Boston Marathon Explosions: Staying Vigilant and Prepared - ITS Tactical

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Boston Marathon Explosions: Staying Vigilant and Prepared

By Bryan Black

First off, this isn’t a post about what the cause of the explosions were yesterday that rocked Boston, or a “here’s what should have happened” armchair quarterback analysis. I wasn’t there and neither were the majority of the people that will read this.

What I can say is that if I were running the Boston Marathon, I would not have been prepared, regardless. I’ve run a marathon before and I didn’t carry anything other than some energy gel packets. This is exactly why I personally carry both a Pocket Trauma Kit and a firearm though. It’s not for me, it’s for you.

That’s how I feel about daily carry items. If everyone had this same perspective, of looking out for your fellow Americans and hoping you’ll be there when they need you, the world would be a better place.

Staying Vigilant

This isn’t to say that there aren’t bad people everywhere, capable of nightmare scenarios like what happened yesterday in Boston that left three dead,  176 injured  and 17 in critical condition. Remaining vigilant and being prepared is the most you can do. You can’t go around on high alert all the time. To give you a Cooper Color Code reference, you can’t live your life in the yellow, your body won’t be able to handle it.

Colonel Jeff Cooper was known for advocating a color code to describe a person’s state of mind. Not so much in regards to a level of alertness, but purely the mental state.

The following comes from his book,  Principles of Personal Defense:

  • Condition White  — You are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.
  • Condition Yellow  — You bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.
  • Condition Orange  — You have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.
  • Condition Red  — You are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant.

While the Cooper Color Code is obviously focusing on shooting and in the scenario we’re discussing here, there wasn’t a threat to start shooting at, but it’s applicable here to illustrate levels of mental alertness and situational awareness.

Something that Jeff Gonzales talked about in the mindset lecture portion of his pistol course I recently took, is shock threshold. Shock threshold is the measure of time from the initial shock of an event to the point at which you react. If you don’t apply that aspect into your training, you’ll never know how you’ll react.

Factors that can affect shock threshold are physical fitness, age, experience (more familiar, less shock threshold) and genetics. Remember, strong people are harder to kill.

How is shock threshold applicable to what happened in Boston? I only mention it to point out that you need to be ready to respond. The less time it takes you to respond from the initial “shock” of an incident and getting your ass in gear to respond, the better off you and those around you will be.

Medical Kits and a Plan

I’m not going to turn this into some sales pitch for the Medical Kits we sell at ITS, this is about having something and being trained to use it. I don’t care if it’s knowing how to use a bandanna and direct pressure to stop bleeding, or having a hemostatic agent like Combat Gauze and a tourniquet.

Get a kit, get trained and have it on you. Plain and simple. If you’re not comfortable carrying it, then you’re going to leave it at home when you’ll need it the most. Comfort doesn’t just apply to it being in your pocket, but also speaks to your level of training. If you’re not prepared to fully use it, then you’ll hesitate.

Whatever you feel that you can carry comfortably on your body is what you should focus on. Those chosen supplies should give you, at the very least, a way to stop bleeding. Extremity hemorrhage is the leading cause of preventable death right now with our troops overseas and after looking at the devastation in Boston, that scenario is much like the IEDs that our soldiers are facing.

I’m going to try my best to not to get on my soapbox about the fact that most primary first responders are Law Enforcement and they continually have to fight to get the medical supplies they need and often have to purchase these things out of their own pocket.  It’s time for our local governments to wake up and get our officers the proper equipment and training they need to respond.

Having a communications plan in the event that the lines are flooded is extremely important too. Text messages may work, but what’s important here is not what can be used, but what you and your family will use. Have a plan on how your loved ones can get ahold of you so they’ll know where to turn.


I’ve always focused on our motto here at ITS Tactical when it comes to scenarios like what happened in Boston, “Prevail.” That and what lies at the core of what our logo, Website information and the oath I took when enlisting in the Navy states: defense against (imminent) threats, both foreign and domestic.

