Saturday, October 31, 2009

Preparedness and Politics: 7 resons why you should care.

Hi FerFal,
I, as many Europeans, wonder why Obama is so heavily critised by Republicans when it comes to his spending of government money.
Didn't George W. Bush spend 1,500 Billion dollars on a war against a country of which he and his sidekicks knew there weren't any WMD?
He threw the US in an all-time record deficit.

Obama spends the same amount trying to save jobs, banks and mortgages, enable poor people to have access to public healthcare, but all of the sudden the Republicans begin to worry about the national deficit and blame Obama for spending too much and being a socialist.

Should Obama also have invented a reason to fight an exterior enemy in order to be allowed to spend money?
Fighting an economic collapse isn't worth the expenses, but fighting a war to find non-existing WMD on the other side of the world is?

I don't cover the entire spectrum of criticism against Obama, but it's clear to a lot of Europeans that a US president who doesn't invent an imaginary outside enemy, is considered a weakling from the Republican's perspective.

In Europe, Obama is really popular. We love the US. We don't like the useless wars that were instilled by the Republican presidents in the last 2 decades. Now there's a president who really cares about healthcare, and he's called a 'socialist'. Shame on him! To quote a Republican congressman, 'You lie boy!'.
Do Republicans prefer foreign wars over free health care for the poor? Don't they see that the Iraq-war was a big, big shame in the eyes of the world?

What do you think of this Ferfal? I know you are not fond of Obama, especially regarding his firearm laws. But the guy is in the social aspects way better than G.W. Bush for a country like the United States.

Ed from Europe.

Hi Ed, I'm afraid you've swallowed a big hook with Obama bait on it.
Obama has changed his views regarding the war so much its hard to keep track.
I only ask you two questions:
1) Who's president of the US?
2) Are troops still in Middle East?

Regarding the war, he even said in 2004:
"There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute."
You see, Obama is no different.
Obama to Send 13,000 More Troops to Afghanistan

I've got nothing against Obama, he seems like a really nice guy. I'd even invite him over for bbq and invite him over to the range for some shooting if I had the guy as a neighbor.
The problem is that he reminds me a bit too much to our own president, Nestor Kirchner, who got so drunk with power that he even set his wife up as a current puppet president, with Nestor pulling the strings planning his next presidency.
Obama has a similar modus operandi. He's been compared to Peron by more than a few journalists, and the similarity is remarkable:
Obssesive about control, totalitarian, promotes an image of himself as savior, something beyond his official position, just like Peron did.
I didnt like Bush much,but I remember vividly that he was mocked several times, caricaturized as a drunkard... but Obama? No one dares. And that's wrong. No one dares to joke about Kirchner here either. Just do that and you'll have hundreds of tax agents doing a long and thorough investigation of your company's assets, always something can be found to ruin your day... or year.
I dont like the fact that Obama reminds me so much of these dark characters of Argentine politics.

A for politics, someone commented that why was I posting these things in a survival and preparedness blog. Here's why:

1) I didn't care about politics either, until a certain politician that got elected president cleaned his butt with our constitution, stealing our retirement funds, raising natural gas and electric power up to 600% all of a sudden with a tax, and recently passing a law that will control our media.

2) I didn't care, until they declared a gun emergency law, and we started losing our rights to defend ourselves little by little, while criminals have more rights than us and hardly ever go to jail anymore.

3) I didn't care until the president I didn't vote for decides what I should be able to afford to eat.

4) How much air conditioner should I use during summer.

5) I didn't care until we ended up with a president that spent all of a sudden and witohut asking anyone 600 million dollars ( of out pension funds) to buy access to the soccer matches on Sundays so as to make them free to view in the public channel, instead of pay per view like before. She takes our money, spends it on soccer, even if I dont give a damn about soccer and even though millions of kids are below the poverty line, a dozen starving to death each day... but hey! They have soccer.

6) I didn't care until our president decided to be best buds with Cuba and Venezuela, while shutting us off from the rest of the world.

7) I didn't care until I realized how many people have died, starving, killed by crime and the lack of security, or by pandemics like Dengue and A flu, all because of a government that chooses to censor the information instead of doing something about it.

It's all very serious, even life or death matters, freedom and personal liberites. And its all got to do with politics and weather we do something aobut it or not.


Concealed carry

Buenas dias, Mr. Aguirre!

I was intrigued by your post on carrying the full-sized Glock for better control (grip). Could you say more about "the right belt" and holsters and clothes and any other techniques you favor? I'm 5' 7", medium build and would prefer to carry my full-size S&W M&P if it's a reasonable possibility.

Also, thank you for the book! And best wishes to you and your family!


Hi, thanks for your email Steve,
Whenever you think your gun is too big, compare it to the good old 1911.
There’s good leather here and good craftmen as well, my favorite holster is a hard molded leather one made by Zafra. I also have a few cheapo nylon ones that have done the job ok (not perfect, but ok).

The difference between a “gun belt” and a regular leather belt is that the gun belt is usually of better grade, more rigid. A dressing belt will usually be more flimsy and won’t support the weight of the gun well.
The belt and holster should be bought taking both into consideration since you don’t want loops too big or too small for your belt, they should both be tight and work like a solid unit.
Milt Sparks has both good belts and holsters.
The ones most often made here by locals are similar to those, of course, price here is much better :D

I’ve been hearing notihng but good things about Blade-tech IWB holsters and I’ve been trying to find one on ebay for my Glock for a while.
The nice thing is that they don’t catch sweat like leather does.
As for clothes, a slightly larger tshirt does fine. It depends also on your body shape. Some people wear a vest of some kind (photographer’s or other) just to help conceal. A light jacket achieves the same result.

During wintertime, make sure you don’t burry your gun under a ton clothes.

I believe it was Leroy Thompson that mentioned that for his security detail, when wearing suits, he had his tailor add a patch of thick fabric where the gun was carried , both to protect the fabric of the suit and avoid “printing” of the weapon against the thinner suit fabric.

For winter, pocket carrying a snubby revolver, preferably hammerless or make sure to rest your thumb on the hammer as you draw( to avoid getting it tangled) or sucompact Glock as backup is a pretty good idea: Winter, hands in your pocket all the time… you can’t ask for faster than that.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

First gun: Shotgun or Handgun?

Anonymous said...

More emphasis should be placed on food, something like a minimum of 6 month to 1 year's worth to see one through a period when precious metals will not be widely traded and during a time when food shortages may occur. Although the situation appears similar to that of Argentina, the U.S. is unique and can't be expected to experience a collapse exactly like Argentina's. If money is tight, get a water filter or water storage, 3 months of food, then protection, and then 3 more months of food. Do some thing like this, taking a balanced approach as one prepares and continue until comfortable.

Personally, an inexpensive Remington 870 shotgun might be considered over and an expensive Glock and it would be far more effective for someone with little training. Glocks are twice the price of the 12Ga.870 shotgun and money saved should go for food. It takes lots of practice to get good with the Glock or any hangun, and with a shotgun, a less than well placed shot, will be more effective. Try the low or managed recoil 00 buck loads from Winchester. It's same that law enforcement uses. A 12ga. kicks harder than most hunting rifles. Practice with cheap 'game loads'. If possible try it before you buy. Get the Glock and the ammunition to become proficient latter. If really broke, start with 3 months of food and water and pepper spray.

Thanks FerFal for what you do. We can show our appreciation by sharing our thoughts and helping eachother.


Silverado Coach Gun

You're right, as more money is available, work your way towards 6 to 12 months worth of food. Either way you're going to use it no matter what, and you sure can't live without it.
I'm of a different opinion regarding the first (and for many the only) weapon to own.
A used Glock in good condition isn't that expensive, and if nothing else at least get a revolver but I've always insisted on a handgun first, and enough training to be profficient with it.
Of course its less powerful, but you can't drop a shotgun in your jacket's pocket or carry in in your waist and that makes all the difference.
Street, or home, the handgun will cover both, while the shotgun will only be a home defense gun, and even at that, you dont carry a shotgun all the time in the house or keep it handy. Entering or leaving your home, the garage, unless you conceal carry you'll be unarmed when you need it the most.
Another couple things I'd like to mention: A shotgun, specially a pump action shotgun, requires a LOT of skill to operate, specially at close range and against several targets many operators will transition to their handgun when in CQC, which is the most common self defense range.
A shotgun also needs to be aimed well, at close range there's no difference between shogun shells and solid projectile, they both make a single hole. It takes several more feet and even then the spread isnt that much you can afford not to aim as you should.
One of the worst inconveniences with shotguns and close range fighting: A) You need both hands to operate B) It requires a complex mechanical movement that requires both hands for each shot.
Shotguns are nice, but for all these reasons, I always recommend a handgun as a first and maybe only firearm.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

M1A1, FAL and barrel lenght


I really enjoyed your book and blog. Very good and realistic
information. The amount of hyperbole out on the Internet about this
subject is mind boggling and it's good to have someone with a
realistic perspective.

I was reading your descriptions of guns to own and couldn't agree
more. Glocks are simple to operate, simple to clean, simple to repair
and just flat out work even if not maintained to perfection. It's
reliable protection that can be carried on your hip no matter where
you go or what you are doing.

With respect to a rifle I also agree on a good .308 caliber weapon
because they are so versatile. My preference has been towards the M1A
(although I'd love to try a FAL) and I thought I'd relay to you some
information on them that I've witnessed. During some practical rifle
training I was shooting with folks with ARs and with M1As. Myself and
one other fellow had M1A standard length barrels. Another fellow had
the 16" version with muzzle brake. Here are my observations:

1) The 16" with muzzle brake is very loud. The noise is much more than
the standard rifles and is pushing the limits of good hearing
protection. Any one next to one of them on the firing line is going to
be punished (ask me how I know!). They also have a much more visible
muzzle flash than the full length versions.

2) The 16" version threw an extractor and became non-functional. This
can happen in M1As on rare occasion if the extractor detent is faulty,
but our rifle instructor who sees many M1As come through notes that he
sees it far more often with the shortened barrel versions. His
speculation is that by tuning the barrel to make it work with the
short length they disturbed the design and this is causing more
malfunctions. His overall sense are these shortened version rifles
have more malfunctions in general and failures that cause them to
become out of commission (like a bolt malfunction). He's seen enough
failures at this point to think it's something to be aware of in these
shortened M1A designs.

3) The 16" version was keyholing bullets with the ammo being shot (125
grain frangible). The full length barrels were not doing this. This
affected accuracy from the 16" version. This is something to keep an
eye on if using lightweight bullets.

Overall while I know the 16" version is what you recommend, I think
that the full length version shouldn't be discounted simply because
the design has now many decades of battle testing behind it and is a
reliable configuration. If you enjoy doing long range target practice
the full length barrel also has the decided advantage with iron sights
because of the better sight radius. This may not be a concern for
some, but if you plan on using the weapon for hunting it is something
to consider.

As an aside, the course we were shooting was in adverse weather and
while the AR users were told to take special precautions to keep water
and debris out of their actions and barrels, the M1A shooters were
told to just ignore all of it and keep on shooting. The action on that
rifle doesn't care what's in it. I just shoots it out. :)

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

$USD (or percentage) allocation‏

(Note From FerFAL:Today The Modern Survival Manual made it to #1 in the Disaster Relief category at Amazon, officially making it a best seller. Not sure if its still there but it felt great to get there :-) Thanks to all of you for being there, spreading the word about my blog and book. )
if you had $100 how much would you spend?
how much would you save? how would you
spend it? how would you save it?
extended: 1000? 10000?
for example: using your Grandmother's experience,
and the 100 limit, would you save ALL of it?
if you could prepare before the crisis....
would you save it in paper money? silver/gold?
bottom line, i'm looking for numbers.
just an opinion:
if 100, then save save 100% in paper money.
if 1000, save 50% in money and spend 50% on food.
if 10000, 3000 money/3000 gold/3000 food/1000 guns+ammo.
please let me know your way of handling the above amounts.

Man, that's hard. I've probably answered such a question a dozen times, and i doubt I ever gave the same reply. And how could I? If you have 10.000, should you put 30% on gold, or 54%, or 44%??
As of today, and not taking into account the infinite variables that affect people in a case per case basis:

100: Dude, that's kind of low. Work hard on saving more money for sure. :-)
Other than a used Kbar knife, a cheapo LED flashlight using AA batteries, I'd put most of that into buying food and storing water using used soda bottles.

1000: Looking better but not much. Buy a gun if you dont own one already. A box of ammo, spare magazine, holster, food, some basic gear(you can now afford some camping gear for improvised shelter), used multitool on ebay, flashlight(get a headlamp too), spare batteries, first aid kit, food, and keep a couple hundred bucks cash for emergencies.

3000:Same as above, but include an AK and a couple extra mags, more ammo for both guns. You might want to put 500 bucks into silver and 500 spare cash.

10000: Same as above. but put 50% of the rest into precious metals, gold but mostly silver.1oz, and "junk" silver coins, junk gold can't hurt either if the price is right. You might want to add a 22LR handgun or rifle, and spare AK and Glock

+10000:Start looking into Swiss bank accounts (easier to open than most people think) and investing in real estate, since the price has gone down a lot in some places. AS of today, I'd keep 1/2 of my money in PM and for bigger amounts I'd invest it in real estate.


Situation in US

Anonymous said...

It seems to me like having a source of income, when everybody else is fighting for a handful of jobs, is the essential part. You yourself noted that in Argentina there was usually food, but buying it was the hard part. I seem to remember stories about desperate people looting markets in the wake of the bank shutdown. They had no cash and no way to get cash, so they simply took what they needed.

It is good to know how to sell, but you need to have something to sell, and to have confidence in what you're selling. That's my big struggle-developing the confidence to sell my skills with confidence, and to be confident enough in myself that people know I really mean it.

For Americans, "confidence" is different from the "self-esteem" garbage peddled in USA schools that makes youth ARROGANT instead of CONFIDENT. People do know the difference. It seems that TPTB want an arrogant people, not a confident people. There's also the matter of the "empty suit"-he who can sell but has nothing worth buying. Like Obama. It takes skills AND selling. If you've got that, you'll be able to get by.

