Posts Tagged personal safety

What to do If Caught in a Vehicle-Ramming Attack: Personal Safety Tips

Security PostVehicle-Ramming Attacks: Personal Safety and Situational Awareness

Given how distracted drivers can be, I always stand back from the edge of the curb, knowing a car could accidentally lurch onto the sidewalk and run me down.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes done on purpose, in what have become known as “vehicle-ramming attacks” – which is now being seen in the United States and Canada, as well as abroad.

So what can we do? Be Proactive versus Reactive.

Situational awareness is imperative, but remember, there’s no point in living in a state of constant fear over these very low-probability events. You are far better off staying relaxed, yet observant, as you go about your business, with some knowledge of what to be aware of, and what you would do if an attack took place.

Walk Facing Traffic.  If you walk facing traffic, you can see vehicles coming toward you – and gives you more time to maneuver if you need to. This also makes it harder for a car or van to run over you, or pull alongside you to attempt an abduction.

Understand Your Environment. For the most part, vehicle-ramming attacks are carried out where there are lots of people, AKA a “target-rich environment,” to do the most damage.  Therefore, if  a vehicle-ramming happens at a concert or farmers’ market, etc., be ready to move away from the most crowded areas, which perpetrators would be drawn to.

Take Note of Protective Structures.  Regardless of where you are, ask yourself: If a vehicle-ramming were to occur here, where could I take cover?  What structures are nearby to provide protection?  This could be a pillar, a tree, heavy planter boxes, or even just stepping into a store, lobby, or alcove.

Understand, too, that security and protective design have been implemented since the 1980s, after the resurgence of “smash-and-grab” burglaries.  Many buildings have bollards, as seen in the photo above. These sturdy posts are placed strategically to prevent a vehicle from getting close to a building. Take notice of these, as well as large concrete blocks and footers placed for the same reason.

A car is not good cover.  A larger ramming vehicle can easily push a car over you or smash it into you. Also, beware of taking cover that could leave you trapped, like alleys that have dead ends or other enclosed spaces.

If there is still time, open distance.

It is always best to get as far away as possible, in case the situation includes an explosive device or an armed driver and accomplice.  Alert others, but do not let indecisive people slow you down.

Special Senses: As you go about your day, keep an ear and eye out. It is counter-intuitive to hear or see a vehicle speeding up in an area where all the others are slowing down.

In vehicle-ramming attacks, larger trucks or machinery are often rented for their size and ability to do damage, and the driver may not necessarily be familiar with operating them.  This can result in vehicles being driven poorly or bumping into parked cars. If you hear a series of impact sounds growing progressively louder, this could be that vehicle heading toward you, as it scrapes past parked cars and other structures.

However, having said this, keep in mind this sort of attack can very well involve an ordinary car, as we saw in Charlottesville terror attack of 2017.  Don’t assume a fast-moving car is a police vehicle.

If you see a vehicle weaving and driving, including up onto the curb, again, seek cover.

If the incident turns out to be an accident or something non-malicious, then there is no harm in a false alarm.

Always trust your instincts. If you get a “bad vibe” about your environment, leave, move, or open distance. The military trains soldiers to be in tune with the “atmospherics” of their surroundings and to honor intuition. We should, too.

Final thoughts:  Having your action plan for this rare “What if?” scenario in your back pocket does not make you paranoid. It means you are prepared.

Personal safety is key, and preparedness and awareness are two very intuitive, powerful, and protective tools.

Related: “Condition Yellow” The perfect state of situational awareness.

 

 

 

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Burundanga – Another Predatory Drug

pred-drugs1

I recently received a warning about another predatory, or date rape, drug.

It was the account of a woman who was approached at a gas station by a man offering his painting services. She took his business card, got into her car and left the station. She states that the painter and a second man followed her.

She states that she immediately began to feel dizzy, could not catch her breath, and noticed a strong odor in the car. She apparently went a neighbor’s home and honked her horn for help – at which time she says the men following her drove away.

She noticed a substance on the business card.  Later, she went online and found that a drug called “burundanga” can be used to incapacitate victims after being absorbed through the skin.

This warning email was accompanied by a link to an article written by Stephen Pittel, PhD, a forensic expert and consultant’s site.

Doctor Pittel indeed describes Burundanga as “a potent form of scopalamine that has been used for decades in Columbia in native rituals, as a weapon and by criminals who prey on tourists.”

Doctors most commonly use scopolamine to treat nausea and motion sickness and often with a transdermal patch. Scopolamine can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision even in lower doses.  In higher doses, it can cause delirium, unconsciousness and memory loss – three reasons it has been used as a predatory drug.  As with many substances, alcohol has a compounding effect!

Some authors state that in recent years, fifty percent of emergency room admission for poisoning in Columbia are due to overdoses of this agent.

