Survival Cache to Stay Alive & Start Over – Part #1

Survival Cachenote: first appeared in March 2015

I have been a “prepper” most of my adult life. I have been a member of fire departments or worked for the federal government in wildland fire most of my adult life. I have learned incredible life-saving skills through my emergency services training as well as some great private training opportunities. I have taught myself a whole bunch over the years as well. So I consider myself, and my family, to be pretty well prepared and skilled. It wasn’t until about 8 or 9 years ago that I became worried about “grid-down” and the associated risks and threats. I wrote this article to address the “grid-down” scenario where I thought I wasn’t as prepared as I felt I should be.

Preparing for grid-down is a special kind of prepping because you must look at a wide range of scenarios. For a number of years I acquired long-term food storage, seeds, and multiple ways to filter/purify water, and other necessities. Then I really put some thought to what might happen if I couldn’t use the prepper items that I have put into storage. That got me a bit worried…OK, more than just a little bit.Build your Survival Skills

The #1 thing that is absolutely critical to surviving any emergency, disaster and especially “grid-down” are skills. I am OK in that area. But without some kind of gear to work with it makes it much, much harder. So that became a focus of my efforts for awhile…acquiring the right gear.

The purpose of my posting this thread is quite simple – provide you with some solid ideas on what you might need to cache solely for “survival”. Yup, SURVIVAL!

Mission –

Safely store sufficient essential survival gear and equipment to use as a basis to survive as I acquire additional survival gear and equipment.

So here is the premise of the situation used to develop the list:SurvivalCache02

  1. You are thrust into a situation where your first priority it simple survival.
  2. You have nothing with you or on you that is of any significant value.
  3. You must provide the basics of life, especially life safety.
  4. This is based on the L.I.P.S. decision and priority setting system.

Why even have a priority setting and decision making system?

Without it, how will you consistently make the best decisions and set the right priorities? L.I.P.S. provides that system; based on decades of emergency, Learn more about LIPSlife threatening, and high stress situations. A recap of the L.I.P.S. system:

  • Life Preservation/Safety
  • Incident Stabilization
  • Property & Life Preservation
  • Societal Restoration

Life Preservation/Safety – These are the priorities that must be set and decisions made to save your life. The most basic of human body needs (i.e. stop bleeding from a wound, protect yourself from an attacker, prevent death from dehydration, etc.)

Incident Stabilization – Don’t let a bad situation get worse; and potentially become a Life Preservation/Safety problem. This meets the next level of needs; examples – don’t starve to death, warmth, shelter, protection from the environment.

Property & Life Preservation – This means don’t destroy resources unnecessarily. Examples – Don’t destroy the edge on your knife trying to sharpen it on a rock, have a knife sharpener. Don’t allow insects to bother you so much that they won’t let you sleep or worse, have insect repellent.

Societal Restoration – This item means that you will restore society (or at least your part of it) back to the condition it was in prior to the event. This category is outside the scope of this discussion and will not be addressed.

So where does this come from?

  1. 40 years of preparedness experience
  2. 25 years of emergency situation experience
  3. 4+ years of military experience
  4. Teaching wilderness survival in the 70’s & 80’s
  5. Spending 4 – 16 weeks a year in some of the most remote areas in the United States
  6. Research from those people with even more experience than myself
  7. Common sense

If you don’t know and understand the L.I.P.S. system you really need to read this article

For now I will just post the list and give you time to look it over and think about it. 50cal ammo can - survival cache

Here is my list. It all fits in a standard .50cal ammo can that the military uses and you can purchase as surplus. They are available for about $12.00 each. I vacuum sealed most of the items for added protection. The total cost for all the items purchased brand new was $195.16

Don’t freak over the cost. Many of these items you may already have sitting around the house, garage, or shop. For now, just look over the list and think through it. And don’t forget to check thrift stores and garage sales when it comes time to acquire your items.

Let’s get started with the first category, but before we do I think we should review a couple things:

  1. We must have a very specific defined “mission” for this kit; otherwise, we will just wander around adding more and more until we need a backhoe to bury a decent sized trailer full of items, including a small refrigerator. So the mission of this kit is to help us survive, period, nothing more. And survive in the term of just that -basic survival- nothing more. That means you must have a plan for what to do after you get your hands on this kit. Example: Make it home, or, get to your retreat, or, meet up with your family, or, get to “______” (fill in the blank). This kit is not to provide you with a camp, to arm you for a battle, to feed your church friends and families. This is just to survive till you can accomplish the next step in your plan.
  2. With the mission defined, the next issue to be resolved is exactly what do you put into this kit. If you don’t have a system by which you make these decisions you may well overlook a life-saving item for a creature comfort item. So I fall back on a simple but highly effective priority setting & decision making system called LIPS that I talked about earlier. Without an effective and proven decision and priority setting system you will struggle to decide what items that must be in there and what items can be in there.  And that is entirely different than what items you would like to have in there.Life Preservation and life safety - survival cache

So let’s move on to the first category of items to place in your kit, “Life Preservation / Safety” :

This category is the most important and the most urgent. The items contained in this category are those items that will save your life.  I’ve listed them in order of priority. Maybe it would be better said, “…in my priority order.” My situation may be far different than yours. My idea of what’s important may be different than yours.  Then again, maybe I am just missing something that you catch and feel is more important for your situation. That is fine with me, just use LIPS to justify and validate what you are doing.

