ stunts would be foolish to do without a support crew standing by to pick up the pieces.

Worst-Case Scenario on Discovery Channel: These are also very entertaining and well-filmed survival shows. Bear Grylls is the main expert in this one as well. The episodes I watched were primarily entertainment, but there were some good points. Grylls was one of the first survival experts to do shows on survival strategies in urban environments, and most of this series is set in urban areas. I disagree with his willingness to take unnecessary risks and his approach on self-defense — especially his emphasis on techniques that take a lot of skill and practice to use successfully. But, like in Man vs. Wild, it does make good TV.

Out Of the Wild on Discovery Channel: The first season ran in 2009 and followed several small groups of people surviving in the Alaskan wilderness. This series emphasized just how much effort it can take to simply cover your most basic needs in a survival situation. It clearly showed how important attitude, fire, shelter, water, food and sleep are. I don’t think you can appreciate how hungry, thirsty and tired you can get until you’ve gone a day or two in a survival situation without a good meal or clean water, but this series showed how various people break down in survival situations. I really enjoyed this series. There aren’t very many hard skills taught, but the human interaction and psychological lessons make it worth watching.

The second season, which was filmed in Venezuela, was a great look into how starvation, dehydration and exhaustion can wipe out people, place group dynamics under stress and dramatically change a person’s psychology in a matter of days. I really liked this series and strongly recommend catching a rerun or buying the DVD.

Dual Survival on Discovery Channel: This series is currently running again on Discovery. I originally recorded it because of my appreciation of Cody Lundin. I kept watching because of the vastly different approaches Lundin and Dave Canterbury take to wilderness-survival situations. Every episode follows the same script, much like real wilderness survival: Figure out shelter, fire, water, food and navigation, and get out. The neat part about this is that Lundin is a self-reliant, shoeless hippie and Canterbury is a former U.S. Army sniper/scout. In every challenge they face, I find myself relating to one or the other of their approaches.

Man, Woman, Wild on Discovery Channel: This is one of our favorite survival shows simply because there is a woman on the show whom my wife can relate to. In the show, Special Forces survival expert Mykel Hawke and his wife Ruth England take on various wilderness-survival scenarios starting with only knives and clothes. There are some how-to components to the show, but it mostly highlights the dynamics of two people being in a survival situation with only one of the two being a survival expert. And I can’t emphasize this enough: My wife likes this show way more than the all-man survival shows.

The Colony on Discovery Channel: This is urban-survival reality TV. The premise for season one was that a pandemic killed off the majority of the population and a mismatched group of people found each other and decided to work together. There were some bad pieces of advice — for example, using a bank of car batteries to power appliances — but it was a great series with at least a half-dozen solid urban survival lessons in each episode. Season two was a combination of a few good lessons and a lot of hair-pulling. That being said, it is a great tool to use to come up with scenarios to contemplate — especially figuring out how you would deal with being forced to survive with people who have very different skill and motivation levels.

MidwayUSA’s The Best Defense: Survival! on Outdoor Channel: This top-notch series was developed by three friends of mine: Michael Bane, Mike Janich and Rob Pincus. We have been trying to figure out how to best tie in my Urban Survival Course with this series. Hopefully, we will get it figured out in time for the season three launch in early 2012. This series is all meat and how-to. The Outdoor Channel let Bane, Janich and Pincus take off the gloves for season two, and they knocked it out of the park. They covered survival rooms, food, water, medical, bugging out, surviving in place and more.

The important thing about all of these shows is that the skills they teach are next to useless until you take ownership of them, practice them and make them your own. There are occasional stories about how people survive disasters by doing something that they saw on TV, but the reason those stories make the news is because they are so rare. Someone who learns skills, practices them and successfully applies them under stress is normal and not newsworthy.

Do you have any favorite survival or preparedness TV shows or movies you like? Do you have any thoughts on the series I mentioned? When you watch a show that demonstrates survival skills, do you go out and practice it afterword? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Airsoft Training Inexpensive And Fun

As ammunition prices have bounced all over the place and the threat/promise of increased firearms and ammunition legislation has increased, I have started doing more and more of my training with airsoft police tactical pistols or trainers. They have allowed me to train with my wife more often than we could if live fire were our only option. As an added benefit, I know that if it becomes illegal or a serious liability to train with firearms in the future, I have a backup plan in place to stay proficient as well as get new shooters up to speed with firearms.

