Disasters come in all forms!

Emergency Escape Plan“There was a big explosion, the heat reached the cafe and then a big wall of fire enveloped the road…. It all happened so fast, in the space of a minute,” he said.  “There were people inside. I thought for maybe two seconds that I should go in, but the heat was too strong to get to the door,” said Theberge, who escaped with second-degree burns.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis in Nantes, Quebec, and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago)

First of all the USI team wants to express their sorrow over the loss of so many whom have been involved in a “Black Swan Event”. The Canadian train disaster referenced below brings to light how un-predictable and sudden a crisis can be.

But what is a Black Swan Event?. The term comes from the book “Fooled by Randomness” written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2001. Although there are many interpretations of a “Black Swan Event”, it comes down to three major points:

  • The event is a surprise (to the observer).
  • The event has a major effect.
  • After the first recorded instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected; that is, the relevant data were available but unaccounted for in risk mitigation programs. The same is true for the personal perception by individuals.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-flooded-car-image2856726Black Swan Events, by definition, are unique and unsuspected and therefore can’t be planned for. However, the overall disaster plan for your city should take into consideration as many “angles” as possible to limit, by preparation, the effects of a Black Swan Event.

Many events, as we all know, have core elements which can be planned for, and by expanding response to these core elements, we can limit some of the effects of a Black Swan.  For example, if Emergency Recovery Equipment was dispersed throughout a region, no single event could wipe out everything. Therefore, emergencies such as tornado, hurricane, flood or fire can have their impacts lessened on recovery efforts. Core element.

Black Swan Events are capable of touching any one of us at any time. Having an plan in place for yourself and your loved ones is the key to mitigating the effects of any disaster including a Black Swan Event. Creating a plan can seem daunting but USI has provided an excellent guide to get you on your way. Click HERE for more information.

Original story found at: http://news.yahoo.com/insight-train-ran-away-devastated-canadian-town-014559627.html

Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

 

Training is Everything!!

Training is EVERYTHING!

Svalbard Tourism“Practice makes perfect”. Not really, as a Navy SEAL and friend once pointed out to me “Perfect Practice makes Perfect”. For someone like me, with 34 years of experience in the field of isolated personnel recovery and survival, this statement was prophetic. I had never thought about there being “Bad” practices but there are and it answered a lot of questions which often haunted me.

Being properly trained is the key to success in any operation, from business to survival the training you receive is the basis for your success. Unfortunately, in the survival world training can be the difference between life and death. We talk about the 5 “Ps”; prior preparation prevents poor performance but maybe we should focus on 6 “Ps” Prior proper preparation prevents poor performance. And this Preparation should focus on Perfect Training!

I observe peoples equipment and preparation all the time and I read every magazine and article I run across on survival and prepping. I also watch different episodes on television and listen to the “experts” who profess to have all the answers on what to do if you are isolated and living off the land. Whether it is an urban environment or field they all have one thing in common, they eventually give out information which will not work or will flat get you killed.
An example of this is an article I read concerning fire construction where the “expert” ended the article with the statement “be prepared to fail”. What? You just told the audience in a national survival magazine that they could fail to save their own lives? Sounds like you need more “perfect practice”. I cannot think of a situation, outside of not having any equipment or nothing to burn, where a fire can’t be built. Sleet, snow, horizontal rain, high winds, one hand, hypothermic these are all the times you need a fire. If your situation isn’t life threatening then you’re building a camp fire, not an emergency fire. So, where is the disconnect?

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This disconnect comes from the instruction and the practice. In both instances people tend to take short cuts, employ bad habits or listen to people who frankly are clueless. As professional SERE Instructors we spend years researching and perfecting methods of self-preservation. I all things we focus on what it takes and how long it takes, to do a specific task, in order to save your life. In all tasks there are principles; principles that when not followed cause failure. Whether it is urban survival, surveillance detection, camouflage or trapping game if the principles are not followed then failure does.

