April 7, 2009
Reading about the earthquake that L’Aquila reminded me of a seminar I went to about earthquake preparedness. Several of the presenters were architects and engineers who had been in places like the Northridge earthquake and/or the Oakland earthquake and they made some very good points about keeping yourself safe in an earthquake.
It’s a little known fact that earthquakes can happen anywhere. We had a few tremors here in Southern Missouri and Illinois last year after the big spring floods we had. The thought was that the flooding had an impact on the buried tectonic fault under New Madrid, MO. So even in the heartland, we’re under threat from earthquakes. So much from moving here from Southern California.
One of the stories from that seminar concerned those poor souls who were trapped under that overpass that collapsed in Oakland. They actually did find survivors under there. In fact, most of the people who died were the ones who tried to speed up to avoid the collapsing bridge. They either got crushed by the overpass that fell on them or ran into those who ran into the fallen overpass. One of the points they made was that people who had some food, water and some kind of noisemaker were much better off than those without.
I’ve written about personal alarms before, but it was in the context of protecting yourself from an attacker. They’re much more versitile than that. It can be used as a signaler in cases of being trapped under something that has collapsed or if you’re lost, it can signal searchers to your position. I got lost at Boy Scout camp one year, luckily I found my way back, but I could have sure used one of those then.
Preparedness kits are also essential. Every home and car should have some kind of kit to survive in case of emergency. One of the other things I got from that seminar was the need to stockpile some food, medical supplies and other necessities because if there were another earthquake here like the one in 1812, help could be a week away. Personally I think that’s being kind of optimistic. The 1812 quake caused bells in Boston, Boston, to ring. Also this half of the country is not SoCal, which has been living under the threat of a major earthquake for far longer and have built accordingly. Since this will happen in the Mississippi valley, the shock waves will travel up and down the river and it’s tributaries. Plus the land in SoCal has an attenuating effect on how far the quake will travel. The Midwest has a very different effect, it will actually strengthen the effects of the quake. Long story short, it will take much more than a week for help to get here.
So food and clean water is essential, so are first aid supplies. An alarm is useful in case you’re trapped in a collapsed building or in your car. For your car you might consider a multiple use tool like the one pictured here.
It consists of a flashlight to help you see your surroundings, a flashing light to signal rescuers, a seatbelet cutter and can be used as a hammer to break away glass. If nothing else it can free you enough to move about the cabin and access your stored food, water and safety gear.
As for around the home or an alarm that you can keep with you, I’d suggest some kind of 2 ‘n 1 alarm that incorporates an alarm with a flashlight. Again the flashlight can be useful to get your bearings and to signal resuce personnel and the alarm can let them know there’s someone alive to save.
It may seem unnecessary or paranoid to put all of this stuff together, but it’s one of those things that you might never really need to use, but when you do need to use it, you’ll really need to use it.
Whether or not you believe in a God or higher power, take a moment to remember those caught in L’Aquila and pray for those who have been injured or who have lost loved ones. Please take what I’ve written into consideration and at least think about what you might do in such a situation. At the very least it won’t come as a compete shock and that alone might be enough to help keep you alive.
Stay safe out there.
March 31, 2009
Personal alarms seem to be the red headed step child of self defense. They’re not as sexy as pepper spray or stun guns, but as a defensive tool, they can be better. The most important ally a criminal has is anonymity. As long as they can keep their crimes from coming to light, they can usually get away with it. That’s why personal alarms change the entire calculus of a violent confrontation. Personal alarms come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small enough to be keychains while others are integrated into flashlights and batons. Some of the best have straps that can be pulled away, so that if an attacker grabs the alarm and pulls it away from you, the pin is pulled from the alarm and it goes off until the pin is replaced. Now, just because you’re kited out in all this cool self defense gear, it doesn’t mean that you can walk around heedless of your surroundings. Alarms, for instance, are much more effective in heavily trafficked areas. The more people who can hear the alarm and respond, the better off you are. Even if nobody responds, you still will have a second or two while your attacker is confused by the howling alarm in his hand for you to grab your pepper spray or stun gun. You’ll have to be quick because you might only have a second or two. That’s where multipurpose alarms come in handy. If, for example, you have a flashlight/stun gun/alarm, when you set the alarm off, you’re ready to go with the stunning part. If you’re in a darkened area you’ll already have the flashlight out looking around, so you don’t have to waste time digging around for it. Several types of alarms come with door and/or window attachments. These are perfect if you’re traveling or live in dormitories or know people who do. They work by using the principle of current. As long as the current between the door and the jamb remain closed, the circuit is complete and the alarm doesn’t go off. As soon as the door opens…130 db of of hi fidelity disorienting power slams a burglar in the face. Have you ever seen those lamps that turn on when you touch the base? Certain dual purpose alarms use that process to arm themselves. They come with a strap that you hang on the doorknob on your side of the door. When someone touches the handle on the outside of the door the alarm will go off. You do need to be careful as the alarm will not work with metal doors. Dormitories are notorious for using metal doors so be sure yours isn’t before you get one of these. The main benefit of an alarm is to buy yourself time. Time to escape, time to summon help, time to fight back. A criminal has the advantage in that they know when and where they’re going to strike. It gives them quite an advantage, but planning and practice, wedded to the right tools can overcome that advantage and give you the initiative.
March 17, 2009
Let’s talk a bit about fear, you and I. Don’t worry, we’ll not go too far around the corner and down a dark alley. Fear is one of the most misunderstood emotions out there. Most people will do anything to avoid it. Much like anything else, however, fear in reality is a tool. Any like any tool, it can hurt or help you.
Over millions of years our ancestors have used fear to get them out of sticky situations, situations that for us living in the modern world have little to no conception. Living in the Third World or being in the military or law enforcement might give you some vague conception of the situations that our ancestors faced, but on the whole, we’re pretty lucky in this day and age.
Their legacy to us has been this tool known as fear. Neurologists are just now unraveling the mysteries of this most human of emotions. In fact, one of the largest growing mental disorders in the United States, PTSD, is intimately tied to how and why we fear what we fear. We’ll talk about that a bit later, for now it’s enough to know that it exists.
Fear, too, can kill. Ben Sherwood talks about “The Statues in the Storm” in his book The Survivor’s Club. If you’ve ever read Dune by Frank Herbert or have seen the movies based on his books, you’ve seen the title of my blog before. While fear can be used as a tool in a crisis situation, most times it turns us to statues. That’s why law enforcement and the military spend so much time trying to train that out of recruits.
This holds especially true if you’re a woman or a teenager. Or if you’re like me, a short guy. Many bullies and criminals, for what is a criminal but a bully writ large, think that smaller means weaker. Being small and weak doesn’t mean that you’re helpless or a victim.
Also preparing yourself mentally attenuates the amount of fear you feel in a real confrontation. It won’t eliminate your fear, which is good, because fear can be used as a tool in a confrontation. Fear can actually be used to jump start you if you’ve become a statue in the storm. Overwhelming fear is what seems to turn people into statues that await their doom.
In an emergency, your mind is the most valuable weapon or tool at your disposal. The more quickly you can recover from a shock, the more quickly you can start thinking and start surviving.