War is another matter, a large war can level a society and force everybody into desperation. I don't think that will happen in USA, I think the government and its supporters will quickly be bottled up in a handful of cities when the people rebel and will fall. I think a situation like that in Argentina is more likely. The K's even tried to "fix" the economy by printing money, which created a boom that has now crashed, so they went after the media for reporting how they failed. I can see Obama doing the same-there are rampant rumors here of an "Obama enemies list" and of official attempts to destroy populist media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

October 27, 2009 10:11 AM

You're right. It's hard but that's the way it is. The social pyramid sinks and you have to fight your way to the top or fall into "poor" status.
You don't want that.
You have to be active, resourceful, and even better, generate your own source of income as you noticed.
Selling skills are terribly important, one of the most sought after jobs after the collapse, one of the few types that made it to the papers, was salesman. A good, experienced salesman will always have a job. And if he doesn't he can make his own.
Confidence comes with knowledge of yourself, knowing your limitations and abilities and what you are capable.
Arrogance is eh product, of lack of true self esteem, fear and ignorance.
Obama is indeed a lot like the K, and apparently he's copying many of their worst defects. Hope he stops before Americans get fed up. That would not be pretty.


Monday, October 26, 2009

New Email and Reply

Hi everyone. I created a new hotmail account, ferfal308@(remove)hotmail.com- Of course, remove the (remove) part. This is done to avoid spam from programs picking up emails online.
The new email will make things a bit easier for me and help organize. I receive a lot of emial on daily basis so please try to be patient and understand.
I try to answer all of them and post those that I figure would be of interest to others.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post, FerFAL. I like it most when you're able to tie in personal experiences, either yours, or of family members.

I read your book and used it to help build reserves and plans. Compared to before reading your book, now, I have more of the listed items in this post taken care of. The ones that aren't are partially addressed.

Reading this list would have made me feel vulnerable before, but now it makes me feel more confident, because I've done a lot of work and gained new experiences. The last few months have been difficult, but it just goes to show that keeping your head and not giving up, always looking for solutions, will give you good odds of faring alright.

It seems you already figured it out. It's a way you face life and deal with the problems it presents, not to drown yourself in them but so that they impact your life the least.
There's several aspects I enjoy about preparedness, shooting, camping, trying out new gear, having better finances and more options. Its nice to know you have several safety nets, so to speak.
Planning for inconveniences make them less of a problem. And preparing for bigger challenges has even greater importance.
While others suffer different calamities because of their lack of preparedness and proper mindset, you sail through them much more calmly.
There always the luck factor, and then there’s the Big Guy upstairs that has the final word. Bu its no coincidence that the careless happy go lucky gets mugged half a dozen times a year, while the one that is more cautious fares better. I once met a woman that had her cell phone snatched out of her hands while using it on the street 6 times so far this year! Lady, Geez… wake up!
Some for the person that’s sloppy with his finances, always penniless, and when they make a couple bucks put together they waste them on the silliest things you can think of. Then you understand, no wonder that person is always broke.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Spanish Civil War

Have been following your writings on your blog for a few months and after reading some of your older posts saw that there is a family history going back to Spain/Spanish Civil war. I have spent time reading about the Spanish Civil War (History Major now an engineering student) and was curious on your take of what lessons there were to be learned from that war and if there are any comparisons/warnings that we could take from then to apply to today?
thank you again, I appreciate the urban/suburban survivalist lessons you give, definitely more applicable and practical than running for the hills and hoping that Rome burns.

Hi John,
Funny that you mention the Spanish civil war, I’ve been working on that recently.
Yes, my grandparents lived there and had more than a few interesting stories to tell.
Silly youth, I never paid much attention to it until now. A bit older and bit less stupid, now I’m picking my 85 year old grandma’s brain, gathering tales, putting the pieces together and doing a bit of writing.
I’m interested in real world survival situations. The Spanish civil war is an interesting one, and having a very lucid grandmother that lived it to talk to is invaluable.
She lived in a very small village up in the mountains in the province of Lugo.
They had a small farm, her dad traveled around working, lived in Cuba some time. Conditions were very hard, she moved to the city looking for work, then back to the village, then to Argentina with my grandfather.
"Execution" of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Communist militiamen at Cerro de los √Āngeles near Madrid, on 7 August 1936 WIKI

Ruins of Guernica

In Spain the civil war and post civil war life was hard. There was little food around, few jobs, political persecution somewhat similar to what we saw here during the Dirt War.

I have spent time reading about the Spanish Civil War (History Major now an engineering student) and was curious on your take of what lessons there were to be learned from that war and if there are any comparisons/warnings that we could take from then to apply to today?

There are a few and even though I hadn’t written specifically about the Spanish civil what experience as I’m doing these days, I’ve always kept those lessons in mind:
1) Food is of great importance of course. Water could be had one way or another, shelter isn’t that big a deal either. The key is having enough food.

2) Money is even nicer. Gets you food and the other stuff food wont (Argue about that with my grandmother if anyone disagrees. I assure you, she’s seen and experienced more hunger and food rationing than most “experts”)

3) The ability to move, relocate if necessary as my grandparents from both sides of my family did. Happens all the time, things get tough, poverty gets bad and people move wherever there’s work.

4) It’s important to have skills, but its better to be a good salesman.
The skilled person may or may not make good money. If you’re good at sales and running business you’ll definitely will.

5) During the civil war weapons weren’t allowed. Yet a handgun
could be concealed…

6)Having your own store, your own source of income. My grandmother dreamed of that and here in Argentina she soon opened her own bakery while my grandfather opened a carpentry shop. (she’s an outstanding woman)

She always used to tell me “Fernando, if you have your own shop, your own business, you can always find a way to make at least enough money to get by”.
She eventually closed because of all the robberies they went through but she always liked having her own store.

All these things, they apply to a great number of events around the world at different times, and I believe they still do.
Times have changed, but the essence of those lessons remains the same.
7) Running to the hills… it’s better if you relocate before things get that desperate. You can run to the hills, but your survival expectations are 1/10 as good, compared to relocating properly to another continent or country.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Firearm concealment question

HI FerFal

I am looking to outfit our whole family with guns, that is teenaged sons and mom and dad. Your writings have not covered concealment topics much. We are interested in Glock handguns, but want to be able to conceal and carry if SHTF. I understand that Glock 26, for example, conceals well, but because it is not as powerful, is better as a back up hand gun. Do any of the standard/compact sized Glocks recommended as a primary hand gun also conceal well? Can one have a powerful gun that can also be concealed well in clothing? How do you carry your gun(s)?

Also, as a woman, I am curious what your wife carries?

Thank you and God Bless.


Hi, my wife doesn’t carry.
We keep a 38 Special 2” barrel snubby revolver at a place in the house where both of us know where it is, along with my Glock 31 and Bersa Thunder 9.
As for your question, do yourself a favor and buy a Glock 19 (9mm) for your family members. It’s a gun in high regard by both novices an experts, and capable of performing well for both.

The Glock 26 is a 9mm, packs plenty of power loaded with the right loads. +P Gold Dots JHP are what I use, it’s a good round. Corbon and Federal have good stuff too.
The Glock 26 is a very nice Glock, but (this is all just my humble opinion folks) you lose a good grip for a fraction of an inch. Just put a 26 on top of a 19 and take a look. Not that much difference. If you use a magazine with a finger extension to make the grip any good, it’s even more alike. Keep in mind that you want this gun for defense, you want good weapon retention too.

Glock 19

Glock 26

There are other calibers out there, and 40 S&W, 45 ACP, or 357 SIG (personal favorite) do have a slight advantage over 9mm. But when using good premium ammo the different isn’t that great and when buying a first gun the ability to purchase plenty of cheap 9mm ammo compensates that difference. Eventually if you like shooting and want a bit more power you can get something else, even though thousands of defensive shooting experts, not to mention all the military forces around he world, they all trust 9mm to get the job done. The military is stuck with FMJ ammo (full metal jacket) which is less effective at stopping attackers and usually overpenetrates, while JHP (jacket hollow points) will expand as they penetrate, usually staying in the attackers body, and are more effective.

For carrying, you want an inside the waistband holster(IWB). Milt Sparks and Blade-Tech work for most people. Best thing you can do is try these or others when buying and see what you prefer or adapts better to your body. There’s a local guy here that makes beautiful leather holsters, you just have to try and see what works best for you.
A Glock 19 is easy to conceal with the right holster (and belt!) and proper clothing.
Take care.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Little Gadget Worth the 2 Bucks.

$2.29 actually, and free shipping world wide.

White LED
UV Light

Bought two from DX (LINK) and so far I like it a lot. Both my wife and I added them to our keychains.(mine is getting a bit too big, but I've seen worse)
Has a laser for pointing out stuff or giving classes or lectures if that's your thing, an emergency LED white light(not great, a bit bluish) and finally the reason why I bough these: The UV light. Not too powerful but enough for a quick check looking for funny money. Even though its just one of the safety measures (made a post about this before, LINK), its quick and helps detection, since counterfeit bills are pretty common.
I had such a key chain UV light and it served me well for many years.
Again, no relationship with DX whatsoever, I don’t get a single cent out of it just think its a nice bargain. DX isn't the most reliable seller, but this time they delivered a good product (batteries placed the wrong way though)
Check these or find a keychain UV light locally. There's going to be a lot of counterfeit money out there soon.
Take care.


Ham Radio


You seem precisely like the kind of guy who would be into Ham Radio. In addition to always-ready-communication with nothing more than handheld radio and a car battery. During a disaster, such as Katrina, Ham Radio operators are organized and "in the know" and frequently the only people who can communicate -- not just radio stations 10,000 miles away, but sometimes just a few miles away. Post Katrina, the Bush Whitehouse issued a report on "what went right." One of the things in that report was the activity of Amatuer (Ham) radio operators. Hams are also a tight-knit bunch that will come to your aid when you need help -- you can count it.

From my radio, I can get help when cell service is down and in areas where there is no cell coverage. Here's a nice article on Hams to the rescue:


In short, it's a hobby that is custom tailored to your philosophy! So here's my first question: What gives, Ferfal? Why aren't you a licensed Ham? Here's where you might get started:


Secondly, I don't know what the laws are in Argentina, but I listen to Police Radio scanners. I would see this as an essential tool for survival. Especially when there's social unrest. When I'm listening to that radio, I know what's going on -- precisely -- within 50 miles of my home. This is useful for weather, crime, a general sense of where the "trouble homes" are in a neighborhood and much, much more. What are the laws for police scanners there? Get one, my friend, I think you'll find that you didn't know *half* of what was happening near your home.

I'm just starting your book -- review forthcoming!

Kind Regards,

Hi Ray,
My old man was licensed and was a big fan of CB radio. We had a huge antena on top of our house, he sold it to one guy that saw it after he lost interest many years ago. (great way to buy yourself a cheap antena by teh way, look around and ask people if they'd be interested in selling it)
For many years he would use it to talk with people, I remember doing a bit of talking myself when I was little, and he taught me how to use it though I suppose now there's a lot more to it.
You're right about being a great source of info to know whats going on and isn't getting reported. Around here, you'd be glued to the radio all day since there's a lot of crime going on and most doesn't even get reported.
Once I'm somewhere where I plan to stay put I'll sure get into Ham radio.
Take care, and thanks for your email.


REPLY: What are you preparing for?

Anonymous said...
If I knew exactly what to prepare for there wouldn’t be any questions. Where are you going to go? The EU seems like an unwelcome place to us gun owners, and I don‘t think North Americans would fit in well. NATO being absorbed by Russia doesn't seem like it would make the EU a nice place. Didn't Spain have just as bad of a housing bubble and price crash as California did with more to come? That doesn't speak well for Spain's future. The EU never came across as an area plentiful with jobs either. Where do you run to avoid a worldwide hyperinflationary depression?

Life here in the Midwest U.S. has not really changed one bit yet, except for the CCTV everywhere and not quite as many jobs, there are still jobs to be had. I guess most who prep, do so for things like expected and threatened quarantine lock downs, farmers revolts and strikes due to the up coming animal ID program, national revolution and martial law or succession and nullification, or $50 per gallon gas prices and or hyperinflation - all stopping the trucks from rolling in and filling the store shelves, and worse case scenario, everything happens at once.

When Argentina collapsed the world was at the peak of good times and “wealth” was easily had by quite a number, now the whole world faces economic depression, things may work out just a little different. It seems as if much of the world will have no wealthy customers to draw from like Argentina did in 2001-2007.

Health wise, just eat right, be in shape and perhaps save some money so healthcare isn’t needed. For thousands of years people got along just fine without health insurance. Works for some, it’s not perfect, and if everyone paid cash for doctors visits, things might be cheaper like they were in the days before Medicare and such drove prices higher. Many doctors are doing cash only business even now with lower prices being the result. Become, or marry, a nurse or doctor would be a nice move too I think.

Teotwawki - not the end of the world, just the end of the world “as we know it” - I like how you say it’s already happened we just don’t know it yet, like the bullet has left the barrel, it just hasn’t gone to the bone yet. The economic worldwide depression and US economic fiat Dollar collapse is already baked into the cake.

Me, I’m not exactly preparing for any one single thing, I’m just trying to be prepared to overcome most anything that comes my way (all without being MacGyver or obsessively irrational) to me, in this area, that’s a normal way of living, it’s why I keep a spare tire and a toolbox in the trunk of the car, some people don‘t do so or even know how to change a flat. Like the colonist on the frontier who managed to survive in spite of hoard attacks, not everyone was killed off or run off, but yes, some were wiped out. Like the early pioneers on the covered wagon trails who pushed on and did so without any modern conveniences, some survived. To be able to do so, not necessarily to actually do so, just to be able to if it‘s required. I’m not rich enough to be able to do much else, I know no one in the EU, and Argentina and the southern cone *was* supposed to be a place to run and hide at, but your dispelling that myth pretty quick. It sort of seems like there is no where to go, no far blue mountains to escape to, so it may be that the only option left is to take a stand where you’re at, and whatever happens, happens.

