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.

Physical:

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

Emotional/Mental:

  • 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 fight.best 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 grid-down.box. 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 grid-down.box. 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 grid-down.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.

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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Threats, Risk, and Mitigation: Introduction

In my day job I was responsible for ordering my folks to take risks; Wildland Firefighters face risk and threats in daily jobsometimes we risking our lives. It’s just what we do…and we were OK with that. It was our duty.

As “preppers” we must also understand threats & risks, how to rate them with a valid & reliable system, and then how to mitigate those threats and risks so they don’t destroy our family or group. I will do all of that in this series of articles.

Now, WARNING!…if you like fluffy prepper articles this is NOT for you. This series of articles will requiring thinking and learning. It will require effort. So, if you are a fair-weather prepper giving lip-service to this, if it is simply a hobby, then move on to another website article.

However, if you put in the time and will are willing to learn…you might just learn stuff that could one day save your life…or that of your family.

Moving on…

As firefighters we take the most risk by being unhealthy and driving our fire trucks. Yeah, movies and TV shows Fire Engine Wreck is more serious firefighter risk than getting burnedwould like you to think the greatest risk is running into some burning building, flames licking at our heels, roofs crashing in and the like. But that is TV and movie stuff; our greatest risks are vehicular accidents and not staying in-shape and healthy. When I moved into the wildland firefighting side of things the chance/risk of being in a “burnover” did go up significantly but has not replaced health and traffic accidents as the primary risks.

So what does this have to do with “prepping” and “grid-down?” Everything! Yes, I will explain but I had to set the stage and get your attention first.

So what are some of the ways that you might get sick, hurt or dead when the grid-goes down or a more mundane disaster or emergency hits:violence during grid-down is a risk and threat to your family

  1. Violence
  2. Lack of medicine or medical care
  3. Poor communications
  4. No organization or plan
  5. Dehydration
  6. Exposure
  7. Starving

So, now that you have a general list what do you do? I say you start to narrow down more specifically what exact events might take place to cause those things to happen.

Why do this? So you can take steps to reduce their impact. Why reduce their impact? So you and your family don’t get sick or die.

If you’ve been reading my articles for any length of time you know I like proven and reliable “systems” to guide me in my prepping. Systems greatly reduce mistakes when implemented correctly. And they do so by diminishing the impact of bias and opinion. Both bias and opinion can harm preparedness spending, direction, and plan implementation effectiveness.

I’ve already shared how to set priorities and make effective and consistently high-quality decisions in the preparedness world. That system is called L.I.P.S. and you should take a moment to read about it if you haven’t already.

OK, I listed above some of the ways you can become a casualty. And that list comes from events; some are Incidents pose risk and threat that is mitigated through risk managmentdisasters, some are emergencies, and my favorite, “grid-down.” But all of those terms describe a broad category of events, we want to talk about specifics. Doing so will then make it very clear where we want to direct our preparedness efforts and money. The specific events fall into a general systematic definition called “risk.” Each potential event is a risk to our health and safety, and that of our families.

Risk Managment Probability of incident occurringThere are two aspects of risk that we are concerned about; 1) probability, 2) severity.

Probability simply means, how likely the event is to occur. And in the prepper world I extend that to, and in what time-frame relative to now. So I have defined probability as Risk Managment Severity of impact if incident does occurrHow likely is the event to occur and how soon.

The other aspect of risk is severity. Severity is defined as If the event does occur, how bad the outcome will be.

Combined as a complete definition it reads…

“How likely will the event occur from now and how severe will the outcome be?”

Yes, there is a whole lot of “judgement” that can take place when working with that definition. But not to worry, I will give some guidance on how to reduce “guestimates” and deal more with sound judgement.

Now that we have identified the two main players in “event risk” and the yardstick to judge the probability and Risk Mitigation by reducing probability and or severityseverity, we can discuss how to increase our chances of surviving the identified event with its associated risks. And it is actually very simple two-step process; 1) reduce the probability that the event will occur, 2) reduce the severity of impact to our family. That process is called “risk mitigation.” And the process is best described by example:

In the early 1960’s safety experts became very concerned about vehicular accidents and the growing fatality and injury rates. So they embarked on reducing both; and they did so by looking at how people were getting injured and being killed. Then they began to look at ways to reduce the probability of vehicle accidents and reduce the severity of accidents should they occur. By using the two-prong approach they knew that should they be successful, fewer people would die and/or be injured.