These are a class of airsoft guns that are made of metal. They are the same size and weight as their real counterparts and have the same controls, including safeties, slide locks and magazine releases. They even break down the same way. In other words, these are not the clear-plastic toys you buy at Target.

Here’s a picture of a real Glock next to an airsoft Glock. (As a note, I didn’t choose the paint job. It came that way.)

The bottom one is a Glock subcompact frame and the top is an airsoft compact frame.

If you have ever picked up a $20-$50 battery-powered airsoft pistol from a gun show, you have probably been disappointed that it didn’t fit in your real holsters, that the magazines were toy-like, and that it wouldn’t shoot accurately past about 12 inches.

Airsoft trainers are a completely different animal. They fit in leather and Kydex® formfitted holsters, the magazines fit in your real magazine holders, and they shoot quarter-sized or smaller groups at 20 feet.

Beyond the look, here are some of the big pluses and drawbacks of using airsoft trainers:

Pluses: (Just The Basics)

Dry fire on steroids: It’s important to note that airsoft training is not a replacement for real shooting. You need to feel the recoil, hear the boom, know the feel of taking up slack on your trigger and the feel of trigger reset on your real firearms. A healthier and more accurate way to look at airsoft training is as dry-fire training on steroids that happens to be a lot of fun.

Cost: High-quality BB’s cost less than $20 for 4,000 rounds. You have to add the cost of gas since airsoft trainer magazines have gas cylinders in them, but it still costs less than a penny per round. Trainer Glocks, 1911s, etc., cost about $150 apiece and extra mags are $30 to $40 apiece.

Frequency of training: I am able to shoot 100 to 200 rounds of airsoft every day because the time/cost barrier of training is so low. I still shoot quite a bit of real lead, but I don’t have the time to shoot every day with my real firearms. Normally, when I go shooting, I shoot more rounds at one time to justify the travel time and range fees, but the frequency that I am able to train with airsoft allows me to build up and retain muscle memory much faster than shooting lead alone.

Variety of training: I practice my grip, presentation, sight acquisition, transitioning between targets, reloads, movement, odd angles, one-handed, off-hand, cornering, drawing-form concealment while seated and more… some of which just aren’t possible at most ranges.

Simplicity of training: I don’t have to drive to a range, pay for time, drive home or clean my guns… I just get up from my desk and take push-up/shooting breaks throughout the day. That’s not possible for most people, but you can shoot down a hallway in your house or in your garage.

Fun: I could do most of what I do with airsoft with snap caps and dry-fire drills… but I never did dry-fire training as much as I do airsoft training because airsoft training is fun. It’s fun to hit targets, make holes and knock things over, even if it is on a smaller scale than with a real gun.

Size and weight: Since the airsoft trainers are the same size and weight of their real counterparts, you can use the same holsters you normally use.

Social proof: The Japanese steel target team trains on airsoft all year, comes to the U.S. and shoots lead for just two weeks before meets, and the team places well each year. Several U.S. military units and police departments are training with airsoft as well.

Recoil/Flinch: Shooting airsoft will expose and cure you of anticipating trigger break and recoil. While big dips of the barrel may be hidden with real recoil, it shows up immediately with airsoft. There’s no need for it with airsoft, and you can train your mind to not flinch with a few hundred rounds of airsoft.

Training wives/kids/newbies to shooting: Since it’s fun and there is no boom, smell or recoil, airsoft is a great way to introduce people to shooting or to start teaching advanced techniques to current shooters. Without the recoil and the boom, you can focus on fundamentals until they are learned and then transition to low-caliber and defensive-caliber firearms.


It’s a toy: Face it… airsoft is a way to compensate for not having enough time or money to shoot the real thing as much as you would like. It will never be as good as a real firearm. I resisted airsoft, tried it, and now have embraced it as a way to get a lot more trigger time. That being said, it’s better to get a lot of trigger time with an airsoft trainer than no trigger time with the gun you cannot afford or find the time to shoot.

Lack of recoil: The airsoft trainers do have recoil, but it’s nothing like a real firearm. This means that you cannot really practice multiple shots because it’s much easier to reacquire your site picture after each shot. What you can do is transition between targets, shooting each one once, or use airsoft training to develop your speed and focusing on follow-through (reacquiring your site picture) after each shot.

