Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biological Warfare and Disease

The third kind when it comes to weapons of mass destruction is biological weapons. Biological agents are either living microorganisms like bacteria or viruses or toxins produced by microorganisms. In the case of bacteria and viruses they may continue to spread from human to human after an attack with biological weapons have taken place.

Bacteria and Viruses are the most common form of micro organisms that causes disease. Bacteria are living organisms; infections caused by bacteria can often be treated with different forms of antibiotics. Some types of bacteria are by its very nature very resistant against antibiotics, TBC is one example. Lately some strains of antibiotics have started to develop a resistance against different forms of antibiotics. Viruses are different from bacteria: they can only live inside the living cells of living creature. The multiply by infecting a cell and making it produce viruses instead. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, but there are some new anti viral medicines that reduces the impact of viruses.

Bacteria can also produce biological toxins; one of the most famous examples is the botulinum toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This toxin is incredible toxic; 1 gram of the most dangerous variant could theoretically kill millions of people. The toxin is destroyed by heat; boiling water for a couple of minutes will destroy any toxin within the water. There is a vaccine against the bacteria and an antiserum against the toxin.

Historical Examples
1300:s Bubonic plague kills millions in Europe

1346 the Mongols catapulted infected bodies over the city walls at Kaffa in order to spread disease.

1763 during the French and Indian war the British forces gave blankets infected with smallpox to hostile Indian tribes.

1870s epidemics of Yellow Fever strikes Memphis, Tennessee. The population of the city is majorly reduced both because of deaths and because people escape from the city.

1918 The Spanish Flu turned into a pandemic that killed around 20-50 million people, that equaled around 3% of the world total population at that time.

1928 Alexander Fleming discovers Penicillin.

1939 with Fleming’s discovery Ernst Chain and Howard Florey managed to produce the first commercial penicillin. This was a major breakthrough in medicine for the treatment of bacteria.

1939-1945 During the Second World War Japanese forces in China experimented with different kinds of disease on Chinese prisoners. The Japanese also spread bubonic plague against Chinese cities. There is a lot of different data on how many that actually died from these attack and figures vary from tens of thousands to hundred of thousand dead. During the Second World War only around 1% died as result of infectious disease, this was a rapid reduction compared to the first World War, around two third of all deaths then was related to infections and disease. This decrease came as a result of better living standards and new medications.

1956-58 The Asian Flu Pandemic caused around 2 million deaths worldwide.

1968 Around one million dies from the Hong Kong flu worldwide.

1969 President Richard Nixon brings an end to the US Biological Weapon Program.

1971 – 1973 The US destroys its stockpiles of biological weapons.

1975 The Convention on the Prohibition the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC) was signed by the Soviet Union and the US.

1973 The first outbreak of the disease Ebola is recorded. Some strains have had a case fatality rate over 80%, sometimes close to 90%.

1979 There was an outbreak of Anthrax in the city Sverdlovsk in the Soviet union. It was later confirmed that this outbreak was caused by an accidental leakage from a military production facility. The number of dead from this event varies from 60 an up.

1980 After an intense global vaccination program the disease Smallpox is officially declared eradicated. This one of the few diseases that mankind has been able to eradicate. The virus is however kept in laboratories in both Russia and the US today and is one of the most effective diseases that could be used as a biological weapon.

1981 The first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS is reported by the US Center for Disease and Control (CDC).

1984 an sect in India contaminated salad bars in India with salmonella, many people became sick but no one died as result.

1986 The first cases of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) also known as Mad Cow Disease is found in Animals. It was not believed that the disease could be contracted by humans at first and the number of infected animals kept increasing for a long time.

1988 The Soviet disposes much of their biological weapons by burying them instead of destroying them. There is some fear that some of this sites eventually may start to leak some of these pathogens.

There is some unconfirmed information concerning that the Soviet Union created a super plague during the 1980:s that would be resistant against all kinds of antibiotics. The Soviet Union had a very ambitious bio weapon program with tens of thousands of employees.

During the 1990s the Japnese sect Aum Shinrikyo that attacked the Tokyo Subway with nerve gas tried to develop biological weapons as well.

1992 Boris Yeltsin officially admits that the Soviet Union has continued its bio weapons program after signing the BWC in 1975 and ends Russia’s bio weapons program.

1995 The first cases of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) was recorded, the persons effected had worked with cattle during the BSE epidemics. Around 200 persons have died so far from CJD, most of them in Great Britain. The case of BSE & CJD is examples of what can happen if government agencies don’t take threats seriously. It’s by belief that cases like this may be a factor on why we often see over reactions from government agencies, like in the current case of the Swine Flu.

1996 The HAART treatment against HIV/AIDS is introduced.

2001 After 9/11 attacks there was at least five letters containing Anthrax spores sent to three media corporations and two US senators. 22 people were confirmed contracting anthrax, five of these persons died from the disease. 45 buildings was contaminated with anthrax spores and antibiotics was given as a prophylactic measure on a massive scale to people how could have been exposed. In spore form anthrax is resistant to sun light and temperature changes. Anthrax spores may have a life time up to a hundred years.

2009 Swine Flu has become a major topic in the media. Right now there is about 620.000 confirmed cases to the World Health Organization and around 8000 that died from the disease worldwide. In comparison to the Spanish Flu 1918 and the Asian flu 1957 the real threat and mortality seems to be very low.

There has also been some accusation against the US for using smallpox against the North Korean capital during the Korean War and other biological weapons against Cuba but there have been no conclusive evidence that this have been the case.

Early Warning
A disease that is used as biological weapons does not have the same instant effect a nuclear or chemical weapon has. It may take days or even weeks before symptoms start to emerge. So there is a big chance that the people how’s exposed to a biological weapons won’t know that they been exposed before they start to get sick, and even then it may be easy to assume that disease has natural causes.

Personal Hygiene and Protection
One of the most important aspects when it comes to avoiding biological warfare and different kind of infectious diseases is personal hygiene. The importance can’t be overstressed. The most important part of personal hygiene is to clean your hands, the majority of all infections is spread when people somehow get a pathogen on their hands and touch their face, mouth or eyes. Soap and water is an excellent way to clean your hands, soap is a natural killer of different pathogens. The skin is an excellent barrier against diseases as long as it’s not damaged, if you use to much soap your hands may become dry and your skin may rupture and pathogens may enter your body. There is other alcohol based hand sanitizer that also is very effective. The combination of soap water, drying your hand and then using alcohol based disinfections is best. Remember to your entire hand and your wrists. Give extra attention to the back of your hand and your thumb, these areas is often missed. If you’re treating people with wounds use surgical gloves if possible, clean your hands before and after. Hygiene in general is very important in a crisis situation: keep your nails short, brush your teeth, use floss and fluoride mouthwash. A safe solution to use as a toilet is also important. A portable camping shower, bleach, soap, washing powder to clean cloths and shampoo may be good equipment to have in storage at your home. Facemasks may provide some protection against airborne disease, but the most important part is to not stand in front of the airflow from anyone sick that’s coughing. NBC gasmasks also offers protection against airborne attacks and disease but it’s very hard to know when an attack is actually happening; it can be days before symptoms start to appear.

Tuberculosis - TB
10 million contracts TB every year, mainly in poorly developed countries and 3-4 million die each year from the disease. The disease is highly resistant against antibiotics; the normal treatment requires three form of antibiotics to be taken every day for six months. However in many parts of the world people don’t go through with the entire treatment and this causes resistant strains of TBC. There are some strains of TBC that are resistant to all forms of antibiotics. There is also a vaccine against TBC available and new ones are being developed. The data for how effective the current vaccine are varies but in some cases it may provide a protection up to 80% and the effect is believed to last for 15 years. The vaccine can cause lethal side effects, but this is very unusual and normally happens to person how another disease or a low immune system function.

The HIV/AIDS virus has gotten an enormous amount of attention in the Media. The HIV/AIDS virus is a Virus that attacks the human immune system and in time this causes the victims to die from secondary infections or cancer. If not treated patients normally die 10 years after they contracted the virus, the HIV/AIDS is basically deadly in all cases if not treated. There is however effective treatment that was introduced 1996 called HAART. These drugs are antiviral drugs that reduce the amount of virus people have in their system to a level that doesn’t present any health issues. There are side effects to this treatment and some people are allergic against the antiviral drugs, but most people how live in the western world don’t have health problems because of the virus. There is how ever an enormous social stigma to carry the disease and the antiviral drugs must be taken at a regular basis every day. Around 30-35 million people worldwide carry the HIV/AIDS virus, around 1,5 million of these cases are in North America. It’s been sad to many times but the best way to protect yourself is to use a condom and make regular checks at your doctor.

Cholera is the worst form of diarrheal disease that exists. It’s a very common disease that often follows war and disasters when the sanitation systems break down. The number of people how dies in this disease are normally under 5% but the disease will seriously weaken the person how get exposed and make them vulnerable to other infections. This is one of the major causes why hygiene, clean water and sanitation are very important after a disaster; this will reduce the risk that you contract this and many other diseases. There is a vaccine that offers around 80% protection. But the effect only last a few year, then new doses are required.

Recommended vaccination:
Booster against Tetanus
Tuberculosis - TB
Hepatitis A & B
Cholera if you’re going to a high risk area.
There are also regional diseases that there are vaccines against, always talk with your doctor for advice and a recommendation.

How is most vulnerable?
In general there are some categories of people how are more vulnerable to disease then other:
· Very young children
· Very old people
· Pregnant women
· People suffering from cancer
· Untreated persons with HIV and AIDS
· People suffering from Starvation or Famine

Threat Assessment
Biological organisms are a natural part of our world and we have developed different kind of medications and vaccines to cope with these problems. Bacteria may become a very serious problem in the future if antibiotics resistance continues to increase; the life expectancy may drop sharply around the world as a result if not new effective medicines are produced. Biological weapons may be genetically designed to have this resistance but in the long perspective I believe that natural resistance against antibiotics is a larger threat than genetically modified biological weapons. Should a new disease with high mortality breakout it’s important to understand that the sanitation system today will help to reduce the spread compared to the spread of plague in the 1300s. But modern communications like air travel may spread a disease very fast. It’s my belief that the current pandemic of swine flu will increase most countries ability to handle this form of crisis because valuable lessons have been learnt and people in general have become more aware of the threat and the importance of especially hand hygiene.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nuclear Weapons and Radioactive Dangers

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons that mankind has ever created. They have a destructive capability that excites all other weapons. Nuclear weapons creates both enormous amount of thermal energy, a blast wave, initial radiation and radioactive fallout plus and electromagnetic pulse. There are many potential delivery systems like air craft, missiles, bombs, cruise missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Many of the US and Russian weapons are based on strategic submarines. Modern intercontinental ballistic missiles can in some cases carry more than one nuclear war head, this means that one missile can strike more than one target. This is often referred to as multiply independently targetable reentry vehicles or MIRVs. This means that both Russia and the US can have several hundred nuclear warheads on each strategic submarine. The strategic submarines mean that even if an surprise attack against the US or Russia would be successful they could retaliate with hundred, maybe even thousands of nuclear weapons against an attacker. The possibility to destroy an enemy in case of an attack is called MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction.

Three types of different radiation is the major problem in Nuclear or radiological scenario: Alfa particles, Beta particles and Gamma rays. Alfa particles have a very low penetration power; they can’t penetrate the skin on the body. But if you inhale Alfa particles into your lungs, drink contaminated water, eat contaminated food or have a cut in your skin you may suffer serious damage from Alfa particles. Beta particles have a slightly higher penetration capability and can cause damage to unprotected skin that resembles the kind of wounds you attract from burn damages. Regular clothing gives some protection but the best protection is some kind of rubber or plastic clothing. Gamma rays have a very high penetration power and the cant really be stopped, the radiation dose can only be reduced by various materials. Materials with a high density like lead or concrete gives the best protection against gamma rays. Neutron radiation is similar to gamma rays with a high penetration.

Radiation Sickness
Radiation causes damage to the cells of the body, if the dose of radiation is big enough the person will become sick, even die if the dose is big enough. The chance of contracting cancer and tumors also increases if persons are submitted to radiation. Early symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, being tiered and vomiting.

A gasmask prevents radioactive Alfa and Beta particles from entering your body trough the lungs. If a nuclear or radiological situation would happen cover up with anything you can find, normal cloths is better than nothing, then get into cover as fast as you can. A basement in a building or fallout shelter is the best option. If no such cover is available, pick the most central location on the ground floors in a building. Use the same routine as with chemical warfare; close all windows, doors and ventilation. Use tape or whatever you can find to make the protection better. Clean your entire body to remove as much radioactive particles as possible. Find out where your nearest fallout shelter or Bomb shelter is located.

There is prophylactic treatment that can be used in advance to exposure. Iodide tablets decreases the amount of radiation that the body accumulates by preventing radiation from being absorbed and then leave the body with the urine. This is only reduces some of the effects, it doesn’t prevent them. The immune system often gets severally damaged as an effect of radiation poisoning, often resulting in fatal infections. In the case of an attack with nuclear weapons many surviving people will suffer burn damages from thermal radiation as well as radiation burns, this will make people even more vulnerable to infection. Antibiotics are often given after exposure to prevent infections. Keep all wounds clean and covered.

Dirty Bombs
There is a possibility that radiological materials could be spread by being attached to a conventional bomb to cause even more damage to people. If highly radioactive material like depleted fuel from a nuclear power plant is used there would be a major problem for those how attempt to construct the bomb to actually survive making of the bomb. I have been unable to find any case where a “dirty bomb” has been used.

High Attitude Electro Magnetic Pulse (HEMP)
A nuclear explosion that takes place above 30000m creates a powerful electromagnetic pulse. A explosion that triggered high enough could take out most of the electronic systems and communication system in almost the entire continental United States or the European Union. An electromagnetic pulse has no direct effect on people. William R. Forchten describes a scenario like this in he’s fictional book “One Second After”.

Events involving Nuclear Weapons and Radiological Materials
1942 The Manhattan Project gets started with the objective of creating nuclear weapons. In July 1945 the first nuclear bomb called “Trinity” was tested in New Mexico.

1945 The Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attacked with nuclear weapons. The weapons used was relatively weak in comparison to the weapons of today (15 and 20 kilotons), but still about 200.000 died of the total population that was less than 500.000. This is the only cases where nuclear weapons been used against an enemy in history.

1952 The US tests the first hydrogen bomb in history named “Mike”, the bomb had an explosive force about 10,5 Megatons.

1952 there was a partial meltdown of the NRX research reactor in Canada. Most of the radioactive leakage was contained within the building housing the reactor.

1961 The Soviet Union tested the most powerful nuclear weapon in history: Tsar Bomba. The nuclear weapon had an explosive force about 60 megatons, 3 megatons is equal to all explosives used in the entire Second World War. 1 Megaton equals 1000 kilotons of explosive force. 1 kiloton equals 1000 tons of TNT. So Hiroshima equaled: 15.000 tons, Tsar Bomba 60.000.000 tons of TNT.

1961 the nuclear reactor aboard the Soviet Strategic Submarine K-19 malfunctions and almost has a complete meltdown. Radioactive cooling water leaks from the reactor. A total meltdown was prevented but eight of the crew later died from radiation sickness.

1962 The Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons and missiles on Cuba. An armed confrontation that could have lead to a nuclear war was very close but could be diverted. This incident is often referred to as The Cuban Missile Crisis. I strongly recommend the book “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis” by Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow that analysis the crisis from three different perspectives. There is also a movie about the event called “Thirteen days”.

1967 The US reached its peak in number of nuclear warheads at around 32.500 warheads.

1969 there was a partial meltdown in a small reactor in Lucens, Switzerland. The area containing the reactor was contaminated but no human was exposed. No one died as a result of the incident.

1979 The Three Mile Island accident was the most serious incident in American history until today. There was conflicting information about the accident the first days, there was some radioactive fallout but no one died as direct result. However the fallout may have caused some fatalities from cancer.

