It was 30DEC99 and my son was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He had been born in September with a serious heart defect. My wife and I were very anxious for several reasons, since he was stable my biggest fear was being stuck in the ghetto of Baltimore for Y2K.
I had secured leave from the police department so that I could take my family to my parents house and watch the world from a safe distance. What worried me then, as it does now with major social events, is not the danger of the events themselves, but the actions of those who are unprepared and desperate.
As we know, Y2K turned out to be a non-event. Either way we had been discharged from the hospital and traveled to my parents house to enjoy the new year. The interesting thing about Y2K was that unlike any other event it was scheduled. We knew the exact time and date and were given time to plan for it. For many, it was their first time dabbling in the survival community, which is now known as the preparedness community.
Survival is defined as the act or fact of surviving, esp. under adverse or unusual circumstances and diversity.
The following is only my opinion based on my own life, that of my close friends, and conversations with some students.
Whenever there is a climate of uncertainty in society, there is a very small percentage of the population that realizes for the first time that they need to prepare. For many this means rushing for the first time to buy guns, gear, flashlights, knives, you name it. Using the Internet and friends, they seek advice as to what they should purchase. What they usually end up with is a big pile of gear that they have either never used before, or even know how to use.
As with anything, you first need to inventory your needs and exposures. Too many family men purchase and train like they are going to be the lone survivor walking down the street decked out with MultiCam with their tricked out M4 in hand. How long do you think any one person would last like that in reality? Even though, romantic as it may be, the truth is that lots of guys would be just like me if they had to bug out; that is in a mini-van with crying kids and a bitching wife.
We have all been there; a family road trip, the kids have to pee, the wife is hungry, and you are stuck in traffic. Do you think things would be any better if you were driving to an unknown location in an emergency with a bunch of other people running from the same thing? Life will go on, your kids will get cold, they will puke in the van and they will want to eat. Everyone will begin to miss their creature comforts. What about the pets? Yeah, I know there are lots of tough guys saying forget them. Try to put that one by the kids. What about prescription medications and coffee? Yes, they are the same to me.
You also need some place to go. This is a fundamental tactical rule. Never leave a location without having another location to move to. You have to consider time, distance, and terrain. If it is an apocalyptic event, will traveling only increase your exposure to threat? The farther the distance, the more exposure. On your route, are there likely choke points or checkpoints? Will you be crossing jurisdictions where what is a legally owned firearm at your home, is an arrestable offense in another? These are questions that come to mind for a preplanned location.
What if you are in refugee mode and traveling with the masses? What if the unprepared on your route see something you have in traffic and decide to take it? I know, you will shoot them. What if they shoot you in return, and you are killed or injured? Does your wife know how to use your high speed gear? Does she even know enough first aid to save you? Can she do it with your kids screaming because blood is pumping out of your chest? Unfortunately, any of us may face these situations if there is an incident that makes our current location uninhabitable. Everyone should have a place in mind to move to if necessary.
I like to use a town, county, state approach. Have somewhere to move in your town, out of your town, in another county, in another state. The most important one to me is the one in town. They should be people that are like minded. If you have kids, it would be helpful for them to have kids. If you have pets, they will be more welcome by someone else who has pets. The shorter the distance you need to move increases your survivability with a lesser amount of exposure.
Preparedness is like physical fitness, the little things you do every day matter more than the big things you do once in a while. You will need a flashlight or first aid kit before a firearm. All three can save yours or someone else’s life. You just need to admit to yourself that possession of an item has nothing to do with proficiency. To me it is more important that my wife can deal with an arterial bleed or perform CPR on my kid than be able to do transitions from a rifle to a pistol.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gear. Especially useful gear. Now that I am retired and teaching full time, I live out of the Bag of Evil. This is to the point that instead of packing my shaving kit to travel I just use my shaving kit at home. It makes it easier not to forget anything. I do the same thing with the Bag of Evil. When I am home, most of what I use from my digital camera, to spare batteries, to medications is in my bag. This has achieved two things.
One is that I always know the status of my gear. Secondly, I can find anything in the bag in the dark or send someone else for something. I have been using the So Tech Mission Pack for over a year and do not see myself changing. The design of the bag allows me to use the front two pockets for everyday items and the interior mesh pockets for lesser used items, like my first aid and tool kit. The main compartment is left open except for my RMJ Shrike Tomahawk. Since the rest of the pack is full of EDC items, the main compartment can be filled with things that are mission specific or needed in an emergency.
The bottom line is “know your bag”. Work out of it, live out of it, carry it. There is nothing worse than picking up a stuffed pack and carrying it for the first time in an emergency. Work with your bag. If you find you need something more than once, just add it.
If you need to balance a preparedness life style with being a normal person, do the little things every day. You’ll be more aware and better able to recognize your options. It’s easier when you know what you have to work with.
Editor’s Note: George Matheis retired in 2008 after nearly two decades of civilian and military law enforcement. He is the founder of Modern Combative Systems LLC, providing training to civilians, military, and law enforcement. He is also currently writing a book on open hand combatives and is considered by many to be a subject matter expert in the use of force and edged weapons. Please join us in welcoming him as a guest writer on ITS Tactical!
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