A common question asked of me when discussing preparedness as a topic, is “what are important things to carry” or “what stuff should I prepare for a disaster”?
As an addition to my previous posts on Preparedness (see HERE) one often-overlooked or not thought-about part is how important one’s feet are in the overall picture of being prepared for a disaster.
One of the most important aspects of preparedness is mobility. Oftentimes, the best way to avoid a bad situation (especially if you have advance warning of it) is to not be there. However, there will be times when there is little or no warning and staying put then changes to moving out. Relying on a vehicle to get you where you need to go is convenient, but may not always get you all the way there. Vehicle breakdowns, blocked roads, extreme weather – all can contribute to the need to transition to a moving on foot. At that point, you are ultimately going to have to rely on your own feet and their ability to get you through.
Be sure to include at least one spare pair of quality socks into every kit and bag you have. If you have a family of four you need to plan for, the same applies. Buy a good pair of hiking socks which will provide cushion, wick moisture away, insulate, breathe and wash/dry easily for all members of your group. If you need to transition from mounted (in a vehicle) to dismounted (on-foot) to cover distance and terrain to your destination, being able to change your cocksure both supportive of foot care and help boost morale. There is a wonderful feeling one has when you are cold, wet, sore and exhausted but you change your socks for a dry, clean pair. OH! It makes a world of difference. Just ask anyone who’s done a lot of hiking or been in the military. Dry, clean socks are game-changers.
In addition to the above, invest in the best footwear you can – solidly built, broken-in and in good repair. Depending on the profile and expected terrain you may be traversing, you may be looking for something more suited to the wet and cold of the outdoors or the roughness of the urban environment. Either way, research what works for you and get something you can rely on. You should also consider packing some Advil, Moleskin and duct tape. And an extra pair of laces (made from 550 paracord wouldn’t hurt you either).
I recently had the opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes look at the making of some of my favourite socks, right here in Toronto! J.B. Fields makes an array of high-quality socks from premium materials. Living in a colder region, I have been partial to their Icelandic wool socks and hikers for their incredible warmth and versatility for some years now.
Full disclosure: I am NOT being paid for this endorsement nor have I been furnished with any consideration, I just really like their socks AND I like that they are an old, Canadian-based company making a quality product at an affordable price.
I reached out to JB Fields and connected with Sid, one of their employees, and set up a meet to go in and pick up some end-of-season deals at their factory store. Sid graciously offered to show me their factory and how the socks are made, along with the features that make them the quality they are. (SEE PHOTOS AT END OF POST)
There are three styles which I really love:
the Merino Wool Weekender: 96% Merino wool. VERY comfortable but not very resilient, so don’t get them for hiking of boot socks. But casual wear for comfort, yes!
Regardless if you go with JB Fields or other great sock manufacturers (such as Darn Tough or Smart Wool are both VERY good choices), just be sure to invest in a quality sock for supporting your mobility in an emergency for your preparations.
Having appropriate footwear (boots, or shoes), keeping your feet in good health (clean, dry, free of infection/fungus, nails trimmed, space to breathe in shoes, etc) and investing in quality socks will be a key foundational piece to build upon. Getting blisters, frostbite or other foot injuries can be crippling very quickly and ground you, thereby taking away your potion to move from a bad situation. Movement and mobility are life-giving and without hem, you are at the mercy of circumstance and other parties. Stay capable, maintain the capacity for mobility and invest in preparations BEFORE you need them.
For a while now so-called “tactical pens” have been a hotly-debated topic in EDC (Every-Day Carry) and NPE (Non-Permissive Environment) / LPE (Less-Permissive Environment) circles. In many ways, the check the box of a “multi-use” item in the survival world – being both a functional pen and weapon (and glass breaker, bottle opener, screwdriver, flashlight, tactical-tool, and over-priced accessory all in one). From my perspective, most people buy a tactical pen for the weapon capacity and because it makes them feel tough/cool/tactical/bad-ass. Where this goes over the line into the absurd is when the intent of the pen as a weapon in a non-permissive or less-permissive environment comes into play. And you’re not in a profession where you can carry a weapon.
In Canada, where I live and under which I base much of my content on (BECAUSE it is a LPE) not carrying overt weapons on my person on the daily. Attracting attention of the local constabulary because you’re wearing a “tactical pen” with your khakis at Starbucks may be counter-productive for you when accosted by the local weirdo when you walk outside and use said “tactical pen” to defend yourself. When all is concluded, you stand a good chance of being charged with carrying a weapon and then have the onus put on you for the “why”.
On the other hand, carrying a regular pen, which you happen to have on your person, which wasn’t designed to be used as a weapon, will not only NOT draw any attention (either from law enforcement or security when travelling or in no-go areas) but are still capable of being brought into service as a self-defence tool of opportunity.
The photo at the top of this article displays several options for pens which can be used as defensive tools as well as a “tactical pen” (at the bottom). As yourself this: which one looks “scary”?Which one looks like it was designed to hurt someone? The answer is the “tactical pen”.
From the top to bottom: 1) standard BIC crystal pen; 2) Parker Jotter; 3) Fisher Space Pen Bullet; 4) Zebra F-701; 5) Tactical pen – brand unimportant.
Unless I specifically want to grab for a weapon, I’d be picking any of the other pens over the tactical one. If I was on-duty as a Peace Officer then the options are more plentiful. However, as a civilian, I’d prefer to stay away from anything overtly tactical or “scary-looking”. Why? Because the less noticeable and hostile you appear and present as in a confrontation (especially if violence is involved) would see you having to justify your actions. Here in Canada, where things like weapon carry laws, Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws do not exist, your legal options regarding weapons to protect yourself are dramatically restricted. Your best options are to avoid violence if you can, engage if you must and only resort to a weapon if one is already present or the situation is dire to the point of needing it to survive.
No one (except for law enforcement and some security elements, and criminals, of course) are carrying guns or other weapons about on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, invest your time, effort and money in the principles and methodologies in dealing with violence rather than buying gear. Learn about situational awareness, behavioural analysis, weaponology principles, . ANY pen (pencil, chopstick or knife) can be used to great effect against an assailant if you have skills (software) versus thinking the tool you bought will save you (hardware).
Remember: Training Trumps Gear.
Stay safe & Stay Crafty.
***NOTE: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE! CONSULT A QUALIFIED LAWYER ON SELF-DEFENCE MATTERS AND APPLICABLE LAWS FOR YOU PARTICULAR JURISDICTION***
Every year, millions of people are directly threatened and affected by the annual hurricane season. As unfortunate as it is, the government and aid organizations are not capable of supporting and protecting everyone who is in the path of tropical storms and hurricanes. As that is the case, the responsibility to be prepared for incoming storms becomes yours. Fortunately, government, environmental and weather agencies are able to predict and track tropical storms days and possibly weeks in advance of impact. This allows those in their path to prepare to deal with the enormous power of a hurricane and what it can do. As of this writing, Hurricane Dorian has just been upgraded to a Category 5 and is on track to wreak havoc in the Caribbean and Eastern Gulf.
I’ve included several free preparedness resources at the end of this post for you to review and use towards your disaster preparedness plan.
No two people’s situation is the same. Variables such as location, storm intensity, flood planes, geography, population density, transportation routes and government support in the area can play a key role in developing a disaster preparedness plan.
Depending on those variables, you may decide to stay or evacuate after preparing adequately to do so. Especially if you’re in its path.
Having a timeline and trajectory map of an incoming storm can play into the preparedness plan and your timelines (to either start stocking up or packing up to leave). With the right pre-positioned supplies and logistical plan in place, you stand a much higher chance of being able to “weather” the storm (pun intended).
Storms bring with them other issues, such as power outages, flooding and disruption in supply and logistics to an affected area. Hurricanes are a savage combination of extreme weather, flooding, power disruption, and general chaos.
Here is an excerpt from our new Disaster Preparedness Guide to help with your preparations:
If you are in a flood-prone area, pre-position supplies to defend your home with (sand bags, shovels, sand, plastic sheeting, pumps, etc) and check in with your local emergency management office to understand their response plans for your area. Ask them for local maps and plans identifying urban waterways, underground streams and rivers as well as overflow • Be prepared to evacuate the area and consider keeping several air-tight (such as Nanuk, Pelican, etc.) to store important personal items which you may not be able to take with you and store in the upper levels of your house upon evacuation to ensure their safety. • Pay attention to local weather reports. If there are flood warnings, stay away from waterways as their volume and speed can be deceptively dangerous and sweep away people, vehicles and even houses (I’ve seen it). • Stay away from flood-affected areas if possible and be aware that all flood waters are likely contaminated and you should wash & decontaminate yourself and clothing. Wash your hands regularly. • Consider all your non-bottled water as contaminated. Boil and purify as required. If possible, fill up your bathtub (clean it first) and make yourself a reservoir of water you can access for sterilization and drinking. You can also use a WaterBob to line your tub and contain the clean potable water for later use.
*Excerpt from the 2nd edition of the TNT Disaster Preparedness Guide.
See below for more tips. The sooner you start preparing the better chance you’ll have.
There is a lot to be said about ensuring your safety and security where you hang your hat while travelling. With Summer approaching and vacations being planned, take some time to include your safety and security considerations into your trip planning.
Not everyone who goes on vacation goes with a “tactical” mindset. You don’t have to be an operator or security specialist to be vigilant of your environment, you just need to be informed and proactive. To that end, we’re adding more tips and info for you in addition to our previous travel security posts. (You can read them through the links at the bottom of this article.)
Prior to your travel, procure some local maps (if you’re a member of CAA they give them to you as part of your membership, or use Google Maps and print them off) and learn the location of your accommodations in relation to local hospitals, police/fire/ems/military stations, friendly embassies/consulates, transit routes, banks.
Get yourself a transit map and ask/research how to use the local public transit (cash, tokens, PRESTO card, etc.) Find out if you can purchase them at the front desk upon arrival. If you do find yourself using public transit, sit yourself in a position so that you can see the driver/conductor and they can see you.
Do your research. Read the local news and weather reports (you can use Google Translate or an extension on Chrome and translate the entire page) to get a feel for where you will be. This allows you to make informed decisions on travel plans. Don’t forget to check for travel advisories on the Government of Canada site here and the Department of State site here.
Learn a few words in the local language where you’ll be. It can help you get what you want/need, understand what locals may be saying about you and can aid in making you seem less like an “ignorant tourist” to the locals because at least you’re trying to fit in. Simple words like “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, “bathroom/wc”, “how much?” and “do you speak English? (French, Spanish, Croatian)” can be very helpful.
Pack and carry appropriate emergency supplies. Anything you can’t take with you on a plane should be sourced locally as soon as possible upon arrival. You can identify locations (drug and hardware stores, department stores) prior to arrival or from hotel staff.
Always have multiple methods of payment available to you, as well as emergency back-ups. Example, if travelling to, let’s say, Italy, consider the following:
Credit Cards (VISA and Master Card preferred over others);
Debit card (PLUS or CIRRUS network-enabled);
Euros (local currency, primary);
Euros (local currency, emergency reserve);
US Dollars (readily accepted worldwide, emergency back-up cash);
Mini gold bars (very optional, but may be worth a look depending on where you’re travelling to or through).
Remember: CASH IS KING – but if you lose it, you’re screwed.
At your accommodations:
Take pictures of everything that you may need reminding of – hotel address, parking spot, taxi/Über driver ID, street signs or intersections, pictures of your credit cards (front & back), travel documents and travel itineraries.
Ask the front desk if they have dedicated security. If so, ask about the local areas to avoid. If you’re in more private accommodations (like an Air BnB) ask your host about safety concerns in the area.
If your room has an adjoining or connecting door, ensure that they are locked and that you have some method of securing it or enabling an early-warning alarm. (Remember, locks only keep honest people honest.)
Use your Do Not Disturb sign and deadbolt at all times when in your room and don’t answer the door for unanticipated visitors.
Employ a secondary method of securing your door, such as a door wedge, the “fork method” (view an example HERE), or a door wedge alarm. *NOTE: don’t secure the door in such a way as to prevent your escape in the dark in case of fire or other emergency.*
Use a single garbage bag in your room to collect all your refuse from your trip. This will help control your “information footprint”. A lot can be gleaned about you from your trash. In some countries, the information left in your room is used by criminal elements to target tourists for victimization. Be sure to dispose of your trash at a different location to minimize your exposure. If you have a rental car, sleep as close to it with your keys near you. In an emergency, you may be able to activate the alarm on the car to draw attention. (Thanks to Ed Calderon of @edsmanifesto for the tips. https://edsmanifesto.com)
It is now, before you set out into the world, to learn the necessary skills to keep you and your loved ones safe. Learn first aid, combatives, survival skills (including restraint escape, urban evasion and lock picking) to give yourself the best chance of surviving hostile situations.
Wherever you go, stay vigilant, be respectful to all but maintain awareness, stay crafty and always have an escape plan.
When preparing to go (either to the airport, train/bus station sea port, etc – it applies to all equally), ensure you charge all of your devices and that you have the appropriate connectors and adaptors for the region in which you will be travelling.
Take an empty water bottle and some snacks with you so that you can refill it post-security and always have a drink. You never know when you may be delayed and airports are notoriously expensive.
At the airport, keep your passport and ticket/boarding pass hidden to avoid people targeting you and gleaning information about you and your travel. As you walk through the airport, keep an eye open for places of cover should an attack occur. Columns and pillars, concrete planters, walls and corners as well as exit stairwells can offer ballistic protection. Try to stay away from public-side-facing windows.
As a general rule, try to pack for quick and easy movement. Travel light and fast. I avoid checking a bag if I can which enables easier movement and less of a chance of lost luggage. Stick with low-profile, non-tactical-looking luggage and bags. The only downside is that if you’re travelling with items prohibited from going in the cabin of the plane, you’ll be forced to check a bag. DO NOT try to sneak anything through security as it’ll either be seized (best case) or you’ll end up arrested (worse) depending on the local laws.
Here’s another tip: DON’T AGREE TO TAKE SOMEONE ELSE’S BAGS FOR THEM! It doesn’t matter if it’s an old lady, a “man of the cloth” or a child “travelling alone”. Carry only your bags, keep a vigilant watch over them at ALL times, don’t leave them unattended and say no to anyone asking you to carry something for them.
If you find yourself waiting on the public side of an airport or rail terminal, keep your eyes open for suspicious activity. Set yourself up where you have a good vantage point and no one behind you, close to cover. If you observe someone suddenly get up and walks away from a bag or parcel, quickly find cover and tell security services. If you leave your bags unattended, you risk losing them to security.
While travelling, do your best to be aware of the local news and goings-on. This can give you a feel for the local environment in which you find yourself and to possibly give you a heads-up in case of impending bad weather, criminal threats or civil unrest.
ALWAYS secure your passport. It is the most important item you have when travelling abroad. And depending on the country of issue, it can be worth upwards of $50k on the black market.
When you arrive to your destination and have cleared customs/immigration, you can then “tool up” with any gear you have legally transported or acquire locally-sourced tools.
Do your best to blend in with the local population. Look at online photos of locals and get a sense for what they wear and how they go about their days. Consider stopping by a local store to purchase similar clothing to wear while you’re “in country” and then leave them behind when returning home. With this method, you are essentially renting a “persona”and will bring down your visibility as a tourist to some degree. Leave your “5.11 Tuxedo” at home and get something local instead. Oakleys, Salomons and 5.11 pants and shirt that all say “covert” are usually anything but.
If you’re in a situation where no amount of “low-key” will do it (such as travelling with your family or in a group) do the best you can and always remain polite. A smile and a kind word can go a long way in the right context. With this in mind, don’t discuss your personal life with strangers. You don’t know who they are or how they could use that information against you. Steer your conversations about their home country under the auspices of learning more about them.
When travelling to and from your accommodations (or any base), vary your route and timings and maintain your situational awareness at all times so that you’re not being observed or followed.
When moving around, don’t carry all of your cash in the same place on your person. Break it up across your pockets, decoy wallet and other stashes. Use credit cards when you can to reduce the visibility of cash.
When on the ground, take a few mins to orientate yourself to the area using your maps and the local geography. Look for common landmarks and pay attention while being transported from the airport.
When you’re first able, make contact and touch base with the folks back home to give them a status report that you’ve landed and what your situation is. This allows those back home to have a time marker as to when was the last contact they had with you, where you were and what you were doing should something happen.
Beware of situations where you are consuming alcohol or drugs (say no to drugs, even if the jerk-off on the beach tells you it’s completely legal, you have no idea what is in it and if you’re being set-up) in the company of those who you do not trust completely. Also, try and stick to bottles and cans instead of drinks mixed out of view, lest someone spike it. And never leave your drink unattended or unobserved.
**The video below shows exactly how easy it is to have your drink spiked**
While travelling around, try to use ride-sharing services like Uber of Lyft over taxis as they are more reliable with better kept records of your trips. You’re also less likely to be robbed (as you don’t require cash to take a ride with them) and if something goes wrong, the driver, car and trip details are all stored with you and the company. If taxis are your only option, prior to getting in, ask for how much it would cost and take a look inside to ensure all looks legit and there are door handles in back. Either way, ALWAYS have a method of escape (some form of window breaker) to get out should something go sideways.
On the more likely side, you’re also more likely to be the victim of “tourist pricing” when arranging rides. For example, a local taking a taxi may only get charged $4 whereas a tourist will get charged $40 for the same ride.
Change money in banks or approved locations with security, not back alley “cambios” where you might get mugged after people know you have cash.
When buying supplies in local stores, keep an eye on the price tags that are on articles and ask what currency they represent. And if they start taking prices off articles as they “ring them in”, you’re being scammed. They’ll present you with a price which you won’t be able to recall and you’ll be left wondering what happened. You’re better served to walk away and try elsewhere unless you’re really in a jam.
When checking into your accommodations, ensure that the bellhop goes in first, and that the lights are on. Check every nook and crannyImmediately ensure that the doors and locks are all in working order and use a door wedge to secure the door once you’re alone and have engaged all of the locks. Draw the curtains and turn on the tv when you’re not in your room and hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the knob.
In respect to OPSEC (OPerational SECurity), ensure that you aren’t posting too much on social media which can identify things like your room, locations you’re visiting and valuables you may have on you. Post after you’ve returned or at least left the location.
In the event of a disaster or large-scale event, make your way by whatever means necessary to the Canadian (in my case) or alternately, to an allied nation’s embassy for protection and support. The United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand or another Commonwealth country will support you when carrying a Canadian passport.
Situational awareness, pre-planning, having local currency (and knowing the exchange rate) and a resilient mindset will help deal with most problems you would encounter on your travels. Travel light, travel low-profile and arm yourself with as much knowledge about the area you’ll be in. Remember, low-profile equals a difficult target.
Welcome to Part Two in our Travel Security Series: Keeping your home safe while you’re away.
Sadly, this isn’t part of the trip planning process for many people (though it should be). Most either assume their home is “secure” enough, therefore they don’t need to do anything, or they just lock the door and leave, hoping for the best. Either way, here are some tips to better prepare your home to maintain its integrity while you’re away.
Don’t Talk about your impending trip! As exciting as it is, keep the details of your trip on the down-low leading up to it. If you must give details for the purposes of booking vacation time or scheduling, be vague with the times and dates of you absence and also with your itinerary. Instead of saying exactly where you’re going, be vague, like “down south” or “out-of-town for a couple of days”, instead of “I’m going to *** in *** and we leave on *** and return on ***.” This makes it less predictable when your home will be unoccupied.
Establish a monitoring presence.
If possible, enlist the help of a relative or trusted friend to check in on your house while you’re away. Give them a key and have them bring in the mail, turn lights on/off through the house. If you’re lucky they may even agree to put out the garbage and replace the bins when collected. They can also feed your pets, open and close blinds, water your plants and even move your car around. This creates the illusion that the house is occupied and monitored. Just ensure to bring back a nice souvenir for your caretakers from your trip…it’s the least you can do. If you’re unable to secure such a caretaker, put a hold on your mail and scheduled deliveries and arrange to have your yard maintained while you’re away. Maybe even get your windows washed and gutters cleaned all on different days, prepaid. This will, again, deter burglars from targeting your house, especially in the day. If possible, have a trusted friend or family member move in while you’re gone. Sell it to them like a mini-vacation. And of course, you’ll bring them a souvenir. (FYI – there are also other options, such as hiring a house-sitter or even renting out your home through Air BnB or similar sites and maintain the occupancy. This is, however, your choice.)
Plug your table lamps into timers.
Program them to turn on and off at various times and various rooms as if people are moving about in the evenings. They don’t cost a lot but can help a great deal in establishing a more randomized presence. In the same vein, unplug all non-essential electronics to reduce risk of fire and to save on the constant trickle of electricity they use.
If you haven’t yet,
consider installing both a security system and motion lights
around your home. They will deter people attempting to access your home as well as create a video log of all who approach, day or night. In addition to this, ensure your doors and windows have effective working locks and that they are ALL engaged prior to you leaving. Even the upper floors.
Stash your stuff.
It is common practice for me that prior to a trip out-of-town, I take my valuables to a safe deposit box at a bank. It’s included with my account and always available and secure. So I make use of it. If there’s anything valuable you have in your home that isn’t completely secure (like, in a fireproof vault anchored to your wall and floor) then consider leaving it in a safe deposit box for the duration of your trip. You shouldn’t be travelling with expensive stuff anyways.
As a last thought, you might want to check your smoke detectors and turn down your furnace if needed. Put a dog alarm or a sign for for “beware of dog”. This may add to the overall security picture.
Though this post is not exhaustive of all possible considerations, I hope the above tips will help you in securing your home while you’re away, protecting your possessions and giving you piece of mind.
Stay safe and stay crafty.
***Disclaimer: None of the above information is fool-proof or guaranteed but is the opinion of the author and as such, the Author suggests you use your own judgement when implementing any of the above.***
If you plan well, you have better chances of travelling well. It’s that simple.
Every time I travel, whether it’s for an overnight or for a sustained travel period, I got through several pre-travel stages of planning. I have found that this both allows for maximum comfort and enjoyment while travelling and mitigates any fuck-ups while away and on one’s own (or with your family without the security net of home).
Once it’s been determined what the circumstances of travel will be (destination, duration, dates of travel, airline, time of travel and reasons for travel) I begin systematic long-distance reconnaissance of my trip in an attempt to learn everything I can about my time away from my home base.
Destination: I first identify where I am flying in to (on a map) and where I will be staying and/or working. I ensure I have a solid understanding of the geography and routes in and out of those specific points, and mark them on a map. I will also identify my lodgings, airports, homeland allied embassies or consulates, nearby hospitals/clinics, police stations and possible hazards (like power plants, military bases, volcanos, etc). When I’ve oriented myself according to prominent features, I’ll have a general understanding of where important points are.
Dates of Travel: What I bring and how I will travel is dependent not only on the purpose of travel, but also the climate and weather of my home base and destination. If it’s winter at home but warmer at my destination, may need to pack a different spread of clothes (winter and warmer) and have to wear while travelling and while away. If both areas are similar, then a single and consistent set of clothes works.
Duration: I usually do everything I can to travel with carry-on only. Checked luggage slows you down (having to wait for your bags to be off-loaded) as well as making it more cumbersome to move about. Pack light, in a 2-3 tiered system while travelling, like an EDC (Every Day Carry) set-up (more on this in a bit). If you are travelling for an extended period of time, pack accordingly, but consider ditching most toiletries and possible consumables at home and buying what you need for your stay once you arrive in-country. That way you will be better prepared with locally acquired supplies and you won’t over pack.
Packing: Like I mentioned in the previous point, I try to travel light and buy consumables (like regular toiletries, additional supplies, maybe even tools) locally when I arrive. I also believe in packing light and smart, the latter allowing you to maximize a few wardrobe pieces across many days and environments. I prefer clothes I can wash by hand in a hotel sink and have it ready the following morning to go. This includes socks and underwear. Buying some quality pieces of versatile clothing is key in your planning cycle. Also, packing light allows you to augment your clothing with locally procured clothes to better blend in with the local populace. This is especially important if you are trying to keep a lower profile while in a foreign land. As an additional to my packing, I try and pack in the following way to support a level of preparedness should some unforeseen issue arise so that I can have a better chance of dealing with it.
This list includes a tiered approach to carriage of what I am taking with me.
(NOTE: This is a recommended list and is not definitive. Pack according to your own requirements, but aim to pack light and with room to spare for souvenirs or other goodies you acquire on your travels.)
On my person ( and in my pockets and otherwise on me AT ALL TIMES include (but aren’t limited to):
Credit cards and CASH (cash is KING – be sure to have US dollars and try to get local currency you’ll be travelling in as soon as possible.)
Charged cell phone with charging cable and adapter plug.
Small EDC flashlight
Small Bic lighter
Small key ring with house key, Tactikey, 1-2 key tools and small lock pick keychain, encrypted USB key (with .
Wallet & decoy wallet (with minimal cash, used for visible purchases at shops for snacks, taxis, etc.
Hat (type dependent on weather)
Small, TSA-approved multi-tool (no knife).
Other items of use (depending on climate & other circumstances).
Bottle of water (empty while going through security, refilled in sterile area)
Photocopies of all my documents and credit cards, emergency contact info for friends and family back home and consular resources while in-country, general map of the area I’ll be staying in (detailing safe zones and escape routes) and copy of my plane tickets.
Sunglasses (and back-up pair of glasses or contacts if you wear them)
Several pens (both Bic and Zebra brands – none of that Tactical pen stuff) and a notepad
True North Tradecraft stickers, patches and business cards (to spread the Good Word).
Pack of gum
Sweater with waterproof shell jacket (either worn by me or in my backpack (next tier).
Pants and appropriate belt
The above items will support me if forced to deplane ANYWHERE and should be able to affect a return to safety. Of course, everything depends on the situation, but having those as a minimum greatly increases my odds of making it to a better place.
As a second tier, that which should go in my “personal item” (i.e. my small backpack), I load the following. (Note, this tier is what I will grab if I have the opportunity and will have to live out of it. It has next-level important stuff. With these items, I can travel for a long time.
Laptop (plus charger, cables, adapter, USB drives, etc)
Change of socks, underwear and extra t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt (or both, if needed).
Copies of all documents and information (just like the set I have on me.
Back-up tools including everything I already have on my person.
Some snacks for the trip
Pens, notebook (double-up as on my person)
Local map, guidebook/phrasebook (if needed).
Books to read (1-2)
First-aid kit (including medications and tourniquet if possible)
Minimalist toiletries (toothbrush, mini toothpaste, mini deodorant, mini hand sanitizer, package of wet wipes, etc.)
A couple of carabiners (climbing quality), a length of paracord, a padlock
With the backpack, and what I have on me, I have moved myself into the zone of “minimalist backpacker” and should be able, with augmented goods procured locally, to sustain myself until I either depart or until I can get help.
Lastly, my carry-on luggage. Stored in the over-head bin, this should round out whatever I need for a comfortable vacation or trip just about anywhere. As it stands now, the list below is what I will likely pack for my next trip.
A rubber door wedge (for securing a hotel room)
Mouse trap (seek out Ed Calderon for more info on this)
2 x underwear
long-sleeved travel shirt & t-shirt
Toiletry kit (expanding on what I have in backpack – Polysporin, sun block, aloe gel, pain meds, Immodium, Gravol, wet wipes, etc)
Extra First Aid Kit supplies
Hank of paracord
2 more carabiners (climbing quality)
Mask, snorkel, fins
GoPro camera and accessories (cables, charger, SD cards, wall adapter, small power bar).
Additional book to read
Tradecraft tools (dependent on circumstances)
Folding & reusable shopping bag (fits in pocket when out walking).
Another copy of documents and emergency contact info, plane tickets, maps and local information
Additional cash, hidden away somewhere.
Air travel-friendly multi-tool
Any other item I think is specifically needed for the trip (clothing, supply, tool, etc).
With the above list of items, and pre-planning taken care of, I feel pretty secure with myself. Adding to this all, maintaining vigilance and situational awareness wherever you go if of paramount importance.
It’s important to ensure that you maintain situational awareness at all times. To read a bit more about this check out the Primer blog post here.
Before I travel, I try to learn all that I can about the area where I will be. I study things like currency, demographics, history, local customs, geography, political and social issues to be aware of, crime and attitudes towards tourists & foreigners. I also try to read up on things like transportation (what’s legit versus scam), local news stories and how to identify legitimate authorities. If I am able, I Google Maps/Earth my accommodations and nearby areas so I can landmark in my mind what it looks like where I should be.
Customs & Immigration agency website for Canada ( CBSA – Canada Border Services Agency ) and for the country (or countries) you’ll be visiting. This will inform you on border-related laws, requirements, processes and exemptions.
Trip Advisor (Access reviews, tips and local information for destinations around the world.)
If flying, be sure to have access to both the website of your airline and the airport you are travelling to & from to ensure accurate scheduling information.
Wikipedia – If you want to know something about your destination, read about it here.
Google is your friend. Use it to learn as much as you can.
Before you go, ensure you leave copies of all your important documents, passports, travel itineraries, destination addresses and contact info with someone you trust and whom can support you in a return home should something happen.
I have often been asked why do I study physical security, locks, lock picking, etc? It’s usually followed by accusations of either teaching others to be criminals or being a criminal myself. The only thing criminal about me is the wage I get paid by my employer for the crap I have to deal with. Aside from that, I find it fun, fascinating and I happen to be pretty decent at it.
Several of the negative interactions have, sadly, been with police officers who mention the points above and question the legalities of tool ownership. When I offer to them how it would save time, money and headache if they could do a welfare check without destroying a window or door, they suddenly have a different perspective. It’s a useful skill. Period. And if it is used within the proper LEGAL parameters, a very useful one too. It can even be fun, as there are hobbyist groups – such as The Open Organization Of Lockpickers aka TOOOL (https://toool.us ) – who look at all aspects of locks and even hold international competitions. On an extreme scale in a time of crisis, what you may need to save a life, either your own or someone else, may be on the other side of a lock. In such extreme circumstances I’d sooner have the option to access said item than not.
I have used my skills in a variety of situations (all legally, of course) to help people into their locked cars (while running with keys inside), being locked out of their houses, freeing their bikes, opening various padlocks and even rescuing stuff from desks, safes, etc. Those looking to go into law enforcement, security, military, intelligence, investigations (public or private), architecture, locksmithing, transportation or even property management can all gain from learning more about their physical security. Even to better secure your home or business from potential break-ins.
Like so many other skill sets and abilities, it is the user who wields that knowledge for good or evil. Knowledge of martial sciences can be applied to harm or defend from harm. Medical knowledge can be used to again, harm or heal. Criminals don’t care for the integrity of your front door lock or back window if they are going to rob you. Locksmiths, law enforcement, security testers and even hobbyists do. For various reasons, non-destructive bypass of security is a useful tool for even the average home or business owner so that they can make sound decisions for their own safety and to identify the gaps in their security picture.
Through my years of Government and Security work, the more I learn about the weaknesses in security and physical security specifically, the more effective I have grown to become at evaluating my own personal security picture and that of those who have engaged my services for the same.
If your home or business is protected by bottom-budget hardware and little-to-no planning, you might want to think about taking the step to invest in some education and training and up your security game.
If you’re in the Toronto area in May and wish to take a full-spectrum learning opportunity, come join us for Covert Entry Concepts and even add-on the Safe Dial Mechanics. It’ll open your eyes to the world around you.
As the holiday season approaches, we will invariably be heading out more often to places rife with people. Be it for shopping, get-togethers, enjoying a crisp winter walk or seeing a festive event, the holiday season brings more and more people out for all these reasons and more.
Large groups of people gathered together tend to cause problems relating to safety and security. They increase the risk of conflict between people in those large groups, they make inviting targets for those who would wish to cause harm (i.e. bad guys) and the larger the group of people in a building, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to get those people out safely, especially under panic.
Examples of these would be as follows: anytime there is one last toy of a particular kind and a fight breaks out; fights over parking spots at malls, etc. These types of events may or may not be directly involving you, but have the potential to rope you in if you’re not paying attention. Another is an active shooter (such as the Jane Creba shooting in Toronto) where something like gang violence occurs and innocent bystanders are caught in the middle. And then there are times when a machete-wielding lunatic attacks random shoppers, or some fanatic decides to plough down people walking down the street with a truck. And then there’s fire. Nothing nefarious, but deadly nonetheless. They happen. Use all your senses to stay aware. None of these are predictable in a useful sense for someone heading out for a day of shopping at the mall. They just happen.
For the interactions that escalate, I would recommend to let it go. Is some hot-head nut case really worth that parking spot? Likely not. However, this doesn’t mean I advocate not protecting yourself if someone attacks you.
For the rest, they are “black swan events” which you have to deal with as they unfold.
Here are my thoughts on how to increase your chances of survival in crowded locations in times of danger.
Keep an eye open for viable exits: as you enter malls, concert halls or crowded public spaces, keep an eye on ways out. Be it a fire or an attack, having a pre-planned escape route can save valuable seconds getting out and saving yourself and likely others. Better yet, if you’re there a while, hang out near the exits. You’ll be better positioned to get out should something happen. Also, if in a mall, take the stairs instead of the escalators. If you have to move in a hurry you have a better position to move from as those on the escalator are trapped in the chute.
Keep moving: Staying still doesn’t help you much in a time of crisis. If you’re still, you’re an easy target, you’re not moving away from danger and you’re not able to affect change to your circumstance, thus handing all the control to others (i.e. bad guys). Move towards an exit, move to cover, move to a fire extinguisher…just MOVE! Be a difficult target. Movement is Life. In large crowds, most people will attempt to exit the way they came in. This can cause a stampede-like effect where people get trampled and crushed. A wave of humanity which is large and panicked cannot be forced. Instead, take the better approach and aim for one of your pre-scouted exits instead.
In the case of an active shooter – TAKE COVER: That’s right. as you move, move from one place of cover to another until you exit and create time and distance between you and the threat. Cover is something that offers ballistic protection (i.e. protection from bullets). This is cement and concrete. Furniture, vehicles and the like don’t provide adequate protection from bullets. Stone, rock, thick steel and cement do. Look for pillars, walls and the like to save you.
Be aware of your surroundings: Use all of your senses. If a fire breaks out, you’ll likely have an indication before you see it because of smell. Move to an exit. When in a crowd, get a sense of the general “feel” of the environment. Stay at the edges of crowds. Look for people who don’t look or “feel” like they belong in the same group. Situational Awareness is your early warning system for something bad happening. It’s not meant to cultivate paranoia, it’s meant to cultivate awareness for whats going on around you so you have a chance to ACT before being acted upon.
Keep Essentials on you: Your personal Every-Day-Carry should be on you at all times. A small knife, multi-tool, lock picks, lighter, cash, cell phone (charged), mini flashlight, some cordage, etc. can help you get out of a tough situation should you need it.
To sum up remember these key points:
Be Aware (of your environment)
Be prepared (with a viable EDC setup)
Identify Exits (note escape routes)
Keep Moving (movement is life)
Take Cover (behind concrete or stone)
Better yet, order online and stay home.
In closing, before you head out, switch on. Enjoy yourself and have fun, but always remember that by being aware you are fore-warned and fore-armed. Always have an escape plan.
When it comes to new gear, we all feel the burn in our wallets to get our hands on the latest and greatest. And of course, if it’s improved over the previous version, it must be better, right?
Though a newer version of something may come out, it’s not so much the gear itself that makes you better, it’s the skill you have using it that makes all the difference. If you have a strong grasp of the fundamentals, practice regularly and have reliable equipment, then you’ll be good in spite of the quality of gear. If, however, you have no training and rely exclusively on your equipment to get you through, you’ll be in a world of hurt as soon as something doesn’t go perfectly.
This is why Training Trumps Gear! When I attended the Urban Escape & Evasion course with Kevin Reeve from OnPoint Tactical, he hammered that saying into our heads several times an hour ad nauseum. But he had a point. If your marksmanship principles are weak, the shiniest new gun isn’t going to make you a better shot. If you don’t understand the principles of lock picking, you won’t be able to improvise a rake from a paperclip when your fancy one breaks.
The same applies to a survival situation in both urban and wilderness environments. Also in martial arts. Body mechanics and physics don’t change. The principles remain constant, only the application of those principles change to address the situation. Knowing the principles of a wrist lock is key as it can be adapted to countless applications, rather than a particular technique.
Though if you’re investing in gear, it’s always a wise investment to buy the highest quality that you can afford. It’s an investment in reliability. But all things being equal, invest in solid training. The more you know, the less you carry. And that’s because Training Trumps Gear! In almost every episode of MacGyver, Burn Notice or The A Team, the protagonists get through the tough times because they’re well trained and can improvise and adapt to changing conditions. Yes, I know they’re TV and not real, but they illustrate the point well.
Well-trained individuals are more “literate” in the field, able to draw on various experiences and tricks, if you will, and be more “conversant” in a difficult situation. Just as if you are in an unknown social situation, being better read or travelled gives you a wider spectrum of social currency than only knowing about one thing.
Understanding the principles and basics is the foundation of excellence in more advanced skills.
To that point, being trainable, humble, curious and committed to lifelong and learning are important predispositions to embrace towards building skills and knowledge that will enable you to not only use gear to it’s maximum potential, but also to improvise in adverse times because you’re fluent in the basic principles.
Invest in quality training, keep an open mind and always keep learning. If there is something you want to get better at or learn to do, invest in learning it. Anyone can buy the next newest shiny toy that promises to solve all your problems, but you can develop skills that will make your mind the equipment and the “tool” just that – an extension of you.
Stay focused, stay motivated and don’t give up. You can do it.