1981 Israeli aircraft bombs the Osiraq research reactor in Iraq.

1986 Mordechai Vanunu reveals evidence of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press. He was kidnapped in Rome by Israel intelligence agents and brought back to Israel where he was tried for espionage and treason. He was imprisoned for 18 years and released in 2004. Israel has never gone public with their possession of nuclear weapons.

1986 The Soviet Union reaches its peak with about 45.000 nuclear warheads.

1986 there was a meltdown at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. 56 died as direct result and hundreds of thousands was exposed to radiation. How many of these that have or will die as a result of cancer is a debated question. Many other countries also got affected by radioactive fallout. This is the worst accident at nuclear power plants until this day.

Sometime during the end of the 1980:s South Africa destroyed all its nuclear weapons. South Africa is the only nuclear power that completely destroyed their nuclear weapons, this was made public 1991.

1999 there was an incident at the Tokaimura nuclear waste storage facility in Japan. It caused radioactive leakage that killed two of the employees.

2006 North Korea makes its first nuclear weapon test. Most information indicates that this was a test with a weapon of relatively weak warhead.

In 2006 the Russian journalist Alexander Litvinenko dies after he’s been poisoned with the radioactive material polonium.

Russia has continued to develop missile systems after the end of the Cold War. One of the current missile projects Bulava are designed to penetrate missile defense systems. The Bulava missiles is intended to be carried by a new Russian class of submarines, the Borei class that is under development.

2011 A massive earthquake outside the coast of Japan results in a devastating Tsunami that resulted in massive physical destruction to the east coast of Japan. The Tsunami knocks out the back-up generators and cooling system at the Nuclear Power plant at Fukushima, during the process of trying to cool the reactors with seawater explosions and radioactive fallout has followed. The full extent of damage and radioactive fallout is still not known.
The Situation Today
Existing nuclear powers: The United States and Russia are the most powerful nuclear powers in the world, they have still have around 10.000 warheads per country. France, The United Kingdom, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea also have nuclear weapons but not nearly as many as the US and Russia. South Africa used to have nuclear weapons but have chosen to destroy their weapons.

There is a possibility that terrorist could get there hand on a nuclear weapon but it would be very hard for a terrorist group to build a weapon from scratch. It’s my belief that the weapon would have to be either supplied by a state or stolen from a state. The security measures surrounding nuclear weapons would make that highly unlikely, but not impossible. The bombs have to be activated, if this is done wrong the modern weapons will seize to function and the process to reset them is complicated, this can often only be done at the installation where they were built. And if a weapons would be stolen the country would chase the people how had stolen it with all resources of a modern state.

If a country would supply a nuclear weapon to terrorist group there is a very high risk that the weapon would be traced back to country that supplied it and the country would most likely face massive retaliation. A terrorist attack with a high attitude EMP is even more unlikely because of need for an advanced missile as well as a nuclear war head.

US Defensive Systems
The US withdrew from the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty 2002 and has some operational systems that can intercept ballistic missiles and some that are under development. The sea based Aegis system is designed to shoot down air craft and incoming ship to ship missiles and is being developed further for this purpose. There is also the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 System that uses missiles. The THAAD system is designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles as they re-enter earths atmosphere, the entire system is mobile and be moved by transport planes. MEADS is also an ongoing project involving US, Germany and Italy. The Airborne Laser (ABL) is a project to shot down missiles with a laser mounted in aircraft, this system is under development. The ABL system and THAAD system has been covered on the show “Future Weapons” on the Discovery channel for anyone looking for more information. How effective ballistic defense systems would really be is hard to say.

There is also stationary equipment to detect radioactive particles and radiation at US port, airports, many major cities and at important installations. So even if a non state actor could get their hands on nuclear weapons it would be hard to smuggle it into the US and there is a real chance it could be intercepted before reaching its target. In addition to this almost every modern country has a series of automatic stationary systems spread over the country that can detect radioactive fallout in an early stage. This is one of the lessons learned from Chernobyl.

The use of nuclear weapons is in my opinion a very low probability scenario but the most disastrous scenarios that could ever happen.

If you want to learn about how triage is planned to work after a nuclear incident I recommend that you check out the report “The “RTR” Medical Response System for Nuclear and Radiological Mass-Casualty Incidents”.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Threat from Chemical Warfare

Chemical Warfare
Weapons of Mass Destruction are often divided in to three categories: NBC: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare. As a first step in covering the different kinds of Weapons of Mass Destruction I’m going to write about chemical warfare. Chemical weapons have different kinds of effects, but normally they kill, injure or incapacitates. Nerve agents are the most lethal of the chemical weapons. They are extremely poisonous, have no color and only a weak scent. If they are inhaled they may kill in a matter of minutes, many of the nerve agents may penetrated the skin, and in this case it may be up to half an hour before symptoms appear. To be protected against nerve agents a full body suit is required and a gasmask. To protect against nerve agents there is an also prophylactic tablet that can be taken before exposure and auto injectors that may be taken after exposure.

Examples of Events and Large Scale Accidents
1914-1918 During The First World War chemical weapons was used extensively by both sides and over a million were injured and over one hundred thousand killed by this type of weapon.

1939-1945 During the Second World War Poisonous gas was used in the Nazi concentration camps on a massive scale as one way of many to kill millions. Both the US and Germany has large stockpiles of chemical weapons, but they never came in to use during the Second World War.

1955-1975 During the Vietnam War chemical agents were used by the American forces to clear areas from vegetation, the most famous of these chemicals agents was Agent Orange.

1980-1988 The war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980:s was one of the most violent conflicts of the Cold War, both sides used chemical weapons in the war. The war was the first conflict when nerve gas was used as weapons of war.

1984 the worst chemical accident in history to place in the city Bhopal in India. The accident happened at night and around 2500 died and around 50000 was injured. The chemical agents were a leakage from a factory producing pesticides. Large scale chemical accidents are unusual but small scale accident is more common.

Saddam Hussein’s regime used nerve gas and mustard gas against the Kurdish city Halabja 1988 after the Iran-Iraq war, an attack that killed thousands of civilians and many more was injured. When the first Gulf War started 1991 there was a big fear that Iraq would use chemical weapons against the coalition forces. This was a much pressured situation for the Iraqi regime but they still chose not to employ chemical weapons.

1995 The Attack against the Tokyo Subway by the sect Aum Shinrikyo is the most devastating attack with a nerve gas by a non state actor in history. The delivery system was very primitive but the attack still killed twelve persons and injured a couple of thousands. The Cult had also attacked another Japanese city in 1994 where seven was killed and a couple of hundred was injured.

2002 Russian forces employed a chemical agent to incapacitate both the Chechnya rebels and the hostages in a Moscow theater. Over 100 hostages died as a result.

2003 The fear that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was an important factor when the decision was made to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein’s regime 2003.

Teargas or mace is often used a riot control agent in various countries. Teargas is normally not lethal and incapacities the people how get affected by the gas. The difference between the level of exposure that incapacitates people and the level that is lethal is very big. For a dose to be lethal exposure must normally take place within a closed are without circulation of the air. This is the chemical weapon that you are most likely to get exposed to in my opinion. Normally the symptoms from the gases are gone within half an hour.

Transports of Chemical Agents
A potential risk comes from chemical agents that are being transported. The containers are constructed to withstand accidents so serious consequences are unusual, but nothing is perfect and accident in a high density populated area could have disastrous consequences. Transport of dangerous chemical agents is also a potential target for antagonistic attacks like terrorism or crime.

The Threat Today
Chemical Weapon Conventions means that both the US and Russia are reducing and will completely remove their possession of lethal chemical weapons. The US has stopped the production of chemical weapons 1990 and both the US and Russia is reducing their stockpiles but the progress is slow. The last figures I’ve seen indicates that the US has about 22800 tons of chemical agents and Russia about 40000 tons of chemical agents. The US Stockpile mostly contains VX, Mustard gas and Sarin, The Russian stockpile around 80% nerve agents.

