Friday, October 15, 2010

Inside look at a Taser

Here's a nice look at a just fired Taser.

Note the 'afid's produced. This stands for "anti-felon identification" or "AFID" system. This enables the Taser to disperse confetti with serial numbers when it is fired and links the specific Taser to the scene where it is used.

Care to purchase one (or two or a dozen)? Head on over to our personal security products website. They make a great stocking stuffer.

Courtesy of

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home burglarized? Fill out a form

From the front page, lower half of USA Today, August 25, 2010.

The gist of the article is that as budgets get cut, so do services. In this case, it illustrates the principle that you are responsible for your own protection.

As always, the more self-reliant you can be, the better. Please go to our Personal Security Products site and learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your families.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

10 Travel Safety Tips You Can’t Afford To Ignore

10 Travel Safety Tips You Can’t Afford To Ignore
Written by Lea - courtesy of Location Independent
Having survived cities such as New York, London, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh and Sydney, and a fair few other places such as Belize City, Mexico, Guatemala, Budapest, and Prague (back when it was far less touristy), I’ve learned how to keep myself relatively *safe* but you can never be too careful.
There is one travel experience I will never forget…and it involves being robbed of $200 by a group of 10 year old girls on the streets of Nice, France. It’s one of those things I’ll never forget for 3 reasons:
* At the time, I considered myself a fairly experienced traveller having flown and travelled to far flung places since the age of about five.
* The sneaky & crafty way in which they did it still astounds me – but knowing their trick has saved me (and some friends) on more than once occasion from succumbing to the same fate.
* The fact that I was robbed by 10 year old children is still just a tad embarrassing.
Here’s how I was robbed by kids…
A group of young girls crowded round me asking for money and holding out a piece of paper in front of them, asking me to read it. I tried to push them away but they kept swarming round me and pawing at me, asking me to read this sign and surrounding me, despite the best efforts of my girlfriends to help push them away.
After a couple of minutes I felt a small tugging on the security money pouch I was wearing (but hadn’t had time to tuck away properly – duh!). I looked down and as I did the kids scarpered having clearly been rumbled. I noticed the zip was open about an inch and was convinced they couldn’t have taken much from such a small opening. They’d actually snaffled around $200.
Another would-be thief tried the same tactic on me again whilst I was having a coffee with a friend in London a year or so later; our mobile phones were on the table and some guy came up to our table and held a piece of cardboard over the table in front of our faces and told us to read it. Wise to his trick, I immediately shoved it away and grabbed our stuff off the table and he skulked away empty-handed.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 1: Don’t Let Them Distract You
If kids or anyone else ever come up to you begging or holding out a piece of paper/cardboard or something else in front of them, push it away immediately and secure your belongings. This is just a distraction so their nifty little fingers can get at your valuables.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 2: Secure your luggage
When everything you own is carried round with you, it’s of paramount importance to keep this safe and sound. Even if it’s not worth much, it’s all you’ve got on your nomadic wanderings and what seems of little value to you, may be exceptionally tempting and valuable to people in the countries you visit. Keeping your luggage safe means securing it in any way possible, to prevent and deter anyone from tampering with or stealing your luggage…
* Always have a lock for your luggage – TSA-approved padlocks help to ensure that airport security don’t just cut it off and leave your luggage unlocked, plus they let you know if your luggage has been inspected.
* If you’re travelling on trains or you need to secure your bags temporarily (even if you’re sitting right next to them), then consider getting a backpack & bag mesh protector which encases your bag in a wire mesh and allows you to lock it securely to something to avoid it being taken.
* To help keep your possessions as safe as possible in your room both when you’re there or when you’re not, consider a travel door alarm to alert you of any suspicious activity.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 3: Secure your laptop
As a nomadic, work-anywhere entrepreneur your laptop is probably one of the most prized items you’re carrying. Not only is it crucial to running your business wherever you are, it probably cost a fair bit of money too. It’s well worth securing this valuable item with extra precaution and measures…
* Consider carrying a laptop lock and using it to secure your laptop up when you leave your accommodation and/or if you use it at airports, in cafes or other places where it can easily be snaffled from right under your nose.
* You should also consider the type of bag you carry your laptop in – whilst a fancy Tumi laptop case might set you apart from the commuters in New York or London, it’s almost as good as carrying a sign above your head forecasting your “rob-ability”. Try getting a laptop backpack that looks more like an adventure backpack. Alternatively, you could try the Pacfsafe Theft-proof bag.
* There are certain places where you probably want to avoid carrying your laptop around with you. As nice as it might be to go and work on the beach or from a wireless cafe, be aware of who sees you out and about with it and keep it under wraps. You may also want to avoid broadcasting the fact that you have a laptop at your accommodation by wandering in and out of your accommodation with it under your arm.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 4: Secure your cash & credit cards
* You may or may not be a fan of those travel wallets that strap to various parts of your body. Whether you use one or not may depend upon where you’re going and whether you need to carry huge wads of cash about with you. If you do use one, then I’d recommend the more authentic “belts“over the leg, waist or shoulder-type pouches – unless, as a woman, it doesn’t go with your outfit!
* Keep a note of your credit card numbers and the telephone numbers needed to cancel them (but not the security number and/or expiration date). Whilst some people advise making photocopies of the front & back of your card, if these get mislaid or stolen the thief can use the details to order online.You can keep a soft copy of your cards, password-protected on your laptop if you must.
* You should let your credit card company and bank know that you will be overseas – and ideally where you’ll be. Banks monitor suspected fraudulent use and will stop a card from working if they suspect it. Whilst it often only takes a phone call to reactivate it, it’s more efficient to let them know your travel plans in advance.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 5: Keep your eyes and ear peeled
If you’re new to a city and haven’t quite got the measure of the different neighbourhoods, then keep your wits about you as you’re walking around. You can usually tell whether you’ve unwittingly wandered into a different area by the type of people walking around, the state of the buildings and shop fronts on the streets.
If you don’t notice any other tourists and you do see more threatening looking people around, then walk confidently in the direction you came (unless you know a quicker way out already) without getting your map out and head back to a safer, more touristy/populated area.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 6: Blend in – or at least try not to stand out
If you are trying to blend in with locals – or at least stand out less – then on your first day in a place, notice how the locals dress and dress accordingly. Dead giveaways include:
* Wearing sandals with white socks
* Wearing trainers/sneakers
* Wearing a bum-bag/fanny pack (unless you’re in the US perhaps)
* Carrying a camera around your neck
* Having a tourist map sticking out of your pocket
* Wearing shorts & t-shirts when everyone else is dressed for business

