Tuesday, August 27, 2013

INFORMATIVE - Home Invasion - What Would You Do?

Home invasion is a scary thought, but many people confuse the term with burglary. Burglary is when people enter your home while you're away and take your things. A home invasion is where people enter your home WHILE YOU ARE THERE in an effort to either use you for information as to the whereabouts of the valuables in your house or for more nefarious purposes such as rape - particularly in residences they have identified as being the homes of young women living alone.

Now, as with most things on this blog, the first and obvious step for avoiding a home invasion is preparedness, and there are certain things you can add to your house that will significantly reduce your chance of a successful home invasion taking place:

Motion Sensor Lights

Ever thought you heard someone outside, but couldn't quite see anything from the window? A motion sensor light will confirm it for you - particularly if you have positioned it correctly, or have multiple in key places.
Don't be afraid to put them around the back of your house, as well, as most invaders won't come knocking on your front door.
If you're daunted by the electrical wiring side of having them installed, the solution is to find and purchase self-contained, solar-powered units, which simply need to be attached to a wall or door frame and are ready to go.

Peep Hole

Peep holes are inexpensive, simple to install and save you from having to open the door to see who's outside. Hear a knock at an odd time? You can check first. Use in conjunction with motion detector lights and you'll have a clear, fully illuminated view out of your front door at any time of the day or night.

Chain Lock

When used as your only line of defense, these are fairly weak and easy to bypass, but when combined with an alert and prepared resident, these will buy you valuable seconds/minutes to arm yourself or escape. They are inexpensive, simple to install and will allow you to safely open your front door to see who is outside without anyone trying to force their way in. Remember that most home invasions start with a "salesman" or "neighbor" knocking on your door before forcing their way inside when you open up. This little accessory will stop them from doing that for a good while.

Personal Alarm

Trust me when I say that these little things are LOUD. Keep one of them near the front door where you keep your keys, and if someone is trying to break in, set it off. The screeching noise will alert your neighbours and the intruder will likely decide that this house is too hard and leave.

Now, with that aside, what do you do when they make it inside? Well, if you've taken the precautions listed above and they've managed to get inside, it's likely been because you were asleep at the time. Can you imagine being woken from sleep by a noise, only to realize that there is someone in your house? The thought is terrifying, but there are things you can do.

At this point, you have to ask yourself what you're prepared to do. Depending on where you live in there world, local laws are in place to prevent you from taking things too far, however, in my book, "too far" is a subjective term. People don't "accidentally" break into a person's house. If they're moving around your house in the dark while you're at home and asleep, then you need to be prepared to do WHATEVER you have to do to keep you and yours safe.

Sleep with your bedroom door closed and locked

It may seem odd, but this may save your life one day. An invader won't assume that a bedroom door will be locked, and when they go to open it, the rattling will likely wake you from sleep, giving you valuable time. Think of it as a last line of defense.
Did you know that there have been multiple cases in the past of serial killers who break into their victims houses while they're at work to learn the layout, find where the bedroom is and come back later while they're asleep to kill them?

Keep a tactical torch by your bedside

When I say 'tactical torch' I mean one with a optical disruptor or strobe functionality built in. If you're fighting for your life in your own home, you need things that will afford you the upper hand, even if it's for a couple of seconds. A high lumen strobe, especially one that is built precisely - such as in torches like the Fenix RC10 - which has a flash frequency designed to cause disruption of motor skills. When I say high lumen, I mean REALLY high lumen. At the bare minimum, your torch should go above 300 lumens of brightness. Preferably closer to 600. The brighter it is, the longer you can stun the invader.

Keep your mobile/cell phone by your bedside

Remember... When seconds count, police are only minutes away, so you'd better call them sooner rather than later! Otherwise, keep your phone handy to be able to call the police AFTER you've dealt with the invader. You don't want the invader to be between you and your line to the outside world.

Sleep with a weapon

Depending on where you live, you may have legal access to guns, knives, or other. Find a weapon that you are particularly comfortable with, which you can legally own and operate, train with it, and keep it next to your bed while you sleep. If it's a knife, keep it sheathed. If it's a gun, keep it un-cocked. You don't want sleepwalking accidents. But also be prepared to use it. In combination with your tactical torch and a locked door, you should have the upper hand, as an invader will not be expecting an armed resident, ready to immediately respond and fight back.

Learn to move silently

Learn to move quietly through your house. Learn where the creaking floor-boards are. Make a mental map of where the furniture is. If you can get close to the invader without them realizing you're there, you'll have a massive advantage. As someone who has used this to bring someone down in a house I was taking care of, I can attest to its importance.