Pitell and others note that the State Department has issued warnings to those traveling to South American countries to be aware of this potential threat, given the number of tourists who have been robbed after unknowingly ingesting burundanga.

Although this substance is absorbed through the skin, most sources seem to question if one can absorb a large enough dose transdermally from touching a card or travel brochure. The bigger threat is a large dose being put into a drink.

Whether or not the account of the tainted business card is accurate, and whether or not one can absorb enough of a transdermal agent to become incapacitated, is not the real issue.

  • This should remind us that we need to be cognizant of those around us any time we are out in public, and especially when at parties or functions. Any number of substances can be slipped into any beverage, or food for that matter, anywhere and at any time.

My recent blog entry recounts the tragic story of a couple who were robbed after being drugged by someone they befriended at a coffee shop while traveling in Europe.

Substances commonly used as predatory drugs  in the United States include Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine. Even if you open your own sealed bottle of water or can of soda when out in public, be aware that these compounds can be mixed into the ice cubes that a “considerate” person may offer you!

Always watch your drink being prepared, even if it is a latte on a sunny day. Be wary of someone who prepares your drink below bar top level and out of sight. Also be wary of anyone who wants to keep pouring you alcoholic beverages at a party!  Remember, the most commonly used substance for predatory purposes, especially date or acquaintance rape, is alcohol!

Oftentimes a “cocktail” of different substances may be used to incapacitate the victim.

Opioid analgesics such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone, are anti-anxiety medications and muscle relaxants.  Although they are effective pain medications when used appropriately, they are quite dangerous when abused or combined.  Alcohol combined with these medications can result in death, as the victim gradually loses their urge to breathe, also knows as respiratory depression.

Obviously avoiding predatory drugs is paramount. If you are in a public setting or attending a function and do start to suddenly feel sleepy, disoriented and “out of it,” especially accompanied by loss of motor control, it is best to assume you have ingested a harmful agent and seek medical attention immediately.

Waiting to “see if I feel better” only robs you of precious time, time doctors will need to help you!

The most important thing to remember is to keep distance between yourself and strangers. You should always be wary of a stranger closing distance on you regardless of the stated reason, and especially when in an isolated environment! If you are followed, drive to a busy, well-lit area – or even a police or fire station – but not home, to a friend’s house, your place of work, or any location where your children will be.

  • Predatory Drugs are also addressed in our Travel Safety Training.
  • Please visit the Resources area of our site for more information on these and other topics
Related: 

What is Situational Awareness ?

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You are not Paranoid. You are in “Condition Yellow”

I wrote this blog entry some time ago. I did so because so many people that tell me they get accused of being paranoid when in fact they are merely practicing good awareness of their surroundings. The accuser? Usually someone they know well.

Given the continued frustration over this, I thought I would re-post below. Thanks.

Jeff Cooper was a Marine Lieutenant Colonel who developed a color coding system, each descriptive of a person’s state of awareness of their surroundings and mental preparedness.

Condition White-

This is a person that is oblivious of their surroundings. In this condition, the first time a person realized they are in trouble is when it’s too late. They “never saw it coming” since they were not paying attention. Petty thieves and predators alike are very good at identifying those who are in Condition White since they make much easier or “softer” targets. Being preoccupied, day dreaming, text messaging while walking in public, walking head down and never looking around are all sure signs of Condition White!!

Condition Yellow-

Tom Givens a weapons expert and trainer describes Condition Yellow about as well as I have ever heard it articulated

“This is a relaxed state of general alertness, with no specific focal point. You are not looking for anything or anyone in particular; you simply have your head up and your eyes open. You are alert and aware of your surroundings. You are difficult to surprise, therefore, you are difficult to harm. You do not expect to be attacked today. You simply recognize the possibility.”

Below is another succinct description of Condition Yellow

“In Yellow, you are “taking in” surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep.”

Condition Orange

Here you are in a heightened state of awareness and very focused on a potential threat or a situation that you feel could become more serious. You are not in “fight of flight” mode yet, but ready to shift gears to “fight or flight” also known as Condition Red, if need be.

You will remain in Condition Orange until you are satisfied that the potential threat no longer exists, has been adequately dealt with or you have removed yourself form the situation.

You may well feel anything from a mild to moderate “adrenaline dump” which will elevate heart rate and blood pressure, dilate your pupils and shunt oxygen and energy rich blood to you skeletal muscles prepping them for action if need be.

Law enforcement specialists and military trained personal may not experience any physiologic reaction due to their training and how many times they have been in a Condition Orange situation.

Condition Red-

Here you are in “fight or flight” mode and you are ready to do either. The potential threat is now very real and needs to be dealt with. In this state we will experience a full “adrenaline dump” which will dramatically enhance blood flow to large skeletal muscle groups and sharpen our special senses.