With a list like above and tornadoes, floods, severe winter snow or ice storms with dangerous temperatures, short term power failure, nuclear power plant and industrial and military chemical plants and railways nearby, and earthquake possibility it’s pretty hard to choose one or be prepared for all of them. I never wrote it down before, it looks like I live in a dangerous place, but - nothing has happened to me so far. Infamous last words eh?

“Have limited M&M’s, will travel.”

Thanks Annon for the thoughtful post. A few considerations to keep in mind.
There’s always a balance. Once again, it has happened before. As US and EU go through hard times, other countries counterbalance and do better. Granted, its not as good as US at it’s best, but others take advantage of the opportunity.
After WWII, Argentina was easily a top 5 country(some say top 3), even started developing its early nuclear power with project Huemul. The project wasn’t successful an supposedly it was all a scam, jet curiously enough just a few years later we had the first running nuclear power plant in Latin America, plants that are still running, legacy of those golden years.
There’s always places to run, but lets just call it relocate. I’ll be meeting next week with a couple Americans that have done just that, people that already feel comfortable with moving around according to circumstances. Argentina maybe wouldn’t be my #1 choice, but its better than freezing and doing nothing. As much troubles as we have, the person that in USA wouldn’t be able to live because of his poor income may do ok here simply because of the exchange rate. Before losing your home, you might as well rent it and move here to take advantage of the 1 to 3.8 exchange rate. I accept Uruguay or even Brazil might be better choices than Argentina though, even if we have better gun laws.
Regarding pioneers and pre modern medicine time, keep in mind that back then people died around late 30’s, early 40s and infant mortality rate was in the street puppy range.
Expect a very short life without modern medicine, and unless you reproduce like a rabbit (like they did back then) you’ll be lucky if you have kids that reach adulthood.
About the myth of moving to Patagonia, the end (location wise) of the world, the myth I wanted to dispel was regarding some very distorted views some people have, mostly real estate locators.
”Move to Argentina and live like a king” “Move to Mendoza, the ultimate survival retreat!”
As we say here, its not gold everything that shines.
The exchange rate is good, yes, but life is still pretty expensive here. A report not long ago showed how it can be more expensive to live in Bs As than to live in Miami. As for the inner provinces, its’ cheaper to live there, San Luis is specially cheap, but they have lots of problems, many you wouldn’t even think of in a place like USA, like medieval times politics where the governor rules like a king. So while it can be done, its not some lost paradise.
But if I have no other choice? Heck yes, I’d relocate.
Keep in mind that while relocating requires money, its much cheaper than the half a million dollars or more a full blown end of the world retreat would cost, and it would be a more realistic choice in a worse case scenario.
Of the people I know that relocated here, except for a retired doctor that moved to Patagonia and spent a nice amount of green, most did it without spending a fortune.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Free Shipping

Guys, as requested I raised the price of my book, "The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse" to 25$ a few days ago, this means that now the book has FREE shipping, and you save a few more dollars than with the previous price (That's why people asked me to raise the price in the fist place)
I set the price but Amazon has the final word: I get to set a price and I get my % based on such price, but if Amazon decides to sell it for less so as to stay below the free shipping rate I can't change that, so take advantage of the free shipping while you can. Take care.

What are you preparing for?

(side note: I saw a few more reviews on my book in Amazon, all 5 starts. Thanks a lot guys, means a lot and the comments are just humbling. I’m so glad that people are finding my book useful. It saddens me to see America go through this, but it feels great to know I’m in some way helping people. Again, thanks)

What are you preparing for?
This is of course the “alpha” question for anyone considering survival and preparedness.
One of the things I mention in my book is making a list. Simply make a list of what’s most likely to happen happens to you, your most likely and most dangerous threats(risk assesment).
Health is always around the top of the list for all of us. We’re all human after all. First of all, your body, how fit are you. Your weight is under control?

I ‘m just back from the cardiologist. Everything ok. I’m 30, don’t smoke, don’t drink, go to the gym,(eat healthy too, little salt, try not to eat too much bread) but its still good to keep track of that. What kind of medical coverage do you have? I pay for one that is kind of expensive but covers everything my family will ever need, no limit. We also have EU citizenship, which means we can go to Spain in a worst case scenario and have full medical cover there as well.
No matter what, your family’s health is top priority.

Don’t plan accordingly and bad things happen: An accident happens, you get sick, and you don’t have means to deal with that because while you planned for a meteor crash you didn’t plan for xxxx disease (pick the one that worries you the most) . Sucks man, really does, but which one is more likely?
There has to be a logic behind your prepping.
OK, so you take care of your body, plan to have a good health care service, you get insurance in case something happens to you, your family needs the money to get by. The basics. Air, shelter, food and water. Filters and face masks, camping gear, sleeping bags, stored water, water filters and other ways of purifying water, canned food, and other staples with a long term shelf life. Money. Money makes the world go around. Always has always will in one way or another. What if you don’t have a job any more? What if you lose your source of income? The basics keep you going here as well. You save money, you look into starting a side gig. Working from home part time. While skills are nice, don’t plan on being the post nuke town’s black smith. Get real, and remember that as honorable as hard work is, it usually has little to do with making money. Making money is all about being smart at running a business. Getting fired, rampant inflation, needing money one way or another is a reality many survivalists are now suffering and hadn’t planned for it before. Money was supposed to be poor tinder and worse toilet paper… WSHTF…
Then you have natural an man made disasters, and depending on your area these may be closer or further away from the top of your list. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, being close to nuclear power stations or chemical industries.
Be methodical but above all be realistic about your preparedness. The mindset is still there, getting rid of the sheeply mentality, but still be rational.

“Oh, but I prepare for the worst case scenario! Therefore I prepare for everything! “
No dude, that’s not how it works. Worst case scenario? End of the world, what are you really preparing for?
If you want to prepare for nukes falling, I’m with you man, I’ll even help you dig the fallout shelter if we’re neighbors.

“No you don’t get it FerFAL, I’m preparing for the TEOTWAWKI!”
Oh, what is the end of the world as we know it? Remember, try keeping it real. Is it MadMax, is it something you saw on videogames, exactly what is it? Because if you’re worrying about a total economic collapse, that’s not the end of the world. Check our history and find many examples.
If you’re preparing for another world war, I’m still with you: It has happened before and may happen again. What do you need to prepare for that? M&Ms. Not the chocolate but mobility and money ( Hey I liked that M&M=mobility and money FerFAL© :-) ) You need to have the means to move to a distant country and stay there for as long as you need, probably the rest of your life. While a second location nearby to bug out to works for a flood or fire, for something of that caliber you need to move out of the country, even out of the continent maybe if it threat to go nuclear.
A farm will do you no good, no matter how well set it is, or how awesome you solar powered setup is.

“No FerFAL , I’m talking of something else! The kind you prepare for by having a fully equipped retreat where you fight the hoards from. You know, that kind of thing”
…Ok… but exactly what are you preparing for?
You want to grow your own food? At least some of it? Great idea, its healthy for you and a great hobby, by all means do it. It’s of course not the best way to go economically speaking, ask any farmer if they are getting rich if you don’t trust me, but an orchard and some veggies sound great. Two thumbs up.
Backup generator and battery bank? Solar panels? Yes of course. And an energy efficient house saves money and makes things easier during a crisis. 100% self sufficient isn’t going to happen. No matter what, you always needs supplies, etc, but it doesn’t hurt to work to be as self sufficient as possible.

Moving to the middle of nowhere and spending 500.000 USD on stuff would rock. Bill Gates probably has several such retreats, I know Ted Turner and other guys have several in Patagonia.
If you want to do it give me a call, I’d love to help you spend money and buying stuff.
Now, can you do it? Even if you can, can you maintain that situation, living a gas tank away from serious job opportunities? Maybe you can.
Now don’t kid yourself. As fun and as great as it would be, what are you really preparing for?
“No, but..”
I’ve got news for you: The world as you knew it already ended. You just don’t know it yet. Crime will sooner or later be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. You’ll feel a real, urgent need to increase your security habits and find means of self defense. You don’t do stupid mistakes anymore, you'll see you can't afford those anymore. People will be job hunting for months, even years. Competing for a job will become an art form of its own.
Politically speaking, the governmnet will take the opportunity to spread its web, controling everything they can... for your own good of course...because of the crisis, you know.
Young adults will be moving back with mom and dad and living in the basement if necessary, even if they already have families of their own. No more spending money needlessly, vacations are something precious and few will be able to afford them. Even when you can, leaving the house empty for long periods of time? You'll know better than that, and take several precautions when doing so.

Tough times folks, but not the kind of end of the world many were expecting, is it?
If you’re worried about long term social unrest check out how that has worked out in the past. Can it even be done? Can you fight off the hoards for YEARS from your retreat? Check the white farmers in Rhodesia. Learn from people being exterminated for religious or ethnic reasons in various wars. How many stayed and fought the hoards?… They died like flies people. Run and live another day. Stay in your foxhole and sooner or later they’ll get to you. Do not kid yourself. If that’s what you really are preparing for, as unlikely as it may be, don’t fool yourself.
More examples? Check the American colonial period. The farmers and settlers living in the border, fighting the natives. How often did they win when attacked, even when armed better than the attackers.
Learn from the conquistadors, how often did they have their settlements whipped out completely biy people that didn’t even master the technology of steel?
It wasn’t long ago, here in the south America, a couple hundred years ago when the natives still controlled much of the Patagonia. You didn’t bug in against the raiders. You had an escape tunnel. Even for rich folks, money and resources were spent on building a tunnel, some that even went for miles, so as to escape to safety.
As nice as it is to live in the woods or some of the wonderful places in contact with nature, don’t fool yourself.
Live wherever you want, life is too short to do otherwise, but don’t fool yourself and be realistic about your survival and preparedness planning.

Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post-crash white collar businesses?

Dear Fernando,

First, thank you for publishing your book. It was worth every penny. I will recommend it to select family and friends.

I seek your advice on the best post-crash, white collar businesses. I am a technical writer and trainer, specializing in software. I have a day job as a software training manager.

I have a side job writing technical books. I don't get rich from them, but they take the place of my wife's salary, now that she is a stay-at-home mom.

I am concerned that after the dollar has crashed (notice I am saying "when" and not "if"), that these types of books will not sell as well. My market is worldwide, but most of the sales come from the USA. Also, you can't really grow a business by being a solo author. To really grow, you need other people working for you. This rather lengthy introduction brings me to my question:

In your experience, after the crash in Argentina, were there any kinds of consulting or teaching services that businesses suddenly needed (and were willing to pay for), to help them survive the new economic conditions?

At this point, I'm really trying to decide between writing more books, and just letting the books go and switching to a consulting or training business. I'm thinking specifically of a company that would offer consulting and training in:
  • Using Moodle for e-learning. This is the subject of two of my books.
  • Dealing with information overload. How to be a more productive knowledge worker.
  • Using open source software for small-to-medium size businesses. Office applications, human resources management, accounting, customer relationships, social media for sales and marketing.
Was there any demand for these kinds of business services and training in post-crash Argentina? I'm trying to imagine the kind of consulting or training that a company will need in these difficult times to stay in business. Something targeted specifically towards the message, "Times are tough and if you want to stay in business, we can help by teaching you how to_____." It's that blank line that I'm having trouble filling in.

Thank you again for your book, and your blog. I very much value your advice and hope that you can give me a little insight to help me plan for my family's future.


Hi William. You seem to be on the right track. Please note I’m not into finances, all I can give you is my humble advice based on what I’ve seen.

As you probably read in my book, if I recommend for example, starting a daycare center or even a private school later on, its because I’ve seen it done successfully enough times that it makes me notice that.

You know who fails after an economic crisis/collapse? Those that freeze and fail to act, those that stay the same waiting for things to go back to be the way they were. To get through it you need to understand a few things.

First, the rules of engagement have changed. You can no longer expect the old ones to apply, you can’t expect people to react as they did, they way they used to spend money, they way people and companies didn’t research each product or service in detail. You need a good product/service AND good marketing.

And second, investigate and understand that new market. Discover the new niches.

As time goes by, I firmly believe that there’s a new, post crisis niche out there for every activity, every line of work you can think of.

Teachers for example, for years it has been a poorly paid job and still is. Yet a teacher that finds his way into a nicer, bilingual school will do better, and in some they can send their own kids for free or considerable discounts. It’s no longer just the salary, you save on school payments as well.

Hey, I used to work on telemarketing. English speaking employees got paid twice as much as those that did it in Spanish. Same job, twice the salary because you have more tools than the other guy.

While musicians do poorly, there’s a local kindergarten teacher here that has a nice voice and is good enough with a guitar, so she recorded CDs for babies and small children, made contacts with stores that sell baby clothes… so that these stores would play her music, and offer the CDs for sale as well. As far as I know she’s now got a big contract and is selling her music in every Spanish speaking country, including Spain.

Being able to sell world wide is an advantage, you can maybe aim for UK market, learn what’s getting done there, what programs they are using. Working from the USA and getting paid on Euros would be nice.

There’s more than enough people in Argentina that saved their business by doing partnerships with companies form abroad, selling services to US and Europe.

Again, if there’s an economic collapse, you’re already ½ way there William.

When unemployment became rampant, no one was selling anything, the first few months you could see the economy was totally frozen.

I kid you not people wouldn’t hire the neighborhood’s kid to paint a fence, no one wanted to spend a single buck.

After a few months when things calmed down after the initial shock, those getting laid off or getting their salaries cut to half, they all wanted to go independent.

Being already self employed, even though partially, already gives you an edge the guy that did the 9 to 5 thing all his life doesn’t have and is suddenly attempting to swim in unknown waters.

I have no knowledge of your line of work, but I’d orient it to that new guy, the guy that lost his job recently, or the one that is smelling the coffee, knowing that even though he still has a job he could be the next one.

