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.