Probability that a vehicle accident would occur – How did they approach this aspect over the last 60 years?

  1. Increasing the driving age.
  2. Requiring driver training for new drivers.
  3. Adding side mirrors.
  4. Improving roads, signage and traffic lights.
  5. Back-up warning.
  6. Lane encroachment warning.
  7. Auto-braking.

Severity should a vehicle accident occur – How did they approach this aspect over the last 60 years?

  1. Seat belts.
  2. Shoulder belts.
  3. Nader pins in car door frames.
  4. Crumple zones.
  5. Air bags in the dashboard.
  6. Side air bags.

Each step they took reduced the probability that a vehicle accident would occur, and if one did occur, the severity to those inside the vehicle would be reduced. I am sure you could apply that same thought process to any number of aspects of life, including your working environment. OSHA has made a whole industry and legal system doing so.

How does this system apply to prepping? Exactly the same way!

Let’s do an example to test that statement. Many, if not all disasters, would present the risk of lack of water supply. Finding water during emergency and disasters is risky and a threatSo the identified risk is “water supply.” How probable is a safe and stable water supply affected by any given emergency, disaster or grid-down event? I can tell you this, any grid-down will stop any municipal water supply pretty quickly; same goes for most disasters. And try buying bottled water even during an  emergency event. So the probability of lack of water supply is almost assured.

So, how do you reduce the probability that you would run out of water for your family?

  1. Water storage.
  2. Water filtration capabilities.
  3. Identifying a close-by water source (stream, lake, river, run-off pond, etc.).
  4. Drill a well or install a large capacity storage unit.

So by identifying ways to mitigate the probability that your family will suffer from lack of water supply you are coming up with solutions to a problem. But what about the severity aspect of no supply of safe drinking water?

If you think about it, it becomes pretty plain. No water supply means dehydration. Dehydration leads to incapacitation…and death pretty quickly thereafter.

But now that you have identified the probability of it occurring and the severity of it occurring you are in a better position to make decisions on time, effort, and budget considerations when dealing with preparedness priorities. Water supply would be a pretty high priority.

So for an exercise to better show how this would work let me introduce the Threat Matrix –

risk managment for preppers - Threat Matrix for probability and severityWithout getting into any formal definitions, take our list of threats that I discussed earlier and rate them according to the scale of 1 – 10 for probability and severity on the chart above as it relates to you and your family as of right now. And this will be for any emergency, disaster or “grid-down” event you can think of. Or you can combine those three possibilities together. Don’t worry about the exact definitions of the terms Probability and Severity. Just make your best guess. We will go over the terms in more detail later. The threat list items are:

This is my rating for events and associated risks that I think would occur and how they would affect my family right now.5 basic threats for emergencies disasters grid-down preppersThreat Matrix-and basic risks for emergencies disasters and grid-down for preppers

So the “matrix would now look like this –

risk managment for preppers - Threat Matrix for probability and severity5 basic threats for emergencies disasters grid-down preppers

So, taking a look at the chart, ask yourself, “Based on the level of concern on the chart, what should we work on first?” Well, it becomes clear for me what my primary risks are –Violence during grid-down, emergencies, and disasters is number one #1 threat and risk

  1. Violence
  2. Lack of medicine or medical care
  3. Water supply
  4. Food supply
  5. Exposure

So I identified the risks and set them in priority, it is up to me to then Risk Managment Mitigate by reducing probability severitydefine how to mitigate those risks. For me it would be pretty obvious that mitigating the “violence” risk would be my #1 priority right now. And how do I do that?

  1. Learn about Situational Awareness (SA).
  2. Identify specific violent risks through SA and mitigate those risks.
  3. Have a weapon for each member of the family and they are well trained in its use.
  4. Keep a low profile, not drawing attention to the family or house.
  5. Leave the area.
  6. Don’t tell anyone about our preparedness capability.

I hope that this makes sense to you. My goal is to give you a clear way to identify the risks you and your family have as you prepare for emergencies, disasters and grid-down. This system, when properly applied, will give you a way to competently identify risks/threats and then design a plan to reduce the risk. And reducing those risks is a matter of reducing the probability that it will occur and reducing the effects on your family should it occur.

