Notes: Sometimes normal people joke about “survivalists” for their militaristic postures, their taste in outerwear, degrees of wariness, or apocalyptic world views. But it only takes one episode of being a personal target of criminal activity to convince most folks that a measure of caution is always in order, whether at home, in one’s vehicle, or out on the water. The following is a collection of articles that address these issues. 

Table of Contents

  1. How to survive street crime
  2. How to survive airplane crimes
  3. How to survive a tornado
  4. Top twenty survival items for any disaster
  5. How to protect your watercraft
  6. How to avoid becoming a target for criminals

How to survive street crime.

How To Survive An Armed Robbery
By Cliff Montgomery, Secrets Of Survival

Where armed robbery is concerned, the greatest weakness isn’t necessarily the money you have in your pocket, the possessions you have in your home, or your lack of ‘deterrent’ firepower. The greatest problem is a simple lack of preparation for that contingency…Suppose you’ve gotten about five $20 bills from the local ATM machine and have now decided you need a few things from the grocery store. You get what you need, pay the cashier and, because your hands are full of groceries, you are still carrying your change in your hand when you walk outside into the parking lot. It’s only a few dollars, you surmise, and there’s no one here anyway. You’ll wait until you reach your car and put your groceries on the car’s roof to discreetly put your change in your wallet. You notice the young man standing next to the coke machine, but pay him no mind.

As you’re putting your recent purchases on the car’s roof and begin reaching for your wallet, the guy comes up to you asking if you have a dollar for the coke machine. You’re a bit startled – after all, he seems to have walked up on you all at once – and you mumble that you don’t really have anything. “Oh, c’mon” he says straight away, as if he’s heard that a thousand times before, “I can see you have somethin’ there to give me. Tell you what,” he says as he pulls out what appears to be a knife, “just give me what you’ve got in that wallet and we’ll call it even . . .”

What can you do? It’s a blade alright, there’s no doubt about that – nor any doubt as you look into his dead, almost soulless eyes and smell the unmistakable reek of liquor that seems to be coming from his entire body that he may well try to use it. What choice do you have? Do you have any choice now but to give him the money?

You may feel stupid, even ridiculous after the attack – “What was I thinking? How could I have been that blind, walking around and flashing my money like that?” – but that doesn’t help the fact that you’re now out almost $100. “And hey,” you begin thinking to yourself, “what if he’d turned violent, for God knows what reason?” After all, it’s possible; any time a weapon is brandished, there’s always a possibility of someone getting seriously hurt.

This short example shows how quickly you can lose control of your life by someone with a weapon who wishes to rob you. We’ll show you the best ways to survive such an encounter, and hopefully keep you from creating the very conditions that make a robbery attractive to a potential thief.

We’ll also start this series in survival techniques with a look at how we can protect ourselves against an armed robbery if – God forbid – the thief is about to become violent. Remember, no one is asking – or expecting – you to ‘teach anyone some manners’ here; in fact, most experts assert that a person should work with the robber when there is no apparent threat of imminent danger. Statistics show that a person is more likely to be hurt in an argument by a person they already know than by a stranger attempting to rob them.

Even so, you’re never totally sure of what may happen, or how the robber will behave once the robbery has begun. Should you just cooperate with an armed robber? Is there any way to fight back if you have to? Is retaliation at the right moment the answer? What about citizen ‘watchdog’ groups? Can you avoid being the victim of a robbery altogether? We’ll answer these questions below.


Both individuals and businesses can be victims of armed robbery. Apart from terrorist attacks, armed robbery is the form of retail crime most likely to cause long-term physical and/or psychological harm for citizens or employees and customers alike. Here’s a few simple but well-proven tips to help individuals and businesses minimize the threat of armed robbery and maximize the chances of having the offenders apprehended by the police.

All experts agree that the very best way to prevent an armed robbery is to eliminate the characteristic weaknesses that an intelligent or experienced robber will look for before he makes a move, and which allows all criminals to succeed. How do you eliminate the weaknesses?

Consult a security specialist

This isn’t nearly as hard or as expensive as it sounds. Most police forces run specialized Crime Prevention Units providing advice and information on all aspects of home, business and commercial security. Some conduct site analyses to appraise the security of a business. If you feel your home or business may have a weakness you haven’t considered, it would be a good idea to start here.

Limit the cash you have on hand

The less cash held on your person or on the premises, the less attractive you are as a target. Keep under $100 on you or on the premises if possible, especially at night. If you run a business, advertise the fact that you keep a minimum of cash on the premises. Providing credit facilities also reduces the amount of cash you need to hold. Electronic Fund Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) is one example.

Keep money where it can’t be reached

Deposit money in banks or secure holding units frequently. Use a cash drop box with a time delay lock and advertise this with a sign if you have a business.

Keep money out of sight

Don’t advertise your dough: never flash a large roll of bills.

Never count cash in view of customers

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Also, if you’re really worried about robbery, adding an extra twist such as requiring exact money in transactions means you do not have to count dollars or keep open cash tills, especially at night. Robbers may tender large bills specifically to find out where you keep them. Time-controlled vaults also reduce the opportunity for theft. Advertise them with signs. Also, never discuss takings in public.

Keep in well-lit places

Only access your money at a well-lit ATM or make a purchase in a very-well-lit area, and in a location that is at least somewhat populated with individuals not traveling together. These aspects alone will intimidate all but the most brazen robbers. If a business, place your cash register where it can be seen by passers-by to increase the likelihood of identifying the robber.

Avoid routine

Do not establish a routine time and route to make transactions. If staff transport cash, do not let them wear a uniform identifying the business. Vary routes and times of transactions.


Sundry Tips

*An open and uncluttered environment which provides a clear, well-lit view of the area is a fine deterrent to armed robbers. Making the target highly visible increases the chances of someone identifying the criminal.

*Any rear access to a home or business should be fully secured with strong locks, and the outside should be illuminated if possible. Minimize curtains, posters and materials which obscure vision in these areas, as they provide cover for bandits.

*All exterior doors should be of solid construction with good quality locks. Bars on windows at businesses may be necessary. Make sure people can see into business during working hours. But if you count money at night, make sure the premises are secured and you are not visible from outside.

*Customers do not belong behind counters. Design counters to maximize space between staff and customers. Deep counters with raised floors behind make it difficult for offenders to assault staff.

*The route from the service area to the front door needs to be such that there’s an uninterrupted view, and the display stands have to be put in such a way that staff members can see clearly to the door.

*Though they may not always deter robbers, surveillance cameras often help in their apprehension. Make sure they are well-maintained and serviced regularly.

*Mirrors allow business staff to monitor otherwise blind spots, but make sure they don’t allow offenders to see behind the counter.

*Electronic sensors can alert you when anyone is entering or leaving the premises.

*If your employees handle large sums of money such as payrolls, your business might benefit from bullet-proof windows. By carrying out a risk assessment, a security consultant can help you choose the right strength.

*Staff should note any suspicious behavior and report it to the police. This can often nip an offense in the bud. Be careful about personal name tags, especially with surnames, as this can place staff at risk after a robbery. When selecting new staff, ask for references and check them out.

When staff leave, make sure you get the keys back. If keys are missing or you feel the old employee may be not be trustworthy, change the locks. It may also be wise to change locks, safe combinations and even cash-handling procedures if staff leave under difficult or strange circumstances.


No one can always prepare for every eventuality, and you may still find yourself the sudden victim of a robbery attempt. During an armed robbery, it’s most prudent to adopt the following tactics:

* do precisely as you are told, and no more;

* avoid eye contact with the robber;

* speak only when spoken to;

* tell the robber exactly what you are doing;

* make no sudden movements;

* don’t activate alarms unless it is safe to do so;

* try to remain calm and control your emotions; and

* remember as many details as possible about the bandit and the incident.

If you believe we are peddling mere passivity as someone takes away your hard-earned valuables, you’re quite wrong. There are other ways to fight other than the ‘macho’ way of the movies. Remember, one should only fight back physically as a last resort, when you feel as if your life or person (or someone with you) is, at that moment, truly in danger. After all, very few people are faster than speeding bullets in real-life.

Most robbers slip apprehension because of bad or faulty information from witnesses or from the crime scene. Many experts, such as those at the Australian Institute of Criminology or the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential business counseling as a community service, insist that following these procedures are some of the slickest, safest ways to ensure the police will get their man.

The most important thing is to gather and remember information that might be helpful to the police. Try to notice distinguishing traits about the thief. A business may even wish to have a recognition training course for their employees.

Try to observe characteristics like sex, age, height, weight, race, prominent or unusual features, and color of skin and eyes. In addition, noting identifying characteristics such as scars, tattoos, clothing, limps and traits of speech are all very helpful in finding the culprits.

Note behavioral characteristics: How does this person act? Worried, mad, confused, drunk? What was his speech like? Did he have an accent? Did he or others slip into a second language? If others were helping, did they use nicknames? What were the interactions with the other offenders? Was a particular person in charge?

Law officers suggest two easy ways to estimate height: compare the robber with a fixed structure of comparable size to the robber(s) in the area, or mark the door frame with various heights if you own a store or business.

Accurate descriptions of the weapon can also be a big help. Try to notice too whether the criminal touches anything: counter edges, door handles, cash register keys, etc. Don’t touch those areas until the police arrive, and keep others away as well. If you have a store, close it until police arrive. If you’re in or at a store, get help in preserving the scene from employees. Tell police what the robber might have touched.

The real reason you’re complying with the robber – other than self-preservation against a gun or knife – is that such a manner will allow you to pay attention to every detail of the robber and his methods, enabling you to be a strong witness for the police. Let the police pursue the thief. Don’t be a hero unless you have to be, especially if he’s armed with a gun. Again, very few people are faster than bullets. That’s why even the police go after such people fully armed, in large numbers, and set up dragnets.

If you have a business, raise the alarm as soon as it is safe to do so, perhaps by activating an alarm during the robbery.

Phone the police immediately, giving:

*name and address of premises you are in or near, its area and location including nearest cross street;

* number of offenders and description;

* description of weapon used;

* description of vehicle used and direction of travel. If on foot, in what direction? If in a vehicle, try to get the license number.

Make sure you call the police before you call anyone else.



The Crime Scene

After an armed robbery, do the following:

*Keep people and staff away from areas the offender was in, places he/she may have touched, and any articles left behind.

*Get witnesses to independently note down a description of the offender and the words used in the crime. First impressions are vital.

*Do not make statements to the media without clearing it with the police.

*Do not comment on how much money was involved except to the police.

*Give police all details, even those which seem insignificant to you. Remember, any small detail may help the police apprehend the offender.

To produce a computerized facial identification/photo, police may try to reconstruct the offender’s face from your description. However, the result will only be as good as the description(s) provided. Police specialists will probably ask you to describe the following parts of the face:

*hair (length and style), forehead and ears

*eyes and eyebrows (shape) nose (length and shape)

*mouth (width and shape)

*chin (length and shape).

The final success of a prosecution against armed robbery depends highly on evidence from victims and witnesses. You may therefore become involved in the prosecution process. You may be asked to view a line-up to identify the offender. If the police arrest somebody, you may have to attend a Magistrates’ Court hearing to give evidence based on your previous statement to the police. You may also be required to give evidence in a higher court before a judge and jury. In both cases, you will be represented by a police or city/county prosecutor and enjoy the total support and guidance of police investigators, who will be available to guide you through the judicial system.

Your testimony may be the only evidence in a robbery case, unless identifiable money from the crime is found in possession of the suspect. Some police departments recommend that retailers maintain a stack of “bait money” for just this purpose. Keep such money within easy reach of the register. Never give this money out as change to your customers; this pile is just for the robber. The serial number and series year of each bill are recorded and stored in a safe place, so you can relay the information to the police.

And hey, no one says individuals going out in the dead of night can’t do the same thing with the bit of money they always carry around in their pocket. Making such a little list of serial numbers and keeping them back at the house might not be a bad idea. Knowing the robber’s as good as dead the moment he tries to spend your money anywhere is a fine way to keep calm in the situation, and should be nice and satisfying for you as you hand over the bucks.

If you’d like to learn more about preventing an armed robbery from being successful – or preventing one altogether – get in touch with your local police Crime Prevention division. They’ll usually tell you what you need to know. If you’re a businessperson, you may also wish to contact the SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives). More than 12,000 volunteer business counselors donate their time and expertise to assist entrepreneurs. For a referral to the SCORE chapter nearest you, call 1 (800) 634-0245.

And remember, many businesses have insurance against armed robbery. There are various types of insurance cover for retail businesses, including insurance against the loss of money, either ‘in-transit’ or ‘on-site’. Premiums depend on the sum insured.


Who Becomes a Violent Robber?

It is possible to develop a description of the ‘typical’ robbery in which an injury to the victim occurred? We know it was usually carried out by a lone male on a person at home, in the street, or at work. The man usually used a gun or a knife, though there have been instances in which the idea of the robbery occurred to the potential robber at the spur of the moment, and therefore the thief used what appeared to be at his disposal. In these cases ordinary items such as a broken bottle or even such everyday items as a pair of scissors or something to use as a club or blunt instrument was used to threaten the person he hopes to rob from.

He was probably under the influence of a drug at the time of the robbery. The money he obtained during the robbery was almost always minimal. Two examples of this ‘typical’ robbery are outlined below.