Other countries that are believed to have chemical weapons or the capacity to manufacture them are: Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, China, India, Burma, North Korea, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Algeria and Libya.

The threat may increase because of the increased knowledge in the world and access to recipes for different chemical weapons, especially trough the internet. This can mean that non state actors may create this kind of weapons easier than before. There are still big problems to spread these kinds of weapons in large scale, something that the attacks in Tokyo showed.

How to Protect Yourself
If you are in a area that is directly the first indications you will get is most likely symptoms from different person around, maybe even from yourself. This first signs YOU have to take seriously and get into safety. If a large scale attack with chemical weapons would take place in an area where you are its important that you try to get away from the affected area or get inside a building for some protection. Put on cloths to protect exposed skin and cover your mouth with and some cloth to reduce the exposure. The direction of the wind is one of the absolutely most important factors; don’t try to escape in the same direction as the wind. There is sophisticated equipment for detection; many potential targets in the US have automatic detection equipment that will give an early warning quickly in case of an attack. If you suspect that an attack is under way, turn on your radio and listen to messages from government agencies.

If you are at home or another building when an attack with chemical weapons, an accident at a chemical industry or transport would take place; close all doors and windows. Then close all ventilation and use tape, towels or whatever you to stop make doors and windows more secure. Preparing for this and practicing for this in my opinion the most important step you can take as a private citizen. Also learn where the nearest shelters with a protection for the public can be found. A gasmask may be a good addition, but in a worst case scenario where a military nerve agent would be used it doesn’t offer enough protection. If you do chose to buy a gasmask the most important part is that it’s airtight and fits your face, the best way to try this is to take part in an exercise where mace is being used. To protect the rest of your body you can improvise protection by using plastic or rubber clothing and use tape to seal the areas where the clothing meet. Remember that you have to safely dispose of the clothing you been wearing and wash your body very careful if you been exposed to chemical agents.

Attacks with chemical weapons are in my opinion a low probability scenario that could have really high consequences. But there are some examples of chemical weapons being used by non state actors.

I would like to thank the member Isopsycho from Survialist boards for some additional advice about how you can protect yourself from chemical agents. I also would like to recommend the book "Weapons of Mass Destruction" by Mary Byrd Davis & Arthur H. Purcell as good reference book on the subject.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


In the survivalist movement there is allot of focus on scenarios that would mean The End Of The World As We Know It, this is often referred to as TEOTWAWKI. Doomsday scenarios has long been a focus in the media. Many popular movie like Terminator, The Matrix, I am Legend, Dawn of the Dead, Independence Day, Armageddon, Deep Impact, Red Dawn, The Happening, Escape from New York, Waterworld, The Day After Tomorrow and the last one in a long series: 2012 have been about this kind of events. Popular TV shows like Jericho, Jeremiah and V also describes the world from an apocalyptic scenario. In books this is also a popular theme, William R. Forstchens book “One Second After” about an EMP attack against the United States and James Wesley, Rawles book “Patriots: A novel of survival in the coming collapse” has become popular books. Even the popular author Neil Strauss most famous for his book “The Game” has in he’s latest book “Emergency: This book can save your life” written about his experience becoming a survivalist. A movie have also been made based on Cormac McCarthys book "The Road".

Will the world as we know it come to an end 2012?
It’s impossible to make an analysis covering all possible scenarios that could happen and make a risk assessment from there. I will try to focus on different kind of scenarios and threats and make analysis from area to area. The first areas that I will cover will be the most devastating weapons that mankind has its arsenal: Weapons of mass destruction. Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is often divided into chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, the first analysis will be about chemical weapons, when they been used in history and how you can protect yourself in a worst case scenario.

I am personally not of the belief that the world as we know it will come to a sudden end 2012, nor that it will anytime soon. In this blog I will try to cover as many areas of potential risk as possible. It’s my belief that risk comes from specific threats that can be traced back to different factors, not from a specific day in history. The year 1999 many feared what would happen when the new day came and it was January first 2000. The day came and the world moved on as usual. You can never know anything for sure, but it’s my belief that this will be the case in 2012 as well.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How you can reduce your own vulnerability

In the part about risk assessment you can get some basic ideas of how to identify and categorize different form of possible crisis and survival situations. This part will be a general guide to what can help you to reduce your own vulnerability to this kind of events. Most survival handbooks focus on water, food, shelter and fire. It’s my belief that you’re true capacity to survive and cope with a crisis depends on more factors than that.

Health is in my opinion the most important aspect of your life. Your diet, your exercise, your physical and psychological wellbeing is the most fundamental for your survival. This is a part of your life that you have to keep working on all the time. Think about what you eat and try to eat as healthy as you possibly can. Cut down on sugar, fast food and sweeteners. You don’t want overweight or diabetes in your normal life or in a survival situation. In a long term survival situation diabetes can be a lethal condition if the access to insulin disappears. Your teeth are also a critical part: Take good care of them, use floss and fluoride. This may seem as boring aspects of crisis preparedness or survival but in a real survival situation a damaged tooth can become a lethal infection: If you have any problems with your teeth go to a dentist and get them fixed. Try to exercise at least three times each week.

Another important part of your health is stress management. If your level of stress is too high the effect might be a stroke or heart attack. Modern life is stressful so you must find ways to cope with it. Get a hobby to help you relax and think about something else for a while. Find something that you like to do, no matter if it’s hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, climbing, kayaking, skiing, dancing, sports or meditation. The important part is that it works for you. And don’t try to skip this part of your health; you won’t save time by burning yourself out.

Knowledge, Experience and Skills
Knowledge and skills is something that you will always carry with you, you can have the best equipment that money can buy, but if you don’t know how to use it – it’s useless. One of the skills that I think is most important is some basic medical skills like first aid and CPR. Take a course and bring your friends or family, it’s just as important that they can help you. This kind of skills need constant refreshment: Try to take a course once every five years. What other skills that’s important depends on your particular situation but the ability to make fire, collect and purify water and make shelter is a good start. Don’t forget to include skills that can help you in your everyday life or help you get a job. Make a list of what skills that would be useful and what skills that you always wanted to learn and start working from there.

Equipment and Gear
Some basic equipment in combination with skills can make a huge difference in a crisis or survival situation if you know how to use and have the ability to improvise. I have some basic suggestions in the blog post Get The Ability To Cope With A Crisis and the blog post Equipment List For Your Home - Checklist.

Your Social Network
Your social network is one of the absolutely most important parts of your personal security. You can have perfect health, knowledge and skills and all equipment you could ever need – but if you don’t have someone that can help you in time of need your vulnerability in a crisis situation or survival situation is much higher. Your friends, partner and family is the most natural part, but people from works and other contacts is also very important.

Your Geographical Setting
Your geographical setting is also a very important part, some parts of the world has a higher degree of natural disasters than others. If you live in a area where natural disasters is a common problem you can reduce the consequences of a natural disaster by choosing a place where you live that offers the maximum amount of protection possible. For example: If you live in a area where flooding can be a problem, try to find a place that is located high enough so it won’t get affected. If storms are a common problem find a place where the surrounding area gives some protection against powerful wind. The very house where you live is also a important part, a stone structure is much less likely to be damaged than a fragile mobile home. The coast line offers a great view, but remember that the coast regions often gets hit hardest from hurricanes and other extreme weather.

Your Economical Situation
Your economical situation is also a critical aspect. Very few people have the economical resources or income that gives them the possibility to buy everything they want and still have money over. The first thing I recommend you to do is to start saving money. I suggest that you try to put keep about 20% of your income every month: 5% into a emergency situation fund that you don’t use unless there really is an emergency, 10% as investment fund that you can use if a good opportunity to buy something really useful for a good price would come along and 5% for vacations and entertainment. The last part is an important part of your health: You need the opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries, don’t just spend your money on equipment and physical objects. I suggest that you might invest some of the money in your emergency fund into gold or silver.