Dropping magazines: Airsoft trainer magazines have gas cylinders in them, which makes them heavy and causes them to break when you drop them on hard surfaces. You basically need padded carpet wherever you intend on dropping magazines during reloads. To clarify, picture a real magazine… it’s heavy when it’s full and light when it’s empty because most of the weight comes from the bullets. With airsoft, the little plastic BB’s weigh .2 grams, so the weight changes very little as it goes from full to empty. What I do is train with a drop pouch.

Authentic trigger feel: While the double-action triggers and single-action triggers work as they should, they just don’t feel like real triggers. The tension builds up different, the break isn’t as precise as with a real firearm, and the reset isn’t quite as pronounced. That being said, the double-actions I have are good enough to practice drawing up the slack during the extension phase of my presentation, and all the airsoft trainers I have shot can be used to do trigger-reset drills.

Precision: With airsoft trainer handguns, you won’t have much precision. My We Tech 1911 will shoot 1-inch to 3-inch groups at 25 feet out of the box. My KJ Glock is slightly less accurate. Both can be modified to shoot more accurately, but that hasn’t been a concern for me. Airsoft trainer rifles are another matter entirely. My Top Tech M4 will hold 8-inch groups out to 80 to 100 yards when there is no wind.

Safety: There is a distinct possibility that you will learn bad safety habits with airsoft. Don’t. You must treat airsoft guns like the real firearms they represent. Never point an airsoft trainer at an object you don’t want to destroy (unless you are doing force-on-force training, which is beyond the scope of this article). Always use proper muzzle/safety discipline so that when you are handling real firearms you won’t have any bad habits creep in.

Another issue that you will run into with high-quality airsoft trainers is what to use for targets. Cheap airsoft targets won’t take the abuse, and BB traps are loud and overbuilt for airsoft.

I have solved this problem by making my own target frame/backstop for under $30 and using full-size targets that are 2 feet by 4 feet. Granted, this isn’t original or rocket science, but it is a great solution for airsoft training.

This is the entire frame/backstop with a target attached.

Basically, I made the target frame out of two 10-feet sections of 1.5-inch PVC pipe. The four vertical sections are 3 feet long, the two horizontal crosspieces are 2 feet long, and the 4 legs are 1 foot long, for a total of 20 feet of pipe with absolutely no waste. I connected all the pieces with two elbows and 4 Ts and capped the legs with four caps. All of the PVC parts cost me about $20.

Here is just the frame. As you can see, it’s very simple and fast to put together.

Home Depot will let you cut PVC in the store with its saws, so you don’t even need to buy a saw.

There’s enough friction on the fittings to keep everything together, and it’s easy to break everything down as much as you want for storage.

As a bonus, 2-feet and 3-feet sections of PVC make great improvised weapons.

For the backdrop, I started out with a $7 tarp folded and draped over the top. It was louder than I liked, so I threw a $7 moving blanket from U-Haul over it. It’s absorbed thousands of focused hits so far without giving out; but when it starts to, all I need to do is slide the blanket up or down so my impact area is different.

When I triple-fold the moving blanket I have, it is just slightly narrower than my target. Two clothespins are all I need to secure targets in place.

I keep a box underneath the target/blanket and it catches 90 to 95 percent of the airsoft BB’s, making cleanup a breeze.

Of course, you could also accomplish the same thing by draping a blanket over a door at the end of a hallway or over a doorway chin-up bar, but the PVC frame will allow you to practice entering a room and engaging a target, engaging the target behind partial cover, or hundreds of other scenarios that most people don’t have the facilities to practice regularly.

What are your thoughts on airsoft training and/or about transitioning from 100 percent live-fire training to including some airsoft training? How about increased ammunition prices and regulations and their impact on how often you train? Let me know by commenting below.

How Wilderness Survival And Urban Survival Skills Fit Together

There are a lot of misconceptions about how wilderness survival, camping and urban survival do or do not fit together. The arguments range from saying that neither wilderness survival skills nor camping will help in an urban survival situation to saying that all you need for a long-term urban survival situation is your camping or survival gear. The truth lies somewhere in between.

No matter what your skill level and experience level, I have some great stuff for everyone this week.

In both wilderness and urban survival, the most important common factor that will determine success or failure is your mindset. The basics of survival are also common to wilderness and urban scenarios: shelter, water, fire and food first, and then medical needs and security. But there are some huge differences.

