Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Postal Shootings Offer Self-Defense Lessons

There are some lessons to be learned from yesterday’s shooting rampage by an ex-postal worker who opened fire at a mail processing plant, killing six people and critically wounding another before committing suicide.

1. Know what to do when gunfire erupts! "I heard something that sounded like a pop, and then I heard a couple seconds later, another pop, pop, pop," postal employee Charles Kronick said.
2. Remember that you are quite vulnerable to deadly violence at work (see the blog entry “Workplace Violence Pervasive” below from Jan. 25).
3. Don’t make any assumptions about your attacker. In this particular case, the shooter was a female. Not typical for your average “Going Postal” scenario (see the list of recent post office shootings below). Remember, you can’t possibly know what’s in the heart of someone else. Judge them by their actions.
4. The cops won't be able to get there in time. Situations like this are called active shooter scenarios and they typically last anywhere from 4 to 17 minutes long. In the past (pre-Columbine) the usual response from law enforcement was to contain the area. Now new doctrines are evolving to counter active shooters with aggressive and mobile strategies and tactics. But, for now, active shooter scenarios unfold far too rapidly for the cops to respond in time. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. You're going to be on your own. Have a plan on how you are going to respond, evade or escape.

Recent post office related shootings:

• Jan. 30, 2006 - A female ex-postal worker opens fire at a mail processing plant near Santa Barbara, Calif., killing six people before committing suicide, authorities say.

• April 17, 1998 - Maceo Yarbough III, a 27-year-old letter carrier, fatally shoots a post office clerk in Dallas after they argue in a break room. He is found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

• Sept. 2, 1997 - Jesus Antonio Tamayo, a 21-year postal veteran, leaves his counter at a Miami Beach, Fla., post office, gets a gun from his car, walks back in and critically wounds his ex-wife and a friend, who were waiting in line. Tamayo, 64, then goes outside and kills himself.

• July 9, 1995 - Bruce William Clark walks up to his boss in a processing center in City of Industry, Calif., pulls a handgun from a paper bag and shoots him to death. Clark, 58, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced in 1996 to 22 years in prison.

• March 21, 1995 - Christopher Green, 29, a former postal worker burdened with "a mountain of debt," kills four people and wounds another during a holdup at the Montclair, N.J., post office. Green was sentenced to life in prison in September 1995.

• May 6, 1993 - Postal worker Larry Jasion kills one and wounds two at the post office garage in Dearborn, Mich., before killing himself.

• May 6, 1993 - Fired postal employee Mark Richard Hilbun kills his mother, then walks into a post office in the Dana Point community near Los Angeles and shoots two workers, killing one. He was convicted of murder, attempted murder and other felonies and sentenced to life in prison.

• Nov. 14, 1991 - Fired postal worker Thomas McIlvane kills four supervisors and wounds five employees at a post office in Royal Oak, Mich., and then killed himself.

• Oct. 11, 1991 - Joseph M. Harris, a fired postal worker, kills a former supervisor and her boyfriend at their home in Wayne, N.J., then goes to the Ridgewood post office where he kills two mail handlers as they arrive for work. He was sentenced to death and was on death row when he died in 1996 after suffering a seizure in his cell.

• Aug. 10, 1989 - Postal worker John Merlin Taylor of Escondido, Calif., shoots and kills his wife at their home, then drives to the Orange Glen post office, where he shoots and kills two colleagues and wounds another before killing himself.

• Aug. 20, 1986 - Patrick Henry Sherrill, a part-time letter carrier in Edmond, Okla., kills 14 people in the post office there before taking his own life. Sherrill had a history of work problems and faced the possibility of being fired.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Managing your vulnerabilities

We’ve all heard the safety and security tips before: lock your doors, don’t go to the ATM late at night, remove bushes and shrubs from around your windows, walk with confidence, etc., etc. etc.

For some people, the sheer amount of information about all the aspects of personal safety and security is too overwhelming. Terrorism, 9-11, Katrina, crime, murder, rape… It’s too much. They simply tend to ignore the realities of living in a cruel world and develop the common “it’s not going to happen to me” mentality.

For some other people, the solution to this overwhelming amount of threats is to get “something” to protect them. In the U.S., this something is in the form of a firearm, pepper spray, ninja key ring, electronic alarm or other piece of equipment or tool.

Neither of these solutions is adequate.

At Defend University, we sometimes joke about the difference between being prepared and being paranoid. If you are constantly thinking about what you would do if you were attacked, that’s being prepared. If you are constantly thinking about what you would do if you were attacked by vampires, that’s being paranoid.

Let’s face it. There are multiple ways that we and our families can be hurt. Perhaps it might make it easier to take on this lifelong task by introducing a concept – vulnerability management.