Top Travel Safety Tip# 7: Avoid public demonstrations and marches
As exciting as it may seem to join a public march or demonstration, if you’re in unfamiliar territory and a foreign land, then it’s best to avoid these. Whilst peaceful demonstrations may be the norm in your country, you don’t know that this will be the case in a foreign country and your visa may also be at risk if you are caught taking part in political demonstrations. It’s just not worth the risk for that little bit of excitement and camaraderie you might experience at the time.
Top Travel Safety Tip# 8: Avoid broadcasting your lack of local knowledge
Unless you’re in a touristy area where everyone else is doing the same, the be careful about getting your map out and trying to figure out where you are. The same goes for standing in the middle of the road and pointing vigorously to specific points of interest in the distance – another dead giveaway that you’re less than a local.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 9: Always know your escape route
As you’re walking around unfamiliar areas, especially in the dark, take note of specific landmarks, buildings and amenities. If you ever feel threatened, it’s useful to know a ‘friendly’ place you can duck into (the nearest shop, bar, cafe, gas station, mini mart or restaurant) as soon as you can to either call for help or wait until the threat has passed.

Top Travel Safety Tip# 10: Leave your valuables at ‘home’
Depending upon where you are, you may want to consider always leaving your laptop, jewellery, watches or other expensive items at home rather than carting them around with you. Whilst some people have had bad experiences of laptops and valuables being stolen whilst left in a room/apartment, being robbed of an item directly from your person can be a far more unpleasant experience. Plus, you’re increasing the chance of something else happening (like dropping it or losing it) whilst you’re out and about.
The most effective advice is this…if you ever *feel* threatened, but you’re not quite sure why, then follow your instincts and get out of the situation you’re in as quickly as possible. We have instincts for a reason…trust them!

Friday, August 6, 2010

10 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

From Expat Daily News - a short note about travel safety for ladies, applicable to men, too.

Great tips, and especially applicable for those going off to college soon.

I also posted this on my Yacht Security site.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Travel Security, Final Part

The planning and execution of the attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City illustrates this process. Consider how a vigilant person might have recognized indications of a threat.
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 building.
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, TX 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 routes.
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 compound in Waco, TX.
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 get-away 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 attack.
. Association: 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 YOU ARE SAFE TRAVELING IN THE US OR WESTERN EUROPE? Consider this... within the United States, several organizations and individuals use 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-Qaida cells still exist within the nation's borders. (Note: Perhaps you can add the Ft. Hood shootings to this as well)
Home-grown terrorism is a reality. During the 1960s and 70s, 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, AZ is now the kidnapping capitol of the world.
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/Brasil/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-Qaida, 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 COMMON MARKET: 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-Qaida 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.
. AFRICA: 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-Qaida, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, and Al Shabaab. (Note: The increases of piracy off both coasts are more examples.)
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 personnel.
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 bombings.

