Mundane Movements: Driving Part 1 – Position, Escape, and if needed… Fight!

Remember, you’re behind the wheel of a two-ton bullet.

-My Grandmother Joan, explaining the dangers of driving when I was 15

It turns out Grandma Joan didn’t know she was also talking about the best way to get out of an ambush when you’re in a car. The reality is that the skinny pedal on the right is the quickest solution to a vehicular based thug problem (V.B.T.P.). This young woman had it right. I could cover this from the angle of ‘a parent with a child’, but in general my tactics would only become more aggressive when with baby.

It’s all about leaving avenues of escape, preserving distance, and remaining aware of the world around you. Are we noticing a theme yet?

Hello Sir.
Skinny Pedal on the Right.

I’ll get you thinking with a short video:

LiveLeak – http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=8f7cc6ee4238

This is interesting because there are two distinct outcomes within the same event. On the one hand, we have the gentleman who had the opportunity to present his pistol and offer an alternate plan to the scum-bag’s. Our scum-bag then decided he would search for an easier mark. On the other hand, we have the next guy who got carjacked while stopped at a light and was forced, at gunpoint, to drive from the police. Here’s the lessons I garner from this short clip:

  • It’s always helpful to have a gun, the will to use it, and the opportunity to grab it. I don’t condone having a gun in your vehicle unless you’re wearing it, but it worked out for the first guy ( and in lots of other cases, too).
  • These events come on fast, even faster when you’re daydreaming or otherwise caught unaware.
  • The first attempted carjacking happened while loading a vehicle. Check the Mundane Movements posts for ways to see it coming.
  • The second (successful) carjacking happened at a stoplight. I would assume the victim had unlocked doors, and for whatever reason couldn’t or didn’t react fast enough to drive away.

Read this article for a great overview of carjacking information.

Pay special attention to the most likely groups to be carjacked.

  1. The elderly.
  2. Females alone/with children.
  3. People preoccupied, not alert or aware of surroundings.
  4. People parked in isolated or darkened areas, dark streets, parking lots or driveways.

My intention with this post is to cover the best practices that I’m aware of for daily driving. The tips we’ll go over in the first post are the usual defensive driving stuff with an eye for rapidly escaping a developing situation. The second post in this series will be pictorials of the best way I know of drawing a gun inside of a car. But please make no mistake, it is always better to use the car as the weapon and jam the skinny pedal on the right.

In Drive:

rubberonroad

  • You control the space between your front bumper and the car in front of you. If you can see where the tires of the car in front of you touch the road, then you have enough room to pull around that car. That space is useful for a myriad of everyday things like being able to pull out of a slowing lane, not rear-ending the car in front of you if you get rear-ended, and it extends to emergency use if the need arises.
  • If feasible (most useful in a city), be in the lane nearest the sidewalk. You now have an extra ‘lane’ if needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ‘break the rules’ in an emergency. If it helps, I give you permission to drive over the sidewalk, through a red light, or over the double yellow lines if it means you can drive yourself out of a carjacking.
  • Make it a habit to glance at all of your mirrors at least once as you come to a stop. Carjackers like to come out of blind-spots.
  • As soon as you get into your car, lock the doors and start the car. Get into drive and start rolling as soon as possible.

It isn’t rocket surgery. It’s about using the best tool you have to escape. The car. In the next installment, we will assume that you can’t drive away. I’ll review the best and safest way to get your gun out while seated in a car, and how to quickly get out of the car with minimal hiccups.

The Babysitter Home Invader Plan!

I get it, you and your wife (or hubby) haven’t been anywhere together in a year. You need to go see a movie and grab some dinner. Time to hire a baby sitter. I’m sure there are hundreds of blogs and websites dedicated to picking a good babysitter. I won’t touch that one. However, I will add an extra step you should take with them when they arrive and you’re discussing logistics for different emergencies that might arise. The home invasion plan discussion.