1.) A young male goes into a supermarket to buy some milk. He’s a heroin addict and has had an injection less than 15 minutes beforehand. He notices there are only two young males serving in the shop and goes back to his car for a gun he keeps in the glove compartment. Returning to the shop he proceeds to commit the robbery. One of the shop assistants rushes him and is shot in the process. The thief escapes with little money.

2.) An older male has been drinking for about five hours. For some reason, he suddenly decides that he needs money. In a haze, he takes an almost empty bottle and goes to the house next door. After entering the house through a window, he is disturbed by a woman who lives there. He shatters the bottle against a door seal, breaking the glass and instantly creating the most brutal, makeshift instrument of destruction. He quickly grabs the woman and asks her where the money is, as the beer, (or whatever it was he was drinking) still wet on the inner part of the glass, begins to dribble onto the woman’s frightened, shaking body. She resists, he becomes frustrated and stabs the woman in the leg with the broken bottle. He gets away with about $300 in cash.

In general, robbery offenders do not appear to have much concern for the victims of their crime. They do not appear to be very aware of the effect which a robbery can have on a person, particularly the psychological effect. In addition, some offenders may apparently try to respond with physical force if their victim(s) do not do as they are told. Persons who stand in the way of a robber and his/her main objectives, money and escape, therefore can run the risk of serious physical injury.

As to what kind of weapon is used in a robbery, research indicates that a firearm was the most popular choice of weapon, both for robbers in general and for bank robbers in particular. The firearm was usually a rifle or shotgun, but revolvers, automatic pistols, and air rifles were also used. Some in fact carry no weapons but make the insinuation to the victim that they do. As it’s often very hard to tell if such a person really is armed, one should always assume they are.

Knives were not popular with bank robbers. None use this type of weapon, whereas some non-bank robbers do use a knife. Sometimes the robbery appears to have been an idea that occurred suddenly to a mind already intoxicated by some substance, and therefore the robbery has not been properly thought out. In these cases, the thief may resort to makeshift ‘weapons’ that he finds on the site at that moment. These can include imitation guns, shovels, iron bars, hammers, scissors and – in some strange cases – even broomsticks, which are, like iron bars, used as makeshift batons. They may also carry imitation guns.

Bank robbers appear to have a strong preference for firearms, generally real but sometimes imitation. On the other hand, robbers in general appear to use a greater variety of weapons. The need for bank robbers to ‘control’ a relatively large number of people probably accounts for this difference.

To sum up, weapons appear to be an integral part of robbery for most offenders. Their presence and threat of usage are used to ‘convince’ victims to part with the money or goods in their possession.

Firearms appear to be the favored choice of many offenders, probably because victims usually find them more threatening. There is probably also a perception that firearms are better for controlling groups of people during a robbery. This possibility is lent support by the finding that the vast majority of bank robberies involved a firearm or an imitation gun, while practically none involve the use of a knife.

Stricter gun laws, aimed at making it more difficult to obtain a firearm, may have some impact on the frequency of robbery. The impact would probably be greatest in the area of ‘spontaneous’ robberies, in which offenders often make a spur of the moment decision, purchase a firearm, and carry out a robbery all in a short space of time. Gun laws which prevent the ‘spontaneous’ purchase of a firearm may result in some potential offenders ‘cooling off’ and deciding against the robbery.


Real Danger?

Let’s go back to the example we used to begin this article, the thief in the parking lot. You see in his hand what surely appears to be a blade of some kind. It’s not gigantic, but no doubt big enough to cause some damage. What choice do you have? You hand him the wallet.

He rips thru the billfold, pulling out what money you have, and mutters something you can’t quite make out. Again the unmistakable stench of some liquor is hard on his breath and flares your nostrils. In fact he’s beginning to breath heavily at the moment, as if he’s exerting himself greatly by just rummaging thru your wallet, or as if he’s on some kind of wild search for something he feels he’s on the verge of finding.

As he glances back at you, then at the wallet in his hand, you’re wondering about your chances of taking him now, while he’s busy with the billfold. No, you think, that kind of action may be best for the movies, but I really shouldn’t do it unless I really have to. The way he keeps glancing back at you (and the liquor on his breath) only work to convince you that you’re right to hold back, to merely study him as best you can so you can give the cops a fine description of him later.

“This is it? You gotta have more than this,” he hisses back at you as the blade is now pushed out toward you, its razor-like edge glistening in the overhead light of the parking lot. “A guy in a car like this has gotta have more . . .” he says before trailing off, his last remark little more than a drunken slur. Even though you tell him that’s all you have, he looks at you as if you’ve now personally offended him somehow, as if you’re out to get him too, just like all the others. You can see the change in his eyes as his fingers appear to grasp the knife anew.

You realize at that moment that your life has changed, regardless of the outcome of the next few seconds. He has decided to act out all his drunken frustration on you. You feel as if the ground has dropped from beneath you, or to be more precise as if you’re passing through some imaginary barrier that has always strangely protected you, and you are now crossing into something final, inescapable. What do you do?

Not too long ago Susanna Lobez of the Australian weekly news radio program Law Report discussed the question of fighting back against an armed robber with Ray Smith, former police officer and Managing Director of Perth-based Crime Prevention Services. We found this informative interview recently in the public domain, and felt it best to share some of Smith’s insights with you.

Susanna Lobez: [O]utline for me, Ray Smith, the four categories of offenders of armed robbers.

Ray Smith: Well, we can categorize them into four broad categories. And the first is, ordinary people. People that have gambling debts, people that are unable to support themselves financially, have family problems, bills that they can’t pay; people that would not normally be motivated into an armed robbery. These are the people that would perhaps go into a building, into a premises quietly, they don’t want to make a fuss, they’re ordinary people.

Then we’ve got the drug-dependent group, which I believe are our biggest problem. They’re irrational, they’re likely to do anything, they’re unpredictable. We certainly can’t categorize their behavior to any degree, but they’re desperate.

Then we’ve got the thrill-seekers, and best described in the way I suppose, with a group of young people on a Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening; they’ve run out of money, they’ve got nothing to do, so a robbery on a liquor store sounds like a good idea, to get themselves some alcohol and some money. And then of course we’ve got the professionals, and fortunately we don’t have many of them around. Most of them are experienced armed robbers; they are looking after themselves, they’re funding more criminal activity, they could be escapees that have been out for a while and they need the money; they’re professionals.

But by far our greatest [physical] risk I believe comes from the people who are drug-dependent and need to support their habit.

Susanna Lobez: Well let’s move on to the staff, Ray Smith, you say that’s in fact one of the most important components of preventing armed robbery, and you say quite often that not only do they increase the risk of an armed robbery taking place on your premises, but if staff say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or react in the wrong way, that they can increase the danger to them and the risk of being hurt.

Ray Smith: Well I can teach them that they need to dress the right way, and they need to look the right way, and they need to be alert, they need to be on the ball constantly. When people come in to their premises, they need to eyeball them, and to recognize them. They need to give the impression, even though they well may have had a hard night last night, that they’re wide awake and they’re alert. Now they owe that to their employer, they also owe it to themselves because an offender who has to pick on a premises, he’ll pick on one that has a roomful of staff that look like they’re half asleep. It’s to his advantage. It’s a psychological thing perhaps, but it’s to his advantage to deal with people that are half asleep. And more than that, if he comes in and there’s a choice of four people, he will pick on the person that looks like they are least interested in what they’re doing. So staff attitude has an enormous part to play.

Susanna Lobez: What’s the most common reaction of staff to a potential armed robbery situation?

Ray Smith: Well a lot of people, because they’re totally shocked, and they don’t have any preparation within themselves for what might happen, unfortunately tend to freeze in a lot of cases. And when they do that of course, it exacerbates the situation, because the armed offender is coming in to get the money; they are not co-operating with him, not through any fault of their own because they don’t have the capacity to deal with the shock and to overcome the fear, and to actually move. And of course he will then go into phase 2, which may be anything from jumping over the counter to actually coming into physical contact, and we can’t allow that to occur. Every time he goes onto shall we say another phase, or he takes another step towards violence, it increases the risk to the victim, and that’s just unacceptable.

Susanna Lobez: What about engaging with the armed robbery? If he comes and looks you in the eye, should you engage with him as you’re packing the money in the bag, or whatever?

Ray Smith: It would be absolutely foolish of me to advocate any sort of [initiated] intervention with any armed offender. I mean you’re already in a very risky situation. You’re standing on the other side of a counter, or in a retail premises you’ve got an irrational armed offender, they’re perhaps with a firearm. It is just simply too risky to get yourself involved. Your priority must be, must be, to get that person out the door. Now I can understand people saying ‘It’s my money, I don’t want them to have it. I’ve worked hard for it.’ But it’s up to you to take steps to minimize the amount of cash that these people are going to get in the first place should they rob it, and when they do come in, to get them out the door as quickly as possible. Try not to get involved, it is just far too dangerous. And we can replace money. I know it’s hard and it’s difficult and it goes well and truly against the grain, it gets stuck in people’s craw, but unfortunately we can’t afford to allow what could be a simple (if there is such a thing) armed robbery to turn into a serious assault or even a murder.

Susanna Lobez: So you wouldn’t advocate for instance the story I heard on the news, that a man in a fish and chip shop thwarted what I believe was an armed robbery attempt by throwing hot oil at the would-be armed robber.

Ray Smith: Every robbery is different. There are so many variables. But no, I cannot advocate people putting themselves at increased risk. On the other hand, I’m not saying to anybody if they’re being beaten, or are about to be beaten etc., to stand there and just let it happen. Now this goes against natural instinct, that people are going to try and defend themselves. However it is ridiculous to suggest that if an offender comes into your premises and you’re standing there and at this point there has been no physical violence [. . .] that you should instigate any sort of physical contact by lashing out at the person in some way. It’s called being a hero, and unfortunately there are many, many dead heroes, and it’s just not worth it.

Susanna Lobez: After 20 years in the force, now heading up Crime Prevention Services of Australia Ltd., Ray Smith.


If the Moment Comes

Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you feel absolutely certain that you or someone with you is in some way at risk and you must fight back. Jackie Chan may make it look very easy in his movies, but if you’ve ever seen the outtakes he has at the end of his films, you’ve seen the several ways in which a movement did not go as planned. There’s a reason for all the outtakes.

But we also live in the real world, and we would be doing our readers a disservice if we didn’t admit that there are some times in which a person has no choice but to fight back. Self-preservation is, after all, ‘hot-wired’ into all of us; at that moment in which danger is truly imminent, all bets are off.

What is a person to do in such a situation? When is the best moment to attack? Where should I attack the assailant?

Sifu Mike Sanchez, formerly of the Mike Sanchez Martial Arts Academy in Charlotte NC, trained not only the usual students in his classes thru the week, but also ran a weekend class for the city’s police force, training them in basic self-defense methods designed for ease-of-use, practicality, and swift submission of a suspect. What advice does he normally give his students in the proper method of dealing with an armed attacker?

“Never fight with an armed person unless you feel there’s no other choice, and that you must protect yourself or those close to you. If fighting back really is the only option open, try to wait until he is within arms’ reach of you. If you try an attack before he’s within that range, he’s almost certain to get you first.”

According to Sanchez, the principal areas of weakness on a person are:

*the eyes, which can be poked by a swift, open-handed jab with the fingers, joined together and stretched out away from the hand. The whole hand should be slightly bent, making it somewhat resemble the head of a cobra about to strike (one should think of the middle finger as the ‘aiming’ finger, which is of course the longest and will help the fingers zero in on their intended target);

*the end of the nose, which should be hit with either a fist or an upturned, open palm (“Do not simply try to hit the nose, which is – with the exception of the eyes – the most sensitive and the most vulnerable part of the face, but try to hit the nose back into the skull cavity itself. The many nerve fibers bunched into the nose and the soft cartilage supporting it will make this shot very painful,” Sanchez has said);

*the ‘Adam’s apple’ found in the middle of the throat, is especially prominent in men, and should be hit with either a fist, an open palm strike (the fingers should be rolled in to protect ‘jamming’; the fingertips should not be sitting in the palm, but the fingers should merely be coiled somewhat to protect them), or – if off to the side of the attacker – the ‘Adam’s apple’ can be struck with the side of the hand. “A good strike here gets someone’s attention immediately,” Sanchez has been fond of quipping to his students.

*that perennial women’s favorite, the ol’ ‘family jewels’. Sanchez and other self-defense experts say that, when one is fighting for self-preservation, use what is open to you and use whatever works. After all, the attacker swinging around a knife or a gun is hardly ‘playing fair’. Use whatever works.

But what if the attacker lunges with a knife, or is clearly getting ready to shoot a gun at you? Above all, the important thing is to disrupt the attacker’s aim as he’s getting ready to make his attack. If he’s far away from you, throw something – anything – directly at his face, and aim for the eyes. If he is within arm’s reach of you, knock the hand holding the weapon away from both you and those with you. Never pull the weapon toward you or attempt to move it past or across your body. This is very important for obvious reasons. Also, keep your chin somewhat tucked in toward your chest, to prevent a sock on the jaw, one of the most sensitive areas of the head.

Most people may think of attempting what they see in movies: the big dramatic ‘hit’ of that hand holding the weapon, or perhaps a struggle for the weapon, and following it with a slugfest. It’s probably a sure way to get yourself killed in real-life.

