Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Daily Preparedness Tip: The Emergency Fund

I got a call this morning--at zero dark thirty--from a family friend who said that her brother had just died.  This was completely unexpected, the guy was healthy and relatively young, and now he is dead.  The girl is devastated as is her mother and the financial aspects of his death will land on his mother and sister as he didn't sound particularly financially solvent.  Just adding it up in my head, the girl had to pay for a last minute plane fare across the country, she will miss a week of work at least (I doubt her job pays any sort of leave), and between her and her mother they will need to come up with funeral expenses (whatever those may be; cremation is much less expensive than burial but I'm not sure if that jives with their religious beliefs).  The bottom line is that an emergency fund is just that--to be used for unforeseen emergencies.  While some emergencies may be relatively painless if you have any sort of emergency fund (busted hot water tank, blown tire), other unexpected financial emergencies can add up to the many thousands of dollars.  This means you need to have a robust, fully-funded emergency fund for just this sort of unexpected large expense.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Active Shooter Response Kit

First aid kits have been a standard, pretty much everywhere, for as long as I can remember.  Police carry them in their squad cars, industrial buildings have them everywhere, offices have them, schools have them, people keep them in their cars...pretty much if you need an aspirin or a band aid, you will be able to find these items in the ubiquitous first aid kit.

Now on the market are "active shooter response kits".  A sign of the times, no?  You can find these kits on Amazon, some police and fire departments are now issuing them, and of course EMS can order them.  Similarly, other active shooter products are now on the market as well including active shooter armor kits and you can even get your kid a bullet-proof backpack for school (?!?).

I guess forewarned is forearmed and since it isn't if but when an active shooter will strike again, it may not be such a bad idea to put together your own active shooter kit.  Among the items you may want to include:

Of course you should get as much training on trauma response as you can--from EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) to Stop the Bleed classes (fairly new for civilians) to EMT or Paramedic level courses.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Parents Need to Step Up

This post from a school teacher went viral today.  In it, the teacher calls out parents for their part in the discipline (or lack thereof) of their children and how this is part of what is causing our society to become a place rife with school violence.  Obviously this isn't all parents and all students.  Also obviously there are many things that probably have a hand in the increasing number of school shootings not the least of which is the general lack of respect for others in all of society, increasing mental health issues in younger and younger people, poverty, etc.

But this teacher did make an excellent point which is why her post went viral in the first place.  There is no doubt that parenting today is a challenge yet it has always been so.  Social issues may be different these days, yet there have always been problems that parents need to address whether is is 2017, 1917 or 1817.  And while the call for parents to better discipline their kids usually makes parents sarcastically respond with "you are telling me to beat my kids???" they don't get the fact that disciplining children starts at age 2 not age 16.  A doctor spelled out the situation in "The Collapse of Parenting" fairly clearly in this article.

I hope parents will see this viral post and realize it is time to step up.  This means siding with the teacher automatically instead of with their kid when there is an issue unless there is some sort of egregious behavior on the teacher's part.  This means setting firm rules and boundaries and letting the kid suffer for breaking either of these.  This means giving kids chores and responsibilities starting when they are 5 not 20.  The days of kids not being coddled is probably long gone but there is no doubt that the old fashioned way of parenting produced more resilient and more empathetic kids, something that is sadly lacking in society today.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

10 Things You Need In A Mass Shooter Situation

YMMV of course but here are some things to consider...

  1. A firearm and a concealed carry license.  The way to stop someone with a gun is often with a gun.  Of course it is a personal choice to carry or not.  Here are some examples of civilians who have stopped mass shooters with their firearms.
  2. Tactical firearms training.  Even if you have been carrying concealed for years, even if you are an expert hunter, tactical shooting is a whole other type of deal and you need to learn these sort of skills from a professional.  And practice them.
  3. An escape route.  Always look for as many escape routes as possible in any place you happen to be whether you are inside or outside.
  4. A place to hide.  Again, always be assessing your options.  If you couldn't escape your location, how/where could you hide?
  5. If you are hiding, know the difference between cover and concealment.  Ideally a place that offers both would be optimal.
  6. Be physically fit.  Could you run out of a building and the length of a football field if necessary?  Could you hide under a desk without severe back spasms?  Could you evacuate a room by jumping out of a window without injuring yourself?  Be as physically fit as possible so that you can physically escape a mass shooting if necessary.
  7. Fighting skills.  Any sort of fighting skills (karate, boxing, kobudo) will give you an edge if worse comes to worst and you end up physically fighting for your life.
  8. Actual, specialized, active shooter training.  Learn the best way to deal with an active shooter situation from the experts.
  9. A trauma first aid course.  Once you survive an active shooter situation, would you be able to render first aid effectively?
  10. As many active and passive physical security measures as you can cram into your house/office building/school.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Daily Preparedness Tip: Grow an Edible Yard

Our lemon trees are flourishing this year (they tend to bloom late December through March).  Which brings me to the point of today's tip: if you need to have/tend a yard anyway, you might as well make as much of your yard as edible as possible.  Of course you can grow shrubs and flowers, but using edible trees (nut trees, fruit trees), shrubs (blueberry bushes), and annuals/perennials (asparagus, greens, tomatoes, etc) to decorate your yard not only gives you something to look at but it also provides food for you and your family.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Day After a Mass Shooting

It's the day after one of the worst school shootings in history.  As is typical, there are calls to ban guns entirely, ban "assault weapons" only, strengthen background checks, or in some narrowly defined way, ban men from owning guns since they seem to be the problem.  There are the descriptions of the victims, stories of the heroes, and actual videos of the event in progress.  There were signs that this guy in particular would be an eventual mass shooter, and there are pleas to lawmakers to do something.