Memorize the locations of means of restraint

If you subdue the invader, you're going to need to hold them until police arrive. Remember where you keep things like rope, zip-ties or similar, so that you can quickly retrieve it for use.

Follow these tips, and you should have a more solid plan to prevent - and, if necessary, deal with - home invaders.

Remember. Be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT

Monday, August 26, 2013

INFORMATIVE - Real Survival - Are You Ready?

Before reading this article, I highly recommend reading this news post from Survival Gear Australia, as it's a great precursor to what I'm going to be talking about.

My topic is a little bit of a reality check for you. An exam of sorts. Many preppers have certain preparations sorted out, but there are often realities of the situation that people overlook. This test is to present some of those realities for your consideration.

Now, this isn't a criticism of preppers work. Not at all. Think of it as an aide memoir, so you can check if there's something you may have overlooked. Hell, I may have even overlooked something myself, and if I have, I would love to hear extra suggestions in the comments. But who knows, this article may lead to a new hobby developing a certain skill for your future preparations. After all, remember that a good survivalist focuses on three things: knowledge, skills and preparations.

So let's run through an example scenario of a realistic SHTF situation.

You live on the South-side of the river-city you live in, but you're at work, on the North-side. An emergency broadcast goes out that the recent rains have caused the nearby dam to burst and the city you live in will be underwater within hours. The official call for evacuation is put out. You call your significant other and arrange to meet back at the house within three days.

The situation:
  • Your supplies are at home
  • Your significant other is at their own work, a good distance away, but will meet you in three days
  • People are panicking
  • Everyone is trying to get home at once, refusing to leave cars/belongings. Main roads and public transport are clogged
Questions for you to consider:
  • You need to get home. Can you get there without the use of transport?
  • Are you fit enough to walk the significant distance home?
  • Do you carry a 72hr bag to last you the (potentially extended) journey home?
  • Do you know the routes home well enough to have at least 3 alternate routes in case of blocked passage?
  • Do you have the camp skills and resources to be able to spend a night safely and undisturbed in an urban environment?
  • Do you have the means to accommodate needs such as defecation? Personal hygeine? Food?
  • Do you have a prior plan worked out with your significant other upon which to fall back if communication between you is severed?
You're journeying home. It's been rough going, having to change routes every so often due to flooded roads and crowds, but you're making progress. You have arranged to check in with your significant other on the hour, every hour, to maintain a line of contact.

But then you hear helicopters and realise that the armed forces have been brought in to assist in the evacuation. As you progress, you see that the soldiers are herding people into large facilities: football stadiums, warehouses, etc, "for their own safety".

The situation:
  • Main thoroughfares are being cordoned off
  • Aerial views are being gathered
  • Patrols are moving about, looking for stragglers
  • Civilians are getting angry, not wanting to be separated from their families and homes
  • Small riots are breaking out
  • Force is being used to corral people (riot control, teargas, etc)
Questions for you to consider:
  • Do you have the skill to be stealthy and avoid being herded?
  • Are you able to cover distance without being seen?
  • Do you have adequate skill and means to hide from aerial surveillance?
So all goes well, and you make it home. Due to the need to move stealthily, what would normally be an eight hour hike has turned into nearly two full days on the road. Your house is not in the flood plain, and is still safe from the waters, but your significant other isn't there. You lost contact a few hours back when your phone stopped getting reception. The flood waters must have brought down the signal towers.

Some people around you are packing up their vehicles and leaving, others are sandbagging their houses and preparing to tough it out. They're calm now, but there is an air of panic about. It took you two days to get home from your work, so you have one day left before the planned rendezvous with your significant other.

The situation:
  • You don't know where your significant other is
  • You have full access to your supply cache
  • You have full access to your equipment/gear cache
Questions for you to consider:
  • Are you prepared to wait until the full 3 day rendezvous is over?
  • Do you have a home security plan prepared which you can set up in the 24hrs you have left?
  • Are you familiar with your significant others proposed travel routes from their place of work to your home?
  • Do you have an alternate means of communication with which to contact your significant other?
Another 24hrs passes and your significant other hasn't returned. It's time to make a decision. If it is safe to do so, you can go out to find them - assuming you know their routes - or you can trust they will find their own way home.

OPTION A) If you choose to go out and find them, you need to set up a sweeping plan to cross over their travel options to get from work to home. If you have planned out this as the system beforehand, your significant other could know to stay put where they've managed to make it to. This will make it much simpler to find them. Keep sweeping back and forth along their routes until you either find them on their travels, or find them back at their place of work. Keep cautious, keep vigilant. If they haven't been able to make it home, there's likely to be a reason for that. Don't get caught in the same trap.

