Situational Awareness: Part 6 – Dig It !

SItuational awareness during grid-down, learning to dig for teh real truth. Freddie Gray's death and who killed him.note: originally posted in the fall of 2015 as a standalone article.

OK, so “Dig It !”, really? Yup!

But more specifically when you are done reading this rather long post in regards to Situation Awareness (SA) I hope to have helped you to learn two things; 1) how to overcome Normalcy Bias , 2) learn how to investigate (dig into) events/information to know what is pertinent information and why. In other words, understand the “root” below the surface vs. what is above ground and what they want you to see.

In accomplishing those two objectives, as a “prepper” you will better be able to recognize “the big one” when it happens, accept what is happening. and take steps to deal with it.

But, let me clarify something first and assure you of a fact…most SA input will be in the field and come at you quickly. And then there will the most subdued situations with information that is larger in scope, slower to emerge, and just as important to the OODA loop.

I want to go into #2 first because I think it will greatly assist in accomplishing #1, making it much easier.

There is a model that exists in analyzing accidents and what causes them, it is called the Swiss Cheese model Swiss Cheese model of accident causation is a model used in risk analysis and risk management(a.k.a. “Cumulative Act Effect”). It is also used in things such as:

  • risk analysis,
  • risk management,
  • the principle behind layered security,
  • defense in depth.

Simply put it looks at human-based systems as a block of Swiss cheese made up of slices where each slice represents an act of a human as part of the system. The point is – every person will make a mistake (a hole in the slice of cheese) from time to time in any system. The trick is to keep from the holes in the individual slices and making itself all the way through the block of cheese. Because when that happens a catastrophic event occurs.

In this model every attempt is made to ensure enough qualified and competent people in a high-quality system to keep those “holes” to one or two slices.

Layered Security” example: To protect a forward operating base you have multiple layers of security that consists of outside perimeter patrols, an outer perimeter made up of mines, an inner perimeter of razor wire, barricades on the entry road to slow traffic, armed guards, guard towers, blast walls, etc. Each layer is meant to keep the bad guys outside of the wire and the people inside safe.

So how exactly does this work? Well, I want to touch on one other principle first; it will really help. There is a set of “best practices” out there called a High Reliability Operation (HRO). The principles are used to run high-risk operations where there could be catastrophic outcomes. US Navy uses it for its nuclear program, its aircraft carrier flight deck operations, Special Operations uses a variant of it, and the list goes on. There are five basic concepts to HRO:

  1. Preoccupation with failure
  2. Reluctance to simplify
  3. Sensitivity to operations
  4. Commitment to resilience
  5. Deference to expertise

I won’t go into detail because it would be a whole book by itself, but #2 is the important one. It means that when looking at the causal factors of failure you don’t simplify. In other words, the reason(s) something fails is usually far more complex than simple.

Swiss Cheese model of accident causation is a model used in risk analysis and risk management

click to enlarge

When you combine the Swiss Cheese model with #2 above you avoid reasoning such as “the last decision” caused the failure. Yes, the last decision might have been a bad one, but it not the worst one, it is just one of many bad decisions that started long before the outcome occurred. That means there has been a history of poor/bad decision making in the “organization” and in the “process” that led up to the last bad decision.

Looking at the visual of the Swiss Cheese model, the bad decisions are the holes and they all lined up to have a bad outcome, usually a catastrophic outcome. No person in the organization or process prevented the bad decision from proceeding; there was no slice of cheese blocking the way of the event occurring.


And to bring this SA concept to the point of more easily being understood I am going to use the death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore that has been in the news lately.

So, let me ask the question, “Did the police kill Freddie Grey?” Yes, I consider that a catastrophic event, death is catastrophic in my way of thinking. So, again, “Did the police kill Freddie Grey?”

I have heard two lines of thought given; 1) he was a criminal, resisted arrest, and died by his own hand in the police van, 2) murdered by police officers.

Which is right?

Let’s review what we knew early on as fact from the incident:

  • The cops’ own words for what Grey did, “He made eye contact and then ran.”
  • He was never charged with a crime, the cops never said a crime occurred.
  • He did run, cops chased him.
  • Witnesses and video said the cops were very rough with him, he appeared to be injured at the time he was placed in the police transport van.
  • The van stopped multiple times.
  • Grey was eventually placed in leg restraints.
  • Grey was never properly secured in a seat in the transport van.
  • Grey was alive before he went into police custody.
  • He died while he in police custody.
  • He died of a crushed larynx and a severed spine.