Start to keep a record off what you are buying and how you are spending your money, do that for three months and you will start discovering things about yourself that may not have been aware of. This also gives you an idea about where you can save money and how can plan your economy better.
Unemployment is a real risk for most of the population and if you find yourself in this position you want to have the best possibilities that you can to get a new, or even a better job. First off all: Take your job seriously and work hard. Don’t be a slacker, you want everybody you ever worked with to get such a good impression of you that they would recommend you for a job. Try to learn new aspects of your job, ask for some extra responsibility and take courses that give you even more knowledge about what you do. If you can I recommend that you start taking courses after work or get an extra job. Even if there is people at work you don’t like, treat them right and try to get know the people you work with: They are an excellent resource for future possibilities. Never stop learning.

Understanding The Risks In Your Everyday Life
The most common risk that you face is dangers in your everyday life. Traffic accidents are one of the worst killers, when you get out into traffic use your seatbelt and focus on what you are doing. It’s very easy to get distracted or wondering of with your mind. Don’t talk on the phone or send text messages and keep the volume on your stereo down so that you can hear what’s going on around you. The number of dead from all terrorist attacks is nothing compared to the deaths in traffic. If you ride a bike: Use a helmet and make sure that you can be seen at night.

Fire is another big danger: Make sure that your home is as safe as it possibly can be, get a fire alarm, make sure that you have a exit strategy and train this strategy with your family. It’s just like in sports or the military: practice makes perfect. If you get the opportunity I strongly that you take a course and learn how to use a fire extinguisher and how to extinguish a burning person with a blanket. And when you have done this: Get a fire extinguisher for your home. If you have many family members take the course together, you are a team.

It’s also important that you start thinking about risks that you accept as a part of normal life. Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is directly bad for your health and in combination with a activities like driving or water sports they may be lethal. Alcohol and different drugs are a part of everyday life for most people, but it’s important that you keep your using of them on a reasonable level and don’t get into dangerous activities when you’re under the influence. Other simple thing like spending too much time in the sun can cause skin cancer: Use sun screen and cover up. For more information see the article about Risk Assessments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scandinavian Survival Equipment

I would to take the opportunity to recommend some survival equipment from the part of the world where I come from: Scandinavia.

First off all I would like to recommend the knives from Mora. They have some of the best knives you find for the money. Especially the model Mora 2000 is a really great knife, I used it for hunting, hiking and fishing and it never let me down. The new knife from Mora named Bushcraft basically has the same blade as the Mora 2000 with a new more ergonomic handle.

Secondly I would like to recommend the knives from Fällkniven, especially the models Fällkniven F1 and Fällkniven S1. It’s one of the best survival knives you can find, but they are rather expensive. Go with the Kydex sheaths instead of the leather ones. The leather sheaths are too heavy and unpractical.

The Bivanorak from Hilleberg is designed as a survival shelter for Swedish Air Force Pilots. It works as a poncho, emergency shelter, sleeping bag cover and bivy bag. The company Helsport also makes a similar product with the named Fjellduk.

The Murriikka is a slightly concave cast iron wok plate with tripod. It’s excellent for cooking food over an open fire. I use it every spring out in the wild and it’s a great way of cooking food for an entire family.

The axes and hatchets from Gränsfors Bruk have a very high quality and have hand forged blades. I especially like the Hunters axe and Wildlife Hatchet.

Klättermusen makes some of the best survival and emergency clothing that’s out there. The jackets and trousers that they make may not be the most beautiful and they are very expensive. But they offer excellent quality and function.

The Norwegian company Aclima makes high quality and reasonably priced base layers. The WoolNet series offers excellent insulation and great transportation of moisture even if the looks of the base layers may not be ideal for showing yourself in public. In short great performance and reasonable price but  not the most esthetic choice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Risk Assessments

In order to prepare for danger one must get a basic idea about what kind of threats that we are facing. If one can get an idea about potential risks we can get the skills, knowledge, training, equipment and plans that can help us to overcome, prevent and reduce the effects from these risks. Governments, corporations, military organizations and the Intelligence community spends an enormous amount of money every year in order to collect Intelligence, understand threats and prevent them from manifesting into reality or catastrophes.

Risks are also a matter of perception. Institutions and the media forms the acceptance of what risks that is considered acceptable and what risks that is not. Different people perceive risks differently. Ideologies also play a critical role, one example is Man-Made Global Warming and Peak Oil, these two issues are seen as serious risks by some and ignored by others. The process of Globalization has resulted in a situation when a crisis can spread fast though out the world, like the current financial crisis. Many other threats are not bound to the boundaries of states like terrorism, organized crime, trafficking, illegal drug trade and pandemics.

So what is a Risk? The probability is one factor, the other factor is the consequences that a risk may have. Fatalities, physical harm or loss of property are common consequences that a threat can have.

Where do you get Started?
Try to find a Risk Assessment made by a government agency from a local or regional level. This is important 1: For inspiration, 2: So that you know what kinds of scenarios your local agencies are prepared for. Risk Assessments are not always made public because they can give antagonistic people an idea of where a strike would hurt the most. Sometimes there exists both a public and confidential version, try with different kind of agencies and just ask if they have a public version.

Step 1: Identify Risks - What can happen?
Examples of possible events
• Civil Wars (The most common form of human conflict)
• Genocide or Ethnic cleansing (Nazi Germany, Rwanda and the Balkans are some examples)

Weapons of Mass Destruction (CBRN)
• Attacks with Chemical weapons
• Attacks with Biological weapons
• Attacks with Nuclear weapons or an attack with conventional explosives in combination with radioactive materials attached, known as a “dirty bomb”.
• Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) from a high altitude nuclear explosion

• Suicide bombings
• Bomb Attacks
• Improvised Explosive Devises (IED:s)
• Arson (the most common form of terrorist attack)

• Sabotage
• Crime
• Assault
• Murder
• Kidnapping (common danger in high risk countries like Colombia or Iraq)
• Theft or Robbery
• Riots

Famine and Starvation

Natural Disasters
Volcanic eruptions
• Severe weather
• Thunderstorms
• Extreme Heat
• Blizzards
• Floods
• Land Slides
• Impact with Space Objects
The last major impact with a space object was 1908 in Tunguska, Siberia. The frequency of global catastrophic impacts is very low, once or twice every one million years.
• Solar storms

Failing Technical Systems
• Oil Embargo or Sabotage against oil infrastructure or large scale accidents in oil infrastructure.
Peak Oil
The Limits to Growth
• Global Warming
• Hydro Plant collapse from accidents or sabotage
• Nuclear Power Plant Collapse or Meltdown with radioactive fallout
• Radioloactivel fallout from accidents at storage facilities or transport of radiological material.
• Lose of electrical power (often results in the collapse of communication systems and water system)
• Fallout from chemical industries or chemical transports
• Internet and/or telephone communications systems collapse
• Problem with communications systems (roads, railways, airports)

Economical Problems
• Financial Recession
• Economic Depression or Economic Collapse
• Unemployment

Different kind of Disease
Epidemics (local out brake of disease)
Pandemics (global out brake of a disease)

Remember that a Epidemic or Pandemic classification doesn’t take in to consideration how severe the disease is, all seasonal flues are pandemic, even if they normally only affect the people that are sensitive to disease. The people how normally are extra sensitive to disease are:
* The very young and the old
* People with untreated HIV or AIDS
* People with cancer
* Women how are pregnant

• Disaster in a different area/region/country with your family, friends or loved ones involved.

Step 2: How Likely is this to happen?
1.) Very low
2.) Low
3.) Medium
4.) High
5.) Very High

Step 3: What are the possible Consequences from these events?
1.) Very Low
2.) Low
3.) Medium
4.) High
5.) Catastrophic

Step 4: Calculate the Risk Factor
After you have identified the Risks, there likeliness and the consequences make a Matrix with How likely they are in one axis and the Consequences in the other axis. The events in the upper right corner that is likely to happen and have high consequences, that’s where I suggest you start focusing your attention. Start to study the risks you identified and real events where they have taken place. What lessons can be learned from these events?

Step 5: Risk Management
What Resources are there to Manage these Risks?
Local / Regional / National
Try to get a picture of what resources there is to deal with different kind of crisis where you live. Resources like Military, National Guard, Police, Fire Departments, Paramedics, Hospitals, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Non Government Organizations (NGO:s) like the Red Cross and Religious organizations are some examples.

I also suggest that you add another dimension to your Risk Assessment: How may the Risks affect your capacity for short and long term survival? May your house be destroyed or may the area where you live be contaminated with chemical or radioactive fallout so that you may not be able to return to your home? What kind of Knowledge, Training and Skills and Equipment do you have that can help you deal with these threats? How can you reduce the impact of an event or avoid it completely?

Adjusting to a Changing Situation
Risks are not something that is static. New kinds of threats manifest and new potential problems arise every year. This mean that you’re Risk Assessment must be continuously updated to incorporate new events and trends. How often this should be done depends on the situation but I would suggest that you don’t view a Risk Assessment as a work you perform one time, but more like a continuing process.

The SWOT Analysis
The SWOT Analysis is a common form of analysis designed to see different perspectives of a Past, Ongoing or Future Situation. The Analysis can be used in different settings like Intelligence Analysis, Risk Assessments, Project Management, Business Plans or simply too evaluate a course of action or a Plan.

SWOT means Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The Possibilities and Weaknesses part of the analysis resembles the Pro and Con Analysis. But the analysis also includes the potential unknown or external factors: Possibilities and Threats. If a SWOT analysis is used when there is two or more Parties involved the analysis is often split into two; one analysis that describes the side that make the analysis and the analysis that describes the perspective from the other parties point of view. The SWOT analysis just like a Risk Assessment is a tool that can make it easier to see different perspectives and analyze various situations.

The perception of risk is a factor that comes in play for all individuals and organizations. Identifying risks that we encounter often or that is often highlighted in our society is easy and these types of risks we are often well prepared for.

But sometimes threats manifests from situation when it’s on clear after the event has taken place that there were signs that indicated a threat. This type of intelligence failures are common, some examples are the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorists attacks on 9/11 2001. Another example is the inability for the Intelligence community to foresee the end of the Cold War and the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Seeing threats that doesn’t fit into the perception that we have of the world is very hard, but these are often the threats that can have the greatest consequences.

Also see
Analyzing Risks
Gathering Information during Crisis and Survival Situations: HumInt and Interviews
The Westfalian Risk Management Model

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Media In A Crisis Or Survival Situation.

The Media is one of the most potent sources of intelligence and early warning in the world that works 24 hours every day 7 days a week. But the Media often gets information wrong and can help blow the threat of different crisis out of proportion like in the case of the H1N1 Pandemic 2009. This is an attempt to give to tips and guidelines about how the Media works and how you can use it in a crisis or survival situation.

Electronic Communications
If the electrical grid may go off line your normal line of communications through TV and the internet may be disrupted. In that case a battery power radio with dynamo, a citizen band radio, radio scanner, short wave radio or HAM radio is a good tool of receiving information. If you’re using a radio the receive information: write down a log for the messages that you’re receiving and what time the information was received.

The journalists are the intelligence officers of the Media that helps collect news and report about events. In general journalists don’t have that much specialist knowledge but know little about almost everything. This means that they can often have too little knowledge about a particular event to understand what is really important and this may make the report vague and imprecise. This is also an effect of journalists working under an enormous time pressure, especially during a crisis. This time pressure means that there is very little time to check facts and the risk that journalists misunderstand something is significant. This can often result in a situation where different new media reports may be contradict other reports. Even if there are journalists how’s just searching for a scope or scandal, most of them are honest and serious people.

What is News?
Journalists and the Media gets information about thousands of events everyday but can of course not cover everything that happens so they have to choose what events to cover. Normally the information that gets broadcast in the media as news is something that deviates from what’s normal. Events that represent good and evil, life and death, black and white and other extremes also attract attention. The persons how get interviewed often represent the extreme cases, in a crisis situation the people how are hit the worst and live under the most horrible circumstances makes the most interesting people to cover. Needless to say, bad news is good news, so when the shit hits the fan it gets the attention from the media. If a news channel does not present the most interesting news, if they are not the biggest, fastest and first with ones to report about it, they will eventually be history.

So when a crisis happens the media tries to describe what has happened, tell the stories from the scene, warn and inform the public. The personal dimension of the crisis becomes an important part, to give the crisis a human face. The news media bring in experts to give their opinion and background to the event; they also start looking for what went wrong and creates debate over what’s happened. After the crisis is over the question of how this could happen and how should be held accountable starts.

The Importance Of Your Own Knowledge
Normally the coverage of an event starts with the dramatic pictures and interviews with government and local officials with the demand for answers, there is often some time before the background and fact start coming in. This is the crucial part for you: You must have knowledge about different kind of scenarios like natural disasters, industrial accidents, man-made disasters, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. You must also know your local crisis management system and what local resources are available and so that you can make a good assessment when the first information about the crisis starts to come in. This way you can take the appropriate response.

Some Of The Mistakes That Government Officials Make During A Crisis Situation
During a crisis situation the way the government officials informs the public about the crisis is very important. The first and most important thing is to admit when there is a problem. Getting down on the public’s level, taking responsibility, showing compassion and understanding of the consequences is important in order gain the trust from the public. And trust isn’t given to anyone, it’s earned. Indicating possible solutions to the crisis and ways out of the crisis is also important. If they don’t know what really is happening the best thing is to say exactly that: That they don’t have the information right now, lying for the media is often a grave mistake that may cause other problems to get investigated even further. Journalists (and poker players) are often expert of reading tells that indicates that people are lying.

Tips If You Ever Find Yourself In A Situation When You Get Interviewed
In interviews it’s a common technique for either journalists or other professionals like police officers to ask a question wait for the answer and not saying anything after the answers been given. This is a situation that most people find very uncomfortable. The result is often that the person continues to give information, often information that isn’t related to the question asked. If you ever find you’re self in this kind of situation, don’t be afraid of the silence, just wait for the other party to resume the questions.

• Whenever you find yourself in a situation when you get interviewed, take your time and think before you answer questions. Don’t let the interviewer stress you.
• Talk about your own area and speculate about thing you don’t know, lie or offer your own theories.
• Never talk with a reporter “Off the record”, there is no such thing.
• NEVER use the phrase “No comments”.

Keep your temper under control, if you get angry or hostile it makes “good” news. Before the interview starts be aware of your appearance, small details like a stain on a shirt may give the people viewing a negative impression of you. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. If you are having an interview it can be good to put a time limit before the interview, explain that you only have a limited amount of time for questions, this is especially important at press conferences. If you are in a situation where you inform the public during a crisis remember that what you say to others in different situations can be interpreted as official information.

Rumors, Propaganda and Disinformation
Rumors are a common problem in crisis situation: Incomplete information may be misunderstood by the media or the public and rumors may start to circulate. Rumors may in the worst case cause people to act irrationally and put themselves in harm’s way. In an antagonistic attack false information may be spread to increase fear or with the objective to make the job of the first responders more difficult. During armed conflict propaganda and disinformation are often used as a tool to mislead the enemy and weaken the resistance of the opponent.

The media makes an excellent tool for getting an early warning but there are other very important sources of information. Your social network is one of them. The bigger your social network is the more likely you are to know someone how might have important information and the more likely you are to get some assistance if you ever need it. Just remember: The doors swings both ways.

Natural Components Of Your Network
• Your family and relatives
• Your partner
• Your neighbors
• Your friends
• People from work

It can also be good to get to know your local politicians, people from the Police, Fire Department, The Military, FEMA, Doctors and other medical personnel, The Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and local Journalists just to name a few.

Keep names, phone numbers, addresses, birthdays and other information in a paper book, a digital back-up on your computer and mobile is also good. Keep in touch with people you know, send them post cards, keep in touch over the internet and e-mails, write letters, invite them over for dinner or a barbeque, go camping, fishing, hunting or hiking with them. Get to know them and make sure that they get to know you. Your social network is an important aspect in all areas of life, no matter if it’s a crisis situation, survival situation or if you’re looking for a job or advice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is a crisis situation?

