Be Prepared Part 6 – A Yellow Day

This weekend my wife and I had a few more discussions about family safety and preparedness. It started with another robbery in the news, where some people were mugged, and despite giving the robbers what they wanted, were shot and killed. Our take was that there was really no excuse for two people together to be surprised by a robber, if they were paying attention to their surroundings. That got us to talking about awareness.

There are a lot of ways to describe our levels of awareness, and maybe the best was put forth by Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper in his book Principles of Personal Defense. My wife is not a reader of the good Lt. Colonel Cooper, so I talked a little about his color code. For those who might have missed this or forgotten, Cooper summarized those this way:

White – Unaware and unprepared.

Yellow – Relaxed but alert of your surroundings, and prepared to defend yourself if necessary. You see people and things coming in and out of your area, and you assess them for threat, almost subconsciously.

Orange – Something is not quite right and has your attention. It may be time to take furtive evasive action or other action.

Red – In an active fight. It’s time to either get away, or defend yourself if needed.

She seemed to really take to our discussion, so we talked about how we can work as a team when we’re out, watching out for each other. She immediately noted that we would be in Yellow all the time, but if one of us sensed something, we needed to be able to tell the other without alerting the threat. After some talk, we decided our code for that would be to pointedly use the word “orange,” as in “I feel orange right now, three o’clock.”

We’d had the Condition Red talk before, without using that phrase, and she has always known that if I ever had to draw my gun, it would not be to threaten, it would be because, as Tom Givens put it, there was somebody there who needed to be shot. That would be her cue to move with the kids as fast as she could away from me and away from the threat, since I then became the number one target for whoever we were confronting.

Later, we went out for a little shopping, and we talked about this again in the car. The telling time happened when we stopped to use an ATM in a part of town we don’t normally frequent. As we pulled up I talked about what I was going to do, and she agreed to watch out for anyone approaching the car.

My ATM routine is simple. Pull up as close to the ATM as I can so I don’t have to open the door. Keep the doors locked. Keep the car in gear. Don’t keep my arm hanging out of the car while I wait. As money, card, and receipt come out of the car, I shuffle them into my other hand and into the car. As soon as the ATM is done, I pull away, and I put the money and card away when I stop later.

We finished our shopping and got home with no incidents.

Now, I admit, we used to go our way in condition white, or as we also call it, Fat, Dumb, and Happy. So, did our awareness spoil the time together? Not at all. In fact, we probably felt better because we knew we were watching out for each other, even more than before.

It was a yellow day.

Be Prepared

When I was in school I was a Boy Scout, and while I never rose as far as I would have liked to (I made First Class), the principles of Scouting have stayed with me all these years. By far the best thing I learned was to live the Scout Motto, Be Prepared. Today, there are countless expressions of this concept, from Colonel Cooper’s color code, to the OODA Loop.

This is the fist in a series of postings where I plan to talk about emergency planning and what I have done. I don’t pretend that my way of planning is the only way or the best. It’s just what I have done. But I hope you can learn from it.

First, I sat down and made a list of the kinds of emergencies that my family and I could face. This was a brainstorming session, and I didn’t question the probability of any event at this time. Yes, the list was extensive, and it includes black holes and alien invasion. To me it was important to consider the larger emergencies, because when you really think about them, a lot of the preparations you make for more intimate events like a fire or home invasion would be the same you would make for them.

My wife and I then picked the most likely events, and the easiest preparations, and made our plan. We’ve been at the plan for a few years, and we are steadily making progress. Here are some of the low hanging fruit, as it were, that we found we could do right away.

Make a printed telephone list. We found that we were all relying on our cell phone address books for contact information, but, if we lost our cell phones in an emergency, that information is lost, too.

Make sure there is a family member or friend outside your immediate area who will agree to be a contact for everyone, if necessary. This came from some reports during Katrina and other emergencies, where local communications were impossible, but where people could call or email someone outside the affected area.

Make sure you have a texting plan on your cell phones. This is because text messages are sent by a different method than cell phone calls, using the carrier signal that the cell phone tower uses to keep track of where your phone is. Even if the all cell phone circuits are busy in an emergency, it may be possible to send short text messages. Make sure everyone knows short messages they can send quickly.

Make sure your guns are locked up away from any children. They should not only be out of reach, but out of the prying eyes. Our kids never knew where I kept our pistol safe until they were old enough and they were trained how to use them. Make sure all the responsible adults in your household are trained, and know how to access them.

Practice. Just as you should have fire drills, practice other kinds of drills – tornado drills, earthquake drills, home invasion drills. When you are out in public, always stay alert (Cooper’s Condition Yellow at a minimum), and practice finding the quickest path to safety.