Thursday, October 20, 2022

Get Home Back - Stuck 700-Miles From Home

Get Home Back - Stuck 700-Miles From Home

In the midst of Putin threatening war, Biden admitting we are closer to nuclear war than during the Cuban Missile Crisis, New York running nuclear emergency notices and me back on the road again… it got me thinking; What if the worst case happened and I could not fly back home. What if we were hit with just one high altitude EMP, a localized suitcase nuke, or what if any notable attack occurred again in the US and what would that mean for me being stuck 700- miles from home? It certainly becomes a figure it out vs shoot it out problem.

A major EMP would put us all back to living like pilgrims and likely like savages since most of us are devoid of living with that level of discomfort and inconvenience. Any nuclear or biological attack would lock everything up nationally. Something less significant but serious at a national level like the Boston, Oklahoma City or the Twin Towers would surely again halt flights and close cities either fully or partially across the US with imposed curfews. I happened to be in New York City when the Boston Bombing occured and let me tell you NYC was shut down for over 48-hours until they determined the threat was isolated to Boston. Most of us are not prepared for this level of survival and navigating 700-miles back home or in the best case staying put if that is the best option. What would you do?

No Secret Numbers - I wish I had one of those secret numbers to call where I say I need an extraction and a code phrase and gain access to a global network of safehouses, 2-hour response global transportation, $100K in unmarked US currency, and a healthy packed armory, but I don’t. I have a suitcase and backpack that I lug around with basic TSA approved items and supplies, and sometimes access to a rental car and on rare occasions, an SUV that could get me off road if needed and off gridlocked paved roads.

You Ain’t Walking It - As Mrs Pandemic is fond of saying, “You have enough crap in your truck to take down and restart a planet”, however that does little good when it is sitting in an airport parking lot 700-miles from me. I am noting 700-miles, because it is a good average distance most people travel in the US for work or vacation unless you are hopping from coast to coast. It also makes you stretch the mind a bit, because you are not going to walk it… well, you could in about 280 days assuming you net a constant 2.5mph and can more or less walk a straight line.

The harsh reality is whoever you are going back to will likely be dead or gone before you make that year-long walking trek back home. This becomes a logistics question, planning and resourcefulness and that is super ugly in a mega crisis. Maybe it is a situation like the terror attacks we have had and it just means, you are forceable required to stay put for a few days or in the case of another Covid lock down, maybe longer. What is your plan?

Let’s say for example we have another terror attack and it was a small format dirty suitcase nuke in another city, but the government is doing a manhunt like what occurred in Boston or is worried about other cities and grounds all flight. They may even throw in a 48-hour no-travel military enforced curfew. Do you attempt to outrun the blockades getting set up and get out of the city before you get locked in for an unknown amount of time or sit tight in potential safety and comfort and wait for your flights to reschedule?

How you respond all depends on the situation and the information you can obtain. Is this a city level or national level event? Is there a riot moving through the city burning down things in the path and you need to move now, or should you avoid overreacting. Obviously the faster you decide on any course of action is better for you because others are making decisions about what to do and officials can be counted on to have the knee jerk reaction to just lock everything down to control the situation. Get out or stay, but you better decide quickly.

Intel vs Communication - There is intel and there is communication which are different things. Intel allows you to assess the situation and understand what is happening so you can make decisions about your next steps. Communication is helpful to gain intel and assist with your next steps, but communication is usually difficult after a large event either because of a lack of accurate information or the lack of ability to gain information. I have started carrying a Baofeng U5R with me in my carryon with pre-programmed local weather and public CB, MURS, and FRS channels. Amazing what you can hear going on in an area even during typical days and of course during an emergency there will be a lot of chatter across these channels.

During every terror attack on 1st world countries in the last decade, typical cell phone service has been immediately clogged. I will guaran-damn-tee that you will not have cell phone voice service to call people. The actual beauty of text though is that text works on the next available connection, so even though cell phone voice service was not working after the Boston, Oklahoma City, and NYC attacks, people were generally still able to text fairly reliably with short messages. The shorter message the faster it will get delivered. An “IMOK” will get through more reliably than essay level texts. I guess the Millennials and younger may not even notice there is anything wrong since that is their communication method of choice.

If you do happen to be HAM licensed, the world can really open up to you especially with the number of global relay stations. You could literally use your mobile HAM radio to communicate and hop from relay to relay station all the way home if you know what you are doing. For those that want to dive into this technical hobby, there are almost unlimited options to be able to communicate in even the worst situations.