This is the situation we do not want to find ourselves in.

This is the situation we can mitigate against by maintaining our Condition Yellow!!!!

Condition Yellow is Not Paranoia

If you are one of those people who “instinctively” pays attention to your surroundings, know what’s going on behind you at all times and in general take inventory of who is around you and what they are up to, you are gifted with being able to “live in Condition Yellow”

You might have developed your Condition Yellow out of need. Perhaps you grew up in a threatening environment. One of your parents might have been in law enforcement or the military, or perhaps you just “have it” period? Either way you do so with such ease the process is almost subconscious. You read peoples body language and your “gut” tells you what situations to avoid.

You might live with or know someone who lives in Condition White who actually accuses you of being paranoid!!

You are not paranoid. You are merely following your instinctive drive to remain alert. You are the person who also runs “what if” scenarios through your mind. You engage in what safety experts call “pre- incident visualization”

You understand that having a strategy tucked away in your data bank will allow you to react if a situation did arise, knowing that there would be no time right then and there to come up with a solution. The thinking must have already been done and warehoused in your mind for instant retrieval.

Your Condition Yellow is such an asset that I encourage you to share your mindset with friends and loved ones.

Randy LaHaie, safety training expert and SWAT specialist says it best. He states that if we work on becoming more aware of our surroundings, it soon becomes “part of our essence”

Visit Randy’s site for great reading on many safety topics at: http://www.protectivestrategies.com

And remember, awareness of our surroundings is our first and best line of defense!!!

Larry Kaminer

Related: What is Situational Awareness?

More commonly seen forms of attack: Vehicle-Ramming Attacks: Personal Safety and Situational Awareness

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Personal Safety During the Holiday Shopping Season

Parking LotsThe days are getting shorter and with the holiday shopping season upon us, we will head to the mall to purchase gifts for our friends and loved ones. Others make their way there too, but with a far different agenda. Even in good economic times, it is well known that criminals see high concentrations of distracted shoppers in mall settings as easy targets.

Most of us multitask: walk to and from our vehicles “heads down”, often chatting on the cell phone, listening to the iPod or merely daydreaming, an oblivious state of mind often referred to as “Condition White”. For criminals, victimizing shoppers in “Condition White” is like “shooting fish in a barrel”.

Who are these criminals and how do they operate?
•The opportunistic criminal loiters in and around mall parking lots, entrances and even bathroom areas looking to grab a package or purse from an unsuspecting, inattentive person.

•Others lay in wait and strike when a “soft target” presents itself. They may hide between vehicles, behind shrubbery or any other structures offering convenient cover from which they can launch an ambush attack leveraging the element of speed and surprise. The back seat of an unlocked vehicle provides an ideal hiding place as well!

•Others actively seek out their prey. They may watch from a standoff position such as the food court or coffee stand or do surveillance from an upper balcony in a multi story mall or department store. They will “shadow” the prospective victim to an isolated area, often the parking lot, underground garage or perhaps an elevator or stairwell and then strike.

How do we present ourselves as “harder targets” to these criminals as they go through their victim selection process? Harder targets tend to operate in what has been described as “Condition Yellow”, a frame of mind in which you are relaxed yet aware of your surroundings and employ sound strategy. Maintaining this mindset is not complicated but it does take practice and discipline. If you work at it enough, it becomes instinctive and takes less conscious effort to maintain.

People in “Condition Yellow”:

•Walk with their heads up, shoulders back and scan their surroundings making them more difficult to surprise. This body language is interpreted to be representative of good self esteem and the conviction to stand their ground and resist if attacked or accosted.

•Walk with brisk athletic stride and purpose of movement. These people are perceived to be more difficult to control physically and are often passed over in favor of those with shuffling, unorganized gait and weak or submissive-looking posture. Walking heads down with rounded slumped shoulders is a prime example.

•Dress down, blend in and wear comfortable footwear that allows them to move quickly.

•Always know what is going on in the blind spot behind them. This area is also known as your “six o’ clock” and is from where most ambush attacks are launched.

•Remember to look up, knowing that criminals do surveillance while “perched” on the high ground such as the aforementioned mall balcony. The “perch” is preferred because very few people ever look up.

•Are good at reading body language and do not deem their instincts as silly or irrational if they get a “bad vibe” from somebody. They honor their intuition and will remain in a well lit, busy area until they are certain that the threat no longer exists or help arrives.

•Carry very little in their hands, allowing them to rapidly bring their arms and hands to bear to fend off an attack.

•Have the discipline to move their vehicles to well-lit parking spaces if they will be at the mall after dark.

•Although not always convenient, make a point of shopping with a friend or family member and, if not able to use the buddy system, are not shy to ask a security guard to walk them to their car.

•Do not draw cash from mall ATMs knowing this attracts unwanted attention.