Defining the Mission: “Enable and prepare an untrained teenager to get your child to a point of safety, bunker in place, and have the time to contact police in the event of a home invasion”

“I wonder if this babysitter knows how to run the Mossberg?” is probably what this mom is thinking.

The first step in developing a home invasion plan for the babysitter is developing one for yourself. As my mentor Claude Werner points out, brainstorming about how to achieve the desired outcome isn’t enough. You need to war-game the various scenarios, shake out possible hitches in your plan, and work through solutions. It helps to have an opposing will in war-gaming to help us see other options and keep us from buying our own hype. If you don’t have an opposing will, use the great trick that Claude developed and make flashcards with the various decisions that the bad guy could make and work through your plan based on what ‘he’ does. Make it a game. You will quickly see the holes in your plan when you start the ‘what if’ game.

Like ogres and onions, good home defense plans have layers.

The second step is evaluating the caretaker to make sure they have wrapped their head around the possibility of an invasion. To paraphrase the brilliant William Aprill, you need to reserve a ‘parking space’ in your mind for the possibility of an unexpected and unprecedented event for which you have no previous frame of reference. Well, in this case, you have to evaluate the babysitter for this ability. I’m approaching this problem from the point of view that your babysitter won’t have access to a firearm (yours or their own), but if you find someone who is trained and trustworthy then that is just a great bonus. You can alter your plan to account for this as needed.

Teaching a fifteen year old babysitter the proper mindset on protecting your child if someone kicks in the front door is probably something that can’t be done in the hurried discussion that happens before you rush out of the house with your spouse. It would be good to have the sitter over for a test run to discuss all of the logistics ahead of time. When discussing the ideas pay attention to their body language and attitude during the discussion of the need for this sort of plan.  If they glaze over or roll their eyes, it might be worth considering hiring someone with a higher maturity level. If you see their eyes sharpen, you know they’re likely to be able to keep it together and enact the plan. So just make sure the sitter understands that bad people might try to come into the house while they’re watching the baby and that it will be their job to enact the plan you’re about to cover with them.  You’ll also be drilling the plan with them, so you can watch it happen.

Let’s make a quick and dirty list of items that you might need to buy in order to accomplish the mission I wrote above. The best home defense plans are layered. This post isn’t about beefing up the security of your house, which we can talk about later. So let’s assume you already have all of the peep holes, alarms, motion sensing lights, properly trimmed hedges, extended screws in the doors, the strike plates, the dog (or outward appearance of a dog), and a safe room with a solid core door and reinforced hinges and deadbolt.

The Shopping List:

The safe room doesn’t have to be a bunker. It just needs to be a room that, at a minimum, you change the door and locks to and external door setup and some simple gear to slow the advance of a dedicated attacker. Also it would ideally have at least one piece of cover that could stop pistol caliber projectiles (the usual home invader weapon). You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a room ‘safe’. Don’t get a divorce by wasting $2,000 pouring concrete into the walls of your bedroom or anything silly. Here’s a nice overview of some more high points of safe rooms. Google around for some more ideas.

Cool, but not necessary.

Formulating The Plan:

This plan will grow and evolve based on your living circumstances, home layout, existing home reinforcements, pets, etc. I’ll lay out the general idea based off of the tools I mentioned above, as I think a similar outline is a good jumping point for your own plan.

The easiest tactic to relay is for the babysitter to not open the door. Period. (Men Pose as Delivery Men – Home Invasion) If someone is scheduled to come by, this can be relayed to the sitter, but otherwise keep the house on lock-down. Here is an excellent post from Greg Ellifritz about how to handle the front door.

So let us assume the action starts when there is the sound of breaking glass, or the alarm sounding, or the dogs losing their minds, or a door being kicked, or the sound of several men yelling…. and GO!

