Situational Awareness: Part 8 – Summary

Situational AwarenessA lot has been written in the academic world about Situational Awareness (SA) and most of it would make your eyes glaze over.  The exception would be when the academics fight over what SA actually is, that can be kinda fun to watch.  I am not going to get into the academics of SA because it is mind numbing to say the least.  What I shared with you is practical and how to use it.

SA is the ability to recognize and understand what is happening around you, how it will affect you, and how you use it for a positive outcome.  Well, at least to me, that is my definition of SA.  There is a lot of material, some of it quite good, scattered about the Internet so there is no lack of sources for learning.  But what I want to do is summarize a down-to-earth practical understanding and application of SA from the previous 7 parts of this series.

In any “high-speed, low-drag” situation (high-speed = complex and high stress) there is always a large amount of activity taking place around you.  The key is to acquire, assess applicability, understand the impact incoming information…and then accurately predict the result and then act on it.  That is the SA process.  The successful “outcome” to the SA process is sufficiently manipulating your actions for a positive result for you and your team.

The history of SA goes back 100+ years when aviation was first becoming a tool of war.  Thinking in a three-dimensional world wasn’t really used much prior to WWI because man really didn’t get off the ground very often.  But with the advent of powered flight in a wartime setting SA became a necessity for man if he wanted to stay alive.  Those early pilots had to keep aware of where their fellow pilots and planes were in normal flight operations.  And when they engaged the enemy in aerial combat they had to keep track of multiple enemy aircraft as well.  And not only keep track of them but anticipate what they might do next, where they would be and then act to counter the enemy pilot’s maneuver…then shoot them down before they themselves got shot down. A daunting task! WWII saw SA turned into a formal process for fighter pilots.

In an emergency or disaster situation, and especially in “grid-down”, SA is absolutely imperative.  Good SA will help keep you alive, poor SA will assure failure and potentially bring about injury or death.  What I am saying is SA in normal everyday life can relax a little bit so you are not “on edge” all the time.  The exception would be SA for personal and family safety.  However, when something goes wrong in your world (i.e. emergency, disaster, grid-down) then your SA must be turned up full throttle.  You must maintain that “edge” all the time.

To qualify as good SA you must first be able to “see” what is happening around you.  You must use all your senses to take in all that is happening.  And most importantly you must be able to see these indicators in reality NOT your interpretation of reality.

Example:  Many times during WWII as Jews were being rounded-up they were told it was for their own good/safety and they would be fed when the train stopped.  Unfortunately, the reality was imprisonment and death.

One “sense” I am going to strongly suggest that you always listen to is your “gut”, your instinct, your feelings; whatever you want to call it.  Often your subconscious can discern indicators of danger that escape your normal senses, especially your consciousness.  At times your conscious mind can not properly process certain subtle danger indicators or articulate it so you have the opportunity to think about it.

Also, for those of us that are “believers”, listen to that still small voice that will come to you at times.  That voice will steer you in the direction God feels is appropriate for you at that time.

A good example of that “gut feeling” occurs when you feel something isn’t right and you turn around and someone is staring at you.  Women especially have that instinct…normally used when judging males it is known as the “creep factor.”

So you have all these information inputs coming in, now you must decide which are the most important.  I would suggest you read my post on LIPS  to understand how to determine “priorities” in a preparedness situation.

Example:  Your family is being stalked by a gang of bad guys who want to take your food and daughter.  Your Grid Down Chaos and violence against people are threat and risk to familyinformational inputs are: it is cloudy, it might rain, your feet hurt, you have a small hole in your pants leg, your wife has slung her AR15, the bad guys are gaining on you, your youngest son says he’s hungry, its been 3 days since you had a full nights sleep, your water is running low, and your tooth hurts.  All of these things contribute to SA.  But what are the highest priority information inputs?

To properly absorb SA inputs you have to establish a “baseline” and that baseline will change and continue to change often.

Example:  You are hiking through a wooded area that you think is abandoned.  So you know the smell of the area which might be damp leaves.  And you know the sound of the area which is birds chirping with an occasional squirrel barking and scampering away.  And the area is basically green in color with evergreens being predominant.  Then you notice the birds take wing, a faint waft of smoke smell and a brownish/grayish patch in the trees 100 yards in front of you.  DANGER!!  Your SA just acquired the indicators of a camp where people are now moving around.  What you now do with that change in SA is the key.

Team SA (TSA) can be exponentially more effective that individual SA.  However, it can also be exponentially Team based Situational Awareness - Team SAworse as well.  Keeping track of everything going on with multiple people is virtually impossible for one person, especially in a high-speed situation.  Let me explain…

For TSA to be effective a few things need to be in-place and clearly understood by each team member:

  1. Leader’s Intent
  2. Responsibility of each member
  3. Great communications, specific & assertive
  4. Good individual SA

Basically each team member is using their own individual SA to guide their own actions and assist the other team members in carrying out their respective responsibilities.  Team members must not wait to speak up when they see a problem, or potential problem.  They must deliver that information to the team in short, clear, assertive terms.  That must be done BEFORE the problem affects the team’s successful mission accomplishment.  Probably the best aspect of TSA is the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  While the origination of that phrase is debatable, it is no less applicable to a key aspect of Team Situational Awareness.

There are barriers to effective SA, they are:Barriers to team situational awareness.

  1. Normalcy Bias
  2. Competency Bias
  3. Too much motivation
  4. Information/mental overload
  5. Physical/mental fatigue
  6. Distorted reality
  7. False information intake
  8. Poor communications

Barriers to individual SA are items #1 – #7.

The ability to have great SA is a learned skill.  You learn it through training and experience.  With great SA you are far more likely to succeed.  With poor or non-existent SA you are almost certainly doomed to failure…and maybe not even know why you failed.

And during an emergency, disaster, or grid-down…failure is not a valid option. It is all your choice…learn and use SA…or fail. Yes, it is that simple.


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Situational Awareness: Part 7 – OODA (Out of the Loop)

I am out of the loopnote: I think this is one of the single most valuable pieces of information you will ever read for a grid-down event. When the violence is knocking at your door you better understand this concept or you will get killed. Yes, it is that important and I am that serious.

I am sure everyone has heard the saying “I was out of the loop on that” or some variant. Generally it is meant that a person wasn’t aware of something that was going on. However, the origins of the saying is a fascinating story itself. It goes back to the early Col John Boyd OODA Loop air force jet planes fighterdays of the Air Force and a man by the name of John Boyd, a Colonel.

Col. Boyd developed this model to assist the training of military pilots. Dogfights occur at a very high speed in a three-dimensional environment. A pilot must not only have lightning fast physical reflexes, he must be able to out-think his opponent as well. To win a dogfight a pilot must be able to get his plane inside the decision loop of his opponent to line-up a kill shot…and do so without himself being shot down. It is a daunting task in the best of circumstances. And the speeds at which this occurs is unrealistic and unfathomable to most of us mere mortals.

Any high-stress, high-risk environment tends to be high-speed as well, or at least at critical points in time. A person must be able to function in that environment to the point of success. Failure to function successfully in these types of situations can lead to injury or death of yourself or someone else. Boyd developed a system that trains a person Col John Boyd developed the OODA loopon success under stress, in high-risk environments, at high rates of speed. That system is all about acquiring information, processing that information, making a decision, and then acting on that decision.

The decision making model he developed is called OODA.

That is an acronym for; Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.



Broken down it means –

  • Observation of the raw information on which decisions and actions are based.
  • Orient the information to your situation and environment.
  • Decide a course of action.
  • Act quickly and decisively.

While it would be convenient to allow those brief explanations to stand on their own, it is impossible if you want to truly understand how it all works together for success.

One of the best explanations of the complete OODA cycle was by Harry Hillaker –

“The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under- react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.”

What I am understanding Hillaker to say is fairly simple – Embrace the confusion and use it to your advantage to defeat your enemy. I think I have that understood pretty clearly but that explanation is purely for a military or tactical situation.