So this category is all about saving your life – period. It is about making it through the next 1 – 8 hours of your dire survival situation. At this point nothing more matters, simply surviving the next 1 – 8 hours.

Survival Cache - Life Preservation

#1 & #2 Items – First Aid items; field dressing and triangular bandage. I come from the old school of first aid…I still remember my Army first aid training back in military school…”STOP THE BLEEDING!” But, I noticed that as I continued to gain additional medical training, including Dressing12" - Medical Care - Squad Trauma Aid KitEMT, it was still pretty much the same. So here is how LIPS comes into play…

If you are bleeding and it doesn’t stop…you are going to die; so stop the bleeding. Hence, field dressings are more important than water. You can live another 10 or 20 hours without water but you can easily finish bleeding to death before you die of thirst. And you will die of thirst before you die of starvation. So you might be thinking, “Yeah, but I am in a full-on firefight and if I don’t have ammunition I will get shot!!”

You might just be right, but this is not a weapons cache, this is a survival cache.

But you might be saying, “Well, if first aid is so important then we need a whole lot more first aid items!!”

You might just be right, but this is not a first aid cache, this is a survival cache.

You see without defining the mission of this cache you could go crazy putting a whole bunch of items in it and having a small trailer full of stuff that you may or may not end up needing. But clearly defining the mission and having a decision making system (LIPS) you can figure out what you need.

Does that mean you don’t need ammo or more first aid items? Of course not. It is just not the mission of this cache to provide it. Can you have more than one container of cached items? Duh, of course you can.  You can do whatever you wish, but we can talk more about that later. For now we will stay on task.

So #1 & #2 are to stop bleeding and assist in setting a splint if needed.

portable aqua water purification tablets#3 & #4 Items – In my part of the country water is scarce and the lack of it will kill you pretty quickly. So I included a bottle of water to have on hand to consume quickly to rehydrate before delusional thinking sets in and/or to prevent imminent death. I chose water purification tablets over any filter, not because they are any better, they are just smaller and they do the job. There is water in our area but you may have to go looking (i.e. hike a couple miles) to find it. That bottle of water will help keep you alive till you find some other water source, even if it is just a cattle tank.

#5, #6 & #7 Items – You have to be able to defend yourself and be able to prepare food; to me, knives are the answer. Why not a gun? Come on, we talked about that already, this is not a weapons cache, it is a survival cache. If you want to make a weapons cache that is fine with me but that is another thread of information, just not this one. So notice the three different sizes of knives; large every day carry (EDC) knife, a smaller pocket knife, and a very small knife. Each has a job, and to me, each is needed.Gerber paraframe knife

EDC knife – this is your work horse knife. It will be used as a primary defensive weapon, then used to assist with food preparation, then other tasks as needed.   I chose a Gerber “paraframe” model. I like the weight and feel of the knife, open to ease cleaning, securely locks open, thumb assist, holds an edge and sharpens easily. And it is only $17.97!! Sure there are lots of better knives, like my EDC which is a Spyderco Paramilitary2, great knife!!! But is costs $130 vs. $18. Remember this little piece of info – YOU MAY NEVER USE YOUR CACHE, YOU MAY NEVER COME BACK TO IT, YOU MAY NEVER FIND IT or SOMEONE MAY STEAL IT. So do you want to lose a $18 knife or a $130 knife? Up to you.

Gerber model STL 2.0 knifePocket knife – this is your back-up knife, the knife that you will use in the event that your EDC is not available. You can designate it as the knife you will use to skin small animals such as squirrels and such. Or you may turn it into the knife that you integrate into a strong stick and make it into a spear. You may use it as part of a snare, trap, etc.; your choice. I chose the Gerber model STL 2.0 (black). This is a great little knife!  I really like it. It doesn’t take up any room to speak of in your pants pocket; it’s flat, strong, great blade, holds an edge and sharpens easily. It locks open very well, no fear of inadvertent closing. But I am not crazy about knives that have the locking mechanism on the cutting edge side of the blade. This knife as well as the Paraframe have such a locking mechanism, nothing is perfect. But this is truly a nice little knife. And it is only $12.97!

SOG Micron knifeMicron knife – yeah, this one may surprise you a bit, it did me the first time I saw it but know I love em and always carry one. The knife is called a micron knife for a reason; it is less that 2” closed and just under 3-1/2” open. It is only about 1/8” thick at the handle. So you wonder what you could use it for? For me it is primarily a back-up weapon. Yup! You read that right. It is small but will cut an artery just fine. But most of all it is easily concealable. I won’t tell you where you can hide it, coz I don’t want to give away my hiding places.  But think it through and get creative. Also, you can integrate it into a decent size stick and you have a great little spear. I chose the SOG Micron based on overall quality and craftsmanship. Yes, it costs $12.88 (9 cents less than the Gerber pocket knife), but it is money well spent when you need a knife the bad guys couldn’t find when they search you. I didn’t seal this in a bag because I want it available to cut open the sealed bags in the can. Yes, I could have left out any of the knives but I chose this one because it is the one that is the least operationally valuable of the three knives. The one I want to lose if I have to lose one.