The large, dramatic push of the hand leaves you wide open and gives the assailant time to counterattack. He’s not just going to stand there like they do in the movies. The best method, according to Sanchez, is to use a simple, small fan-like movement with the lower part of the arm (bicep) and hand away from the body. The upper, muscular part of the arm should stay somewhat close to the body and fairly immobile during the ‘fan’, which leaves the arm in a position to further punch or block if the need comes. Overall, once you begin you want to keep both arms in the classic ‘boxing stance’, with the upper arms somewhat in front of you, fairly close to the body for placing and protection until a punch is thrown, and the lower arms and hands ready for action.

During the ‘fan’, the thumb of the ‘fanning hand’ should be tucked in toward the palm so that the bottom part of the thumb is more or less even with the side of the hand. This keeps you from ‘jamming’ or spraining the thumb. The ‘fan’ should be almost like shooing or swatting a fly, and can be performed by either pointing the hand up and fanning the assailant’s hand away from the face, or pointing the hand and lower arm (bicep) down to fan the weapon away from the midsection. Use whichever manner seems most ‘natural’.

The body should twist with the fanning hand; so if you’re using your left hand to hit the assailant’s hand that’s holding the weapon away from you and to your left, your body should also pivot left. This normally gives the attacker less of a clear target since he is seeing your body from the side, and it separates the rest of your body even further from the assailant’s hand holding the weapon, giving you a touch more protection and perhaps an extra split-second to react.

With the other hand, hit the assailant in one of the weak spots already mentioned (a hard poke in the eye, a hard hit at the very tip of the nose with the intention of driving the nose firmly into the skull cavity, in the “Adam’s apple” or windpipe, or in the good ol’ ‘family jewels’ with either a fist, an open palm or either side of the hand at the same time you knock away the assailant’s hand holding the weapon so that the two moves are simultaneous. In fact, Sanchez is always adamant that students see the fanning away of the assailant’s hand and the attack on one of the weak centers of the body as “one flowing movement, rather than two separate moves, one after the other.” This simultaneous movement “gives your attacker no means to figure out what’s going on, and no real way to counterstrike,” according to Sanchez.

Is there anything else a person should do? “Firstly, a person should make sure to yell, holler, scream as loudly as they can,” Sanchez often tells pupils studying in the event of such an encounter with an armed robber. “The robber needs quiet, darkness; the essential thing for any robber is not to be noticed, not to be seen. The moment you cause a great amount of attention to him, to what’s going on, he has no choice but to either try to shut you up by force or to flee – and if he’s hurting, and you feel you’ve gotten the better of him for that moment, his first choice will probably be to flee.” Again, he advises however that one should only resort to such methods if the would-be attacker seems sure to attack.

Is there anything else? “A person should then use the most reliable form of self-defense if they’ve disrupted the armed robber who was about to turn violent – run away.” Getting out of the immediate area immediately and to others (who are hopefully in a populated, well-lit area) is the most important thing. Taking a few extra seconds could be all the seconds the would-be attacker needs to regroup.

Again, the all-important thing is self-preservation. That’s why we reiterate something we’ve already stated, and something also expounded by Sifu Sanchez and all other self-defense experts: Only fight back when you have no other choice. Ninety-eight percent of the time all you have to do is follow the robber’s instructions and there will be no violence involved. Remember, Jackie Chan may look cool, but in life there’s no ‘take two’. Self-preservation is always the key.

All experts assert that it’s smart to slowly and safely go thru the above move now and again with a partner, without really striking of course, so that the basic move becomes second nature if it is needed. If one wishes to go thru the move with protective gear in real-time, or wishes to better learn these and other police techniques of take-down, such as a very slick form of martial arts called “Chin-Na” based around the idea that all one need do is twist a part of the attacker’s body in such a manner that he must submit (it usually requires only a minimum of physical effort of the part of the person performing it, and is the principal method Martial Arts teachers like Sifu Sanchez teach to police across the USA), Sanchez advises taking at least a few martial arts courses from an accredited Martial Arts teacher. A professional is the best person to help you perfect a technique that you will hopefully never need.


Crime Prevention: Theory and Practice

Some of the most comprehensive studies of criminal behavior in recent years have been conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, which has released a worldwide, country-to-country comparison on what methods have worked best to curtail or avoid armed robberies. It advocates a model for crime prevention programs which combines physical design and flexible, quick-to-respond management in the fight against robberies. The institute sees both criminals and victims as creatures of habit, going about ‘routine activities’.

Its ‘routine activity’ approach to crime analysis specifies three elements of crime: a likely offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian against crime or an ‘intimate handler’, i.e. a person close to the offender who is able to impose informal social control and prevent him/her from committing an offense. Crime occurs when victims and offenders converge in the absence of a guardian or intimate handler. Crime can best be prevented, says the institute, by keeping potential offenders and potential victims apart, as well as keeping potential offenders from those substances which may help in putting him/her in the mood to commit a crime.

In one paper it categorized a number of situational crime prevention strategies thrown up by successful case studies, namely reducing convergence of targets and offenders by:

*separating the elderly from teenagers and children in public housing

*restricting access to facilitates or means of committing crimes, e.g. by placing a ban on handguns to repeat offenders or ‘trouble’ juveniles;

*restricting access to disinhibitors such as alcohol which might lead some people to commit crimes, such as by banning the sale of alcohol at football games, etc. Recent studies by the US Department of Justice show that a person is more liable to commit violent behavior after drinking than after having taken any other drug.

*installing burglar-proof barriers in taxis;

*restricting access to places where crimes could be committed, such as placing entry-phones on entrances to public housing to keep out intruders, and erecting barriers at bus stops to discourage robberies;

*reducing the value of the target, by for instance inscribing belongings with identification numbers, and limiting the amount of money in cash registers;

*reducing visibility, such as not undressing in front of a lighted window;

*making sure your house or apartment looks occupied;

*increasing surveillance, real or apparent, such as Neighborhood Watch programs;

*illuminating the inside and outside of buildings at night, especially around a business and at ATM machines;

*assigning responsibility, by training employees to be on the lookout for potential offenders;

*increasing the capability to intervene, such as through radios for bus drivers.


Preventing Burglaries

What are the very best ways to ensure that you’ll probably never have to worry about being the victim of an armed burglary?

Firstly, keep in mind that burglary is a Crime of Opportunity. Burglary usually happens to those who are the least prepared. Although no security system is 100 percent effective, there are many things that you can do to reduce your risk. Burglary is not a sophisticated crime; it is a crime of opportunity. Burglars do not choose victims, they choose opportunities.

To reduce you risk, first assess your vulnerability. Use the following checklist to see how your security could improve.

Security Checklist

1. Are your windows and doors all visible from the street or from adjacent homes and/or offices? With all accesses visible, burglars are less likely to break in.

2. Is your area protected by a wall, fence, hedge or other deterrent? Fences, although not impassable, act as deterrents to burglars. A chain-link fence is a good choice, since people can see if someone is inside the premises. A wall or hedge can conceal burglars, however; therefore, a fence or wall that you can see through is best.

3. Do your exterior doors have good outside lights which are turned on at night? Well-lit entrances discourage burglary. Lights should be protected to prevent breakage or tampering.

4. Are your exterior doors and frames sturdy? Secure doors need more than good locks. The door, frame, and hardware (hinges, locks, and fasteners) form a mini-security system that is only as good as its weakest point.

5. Are windows in or near your doors protected from breakage? Windows in or near doors should be treated (safety laminated or tempered) glass, wired glass, break-resistant acrylic or polycarbonate plastic. If they are not, you should consider replacing them.

6. Can your windows or sliding doors be pried from their tracks? All fasteners and screws for tracks and frames should be inaccessible from the outside.

7. Do your ground level windows have adequate locks and solid frames? Do the windows have treated or wired glass or break-resistant plastic? Are they perhaps even protected with security bars or grills, especially if you have a business?

8. Do your walls go all the way up to the highest ceiling? Many walls only go up to the false ceiling, allowing a burglar to enter the room by climbing over the wall above the hanging ceiling.

9. Are there tools and ladders outside your area that could be used by a burglar to break in?

10. Are your valuables marked for identification and stored securely? Are important files locked away in a secure place? Do you have the serial numbers along with descriptions of your valuable items?

11. Do you leave your office or room locked even for short trips down the hall? That could be an invitation for an enterprising burglar.


We hope this section on the best ways to survive an armed robbery have been both informative and enlightening. If you follow these methods, your hopes of surviving such an encounter will be greatly enhanced.


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How to survive airplane crime

How to Survive an Aircraft Hijacking
By Cliff Montgomery, Secrets Of Survival

There’s no way around it. Nowadays all commercial airline passengers are forced to eat their in-flight meals with plastic utensils. After all, the risk that someone may turn their dinner knife into a makeshift lethal weapon is not a risk any airline is prepared to take.The events in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 have forever turned the world onto the benefits of being safe and secure in the skies. Anyone who travels must make this issue first on their list. We’ll uncover the best methods to ensure that the biggest problem you’ll ever have to worry about on a flight is how to survive eating what the airlines laughingly refer to as ‘food’.

Quickly put, we will cover:

Air Security – What Must Be Done
How You Can Protect Yourself
At the Airport
Checking In
Passenger Safety Information
A Safe Trip Abroad
The Weapons of Choice for Terrorists


Air Security – What Must Be Done

Let’s start at the top: the very best way to ensure flight safety is to make sure the air hub from which you are taking off has the most comprehensive, reliable, and sophisticated air security system in place. Stopping the hijacker from getting on the plane in the first place has to be the supreme method of keeping passengers in the friendly skies.

How important this issue is can be seen by events that occurred even after the horrors of that September morning in America. In late September of 2001, four friends were able to fly into the UK’s Gatwick Airport with a nice little assortment of weapons in their luggage. English Customs officials searching the men’s bags found they possessed a decent collection of combat knives, stun guns and mace spray.

“Yet these cases had been checked in at Orlando Sandford Airport in Florida and placed in the hold of an American Trans Air flight,” BBC News was understandably quick to report.

And of course, US citizens remember the “unthinkable” episode at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport when Subash Bahadur Gurung was nearly allowed to board a plane while in possession of an arsenal of weapons, despite being caught just minutes earlier carrying two knives through a metal detector. Though the knives were confiscated, Gurung was for some reason allowed to continue through the checkpoint and, by all accounts, was about to board a United Airlines plane to Nebraska (two of the four planes hijacked on September 11th, 2001 were United Airlines planes). It was only at the departure gate that a random check of his hand luggage by airline staff – who are given the discretion to search, question, or even refuse to take a passenger onto the aircraft – found his other weapons: seven more knives, pepper spray and a stun gun.

Argenbright Security, a unit of Britain’s Securicor PLC and the principal air security firm used by United at the time, was ordered after its O’Hare incident to conduct background checks on all its workers, something it had failed to do before all the extra concern for air safety. It had a long history of hiring formerly convicted criminals to do baggage checks. The company “was already on probation for serious security violations” at the Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, “for which it paid $2.3 million in fines . . . and several managers went to jail,” according to a story in the Washington Post. Argenbright inspectors at various US hubs had further stated to reporters that their ‘training’ for the job had sometimes consisted of little more than watching a single 45-minute videotape on security procedures.

Argenbright has since unwittingly become the poster boy for those insisting that that kind of ‘airline security’ in the US cannot continue, or be allowed to resurface ever again. Argenbright was, after all, also in charge of security at the Boston airport where several hijackers carrying makeshift weapons (and some of whom may have already been known and listed as potential terrorists by the feds) were allowed to get on the two planes that later slammed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City.

Psst, Americans, want to know a little secret? Government officials knew all along that the nation’s airport baggage screening system had long been “bad and getting worse,” to quote a story published by the New York Times in late November 2001.

Screeners missed 20 percent of the clear images of bombs or guns ran through baggage screening machines during security tests back in the late 1980s. Their performance has only slipped since, though officials won’t say by how much: “the figure has since been designated sensitive security information,” according to theTimes, a pretty reliable newspaper on these kinds of things.

Unlike Europe, where airport security is more often seen as a government responsibility, pay and conditions at US airports for security staff have long been seen by the rest of the world as poor, especially after the aviation industry was deregulated by President Reagan in the 1980s. Attempts to tighten up the rules were blocked again and again by concentrated lobbying from the airlines themselves, which have to pay for their own baggage security.

That’s what eventually led to such outsourced security firms as Argenbright handling the baggage checks. But since airlines generally awarded contracts to the lowest bidders, firms like Argenbright made up the difference by paying screeners minimum wages, which made it hard for them to attract and retain good workers, and by spending almost nothing on what it termed ‘security training’.

After the air security bill became law on November 15th, 2001, the federal government began taking control of airport baggage screenings, which will be completely under federal authority by the end of 2002. The Transportation Department may also deploy law enforcement to bolster airport perimeter and access security.

The feds will screen all commercial airline baggage until 2005 with the exception of five airports, of five different sizes, that volunteer for a program meant to test different screening approaches.

After that, airports that meet the new strict federal standards will have the option of using local law enforcement officials or private security firms like Argenbright for its baggage screening once again.

The law also ensures that armed air marshals will be on all commercial flights, and there will be both a required background check for all ground-support personnel and much tighter security at checkpoints and airport perimeters. Also, all passengers must now present photo identification to ticket takers before they are allowed to board their flights.

There’s more to be done, though. As of December 2001, foreign countries are not required to share information with the US about those landing on American shores; in fact, the State Department’s web site says that only three nations are voluntarily providing information on those coming to the States.