  1. Pick up the baby and quickly move to the designated safe room. Leave the dogs OUTSIDE of the safe room as extra deterrent.
  2. Take the OC off of the wall mount and flood the hallway with a good 10 seconds of eye-watery goodness.
  3. Close and Lock the door, and jam the floor wedge under the door.
  4. Lay the towel at the bottom of the door to keep as much OC out of the room as possible.
  5. Take baby and phone behind the best piece of cover in the room (you’ll have to decide and tell them this).
  6. Use the house phone to call the police and tell them what is happening. Stay on the line with police.
  7. Yell out “Leave Now! I have a GUN! The Police are on their way!” or similar. Even without a firearm in the room, posturing can be effective.

You get the idea. At this point, the bad guys have to run through a cloud of pepper spray, kick down a reinforced door, and possibly be facing someone bunkered in place with a rifle pointed at their chest. It’s about as much as we can hope for given the circumstances. The plan shouldn’t be too complicated, but it should be as robust and well thought as you can make it.

Practicing the Plan:

The willingness of a babysitter to dry run this plan a time or two will be a good gauge of how serious they take the possibility that bad people might try to come and hurt them or the baby.

  • Make them physically pick the baby up, and move to the room.
  • Pantomime spraying the fog (make sure they know how the safeties work), lock the door and jam the door wedge, stuff the towel,
  • Physically pick up the phone, have them say the words into the phone, “Someone has broken into the house and is still inside, the address is (read from label on phone), send the police”
  • For the coup de grâce have them actually YELL the challenge through the door. This will probably make them feel silly. That’s fine. Even a single repetition of this reserves the space in their brain to pull this off when time is of the essence.

In summary: Plan the work, and work the plan.

I hope you found some value in this post. Please share it if you found it helpful or thought provoking.

Protect the Brood, they are your legacy.

Defensive Daddy

 

Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 2, Exiting the Store, Loading your Vehicle, and Going Home

After our shopping is done and we tuck that impulse bought stuffed animal in with the little one, it’s time to go from the relative safety of the store back out into the world. We can break this down into phases and have plans for each phase of getting back to the car. We have to leave the store, walk to the car, unload the groceries, load the baby, get ourselves in the car, and drive away. Each of these phases will afford us unique options for maneuver and tactics. I’ll list the phases, and in a later post discuss some of the tactics we can use in case things start going sideways.

Before we coast back through the front door towards our perfectly parked car, there’s a few things I’d like you to do:

  1. Stop. Put your receipt away, put your wallet back in your pocket, and be in the moment.
  2. Hang up your phone. The conversation can wait. Voluntarily eliminating 180 degrees of your peripheral vision while simultaneously using spare mental processing power for a conversation is just asking for problems. Hang it up.
  3. You don’t need a soundtrack to walk to your car. Remove the ear phones if you rock out while you shop.
  4. Get your car keys in your hand before you leave the store. If you’re carrying groceries, carry them in your non-shooting hand. If you’re carrying your child, carry him/her in your non-shooting hand. Your shooting hand should be holding your keys. This eliminates embarrassing and time consuming fumbling in pockets or purses once you’re at your car door. The longer your attention is fixated on a small area, the more time you are not keeping your head on a swivel looking for any unfolding situations.
  5. As a pro-tip, I HIGHLY recommend carrying an OC (EDIT: Pepper Spray) keychain on your key ring where legal. If you follow our rule to have your keys in your hand, then you ALSO have a less-lethal option in your hand. Note that not all pepper sprays are created equal. It is best to avoid the gas station pepper sprays, and ante up for a quality brand, and even some training cartridges so you can practice. I personally can recommend Sabre Red – Spitfire or the ASP key/palm/street defender Upon approach by an unknown contact, it is easy and non-threatening to throw up a fence and have your OC in perfect position to deploy if the situation escalates. The Man to see about learning how to employ the fence from managing the initial contact, to initial assault, to gun deployment is Craig Douglas of Shivworks. Don’t miss an opportunity to train with this man.

    The Fence – Shown by Craig Douglas – codified by Geoff Thompson. Google it!