If you have a cell phone and wired headphones you likely have a phone with a hidden FM Radio Chip which I can say is CRAZY HELPFUL when you just want to know what is going on around you. It does not require any internet or cell phone service signal and acts just like an old fashioned handheld FM radio. The new Samsung A72 has an actual headphone port and an FM Chipset according to specs plus a super long running 5000ma battery and internal mini-SD card support up to 1T of space. If there is something nuts going on, the stations will almost always cut regular programming and deliver updates. If your phone includes this often hidden FM chip you will need a tuner app pre-loaded like NEXTRADIO and wired headphones which acts as the antenna. It will not work with bluetooth headphones. Obviously these are several things you want to try out before you need to use them in an emergency, but delivers a fairly fail proof option to gaining intel into what is going on even without cell signal or internet service.

Get out Right Freaking Now - In this case having some friends who have real intel that watch your back is handy. Having gone through this with the Boston Bombing and being in NYC that day, I can note what I did. A friend called me knowing I was traveling in NYC and said drop everything and get out of there right freaking now… they are shutting down NYC. I did have a small FM radio that I carried with me at the time and what was being said was that NYC was suspected of being the next target. We didn’t really know if there were going to be other attacks or for how long they would keep NYC closed off. Frankly NYC feels claustrophobic to me anyway and the thought of getting stuck on the island after an attack like what happened during the Twin Towers event made my skin crawl.

I jumped in a private black car and noted a $100 tip if he hauled ass and got me to Newark Airport and to stay out of the tunnels. He got his $100 tip, but they were closing down all bridge and tunnel traffic right behind us as we were crossing. I got the first flight out to anywhere literally minutes before witnessing from the air the travel gridlock. That worked in that particular situation and timing was everything. Five extra minutes of debating and I would have still been stuck there three days later. If you do this strategy seconds count, you just have to move immediately with what is on your back, not three hours from now after you are all packed with all your ultimate bug out and survival gear. What if I had a car? To be honest the driver was ripping through parking lots and back alleys after he realized what was going on…I would likely have still been stuck in traffic if I was driving using Google Maps.

Stay Put but Where to Go? - “Getting out of there” sometimes is not the best idea and you need to just let everyone calm down. Riots are a good example if they are isolated and you really don’t want to be mistakenly in the middle of all that. The problem is this could mean needing some place to stay. Do you have friends or relatives you could call to stay with within walking distance if needed… even really distant Linkedin level friends might help out in this situation and let you sleep in the garage and provide at least food and water. Do you have their addresses, contact info and a printed map? Do you have printed local hotel numbers to call if the internet is jammed with traffic. Well until this trip, I did not. Most car rental companies will provide a free local city map on request and I always ask for one as I pull out of the lot. A printed list of all your contacts or at least stored locally on your phone is a great idea.

Get Housing Sorted out Quick - During these chaos events, the moment you know you are going to get stuck, book the hotel fast for a 10-day stay and directly with the hotel if you can. Lock up housing and remember the more you pay for a room, the more obligated generally they will be to assure you are getting the food and drink you need. If you are going to be stuck, do it in style and use the extra amenities you get with a higher end hotel. Sure you will pay for it, but I will guarantee the Motel 6 is not going to lift a finger to help you figure out food for the next three days, but the 4-Star Hilton likely will and most likely will take pity on the guests and go the extra mile. I would suggest booking a longer stay like 10-days since you can always cancel with the worst case getting a 1-night room charge, but having housing for more than a week is essential during this chaos. If you do need to stay longer, the hotel will be more likely to extend your stay than pull in another reservation.

Use your Status - There have been a few times where I have been stuck from a travel perspective and “Loyalty Program” status paid off big. This is the time you do not want to cheap out and where you can leverage your hotel status to have priority over other people. If you have an Amex Platinum or Black card… I will note that these status and loyalty programs do open doors. I was once stuck at 1AM from a flight cancellation in the middle of a sold-out sporting event date for a large city. I plopped my Gold Hotel status and Amex Platinum card on the counter and noted Amex Platinum guaranteed me a room at any hotel and I wanted this one and they bumped another guest’s reservation. Maybe not the nicest or most Christian thing I have done, but I was not stuck sleeping on a couch in the hotel lobby that night.

Create Leverage to Move - You want to go in the direction of home, but sometimes an airline or hotel reservation is all you will need to get past the roadblock and maybe one or two steps beyond where everyone else is stuck. Yes of course officer, I will get off the road immediately and know I should not be going this way, but see here is my reservation for tonight at this hotel or airline just 10 miles up the road and it's the only one I could get, and if needed you can follow me there to assure I get there safely. Verus, I am getting out of town… “Yeah, the road is closed, turn around.” I recently had a weird situation entering a hotel after what was later learned as a bomb threat. A unique security checkpoint was set up where a uniformed police officer would not let me pass into the hotel until I could prove a hotel reservation. I am sure there is some strategy where you could daisy chain hotel reservations from point A to B leapfrogging blockages with that excuse and still retaining a backtrack housing option but that seems to venture into another level of tactics. There are certainly also other options that have higher risks personally and legally, but I cannot in good conscience suggest any of those.