What is a crisis situation?
There is often a lot of talk in the media and other forums about different kind of crisis. A crisis is a situation when something bad has happened. There is a lot different types of crisis, some examples are

* The Chicago Fire of 1871
* The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire
* The Mississippi flood of 1927
* The attack on Pearl Harbor 1941
* The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
* The Three Mile Island accident 1979
* The volcanic eruption at Mount St Helens 1980
* The industrial accident in Bhopal, India 1984.
* The meltdown at Chernobyl 1986
* The terror attacks in New York and Washington 9/11 2001
* The train bombings on march 11 2004 in Madrid
* The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
* The bombings i London 7/7 2005
* Hurricane Katrina 2005
* The Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic in England
* The current economic crisis and the H1N1 Pandemic

Different persons have different definitions of what a crisis really is. In the book “The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership under Pressure” the authors define a crisis with from three key components. The first key component is urgency. When a crisis accrues time is short. It’s important to act fast; it may be a question of life and death. The second component is threat. The threat may be to lives and health of people, physical objects like homes and property or other values like belief in the system or economic values. The third component is uncertainty. When a crisis happens there is always uncertainty about what’s has happened, what will the consequences be and how the crisis should be dealt with (Boin, Hart,, Stern & Sundelius 2007: 2-4).

This is the kind of events that this blog will try to focus on. The main focus will be on prevention, early warning, risk assessment, intelligence analysis, crisis management, crisis preparedness, survival and recovery.

Boin, Arjen; Hart Paul; Stern, Eric & Sundelius Bengt (2007) The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership under Pressure, New York: Cambridge University Press

Travelling with Vehicles During a Crisis or Survival Situation

In case of an emergency or crisis situation it is good if you have your vehicle in a good working condition and with some basic gear in it. A vehicle can serve as transport for wounded or as fast transport during an evacuation. A vehicle intended to be used during evacuation is often referred to as a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV). A car with four-wheel drive is good for getting around in off road driving and if the roads are cover with snow. Make sure that the fuel in your car don’t get to low, check the tiers regularly and maintain a good service. Make sure to keep your windshield clean so can get a good view. I strongly suggest that you get some extra rear view mirrors so that your passenger can help you keep an eye out.

Every year somewhere between 30.000-40.000 people die in motor vehicle accidents in the United States alone. When you are driving always take your time and use the seatbelt. The faster you drive the more likely you are to get killed in an accident. Never drink alcohol or use drugs when driving. If the weather is bad or the visibility low adjust your speed accordingly. Using Smartphone’s and text messaging while driving are other activities that can often result in accidents. Remember that even if you don’t engage in these activities when you are driving others do. Stay alert.

There are combination safety tools with a seat belt cutter and glass breaker that is very good to have in your car in case of an accident. Victorinox has model of the Swiss Army knife called Rescue Tool that has a seatbelt cuter, glass breaker and other features. A Bug Out Bag (BOB) or Get Home Bag (GHB) in addition with appropriate clothing and footwear should brought along if you have to abandon your vehicle and make it back by foot.

Vehicle Emergency Equipment
[ ] First Aid Kit
[ ] Road Map, Compass and GPS
[ ] Things that help you stay warm; extra clothing, wool blankets, sleeping bags. It may also be a good idea to include equipment to build a fire and some handwarmers.
[ ] Some Water and Food
[ ] Some sources of Light; Flashlight or Headlamp and extra Batteries (lithium). Chemical Light Sticks are a good addition if you have to make reparations or change a tire during the night. A signal vest is a useful addition if you have to leave your vehicle during low visibility conditions like a snowstorm or during the night.
[ ] Extra Fuel
[ ] Folding or Compact Shovel like the E-Tool
[ ] Axe, Chainsaw or Folding Saw
[ ] Short Wave Radio or Citizen Band (CB) Radio
[ ] Jack, Spare Tire , Tier Iron and Fix-A-Flat Spray.
[ ] Adjustable Wrench, Duct Tape and Screwdriver
[ ] Leather working Gloves and Latex Gloves
[ ] Fire Extinguisher
[ ] Driver License, Insurance Information, Registration and Repair Handbook
[ ] Windshield Scraper and Towel
[ ] Snow Chains (for winter conditions)
[ ] Towing Cable
[ ] Jumper Cables

Secure all equipment. If you are in a car crash and haven’t secured your equipment it may cause severe damage to you. Even light weight items may become extremely dangerous in a high speed crash.

Some basic equipment can also be useful to have if you ever get caught in a traffic jam. Especially during winter conditions people often get stranded because of accidents and severe weather. If the weather is severe I recommend that you either wait until the weather clears or take precautions before you leave. Anticipate that the travel may take much longer than you first thought and bring extra clothing, a vacuum bottle with something warm to drink, something to eat and water.

Emergency Travel
• Make sure that you always travel at least two persons in every vehicle if possible.
• Always travel with two vehicles or more if possible. If you are travelling with two vehicles walkie-talkies is good tool for communicating between the vehicles.
• Make a radio check before you leave. The passenger should act as radio operator and navigator.
• Make sure to inform someone about where you are going, what route you are planning to take, how is travelling in the party, what you are planning to do and when you are planning to get back. Also make sure that everyone in the party that’s going knows this information.
• Don’t let the distance between the vehicles get to big, if you get pulled over at a check point make sure to park the vehicles close together so that no one can get between the vehicles. When you park your car, park in the direction you intend to leave.
• Don’t leave any valuable items in plain view, for example on the dashboard. Cover all equipment. Don’t carry fancy jewelry or expensive watches in plain sight.
• Roll up all the windows and lock the doors before you go.
• Don’t have alcohol containers, illegal drugs or other something else that is illegal or can be seen as suspicious in your car. Be aware of your passengers so that they don’t carry anything illegal.
• In high risk areas and countries suffering from civil war it is common that mines may be placed in front and at the rear of vehicles at improvised checkpoint to keep them from escaping. If you travel in a high risk area the most important part of your travel is to get intelligence about what areas that are safe and not. If you must travel in such an area it may be best to contact your embassy or UN Security officials.

Bikes are an excellent way to get around and really good exercise. I suggest that you a good reliable bike that you can use every day and a mountain bike that you can use if you want to go off road. A bike rack for your car is a good accessory if you want to take your bike with on a camping or hiking trip.

The most important safety feature is off course a good helmet, I prefer the helmets from ProTec and Bell myself. When you take your bike out I recommend that you carry your Pocket Survival Kit and Folding Knife, Swiss Army Knife or a Multi Tool. Wenger has a special Swiss Army knife called Biker 37.

A good front light and a headlamp plus a red rear light are good when you ride your bike at night. Fenix has good flashlights and bikes mounts that work really well. A small GPS unit that you can mount on your bike is available from Garmin; The Edge 705. Gaiters are good for keeping your trousers away from the chain.

Checklist for other Equipment:
[ ] Puncture Repair Kit
[ ] Pump
[ ] Spare Valve
[ ] Adjustable Wrench or Barbell Spanner
[ ] Screwdriver
[ ] Helmet
[ ] Water Bottle or Water Bladder

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bug Out Guide and Checklist

Evacuation in case of a major disaster or crisis is a subject that is often discussed among survivalists. The situation that you are trying to prepare for is a scenario when you will be forced to leave your home because of some kind of Natural or Man Made disaster. I recommend that you make a Risk Assessment and check for possible threats in your proximity that may force you to take this kind of action. Examples events can be a hurricane, flooding, dam brake or nuclear power plant meltdown. A Bug Out Bag (BOB) is a bag with all the equipment that you need to survive for a few days on your own. A BOB can also be called a 72 hour bag/kit, Go BagGet Out Of Dodge (GOOD) Bag or I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) Bag.

If you’re going to be bugging out there is a chance that normal communication like travelling by roads with cars or buses will not function as normally or stop working completely due to heavy traffic and you will be forced to make your escape by foot. Plan ahead and check possible routes on maps. Will different scenarios affect your route, will roads be under water in case of a dam brake etc. Next I recommend that you take your car, bike or simply go by foot on the best routes that you can identify. Write down the information you notice, is there anywhere you can find shelter, landmarks and where can water be found? Water is the most critical aspect and must govern your planning.