Solo Survival Vs. Group Survival

In wilderness-survival situations, it will normally be you and/or a small group of people surviving off of the land or off of what you have been able to carry in or pre-position. It is easy to frame a wilderness survival situation as you vs. the world. To be specific, it can be easy to identify with a character like John Rambo, who just wants to be left alone.

Often, wilderness survival situations happen because there is no one else around.

A long-term urban-survival situation is completely different in this respect. People will be all around you. After your ability to keep your mind under control, one of the biggest factors that will determine long-term survival is how well you are able to interact with other people. Can you make friends? Can you effectively exchange your goods and services with others? Can you do it so that you’ll get as good of a deal as possible and still be able to trade with that person again in the future? Have you acted in a way that will cause people to want to help you when you need help?

Four-legged Threats Vs. Two-legged Threats

Wilderness and urban threats are different, also. Unless you’re in an escape-and-evasion situation, your main threats in a wilderness situation will be weather, sustaining yourself, injury, sickness or infection and four-legged predators. A bright fire is a good thing in a wilderness situation, because it will help keep predators and bugs away.

In an urban-survival situation, the animals and predators you need to worry about have two legs rather than four. You will still have weather, sustaining yourself, injury and sickness or infection to contend with. But the fire that protects you from four-legged predators in a wilderness situation will attract two-legged predators, people who may want your supplies without giving anything in return.

Why am I stressing this point? Because if you identify yourself with the John Rambo character and can survive for weeks at a time alone in the wilderness, that’s great. There are several wilderness-survival skills that carry over to urban situations, but you might also want to focus on your interpersonal skills if you think you may need to survive long-term around other people.

“When TSHTF, I’m Going To Get Out Of Dodge And Head For The Hills”

And, as I’ve said before, many people’s plan for surviving if TSHTF is to pack up and head for whatever wilderness or small towns are within reach. It is a romantic notion, and it makes a possible disaster seem like it could actually be an improvement over current life, but it just is not realistic.

If a fraction of those people actually head for the hills, the hills are going to be hunted and fished clean in a matter of weeks and you’re still going to have to be skilled at dealing with other people. (As a note on the mass head-for-the-hills scenario, if it happens during a dry time of the year, it is safe to assume there will be mass wildfires to contend with as well.)

This should make any non-John Rambo types feel a little more comfortable, too. It should go without saying, but you don’t need to turn into a Rambo to survive an urban survival situation. But that doesn’t let you off the hook on practicing wilderness survival skills. There are many wilderness survival skills that are useful, if not necessary, in urban situations.

Using Wilderness Survival Skills In Urban Survival Situations

People who made it through Beirut’s urban-survival period reported going through several boxes of matches per month. The simple skill of knowing how to blow an ember into flame makes this laughable… if it weren’t so sad and avoidable.

A basic wilderness survival skill I use every morning when I am in the woods is to find an ember from the previous night’s fire; place it into a bird’s nest of dry grass, inner stringy tree bark, milkweed, thistle or other materials; and blow on it until there is a flame. In an urban area, you can do this with any of these materials, but also with paper products, cotton balls or other materials.

Take it one step further: The wilderness survival skill of making a coal from a bow drill, hand drill or other primitive means will allow you to make fire without matches, lighters or an ember from a previous fire.

But one of the biggest skills you learn when backpacking or doing wilderness survival exercises is how to do without air conditioning, heat, beds, chairs, electronic distractions, fancy food and, sometimes, cleanliness. You also do without specialized tools, many automated devices, motorized transportation and specialized medical care. When you don’t have these things, you learn and eventually embrace the skill of improvising, adapting and overcoming.

You can learn this in an urban environment, and I have drills in the Urban Survival Course that help people do just that. But it’s also very valuable, if possible, to go out and live out of a backpack or your 72-hour kit for a night or two (or three). Hopefully, you’ll forget stuff — and have to figure out how to improvise, adapt and overcome.

What About Car Camping?

Car camping can be as beneficial for survival training or as useless as you make it.  If you take a generator, TV, fans, stereo, inflatable bed, 12-volt freezer and a blender, you probably won’t get a whole lot out of it.

But if that’s as primitive as you can get your family to agree to, there are still survival skills that you can train. Take what you need to in order to get your family to buy in, but just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Use a primitive method of making fire… or start by just making fire without using paper, fire starters or by pouring fuel on the wood.