So how did he die? Is that even the right question? Maybe it should be, “Who killed him?” or, “Why did someone kill him?”

Why the different questions? Why not accept one of the two original explanations of, “Did the police kill Freddie Grey?”

Wait, why does any of this even matter?

In emergencies, disasters and especially during a “grid-down” situation there is always always bad information. Sometimes the information is “bad” because it is intentionally so. Yes, the government has lied to us before during events and will continue to do so. No matter the reasons behind it, we just know they do. Actually, we know they intentionally lie to use every day, all day, day in and day out.

We must be able to see through the lies and dis-information and understand what is actually happening. Because without a hard understanding, a true understanding of what is happening, how in the world would you ever be able to make the right decision for you and your family? You must be able to be Situationally Aware and not suffer from Normalcy Bias; anything less will result in poor decision making.

Back to the example – Let’s start by asking a couple of truly basic but insightful questions:

  1. Why would a person crush his own larynx?
  2. Why would a person sever their own spine?

Yes, there are a lot of people commit suicide each year; many in weird and unusual ways. So let’s apply Occam’s Razor problem-Chokehold by police can crush a larynx and sever a spine - Freddie Graysolving principle to this specific question. To do so let’s look at a two common police practices; 1) choke hold, 2) suspect restraint while handcuffing. Both practices being widely taught and used by police officers in the last couple of decades to restrain suspects before and after handcuffing.

So which is the most likely event to have occurred causing Grey’s larynx to be crushed and his spine to be severed?

To me, reality (based on Occam’s Razor) the cops are far more likely to have caused the injury vs. self-inflicted. But that alone is not enough to convince me so let’s continue.

There were six police officers involved in the incident, five of which eventually gave statements after conferring with union representatives and lawyers. The sixth officer pleaded the “5th Amendment” and didn’t provide a statement. To refresh you on the 5th Amendment, a suspect “…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” In other words…a person can refuse to make a statement that would be an admission of guilt.

That pretty much says one of the cops knows he committed a serious crime and refused to make a statement because he would either admit he committed that crime or would have to make a false statement which is a felony. Reality once again speaks rather clearly based on this reasoning, a cop caused the death of Freddie Grey.

Then the medical examiner ruled Grey’s death a “homicide” not a “suicide.” Which means that Grey died at the hands of another person not at his own hands. Tie that back into the fact that the multiple injuries occurred while in police custody and no one but police had access to him during the time frame in which he injuries occurred.

In the previously mentioned statements of the five police officers they all failed to mention a stop that the transport van made. Officers knew of the stop but intentionally failed to mention it. If one or two had failed to mention it you could view it as a mere oversight, a lapse in memory. But when all the officers failed to mention the same stop it is called collusion.

Now let’s throw in another piece of the puzzle, Baltimore Sun News had done an extensive and thorough investigation into allegation of extreme abuse and violence against citizens by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). It was proven through valid and reliable statistics that BPD has a very long, decades long, history of brutality and abuse against its own citizens. To substantiate the statistics…millions upon millions of dollars were paid out in abuse cases making it clear that the BPD had a systemic culture of violence by police against citizens.

Then later in the week the AP broke a story that was verified to be true, Lt. Brian Rice, the initial cop that went after Grey had extensive mental problems. His mental state had become so mentally unstable in 2012 that he had his guns confiscated and had been admitted to a mental hospital. The record showed there were deep “…concerns about self-control and judgment…” and these significant mental problems were still evident in 2013. But less than two years later we see a cop with significant mental problems, who was determined by a court to be so dangerous to himself and others that his guns were legally confiscated, is now back on the street with weapons and supervising other cops. Really? Tell me how, in anyone’s mind that this is possible. Once again this shows a significant breakdown in the BPD.

But what was the BPD doing while all this information was coming to light? They “leaked” information that Gray had a criminal record. The police union went on a dis-information program. Another report was “leaked” by BPD that said a bolt in the van matched the injury on Gray’s head proving that Gray killed himself. A statement was “leaked” that the other prisoner in the van “heard” Gray trying to hurt himself while in the van.

But no one was asking, “How does the ‘bolt’ injury explain the severed spine and crushed larynx?”

And little coverage was given to the CNN interview where the other prisoner in the van stated on TV that he never made that statement, or any statement, concerning Gray to police. And that he now feared for his life because of police threats against him.