So to compensate we begin to build redundancy in our equipment at the cost of weight and the possibility of physical fatigue. We also begin to overlook necessary equipment to make room for the redundant. For six months of training, in the art of survival, myself and my team mates lit our cigarettes with a ferrocerium rod (then known as a metal match), lived out of a poncho or natural shelter, used only a canteen cup to collect and prepare food and had two knives; one straight and one folding. We here taught to maintain our equipment and not to lose it because that could mean death.

flood watersI’m not saying that everyone, who wants to learn how to survive, needs to go through the painful and long training that I did. However, the type of training and who is giving the training should be evaluated. There are many questions you should be asking before you get involved with buying equipment or attending training, but the first one should be to ask yourself “why am I doing this.” Is it because of natural disasters and I’m waiting for help? Is it because I’m waiting for National upheaval or a meteor strike or am I just wanting to take care of myself if I fall down and get injured on a weeklong hike?

All these questions come into play when choosing the right training format or equipment. It may be that you only need some medical training from the local Red Cross or it could be that you need advanced survival training under tactical conditions. Regardless of the type of training you require you need to ask the facility you are training under what their credentials are.

SOME POINTERS

  1. In the US only the United States Air Force has a designated career field built around “Global Survival”. All military courses and documents are based on information complied and researched by the Joint Services SERE Agency (JSSA). The only information which doesn’t come from there is based on Native Americans, aboriginals and Mountain Men. However, JSSA researches, studies and applies some of these also.  Home grown courses may not be following current or even safe doctrine so ask for qualifications.
  2. Is the school technology driven or is it primitive means driven? If your looking for a school which teaches you all the new toys, fine. If your looking for a course which trains you to live like a native then good. In either case enjoy yourself and have fun. However, if you’re looking to save your life just keep in mind that Natives don’t build a friction fire in the rain and batteries die in the heat and freeze in the cold. So find out the focus of the school. If you want to survive you have to use technology where it is best suited and primitive means where they are best suited. A good training school will teach the best of both. 
  3. Don’t get caught up in the hype! Whether it’s TV, Articles, movies or conversations don’t get caught up in the hype. Do the research and pick what fits your needs. I understand the need for advertising, but it’s only designed to do one thing….sell something. Remember that and also remember your life depends on your decision. If they are selling equipment, look at the quality. Someone who takes the protection of life seriously is not going to handle substandard equipment regardless of the profit margin.  
  4. Look at the equipment used by the instructor. Is it for show? Is it the same as what he/she is trying to sell? For example, the instructor may have a giant Bowie for the entire world to see but it never comes out of its sheath, ask yourself why? Same thing applies for demonstrations and practices. A good instructor should never ask a student to do something he has not demonstrated with GREAT proficiency and with the same type of tools as the student. “Beware the Instructor who shows you a perfectly constructed natural shelter but doesn’t have time to demonstrate how he made it”.   
  5. Good Survival Instructors are very opinionated and grounded in what works and what doesn’t. This is based on research AND experience. The best advertised knife in the world may fail and the most popular pack on the market may rip so you may NOT see your Instructor with the latest and greatest gear. In fact he may be carrying a well, worn pack and a old knife. So if you ask them their opinion on what the best piece of equipment is you may not get the answer you are expecting! 
  6. Watch for POSERS! Just because they wear the beret doesn’t mean they are “Special”.

Once you have asked yourself all the right questions and have chosen you’re training facility or Instructor go into the training with an open mind. All of us have our built in paradigms on how something is to be done, but in this case try to put them aside and learn from scratch. Skills taught right and learned right will always serve you better. Also remember that survival is just that, SURVIVAL and skills which are not proven under adverse conditions are no skills at all. So everything you learn should have gone through a litmus test and not just created as “woodsy goods to know”. After all we are not camping, we are surviving! Remember there are no special tactics just perfected principles practiced over and over again.

“Perfect Practice makes Perfect” will always ring in my ears.

Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

 

Cold Weather Dehydration (Part 1)

Empty canteen and bodyMany schools and programs teach the importance of hydration as a factor of survival.  All too often, however, this instruction revolves around, or is associated with, hot environments. In addition, many books place a great emphasis on staying well hydrated but put little detail in what that means, other than quantities such as “minimum of two liters a day”.