And the new Transportation Security Administration, created for the sole purpose of overseeing US air security, is racing to begin screening all checked baggage on domestic flights for weapons and explosives by January 2002. Amazingly, before that fewer than 10 percent of airline baggage was screened, and the majority of the 420 US airports flying commercial flights did not have the scanning machines to do the job. Until they can be manufactured screeners will check things out by hand.

The scanning machines are actually more similar to medical CAT scans than X-ray machines. They will aid greatly in the detection of explosives and plastic guns, and are to be in all commercial airports within a year. But with only two US companies – InVision and L-3 Communications – currently certified to make such scanners, it will be a tough order to fill.

Another option, not apparently being thought of by the US, is to use detection scanners similar to the ones made by the British firm QinetiQ, the public-private partnership which calls itself “Europe’s largest science and technology organization,” and which had for years shouldered much of the work of the British Defense Evaluation and Research Agency. The company’s scanner detects a host of objects missed by metal detectors.

Its Millimeter Wave Camera will find weapons like the ceramic knives believed to have been used by some of the hijackers involved in the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks on America. It works by detecting naturally occurring radiation as it reflects off different objects. Knives or guns hidden in clothing or baggage appear on the scanner’s display as distinct illuminated shapes.

The device can also detect a person’s body shape, thereby showing up concealed objects, and can cope with three times more passengers than conventional scanners.

The system has already been tested at Eurotunnel’s Calais terminal, where it has been used to uncover asylum seekers hiding in the back of trucks. And that’s not all; the QinetiQ system, unlike its US cousins, can also be designed to pick up suspicious passengers before they board planes by checking identification details against a database of suspects.

Called Border Guard and developed by a company called Imaging Automation, when the database is added to the QinetiQ system it will actually validate a person’s photo ID, passport, etc. as soon as it is read. Such a system can therefore be used to immediately spot people using fake identification, passengers with a history of air rage, and criminals wanted by the police or the FBI. It would make it “very unlikely” that anyone using falsified papers or wanted by authorities could make it onto a commercial aircraft, according to experts.

Because the system is automated, it would also make for faster security checks, which would benefit everybody. The system could be adapted to target different types of passengers as the need calls for it and would not leave taxpayers with a hefty bill. Many add such a system would be self-financing within a couple years of implementation.

Many experts have already said the full capabilities of the system, if used in US airports, would be more effective than introducing practically any other new security measure, such as armed air marshals or extra cockpit security.

Hopefully the US will take these strengths into consideration and develop something similar to the Border Guard database, which would allow authorities to nab potential hijackers before they have a chance to strike, and will make the sharing of airline passenger information compulsory for all nations wishing to do business with the US.

You have more power here than you might think. A little bit of bitching to your government and business representatives can go a long way. There’s no need to take to the streets though; a simple letter here and there can work wonders. Remember, after 2005 private firms like Argenbright can begin pushing for airline security contracts again – and if there’s anything that’s as strong as bitching, it’s the almighty dollar of the big airlines, which worked to keep government officials from cracking the whip for years as the carriers sometimes employed the sloppiest security firms for the cheapest dollar.

Private firms getting back into the airline security business could create a ‘hit-and-miss’ air security at US airports, with some employing government or reliable private screeners, and others employing agencies that could conceivably become as poor as Argenbright once was.

So how do we know if the airline has a security system in place that we can trust? Like all consumer matters, be prepared to do a little snooping. If you’re considering a flight to a destination but feel unsure about security, you may want to check out this page on the FAA’s website. It reports some safety violations leveled against companies for the last few years (the current year is immediately displayed; earlier periods can be accessed by links at the bottom of the FAA page).

The records, put out as press releases, are far from comprehensive however. As FAA press spokesperson Rebecca Trexler told S.O.S., the punishments for lax security are traditionally given out as civil penalties against an airline during a nationwide investigation of the air carrier, rather than against any security firms hired by the airline. This made it very tough for the public to discover which air security firms had a poor performance record. The violations are also only officially reported by the FAA if the total penalties incurred during an investigation run in excess of $50,000; many violations can therefore go unreported by the agency.

According to Ms. Trexler, there is currently no official publication or website fully chronicling air security mistakes.

The FAA site does give a good record of which airline flying from which airport has the worst security problems, which could help you make something of an informed choice about the safest carrier in your area. But the info is hardly current. These violations aren’t officially reported by the FAA until a full year after the problem is discovered, “to avoid divulging potential vulnerabilities in the aviation system, ” according to the FAA site.

But as Ms. Trexler is quick to point out, “The private security firms are being replaced now by government personnel. Those firms are moving on to provide security for nuclear plants and such things, and the government will be taking care of air security for a while. It’s really impossible to tell what role the private firms will play in the future of air security (after 2005), but that may not be an issue anymore.”

In truth, the government security won’t be fully in place until December 2002, and some private security companies are probably bound to show up at the baggage check again after 2005. Keep the FAA page in mind if private companies are taking care of baggage at your airport. It will at least give you an idea of which airlines have historically had trouble at which hubs.


How You Can Protect Yourself

While the state of airline security is of course the principal means to combat the evil of airline hijackings, we must face the contingency that no amount of security can prepare for every potential attack. The human mind is amazingly adaptable, and has shown a breathtaking ingenuity when it comes to the many ways one can harm others. If a hijacker is somehow still able to commandeer a plane, what should you do? How can you ensure that you – and hopefully everyone else on board – can survive such an event as a hijacking?

When you are preparing for your trip, remember to pack smart and pack safe. This section is taken principally from reports by the Department of Transportation and the FAA detailing the best ways to avoid becoming the victim of a hijacking or terrorist plot. Here’s a list of items you cannot bring on your person or in carry-on luggage:

*Weapons – For the most obvious reasons. Firearms, ammunition, gunpowder, mace, tear gas, or pepper spray.

*Knives of any length, composition, or description.

*All cutting and puncturing instruments. This includes pocketknives, carpet knives and box cutters, ice picks, straight razors, metal scissors, and metal nail files.


*Athletic equipment that could be used as a weapon, such as baseball/softball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles, and hockey sticks.

*Fireworks – signal flares, sparklers, or other explosives.

*Flammable liquids or solids – fuel, paints, lighter refills, matches.

*Household items – drain cleaners and solvents.

*Pressure containers – spray cans, butane fuel, scuba tanks, propane tanks, CO2 cartridges, and self-inflating rafts.

*Other banned hazardous materials include: gasoline-powered tools, wet-cell batteries, camping equipment with fuel, dry ice or radioactive materials (except limited quantities), poisons, and infectious substances. Check out FAA’s website for more info on what each airline will allow.

Remember, you must declare hazardous materials to airlines, express package carriers or the Postal Service. Violations carry a civil penalty of up to $27,500 for each occurrence and, in appropriate cases, a criminal penalty of up to $500,000 and/or up to five years imprisonment. Hit this link for more hazardous material information from the FAA.

Also keep in mind that many common items used everyday in the home or workplace may seem harmless, but when transported by air they can become very dangerous. In flight, variations in temperature and pressure can cause items to leak, generate toxic fumes or start a fire.

According to FAA rules, personal care items containing hazardous materials (e.g., flammable perfume, aerosols) totaling no more than 70 ounces may be carried on board. Contents of each container may not exceed 16 fluid ounces.

You may only carry matches and lighters on your person. However, such products as “strike-anywhere” matches, lighters with flammable liquid reservoirs, and lighter fluid are forbidden.

Firearms and ammunition may not be carried by a passenger on an aircraft. However, unloaded firearms may be transported in checked baggage if declared to the agent at check-in and packed in a suitable container. Handguns must be in a locked container. Boxed small arms ammunition for personal use may be transported in checked luggage. Amounts may vary depending on the airline. Check with them before purchasing a ticket.

Leave gifts unwrapped. Airline security personnel will open and search gifts if the X-ray scan cannot determine the contents.

The most simple rule to follow? If in doubt, don’t pack it.

Allow Extra Time

Remember, this is not the same world it was before September 11th. Arrive at the airport early; heightened airport security measures increase the time needed to check in. Arriving at the airport two hours before your flight’s scheduled departure is now advisable. However, passengers may want to consult with their airline for more specific arrival times. Build in even more time at the airport if traveling with young children, infants, or persons with disabilities.


At the Airport

You’re rather tired, and while you enjoy seeing the family again, you have to admit you’re glad to be getting back home. You’re almost as lifeless as your baggage, which is sitting around you haphazardly as you’re sitting at the gate, waiting for the airline to begin boarding.

To tell the truth you didn’t even notice the young man until he sat down in the seat next to yours and apologized for knocking over a few of your bags. You look about, in a haze, as he helps you pick up the baggage. He seems helpful enough.

Two hours later, you’re up in the air and finally headed home. At last. You breath a sigh a relief.

It may be your last. That ‘nice man’ who ‘mistakenly knocked over’ your bags is on your plane, and has jumped out of his seat to announce that a bomb is on board. Authorities later deduce the hijacker planted the bomb in the baggage of someone who wasn’t paying attention to others around their bags as he or she was waiting to board . . .

During your time at the airport, it’s important to make sure you don’t inadvertently aid a potential hijacker. You will have to be on your highest guard. What are some of the principal things to keep in mind while you’re at an airport?

*Watch your bags and personal belongings at all times.

*Do not accept packages from strangers. Giving a package containing a bomb or some other such item to a stranger is a favorite ploy of a potential hijacker or terrorist. History has shown that criminals and terrorists use unwitting passengers to carry bombs or other dangerous items on board aircraft, either by tricking passengers into carrying packages or by simply slipping items into unwatched bags.

*If you see unattended bags or packages anywhere in the airport terminal or parking area, immediately report them to a security officer or other authority.

*Report any suspicious activities or individuals in the airport or parking lot to airport security.

*Don’t ever joke about having a bomb or firearm while in the airport terminal or on airport grounds. Don’t discuss terrorism, weapons, explosives, or other threats while going through the security checkpoint. The mere mention of words such as “gun,” “bomb,” etc., can compel security personnel to detain and question you. They are trained to consider these simple comments as real threats. Penalties can be severe, and can include the possibility of time in prison and/or fines.

Feel free to click here for any further questions on airport security information.


Checking In

Again, times have changed. E-ticket travelers should check with their airline to make sure they will have proper documentation when they attempt to check in.

Automated kiosks are available for airlines that have appropriate security measures in place. Interested travelers should check with their airlines.

Minors are not required to have identification. Failure to have proper identification may result in additional security scrutiny. With air security now under federal care, airlines will now be certain to prohibit you from boarding without proper ID.

For international flights, airlines are required to collect your full name and ask you for a contact name and phone number.

Be prepared to answer any and all questions about your bags. When asked who packed your bags and if you might have left them unattended at anytime, think carefully and answer the questions as honestly as you can. Again, hijackers and terrorists may well use unsuspecting passengers to carry bombs or other dangerous items onto aircraft.

Be understanding and cooperative as screeners ask to hand-search your bags. Security personnel should search a bag if the x-ray scan cannot determine its contents.

Screener Checkpoints

Only ticketed passengers are allowed beyond the screener checkpoints, unless a passenger requires parental oversight or must be accompanied by a medical assistant.

Travelers are limited to one carry-on bag and one personal item (e.g., purse or briefcase).

Electronic items, such as laptop computers and cell phones, may be subjected to additional screening. Be prepared to remove your laptop from its travel case so it can be X-rayed separately.

On the Airplane

Listen carefully to the flight attendant’s safety instructions. Make sure to note where the closest exit to your seat is located.

Wear your seat belt, and make sure to report unattended items to your flight attendant.

What to Wear

Passengers who wear clothing that allows for a variety of activities can reduce their chances of serious injury in the unlikely event of an emergency .

*Wear clothes made of natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, denim or leather.

*Synthetics may melt when heated.

*Dress to cover as much skin as possible.

*Wear clothing that is roomy, and avoid restrictive clothing.

*Wear low-heeled, leather or canvas shoes.

In an emergency evacuation leave your belongings behind. This emphasis comes directly from the DOT and FAA’s reports.


Passenger Safety Information

*Review the passenger safety card before takeoff and landing.

*Listen carefully to the safety briefing.

*Be able to locate emergency exits both in front and behind you. Count the rows between you and the nearest front and rear exits.

*Locate the flotation device.

*Make a mental plan of action in case of emergency.

Exit Row Seating

It’s essential that you be physically capable and willing to perform emergency actions when seated in emergency or exit rows. If you are not, ask for another seat. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the emergency evacuation techniques outlined on the written safety instructions. Ask questions if instructions are unclear.

In Case of Fire or Smoke

If a crisis has, for whatever reason, resulted in fire aboard the aircraft, make sure to place a wet napkin or handkerchief over your nose and mouth. This will help keep you from quickly becoming a victim of smoke inhalation. If at all possible move as far away from the fire and smoke as you can. Stay low to the floor; being lighter than air, smoke is sure to fill the top of the cabin first. Staying low will give you better access to breathable air for a longer period of time.

If those on board are able to evacuate, do so by following the instructions given to you by the attendants on board. They are well-trained, and will know how to get everyone out quickly and safely. Proceed to the nearest front or rear exit – count the rows between your seat and the exits so that you will know which exit will be the one you should use in case of an emergency. Follow the floor lighting to the exit. Make sure you jump feet first onto evacuation slide; don’t sit down to slide. Place arms across your chest, elbows in, and legs and feet together. Women should remove high-heeled shoes.