#8 Item – You might think that in the desert southwest we wouldn’t be in need of something such as a “body warmer”. But truth is, nights here can get cold, even during the summer. When you are exposed to 90’s and 100’s during the day and it drops to 68 at night, that is cold. During the winter it drops to 20’s at times; that is REALLY cold! You die of exposure pretty quickly so be prepared to have a heat source that can be quickly implemented. Yes, you could build a fire. But what if you had no fuel around you right then? What if the bad guys were pursuing you and a fire would give you away? What if you were so cold, it was raining, and your hands were shaking uncontrollably? Yup, a warmer could be put into play immediately. I chose the Grabber Peel n’ Stick Body Warmer because they work, lasts for 12 hours, you can put it where it is needed and they stay there. Oh, and they are less than a $1. If you are in a colder climate you can probably add more to your cache can without using up much space. So why didn’t I place it in a sealed bag? Coz I didn’t want to be shaking uncontrollably from hypothermia and have to deal with my knife to cut open a sealed bag to get to it. Or risk cutting open a hunk of skin instead of the bag.

#9 Item – Yup, you read it right, bobby pins. There are a number of uses for them, do some research on the Internet. But most of all, a little secret, if the bad guys put you in handcuffs a bobby pin is a very good key. Really?

#10 Item – I struggled a bit putting a Pocket Saw in this category but there is a reason that it is in this category vs. the next one. Yes, this saw can be used to create fuel for a small fire but it can also be used as a very effective and silent weapon. Sorry, that may sound a bit gross or heathen-like but we are talking survival here. And you can’t survive if someone can kill you. If you want to know more about using pocket saw as a weapon let’s make that another post or thread; one best related by one of our resident experts.  I choose Coghlan’s based on quality, value and being readily available.

The Original Space Brand Emergency BagThe Original Space Brand Emergency Bag#11 Item – You can die from hypothermia rather quickly. If it is cold enough you could die within a couple hours, maybe less. I chose the Space Bag over the space blanket because it is slightly heavier weight and will completely surround you and stay in place. A blanket can be a bit unwieldy and leave gaps where cold drafts can get to you. Mostly, this is a personal preference…if you like a space blanket, by all means go for it. The point is…it will keep you warm! It will also resist other elements such as wind, rain, snow, etc. Also, if you build a fire you can use it to reflect the heat back at you, warming both your front and back at the same time. And should you have access to a sleeping bag of any kind you could potentially survive some very very cold weather.   I chose the Grabber reflective bag based on availability, quality and price.

#12 Item – Yeah, why the heck would I put camo paint on the list at all, let alone in this critical category?   Well, remember Duck Commander War Paint - cammo paint make-upwhen I was talking about defensive weapons, being able to defend yourself? One of the best defenses is being unnoticed. If the bad guys can’t see you they can’t attack you. I would have put this up the priority list if this had been a “tactical cache” but it isn’t, but it is still important. Want to know how good this can work? In normal street clothes go hide in the environment around where you live, in the woods, in the desert or wherever. Now have someone just stand there and look for you. I bet I know what one of the first things their eye will be drawn to – your face. Now, do the same thing with camo paint on your face. See what the difference is. So one minor note, if you are trying to hide in the big city and are walking around the streets with people around you – ah, you might want to hold off on the camo paint. Just as a thought. I chose Commander War Paint because it was what was on the shelf, it was decent priced and it had a mirror with it. Yup, a mirror was a selling point. One of the important things in an emergency or disaster is communications. You can see a mirror flash for many miles.

So there you go, category #1 is done. I gave you a list of what I consider the basics to survive the first hour to 8 hours. You can add to this list if you have the space, have different priorities or just want to. You can buy the items wherever you wish, just remember to get the best quality for a reasonable price.

Why a reasonable price? You may never use this stuff, you may never find it, you may have it stolen. What you put in here you may never see again. So you don’t want to cry too many tears if you lose it.

In the next article I will go over the second category “Incident Stabilization”




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One Chance To Get It Right!

No Second Chancenote: first appeared in October 2015

I was gone all this last week and had a time to get my head away from all things “prepper” and just focus on my job. However, during one of the meetings on risk management the speaker used the slogan “you get one chance to get it right.” I sat there and it hit me like a lightning bolt.

That applies so much to what we do, or will do, as preppers that it isn’t even funny. Then all this stuff started streaming into my head that I just have to share some of it. Stuff that I think could make a huge difference in living or dying should the grid go down.

I am not talking about less dramatic situations such as disasters and emergencies, although it could apply to those as well. What I am going to talk about is specifically “grid-down” level events. However, it does in-fact apply to lesser events such as disasters and emergencies, just not as dramatically.

So getting back to the point of this post –

You have one chance to get it right.

So here is the backdrop, an event occurs that could cause substantial disruption in the daily life of a large number of all citizens. The event could be an attack from an external threat such as Iran, or it could be an event such as an implementation of martial law due to the reaction from a crackdown on alleged right-wing militia groups. And then there is the run-of-the-mill financial collapse or EMP strike. You get the idea. But remember, this concept can apply to any lesser emergency or disaster as well.

So the event occurs, now what do you do?

You get one chance to get it right. or you get it wrongWhy is that question even important? Because you may only have one chance to get your response to the grid-down event right.

Yes, I am serious, you may have only a single chance to react correctly to the situation. How so? Envision something as mundane as a roadblock. Do you try and successfully navigate the roadblock or do you seek another way home? What about if they are searching vehicles, do you have anything that will give you undo or fatal attention?