Unfortunately, this “generalized” information can lead the survivor into dangerous territory. Hydration is a very young and under-studied science, and got its beginnings with an individual named Pablo Valencia. Pablo, through a series of unfortunate events, found himself stranded in the Sonora desert of the United States for six days. When he finally reached civilization he was nursed back to health by WJ McGee, who later wrote the first case study on dehydration, “Desert Thirst as Disease”

Pablo’s incident and the subsequent study by McGee all occurred in the very early 1900’s.  But it wasn’t until physiologists, mobilizing from the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory in World War II and conducting research at the Fort Knox Armored Medical Research Laboratory, that a true understanding of the effects of dehydration began to be understood. To this day, the primary research on dehydration comes from the US Army and their civilian contractors.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-helicopter-team-image334860For the isolated person, dehydration from a hot environment may not be the most dangerous situation. This isn’t to downplay the dangers of a hot and arid environment, but rather to emphasize the dangers of a cold one.  There are many reasons for emphasizing the danger of a cold environment, but the primary reason is lack of understanding.

As shown by modern studies, “the effect of air temperatures on thirst and drink­ing behavior consistently report depressed voluntary drinking during cold weather activities.” To a survivor this means that maintaining hydration is a willful act, and one which may not be regulated by the normal indicators of “thirst” (Water Requirements and Soldier Hydration; Scott J. Montain, PhD, and Matthew Ely, MS)

Also, there is a physiological reaction to cold which is called “cold-induced diuresis”, also known as an osmotic diuresis, and can increase urine water losses. (Water Requirements and Soldier Hydration; Scott J. Montain, PhD, and Matthew Ely, MS) This increased urine flow not only is involuntary, but it can rapidly lead to dehydration. This can be a dangerous situation since the body will continue this process until all the excess liquid is out of the body. In fact, when the desire to urinate stops, this is a flagrant warning sign that dehydration is just around the corner.

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Understanding Urban Navigation

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-crowd-image3296243Although most advanced techniques for navigation are essentially designed to be used in the wilderness they are no less important in an urban environment. With the state of the world today the chances of getting caught in an urban situation are equal to or greater than the wilderness. Area familiarization and map knowledge can mean the difference in avoiding a riot or being caught up in one.

How you apply the knowledge and movement techniques used in the wilderness to the city becomes a simple substitution technique. Where there were ridgeline, there are now city blocks; where there were rivers and creeks there are now storm drains and canals. Roads and power lines stay the same, but we add buildings and subways. Navigating on foot in a city, once looked at it from an educated perspective, becomes easier than in the wilderness.

However, once again, it is about education and knowledge of the area. Anyone can stand in the middle of the street, open a map and within a few minutes have an idea where they are. That, of course, is assuming that the street signs are in place, there are no burning structures around and no one is throwing rocks at you! Under these situations position determination may rely on your previous constant awareness and  memory skills.

For the purposes of emergencies in a city we again go back to the map and getting very familiar with the different structures and layout of the city we are visiting. Whether the city is perfectly laid out as in Washington DC or has sprawl and geographic restraints like Rio there will always be backstops and handrails which can help the traveler move quickly.

Rio, for example is surrounded on three sides by water. In addition there is a ridge line running through the center which separates the resort areas from the city proper. These natural handrails give an individual a guide for moving in the correct direction when trying to leave the city. In addition the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain gives a solid reference point, for navigation, which can be use in many parts of the city.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-urban-graffiti-image5014310In an urban environment which is more industrialized, railways and power grids can be used as handrails leading from the city. Many places also have major water ways which have been or are still being used for transportation. In military terms these are known as Lines Of Communication or LOC. LOCs by there very design are moving to and from the urban environment and are thus good guides for expedient exits.

For real inner city work there are two things an individual must rely on; landmarks and streets. At the time of an “event” it is too late to begin consulting a map. Lack of knowledge of an area can lead to being trapped in a dead end or blocked between groups of people. The first few minutes of any developing riot are the most critical for the stranded individual. The decisions for movement, at the beginning of any incident, are the most important and must be done with confidence and accuracy.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-un-flags-image22214219All planning for movement in a crisis should be done around those structures which grant the individual protection. Hotel or residence, police department and embassy are all good choices for protection initially but in the case of hotels and personal residence be aware that these are only safe as long as the situation is under some control. As discovered in the LA riots, Katrina and Egypt private structures lose their sanctity very fast so the survivor must be ready to move. However, these places may offer initial supplies for future movements.