So you start to line up the slices of Swiss cheese and what do you get? A very clear picture that Freddie Gray died at the hands of police. And his only crime was “eye contact” with a police officer, a police supervisor, who by all accounts is, or at least was, actually mentally ill.

So what is the most likely story of who killed Freddie Gray? Remember the principle of SA that says you only need about 40 – 70% of information to make a valid decision. You don’t have to have to wait for 100% of the information to make quality decisions. So in this case of Freddie Gray, cops killed him plain and simple.

Note: This was just revealed on Friday 5/1 that all six officers have been charged with various crimes including second degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray. It was also revealed that Freddie Gray was a confidential informant for the BPD and had done extensive work for them in helping to solve some serious crimes in Baltimore.

Now why again is this important?

Here are my answers and guiding principles:

  1. In a “grid-down” or other disaster situation you must keep your SA intact and at a high operational level.
  2. You must not be blind to the obvious, and you must be able to filter out the “dis-information” that is doled out.
  3. Use common sense.
  4. Use Occam’s Razor problem-solving principle.
  5. Use the HRO principle of reluctance to simplify.
  6. And remember the two primary motivations of those in authority; money & power.

Before I close this section of the article I want to create a visual of the Swiss Cheese model of the BPD’s murder of Freddie Gray. Hopefully through this visual you will be able to see how this model can be used to research, solve and represent catastrophic events. Then you can use it within the realm of your “prepping” activities to make you and your family less prone to catastrophic events during emergencies and disasters.

At any point had a decision would have been made differently, had a different choice been made, had inappropriate behavior and culture been corrected then Freddie Gray would be alive and the city of Baltimore would not have experienced the riots when and where and to the extent that they occurred. A CVS store would still be providing goods and services to the residents of a neighborhood that needed them badly. There wouldn’t be a bunch of burned out buildings. The Ruling Class wouldn’t be more entrenched and more powerful. And the nation wouldn’t be one step closer to a National Police Force.

I painted how the “microcosm” looks in this situation but there is a bigger, far bigger, picture that needs to be painted. And that is the focus of this next section.


Those Baltimore Police Department officers didn’t just wake up that morning and decide to put such a beat-down on Freddie Gray that they would kill him. I actually doubt, to some degree, that they actually intended to kill him at all. But what is very clear is that there was a “culture” within the BPD that taught and tolerated this kind of conduct on the part of officers; probably even encouraged it. The BPD had a very long history of this kind of officer conduct. The BPD leadership didn’t stop it, the city leadership didn’t stop it and the citizens didn’t (or maybe couldn’t) stop it. Hence, the cultural-based conduct became the accepted “norm.”

But this didn’t develop in a vacuum either. The Baltimore officers didn’t just somehow dream this up all on their own. This kind of brutal and violent behavior can’t simply develop and exist in such a close-knit community such as law enforcement, other officers from other agencies knew about it. And since they didn’t do anything to stop it, it can only be logically assumed that they too participated in and advocated such brutality…or at least tolerated it.

So how does that happen and how wide-spread is it?

All you have to do is read the newspapers, the news websites, specialty/focused websites, this website or any other long list of media outlets, including books, that have documented the rampant and widespread vicious behavior that has developed in our law enforcement agencies at all levels.

Three excellent books that clear outline and expose the problems are:

A Government of Wolves by John W. Whitehead

Police State U.S.A. by Sheryl K. Chumley

Battlefield America by John W. Whitehead

AT all levels of law enforcement from the smallest town to the largest county, from state to the federal level, many  have become extremist in their brutal and anti-Constitutional treatment of citizens. Those agencies exists from border to border and coast to coast. It is pervasive, the impact is devastating and the very Constitution is in jeopardy.

So how did it happen and how is continuing?

I take you back to the HRO principle of “Reluctance to simplify” clearly sharing with you there is no single reason that it has happened but a myriad of reasons great and small. But you can chart it out via the Swiss Cheese model to understand it better by seeing the visual representation. Let me share with you my idea on “outcomes” vs. “intent” philosophy.

Intent is what someone wants to happen as a result of their effort. Outcome is what really happens when the person is done with their actions.

Example: Sixteen year old boy receives his driver’s license. He borrows his dad’s Mustang and picks up his friends. He intends to have a great night with his friends, driving around and having fun. Sounds great, yes? However, part way through the evening his friends egg him on to drive faster and faster since the car is made for speed. The young driver does so, hurling down the Interstate at speeds of well over 120mph. While going this fast, a deer jumps out, the young drive makes a futile attempt to serve to miss the deer and goes off the road and rolls over multiple times. His driver-side airbags inflate and he is severely banged up but two of his three friends are dead.