What about filling up your SUV’s fuel tank on the way home after the event occurred? That may be the last of the fuel for the foreseeable future. Did you or your wife fill up the bath tub and every other container in the house while the water was still flowing?

There are a thousand questions that I could prompt you with to see if you are making, or going to make, the right decisions when an event occurs. My point is not to make you feel as if you will fail, rather it is meant to prompt you with, “Do you have a plan?” And, “Will you faithfully follow the plan?”

So, when an event occurs will your one chance to get it right find you successful? I am going to say that for the majority of people the answer will be “no.” I am thinking that “no” will be the answer for about 75% of all the people in the United States. So I do pray that the situation will allow us all a second chance to get it right. But that may not be possible.

So what can you do to get it right the first time? Well, honestly you are doing just that right now. You are aware that it might be a failing of yours and you are learning about mitigating the unfortunate reaction of getting it wrong. So awareness and Plan for a dister, emergency or grid-down now.learning are the first two most important things; so, congratulations!

Next I firmly believe you must have a plan. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated but a plan is a necessity.

Then it is imperative that you be able to recognize what is happening SharkCanoeBEFORE it goes bad. And it doesn’t have to be a long time before, but just before to some adequate degree. That gives you time to take action while you still can. So Situational Awareness is absolutely needed. <read more about that by clicking here>

Then you must take some kind of action. That might sound kind of silly but I am dead serious. You would be surprised at the number of people that will not act during an emergency, even when their life depends on it. Don’t let that happen to you.

While you are waiting for the trigger event (or emergency/disaster) to occur use your time wisely, get training. Actually I should more accurately say, “Get the right training for the right people.” My wife will never be a sniper or a field medic, but training in first aid and getting her through a tactical carbine class was the “right” training. And please don’t forget the kids! Many kids have saved lives because they knew CPR.

Now let me share a few words on a phenomena that exists in some of the most risky professions in the world today. And that is –

“There are no new ways to screw-up, just new participants.”

And yes, I realize that could very well apply to life in general. But here I am talking about more fatality prevalent occupations. In the wildland firefighter business we have a few top contenders for the worst screw-ups that lead to fatalities, they are:Wildland Firefighter Deaths Chart

  1. Vehicle accidents
  2. Health/medical conditions
  3. Burn-overs
  4. Trees falling

Those four items account for about 90 – 95% of all wildland firefighter accidents resulting in deaths for the last 80 – 90 years. In the 1970’s we added aircraft accidents to the list but that category swings pretty substantially from year-to-year.

So we don’t really come up with new ways to kill people in my business, we just change participants. The same thing will be true for casualties during emergencies, disasters and especially “grid-down” events. Generally speaking, people will die from:Deaths During Grid-Down

  1. Violence
  2. Lack of medicine or medical care
  3. Inability to communicate
  4. No organization
  5. Dehydration
  6. Exposure (to a much lesser degree)
  7. Starving

Now what do you do? Well, to my simple way of thinking you mitigate the risks associated with each of those casualty inducing events. And that is “risk management” which I have written about. But for now just think, “How can I reduce the probability of those things occurring?” And, “If it does occur, how can I reduce the impact to my family?”do you have an Action Plan for grid-down emergencies disasters family

And that brings me right back to asking you the question, “Do you have a plan?”

Finally I want to touch on an interesting challenge I am going to hit you with, “Do you prepare with blinders on?”

Yeah, kinda of a weird question isn’t it? But it is meant to push you to think about what you are doing in regards to preparing for events that could challenge the safety and Bias can hurt your prepping preparednesswell-being of you and your family. Another way to ask the questions would be, “What bias is affecting your prepping?”

This is going to be a tough one to easily work on. Because as a prepper you have to make some assumptions on what to prepare for and you have your personal “history” affecting your judgement as well. But you must also challenge yourself by asking, “Am I locking myself into a single set of assumptions and missing something total different?”

Example: I know guys that are deep into prepping for EMP events. And they have cool Faraday Cages and such, but, they have neglected to buy and store heirloom seeds for planting a garden when their food storage runs out. Another guy I know has three generators of different sizes for use when the power grid goes out. And he stores one partially full 3-gallon can of gas without stabilizer in it. Then there are the folks who have large stores of food hid away. And not a single weapon to defend it all with.One Chance To Get It Right

So my final challenge to you is to remember that blinders (i.e. bias) can make you miss huge gaps in your prepping and make you screw-up that one chance to get it right.





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Knife – CRKT Hissatsu

CRKT - Hissatu 2907D flat dark eartSeveral years ago I was seeking a true self-defense, or tactical, knife. A knife that I could defend myself with knowing it would accomplish that task very efficiently and effectively. Since I am no knife-fighter I started asking around of those that possess that particular skill set. My question, “What was the best self-defense knife?”

There really weren’t that many answers that varied a whole lot. What they universally did say, “Knife fighting is ugly and you are going to get hurt?”After a number of discussions I understood what they meant. I decided then to avoid knife fights.

But, I still need to possess a good knife for tactical purposes. The experts helped me narrow it down. But they also pretty much said the same thing pistol experts say when asked what is the best pistol to own. It has to “feel right” in your hand.

