Thursday 03/12/15

Welcome to December and my final blog post for the year. Over the last twelve months I’ve shared a lot of information with you; in turn I hope you have enjoyed my blogs and shared them with your loved ones.

At this time of the year we are all busy and excited in the lead up to Christmas, but we still need to remain vigilant. Over the last couple of weeks I have seen a few a few things on the internet that inspired the topic of tonight’s blog..... Holiday Safety.

As the Christmas holidays rapidly approach we need to remember not to overshare our plans on social media. Over the last week or two I have seen a few friends on various social media platforms sharing their holiday plans. Yes, their holidays look exciting and fun; but they include far too many details. Unfortunately, the world isn’t a very nice place anymore; and as such, we need to remember that not everyone on social media can be trusted. We might know who our friends are, but we don’t know who their friends are.

If you are planning to go away on a trip, it would be wise not to advertise the details before you go away. You don’t need the world to know your travel itinerary. Even if you go to the trouble of cancelling the regular deliveries and made the other appropriate arrangements; it will count for nothing if you have already announced to the world when your house will be empty and for how long. Play it safe; keep these details on a strict need-to-know basis. Once you return from your holiday, feel free to share your holiday snaps with your friends.

Another timely reminder for Christmas is to resist the urge to share pictures all your lovely new toys on social media. You don’t want complete strangers seeing everything Santa left under your Christmas tree. The same goes for packaging. If you leave empty boxes for expensive electrical items on the kerb, you are providing thieves with a list of goods they might like to steal.

That’s enough doom and gloom for now. Stay safe and enjoy your end of year break. As usual, please share this information with your friends and family. Information is useless if it isn’t shared.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

Thursday 12/11/15

Too often I have seen people venture into the countryside with little more than an odd assortment of gear in their car and clothes on their back. In my first book Sleep With One Eye Open, the main character purchased a list of equipment he thought he might need to help him endure some of the difficulties he might encounter. I based this list on the equipment that everybody should carry with them if they venture into the countryside. Sure, you may not need each item every time you go out; but if you find yourself in a difficult situation you will be grateful you have this equipment with you.

Be forewarned, this list will cost you a few dollars to complete. As such, I recommend only purchasing one or two items at a time. I strongly urge you to avoid the temptation to buy budget (bad quality) items. One day your life may rely on this equipment, so only invest in good quality gear. This kit is commonly known as a Bug Out Bag (or B.O.B.).

Your first item is a backpack. You don’t need a huge, metal framed backpack. Your backpack only needs to be big enough to carry your essential equipment. A 30 litre daypack should be sufficient. Granted, a bigger backpack can carry more gear; but bear in mind, the more gear you pack, the heavier your backpack will be. A heavy backpack is a hated backpack. Your backpack needs to have more than one compartment and plenty of internal pockets. This will keep your gear organised, and save delicate items from being damaged. If your pack doesn’t have internal pockets, it is little more than a disorganised sack. Your backpack must be water resistant and made from heavy duty material. Lightweight, flimsy material can snare or tear if it comes into contact with sharp rocks or barbed wire fences. The zippers have to be sturdy; an open backpack is useless. A couple of external pockets will be required so you have somewhere to carry your water bottles. Finally, your backpack needs a solid back support to keep it in shape; and your pack needs sturdy well-padded straps. You must try on a variety of backpacks to see which one feels right and suits your body shape. Don’t simply take the sales assistant’s word for which pack is the best; they aren’t the one who will be carrying it for hours on end, over rugged countryside.

