Monday, July 27, 2009

Dark Arts for Good Guys: Flight Plan

When the brain kicks into the Flight or Fight response (i.e. from an environmental stressor) your sensory cortex sends a signal to the brain stem. The instant your brain kicks out of homeostasis and into high gear, your alertness to the situation and the environment are more attuned than previous.

The longer or more intense and prolonged the situation is causes activation in the sypathetic region of your autonomic nervous system (This is how adreneline gets dumped into your system).

When this occurs your body physically responds in several ways. Pupils dialate, digestion of food in your stomach slows down or stops, there is an acceleration in your heart and breathing rate. Skin can go pale, flush or bounce back and forth. The mind and eyes get tunnel vision. This is why we threat scan. Rotating your head left to right pulls you from this and can save you from being blind sided.

The same holds true for not having a good plan to get out. While it may be very exciting to rush from the hotel and into a waiting car out front yelling "gogogogo!". To do so with no plan is tunnel vision.

If you find yourself in the middle of an attack fleeing is a good thing. It doesn't make you a coward, it makes you smart. You fight when you have no other option or it aids in your flight. But ultimately you have to realize this is someone else's problem to deal with in the bigger sense.

So how do you go about fleeing in a smart way. Unless your under immediate attack stay where you are and think it through.You have time. You may not have five hours, but you probably have a half an hour to an hour to brain storm and plan. In many cases longer.

The other thing you are going to have to do is lead. You may think its a given, but its one of the single biggest components missing in a crisis. When the shit has hit the fan there is no room for democracy. One person must lead and direct and the others must follow.

CCW classes teach about using shooting tactics and techniques, clearing holsters, and repeating the worn and increasingly untrue statement that most shootings happen at night with less than five shots fired inside seven yards. Very few are teaching students how to lead their people and/or families out of harms way.

Hang with me on this, because the immensity of leading a group, regardless of who they are in your life (co-workers or family), out of an extended hostile environment is far more important than the weapons cache you have in your room.

Someone is going to have to delegate and willingly assign tasks that may get people killed. As much as you might envision yourself in all sorts of heroic deeds it will take everyone working to get through it. If you are too much the people pleaser or don't want anyone hating you, your left with two choices, get someone else to lead or grow up.

Grow up.

Leading people out of a hell hole requires you to be smart, mentally strong, and willing. It also requires you to start learning how to do that before the shit hits the fan. Hollywood likes to show the meek man or woman suddenly rising to their feet from the corner telling everyone to shut up and listen and they suddenly are empowered with leadership skills. That is make believe.

Not sure.

Learning to lead is no different that learning to draw from a holster, going to the range for practice, or taking a martial arts class. You're not going to find out in a gunfight that you have these inherent skills for handgun shooting. Or that after years of dedicated couch potato'ing you can run a seven minute mile "because you have too". We train for reasons. Those reasons are to learn to do what it is we can not.

So what's the first thing you do as you look out from your hotel room at a newly battle scarred city and back at your co-workers? Realizing that you are all facing a local Armageddon?

Order room service.

Get everyone together and create an improtu command center. Set someone with the task of getting food and drinks together. Both for the immediate and the prolonged. Food reassures and calms people down. Subliminally it tells people that eating tonight means there is another sunrise coming and tonight is not their end. You also don't know when you may eat again.

First unofficial rule in Executive Protection: Eat whenever possible.

The second order of business. Remove anyone who is in the midst of panicking from the planning area. Even if its just to the next room. I simply can not stress this enough. People on the edge of losing or already losing it spread their panic onto everyone else.

IF you allow it.


It may sound harsh, but if you have to pick them up and remove them do it. Don't be abusive, don't scream, just remove them from the room.

Frankly these types don't provide solutions, they talk too much, put everyone on edge, and they soak up valueable time talking incessentnly and crying. Crying and screaming amidst a crisis is a monumnetal waste of time and energy.

I was once forced to duct tape a "client's" mouth shut to keep us both alive. It may not be an easy thing for you to do, but the whole prolonged ordeal is going to be full of things that aren't easy to do. Adapt.

Next assign (competent) team leaders. General rule of thumb. One leader for every five people. Why? Because that is the usual passenger size per vehicle. Should one car become separated in transit, they have leadership in place, reducing time in the "whose in charge in this car" panic conversation.

Get people working. If phone service is available get someone tasked with finding drivers (security spooks with combat driving experience is the best route), but as the city crumbles fore-hire-security will become less and less availabe and you may have to make do with what you get.

Assign someone to get maps of the city and if possible correlate with google-earth, and the television. Use all three to get square on where the worst of the trouble is and then work on navigating around it or out of it as the situation mandates. If you have nothing get on the roof and physically look for fires, flashing lights, smoke, and listen for gunshots. If Jaish-e-Mohammed are gunning down the peoples in the street its best to avoid them as much as possible.

If your final mode of transportation out is by plane learn what the security threat is to the airport. The last thing you want to do is spend seventeen hours fighting, running, ducking and hiding your way across a city to discover the airport is shutdown.

Most people never pay attention to it, but cities generally have two airports. The one you came in on and the one that the wealthy fly out of. Even small towns and villages have "airports" that maybe nothing more than puddle jump launchers, but they can get you out of the newest global hot spot for danger. Personally, stuck in the middle of a coup or terrorist attack I'm heading for the small private airport that isn't a target and probably doesn't have the military crawling all over the place.

There is also that "third" airport option that we'll look at in a coming article. That is the smugglers airport.

Have everyone get packed and be ready to move out. Surprisingly, you may actually be able to take everything you brought and bought out with you. You also want a "bug out" bag in everyone's lap as they ride. If you are forced to abandon vehicles everyone has their essential kit with them.

The point that has to be stressed here again is that, you aren't to do everything for everyone. The Wife and I have been married for four years and I still open her car door for her whether its going to the gym or a nice evening out. However, she is also an adult who is responsible for herself and in the midst of a crisis I expect her to function as such.

If you are forced to go down the hallway and around the corner with that Skorpion 61 jutted out front ready to shoot down those who oppose you, Sally from accounting can follow behind. But she's more than capable of being eyes at your six o'clock.

Julia Child may have authored seventeen cook books and made one hell of a soufflé but she was also in the OSS in WWII.

If you're in a place where you must hire drivers get them up to your command center (make sure they speak English) and have them go over the routes and get their input. If the say the routes are no good, ask them why. Specifically.They may have legitimate reasons for changing your plans, but ultimately they probably aren't as invested in getting you to the airport or border as you are. If they want to go different routes have them mark it on the map. Because the probability exists that your driver can get killed or bail out of the car the moment things get hairy. Take the drivers with you and inspect the vehicles yourself. Make sure there is air in the tires and the tank is full (not kidding), and that they are big enough.

Once your drivers are with you and you've gone over routes keep them with you. Tell them they are to only speak English (in as much as possible) and minimize their contact with anyone else outside your group(i.e. no chitty chat on the cell phone). You don't want them hand delivering you to the local chapter office of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (it happens all the time in Columbia and Mexico).

Should your driver get killed, leave, or simply freeze when the shooting happens, you are going to have to drive for some short period of time from the passenger seat. Hand on the wheel and foot over the console.

Its not hard just weird, and if you're here its the least "weird" thing that has happen so far.

Be flexible and understand that once moving all plans will shift, move or sometimes all together collapse. Its frustrating and maddening if you aren't willing to adapt as things happen.

Things will happen.

Thoughts on planning your Routes. Because you should plan more than two.

Fly Weight

A few years back I decided to scale back my armament when I traveled by Air on "low risk" jobs by leaving my 1911 at home and, p...