Of course there are some standard traits of a good tactical knife:

  • Sturdy blade that won’t break easily
  • Piercing capability
  • Sufficient cutting edge surface
  • Handle that is the right size
  • Handle that maintains grip even when wet

After doing a lot of research, testing a number of knives, and making a couple bad decisions I finally found the right hardcore tactical knife for me. It is a CRKT Hissatsu.

Here are the specs:CRKT-Hissatu-002

  • Open Overall Length:  12.25 inches
  • Blade Length:  7.125 inches
  • Thickness:  0.2 inches
  • Blade Material:  440A
  • Blade-HRC:  55-57
  • Blading Coating: titanium nitride
  • Grind:  Dual
  • Edge:  Plain
  • Handle Material:  Double Injection Glass Filled Nylon/Soft Textured Rubber Grip
  • Carry System:  Glass Filled Nylon Sheath

That knife is amazing! It fits my hand perfectly and I can move it with ease and confidence. That knife can pierce by simply setting it’s tip on something. I tested it’s puncture capability very unscientifically. I placed it on a substance that imitated human flesh. When very little pressure it pierced with ease. Next came slicing meat…again, with ease.

It takes an edge well with my diamond sharpener although I have to work at it. But, it holds an edge incredibly well. The blade is very sturdy and I have not a single concern that it will break being used as it is intended.

Yes, as you can tell, I really like that knife. And it is part of my tactical kit since 2012.

But, it does have one drawback…size. It is over 12” long, the blade is over 7” of that. In a tactical situation that is not a problem at all. You secure it to your tactical vest and you are good to go. But, trying to carry it in a non-tactical (a.k.a. civilian) setting can get you some unwanted attention.

And then there is the situation where you want an easier to access knife for close quarters battle situation. Example: You enter a room, bad guy grabs your AR that is attached to a sling, and you have to get up close and personal. It may be difficult to draw your CKRT knife in close quarters, or take too long. Having a smaller tactical knife readily available might be the logical choice. But that is another article all together.

Here is some information directly from the CRKT website –

James Williams, the designer of the Hissatsu™, is a former Army officer and martial arts practitioner/instructor with over 45 years of experience. He knows cutlery as President of Bugei Trading Company, producer of fine Samurai swords. As one who has trained tactical law enforcement and military forces for the SureFire Institute, he has developed a unique and powerful approach to unarmed combatives. His system of defensive tactics, known as The System of Tactical Strategy, has its origins in the ancient Samurai military systems as well as the Russian military art of Systema.

CRKT - Hissatu 2907D flat dark eartA key part of this system is the Hissatsu based on an old Japanese design. The unique shape of the blade, made famous by the legendary Samurai warlord Takeda Shingen, provides enormous penetrating power and superior slashing capability in one blade, which works with the natural motion of the body. James arrived at this modern version as a backup weapon for close-quarters combat. This is a focused single-purpose knife for use in anti-terrorist/close-quarters battle (CQB) environments, either as a primary or a secondary weapon to augment the handgun in the hands of trained professionals.

The Hissatsu’s dual grind Tanto blade is 440A stainless steel, high satin finished. For those who prefer a non-reflective finish, the Hissatsu is available with a black EDP blade or in Desert Tan dress with titanium nitride blade coating.

The handle is in a traditional Japanese pattern, but is Twin-Fused™, double injection-molded with a high-impact polypropylene core, butt and hilt, and a non-slip soft textured rubber grip handle surface. Oyatsubo, the emperor node on the omote (outside/public side) of the tuska (handle), allows you to know which direction the blade is facing, even in compromised lighting conditions, by touch.

The custom injection-molded glass filled nylon sheaths (in matching black, Desert Tan or blue) grip the knife firmly, and have removable belt clips which can be attached high or low, vertical or horizontal with the black two-piece screws provided. There are also holes and slots for carry on belts, webbing or equipment.

The Hissatsu is intended for use only by trained law enforcement and military tactical team professionals. Enormous power in a light, flat package makes for easy carry with many options for placement on tactical gear.

Know that the CKRT Hissatsu is an excellent choice, my choice, for a tactical self-defense fixed blade knife. It is in every way a “BUY!”

Buy It !

OK, so now here is the downside…please don’t hate me…the knife is no longer in production, CRKT discontinued making them. The good news is they are still out there to be bought. If you want a desert sand color you have to go to eBay. They only show up occasionally. For Black you can get them on Amazon.

Amazon - CRKT Hissatu 2709 knifeNow a really cool thing…there is a “training blade” version. These are great to train with. No rubber blade crap, the trainer version is dull aluminum. This trainer blade gives you a great opportunity to train like you will fight.

CRKT - Hissatu 2709 blue training knife

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Cold Steel Knives: Secret Edge & Brave Heart

Cold Steel KnivesEvery once in a while a product comes along that is so obviously bad that I just can’t contain myself. I am talking about a couple of knives that will probably hurt you more than any potential attacker. But let me digress for a minute…

I have been working on a knife review for some time now. I’ve reviewed ESEE knives already. They are some of the best knives in the world. But, here is why I am so into knives right now. Remember, I took onPointTactical’s Surviving Deadly Contact class in September? < read the article here > In that class I learned about knife fighting. Nothing too in-depth but some great skills, but most of all I learned the value of a good quality tactical knife.

Our instructor had a great knife on him that he used for demonstration purposes. A fantastic little knife…and $500.00!!!!  No, that isn’t a typo…$500 for that little beauty. No way I can afford a knife that expensive. So I started looking for a decent substitute. Cold Steel knives were recommended to me, specifically the Cold Steel Brave Heart model.