Staying vigilant, but not hyper vigilant, is the take home. That and using what happened in Boston to ensure you’re prepared to handle anything like this that might happen in the future around you. If you see something out of the ordinary, report it. You’re the eyes on the ground and you can make a difference.

Keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers, but stay strong. The best way to honor their memory is to prepare yourself to be able to help when the next nightmare scenario occurs.

boston banner

For resources on connecting with victims and what you can do to help, please refer to our post from yesterday here.

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  • Eric S.

    Good stuff Bryan. So true about LEOs’ having the training and equipment. They were lucky this time with all the medical resources on the ground already. Had the medics not been there I’m sure there would have been more casualties due to blood loss.

    Looking at the pictures you see numerous police responding. If they each had a medical kit with a combat proven TQ they would have been “medical” multipliers. Luck played a big medical role in this event.

    • Thanks Eric, I completely agree on being “medical multipliers” with the proper training and supplies. Everyone was certainly lucky that the medical resources were already on the ground, being a marathon is a plus in this case. There’s always many medical resources in an event like that and it’s fantastic that they were able so save so many lives.

      Why Law Enforcement agencies across the country continue to not only fail to equip their officers with the proper medical equipment and training, but let them solely rely on EMS to save their lives is one of my big WTF’s. I know you’re already infinitely familiar with this, but for those that might not know, EMS can’t even enter the scene until the gunfire stops. How long does EMS take to respond and how long does it take to bleed out? Why LE agencies aren’t asking themselves these questions is beyond me. /rant

  • lynette michael

    Hi, I see you have a listed address in Texas. Just curious about your setup, is it an office that you all work in or do you have branches all over, or is it strictly internet based? I guess I am just looking to get more involved in this type of stuff. I live in a very small town and have just recently been trained with firearms, I have taken my CPR course- would love to be able to have some EMT training as well as training for crisis situations.
    I would appreciate any information about your business. I think your website it very helpful and instructional.
    Thanks so much,

    • Hi Lynette, we are in fact in Texas and in the D/FW area. We aren’t quite the retail/walk-in establishment yet at our offices, but I’d highly suggest looking into Lone Star Medics for local medical training. Can’t recommend Caleb and the crew at LSM enough. Starting with the basics through the Red Cross like CPR and first aid are a great start. I’d also recommend getting involved in your local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team).

      If you search around for Lone Star Medics or CERT you’ll find some posts I’ve written on those topics, as well as checking out the various medical articles here:

      Thanks for the kind words and leaving a comment,

    • Wayne Sadin

      I’ve taken several classes from Caleb and I second that recommendation. His training is up-to-date, relevant, and combines good instruction in first-responder trauma care with the stress of tactical problems unfolding right before your eyes.

      I’ve taken my fair share of training, and Lone Star Medics stands out as some of the best I’ve ever gotten.


    • Thanks for the comment Wayne, Caleb is good people and provides great training.

  • johnyD

    I work in a Federal Penn and appreciate all the work that went into the EDC trauma kits. Reflecting on the statement “It’s not for me, it’s for you”- Well said- Family, friends, co workers:
    A group of us that get together and shoot long range for fun/ practice/ training, one of the guys served as an HM in the Corps and has contributed significantly to helping us get a better handle on TCCC utilizing our kit, (even if you carry just gauze and a wrap), and implementing the best techniques for minimizing blood loss to a wounded individual. Just getting some practice in applying a touriquet properly under duress and stress goes a long way rather than having to attempt the proper application when you have never practiced or had ANY experience with the tools and skills that can be the only things that matter- ITS

    • Hey Johny, thanks for your feedback and kind words. A lot of work certainly went into the EDC Trauma Kits and I’ll always be a strong believer in the “It’s not for me, it’s for you” statement. It’s awesome that you have a group to get together with to work on TCCC and medical skills. I can’t speak highly enough of the need to practice with your kit and not just simply “carry” it.

      Stay safe,

  • Dane

    Having just returned from the AOR (last week), I know all too well the horrors of this sort of thing. Thankfully, being a nurse, I am well trained for the sort of stuff. But that doesn’t mean I can create magic out of nothing. I personally have two med kits available at almost all times. One is a legit IFAK, complete with two tourniquets and all the other fun stuff, the other is a more simple kit with Qwikclot impregnated bandages and the like.