Collect some water and boil it over your fire. Or make a solar still to find out just how little water they actually make and how many square feet of stills you would need to set up to sustain you.

Set up an improvised shelter. If sleeping in it overnight isn’t an option, at least figure out what you need to do to make it comfortable enough to take one or two naps in or spend an afternoon reading in. You may not need to make a shelter from a fallen tree in an urban-survival situation, but you can use the same skills and principles to make a shelter within your house to keep you warm in a cold-weather situation.

It could be as simple as leaning your box spring against a wall, covering the end openings with blankets and making your bed underneath it. In both cases, you’re trying to make as small an area as possible for your body to warm up by radiation and your breath and trying to lose as little heat as possible due to conduction. It is much easier to do this when you’re warming up a small, tent-sized area than when you’re trying to warm up an entire room.

If you have kids or grandkids, simply tell them you’re making forts or little houses. You can have a ton of fun with this. Maybe even turn down the temperature in your house to about 40 degrees one afternoon and night in the winter and have a sleepover in the fort.

If you are willing to kill and eat what you catch and are somewhere where that is allowed, set traps and snares and figure out how many you would need to set to feed you and your family. (As a note, spring-type mouse traps are a great intermediate step for this… just make sure to tie them to something heavy in case you catch an animal by the leg. Once you get comfortable with the traps, you will start seeing several ways to use them as triggers for improvised electronic and mechanical perimeter alarms.)

You can practice all of these tips, regardless of whether you are car-camping, backpacking, on a hunting trip, in your back yard, or sometimes even in your apartment or condo. Just because you have cushy stuff with you doesn’t mean you have to use it.

In fact, some primitive wilderness-survival schools use a similar method to teach survival skills. Instead of dropping students in the woods with a knife, bubble gum, dental floss and a paper clip to sink or swim, they have students bring all of their normal backpacking supplies. They learn primitive skills while they are well-fed and rested, and they can use new primitive skills or fall back on their backpacking gear as they see fit. If their shelter-building skills don’t work well and they are freezing at 3 a.m., they have the choice to fix their shelters, tough it out or slip into their tents and sleeping bags to warm up and regroup.

Even in SERE (Survival Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school, students often fail at catching an animal and are given a rabbit or other animal to kill, clean, cook and eat.

In short, it’s a solid method to use, whether you are learning yourself or trying to help your family members become more self-reliant. And if you have reluctant family members, you’re going to want to make learning new skills as fun as possible so they don’t shut down and resist preparing altogether. Forcing someone to starve because his trap didn’t work or freeze because his shelter isn’t good enough probably won’t win over a reluctant relative, but having fun might.

So, tell me, what wilderness survival skills have you developed that carry over to urban survival situations? What fun ways have you been able to get your family members to learn and practice them with you? Have you practiced any skills while camping specifically to help you in SHTF situations in urban areas? Let me and the other readers know by commenting below.

Urban Survival Skills You Can Learn When Money’s Tight

This week, we’re going to talk about how to get prepared for disasters when you find yourself already in "survival" mode.

Sometimes life can throw you a curve ball and make preparations difficult. It can be difficult because of finances, health, family issues or any combination of things. In fact, a lot of people who are switched on and see trouble on the horizon are already in a sort of survival mode. I hear from people on a daily basis who see trouble coming, but are on Social Security or who just got laid off and don’t have money for buying lots of supplies.

And I hear from others who aren’t in that extreme of a situation, but who are barely making it with the income and expenses they have right now, and feel they can’t afford additional survival prep expenses.

But if you’re in either of those situations, that doesn’t excuse you from making continual forward progress on your preparations.

The risks that we face to our way of life don’t care about whether we’re ready or not. I don’t think I’m going to get a call in advance of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), terrorist attack, an economic crash or earthquake so that I can make sure that my family is all set. And I doubt you will either. These risks don’t really concern themselves with whether or not my 3-year-old is having screaming fits during the day and my 9-month-old is teething all night… again.

These things just happen when they happen.

They happened to a student from Missouri who was going through the course awhile back. She emailed in about some rough financial times she was going through and how everything seemed to conspire against her at the same time. Long story short, she kept making forward progress on her preparations and got through her rough patch. She didn’t think she would, but she did.