While doing the research on it I also came across another model, the Secret Edge that also look promising. I bought both. I am sorry I did. Let me explain.

Cold Steel – Secret Edge:

Cold Steel Knife - secret edgeFantastic little Kydex sheath for it. And that is the last of the “pros” for this knife, everything else is a “con”, literally I believe. The steel is a very bright and shinny, and the Japanese AUS 8A stainless steel just doesn’t feel as if it is a good steel for this knife. It was extremely awkward and difficult to get out of the sheath. The size of the handle was extremely small and I could never get anywhere near a decent grip on it. But here is the worst part… Everything I tried my hand wanted to slip onto the blade. And while I might not like the steel it would slice the crap out of my fingers the first time I tried to penetrate anything.

The knife retails for over $40.00 It isn’t even a good deal at $9.99. This knife sucks and will get you hurt!

Specifications –

•   Blade Length: 3 1/2″
•   Overall Length:6 1/2″
•   Steel:Japanese AUS 8A Stainless
•   Weight:2.4 oz
•   Blade Thickness: 2.5 mm
•   Handle:3″ Long. G-10 Griv-Ex™ Style
•   Sheath:Secure-Ex® Neck Sheath

Do not buy this knife!

Cold Steel – Brave Heart:

Once again, nice Kydex sheath! I think Cold Steel should think about just making sheaths for the good knives Cold Steel Knife Brave Heart knifeon the market. The cheap little clip on the back of the sheath would last about 10 minutes under harsh conditions. But the sheath does have some slots for paracord to be used.

Taking the knife out of the sheath was much less awkward than with the Secret Edge, but still not smooth and natural. And while the handle material is better quality and less likely to see your hand slip and slide, there is still protection preventing your hand from slipping forward onto the blade.

And once again, the blade is Japanese AUS 8A stainless steel just doesn’t feel as if it is a good steel. This knife retails for nearly $70.00!  The stitches required after using it will cost you much more.

Specifications –

•   Weight: 2.8 oz.
•    Blade: 4″
•    Thick: 2.8mm
•    Overall: 7 3/4″
•    Handle: Kraton®
•    Sheath: Secure-Ex®
•    Steel: AUS 8A Stainless
•    Made in Japan

Do not buy this knife!

Summary –

Both of these knives really suck and will get you hurt. No, I am not some fancy “know-it-all” knife fighter. And maybe that is the problem. But from everything I tried and everything I saw I don’t like either of these knives.



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Cross-Band Radio Repeater – Part #2

cross-band repeaternote: first appeared in early 2015

I really saw a need for “repeater” capability when a bunch of individuals got together and all they had was handheld radios.  Distance and Line-of-sight always limited their usefulness.  And when it came to responding to a disaster or emergency situation handheld radios are virtually essential.  But once again, they have limited transmit and receive capability.

When I stumbled upon the Baofeng UV-5R handheld radios <click for more info> a few years ago I knew I had in my hands an invaluable resource for “preparedness”, especially after “grid-down.”  I cannot stress enough what the ability to communicate will mean then or even during less dramatic disaster situations, or even while hunting or camping.  I was aware of “repeater” technology through my government day-job but it was appeared to expensive and complicated.

When I first got my Ham radio license I began my search for the best all-purpose radio that my budget could afford.  That took me to decide the Yaesu FT-8900R <click for more info> was it.  Once I dug into it I realized how easy it was to set it up for cross-band repeater operation, I knew I had the answer in my hands.  However, I decided a used Yaesu FT-8800R was a more economical solution for setting up a field-going repeater.  And that led me to this “build” and documenting it for you in this article.

In Part #1 I covered the first five steps, in this post I will conclude the build and summarize my experience at the end.

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.

Finished Product – Complete with the Yaesu mounted inside.


Step #6 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.I am installing the remote head separate from the radio body.  This is to allow the rear of the radio unit to be accessed from the front of the box.  And it allows the radio to run a bit cooler since the head is separate from the body.  To get the remote head installation bracket properly installed I used a piece of 2″ aluminum angle to give the bracket a solid mounting surface.  All mounting bolts utilized star washers to prevent the nuts from inadvertently spinning off. The remote head is mounted as “dedicated” for the repeater and will not be removed for any other usage needs.

Step #7 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.This was the easiest of all brackets to mount.  My only concern here was mounting the microphone bracket where the microphone would easy to grab while keeping it out of the way of the rest of the box contents, including the wiring.


Step #8 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.Last came putting it all together as a complete ready-to-go repeater package.  Couple notes:

  1. I had double fuses in the box.  The power cable coming in had a fuse on the positive and negative.  Then the power (+) cable to the radio had a fuse as well.
  2. Notice the short antenna coax jumper cable from the “through-the-box” double male 239 to the rear of the radio.  I used an 18″, I could have used a 12″.  Using an 18″ would enable me to remove the radio unit and set it on top of the box for troubleshooting or any other reason.
  3. I built my own remote head cable since all the commercially built cables were really long.  I didn’t want all that cable coiled up in the box so I built my own 6-wire.
  4. All my wire connections are Anderson PowerPole.  I use them for everything and doing so here ensured compatibility now and in the future whatever change might come…including repairs if needed.
General Question & Answers (questions from folks that have seen the repeater) –RadioAntennaCar
  1. Can a magnetic mount external vehicle dual-band antenna be used with this repeater?  Yes.  Since the antenna connection on the exterior of the box is a standard 239, basically any antenna can be used with this unit.  I slapped a Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna directly to the metal box and it worked just fine. It gave the repeater a very low profile and hard to spot.
  2. What antenna do you use with this unit?  I built a highly portable antenna for use with this unit whether using it as a repeaters or as a base unit.  I built it to blend in with the desert surroundings here in the desert southwest.  I will post an article about that soon.  But any dual-band antenna will work.  The heart of the antenna was a J-pole designed by Dr. Ed Fong WB6IQN of UC Berkeley, featured in the Feb. 2003 issue of QST.
  3. What do you use to power this unit?  I built it to work with the 12v 105 amp hour Energizer AGM gel battery I purchased through Sam’s Club. I expect the radio would operate about 1 – 2 days without the need for charging. I have two 30w solar panels with a charging unit to hook up to the battery.  A GoalZero charger controller handles regulating the battery charging.  I can run the unit with my Honda EU2000i if need be.
  4. You mentioned “base station”, explain?  If I am not needing a repeater, I can use this unit as a base station. I just leave the lid off and place the box where I don’t have to lay on the ground to use it.  It has everything needed to be able to operate it just fine as a base station.
  5. Do you set it on the ground to use?  No, not really.  I would set it on rocks to get it up off the ground.  I am working on a lightweight aluminum stand with folding legs to keep it about 6″ off the ground.
  6. What water-proofing have you done to the box?  Not much.  The box itself is extremely sturdy and the lid has a rubber seal.  All the screw/bolt heads that protrude on the exterior of the box have all have silicone seal on them.  The vent holes are the weak-link; fan and intake.  Not much I can do about that except maybe place a cover over the box that would act like a roof.  I might consider that when building the stand for it.

If you love your handhelds for ease of use, you will love this repeater to extend the range of your beloved handhelds.  Enjoy!





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Cross-Band Radio Repeater – Part #1

cross-ban repeaternote: first appeared in early 2015

In my day job I use often radios over very long distances.  To accomplish this the government has installed a series of repeaters in various locations around our six county area.  Repeaters make it possible for me to talk to folks hundreds of miles away as if they were sitting around the corner.  I wanted that same capability for any disaster or “grid-down” situation that I might have to personally deal with.  That led me on the journey to come up with my own repeater capable of operating in the field for long periods of time in rough conditions.  Here is that story…

Mission –

Provide the ability of handheld and mobile radios to communicate when line-of-sight was not possible.  Provide a dual band Ham radio unit that was field-going and sturdy/rugged to use when a repeater was not required.

Requirements & Limitations –
  1. Must be capable of repeater operation on 2m and 70cm bands.
  2. Must be a rugged, sturdy radio capable of operating in the field.
  3. Must use 12vDC power.
  4. Must be very conservative on power usage.
  5. Should be easy to program, set-up and use.

Radio of choice – Yaesu FT-8800R (to read more about the radio read the 2-part article posted 3 days ago.).

Box of choice – Army Surplus 40mm ammo box in good shape, seal intact.

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.

Finished Product – Complete with the Yaesu Radio mounted inside.

Notes before staring – I laid out the box contents first.  I kept moving them around until I had what I thought was the perfect location for each component.  I then used a felt-tipped pen to mark the location of mounting screws.  I did this to make sure that all the holes I had to drill made sense in relation to the box itself.

Step #1 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.I drilled a hole for the double-male 239 connector to fit in and pass through the box.  This gets the antenna lead from the radio to the outside of the box while making sure the seal stays “burr-free” and actually water tight.  The hole was slightly larger than the 239 barrel diameter.  The rubber grommet was purchased at Lowes.  I won’t put in the sizes of drilled hole, grommet, etc. since your 239 double-male barrel may be a different configuration or size than the one I used.  Take the 239 to Lowes and buy the right size grommet by trying it out right there in the store.  Then you will know the size of hole to drill based on the size of the grommet based on the exact pass-through you are using..

Same thing for the power leads, buy the smallest possible grommet to get the wires through, then drill the appropriate sized hole based on the grommet size.  I wasn’t trying to make it water tight, just “tight enough” to keep dust and rain out.  If I ever make the repeater a semi-permanent installation I will slather silicone seal all over the outside of the grommets.  Based on the “finished product” picture above, I drilled the holes on the back-upper-right-top corner.  It will be approximately the same height as the ventilation holes from the ground when the box is laying on its side for operations.  I drilled the holes from the outside towards the inside to make it easier with the drilling.

Step #2 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.I wanted to move some “cooling” air around in the box to keep the radio as cool as possible.  The radio itself has a cooling fan on the rear of the radio integrated with a heat-sink.  But I wanted to move air around and through the box itself to keep the operating temperature as low as possible.  Just in case the radio fan couldn’t handle sufficient air movement on its own, I wanted to give it a little help.  The fan is to draw air out of the box by drawing air from the outside through the three ventilation holes.Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.

The fan is a 12vDC fan for computers that I found on Amazon.  I chose this particular fan based on the large intake area of the fan and the “flatness” of its construction.  The fan sits over the radio but to the rear of the box in relation to the radio’s built in heat-sink and fan.  In the event that the fan stops working I was trying to leverage the flow of air coming off the radio unimpeded.  So I drilled the three ventilation holes above the radio’s heat sink just in case.  I was thinking that natural air flow might move the hotter air out through the holes should the fan stop working.