OPTION B) Time is of the essence now to prepare your home for the coming weeks. A dam release is not something that will be resolved quickly, and so the clock is ticking to either get dug in or bug out. Because of this, you need to assume, realistically, that you wouldn't be able to seek out your partner. It's time to take matters into your own hands and hope that your partner either makes it home on their own (if you're bugging in) or can follow your trail (if you're bugging out).

So this now goes into two different branches: bugging in and bugging out.

You Decide to Bug In

If you have ascertained that the flood waters won't reach your home, then your best bet is to bug in. The next few weeks will potentially get quite bad. They're calm now, but when the public realise that the grocery stores aren't getting re-stocked, the plumbing won't come back and the power won't come on, they will start to panic. Many will attempt to evacuate, but many of those who choose to stay will resort - out of desperation - to looting to collect supplies.

The situation:
  • Securing your house will become a priority over the next 72 hours
  • Depending on where the flooding is, and how severe, you may not be able to rely on grocery stores to get food
  • Also depending on the flooding, medical aid may be out of reach
  • Desperate civilians may resort to looting houses in your area in search of food and supplies
Questions for you to consider:
  • Do you have the ability to secure your house against home invasion?
  • Do you have enough food stored to ride out the lack of supply?
  • Do you have enough clean water to ride out the lack of supply?
  • Do you have a means of purifying more water as needed?
  • Do you have plumbing alternatives such as a chemical toilet or solar shower?
  • Do you have an alternative power source, such as a solar panel array with battery backup?
  • Do you have the knowledge/skill to gather alternate food, such as edible vegetation or hunting?
  • Do you have the means to grow your own vegetables and medicinal plants?
  • Do you have adequate medical supplies and skills to handle your own medical treatment?

You Decide to Bug Out

It's looking like the flood waters may reach your house. Or perhaps the street violence and looting is proving too much, and your home security can't overcome the sheer desperation of the local population. They've realised what you have and they want it for themselves, so it's time to get the hell out of dodge.

The situation:
  • You've been forced to leave your home base and have to move on
  • Water is rising, so time and routes are limited
  • If you're bailing, so too will other people, and the roads may be blocked
Questions for you to consider:
  • Do you have multiple bug-out locations pre-planned in case one or more are compromised?
  • Do you have multiple travel routes to each location?
  • Do you have your gear organized in such a way that you can bail out quickly?
  • Is your vehicle capable of the off-road travel you may need to endure to bypass blocked roadways and make it to your bug-out location?
  • Do you have the means to move anyone who is injured to the point where they are unable to move under their own power?
  • Do you have hidden caches of supplies buried between your home base and your bug-out locations to help assist your travels in the event of a rushed egress?
In either scenario, the going will be tough, and it is preparedness, knowledge, skill, discipline and a cool head that will get you through it. Natural disasters clear up, storms cease, flood waters recede and you will make it through. How well you do that - how comfortably you do that - will depend on how well you've prepared.

This is just one scenario. Take the time to imagine varying alternatives, such as the following:
  • A violent cyclone or tornado
  • A tsunami
  • A major earthquake
  • A large terrorist attack
  • An out-of-control bushfire/forest fire
  • Civil unrest/social collapse
  • A long-term economic crisis
  • The outbreak of war
  • A large solar flare destroying the power grid
  • A major water disruption
  • Food shortage
  • Martial law
Each of these presents its own unique scenario and comes with its own set of circumstances and required supplies. I have chosen a flood as it is a real thing that happens world-wide on a regular basis, and it is something I have lived through myself, so I can speak from experience. Even still, what I went through pales massively in comparison to something such as the New Orleans floods, which killed nearly 1,500 people.

But as you can see by the questions presented, the steps are there to be ready for it, and by being ready, you can ride it out.

Always remember, be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

OPINION - Know your rights? Know reality.

Another rant post, folks. Feel free to skip if you're just here for the tutorials and reviews.

This opinion post centers largely on Australia, but many countries around the world work on a similar system, so it can be adapted and applied as needed.

Australia is a democracy. It is famed world-wide for being a land of freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of work, freedom of religion, freedom to go about your lives in peace.

But that is an illusion. A front. A ruse. As I've gone into before.