In the next post I will give you the way to define probability and severity to make your Threat/Risk Matrix more valid and reliable. I will also show an example of using this same system and apply it to larger scale events. Yes, we will look at events and determine which are the most likely to occur. When we are done doing that you will be able to identify the individual risks for each. And you will then see which preparedness priorities are right for you and your family. Then you can develop your plan.

 

 

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Risks, Threats, and Mitigation

I posted a series of articles on Risks, Threats, and Mitigation last year. I had originally posted those articles way back probably 5 years ago. When I resurrected the articles I posted them as “pages” under the “Principles of Preparedness” menu option on the main menu bar. But, they can’t be found on the left hand menu items and I neglected to include them (until today) on the Table of Contents page.

Yeah, that means the information was really hard to find. And that is simply unacceptable for me.

So today I am going to post each of those articles as separate posts, update the menu items on the left, and update the Table of Contents page as well.

I would strongly encourage you to read the articles. The information they contain could prove very useful in today’s unstable social climate.

To read the first article in the series <click here>

 

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Objectives and Priorities (Part #2)

Three days ago in Part #1 in this two-part series of articles I went into detail about Leader’s Intent and how to set SMART objectives. And yes, I explained why this subject was relevant. But, it will be up to you to decide how it applies to your prepping.

I can imagine some folks started reading the article a few days ago and became disinterested quickly. Or after a few paragraphs of reading some people may have become bored. And that is OK, this subject may not be for everyone. Or, some people may already know the material well enough. But, the information contained in the previous article coupled with today’s information is extremely valuable for group/team operations.

It is nice to have some cans of food stored, a gun or two, plenty of ammo, and other prepping gear. But, do you know how to bring a group together to accomplish life-saving goals or how to set priorities correctly?

Can you do so in a high-stress environment of an emergency, disaster, or grid-down? No fear! I explain how you can do just that…with confidence in your process and your decisions.

If you haven’t read the previous article three days ago you should before reading this one because today’s article builds on that one.

Recapping Part #1 –
  • A leader must be clear in stating the “intent” of all missions/tasks.
  • All mission and tasks must be realistic.
  • When setting objectives use the SMART system.

Now let’s move on…

Setting Priorities –

There is a significant need for being able to set correct priorities in high-stress situations – which most emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events are…high stress. Without being able to set priorities consistently and correctly, a mission or group is doomed to failure. Priorities are also based on a mutual belief foundation that the entire team has agreed to.

While possibly stating the obvious, different cultures do have different beliefs…hence, different priorities. The need for the team to share a common set of beliefs and priorities is paramount.

Without an agreed upon set of beliefs and priorities I propose that any team would struggle to make good decisions. And I propose that is especially true when it comes to high-stress, high-value decisions.

Upon what basis would/could/should common priorities be set?

Without a common set of priorities, how easy would it be to make decisions? I suggest it would be increasing difficult to make decisions that would be acceptable to everyone as the stress increases. Conflict would ensue, splits would emerge, and finally the fracturing of a group or team.

Now, we could get into a whole discussion of “morals” as it relates to beliefs and priorities but that is best left for a conversation around a campfire in your own camp. For the purposes of this article I will stick to a non-religious, non-cultural based concept that has proven to work in emergencies and disasters. Over my decades in emergency services I have seen a system that works every time, in every situation. Yup, it works every single time…it is that good of a system. It is called L.I.P.S.

Back in 2005 I was at the National Fire Academy in Fredricksberg, Maryland attending a week-long course to be an instructor of instructors for all levels of ICS (100 – 402). ICS was relatively new to the structure fire department world and I was there to acquire national certification to teach ICS to students and to be able to certify other instructors. During that class the head of the national ICS course development team asked us to peer review the new ICS training materials for FEMA/DHS. Now that was interesting!

One of the areas we spent a lot of time on was the L.I.P.S. system of priority setting. It was something new to just about every aspect of emergency services at the local level. Our class developed the “S” part. But it was too late to get it into the materials. Fortunately I have my notes from that review process.

The goal was to develop and refine a decision making system that would be consistent across every emergency situation that first responders would find themselves in. It had to be applicable to hurricanes, structure fires, HazMat scenes, wildfires, floods, building collapses, plane accidents, train wrecks, vehicle accidents, bridge collapses, etc. It had to be universally applicable in every conceivable emergency situation. The outcome was L.I.P.S.Learn more about LIPS

L.I.P.S.. stand for –

  • Life Safety
  • Incident Stabilization
  • Property Conservation
  • Societal Restoration

Life Safety – The physical safety of people is always paramount. Stated again…People’s safety is always the number one priority. There are two areas of thought on this and they vary rather widely. I refer to them as; 1) traditional, 2) New Age.

The traditional view of “life safety” puts the safety of the person being served as the most important. The person’s life doing the act of service is secondary. Example…In my structure firefighting world we would risk our life to save the life of a person trapped in a house fire. No, we wouldn’t do it stupidly, but in the traditional view, the other person’s life (the victim) had great value and was worth taking a significant risk. Even to our own potential peril.

The New Age view of life safety says the value of the person providing the service (responder) carries far more value than the person needing the service (victim). The “risk” threshold was much lower, “reasonable risk.” In other words, the rescuer would take far less risk trying to save someone, placing a much higher value on their own life then that of the victim. The new fad of thought manifested itself when I saw the newer firefighters being hired (mid-1990’s) making statements such as, “Hey, I have go home at the end of the day.” Or, “My life is more important to me than theirs.” The New Age folks also use the justification that “If we get killed or injured doing our job, then who will take care of the victims?”

There is a middle-ground…mitigating risks. There is always risk in any high-stress dangerous situation such as emergencies and disasters. Actually, even the “stress” itself carries risk to a person’s health. So the key is mitigating the high-risk actions down to “reasonable” or “acceptable” risk categories. And that is a decision, a standard, that each team must set for themselves.

Let me be clear, all emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events will have high-risk elements to them. It is impossible to avoid risk but a smart person will mitigate those risks. But, sometimes risks simply must be taken. Which ones? Well, how about rescuing your child from your burning house and risking your own life? How about saving your wife from an outlaw gang and risking your own life? Is that worth the risk, almost certainty that you might die trying?

That is the decision you must make…Is the act worth the risk?

Whichever philosophy you adhere to, traditional or new age, the common ground is life safety is the number one priority whether it be life safety or the person you are trying to save or yourself, the rescuer.

Incident Stabilization – This principle is pretty easy to understand when you realize that when an emergency or disaster has occurred, people are having a bad day. One of your primary goals is to ensure that you don’t make it worse. In other words…you want to stabilize what is happening so it doesn’t continue to escalate in terms of loss of life and property.

A good way to view this is through an example –

Incident Stabilization!
Notice how they stabilized the vehicle from rolling over while they worked he accident.

As a firefighting crew we would respond to a house fire. It was important that we arrive on scene as quickly as possible. Upon arrival we could then attempt to rescue people inside the structure or begin firefighting operations if no victim’s lives were at risk. However, none of that would be possible if the fire engine driver drove recklessly and had an accident on the way to the fire. If an accident occurred there could be multiple injuries, fatalities, property damage, and then tying up more emergency personnel that would need to respond to the accident vs. the house fire. In this situation…don’t make a bad day (house fire) worse by having an accident and not being able to get the fire engine and crew to the fire.

Another example would be a wildfire burning in industrial area with woods on three sides. On the fourth side was a large number of propane tanks in close proximity to a gas station. Where should the firefighters focus their actions? Of course, prevent the fire from affecting the propane tanks and gas station. If the wildfire spread to that facility the wildfire would transition to a structure fire and a HazMat situation, potentially on a large scale.

Your actions should help remedy a bad situation, not make it worse.

Property Conservation – This particular principle changed into “property/environment conservation” not long after the course material was released. I personally would rather it state “resource conservation” but LIRS wouldn’t sound as cool as LIPS. Regardless, the principle is…while responding to a problem don’t destroy anything you don’t have to.

The reasoning behind it is fairly straight forward. Everything has value; don’t destroy anything if you don’t have to. I will add to that, because you may need it later. Bottom line, don’t tear stuff up unless there is a really good reason to.

The perfect example of this comes to mind taking me back once again to my structure firefighting days. One of the early methods of fighting a house fire was to enter a house with the water flowing from the nozzle as you searched for the fire itself. The concept was to push the heat and smoke away from the firefighters. However, it also put thousands of gallons of water in the home doing tremendous damage.

That tactic was changed to not flowing water till you found the base of the fire. Then you put only enough water on the base of the fire to extinguish it. That saved 10’s of thousands of dollars of damage to the home. I remember clearly one day my crew rolled up on a house fire, the fire was located in the kitchen. My nozzleman and another firefighter pulled the 1-3/4” attack hose and headed for the kitchen. Before they could spray any water, and flood the kitchen, I had the driver run the 5 gallon pressurized water extinguisher to us. I used about 3 gallons of water/foam mixture from the portable extinguisher to put out the fire. Attacking the fire with the large hose would have probably dumped 500 – 750 gallons of water into that same kitchen. But, we put out the fire with only 3gals of water. Which tactic did less damage?