Again, if you have possessions with you stored in the overhead compartment, leave them behind. Do not re-enter a burning structure such as the cabin of an airplane if you have left or are about to leave it. Going back into a burning structure filled with very highly-combustible fuel for nothing but that special present your grandmother gave you is a poor reason to put your life on the line.

Exit the aircraft and clear the area once you get to the ground. Remember, others have to get out too. Remain alert for emergency vehicles.


A Safe Trip Abroad

The very best write-up we’ve found on how one can best survive a hijacking came directly (no surprise) from the US State Department website – entitled A Safe Trip Abroad, we found it an indispensable guide to traveling overseas. We have lifted the major parts that would pertain to an airplane hijacking or an act of terrorism, and have printed them below. If you are traveling abroad, we highly recommend you read the entire article here

[If you are traveling abroad, you should] bring travelers checks and one or two major credit cards instead of cash. Pack an extra set of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport information page to make replacement of your passport easier in the event it is lost or stolen.

Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality and if possible, lock your luggage.

Consider getting a telephone calling card. It is a convenient way of keeping in touch. If you have one, verify that you can use it from your overseas location(s). Access numbers to U.S. operators are published in many international newspapers. Find out your access number before you go . . .

Don’t bring anything you would hate to lose. Leave at home:

*valuable or expensive-looking jewelry,

*irreplaceable family objects,

*all unnecessary credit cards.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.

Make two photocopies of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driver’s license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you. Leave one photocopy of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place separate from where you carry your valuables.

Leave a copy of the serial numbers of your travelers checks with a friend or relative at home. Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the checks, cross them off the list . . .

The Department of State’s Consular Information Sheets are available for every country of the world. They describe unusual entry, currency regulations or unusual health conditions, the crime and security situation, political disturbances, areas of instability, special information about driving and road conditions and drug penalties. They also provide addresses and emergency telephone numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates. In general, the sheets do not give advice. Instead, they describe conditions so travelers can make informed decisions about their trips.

In some dangerous situations, however, the State Department recommends that Americans defer travel to a country. In such a case, a Travel Warning is issued for the country in addition to its Consular Information Sheet.

Public Announcements are a means to disseminate information about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term and/or trans-national conditions posing significant risks to the security of American travelers. They are issued when there is a perceived threat usually involving Americans as a particular target group. In the past, Public Announcements have been issued to deal with short-term coups, pre-election disturbances, violence by terrorists and anniversary dates of specific terrorist events.

Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements are available at the 13 regional passport agencies; at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad; or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Overseas Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4818. They are also available through airline computer reservation systems when you or your travel agent make your international air reservations.

In addition, you can access Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements 24-hours a day in several [other] ways:


To listen to them, call (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone phone.


From your fax machine, dial (202) 647-3000, using the handset as you would a regular telephone. The system prompts you on how to proceed.


Information about travel and consular services is available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ World Wide Web home page. [. . .] It includes Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, passport and visa information, travel publications, background on international adoption and international child abduction services and international legal assistance. It also links to the State Department’s main Internet site, which contains current foreign affairs information.

Protection Against Terrorism

Terrorist acts occur at random and unpredictably, making it impossible to protect oneself absolutely. The first and best protection is to avoid travel to unsafe areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist attacks or kidnapping. The vast majority of foreign states have good records of maintaining public order and protecting residents and visitors within their borders from terrorism.

Most terrorist attacks are the result of long and careful planning. Just as a car thief will first be attracted to an unlocked car with the key in the ignition, terrorists are looking for defenseless, easily accessible targets who follow predictable patterns. The chances that a tourist, traveling with an unpublished program or itinerary, would be the victim of terrorism are slight. In addition, many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, may not [always] be looking for American targets . . .

The following pointers may help you avoid becoming a target of opportunity. [. . .] These precautions may provide some degree of protection, and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents to would-be terrorists.

*Schedule direct flights if possible and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.

*Consider other options for travel, such as trains.

*Be aware of what you discuss with strangers or what may be overheard by others.

*Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area.

*Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas. On arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.

*As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress and behavior which may identify you as an American.

*Keep an eye out for suspicious abandoned packages or briefcases. Report them to airport security or other authorities and leave the area promptly.

*Avoid obvious terrorist targets such as places where Americans and Westerners are known to congregate.

Travel To High-Risk Areas

If you must travel in an area where there has been a history of terrorist attacks or kidnapping, make it a habit to:

*Discuss with your family what they would do in the event of an emergency. Make sure your affairs are in order before leaving home.

*Register with the U.S. embassy or consulate upon arrival.

*Remain friendly but be cautious about discussing personal matters, your itinerary or program.

*Leave no personal or business papers in your hotel room.

*Watch for people following you or “loiterers” observing your comings and goings.

*Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, hospitals.

*Let someone [you trust] know what your travel plans are. Keep them informed if you change your plans.

*Avoid predictable times and routes of travel and report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

*Select your own taxi cabs at random. Don’t take a vehicle that is not clearly identified as a taxi.

*Compare the face of the driver with the one posted on his or her license.

*If possible, travel with others.

*Be sure of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room. Don’t meet strangers at unknown or remote locations.

*Refuse unexpected packages.

*Formulate a plan of action for what you will do if a bomb explodes or there is gunfire [. . .].

*Check for loose wires or other suspicious activity [on or around an aircraft, etc.].

*If you are ever in a situation where somebody starts shooting, drop to the floor or get down as low as possible. Don’t move until you are sure the danger has passed . . . If possible, shield yourself behind or under a solid object. If you must move, crawl on your stomach.


Hijacking/Hostage Situations

While every hostage situation is different and the chance of becoming a hostage is remote, some considerations are important.

The U.S. government’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists is firm – to do so would only increase the risk of further hostage-taking. When Americans are abducted overseas, we look to the host government to exercise its responsibility under international law to protect all persons within its territories and to bring about the safe release of hostages. We work closely with these governments from the outset of a hostage-taking incident to ensure that our citizens and other innocent victims are released as quickly and safely as possible.

Normally, the most dangerous phases of a hijacking or hostage situation are the beginning and, if there is a rescue attempt, [at] the end. [Particularly] at the outset, the terrorists typically are tense, high-strung and may behave irrationally. It is extremely important that you remain calm and alert and manage your own behavior.

Try to avoid resistance and sudden or threatening movements [unless it is absolutely necessary]. Do not struggle or try to escape unless you are certain of being successful [or you truly have no other choice].

Make a concerted effort to relax. Breathe deeply and prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally for the possibility of a long ordeal.

Try to remain inconspicuous, avoid direct eye contact and the appearance of observing your captors’ actions.

Avoid alcoholic beverages. Consume little food and drink.

Consciously put yourself in a mode of . . . cooperation. Talk normally. Do not complain, avoid belligerency, and comply with all orders and instructions.

If questioned, keep your answers short. Don’t volunteer information or make unnecessary overtures.

Maintain your sense of personal dignity and gradually increase your requests for personal comforts. Make these requests in a reasonable, low-key manner.

If you are involved in a lengthier, drawn-out situation, try to establish a rapport with your captors, avoiding political discussions or other confrontational subjects.

Establish a daily program of mental and physical activity. Don’t be afraid to ask for anything you need or want – medicines, books, pencils, papers.

Eat what they give you, even if it does not look or taste appetizing. A loss of appetite and weight is normal.

Think positively. Avoid a sense of despair. Rely on your inner resources. Remember that you are a valuable commodity to your captors. It is important to them to keep you alive and well.

Also, if you feel you must try to fight back – meaning if you believe you and the others have no other choice but to fight back – remember that the hijacker(s) will almost certainly be using some kind of makeshift knife in order to establish a sense of fear in the passengers, or at least something with which to stab or cut: guns are practically impossible to get aboard an aircraft, and most common knives would also fall into that category.

While they may indeed assert that a bomb is on the aircraft, they tend to realize that physically brandishing a weapon makes the possibility of a bomb quite tangible to those on the craft, and helps deter would-be heroes (most of the time).

Box cutters and other such mechanisms, which were allowed on board at the time of the 9-11 attack (the box cutters have since been banned) might possibly be smuggled on; and of course we’ve already heard that someone could conceivably even use the end of a broken wine bottle to cause all the fear and damage they wish..

What this means however is that the hijacker usually has the misfortune of having to be very close to a person in order to inflict damage; and, since he will have at best two or three other accomplices, he stands a very good chance of being outnumbered, provided others feel the situation to be as dire as you. If – again, only if – you feel the situation is truly dire, should you ever try to fight back. Simply put, the two best methods are:

*Throw whatever you can at the hijacker(s), preferably with others joining in as well. Disrupt all attempts for the hijacker(s) to control the situation.

*Conceivably, some type of stun gun would be an excellent deterrent; in fact, several in the airline industry have been fighting for flight crew members to possess these weapons aboard flights. It is a more reasoned approach than the air marshal firing a loaded pistol inside a pressurized cabin that’s flying thousands of feet in the air. While gunshots would surely bring down the hijacker(s), the immediate loss of cabin pressure would bring down the entire plane as well. A stun gun could incapacitate the hijacker without causing damage to either the cabin or others on board.

The problem with traditional stun guns is that they necessitate the user actually coming in contact with the hijacker – not a great plan, since they usually have a much more serious weapon.

A fine alternative for crew members (and perhaps even the passengers, if it would ever be allowed) would be a taser gun. These weapons contain a compression of either air or nitrogen that is used to shoot two small probes at an assailant up to 15 feet away. These probes are connected to the gun by high-voltage insulated wire.

When the probes attach to an assailant’s clothing, the gun immediately sends out a series of T-waves, electrical signals very similar to those used by the brain and other parts of the body to communicate with one another. The surge of T-waves effectively ‘jams’ the communication system of the body; the assailant loses control of his body and cannot perform coordinated actions. He will fall to the ground until he regains self-control some minutes later.

The T-waves can normally penetrate up to 2 inches of clothing; it causes no long-term damage, and is faster than mace or chemical sprays. You don’t have to be in contact with or even be very close to a person to give them the jolt of their lives, and the taser is sure not to depressurize your airplane cabin. And it is fully operational as a traditional stun gun if you come in close contact with the individual.

If the US government would ever allow passengers to bring tasers aboard, alcohol consumption aboard flights would have be banned immediately, however. Just ask any flight attendant.

If you’re interested in finding out more about such items, you may wish to check out this web site.

Naturally, you should try to plan such a move with others before you try such a thing, since there’s sure to be more than one hijacker if he’s the kind that likes to run planes into populated buildings.

And again we reiterate: such methods should only be used if it appears certain to you and others that there is no choice but to attack. September 11th aside, most of the time hijackings end peacefully. This is absolutely a last resort.

One other thing we should mention, if for no other reason than to give you an extra ray of hope: hijackers are almost always caught. The cases are too high-profile, and the stakes too high for a hijacking to end up otherwise. According to the FAA, “interference with the duties of any crew member is a violation of federal law. Fines could range up to $25,000 per violation in addition to criminal penalties. The FBI, federal enforcement agencies, airlines, crumblers and FAA have combined to vigorously pursue prosecution, which has resulted in imprisonment.”

Make sure to keep that in mind as well if you find yourself the sudden victim of a hijacking.


The Weapons of Choice for Terrorists

As the current World War on Terror has shown us, it is almost impossible to have a successful battle against those who would terrorize civilization unless all nations, regardless of origin, race, or creed, fight together. It’s true the attackers of New York and Washington were Muslims from the Middle East, and they were at least deeply involved with Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, if not actual members. But it’s also true that those forces who took on much of the brunt of the war effort in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were Muslims themselves, as are countries like neighboring Pakistan, which (regardless of their importance in creating the Taliban) have willfully provided essential support against those groups since the September 2001 terror attacks in America every step of the way.

This need to fight together is just as important in the skies, and at home. According to the FBI, in 1996 there were 3 terrorist incidents in the United States, as compared with 1 in 1995; zero in 1994; a spike to 12 in 1993; and 4 in 1992. The three incidents that occurred in 1996 involved pipe bombs, including the pipe bomb that exploded at the Atlanta Olympics.

According to intelligence agencies, conventional explosives and weapons continue to be the arms of choice for terrorists. Terrorists are less likely to use chemical and biological weapons, although the likelihood that terrorists may use such materials could increase over the next decade.

Another reason terrorists may not care for chemical and biological agents is that they are more difficult to weaponize, and the results are usually unpredictable.

According to the FBI, the threat of terrorists using chemical and biological weapons is low, but some such groups and individuals have been showing interest in these weapons since about 1998. US officials also “have noted that terrorists’ use of nuclear weapons is the least likely scenario, although the consequences could be disastrous,” according to one US government paper released in 1998.

It goes to show the importance of attacking this problem together, whether it be a group of national agencies, or a group on a hijacked plane. Whatever happens, we must work together to ensure that a hijacking ordeal ends as safely as possible, for the greatest number of people possible. It’s the only way an enemy of this kind can truly be defeated.


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How to survive a tornado

How to Survive Killer Tornadoes
By Cliff Montgomery –

“Killer Twisters Claim 43 Along Tornado Alley,” newspaper headlines exclaimed on May 9, 1999. Just the evening before, a powerful tornado packing winds of more than 260 miles per hour ripped a swath a mile wide through Oklahoma City and its suburbs, chewing up homes and trucks in its path.The deadliest tornadoes to strike Oklahoma in more than 50 years, these forceful twisters served as a fresh reminder of the wonderful, horrible power of nature.