If you happen to find yourself in the middle of something and somewhere you do not want to be or in the midst of a country level shutdown, this is likely the point where you need to have a plan with logistics to get back to where you want to be. Likely the only thing moving will be military, LEO, and essential transportation like food and fuel. For some they might be able to leverage their former military, LEO or First Responder experience to jump on a vehicle that may be an option. I have a press badge and first responder training credentials for example that I may be able to leverage for transport. Assuming you do not need to worry about nuclear or biological issues that would make things wildly complex, your best bet is to find ad hoc level transportation that could span from with approved permission to slipping into railcars. That could include having enough cash or things of value to bribe your way to where you need to go. How are you set there? An old special ops trick is to have a $2000-$5000 watch on your wrist that you can say, here this is a designer watch worth $2000.

If we are hit with a lower altitude nuke, life is about to get really complex. Take your daily Iosat until someone with a geiger counter tells you otherwise and really hope for the best. There are MANY books on the subject of surviving nuclear attack and at least from what I have read, none of them are super awesome options if you are inside the 20-mile radius. Seal all your windows and doors, stay inside and away, preferably underground, away from the contaminated fallout dust and stay put for two-three days unless otherwise directed.

The common US DHS First Responder recommendations are around the 7-10 Rule: For every sevenfold increase in time after detonation, there is a tenfold decrease in the radiation rate. So, after seven hours the radiation rate is only 10% of the original and after 49 hours (7 x 7 = 49) it is 1%. Of note, 10% exposure is considered a crapload of exposure. If you shelter in place for 2-3 days you “should be” far safer moving around if required than anytime before that. There are many variables including the amount of fallout dust in the air, however the general guidance is to not be outside breathing in contaminated dust and stay is the most protected (preferably underground) area you have available for at 49 hours but preferably longer. At that point, it is going to be a really ugly game of survival. I hope your skills are sharp, your kit is in order, and you have a plan.

IOSTAT and what no one is telling you. IOSTAT (potassium iodide tablet) is a thyroid blocker indicated to help prevent radioactive iodine from getting into the thyroid gland during a nuclear radiation emergency, however… it is going to do little if you have to stand in a DHS line outside exposed while they hand out IOSTAT. To be effective it needs to be taken immediately prior to or at the time of exposure. So if you hear Putin it “putin” missiles in the sky I personally will take my first dose as opposed to waiting until it hits. The net is that if you do not have IOSAT tablets on you, it is likely pointless to go stand in a line for hours to get them… the damage is likely already done. I have IOSAT in every bag I own and travel with.

The TSA Approved Kit
Hopefully this gives you some ideas and are all self explanatory

Carry On
  • Torquiet
  • Halo Patch
  • Isreali Bandage
  • Sterile Gauze & standard large band aids with neosporin
  • 2x rubber gloves
  • IOSAT Pills
  • Pain, Allergy, and Diarrhea pills
  • Angle Armor Backpack Plate - 44Mag rated
  • Micro and Full sized Map Compasses, US, and Local Maps
  • Paracord, Ferro-Rod and Striker
  • Tactical Flashlight & extra Batteries
  • Olight USB Rechargeable Flashlight
  • Several USB Charger bricks
  • Empty Hydration Bladder + Purification Pills
  • Pens & Jumbo Sharpie
  • Set of bamboo chopsticks
  • 1 Generic Stainless Fork
  • 2x Large Trash Bags
  • 2X Clear Trash Bags
  • 2X Large Ziplock Freezer Bags
  • Baofeng U5R Radio
  • Wired headphones for cell phone NextRadio use
  • Typical Bag stuff
  • Sanitary Toilet seat Covers
  • Ziplock bag of clorox wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • TOOOL Emergency Pick Card (depending on laws)
  • PocketMonkey Wallet Tool
  • Jacket, Hat, and Leather Gloves
  • Press and other ID
  • Cash
  • Safety Grade Goggles
  • RZ Mask with F3 Premium Filter + Carbon and spare filters.
  • Snacks
  • Caffeinated Tea Bags
  • 1 Bottle of Water
  • Sometimes 8x monocular
  • Shockingly, all this is really not that heavy. The heaviest thing still is the laptop

Trip dependant, I may offload some of this to my Checkbag.

Checked Bag

  • 18-inch Large Standard Head Screwdriver - Weapon & Pry Bar
  • 3-inch Fixed Blade Knife
  • 3.5-inch Spyderco Folder
  • Door Jammer - T-Type Manual Door Lock
  • Solar USB Charger - Slow but useful
  • Leatherman Tool
  • Victorinox Cadet
  • Victorinox Super Tinker with Scissors
  • 1-Metal-Free-Poly-Carbon-Fiber Knife
  • Extra Bags & Med Kit
  • Clothes and Toiletries
  • Role of Charmin TP in a Ziplock Freezer Bag (from Cardboard to Luxury)
  • 2X small Crescent Adjustable Wrenches & Punch for High Flow Shower Conversions
  • Food

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