Friday, October 24, 2014

Daily Briefing for Friday, October 24, 2014

Precautionites or Precautionaries?

I've started listening to Andrew Wilkow's radio show as of late, at the recommendation of Karl at KR Training.  Wilkow intersperses political opinion with regular calls for people to become more prepared in a reasonable fashion. 

In today's show, he suggested a better name for preppers might be "precautionites" or "precautionaries" to more accurately reflect the nature and motivation of those who engage in this endeavor.  One definition I found for the word precaution  - "a measure taken in advance to prevent something dangerous, unpleasant, or inconvenient from happening" - certainly matches the motivation of those who take preparedness seriously.

Precautionaries may be a better descriptor for us.  Preppers are preparing to deal with the aftermath, generally speaking.  If you're a precautionary, on the other hand, you're not just working to deal with the aftermath, you're taking action "to prevent something dangerous, unpleasant or inconvenient from happening."  We should be going beyond focusing efforts solely on survival.  We should be actively working to reduce risk by educating others and taking steps to avoid problems in the first place.

This message is certainly salient today as we see the dreadful news about the school shooting in Marysville, Washington.  There will no doubt be a rush to analyze and lay blame on a host of people and reasons.  Regardless of what we may think was the cause of this, we all should be taking steps to manage the possible risks we face in our schools and work places.  Building relationships with people who may be hurting inside and paying attention to warning signs from those who may take irrational measures should be on our "to do" lists along with learning first aid and having a plan to deal with emergencies. 

As you discuss today's news with your kids and family, discuss your emergency plans for sure, but then also ask them how they might deal with warning signs from fellow students and co-workers.  Often the prevention costs far less - in many ways - than the damages that can follow.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Daily Briefing for Saturday, October 18, 2014

So How About Those Royals?

I find baseball boring.  So let's talk about something else.

First Glimpse Into 2015 SDS Preparedness Conference

The speaker's roster is coming along well.  So far, we have:

  • Brian Brown of Team Rubicon talking about data and network security for preppers.
  • John Kochan of KR Training makes his debut as a speaker on the issue of emergency lighting and power options.
  • Kellie Bailey, the chair of the Austin Bar Association's Criminal Law Section, will speak on "Constitutional and Civil Liberties Issues for the Preparedness Community."  She is a panel attorney for the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
Be sure to save Saturday, January 10, 2015 on your calendar for this event, to be held at the Cabela's in Buda, Texas. 

Update On Book Writing Project

Last evening, I sent the manuscript - the fourth rough draft of it - to my editor for drill down.  That's freeing up some time for me to start thinking about publishing options.

It's never been easier to publish a book.  Many major publishing houses have created self-publishing subsidiaries to help those of us who don't have a book deal or the financial backing of a big time publisher.  It would be great to have the book picked up by a big publisher, but I am realistic. 

If I were to summarize the manuscript in three paragraphs, it would look something like this:

The preparedness movement in America has failed.  Despite numerous severe storms, earthquakes, pandemic threats, financial crises and civil unrest over the last 25 years, the typical American has not taken the most basic steps to be prepared for an emergency.  And those who do - "preppers" - are often portrayed as mentally unstable. 

America would be better off if it had a culture of preparedness. To create that culture, we can look to other successful cultural change efforts in American history and replicate those learnings in our effort to create a readiness culture.  Preppers themselves need to lead the charge, migrating away from a "I've got mine...too bad you don't have yours" mentality to a leadership role where they set a good example and help others prepare.

If we want more resilient communities less reliant on government or charity after a disaster, we need to make preparedness more of an obligation of good citizenship and less of a symptom of a mental illness.  To do that, we need to be able to "sell" preparedness by finding what themes and values resonate with our neighbors and then using those themes and values to motivate them to take action.

Obligatory Ebola Commentary

Like many of you, I have been following the developing news on Ebola.  Like most people, I'm not a medical expert.  I simply want to know the truth - not hype or downplaying.  Just tell us what's going on and what the plan is. 

I remain firmly convinced the Ebola threat is manageable in the United States....provided we actively manage it.  One-time Obama supporter Peggy Noonan penned this piece outlines why Americans are losing confidence in the government's handling of this crisis.  The New York Times reports this morning "Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe."  It's in large part because of our reactive rather than proactive approach to this terrible disease.

For now, we need to be executing the basics well.  Washing our hands, avoiding sick people, using Lysol wipes on surfaces in hotel rooms - this will go a long way not only to avoiding Ebola but the far more common contagion that is the flu.

Should you have masks?  Of course...but not just for Ebola.  I keep them handy not just for pandemics, but for other emergencies as well. Think back to 9/11 and all of those people who had on dust masks as they were fleeing the scene.  While dust masks aren't ideal, they are better than nothing.  I keep N100s at home and in my truck in case there's an emergency requiring some sort of respiratory infection. 

Winter Weather Outlook

NOAA has issued its 2014-15 winter weather outlook

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Daily Briefing for Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Sophomore Effort

In the past few months, my blogging has become quite sparse.  Time I would have normally spent in front of a keyboard typing about preparedness has been replaced with time in front of a keyboard typing about preparedness....for my second book.