It also serves as a warning for the rest of us of the need to prepare against nature’s grandest atmospheric force, the tornado. At their greatest strength, twisters can approach speeds of 320 miles per hour – enough power to level the best-constructed brick walls, rip large homes from their foundations and up into the air, and throw tractor-trailers a distance of about 300 feet.

The greatest and most frequent tornado occurrences happen in the United States. Tornadoes can in fact form in any state, but they occur most frequently in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.

Whether you live in this group of states – often called “Tornado Alley” – or not, spring brings the increased possibility of a deadly tornado. Are you prepared?

Secrets of Survival will help you learn about the atmospheric events that signal the possibility of a tornado, and what safety measures you can take to survive if a twister hits.

‘The Finger of God’

The National Weather Service defines a tornado as “a violently rotating column of air pendant from a thunderstorm cloud and touching the ground.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a longer but much clearer definition:

A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. It is spawned by a thunderstorm (or sometimes as a result of a hurricane) and produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. The damage from a tornado is a result of the high wind velocity and wind-blown debris. Tornado season is generally March through August, although tornadoes can occur at any time of year. They tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings: over 80 percent of all tornadoes strike between noon and midnight.

Each year, about 100,000 thunderstorms form over the United States. Between 600 and 1,000 of those thunderstorms will give birth to tornadoes.

Some may also remember the now famous quote from the film ‘Twister’, when a character asked a group of meteorologists following a series of tornadoes – “storm chasers” – how they would define the strongest twisters. After a moment of silence, one of them replies with a depth of feeling approaching awe that such an event is “the finger of God.”

That’s a high statement. But there’s something about the greatest tornadoes that makes the highness hard to dismiss.

Some quick facts:

*Tornadoes are the most destructive of all weather-related events, and produce the most violent winds on earth. Winds inside the greatest twisters can swirl well over 300 mph.

*Tornadoes can be nearly invisible, marked only by swirling debris at the base of the funnel. Some are composed almost entirely of windblown dust; others can be composed of several mini-funnels.

*Twisters can reach heights of 60,000 feet into the atmosphere.

*On average, during a tornado’s ‘path’ – the total area certain to suffer at least some destruction by its deadly force – the twister will travel about 4 miles on the ground and cut a swath about 400 yards wide; but the worst ones can travel for 100 miles and be as large as a mile wide.

*The average tornado travels along the ground at a speed of 25 to 40 mph., but can go from one place to the next at speeds of up to 70 mph.

*Twisters stay on the ground for an average of four to five minutes; however, a tornado can touch down several times.

*Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast.

*Most twisters in the Northern Hemisphere rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. Most in the Southern Hemisphere rotate in a clockwise direction.

*Building damage during a tornado happens when high winds cause a buildup of pressure on building surfaces. This pressure is wind velocity squared.

*Most tornadoes occur between 3 pm and 7 pm

*Tornadoes occur throughout the world; however, the greatest number and most intense, deadly tornadoes occur in the United States.

*About 800 tornadoes touch down in the United States each year.

*Half of all tornadoes occur during the spring months of April, May, and June.

*Only 2 percent of tornadoes are considered violent, but those storms cause 70 percent of tornado-related deaths.

*In November 1988, a rash of 121 tornadoes struck 15 south central states, resulting in 14 lives lost and damages reaching $108 million.

*According to the National Weather Service, about 42 people are killed because of tornadoes each year.

Luckily, we are not mere sitting ducks, even against something as powerful and unpredictable as a twister. Every year, scientists and meteorologists are learning more about the formation and behavior of the mighty winds. This has resulted in quicker and more reliable emergency broadcasts accurately predicting where a tornado will appear and its probable path.

For instance, the quick reports of twisters possibly headed into the heart of Oklahoma City in May of ’99 certainly saved many lives. Those reports were only possible because of what had been learned about twisters in the early and mid-90s.

Also, the fact that tornadoes usually strike between 3-7 pm gives us a fairly certain time frame in which to look out for them, and ensures us that most people will be awake and will probably hear reports immediately if a dangerous situation arises.

And in the US, if a situation begins as we’re outside away from a radio or TV or when we’re asleep, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alert radio receiver – equipped with the famous warning siren – can warn of an impending tornado if people are away from the usual immediate sources.


The Fujita – Pearson (FPP) Tornado Scale

Shortly, this is a system of estimating and reporting both tornadic wind intensity, devised by Professor T. Theodore Fujita (1920-1998), and path length and width by Allen Pearson in 1971. It was quickly taken up as the best means to rate a twister’s destructive capacity. The scale is based on the damage a tornado causes on man-made structures.

According to Fujita and Pearson, the size of a tornado’s funnel is not an indication of its intensity. The Fujita Scale is therefore based on damage, not the appearance of the funnel.

*F0 – Gale Tornado 40-72 mph

Path length 0.3-0.9 miles; path width 6-17 yards

Light damage; Some damage to chimneys; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over; sign boards damaged.

F1 – Moderate Tornado (73 – 112 mph)

Path length: 1.0-3.1 miles; path width: 18-55 yards

Moderate damage; The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peels surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the road; attached garages may be destroyed.

F2 – Significant Tornado (113 – 157 mph)

Path length: 3.2-9.9 miles; path width: 56-175 yards

Considerable damage; entire roofs torn from frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated.

F3 – Severe Tornado (158 – 206 mph)

Path length: 10-31 miles; path width: 176-566 yards

Severe damage; walls torn from well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forests uprooted; heavy cars lifted off ground and thrown.

F4 – Devastating Tornado (207 – 260 mph) Path length: 32-99 miles; path width: 0.3-0.9 miles

Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundations blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.

F5 – Incredible Tornado (261 – 318 mph) Path length: 100-315 miles; path width: 1.0-3.1 miles

Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air 100 yards or more; trees debarked; steel reinforced concrete structures badly damaged.



Since we are going on about the awesome power that a tornado can bring, we at Secrets of Survival should definitely live up to our name and remind our readers that under no circumstances should they ever attempt to follow or chase a twister down. They are, for all practical purposes, still quite unpredictable, and may surge with far greater strength, disappear and reappear, or change direction at a moment’s notice.

We are a survival site, and so the very best advice we can give is to let the storm chasing to those who are either sufficiently trained, or simply stupid enough, to follow one of these things. You’re not actors on a movie set; there is no take two in real-life. Your only worry should be to protect yourself, those you care for, and your home as best you can. How do you do that?


Protecting Yourself Against the Twister

Many thanks here to both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) for their detailed information on how one can best prepare for a twister – before it hits, as it’s sweeping over you, and immediately after the event.

Many may suppose that they need only worry about the funnel cloud as it sweeps over them; but without the right preparations beforehand or maintaining the correct behavior afterward, a person could still easily end up becoming one of those injured, if not worse. Avoid such problems by knowing what to do before it happens.

Before a Tornado

The best precautions before a twister hits:

Determine the best location in both your home and place of employment in which to seek shelter when threatened by a tornado. A basement or cellar will usually afford the best protection. If an underground shelter is not available, identify an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor.

Conduct periodic tornado safety drills with your family.

Especially if you live in ‘tornado alley’, you should know the locations of designated shelters in places where you and your family spend time, such as public buildings, nursing homes and shopping centers. Ask whether your children’s’ schools have identified shelter space.

Have emergency supplies on hand.

Learn how to shut off the utilities to your home.

Decide how and when your family will reunite, if separated.

Make an inventory of your possessions. Take photographs of or videotape your belongings. Keep records in a safe deposit box or some other safe place away from the premises.

Here’s an idea; purchase a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio with battery backup and tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a Watch or Warning is issued. Or simply purchase a battery-powered commercial radio, and extra batteries. Whichever you use, make sure from time to time that you know where the radio is, that it still works, and that all the batteries are still good.

Make sure you know the names of the towns and counties in which you live, work and haunt. They are used during both tornado warnings and watches to identify the area of potential tornadoes; therefore a solid knowledge here is essential. Keep a good, easy-to-read map in your car if you travel frequently, one that clearly details names of counties – which authorities use as the principal markers in spotting tornado activity – as well as towns.

Also, remember the terms used to describe tornado threats: Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning. What’s the difference?

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is the time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located.

During a tornado watch, observe the sky and listen to radio or television for more information. Be prepared to take shelter. If you see any revolving funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately by telephone to your local law enforcement agency. If they appear to be headed your way, seek shelter in a well-constructed, sturdy building or structure as soon as possible.

For some reason, God seems to hate mobile homes. In all honesty though, if you do live in a mobile home, this is the time to temporarily move to a more substantial structure. Many advise either moving to such a location or going outside, lying down in a ‘low-lying area’ and waiting for the ‘Finger of God’ to strike only after tornadoes begin appearing around your location. But to us here at Secrets of Survival, that smacks of last-minute desperation.

Besides, we never much cared for lying in ditches anyway – not if we could ever avoid it, ant any rate. Don’t wait till the last minute. Make sure you, and those you care for, are protected. If you live in a mobile home, move to a more substantial structure during a tornado watch and stay there until the watch has passed.

A tornado warning however is issued when a tornado has been actually sighted or indicated by weather radar. During a tornado warning, everyone should take shelter, turn on a battery-operated radio or television, and wait for the “all clear” announcement by authorities.

If you’ve heard there’s a tornado warning in your area, call your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter about it if you care to know more. Also ask about community warning signals.

If there’s one thing we can’t stress enough, it’s that you need to have your wits about you, and use all your senses in determining any danger. If you know there’s a tornado warning in your area and the skies around you look particularly dark, or there seems to have been a sudden drop in barometric pressure, seek shelter immediately. Take along at least a radio (any one will do but an NOAA radio would admittedly be best) and some water if you can.

Watch for any unusual behavior out of animals: does your dog or cat seem particularly anxious? Does there seem to be a sudden drop of birds in your area, especially since the skies have become darker or the pressure has fallen? That may also be a good indication that a twister is about to appear in your immediate area. Seek shelter when you can, taking with you the things mentioned above.

If there’s one constant with a twister, it’s the sound that accompanies the tornado: it has most often been described as a deep rumble that builds into a roar.

Even if there hasn’t been a tornado watch called in your area, if there is at least a tornado warning in your county or if the skies seem particularly ominous and the air possesses that drop in air pressure, and you begin to hear such a steady sound, seek shelter immediately. Unless you live next to a train station or airport runway (the sound of a twister has been compared to the long, low rumble of a speeding train more than anything else), you should not be hearing such a sound.

Don’t bother to go outside and investigate; it may be too late for that. The suddenness with which a twister can attack deserves special consideration when we know there’s such a weather problem anywhere in our immediate area.

The simplest advice? Be ready to take shelter if and when the need calls for it.



During a Tornado

When a tornado has been sighted in your immediate area take the following actions:

At Home

Go at once to your predetermined shelter (the basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building). Stay there until the danger has passed.

If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.

However much you want to see the storm, stay away from all windows, doors, and outside walls.

Go directly to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris. Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table and hold on to it for all you’re worth.

Use sofa cushions or your arms to protect your head and neck.

If in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter elsewhere. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. If there isn’t a substantial shelter nearby, seek shelter in a low-lying area. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

In a Public Building (School, Hospital, Factory, Shopping Center, etc.)

Go to the basement or to an inside hallway, a small, interior room, or a bathroom or closet on the lowest possible level.

Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums, and large hallways.

Stay away from windows and open spaces.

Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.


If possible, get inside a substantial building.

If shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch, culvert, or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Use your arms to protect your head and neck. Be alert for potential flash flooding.

In A Vehicle

Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Heavy rain, hail, and traffic may impede your movement, and tornadoes can travel as quickly as 70mph over dry land. Tornadoes can quickly change directions, and can easily lift up a vehicle and toss it through the air.

Pull to the side of the road avoiding trees, power lines and other objects that could fall or be hazardous.

Get out of the vehicle immediately and try to take shelter in a nearby building.

If there isn’t time to get indoors, get out of the vehicle and lie in a ditch, culvert, or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.



After a Tornado

Monitor the radio or television for emergency information or instructions.

Check for injured victims. Render first aid if necessary.

Do not attempt to move severely injured victims unless absolutely necessary. Wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive.

Look out for broken glass and downed power lines.

Use the telephone only for emergency calls.

Try to get out of damaged buildings. Once out, do not reenter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Use great caution at all times.

Take photos or videotape the damage to your home or property.

If driving, be alert for hazards in the roadway.

Check on neighbors/relatives who may require special assistance.

If unaffected by the tornado, stay out of the damaged area until allowed in by officials; your presence may hamper emergency operations.


The Most Important Reminders

1.The best protection during a tornado is in an interior room on the lowest level of a building, preferably a safe room.

2.Tornadoes strike with incredible velocity. Wind speeds may approach 320 miles per hour. These winds can uproot trees and structures and turn harmless objects into deadly missiles, all in a matter of seconds. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes.

3.Injury or deaths related to tornadoes most often occur when buildings collapse, people are hit by flying objects or are caught trying to escape the tornado in a car.

4.Tornadoes are most destructive when they touch ground. Normally a tornado will stay on the ground for no more than 20 minutes; however, one tornado can touch ground several times in different areas.

5.Tornadoes can occur practically anywhere, but are most prevalent in the US, and are most frequent in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest. The states of Oklahoma, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are at greatest risk.