We cannot possibly be “safe” all the time. There are times when we are more vulnerable than others. Quite often we are more vulnerable than we think – you are way more likely to be hurt in your car and around your home than by criminals or terrorists.

So, we need to think in terms of managing those vulnerabilities that can and could touch us as we and our loved ones move through life.

Think about where you are most vulnerable at home, on the road, at work and out in the community. Fires, accidental falls, domestic disputes, car crashes, workplace violence, robberies and muggings. Those are the types of life-threatening incidents you are most likely to face. Despite the hype in the media, you are not likely to face a terrorist act, skyjacking, crazed gunman in the mall or an asteroid strike.

But, when planning for your response, you should address the wild card – the odd chance that you could find yourself threatened or embroiled in a situation that is none of your doing. This can be the fleeing felon who randomly comes up to your car and pulls open the door. It might be the crazed gunman in the mall or the robbery that occurs while you are in the convenience store.

Fortunately, you can address a myriad of these vulnerabilities with a standard set of tools:

• Knowledge;
• Awareness;
• Adherence to procedures.

Know what are the vulnerabilities your family and you face in your particular set of circumstances -- families with young children will face some different challenges that single women or an empty nest couple. Having a self-locking pool fence is incredibly important to the family with young kids, but not important at all to the other groups. Professionals call this a vulnerability assessment. The other aspect of the “knowledge” portion are the skills you need. Know CPR, know how to physically protect yourself -- while unarmed and/or armed. Know how to avoid a skid in your car.

Be aware of who is around you. Look for the situation that is “odd” or out of place. Cultivate the ability to live in the present so you can constantly monitor the ebb and flow of normal activity in your surroundings. Use your awareness to gauge when you are getting into a situation that could be a problem. Like Mark Twain said, “It’s always easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.” Take a look at where the emergency exit is when you are in a different place. Check out the nearest fire extinguisher.

Procedures? Okay, maybe I should have said positive habits. Always lock your doors – including your car doors! Always close and lock your windows. Always make sure the smoke alarm batteries are fresh. Don’t get too drunk in public. Wear your seat belt. Have your car properly maintained. You get the point. These simple procedures should be automatic. You don’t have to think about them, you just do them. Unfortunately, us as the good guys have to be vigilant all the time, the bad guys just have to be lucky once.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Start with the small stuff, the stuff that you can do right now. Then add what you can. Keep at it, but most importantly, do it. You probably won’t be able to get it all – you’ll never be able to live a risk-free life. But intelligent management of the most common and threatening vulnerabilities will serve you well in the future to provide realistic security for you and your family.

Workplace violence pervasive

According to statistics provided to ASIS from a special report done by the U.S. Department of Justice (covering the years 1993-1999), workplace violence affects an estimated 1.7 million employees directly and millions more indirectly each year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Private Security Growth to Explode

Worldwide, private-security company revenues have been estimated at $100 billion by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The institute, which studies issues involving worldwide security, estimates the industry income will double by 2010.

The Fredonia Group, a business research company based in Ohio, projects the international growth rate at 7.7 percent annually through 2008.

The nation's security companies employ 1.5 million people and spend $52 billion per year, compared with public police agencies that have 600,000 workers and spend $30 billion,according to James Pastor, author of The Privatization of Police in America.


Dennis Wagner, "Private security guards play key roles post-9/11"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Airlines Charge for Alcohol, Air Rage Incidents Drop

A move by many of the major airlines to stop serving free alcohol on flights looks like it is having a two-fold effect: saving the beleaguered air carriers money and cutting down on the incidents of air rage.

The Association of Flight Attendants has been pushing hard for tighter rules on rowdy and dangerous passengers after an increase of air rage incidents since 2000. Now airlines like United, Northwest, Delta, US Airways, and JetBlue are carrying less alcohol onboard and charging between $3 for $5 for drinks that used to be free.

Perhaps no surprise here, but The FAA has seen the number of reported air rage incidents fall from 303 in 2004 down to 167 last year.

However, you still need a plan to protect yourself from air rage.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pistol vs. Rifle Survivalibility

"Over 80 percent of people shot with pistol rounds survive the incident. Less than 20 percent of those shot with rifle rounds survive."

James McKee
The Book of Two Guns

Targets for Impact vs. Edged Weapons

"Wood seeks bone; steel seeks flesh."

Old saying in the Filipino martial arts.

If you are employing an impact weapon (baton, flashlight, beer mug, etc.), think hands, elbows, points of the shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and lower legs for non-lethal strikes. Anything to the head should be saved for deadly force options.

If you are using an edged weapon during a deadly force encounter,target the fleshy areas: throat, triceps, biceps, abdomen, armpit, forearms, quadriceps, hamstrings.

There are other, more lethal, targets such as the subclavian artery and the femoral artery, but those are usually discussed more in the context of killing someone rather than driving someone away in a typical self-defense situation.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Are you Evolving?

