“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
Many of the survival articles I read from the 1970’s up until 2000 (when the last survival magazine went under), concerned themselves with wilderness survival should you get lost while outdoors. The focus of these articles was on things like building a shelter, starting a fire or finding food when stranded in the wild.
I enjoyed these articles because they reinforced and built upon many of the things I learned in the Boys Scouts. Oh, there was the occasional story about how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but 90% of the articles dealt with things that could be used by any weekend camper. Survival kits of the time contained fishhooks, fire starters and water purification tablets, things you might need if lost in the woods. Things changed on 9/11/01.
Now my survival concerns deal more with how to get out of a burning building than with how to start a fire in a snowstorm.
Survival after a terrorist attack is more likely to be an exercise in E & E (evasion and escape) than it is the classic “lost in the wilds” survival situation. You will be looking to get to a place of safety while traveling through territory that should be known to you. For example, on the morning of 9/11/01 many New Yorkers faced the problem of getting from their jobs in lower Manhattan to their homes in the suburbs without mass transit and during the confusion that followed the terrorist attacks.
Later, stories emerged of people running through choking dust and smoke and others trying to find their way through dark buildings in which the power had failed. There was even an incident in which World Trade Center workers managed to escape after their tower was hit by escaping from an elevator trapped between floors. After forcing open the elevator doors they found a multi-layer gypsum board wall that they could not kick through. Since none of these NYC office workers had a pocketknife on them, a window cleaner used his metal squeegee to dig their way to safety.
In forming your preparedness plan you should ask yourself these T & T (terrain and travel) questions:
1. What are the likely terrorist targets closest to my home?
2. What are the likely terrorist targets closest to my workplace?
3. What potential danger zones or traffic bottlenecks lie between the two and what are the alternate routes around them?
4. If both home and work become dangerous, do I have a backup safe-house prepared with a relative or friend?
5. What are the potential danger zones and traffic bottlenecks from work/home to the safe-house and the alternate routes around them?
6. Which human assets (friends/family) do I have available to help during an emergency?
Let’s look at some specifics.
The March 11th 2004 train bombings in Madrid by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists led to the election victory of the opposition party in Spain (this party having promised to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq).
Since then security experts have been warning of a similar attack on U.S. soil prior to the U.S. elections, the terrorists hoping to pull a “Madrid” here.
The Democratic National Convention is being held in Boston as I write this (summer 2004)
The Republican National Convention will be held August 30th through September 2nd in Manhattan. These obviously, will be prime target dates for Islamic terrorists.
The first step in my own survival plan is pretty basic-I don’t plan on traveling to New York City while either convention is being held. I mention both conventions, though I don’t think the Democratic National Convention itself will be hit. If Al Qaeda truly intends an attack in the U.S. to bring about a “regime change” here, then the Democratic Convention would be the last place they would want to hit. However, thinking tactically, they might hit New York while the Boston convention is going on, trying to instill fear in the U.S. and “show” the current administration as ineffective.
If I still lived or worked in NYC, I would take my family out of town on “vacation” during the convention weeks.
This is not to say that other high profile targets around the U.S. will be safe during the conventions. Terrorists might strike a sports event in California or a mall in Minnesota, figuring such a location would be less well protected than NYC or Boston during the conventions.
Islamic terrorists would like to top the death toll from the 9/11/01 attacks, but several smaller attacks, scattered around the country, would be easier to carry out then a single large attack.
If no attacks occur at the time of the conventions, then the whole period between September 3rd and the national election on November 2nd becomes a target period (with special concern on 9/11 & 10/11). Targets may include any place where groups of people congregate such as trains (as in Spain), buses (as in Israel), subways (as in Japan), nightclubs (as in Bali) and shopping malls (as in Israel) and chemical plants.
Travel bottleneck areas such as bridges and tunnels and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty are also targets (two Iranian embassy employees were recently expelled from the US for taking suspicious videos of such potential targets in NYC-not the first time this has happened with Iranian embassy employees).
If it’s possible for you to avoid such areas prior to the election, I would do so.
Power plants and water supplies are also prime targets, so we must consider how to cope should these be hit. Starting a forest fire would be a high damage/low risk strike for terrorists as well.
On a side note: The Homeland Security Dept. has said that it is paying particular attention to foreign airlines because of the concern that terror groups will attempt to infiltrate their men as pilots or other airline employees in countries whose security is not as stringent as the U.S. Therefore this is not the time to take a trip overseas in my opinion.
What follows are some possible items for your E&E survival kits. This list was made with input from friends with experience in Special Forces and police tactical teams. Here is something that should keep you awake at night. If you find an item on this list on the extreme side, consider that those most in the know on the subject of what can go wrong, were the ones who tended to give me the most extreme suggestions for supplies and tactics.
Overall, keep in mind the focus here is on getting out of danger and to a place of safety. While reviewing this list you should add or subtract things as appropriate to your needs. For my own kits, I work under the assumption that, no matter where I am traveling from or too, I will have more than just myself to care for and therefore carry a bit extra.
Your gear will be in several kits. Your “A” kit are the items you keep on your person. Your “B” kit is a small travel bag. The “C” kit is in your car and the “H” kit is in your house. The purpose of the small A and B kits are to get you safely to your larger C kit, and the purpose of your C kit is to get you safely to your big H kit. If you take mass transit to work, you may need to add some items from the C kit to your B kit. You should also partner up with a friend or relative farther away from your nearest danger zone and agree that if a problem occurs in your area you can pack up and go to their “safe house” and they can do the reverse if need be.
A KIT: I will use my own A kit as an example. It contains the items I try to have on my person anytime I step out of my house. Most items are either in my pants pockets or on my belt, so that if I take off my outer garment (vest or jacket to conceal my firearm), I still have them with me.
1. An extra set of car and house keys separate from the ones I use day-to-day.
2. Small flashlight. I have two Photon lights. I keep one of these coin-sized lights on all my key rings. I also have a 250 lumen LED flashlight in a pocket of my vest or jacket.
3. A stout pocketknife (or two). When traveling via commercial airlines I carry paramedic shears. 9 out of 10 times airport security has checked them out, seen the blunt tips, and handed them back (the tenth time I had to give up the $3 shears, but a backup pair was in my checked luggage).
4. Emergency Cash & 4 quarters (exclusive from whatever is in my wallet). In the event of a blackout many stores may be running on a cash only basis as they won’t be able to take credit or debit cards without electricity.
5. Leatherman Wave tool (I have a small wrench and screwdriver set as a substitute for air travel).
6. Cell phone.
7. Two large bandana type handkerchiefs.
8. Several 10′ lengths of paracord.
9. Compass. Bronton and Sununu make good ones (Silva used to be the gold standard, but the ones being imported into the US now are cheap models from China).
10. Bic lighter, firesteel and Ronson torch lighter (the latter is forbidden to have on you on aircraft).
11. Handgun & extra magazine. Most states offer concealed carry permits to their citizens, so this is an option for most of you reading this article. You can’t carry this last item on board a commercial aircraft, but an unloaded handgun can still go in the checked luggage as long as it meets certain airline packing requirements and you can legally carry at both ends of your trip.
12. Identification, cash, credit cards & up to date family photo (with separate photo of child. I know people who automatically take a photo with their cell phone of their young children’s faces and clothing before each family trip).
B KIT: These items will fit in a daypack or nylon attaché case. My kit includes both pure survival and travel/convenience items:
1. Stainless steel water bottle. Even if you use a hydration pack as your daypack, a small bottle to transfer and boil water will still come in handy. I like the Nalgene/Guyot design bottles, but Kleen Canteen also make quality models. If I had to pick one size of water bottle, I would go with a 1 quart bottle, as this makes it easy to use water purification tablets (most of which are made to use with 1 qt of water per tab).
2. Small first aid kit. Iodine. Squeeze bottle of gelled alcohol. Latex gloves. Small packs of Tylenol, Advil, Benydril, Sudafed. Pepto-Bismol, Neosporin, Tums, Small tubes of sunscreen, insect repellent wipes, liquid antibacterial soap. Extra moleskin bandages (For foot blisters, if your feet are your main means of transport out of a dangerous area, then you had better take care of them). Small vials of UrgentQR wound coagulant. Gatorade packs (for treating shock victims. The first aid books suggest 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp baking soda to a liter of water, but I wouldn’t travel through airport security with a home made, unidentified white power if I were you). Potassium iodide tablets. This will help protect the thyroid of those under 40 years of age (by 40 you should have enough iodine naturally in your system) in the case of fallout from radiation in the event of terrorists detonating a conventional bomb with nuclear material attached, i.e. a “dirty” bomb. See FDA website for dosage).
3. Energy/protein bars. Trail mix. Beef jerky. Small pill bottle of multivitamins.
4. LED headlamp and extra batteries. A headlamp will keep your hands free to do other jobs.
5. Thick leather work gloves.
6. Several feet of duct tape (this will fit nicely wrapped around an old plastic gift card). Tube of superglue.
7. Folding hack saw. (in checked luggage when flying). I’ll also include a small folding wood saw if I have room. The Bahco Laplander is a highly recommended saw, but I have also gotten good results from Corona saws and they are easy to find at Lowes and Home Depot.
8. Small space blanket (I like the ones from Adventure Medical) and disposable plastic poncho.
9. Map of local area.
10. Notebook, pen, red permanent marker. (Notebook has phone contact list in case cell phone goes).
11. Extra cell phone battery (Radio Shack has backup models good for one hour that cost under ten bucks)
12. Quality needle compass (to backup the small one in my pocket).
13. Extra sun and reading glasses.
14. Candle. Cotton balls in film canister with rubber from bike inner tube. Firesteel fire starter.
15. Plastic whistle (Storm makes the supper loud one I use at seminars).
16. Gallon Ziploc bags with paper towels & toilet paper.
17. Metal camping cup with packs of hot chocolate and instant oatmeal.
18. Small AM/FM/WEATHER band radio with battery.
19. Sheath knife (or paramedic shears when flying). I like Mora knives for light weight carry. For heavy duty work, in carbon steel I like Condor brand and in stainless I really like Fallkniven.
20. I also take a walking stick with me if there is a potential for a long walk (or a short walk through a bad place).
* The next items are for when I am in a hotel.
21. 50’ to 100’ of climbing rope with a climber’s carabineer tied at each end (I know it sounds “James Bondish” but I’ve had some training in repelling and the ability to get just two floors lower can make the difference between life and death in a fire).
22. Small pry bar to open jammed doors or windows (stored in my checked luggage when on a plane). If you are in an earthquake prone area, a pry bar is a must. Even a small quake can jam a door. In the event of fire, check a door for heat before you go though it. If the top of the door feels hot on your side, it’s probably really hot on the other. If you can’t open a door or get through the jam on either side, the area above the door is often a weak spot.
23. Dust mask and goggles. The people who escaped the World Trade Center collapse still had a sand storm of black dust to deal with as they fled the area.