The key to getting to these structures at the beginning of an event is to have pre-planned routes and knowledge of the area so movement is quick and effective. A minimum of a primary and an alternate route from a given location is always encouraged. In the military the acronym PACE is used to describe this procedure; Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency (PACE). For someone travelling to a new city it could be as simple as (P) the fastest route to the police department, (A) the fastest route back to the hotel,(C) The fastest route to the airport and (E) fastest route out of the city. It also could be set up as three routes back to the hotel and the fastest route to the police station. Either way it gives the person on foot flexibility.

Knowledge of the area, commitment of major streets and LOCs to memory and a good PACE plan cannot be overemphasis when dealing with an urban situation. The ability to use landmarks, backstops and handrails while moving give the individual ability to move quickly and with confidence through any terrain.

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Improvising in an Urban Emergency!

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-escalator-crowd-image2128104In the last 20 years I have traveled all over the world. Not as a tourist but doing Government and business related work. Sometimes these trips are well organized and thought out, however most of the time they are short noticed requiring a lot of impromptu decision making.

From a self-reliance standpoint, taking equipment which can help you in the case of an emergency can become problematic. Between TSA and the laws of other Countries taking things like pyrotechnic devices, communication systems, knives and the such a can lead to frustration, extensive questioning or even jail time. Something which seems so innocuous because of our freedoms here in American can create confusion and even fear at a customs check point.

Case in point. The first time I went to Brazil I carried a tremendous about of outdoor gear. I was going to spend some time on Xingu river (a tributary of the Amazon) and didn’t really know what to expect. So I brought it all. Now Brazil is one of my favorite countries, especially the wilderness, and in some parts it is still like the wild west. The people for the most part are opened minded, very friendly and easy to get along with even if you don’t speak the native language (Portuguese).

As a rule I’m the one Customs always stops, even if it’s random and this was no exception. What did surprise me was what the customs agent was most concerned about. She didn’t focus on my knife, or my radio, or maps or anything which might bring up a question on why I was in the country. She was concerned with a small item attached to the strap of my pack. A Ferrocerium rod. My striker. It was alien to her and trying to explain that it was a non-explosive fire starting device was interesting.

Fortunately, a demonstration solved the issue and after the surprise and a good laugh, when the sparks showered the floor, I was on my way. However, this “sparked” a question in my mind. While on suit and tie business trips, is it necessary to carry a full blow survival kit and risk the chance of being held up or even arrested over what I consider harmless, but essential, tools?

My answer was no and in my case I learned to travel very light when conducting business (which didn’t include going out into the field). I traveled with one bag and carried very few “survival” oriented items.

What I did carry was a Photon flash light, Silva wrist compass, chlorine dioxide tablets and dental floss (fishing line). All of which can easily be explained to customs and are difficult to acquire in an emergency overseas.

The rest I would “procure” and improvised from common items available in restaurants, bars and hotels if and when an emergency like a regime change occurred.

From the local bar and sometimes restaurant I would get book matches, napkins, and coasters which have the makings of an adequate fire (although I hate burning coasters from Germany cause they are cool).

From restaurants I may procure the umbiquos “knife”, funny how utensils disappear for souvenirs. A few dinner rolls will also come home along with breath mints, a cloth napkin, candle and the cork from my wine bottle (best fishing cork around, cut to size of course). Well you get the point. The world is full of great emergency gear.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-un-flags-image22214219Of course hotels are the best source for improvising items. Now I’m not advising anyone to steal, but if a country is collapsing and you need to leave to the nearest Embassy, Official station or even the Border it’s best to have some equipment. Hotel rooms can supply you with shower curtains for rain gear and/or an improvised pack, cordage in the form of electric cords, Blankets and sheets for shelter and warmth, bottles of water which can be refilled and purified with your chlorine dioxide, etc. The list is almost endless.

All in all, adapting to your environment and improvising with the equipment and tools at hand is vitally important to personal survival and in today’s evolving world may just come in handy. So the next time you are out, LOOK around and see what you can find which could enhance you chances of survival in an emergency.

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN