Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Next Item

There's been some great comments coming in about contents for the Bug In Bag first aid kit...look for some more soon.

The next piece of kit you'll need is light. I keep four sources in my bag. The first is a headlamp that's hand free. You've probably seen them, they come with a band that fits over your head like the old miner's lamps and the beauty of them is they free up both hands to work with.

The second one I carry is a small Mag lite about six inches long. A great trick with this one taught to me by the legendary Marcus Wynne is to use some duct tape and secure some spare batteries to it. This keeps the spares right where they're needed and provides you with a length of the very useful tape. These tend to be much brighter and more intensely focused than the head lamps are and, if you're concerned about shooting at night, they're much better than the head lamp for obvious reasons. LOL The company that makes them has now come out with a kit so that you can replace the twist on/off end with a push button which is much better for combat hand gunning.

Next, I keep some Cyalume lights sticks handy. They're the ones you snap in half to activate the chemicals inside and they're cheap and light so there's no problem carrying a few of them. They can be used for roadside emergency flares, lighting where you can't run the risk of a spark, underwater, to illuminate a pathway or light up a fire escape or as a signalling device to name but a few possible applications. (Keep in mind these are a lot safer during a power outage or blackout than candles tend to be)

Finally I keep a small candle. You'll find the right type in a camping store again and they tend to be slow burning and unscented. Unlike the other light sources they provide a surprising amount of heat. During commando training with the Legion we did the survival snow cave trick and got to experience first hand how much heat they can give off in a confined space.

As usual, if I've forgotten something feel free to send a reply and I'll see it gets posted.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bug In Bag cont.

The next item to stick in your bug in bag is a small first aid kit. When I body guarded for the band "Warrant" back in the early nineties I used my belt first aid kit more than any other single piece of kit during that tour. You have no way to know how many times band members and road crew would cut, scrape and injure themselves while moving about the stage as it was being set up and torn down.

I've seen fancy versions of these things...typically close personal protection specialists will have ones including things like "Quick-Clot" and big wound dressings for gun shot and bomb injuries simply because that's the nature of their particular beast.

If you're not living in or near a war zone however you can pick up some great ones at your local camping goods store that include the basics. You can make your own as well by using a zip lock baggie and buying the contents individually at your local drug store.

You'll need some pain pills. I prefer Asprin or Aleve personally. Asprin can be used during the event of a heart attack and Aleve doesn't eat away at your stomach like some of its counterparts do. You'll also need a variety of band-aids. I buy them from the butterfly strips all the way up to some six by six inch ones. Next should be some antiseptic wipes and some "after bite" insect sting and itch relieving gel.

Next in my kit I include some gauze pads of various sizes both sterile and non-sterile along with first aid tape. You'll need some triple anti-biotic cream, an elasticized bandage and some clips to fasten it. Some other useful items include tweezers and a small pair of scissors. You should also have some safety pins of various sizes and at least one pair of latex gloves.

Finally I include some indigestion tablets such as Tums and some anti-diahoerea pills.

Again, just as it is with the Bug In Bag itself you should personalize that list of equipment to reflect both the area in which you live and your ability and depth of knowledge with regards to first aid. I have, over the years, both in the military and in my capacity as executive protection agent, met some truly impressive team medics who are worth their weight in gold. If you have never done a first aid course by they way now is the time to sign up for one.

If I've left anything out of the first aid kit list, again, just as I asked re the bandana, shoot me an email and I'll amend the list accordingly. I know of at least one switched on medic who reads the blog avidly and I'm sure he'll have some suggestions.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Humble Bandanna

Alright we covered the basics in our Bug In Bag so now lets go into detail on a few other items over the next few entries.

This time I want to mention the humble bandana and some of its possible uses. To begin with it can be used as intended i.e. just to keep sweat and hair etc out of your face and eyes. Remember the images of the people in New York city fleeing the smoke and dust of 9-11? How about the people trapped in the tube in London during 7/7? A simple means of keeping hair and sweat away can be a godsend while you're working on freeing yourself or somebody else from rubble and wreckage.

Another application is for first aid. It can make a fine tourniquet. If memory serves I read about one victim of the London bombing having his leg trapped and him bleeding to death before paramedics could get to them. A bandana used a tourniquet could have meant the difference between life and death. Many first aiders will have been taught never to use one but like most "never" advice there are always going to be exceptions. The simple rule is release it every twenty minutes and allow some oxygenated blood back into the limb in question which will prevent the flesh from dying.

If not a tourniqet how about a sling to imobilize someone with a broken arm or collarbone? Those with Wilderness First Responder training will have learned how to use a traction splint to reset a broken bone. The bandana can be used for that and it can even be used in a regular splint as one of the ties.

In smoke and dust again, soaked in water it can be used as a sponge or an aid to breathing. Soaked in vinegar it can help alleviate the effects of tear gas or other noxious fumes.

There are other I'm aware of is as a weapons systems, but, rather than me going through them all why don't I open it up to readers of this blog. If you have an application for the bandana that I haven't covered bow about sending it to me and I'll publish them for others to use.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Back to the Bug In Bag

Alright, as promised, back to the contents of the bug in bag.

Obviously what you carry in your bag is going to depend a lot on which part of the country - or planet - you live in. Someone in Canada is going to carry different material than someone in Arizona due to the different weather conditions each may have to confront during extreme climate variations.

What I'm going to cover over the next few posts are generic items to any bag no matter where you live and items that serve pretty much only one purpose. That way we can knock the obvious out of the way and then deal with some of the other stuff that is multi-functional.

What are the critical items for a humans' survival? Food and shelter right. That's what we start with in our B.I.B.

For food I'm going to carry some protein bars, dark chocolate and/or beef jerky. They all take up very little room and yet provide tons of energy when you might have to hoof it for a few hours. Along with that I'm going to have a couple of bottles of water. No need to get fancy with camping gear bottles...a couple of water bottles from the super market work just fine. (I'll touch on these later during the first aid section too but water can be used for washing debris off (remember the images of 9/11 and the soot that covered everyone?) and irrigation of wounds.

Next comes shelter. The first thing I put in any B.I.B. is a pair of training shoes. Think about it. The whole concept of the B.I.B. is to get you home when you're stranded. That's probably going to mean walking, and lots of it. Look at the people in New York during 9/11 and the black out a few years later. There were stories of people having to walk upwards of twenty miles to get home. Think about where you work, and think about where you live. Now imagine having to walk it in high heels (for the women) or some thin soled leather corporate shoes. Not much fun eh? Much easier in a good pair of trainers.

Next should be some protection from the elements such as wind and waterproof jacket. My North Face folds up into its own pocket and takes up about as much room as a large grapefruit. A lot of times black outs (power outages) and accidents are going to be caused by bad weather so it only makes sense to have something to protect you from same.

A level up from that is a survival blanket available in any camping or sporting goods store. These fold up into tiny packets but work brilliantly to keep in the bodies heat (up to 80%) and stave off hypothermia should it become necessary to hunker down for any length of time or help someone suffering from shock.

Other items that come under the "shelter" banner include the following:

Gloves: I keep a pair of work gloves handy either for protection from the cold or rough surfaces.

Hat: Either a woolen beanie or a broader one for marching in bright sunlight (mine changes depending on whether it's winter or summer)

Chapstick: Lips will crack fast if you're out in the elements...why be miserable

Sunscreen: Skin will burn equally quickly...have some handy. Bad sunburn can be extremely dangerous

Dust mask: These are available in boxes at your local home goods store. Again, think of trying to walk out of a smoke filled building or those images of what people were attempting to deal with on 9/11 and the bombings in London.

Alright, that does it for food and shelter for a basic pack. Remember, if you live somewhere with temperature extremes you'll need to consider some additional items obviously.

Over the next couple of postings we'll cover the other essentials for a good pack.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I know...we're supposed to be going over the items in the bug in bag but something has popped up so let me deal with it and then it's back to the bag and its contents.

There is nothing more satisfying than hearing back from a student that the information you gave them saved them from a beating or worse. In this case it's actually a second generation of student.

Michael, who sent me the email, was in the Legion with me and got in some training in hand to hand combat during basic training at Castelnaudary.

Here's what I received from him the other day...

"By the way, Monday evening a gang of 7 or 8 youths tried to rob my son. He did what I trained him to do and got into the street and stopped cars and vans and made a right row - he got a few small cuts and bruises, didn't get robbed and is shook up but ok, which is a bloody good result considering he had a Stanley knife and flick knife to contend with as well as people trying to punch and kick him!
Take some credit, I passed on to him the stuff I learned from you in the Legion. The boy has good reflexes cos when I trained with him I really used to lay it on."


That story, and the others I've received over the years, make all the long hours and no money worth it. Chalk one up to the good guys.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cruisin' In The Rain

Well, it's finally raining in Charlotte. It's not going to be for forty days and forty nights which we need but it will be lingering around till at least the weekend.

So, here's a top tip that used to pop up in emails -- you know the ones, forward this to all your friends -- that actually turns out to be true.


What happens is that you can hit a patch of water (hydroplaning) and the loss of traction causes the system to misread the speed the wheels are turning. All sorts of bad things can then happen and before you know it you've crashed.

The proper technique for being caught in a skid caused by hydroplaning is to IMMEDIATELY reduce power by taking your foot off the gas (and no braking right). However, to cut the cruise control off you have to tap the brakes or fiddle round and find the on off button on the dash or control column. By the time you've done either of those two it's too late.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some Quick Updates

I know, I know, I've been promising to get back to the Bug In Bag contents and I will but a couple of quick mentions...

One. I was handing out flyers in a neighborhood the other day for my real job and I noticed quite a few people had their flags up on their letterboxes (for my non-US readers that is something you do here to indicate to the mailman that you have outgoing mail in the box. They collect it here thus saving you the trip to the post office). That, folks, is a big no no. Enterprising ID thieves drive around in the morning and look specifically for mail boxes thus flagged.

They take the outgoing mail and look for anything with names and account numbers on that they can use/sell for the false ID and or checks going to pay bills that they "wash" (a technique whereby they use certain chemicals to wash away the ink you've written in your details with and then re-write it with their name in the "pay to the order of" column and an amount they'd like to receive from you.)

DO NOT, EVER, leave your mail in the box for the postman to pick up. Take it yourself and drop it at the local post office. Half of all ID theft would stop tomorrow if people started doing that one simple step.

PS: I mentioned taxes. Let me just tell you I think I'm one of the only people I've ever met who enjoys paying them. Think about it for a minute though...we live in a society that is a goose that lays the golden egg. We have our trash picked up, sewer systems, running water, firemen that will come and take care of your burning house, policemen who'll be there when needed, roads and highways, and soldiers who are out in some god forsaken place dying so you can go about your day in peace. Just how much do you think a battleship or an F-16 costs? Most, if not all of the aforementioned, comes from money raised by taxes. If I'm contributing in any way shape or form to that then I'm happy to do so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sometimes...despite all you do

Last night I came out of the bookstore and, as I headed for my truck, noticed a car and driver that just didn't seem to fit in. The shopping center contained a book store, a men's clothing shop that sells suits for $3k and up, a nail salon, an art gallery and a planner store. The car was about ten years old with peeling paint, the guy driving was dressed like a thug (wife beater and bling) and he and the car just screamed "We do not belong here" as he drove past. I didn't think any more of it until I got to my truck, noticed the contents of the center console over the front seat and the glove box open.

I immediately assumed it was the guy mentioned above. Whether it was or not is a moot point but some mongrel had been in my car looking for something of value to swipe. I thought he/she must have been after cash as they'd left cds and sun glasses everywhere as well as a suit jacket and a training bag.

Now, readers of my blog know I always stress locking the car even if it's only for seconds so I began to beat myself up. No broken windows must have meant I left the door open inadvertently by not making sure my remote door lock actually engaged.

At this point, figuring nothing was stolen, and no windows etc broken, I put it down to lesson learned and headed for home.

I was about a 1/4 mile down the road when it suddenly hit me. I'd taken my briefcase to a meeting with some investors earlier and hidden it behind my driver's seat...I reached back, and sure enough it was gone.

I returned to the store and went through the motions of checking dumpsters (sometimes they'll ditch the contents), and bushes etc, asking store owners and customers if they'd seen anything and trying to ascertain whether or not any security cameras might have picked the bad guy(s) up.

After a fruitless fifteen minutes I called it in to the non-emergency number and filed my police report which would be necessary for any subsequent insurance claim.

During the call I discovered something frustrating and interesting at the same time. I was telling the officer I must have screwed up and not locked the door and she said "check the lock on the driver's side door hon, it's probably been poked in."

Sure enough to bright new scratches around the key hole and my lock is punched.

Now, I know all about car thieves and their lock punching tricks but, what I did not know, is that on most cars - especially domestics - that trick on the door DOESN'T TRIGGER THE ALARM. The car assumes when the lock turns it must be the owner with the key and disengages it. In other words, despite having an alarm, locking the door and hiding your valuables, the bad guys still might get your stuff.

Afterwards, I answered some voice mails and a good Samaritan called to let me know she found my briefcase about a mile away, broken open and the contents strewn for about a hundred yards down the road. She gathered it all up, found my name and phone number inside (never put your address by the way - reasons why tomorrow) and called to let me know she'd found it.

The morons who'd swiped it were apparently looking for lap tops which, according to the crime incident officer, is the hot ticket item right now. (So be hyper vigilant if you have one). Even more indicative of the fact these clowns had the IQ of a salad bar was that they took a screw driver to the latches which weren't even locked thus destroying the case.

So, lessons learned;

Locking the door and having an alarm may not be enough
Trucks are being hit at a disproportionate rate (apparently the assume there are guns and/or lap tops in trucks)
Domestics are targeted over foreign due to their pathetic alarm/security system
If you have a lap top be hyper vigilant (their are an array of devices for securing them and I may review some of them here some time)
Car insurance doesn't cover contents of the car (unless they're bolted in) Make sure your property such as lap tops, briefcases etc is on your home owner's policy which will cover it in such an event.
Dumb crooks dont' realize that Hartmann briefcases, Mont Blanc pens, and leather planners are actually worth more than your average lap top and/or gun.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Warnings & Updates

Alright, I know, I'm supposed to be writing about stuff to go in your Bug In Bag but I've been getting my taxes sorted. (More on that in the next post) I did think it prudent though to get the following out in the meantime...

Here's two latest scams to be aware of with regards to your credit cards.

1) The waiter/service person will use their cell phone camera to take a picture of your card. They're also doing this while your card sits on the counter (remember surfing) while ostensibly making a phone call.

2) They take your card, swipe it under the counter and give you back an expired card belonging to someone else.

The defense for the former is be very aware of cell phones in your presence when you use your card. I even know a female Secret Service Agent at the forefront of ID theft etc who refuses to give her card when in restaurants. She gets cash from an ATM beforehand and pays in cash. She should know, she deals with thousands of victims every week.

The defense for number two is simple...religiously check your card every time it's given back to you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Junior League Event

I've just returned from Memphis TN where I spoke to the ladies of the Junior League at an event they put on in conjunction with SunTrust bank. (one of the guests has posted a question on the "Bug In Bag" entry).

I must confess I knew nothing about the Junior League before I went but it turns out they're an incredible organization of women volunteers around the country who can count some very famous people in their ranks, both now, and throughout their history.

Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sandra Day O'Connor and Judith Giuliani are just some of the notables who are, or who have been, members.

Anyway, they, in conjunction with the folks at SunTrust, put on a "How To Be Your Own Bodyguard" presentation for both their members and any members of the public that wanted to attend.

We had a great turnout and so a special thank you to all the organizers and attendees.

The next morning we headed off to the local FOX news station to do a small segment on their morning show. Val, one of the local anchors, was kind enough to run through some avoidance measures in the parking lot of the station and the link to the clip is still up on their site as of today.

Tomorrow we'll get back to the bug in bag and some of the equipment you might find useful.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bug in Bags

Bug in Bags, or BIBs (and I may have mentioned these in the past) are a vital piece of kit to carry.

Over the next few postings I'm going to go over some of the stuff I carry in mine and how to set your own up.

In case you don't know what one is though, let me elaborate. Any ex SF guy worth his salt will have a backpack lying around his house. If you ask him what it is he'll reply "it's my bug out bag." A bug out bag is a bag that, should it ever be necessary to hit the ground running, you can grab and go. In it will be the essentials to survive out in the wilderness, typcially for about 3 days. They'll have tents, freeze dried foods, a weapon of some description and everthing else necessary for going bush.

A bug in bag is a similar concept except its designed to get you home...infiltration as opposed to exfiltration if you like.

Cast your mind back to the power outage that affected the entire NE a few years ago. People in places like NY were forced to walk miles in the dark in high heeled shoes and suits etc. Same thing happened during 9/11 if you remember.

What if your car breaks down and you have to hoof it somewhere? What if transport is disrupted for whatever reason?

The bug in bag is similar in design to the bug out except it typically doesn't have 3 days worth of food or tents and camping gear. Its job is to keep you alive and well for 24 hours max and get you home no matter what mother nature or the bad guys throw at you.

The bag itself can be any design at all. Mine is a regular old backpack that a school kid would wear because it looks like a regular old backpack that a kid would wear. In other words I purposely avoid the Maxpedition uber commando models because it can indicate to someone savvy enough exactly what it is. Others are specifically designed for that very purpose and are made by companys that supply gear to the military. You decide which ones for you but it should be comfortable enough that you can sling it on and carry it for a few miles. Something you're going to try and hold in one hand is going to get mighty uncomfortable after a while.

Over the next few weeks I'll go over some of the essentials to keep in it and you'll be able to add or delete items depending on where you live (think weather).

If you want you can make this a project...go to the store tomorrow and grab yourself a day pack. Your local camping store is the place to go by the way as there's tend to hold up better and are often waterproof which isn't a bad thing. As I go over the various things to carry and how to use them, you can follow along.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Choices and Consequences

One of my readers sent me an email about a problem he and his wife have. She's recently had a child and has chosen to work at night in a convenience store so she can stay at home with the child during the day.

Their question was - after having a recent robbery just nearby - what can she do, given that avoidance is not a likely strategy when you have to be behind the counter to serve customers. The robber in question was a physical monster and she's quite petite. Her main concern wasn't the robbery, as she knows to give up the money, but rather being dragged into the back of the store and raped.

As I mentioned to them life is about choices and consequences (at least it should be) and if you choose to work in one of the most dangerous professions in the country then you place yourself in harms way. First defense therefore would be, do I really need the job that badly given the potential risks? What about a job at Target, or the local grocery store stacking shelves? How about one at a call center answering phones at night?

If you do have to be there and the concern is physical violence then you're going to have to learn how to fight. Whether that's with a gun or bare hands depends on a lot of variables including whether or not store policy permits clerks to go armed for example.

Finally, some other solutions were offered. How about secreting a weapon in the store room that you're concerned about being dragged into? What about acqiescing and walking ahead of the guy and then running at the last second and barricading yourself in, or setting up a shelf to pull down to jam the door and buy you enough time to escape out the back, through a skylight etc. Is your cell phone back there so you can call for help while you're barricaded?

That's about all one can do in that situation but given the inherent risk I'd be looking for a safer occupation.

Here by the way, is a quote regarding dangerous jobs. Note how many convenience store clerks are shot every year.

Homicide was the second leading cause of job-related deaths, accounting for 16 percent of the total. Robbery was the primary motive for workplace homicide. About half of the victims worked in retail establishments, such as grocery stores, restaurants and bars, where cash is readily available. (31,000 convenience store clerks are shot every year.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where You Gonna Run To?

Wherever I've bounced in the past I always made it a point to designate an RV point for the bouncers in the event of a fire or other such catastrophe. This way, when the fire chief rolls up and wants to know if all your people got out you can do a simple headcount and let him know yes, or no. If you don't do this, you have no idea if some of your guys got out the back, some are across the street in the parking deck or if any are still inside.

Take a leaf from our book and incorporate the same idea in your self protection plan. In other words, lets assume Charlotte gets hit by terrorists and, just like NY during 9/11 and the power outage a few years later, there is no cell phone coverage, no computer access and maybe you have to walk home because a building collapsed on the parking deck where your car is parked.

How about one of the nuclear power plants getting hit? A mass evacuation is under way and you get home to find your family members have gone already.

What about an event similar to Katrina?

Without cell phones how are you going to contact anyone? Have they headed for the hills, a friends, interstate, the coast or are they trying to find you uptown?

While all of the above are unlikely, once again, it only takes ten minutes to figure out a rendezvous point where everyone will meet. If you're not there after a certain time frame someone will comeback every 24 hours for an hour at a time. Or maybe you'll take a leaf out of the military's playbook and have a second rendezvous in the event the first one is compromised.

Keeping in mind there are still victims from Katrina who have lost track of friends and relatives, how much peace of mind would the ten minutes of planning get you? My guess is the return on your investment would be huge so make it a project this weekend to contact all immediate family members and figure out where you're gonna run to.

PS: Or you can be like me...without any immediate family, I don't have to worry about it. LOL

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Key to Safety

I locked myself out of the house today. I was walking through the garage to mow the lawn, pulled the door shut behind me and realized the second it was closing that it was latched to lock behind me, and that my keys were inside. Damn!!

To make matters worse my phone was inside so I couldn't even call Onstar to get into me car. Fortunately I did some basic B and E stuff while on the Foreign Legion Commando course and I was able to get in but it got me thinking about keeping the spare outside, and the inherent dangers.

The bottom line is, if you hide it, an experienced crook will find it. Probably in about as much time as it took you to think of your really cool hiding space in fact.

What's the solution? There isn't an easy one other than pay attention (unlike me) and don't lock yourself out in the first place. Leaving keys with neighbors is risky. What if they're not home (like mine wouldn't have been at ten thirty this morning). Worse, what if your house is broken into while you're away. Your neighbors have a key right! Did they take your stuff? There's always going to be a niggling doubt and I wouldn't want to be in either side's shoes. One's thinking "I bet they think it was me" and the other is thinking "I wonder if it was Bob?"

Just promise me you won't be like the little old lady I ran into down in Florida while body guarding one of my very wealthy clients. She had one of those fake rocks you can buy that you hide the key in...only problem was the condo was on the top floor...and there was her fake rock, right outside the doorway, in the carpeted hallway.

PS: Now here's an idea for some enterprising entrepreneur (and if you use it, remember who you got it from and cut me in on the action OK?) Why doesn't some alarm company offer the same service for your house that OnStar does for your car. You have electronic locks (they exist) and when you lock yourself out, you call them, give them your pin and voila, the locks pop open.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Snopes is your friend

I just received my first ever martial arts scam email. It's from someone enquiring about prices for private lessons etc. What happens next of course is that you get overpaid and are asked to send the balance on to a cousin here in the states. Obviously (at least you'd think it would be obvious) the check you received bounces and you're out the difference.

Earlier this year I helped one of my buddies out who's a head honcho at a bank by speaking to a large group of his clients. This came about due to the fact some of them had lost their savings by falling victim to some of these Internet scams that abound.

I also regularly receive emails from well meaning folks outlining some criminal method of killing/kidnapping etc their hapless victims by hiding under cars and cutting their achilles tendons, leaving paper on windshields, spraying them with drugged perfume and countless other ploys.

Here's the deal; If you receive any email requesting you forward it to EVERYONE in your email list go to, use the small search feature at the top (by typing in a key word) and voila, if it's a scam, it will be listed right there.

If you receive any email that sounds too good to be true (winning European lotteries, Generals who've selected you to share in millions left to them by their former leader or teaching martial arts lessons and being overpaid etc) do yourself a favor and go to snopes and check it out. You'll save yourself, your friends and the Internet a great deal of aggravation and wasted time if you do.

PS: Now, please forward this blog to EVERYONE in your email list. LOL

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Open Houses

As a realtor (my real job) I take clients who are potential buyers into houses all the time. I also, at the behest of the customer usually, hold open houses.

If you, or anyone you know, is trying to sell their home, and they're going to have a parade of strangers walking through, let them know this tip.

If they have kids, remove any reference to them in the house. A case I'm aware of involves a paedophile who got a slew of information from being inside a home. He was able to glean the age of the child, their hobbies, their names and the names of their parents etc.

Put yourself in the child's shoes a few weeks later. Someone rolls up in a car, knows their name, talks to them about their hobbies, describes their house and their bedroom, uses the parent's names and then says they sent him to pick them would have to be a well trained child to not fall for the ruse.

It's a pain to be sure but, you're going to have to pack all their stuff anyway once the house is sold, so you may as well do it in advance of potential buyers walking through and avoid any trouble.

Self protection is all about avoidance after all and not closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

2 Seconds Could Save Your Life

I've lived in seven different countries or so to date, and it's no real secret that the UK Police have the best driving course of any police department. Whereas most departments I'm aware of do a day on the skid pan, the basic course in the UK is two weeks (3 weeks for motorcycles) and an additional two weeks for the advanced high speed pursuit guys.

One of the things that is drummed into the officers, both basic and advanced is the necessity to adhere to the two second rule. What is it? Simple. When you're behind another vehicle allow a "two second" gap between you and them.

What that means is when you observe a car in front of you pass an object -- streetlamp, fence post, road sign, road marking etc -- you should be able to count to two before you pass the same object. This will buy you enough time should they suddenly jam on brakes for something or someone on the road.

Unfortunately for me, I live in the worst city in the world (of all those I've travelled through) for tailgaters. My own theory is it's connected to the locals growing up watching NASCAR events and emulating their heroes by sitting on one's bumper. What the idiots who do it don't realize is that, unlike their heroes on the NASCAR track, there is a very real risk that person may need to stop suddenly and then you're going to eat their rear end.

(Want proof of the stupidity of the locals who tailgate? Thirty five of them rear ended one another at Lake Norman a few years ago. A girl on a jet ski on the lake flashed a driver by pulling her top off. He slowed to look and thirty five vehicles all hit one another - which I personally thought was great)

So, next time you're on the road, check you're adhering to the two second rule as it will save you a load of grief one day.

PS: The beauty of the technique is that it doesn't matter if you're on the autobahn doing 175mph or 15mph through a parking lot, it works either way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm Baaack

Well, as promised I'm back and posting. Sorry for the delay but I got tied up with personal issues and my real job (changing companies is just one of the many things going on at the moment)

I'm going to have to go back through all of my posts and make a log of what I've written about and what's yet to be covered so I don't repeat myself but, having just returned from a trip to NY to catch up with an old mate, (we hadn't seen each other for thirty years), it might be appropriate to do one on luggage.

Many years ago when I was on "the circuit" (the name given to the group of guys who did executive protection for the Saudis et al in London) Heathrow airport was affectionately known as "Thief-Row" due to the group of thieves who "shopped" to order.

If you wanted a certain size coat, a particular camera or other electronics, you put your "order" in to a gang member at a certain pub out near Heathrow. The gang, all baggage handlers, would sift through every one's bags in the belly of the various planes and find your desired item. Once they'd found it, you'd be contacted and you would pick up your purchase. (The gang was eventually busted largely in part to the effort of another friend of mine who did security for British Airways)

In the subsequent investigation my mate told me that he gleaned the robbers went through all the expensive designer label bags first. They generally had higher quality gear in them, and more of it.

The lesson here, therefore, is obvious. Be careful of what bags you use when you travel. As a body guard we always advised clients to leave the expensive jewelry at home when you travelled abroad otherwise it marked you a potential victim. The same goes for your baggage. Do you have Luis Vuitton bags, Hartmann or maybe Coach? It's a red flag to a bull as far as a potential thief is concerned. Think about it. You've got a choice of a grungy looking backpack tied together with string, or an $8,000 Luis Vuitton, which one are you going to grab in the hopes of hitting the jackpot?

Save the designer stuff for that which you keep to hand, or for impressing the neighbors when you tote your own luggage in the car and drive somewhere. Flying commercial with it is just asking to be ripped off.

PS: I do have a Hartmann briefcase, but it travels with me as my carry on. In the belly of the beast i.e. my checked luggage was a very mundane, no name, cheap leather overnight bag.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Still here

Still haven't sorted out where I'm moving to yet. I'm in negotiations with some folks about setting up a new business and it will be another few weeks before it's all finalized, one way or the other.

For those of you who've sent me posts wondering when I'll be posting again, hang in won't be long.

I did just go to a seminar I was one of the keynote instructors on along with Hock Hockheim, Tim Tackett, Mark Haleck and Big Jim McCann which was held in Kansas City. It was called the Big Five and we had a blast. Apart from some really good training with some really good people I made some new friends which is always nice (especially when you consider my bouncing days when I had way more enemies than mates). Prior to that one I was in Maryland with the guys at Krav Maga doing our annual training session which was also a blast.

One thing I did want to mention is that the word seems to be getting out. I went into one bathroom stall (I want to say Atlanta but with all the connect flights and cancelled flights and re-routing I wouldn't swear to it) and they've begun mounting the hooks far enough down the door that reaching over and snagging anything hanging on it would be relegated to people with really long arms. They've also begun putting shelves in there to put valuables on which is also a huge step in the right direction.

Who knows, maybe one day enough of this stuff will be done right that people won't have to worry about having their stuff stolen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Got Insurance?

As promised I've been nothing but sporadic with regards to my postings of late...bear with me, I'm in the middle of moving and will be in limbo until I find my new place.

Thought I'd grab a moment in between loading up boxes of stuff to mention the need for renter's insurance for any readers who rent their digs as opposed to own them.

One of my students, who ironically enough is an insurance agent, was burgled two days ago while he and his room mate were at work. They assumed their landlord carried insurance against just that type of things and he was stunned to find out that's not the case.

Landlords will almost always carry property insurance against the possibility their tenants will inadvertently burn the place down but they never carry coverage for their tenants belongings. As Dan found out the hard way, that falls squarely on the shoulders of the tenant.

The great thing about it is it's cheap. I insured all my stuff (including a $7,000 Rolex) for about $125 for an entire year while renting a place, which covers against fire/flood damage and burglary etc. If you haven't got it, get it and save yourself the headache.

By the way, I have a great referral for any US readers who fall into the tenants without insurance me and I'll send you the link to the people I use for all my insurance needs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Memphis TN

Just returned from Memphis TN where I was part of a program for SunTrust Bank speaking to local female business owners on the subject of personal protection.

The other speakers were brilliant, Alan - one of the bank's security specialists - talked about the common Internet scams and Kerry - a female US Secret Service Agent - talked about the ramifications of ID theft.

In the next couple of posts, spotty though they may be, I'll go over some of their stuff as it's always good to know. Also, given the huge amount of people who fall victim to both the Internet scams and ID theft, it's obviously good stuff for everyone to take to heart.

A quick tip that I was going to write about the other day, before it slipped my mind, is that if you carry a wallet, slip a large rubber/elastic band around it if you keep it in your back pocket. It snags just enough that it makes it incredibly hard for a pickpocket to lift it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Convenience Again

In my last post I talked about the three enemies of self protection being ego, complacency and convenience.

Yesterday I was at the local mall and I saw a woman putting her toddler in the kids seat in the back of the car. Her pocket book/purse was on the roof of the car, she was bent over inside and totally absorbed with the job of getting her kid strapped in. Had I been a criminal it would have been so easy, given the fact she was so task-fixated, to attack her, or swipe her bag.

The proper way to do that is to get in the car on the opposite side of the child safety seat and lock the doors while you strap in your child. Then get back out and walk round to the driver's side and leave.

Now, how often do you see anyone doing that? Almost never, because it's not convenient.

Criminals are counting on that so I guess it depends whether you want to deal with the inconvenience of the few extra seconds it takes to do it the right way, or the inconvenience of being a victim of serious criminal assault.

PS: Sorry for the spottiness of the posts...have some major personal and business things going on right now which should be resolved in the next few weeks then it will be back to a regular posting schedule.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Our Three Worst Enemies

We're usually our own worst enemy when it comes to self protection and that's because we know the bad guys are there but we don't do enough about it.

I suppose it's human nature...look at how many people are overweight. They know they are, they know it's bad for them, and they know what they need to do to correct the problem but they don't. Usually it takes a monumental event such as a mild heart attack to wake them up, just as it takes a neighbor being attacked to make them realize the need for some self protection training.

With that in mind I started reflecting on some of my training when I was learning to be a body guard. The big three enemies in executive protection (and self protection) we learned are Ego, Complacency and Convenience.

Ego says "I don't need to learn that stuff. I can handle myself.
Complacency says "It hasn't happened to me yet, so it's not going to"
Convenience says "I know I'm supposed to - fill in the blank - but it's too much work."

Just as we had to check ourselves every day on executive protection teams against those three so must anyone who's serious about not becoming a victim of a violent human predator.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Get Back

Time and time again I see motorists drive into parking spaces nose first...and then back out. From a self protection view point that's disastrous.

When you arrive somewhere such as the movies or stores you generally have time to back the car into a space i.e there isn't an emergency (or you wouldn't be going to either of those locales)

The emergency, if it comes, will be when you are out and about on regular business and, if it's like most emergencies, every second will count. That's not the time to run to your car and struggle with backing it out.

If it's nose out already, leaving in a hurry will be a breeze.

Secondly, if you go in nose first and are followed to your car the open driver's side door forces you in to what I call "the fatal funnel." You turn to see someone approaching you from behind and there's nowhere to go but into the car. If you'd been nose out you'll have the door between you and the bad guy which gives you options and a barrier of sorts.

We'll cover another trick regarding the door tomorrow but in the meantime, get into the practice of backing in to parking spaces.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Your Fired...

Most people by now have heard the advice about counting the doors from your hotel room to the fire exit. That's because in the event of a fire most of the hallway will be filled with dense smoke and the only clear area will be about 30 inches down on the floor.

The smoke will obscure the exit signs so your only recourse will be to crawl along the floor counting doors until you arrive at your exit door.

Well, here's some more advice for you concerning hotel fires right out of the body guarding play book...

1. Check out the location of the fire extinguishers on your floor

2. Determine what type of fire they'll put out

3. Look at the card that should be on the handle and check when it was last serviced

4. Look at the gauge and make sure it's fully charged.

5. Familiarize yourself with its operation (some work upside down for example)

This will ensure you don't experience such a snafu as to grab an extinguisher that doesn't work, blows up in your hands, isn't there or doesn't work on the sort of fire you have.

Most people do none of the above but the day you're in a hotel and there is a fire (and it happens more often than you think) you'll be glad you did.

PS: This goes for your place of work as well

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

S.I.V.A. Cont

Sorry for the break in transmission...I was just in Florida teaching a two day seminar on target hardening and awareness and avoidance strategies for a group of personal development coaches et al.

The last letter in S.I.V.A. simply stands for "assault" or "attack." If the criminal has chosen you, isolated you and then determined by process of the interview that you are suitable prey the attack will come next.

Typically, in an all out criminal assault such as a rape, a mugging etc, this attack will be in the form of an ambush. In other words, his dialogue during the interview process will be innocuous and designed to put you off guard and the attack will come out of the blue.

In a bar scenario when some drunken clown has singled you out to pick on (and gone through the same steps as above) the verbal portion of the program may go on for some time (with some tit for tat exchange happening) before the assault begins which then becomes the "brewing" form of assault or one in which you had some inkling it was coming.

The purpose of learning S.I.V.A. is that it teaches you to avoid being selected in the first place by lowering your profile, or changing it (more on that at some time in the future); it alerts you to the fact you might be being followed anytime you leave the safety of numbers and to use some counter surveillance measures to detect that happening; and, to recognize seemingly innocuous conversation by a stranger may be the precursor to an attack and to be on your guard.

If you can do that you can change the intended assault from an ambush to one that is brewing by recognizing the signals in advance and, as has been mentioned before, a brewing situation is a lot easier to get out of than an ambush.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

S.I.V.A. Cont.

So far we've dealt with Selection and Isolation when it comes to a criminal's modus operandi. The next step in the attack sequence is the "Interview" or "V" for Verbal.

This is again used in different ways by different criminals. Sexual predators for example will typically say something lewd and, judging by their potential victims reaction, decide to go to the next step. If the victim is shocked, blushes, looks down or gets flustered she's the ideal victim. If instead she reacts with eye contact, a confident voice and a put down then he's going to backpedal and find someone else. Typically they're looking for someone they can control and dominate, not someone who's going to put up a fight and displays confidence.

Criminals intent on violently attacking something will engage in innocuous dialogue designed to befuddle the victim or, alternatively, put them off their guard while they get into range. The old "Do you know how to get to...?" or "Excuse me mate, have you got change for a five?" will typically be used to mask their approach.

Con men will engage in a whole stream of patter designed to dupe their victims out of whatever it is the conman is after but, just like the two other criminal types, they've still gone through the steps of selecting their victim and isolating them.

Role playing is critical in dealing with all of the above. Female students of self protection need to practice so they're not shocked when the "interview" turns explicit. Potential mugging and robbery victims need to learn how to deal with the patter as the potential attacker moves in to the kill zone, and the elderly and the gullible need to familiarize themselves with the types of scams that are out there so they recognize them when they hear them.

PS: My friends wife works for one of the mobile phone companies. Tonight she told us a client came in to cancel his phone as he'd just been robbed in a popular up scale shopping center. Guess what he told her? Yep, you guessed it, "He came out of nowhere." Damn I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that line. (for those who don't know what I'm talking about find one of my early blogs on Merlin the Magician.)

S.I.V.A. Continued

The next letter in the acronym is "I" which stands for Isolation.

Criminals have to get you away from witnesses so, just as the lioness on the hunt causes the herd to run so the weak, old and cripples are left behind, the human predator waits for his victim to leave the safety of the herd.

His victim does this for the most part entirely voluntarily by leaving with his/her shopping bags and heading for the car whilst on a shopping trip.

The other option for the criminal, especially with sexual predators, is removing the victim from crime scene #1 to crime scene #2 for the same purpose.

Two things therefore to remember are, number one, exercise some heightened awareness anytime you leave the safety of numbers and head off on your own. Maybe it's leaving your group of friends after a night out and going off to the parking deck, or maybe it's leaving the bar at night and walking home, either way be a little extra vigilant because you've now firmly set yourself in the sights of any potential attacker.

The second thing, and this is critical, never ever go to the second crime scene. You may die at the first one if you refuse (debatable) but the 2nd one will be a slow death while being tortured and toyed with for hours and possibly even days.

As Paul Pfingst, a San Diego DA said "Murder is one thing, but torture, mayhem, and savagery - it takes more time for these crimes. Every torture case I have prosecuted involved a victim isolated and completely controlled." quote unquote.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


We've had a spate of people robbed while walking home from clubs and bars uptown recently, so, I thought I'd devote a couple of posts to how the bad guys select their victims.

The acronym we use is S.I.V.A. which I'll break down over the next four posts. This one will be devoted to S which stands for selection.

A study was done by Grayson and Stein a few decades ago in which they used prisoners who were human predators and showed them video footage of people walking. In prisons on both coasts the predators all picked the same victims within seven seconds of watching them walk. It didn't matter if they were male/female, big/small, tall/short, black/white, dressed well/badly or catholic or protestant.

The results found that gait was very important as the ideal victim tends to be tired, lacks confidence, walks too slow or too fast, shuffles and looks down instead of around.

One of the best ways to understand this is to adopt a predatory mindset and go out and pretend you're a crack addict looking for a victim to rob. Who would you pick? Why?

Who appears shy or vulnerable?
Who is intimidating?
Who is aware of their surroundings?
Who is distracted, alone or task fixated?
Who is reckless or having a great time?
Who else is watching?
Which people need other stimulus (alcohol, conflict, attention etc)

By looking at it from the enemy's viewpoint you'll better understand how to lower your own profile so you're unlikely to be one of the chosen ones.

Ok, next time we'll talk about the "I"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Still Not Getting It

Before I begin this post let me address a couple of issues that have been raised by people commenting on the blogs.

The first comment was in regard to police ineptitude and the author had heard the second shooting took an hour in which the police didn't respond until it was all over.

Alright, at first rub that sounds ridiculous. He killed 30 or so people during the second spree so to take an hour would have been one person shot every two minutes??? I heard the gunfire on the witnesses cell phone and it sounded way more rapid to me. Sure enough, I poked round on line and he began shooting at 09:15 am and finished at 09:20...that, if my math instructor didn't fail me, is a far more likely one victim every ten seconds. Given he walked from room to room that sounds much more likely. That gives the cops a five minute window in which to get from one side of the campus where they're investigating the first shooting to the other side, break down the chained doors and go inside. Doesn't sound like police ineptitude to me.

Second comment is still about the guns. more time. Can we all agree (gun control argument aside for just one moment) that the only way to effectively stop a gunman is with another gun? Please tell me none of you anti-gun folks would actually suggest another method? So, the best method, nay, the only method, with available guns, is to arm other people such as teachers, and they, like the off-duty cop in the mall, could have put an end to this crap early on.
(In fact one could argue it might never have happened if he'd known there were armed teachers...after all, he didn't go out and start shooting cops who were armed did he?)

Now the gun control argument. Can we also please all agree that the gun genie is out of the bottle. There is no effective way to remove all the guns that are out there. If there was an amnesty, the only people who'd give up their guns would be the law abiding honest ones. Does anyone with a modicum of intelligence deny this? That would mean, just as it has with the drug trade, that crooks would still have them, and, they'd be readily available to anyone with criminal intent.

What you're saying then is you're quite happy for the crooks to have them and quite happy for you not to have them? Which leaves you exactly where when the bad guys go on the rampage? Oh, that's right, hoping it doesn't happen to you and calling the cops, who, once again, will deal with the crime after the fact. See how many kids died at VT waiting for the cavalry to arrive.

Now, before anyone goes on again about our guns and our gun culture let me clarify a few things. I am by no means advocating everyone be able to purchase guns 2nd amendment or not. I think there should be an extensive training program, a written and practical exam and an extensive background check. In Sweden before you can go hunting you have to pass a 180 question test, and demonstrate a proficiency with the weapon (against clay pigeons) and show that you know how to safely handle the weapon including loading, unloading and climbing over fences etc. That's brilliant and you'll hear no complaints from me if we wanted to implement that over here. There absolutely should be responsibility that comes along with ownership.

Regarding our gun culture...yep, it can be a problem. There are other countries that have guns readily available that don't have the same problems we do...but, before you start criticizing us too loudly we, and our gun culture did bail the civilized rest of the world out of WWI - which you started, WWII - which you started - and the cold war. Besides which, to put it all in to perspective, a lot more kids are going to die on campuses around America this year from drugs, alcohol and vehicular accidents. Where are all the anti-drug, anti-alcohol and anti-car groups when you need 'em? Want to know the numbers? For alcohol related binge drinking, falls and vehicle accidents 1,400 students will die this year. So, where should we be focusing our outrage?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More Histrionics From Those Who Do Not Know

There's been a slew of criticism levelled at the police handling of the Virginia Tech shooting. Why didn't they shut the campus down sooner? Why two hours before the first email went out etc.

As per usual the pontificating windbags who've never run a security gig in their lives are full of opinions on what went wrong etc.

Let's make this easy. Imagine for a minute in your home town a disgruntled husband/boyfriend shot his wife/girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself. You, the police officer, are called and, based on what you see think you have a domestic situation. Would you then shut down your city? Would you shut down the entire city just in case? Keep in mind nobody has ever before, in a situation like this, shot two people, then left to mail in their manifesto to the networks and then come back to finish the job.

Want to know what I think. I think that if the police chief had shut down the campus, and nothing had happened, the entire crew screaming out about his ineptitude would now be screaming "why did he have to shut down the entire campus? God, it was just a domestic...what a jackass?"

Yep, they're the whining bastards that will whine no matter what happens.

As for closing down the campus...let's think about that one for a minute shall we. Er...the gunman was on the campus. Kind of like making sure the doors and windows are all locked at home when the rapist is already inside the house. Besides, it's a huge campus not a classroom. How do you lock something down the size of a small town? Oh right, I forgot, the know it all windbags think you could shut down the roads in and out and order everyone to stay in their classrooms. Well, nobody drove into the shooting, they were already in their classrooms...and, as for being locked in, the killer had taken care of that by chaining the doors shut in that particular building so, would one of the whining know nothings please explain exactly how that would have helped?

Alright, sorry if I've offended anyone with the tone of my post but I just get sick and tired of pontificating windbags who surface every time there's a disaster, calamity, or tragedy that haven't ever actually had any experience in what it is they're jabbering about (just how many of the liberal Hollywood actors have ever run a country or led an Army to war?) and begin to wax lyrical on what should be done.

So, just for the record, the cops up there did everything they absolutely could have done with the information they had. If anyone tells you differently ask them how long they've been a police chief.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Dreaded "Gun Control" Issue

Obviously both sides have divided into their respective camps to use the shooting tragedy as ammunition (no pun intended) to sling at the other side.

I'm about the only neutral person I know when it comes to this debate because I've lived in countries that have draconian gun laws, and I live here. I've been trained in martial arts and I'm big -- so I'd love a world without guns because I could rule it (just joking) -- but I've also been a member of Special Forces and well trained in weapons.

Here's the bottom line...gun control was already in place at Virginia Tech i.e. nobody is allowed to take guns on the campus except for sworn law enforcement officers. Gun control didn't work very well then did it? All it meant, as it always does, is that law abiding citizens were left defenseless while the lunatic (strange that he didn't abide by the law eh?) went on his rampage.

This begs the question. Could someone carrying on campus have put an end to his rampage before his toll got into double digits? Well the problem has been asked and answered in May of last year in an Oklahoma City mall. A kid pulled a gun and was about to go on a killing spree when an off-duty sheriff's deputy heard the first shot and was able to shoot the shooter first. Nobody knows how many victims there may have been if he had not been present with a weapon.

It's black and white folks...the only way to stop that killer yesterday was to shoot him first.

How about the argument that if we had gun control across the country he wouldn't have been able to get a firearm? Great idea in theory but it hasn't worked very well as far as illegal drugs are concerned has it. In other words, they banned drugs here a long time ago. In fact we declared war on them and that war costs billions. Anybody going to tell me you can't buy any illegal drug of your choice within five miles of your home? Banning guns would achieve exactly the same result. If you're still having trouble wrapping your head round that look at England which has some of the most draconian gun laws on the planet. Want to bet me you can't get guns in England if you're so inclined?

That leaves us right back where we started i.e. law abiding citizens are disarmed while the bad guys walk round with impunity.

How about the police argument? I'll answer that one directly. Virginia Tech has it's own police department. 31 people still died there yesterday and the bad guy didn't die at their hands, he died at his. The Police, like it or not, are only trained to deal with crime AFTER the fact. That may be great for nabbing the bad guys (or not, as the case may be) but it does very little for the victims.

Yes, arming teachers would be controversial and yes, there's an element of risk. If you made it public knowledge that you were doing so the teacher might be the very first victim (keep in mind the German teacher was the very first person to be shot in the German class at Virginia Tech despite not being armed) but, if you didn't tell anyone!!!

If you take guns out of the equation all you're left with is the old "Fight, Flight or Freeze" which would amount to attack the guy unarmed, run and hope he doesn't shoot you in the back or "freeze" which in this case would mean going to ground and hiding -- and hope he doesn't find you and shoot you in your hiding spot.

I don't know about you people but 31 victims who tried all of the above i.e. fighting, flighting or hiding are all dead which doesn't really instill much faith in those methods if that's your answer to the gun/no gun question.

Let me finish by posing this question. If you are a believer in gun control what is your solution to yesterday's problem exactly? Don't just blather on about why guns are bad, and don't accuse me of being some sort of psycho, just come up with a viable option and I'm on board.

I just don't see one when I look at it other than the obvious, arm the faculty.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

By now most people have heard about the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday. The shooter has been identified as a South Korean loner and there's a lot of talk by the clueless about poor police response, gun control and a slew of other irrelevant gibberish.

I'll cover some of those issues in upcoming posts but the most important lesson to be learned from this is that you are not safe in your home, at school or where you work. While you may be level headed and sane the guy two cubicles over, or sally from accounts boyfriend, might be complete nutters hell bent on wreaking havoc by killing a bunch of people before taking themselves out.

The bottom line is you have a plan in place in the event someone enters your place of work, worship or study and begins to open fire? If not, why not? I bet if you could talk to anyone of yesterday's thirty one victims they'd be all about implementing plans if they could do it over.

What about the company you work for? Do they have a plan in place? Find out, and, if they don't, suggest they get an expert in to formulate one. If they balk at the expense remind them that the average payout to families after a workplace massacre is around the four million dollar mark. So, should Larry the lounge lizard from marketing lose his job and come back to work and kill his boss and four fellow employees the company will be looking at a 20 million dollar bill.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In the same vein

If we're going to bring up kubotans we may as well discuss the other ubiquitous magic wand of self defense and that is the tear gas/OC spray on a key chain.

Here's the problem as I see it. With any weapons system you have to practice accessing and using it under stress, unless you end up in the highly unlikely situation of being forewarned that an attack is immanent.

Why is that unlikely? Because career criminals don't like to forewarn their fact they like to remove as many advantages the victim may have and stack the deck well and truly in their favour and pretty much ambush the victim. This is why so many police reports begin with "He came out of nowhere."

So, can you, while you're reeling from the shock of being hit in the head, find your OC, flip the cap off, and spray it in the right direction? I'd be willing to put money on the fact you can't and I'd also be willing to put money on the fact that the majority of women carrying them round have never even test fired the thing one time.

Here's some other problems with the product. I don't want to use anything that I have to lick my finger first and hold it up to determine which way the wind is blowing. In Marseille as a military policeman I saw a guy on the other side of the Canibierre spray his and the wind took it down the street where it hit a multitude of people who had nothing to do with the initial assault.

Spray it in a car at a bad guy trying to get in and it will blow back in the car and get you. Also, ask any cop who uses it how many times he and his partners have been effected by the stuff as well. Every cop I've ever asked have told me they always end up covered in the stuff. The advantage to them is that it's happened so many times they're pretty much inured to it. How about you? Have you sprayed yourself a few times so you know what to expect?

Sadly it's another one of the "peace of mind, magic wands" that people buy and instantly feel better. Big mistake.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Killer Granny & the snake oil man

I saw another one today. She must have been seventy if she was a day and she had the ubiquitous kubotan key ring defender as her key chain. (Seen on the right)

Several times I've asked them if they actually know how to use their "magic defense wand" and have yet to run into one who's had any training.

One told me she thought you should hold it and flail them with your keys.

A local defense instructor actually has the gall to sell the version with the spikes on it to Realtors at his self defense for Realtors classes.

Just what that's going to do to a determined crack addict - apart from tick him off - I have no idea. Sadly, they think all they have to do is listen to the expert for an hour, buy the "magic wand" and they're good to go.

Banned On Planes

Even the TSA has been caught up in the hoopla since cops were shown these things years ago at a seminar somewhere. I can just imagine a hijacker taking over a plane with the equivalent of a carpenter's pencil..."Right, fly this plane to Cuba or I'm going to put you in a really painful wrist lock."

But no, that will never happen because they've banned them on planes. You can carry a four foot piece of hickory dowel though...I know because my brother did exactly that flying out of Charlotte a few years ago. He'd come over for some weapons training and I gave him a kubotan to take back home.

We arrived at the security checkpoint, me with a tactical folder (concealed in special way to pass through security) and my brother with his new found kubotan and a four foot hickory quarter staff (known as a Jo for the martial artists reading). The little old lady conducting the security check looked at the kubotan like it was the devil's own invention. "You can't take that with you dear. You'll have to go back to ticketing and give it to them and they'll pass it on to the pilot who'll keep it safe in the cockpit till you arrive at the other end."

We were both stunned! He couldn't take something the size and weight of a carpenter's pencil on board but the Jo - something Robin Hood would have been proud to fight Little John with - was ok. Mind boggling stuff.

So, Do They Work At All?

Well there's a version with OC in it that's not bad, providing you have the presence of mind while being assaulted to disengage the safety clip, orient it in the right direction and find the button at the right end...otherwise, as a key chain they're great. Also, they're not bad for cops wanting to extract drunken red necks who won't let go of the steering wheel out the car window...right Mike?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Charlotte Self Defense on television

My apologies to my international readers but this post probably won't be of much help to you guys.

Fight Survival is currently being featured on our local cable access channel 21 here in Charlotte for a 13 week series entitled "How To Be Your Own Bodyguard." It runs on Tuesday nights at 10:30 pm for 30 minutes at a time.

We focus on a mix of self protection - the awareness and avoidance strategies used by professional close protection officers to avoid getting in trouble in the first place - and self defense - the hands on physical fighting techniques as taught in my Fight Survival classes.

Our first episode went to air a week ago and I've heard nothing but positive reviews. If you live in the local market and want to check it out please do so and let us have your feedback.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Code Word

Do you go out at all with your significant other or family members? Then you should have an innocuous code word. A lot of couples have these for parties so that one can let the other know when it's time to go without blurting out "honey, my feet are killing me, these people are bores, and my ass is eating my girdle."

Our recommendation is that you have one for emergency situations as well.

The purpose of the word is to alert them, discretely, that something is about to go down and they should leave you immediately and take any kids you have with them. They should go home, or head to the car, wait thirty minutes and then go and then sit tight till you call them.

You're the professional. It's far easier for you to sense when the proverbial brown stuff is about to hit the fan and blurting that out to them, in earshot of others, can cause panic amongst bystanders or alert the bad guys that you're on to them. By using the code phrase/word you impart the same knowledge without the heads up to people who don't need to know.

The best example I can give is not to use a predetermined phrase at all but rather a pre-determined word that you'd normally never use.

If you opt for an apparently innocent phrase like "honey, did you bring your cash?" for example you might actually want to know if your significant other did in fact bring their cash. While you're expecting a simple yes or no answer she/he is legging it out of the store with kids and parcels in tow.

Try this instead. If your normal term of endearment is "honey" for example use "babe" instead. That way "Babe, did you bring your cash?" isn't likely to be confusing or get mixed up with the legitimate enquiry.

What's Up?

A lot of people have alarms in their houses but there may be a hole in your defense that you're unaware of.

While an MP in the Legion at the headquarter regiment in Aubagne it fell to us to test and evaluate the security on the Generals' house. When I transferred into the police militaire I discovered nobody had been successful in infiltrating their security for quite some time.

I went by the house and noticed it had a tile roof so I climbed up the back in the butt crack of dawn, lifted some tiles and went through the attic. Guess what? Yep, nobody alarms their attic. It was easy to go through the attic trapdoor and voila, much to the chagrin of the in house valet/security guard I was inside.

So, if you have a security system in the house and the sort of roof that's readily accessible, it might be time to upgrade your system and have the company come put a motion detector up there as well.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

In Memory...

This particular post is dedicated to the memory of a fallen brother Officer Sean Clark of the Charlotte Police Department, his partner Jeff Shelton and all their brother officers and also to their families.

Last night Sean and Jeff were killed in the line of duty.

I don't have all the details as of yet. Off duty police were the first to relay the news to me at work that two officers had been shot during a domestic. As the night wore on I learned that one of them was Sean, one of my students a few years back who only quit training to focus on fulfilling his lifetime ambition of being a cop. Initial reports said only one had died and the other was touch and go. By the end of the night I found out, sadly, both had died.

Were they killed by stray rounds during a gun battle? Nope. They were ambushed. They didn't even have their weapons out when they were shot from behind at close range by some gutless skidmark.

To aggravate his death Sean's wife is six months pregnant and he has a 3 and a half year old son Braydon who will now have to grow up sans dad. Officer Shelton's wife will now have to live with his death.

Sean was one of the world's genuine nice guys. He didn't do things because you asked him, he did them anyway. I remember first meeting him when I'd hang out with some police officer students doing off duty work and he'd bring water over to us. No one asked for the water...that was just the way Sean was. When you did ask for something...boom, Sean was there, no questions asked. When I moved from the coast to Charlotte a few years back some of my mates at the coast couldn't find the time to help me load the truck. Sean did, only he drove the 300 miles from Charlotte to do so.

My thoughts go out to his family, his friends and his brother officers. I hope yours will as well.

RIP Brother

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Good Samaritan...OK, NO!!!

Last week in Charlotte a guy with his girlfriend stopped to help a stranded motorist. The hapless driver had his hood up and head buried in the engine when the victim in the story stopped to render assistance.

Next thing he knows he has a gun planted in the side of his head, his money is stolen and then, to add insult to injury, the motorist and his three accomplices walked he and his girlfriend round the back of some apartments and made him watch (at gunpoint) while they took turns raping her.

(To prove the depth of planning two of the three rapist actually used condoms)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, as sad as it may be you must not stop and help anybody. The best thing to do is either call emergency services (if the car you see is stranded on a major road) or, from a distance, ask the person if you'd like them to call someone for them to come and help. Getting out of the car to help yourself is a rookie mistake.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sign, Sign everywhere a sign...

We have gestures for almost every type of problem you're likely to face when driving a car. Someone waiting to pull out of a drive in front of you? Wave them out.
Someone just let you in? Wave graciously to say thanks
See someone with their lights off? Flash yours
See a cop lying in wait? Flash your lights at other motorists to let them know
See someone with their turn signal on? Put yours on or turn on your hazard flashers or alternatively open and close your hand and they'll usually figure it out.
Someone cuts you off? Well, you all know that one right?

The only one we don't have a gesture for is to apologize to a fellow road user for something stupid we did...and stupid is often the cause of road rage incidents. Lets say you don't see someone in your blind spot and you change lanes and nearly force them off the road. They're angry and they come screaming up beside you intent on giving you a piece of their mind. What do you do? Scream back or flip them off? Surely not, it was your fault after all. And yet, if you do nothing they're likely to assume you're ignoring them, or don't care, which is only likely to compound the error.

I submit a great idea is to carry a piece of white cardboard in your car with the word "SORRY" written on it in large black marker and keep it accessible. If you do the inevitable and screw up, instead of making matters worse by ignoring the guy, or gesturing in a way that may be mistaken for something else, hold up your sign and smile. I'd be willing to bet a load of money that one simple move would eliminate a slew of road rage incidents across the country every day.

PS: If some enterprising soul reading this decides to market them and sell them at gas stations etc, be nice, give me a cut.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What'cha Reading?

This is an old bodyguard trick when travelling overseas (sorry for those of you with no travel in your future plans) to help lower your profile.

Buy a local newspaper or magazine and carry it with you. This sends off a signal to locals intent on kidnapping a rich foreign tourist (and remember, you're rich by most third world country's standards) that you are either a) a local, or b) have visited enough to understand the language.

[Can YOU spot the tourists?]

Either of those make you far less appealing as a potential target. You can do the same with local brands of cigarettes (assuming you still smoke) and/or your wardrobe. It's normally way too easy to spot the Americans in a lot of third world shitholes by their clothing, mannerisms, speech volume, and expensive jewelry and luggage. By eliminating or toning down the above you reduce your risk immensely in ever being singled out as a target. everything you can to lower your profile


Monday, March 19, 2007

Myths of Combat

I'm not going to attempt to cover all the myths of fighting...there's just way too many but one I can put to rest today is the old "If you're fighting a gang all you have to do is challenge the leader to a one on one fight and he'll accept, otherwise his gang members will assume he's gutless."

Whoever first wrote this gibberish has obviously never had a gang fight in his life. The above would work if the guy leading the gang had any honor, or if they gave you time to talk, or if they cared what you had to say. Unfortunately they have no honor and they don't care one iota about you...all you are to them is some temporary amusement or a food source.

Another myth that goes hand in hand with this one is that if you drop the biggest guy the others will run away. No, they will stomp the crap out of you because you just hurt one of their mates. I have stopped some fights with a technically perfect first technique that has dropped someone so hard the others have taken pause but, they weren't hard core gang bangers inured to violence of frightening degrees.

Now, hitting the biggest one will certainly eliminate one of the biggest threats but it will not scare others away just as challenging their non-existent honor will not work either.

In future entries I'll cover some strategies that have proven effective but for right now let's eliminate advice that just plain doesn't work.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Interesting Observation

This isn't so much a self protection tip as it is an that will resonate with martial artists everywhere. (and maybe insurance agents LOL)

You walk into the office on Monday morning with a black eye, a bruise or a swollen anything.

Everyone asks "Wow, what happened?"

If you reply with "I did it playing basketball, baseball, football, racquetball, volleyball or any other type of ball" the next words out of their mouth will be...

"Did you win?"

Now, if on the other hand you say "I did it in my Judo/Karate/Combatives/Ju-Jutsu or any type of martial arts class" the next words out of their mouth will be...

"You people are crazy" while they shake their head and walk away casting dispersions on your sanity under their breath.

I wonder what the difference is? Do they feel threatened? Are we making them realize they haven't covered that aspect of their life yet and rather than admitting that's a mistake it's easier to lump us into the "they're all crazy category?"

One of my students is an insurance salesman. He occasionally turns up at work with a training related bruise and runs the gauntlet of the head shaking crowd. Pretty funny when you think about it. They're all insurance agents in that office and they'll try and sell you on the benefits of protecting your car, your house and anything else they think needs coverage and yet they haven't covered themselves from the risk of being attacked, mugged, raped, assaulted and so on.

Given if you're killed during a car-jacking/robbery or home invasion you won't live to enjoy your house or your car which one makes more sense to insure first? Call me crazy if you like but I just think the "insurance policy" provided by good self protection training is more important than almost anything else I can think of.

Right On

I want to preface this post with the fact that I am not in anyway affiliated with OnStar or any company it may be parented by...I don't work for them, never have (probably never will) and certainly don't get any kick backs.

As an addition to my post about the self protection features of SUVs or 4x4s I wanted to talk about OnStar.

It's a service (for those readers in countries that don't have it) that comes in certain brands of cars that will, for a monthly fee, do certain things.

The base fee covers security, the next level offers things like directions and phone service and the premium package has a concierge service for booking restaurants and theatre tickets etc.

In the vehicle are a series of 3 buttons that you push depending on what you need and, when you push them, you are connected, hands free, to a real live operator.

Here's what I love about the system.

1. If your airbags go off, they call the car. If you don't respond they immediately dispatch emergency services. I listened to a chilling recording of a phone call one night on a current affairs program. It was from a woman in Florida who drowned in her car. She had driven off the highway at speed and ended up in the everglades with water leaking into the car. She pulled her cellphone out, and contacted emergency services but they couldn't locate her in time (The current affairs show was about the inability of emergency services to triangulate and locate cell phone signals) The same thing happened here to a girl in nearby Gastonia. She rolled her car into someone's field. When they found her three days later she had written a note to her family while she lay trapped and dying in the car. The OnStar feature in either of those two scenarios would have literally meant the difference between life and death.

2. If your car is stolen the police are called. Once you have a report number they call OnStar and they locate the car via the GPS system. My local Caddy dealer told me about one of their vehicles stolen by four black hip hop fans who cut the wire from the buttons thinking that would disable the tracking. The dealership realized about 5 hours later their car was missing. OnStar got involved and found the would be thieves in Richmond VA heading north. State Troopers were called and they blocked them on the Chesapeake Bay bridge.

3. Should you accidentally lock the keys in the car you call in and give them your pin number. Voila, they pop the locks from their control center.

4. If you or a family member is driving the car and is being followed by a suspicious vehicle or involved in a road rage incident etc they can push the emergency button and relay the info to OnStar who dispatch emergency services again. They also stay on the line till the professionals arrive.

5. Imagine your wife driving the car somewhere and getting lost and ending up in the wrong part of town? That happened to the family in LA that drove into the gang area and were shot for "trespassing" that was in the news a few years back. With the OnStar system you call them and they talk you through the directions step by step till you arrive at your destination.

From a self protection standpoint it doesn't get much better than the above. So, if I'm going to buy a vehicle I'd rather have an SUV and, if I'm going to buy one of them I'd opt for the one with OnStar.

Food for thought

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good For The Environment? No. For You, Yes!!

This issue was raised on a forum I'm on and it was about the big bad SUV (or 4x4s for UK readers)

From a purely self protection viewpoint they're the best vehicle you can wrap about yourself.

1. Sitting up so high gives you a vantage point over regular cars and bikes...forewarned is forearmed.

2. You have the ability, should it be necessary, to bug out over sidewalks, curbs, fields and terrain that will leave a normal car gasping for breath and traction.

3. If you're involved in an accident you will probably survive. The "greenie" in the pregnant skateboard that you hit will not. This, understandably, bothers the "earth biscuits" but to my way of thinking it makes me want to buy an SUV immediately. The old "If you can't beat them, join them" springs to mind.

4. If inclement weather descends upon you, whether it be ice, mud, rain or snow etc you have the ability to climb in the truck and go. That's huge from a self protection view point. The guy in the car is caught in the flood waters or are'll probably be the guy going out to rescue him (at which point, if he's an "earth biscuit" he probably won't bring up how much he hates you and your gas guzzler)

5. If it becomes necessary you can bulldoze obstacles (cars etc) out of the way be it a road block, road rage or, if you're hemmed in and a car-jacking commences. You can't do that in a normal vehicle.

6. You have the room to load family and all the gear necessary to get out of dodge in the event of a disaster or riot etc and head for the hills (which you can get up thanks to the 4 wheel drive ability of the vehicle)

So, while they may guzzle gas, and they may not be so hot for the environment they are wickedly brilliant from a self protection viewpoint.

Something to think about


PS: I had an argument with a guy once when I had my Tahoe. He was bitching about the gas guzzling, harming the environment, killing kids and wiping out families in cars. He shut up when I reminded him that every single argument he was making against SUV's could be levelled against him and the car he drove by someone who rode a bike (motorcycle or pedally)
Cars guzzle gas compared to bikes. They're road hogs compared to bikes. The take up a whole lane and usually have one person in them - bikes do not. They kill motorcyclists almost every time they hit one...and they do that on a regular basis, usually because they're on their cell phone...and the list goes on. I also owned a motorcycle at the time and he didn't so there he was, without a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Newest Scam

Thanks for all the replies re the frequency of my posts. EVERYONE said one a day is fine so that's what I'll try and come up with.

A new scam I've just become aware of bears discussing.

Here's how it works. You check into your hotel room, the phone rings, and it's the front desk. There's a problem with running your credit card and would you mind confirming the numbers please. The problem is, it's not the front desk at all. Guys are sitting out in the parking lot, after having "surfed" your name (remember that post right?), and calling the front desk asking to be transferred to your room. When you answer they play the part of the front desk and "engineer" getting your info.

You don't know your card is being used for a ton of purchases until either your card maxes out, or you get home a month later and get your statement.

The lesson here is obvious. Be aware of "surfing" but more importantly, be highly suspicious whenever anyone wants your credit card info over the phone unless you've called them to buy something.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reader's Help

In a bid to make this a great blog and worthy of getting people to read it every day I've been reading up on blogs.

One alleged expert said one thing that will kill a blog is posting too often. Now, he didn't say what that meant...he could have meant ten times a day or maybe he means every day.

I couldn't get an answer from him so I figured I'd ask my much is too much? I try and put up a tip a day for you guys but, if it's too much, let me know and I'll happily cut it back.

Over to you.



Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pet Peeve

I was at the bookstore the other day and perused the ones alleging to teach self defense. Sadly, judging by the material within, most of the authors last fights had to be over Tonka trucks in the sandpit at day care.

Can we clear this one up for once? You cannot teach girls wrist locks and armlocks and call it self defense. Well, alright, you can, but you should be sued for misrepresentation when you do.

To begin with there isn't any such thing as an armlock. The technique is actually an armbreak. Remember that all of these techniques derived from fighting for one's life, oft times on a battlefield. Why, in the middle of a battlefield would you take two of your arms to tie up one of the enemy's? How long are you going to do that in the middle of a war going on? Till he cries "uncle" or gives in?

Nope, you broke their arm and thus rendered them "hors du combat" and you moved on to tackle the next guy.

Look at the above picture. What do you honestly think would happen if the "mugger" just stood up? Look at the inverted grip? If he just violently yanked his arm free could she hang on or would she get sliced as the knife passed through her hands, arm and armpit?

Somewhere along the line the breaks became misconstrued as pain compliance techniques...probably because in training you'd take them to the point where the joint started to break - thus causing pain - at which point your training partner would cry out and let you know.

Alright, I'll admit it. I've used them as pain compliance when removing someone from a club and controlling subjects whilst a military police officer. Here's the deal though, I still have to big enough and accomplished enough that when I let the subject go, and he decides to fight, that I can do the job and knock him out if necessary or, a cop, I'm going to control the arm long enough to get cuffs on.

What is our hapless female victim to do? She's being attacked by a rapist (and let's hope there's only one of them) and she puts the lock on him. Now what? You going to lecture him on the error of his ways and hope he repents? You going to wait till the police come all the time controlling this struggling man with superior upper body strength to yours? Are you hoping he cries "Uncle" and accepts defeat? Are you going to take it to it's logical conclusion and break the joint? Could you? Have you ever heard one break? Do you have any idea how strong you have to be to pull it off?

Bottom line is if you are much smaller than your opponent you're not putting locks on him if he doesn't want you least not until you've hit him enough times to stun him. If it takes that to put it on, why not just stun him and make scarce anyway?