There’s millions of unemployed right now. What do you think they are doing? Their trying to get busy! What programs would they need, which ones are sought after?

Again, not my thing but for example, classes, and courses that taught CAD and design programs suddenly became more popular. Many studios were doing jobs for abroad as I mentioned before, and they needed to hire workers. Who were they going to hire? Young kids who they could pay less of course. Those young adults (or unemployed older ones) needed some formation.

Another example. As prices for import goods goes up, local production gets more attention. That means more local machinery being build, and software for CNC machines and workers is required.

Your own question has the key to the answer: help them survive the new economic conditions.

Whatever it is you offer:

*It must be useful. Worth the little money people and companies now have. Before, they would through money at anything, just in case. Heck, people would even sign up for classes or courses and not even show up. Not any more.

*The potential benefits your consulting or teaching business offers must be clear to see and understand. Example. If you pick the newspaper and ½ of the design related jobs are asking for people that know 3D Studio, anyone with half a brain will get it that after he/she takes your course, they are ready for a line of work in demand.

Buying books or training, they can both be profitable for you. Personally, in your situation, I’m slightly inclined to exploiting the training opportunities if you enjoy that more than writing.

Writing for an emerging market can work ok, but I’d satisfy the need for training for the new employment challenges. Explore the aspects of the new jobs on demand, what kind of training they are requiring.

The unemployed guy reads you ad, an article or finds your website or reads about you at the local paper. Will he have better tools to compete on the job market if he receives your training? Will a struggling company become ready for the harder times thanks to your consulting?

Diversify, maximize resources, reach clients abroad/worldwide, minimize cost, cut unnescesary expenses, multitask your employees. These are all words that could fill in your blank.

I hope I at least gave you a few more things to think about and consider.

Take care.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Spare computer: Asus Eee 1005HA

In my book I talked a bit about spares. Mostly spare machines, tools or appliances that are necessary such as car fridge, washing machine,etc.
Since a computer is an important tool I use all day, I felt a little bit vulnerable not having a backup.
Lets face it, we use computers all day. I wouldn’t be able to write this if it weren’t for my PC, and that’s just a drop in the bucket: Work, send emails, administer bank accounts, keep track of my blog, get plane tickets, buy stuff. Its shorter if you list what you can’t do with a computer instead.
And yet I currently didn’t have it covered. I needed a backup, a plan B.
Not unlike the main gun/backup philosophy, I ended up buying something small.
I ended up buying a Netbook: Small, inexpensive, and capable of doing pretty much everything I needed.
After looking around Cnet, and a dozen other websites for reviews, I went for the one that most often than not ranked #1, the number one Amazon seller, the Asus Eee 1005HA.

These are the specs:
Up to 10.5 Hours of Battery Life (not true, runs for 9 hours or so)
Intel Atom N280 Processor 1.66GHz
1GB DDR2 RAM, 1 x SODIMM Slot, 2GB Max; Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
160GB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM) and 10GB Free Eee Storage
Windows XP Home Operating System, 10.1-inch WSVGA 1024x600 LCD Display
3xUSB 2.0 , Videocamera 1.3 Mega pixles.
The keyboard is 92% and much improved from previous versions I’ve seen. I even run AutoCad 2004 on this thing, no problem.
It’s nice to know that I have a spare, and that I can drop the little book sized computer in a bag and be out the door in a second, and still be able to work the following day even if I have to leave in a hurry.
I’m sure there are fanciers ones, but the Asus Eee I bought is priced right($350 or so), works well, it’s the most popular model (easy to repair) and does everything I need it to do.


OC Spray in Massachusetts

Mr. Aguirre,
One small note regarding Cap'nRick's post. I do know of a place where pepper spray is illegal. Unless you have an FID card or a Class A or B permit to carry (both of which require completion of a multi-hour class), don't get caught with pepper spray in Massachusetts.
Very respectfully,

LT Joshua

Thanks Lt. Joshua.
Amazing. Seems that Massachusetts works hard protecting all those poor helpless rapists from victim-rapist crime. Nice to know they still care!


Travel Security by: CapnRick (in Argentina)

(This is The Travel Security Report, written by Rick Davis (CapnRick).
Its well written and full of valuable information, both for travelers and also everyday security tips.
I've had the pleasure to meet Rick, he's a great guy, has lots of experience and is willing to share it. Such a combination isn’t found everyday. If reposting and sharing, please, give Rick the credit he deserves by linking or adding the contact information found below.