In other words, it is a typical day after a mass shooting.  People are horrified, people are outraged, people are fighting over addressing the mechanism of the event (guns) vs addressing the root cause of the event (mental illness most likely).  There is data coming out the wazoo on everything gun-related...there has been a massive decline in overall gun violence and gun ownership has dropped to an all-time low while at the same time there has been a sharp rise in mass shootings over the past decade or so and many people are still trying to make sense out of the tough gun laws states vs high rates of gun violence debate.

Sadly, there is no definitive answer about how to prevent school shootings.  Much like the answers (or lack thereof) addressing other major societal issues like how to prevent suicide or how to prevent opiod overdoses, there is huge debate over what exactly to do to prevent situations where a lot of people die; in this case school shootings.  There are, of course, theories everywhere on the issue (here, here, and here for example) but a serious lack of action in any direction.

IMHO, even though I lean libertarian, I would love to see a free national healthcare system that covers every citizen from head to toe (physical healthcare, mental health care, substance abuse care, dental healthcare, glasses, hearing aids, the works) as a place to start.  I think comprehensive mental healthcare--not the "you get to decide what mental healthcare you receive" but a "you are unequivocally mentally ill and will get mental healthcare whether you want it or not" type of care--would go a long way towards fixing many societal issues from homelessness to mass shooters to a prison population in which many of the prisoners are mentally ill to the mentally ill being shot by cops on a fairly regular basis.

Hardening targets is kind of meh in my book since if someone really wants to commit a mass shooting they will find a way to do it (a la the Fort Hood shooting), as is tightening gun background checks (the Las Vegas shooter was a poster child for the kind of person who would easily pass any background check).  Mental healthcare, and keeping the mentally ill from accessing weapons, should be the first thing our country works on (with full funding not platitudes!) to address our mass shooter problem.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

I've think I've reused that same headline several times in this blog unfortunately.  Today's mass shooting was at a Florida high school with several students reported killed and several reported injured.  It is still early in the process as they have just detained the shooter so more details will be forthcoming.

According to this Wikipedia page, it used to be pretty easy to catalog school shootings...by century.  In the 1700s (the entire century) there was 1 school shooting in the US, in the 1800s (the entire century) there were 28 school shootings, in the 1900s (the entire century) there were 226 school shooting incidents; now, in the first 18 years of the 2000s, there have been 211 school shooting incidents.  And the deaths: in the 1700s, 1 death; in the 1800s, 24 deaths; in the 1900s, 254 deaths; in the 2000s; 290 killed not counting today's shooting.

Which begs the question, WTF is going on?  Obviously no one knows the answer to this or we would not have ever-increasing shootings each year.  Years ago everyone had guns, kids got guns for their birthdays and Christmas, teenagers drove to school with rifles hanging across the window in the back of their trucks, people carried guns--both concealed and not concealed, no permit required--and most everyone (at least in rural and semi rural areas) had rifles behind the front and back door of their homes.  Yet no one thought to shoot other people, least of all teenagers.  Now kids are taking guns to school and shooting at other kids a few times a month or more.

I have no more idea about the whys of this situation than anyone else but I can tell you that over the course of my lifetime (many decades) there have been some significant changes in society.  Two parent families used to be the norm, now they are the exception.  The number of kids at school with severe food allergies was zero all through my school days, now food allergies bad enough to kill someone are quite common.  It was almost unheard of for any kid at school to be mentally ill (back in the day people with mental illness would be locked away in institutions), now it is said that one in five kids are medicated for mental illness and kept in school.  Bullies have always been a fact of life but apparently kids are not encouraged to fight back against bullies (?? what I've heard from the grandkids).  Suicide in young teens has grown exponentially, often due to bullying.

Kids are online 24/7 which both encourages attention seeking and opens them up to online bullying.  Kids are also allowed to stay in the house all the time with their digital entertainment.  Years ago no kid wanted to stay inside (if you looked like you weren't busy, chores would be found for you to do plus there was one TV with three stations that everyone shared but which never go turned on before the evening news) it was the norm to be outside playing, fishing, or wandering around the neighborhood with your friends.  Back then, everyone had a friend group (kids had their school friends or neighbor kids to play with, the parents had their bowling league or bridge club, etc); I recently asked a young teenage nephew how many really good friends he had and he said none, he said this was pretty much the norm for his peers (??).  Apparently the "go outside and find someone to play with" has been superseded by play dates set up with appropriate children?

Even military recruiters are noticing that recruits are fatter, sicker, and more prone to injury these days which is probably related to their crappy diet and lack of exercise.

It's a sad situation all the way around.  After these shootings people call for stricter gun control and tighter background checks yet these kids who are doing the shootings wouldn't be subject to any of these things because they aren't the ones purchasing the guns.  And while I realize we can't go back in time, the splintering of the family, lack of expectations for kids to live up to, overwhelming influence of online social media, and other changing societal factors (can we please get universal healthcare that includes comprehensive mental health services???) need to be addressed.