Financial situations can turn on a dime, and that’s one reason why it’s so important to focus on survival skills instead of just focusing on survival “stuff.” Some stuff is important, and it definitely helps compensate for a lack of skill and/or makes survival tasks easier. But the great thing about focusing on skills instead of stuff is that you can practice one survival skill or another no matter what your current situation is.

In fact, one way that you can look at your situation if you’re currently in “survival” mode is that if a catastrophic event happens, your life won’t be disrupted as much as it could be. I often game EMP events in my head. When I do, one of the things that I always think of is how tribal people around the world who live without electricity won’t even know that anything happened. They’ll just go on with everyday life like normal.

A lot of the survival skills that these tribal people use are free or next to free to practice. You might want to make a list and make a goal of doing one of these every day. If not every day, at least try to do one each weekend.

11 Survival Skills That Are Free Or Inexpensive To Learn And Practice

Making fire: Practice making a fire from tinder, kindling and one match. Move on to using flint and steel, flint, magnesium and steel, a BlastMatch™, or a fire piston (diesel). Then, move on to a bow drill. This is all stuff that you can do in your back yard. I practice this with my 3-year-old. He likes watching the sparks, seeing the smoke, and he REALLY likes getting s’mores as soon as I’ve made fire. As a note, when I’ve got ideal tinder, I’ll use a sparking device, but if I don’t have perfect tinder, I prefer using a bow drill and a nice big piece of coal.

Think you can’t do this? I’ve even taught people how to light tinder with a spark in a hotel room bathroom with a piece of aluminum foil protecting the floor. (Do this at your own risk.) I’ve got to especially warn you not to make enough smoke to set off a smoke detector OR set anything on fire.

Char cloth: Char cloth is basically very thin pieces of charcoal made out of 100 percent cotton. It will take a spark almost immediately, burn hot and burn quite a while. Here’s a QUICK how-to guide to make your own.

Take a 100 percent cotton shirt, sheet or any other piece of 100 percent cotton and cut it into 1- or 2-inch squares. Then, drop the cotton squares into a CLEAN tin can until it’s full and cover it with heavy aluminum foil. You can secure the aluminum foil with baling wire, but it’s not vital as long as the foil is on tight.

Next, poke a small hole in the top of the foil and put the can into a pile of hot coals. Smoke should start coming out of the hole within a couple of minutes. This is smoke and methane and the smoke will be flammable (you can light it if you want). Within five to 10 minutes the smoke should stop coming out of the hole.

When this happens, take the tin can out of the coals and let it cool. When it’s cool, take the foil out and pull a square out. If it’s all ash, it means that air got into the can and you just need to try again. If not, then the cotton got hot without oxygen and turned black, you should be good to go! (This is how charcoal is made, and you essentially end up with small, thin pieces of charcoal) Take a piece, use a sparking device to throw a spark at it and play with your new toy.

The skills you’ll develop making char cloth are a solid foundation for making charcoal AND for making a gasifier. In one of its simplest forms, a gasifier is a contraption that allows you to extract methane from wood and use it to run a generator.

Solar heating: Have an old satellite dish? Coat it with Mylar® or aluminum foil to reflect and focus sunlight and practice cooking, boiling water, making char cloth and starting fires with it. This will get HOT… hot enough to burn you, so be careful. Don’t have a satellite dish? Look for one in dumpsters and on the curb on big trash pickup days. This will work with old full sized satellite dishes or parabolic dishes as small as a soft drink can. The bigger the dish, the hotter it’ll get.

Hunting, alarms, traps and snares: Have mice? Practice trapping or making intrusion alarms. Have sparrows, starlings or other “pest” birds? Practice your blowgun, slingshot or BB skills.

Water filtration: Have a bucket you can cut a hole in? Practice making a water filter out of gravel, pea gravel, sand and activated charcoal (or non-chemically treated charcoal). Run water through it and see how it tastes. I’ve got a picture and more information here:

Stockpiling: Yes… it’s a skill, and you should be good at it. Some of the immediate benefits are saving money and never running out of diapers, toilet paper, dog food, paper towels, etc., this side of a disaster. It also means fewer rushed trips to the store for emergency items. It also means fewer conversations that go something like, “Honey… did you remember to bring home the xxxx that I asked you to pick up. We’re out.” Whether we ever experience a catastrophic, life changing event or not, my family’s life is better because we stockpile.

