Sometimes focusing our planning and preparation on what we perceive to be the greatest threat, we can miss or overlook smaller, but important elements in our overall readiness. Below I have listed, in no particular order, what I think the most people neglect the most often in their personal planning.
Some are lifestyle changes, others are hardware or skillset deficiencies, and others are behavioral.
Some of these elements may be obvious, others may be subtle or unpopular but I assure you that they are all important, and I will explain why. It is my hope that this list will inspire you to reassess your own readiness and preparation with a fresh, honest eye.
#1. – Turn Your Body Into a Machine
This is a big one, and the one most likely to rustle jimmies. The simple fact is that your body is both your first toolset, and your first weapon, after your brain. You don’t have to think too hard to come up with a scenario where physical prowess could spell the difference between injury or death in a host of “mundane” crisis scenarios.
The ability to run far and fast, while carrying a load, move an awkward, heavy object or just march through the night like a mule in Hell is priceless. That load could be your child you are sprinting away from danger, that object could be a piece of rubble from a collapsed building or car wreck trapping a stranger, and that long march may be the only ticket out of an otherwise inescapable situation.
Your fitness level will in part determine your likelihood of becoming a casualty. It will also play a part in determining if you are to become a victim of violence. All the training and skill in the world is worthless if don’t have the stamina to endure a protracted fight, or cannot move quickly enough to even get a vote in the outcome.
The world’s best weapons may not be worth a wish if you don’t have the mettle to make use of them. A physically fit person is also typically affected less by mental or physical stresses, and that ability to think clearly in a rough patch is valuable. You will be less likely to get sick, or injured, and all around be harder to kill. This is a level of “disaster proofing” that can hardly be overestimated.
Whatever your current lifestyle, age, condition or ailments, you can be tomorrow a better version of the person you are today, if you’ll put in the work. Don’t come at me with the “whataboutisms”, either: “What about me, I have such-and-such condition that…” or “What about people that are this, this and this?” We could do that all day.
Sure, I’ll admit that there are going to be some folks who are severely disabled, ill or so infirm that they get little choice in the matter. That much is surely true, but chances are it isn’t you: I see too many posts on social media where people from all walks of life and every kind of setback are busting their humps to be fit. You may think you have your reasons for carrying around too much weight or being so out of shape you get winded when carrying in two He-Man armfuls of groceries, but I have heard it said that often reasons are just excuses with fancy fenders.
I am not going to go into detail about any specific plan or programming here because I am not a fitness trainer, and such discussions devolve into dogfights in the comments 87% of the time. I would recommend a program that focuses both on both peak strength and cardiovascular conditioning. Some programs that focus on a “Run-Fight-Run” type of workout can help mentally prepare you for the stresses of an actual crisis, be it a natural disaster or some type of violence or attack. Don’t let yourself off the hook! Start sweating with a purpose!
#2 – Learn First-Aid Skills and Carry a Medical Kit
Most of you are probably cracking your knuckles getting ready to take me to the mat over the last one. “This frickin’ guy! Who does he think he is?!” Well, this may be your comeuppance because I will admit here in front of everybody that this is one I failed at hard, and for a long time. I was the guy constantly sharpening my skill with a gun or adding ammo and parts to the stash instead of working on boring ol’ medical skills. It took a pretty good heart-to-heart with a guy I consider a mentor to get to me to really wake up and see the light. “If you have the ability to make holes, you should have the ability to fix them.”
This makes obvious sense in the context of an armed professional or citizen, but it is much broader than that: the chances that someone will need life- or limb- saving medical assistance (including you) is drastically higher than the chance you’ll need to use lethal force in self defense. It isn’t cool or sexy, but once again the mundane event is far more likely than the spectacular one, here: think car wreck, industrial accident, power tool mishaps, and accidental shootings. Those things require intervention now. Having the skills and equipment on hand will make all the difference.
First get training. Learn CPR and basic first-aid. Then take classes on trauma management. Learn how to cope with lacerations, penetrating wounds and burns. Learn from combat medics, firefighters, EMT’s paramedics, doctors. Prioritize care of most likely causes of preventable death. You don’t need to be brain surgeon, learn the fundamentals.
Get a couple of quality trauma kits, a simple one to keep on you at all times, and an enhanced one to keep in your bag or car. Both should include at the minimum disposable gloves, tourniquets, hemostatic gauze and compression bandages. Other goodies will be things like chest seals, burn treatment, shears for shoes and clothing, splints, and the like. At the very, very least keep a tourniquet on your person with a pack of hemostatic gauze. Like your pistol, if it isn’t in arms reach when you must have it, it might as well be on the moon.
There are plenty of ways to carry a kit on your person efficiently, even when dressed decent. Ankle rigs are a popular option, as are tiny, low-profile pouches.
#3 – Install a Vehicle Safe / Reinforced Locking Container
Compared to the previous two, this one is simple. I have observed too many people that either carry a gun or keep one in their vehicle relegate storage of it to the flimsy, dinky console compartment or glovebox, or worse, leave it under the seat when not on their person. This is a bad play.