. Pacific Rim/SE 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 Qaida 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 state 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 Venezuela. 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 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 WalMart granola bars, peanut butter and crackers... MREs, if space is available. You should also have lots of spare batteries, a flashlite... I use a head-band light, a bottle for water, a fire-starter kit (cotton balls soaked in vaseline with a sparkstriker and a Bic disposable lighter). Want more ideas? Research the web for what others have assembled as EDC: Every Day Carry survival bags on the web. If you want to read how life is affected by a total societal meltdown, read the blog of FerFal, a student of architecture during the 2001 financial meltdown. 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.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is to maintain a positive and happy attitude while preparing for the unthinkable.

I hope you have enjoyed the series. It is thought provoking, and hopefully will help readers of this blog desire to search out more information. The world out there can be scary, but it should not be a hindrance to people getting out and traveling. It is unfortunate that the 1% chance of something happening will prevent many from enjoying the many people and cultures of the world.
Safe Travels.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Travel Security, Part Five

Part Five of our ongoing series.
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 off 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 vision.
. 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. etc THAT'S 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's REALLY not easy. OPTIMALLY, PLAN TO TRY TO APPEAR TO BE AN IMPOVERISHED, ANTISOCIAL, 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 hi-value prize that they can't afford to give you up except for a big payoff... 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 were 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 opportunities.
. 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.
The TYPES of SURVIVOR are as follows: fighter, thinker, realist, connector and 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, WHEN THE UNTHINKABLE OCCURS, YOU WILL MAKE THE CORRECT CHOICES OF 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 FOR 2+ MINUTES, NO AMOUNT OF TRAINING WILL SUFFICE. 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.

Note: Attitude and fitness are the key to prevailing in confrontations. Attitude will also improve as fitness improves. in addition to KCT mentioned above, check out Yau Kung Mun for more information on a traditional martial art that can assist you. Also, I have found that Target Focus Training (TFT) provides great resources that can be added to a traditional martial artist’s toolbox.

Travel Security, Part Four

Part Four of our short series from Captain Rick.

See You can carry pepper spray in checked luggage on SOME airlines. Local cops not trying to rip you off typically won't hassle you for having it for DEFENSE. It is not against the law in any part of the world that I am aware of. EXAMPLE: Two US guys off a private sailboat walking down the street in beautiful downtown Cartegena, Colombia in broad daylite when 5 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 criminal 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.

The good news is that accurately applied pepper compounds really work. I have seen very tall, large musclebound 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 chrystal meth... doesn't work. Doesn't even slow 'em down. A really, really drunk Mejicano I 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 everywhere... but, it requires good judgment and adult behavior.

. FIREARMS: 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 A2s. 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 optional

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 passers by... 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 to them and held them at bay 30 feet away with a pistol as his two thug friends came running up from behind. 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 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 unsummoned 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. They lived through the experience, and we can learn from them.
. 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 if they didn't already have the gun out and ready.

Gunfights are serious matters. The outcome is serious. 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. EVERY 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 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 I may suggest...

. If using a semi-auto, arm yourself with a CO2 pistol as close to the type you will be using, practice drawing and firing 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 recruiting 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 websites describing such books, and recommendations are available from gun enthusiast and survival blogs. I first read 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.

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 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... Bit_h 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 THESE TWO 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... 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 – 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 5 armed guys stripping a guy on the street at nite… 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, 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 days.

. 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/foto 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 cops getting 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... 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. Be advised... 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 flashlite butt from eBay so it appears to be a flashlite with a long handle... doesn't even look extendable. The flashlite module gives good light and replaces the butt ferrule.

More about legality. In the State of Texas it is legal to have a shotgun or rifle, loaded, in your car. It can be concealed or in plain sight per TX law. Local jurisdictions in TX may vary. You do not need any kind of permit or license. HOWEVER, the statute says "handgun, knife or club" is illegal except with a concealed carry permit, or if crossing three different county lines while traveling in a 24 hour period, concealed or not. Legally, TX officers CAN arrest you... especially if you mouth off to them... if you have an UNLOADED rifle or shotgun in the vehicle, concealed or not, because it can be considered a club. I am not kidding. The cops don't care if it will hold up in court, and will let you go in 24 hours with a big grin. Don't bother asking to get the weapon back. Collapsible batons, pool cues, unusual walking sticks/canes, baseball bats can be considered by the courts to be violations of the statute. You can probably get off if you hire an attorney and don't have a criminal record. A carry permit covers everything.

But... if you are fluent in the local language, do not show off or act like a jerk, you may be get by OK with a collapsible baton in most countries. EXAMPLE: I have carried my "flashlite with an extensible handle" in MX, in Colombia and Argentina on and off cruise ships (the worst questioning I had to endure while going thru bag checks by ship personnel). I had a problem with an 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. Woooops! 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 flashlite. With an expressionless face, he extended it. I showed him my FL 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, etc... still smiling... 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 $50 for my own stupidity... it would have been fine in checked luggage. No problem... I got another one off eBay for about $50 and resolved to ALWAYS recheck 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 keychain. 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 walkaround 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 pockets.

. 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. 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 locations.

Note: Items pictured here are available at