Posts Tagged ‘situational awareness’

A New Source of Fear

Thursday, August 24th, 2017
Malcolm Nance Gooks

Recommended Resources

A Dose of Reality on ISIS and the Terrorism Risks

Virginia writes: “Terrorism is not a favorite topic of ours. A couple of months ago I wrote to provide some updated statistics. I figured that would hold us for a while. Today, though, recent news has compelled us to write again on this topic, from a different perspective. You may recall that Joe has background in military intelligence, so he has authored this Advisory.”

The 17th of May, 2015 was one of the most important days in the battle to defeat ISIS.

It marked the successful conclusion of one of the most important missions undertaken by US Special Forces – a raid on the operational center for the entire ISIS organization.

The center housed comprehensive files on the ISIS government and fighting forces in Iraq and Syria, from the leadership right down to the rank and file of their organization. And it was all on computer.

The Obama Administration authorized the undertaking. The target, located in Eastern Syria near Deir ez-Zor directly in the heart of ISIS occupied territory, was heavily fortified. Despite the defense of the target, it was completely overrun.

Our Special Forces returned with the electronic keys to the kingdom in the form of as much as seven terabytes of data that included virtually all of the financial transactions, resources (including payroll and biometric records) on their officials, their army and captives as well as addresses, cellphone numbers and the IP addresses of their remote locations.

This coup yielded the battlefield intelligence our forces needed to begin a systematic program to eliminate (or “vaporize”) — in the place and time of our choosing – ISIS leaders and key personnel.

This 2015 mission marked a turning point in the fight against the ISIS terrorist organization.

As the operation continued, it has had particular importance to us on the home fronts in the US, Europe and the Middle East. It means that there will be fewer skilled terrorists re-entering the country, and because we have more complete data on many of those who manage to escape the lethal battlefield, they are easier to apprehend.

Thus, as might be expected, we can expect more terrorist strikes by “amateurs.”

They will choose targets of opportunity, selected at random – which makes such attacks harder to anticipate and defend against. And, while any one person’s odds of being a victim of terrorism are small, each attack that appears on the news meets a goal of the organization, to frighten the populace and inspire the gullible.

On the news today we heard an interview with Malcolm Nance, expert on intelligence and terrorism, speaking about the latest ISIS recruiting effort using a 10-year old “American Boy.” Details are still sketchy, but Nance’s comments followed the theme developed above. Now that ISIS fighters are systematically being removed, ISIS propaganda is aimed at widows and children, hoping to turn them into suicide bombers!

I have confidence in Nance’s assessments, and have gone so far as to purchase and study three of the many books he has written over the past 10 years or so. (The image at the top of this Advisory shows me with two of his most recent books.) If you want to understand more, I recommend these three highly:

Hacking Isis focuses on the “cyber” aspect of ISIS’s recruiting and communications, and what we are doing to track and defeat them in cyberspace.

The Plot to Hack America details how Putin and WikiLeaks “tried to steal the 2016 election.” Obviously we learn more about this story every single day . . .

The Terrorist Recognition Handbook, first written in 2003 and updated in 2014, is a heavy-duty 394 page textbook on terrorist activities, with a particularly compelling chapter about suicide terrorism.

What can we do to protect ourselves, here at home and abroad?

For you and us, the best defense is the advice we have given repeatedly . . . “Situational Awareness!”

Train yourself to constantly take stock of where you are and what is going on around you. Always be cognizant of vulnerable crowd situations, how and where to exit dangerous situations and, above all, exercise caution and intelligence about how, when and where to bury your nose in your tablet or smart phone.

As for self-protection in random attacks, it is highly unlikely that any weapon or self-defense training will prove more useful than fleeing the scene or finding some place to hide and letting the professionals handle the attacker.

You may have a chance against a single attacker whose motive is intimidation, harassment or burglary, depending of course on your age, physical condition and self-defense skills. We have written before about simple weapons that you can use competently and conveniently. One of the simplest and most effective is a sturdy mechanical pen or pencil. Better yet is a “tactical pen” that is an actual ball point pen made of sturdy steel. Proper use of this “weapon” can effectively wound an attacker, seriously enough to make escape possible . . . or, even mortally wound the assailant.

But the story is different when faced with an active shooter or a knife-wielding assailant whose sole motivation is to kill you – and who isn’t worried about his own life. Even a citizen carrying a knife or gun may find it ineffective or worse, may lose control of the weapon and find it turned on them.

The bottom line — the more aware you are, the less likely you will be caught up in a dangerous situation, and the less likely you will need a weapon.  Practice awareness!

Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Self-Defense for The Rest of Us

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Violence in the news

Purse with weapon. . . against religions, immigrant or racial groups. Violence in the streets, violence threatened by our government – it’s enough to make you want to lock the doors, crawl into bed and cover your head.

Some people are stocking up on guns and ammunition. But for most of us at Emergency Plan Guide, daily life goes on without dramatic changes that include firearms.

Still, if you’re feeling less secure these days, it’s worth taking another, no-nonsense look at personal safety and self-defense.

1 – Martial arts skills are a potent defense for some.

Trained martial arts masters no doubt have a much better chance of surviving a violent attack by someone without a weapon or even with one. In fact, everyone can become more skilled, without having to become a master. (I’ve seen classes advertised for children, for young women – “Don’t get raped” — and for senior citizens.)

I think even I could handle several of the self-defense moves illustrated in this article:

But – and here’s the big caution. I am NOT in the best shape of my life. I have NOT trained or practiced these moves. I’m NOT confident that I would remember exactly which move to apply when. And I don’t have a martial arts class in my future.

So what about you?

In other words, unless you are willing to sign up for a professional class and become proficient if not professional, a casual approach to martial arts is useless and probably even dangerous.

2 — Mental attitude will KEEP you out of trouble.

Being aware is the very first defense, and is likely to be the key to your safety. We have written several times about the concept of situational awareness.

But awareness also requires action.

For example,

  • If you find yourself driving deeper into the “wrong” neighborhood, an unknown part of town, or into a dark parking lot or alley – make a smart decision, a quick U-turn and simply get out of there before you put yourself at risk.
  • If your normally familiar neighborhood or work environment suddenly “feels funny” – you see people you haven’t seen before doing things that don’t make sense, hear sounds that could be gunshots – make a smart decision and remove yourself (and your family, no matter how much they resist) before something happens.
  • if you enter what we’ve learned to term a “soft target” area – like a mall, movie theatre, sporting event, or shopping area – make constant note of alternate ways to get out of the area. In an emergency you’ll know just what to do and you won’t be trampled by all the others who will naturally try to get out the way they got in.

All of these mean you have to 1) recognize a potentially dangerous situation and 2) overcome doubt and other people’s criticisms or reluctance and 3) GET THE HELL OUT.

Explain or defend your actions later.

3 – When you have to fight, your ultimate goal is still to get away.

There may be a time when your “antennae” just didn’t work and you can’t avoid a person who is threatening you.

Or, and I hate to say this, YOU may have provoked a situation by threatening, annoying or insulting someone (Road rage? Street protest?) to the point they attack you. At that moment, you need to be able to let go of your own emotions and recognize the danger you’ve put yourself in!

Either way, if you decide that you must fight for your life, then commit to that fight. Any half-hearted attempt will be inadequate and could put you in even more danger.

Some self-protection suggestions that make sense to me:

Yell sharply and loudly right in the face of the attacker!

“BACK OFF!” makes it clear you are not going to be a willing victim. Your aggressive resistance may even be enough to make the attacker look for an easier victim. Note you are yelling at the attacker, not yelling for “Help!” from some unknown source.

Use what you have or can find as an improvised weapon.

If you have keys in your hand, use a key to scratch or cut. (If you are holding a whole bunch of keys in your hand, however, you are likely to stab your own palm if you actually hit something hard with that hand.) Hurl a handful of pocket change. Toss dirt or sand. Launch a pot of hot coffee. Spray an attacker with perfume or hairspray.

Use what you can to distract the attacker so you can get away.

Use “weaponized” personal items.

Any device is useless unless you understand how to use it, and you have it in your hand ready to use. This takes us right back to “situational awareness” and “mental attitude.” Here are some ordinary items that become weapons if you use them that way. Click the blue links under the images to go to Amazon to get current prices and full details.

I try to carry a flashlight all the time, for light and as a weapon.  Lately, we have the choice of “tactical” flashlights that serve both purposes.

My favorite “tactical” flashlight has a ridged grip that won’t slip and a sharp front edge that would cut seriously when used as a slashing weapon. Here’s a tactical light that has a wrist strap for easy carrying, offers a super-bright m adjustable flashlight and comes in a gift box. The blue arrow points to the sharp edge.

tactical flashlight

LED Tactical Flashlight,Akaho 900 Lumen XML T6 Portable Outdoor Water Resistant Torch with Adjustable Focus and 5 Light Modes,Rechargeable 18650 Lithium Ion Battery and Charger

I also carry a “tactical pen.” (The image at the start of this article shows it clipped to my purse.) It looks pretty ordinary but is anything but. It’s solid, heavy, has a pointed end and a thumb rest on the other end for secure grip. It could break a car window in an emergency. And plunging it into any part of anyone’s body would hurt BAD.