I'm finishing up the manuscript this weekend, and I hope to have it to the editor in my family soon thereafter for a thorough and skeptical review.  Fortunately for me, my editor is not a prepper, as I didn't want someone who subscribes to my theories doing the initial edit and review.  I intentionally chose someone who I knew wouldn't be bashful about challenging my assertions, lest I suffer from confirmation bias in the manuscript editing process.  If we are to be leaders in our cause, we should actively seek intellectual honesty and skeptical analysis of our positions.

The book is yet to be titled.  I can tell you that it centers around the need to build a culture of preparedness in America, attempting to answer three central questions:

1. Do we need a culture of preparedness in America?
2. If so, what would that culture look like?
3. And how would be go about creating it?

This isn't a how-to book or a "rush out and buy guns and MREs" admonition that permeates the literature in this genre.  I've intentionally avoided much of that in this project, as I really wanted to focus on how we can create a preparedness culture and, hopefully, strengthen our communities as a result.

While the process has been tedious, I can say I've enjoyed it immensely.  For years now, I've had a number of ideas and theories about the preparedness movement which I had never explored in depth.  Collecting a number of essays I've written over the last two years, researching my ideas and converting them into chapters of a book has really enabled me to articulate for the first time in my life what I think the goal for those of us in the movement should be - namely, preparing ourselves but also creating a culture of preparedness to encourage others to do the same.

I look forward to sharing more details with you as the project moves forward.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Daily Briefing for Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Maverick's In A Flat Spin, Headed Out To Sea."

Remember that time that Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards were competing with Val Kilmer and some other actor to see who was the coolest 80s fighter pilot?  In Top Gun, the characters played by Cruise and Edwards find their plane in a flat spin (the preferred recovery technique from which was a subject heavily debated one night when I was a legal intern at NTSB with a bunch of NTSB crash investigators during a rather energetic happy hour.  But I digress.)

I was reminded of that scene last night when I pulled up Drudge to see what crises du jour were on tap.  Apparently, President Obama remarked at a DNC fundraiser Tuesday that "There's a sense possibly that the world is spinning so fast and nobody is able to control it."  Yeah.  Like a flat spin in a F-14 Tomcat.  Except we don't have Tom Cruise and Scientology to pull us out of it. 

The news today isn't simply bleak (although news is, rarely, all positive...lest none of us tune in to watch or read it.)  It reflects a complete disconnect of many assumptions we've made about the order of things for quite some time.  Russian government-connected cyber attacks on JP Morgan.  Ebola here, there, everywhereConfusion as to which bracket we're supposed to be playing in Syria.  Suggestions that ISIS is attempting to penetrate the southern borderOver 300 deaths in Ukraine since last month's cease fire.  Pro-democracy unrest continues in Hong Kong.

It's no wonder, then, that the Maplecroft Civil Unrest Index shows that that risk for "disrupting business has risen in one-fifth of the world over the last quarter, with Hong Kong and Ebola-struck Liberia leading the way."  This raises two important questions.

First, why didn't any of you people tell me that there's such a thing as a "Civil Unrest Index?" 

Second, what on earth are you and I to do in response to these intense and seemingly unconnected stories? 

I'll tell you what we're going to do:

  • Put things in perspective.  We've faced much more turbulent times in this nation and as a species than we are facing now.  Odds are this isn't the end of the world.
  • Be good citizens.  Stay informed.  Stay alert.  Be prepared.  Don't panic. 
  • Encourage others to do the same.  Tell them to make some basic preparations and have a plan to shelter in place...for Ebola, a winter storm, a job loss.  Your calm demeanor and willingness to help will make you an asset to your family and neighborhood.
How do I know this will work?  Because you can, in fact, escape a flat spin:

Whatever ails us right now can be alleviated.  While we encourage our leaders to make the tough but necessary choices to do so, we need to do our part at home.  Executing the basics in preparedness - like executing the basics in piloting - will enable us to get things back on track.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Daily Briefing for Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Moving The Needle In Our Schools

This isn't about Common Core or whether we should ban standardized testing in schools.  If you want to yell about that, move over to Facebook.

A couple of weekends ago, I made the third trek in as many years to my high school alma mater as the sponsor of what I am calling the "Student Responder Program."  We are teaching kids and faculty on how to be their own first responders until help arrives from police, fire and EMS. 

This year, we had 30 kids - a record - get certified by the American Heart Association in CPR and first aid.  In addition, I spent a fair amount of time with faculty and staff discussing the program moving forward.  These cultural change efforts generally take time, and I think the administration is beginning to get a feel for how best to incorporate a cadre of student responders into the day to day routine of the school.

Brett Young of Bedford County EMS and I during the training at Webb School a couple of weekends ago.  Note the Diet Mountain Dew bottle on the table.  No idea how that got there.

Concluding the course work with a quiz which I created.  Kids are playing for twenty bucks of Code Paul Cash.  Sometimes it pays - literally - to know where the nearest AED is and who Rick Rescorla was.
This concept of having people on campus act as responders rather than just victims to be rescued continues to gain traction.  One teacher in another school took a tactical medicine program to better equip her to be an asset during a school emergencyThis is the sort of thinking we need to make our schools safer.  Rather than "hide and hope," kids and faculty need to be part of the solution, since they're the ones closest to the action.

These cultural changes are often hard to make, but I can assure you they are worthwhile. 

Perhaps the best news we received over the weekend is that Bedford County EMS is already training students in other county schools to be medical first responders - for free.  Upon completion of the training, the students respond to medical emergencies on campus with the school nurse and render aid, including the administration of oxygen, CPR, bandaging, and other hands on care.  EMS has agreed to provide that same training to kids at Webb at no cost as well.  Needless to say, we are thrilled to be building a partnership with our local first responder community in a cost effective manner.

I started this program in part to test a theory I had - that kids can be trained to be part of the solution rather than people who just need to be rescued.  The theory, so far, is withstanding the scrutiny that's been applied to it.  Other schools are testing their own theories and ideas; as they do, eventually there will be an opportunity for schools doing so to come together and share best practices.  That's when this will become really exciting and meaningful to the participants.

Friends, if I can do something like this, you can too.  Pick a preparedness project that will help someone else - a school, a church, a neighborhood association - and be a leader for change.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Daily Briefing for Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Your Regular Reminder To Breathe

Yes, I'm not blogging much these days.  Writing a book takes up a lot of time.  But more on that later.

The Dow closed down 273 points today.  One strategist suggested "We could see a continuation of these 100-plus-point-day moves as investors worry about could this be the end of a three-year run without a correction."

In addition, the IMF downgraded global growth forecasts for this year and next.  Meanwhile, Europe is bracing for what the World Health Organization calls an "inevitable" outbreak of Ebola across the continent. 


Yes, there's much going on in the news now.  If you're paying attention to it, you're ahead of many.  It's not too late to top off your preparedness items or even start a preparedness effort in your home.  We will be facing things like this for the foreseeable future.  Our ancestors dealt with two world wars and a full blown pandemic all in the span of 30 years.  We've dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis and 9/11.  We will face more challenges as time goes on.  And we will endure.

Panic is not part of our plan.  Preparing ourselves and our families for a wide array of risks is part of our plan.  Don't panic; prepare.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Daily Briefing for Monday, September 8, 2014

What Jerry Jones Can Teach Us About Preparedness

Yes.  That Jerry Jones.

ESPN recently drilled down deep into the mind of the owner of the iconic Dallas Cowboys, providing a superbly written piece and giving us a glimpse into what makes Jerry Jones tick.

I'm not a big sports fan (I follow a few sports just well enough so that I can keep up with some sports conversations), but I do find the business of sports very interesting.  I detest baseball, for example (the game simply moves too slow), but thoroughly enjoyed the movie Moneyball, which was all about the business of the sport.

Working in the government relations arena, I regularly meet people who are often larger than life, and Jones clearly fits that description.  The ESPN story sheds a little light into what makes him tick.

He has a high "tolerance for ambiguity."  As described in the article:

Jones likens himself to a riverboat gambler whose success depends on a well-honed "tolerance for ambiguity." It's a fancy way of saying that when a big bet goes south or the accumulated risks outweigh the potential rewards, he can still function at a high level.

"The riverboat gambler can be his most charmin', he can be his most clever, the smartest, and not know it's all gonna end on the next card and he's gonna be thrown overboard if it's the wrong card," Jones says. "And a part of havin' a tolerance for ambiguity is looking for the more positive and bein' able to handle the negative because you've got more goin' on."

Preppers have a low tolerance for ambiguity.  If we had a higher tolerance, we would still perceive the risks to ourselves and family, but we would not fret about them.  Instead, we stockpile food and water, putting bug out bags in our vehicles and learn how to cook with solar ovens because we're concerned about the next blackout, severe weather outbreak or other failure of society and infrastructure.

Assuming that we wanted to increase our tolerance for ambiguity, and assuming it's possible to do so, how would we go about it?  And should we go about it?

  • We would be intellectually honest about the true risk we face.  My wife and I were just having this conversation this evening, as we discussed building materials for the house we are building in a couple of years.  We discussed the likelihood of tornadoes hitting the Austin area.  While there is a risk of tornadoes, that risk is small. (I'm more worried about the wild land next door to us catching on fire, lighting up our property with it.
  • We would learn to function better despite the risk, regardless of whether the risk is accurately perceived.  Learning to "deal with it" rather than worry about it is a sign of strong character.  We would learn to relish the challenge rather than dread it.
  • We would treat risks as opportunities to learn rather than problems to be endured.  Learning is how we grow.  It's how we get better prepared.  Dreading or fearing a risk rather than thinking of it as an opportunity to test or practice a skill can reduce your tolerance for ambiguity.  Your mindset is critical in increasing your ambiguity tolerance.