•Look inside and underneath their vehicles before unlocking and loading packages. (A small flashlight always comes in handy.)

•Do not turn their back on the world as they load their vehicle.

•Lock their vehicles even for the brief time it will take to return the shopping cart.

•Have their car keys in hand, get in, lock and drive away immediately. They do not clear voice mails or read text messages while parked, knowing that they are most vulnerable when in or around a stationary vehicle.

•Remember that what might appear to be a young couple in a parking garage or public area could be a male/ female criminal team at work.

•Do not lapse into a false sense of security and drop their guard just because they are in a well–lit, high traffic area. (Anything can happen, anywhere at any time.)

•Are weary of panel vans or utility vehicles parked on the driver’s side or near their vehicles. It is easy to be pulled through the sliding door of a van.

•Make sure they have not been followed from the mall by paying attention to the vehicles are around or behind them.

As you go about your day, observe others and ask yourself “who would be an easy target to victimize if I were the bad guy”? Make mental notes of all the elements that make the target an easy mark and be sure you are not conducting yourself in the same manner.

This is not an exercise in fear or anxiety. It’s about empowerment. Dial up your “Condition Yellow”, relax and enjoy your holiday shopping.

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Condition Yellow. Not Homeland Security?

istock_000006911692xsmallJeff Cooper was a Marine Lieutenant Colonel who developed a color coding system, each descriptive of a person’s state of awareness of their surroundings and mental preparedness.

Condition White-

This is a person that is oblivious of their surroundings. In this condition, the first time a person realized they are in trouble is when it’s too late. They “never saw it coming” since they were not paying attention. Petty thieves and predators alike are very good at identifying those who are in Condition White since they make much easier or “softer” targets. Being preoccupied, day dreaming, text messaging while walking in public, walking head down and never looking around are all sure signs of Condition White!!

Condition Yellow-

Tom Givens a weapons expert and trainer describes Condition Yellow about as well as I have ever heard it articulated

“This is a relaxed state of general alertness, with no specific focal point. You are not looking for anything or anyone in particular; you simply have your head up and your eyes open. You are alert and aware of your surroundings. You are difficult to surprise, therefore, you are difficult to harm. You do not expect to be attacked today. You simply recognize the possibility.”

Below is another succinct description of Condition Yellow

“In Yellow, you are “taking in” surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep.”

Condition Orange

Here you are in a heightened state of awareness and very focused on a potential threat or a situation that you feel could become more serious. You are not in “fight of flight” mode yet, but ready to shift gears to “fight or flight” also known as Condition Red, if need be.

You will remain in Condition Orange until you are satisfied that the potential threat no longer exists, has been adequately dealt with or you have removed yourself form the situation.

You may well feel anything from a mild to moderate “adrenaline dump” which will elevate heart rate and blood pressure, dilate your pupils and shunt oxygen and energy rich blood to you skeletal muscles prepping them for action if need be.

Law enforcement specialists and military trained personal may not experience any physiologic reaction due to their training and how many times they have been in a Condition Orange situation.

Condition Red-

Here you are in “fight or flight” mode and you are ready to do either. The potential threat is now very real and needs to be dealt with. In this state we will experience a full “adrenaline dump” which will dramatically enhance blood flow to large skeletal muscle groups and sharpen our special senses.

This is the situation we do not want to find ourselves in.

This is the situation we can avoid by maintaining our Condition Yellow!!!!

Condition Yellow is Not Paranoia

If you are one of those people who “instinctively” pays attention to your surroundings, know what’s going on behind you at all times and in general take inventory of who is around you and what they are up to, you are gifted with being able to “live in Condition Yellow”

You might have developed your Condition Yellow out of need. Perhaps you grew up in a threatening environment. One of your parents might have been in law enforcement or the military, or perhaps you just “have it” period? Either way you do so with such ease the process is almost subconscious. You read peoples body language and your “gut” tells you what situations to avoid.

You might live with or know someone who lives in Condition White who actually accuses you of being paranoid!!

You are not paranoid. You are merely following your instinctive drive to remain alert. You are the person who also runs “what if” scenarios through your mind. You engage in what safety experts call “pre- incident visualization”

You understand that having a strategy tucked away in your data bank will allow you to react if a situation did arise, knowing that there would be no time right then and there to come up with a solution. The thinking must have already been done and warehoused in your mind for instant retrieval.

Your Condition Yellow is such an asset that I encourage you to share your mindset with friends and loved ones.

Randy LaHaie, safety training expert and SWAT specialist says it best. He states that if we work on becoming more aware of our surroundings, it soon becomes “part of our essence”

Visit Randy’s site for great reading on many safety topics at: http://www.protectivestrategies.com

And remember, awareness of our surroundings is our first and best line of defense!!!

Larry Kaminer

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