Don’t have emergency water stored up yet? If you drink soda, start keeping all of your empty plastic bottles, whether they’re big or small. Wash them out with soap and hot water and put water and a little chlorine in them until you’ve got a few gallons per person.

Don’t have emergency food stored up yet? At LEAST buy some beans, rice and oatmeal. If you want to splurge, get SPAM® and instant potatoes (one of my current favorite camping meals.) If you can’t afford to stock up and you aren’t already eating beans, rice and oatmeal then consider eating beans, rice, and oatmeal for a week or so and using the money you save to stock up.

Situational Awareness: Try to continually be aware of what’s going on around you. Identify people who are potential threats and quickly game out in your head what they might do and what your reaction would be. When you’re simply an honest person walking down the street, any violent confrontation that you can spot and avoid in advance is a violent confrontation that you’ve won.

Identify situations that are dangerous, like doors swinging into walkways, blind corners, ice hanging off of a building, skateboarders getting pulled by a dog on a leash, etc. Practice reading body language… both good AND bad. Watch couples in love. Watch people arguing. Watch people reacting to babies and puppies.

Watch people you work with throughout the day and notice how their posture, facial expressions and the pitch of their voice change when they’re tired, excited, caffeinated, hungry, on a sugar high, stressed, etc. Study people you know so you can read people you don’t know. And remember… it’s not cut-n-dry… it’s an art based on science. People rub their nose when their allergies are bugging them. They cover their mouth when their breath is bad. They cross their arms to keep warm. They fidget because of pain or excessive energy.

Negotiating: Get in the habit of asking for discounts. Sometimes people will give a discount for no reason, but usually you need to give them a reason. It could be that you’re buying a damaged or opened item, buying in quantity, buying something expired or close to expiring or some other reason.

At farmers’ markets, if one of something is 50 cents, ask if they’ll do three for a dollar. The biggest thing is to get in the habit of negotiating. It’s a basic life skill that will pay you back for the rest of your life. And, it is a VITAL skill for any survival situation where you’re going to be around other people.

(If you’re interested in learning more about Urban Survival Bartering and Negotiating, please go to:

Also, if you have any other urban survival skills that are free and EASY to learn and practice, please share them with the other readers by commenting below. They could have to do with pure survival like making fire, storing or filtering water, building or finding shelter and storing food. They could have to do with medical or security issues. They could revolve around products and or services that you can make for barter purposes.

There are two VITAL survival skills in particular that I’m looking for. And I’ll send out a deck of Urban Survival Playing Cards to the first two people who point them out.

–David Morris /

P.S. If you like this “skills” based approach to urban survival then you should really check out the Urban Survival Course. It’s designed to help you develop the proven skills you’ll need to survive short-, medium-, and long-term disasters in an urban environment. To read more about it, and get started, just go to

Overcoming Panic And The “Startle” Response

What is the startle response, how might it affect you in a crisis situation, and how can you keep it from turning into full blown panic?

Startle response is a term used to de­scribe a person’s reaction to sudden and unexpected danger. For example:

  • You turn a corner and there’s a man pointing a gun at your chest.
  • You’re sitting in your car and from out of nowhere somebody knocks on your window.
  • You are walking along and shots are fired from the rear.
  • A loud explosion erupts and everybody around you panics.
  • You wake up in the middle of the night and a stranger is standing over you holding a knife.

These are examples of situations that may trigger a "startle response."

Now keep this thought in mind: Trainers who talk about the startle response are actu­ally being diplomatic. Startle is a polite word for panic. Nobody wants to think they may panic under stress, so we call it by another name. It helps make us feel a little bit better. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to talk about “startle” as being in control and “panic” as not being in control.

What happens under startle?

First there is a stimulus: Shots are fired. Then we have a reaction: Fight or flight.

When faced with a threat that is sud­den and unexpected, here’s what usu­ally happens. Stimuli trigger a flight response, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, we retreat and lose our ability to use fine motor skills and proper tactics.

In a startle response, fear overwhelms us and our mind becomes preoccupied with thoughts of doubt, injury and death. We become convinced we can’t handle the threat. We automatically succumb to a flight reaction.

When we are "panicked" our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we lose control of our fine and complex motor skills. Complex skills involving eye-hand coordination suffer, as do hearing and peripheral vision. Our ability to focus our eyes decreases and tunnel vision sets in. And it gets progressively worse.