Raising Awareness

The media can raise awareness about tornadoes by providing important information to the community. A few quick suggestions:

1.Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information about tornadoes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross, and hospitals.

2.Periodically inform your community of local public warning systems.

3.Sponsor a “Helping Your Neighbor” program at your local schools to encourage children to think of those persons who require special assistance such as elderly people, infants, or people with disabilities.

4.Conduct a series on how to protect yourself during a tornado in case you are at home, in a car, at the office, or outside.

5.Interview local officials about what people living in mobile home parks should do if a tornado warning is issued.

Many homes in the US ‘Deep South’ are for some reason built without a basement – a fact that is particularly strange since so many southern states are part of ‘tornado alley’. In apparent response to this, a word from FEMA:

FEMA is urging people who live in tornado-prone areas to make sure they have a tornado-safe place to go during a tornado. In the absence of a basement, a tornado-safe room build within the house will protect your family during a tornado. Properly built safe rooms can provide protection against winds of 250 miles per hour and against flying objects traveling at 100 miles per hour. The plans for the safe rooms were developed along with the Wind Engineering Research Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

There’s no word on price; if you wish to know more, feel free to check out FEMA’s web site.

Since we’re passing out links, we thought it a good idea to pass on a few links to some excellent sites that give the reader interesting tornado information as well. Enjoy.

Tornado Project Online – This is the definitive site for tornado information. If you can’t find it anywhere else, you’ll probably find it here.

Storm Prediction Center – This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association site provides lots of interesting and useful information about severe storms, including tornadoes.

WeatherOnline – This is a fine source for up-to-the-minute weather information.

National Weather Service (Interactive Weather Information Network (IWIN)) – This is another good source for current weather information.


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Top Twenty Survival items for any disaster

Top 20 Emergency Supplies We Recommend to Survive Any Disaster —

It’s important to have the right emergency supplies in your home before disaster hits.

Nowadays, no continent on Earth is safe from catastrophe, and the same can be said for most U.S. states.

In 2004, over 300,000 people lost their lives in South Asia from the most devastating tsunami on record. A year later, here in America, New Orleans was all but destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Just a few months ago, Southern California was devastated by the worst wild fires in our nation’s history. On top of that, over a million people had to be evacuated, which was the largest evacuation of U.S. citizens since the Civil War.

Then a severe ice storm shut down power across the Midwest, leaving over a million people without heat and electricity for a number of days. A few lost their lives.

Our planet is clearly going through perilous changes. The fact that the polar ice caps are melting, and the fact that the weather is getting more severe all around the globe — well, it looks like disasters are going to become more commonplace — and kill a lot more people.

Many believe this is in fact the beginning of the “birth pains” that Jesus warned in Matthew 24 would take place. Whatever your beliefs are, it looks like it’s going to get a lot worse for the people of planet Earth.

If your area is hit by a major disaster, there’s a good chance that you won’t have any access to emergency supplies, and what stores do stock essential supplies are likely to be quickly sold or even taken by looters, as tens of thousands of people in nearby communities literally break down the doors of stores to get their hands on food and supplies.

Here is a list of the top 20 items believes would be smart to have on hand. Not only should you have these on hand, but explain to your family members where they can find these items in your house (should something happen to you).

You Need:

1) Large Supply of Bottled Water, and the knowledge to procure water from contaminated sources. Two of the most common methods for procuring drinking water from contaminated sources are called “distilling” (which involves boiling water and collecting the steam in a “run-off” that then drips clean water into a separate container); the other method is called “filtering”, which involves pouring water through a manufactured or home-made “filter” system, in an effort to remove contaminates.

Before disaster hits, do some research online, and learn “how to distill water” and “how to filter contaminated water”. Then practice these methods at home with your family.

When shopping for bottled water, look specifically for “Food grade” water storage containers. These range in size from 1 gallon to 5 gallon jugs, to 55 gallon barrels and 250 gallon and 500 gallon mega-size containers (see link labeled “Water Storage Containers” at the top of the page).

2) Non-perishable Food – This refers to any food that does not need refrigeration and is packaged, canned, or bottled in a way to provide a long shelf life. Be sure to check expiration dates (see link labeled “Food Supplies” at the top of the page).

3) Candles / Wooden Matches / Lighters – (Candles, such as Sterno’s 60 Hour Emergency Candle) are specifically made to burn for longer amounts of time than traditional decorative candles. Like bottled water, it’s good to have a large supply of emergency candles, wooden matches, and lighters. A few weeks down the road, candles are likely to become your only light source, especially if firewood runs low and those wind-up emergency flashlights stop working.

4) Light weight Axe – Firewood is the most obvious source to provide heat during cold temperatures, and as long as you have a good axe, you can turn just about anything into firewood. Even if you don’t have a fireplace, you can still build a makeshift fireplace or wood stove in your backyard out of rocks and mud (usable once the mud dries). You can also use a patio fire pit, as commonly sold at home improvement stores, such as Lowes and Home Depot. (If you build an outdoor fireplace, remove the grill from the oven in the kitchen of your house, and use it for outside cooking, in conjunction with your firepit.)

Choose an axe that is both heavy duty, and light weight, because you may end up carrying it in a backpack over long distances, and the less it weighs, the better.

5) Propane for Cooking – There is something even more useful than firewood (in the early weeks of disaster), and that is propane.

Propane is the most obvious fuel source to keep on your property, and most people who own a bar-b-cue usually have one multi gallon propane tank tucked underneath or to the side. In preparing your home for disaster, if you have the money to spend, consider buying and filling five to ten of these. Or better yet, just as RV owners do, you can buy propane tanks that are extra large in capacity, and hold a lot more propane than typical 13 gallon bar-b-cue tanks.

Propane is a great survival tool in emergencies because it can be used for both cooking and heating (but I suggest it only be used for cooking, and that you get your heat from other sources, such as warm clothing and warm blankets; this way you use as little propane as possible, making it last longer).

Be sure to store any propane in your garage, or in a shed, or outside under a tarp – don’t store it in your home, as it can have a slow leak and poison the air.

Rather than use propane to fuel a full size bar-b-cue, I suggest you buy a much smaller compact propane stove, as commonly used for camping, as the right stove will be much more efficient, and use the least amount of propane.

6) Propane Camp Stove – As propane is the most common fuel used in outdoor bar-b-cues, a smaller two burner camp stove is best, for emergency purposes. When selecting a camp stove, choose one that can handle repeat long term use.

Warning about Lawlessness – In the event of a catastrophe, looters may be out scavenging for propane tanks, so keep yours well hidden, as much as possible. If you’re doing any outside cooking, keep in mind that the smell of your food can drift for a far distance, catching the attention of scavengers, who (in the wake up lawlessness) may be willing to kill or seriously injure you, to take any and all water, food, and other supplies you have on your property.

7) First Aid Kit – Make sure you have a well stocked first aid kit, which are commonly sold at drugstores and back country stores. With your kit, be sure to include a generous supply of Ibuprofen (pain reliever and fever reducer), and antiseptic spray for burns, stings, and cuts. Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are also recommended by some, for washing out wounds, in preporation for bandaging. Anti-diarrhea medication is also recommended, as there is a chance you may eat contaminated food or drink contaminated water at some point, and suffer from it.

8) Radio and batteries – A small emergency radio is good to have around; if news is still broadcasting you can pick up reports to find out how the rest of the nation is faring during this time of devastation. A radio is only as good as the amount of batteries you have to power it, so keep a generous supply. Nowadays, there are emergency radios for under $50 that do not need batteries, but have a wind up dial that you crank, to generate power for up to 30 minutes or more. It might be smart to have both, this way if the wind up dial ever breaks, you still have a back up radio with batteries.

9) Flashlight / Lantern – it’s good to have 2 – 3 flashlights on hand, that are heavy duty and can withstand moisture and being dropped. Headlamps are even better, as you can wear them around your head, which frees up your hands for other use.

Today there are lanterns and flashlights that don’t need batteries; like the emergency radios mentioned above, these usually generate power by a wind up dial, and some smaller flashlights you activate by “shaking” for a short period of time. As it’s not known how reliable these devices are with repeat use, I suggest that you have both battery operated flashlights / headlamps, in addition to the wind up flashlights and wind up lanterns.

10) Heavy Duty Tarp – Tarp is sold in most home improvement stores; choose a dark color that doesn’t stand out (in case you ever have to hide out in the forest), and have 3 – 5 tarps of various sizes. Tarp can be used for a number of things – from building shelters in the forest, to building shelters underground.

Rain Catch –Tarp can also be used as a “rain catch” for catching rain water, for drinking. Lay the tarp out flat, and then hoist it into the air from all four corners, so it sags in the middle; this is where water from any rain will collect.

Warm Room – Tarp can also be used to help insulate a “warm room”, which is a room that is set aside in your house where all family members can meet together at night, to conserve body heat. Just as children like to build “forts”, choose one room in your house that you can seal off at night, and build a “fort” inside.

Stuff a bath towel or blanket under the door crack to keep the cold from coming in and to keep body heat from escaping. Also, hang up towels and blankets over the window, and even seal off with tarp and duct tape to help keep warmth from escaping at night through the window pane.

Now that you have a “warm room” sealed off in your house, build a “children’s fort” inside (out of tarp and blankets) that is big enough for your family to then crawl inside and sleep in. This is almost like the “igloo” such as Eskimos build in the freezing snow of Alaska. You’ll find that your body heat from you / your group will help keep this space at a warmer temperature than the rest of the house.

11) Bowie Knife – A good knife is an essential, and is going to cost some money. When choosing a knife, look for one where the blade runs to the bottom of the handle; and make sure that the store that you’re buying it from understands that you intend to do a lot of wood carving with it, so you absolutely need a knife with a handle that won’t fall apart with repeat use. (If by chance you have to flee your home and community at some point, a good Bowie knife – also called a “Survival knife” – can be used to carve a long bow, for bow and arrow hunting like the Indians of early America. For this reason, as well as for cutting up and carving game that you’ve killed (such as deer or elk), it is very important that the handle of your knife be exceptionally durable.)

Gerber LMF 2 Folding Knife Infantry w/ Black Blade

The Gerber LMFII was designed in conjunction with military and military instructors to be used in any survival situation.


12) Hiking Boots – Like your bowie knife, expect to spend some money on hiking boots. You want a pair that are going to last you, and not fall apart if by chance you end up wearing them for two years or more straight. When selecting a boot, let the store know that you need a pair that is built to withstand heavy hiking, and that is the least likely to need any repairs on the trail. You want a boot where the bottom sole is “stitched” to the rest of the boot, instead of simply glued to it, which is how most cheaper boots come.

13) Compass – If you have to flee your community, or if you’ve simply taken to nearby forests to hunt and fish for food, a good compass and knowing how to use it is an important tool to have. Some compasses even come with a built in thermometer and signaling mirror, which can help you out in a survival situation.

14) Bear Pepper Spray – Whether it’s wild dogs that have gotten loose, or cougars or bears that have strayed down into your community – pepper spray that’s strong enough to ward off Grizzly bears – called “Bear Pepper Spray” for it’s strength – can prove to be a life saver. Consider buying 3 – 5 large bottles, or one for each member of your family. You can also use it to fend off looters (as long as they’re not pointing a gun at you).

Guard Alaska Bearspray – Bear Protection – Self Defense


15) Cold Weather Sleeping Bag – To make sure that you’re protected by any exceptional drop in temperature, you should consider buying a sleeping bag that can hold up with repeat use, and will keep you warm to twenty degrees below zero. Depending on where you live in America – you’ll probably want to go even colder than that.

-22º Nato Military Issue Antarctica Sleeping Bag



16) Cold Weather Parka and Snow Pants – Since you might find yourself out in cold weather during the day time, as you collect firewood, help out neighbors, and hunt and fish for food, it’s important to have the right coat and pants that can withstand the elements, especially snow and slush. As an added bonus, if you have to flee your community, you can even sleep in your coat and pants, if they’re layered right and / or rated to keep you warm enough.

17) Personal Hygiene Items – In preparation for a widespread disaster, and the possible collapse of government and our entire economy, you should be aware that the next time you go shopping at a supermarket, it could be your last. If the economy falls, stores are going to fast run out of food and supplies, and without new shipments coming, there will be no more stores to buy from. Not only is your money likely to be useless, but the items that you do need are going to be in high demand, which probably means very hard to come by.

Stock up now on toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss (the last thing you want to have happen is a dental emergency, when there are no more dentists available), bar soap for bathing, shampoo, bleach, bleach wipes (very handy), and laundry detergent. If you minimize your use of these items, you can make them last many months.

18) Outdoor Clothing – If disaster strikes, there’s a good chance you won’t be reporting to work in an office downtown, but you may find yourself helping out neighbors and others in your community by building shelters and reparing houses that may have been damaged. With this in mind, be sure to have clothing that can handle being outside in the elements.

Consider stocking up on clothing that’s geared for heavy use, such as that sold by outdoor clothing stores, such as Carhart. Have an assortment of pants, sweat pants, sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, thermal underwear, and a few pairs of wool socks. If you can afford to buy more than the average person, don’t hesitate to do so.

When preparing for a natural disaster or large scale terrorist attack (such as a nuclear detonation in a nearby city), there’s no such thing as being over-prepared.