You often hear people say "know your rights", which is something I agree strongly with. It is important to know ones' rights, and to understand them. But one must also understand that rights are subjective things, and if it comes down to an argument in court where it is your word as a citizen against the word of a government official or officer of the law, you're going to lose, rights or no.

Australia is not devoid of obscene police brutality. Now, I'm the first to admit that some people have it coming to them. Some people attack police and I believe that the police have a right to defend themselves, but you just have to watch a few videos taken surreptitiously on smartphones to see that the violence extends far, far beyond self defense and into downright assault.

And what if it goes deeper than a simple punch-up? What if an entire force is out to get you? This happens, too, for things as innocent as people exercising their "right" to freedom of speech.

Not too long ago, a young man named Jordan Nash - having undergone horrific bullying at his school - was made to "disappear" along with his mother, Jennifer Nash. They both underwent multiple arrests, removal from the houses of parliament, police brutality and a full media blackout (to the point of having videos about them blocked on public access and library computers) in order to silence their story (which I recommend reading about). To this day it is incredibly difficult to find details on their story as our "democratic", "free" country continues to maintain their silence.
To clarify here, Jordan and his mother were not being violent. Not being obtrusive. They had simply exercised their right to peaceful protest after Jordan had requested an inquiry into the bullying going on at his school - bullying that went beyond students and into the staff towards him also.

I mean think about that for a second. If you're a high school student, and you are getting bullied, who do you go to? Your teachers. What if the teachers don't do anything? You go to the principal. And if the principal does nothing? You go to the school board. And if they do nothing? You go to the police. And if they do nothing? You go to your state member for parliament. And if they ignore you? (Yes. Their very own political representative ignored them - literally walking past them pretending like they weren't there - for 24 weeks). Your only recourse is to go to the federal government. But what if they won't help you either? What if, for approaching them about it in a peaceful way, you get violently tackled - in parliament house - dragged, screaming out of the building, assaulted, thrown in cuffs and arrested, then have media and newspapers ordered to ridicule you in the public eye?

What do you do then?

Nothing. You do nothing. You CAN do nothing. And that is the country we live in. Words like "Justice", "Ethics", "Fairness" and "Rights" are all subjective terms which can be bent, warped and skewed by an ever-increasingly tyrannical government. We have no rights, no choice. We have the illusion of rights, the illusion of choice. And we have a populace who is afraid of their government, when it should be our government who is afraid of its people.

The story of Jordan Nash is just one of many, many similar stories, and that number will continue to climb until things change, but Australians aren't the type to fight. We're not brave like the Turkish people who stood up to their government's ridiculous laws on rights. We're not courageous like the pro-gay advocates flocking to Russia to protest, knowing that it will end in a harsh beating and a cold cell. We're lazy. We're uninformed and we're easily distracted by nonsense like the latest episode of Big Brother or the ridiculous charade that they call an election.

"Doing the right thing" can - and will - get you killed here. Violence is rampant in Australia. Not nearly as bad as other places, that is true, but the fact that there are other countries with worse violence does not in any way make the violence in Australia less bad.

I present to you a first-hand example. I was recently with a friend visiting a country town a while away from where I live, and we decided to stop off at an empty road-side park to enjoy some lunch when a car flew in from the road and a heavily tattooed, roughneck sort of man jumped out and starts making a bee-line straight for me, with a heavy air of malice. My friend asked the man what was wrong, but he only had eyes for me. Luckily for me, I'm quite a large individual with an intimidating mein, and when he got close enough to see that, his resolve faltered ever so slightly, and he decided to maintain a distance of about 3 meters from me before exploding into an abuse-filled tirade about how I was "eyeballing" him as he drove past. I calmly explained that I had just been watching the road and that we had just been enjoying some lunch.

At this point, the man started challenging me to "have it out" and see who the bigger man was. He was pacing back and forth like a caged lion and had such rage in his face and tone that I have to admit I thought I was going to have a bit of a situation. As it was, being a highly trained martial artist - and knowing that my friend is even more skilled than I am - my discipline through training kicked in and I maintained a calm, confident demeanor until he finally realized that his attempts at intimidation and awe were simply not working on me, at which point he left. Something about my calm, even gaze seemed to unnerve him, not to mention him realising that I'm six and a half feet tall and over a hundred kilos - not a small person by far - while he would have been about sixty kilos and maybe close to six foot. It was a fight he couldn't have won. Even against me on my own he would have been outmatched, but to have my very skilled friend at my side, he would have been down in seconds.

All of this was flying through my head as it was happening, and I had the realization that the only sane reason he would have approached and challenged us as he did, with those odds, would be because he was armed in some way. A knife, perhaps, or a gun? It was the only logical conclusion.