His intentions were to have a nice fun night with his friends. The outcome is a horrible wreck and he is now guilty of homicide having killed two people. But it doesn’t stop there. The parents of the two dead children file lawsuits in court and the driver’s family is decimated financially as well as emotionally. The fateful driver can no longer afford to go to college, nor his three brothers and sisters as well.

So regardless of the intent, the outcome ruins multiple lives forever from what they were on-track to become. Same is true with everything in life.

Back to the BPD and their culture of extreme violence and brutality towards citizens; and their disregard and disdain for the Constitution. It was obvious their conduct, culture, and decisions of street level officers, BPD leadership, as well as city and citizen leadership all allowed such a culture to exist. But what about Freddie himself? If he hadn’t made eye contact with the police officers and/or hadn’t run from them he might still be alive today. While that is a highly suspect assumption we will go with it for now. So how did Freddie fail?

Well, we identified his last two failed decisions, but is there more. Yes of course, logic dictates that there must be more. And there is plenty more. But the BPD officers that were involved in the homicide of Freddie didn’t act in isolation and they didn’t come up with original conduct. All the court records and investigative work done by the Baltimore Sun News shows that this conduct was wide-spread throughout the department and obviously tolerated, maybe even encouraged, at all levels. Just as that is true, the same is true of Freddie. Freddie Gray was not unique.

Let’s look at the average black inter-city male in America. The average person fitting that description according to provable statistical facts tends to be:

  • Less educated
  • Unemployed or under employed
  • Those that are employed are paid far less on the average
  • They will have criminal records
  • Come from single-parent families

What part of that recipe for disaster don’t we understand! Now don’t confuse my relating the “average” profile of a generic Freddie with a statement saying that young, black, inter-city, males can’t succeed. They can. And don’t think I am making some blanket statement excusing Freddie or any other young, black, inter-city, male of making terribly poor life choices. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own actions. But “trends” are reality, they do speak truth and they do explain what is happening. Then it is up to us to research “why” it is happening. Let me take a stab at it.

Here are the latent causal factors to “Freddie” failing to succeed (in no particular order):

  • Politics and politicians
  • Public school system
  • Economic policy
  • Social state
  • Police
  • Family

Politics and politicians – As I have maintained and I believe proven, politicians are interested in only two things, money and power. Whichever they have, they leverage it anyway they can to gain more of the other. And their only desire is to acquire all of both.

Simply look at our government today, any level of government today. The various levels of government and the politicians exist to serve themselves as much power and money as they can possible acquire. And service or benefit to their constituents is a distant by-product of their actual intent. I will include “race-pimps” in this group as well; the likes of Sharpton, Jackson and others. Their only desire is self-serving of power and money. So no politician and level of government is going to save “Freddie.” Why? It makes no sense to them to do so. All you have to do is look at the outcomes of politicians and politics:

  • Since the War of Poverty began poverty has actually grown far worse, the middle class is rapidly disappearing and the income gap is widening. The War on Poverty is an utter failure.
  • Any and ALL other government program enacted by politicians to combat poverty or in any real way help “Freddie” have all failed, failed on an epic scale. Food stamps, housing assistance, welfare and every other program has failed miserably. How? Just look at the exponentially increasing number of people depending on those programs to simply survive. All have failed.
  • Take a look at all the major cities where poverty is the worst, where “Freddie” is the most unemployed, the most uneducated, the most in poverty, the most devastated. They are all run by liberals, Democrats or Progressives. Their politics and their politicians all have failed “outcomes.”

Politics and politicians have failed “Freddie.”

Public school system – As all the statistics show the public education system in the United States is an utter failure and getting worse. It is almost that students are succeeding in spite of the education system. The teachers are run by Communist/Socialist unions. The school districts are run by politicians that are far left extremists that do not believe in a Constitutional Republic. Parents are apathetic at best when it comes to how their children are doing. You have lunch Nazis dictating what parents can feed their children. You have a legal system that forces children to attend school. You have “home school” families that are in jeopardy of losing that freedom. You have an educational system that no longer teaches the most basic of civics and losing all sense of history. And the same system passes on students to the next grade and even graduate them when they can barely read and write. You have huge amounts of money being spent on students and those amounts go up each year but student performance gets worse and worse as each year goes by. And worse of all, you have an educational system that doesn’t require and doesn’t teach discipline or respect. And this is exponentially true in the inner-cities. The public education system failed “Freddie.”