If you have to leave by foot you will have to carry all your equipment, this will not be an easy task for an untrained individual. Get in shape by training at least three times a week and take walks with your BOB to train the muscles in your back, the same for the shoes: start wearing them before you have to use them to prevent blisters. Get your teeth fixed as well, there an excellent tool if there not broken or damaged. If you never been camping or hiking make sure that you do that, there is no better way to learn what you really will need. I recommend this equipment for a BOB, or the following things when you go camping or hiking.

[ ] Long sleeve base layer shirt (I recommend Merino Wool)
[ ] Short sleeve base layer shirt
[ ] Change of underwear
[ ] Hat or Watch cap
[ ] Gloves
[ ] Buff, Scarf or Shemag
[ ] Shell Jacket (Waterproof and Wind Proof)
[ ] Warm long sleeve shirt
[ ] Heavy Duty Pants
[ ] Poncho, Rain Clothing, Bivi-PonchoBivanorak or Fjellduk
[ ] Hiking Boots
[ ] 2 pair of Extra socks
[ ] Watch with a button compass on the wrist band

Choose a backpack with a steel or aluminum frame, if you’re going to carry a heavy load over some distance you’re going to need a pack with stability. If the frame is internal or external is a question of what you prefer, both have advantages and disadvantages. Backpacks with external frames are generally stronger and can be used to carry other things than your bag like a wounded person or a heavy tank of water. Packs with an internal frame are often lighter and have a more slim design. Pack your items in waterproof bags; use different colors so that you know what’s inside the different bags. A waterproof backpack cover can also help keeping your equipment dry. Cell Phones and other electronic equipment are vulnerable to dirt and water; get a waterproof bag or container to store them in. Pack certain equipment like your first aid kit in a location that is easily accessible if you would need them. Always put the same items in the same location in your bag so you don’t have to spend much time looking for your items, this also makes easier to see if something would be missing from your pack. Always carry at least one knife and your pocket survival kit on your person in case you would lose your backpack.

[ ] Sleeping bag, Sleeping bag liners helps to extend the lifetime of your sleeping bag
[ ] Sleeping mattress, Hammock or Hennessy Hammock
[ ] Tarp, Tent, Bivanorak, Bivi-PonchoFjellduk or Bivi-Bag

[ ] Flashlight or/and Headlamp (LED)
[ ] Extra batteries (Lithium)

[ ] Matches in Waterproof Container
[ ] Lighter
[ ] Fire Steel
[ ] Tinder

Survival Knives
[ ] Fixed Blade Knife
[ ] Back Up Knife: examples could be a Folding Knife, Compact Fixed Blade Knife, Multi Tool or Swiss Army Knife
[ ] Sharpener

Pocket Survival Kit
[ ] Matches
[ ] Fire Steel
[ ] Snare Wire
[ ] Wire Saw
[ ] Sewing Kit
[ ] Button Compass
[ ] Safety Pins
[ ] Whistle
[ ] Candle
[ ] Compact LED lamp
[ ] Compact Knife or Razor Blade
[ ] Fishing kit
[ ] Pencil
[ ] Water Purification Tablets
[ ] Painkillers
[ ] Anti Diarrhea Tablets
[ ] Antihistamines
[ ] Antibiotics
[ ] Condom or Alok Sak

[ ] One or Two Water Bottles (Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, Camelback or SIGG)
[ ] Water Bladder for your backpack; Camelback, Nalgene or similar system.
[ ] Water Purification Tablets
[ ] Water Purification Filter

[ ] Freeze Dried Rations or Meals Ready to Eat (MRE:s). Minimum 6 meals for 72 hours
[ ] Powerbars, Flapjack, Beef jerky, Trail mix or other snacks
[ ] Tea, Coffee, Sugar and Powdered milk
[ ] Salt and Pepper

[ ] Stove: Multi Fuel Stove, Kelly Kettle, Trangia, Ebsit, Optimus Crux Lite or Jetboil
[ ] Fuel for your Stove
[ ] Cooking Vessels
[ ] Spork (Or Knife, Fork and Spoon)
[ ] Cup
[ ] Steel Wool, Mop and Washing Up Liquid (I recommend Fairy)
[ ] P-38 Can Opener

[ ] Map
[ ] Waterproof container for map
[ ] Compass
[ ] Cash or Gold/Silver
[ ] Passport and Immunization Record Card
[ ] Notebook and Pen
[ ] Kwikpoint

[ ] Roll of Toilet Paper (in waterproof bag)
[ ] Soap
[ ] Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Dental Floss
[ ] Razor
[ ] Hand Disinfection
[ ] Insect Repellant
[ ] Sun Block or Skin Care Lotion
[ ] 550 Paracord
[ ] First Aid Kit
[ ] Blister Kit
[ ] Sunglasses

Other Equipment that can be useful depending on the Scenario
It is impossible to bring all equipment that can be needed during a survival situation, choices must be made. Examples of equipment that can be useful are a compact radio or scanner, this may allow you to receive news, weather reports and listen to how government agencies are responding to an event. An Axe, Compact Shovel, Kukri, Machete, Folding Saw or Parang can be a useful tool for collecting firewood and constructing shelter. Binoculars can be a useful tool for scouting terrain and spotting potential threats and problems.
A Speedy Stitcher can be useful if you have to sew in thick Nylon fabrics like backpacks or leather boots. A Global Positions System (GPS) device with topographic maps is an extremely useful tool, especially when navigating into unknown terrain or low visibility conditions. For signaling a Signal mirror, Chemical light sticks, SPOT or Emergency flares can be useful. Spare parts and repair kits for your stove, tents and sleeping mattress can be useful especially under long lasting emergencies.
An extra pair of shoes in addition to your hiking boots like a pair of running shoes, light weight hiking shoes like a pair of Five Fingers or Merell Barefoot Trail Glove can be an extremely useful addition if your boots get wet when moving around or when you established a camp.

A pair of trekking poles can be a great addition for keeping balance when going trough rough terrain, especially when wearing a heavy pack. For people with bad knees this can be a great help, trekking poles also make it easier to move around if you would suffer a sprained ankle.

Other personal needs may be medications or an extra pair of glasses. A compact Survival Handbook or memory cards may also be useful addition during an emergency.

Test all your equipment and learn how to use it.

• A fully equipped Bug Out Bag can allow an individual to easier cope with a number of potential threats.
• If for some reason help or security can’t be reached after a few days of travel the individual will have access to important equipped needed. During a large scale disaster it will be hard for government agencies being able to supply a large number of people with basic necessities; in this case you will have to make do with what you have.

• A fully equipped Bug Out Bag will have a high weight that will slow down the pace during an evacuation by foot compared to a low weight evacuation kit. The weight means that an individual must be well-trained in order to carry it over long distances.
• Buying all the equipment needed for a complete Bug Out Bag is a high cost, especially if high quality equipment preferred.

A fully equipped Bug Out Bag contains equipment that makes it possible to survive with very little or no external assistance. The major disadvantage is the high weight that must be carried; if a vehicle is available the weight does not matter as much, the high cost is also a disadvantage. If you decide to build a Bug Out Bag use it for other activities like hiking, camping and hunting so that you get familiar with the equipment. This also gives you a chance to enjoy the investment you made and enjoy outdoors activities. An alternative to going for the fully equipped Bug Out Bag is to build a Light Weight alternative.

No matter how much equipment a BOB contains it will never contain all the equipment that you may need in all situations. You will have to improvise and make do with what’s available. Learning how to build fires, create shelter, navigate, preparing food and other survival skills are more important than what equipment you choose to carry with you. The people around you are another critical aspect, having a friend by your side is often a much more important aspect for survival than having the perfect equipment.

Also see 
Building The Right Bug Out Bag For You
The Bug Out Plan
Bugging Out As a Group
Light Weight Bug Out Bag 
Get Home Bag (GHB)
Bug Out Bag - Example of Setups