The following recommendations are a result of my travel throughout the
world on business for 20+ years. These observations are offered as a helpful
supplement to other sources on the web dealing with personal security
issues while traveling. My apologies to those who do not find these
observations pertinent to their particular situation. Allow me to say that
these suggestions are offered freely and without restriction so they may be
passed around with no obligation. Very little of this information is original to
me, and I apologize if anyone has written anything similar. Also, I am not a
security professional and make no claims of expertise. This stuff works for
me, but each reader's mileage may vary. Some of my ideas might actually
get people in trouble with the authorities and/or cause physical harm. Please
read this with an open mind and a critical eye. Comments are appreciated at
Lots of US Embassy staff, host country Federal Police and Army staff gave
me input, horror stories and advice regarding personal safety issues while I
was visiting and working in overseas markets. These were Latin America, but
including trips to Western European and Pacific Rim countries. I also have
input from international and US expatriates living and working there. I know
that many people have a lot of experience in many different countries, and
may honestly laugh at all these ideas and issues presented here as stupid
and alarmist. How you take it is your business. It is submitted in serious
concern for the safety of all international travelers.
It was necessary for me to learn this stuff because I have lived and worked
outside the US most of my life. I first traveled internationally in the
1960s and retired in 2005 to live in Argentina. I hope you can understand
that the world in post 9-11 has really changed. Radicals of the right, the
left and the lunatic religious extreme and NarcoTerrorists all celebrated
when the twin towers went down. You should also be aware that even pre 9-
11, international travel was seriously more dangerous than it was in the
1960s. Now, bad guys all over the world have become more encouraged by
their perception that bad guys can get away with bad stuff... hence, have
become more aggressive.
This article contains various types of info, including some info that
may not be of interest to all travelers. I hope you will find some of the
following items of interest including...
* Things you may do to prepare yourself for the unfamiliar security
issues in unfamiliar territory.
* Questions you may be asking and factors that may be considered based
upon the situation in your area of destination.
* Items for which you may be alert that may indicate possible threats
to your person or valuables.
* Travel Tips which include how to research the area, sources of
information, planning ahead, blending in to your surroundings for safety,
* Dressing for success. How to maintain an edge in your favor in
dangerous areas. Potential weapons/tools to aid in your security efforts.
* Dealing with the stress of being a victim.
* Dealing with Terror concerns, broken down by world areas.
Try to familiarize yourself with the area you plan to visit. There are
various aggregators of news that allow one to program their search "bots" to
look for keywords involving your area of interest. I use Yahoo News, Dogpile
News Search element and some others. I also look for the local news
sources for the area in question on the web. Here are some questions you
should consider when seeking information about your geographical area of
* Are terrorist/organized criminal groups currently active in the
* Do they aggressively attack visiting foreigners? Or, is it more
local-on-local crime?
* How active are they? How violent have they proven to be within the
last 4 - 12 months?
* How sophisticated are they? Do they use military weapons and
* Are they predictable? Can you expect to be safer by staying out of
known areas of operation?
* Will local citizens warn visiting foreigners? Do you have local
contacts who can advise you?
Groups and individuals have demonstrated their willingness to employ
terrorist/criminal tactics to further their agendas. While some threats have
a regional focus, others have become international and affect multiple
areas. Foreign visitors, military and diplomatic staff are seriously
targeted in virtually every region of the world.
Consider ways you might become a victim of a criminal/NarcoTerrorist
attack. Several factors to keep in mind include:
Location: Local terrorists may target locations frequented by foreigners or
foreign military personnel such as certain hotels, apartment buildings,
public transportation centers, and nightclubs. Avoid possible target
locations. They often use the employees of foreigner frequented
establishments, taxi drivers, airport staff (especially banking/money
changing establishment personnel) and adult entertainment workers as
associates or sources of information about possible lucrative targets.
Opportunity: Terrorists and criminals look for "soft targets"... so, learn
to avoid appearing so. It is difficult to over stress the need to maintain
vigilance, practice good personal safety, and to alert the proper
authorities of suspicious behavior. If you find yourself unable to avoid
being outdoors at night, try to walk down the middle of the street (not
always possible). Be especially watchful if passing a large van or a vehicle
with people in it, courtyards and deep doorways near your path. Walk
purposefully with strong, determined strides... shoulders back, head erect,
head and eyes constantly moving. Use windows/mirrors near the street to
check your surroundings. Under no circumstances allow anyone to engage
you in conversation at this time. Criminals will try to slow you down while
their helpers get into position to assault you. Keep moving, speak into your
cell phone as if carrying on a conversation... preferably in a language you
think the possible attackers don't know.
To attack you, terrorists generally must perceive you, your association, or
your location as a target. Put serious thought on the subject of how to
avoid appearing to be an easy target.
Be alert for how criminals/NarcoTerrorists prepare and conduct attacks
through predictable steps. Through vigilance, you might be able to recognize
preparations for an attack before it is executed. Be alert to unusual
behavior that may indicate intelligence gathering, surveillance, collecting
materials for attack, dry runs, and rehearsals. For example:
* Taking photos or videos of potential targets
* Writing notes or sketching details about a possible target
* Showing abnormal attention to details of routine activities and
security measures
* Using false identification
* Paying cash for items normally bought on credit
* Purchasing large quantities of items that could be used as part of
an attack (e.g., chemicals or cell phones)
If you see something unusual, report it immediately to security officials
for further investigation. Make a note of the individual's description and
activities, the time of day, and equipment being used.
Terrorist/criminal attacks at the Spanish/English/Japanese rail systems,
Mexican border towns, Bali, Indonesia, Luxor, Egypt, London, England, and
other tourist locations signal an increased threat to foreign travelers.
While visiting a new location, it is natural to tour local sites of
interest. While sightseeing, you should keep good anti-crime/antiterrorism
practices in mind.
Plan Ahead
* Research any known potential threats in the area. If the threat is
elevated, take extra precautions or postpone your activities.
* Plan activities and a route that includes safe locations. Keep
thinking, "What if..."
* Ask a friend or coworker to join you - small groups are usually
safer than individuals.
If sightseeing with others, pre-designate a location to meet at if separated
during an emergency. Make sure someone knows your itinerary
(acquaintances, business contacts, hotel staff?) and what time you may be
Blend in to Your Surroundings
Conceal your national/business/religious affiliation and try to blend in
with other people on the street. USA red white and blue t-shirts,
soccer/baseball logo clothing and religious jewelry are overly conspicuous
in many instances. Observe and conform to local culture. Activities such as
public displays of affection, drinking alcohol, or wearing shorts or skirts
may be inappropriate.
Do not bring undue attention to yourself. Avoid loud or boisterous behavior.
Walking the streets at night in an inebriated state in very dangerous in
many locations.
* Taxis: Try to never travel alone in a taxi. Try to never take a taxi
off the street. Try to always have a taxi company's business card in your
pocket and call or have someone call the cab for you. If not, a taxicab
stand is the next best solution. Even US embassy marines have to take
these precautions, and we know they're in good shape... pretty tough in a
fight. They are also excellent sources of good local information.
Unfortunately, one of the thriving businesses in criminal/NarcoTerror Land is
to pick up arich guy (you) off the street in a taxi, and around the corner are
two additional thugs with guns who escort you to a quiet place, strip the rich
guy, take his luggage, etc. If a VISA or debit card is found, they will
escort you to an ATM and make you withdraw the daily limit before they
strip you naked and leave you on the side of the road. Unless they are
impressed with what they find among your effects, then the thugs may
decide it's worth a try to sell you to the NarcoTerrorists (drug traffickers).
They may ask for US$5,000 - US$15,000, knowing the NarcoTerrorists'
usual minimum demand for ransom is US$250,000. Then, you may spend
the next several years of your life chained to a tree in the jungle swatting
mosquitoes and eating undercooked beans.
* If you or your taxi driver notices a suspicious vehicle or two in
the vicinity, consider asking the taxi driver to take you to the nearest
police station... or high traffic area.
* If you must drive a vehicle and your budget does not include an
armored vehicle with "run-flat" tires preceded by a "chase" car and a
following "blocker" van full of armed bodyguards, then try to rent/select a
4-wheel drive vehicle with high ground clearance. A heavy-duty bumper is a
good idea for running through barricades. If you see a police roadblock
manned by only one or two officers and one (or NO) clearly official vehicle,
consider running the roadblock or going around it. You may prefer to reverse
out of the area quickly to a place where you can turn around and leave the
area. If it is really a fake-cop scam (or, off-duty/retired cops pulling a
scam), you should be okay. You may really need a heavy duty vehicle for
this maneuver. If is a legitimate control point/official police roadblock and
they catch you, humbly and very politely explain that you are sorry and will
never do it again, but a friend of yours warned against false roadblocks by
criminals/NarcoTerrorists. All around the world, official roadblocks usually
have many, many clearly marked police vehicles and uniformed/heavily
armed officers. Don't forget that NarcoTerrorists have Police uniforms and
equipment, too... but, usually not too many official vehicles.
* If you happen to be driving down a street and one or more people run
out in front of the car in an attempt to stop you, Do not hesitate to slam
down the accelerator as if you are trying to hit them. They will get out of
the way.
* If you are in a known area for auto-related crime and someone
rear-ends your vehicle as if on purpose, consider leaving the scene as
rapidly as possible. This is a serious "What if... ?" scenario.
* In many countries, police understand if you slow down but fail to
stop at traffic lights and stop signs after dark because it is known to be
too dangerous at night.
* Be aware that motorcycles and scooters are not always a good idea if
you have to try to escape while someone is shooting at you. Car sheet metal
isn't much, but every little bit helps.
* ATMs: Try to only go to an ATM in the daytime anywhere in the world.
Even in the US. Also, pay attention to who is in the area before, during and
after getting your money. Situational awareness is difficult when you're
trying to get the pesky machine to work... so, consider not going to an ATM
* Buses: Until 1995, I always felt safe taking the bus. I would still
take the Nuevo Laredo - Monterrey bus, but probably think twice about
taking one in the Juarez/Chihuaua or Sinaloa state areas. Why? The various
Colombian and Mexican NarcoTerror groups stop buses full of people as bait
to get the rescuing government forces to move into kill zones where
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) take them out. I have seen the results
first hand, and seeing where 40+ teenage army guys got brutally cut to
pieces by home-made bombs will mess up your whole life.
If you happen to be one of the poor guys shivering naked on the side of the
road with 20-30 others watching the NarcoTraficantes molest the women
passengers, understand that you will spend the next several years of your
life eating beans in the jungle. Poor folks get to go home, except for the
young and pretty girls and teenage boys they want to draft for paramilitary
service for the NarcoTraficantes.
The NarcoTraficantes are studying in the same Islamic extremist terror
schools as Al Qaeda, and Colombian/Mexican NarcoTraficantes' IEDs are
really starting to show up a lot more... in recent cases, bait and blast
techniques were used in the south of Mexico to kill lots of soldiers and
Federal Police.
At an outdoor table of any restaurant, don't leave your phone, camera,
purse or any other valuables in plain sight or within reach of the walking
public. Try to sit as far from vehicular/pedestrian traffic as possible. As
always, play the "What if... ? Game" and remain alert to your surroundings.
Jenna Bush's purse was jacked in full daylight in Buenos Aires, when
she was surrounded by agents.
When leaving a high-end location, such as an electronics store, Armani, etc,
an expensive restaurant or nice hotel, you may have just identified yourself
as a potential high-end target. If you are carrying packages, and you put
them into an automobile, please try to secure the items in the trunk or a
lockable compartment and be aware that you will possibly be followed by
thugs with evil intent to your next location. If you are in a Range Rover or
Cadillac Esplanade, you should understand that you are in a rolling
high-value target, with little or no inside secure storage. If you stop and
leave the vehicle in any unsecured location after being seen exiting a
high-end location, don't be too surprised if you come back later to find the
locks broken or the vehicle stolen.
A wallet is a liability, and I never carry one. I wear a slim, zippered
pouch between my T-shirt and external shirt/sweater for credit cards,
driving license and copies (not originals) of my passport, birth
certificate, travel or residency documents. Sometimes, I prefer a
photographer's vest with lots of internal/external zippered or Velcro
pockets. This vest can contain as much as a small suitcase... currently,
about four kilos of stuff. Fanny packs are less secure, so I usually just
put reading material, inexpensive sunglasses, gum, etc in them.
Cameras/GPSs and other high-end items are secured in Velcro pockets in the
vest or coat pocket. As a side note, I have copied and reduced in size all my
important documents for daily carry and emailed these [scanned] copies [as
PDFs] to several of my web-based e-mail accounts so I can replace them at
any time from any internet/print location.
The amount of cash I carry is as small as possible. I keep large
denomination bills in a money clip in the bottom of one front pocket with a
handkerchief crushed down on top of it. The handkerchief is super
important, because the pickpocket has to go around it to get to the real
goodies. Another money clip contains the daily allotment of small bills is in
another front pocket, so I don't have to flash large bills for most purchases.
It is also crammed down in the bottom of the front pocket with another
handkerchief crammed on top of it. The bulk of my funds, original passport
and other documents, valuables, etc are kept in a Wal-Mart small
combination safe that fits in my luggage, which I check in at the front office
safe at the hotel when traveling. Note that I do not agree with several
recommendations that a "decoy wallet" stuffed with paper be carried to toss
away so as to distract attackers. I prefer throwing my decoy stash of small
denomination bills to scatter everywhere as a more time consuming
distraction for a better chance of escape.
Luggage Security
Most complaints regarding theft, damage or loss involves the contents of
luggage. Savvy travelers will make a written inventory of items in their
luggage and photograph it in case of loss. Carry important items like
medication, eyeglasses, and expensive jewelry in your hand luggage, a
traveler's vest like photographers use to carry their small equipment items,
etc. My vest holds up to 8 kilos of goodies. Photocopy the contents of your
wallet and your passport. Carry a copy in your hand luggage and leave one
at home as back up. Keep luggage under your control until you check in at
your destination. Consider traveling with sturdy plain-looking luggage.
Expensive looking luggage may be targeted for its perceived contents.
External bag tags should not list your full home address and telephone
number. I put my cell phone number, my phone number and email address
on my tags. I do not put my name or any affiliations on bag tags. Consider
defacing your beautiful luggage with big bands of tape all around the
outside, laterally, with your phone numbers, email, etc in case of loss.
Consider durable luggage that is capable of being locked or secured and that
will withstand being at the bottom of a pile of hundreds of other pieces of
luggage without popping open. It is a good idea to add extra banding... $5
for a wide nylon strap with side snap locks at Wal-Mart... or airport
plastic wrap or duct tape to your luggage locks to prevent anyone from
opening your luggage without detection. When flying, I do not lock my bags
so inspectors do not break the locks. I use self-locking plastic tie-wraps.
They work well for securing my luggage. All airport inspectors have
replacements if they have to cut your ties to inspect your bags. You can buy
these at any home improvement store for about a dollar. The reason for this
is that smugglers have been known to slip drugs/weapons, etc into luggage
only to retrieve it later and maybe with force. Passengers have unknowingly
transported illegal substances/firearms that were slipped into their
suitcase by baggage handlers only to be arrested later by authorities. What
explanation you would give to prove your innocence to a foreign government
of why you are carrying drugs or guns? If your luggage was properly sealed,
you should see if it has been tampered with prior to opening it. Report any
luggage tampering immediately to security before opening the case.
Luggage locks: If there is a combination lock on the bag, I put a piece of
tape on the bag under the lock with the combo... usually, 0-0-0. This is
because my bag was seriously harmed by customs forcing the bag open
even though it was unlocked. A sign of the times, no?
Airplane security: Beyond the obvious precautions, I would suggest trying
to reserve a window seat as close to the middle of the cabin as possible. The
rear and front of each cabin is where the bad guys congregate to watch over
the victims. Consider what you can do to avoid being obvious about your
business/military/nationality/religious affiliations.
Cruise Ship Security: Cruise ships are like a small city where passengers
are encouraged to forget their troubles and relax once onboard ship. It is
natural for passengers on vacation to let their guard down, especially when
out to sea in a resort-like setting. Try to not let a false sense of security
aboard a cruise ruin your vacation by becoming a crime victim. Before you
ship out, consider taking some of these preventative steps:
After you enter your cabin, and while the door is still open, always check
inside the bathroom or closest before sitting down inside. Don't assume that
your cabin is as secure as a hotel. Many people have keys to your cabin and
your cabin door may be left standing open for hours while the cleaning crews