Phase 1: Leaving the Store

As you break through the threshold into the parking lot, snap a glance left and right towards those hard corners at the edges of the building. Look for loiterers, rapid movement, changing movement patterns and people paying attention to what you’re doing. If you notice something strange near the entrance, turn around and head back into the store, or head in an oblique direction to where you parked. After you walk 50 or so feet away from your car and finally make a sharp turn towards your vehicle at the other side of the lot, they will either be forced to follow your erratic movement and give themselves away, or break off and wait for the next one. This is a cheap and easy method of surveillance detection.

Phase 2: Movement Through the Parking Lot

Walk towards your car, stealing glances at the folks in the parking lot. You’ll see most of them staring at their shoelaces, playing with phones, or zoned-out staring at the entrance of the store contemplating what pizza rolls they wanted. You’ll also immediately notice others who are paying as much attention as you. You’ll probably incidentally meet eyes with them. Give them a nod. Either they’re good guys running in condition yellow like you, or you just let a predatory actor know that you’ve seen them. This is usually enough to dissuade opportunistic predators. As you move along the parking rows, play the game of looking for places to quickly position the buggy (with baby) in a safe position of cover or concealment in case the need arises. Unlike the short post about shooting while carrying your child, we might have our baby secured in a buggy which allows for us to draw aggression to ourselves while trying to regain initiative. You have more options when your baby is not occupying your hands. Making these sorts of activities a game allows it to become habitual and is less mentally fatiguing. This phase of movement is probably when you will be selected for the criminal interview that will probably start as you approach your car.



Phase 3: Unloading your groceries

Unlock your car and stow your keychain/OC combo in your waistband or pocket. I like to park the buggy with baby still buckled in, between my car and an adjacent car. The name of my game is ‘avoiding task fixation’, so I try to not go more than thirty seconds without a quick glance around. Again, practice this and make it a game. Unload your groceries, lock your car, unstrap your baby and pick them up, and return your cart to the corral (Do your part, cart jockeys have a rough life). Get back to your car by following the previous strategies.

Phase 4: Loading your Child

I have an entire post in the works regarding how to mitigate risk when securing a child in a car seat. For now though, let it suffice to say that the more often you can break your attention away from securing the little one, the better.

Phase 5: Driving Away

There is no magic here. Get in, start the car, put it in drive, and GO. The mistake I see people make ALL the time is starting the car to let it cool off and immediately picking up the cell phone to start texting. I have watched people sit in their cars for 5 minutes without the first glance around. You simply can not afford to be immobile, occupied, and unaware.

In summary:

I know this post was sort of long winded and had lots of repetition. The reality is that it doesn’t take too much extra work to deselect yourself as the easy mark. Consistency is key.

In future posts on this subject I will cover the car seat conundrum, some ways to shut down approach stories, developing a verbal playback loop, Pepper Spray considerations, options on tactics if guns need to come out, and whatever else I can think of. Let me know if you do things differently and what you’d like to hear about. I’m genuinely interested in learning a better way of doing things. My knowledge was built by keeping an open mind and standing on the backs of the brilliant thinkers that have come before.

Let’s learn together!

Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 1: Positioning and Movement INTO the Store

This post is universally applicable to the person who wants to decrease a criminal’s ability to close space and gain positional dominance via maneuver and avenues of approach, while simultaneously increasing their own ability to maintain reactionary space, preserve positional dominance and set them self up for an uneventful departure after the shopping is done.

The goal is to make predatory movements more obvious. We are looking for odd behaviors from unknown contacts. For instance, someone rapidly changing direction when you do, stopping when you do, or anything else that makes your spider sense tingle. The better we can observe and control our positioning in the public space, the more obvious a predatory movement will appear.

‘Nowhere’ isn’t the name of a bad part of town where all the crooks live, it’s where people come from when we lose our situational awareness and are task fixated by the myriad distractions we encounter daily.

With some simple games and positioning techniques, you will see more than the average iPhone fixated member of our society. You will be the harder prey, and the predators will choose to hunt those that don’t see it coming. The most likely time for an ambush (according to my private security detail friends) is when you’re either parking or leaving in your vehicle. For parents (Joe Six-Packs) like us, I would go on a limb to say that leaving is the most vulnerable time we spend in the public space. In order to have a safer departure, we can position our vehicles upon arriving at the parking lot to set ourselves up for success.