"What causes evolution in the Arts is Ailveness. If you take the resisting opponent out of the equation, evolution ceases. You can see this clearly in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Anyone who says BJJ has not evolved in the last ten years has been living under a rock. The teams that do the best, tend to be the ones the compete the most, and stay on the cutting edge of what the competitors are doing currently. They HAVE to in order to be COMPETITIVE. If you take a BJJ school, pull them out of all tournaments, organize the curriculum to such an extent that it becomes anal, and don't allow an open mat policy to wrestlers and BJJ'rs from other Gyms, then very quickly that entire schools performance begins to drop off. Those that have been around BJJ for the last ten years or so know exactly what I am talking about. We know what schools those are, and what schools turn out great practitioners. The beautiful thing about BJJ is that is ALWAYS evolving at the competitive levels. That doesn't mean you have to be in Rio, or LA and enter every tournament. But you DO need to keep your training Alive, and as such, evolving within the confines of your own Gym. If you shut the doors, and make it a 'closed mat' or closed gym', as opposed to an 'open mat' policy, then very quickly the lack of new blood leads to inbreeding, and everyone's games start to become stagnant."

M. Thorton

Monday, January 09, 2006

Be Ready for Evil When It Comes

Two men. One let out of prison in late October. Ten days later the man’s wife turns up dead.

But you don’t know about it. It’s just another statistic in another state. You’re too busy getting ready for Christmas and New Years for your wife and daughters age 9 and 4. This is a magical time of year for families with small children.

But Evil is headed your way.

The two men head toward your home in Virginia from Pennsylvania. You don’t know them, they don’t know you. But you’re on a collision course nevertheless.

And they come on New Year’s Eve. They are looking for cash, weapons and a car. For whatever reasons, your house looks appealing to them. The two 28-year old thugs look around to see if anyone might witness their crime. They nod to each other and stride up to your front door.

The knock on your front door does seem a little strange on New Year’s Eve, but your 39-year-old wife Kathryn goes to open the door as your two girls rush behind her brimming with curiosity. You hear the door open, a brief murmur, and then a shocked shriek from Kathryn!

As you jump up from the living room couch you can hear the loud booming voices of men! You slide around the corner of the foyer to seen two tough looking men pushing their way past the flung-open door with one of the men brutally pulling Kathryn’s hair while holding a knife to the side of her neck!

You instinctively rush toward Kathryn – only to be greeted by a blinding white light which flashes behind your eyes just before you feel an impossibly hard hand cracking your jaw…

You can’t stop…yourself…from…falling…

The screams of Kathryn and the girls are pushing through the haze in your skull as you feel yourself being roughly bound with – what’s that familiar noise? Is it duct tape? Your wrists are bound together. One of the men pushes you to your side on the floor and wraps the silver duct tape around and around your ankles. Your nostrils are flaring as you try and suck the oxygen in, but it doesn’t seem like enough. You’re a 49-year-old guitar player -- your heart and mind are racing. You’re so scared, you’ve never, ever been remotely close to something this violent. You’re not sure you could move regardless of the tape.

The fog in your brain is beginning to clear a little bit and you realize that one of the men has yanked your head back and is screaming, “WHERE’S THE MONEY! GIVE US THE MONEY NOW! NOW OR YOU’RE ALL DEAD!”

Your mouth weakly voices, “take it all, take whatever you want, just leave my wife and daughters alone…”


“In the drawer…in the hallway,” is all you can get out. You feel like you are going to puke, the bile is rising in your throat as you crane your neck trying to see Kathryn and the girls. It looks like they are sloppily bound with the same tape. Kathryn’s eyes are wild, her breath is coming in short sharp gasps. Your nine-year old daughter is crying hysterically, but the four-year-old seems strangely quiet and detached.

The other man bursts back into the foyer from the hallway. “Okay, I’ve got some, I’ve got some, let’s GO!”

“Not yet”, says the strong man with the knife.

The tone of his voice makes your stomach turn to ice. “NO!” you scream, but another punch knocks your head back against the floor. You vaguely feel a pulling and tugging on your throat as you hear yourself gurgle a bit. The blackness engulfs you. But you know – you know that he has slashed your throat, you can hear your blood splashing on the floor. And you know your family is next – but you can’t do anything to stop it.

In moments, you’re gone.

You were spared the sight of watching your wife and two young daughters have their throats slit.

You were spared feeling the scorching heat as the fire they set burned your house down around you and your family.

You were spared knowing that the same two men attacked another family in your community a week later, similarly killing the husband, the wife and their 21-year-old daughter.

But you could not stop it. You were not ready for Evil when it came. You thought it would never touch you. And, frankly, who could know?

If you could, you would tell the rest of us -- "just know that Evil is out there and it can touch you. Be ready."