Here’s a better look and a link to the description at Amazon. There are other pens that are more pen than weapon, and pens with small flashlights built in. Take a good look to find what would suit you best.

Tactical pen

Hoffman Richter Stinger Tactical Pen

Be prepared with legal, dedicated self-defense items.

In my estimation, carrying guns or knives requires a level of training outside the scope of an Emergency Plan Guide Advisory. But there are other options to consider.

Stun gun. You hold a stun gun in your hand.  When you press it against the body of an attacker, its “electrical punch” can completely disable and disorient him for seconds or minutes, giving you the chance to get away. Before you purchase, be sure a stun gun is legal in your state or county. (For a lot more on stun guns – and tasers, which we do NOT recommend — see our earlier Advisory.)

I like the model shown below because it has a safety disable pin. If you lose control of the gun, the pin pulls out and it won’t shoot. It comes with a wrist strap, too – and in pink and black.

Stun guns

VIPERTEK VTS-979 – 230,000,000 Stun Gun – Rechargeable with Safety Disable Pin LED Flashlight, Pink

VIPERTEK VTS-979 – 230,000,000 Stun Gun – Rechargeable with Safety Disable Pin LED Flashlight, Black

Pepper spray

As I just said, for your stun gun to work, you have to press it against your attacker’s body.

That means the attacker is VERY CLOSE to you!

That’s why I prefer to carry a canister of pepper spray. It can shoot a spray at least 8-10 feet! (For more details, see this Advisory.) Anyone over 18 can buy and carry pepper spray.

Here’s one I recommend; I chose the pink color because if you bury this in a purse or briefcase, you’ll find it a lot easier if it’s colored. (This brand comes in black and aqua as well as pink.)

Pepper spray pink

SABRE Red Pepper Spray – Police Strength – Compact, Case & Quick Release Key Ring (Max Protection – 25 Shots, up to 5x More)

Does any of this make sense to you? Should you make a change in what you normally carry in your car or on your person?

Remember that in all these cases – driving, shopping, defending against an attack – you will only be successful if you

Make a quick assessment

Decide what to do, and

Do it!

Here’s to your safety,

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



IEDs — Improvised Explosive Devices — In Your Neighborhood

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

IED soda cansAs I pulled out into the street today, I noticed a cardboard box on the curb, with trash spilling out of it. It hadn’t been there yesterday.

Suddenly a thought flashed into my head – could this be a bomb?

I drove off and forgot about it until later, when two news reports practically jumped off my computer screen at me.

IEDs in the today’s news.

  • Fox News reported that two brothers in Pennsylvania were arrested for building and detonating multiple IEDs in their own community over winter break from college. (Nobody was injured.)
  • A completely different article mentioned that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two boys responsible for the Columbine High School attack in 1999, had built and placed 99 IEDs as part of their plan. (15 students were killed and more than 20 injured.)

Of course, we’re familiar with IEDs in wartime settings. For a few years that seemed to be the biggest part of the news coming from Afghanistan.

But that was elsewhere. This article is about IEDs here in the U.S. and about the importance of “situational awareness.”

If IEDs are so easy to build that kids can do it, we can only assume that more explosions will take place, just like the ones reported on today.

How can we protect ourselves?

We need to know more.

This advisory is meant only as the briefest introduction. We are not explosives experts and, unlike most of the equipment we write about here, we have not personally tested any of the items we may talk about.

The questions we asked today . . .

What is an IED?

The name says it all. An improvised explosive device is not a traditional military weapon. It can be made out of a combination of “found” and conventional materials. An IED has five components: a switch to set it off, an initiator (fuse or blasting cap), the charge or explosive, some sort of power source, typically a battery, and a container to hold it all.

The image at the top of this article includes a couple of regular coke cans and two IEDs – the soda can upper left whose bottom has been punctured and “resealed,”  and the yellow Fanta can with the battery power source and fuse stranding beside it, ready to be inserted (yellow can image thanks to Renful Premier Technologies).

The bomb can be set to go off using a timer, or when it is jostled, driven over or stepped on, remotely by radio frequency, or by a suicide bomber him or herself.

What does the IED do?

It explodes. Depending on the size of the bomb, its blast (with smoke, shrapnel and heat) can spread for 100’s of yards. A bomb aimed at bringing down people can be filled with nails, pellets, rocks, etc. to create more injuries.

