Thursday 30/10/14

If you own a car, I can't stress the importance of carrying a map in your car's glove-box. GPS and other satellite navigation technology are great, but they aren't infallible. Glitches in the software and geographical errors in the program can lead you many miles off course if you aren't paying attention.

Your GPS should never replace common sense. If the GPS tells you to continue driving straight ahead, but the road has ended and all you can see in front of you is a horse paddock, you should probably turn around and look for another route to your destination. I can guarantee that neither the farmer nor the horses will appreciate your attempts at off-roading.

In your glove-box you should carry at least two maps. The first is a detailed map of your district. Despite living in the area, nobody knows every road in their region. The second map is a map of your state. If you're game, I'd also recommend carrying a map of your country. You probably won't use the last two very often, but if you have room to spare in your glove-box, why not carry them?

Once you have your maps, take the time to familiarise yourself with them. Make sure you know how to read them and estimate distances on them. I know having to read a map is time consuming and challenging for some people, but remember, maps never run out of battery or need software updates.

Thursday 23/10/14

Few weeks ago in my blog I raised the issue of dressing appropriately for the task at hand. This week, I'm going to be a little more specific and talk about life outside the urban environment. I'm not talking about long-term survival beyond the reach of civilisation; this is for everyday living in the countryside and for camping trips. If I appear to be repeating one or two things I've mentioned previously, it's because those concepts are important.

This particular blog is advice for subtropical environments; because that is the environment I live in and understand. Other environments (desert, snow and tropical) have their own quirks that I am unaware of; but most of the advice in this blog is relevant to them too.

Synthetic fibres and hi-tech sportswear should only be worn when you're playing your chosen sport. I know this might sound strange, because recent advances in synthetic materials have been remarkable. I base this advice on having grown up in an area that had long, hot summers and was prone to bushfires. This taught me to only trust natural fibres: denim, drill cotton, wool, and natural cotton. Even though these materials are heavier than synthetic materials, they offer better protection in the event of a fire and are less likely to get snagged or torn on rocks or bushes. Long sleeved shirts and long legged pants offer the best protection from the sun, wind and parasites.

Unless you're fishing, leave your sneakers at home. Leather boots with thick rubber soles will protect your feet and ankles on rough terrain. During snake season and bushfire season, you'll be grateful for the extra protection offered by jeans and a pair of boots.

I know caps are fashionable, but they're virtually useless if you have to spend any length of time in the sun. A wide brimmed hat is ideal for wide open spaces, or a floppy brimmed bush hat if you're in confined spaces (a hat with a floppy brim won't get knocked off by bushes or branches). Not only will a hat shield your eyes from the sun and prevent your face from getting sunburnt, it stops spiders and ticks falling from trees and into your hair.

It doesn't matter where you are, socks and underwear should only be made from natural fibres. I'm sure I don't need to elaborate on the nasty germs that thrive in warm, moist environments.

I don't know why, but people don't seem to wear belts anymore. Not only does a belt keep your pants up, it gives you somewhere to hang pouches for your torch and camping knife.

Hopefully I've given you something to think about, and a few less of you will be tempted to go camping wearing nothing more than a pair of boardshorts, a singlet and a pair of thongs.

Thursday 15/10/14

How good is your memory? Most people would say that their memory is pretty good; and they're probably right. It's not that hard to remember things from day-to-day. It's not difficult to remember special or traumatic events either. But when you're under duress, it's easy to forget the details.

If you witness, or are involved in a situation that will involve the police, the most important thing you can do is write down what happened, as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the more likely you are to forget details. When I say "write it down"; I mean write everything down, no matter how insignificant you think it might be. The seemingly minor detail in your report might just be the missing element on another witness's report, tying the whole case together.

If you were injured during the incident and are unable to write, ask someone for help. Don't let them paraphrase; ask them to write it exactly as you tell it. Don't worry about trying to sound clever, or trying to use legal terms; you are recording the event from your perspective. If you find yourself relying on the content of your report, you don't want to find yourself in a situation where ambiguous terminology leaves you struggling to recall what happened.

The first thing to do if you see or hear something that you think is unusual is to look at your watch. Law enforcement officials have a better chance of building a case if they know what time an incident occurred.

You might be uncertain where you should begin, start with the time and date the incident occurred. That might sound obvious, but when you have a million details swirling around in your head, this will help set your thoughts in order. Write down everything you heard, saw and did. Don't embellish the details to make your report sound more interesting or exciting. If you didn't see or hear a particular thing happen, it should not be included in your report. Write down what you heard people say, exactly as they said it. Even if they are swearing, or using other offensive words, write it down. Remember, these are their words and beliefs, not yours. Nobody is going to think any less of you for something someone else said or did. If you missed part of their conversation, state that you missed it; don't improvise.

What about the people involved? Do you actually know any of them, or know their names? Were any names or nicknames mentioned? What did they look like? Include their height, build, approximate weight and skin colour. Describe their hair length and style/appearance (greasy, frizzy, curly, thin). Did any of them have scars, tattoos, piercings, moles or other identifying marks? Describe their clothes, headwear and footwear; look for logos or other identifying features.

It's a good idea to always carry a pen with you and something to write on. You probably don't have big enough pockets to carry a diary, but there's no reason you can't fit a couple of pages from a small notebook in your wallet. If you are desperate, write on your forearm (and legs, if you're wearing shorts).

If the incident involves motor vehicles, write their license plates immediately, because there's a good chance you'll forget by the time you write your report. Describe the vehicles that went with each license plate: make, model and colour (as best you can).

Don't forget to include your own actions during the incident (if any), and note the time the incident concluded.

It doesn't matter how good your memory is, it never hurts to write things down.