Don’t destroy or damage any resource you don’t need to, you may need it later.

Societal Restoration – This is a somewhat nebulous principle, even for emergency responders. Naturally, emergency personnel are trained to come into a bad situation and stop that situation from getting worse and not doing further damage. Once the immediate threat has been resolved the responders normally pack up and leave. But, what about the victims? Their problem is only half resolved, maybe the easiest half.

Once again take the example of the house fire. Firefighters come in and extinguish the flames, get the smoke out of the house, and even remove some of the water that they used to put out the fire. But they also did what’s called “overhaul” to ensure there is no more fire, so some of the walls and ceilings now have large holes in them. The last of the fire trucks drive away. Is the nightmare over?

Maybe the imminent threat to life and property is, but is that family immediately back to a normal life? Hardly!

The family now has to secure the home, find a place to live, contact the insurance company, deal with the adjuster, find home repair contractors, have the home repaired, replace damaged personal possessions, and try to salvage family treasures. The fire may have taken a couple of hours, or a couple of minutes, to put out…but it may take months for that family to live in their home again.

Now, take that same concept and expand it to an entire community, town, or state. The idea is to return society, family, or community, to the same condition it was before the incident occurred.

Now let’s restate LIPS this way –Learn more about LIPS

  • The #1 priority is to protect people from death and injury.
  • The #2 priority is to not make a bad situation worse.
  • The #3 priority is not to destroy resources you don’t have to.
  • The #4 priority is to restore the situation back to normal, or better.

Let’s go back to the wildfire jeopardizing the propane tanks and gas station. You are the Captain of the first fire engine to arrive on the scene. What are your priorities?

Here are my suggestions according to LIPS:

  1. Make sure that my crew and fire engine aren’t going to be blown up.
  2. Evacuate anyone from the gas station and propane tank area.
  3. Take action to prevent the wildfire from reaching the propane tanks and the gas station infrastructure.

Notice I took care of my crew, we have to be functional to be effective, and there were no other lives as risk so I didn’t have to put my crew in jeopardy trying to save someone else. Next we had to ensure that no one would be hurt if the fire reached the gas station or propane tanks so we just had them leave the area. Then we got to work stopping the fire.

Does that priority-based action make sense? I protected life, then attempted to stabilize the incident by not letting the fire turn into a major explosion.

Let me do a little hypothetical to make my next point, please indulge me. I have a fence between my engine and the fire. To effectively suppress the fire mentioned above I have to get to the other side of the fire…with the fence preventing free movement. There are a few options –

  1. I could drive the engine across the field and right through the fence. Although doing so would destroy the section of the fence and potentially do an unknown amount of damage to the fire engine. We might even get stuck.
  2. I could drive down the dirt road to the gate about 100 yards away and cut the lock. The gate access would take me about 3 additional minutes during which the fire would spread.

Which is the better decision? I hope you picked #2.

OK, we just pulled up to the fence, it’s locked. We could –

  1. Drive through the gate without opening it, the fire engine could easily do that.
  2. Hook a chain to the gate and the front tow hooks on the engine, then back up the fire engine pulling the gate off.
  3. The nozzleman can get off the engine, retrieve the large bolt cutters, cut the lock, open the gate while we drive through. It will take more time than Option #1, about the same amount of time as Option #2.

Which is the better decision? I hope you picked #3.

Assuming we are cutting the lock on the gate…where do you cut it? Don’t worry, that is a trick question. You actually don’t cut the lock, you cut the link of chain right next to the lock. What you have left over is a lock that still works and a chain that is probably still long enough to secure the gate.

So far, we protected the safety of the civilians in the gas station, and didn’t destroy the fence, the gate, or the lock; and we haven’t damaged the fire engine. Now we can go about the business of preventing the fire from creating an explosion at the propane tanks and gas station.

Next step in our scenario…We’ve been fighting the fire for 5 minutes and have made no headway, the fire is growing and we haven’t had much success in stopping the movement of the fire towards the propane tanks. We are almost out of water, maybe another minute or two of waster is all we have left. The next fire engine is 5 minutes away. What do we do?

