Situational Awareness: Part 8 – Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The decision making model he developed is called OODA.

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

 

 

Broken down it means –

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

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

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

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

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

What about when there is no person as an enemy?

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

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

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

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

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

Situational Awareness & OODASo why the need for both models?

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

  1. Situational Awareness
  2. Risk Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding in Situational Awareness

Adding in Situational Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeadersIntent-004Do I have you confused by now?

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

That is obviously not my intention or my objective.

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

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

Success or failure is the outcome of your situational awareness.

Two Potential Outcomes…make your choice!

 

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Situational Awareness: Part 6 – Dig It !

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

OK, so “Dig It !”, really? Yup!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click to enlarge

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

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

Microcosm

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

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

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

Which is right?

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

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

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

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

Wait, why does any of this even matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now why again is this important?

Here are my answers and guiding principles:

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

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

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

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

Macro-environment

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

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

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

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

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

A Government of Wolves by John W. Whitehead

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

Battlefield America by John W. Whitehead

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

So how did it happen and how is continuing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics and politicians have failed “Freddie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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

“Will you be prepared for it?”

 

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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Situational Awareness: Part 5 – Critical Thinking

Part of good Situational Awareness (SA) requires the ability to recognize valid (i.e. true) information. We already know that your SA requires you to establish a baseline and then watch for deviations from that baseline. When you start to see deviations from the baseline then you have to pay particular attention to those events/activities as compared to the baseline.  Once those deviations have been assessed then you have to decide what action is required, if any, to mitigate the potential increased risk or threat.

Without a baseline and the ability to appropriately assess deviations you can be considered “clueless.” Yes, that is a technical term in the SA world! In the world of emergency preparedness, clueless can be fatal. But just as important as part of SA is the ability to take action based on the baseline and deviations thereof. Without being able to take the appropriate action in a timely manner you are not only clueless, but probably dead or badly injured. All parts of SA must work together in synchronization.

The very beginning of the SA process requires a baseline as mentioned. Our baseline in anything will come from a combination of factors; training, experience, culture, and bias just to name a few. All of these, and more, work together in your brain to form a baseline regardless of the situation or environment.

Next comes the ability to correctly recognize and assess sensory input. Sensory input can come in a variety of forms; smell, sight, or words to name a few. For this discussion I want to focus on words. More aptly stated I want to work on discerning messages and evaluating their truthfulness.

A good example would be a statement by a government official…is it true or false…or worse, a deliberate lie. It is vitally important to know the difference between false information and a lie. Both are not “truth” in any possible sense of the word. However, false information and a lie are not equal in weight when it comes to SA. Specifically, it is absolutely significant in terms of action to be taken. The degree of the underlying lack of truth will determine the degree, or severity, that your action will be.

By that I mean that in an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event false information can simply be a mistake in knowing or understanding the facts. A lie however, is a deliberate and intentional statement to misdirect and control you.

Another way to look at it, false information can be seen as ignorance (not knowing the facts). There are also some that would call false information as an attempt to withhold pertinent information while not specifically lying, and yet not being ignorant.

While confusing, it might be easier to look at it in this fashion; lying is done with malice. However, false information is usually as a result of ignorance or simply wanting to gain an advantage without the intention of malice. And malice, for this discussion is meant in terms of doing harm against the message recipient (i.e. stealing, injury, death. Control, etc.).

If I don’t have you completely confused by now, let me try harder. Example: Mohamed Saeed al-Sahhaf was the Iraqi Information Minister under Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. He was comically referred to as “Baghdad Bob” during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bob would hold press conferences that spoke eloquently of how Iraqi forces where decimating US and Allied troops. This would go on day after day, sometimes multiple times per day. Why did he garner his nickname? Because everything that Mohamed was utterly untrue, simply nowhere near reality.

For anyone in the US it was easy to know that what he was saying was silly and absurd. Was this false information or a lie?

Here is where the real discussion takes place. The information was without question absolutely false. There is no wiggle room in that point. Once we know it was false information now we have to know his intention. For that you ask, “Why was he doing it?”

I doubt seriously that he was trying to trick the US. But, if not us, then who? I propose it was meant to trick and mislead the Iraqi military forces. If they felt they were wining they would fight and do so with confidence. If they knew they were losing, and were getting no information to the contrary, then morale would sag and troops would give up. If the troops gave up then Iraq loses the war, and that leads to Saddam Hussein losing power.  But…we are not done yet.

Let’s for the sake of this discussion assume that the troops believed what he was saying and fought on. Would more troops die than if they had given up right then and there? The answer is obviously yes, more troops would die on both sides. Therefore, what Baghdad Bob was doing was lying. His intention, implicit or explicit, was more death and carnage. He lied, and people died.

That is a real-life example of the difference between false information and lying…it is called intention.

Well, if that is the difference, how do you tell the difference between lying and false information?

Bingo! That is the point.. However, to truly drive the point home, to bring it to full light I feel I have to raise emotions. If not, the full understanding will be missed. So please bear with me. I am going to take a hot button subject and use it to show the difference between false information and lying. I am going to use examples, two of which are going to be in regards to Islam.