Buying More than You Need – Helping out other people in need – especially in an emergency, such as a widespread natural disaster – is the right thing to do. Be generous with what you have, and generous with what you know. Be prepared to teach your neighbors some of the methods you should start teaching yourself, such as how to distill water from contaminated sources, as well as how to make home-made water filters (which I link to at the top of this article) for procuring water that’s safe to drink.

While you’re taking steps toward preparing for disaster, most people aren’t, and when disaster strikes, they are simply not going to be prepared. Many are going to be without food and water and other items essential to survival.

Helping Friends, Family, and Neighbors – Please keep that in mind, and as much as possible, consider buying more than your family needs, so you can help out your neighbors (in addition to friends and family that may live nearby) when disaster finally strikes. They’re going to need food and water also.

Consider sharing this article with them, and talking about some of the basic steps every person should take in preparing their home for an extended emergency, where the electricity is down indefinitely, and there is no tap water, grocery store, or gasoline available for transportation.

19) Hiking Backpack – Things might get bad. Really bad. You and your family might have to flee the area; in fact you might have to flee the entire state.

If you still have a vehicle, and you have a full tank of gas, and there’s still a road to drive on – great, you’re in luck. Start driving and get out of dodge.

But at some point you’re going to run out of gas, and any gas station you come to is likely to be closed and out of operation.

When that happens, strap on your hiking backpack, and start walking. Have a detailed map of the state, and a detailed map of the U.S. and Canada.

No More Road? Just Follow the Railroad Tracks – If for some reason it’s not safe to travel by road, you can always travel by walking alongside railroad tracks. Make sure you have a specific map that includes railroad track routes, and then consider following one or more (make sure you have a good compass, and know how to use it before hand).

Railroad tracks criss-cross the continent (many in North-South and East-West directions), and may provide a safe passage should roads ever be un-safe to travel by.

No matter where you are in the United States, the smartest destination for fleeing the nation is probably NORTH (not south into Mexico or southern U.S. states) and into Canada, and perhaps a good idea to head for the foot hills of the Canadian Rockies; you may even make it to Alaska. But truly who needs to go that far?

In a worst case scenario, that’s why it’s important to have a full size backpack, as commonly used by hikers and the military for multi-day hikes. If in a disaster situation you ever have to flee your community – and have to leave your car behind – having a hiking backpack means you and your family can strap essential survival gear onto your backs, and make your way to safety.

But what if the next diaster is so widespread that the power doesn’t come back on?

This question brings us to the most important item on this top 20 list of items essential for survival –

20) Holy Bible – Believe it or not, this world is not going to last forever, and neither are you. It can be quite useful to calm yourself and others as you address the challenges.

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How to protect your watercraft

Off season is prime time for boat thieves

Unlike other popular cruising areas around the country — and the world — boat crime is rarely a topic of conversation among boaters in the Northwest. It’s rare to see dinghies padlocked to the dock and all too common to find a spare key in the lazaret. It’s one of the perks of living in an area of vast natural beauty and relatively safe conditions.

But boat crime in the Northwest is far from unusual. And winter, when marinas are quiet and boats are left unattended for long periods, is prime time for boat thieves. In some cases, boat owners don’t even find out they are victims of theft until weeks or months afterward.

“Winter is when things tend to disappear because marinas tend to become ghost towns,” said Bob Adriance, editor of Seaworthy, the news journal of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance. “This is when it’s more likely to happen. It’s empty and quiet, so it’s easy to slip in and slip out.”

Unsecured dinghies are a popular target for thieves.

A 10-year study of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance claims found that personal watercraft (PWCs), which can be easily moved and sold, are the most common type of watercraft stolen, at a rate of 10 per 1,000 boats. Cabin cruisers are next at a rate of eight per 1,000, followed by runabouts (two per 1,000).

Not surprisingly, slower boats such as trawlers and sailboats are less frequently targets, being stolen at rates of 3 and 2.5 per 10,000, respectively.

But theft of equipment from boats is far more common than outright theft of boats. The top three items stolen from boaters over the winter, according to BoatU.S. Marine Insurance, are electronics, outboards and outdrives.

Scott Rohrer, a senior marine specialist at Rich Haynie Insurance in Seattle, said he’s noted an uptick in thefts of outboards and dinghies in the spring, when they can be sold for use during the upcoming boating season.

“The lawful and law-abiding boater has the same boating season as the thief,” he said.

Larry Montgomery, a principal surveyor and Pacific region manager for Montgomery Survey, Inc., said boat crime has been “constant and ongoing” in the 30 years he’s been practicing in the Northwest. The thefts he encounters fall into three main categories, Montgomery said: boats under 23 feet stolen on their trailers from yards and storage areas, easily movable equipment such as outboard motors and fishfinders, and high-end items such as entertainment systems and flat-screen televisions taken from yachts in the 50- to 65-foot range.

Incidents in the latter category, Montgomery said, tend to come in waves. The thieves often start in one area of Puget Sound and work their way north or south, he said, hitting a dozen or so boats and targeting vessels with high-value, popular consumer items that can be resold. Sophisticated and organized, they often arrive by skiff at night armed with bolt cutters or other tools that enable them to get in and out quickly.

“They can be in and out in 10 or 15 minutes and do some heavy damage to furniture,” Montomgery said. “If you have a built-in system, they don’t mind breaking (cabinets) or that kind of thing. They just want the heavy-duty electronics.”

Montgomery has also seen several cases in the past few years in which thieves break in and live aboard unattended boats for several days, often doing drug deals and partying.

“Those are particularly traumatic for the owners because what’s left behind is not a pretty scene – drug needles, they use the bedding, raid the refrigerator, consume the alcohol and they’re not necessarily the neatest or the cleanest kinds of people,” he said.

“In the thefts I’ve (dealt with) in the last 20 years, not a single one has resulted in a criminal prosecution,” he said. “A good thief that’s committed and very professional, they’re hard to catch.”

Would you leave your car unlocked on the street? Or hide a house key under the welcome mat by your front door?

Probably not. Yet many otherwise security-conscious boaters think nothing of leaving dinghies unsecured, outboard motors unlocked and boat keys hidden in obvious places.

Boat crime isn’t something Northwest boaters typically worry about. But if you become the unlucky victim of a boat thief, chances are you’ll never see your vessel again. According to the International Association of Marine Investigators (IAMI), about 1,000 boats are stolen each month in the United States and fewer than 10 percent are ever recovered.

An even bigger risk is theft of equipment from boats, with the top three items stolen being electronics, outboards and outdrives, according to BoatU.S. Marine Insurance. Realizing that boats are seldom equipped with security systems, boat thieves will strip vessels for equipment that can easily be resold.

So what can boaters do to protect their property? Law enforcement officials say anything a boat owner can do to increase the time or difficulty it takes to steal a boat will help deter thieves.

One important consideration is where you keep your boat. Opportunistic thieves will seek out dark docks and areas without security cameras. And if you think a locked door at the top of the dock will stop them, think again.

“They almost always come by water,” said Larry Montgomery, principal surveyor and Pacific region manager for Montgomery Maritime Survey, Inc. “If they can find a boat that’s in a dark area and come in by skiff at 2 or 3 in the morning, it’s pretty hard to detect.”

Montgomery recommends that owners keep their boats in well-lit areas and in marinas with security officers if possible. More importantly, he said, boat owners should check on their boats frequently and make arrangements with other owners nearby to check on each other’s boats.

“Don’t rely on public agencies. Don’t rely on marina security,” he said. “Just like Block Watch, get to know who’s in your area.”

Trailerable boats are also an easy target for thieves. Nearly 90 percent of stolen boats are on a trailer when they are taken, according to Todd Schwede of Todd & Associates, Inc., a San Diego firm that specializes in stolen vessel surveys and investigations.

Schwede recommends that owners use a good coupler lock, which costs about $30, rather than a hitch lock, to secure boats on trailers. Trailer wheel locks, which cost about $90, can also be effective in preventing trailer theft.

If possible, park your trailer away from the road. If your boat is stored in a driveway, don’t leave the trailer hitch facing the street. If possible, chain the trailer to a tree or a sturdy post. Another safeguard is to remove one or more tires and store them elsewhere, along with the lug nuts – not only does that make it impossible for a thief to tow the trailer, it also reduces the chance of a flat and prolongs the life of the tires.

Equally important is protecting engines and outdrives from thieves. Mark Feinman, engine specialist for the BoatU.S. Special Order Center, says a skilled thief can remove an outdrive in 15 to 20 minutes and generally do it quietly, without attracting attention. Feinman recommends reversing the bolts that hold the outdrive and replacing the nuts, which would only be accessible from the inside, with Nylock nuts. That will make it much more difficult for a thief to remove the outdrive.

Alternatively, one of the nuts can be replaced with a locking nut for about $20. An outdrive lock — a locking plate that prevents access to mounting bolts — costs about $250 and can provide a higher level of security, since the plates take a considerable amount of effort to remove.

Boat owners might also consider investing in a security system, which run the gamut from basic to sophisticated. A relatively simple option is a battery or fuel cutoff switch designed to prevent a thief from stealing your boat while it’s on the water. A hidden ignition cut-off switch can be an effective deterrent for boats moored in slips, and another option is to wire a siren directly from the battery to the battery switch with its own inline on-off switch; with the switch on, the siren will sound as soon as the battery is turned on.

The next step up is electronic detection systems, which can range from simple motion detectors available for around $50 to a GPS/cellular tracking system costing more than $500 (plus a monthly subscription fee) that notifies you if your boat leaves its “geofence” area. Other systems can monitor door switches, glass breakage detectors and shock wave detectors, and can be interfaced with pressure sensors expoxied under decks. The sensors can detect footsteps or even monitor sensor “snaps” that replace regular snaps on canvas and will trigger an alarm if an enclosure or cover is opened.

BoatU.S. Marine Insurance also offers the following tips for making your boat less vulnerable:

Use locks on props, outboards and outdrives. Buy good quality, hardened steel locks that aren’t easily broken.

Whenever possible, store equipment at home. A small outboard engine is much safer in your garage than hanging on your boat’s transom.

Consider upgrading your cabin doors or hatch boards with locks that are hard to defeat. Stainless steel hasps or bars can be fitted that are much harder to break into than what manufacturers typically offer.

Ensure there is good lighting where you keep your boat.

If your boat has curtains, keep them drawn so thieves can’t look inside and spot valuables. Store alcohol and valuables out of sight.

Don’t leave your keys in a cockpit locker — this is common practice and thieves know it.

Don’t leave a “for sale” sign on your boat over the winter. It gives thieves an excuse to look around without drawing suspicion.

If you have anti-theft device warning stickers, put them where they can easily be seen. Thieves are likely to pass up a boat that is protected.

Use chains and locks to secure dinghies and small boats.

Add personalized markings to dinghies and other items. By making them identifiable, they are less appealing to thieves and easier to identify and recover if they are stolen.


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How to avoid becoming a target for criminals.

Don't be a victim: Officers offer safety tips

(Tribune file photo)

In response to all the crimes occurring in Lakeview this summer, the State’s Attorney Community Justice Center held an informative safety seminar last week discussing how to prevent becoming a victim of crime. The meeting was held at the 19th District Chicago Police Department and was sponsored by the Lake View Citizens’ Council. There were two segments of the seminar, how to protect yourself on the street and how to protect your home from being robbed.

The first segment was presented by Lt. John Willner from the 19th District. Willner discussed some key tips for avoiding becoming a crime victim. Mainly, he said, criminals look for opportunity, so don’t give them the chance to commit a crime. More specifically, these were the five tips he offered:

  1. Don’t get too comfortable with your surroundings; always be aware.
  2. Understand your limitations. If you are attacked, be realistic when you consider fighting back.
  3. Don’t wear headphones and keep your head up. If you block off your senses, you become a target.
  4. Eliminate the opportunity. Do not walk down alleys at night. Always take a busy, lit path.
  5. Be able to make a decision. If someone is coming towards you, think of a place you could go, such as a coffee shop or store.

These tips may seem like common sense, but if you remind yourself to be aware, the chances of you becoming a target drop significantly.

The second segment was presented by Officer Maudessi Jointer from the 11th District. She brought a panel of convicted felons who shared how they broke into houses and what they stole, and then offered first-hand tips on how to prevent being a burglary target.

First, they said they used to target middle- to upper-class homes in quiet neighborhoods, especially homes with fences. Most of the men performed pre-surveillance and knew the homeowners’ schedule. They also expressed that they could be in and out within 5 minutes. They would either enter through the front door or a window. Once they entered a home, they would hit the living room and master bedroom, get what they needed and leave.

Jointer said that while there’s been an uptick in robberies in Lakeview, there are easy ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Here are her specific tips:

  1. Do not leave fans or air conditioners in your window without a secure lock. These items are extremely easy to remove, creating an entry way into your home.
  2. Get to know your neighbors. If you create a relationship with your neighbors, they’re more likely to get involved if they see someone breaking into your home.
  3. If you notice someone suspicious walking around in your neighborhood, call police. It’s a free phone call and could prevent a crime.
  4. Keep your doors and windows locked. This seems like a simple concept, but most of the robbers said they could walk right into the home because they did not lock their doors.
  5. If someone knocks on your door, answer. The men in the panel said they never wanted to enter a home when someone was home. If you see someone suspicious at your door, call the police, but do answer. This could save you and help the police catch a robber.
  6. You’re not protected by a dog or alarm system. All of the men said that they were not deterred by these. They are in and out so quickly that an alarm system did not stop them, and they could easily win over a dog with a treat.


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