I cut appropriate sized hole in the upper rear corner of the ammo can to match the outlet of the cooling fan. It required a square hole, so I drilled the center, cleaned it up with a saber saw, then finished it off with a flat diamond file.  Then I used another grommet on the squared-off hole before mounting the fan.  I wanted some cushion between the fan and the box to minimize any potential problem from vibration.  If you wanted to reverse the airflow to blow cooler outside air onto the radio heat sink you can reverse the power wires of the fan and it reverses the fan rotation.

Next I drilled the holes for the two screws that holds the cooling fan housing in-place.  But I did a trial run to ensure I knew exactly where the fan housing had to be placed to match up with the square hole for the fan’s square outlet/inlet.  Notice that I used a couple of rubber grommet again on the screws securing the fan housing.  But this time I didn’t worry about putting the grommets into the holes.  I used them as a “stand-off” to properly align the fan housing and absorb vibration from the fan.  But the grommets sealed the holes anyways due to the compression from tightening them.

Step #3 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.I am concerned about moving air through the box so the radio doesn’t overheat.  But I also don’t want to run down the 12vDC battery that will be powering this repeater either. So I decided to install this temperature controlled rheostat to drive the fan. Since I am using DC to power the unit, the rheostat controller will continually pass on some minimal current to the fan.  So the fan will always be turning a little bit.  However, if the temperature is within the operating limits of the radio I don’t need the fan spinning like crazy, moving hurricane force winds through the box and eating up precious ampere hours from the battery.  So the rheostat will pass on more current as the heat rises and the fan will then spin faster.  Result – the fan doesn’t use any more juice than is needed conserving precious power for actual radio operations.  But as the temperature rises the fan spins faster pulling the hotter air out of the box through the ventilation holes located above the radio heat-sink.

I mounted the controller board close to the fan towards the rear of the box.  A picture a little later in the article will show its position.

To find the rheostat I did my search on Amazon for this little electronic beauty.  But what I noticed is these electronic parts come and go pretty quickly (i.e. what is available today may not be available next month).  So I am not quoting a specific part number of even manufacturer.  Just get online and search for a 12vDC temperature controlled rheostat, there will be plenty out there for you to choose from.  Or contact your favorite electronics site and they can direct you from there.

Step #4 – 

Picture of ventilation holes with metal mesh screening to keep little critters out.

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.Next I installed the radio housing bracket on the radio unit and placed it in the box towards the left side of the box.  Don’t crowd the cooling fan and keep the radio as far to the left in the box as possible.  Don’t forget that you will have several sets of wires (antenna & power) coming out of the backside of the radio unit so don’t crowd the front of the box either.  Using a felt-tipped pen mark the holes for the mounting bracket.  Then placing the lid into position mark the center of each ventilation hole; they should be directly in front of and above the radio’s heat-sink and fan.  Drill the holes for ventilation and the mounting bracket.

To pull in fresh (hopefully cooler air) that will pass over the radio’s heat sink then out of the box via the cooling fan, I placed three 7/8″ holes in the box lid above the radio’s heat-sink but on the “side” of the box, not the top.  This would pull air over the radio’s heat-sink across the top of the inside of the box drawing the warmer air outside via the fan.  Should the box’s cooling fan fail, the radio’s own cooling fan should pull air into the ventilation holes from the outside, or push it out, not sure which.  This may create a “positive-pressure” environment inside the box which in-turn moves air naturally out of the box’s cooling fan hole.

To reduce the derbies that might come in the box that I don’t want in there (i.e. dirt, sand, leaves, critters, etc.), I placed a metal screen mesh over the holes. Making a rough calculation on the reduction of air volume due to the screen material I decided on the three entrance holes in relation to the cooling powered exit hole. I might have to drill another hole, maybe two, but I thought this was a good guesstimate. I drilled them 7/8″ to give me enough room to secure the screen to the lid on the inside. I used a metal-to-metal glue to attach the screen material to the box lid.

I may put a thin layer of cotton gauze over the holes in addition to the screening to reduce the amount of fine dirt/sand that can enter the unit.  However, I would drill more holes if I did that to off-set the reduction in airflow from the gauze.

Step #5 –

Yaesu FT-8800r based cross-band repeater.Next comes installing all the various brackets for the radio components itself. First up was the radio housing bracket.  In Step #4 I talked about mounting the radio so the radio’s heat-sink was located next to the ventilation holes in the box’s lid.  This allows for cooling air movement even if the cooling fan fails.  But it leverages the cooling fan’s movement of air when all is functioning normally.

For practicality it is also very convenient to mount the radio with the rear of the radio exposed for access to the antenna, power, and programming ports.  Yes, this means you are doing a “remote head” installation.  And in my opinion works out well as an added bonus.  The radio’s control head is disconnected from the radio and that adds to keeping it just a bit cooler.

Go ahead and take the radio housing bracket off the radio and screw it to the box.

In the next part we will finish up the build.



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Objectives and Priorities (Part #2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s move on…

Setting Priorities –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L.I.P.S.. stand for –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A good way to view this is through an example –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my suggestions according to LIPS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, now go ahead, what do we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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