or cabin steward services the room. Cabin doors locks are sometimes
horribly outdated and are not re-keyed as frequently as hotel rooms.
Obviously, don't leave valuable items lying around. It is a good idea to have
inventoried your luggage and photographed expensive items at home, and
even emailed the info to your web email account for easy retrieval anywhere
before you packed them at home in case of loss. Since most ship passengers
are set up on a charge account system, be sure to use the ship safe deposit
box for storage of valuable items, papers, credit cards or extra cash. Use all
locks on the cabin door including the night latch. Consider carrying a
hardware store door stop in your luggage and deploying it for extra security
of the closed door while in the cabin. Some are available with alarms from
web suppliers. Don't open your cabin door to strangers. Whatever the
person wants can be expressed from the other side of the closed and locked
door. Be sure to teach children about this important procedure.
Just like in a hotel, protect your cabin key and cabin number. Dishonest
crew or passengers will look for the opportunity to snatch a loose key or
one that is left unattended. When in port, be sure to leave your key with
the registration desk before disembarking.
Remember the phony hairspray/deodorant can safe if small items need to be
secured and no safe is available. Once on board and out to sea, don't
assume that you are totally safe from criminal acts. While there is little
danger of an outside predator robbing or attacking you on a cruise ship,
crimes can just as easily be committed by crew members or by fellow
passengers. Many cruise lines hire transient and seasonal employees at low
wages. Because of this, turnover is high and cruise lines struggle to keep a
ship fully staffed. While most crew members are hardworking and honest
people, you cannot assume that the ship has properly screened that nice
cabin attendant, waiter or below deck crew.. Consider a Family Security
Plan: If you bring your children aboard, be sure to establish family rules in
advance. Set curfews and restrictions...just like at home. Teenagers
especially should be told never to accompany crew members into non-public
areas nor should crew members be allowed inside your cabin. Being at sea
can cause a false sense of security. Even though the crime incident rate per
thousand is relatively low, there can still be predators on board. Ship
nightclubs, casinos, swimming pools and Jacuzzis are favorite spots for those
looking for a victim.
You also need to keep your guard up with intoxicated passengers. Food and
liquor consumption peaks on board ships and cause bring out the worst in
some people not used to it. Just because passengers are dressed up, doesn't
mean they will act appropriately or not be overly aggressive. It is not
unheard of for a ship passenger to slip a drug into your drink and take
advantage of you just like on shore. There are pickpockets, purse thieves,
and cabin burglars on board waiting for you to let your guard down or
become careless. There are also scam artists who seek and prey on rich
vacationers if given the chance.
Your family security plan for children might include bed checks, curfews,
restrictions, and special meeting places. Beware of which children they hang
out with, just like at home. Your children can be exposed to other children
who use drugs or like to get into mischief, just like at home. Try to limit
your child to ship sponsored activities in public areas. You should make
contact with your children periodically even if they are supervised. Giving
them the run of the ship while you are otherwise engaged is not a good idea.
Always have a backup plan and identify a ship crew member as a contact
person in case your child fails to show up or you get separated at a port.
Make certain that the kids understand there is nothing you can do to
retrieve a kid from the police if they are caught in a foreign country with
You are not in Kansas anymore. Although you boarded a ship in a US port
doesn't mean that you are protected by the US justice system. Most ships
are registered in non-US countries and travel in territorial waters where US
laws might not apply. The cruise industry does not report crime data
consistently, if at all, to the FBI or have a database of ships with the
most crime problems. Shipboard crimes sometimes fall into a "no man's
land" of law enforcement. A crime can occur between two people of different
nationalities, on a ship from a third country, and in the territorial waters
of a fourth country. The governing law is the International Maritime Law and
is not as well developed as US law. Reporting a crime on board a cruise ship
doesn't mean anything will be done or that the crime will ever be
investigated. The FBI is the only US law enforcement agency that can
investigate a major crime but only if it occurs in International waters,
otherwise crimes are reported to the jurisdiction of the closest foreign
country and to the embassies of the parties involved. Prosecution of crime,
in many cases, will be left in the hands of the local port authority where
no one can predict the outcome.
Be aware that if you or your family member gets into trouble on board a ship
or in a port, you may be held accountable to the laws of a foreign country.
The thing to do is to stay alert, be cautious, and stay safe while at sea.
For details on the safety record of your cruise ship or how your ship will
handle problems such are lost luggage or crime acts, contact the cruise line
directly and ask for written disclosure of their policies and regulations.
You can also contact the Cruise Lines International Association in New York
City who represents the twenty five largest cruise lines for more
Security in a Hotel
Most hotels are protected by the individual country's innkeeper laws. In
most cases, these laws clearly state that the hotel is not responsible for
theft from your room... including the convenient room safe. If you are in a
rented apartment for a longer stay, you are entirely unprotected against
loss. Some travelers are hiding small, high-value items, money, etc in the
small "diversion safe". This is a common item such as a large can of aerosol
deodorant that is really an empty can with a removable screw-off lid. Be
sure to stuff a hand towel or handkerchief, wad of paper, etc on top to
prevent rattling of the items in the can. I recommend using the front desk
lock box when possible, thereby making the hotel responsible in most
Upper floors are safer from crime, but worse for fire rescue. Emergency
rescue is best below the fifth floor. I compromise by picking a modern
fire-safe hotel and always request a room on an upper floor to reduce crime
exposure. Ground floor rooms are more vulnerable to crime problems
because of access and ease of escape. In a high-rise building, rooms above
the fifth-floor are usually safer from crime than those below because of
lesser accessibility and ease of escape. Also, rooms not adjacent to fire
stairs are safer from room invaders because they use them for escape.
Criminals do not want to be trapped on an upper floor inside a high-rise
hotel. By design, high-rise buildings usually have fewer ground level access
points and are easier for the hotel staff to monitor who passes through the
access points after hours.
Door Security Hardware
Hotel or motel rooms should be equipped with a solid-core wood or metal
door for best protection. Doors should be self-closing and self-locking. Room
doors should have a deadbolt lock with at least a one-inch throw bolt. If
the lock appears worn or there are pry marks around the lock area, get
another room or move to another hotel. The knob-lock should be hotel-style
where you can push a button on the inside knob and block out all keys. This
feature is designed to prevent a former guest or housekeeper from entering
the room once you are safely inside. Hotels with electronic card access have
the advantage of being able to disable former key cards issued to previous
guests and unauthorized employees. Electronic locks also will block out most
room service keys when you set the deadbolt. The room door should have a
wide-angle peephole so you can view who is at the door before opening.
Access Control
Do not open your door to someone who knocks unannounced. Some
criminals will pretend to be a bellman, room service, maintenance, or even
hotel security to gain admittance to your room. Always call the front desk to
confirm their status with the hotel and only open the door if you requested
the service. Do not rely on door chains or swing bars to secure the doors
while you partially open the door to speak someone. These are unreliable
security devices. Teach your children not to open the door of any hotel room
without knowing the person on the other side and without your permission.
Other Entry Points
Make sure all windows and sliding doors are secured, if they are accessible
from the ground. It is a good idea to test all windows and glass doors to
see if they are secure. Beware of balconies where someone can climb from
one to another and enter through an open window or sliding door. If the
windows or sliding doors are not securable, ask for another room or find
another hotel. If your room has an adjoining door to an adjacent room,
check it to see that it is secured with a deadbolt lock. If it is questionable,
ask for another room.
Beware the Parking Lot
If you are a woman traveling alone or with small children, take advantage of
car valet service, if available to avoid the parking lot. After checking-in,
ask the bellman or desk clerk to escort you to your room. After unlocking
the room, quickly inspect the closets, under the bed, and bathroom including
behind the shower curtain before the bellman leaves. Tip the bellman for his
Occupancy Cues
Put the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob even when you are away, this
deters room burglars (it may affect housekeeping service, however). Turn on
the television or radio just loud enough to hear through the door to give
the appearance that the room is occupied. Leave one light on inside the
room if you will return after dark. This helps you see upon re-entry and
gives the room the appearance of occupancy from the outside. Always go
through the same room inspection routine every time you re-enter. People
traveling alone should use caution when using the breakfast order door-knob
hanger card, especially if the card lists your name and number of persons in
the room. A smart crook can knock on the door posing as room service and
use your name as a ruse to gain entry.
When you find a suitable hotel that meets your safety standards and will
cater to your security needs try to stick with it or with the same hotel
chain. Don't be afraid to complain to management to get the safe room you
* Consider requesting a room on an upper floor, if possible.
* A solid door with a good deadbolt lock is best.
* Electronic card access locks help limit access.
* Make sure your door has a peephole and night latch and use it.
* Turn on the TV or radio just loud enough to hear through the door.
* Turn on a single light in the room if you plan to return after dark.
* Inspect the room hiding places upon entering and check all locks.
* Ask the bellman for an escort and use valet parking if alone
Hotel Room Invasions
One of the more frightening and potentially dangerous crimes that can occur
to a family or business traveler is a hotel room invasion robbery. A hotel
room invasion occurs when robbers force their way into an occupied hotel or
motel room to commit a robbery or other crimes. It is frightening because it
violates our private space and the one place that acts as our temporary
sanctuary while away from home. Some travelers never recover from the
experience of being assaulted while in a hotel room in a strange city.
Like the crime of carjacking, most police agencies don't track home or hotel
room invasions as a separate crime. Most police agencies and the FBI will
statistically record the crime as a residential burglary or a robbery.
Without the ability to track the specific crime of hotel room invasion,
little can be done to alert the public as to the frequency of occurrence or
devise a law enforcement plan of action to prevent it.
How Invasions are Carried Out
Hotel burglars work mostly during the day and when a room is more likely to
be unoccupied. Most burglars work alone, or with hotel staff informants and
tend to probe a hotel looking for the right room and the right opportunity.
Access control systems, good building design, strong locks and doors, and
alert hotel staff can often deter burglars. Also, burglars don't want to be
confronted and will usually flee when approached. Most burglaries do not
result in violence unless the criminal is cornered and uses force to escape.
Hotel room invasion robbers, in contrast, work more often at night when
rooms are more likely to be occupied and less staff is on duty. The hotel
room invaders usually target the occupant and room location and not
necessarily the hotel. The selection process may include women traveling
alone or senior citizens, or known drug dealers, or wealthy travelers, for
example. It is not unusual for a robber to follow the victim to their hotel
room based on the value of the car they were driving or the jewelry or
clothes they were wearing... even being seen exiting a high-end retail
establishment or restaurant can cause one to be targeted and followed.
Hotel room invaders have been known to work casinos and watch for guests
flashing large sums of money or jewelry. Hotel room invaders usually work
alone or with just one accomplice and they rely on an overwhelming physical
confrontation to gain control and instill fear in the room occupants.
The violence occurs instantly with an overwhelming explosive force to take
control of the room. The hotel room invaders often come equipped with
handcuffs, rope, tape, and weapons. Some hotel room robbers appear to
enjoy the intimidation, domination, and violence and some claim it is a
"rush." Some hotel robbers are also opportunist rapist and may sexually
assault their victims.
Dangerous Trends
The act of committing a hotel room invasion is escalating much like
carjacking. The reason for the increase seems to follow a similar pattern.
Much like automobiles, the traditional commercial targets for robbers have
hardened themselves against criminal attack. Technology has allowed
commercial establishments to install better locks, and other anti-crime
deterrent devices.
Guest room robbers have privacy once inside and don't have to deal with
security or hotel staff or other guests who might suddenly appear. Once the
offenders take control of a guest room, they can force the occupants to open
room safes, locate hidden valuables, supply keys to the car, and PIN
numbers to their ATM cards. Guest room robbers will increase their escape
time by disabling the phones and sometimes leave their victims bound or
incapacitated. It is not unheard of for robbers to load up the victim's car
with valuables and drive away without anyone in the hotel taking notice.
Method of Operation:
The most common point of attack is through the guest room door or patio
door. Sometimes the hotel room invader will simply kick open the door and
confront everyone inside. More common is when the hotel room invaders
knock on the door first. The room invader hopes that the occupant will
simply open the door, without question, in response to their knock.
Unfortunately, many people do just that.
Guest room robbers will sometimes use a ruse or impersonation to get you
to open the door. They have been known to pretend to be room service,
housekeeping, security, or delivering flowers. Clever room robbers might
hold a room service tray or flowers in view of the peephole to further the
impersonation. Once the door is opened for them, the hotel room invaders
will use an explosive amount of force and threats to gain control of the
room and produce fear in the victims. Once the occupants are under control,
the robbers will begin to collect your portable valuables.
Another tactic is for a robber to select a victim in the lobby and ride up
in the elevator with them. They will get off on the same floor and pretend
walk behind you as if going to their room. This means you need to return to
the elevator and return to the lobby. Once the guest opens their door, the
robber will force his way in behind them and make his demand.
Weapons: A Slight Edge
If you habitually carry a firearm, you tend to feel naked without one on
your person while in unfamiliar circumstances. Except for active duty
military or law enforcement, it is difficult to get the paperwork necessary
to legally carry a firearm in a foreign country. Carrying an illegal firearm
is a really, really bad idea in an unfamiliar country. Severe penalties, up
to and including the death penalty, ensue if caught at it. While Mexico is
currently a more dangerous place that either Iraq or Afghanistan, please
understand that if NarcoTerrorists get their hands on you, you will be faced
with 15 - 20 guys with AKs and M4s. Your measly popgun will just be added
to their collection. Going about unarmed in potentially dangerous territory
means that situational awareness and "What if...?" scenario planning are not
My favorite defense tools include a stun gun, and a metal extendable police
baton, camouflaged with a small flashlight replacement for the end ferrule.
It looks like a typical metal body flashlight, and the police don't question
it. Both the flashlight extension and the baton were purchased for less than
USD40 on eBay. For less than USD40 I bought a stun gun with a personal
alarm and a flashlight as well as 100v stun buttons on top all included on a
unit camouflaged as a cell phone. This is great... though, it will not pass
close inspection as a cell phone. What is really good about it is the Argentine
thieves usually demand your cell phone and your money, giving no alerts as
you reach toward him with a cell phone stun gun. Also, it is very useful in
a dark, dangerous area to have it up to your face pretending to talk on it
so deployment is almost instantaneous. In less dangerous environments, it
rides quite openly and comfortably in a cell phone carrier on my belt.
Neither of these items pass airport security inspection for carrying on
one's person or carry-on luggage. Checked luggage should be okay. You
stand a very good chance to be arrested if you forget. I forgot once, and was
able to talk my way out of getting arrested after surrendering my extendable
One should be able to get by with taking a ground-down razor sharp
screwdriver and/or a multi-tool with a knife blade inside checked luggage.
These are handy to carry while in unfamiliar surroundings. I put a plastic
barrel of a ball-point pen over the sharp blade of the screwdriver, and it
sits upright... held in place by yet another handkerchief... in my left-hand
hip pocket. I have practiced with this item until I can whip it out and
strike a telling defensive blow in less than a half second. These items pass
inspection as tools you just happen to have on you. I sometimes use a belt
with a push-blade knife concealed in the belt buckle. My Colombian and
Argentine police buddies say that they would not even be suspicious or think
of being suspicious of such items, since they don't run into them often...
if ever. The Mexican police are a bit more suspicious of such items because
they see stuff like this all the time with lots of Mexican nationals just
released from prison in the US, as well as weekend commandos from the
US. Again, one would face a high probability of arrest and detention if
caught attempting to board an airplane with such items on one's person or
hand luggage. See the TSA web site:
items.shtm. You can carry pepper spray in checked luggage on
some airlines.
Local cops that are not trying to rip you off typically won't hassle you for
having it for self defense. It is not against the law in any part of the
world that I am aware of. An Example: Two US guys off a private sailboat
walking down the street in beautiful downtown Cartegena, Colombia in broad
daylight when five thugs armed with knives tried to pull them into an alley
to have their dastardly way. The sailors applied pepper spray and fled
easily. The cops were televised grinning and slapping the sailors' backs in
congratulation for having foiled the crooks. The reports talked a lot about
the fact that the sailors had used pepper spray, and marveling at the fact