Now, for those whose blood pressure just went up, relax. This is not going to be an argument whether Islam is this or that, I will just use arguments on both sides to show false information vs. lies. And to use reason, logic, and facts in the process.

Islamic Terrorist hit again!

The United States suffered another terrorist attack, this time in San Bernardino in 2015. The terrorists who attacked a Christmas party were Muslim. That is an established fact, it is 100% truth. So the term “Muslim terrorist” is also 100% true. That is Philosophy 101 level logic based statement.

However, you have some that say Islam is a religion of violence, hate, terrorism.  They will then say that Islam itself is “terrorist” because all terrorism appears to be coming from Muslims.

The FBI defines “International terrorism” as activities with the following three characteristics:

  1. Involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  2. Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
  3. Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

We will use that definition and refer to it as simply “terrorism” for this discussion. And I am sure we can agree that the San Bernardino attack was terrorism.

Back to our Muslim terrorist statement, let’s test that for truth.

  1. Are all terrorists Islamic? Currently, the answer for some would be a resounding yes in as much as by statistics the largest number of terrorist attacks in the world right now are being committed by Muslims, and San Bernardino was for sure.
  2. Therefore, since all (or at least the vast majority) terrorism is being committed by members of Islam, and all members of Islam are Muslims, then all Muslims are terrorists.

Is that a true, or accurate, resulting statement? Let’s not worry about the answer just yet. Let’s test the statement itself, “Therefore, since all (or at least the vast majority) terrorism is being committed by members of Islam, and all members of Islam are Muslims, then all Muslims are terrorists.”

We can test that easily enough, do all Muslims commit terrorist acts? The answer is obviously no. Therefore, Islam by default is not a terrorist organization. I will even take it a step further and say that some Muslims are good people, but that is simply opinion since that is a subjective statement relative to my baseline. However, that also can’t produce a statement of truth, “Since some Muslims are good, then Islam is good.”

Where am I going with all of this? We need to have the tools to assess not just the truth of statements but what it means in relationship to ourselves. In other words, how does it impact us.

Let’s take the two opposing sides in one aspect of the Islam is bad argument:

  • Islam is bad, evil, and satanic creating terror around the world. Muslims are evil people and we must punish them.
  • Islam is a religion of peace and love. The terrorists are, and violence is being committed by, Muslims that are not practicing their faith. They are just evil people not Muslims.

So which is true?

I could by-pass a lot of discussion and ask a simple question, “What does each side gain by their position?”

  • The “Islam is bad” crowd probably wants war and a scapegoat for all the problems in the world.
  • The “Islam is peace” Muslim crowd wants the focus off themselves and their entire religion to not be held accountable.
  • The extremely vocal “Islam is peace” non-Muslim crowd is usually just full of vanity and self-aggrandizing.

All three sides have a lot to gain, all have significant self-interest. However, that self-interest must be considered in determining “truth.” And that doesn’t even begin to cover things such as bias.

So let’s test some more details of each side’s arguments.

  1. One side says Mohammad was a pedophile.
  2. The other side says that is not true and become enraged at the accusation.

Now, here is where it can get ugly…

A person trying to make Islam to be evil would say something like, “If the founder of Islam was evil because he was a pedophile, then the religion of Islam is evil. And if Islam is evil then Muslims must be evil.”

However, once again, that is an untrue statement using logic and fact. For it to be true, all Muslims must also be pedophiles. And we know that isn’t true, by anecdotal evidence and also Muslim religious and judicial guidelines in-place today saying that they cannot marry until a girl is at least in puberty.

Therefore that proves that not all Muslims are evil. Do some Muslims qualify as pedophiles? Are some Muslims criminals because they commit sexual abuse of pre-pubescent children? I cannot provide evidence or statistics to prove that point. Regardless of Mohammad’s standing as a pedophile or not, that alone does not make Islam or all Muslims pedophiles.

So when you hear statements, such as #1 & #2 above, you can’t simply make a snap decision and be assured of your accuracy. You must actually research the issue and know what you are talking about. Or you risk using false information or lies in your SA process. Doing so in emergencies, disasters, or grid-down events can then easily lead to making poor, maybe fatal, decisions based on faulty assumptions which was based on false information or lies.

But we still have the “action” aspect of the SA process I’ve been talking about. If you then take action, what are you taking action on…or for what reasons?

Based on the example statements, what action would or should you take?

My suggestions would be…virtually no action needs to be taken. And that is based on the amount of risk or threat to you if either statement is true or false.

What do I mean by that?

Statement #1 (One side says Mohammad was a pedophile.), even if it is true, so what? Does it require any action on your part? No. Plain and simple, no.

Statement #2 (The other side says that is not true and become enraged at the accusation.), if it was proven to be a lie, what threat or risk is there to you or your family? None. Plain and simple, none.

But, what it does mean to me (or you) is…if a person tries to advocate for Statement #2. I need to be cautious. Why? If a person is perpetuating that lie, they are then a liar and not to be trusted.

There is an exception to that conclusion. If statement #1 was true in your mind but a person can provide sufficient evidence that a reasonable person would believe that Mohammad wasn’t a pedophile, then you need to change your opinion. But, the evidence provided must pass a simple test – it must negate all the evidence you used proving to yourself that Mohammad was a pedophile.

An example of that would be definitive proof that A’isha lied when she said she was 6 when married to Mahmoud, then 9 when forced to have sex with him. That might be difficult, remember her own story in her own words was recorded by eleven authorities. Or, the writings/narrations, written in their holy book must be proven to have been fraudulently recorded. OK, you get the idea on that burden of proof.

But here is a problem, A’isha herself told the story of her and Mohammad, and that story was recorded as truth many times in their holy books. If someone in present day claims that it isn’t true, you would have to naturally ask, “How can a person 1400 years after the fact claim to know more than actual written history recorded multiple times by multiple people who lived it?”

And then you have to bring into the equation that no recognized or credible Islamic scholar or historian raised any red flag over the story of A’isha prior to some modern-day claim of fraud. Why would that be? If it was a lie and a fraudulent story, wouldn’t someone have objected to it being in their holy books in the first 100, 500, or 1000 years after it was written? Why would someone just bring it up in modern times and expect to have any credibility?

Now, there is a more actionable point. If a person tries to claim a different truth, a different factual history, now…ask yourself “Why now and why him?” That is far more important question to answer before you delve into the truthfulness of his claims. You must know “intent” first.

Until you can be convinced otherwise you would be well suited to view that person who is making the claim to be either providing false information due to ignorance, or lying for more malevolent purposes. And you maintain that position until he can prove to you otherwise.

Personal note: I don’t care who Mohammad was or is. Yes,I feel sorry for that little girl, but it happened a long time ago. I don’t judge Islam or Muslims based on Mohammad’s pedophile status or what he did to that little girl. I don’t judge, or at least I shouldn’t judge, one Muslim based on what another Muslim does. What I do care about it the content of a person’s character. If a Muslim, like any other person, lives a decent life and doesn’t hurt others, then they are okay in my book. In today’s world it is easy to be calloused about Muslims and view them as a single group. I urge you not to. Sure, logic and prudence does whisper some caution, but it doesn’t justify bias, prejudice, or bigotry.

Good SA requires the ability to think through all informational input. And you must be able to analyze it with facts and logic. Then, act only if the outcome, or potential outcome, requires it.

And beware of arguments filled with emotions. A solid position based on fact and logic needs no emotion. Emotion is meant to win an argument with little or no fact, without logic, and mostly upon the art of persuasion touching a person’s feelings.

Should that fail, some weak minded people may use “deflection” as a tactic. This is most often used when a person knows their position is without merit, wholly or partially, and uses something else to draw away attention. Example: Christians killed more people than Muslims.

In that argument they are trying to use a moral equivalent to justify their position. But use reason in relationship to your baseline…Christians killing people in the name of their religion or their god is just as evil as Muslims killing people in the name of their religion or their god. They are trying to justify or overshadow one evil act with another. When in fact, both acts are evil. But the person that makes that argument is unable to see the difference, approves of both, or simply can’t make the mental effort to understand the fallacy of the argument they are making.

You will also see some individuals that will use emotion, and when that attempt fails the person will then sometimes fall back to attacking the opposing person personally without the use of facts, reasoning, and logic. It becomes a personal attack vs. a discussion or debate.  Those tactics can be read about in a book called Rules for Radical by Sal Alinsky. The book ironically enough is dedicated to Satan.

Concluding…SA is essential to emergency preparedness. You must be able to recognize truth, false statements, and lies. If you don’t develop that skill set you will not be able to accurately assess information that you are receiving. And that will lead to poor decision making. And poor decision making could easily lead to injury or death through bad actions or lack of action. Us critical thinking skills…think it through…test all statements for logic and reason…and most of all, intent.

 

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Situational Awareness: Part 4 – Team SA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of good communications skills of team members:Assertive Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preoccupation With Failure!

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

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

The five pillars of HRO’s are:

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

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

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

 

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

Your Choice!

 

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Situational Awareness: Part 3 – Barriers to SA

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

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

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

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

Now let’s touch on specific barriers –

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

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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Out-Of-The-Loop

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

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

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

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

 

The decision making model he developed is called OODA.

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

 

Broken down it means –

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

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

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

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

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

What about when there is no person as an enemy?

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

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

To review the 2-part series on “objectives and priorities” that appeared on August 8th and 11th.

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

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

Back in Objectives and Priorities (Part #2), when we were given Leader’s Intent we can/did ask for clarification to ensure a solid foundation of understanding. On the other hand, if we are the one delivering Leader’s Intent we used the SMART model to clarify the task. So exactly what confusion is left to clear-up?ColJohnBoydOODA-003If you look closely at the OODA Loop you will notice that there is a very close relationship between the “OO” and the Situational Awareness. In plain English the “Observe” and “Orient” matches perfectly with the concept of Situational Awareness (SA). If your SA is good, your OO functioning correctly as well.

Situational Awareness & OODASo why the need for both?

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

  1. Situational Awareness
  2. Risk Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding in Situational Awareness

Adding in Situational Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeadersIntent-004Do I have you confused by now?

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

That is obviously not my intention or objective.

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

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

 

 

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