Friday, February 21, 2014

SHTFriday: Zones of Assessment - What's Around You

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the theory behind Zones of Assessment and discussed what I have as my Every Day Carry equipment. In Part 2, I did a show-and-tell with my Get Home Bag and detailed the difference between "immediate access" and "extended access".  In this final article in the series, I will discuss Zone 3 and what that means.

Zone 3 is different from the others because not only does it contain items which are not in your possession, but also includes things which are not objects at all. It is the most abstract and theoretical of zones, and because of that this post will be short on pictures and long on theory. 

To reiterate:
  • Zone One: Every Day Carry (what you can access immediately)
  • Zone Two: Car Kit/ Get Home Bag/ Bug Out Bag  (what you can access within a few steps)
  • Zone Three: What you can get from the environment  (requires thought, analysis, and relationships)


Let's start with the tangible assets first. When you go out to eat, do you observe where the restrooms are? When you go to a movie, are you aware of the location of the emergency exits?  If not, then I refer you to Evelyn's post about personal security, specifically situational awareness. If so, excellent; you are already thinking about Zone 3, and how to use the resources of your environment around you. From there, it is a simple matter of being more observant and thinking about what you have seen:
  • Do you know where the fire alarm is? That is an easy way to summon help if you do not have a cell phone. 
  • How about fire hoses/extinguishers/axes? Not only are these useful for their intended purposes, but the first two can be used as improvised weapons. An extinguisher discharge may be used to conceal movement; a length of hose can immobilize an attacker; an axe can turn obstacles into doors. 
  • Where can you get water, in case you need to flush chemicals out of someone's eyes, or to wet a shemagh to keep from inhaling smoke?  Bathrooms and kitchens, obviously, but what about spigots on the outside of buildings?  (An excellent reason to own a sillcock key.) How about those fill-your-own soda fountains found in most fast food establishments? Nearly all of them have a "Press this button to get only water" function.
  • First aid kits should be obvious, but many of them in retail establishments are hidden from sight to prevent customer pilferage. How about coin-operated vending machines found in bathrooms? Sanitary pads are designed to absorb blood, and tampons are often perfectly sized for plugging bullet holes in people. In the men's room, you can often find condoms -- waterproof, stretchy latex can be used to make water carriers, or tie off a wound, or make field-expedient gloves for handling biohazardous materials. 
In short, half of Zone 3 is a combination of Sherlock and MacGuyver: What do you see, and how can you use it? 

Of course, observation and analysis is a skill that requires practice, and so the best way to improve that skill is to use it. A favorite game of mine is to ask myself, "What would I do if X situation occurred?"  Not only does this keep me in practice, but the more times I go over something in my mind, the less likely I am to freeze if it ever happens in reality. This is the same reason the military performs Immediate Action Drills: to make the actions ingrained to the point that they are performed without thinking, and therefore without hesitation.


The other half of Zone 3 is not as concrete as the first, as it consists of "What non-physical resources can you access?"

Information, of course, is always useful. Acquiring skills and gaining useful knowledge is powerful, as that weighs nothing and is constantly with you.  Ah, but if it's always with you, then that makes it Every Day Carry and therefore Zone 1, doesn't it? So the question becomes "What knowledge do you have around you that is not under your immediate control?"
  • Television, radio, and the internet are likely tops on everyone's list. While you can (and should) always have access to these items through a smartphone, laptop, or car entertainment system, the fact remains that simply having a means to access the media doesn't always mean you can get to it. Cell towers can go down, the internet can become overloaded, the electrical grid can fail. That is why these factors are Zone 3 -- you cannot control them. 
  • The biggest intangible resource, however, is other people. You cannot be expected to know everything and cope with every situation -- we cannot all be omnicompetent Special Forces types, and even those folks work in teams to watch each other's backs. People -- specifically, people whom you trust and who are skilled in areas you are deficient, and vice versa -- are amazing force multipliers. Not only can they know things that you do not, but they can also:
    • Watch your back
    • Cover your retreat
    • Hand you ammunition
    • Drag you to safety
    • Perform first aid on you 
    • etc
  • Similarly, pets such as dogs make excellent companions for similar reasons, although they require more effort to maintain and their skills are more physical. Still, I would rather have a loyal (and trained) dog by my side in an emergency situation than have someone I could not trust. 
  • Speaking of force multiplication, organizations are more effective than groups of people. While a great many preppers, myself included, are firm believers in OPSEC (Operational Security), it can be just as dangerous to trust no one as it is to trust the wrong people. As always, good judgement must be utilized in finding a group of like-minded individuals in whom you can trust and confide, as the greater the number of people in a group, the sooner you approach Dunbar's Number and social cohesion begins to break down. In other words, find the smallest group of people that suits your needs and stick with that. My personal philosophy is "Squad good; platoon okay; company bad", but the actual numbers are of course variable between preppers and their situations. 

This concludes my Zones of Assessment series. As you can see, it's not just about gear -- it's also about knowledge and trusting other people. Incidentally, those two reasons are why I started this blog with Evelyn, Loki, David and Tim in the first place. 

And so in closing, I leave you with this final thought:  "Stay alert; trust your buddies; keep your gear handy."

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