Nothing is as common place as the leisurely walk you take to the grocery store to fill your shopping cart up with the diapers, milk, and eggs you need for the week. Contemplating the next meal, it’s easy to let your mind wander. With a little one in the buggy, it’s also easy to be focused on them while trying to dodge traffic in a busy parking lot. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself shopping at a big box grocer, a gas station, a mom and pop store, whatever. You might park in an open parking lot, a dank parking deck, or next to a gas pump. I’ll lay out some best practices on positioning and parking to maximize your reactionary gap and therefor maximize the time you have to make decisions. Regardless of where you are forced to park, the guidelines are similar.

  • Picking a parking spot. This topic could be divided into several scenarios (light conditions, area of town, parking structure, etc). But really it’s not necessary. The goal should be to park in such a way that positions you as far from hard corners (e.g. dumpsters, corners of gas stations, cement pillars, stairwells) as is reasonable. When possible, you want to keep the ‘angle of threat’ to a minimum. That is, if you park far enough away from a gas station that you can see both sides of the building within your peripheral vision, you’re in good shape. You want distance from large visual obstructions that would limit your view of the area immediately surrounding your car (box vans and the like).
  • I prefer to park NEAR a cart corral now that I shop with my son regularly. The corral disallows another vehicle to park next to me, AND it is a quick walk to drop my cart off without leaving my son unattended, or making him walk with me across a busy parking lot.
  • When feasible, ‘combat park’ your vehicle. That is, back into your parking space so that when it’s time to leave, you’re driving straight ahead and can do so quickly (H/T Marc S.) Going forward is always easier than backing up, and quicker too!

 

  • Reminder:  I’m a realist. Ideally we would drive around the parking lot scoping for a perfect spot and mean-mugging all the people who make us feel uneasy, but eventually we just have to follow some guidelines and get on with our lives. Do your best with this and at least make it part of your considerations for day to day life. Some days there won’t be any spaces near light posts or shrub dividers. That’s OK. Use some of these guidelines. Just being aware of these principles will give you a distinct advantage.
  • Entering a store (specifically a gas station), always park at the pumps whether you need gas or not. By positioning here, you can see all of the hard corners of the building, the dumpsters, and any loiterers that look out of place. Also, Avoid RedBox DVD rentals on the outside of convenience stores. These seem to be the new ATM robbery zones. Task fixation will allow someone to ‘come out of nowhere’ and take your money, or worse.

quickmart front

Upon entering a store, make a direct line to the deepest corner of the store. Turn around and take a quick view of who is there, where they are, and what they’re doing. Don’t need to be obvious, just give it a few seconds. You’ll notice quickly if something is out of place. Look for the main bad guy and possibly a seeded back-up guy. They’re cowards and often run in pairs. Make it a game and eventually it won’t feel like a chore. Then, shop as normal.

BACK STORE

 

  • When parking in a large open parking lot, some similar rules apply. When possible, park near light posts (especially in the dark) as well as cement/bush dividing areas. You’ve eliminated an easy approach from a flank and you will quickly realize if someone is circumventing the natural obstacle to close distance with you. You also will have the time to maneuver yourself to keep cars between you and an unknown contact. You have all but eliminated 180 degrees of approachable avenue and increased your reaction time as well as your ability to determine if someone is up to no-good.

shrubpark light

This post is more generic in that it applies to anyone. Not just parents with children. The same principles should be used regardless of who you have with you. Having your partner (spouse, significant other) with you makes these logistics much easier. More ‘switched-on’ observers help to increase avoidance and de-select you as potential prey.

The next installment of this topic will include how to get back to your vehicle after the shopping is done.

If you find any useful info in this rambling, please share it with your friends and encourage them to share. I just want to get this information out there because I want people to think and keep themselves and their families safe.

NOTE: Inspired by material from (Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, The Total Protection Interactive Hive-mind)

DefensiveDaddy