What if he did pull a knife on me? Or my friend? Yes, there are ways to defend oneself against a knife, but they're extremely dangerous.

There are very, VERY strict laws regarding the carrying - particularly concealed carrying - of knives in Australia, but common thugs like this fellow pay no heed to those laws, and so it leaves only criminals to have weapons, while the common citizen has nothing. It's the same with gun control. You can never reduce gun possession to zero. All you do by applying more and more laws are leaving it so that ONLY criminals have them.

However, as I said, my friend and I are both very skilled martial artists, and even if he did have a knife, I'm confident we could have - together - overpowered him. But wrestling with a knife is risky business. If our assailant was accidentally stabbed in the fray, my friend and I could be arrested for manslaughter or use of excessive force and thrown away in prison when we did nothing to deserve our fate.

In the end, our own intimidation won out and he had a change of heart, leaving us with a few choice words of abuse and getting back into his car. A wise move on his behalf.

But it begs the question. Why can't Australian's defend themselves adequately? Some would say that we can, and on paper, that's very true. The law states that you can use adequate force to defend yourself or those in your charge. But this excludes any use of weapons, meaning that if you DO defend yourself, it will have to be with your own bare hands.

But an unarmed population is a population that can't fight against its government. You can't escape the hard truths that after imposing its gun bans, the number of armed robberies in Australia went up by an incredible 69%, assaults involving guns went up by 28%, the number of gun murders went up 19% and home invasions went up by 21%, all because those weapons laws ONLY affected law abiding citizens who wanted to be safe.

And so you have a choice, when it comes down to it. And yes, you DO have a choice, but it's a difficult one.
  • Be law-abiding, but put your trust in the system to protect you at all times
  • Go against the rules. Carry a weapon. Train in its responsible use, and protect yourself
And I do mean train in it, as it will be more harm to yourself than your attacker if you aren't familiar with it. Even something as simple as a kubotan can mean the difference between being mugged and being safe, or getting raped and making it home safely.

It's a sad fact that in most states in Australia, a young woman can't even legally carry pepper spray in her purse. The law says there is "no excuse" for it. But tell that to a rape victim. Tell that to an old woman who has had burglars steal from her house. As someone who has had several attempted muggings on their person (none successful, I'm proud to say) and as someone who has gotten cut by one attacker who used a knife, I can tell you that relying on police to protect you is not an option.

When the people who swear they value your safety knowingly impose and enforce laws which severely compromise that safety, it should make you think about these peoples' motives.

And I encourage you to do so.

- CumQuaT

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

INFORMATIVE - Radiation: Knowing When to Bail

Radiation is an invisible killer. Disasters like the accident at Chernobyl in 1986 don't even have to happen in your own country to affect you. Chernobyl's radiation output affected more than a dozen countries as winds blew radioactive particles far and wide.
Aside from even major disasters, the risk of dirty bombs used in terrorist attacks is a real one, despite one not having been used yet. One, relatively small, dirty bomb could easily blanket a small town, or have its effects spread across an entire city.

Luckily, for most, it's easy to know when radiation levels reach unsafe amounts through the use of Geiger counters, though they're not always convenient to carry around.

There are products such as the Nuke Alert keychain which are quite nifty, but often outside of the price range for most people (still a wise investment, however, if you can afford the oulay). These will sit idly on your keys but start chirping at you when radiation levels begin to rise.

As a more cost-efficient alternative, however, you can get yourself a nifty little Radiation Alert Dosimeter Sticker to keep on your person. It sticks easily to the inside of your wallet or phone case or car for you to be able to quickly read.

If you live in Australia, a great place to pick these up is Survival Gear Australia, a company run out of Melbourne. At only $15 a piece, it's hard to justify not having one on you. It won't chirp at you like the keychain, but if you're smart about where you put it, you'll get to regularly see it and see what's happening around you.

The cool thing about these is that the process is entirely chemical, so they require no batteries at all, though each one does only have a service life of around 2 years, depending on your climate (though that equates to roughly 2c per day for peace of mind)

They are very easy to read, and with a quick glance you can know what sort of radiation levels you're dealing with:
  • 25 to 50 Rad go See your Doctor Soon.
  • 100 Rad or More, Get to a Hospital that is treating Radiation Patients.
FYI:  100 millisieverts=10 rads (News From Fukushima Japan has been rating the radiation in milisieverts.  Its just a different unit of measurement.)

So I can't recommend highly enough that you go and grab some of these. Put them everywhere, and remember, be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT