If something happens and getting home as usual is not practical, having a plan to meet your family at an alternative location can be useful. This is useful for big emergencies and small ones.
There may come a time when, for some type of emergency or impracticality, you will need your family to meet with you somewhere other than home. It may happen when time is crucial or there is some form of a threat. Perhaps there is a forest fire in your city, or maybe some type of protest/rioting. It maybe something less cinematic, like you need to get to the emergency room due to some unknown pain or a minor accident. Maybe you just need to meet outside of the city before you head for that long road trip, and want to beat the traffic. It would not be practical to get home from work, get your family into one vehicle and then head out to a safer place.
A family meet up plan has been called many different things. All it is, is a plan on where you will meet up with your family or group. The situations that trigger the meet up can vary from casual to dramatic, but the benefits remain the same: planning ahead of any issues and getting together safely at a predetermined location that benefits you.
DEFINE YOUR RISKS
Consider your situation and make a short list of what risks apply to you. Do you have any known health issues (pregnancy or health issues that require getting to the ER)? Do you have flooding? Tornadoes? Identify what situations might come up where you might be forced to evacuate your home. Are there any industrial facilities in your area that pose some risks?
These will help you further understand the risks and what you need to plan for. (At one point we had a meet up plan when my wife was pregnant.) If you know the risks, then you can plan ahead of everyone else later on.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN SELECTING MEET UP PLACES:
Say you now have a list of threats you need to plan for, you can slowly plan around them and how you might react.
Terrorism is a real threat in today’s world. One of the more recent method is a terrorist truck attack-having a lone terrorist drive a truck towards a crowd of innocent people. It may be worth rehearsing your actions in your mind in case this does happen.
Terrorist truck attacks are one of the latest methods of terrorism. They are easy to plot and skip over the entire complexity required for a bombing or shooting type of attack. Bombings require specialized knowledge and materials which open up a risk of being tracked before the attack is executed. A shooting event requires training and acquiring of the weapons and a vulnerable target. On the other hand, the truck requires an individual who can drive, and he can rent a truck from just about anywhere. The attacker will only need to pick the time and place where he can inflict optimum damage-that is about all the planning he would need.
We have seen this attack in Nice, France and a few months ago in Berlin, Germany.
It has yet to happen in US soil, but given how simple the attack is and how it has seemed effective-it is possible that someone in the US will pick up after this method and create some damage.
If it is a possibility here, how might you be able to stay aware of this danger and keep yourself and family out of harm’s way?
WHAT ARE THE PREFERRED TARGETS?
So far in previous truck attacks the targets were large crowds gathered outside. The crowds were gathered for some type of festivity, but the same risks can be found in other events. This might apply to a protest, a marathon, a concert or a busy Friday night in a downtown outdoor venue.
The key is:
Lots of people
Accessible to a fairly large vehicle (truck)
Wide enough space to maneuver the truck for multiple attacks
The easy pattern is to find a large crowd in high density cities when they are gathered for some kind of celebration. The celebration itself has a theme that can be used as part of the message of the attack. Nice is the 5th most populous city in France, and Berlin is the capital of Germany. The significance of the city may have been part of how they were selected as targets.
Consider also the nature of the festivities. Remember, it was Bastille day (French National day) and Christmas. Similar festivities in the US might be Independence day or a Thanksgiving day parade. In both previous attacks people were in good spirits and care free. If you do decide to participate in an event where such an attack can happen, what can you do to stay ahead?
HOW DID PEOPLE REACT?
Watching the videos for both terrorist truck attacks, we can see how a lot of people stared in disbelief-some until it was too late. People can freeze in these types of situations as the mind tries to process the unusual information coming. Some people stood still and motioned their hands up, gesturing the mad attacker to stop.
After enough people had screamed to get out of the way, most of the crowds had enough presence of mind to react. There is panic and everyone simply tries to get out of the way. There is pushing and disorientation. Some people even managed to keep their heads and found a chance to fight back. A few people tried to stop the attacker in Nice by grabbing onto the side of the driver’s door and attacking him. (In retrospect this was dangerous as the driver may have well been armed.)
Mainly those who were far enough from the attack had a great chance of survival. They heard the commotion and were distanced enough that they could process what was happening. They then had enough time to get to safety. If you were far away enough, you had a pretty good chance of surviving it. The truck had a very limited maneuverability and traveled in a fairly straight line.
Those who were close to the truck had a smaller chance of surviving, reaction time is very important. If you are closer to the source of danger, you will need to react faster.