In this scenario, we go from stimulus to flight reaction. However, for whatever reason, we suppress the urge to flee and prepare to fight. The problem with that is that, in panic mode, our tactics and skills go flying right out the window. Our ability to survive is impaired and all we can depend upon is luck.

Remove the unexpected element and the same stimulus triggers aggression, a fight response. We stay clear-headed and in control. Our training and muscle memory responses kick in. We are able to use proper tactics.

We want to be able to respond to a threatening situation with confidence and control. To do this we must as­sess the threat and believe that we can handle it. And we must eliminate the unexpected aspect.

Remember, startle is a response to unexpected and sudden danger. If we expect danger, we inoculate ourselves against a startle response. Let’s go back to the color code system for a moment.

In condition yellow, you say to yourself: “Today is the day that I may have to use lethal force to protect my life or the lives of others under my protection.” With that in mind, when you come face-to-face with danger, you say to yourself, “I knew this would happen someday, I know what to do. I am ready for it. And I will survive, no matter what.”

A panic response can only be triggered by the combination of sudden and un­expected danger. We can prevent the startle response by being in condition yellow (casually aware) at all times. In effect, we eliminate the “unexpected” from the deadly combination of sudden and unexpected danger.

We can effectively deal with sudden danger by simply expecting it to hap­pen. Soldiers in combat do it all the time. Cops are constantly subject to sudden danger. In reality, civilians are too—just not as often.

Unexpected danger is more likely to cause a fear response. We must break the link between sudden and unexpected.

If our self-confidence is high and our skills effective, even when violence is sudden, we will progress automatically from stimulus, to aggression (controlled anger), to tactics.

It takes self-confidence and a well-prac­ticed repertoire of effective tactics and training to walk out the door every day and remind yourself that today is the day some bad guy might try to do you in and that you expect it, are ready for it and will respond as you have been trained. With high self-confi­dence, you will stay calm, in control and be able to deal with any situation, problem or threat that comes along.

I am not saying that a flight reaction is wrong or bad. What I’m saying is that employing appropriate tactics is critical to our survival. If we have to make a hasty withdrawal from the scene, that’s okay, but we must do so in the best way and avoid a panic reaction.

Research indicates that once the sym­pathetic nervous system is activated, vital functions are seriously im­paired. But the good news is we can go on “automatic” and rely upon our training and motor-memory skills to handle the problem.

Once we have mastered the I CAN DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE thought process, we can easily progress from the element of surprise, to controlled aggression, to required tactics.

In your mind’s eye, see yourself reacting to various sudden danger scenarios, calmly at first. Then, in your mental im­agery, move into controlled anger: How dare this guy pull a gun on me. Your mind will focus and your subconscious will take over. You will automatically perform as you have trained.

One specific way to prepare for reacting after being startled is to study the startle response and incorporate it into your training. I’ve had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with world-renowned firearms instructor, Rob Pincus from Integrity, Consistency and Efficiency (I.C.E.) Training. One of the things that Rob teaches is not to start your draw stroke as if you’re about to do an Old West quick-draw contest.

Rather, start your draw stroke by being relaxed and then mimicking your startle response. For most people, this will mean bending the knees and dropping your weight about six inches, putting your feet about shoulder width apart, curling your spine forward slightly, dropping your chin to your chest and raising your hands to your face/neck, facing outward to protect your neck against attack.

This response puts you in a position where you can quickly and efficiently respond to physical attacks. For many people, it’s instinctive to assume this pose, or something close, when they’re startled.

So, the next time you’re doing firearms training (live fire or dry fire) or even hand-to-hand training, try this sequence:

  • Assume a relaxed position that you would be in if you were in public going about your business.
  • Quickly assume the “startle” position.
  • Start your firearms or hand-to-hand sequence from here.

The next time you do get startled, take a second to observe yourself and use that as your “startle” positioning in the future.

There is a very fundamental reason for training like this… you want your training to be as much like real life as possible. If you always train by starting squared up to your target with your hands at your side or at belt level in front of you and you find yourself startled with your hands at your face, your muscle memory isn’t going to be very effective.

If, on the other hand, you begin your training sequence by going into your startle position, you will be training your body how to respond when you are, in fact, startled and need to respond.

This is one more instance where training like you intend to fight will pay dividends if you have to defend yourself in a violent encounter.

–David Morris