Economic policy – Once again, the statistics and facts all show that our economic policy is an utter and undeniable failure. For decades we entered into trade deals that moved millions upon millions of middle-class jobs. And both political parties gladly and willingly participated in that. At every turn we bailed out banks, investment bankers and insurance companies. Allowing criminal management and owners to walk away from their failures richer than ever while the American taxpayer pays the bill. We have a President who without regard for law, and in direct violation of the Constitution, moved 10’s of billions of dollars from legitimate bond owners to his crony union thugs. And if that wasn’t enough he also gave the union huge percentages of companies with them paying a single dime, while legal stock owners where robed of their ownership rights. In one statistical fact alone it shows where the system has failed, that is the income gap and loss of household income. The average person’s income in American is plummeting and it is at the hands of our politicians making policy that directly hurt each and every American with the exception of the richest 10%. That segment of Americans is seeing their wealth grow at a staggering pace. More people than ever in the history of our country are on food stamps. More people than ever in the history of our country are receiving government housing assistance. More people than ever in the history of our country are on Social Security disability. Over half of the country is receiving some form of government welfare. Over half the citizens in America pay no federal income tax. Our country’s economic policy failed “Freddie.”

Social state – Never in the history of our country has society been in this pathetic of shape as we find ourselves in. Every possible statistic shows that the quality of life in America is plummeting. Our society idolizes gangster rappers, professional athletes, and movie stars. All the while there is a growing persecution of Christians. Society loves to watch an NFL football game or Dancing With The Stars, but they can’t identify their own Congressmen, the Vice-President or understand even the most basic tenants of the Constitution. We legal legalize drugs while outlawing Christmas celebrations. We praise those that kill millions of unborn babies each year, while forcing Christians to violate their faith. The list goes on and on with the problems that face society, and those problems are simply getting worse and worse by the day. Single mothers now give birth to more than half of all children born in the US. All the while every single statistic in existence shows that single-parent homes have the worst problems for their children. And that includes substance abuse, violence, gang membership, criminal behavior and prison incarceration. Society utterly failed “Freddie.”

Police – Law enforcement agencies and individuals have become militarized. They inflict military tactics on civilians. Cops kill at will and most of the time with impunity. Police unions are strong and demand rights for cops that the average citizen can’t even dream of. Police now use military armored vehicles against unarmed civilians. Whendid these guys become these guys?Police agencies have acquired military hardware such as machine guns and grenade launchers to use against civilians. Police no longer honor the Constitution and perform no-knock raids at will. They kill unarmed citizens, kill people’s pets for no reason, and even mutilate infants in their cribs during such illegal raids with absolute impunity. People are subjected to the most unthinkable and unconstitutional acts at the hands of police and yet the only thing that changes is that it gets worse and worse each and every day. We see corruption at every level of law enforcement with the worst of it at the federal level. We see ourselves solidly in a fascist police state with no hope of turning it around. The police have utterly failed “Freddie” even to the point of murdering him. And he is not alone, hundreds of unarmed people a year are murdered by cops who are rarely held accountable.

Family – Families are becoming extinct and being replaced with “relationships.” Every single statistic shows that children raised in a hoe with a female mother and a male father fair far better at life in every single category than those who are not raised as such. Yet, society, politicians and government are doing everything they possibly can to continue to destroy the family. The breakdown and disintegration of the family failed “Freddie.”

I hope I have made the case clear enough that people like Freddie Gray (and millions upon millions) more just like him never had much of a chance to begin with. Virtually every aspect of society today is designed to make people fail. And the weakest, most needful, among us…it fails the most.

Could Freddie have made better choices? Of course he could. Could he have pulled himself out of the conditions he was living his life in? Of course he could.

So many “Freddies” never had or have a legitimate chance in life because everyone and everything has failed them, including themselves.

How does this apply back to “prepping” or Situational Awareness in any way?

Simple really, you have to be able to truly analyze a problem, really dig into the root causes and go beyond the “last bad decision” to understand what is happening. Until you do, you will not have good SA and you may well be working from false information that you yourself developed and put into your head. And then you too will fail…along with your family.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And maybe with this warning you can now have even more motivation to prepare, prepare for when the grid goes down. And the grid will go down. The question is…

“Will you be prepared for it?”


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