    Bottom line, it may be my family that relies on your skills to save their life. Or it may be yours that rely on mine. I am fully prepared to save yours. What about you?

  • Uri

    Bryan, great writeup.
    One thing I try to teach is “being aware of your surroundings.”

  • ChrisB

    This reminds us that we need to be prepared. I found an item on Amazon called the “Patrol Officer’s Pocket Trauma Kit” that runs ~$15 and is similar to ITS’s Pocket Trauma Kit. Everyone should get something they can keep with them.

    • Chris that’s a decent kit, but neglects any kind of Hemostatic Agent like QuikClot Combat Gauze. In my opinion this is extremely important, but I can see the cost saving measures too. We’ve considered standard gauze to replace the Combat Gauze as well for a lower cost option on our kits.

    • ChrisB

      Follow up on my previous comment: I bought the cheap one off Amazon (hey, $15 is worth a look, right?). Besides the lesser materials, it’s packed badly and it very bulky — over 2″ thick. You can open it up and repack it better, but then you’ve broken the seal. I’ll probably be breaking down to buy ITS’s EDC kit.

  • Those who’d like to be even better prepared for emergencies might want to study another important area of expertise. Those brightly colored vests with titles on them in the picture above are part of Boston’s Incident Management System. IMS is a way to assign roles in a disaster context that makes clear who is responsible and ensures that no one gets more than they can effectively handle or no area is left without leadership. It’s also designed to scale up and down with no loss of control.

    You should be able to find training and links to training at FEMA’s website:

    Here is FEMA’s definition:

    “The National Incident Management System (NIMS) identifies concepts and principles that answer how to manage emergencies from preparedness to recovery regardless of their cause, size, location or complexity. NIMS provides a consistent, nationwide approach and vocabulary for multiple agencies or jurisdictions to work together to build, sustain and deliver the core capabilities needed to achieve a secure and resilient nation.”

    In many communities, local training should also be available.

    –Michael W. Perry, Seattle

  • Jason Dellinger

    Situations like this are one of the reasons that I took a Wilderness First Responder course. For those interested, the Wilderness First Responder is an 8-day course of instruction that falls between Advanced First Aid and EMT-B training and is widely available. I found a class that was close enough to commute.

    I was impressed at the in-depth treatment scenarios presented in the class complete with moulage, a 4-person mass casualty event, and an extended-length night rescue scenario.

    The thing that I liked most about the Wilderness component is it stresses improvised equipment and care in backcountry settings. If you look closely at some of the photos of the Boston event, you can see improvised tourniquets and bandages. Although not a replacement for true Tactical Trauma Care, I definitely feel more confident with the contents of my ETA kit and my EDC kit as well as being able to improvise should I not have or use up those resources.

  • Cervantes

    I’m looking to stock up on trauma bandages and a smaller EDC/FAK to lug around w/ me everyplace I go.

  • Gene

    A reminder that I need to get more training! Great article bro!

  • Bergman

    I have to differ slightly on the color codes. With the right training and mentality, it is possible to be at condition yellow all the time. I’ve got a couple sleep disorders that interact with eachother; With a little self-hypnosis I was able to put myself pretty much permanently at yellow alert. Aside from the odd bout of unplanned unconsciousness, I’ve been maintaining a yellow status for over 20 years now. And before you ask, no, I don’t punch random people out on the street, heh.

    It helps that my sleepwalking disorder kicks in when I’m knocked out, I once self- applied first aid while unconscious on my feet from heat exhaustion.

    For most people, constant yellow alert is probably a bad idea, but it’s not an impossibility.

  • cervantes

    Great job assisting with the Boston massacre..but what of Texas? It’s been about 20 hours and no mention here..I know ITS started in Texas, but no mention of the West fertilizer plant explosion. 12 dead, more feared dead, many left homeless now. If you don’t know, please check the link.

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