On nearly any vehicle, these plastic compartments, even if they do lock, are simply not a challenge to break open by force. If someone gains access to or breaks into your vehicle, and takes your presumably loaded gun, it is now theirs to do with as they wish. That’s going to turn out tragic no matter what happens with it. It is a small investment to buy and install either a replacement, reinforced metal locking compartment for the glovebox, console or trunk, or even a standalone low-profile safe that you can secure under a seat.
These units are not foolproof, or impenetrable by any stretch, but will stymie the average smash-and-grab thief, and give you an added layer of protection for keeping honest people honest in carpool and travel situations. Many models are available for a variety of vehicles, and often can be installed DIY if you are fairly handy.
#4- Learn Defensive Skills
Awareness is key to avoiding trouble, or confrontation, but escape or evasion is not always achievable. Sometimes trouble will single you out, or you may just get caught unawares. When deterrence or escape is no longer an option, you’ll have to fight, and it is best if you don’t have all your self-defense eggs in one basket. Don’t bet the farm on being able to employ your discipline of choice to save yourself; remember that the bad guy gets a vote in the proceedings. You should be learning hand-to-hand, grappling, firearm and knife skills.
Focus on practical combatives for any hand-to-hand training, save the more ritualized martial arts for hobby time. Boxing is an excellent foundation. Grappling should be centered on staying on your feet and escaping holds versus taking someone down and applying submission or disabling techniques. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has many adherents and is exceedingly effective, but any time you are tangled up on the ground with a single assailant leaves you at the mercy of his companions. This is not to say it should not be practiced, but bear in mind the bigger picture: you don’t want to be putting Mongo to sleep only to wind up with your head being the guest of honor at a boot party.
Firearms training should focus on getting the handgun in to play from concealment at speed with the priority being an accurate hit delivered quickly. For most of us, if we are not police or military, a long gun is a secondary weapon, with the handgun being primary. It is there we should concentrate our training time and efforts.
Blade work is possibly more contentious than martial arts when discussing best practices. I will only advocate that knowing how to best employ your knife is a good idea not just in defense of a gun takeaway attempt, but also in the event that an assailant is too close to even begin to employ the gun safely. You are also far more likely to be able to carry or at least procure a blade in a locale or venue where firearms are prohibited.
#5 – Carry Your Weapon Always
This ties in with #4, above. It is tough to take people seriously who proclaim a state of readiness, or say they “want” to be ready, and then, after acquiring a concealed weapons license, and training only carry part time or “when they think they may need it.” People, hear me out: if you knew ahead of time that you might need your weapon, that alone is a good indicator that you probably shouldn’t do whatever you are doing, or go wherever you are going, if avoidable. Like any other piece of gear, if it isn’t available when you need it in a crisis, it will do you no good.
If you have taken the time to get a permit, and then only carry some of the time, it defeats the purpose of being prepared in all weather, all seasons, at all times. I get it: Guns and knives are uncomfortable. They’re heavy. They take time to strap on along with all the other equipment you have in your pockets and on you. You know what else is uncomfortable? Getting shot to pieces, cut to ribbons or beaten to a pulp. Many folks get hung up on the comfort issue. They seek smaller and smaller and lighter and lighter options to find “comfort.”
Effectiveness typically starts to shrink as the gun or knife does. You should be aiming to carry a gun or knife large enough to be easy to use, and have good effects on the target. That is, carrying the largest gun or knife you can use well and still effectively conceal. I heard it said by the great Clint Smith that guns aren’t supposed to be comfortable; they’re supposed to be comforting! The same is true of knives or any other piece of lifesaving kit. Keep it on you, or keep it close at hand! No exceptions!
#6 – Remove Telltales From Your Person and Your Vehicle
I define telltales as indicators that tip off an interested party about your equipage, status or intent. I’m concerned about criminal and other nefarious elements taking an interest in me because I get made as a “gun guy.” Telltales can be things like 2nd Amendment themed, branded or logo apparel you wear, cool-guy patches, stickers or manufacturer’s decals on your vehicle or the obvious and heavy pocket clip of a large folding knife. Physical printing of your weapon is an obvious and flagrant one here.
Don’t do anything superfluous to draw attention to the fact that you may be armed, or may have weapons or equipment in your vehicle. This is common sense. It may be a lifestyle choice, but it is not one that you need to advertise to the unknown public at large.
You may think this stuff does not matter, and you probably have told yourself some convincing lies to make that float, things like, “Criminals are stupid, they don’t notice that stuff,” or “It is a deterrent if they think I am packing and mean business,” or “Hell with ‘em, I’ll decorate my truck how I want!” I can tell you with authority that all of those reasons don’t pass muster.