Of course, an IED could as easily be filled with “dirty” radioactive material.

How can we recognize an IED?

Not easily. Of course, bomb detection technologies continue to be developed. They include machines – and dogs – that can detect traces of explosives in the air.

But everything I read, including several reports from Homeland Security, says that even security personnel can only look for:

  1. People exhibiting unusual or suspicious behavior (the guys in the airport each wearing just one glove!)
  2. Items where they don’t belong (an abandoned backpack – or that box of trash on the street by my house)

“Soft targets” of course will likely be the most attractive to bombers. These include landmarks, special events (like the Boston Marathon, or sporting events), infrastructure including transportation systems, and malls and parks.

All these are easy to get into, and often people are unfamiliar with the venue and thus will not notice things or people that are out of place.

What can we do?

In 2013 President Obama signed a special report: Countering Improvised Explosive Devices. The only paragraph in it that appeared useful to me was:

“[We must] Improve public awareness of IED threats and corresponding reporting of suspicious activity to local authorities through enhanced information sharing resources;”

So, the number one thing we can do is be alert to our surroundings, and report anything suspicious.

  • If we see something that feels or looks doubtful, has a weird smell, is leaking or dripping — report it immediately to authorities.
  • If we notice someone buying large quantities of what could be bomb-making supplies — chemicals, fertilizers, fuses, tape, peroxide — take note and report. (The Pennsylvania brothers purchased multiple cans of lighter fluid.)

Obviously, if you’re familiar with a given environment, you will be the best person to sense that something is out of the ordinary.

It’s the simple rule that our local police repeat often:

“See something? Say something!”

So, start paying more attention to your environment. Train your kids to get their noses out of their cell phones. This is a case where YOU have the biggest role to play for the safety of all.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I feel there is a lot more to this topic. If you are interested in more details, check out this recent article from Jan Glarum, counter-terrorism consultant and instructor:

And the report from the Department of Homeland Security, quoted from above:




How dangerous are Lone Wolf terrorists?

Sunday, June 21st, 2015
totally unaware of her surroundings

Totally unaware of her surroundings . . .

Next week our city police force and first responders are holding a mock active shooter exercise in a local shopping mall. Inspired at least in part by the 2013 invasion of the Westgate Mall in Kenya, it’s also a response to the growing numbers of “home-grown” or self-radicalized would-be terrorists. In many ways these self-styled terrorists seem to pose a bigger threat than actual members of terrorist organizations.

Real Terrorists Plan Their Attacks

At least real terrorist cells fit a profile. They belong to a network, they prepare for a strike, and they pick targets that are likely to generate mass casualties and publicity. They are also more likely to be in communication with known terrorist cells, at least some of which could already be under some level of surveillance. These and other factors make it easier to identify and track them.

Lone Wolves Act on Impulse

The self-motivated, lone wolf actor is harder to identify, is more likely to be mentally unstable and less likely to pick rational targets. Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is the likelihood that this person is likely to act spontaneously and against a target of opportunity . . . virtually anyone that happens to be in their range. And, the mere fact that we live in a world where guns proliferate means that the tools of terrorism are readily available even to the least mentally competent. As scary as this may seem, there are some positives.

Self-Motivated Actors Often Fail to Follow Through on Threats

First, while these individuals may be numerous and hard to identify prior to an event, the attacks are likely to involve fewer people and less prominent targets. And, without direct connections to actual terrorist cells, they are less likely to be successful in mass attacks. Also, many will ultimately lack the courage to actually carry out the often gruesome and heinous acts these individuals conjure up in their fantasies.

Protect Yourself by Staying Aware of Your Surroundings

The best protection you have is your situational awareness . . . the same situational awareness that can keep you out of harm’s way. This means keeping your eyes on the way ahead, the road ahead and your surroundings – discipline yourself to avoid being glued to your smartphone while walking through alligator alley! Have your keys at the ready as you approach your car. If you notice someone strange for whatever reason, don’t ignore your instincts. Take evasive action. Turn in a safer direction. Whatever!

So many victims have reported that they were operating “on autopilot” and just kept going – right into danger!

A Single Lone Wolf Can be Taken Down by a Group

If you are in a life-threatening situation, instead of simply waiting for it to happen, consider a counter attack. A group of determined adults can very likely take down any single gunman. Yes, this goes against our training (“Keep out of trouble.”) but in the case of a Lone Wolf Terrorist, “Get him!” may be the only way to save more innocent people from being injured or killed.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team