Next item on the list is a knife. I recommend a fixed blade knife made from carbon steel. It must have a full tang. I prefer a knife that is no more than twelve inches long, with a seven inch, clip point blade. The longer the tang, the sturdier and more durable your knife will be. A tang that is shorter than the length of the knife’s handle is more likely to fail if your knife is being used for heavy duty tasks. Remember; in a survival situation, your knife will be your best friend. Ignore the “latest and greatest” advertisements. Look for a brand and model that has a proven track record, with a loyal following from customers. Your knife needs a sheath; this is not negotiable. Without a sheath it is impossible to carry your knife safely. A leather sheath is traditional but there are some good quality hard plastic sheaths on the market too. Never use a soft nylon sheath (made from the same material as a sports bag). Sharp blades and flimsy sheaths are a bad combination.

Other equipment you will need:

  • Good quality multi-tool.
  • 2 x one litre stainless steel water-bottles with a wide opening and a screw-top lid.
  • Lensatic compass.
  • Fire steel.
  • Matches in weatherproof container.
  • Chemical glow-stick.
  • Signalling mirror.
  • Space blanket.
  • Plastic storm whistle.
  • Waterproof marker pen.
  • Military can opener.
  • Spork
  • 10 metres of green para-cord.
  • Small LED torch with spare batteries.
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Small bottle of sunscreen.
  • Roll-on bottle of insect repellent
  • Roll of duct tape.
  • A floppy bucket hat. (This can be folded to fit in your pack).
  • Socks x 2 pair.
  • Jumper/Sweater (Lightweight).
  • Protein bar/chocolate bar/trail mix; enough for three days.
  • Tinned food (eg baked beans/spaghetti/tuna/processed meat); enough for three days.
  • A deck of cards. (Card games can help pass the time if you are stranded).

As I said at the beginning of the blog, this gear will set you back a few dollars; but it is a worthy investment of your hard-earned money. If you look after your gear, you should get a lifetime worth of use out of it.

Before heading out into the countryside, you need to practice using your new gear. Make sure your knife is sharp. Know how to use each tool on your multi-tool. Practice using your compass to get you from Point A to Point B. Make sure you know how to use your fire steel; don’t try it out for the first time in an emergency situation.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared. The better educated people are, the less likely it is they will find themselves facing an avoidable emergency.

Thursday 22/10/2015

Don’t panic! In the relative calm and safety of your lounge room, this might seem like fairly obvious (and possibly patronising) advice. But during an emergency, this advice can save your life. When something has gone catastrophically wrong, your base instincts aren’t always your best friend.

Over the years I have learned not to do some things the hard way. This also applies to relying on the wrong people. Over the years I’ve twisted arms, legs, hands and feet in ways nature hasn’t intended (one of the accepted risks of full contact training); I’ve had shards of glass and chemicals in my eyes; had a few very nasty cuts (one of them opened an artery), choked on food, and survived an electrical shock. I believe the only reason I am still alive today is the mantra “Don’t panic”.

Each incident was a traumatic event, and it would have been very easy to let panic take over. In a majority of these events, panic would have led to inaction or the wrong decision. Instead of panicking I became intensely focused on whatever task was going to save my life (even if it was as challenging as applying pressure to a severed artery with a grotty handtowel while giving directions to other folk in the vicinity). One evening I was on my own and I choked on a piece of banana; I administered the Heimlich Manoeuvre using the corner of a bench. If I had have panicked, I wouldn’t have been found by anyone else for several hours.

One of the things that helped me not to panic in those situations was knowing how to deal with the problem. First-Aid is a vital skillset to possess; and to be honest, I’ve used my First-Aid skills to patch myself up more often than I’ve used it to help other people (and I’ve helped more than a few people over the years).

Controlling your urge to panic is useful in every situation, especially if everyone else in the room has gone into meltdown. If everyone else can see that there is at least one calm person in the room, they may calm down enough to take simple instructions, and which in turn will help someone else.

When confronted with your first bushfire, panic is never far away. The flames stretch high into the sky and climb into the nearby trees, the heat is impossible to explain and the roar of the flames is louder than you can shout. If you panic, it will end badly not only for yourself, but your teammates too. Trust in your training, trust in the men who stand with you, and you trust your captain.

Remain calm, think clearly and don’t panic.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.