I have been mesmerized by the recent events in Boston. I was horrified as all were about this. One of the things that surprised me the most was it hasn’t happened sooner. I find myself wishing that the Feds had told us each and every time since 9/11 that a terror plot was foiled and disaster averted. I really feel that we Americans have a ridiculously short memory when it comes to bad guys and the bad things they do. Nevertheless, I think we should keep this terrible event in mind and learn from it.
The Dallas Fort Worth area is a MAJOR avenue of human trafficing, the drug trade, as well as a major shipping and travel hub. You think bad things can’t happen here? Remember that right after 9/11, the FBI shut down a major fund raising arm of the terror group Hamas that was located right of I-75 in Richardson! No joke….
I have a friend that’s a runner. He and his wife weren’t at this marathon, but they run others. It made me think what I would do if we in the Dallas Fort Worth area had anything from a terroist attack to a tornado that disrupted our lives. Here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years when reviewing disasters natural and man made, as well as people’s responses to them:
1. Initial reports circulated by media are almost always wrong – I think most of this is due to inital confusion, but the 24 hour news media has a lot of pressure to keep talking. Since they can’t say the same thing over and over, they extrapolate. After extrapolating, they eventually insinuate fact. Then the reporter standing next to them states the insinuation more strongly, and the next guy/gal considers it fact. Then confusion reigns.
Lesson – listen to news reports but believe only basics like general locations (Ex: “There’s been a bombing at the Boston Marathon” tells us something happened somewhere in Boston) and the type of threat (terror bombing, shooting, tornado, earth quake?)
2. Cell phone service in the affected area stops completely – this has been known to be true after 9/11, when the power went out in NYC, after almost all natural disasters, the Boston Marathon bombing, etc. Everyone in the area gets on their phone to call 911, friends, and family. Not to mention that cell phones are usually used to trigger explosive devices. Cell service is taken down and stays down for several hours to days/weeks.
Lesson – have a plan for your family to follow that doesn’t require cell phone contact. If you have a plan in place, you simply have to work the plan. You’ll have thought through it, planned it, and practiced it. So, remember in the middle of it that you being on the phone won’t change the fact that you’ll succeed. Have a plan in place, and work the plan.
3. The affected area will be physically shut down. Surrounding areas will be in traffic grid lock – If you are in the immediate area, try your best to move rapidly in the opposite and safest direction. Same goes if you’re in the surrounding areas close to the damage zone. Get out of there as soon as possible, if its safe to do so.
Lesson – Grid lock is dangerous because Emergency Responders can’t get in and we can’t get out where it’s safer. Look around and be smart. If its safer to stay, find a safe place to do so. If leaving is smarter, then leave quickly.
4. Cash is king – imagine if a tornado or something shuts down the power grid. We still have to eat and drink, we still need gas. Anything requiring electricity will be down….ATM machines, cash registers, most gas pumps, credit card machines, all of it.
Lesson – Have a few hundred dollars in small and medium bills that can be easily exchanged. I know a guy that was in NYC when they had that huge power outage a few years ago. While the news media showed the mass migration of New Yorkers off the island, my buddy was sitting in a restaurant in mid-town eating a sandwhich and drinking a couple of beers. He didn’t panic because he had cash and a plan.
5. Airport traffic will be shut down – It is now common practice in all federal disaster plans to shut down airports in case of extreme weather and terror attacks. One cannot fly in tornadic weather or if potential terrorists are able to get on airplanes.
Lesson – have a plan in place that doesn’t require airplanes or airports. Also make sure that your plan doesn’t require you to drive near an airport.
6. Most families are not together when disaster strikes – a major failure for any plan is to assume that you’ll all be sitting comfortably watching TV when a terrorist attack happens or a tornado strikes. If this happens, great. Your chances of success have skyrocketed. But assume that you’re all at work and school. Most terror attacks happen early in the work week and early in the work day in order to cause maximum panic and chaos.
Lesson – Have a pre-arranged meeting place in an area that is away from anything important (airports, government buildings, schools, important events taking place in the area, etc) and can be put into place by each member of the family regardless of where they are. Teach your loved ones how to find several direct and circuitous routes to this meeting place. And, more importantly, teach patience and flexibility. It may take several hours to several days for everyone to get to the meeting place. Remember to just work that plan. If they know you’ll be there waiting no matter how long it takes them, they’ll be motivated to keep on truckin’.
7. Have a few basics in your car or back pack – have a flashlight, cell battery charger, some water, some basic food, some OC spray, and some extra ammo. If it takes hours or days to get to your meeting place, you may get hungry. If you somehow manage to get lost while camping in the wilds of Denton, a flashlight and a cellphone just may come in handy.
Lesson – basic comforts are a morale booster, and they could help ease your trip home. While having a weeks worth of food in a bug out bag is cool, get a few basics and toss them in your trunk.
Final Thoughts – there’s a reason why special operators are taught to always have a plan. Even a basic plan. This allows one to follow a formula to safety or at very least have a plan to deviate from. It has been proven hundreds of times over that if you have a plan in place, your chances of success are exponentially greater. The people panicing, waiting in line for food and gas that isn’t there, sitting in grid lock, and looting from everyone else have no plan. That’s why they’re panicing.
Put a plan in place. Work the plan.
***If you want to get together a CHL class Dallas, TX please let me know. My wife and kids are safer with you out there packin’. So thanks for getting your Concealed Handgun License.