that the pepper spray had so effectively disabled the crooks that they were
still coughing and spitting 20 minutes later when the cops arrested them.
The small, compressed gas capsicum pepper spray canister can easily fit in
the pocket, even on a key chain and is available anywhere. These canisters
are usually available for purchase in any country, perhaps in a
salvage/surplus/sporting goods retailer. If you prefer, It is legal to carry
a small plastic bottle or baggie with cayenne pepper in checked luggage on
an airplane. You could also carry an EMPTY plastic squeeze bottle, and mix
up a little cocktail in the bottle with the pepper when you get access to
some water at your location. I haven't used it on humans, but it worked
really, really well on uncontrolled dogs trying to chase me down the street.
Again, carry these items in checked luggage only.
The good news is that accurately applied pepper compounds really work. I
have seen very tall, large muscle bound guys rolling on the ground
screaming for their mommy, while the petite 4 foot 9 inch lady at their side
is just crying quietly. The bad news is, don't bring pepper spray to a
gunfight. Also, I have used pepper spray on guys lit to the gills on crystal
meth doesn't work. Doesn't even slow 'em down. A really, really drunk
Mejicano used it on also didn't seem to notice.
Like anything else, pepper spray defense is an excellent option for most
people, and can be considered legal almost everywhere. However, it requires
good judgment and adult behavior.
An Example: Not so long ago, two US guys were leaving their sailboat in an
African port. It was around sundown, and they were walking to a restaurant
about a mile away. They noticed a group of locals giving them the eye as the
sailors ambled away. They soon passed beyond sight of any passersby. The
dock areas were deserted. They noticed a guy running parallel to them on a
path about 50 yards away in their direction of travel. They realized that
they were in trouble... unarmed at night and in a foreign port with no
witnesses. Sure enough, the thug ran up even to them and held them at bay
30 feet away with a pistol as his two thug friends came running up from
Even with martial arts training, this was the perfect setup for the thugs...
no way to reach the guy with the gun before suffering serious injury, two
unarmed thugs shaking them down for all their valuables. The even lost their
secret hideaway stashes, and were stripped of all of their goodies. They
later said the thugs searched them from the skin out, including shoes. And
only the crotch area was safe. Because they were unarmed, they were left
alive. The criminal with the gun had the drop on them... going for a gun
would have resulted in sustaining serious injuries. This was not a scenario
for a quick-draw exhibition. The police and port officials reported that the
tourists were lucky. The hijack group was highly experienced and
professional. Mostly, the less professional groups in the area at that time
just shot you dead and took what they wanted.
What have we learned from this? Playing the "What if... ?" game,
we may make suggestions.
* If you are leaving a safe place in an unsafe general area (in this
case, an African port... there are no "safe" ports in Africa), consider
calling a taxi to come collect you. Please do not take an un-summoned taxi
off the street. You want to avoid being taken around the corner so a hostile
group can rob you. Having the dispatcher know which driver collected you is
your best safety net.
* If a group of local idlers are eying you, you are probably being
sized up as a target. Return to a safe area... in this case, the secure
marina, and call a taxi.
* If despite your best efforts you are approached by a criminal group
as professional as described, your best course of action is to submit, as
did the unarmed victims in this example. Please believe me when I say that
you will instantly recognize a well-planned assault. The guys in this
example lived through the experience, and we can learn from them.
In this instance they had a few moments after noticing the running gunman
where they could have drawn their firearms. When I carry a weapon in a
dangerous area, I carry it in a shopping bag or a folded
magazine/newspaper... even a hat or cap... with my hand on the grip, finger
off the trigger. Just drape a handkerchief over your cocked and locked
pistol if necessary, keep your ready weapon in a convenient pocket or under
your shirt... but you must have your firearm in your hand ready to use, not
holstered. I practice these things in the safety of my home. With 20/20
hindsight, several people were going to get hurt that night if the victims
had at least one firearm in their hand... but, at the time, they had no
knowledge that the usual practice was to kill the victims, and might have
hesitated to fire. They would have guiltily realized at this time that they
should not have been there in the first place... realizing that they had
ignored the danger clues when leaving the secure marina. They might have
realized that their many hours of target practice were not sufficient for a
situation requiring split-second instinctive shooting at someone who had
'the drop' on them and would be shooting at them. The only chance with a
weapon in this scenario would be to turn to face their attacker, cooly bring
up the pistol up and take their best shot. The chances of this action being
successful were not good even if they already had the gun out and ready.
Gunfights are serious matters. The outcome is serious... as the book says,
No Second Place Winner. Using a firearm to wound or kill an attacker will
change your life forever. We all have to look at a gunfight as an admission
of guilt, of failure. You probably shouldn't have been there in the first
place. A gunfight is evidence of bad judgment, unless it happens defending
your family in your own home, a carjacking, etc. We must plan to be
arrested after such an incident, and carry local phone numbers of
attorneys/embassy officials/personal and/or business acquaintances for
notification of your situation. Also, it is important to know the local laws
regarding such incidents. It would be a good idea to read up on gunfights
and take an instinctive shooting course if you plan to travel armed. Most
importantly, practice, practice, practice.
If using a semi-auto, arm yourself with a CO2 pistol as close to the type
you will be using, practice drawing and firing BBs as trained in an
instinctive shooting course. Practice walking, running or sitting while
shooting. Practice shooting from different types of cover from different
positions. Practice instinctive shooting in low light conditions. I use my
J-frame .357 with wax bullets/primers/plastic shells that I make up myself.
My friends who hate guns actually enjoy this activity and look at it as
play. I don't. I practice at 7 - 15 feet--about the useful range for a wax
bullet--shooting at a cardboard poster. You can just tape a silhouette
target over a cardboard box. You must literally train for hundreds of hours
if you want to get into peak performance. And, why would you not want to
be the best you can in such critical situations?
Gunfight outcomes are decided by mental attitude, instincts and carefully
nurtured muscle memory. Please read up on the gunfighters who have
survived lots of gun battles. There are lots of web sites describing such
books, and recommendations are available from gun enthusiast and survival
blogs. I first read Bill Jordan's No Second Place Winner in the 1970s. I
learned to carry spare cartridges in my pistol-side jacket pocket to more
swiftly flip my coat tail out of the way when drawing my weapon, and
practiced it. I learned about stances, how to draw and shoot from the hip,
again as my weak hand met up with the gun and again as my arms fully
extended... the Jordan triple-tap... and lots more. I practice, practice,
practice. The book is out of print, but used copies are available on the net
for as low as US$15 plus shipping. You can't have my copy.
An Example:
A more successful outcome. It was Christmas in Houston, and my
friend Sara was at Sharpstown Mall carrying lots of packages and shopping
bags as she went to exit the mall to go to her car. Since the lot was
crowded, her car was not in an optimal location for security. Sara's
situational awareness kicked in. She saw that it had gotten dark early, as
it does in Houston at that time of year. She noticed some young thugs
hanging around the exit. Sara returned to the mall, sought out a security
guard, and requested that he escort her to her car, but he refused. Sara
stood at the door for a while, contemplating a route to her car that would
avoid parked vans in the lot... the criminals' vehicle of choice in Houston
at that time... took careful note of who was visible from her vantage point,
and plotted her course. Before she started out, she carefully sat down her
packages and removed her keys and... discretely... a very small .22 caliber
pistol which she concealed in her strong hand, retrieved her packages with
her purse over her gun arm and set out to her car. As she was on her way,
she turned around several times to scope out the other people in the lot and
what they were doing. She planned to return to the mall and insist on an
escort if she didn't like what she saw. When she got to her car, she was
putting her keys in the door lock when a young thug rushed up to her and
yelled some obscenities and threats at her as he grabbed Sara's purse,
attached to her gun arm by the strap. The action caused Sara's pistol's
pointy end to actually go up his nose. He said... and I quote Sara's
description... "Whoa, Mamma! Be cool." Sara said, "This is as cool as I
get." The thug's friends were running up to help, but the young thug said,
"Let's get outta here She got a PIECE up my nose", and they all took off
running. Sara immediately drove to the nearest police station to report the
attempted crime and the mall security guard's indifference. She later found
out that the young criminals were part of a large group that kept a rental
van parked in a central location, and the various teams were dropping off
their ill-gotten swag so their hands were free for more crime without
encumbrance. Several older people were hurt that night in the Sharpstown
Mall parking lot. One younger victim, a man, tried to resist with his wife
and children present and ended up in the hospital with permanent damage
from the beating he got.
In the two preceding examples we see that options only exist for the wary.
The two sailors ignored the little stomach lurch of instinct when they saw
thugs eying them. Had the group of thugs that targeted them been less
professional, they would probably have died for ignoring their instincts. It
only takes one mistake like that... an instant of recognition that was
ignored... to end our lives.
Sara's example ended well because she understood that only outstanding
situational awareness and planning via "What if... ?" scenarios can help us
survive potentially dangerous situations. Even though she was armed, Sara's
pistol would have ended up as part of the criminal swag had she not had it
in her hand and "gotten the drop" on her own private thug. She probably
would have sustained a few injuries as the thug pistol-whipped her with her
own gun for being dumb enough to carry a pistol she wasn't ready to use.
Please keep in mind that thugs hate you and everyone else that has more
than they have. They have only contempt for those who have less. As they
gain more experience at thuggery, they develop a bored indifference to
violence and will kill without remorse and spend their swag on a nice meal
immediately after a rewarding murder. If you are in law enforcement, you
already know this.
Ex-military people who have been in Close Quarters Combat know how to
shoot instinctively, how to survive a gun battle, and how to keep their heads
on a swivel. They are adept at the "What if... ?" game. Unlike police officers
who have survived many criminal confrontations, they may lack other
important skill sets. Whomever you may be, it is important to brutally
analyze your inventory skill sets, try to determine which sets you lack, and
work on trying to improve your chances in a criminal confrontation. Please
keep in mind that though Sara did everything right except be in a
crime-prone area... not very avoidable in Houston at that time... she had to
use every skill set she had plus a lot of nerve to survive unscathed her
criminal confrontation. And, yes... street survival is a mind game.
Decoy Money:
Consider keeping about US$30 to $50 folded up in a place where
you can get to it. If an armed thief comes up to you, give it to him. He may
just go away and leave you alone. Seriously... it's been reported as a
successful ploy and may save you. Be aware that I have seen video of five
armed guys stripping a guy on the street at night. There is no hiding place
when you're barefoot and naked, unless you have your goodies in a tube
inserted into a body cavity. If you can avoid that by giving them the bait
money, good for you. If not... you're gonna lose the bait money and
everything else anyway. Just a thought: consider carrying the bait money in
small bills and throw them to the wind so you can get a head start in
running to a safer place very fast. I know from personal experience that
this works... sometimes. I also carry my pepper spray concealed in my hand
with my finger on the trigger while observing suspicious activity. Since I
am not allowed to carry a firearm in my residence country, I need the
pepper spray to get far enough away to pull my collapsible baton/flashlight
combo as I run toward a safer place. And, yes, I have trained in baton
tactics, read many instruction manuals and scenarios, and practice, practice,
Other common sense items: Try to share info from the Internet, news items,
overheard comments, etc from traveler Internet boards. We need to help
one another.
Dress for Success
Wear layered clothing with lots of zip/Velcro/snap pockets to make it more
difficult to clean you out if your pockets are "picked"... spread your cash
around your body and clothes... taxi/bridge fare in your shoes.. If you are
in an area known as a high threat area for kidnapping, it is best to never
wear sandals or flip-flops, no matter how hot. This is in case you are
kidnapped and have to walk in rough terrain 10+ hours per day for a few
Never carry a checkbook. Identity theft attempts were made after I lost my
checkbook in Colombia.
Never sign the back of a credit card. Write "see photo ID" in the signature
block. Whenever possible, carry Xerox copies of your important docs. In
Argentina, I have a Xerox of the signature/photo page, last entry page and
visa page of my passport reduced to fit on the front and back of a single
sheet of paper, as well as the receipt for my application fee to obtain an
Argentine National ID card/Resident.
Stun Guns: Until they come out with a secret stun ring, I would worry about
the copsgetting cranky if they found it on you. The good news... they work
better than any other non-lethal method of self defense. Oh, except not
going to a place where you are likely to need it. No matter how drunk, pilled
up or crazy an attacker, and no matter how big and tough, they will be
rolling on the dirt screaming for mommy. Again, don't bring a stun gun to a
gun fight unless you are ex-law enforcement or otherwise trained/expert in
defensive tactics.
Collapsible baton: This is my all-time favorite. But be advised, to the best
of my knowledge a baton is not legal in any part of the world. However, it
is easily concealable. I carry my 17 inch (extended) baton from eBay
discretely in a jeans hip pocket. I paid extra for an LED flashlight butt
from eBay so it appears to be a flashlight with a long handle. It doesn't
even look extendable. The flashlight module gives good light and replaces
the butt ferrule.3
If you are fluent in the local language, do not show off or act like a jerk,
you may be get by okay with a collapsible baton in most countries. An
Example: I have carried my "flashlight with an extensible handle" in Mexico,
in Colombia and Argentina on and off cruise ships (the worst questioning I
had to endure while going thru bag checks by cruise ship personnel). I had a
problem with a federal officer checking hand luggage at the Buenos Aires
airport. I had planned to leave it at my Argentine home. I forgot it was in
a small bag stuffed in my carry-on luggage. Woops! I was embarrassed. This
could have been serious if I wasn't muy fluido en castellano and such an
obviously nice, friendly guy. This guy was giving me a bad case of cop eye
as I smiled and explained that it was a flashlight. With an expressionless
face, he extended it. I showed him my Florida commercial appraiser license
and explained it was for seeing into dark corners while appraising
buildings. He said... "Sir, this is a weapon". I smiled and stuck it in the
box they had there for disposing of small knives, scissors, et cetera. Still
smiling, I shrugged my shoulders and got the rest of my stuff together and
departed; dignity almost intact. My wife was laughing. I heard the Feds
laughing, too. I was out $40 for my own stupidity. It would have been fine
in checked luggage. No problem... I got another one via eBay for about $50
and resolved to always re-check the contents carry-on bags prior to
leaving home.
In any country, it seems reasonable to follow some common sense
safety tactics:
* Try to avoid places without a lot of activity, especially dark
places. If you have to wait for another group to leave the location to have
some company, please do so.
* Carry a whistle and/or pepper spray on your key chain. If attacked,
make as much noise as possible while running away, if possible.
* When exiting a building to go to your car, stop for a second to
visually scan the area. Cops are trained to do this. Hold your keys in your
hand... not in your pocket, bag or belt clip. Check the back seat visually
prior to unlocking the door of the vehicle. If you see suspicious activity,
or a van parked next to your vehicle that blocks the view of your entry into
your vehicle from others, do a wide sweep... a walk around before
entering... or, consider going back into the building to observe for a
while. This is especially important if you are with an adult entertainment
specialist... she may be part of the gang that want to check out your
* If you are carrying a bag with a shoulder strap, wear the strap
laterally across your back with the bag in front and walk toward vehicular
traffic. Why? I once saw a lady being dragged down the street for almost a
block before the strap broke. A pickup passenger had leaned out and
grabbed her strap--in broad daylight with lots of witnesses--and fled the
scene. If you are facing oncoming traffic, you can see suspicious approaches
and prepare. Pillion riders on motorcycles or scooters are the most common
snatch thieves.
* If you are carrying a purse or the equivalent, consider carrying it
upside down, snap open and held closed by your hand. If a thief grabs it out
of your hand all your stuff will go on the pavement... which is a good
thing. It gives you a distraction so you can use your best weapon.--your
feet-- to escape.
* It is difficult to over-stress the importance of the conscientious
and judicious use of your eyes, brain and feet to keep anyone safe no matter
where in the world you may be. Observe carefully with your eyes so that
your brain can evaluate potential threats, and use your feet to avoid iffy
If your attempt to be inconspicuous is unsuccessful, your defensive tactics
aren't a good idea and you find yourself naked on the side of the road with
a bunch of bad guys, here are some tips that were passed down from folks
who have succeeded in getting away from the NarcoTerror boys.
* Lighten up on yourself. You have the right to a reasonable
expectation of personal security no matter where in the world you are
located. Your rights have been violated and you were savagely captured by
bad guys who have no redeeming social value. Now is the time to settle
down and consider your new situation and possible options.
* Be creative with health issues. Show them your surgical scars, your
diabetes meds, (consider getting some meds whether you really need them
or not... your doctor may have some ideas) anything that may make them
decide you are more trouble than you may be worth to them... even if you
have to make stuff up. Lie to them, please. Be creative in subtle ways to
slow the column of marchers throughout the journey. Fake a bad ankle and