What about when there is no person as an enemy?

How do you even describe “enemy” is these terms?

For this discussion I will revert back to our discussion on “objectives” as the enemy. We must “win” in terms of meeting the objective. If we can’t claim a “win” then we “lose.” Losing means that our objective was not met. And success in this arena is based on achieving our objectives, hence “losing” is the enemy.

Based on the foundation I just laid out where there is no person as an enemy, there is no option to turn confusion against our enemy. Confusion in this sense only hurts our team and hinders the successful accomplishment of our objective. However, we can easily state with certainty that seeing through, and/or eliminating, any confusion would make attaining our objective far easier. We can now agree that we only need to go half way on the confusion issue, remove it vs. install it on our non-person enemy.

In retrospect haven’t we already started down the path of confusion elimination?

When I wrote about Objectives and Priorities I presented the topic of Leader’s Intent we can/did ask for clarification to ensure a solid foundation of understanding. On the other hand, if we are the one delivering Leader’s Intent we used the SMART model to clarify the task. So exactly what confusion is left to clear-up?ColJohnBoydOODA-003If you look closely at the OODA Loop you will notice that there is a very close relationship between the “OO” and the Situational Awareness. In plain English the “Observe” and “Orient” matches perfectly with the concept of Situational Awareness (SA). If your SA is good, your OO is functioning correctly as well.

Situational Awareness & OODASo why the need for both models?

There is a vital need, the OODA loop outlines the entire process along with explaining the “why.” The “why” being defeating your enemy, or accomplishing your objective(s). I see the OODA loop as a bridge between two more detailed systems –

  1. Situational Awareness
  2. Risk Management

If you go back to Hillaker’s explanation there is a key part “…operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions…” That integrates a true sense of urgency into the overall process. The need to move at a sufficient pace to outperform your enemy. Is it not reasonable to assume that if you outperform your enemy that you win?

Col John Boyd OODA loop jet fightersBut, what about dealing with an objective as the enemy?

When you consider the different aspects of an inanimate foe, the process can be both more difficult, and yet easier. When dealing with a person as a foe you have to assume many things about that person and hope you are right. A smart foe can do things entirely unpredictable which subsequently disrupts your SA and hence, the outcome. However, an inanimate objective can be almost as unpredictable, but that same inanimate objective is lacking the ability to purposely be unpredictable. The end result is there are pluses and minuses to both situations, an animate vs. an inanimate foe. For this discussion we will focus on the inanimate foe, an objective.

Let’s review what the Swiss Cheese model of risk management looks like –

Swiss Cheese Risk Management You have any number of opportunities to stop a negative incident from occurring. Plugging just a single hole in any slice of cheese prevents the incident from ever occurring.

If you were to chart the OODA Loop process as consisting of a combination of Situational Awareness and Risk Management it would something like this.

Adding in Situational Awareness

Adding in Situational Awareness

Then adding in calculating the probability & severity aspect of the risk.

Then adding in calculating the probability & severity aspect of the risk.

Here we see the OODA loop link two systems that were previously envisioned as “stand alone.” While both of those systems were valuable and applicable, they did form a complete picture for our purposes. However, there is a third system that is still missing that carries considerable influence, if not total control, over everything – Leader’s Intent.

While some could argue that Leader’s Intent would be one of the “filters” of the SA process I would disagree. I think Leader’s Intent drives all of the systems from the very beginning. Thus, I propose the proper graphic representation of the system should look more like this.

Leaders Intent OODA Situational AwarenessNonetheless I still maintain that the graphic reorientation is still lacking a key piece. No doubt that you would accomplish the object, but in the graphic it is implied, not explicit. And, depending on the situation you may or may not be able to undertake the planning process formally, it may have to be done “on the fly” and not in written form. I am of course referring to planning as a key element.

In my way of thinking Situational Awareness is a more complete system/process to define and accomplish the observe and orient of the OODA loop. And, Risk Management encompasses the decide and act aspect of the OODA loop. Clear Leaders’ Intent drives the whole loop in harmony. How does planning work into the process?

Planning is actually a combination of orient and act parts of the OODA loop with a heavy influence of leader’s general eisenhowerintent. Have no doubt that planning will be a key element of any success in accomplishment of an objective. However, General Eisenhower said, 

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

What he was trying to get across through that statement was the fact that though the planning process we find the weaknesses, strengths, and alternatives to the environment in which we will operate. A good example of that is “combat loading” of ships. If you loaded a ship for an invasion such as D-Day the same way you would load a normal cargo ship, you would be doomed to failure.

Why? All the ammo would be loaded together in one area, all the trucks loaded in another, tanks in another, Humvees it yet another area, etc.

As the invasion takes place do you need all the Humvees at one time? No. How about needing all the trucks at one time? No. And the same is true for tanks, ammo, medical supplies, etc. The military loads ships in a manner that the supplies come off in the order in which they are needed. You may only need 20 trucks at first, but you need 10 tanks before that, and 15 Humvees along with the tanks and trucks. But a sufficient amount of fuel, ammo, and medical supplies need to off-loaded with the appropriate vehicles. The planning process allows for the discovery of such issues and making the appropriate adjustments.

Another example would be the same situation of the actual invasion. The leader’s intent would be to secure town “x.” While in the planning process it becomes obvious which beach is the best to land on due to any number of factors. But, good planning demands that you have multiple alternatives. The same would be true for routes to get off the beach and to the town you are supposed to secure. Once again, in the planning process you are looking at maps that show the best/fastest way to reach the town. And yet again, you must have multiple alternatives in case your run into resistance or other obstacles with the primary route.

As the invasion unfolds different invading units run into problems getting off the beach for any number of reasons. However, since the planning process revealed multiple routes to the town, the local (on the ground) unit leaders can pick alternative routes as the battle unfolds. And, those choices can be made without running it up the chain of command because the optional routes are already in the plan…and approved. Hence, the local leader on the ground is still operating within the authorization given through leader’s intent.

Had there been no formal planning, the alternative routes would not have been identified ahead of time…and previously approved. The leader on the ground would have to discover the optional routes causing loss of time and jeopardizing successful completion of the objective.

Yet another revision of the entire process would look something like this…

LeadersIntent-004Do I have you confused by now?

How about…do I have your eyes glazed over yet?

That is obviously not my intention or my objective.

What I do what you to think about is how to be successful when it comes to surviving after “grid-down” when all your prepping comes into play. But, surviving is a whole lot more than just beans, bullets, and band-aids! It is about how you become a successful prepper to become a successful survivor. And success depends on skills. No, not skill…SKILLS !

And you need to understand how to use systems such as OODA Loop, Situational Awareness, and Risk Management to improve your odds of success. If you can improve your odds of success in a grid-down situation, then it will be much easier for less serious emergencies and disasters as well. But it all takes time, effort, and commitment to develop such skills. Might as well start learning and developing…now.

Success or failure is the outcome of your situational awareness.

Two Potential Outcomes…make your choice!


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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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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from
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Situational Awareness: Part 4 – Team SA

Team Situational AwarenessIn this post I will go over what Team Situational Awareness is, barriers, mitigation and touch on how it relates to a High Reliability Organization. I will focus on communications as an important, the most important, aspect of Team SA.

In the previous post I went over what the barriers are to SA, specifically individual SA. Along with identifying those barriers I also provided ways to overcome them and breakthrough bias.

Team SA is defined as every team member’s situational awareness integrated with every other team member and fully related to, and integrated with, the team leader. That’s a mouthful for the following:

  • Each team member has a specific responsibility/task for a particular mission.
  • Each team member must have a high level of SA for their area of responsibility.
  • Each team member must relay key pieces of their SA to all other team members, especially the team leader.
  • The team leader must keep overall mission SA based on input from team members

Team based Situational Awareness - Team SAThe success of the team mission is based on each team member having good SA. Conversely, if a single team member has poor SA the team’s mission performance can suffer…or fail completely. Consequently each team member must have a high level of SA regarding their aspect of the mission that they are responsible for. And here is the rub; all team members must share critical information with all other team members. If the person who needs Team SA depends almost entirely on good communications among team members.critical information for their SA is not made aware of that information, then the team’s SA is poor and successful mission completion is jeopardized. High quality communications, especially verbal, is essential for the exchange of information and building situational knowledge and the processing of that knowledge.

Knowing everything that is going on all the time is very difficult for any one person, especially during complex high stress operations.  Sharing of mission/task responsibilities is essential.  The same applies to the sharing of SA responsibilities. Shared high quality SA characteristics in teams:

  1. Refers to the overlap between the SA requirements of the team members.All team members help each team member.
  2. In a high performing team, each team member has an understanding of what is happening based on those SA elements that are common to the mission.
  3. When changes are noted that could pose a problem, team members must first take action by speaking up.
  4. All team members are tasked to identify problems before they affect mission accomplishment…hopefully before the mission in the planning phase prior to action starting in the field.
  5. Team members don’t wait to be asked. When you have information critical to team performance, speak up!
  6. Recognize and make others aware when the team deviates from standard procedures.
  7. Monitor the performance of other team members.
  8. The best feedback of your performance comes from others.

Examples of good communications skills of team members:Assertive Communications

  • Assertive
  • Specific & clear
  • No fear of speaking up
  • Realistic & Clear Expectations
  • Not waiting to be askedRealistic & Clear Expectations.
  • Receptive not defensive
  • Share intended actions
  • Identify and share problems before they affect the mission
  • Make expectations of self and others clear
  • Don’t assume someone already knows

High quality communications among team members is the heart of high performing Team SA. High quality communications begins with a thorough pre-mission briefing. Elements of that briefing must include:Mission or event briefing outline

  • Clearly defined mission.
  • Leader’s intent (what success looks like).
  • Each individual must know their responsibilities within the mission.
  • Each individual must know every other team members’ roles and responsibilities.

Barriers to team situational awareness.Barriers to quality Team SA include all the same barriers to individual SA plus:

  • When you start hearing or saying “He thinks he knows everything.”
  • Agreement to, or suggestion of, “mission creep” begins to take place.
  • One or more individuals exhibit a barrier to SA without it being corrected.
  • Communication among team members begins to breakdown, especially verbal, and that breakdown is not immediately corrected.
  • Performance of one or more team members degrades and can’t be compensated for by other team members.

Ways to prevent, or correct, barriers to high quality Team SA are:Overcoming barriers to team situational awareness.

  1. Monitor the performance of other team members.
  2. Identify potential or existing problems; provide a solution in assertive terms.
  3. Recognize and make others aware when the team deviates from standard procedures.
  4. Effectively communicate on a regular basis during non-mission time to set the communication standard.
HRO Pillar - Preoccupation With Failure!

Preoccupation With Failure!

There is a direct relationship between great Team SA and fostering a High Reliability Organization (HRO). HRO is an organizational model that is used in high-speed, high-stress, high-risk, high-hazard, complex environments.

Examples: aircraft carrier flight deck operations, US Navy nuclear operations, air traffic control operations, Special Forces, etc. HRO’s have proven to be very effective at mitigating probability and severity of catastrophic accidents.

The five pillars of HRO’s are:

  1. Preoccupation with failure
  2. Reluctance to simplify interpretations of events or situations
  3. Sensitivity to operations
  4. Commitment to resilience
  5. Deference to expertise

These five pillars of HRO’s work hand-in-hand with Team SA. I will write more about HRO’s and their effectiveness at another time, but for now, know that Team SA is the #1 tool to promote the #1 pillar of an HRO. A team must be preoccupied with failure in order to prevent those failures from happening. Team SA anticipates and/or sees the failures coming before they occur and then take the necessary steps to avoid those failures. But, we will save this juicy tidbit for another day.

As you read through this article on Team SA you now understand that the #1 Good Communicationsway to avoid poor Team SA is through high-quality communicating among team members. Without great communications your team is doomed to failure. And failure can be fatal. Learn and practice great Team SA.


Success comes from the ICS incident command system for preppers during grid-down

Your Choice!


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Situational Awareness: Part 3 – Barriers to SA

Situational Awareness - Barriers * breaking through barriersIn this post I will be covering the barriers to good Situational Awareness (SA) and how to overcome them.  I will explain what those barriers are, their signs & symptoms, and how to overcome them so you can acquire and maintain good SA during any emergency, disaster or “grid-down” situation your family find itself in.

In my last post (Situational Awareness: Part 2 – Micro & Macro SA) I went into detail explaining the two different environments that you must monitor for complete SA, micro and macro.  I gave a solid example of both.  I also walked you through how to analyze the situations and identify different options for action.  Without action SA is not very useful.  But let’s get down to talking about barriers to SA…

First, you must understand that people seldom realize they are losing, or have lost, their SA until it is too late to make significant corrective action(s) for both mission accomplishment and team member safety.

Second, to maintain quality SA requires a physical and emotional commitment to pay attention. The “what” you must pay attention to is not always obvious or instinctual. Most people’s attention focuses on, or gets distracted by, things that are loud, moving, shiny/bright, or that which is close to you; especially in your immediate personal space.

Now let’s touch on specific barriers –

The number one barrier, without any doubt, to high quality and accurate Situational Awareness is “communications.” However, there are more barriers than just communications.  But, all SA barriers can be broken down into to basically two categories, physical and emotional/mental.


  • Communication – Hardware
  • Communication – Quality & Quantity
  • Staffing (under staffed, level of training)
  • Tunnel Vision
  • Health (tired/fatigued, ill, injured)


  • Normalcy Bias (includes Complacency, Perceptions)
  • Competency Bias
  • Overwhelmed (including: stress, distraction, conflict & Paralysis by Analysis)
  • Excessive motivation
  • Culture

The physical barriers to SA are actually easier to identify and easier to deal with than the emotional/mental barriers. However, a lot of attention has to be applied to both. And the biggest contributor in the emotional/mental area is “ego.” You must be willing to admit that you aren’t perfect; you don’t know everything and other people can be smarter than you. That humilty ability at least opens you up to recognizing the other barriers as they occur.

Physical barriers to SA:

  • Communication – Hardware.Here we are talking the communications equipment itself, the stuff you use to Barrier to Situational Awareness can be communications hardware.communicate with others. Whether it is radios, cell phones, signal mirrors or any other piece of equipment that is used for communicating. If it is broken, not compatible, incorrectly configured or people don’t know how to use it then communications immediately begins to break down. Once the information exchange is delayed or absent SA suffers or completely disappears altogether. So how to overcome this barrier?
    • Correctly configure and test all communications equipment prior to use.
    • Train everyone on how to use the equipment…and practice.
    • Anticipate that the equipment will fail, have alternatives and options. Something as simple as spare batteries, solar battery charger, or whistles to use if radios are non-functioning.
    • You can also have a Standard Operating Guide (SOG) that states if you lose communications with your leader/subordinate you will immediately do “X” or “Y”. Yeah that means a Plan B.
    • Then train your folks in scenarios where communications fail.
  • Communication – Quality & Quantity.The mitigation to this barrier can be a bit tricky. When overcoming the communication barrier to SA you have to know one important thing – relevance. The information you are communicating must be relevant to the both the mission and the environment; then it must be communicated clearly, concisely, and assertively. But it almost always must be done in the shortest conveyance possible. Use as few words as possible to communicate the relevant information. Sometimes “words” aren’t even needed. It is common that in the field that distinctive “double click” on the radio means “acknowledge” or “copy” rather than speaking the word. Don’t communicate information that is not pertinent nor relevant. Don’t over-communicate; keep messages short, no “narrations” or “stories” when passing on information in the field.
  • Staffing (under staffed, level of training). The number of people assigned to the task/mission must be realistic for a successful outcome. Too many assigned folks and people get in the way of each other. Too few and people become overwhelmed and/or overworked.  Either usually results in tasks going unaccomplished. All personnel assigned to a specific responsibility related to the task or mission must be trained to successfully perform that responsibility. To help ensure mission accomplishment it is best to have personnel cross-trained in one or more other responsibilities to assist as needed.
  • Tunnel Vision. People naturally want to simplify a complex problem, derive a simple solution, and reduce the
    Tunnel Vision is a barrier to good Situational Awareness

    Tunnel Vision

    amount of incoming information to support a simplified solution. And in doing so people tend to gravitate to their own areas of expertise or comfort zones. And while all that is happening we also tend to reduce, or eliminate, alternative solutions that may be far better than the solution we have fixated on. This is commonly referred to as tunnel vision. The term “think outside the box” has a lot of merit to it. The best way to avoid tunnel vision is to ask those around you what they think of your solution or vision and then accept their honest feedback without becoming defensive. In a High Reliability Organization a leader will defer to others for their expertise in areas where the other person exceeds their own training and knowledge.

  • Health (tired/fatigue, ill, injured, adrenaline). If you are not in good physical condition and healthy then you are seldom able to acquire and maintain SA. You may acquire/maintain enough SA to accomplish the task/mission successfully but you must stay cognizant of where your breaking point is.  Reaching a breaking
    Poor Health, tired, hungry, dehydrated is a barrier to good situational awareness.

    Poor Health

    point, as it relates to your SA, can lower your ability to accept inputs enough that it jeopardizes you and your team. Another example is adrenaline. Adrenalin is a two-edged sword; it can cut both ways – good and bad. Adrenalin affects you physically and mentally in extreme ways; there is little middle ground to the effects of adrenaline. When humans find themselves in life-threatening situations our genetic programming will put us into a “adrenaline rush” pumping that chemical into our system. Essentially the “rush” allows us to “fight or flight” with enhanced capability that exceeds our normal human capacity or capability. Physically we find ourselves able to breathe in more air, pump more oxygen to our vital organs; our muscles become stronger, etc. That gives considerably more ability to fight the threat or flee from it faster than we normally could. The down side to the adrenaline rush is we lose a whole lot of our ability to think logically. Essentially we are stuck with the tunnel vision of fight or flight. Only physical training, simulation training  and experience can get us past the effects of the adrenaline rush forcing tunnel vision on us. “Stop, take a deep breath” has been uttered a billion times to people under stressful situations. There is a reason for it. When we find ourselves in an adrenaline rush or any stressful situation you must recognize what is happening. You must stop yourself from making a knee-jerk reaction, calm down, regain your composure and force yourself to think through a situation. The easiest “health” related barrier breaker to implement is; 1) stay hydrated, 2) eat right, and 3) get enough sleep/rest. Do not neglect these three basic mitigation actions and you are well on your way to overcoming the “health” barrier to good SA.

Emotional/mental barriers to SA:

  • Normalcy Bias (includes complacency, perception, and cognitive dissonance). Humans for the most part like consistency in the important aspects of our lives. We like to see our world as steady and reliable; few surprises. We like others to be dependable and situations to be simple and what we expect to see.
    Normalcy Bias is a barrier to good Situational Awareness

    Normalcy Bias

    Unfortunately that is a death sentence for dealing with emergencies and disasters. When dealing with a task/mission, especially complex ones, events and actions may be well outside of the “norm” and completely unexpected. In some cases maybe even bizarre. As humans we don’t like the discomfort of the unexpected or conflicting inputs and emotions.  We will naturally try to filter them through our biases to change sensory inputs into what we do expect…almost always something less scary or less unexpected than what reality is presenting us with. We tend to force those sensory inputs to conform to our view of how they “should be.” When doing so we will find ourselves distorting reality.  Sometimes we will have a tendency to simply block out the event altogether if it is too unexpected.

There is a definition and explanation for that. When we are presented with two or more sensory inputs that are contradictory to our expectations we can become very uncomfortable, that is called “cognitive cognitive dissonance is a barrier to situational awarenessdissonance.” In other words, our life just became very unbalanced and we hate that. So naturally via instinct or experience we attempt to restore balance. Unfortunately by doing so we will actively seek to avoid situations and  information that influence accurate reality-based SA. That means we will consciously or unconsciously shun anything that is causing the unbalance. And in doing so can make a bad situation way worse by ignoring reality.

Overcoming Normalcy Bias barrier is the single largest challenge most people will face in life because it is the barrier that is the most entrenched into our human brain and DNA wiring. And it is such because it is a survival mechanism for our brains. You mitigate this barrier through training (classroom, self-study & simulation) and experience.  Team SA is less likely to suffer from this barrier because you have more minds working on the same set of mission centered challenges and problems. Therefore you are more likely to have one of the team members speak up and challenge the “norm” or they have had enough experience to have reduced cognitive dissonance.

  • Competency Bias.This barrier is a function of “ego” pure and simple. It’s our view of ourselves and our Competency Bias is a barrier to situational awarenessabilities. It is our vision that we will always succeed.  Or, alternatively, our vision that we are always better at something than everyone else. Simply put it is the thinking that we can’t lose because we are better or luckier that others. That could be we are better trained, better equipped, better people, better cause, or any other host of ego driven self-image visions of grandeur (delusions of grandeur). This barrier is best mitigated simply by understanding that there others out there better than yourself. A more formal methodology would be found in the High Reliability Organization concept of “preoccupation with failure.” Looking at any given situation you are in and thinking through the ways that you (and/or your team) could fail. Then taking steps to mitigate the factors that could lead to the failure. A good test to status with this barrier…does anyone say about you “He thinks he knows everything.” If yes, you for sure should think twice about suffering from this barrier…Competency Bias.
  • Overwhelmed (including: stress, distraction, conflict & Paralysis by Analysis). This barrier is most notably found with young and less experienced leaders. Any situation can have activity and events that spiral Situational Awareness barriersupwards in numbers and severity…or alternatively, simply spiral out of control. So much can be happening that the action occurring and information that is incoming simply becomes too much for a person to handle. Stress is a result of this activity. Stress can also come from the unrealistic expectations of mission success or an unrealistic vision of team member capabilities. Even unrealistic expectations of a good attitude can be a barrier. A great way to mitigate this barrier is to simply ask “Is what I am thinking/planning a realistic expectation of the situation or person given the circumstances that we are dealing with?”
  • Another stressor is conflict among team members. To the detriment of everyone, the conflict itself can become the primary focus of team members and the team as a whole. This tends to happen in teams that have little experience operating together. A leader who is not trusted or respected can mismanage so badly Situational Awareness - Microthey can also drive a team full of conflict. Whatever the reason the team members feel an overriding need to resolve the conflict vs. achieving mission success. Due to induced stress, whatever the cause, a person can get to the point where they are so stressed they will tend to suffer from cognitive dissonance and Normalcy Bias rather easily. When that occurs a common result can be the filtering of sensory input or becoming distracted by the activities that are not pertinent to SA. Sue to the conflict they also could simply “disconnect” from other team members, or the entire team, and not accept any, or limit, sensory input effectively incapacitating them. Mitigation is best achieved by having a team whose members know each other, have trained together, and trust/respect each other.  On the ground you can mitigate this barrier assessing which information is the most important and filtering out the less impactful.  A leader can also ask for someone else to help with informational gathering and processing of specific inputs.
  • Too much information…in large, overly bureaucratic or hierarchical organizations a common barrier is “Paralysis by Analysis.” This barrier is usually erected by well-intentioned people. They have a desire to acquire as much information as possible and then work through projecting all possible outcomes before Situational Awarenessmaking an action plan. This barrier can often show that progress (albeit fake/false) is being made based on acquisition and processing. When in reality all the time and effort put into analysis is preventing a decision from being made on what should be done. You don’t have to have the best decision or the best plan. All you need is a plan that provides for task/mission success. And to come to a decision you only need the minimum of information not the maximum. The delay of action will almost always be to the detriment of mission accomplishment. No, you shouldn’t be impatient to act; but you also don’t want to find yourself paralyzed into not taking action because you are still trying to “figure it out.”
  • Excessive motivation. Also known as a “Can do!” attitude taken to the extreme. These folks will tend to be only concerned about mission accomplishment, often at any cost. While on the surface this may appear to
    Excessive Motivation is a barrier to situational awareness.

    Excessive Motivation

    be a positive trait, it is not. Caution should be given when a person expresses mission/task accomplishment “no matter what.” These people will tend to also suffer from Competency Bias and be so focused on succeeding they overlook the long list of ways they can fail. And not recognizing avenues of failure almost assures that they will follow one of those routes to failure. The best mitigation is well-trained, experienced leaders that have realistic expectations of success and can say “no” when needed. In high-risk, potentially lethal environment, this excessive motivation trait will often result in loss of life of team members.

  • Culture (includes ethnicity & religion).There are human attributes that are attached to certain cultures and religions. However, do not confuse “bias” with these cultural and religious attributes. One cultural attribute that comes to mind is Native Americans to be less vocal, especially in groups or crowds of non-Native Americans. Also, there is at least one religion, Islam, that in some areas of the world have very diminished views of women and their roles. Even a culture that respects all life can be a barrier because they aren’t skeptical enough of other people; or, they will hesitate to take life when the situation demands it for self defense. The best mitigation to these barriers is to be aware that they can exist and have no predetermined image or vision of anyone. Treat everyone equally and that includes you. Ask other team members for an honest assessment of any cultural and religious barriers that you or any other team member might have.

We just reviewed a long list of Situational Awareness barriers. However, you will notice that there are three primary ways to overcome those barriers:

  1. Good communications.
  2. Realistic perceptions and expectations.
  3. Training & experience.

Putting these barrier breakers into practice can sound easy but in reality they can be tough to regularly and appropriately implement. But training and experience can make it much easier to break down barriers in the field. Having a mentor, especially a leadership mentor, can help dramatically.

I will end this with saying again; High-quality Situational Awareness is of paramount importance.

It is your single most important skill to acquire and perfect to keep you and your team safe and alive. Without good SA you are clueless………and will probably act as such


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Situational Awareness: Part 2 – Micro & Macro

Situational awareness - pay attention signIt is easier to understand the micro environment by defining the macro environment first. A macro environment is the environment that exists on a much larger scale than your immediate surroundings…perhaps all the way to a national or global level. I am talking about on an international and national level Situational Awareness - Macrofor events that are transpiring. You could also easily include events occurring on a state and maybe even a county level as being part of that macro environment.

The micro environment is much closer to you; that which you have more control over and that which generally has more effect on you. Everything within your immediate surroundings; within eyesight is in the micro environment. Everything that takes place in your home, neighborhood, congregation, and probably even in your city all exists in your micro environment. But for our discussion, for the most part, I will refer to that which is within eyesight when referring to the “micro” aspect of the environment.

So exactly what is the “knowledge” and the “everything” that I referred to earlier?

To simplify it we can refer to both terms as “stimulus” and maybe more correctly, “stimuli.” But either way, it is Sensory Inputsensory input that we receive as humans via the basic five senses; sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. But I am going to add a sixth sensory input in there as well. Some call it “instinct”, others call it “gut feeling”, some others call it the “still small voice.” Whatever you choose to call it is fine with me; I will call it “instinct” for this discussion. Although, I am more disposed to the “still small voice” description but it is too long of a term for writing an article…and requires some additional explanation and discussion that is best left for another time and place.

So everything that we can sense in our environment is the input which we process and then it becomes knowledge. Once we have that knowledge we then can estimate what the various outcomes might be. Based on the probabilities of success of the various outcomes we choose an action, and then take action.

I place all of this process under the single label of Situational Awareness (SA).

Now that we have suffered through defining SA, why is SA good to have? With good SA and a solid understanding of L.I.P.S. you can make great decisions and take actions that will keep you and your family, or team, thriving and out of danger.

Why is the lack of SA a bad thing? Simple, in an emergency, disaster, or especially “grid-down” if you don’t have good SA you will die. And all of your family or team will probably die along with you. I am not sure about you, but death is not high on my priority list.

Let me give two example of SA; micro and macro while being a bit melodramatic.

First comes the micro environment. You are in a “grid-down” situation, you are out scavenging for fuel, yoGang members with guns in grid-downu turn the corner and there are three bad guys. You recognize them as all being bad guys from earlier run-ins, you know they mean business. One is about 50’ from you and has a pistol in his hand, arm hanging by his side. The second is about 125’ from you and has a shotgun cradled in his arms. The third guy is about 175’ from you and has an AR-15, maybe an M4, slung in the low ready position; appears to have a 30-round magazine in place. They are all looking away from you by about 90 degrees so you have maybe 1 – 2 seconds of lead-time on them.

Who is your biggest threat and whom do you shoot first?

Make your choice and outline your reasoning before continuing.

So, let’s talk it through the way I see it:

  1. The guy with the pistol is 50’ away from you and 50’ is a longer distance for the average person (even a well trained individual) to accurately fire a pistol and hit a target…especially under the stress and pressure of a gun battle. This is especially true for someone having to make a “snap” shot. So in my way of thinking he is not a real big threat right away…at least not the #1 threat.
  2. The guy with the shotgun has it cradled in his arm so it will take him a second or two to bring the shotgun into play. Also, it is almost a 42 yard shot for him and a standing “snap” shot at that. At 42 yards if he has it loaded with birdshot you can probably live even if you are hit. Also, most people are not accurate at that distance, especially with an adrenaline rush of a gun battle hitting them. So while being shot with a shotgun is not fun, it will hurt, you are more likely to be hit with a shotgun pellet than from a round fired from the person with the pistol. So he does represent a bigger threat than the pistol carrier.
  3. Now we have the guy with the AR or M4. First, the fact that he has it slung in a low-ready position indicates that he knows how to “wear” his weapon. Holding it in the low-ready indicates that he has some amount of training in weapons handling and tactics. The 30-round magazine indicates that he has a lot of rounds he can throw at you as fast as he can pull the trigger. Or, optionally he may be able to let loose a fully automatic burst at you. To me, this guy is without question your greatest threat. You better accurately throw a lot of lead at him as fast as you can to take him down or get him to run.
  4. Seek cover! You would factor in any cover that might be available to you. Actually, this should probably be your first choice.  They can’t shoot you if they can’t see you and/or they can’t get a round into you. So your Seek cover during gun bet might be to run for cover vs. standing there and having a shootout with 3 against 1 odds against you.

So there is your micro environment along with its sensory input. Once you absorb that input you process it into meaningful knowledge, decide on action options, choose one of those options and put it into play. OODA at work!

Let’s touch on a macro environment scenario now. Times are tough, unemployment is high, banks are troubled, the Economic collapse of teh US economygovernment is getting more and more tyrannical, and you are hearing the TV talking heads blather on about economic instability and devaluing of the dollar. You have money in a Fidelity IRA, a couple thousand in a BoA account, and your paycheck gets direct deposited. You wake up in the morning and there is a “News Alert” on TV referencing the President talking about the possibility of a bank holiday to straighten out the economic and Bank Holidaydollar problem. He says it’s no big deal and it would only last a day. Most of the TV talking heads praise him for such a bold move. The stock market opens 10 minutes later and drops 350 points in the first 5 minutes, another 500 points in the first hour.

What is going on, how important is it and what do you do about it?

Well, let’s talk it through:

  1. Times have been tough for a long time now and really tough since 2009. Since the pandemic hit in early 2020 the economy has nose dived and unemployment is at historic depression era levels. So there isn’t a lot different here.
  2. We’ve had the lowest labor participation rate for quite a while now, and it has been getting steadily worse since 2009.  Since the pandemic…is it at historic levels. While the unemployment rate has been going down it is mostly based on people being hired for low-paying jobs, part-time jobs, and fewer people looking for work. So nothing major or new here either…until the pandemic hit.
  3. The government has been getting much more tyrannical since 2001 in the areas of regulation and militarizing of police.  So there isn’t a whole lot new here either.
  4. The value of the dollar moves up and down, but it has been fairly strong for quite a while. Mostly this is due to other currencies going down in value.  But “devaluing” the dollar is a serious big red flag. This means that the dollar is about to make a big move (maybe already has) and it is almost certainly to be a downward move. This is a key piece of information.
  5. Hearing the phrase “straighten out the dollar” is a huge red flag. That indicates that something is wrong with it and something has to be done to correct it. This is a key piece of information.
  6. If you ever hear the phrase “bank holiday” mentioned in the US, especially by someone in government, you Government confiscating your IRA & 401k & savings accountshould be extremely concerned about what is happening. This indicates that the entire US economy and financial system might be about to be completely changed. And there is a very, very good chance that any money you have in any form in the bank or similar financial institution is in jeopardy. In jeopardy as in being taken from you, especially IRA and 401k kind of money.  This is an extremely key piece of critical information.

If you don’t act on that information what can/could happen? What actions can you take to minimize potential losses?

So, let’s talk it through the way I see it:

  1. You can’t make any significant move that would have an immediate change in your paycheck being direct deposited.
  2. If you take money from your IRA it will be taxed and penalized…and will take some time…days to maybe hours. While to can’t take any immediate action with the funds you could take a medium term move and transfer some, or all, funds into a local credit union IRA. By doing so you don’t suffer any taxes or penalty and the funds are closer to home and more readily available if needed in the future.
  3. The money in the BoA account is readily available. You could withdraw it and keep cash on hand. Or, as an option, take the cash and purchase a combination of precious metals (golds/silver).

So, you have just been exposed to micro and a macro environment form of stimulus input. The micro environment issues and risks tend to be dangerous and more probable in general. Macro environment issues can be just as dangerous, sometimes far more so, but less probable overall to occur. And macro can also be more widespread. In other words, both micro and macro can affect you but macro can affect a whole bunch more people at one time.

Why is knowing the difference between micro and macro important? You gotta know the risks to both, know what to watch for and understand the potential impact of both while putting them into perspective.  Or…you just can ignore SA and follow the other sheep into the abyss.

Yeah, sorry, I am saying you gotta “think” about important stuff not just some NFL score for your favorite team on Sundays.


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Situational Awareness: Introduction

Situational Awarenessnote: originally written in early 2015, updated in 2018, edited/updated again in 2020.

Several years ago I began writing a series of posts about Situational Awareness (SA). I believe SA is the single skill that will both motivate you to be prepared for emergencies and keep you alive during one. And for this conversation I refer to “emergencies” as any emergency, disaster, or even “grid-down.” And I mean all the way to “Zombie Apocalypse” or “TEOTWAWKI” kind of grid-down.

How is it so important and why does it rate so high in my estimation?

Hey wait, you forgot to ask what happened to all the material that I started writing several years ago. Well, I spent  several hours writing a great first post. Then I went back and read it. Boring!

No, seriously, it was incredibly boring. However, it was filled with an amazing amount of terrific information, examples, and great advice. But it was “stick-in-your-eye” painfully boring. So I will write it a little more like I would want to read it.  So on with the article…

Why is Situational Awareness important again? Come on, think about it. If you can’t accurately observe and understand the things taking place around you, then you can’t use that information to make decisions and then take appropriate action. What other skill or training matters if you are clueless to what is happening around you during critically important times?

You must be able to:OODA - observe, orient, decide, act loop

  1. Observe
  2. Orient
  3. Decide
  4. Act

The above is referred to as OODA.

So before I present any more SA information let’s take just a second and review preparedness goals and priorities: L.I.P.S.

Life Safety – You and your family/team must stay fully functional. That means no fatalities, no injuries, and no sickness. You stay as safe and as healthy as possible.

Incident Stabilization – Don’t make a bad situation worse. There is already a problem going on (emergency or disaster) so don’t do things that would make the problem worse than it already is.

Property Conservation – Don’t destroy anything you don’t have to. Resources are valuable, don’t destroy or use resources unnecessarily. You might need them later.

Societal Restoration – Do those things that puts society/family/community back the way it was (maybe even better) before the emergency or disaster.

So L.I.P.S. give us a solid commonsense method of setting priorities and making decisions. <click here for more info on LIPS> Now that we can make good decisions and set the correct priorities we must be able to understand what is going on around us in real terms. That is one part of SA, but there is more.

Purists would describe SA in the strictest of terms as a “state of knowledge.” In other words we have realistic knowledge of the things taking place around us in our environment. Further, Situational Assessment is being able to correctly assess that knowledge. And then there is the whole “action” part of the cycle, etc. If you are a student of “OODA” then you already have an idea of what I am talking about. But, for this conversation we are going to define Situational Awareness as the acquisition of, the processing of, a state of, and taking action on knowledge. That knowledge comes from the environment around you.

When dealing with all things preparedness, there is the “tangible” and then there is the “intangible”. The tangible is easy to identify; if you can eat it, drink it, hold it in your hand, or at least see it, then it is considered tangible. But in many respects that is the easy part of emergency preparedness. The toughest part of prepping may be that which you can’t touch, see, drink or eat…the intangible.

“How so?” you might ask.

Well, that is a great question and one that may raise some debate among all of us in the prepper world. But let me make my case for the “intangibles” being the greatest challenge and potentially the most fatal threat if disregarded.

Let me regress for a minute and talk about the “tangibles”, a complex but not-so-difficult subject to understand. You set a goal based on priorities (i.e. one year supply of food), then you work hard to add tangibles to your supply until you have met your stated goal.  The food you acquired can be held in your hand, seen on the shelf, eaten when needed, and therefore it is tangible.

SA is an intangible and can’t be held in your hand.  And so we must be able to clearly define it to be able to learn about it.

So what is the true value of Situational Awareness? Well, that depends – Do you want to live or die?

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be overly melodramatic but I do want to make a point. If you wish to make high-quality, informed and timely decisions you must be able to acquire, process and use information of your surroundings. Without that capability you are simply spitting into the wind and depending on blind luck not to get any backsplash on you. Don’t laugh, many people live every aspect of their daily life doing just that…you probably know a few.

Now let me share what the overall steps are when it comes to SA in emergency, disaster or “grid-down” situations.

First, you must understand the environment that you will be operating it; establish a baseline or what is normal and therefor expected in that environment. Hence, anything that occurs that is outside of that baseline is not normal and to be noted. You do that by observing what is happening around you – Situational Awareness.

Second, you then must identify the key cues that will indicate that something is sufficiently abnormal (i.e. different) that it would represent an increased threat or risk.  And you must monitor those identified environment elements for any change or deviation from the baseline, recognize when they occur and their relative importance – Situational Understanding.

Third, you project the outcome of the events that are taking place that are deemed a threat or risk to determine the effect it will have on your situation.  You then decide on an option to mitigate that threat or risk – Situational Judgement.

Fourth, take timely and decisive corrective action if required. Yes, I believe that SA without “action” is a waste of time and energy. But that also makes me outside of the mainstream advocating that SA includes an element of action – Situational Influence.

What exactly must you be observing in your environment?  The environment that I am speaking of comes in two forms, “micro” and “macro”. And that is the focus of the next article in this series.


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Situational Awareness (SA)

Situational AwarenessOne of the most important elements/principles to emergency preparedness is Situational Awareness (SA) and I refer to it quite a bit in articles. Actually, SA is essential for all the other principles/aspects of emergency preparedness to work properly. Without high-quality SA…all your other training and preparedness efforts are pretty much worthless.

I began writing about SA for preppers back about 2012. In 2015 I wrote an in-depth series of articles that was entirely geared for preppers. And it all promptly disappeared when the site crashed a few years ago.

Yes, I resurrected them and reproduced the articles in the form of “pages” as a topic under the “Principles of Preparedness” in the main menu bar. I made sure the articles were all on the Table of Contents page as well. But, a person has to go digging for that information to find it…something that many people aren’t willing (or can’t) do in today’s fast paced world with limited time. And, because the articles were produced as “pages” vs “posts” they don’t appear under “Situational Awareness” menu item on the left of each page.

Well, I am going to change that…starting today. I am going to reproduce the “pages” into “posts” after I’ve done some editing and updating to each page. Then when all the articles are completed and posted I will turn it into aWildland Firefighters face risk and threats in daily job PDF file for those who wish to save them and even print them for your reference material.

Why am I such a proponent of SA? Simple…my life depended on it…and the lives of those I led. In my former professional life if my SA wasn’t at the top of its game I could get injured or die. And the same was true for the men and women I led. In the later part of my career I taught higher level SA courses to leaders.

It wasn’t much of a stretch for me to see that SA was essential to being a successful prepper. Food storage is great! Having water stored is a good idea. First Aid training is smart. Weapons and training is important. But all of that is 100% useless without quality SA to know what is going on, what to do, and when to do it.

As we see what is going on all around us in the world today with the pandemic, the politics, the violence, and the civil war…well, this topic seemed fitting and appropriate for the here and now.


<click here to read the first Situational Awareness article>


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Threats, Risk, & Mitigation: Part 4

In this series of articles based on threats and risks to the “prepper” I have covered a lot of ground. My goal was to provide all preppers a Grid-Down anarchy lawlessness riotvalid and reliable system of threat/risk assessment by which those risks/threats could be ranked. Once ranked, you can design a plan to mitigate the associated risks and threats for any given event.

Back in the Introduction I identified the two parts that threats/risks pose to the prepper, they are; 1) probability, 2) severity. And you state it as, “How likely will the event occur from now and how severe will the outcome be?”

We do have impact through manipulation of probability and severity and thus can reduce the events impact on us, our family, our group and our community. And to more fully understand how that happens I went through the vehicle accident mitigation efforts and how companies and government reduced both the probability and severity of vehicle accidents. You can do the same when it comes to planning for the events that will plunge you into an emergency, disaster, or even a grid-down event.

In “Part #2” I touched on the Concern Level and the time-frame in which a plan needed to be created. The Concern Levels are Little, Moderate, Serious, and Critical. Obviously all levels to be mitigated but the Critical concern level needs to be addressed, a plan devised to mitigate the problems…and to do so quickly.

In my last article I wrote about what I feel are the most pressing issues that my family and I are facing at this particular time. Based on the ratings I assigned to each potential event here are the events in order of concern with the highest concern first:

When I charted it out in “Part #3” it looked like this –

Threat Matrix PersonalSo now is the time to figure out how to mitigate each event. For learning purposes I will go in reverse Concern Level order.

Heart Attack –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: I eat reasonably healthy, exercise regularly, have a complete Heart Attack is a prepper concern, risk, threat during grid-downphysical every three years. I have also educated myself on what the warning signs look like. I also don’t go too far beyond what I feel are my physical limitations. I am married and go to church which also statistically reduces my chances of a heart attack.

Reduce the severity should it occur: Those around me daily are trained in CPR. In our little group of friends that hangout together we have a couple of well trained medical folks. I came across a bottle of “nitro” that is part of my medkit as well as aspirin.

EMP or Nuclear Strike –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: There is nothing I can do to affect this item except at the ballot EMP Nuclear Strike is a concern, threat, risk for preppers during I vote libertarian which tends to lend itself to voting for the person least likely to use a nuclear weapon on someone else, and thus, the other country to use a nuclear weapon on us. Considering the only use of a nuclear weapon was at the hands of a very liberal/socialist/progressive/democrat and same for the near use of one, I feel I am doing the right thing.


Reduce the severity should it occur: I live in an area that is not attractive to a direct strike. I have tools and gear that can be used without power. I have some gear that I have taken modest steps towards protecting against an EMP strike.

Invasion of USA –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: There is nothing I can do to affect this item except at the ballot Invasion of USA is a concern, threat, risk for preppers during I vote for the person least likely to get us into a situation where we have foreign troops landing on American soil. Note: I think it is a virtual impossibility that any country, or combination of countries, can or will invade the USA.

Reduce the severity should it occur: I looked at the disruptions that were likely to occur in this event. They were: food distribution disruption, communications break down, power disruptions, martial law, violence and potential for occupation. To mitigate these I have taken the following steps: 1) I have food storage and the ability to grow more. 2) I have various capabilities to obtain information via emergency radio, I have Ham radio capability as well as alternative means of communicating. 3) I have the ability to provide minimal power via generator and solar. 4) I have the ability to “bug-in” for a sustained period of time. I have obtained skills to assist me in resisting martial law. 5) I have means by which my family can defend itself against violence. 6) We have multiple levels of planning to “bug-out” to alternative locations that are less likely to be occupied.

Epidemic / Pandemic –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: I have no opportunity to affect either of these events on any Epidemic Pandemic is a concern, threat, risk for preppers during grid-down.reasonable scale. On a family scale we can self-quarantine for a substantial amount of time removing our exposure to others. We have personal protective equipment that can add a layer of protection should we be forced to be around potential carriers. We have multiple levels of planning to “bug-out” to alternative locations that are less likely to be occupied.

Reduce the severity should it occur: We have a basic supply of over-the-counter medications. We also have a supply of basic antibiotics. We have a significant supply of vitamins to supplement our immune system.

Stock Market Crash –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: I have no control and no input that can prevent the stock market Stock Market Crash is a concern, threat, risk for preppers during grid-down.from crashing.

Reduce the severity should it occur: While we do have some percentage of our retirement accounts in mutual funds, those funds are managed with a certain degree of safety above that which affects the stock market in general. We have the ability to move our stock based mutual funds into “cash” funds with a single phone call and trigger points set to do such. We don’t have all of our retirement funds in stock market related investments. We have some in “cash equivalents” that can be redeemed for cash almost instantly. We have other funds that are in precious metals, other commodities, and real-estate.

Retirement –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: We don’t want to reduce the probability of this event, we Retirement is also for prepperswelcome it.

Reduce the severity should it occur: We have retirement accounts and other investments that will carry us through retirement vs. dependence on Social Security. We have food storage. By the time we are both retired we should have our retirement property debt-free. We are working towards being able to provide approximately 50% of our food ourselves. Our retirement home will be off-grid and thus reduce the costs of utilities, etc.

Financial Collapse –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: I have no control and no input that can prevent the financial Financial System Collapse is a concern, threat, risk for preppers during grid-down.system from crashing.

Reduce the severity should it occur: We have a cash emergency fund. We have a precious metals emergency fund. We have other commodities that have real value. We are working fervently towards a debt-free retirement property. We have part of our retirement investments in a “cash equivalent” that can be redeemed within hours should the need arise.

Flu –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: I have no opportunity to affect this event on a large scale. On a Flu is a concern, threat, risk for preppers during scale we can self-quarantine for a substantial amount of time removing our exposure to others. We have personal protective equipment that can add a layer of protection should we be forced to be around potential carriers. We have multiple levels of planning to “bug-out” to alternative locations that are less likely to be occupied.

Reduce the severity should it occur: We have a basic supply of over-the-counter medications. We also have a supply of basic antibiotics. We have a significant supply of vitamins to supplement our immune system.

Police State –

Reduce the probability of occurrence & time frame: This event is inevitable, every civilization that has ever existed Police State Militarization Of Policehas ended up as a police state. We are already well into a police state at this point in our country’s history. It has become institutionally and culturally embedded. There is no reversing it. However, that being said, I can be aware of it currently, and each step in the future where it gets worse. I can seek out those political candidates that oppose it and vote for them. I can protest steps that entrench it even more (i.e. military vehicles, automatic weapons, grenade launchers, etc. being given to local police departments). Finally, I can speak of it whenever and wherever appropriate to those who will listen to reason and logic, helping to make others aware of it so they too can take steps to resist it. Preppers need to fight against the police state.

Reduce the severity should it occur: This is a tough one. I can basically take all the “Severity” steps listed above and place them under this single event. I must have the following ability:

1 – Ability to defend myself and my family against oppression and violence.
2 – Ability to provide medical care to my family, group and community.
3 – Ability to communicate with others outside of normal media and communication channels.
4 – Ability to provide food without normal dependence on the regular food distribution chain.
5 – Ability to provide, filter and purify water.
6 – Ability to provide a minimal amount of power outside of the normal power grid.
7 – Ability to identify and group together with others who also wish to resist police state occupation (i.e. martial law) and organize accordingly.
8 – Ability to “bug-out” to alternative locations where the police state might not be as bad.

To be able to accomplish that list of missions/tasks, I need to:

1 – Have a sufficient supply of weapons and ammunition on-hand.
2 – Have sufficient medical training and supplies.
3 – Have multiple layers of non-standard communications capability.
4 – Have food storage and ability to grow a sustained food supply.Oath Keepers fight against the american police state.
5 – Have water storage and the ability to obtain more. Plus have filtration and purification capability.
6 – Have a generator, stabilized fuel, and the associated technology to use it. Have a solar generator and properly sized storage capacity.
7 – Find people that feel like I do and coordinate a response plan.
8 – Identify people outside of my area that are willing to enter into a reciprocal agreement to take in each other should the need arise.

What was interesting that I am sure you may have just recognized is this…

“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!”

By preparing for the worst possible scenario that is inevitable you actually have prepared for all the other potential events. The only difference is what event to prepare for first.

I would suggest going through your list of Potential Events and rate each one. Then chart them out so you can see preppers need to Take Action to prepare for grid-down emergencies and disasterswhich your greatest threat with the most risk is. Once that is identified start looking for what the individual components of the event are. Now, take that list and start identifying what you can do to limit the probability of the event from occurring, or should the even occur what can you do to reduce the severity of the impact it will have on you, your family, your group, and your community. The resulting list will give you clear indication on where you should focus your time, energy and money.

I would suggest that you not look beyond the “community” level at this point. Actually, I would start with the steps to reduce the impact to just your family. Once that is firmly accomplished then move on to your “group” and then finally “community” can be your final goal.

I hope this series of articles has helped you with a valid and reliable way to identify threats/risks and how to minimize their impact through preparedness activities. As I close this series of articles I would propose to you that this system will also work in any environment where risk/threats must be assessed and mitigated. That would especially be true to mission planning. In the planning process identify the risks associated with the mission. Then work down the list of each risk on how to reduce the probability that the risk would occur, and then if it occurred how could the severity of impact be reduced.

This is a valuable tool in the prepper’s toolbox, good luck!








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Threats, Risk, & Mitigation: Part 2

There will be threats and risks to you and your family during any emergency, disaster or “grid-down” event. This is the second article in a series designed to help you systematically identify those threats Grid Down Chaos violence threats and risks during emergencies and disasters riotsand risks, then rate them according to the potential affect they can have on your family. Once that is established it makes it clear what your preparedness priorities are (or should be) and how to make your plan.

In the previous article in this series, I introduced the Threat Matrix and ran through a brief exercise on how to use it. The value in such a valid and reliable systematic approach to defining and identifying threat potential is without equal. If you don’t know and understand the threats you will face, how do you ever expect to properly prepare for them? If you haven’t read the first article I would highly suggest you do so now. <Click to read the article now>

Here is the Threat Matrix that I introduced previously –

risk managment for preppers - Threat Matrix for probability and severityIn the exercise in the previous article I asked you to just guess when rating the “Probability” and “Severity” aspects of the chart. Now I will give you some concrete definitions to go by. You can use mine or use them to give you ideas on developing your own definitions. Either way, once you are done, you will have a valid, reliable, and consistent approach to defining risks and threats.

Threat Matrix - Probability rating definitionsThis chart gives you clear guidance on how to define the “Probability” rating and what the “Timeframe” outlook will be. This will give you consistency when rating threats and risks to future events.

The next chart gives you clear definitions of the potential “Severity” or impact of the event –

Threat Matrix Severity Rating chartThis chart gives you clear guidance on how to define the “Severity” rating. This will give you consistency when rating the severity of impact of threats and risks to future events.

The next chart gives you guidance on step #1, listing and rating each threat or risk that you perceive you are facing –

Threat Matrix WorksheetHere is an example –

Threat Matrix Worksheet ExampleHere is your homework assignment, list each threat and risk that you feel you, your family, your group or Homework for prepperscommunity will face during emergencies, disasters or “grid-down” events. Then rate each item for probability and severity. Add the two numbers together and divide by 2 for the “Final Rating” in the worksheet.

Yeah, I know. It looks like a bunch of school work. And you are right, it is “prepper” school work. If you didn’t learn valid and reliable ways to properly assess risks and threats how else would you do it? Seriously!

Now, one more piece of the puzzle before I close this article, the mitigation that should take place for each category of risk and threat that appear in the pretty colored Threat Matrix.

Concern Level and Mitigation Efforts to be taken –

little concern to worry about risk and threat for risk managmentLittleMaintain awareness of these events, their timing and potential to move-up the scale should be reviewed and discussed regularly. A plan should be developed and discussed identifying the events and the potential trigger points that could move them to a more severe or higher probability rating and the resulting impact. These potential events should be formally reviewed at least every 3 – 4 months for movement; weekly in times of emergencies, disasters or “grid-down” events.

Moderate concern for risk and threat for risk managmentModerate: A written plan for corrective action must be completed within 60 days, mitigation begun within 6 months and completed within 12 months. The action plan must include steps to avoid the potential for serious injury, disability and the potential for death for the more significant events. A written plan should be developed identifying the potential trigger points that could move them to a more severe or higher probability rating and the resulting impact. These potential events should be reviewed at least monthly for movement; weekly in times of emergencies, disasters or “grid-down” events.

Serious Concern about risks and threats for risk managmentSerious: Corrective action must be taken quickly and decisively within 30 days to prevent significant sickness, injury or to cope with significant infrastructure break-down. Monthly status monitoring of these potential events must take place. A written plan on the criteria and trigger points must be developed for steps to take should the situation worsen. Additional correction actions to be taken must be implementable within 24-hours should a situation worsen. These potential events should be reviewed at least monthly for movement; daily in times of emergencies, disasters or “grid-down” events.

Critical concern for risk and threat for risk managmentCritical: Immediate corrective action required within 10 days to prevent immediate or imminent death or permanently disabling injury. Daily status monitoring of these potential events by leadership must take place. A written plan on the criteria and trigger points must be developed for steps to take should the situation worsen. Steps to take must be written and made known to all family/team/group/community members. Actions to be taken must be implementable within an hour should a situation worsen. These potential events should be reviewed at least weekly for movement; at least daily in times of emergencies, disasters or “grid-down” events.

I hope this has helped you understand how risk & threat assessment can help you think clearly, rationally and logically when it comes to prepping. With this system you can correctly figure out what your biggest threat/risk is, how likely it is to occur, how severe of an impact it will have on your family and what to do about it.

In the next article in this series I will present my top nine risks or threats that I feel are worth identifying and rating in the Threat Matrix. Then I will explain how to “mitigate” the risk or threat. Look for this coming article, it will be worth the time to read!

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