Does the event you are participating in have a religious or political theme that can be leveraged for the attacker’s message?
What are the socio-political hot topics right now? Would any of them be tied to this event in some way?
Are there any high value targets possibly coming to this event? Maybe a public figure is giving a speech of some sort. A quick review on the event’s website can give you most of this information. A quick online check can also give you some idea on news trends that may have some connection to the event.
It is interesting to note that the Nice attacker had lived in Nice. He was parked along the promenade of the attack earlier that day. The promenade had been closed off to vehicles for the festivities. He was a local and had rented the truck himself. He parked the truck and was waiting for the time to attack. Sometimes you will notice these kinds of signs-most of the time they will be nothing, but in this case the attacker was real.
KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Situational awareness is key. If you are going to be stationary in this event, you should plan some things. Keep an eye for a safe way to get out in the event of a panic. Can you find a driveway which is small enough that it is probably not where a truck attack might come from? Are there obstacles you can reach, which will provide you with protection? These obstacles may include:
Here’s how I put together an active burglar deterrent in my home for $15. These work at night and help make my home less attractive as a target. Unlike having alarms blaring when someone breaks in, this leads burglars look for another home to consider even before an incident occurs.
I’ve been meaning to write about the steps I take to make my home less of a target. With my wife and my kids, I cannot take risks (actually nobody does). I read a few home invasion incidents on Nextdoor.com and realized that my neighborhood is normal. By normal, I mean it is not a fancy neighborhood, it is not a high crime neighborhood, it is one that is just like everyone else’s. That means that those home invasions that happened there can happen to mine as well.
BECOME LESS OF A TARGET
If a criminal wanders into my street looking for an opportunity, the homes will all look about the same. One home might have nicer cars or windows. Another might have a dog or a good fence. For me, my home looks like someone is up and working all night. Do not come here, somebody is awake.
By this, I mean the garage has lights and a loud radio turned on at night til the early morning. In the quiet of the night, my neighbor does not hear it. From the sidewalk you might faintly hear the music. From the driveway, you will hear it and you can definitely see some light. All signs of human activity.
Here’s what you will need:
The appliance timer is available on Amazon or Home Depot. This one is an indoor timer and is manually set for hours of the day you want stuff turned on. There are fancier ones, but this is my choice for my budget.
I went to my local Goodwill store and got myself this radio for $5. Set it to your preferred radio station so you at least like the music if you hear it at night.
The holidays are upon us, and like most families, we embark on a long drive to visit our loved ones. In our case the travel is from Texas to Kansas, approx 450 miles. We’ve gotten better at getting organized for these trips (we typically have a few every year). As we learn more about these trips, they get easier and more comfortable. I actually look forward to these nowadays. Here are some things we did on a recent Thanksgiving trip. I hope you find some of these ideas useful.
Days before the trip itself, I slowly purge the vehicle of any clutter. On the day of our trip, when we are loading, the vehicle is ready and you basically start with a clean slate. The trunk is empty, the glove compartment and the console between the 2 frontseats is empty. This gives me a psychological boost and a countdown to the day of the trip. It also helps me to visualize what is needed in the car.
Check the vehicle for any maintenance needed. Depending on vehicle upkeep you may need to do more. In my case, I needed to air the tires. Others to check for are wiper fluids, oil and coolant. The vehicle we used for this trip was a lease so it was pretty well maintained.
Fill up the gas tank ahead. I filled up the tank on Wed night, since we were leaving early AM on Thursday. This saves me from having to gas up at 5am and have to worry about how safe the gas station might be. It also makes our trip more fluid when we leave. Small disruptions during the first 2 hours of the trip really slow us down as it prevents us from building momentum.
Family stuff for the trip
We planned days earlier on what we were bringing. We had agreed on easy to cook meals so that we save prep time at our destination. This meant we allocated a big cooler for all frozen food we were taking with us. We had a separate cooler for our meals during the trip-this is super helpful if your kids have specific diets like ours do. This cooler does not go in the trunk, but is kept within reach of the passenger seat.
We pack enough supplies so we are self sustained during our trip and while we are at our relatives’ place.
We rely quite a bit on ipads and phones to keep our kiddos busy on the road. Having phone chargers and a way to charge multiple devices are important. We have an inverter in our vehicle-which allows us to charge usb, 110 volt items, 12 volt devices (like GPS). We also saved some videos onto our devices, in case internet is slow or unavailable.