For the first and second objection, I promise you we are just not that worried about the common scumbag or mugger of opportunity. Yes, they may be dangerous, but will rarely press an attack when the prey has fangs of its own. No, we are worried about the alpha bad guys, hardened criminals, ones that train and observe and practice the same as we do. Think of them like a dark mirror image of a motivated and trained good guy. They can spot us the same way we can spot them, if we have enough practice and exposure. You need not think that being identified as a gun carrier will deter them in the least if they decide they are going loud on you: your gun may in fact be what they are after. Many are not afraid of guns or knives, having been shot or stabbed before and come out victorious. It is a sobering thought; they may well be better at this than you are.
For the third objection, well, there is no accounting for taste, and it is your right. But I’d still encourage you to think big picture. I have a huge assortment of hats, shirts, pins, patches and stickers, but I reserve all that stuff for range days, competitions and my journals and toolboxes. It is no one’s business but my own, and if I absolutely have to engage with like-minded folks about it, I can always come here, or call my compatriots and talk shop to my hearts content.
Don’t give in to the petty desire to express your interest to the world at large and in doing so perhaps compromise your safety.
#7 – Maintain Personal Security Online
Short and sweet: stop oversharing your personal info, day to day itinerary, workplace, school, comings and goings on social media. I know it is a facet of the times we live in, and is nothing short of miraculous for staying in touch with everyone you have ever met, or reconnecting with lost acquaintances, but you cannot know how far what you share can propagate. You cannot hope to know all your friend’s friends, their friends and their friend’s friends. I hope I do not need to remind everyone to not accept requests from people you do not even plausibly know, or obviously slapped together profiles with no friends and a tenuous grasp of English. Not today, ISIS! Not today!
The old war-time poster, you know the one, “loose lips sink ships,” applies here. They need to make a new one, showing a busted-up house stripped to the rafters, burning, with cartoon crooks hauling off the couch, TV and guns. It’ll say, “Someone Tweeted!” Your travel plans, or schedule as to when you are not home, or the story about how you just brought home a sweet new TV or gun safe could be seen by someone with ill intent who can then use that information to plan a burglary of your home or worse.
We live in the Information Age, which means that identity theft, and open-source information gathering for evil deeds is a common occurrence. This can happen to even the most cautious through sheer bad luck or the actions of skilled criminals. Don’t make their job any easier.
#8 – Avoid Large Gatherings and Venues
When it comes to making lifestyle and activity changes for security and safety, some are obvious. The targeting of large social venues and crowds of people at a variety of events by terrorists and the criminally deranged has certainly been trending higher in the past decade. The calculus is simple: a larger, denser group of people is a much easier source of casualties and more worthwhile target than a smaller or widely spaced one.
Reducing your exposure at such places will lead to a correspondingly smaller chance of being involved in a typical mass-casualty event. Don’t misunderstand, America is still, statistically, very safe, but there are trends to be observed in anything, and lately concerts, nightclubs, theaters, shopping malls, dense urban pedestrian walkways and stadiums have all seen a spike in violent occurrences and targeting by terrorists.
I’m not saying don’t live and enjoy your life; Instead, make it a point to perform your personal cost-benefit analysis before you enter a large gathering or attend an event at a large venue, especially in times of heightened risk.
#9 – Improve Your Use of Force Options
For many people, their personal use of force hierarchy looks from unarmed to lethal force, with nothing in between. That is a shame because the odds that you will be involved in a confrontation that may not immediately warrant lethal force, but would warrant more than fisticuffs is pretty good. Think multiple unarmed attackers squaring up to stomp you, or a persistent personal space-invader that is not obviously a lethal threat, but isn’t taking the clue from your verbal warnings.
Pepper spray is your solution here, and very few people (especially us guys) choose to carry it. Pepper spray of good blend and make, and deployed properly, is very effective at psychologically stopping an aggressor, and will likely degrade the fighting ability of someone determined to press an attack. Pepper spray causes searing pain, copious tearing and mucous production, coughing, and typically the involuntary closing of the eyes. All this serves to help give you the upper hand in a fight.
Make sure you get a good brand, not just any old $5.00 keychain in line at the superstore checkout. The size, capacity and range of the unit are also considerations. Sabre Red brand is a mainstay, and with good reason, having both a potent blend of solution and great quality control. Like any other tool you carry, be sure to practice and get training with it: you need to know exactly what you can expect from it both on the dispensing and receiving end. Back spray is possible, as is getting a splash off of the person you are spraying.
Pepper spray is still considered use of force, so don’t think you can go to the heat quicker than fists or weapons just because it is a less-lethal tool. That being said, the “optics” of using pepper spray are far kinder than fists, guns or knives, so judicious use is less likely to result in serious legal entanglement.
We all have elements of our personal security plan we could improve upon. Don’t lose sight of the fundamentally crucial by focusing on an outlandish scenario or something that you enjoy working on or learning about. Be objective, assess the most likely threats, and grow your skills and preps around that core group of plausible threats. I hope this article gave you insight into your own path of growth.
Which one of these elements is most relevant to your situation? Did you ace all eight? Think I am fake news? Sound off in the comments!