But, before you answer that, let’s review LIPS one more time –Learn more about LIPS

  • Life Safety
  • Incident Stabilization
  • Property Conservation
  • Societal Restoration

OK, now go ahead, what do we do?

There could be a number of right answers, but I hope you were thinking that we needed to load up the crew and drive to a safety zone. Since we weren’t being effective in stopping the fire and we were running out of water, it was too much of a risk to the crew and potential damage to the fire engine as well. We had little choice but to leave.

I hope these examples have helped show you how to use LIPS to set priorities and then make decisions based on those priorities. But how does that tie SMART and LIPS together?

Using the same wildfire approaching the propane tanks and gas station scenario, knowing that he only has about 20 minutes before the fire reaches the gas station and propane tanks, the leader does this…

Using SMART he made the decision on what actions to take:

  1. LIFE SAFETY – Evacuate all civilians in the vicinity of immediate danger before the fire can cause an explosion.
    • SEvacuate all civilians in the vicinity of immediate danger within 10 minutes.
    • MEvacuate all civilians in the vicinity of immediate within 10 minutes.
    • AEvacuate all civilians in the vicinity of immediate danger within 10 minutes.
    • REvacuate all civilians in the vicinity of immediate danger within 10 minutes. (The fire won’t reach the area for 20 minutes. All things being equal, this is “realistic” and evacuation is “relevant.”)
    • TEvacuate all civilians in the vicinity of immediate danger within 10 minutes.
  2. STABILIZE THE INCIDENT – Stop the fire from reaching the propane tanks and gas station.
    • SSuppress the fire on the other side of the fence, closest to the fire, before it can reach the propane tanks.
    • MSuppress the fire on the other side of the fence, closest to the fire, before it can reach the propane tanks.
    • ASuppress the fire on the other side of the fence, closest to the fire, before it can reach the propane tanks.
    • RSuppress the fire on the other side of the fence, closest to the fire, before it can reach the propane tanks. (This would be based on the Captain evaluating the probability of success based on his resources.)
    • TSuppress the fire on the other side of the fence, closest to the fire, before it can reach the propane tanks.
  3. PROPERTY CONSERVATION –Don’t damage the fence, the gate, the lock, or the fire truck while approaching the fire..
    • SWhile approaching the fire on the other side of the fence don’t cause damage to the fence, the gate, the lock, or the fire truck.
    • MWhile approaching the fire on the other side of the fence don’t cause damage to the fence, the gate, the lock, or the fire truck.
    • AWhile approaching the fire on the other side of the fence don’t cause damage to the fence, the gate, the lock, or the fire truck.
    • RWhile approaching the fire on the other side of the fence don’t cause damage to the fence, the gate, the lock, or the fire truck. (It is realistic to not cause damage by following fire department policy.)
    • T – While approaching the fire on the other side of the fence don’t cause damage to the fence, the gate, the lock, or the fire truck.

You can see that following the LIPS priority guidance and implementing SMART objectives you can accomplish quite a bit, even in a high-risk, high-stress environment.

Let’s see you put LIPS into action. Answer the following questions –

  • Would you fight fire first, prior to evacuating the civilians in the immediate area? Why?
  • Would you have your firefighters climb over the chain link fence and hand them the hose to fight the fire instead of going through the gate? Why?
  • Would you leave the area and not worry about the fire because it was close to the propane tanks and the gas station? Why?
  • Would you take the time to write down each objective using the SMART template? Why?

Since this is a time-sensitive operation the Captain wouldn’t lead the crew through writing down, discussing/reviewing, and then implementing the plan according to SMART. However, the Captain and his crew would surely be making decisions on what will be done using the SMART principles of objective setting. But they would be doing rather informally and quickly. When time is less critical you can use the full formal SMART process and actually write everything down, documenting each step and task.

As leaders develop and grow into the LIPS and SMART systems to priority setting, decision making and objective setting become second nature and virtually automatic. But, it takes learning, training, and practice to acquire those skills to be able to do that. You can learn it now, or you can learn in when the high-stress, high-risk emergency or disaster hits. Your choice.

I hope I have helped you learn a proven way to set priorities and make decisions on what actions to take. When you experience an emergency, disaster, or grid-down the ability to set priorities and make decisions quickly in high-stress and high-risk environments will be common place. I hope and pray you are a little more ready now.

 

 

 

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