We load the vehicle while it is in the garage with the garage door closed. We do not want to show passers by in the street that we were leaving on a big trip. We woke up early for any last minute preps and loaded up. Kids woke up last and were the last to get loaded in the car-this lets them sleep thru the first few hours of the trip.
This goes without saying-check road conditions before the trip. Usually we drive thru one or two thunderstorms every time we go thru Oklahoma. Our return trip would be rainy. We get dressed for this so when we take bathroom breaks we are ready.
Before we left the house obviously we double check that all doors are locked and no appliance is left on that is not needed. For security, we leave the porch lights on. I also set up lights and a radio so that they turn on at night so as to simulate activity in the house. I use an appliance timer I got from home depot and to this I plugged in lights for a bedroom-so that it is seen from the front yard and street. I also plugged in a radio so that it can be heard throughout the house and when you approach the front door. From the backyard, one can see light within the house from the bedroom.
If you have a paid home security service, that works too. However I like the idea of making my house seem occupied with or without a security service. Also, I have heard some rather disappointing stories about how these systems work. They are more passive than active basically. I consider my lights+radio on timers more of an active deterrent.
Update:There is also a product called FakeTV which makes your home seem occupied with somebody watching TV. I have not personally tried this but folks have said great things about it.
Bathroom breaks and stopping for gas
During the trip, all doors are always locked and windows are closed. Particularly when we stop for gas or food, doors are always locked. If I leave the car for gas, I ask my wife to stay alert and keep the doors locked (our vehicle automatically unlocks when the driver leaves the car so she has to manually lock it).
I cannot emphasize this enough. I have seen way too many car jacks because the victims
We are careful when we stop for bathroom breaks. There are way too many truck stops on our route and we sometimes end up in undesirable areas. In general, these stops have risks to them because it is very easy for a child to be lost/abducted and taken away. There are too many strangers just passing by and there are vehicles leaving the area every second.
When my wife goes to the bathroom she makes sure to have her phone and her pepper spray with her. I take note how long she is gone. When I take a break I have my phone and ccw with me. Since having my pistol with me on these trips, I feel way better equipped to protect my family in case something bad happens. I highly advise being armed when traveling. We are working to get my wife her ccw permit also, but for now at least I am prepared and provide this extra layer of safety for the family.
Since we travel with kids, I try to have an empty bottle of water ready for those super emergency bathroom breaks for my son. Sometimes we do not make it to a rest stop. This allows us to just stay in the car while being pulled over somewhere (safe and away from the highway please).
When we stop for gas, I try to pick a spot that is favorable to my safety. No dark areas, away from other vehicles and preferably a spot that lets me get a good view of my surroundings. This does not mean isolated areas, just something that allows a good vantage point. Sometimes this means avoiding the middle pumps at the station and trying to be on the outer side. I do not stare at the pump while filling up, but I am aware of what’s going on around us.
Over the years me and my wife have learned to work together as driver-navigator. It is nothing complicated, but she knows to use her phone and check for traffic ahead. She knows to look for alternate routes as well. This took some practice but we learned it during one long trip and has since proved beneficial. Our dedicated gps does not adjust for traffic, but her phone app can show us real time traffic conditions. When she drives, we trade jobs and she gets these info on demand from me.
This also helps us to pick locations of restaurants if we are getting food. We can pick ones that are along the way and not have to take long detours. She can also confirm weather on our route ahead. For example, we saw it was supposed to rain by lunch time in OK, so we set a goal to get past certain cities before the rain came. Passing thru cities, the highways get slower and denser, so having that behind us before rains started would make for less stress.
Last bits of advice
With relatively small planning, these long trips have become quite relaxing for us. It gives me and my wife time to just sit and talk while the kids are sleeping and strapped in. Sometimes we drive a route that offers better views than the interstate-if we are making good on time or if we are early. Initially these long drives were quite stressful, there was always some big thing we had not prepped for. We kept mental and written notes of previous issues and future trips have become easier. The main thing for us is to be self sufficient during the trip. This means food, water, gas, portable bathrooms even, and inflight entertainment. If we have these and if we set them up for comfortable access then half the battle has been won. If there are external factors that are unlikely-we can pick a different route, or we can stop somewhere.
Take some time to plan the trip and think things through. Make a list of both big picture things and small details. The biggest improvement on this trip of ours was that I had a ccw and we felt safer knowing that I was armed. The best changes that made the most noticeable improvements were the food preps and entertainment.
I hope these ideas prove useful for you. If you have other suggestions please add them in the comments. I am constantly learning and I am always open to ideas.