make them go steal a mule/burro/horse from some poor farmer to transport
you. Always be alert to opportunities to escape safely from the
NarcoTraficantes' area. Always go downhill when you escape... find a
stream, then a river, always go downstream until you find a road or other
signs of civilization. Sometimes it's a good idea to hide in the day, travel at
night... but, be aware that traveling at night can be dangerous in the
jungle/woods/mountains... not recommended for those with poor night
* Make certain that they understand that you have no living relatives
or flush employer to ransom you. This is key. If they took you from your
work compound, a helicopter they shot down. et cetera, then that is going to
be a tough sell. If you carry family/love interest photos, unless you can
convince the NarcoTraficantes that the folks in the photos are dead, it is
not easy. Optimally, plan to try to appear to be an impoverished,
anti-social, solitary orphan backpacker, student or teacher.
* One of the best ways to escape is to fake an illness that they can't
treat you for locally. Several victims have gotten away from relaxed
security in a town with a doctor under NarcoTerrorist control. Some research
on symptoms prior to your trip may be a good idea. It is not very easy to
fake out the medical person most NarcoTerror bands usually have.
* If you appear to be such a high value prize that they can't afford
to give you up except for a big payoff, then none of the above will be very
helpful. But do it anyway. Everyone lets a competitor have an advantage by
making an error, especially the NarcoTraficantes. Many of the individual
groups include young people who don't like what they are doing... many
pressed into service during raids on their village. But, you most often will
have to be creative and make up a good story to create your own
* Most important: Forgive yourself for being captive and unable to
meet your obligations. When Ingrid Betancourt was rescued from FARC
forces in Colombia, she told debriefing officers that she had more problems
related to the mental stress from feeling she had let down her family, friends
and associates by becoming a captive than the physical stress. Even though
she understood that she was a captive through no fault of her own, she had
a difficult struggle overcoming her guilt. She and other captives have
reported that self forgiveness is the most important key to survival in a long
term captivity. Seven years, in her case.
What Survival type Are You?
Survivors of violent events have been studied extensively. Their faith in
God, family and friends seems to head the list of essentials for survival,
and survivors were successful at "rewiring" their attitudes to adapt to
harsh--even inhumane--circumstances. And, they survived, while many
others failed to adjust and survive.
[I concur with the Glenn Beck and the Survivor's Club that] there are
distinct personality types of survivors
http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/21694/ These are as
* Fighter
* Thinker
* Realist
* Connector
* Believer
It is important that each reader think about and analyze their feelings
about each of these approaches to survival, come up with their own
definitions of what each type is like, decide which type each reader is, and
start thinking about "what if...?" scenarios for their particular
circumstances. If you think the unthinkable and devise plans to survive,
then when the unthinkable occurs, you will make the correct choices
automatically. This is important, because people have failed to survive
because they refused to think about the unthinkable, and their brains froze,
they acted thoughtlessly, or they reacted without thinking clearly through
all the possible ramifications of their actions. Sounds like crisis
government, no?
A Word About Martial Arts:
A surprise attacker with a knife in his hand coming from behind has the
equivalent of a 900th degree black belt. Real world fights do not occur as
they do in the dojo or boxing ring. Those who have as many knife scars as I
have and are still walking around can attest to that.
Anyone with knife scars and bullet wound scars is not proud of their scars.
They know that each scar is a visible reminder of a personal failure to
avoid a life-threatening event. I acquired the knife scars on my arms as a
dumb teenager living on the Texas border and getting caught in avoidable
confrontations while being in places where I shouldn't have been, both in
Texas and Mexico. As I got a bit smarter and more aware of my sometimes
dangerous surroundings, I started getting knife scars on my legs... having
learned that distance is the best defense with an over-medicated knife
fighter. When I finally wised up and started avoiding bad places, I got
fewer and fewer scars.
I have had no formal martial arts training except the small amount standard
in armed forces boot camp. Those of you who are interested in martial arts,
please be certain that you make a serious commitment to always stay in
peak physical condition. If you cannot fight at full force for at least two
minutes, then no amount of skills training is sufficient. It has been my
experience that none but those dedicated to their physical conditioning can
maintain an aggressive fight for two minutes. If you are proud of your elite
status as King of the Dojo, check out the free video series on real-life
street defense at AttackProof
Terrorist Attack Concerns
The planning and execution of the attack on the Murrah Federal Building in
Oklahoma City illustrates the modus operandi utilized by terrorists that
could be a threat to your safety. Consider how a vigilant person might have
recognized indications of a threat, from this case study:
Phase 1: Broad Target Selection. During broad target selection, terrorists
collect information on numerous targets to evaluate their potential in terms
of symbolic value, casualties, infrastructure criticality, or public
attention. Timothy McVeigh wanted to attack a symbol of the federal
government, preferably the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, or
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He identified possible targets such
as individual federal employees, their families, and facilities in at least
five states.
Phase 2: Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance. Vulnerable targets able to
meet attack objectives are selected for additional intelligence gathering
and surveillance. This effort may occur quickly or over years depending upon
the target and planning information needed. Terrorists seek to gather
detailed information on guard forces, physical layout, personnel routines,
and standard operating procedures.
McVeigh performed initial surveillance of the Murrah Federal Building in
Oklahoma City, one of his potential targets. He noted the interstate highway
allowed easy access and possible escape routes. He also observed indented
curbs that permitted vehicles to be parked directly in front of the
Phase 3: Specific Target Selection. Specific targets are then identified for
attack based on anticipated effects, publicity, consistency with overall
objectives, and costs versus benefits of the attack.
Timothy McVeigh chose the Murrah Federal Building because he believed the
Federal agencies represented there were responsible for the incident in
Waco, Texas two years earlier. In addition, he assessed the facility as a
"soft target," with a good chance of success at low risk. His intent was to
kill Federal employees and thereby gain media attention.
Phase 4: Pre-attack Surveillance and Planning. Terrorists may conduct
additional surveillance to confirm previous information and gain additional
details. During this stage, terrorists will select the method of attack,
obtain weapons and equipment, recruit specialized operatives, and design
escape routes.
McVeigh recruited Terry Nichols and prepared for the Oklahoma City attack
over a six-month period. He acquired materials for a 5,000-pound truck
bomb through theft, use of false documents, and paying cash for items
normally bought on credit. He also made several trips to the Murrah Federal
Building to identify the exact place to park the truck and to select escape
Phase 5: Rehearsals. Terrorists often rehearse the attack scenario to
confirm planning assumptions, enhance tactics, and practice escape routes.
They may also trigger an incident at the target site to test the reaction of
security personnel and first responders.
McVeigh practiced making and detonating bombs in isolated locations. He
memorized details of the Murrah Building layout, finalized the sequence of
actions for the attack, and practiced responses to law enforcement officers
if they were encountered.
Phase 6: Actions on the Objective. Terrorists choose to execute attacks
when conditions favor success with the lowest risk. Factors they consider
include surprise, choice of time and place, use of diversionary tactics, and
ways to impede response measures.
On 19 April 1995, McVeigh parked a rental truck - a 5,000-pound vehicle
bomb - in front of the Murrah Federal Building where it could cause the most
damage. The date of the bombing, 19 April, was symbolic - the second
anniversary of the fire at the Branch Davidian church compound in Waco,
Phase 7: Escape and Exploitation. Unless an operation is a suicide attack,
escape routes are carefully planned and rehearsed. Terrorists may exploit
successful attacks by releasing pre-developed statements to the press.
After preparing the bomb for detonation, McVeigh walked away from the
scene on a preselected route. To flee Oklahoma City, McVeigh used a getaway
car pre-positioned before the attack.
McVeigh wanted the world to know that he attacked the Federal Murrah
Building because he believed the Federal Government infringed on individual
rights of Americans. McVeigh left a file on his sister's computer titled
"ATF Read" echoing
these sentiments. His get-away car contained anti-government literature
and he subsequently made statements concerning his motivations for the
Geographical Regions of Interest
Terrorists may focus on obvious foreign tourists, personnel associated with
foreign firms, foreign military and foreign government organizations, and
especially individuals who appear to be high-ranking or important. Try to
blend in with the local population. When possible, avoid disclosing your
country of origin, religious, business, military or government affiliation.
Do you think that you are safe, traveling in the U.S. or in western Europe?
Consider this: Within the United States, several organizations and
individuals used Terror/criminal tactics to achieve their goals. Other
organizations provide direct and indirect assistance through fund-raising,
recruiting, and training support.
Terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists against US interests and personnel
began in 1978 with the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. In my
personal opinion, the US has been at war since that date. Foreign Terror
attacks in the US began in 1968 with the hijacking of Pan Am flight 501 to
Cuba, and in 1993 with the first attack against the World Trade Center in
New York. More recently, the foiled Terror/criminal plot against Fort Dix,
New Jersey demonstrates that Al-Qaeda cells still exist within the nation's
Home-grown terrorism is a reality. During the 1960s and 1970s, the
Weathermen and the Armed Forces for Puerto Rican National Liberation
executed several small-scale terror/criminal attacks. More recently, violent
elements include the anti-abortion Army of God, the eco-terrorist Earth
Liberation Front, and other domestic anarchist groups and individuals.
Homegrown terrorists have employed various tactics such as rudimentary
letter bombs, improvised explosive devices, small arms attacks, and truck
bombs. Bioterrorism is also a concern in view of the anonymous anthrax
attacks in 2001.
For more information on events in North America, see historical examples on
the Oklahoma City bombing, United Flight 93, and the plot to attack Fort
Dix. There are serious threats now from MS13 and other Latino gangs, who
work with Russian/Italian/Asian mobs, and other gangs. Also, note that the
Mexican Cartels have turned the US border area into a war zone, per recent
news items. It is reported that Phoenix, Arizona is now the kidnapping
capitol of the US.
Islamic extremists pose the primary Terror/criminal threat to US military
and government personnel. Since the mid-1990s, terrorists have enhanced
their capabilities around the world... including Indonesia and the
Pan-Pacific area, Venezuela, the tri-border area of Paraguay/Brazil/Bolivia
and expanded their influence and presence into other parts of the world.
In the areas of current US military operations, roadside IEDs pose one of the
greatest threats to US forces. Additionally, local political leaders and
civilians, infrastructure, and international aid personnel are terrorized by
suicide bombings, kidnappings, and murders. In many other parts of the
Western Asian and African regions, suicide bombers and gunmen target
hotels and tourist attractions to advance domestic political agendas.
Numerous Terror/criminal organizations operate in almost every region of
the world. In addition to Al-Qaeda, other organizations include Hezbollah,
the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ansar al-Islam, and Mujahedine-e Khaiq, the
Russian Mafia, etc.
For more information on events in this region, check the Internet for
historical examples on the USS Cole, the Luxor Massacre at Deir el-Bahri,
and Khobar Towers.
European Union
This region is diverse and contains a wide spectrum of terror/criminal
threats. Threats include traditional nationalist, ethnic, and leftist
Terror/criminal groups such as the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA),
November 17, and the Real Irish Republican Army. The region is also
threatened by Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam.
Chechen rebels, responsible for several Terror/criminal attacks within the
former Soviet Union, are both Muslim radicals and separatists. There is a
lot of Mafia related activity.
In recent years, US allies in Europe have suffered dramatic Terror attacks.
Terrorists have targeted civilians with IEDs and suicide bombers for
maximum impact on government policies and elections. US military forces
have also come under direct attack by organizations wishing to diminish
America's influence in the area.
Additionally, organizations sympathetic to Terrorist/religious radical
objectives actively raise funds, recruit, and provide other support to
religious extremist groups. As seen in the events of 9/11, western Europe
can be a staging area for attacks against the United States.
For more information, see the historical case studies for the London and
Madrid subway bombings, the bombing of the La Belle Discotheque, and
other attacks.
Stability in the region is threatened by nationalist, tribal, and ethnic
groups that use Terror/criminal and pirate tactics to support their agendas.
The region is also threatened by Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaeda, the
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, and Al Shabaab.
The 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania illustrate
the willingness of terrorists to use indiscriminate violence to attack foreign
interests in Africa. Additionally, local ethnic and nationalist-based
conflicts increasingly threaten foreign corporate infrastructure and
Terrorist organizations also engage in support activities within the African
continent. These include fund raising, training, recruiting, operation of
front activities, and involvement in criminal enterprises. Africa has the
potential to be a significant transit point and support base for
Terror/criminal operations in other parts of the world.
For more information, see Internet sources on the African embassy
Pacific Rim/Southeast Asia
Narco/criminal groups in this region present diverse threats to foreign
interests. Some specifically target foreigners and others target public
sites where foreigners may become victims. Additionally, there is evidence
of ties between groups in the Pacific/SE Asia region and Al-Qaeda and other
international groups.
Terrorist attacks in this region demonstrate a broad spectrum of tactics.
These include kidnappings, suicide bombings, and even chemical attacks.
Aleph, formerly known as Aum Shinrikyo, attacked Tokyo subways with
Sarin nerve gas and cyanide in 1995. Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine group seeking
to create a radical Muslim state, targets foreigners for kidnapping.
Terrorists have targeted foreign assets in the region. In 2001, Singaporean
officials foiled a plot to attack US military forces and western diplomatic
missions. The group, Jamaah Islamiya, seeks to create a radical Muslim
across South East Asia. In 2002 it conducted a suicide bombing of a
nightclub in Bali, Indonesia to kill western tourists.
For more information on events in this region, seek Internet sources on the
Bali Nightclub Bombing and Tokyo Subway Attack.
Latin America
The primary/criminal threat in the area is NarcoTerrorism and the continued
operation of radical leftist groups. Additionally, the ties between
NarcoTerrorists and radical extremists from the Middle East are reportedly
increasing. It is possible Latin American countries, notably Venezuela and
Argentina may become a transit point for terrorists from other parts of the
world to enter the United States via Mexico and Europe via Africa. I have
read accounts of Colombian NarcoTerrorists and known radical Islamics
being arrested in Mexico and Spain with genuine Venezuelan passports and
personal documents when said individuals are known to have never lived in
There was one report of a US Border Patrol intercept on the US/Mexican
border of some Cubans and a different party of 15+ persons of Arab descent
all carrying genuine Venezuelan passports and documents. You should
probably take that information as indicating that Venezuela is not friendly to
US/European Common Market interests.
Unlike the 1980s, recent attacks against US interests are focused primarily
on businesses and not US military or government assets. In addition to
bombings and arson, Terror/criminal tactics include targeted assassinations
and kidnapping, especially against foreign-owned commercial assets.
Some of the most prominent Terror/criminal organizations within the Latin
American region include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC
), the Colombian
National Liberation Army
(ELN ), And the Shining
Path ["Sendero Luminoso"] in Peru. Various Internet sources are available.
A few words about the Mumbai attacks:
The FBI reports are trickling back from the agents dispatched there to
cooperate with Indian authorities, and the results are depressing. It appears
more and more certain that various Pakistani high-level authorities were
aware of the activities of the attackers and their support team in Pakistan.
An incident of this sort could easily be the start of a war between these two
nuclear powers.
But, take a moment to think of the businessmen and their families that were
at their hotel having a nice dinner and deep into their cozy world, when the
unthinkable happened. I hope each and every reader of this report will
resolve to include a special Survival bag in their luggage to include
packaged ready-to-eat food. I use Wal-Mart granola bars, peanut butter and
crackers, and so forth. MREs, if space is available. You should also have lots
of spare batteries, aflashlight, et cetera. I use a head-band light, a bottle for
water, a fire-starter kit (cotton balls soaked in Vaseline with a spark striker
and a Bic disposable lighter).
Want more ideas? Research the web for what others have assembled as
Every Day Carry (EDC )
survival bags on the web. If you want to read how life is affected by a total
societal meltdown, read the blog by FerFAL,
a student of architecture during the 2001 financial meltdown in Argentina. I
especially liked the info on his family's ideas of what they would have done
differently given the chance, the items that became most important to them,
and some gimmicks that helped them keep a good survival attitude.
In closing: the most important thing is to maintain a positive and happy
attitude while preparing for the unthinkable.

Comments are appreciated at travel@ricdav.com
Published with permission by the author:
Rick Davis Consulting

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