My Story: Surviving a Powerful Summer Storm

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My Story Surviving a Powerful Summer Storm via The Survival Mom

Last summer in Yuma, Arizona, we had the worst thunder/rain storm I have ever seen. We had winds of over 60 mph and astonishing rain. We got about 2.5 inches of rain in about two hours (our average rainfall for a year is 3 inches). At times the rain was blowing sideways.

Our sliding patio door is under an overhang of about 4 meters and, at one point for about half an hour, the rain was hitting the door so hard that it filled the track and water was overflowing the track into the house. Water started flowing down the wash behind our house, and pools of water were standing all over the yard.

After about an hour, the electricity went out, and, of course, the air conditioning stopped at once also. Fortunately, the storm cooled the air, which was about 85 degrees and quite humid. At that point it was still light outside. We quickly found out that the water faucet didn’t work either, only a tiny trickle of water (The water company pumps run on electricity, apparently. I always thought they pumped the water to a large tank on a hill and fed us by gravity; not so.) So we started getting prepared.

A bucket under the kitchen faucet to caught the trickle. After 10 gallons were captured, we figured we had enough. Fortunately, we had some battery operated fans for ourselves and enough to loan fans to some unprepared acquaintances. While it was hot and sticky, the breeze from the fans made us much more comfortable.

I also got out our backpacking headlamps, the kind with 5 LEDs and an elastic strap. When it got dark, at least we could sit and read without using a lot of batteries (these use 3 AAA batteries).

Fortunately, we had plenty of water in 5 gallon jugs. If things had gotten really desperate, I would have gotten water from our absent neighbor’s swimming pool and distilled it.

As it turned out, the storm knocked over 65 power poles, taking the lines down with them. I saw some of them, and they looked like a giant had just broken a bunch of matchsticks. I was amazed when Arizona Power Service restored the service after only 26 hours; I thought it would take a week.

All in all, I was pleased with how prepared we were and how well we could have weathered the power outage even if it had been extended. Granted, we would have had to start drying the meat that was in the freezer.

Lessons from surviving a powerful summer storm

1. The small fans were a godsend. Every family should have at least one for each person plus a spare. The fans are made by O2 Cool, are 5 inches and take two D cell batteries. They are quiet and the batteries last a long time on low, which is all that is necessary. I just bought three more after we got our power back, and, since the order was over $25, shipping was free.

2. Make sure you have a very good supply of D cell batteries. Within 12 hours of the power loss, there was not a D cell battery available anywhere in Yuma. All other types of batteries were easily available, but not Ds. It would be a good idea to have battery operated radios, etc. that use AA, AAA, C, or 9 volt batteries. We had plenty of batteries, but were stretched when we loaned fans to friends, as each of the large fans we loaned them took 8 batteries.

3. The headband lights are cheap, and very easy for reading at night.

4. Some rechargeable batteries and a small solar battery charger is not a bad idea.

5. If you think you are going to need dry ice to maintain your freezer, go get it as early as possible.  It sells out as fast as D batteries.

Hope this is of some interest and is helpful. Have you lived through a powerful summer storm? How did you cope?

This article was contributed by reader, Ray N. and updated on June 6, 2017

My Story Surviving a Powerful Summer Storm via The Survival Mom


Why Personal Survival Stories Are So Important

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personal survival storiesHere on the Survival Mom blog, some of the most popular articles have been real-life stories of survival. When I wrote my book, Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family For Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios, I included several stories from moms who had survived both natural and personal disasters. When the reviews started coming in, so many people mentioned how they loved these stories!

Maybe my own interest and fascination with personal stories of survival began back when I was a kid, reading through my Nana’s issues of Reader’s Digest. In most every issue there was a harrowing, exciting tale with titles like, “Alone. Injured. Almost Dead.”, “Free Fall Above Death Canyon”, and “How a Man Survived 438 Days Stuck at Sea.”

Who could resist stories like these?

Listening to survivors tell about life in a war-torn country, eye-witness accounts of an economic collapse, and surviving weeks without electricity is both instructional and inspirational. After all, if this ordinary human being can survive a worst case scenario, then so can I!

It’s important to know the specific skillsets that made survival possible and the mindset that made the difference between one person surviving while others perished. Survival stories also serve as warnings — What should the survivors have done? What gear would have made survival easier? What mistakes did they make? Is the survival education you’ve received truly up to the type of challenge these people experienced?

What if you could chat with survivors in real time?

When Bosnian war survivor, Selco, speaks. People listen. I’ve had the chance to listen to him speak on 2 occasions, and believe me, when you hear what life was like in Bosnia during the war that spanned 3 years, you will forever be grateful for such common conveniences as running water and toilets. For more than a year, Selco’s community was in constant danger, food supply lines were cut, and the average citizen, people like you and me, did whatever it took to survive just one more day.

I asked Selco about skills people needed during war time, and it seems that living by your wits and trusting very few people were key. Sure, knowing how to do a bit of foraging was helpful as was knowing the fine art of bartering to survive, but overall, it was a mental game — a hyper-awareness that the person walking toward you could have you in their crosshairs, just because you are wearing a coat warmer than theirs.

Another survivor I’ve come to know is Fernando Aguirre, known to many preppers as FerFAL. Now living in Europe, Fernando lived through some of the worst days of Argentina’s economic collpases. I’ll never forget his telling of families digging through dumpsters for their meals and his learning to never walk out the door without being armed.

Fernando and I have chatted about the similarities between America’s economy and that of Argentina, prior to and during its collapse, and I’ve been able to ask for his opinions about a few of my prepper plans.

Chatting with survivors and experts like Selco and Fernando is something you can do, too, during the next session of Preppers University’s live courses. It’s a whole different experience than just reading words in a book or on a computer screen. When Selco talks movingly of his family and neighbors and their struggle for survival, you almost feel as though you are there, and you get a deeper understanding of survival in a world of chaos, violence, and scarcity.

There’s no shortage of prepper and survival books and websites, but small group, live classes with true experts and real life survivors are another thing altogether. No doubt during your own research into food storage, survival sanitation, herbal medicine, bugging out, and so on, you’ve had questions but no chance to personally ask the author or expert.

Well, beginning on Sunday, May 14, you CAN ask all the questions you want! Check out the schedule of speakers and topics here, and you’ll notice the 2 courses are expansive. They’re also unique in the prepper community. Where else can you sit down in the comfort of your own home and join a small group of like minded people AND prepping experts?

Time is running short for registration, and I know you’ll want at least a couple of days to review the orientation materials and take the self-assessment that will let you know where your prepping most needs help.

Use coupon code TAKETEN to save $10 off the registration fee of $139. I am personally in most of the classes and even teach 3 or 4. Here are a couple of links where you can get more information:

Compare the curriculum for both courses

Review the calendar of webinars (Price includes 24 webinars; everything is recorded and you have lifetime access)

Register here (includes a 3-payment option)

When you hear these gentlemen speak, I know you’ll be inspired but also challenged — how would YOU cope under those circumstances? What can you do right NOW to prepare for something like that? I hope you’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity to expand your prepper knowledge in a way that no book or blog can provide.

personal survival stories

Coping With Life-Threatening Allergies in a SHTF World

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Coping With Life Threatening Allergies in a Post SHTF World via The Survival Mom

We have lived in our home for nearly a decade and I love it. I truly love my yard, but the feeling is not mutual. My yard is trying to kill me. After a lifetime of thinking of myself as allergy free, I have been proven wrong. Oak trees, along with other things, cause me to have an extreme allergic reaction. Care to guess where I live? Yes, in the middle of a 150 acres of forest.

I had no idea that this could be a life-ending allergy for me. Huge portions of this country have primarily hickory and oak forests.  I would need to drive at least a twelve hours to be somewhere that doesn’t have oak trees. If you or someone in your family struggles with seasonal allergies, please go to an allergist to find out what they are. In a truly catastrophic event, it is critical that you know the type of environment you can live in.

My Story

I have had chronic bronchitis and other coughing-related problems since Junior High. At one point, a doctor prescribed an inhaler, and another mentioned I might have asthma. When I lived on the West Coast, my coughing problems subsided and I thought I had outgrown my allergies.

After I moved back East, the coughing problems returned. After a few years, seasonal allergy flare ups became a problem, so I started taking over the counter antihistamines. Things got worse and I was now using a nasal spray and prescription medication. I remembered my inhaler and tried it. It helped, a lot.

When I developed an allergy to onions, I realized that I needed to see an allergist. When I told her I had used more than 3/4 of a rescue inhaler in three weeks time, she was shocked. Clearly, it was the wrong treatment and I should have been in sooner.


As per normal procedure, I had stop taking antihistamines for a week before the testing, to ensure they were all out of my system. Thankfully I could still use an inhaler. The allergist tested nearly 30 different things on me using prick and intra-dermal methods. I came back as allergic to all of them. I reacted as a 4++, with 4 being the highest, on oak trees. My body was also very reactive to many other common substances such as ragweed and dust mites.

I had no idea how severe my allergies were. There were times I had difficulty breathing and that should have caused me to seek immediate treatment. But it crept up so slowly over a long period of time, I did not think about it. So please get check out by a allergist if you have symptoms that you can’t control. It may be worse than you realize, even potentially life-threatening – like mine.

Medication and Other Steps

There are many steps to help reduce your allergies. If you know you have a pet allergy, accept it and do not get another pet that will trigger your allergies. When you see an allergy and asthma specialist, they will give you a specific plan with remediation steps to take.

One simple step is to use a face mask. I strongly prefer the machine washable, reusable “Breathe Healthy” face masks because I can wear them for hours without the discomfort that cheap disposable masks cause.  There are a variety of fun patterns to choose from. Cleaning the inside of you home can stir up dust, pet dander, and other allergens. Cleaning outside can stir up pollen. Wearing a face mask and possibly even goggles reduces how much of the allergen enters your system.

Neti pots can also be a great help, but be careful with the water you use. Buying distilled water is a great choice, although boiling and then cooling water before using it is also popular.

With the severity of my allergies, I will be getting immunotherapy shots. Immunotherapy is a weekly commitment for about five years. It isn’t something that everyone can do, even if they are a candidate for it. I know that I cannot avoid oak trees and I am going to keep my pets. For me, the sacrifice and time of immunotherapy is worth it.


The week leading up to my allergy test, I was wearing a face mask any time I went outside and most of the time I was inside. There were moments when it was difficult for me to breathe, and it wasn’t even peak pollen season.

My doctor prescribed Singulair, antihistamines, a nasal spray, and an asthma inhaler for daily use. I also rely on a rescue inhaler in case of an allergy induced asthma attack. Many allergy medications are available over the counter. It is important to know what medicine is best for you and to keep a good supply on hand.

If a severe allergy sufferer is without their medications for more than a day or two, their condition could degenerate from healthy to life-threatening before help arrives. For example, antihistamines only stay in your system for 2-7 days. Consider keeping extra medication at work, in the car or other places where you might need it.

Local Honey

Local honey can help with allergies for weeds, grasses, and anything else bees pollinate. But bees aren’t big pollinators of trees, so it can’t be a solution for everyone. It didn’t even occur to me that the reason the honey was improving, but not eliminating, my allergy problems was that I had multiple allergies to some things that bees don’t pollinate.

Local honey operates on the same principal as allergy shots. When ingested, your body is exposed to small amounts of an allergen to help it develop a tolerance. Honey has the potential to reduce the user’s overall “allergen load.”  An allergen load is the total amount of allergens your body is dealing with at any point in time.

Reducing Exposure

Once you know what you are allergic to, it is important to take steps to reduce your allergen load. You may be able to reduce your total exposure below the allergic threshold, which is where symptoms start. Since it is the total exposure to all allergens that leads to being symptomatic, it makes sense to reduce anything possible.

If you have a cup, and you pour some milk in it, some soda, some coffee, and a little bit of tea, it will eventually overflow. It doesn’t matter that there are lots of different types of drinks in it. The cup will overflow the same  if you held it under the sink and filled it with just water. The same is true of allergens. If sufferers can remove or reduce even one or two triggers, it can make a difference.

Certain foods, such as onions, garlic, corn, and wheat, are common and seemingly impossible to avoid entirely. Others, such as passion fruit and quinoa, are fairly simple to avoid. The same is true of non-food allergens. Mites are almost impossible to avoid entirely and oak trees are incredibly common wherever there are deciduous forests.  While most of us won’t part with a family pet easily, horses and orchids are pretty simple for most of us to avoid.

Bugging In versus Bugging Out

As a prepper, keep at least one extra month or two supply of your allergy medications, including local honey if you use it. Asthma inhalers are prescription only, making it hard to have extras on hand. Keep a supply of over the counter medicine, including simple anti-histamines, even if they aren’t part of your daily regimen. Remember that having your gear and supplies to keep allergens off you is also a must. A scrub cap (they make scrub caps specifically for long hair), no rinse shampoo, and the  “Breathe Healthy” face masks can help keep pollen away from your eyes and nose. Pollen is designed to stick to things, so it will be carried in on the surface of anything that goes outside. Being able to clean your clothes without electricity will let you have pollen-free clothing, when you or anyone in the family has to venture out into nature. Pollen will also attach to your pets (waterless pet shampoo is a good idea), so be prepared to clean a lot during pollen season and in an emergency.

I know my allergies has forced us to change some of our preparedness plans. I am a big proponent of bugging in versus bugging out. In the event of a disaster, my family will have only  a month or two of bugging in at our home. We will need to move away from any oak trees before I run out of medications. I will also need to be careful around fires because the smoke triggers my asthma.

As difficult as it is to have allergies, knowing what they are, how to treat them and what to do in an emergency, has given me more control over my health and preparedness plans.

Coping With Life Threatening Allergies in a Post SHTF World via The Survival Mom

The Plunge: One Year Later

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The Plunge: One Year Later via The Survival Mom, no incomeRemember that one time my husband decided to quit his job and go back to school to finally get that Bachelor’s degree in engineering and we had to live off of savings? Well, guess what? That was a whole year ago! A lot of things can happen in a year. And for us, lots of things did happen.

My husband is still in school and is doing well in his classes, so not much has changed there, but we had another kid (yikes!) which means we had to upgrade to a larger vehicle that could fit everyone in our family. Despite the unexpected things that we didn’t include in our original budget, we’ve always been able to pay our bills and put food on the table. And we’re still going strong.

How are we still sustaining this? Lots of reasons. It would be arrogant and untrue to suggest that we are succeeding because we are doing things differently or better than other people. Our combined skill sets have been great assets, but we’ve had a lot of help, too.

Skill sets help when there’s no income

We’ve had ten years of married life to hone the skills requisite to living on nothing, which means we have something of an advantage over other married college students in the same situation.

My husband qualifies as a “non-traditional student” because of his non-linear career path. I worried a year ago that being ten years older than the average undergraduate would be a hindrance. Instead, it has proven one of his greatest assets. Being in the workforce for so long helped him develop skills that his fellow students don’t yet have. He has ten years of programming experience that his youthful peers do not have, as well as the intangibles like work ethic and problem solving. Having that kind of maturity has helped him earn better grades and gain respect from his professors.

As for me, I’ve got ten years of experience in the field of wise management of our resources. In her novel Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell writes much about the virtues of “elegant economies,” which is a fancy term for making extreme thrift look cool. Like making meals from the cheapest ingredients around, canning, gardening, repurposing old clothing.

I don’t even bother to read those articles about “five ways to reduce your spending,” because I’ve already been doing all of them for years. I have become an expert in decorating my house in what Erma Bombeck calls, “Early Poverty.” If I were the kind of person who puts vinyl decals of pithy sayings on my walls, I most certainly would get one that says, “elegant economy.”

Multiple streams of income

Many people asked me, “why don’t you just get a job?” It’s a pretty fair question. The main answer is: child care. It’s the same story that I’m sure many women are experiencing. Degree in an obscure field that’s not hiring, plus, I’ve been out of the work force for ages. Babysitters are not cheap and all that together equals we actually save money by me not working. Much, much ink has been spilled on this issue. And it is our reality.

That said, it wouldn’t be quite true to say that we were living on “no income.” We have had some income; just not the kind that puts is in the same tax bracket as before. Instead of one full-time job, both my husband and I have taken multiple odd jobs here and there: a bit of chauffeuring here, a bit of freelance editing there. My husband is working as a research assistant this summer, and I got a (very!) part-time job teaching which will start in the fall. Multiple income streams is key.

Accepting help from others

About three weeks after my husband’s last day of work, we discovered that we’d be adding to our family. It was a little bit of a shock, but not as big of a shock as it was to discover that this little one would be born with a severe cleft palate and would require multiple surgical procedures over the course of her life.

We made arrangements to pay for the birth out-of-pocket, but given the scope our daughter’s birth defect, decided to bite the bullet and accept public health insurance. It was kind of a wrench to do it because of how we felt – and still feel – about relying on state programs. We wanted to be independent, and this felt a little like cheating. We didn’t want to drain an already overwhelmed system. But on the other hand, this is a very temporary measure. We paid into Medicaid the whole of our adult lives prior to this point, and fully intend to do so again in the future. And given the huge costs of healthcare, we might as well have forgotten about the whole thing if we had to pay for a string of palate repair surgeries with private insurance.

As of the time of writing, we have successfully been able to avoid accepting other state programs like WIC or SNAP. Neither has it been necessary to take out student loans. My husband qualified for some FAFSA grants, and that expanded our budget quite a bit.

We had support from family, as well. My parents moved from Texas to the Intermountain West so they could be closer to us. Along with some very caring aunts, my parents took care of the older kids when the baby was born, provided meals, and helped with childcare for the baby’s many appointments at the children’s hospital when my husband couldn’t miss class. When it came time to upgrade to a minivan so we could fit all members of our family in one vehicle, my father did most of the work to find something in good condition. My mother made it her mission in life to ensure that shoes in my kids’ sizes magically appeared on our doorstep.

How you, too, can live your dreams

Someone told me about six months ago, “I wish I could do what you are doing.” Guess what? You can! Lots of people do. My husband isn’t even the only one in his department completing his degree as a seasoned dad. One of his fellow-students is in his mid-thirties with five children. If you are considering a similar non-linear career path, here’s what I would advise based on our experiences this past year:

  1. First, consider your chosen field. Going back to school is not always the right decision. Going for a Ph.D. in Underwater Basketweaving with an emphasis in Skullduggery most likely won’t advance your prospects in life. However, something that will help you gain skills so you can be more competitive in the job market is a fair bet.
  2. Learn to distinguish between needs and wants, and prioritize accordingly. Do you really need a new mobile device, or ultra-fast high-speed internet, or would it just be nice to have? To be really candid, our family has adopted a fairly stringent view on what is considered a “need.” I haven’t purchased new shoes for myself since 2011. Our holiday and birthday celebrations are beyond spare, and yet still extremely enjoyable and fulfilling. We eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and almost never eat out. Since 2009, we’ve seen five movies in an actual movie theater. But like I said before, we’ve never had trouble paying bills or putting food on the table.
  3. Don’t feel bad about taking advantage of government programs. If anything, those programs were created for families with temporary needs: getting through law school, that time in-between jobs, etc. Even those who struggle to find work will not be out of a job forever.
  4. There is abundant scholarship money to be had. One professor at our local university remarked that everyone always worried how to pay for grad school. The big secret, he told us, was that nobody could afford grad school. When it comes to technical fields, however, there are all sorts of ways to secure funding. While the statement that staggering amounts of scholarship money go unawarded is actually a myth, there are many scholarships available.
  5. Don’t think that you’re not smart/ disciplined/ good enough/ worthy enough. Don’t pay any attention to those self-fulfilling prophesies. The world is full of people who will try to tear you down and tell you that you are stupid and that your dreams are trash. You will miss every opportunity that you don’t take. Yes, failure is within the realm of possibility. That’s always a risk. But if you succeed, the payoff is pretty amazing.

Read Beth’s “Taking the Plunge” full story

The Plunge: One Year Later via The Survival Mom, no income


My Story: Street Smarts & Situational Awareness

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The Story Starts

My day started out as a beautiful Autumn morning. Very pleasant, in fact, despite the frenzied atmosphere as we readied our son for school. We had recently moved and were living in Europe, in a new city beginning a new school year. As my son and I rushed out the door and headed down the street to the school bus stop, I began the usual morning parental interrogation: Brushed your teeth? Check. Have your lunch? Check. Money for field trip? Check.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the corner with other school children and pedestrians on their way to work. As we chatted, waiting for the school bus to arrive, I noticed one of the older students, the pretty daughter of a family who lived nearby, standing next to an older man a short distance away. Just then, the school bus rolled up so I gave my son a hug and kiss goodbye. He and the other students shuffled towards the bus to board—all the students, that is, except for the girl, Jean.

I watched her for a moment, wondering why she wasn’t approaching the bus, then noticed that the man was standing between her and the bus. Each time Jean tried to walk around him he blocked her, moving his face closer to hers as he stepped back and forth in her path. At first I thought it might be a male friend, another student intent on teasing her. Then I noticed that he was an adult, and I saw the look on her face. She was worried.

The Confrontation

I told my son to wait and I approached the two. I first asked her if she was okay. “I’m fine,” she said in a frightened voice. I then asked the man, “Who are you?”

“I’m nobody,” he replied, rudely.

“Well, okay, she needs to leave now,” I told him.

“I’m not done talking to her,” he said, as he moved around to face me.

“She’ll miss her bus, so she has to leave now,” I added, trying to stay calm.

“No, not yet.”

“Yes, she is leaving now. Look, she is too young for you, anyway,” I warned.

“I don’t care how old she is,” he countered.

His last, disgusting statement made me angry. Anger is an interesting, tricky emotion, a double-edged sword. It can be a good thing when it stirs someone to action, when needed. It can be also be a bad thing if not controlled and kept in check. When it’s not….

Despite my growing anger I tried to keep calm. I had been in another fight a few months earlier (protecting a victim who had been attacked in a subway), and did not relish the idea of returning to the office of Security in the U.S. Embassy and filling out another report. I gave the harasser another chance.

“Listen, her dad is a big guy, and a rugby player. You don’t want to mess with this young lady.”

“Right,” he smirked, “and what are you going to do about it?” With that last comment he gave me a shove. What was he thinking?

Actually, there was not much thinking from that point on, just reaction. I shoved him back. He stormed back at me with fists raised. I threw a punch, which hit him squarely on the left cheek. He came back for more. I struck him again, a blow which left him on the ground, his back against a tree. He then reached for his bag so I kicked it, sending pastries spilling out across the sidewalk.

The would-be sexual predator then whined, “Leave my croissants alone.” I answered, “Okay, if you leave her alone.” It would have been funny, if not for the violence.

The Lessons

I don’t tell this story to boast. I’m glad I intervened, but I made mistakes. 

What did I do wrong?

As I grew angrier, and angrier, I experienced a bad case of tunnel vision. My situational awareness went out the window, so to speak. I couldn’t see anyone but the man, the aggressor. I had no idea if he had friends, family, or accomplices in the area. I mostly just saw his face.

What did I do right?

I had arrived at the park with satisfactory, situational awareness. I was aware of my surroundings as I waited and began loading my son onto the bus, despite the stress of trying to be on time, and distractions while saying goodbye. I noticed the bus drive up, I saw others in the park, I recognized the students who were moving towards the bus and clearly identified others: pedestrians, people on their way to work, even retired people, milling about or sitting on benches. And I saw the jerk.

Despite the emotions, and anger, I still maintained some semblance of situational awareness. But emotions can make it difficult. Emotions will do that to a body. Emotions—anger, frustration, jealousy, even excitement—can cause someone to miss important details that we must notice, recognize, and process. Details that can save us from being assaulted by one man, or ten men. Details that can make the difference between being sexually assaulted and going home safe and sound. Even the difference between life and death. Emotions can impair our observation skills, and our awareness.

The Four Conditions

Many in the security field teach the concept of conditions, or levels, of awareness, or state of mind—white, yellow, orange, and red—and that we often drift between them during a typical day, often depending upon our emotions:

Condition white describes someone who is basically “asleep at the wheel.” She will not see the open manhole cover on the sidewalk, or telephone pole in her path, nor the suspicious man lingering near her car in the grocery store parking lot. She will not see a thing, other than her cell phone text messages, until it is too late.

Condition yellow indicates she is alert but relaxed. She knows someone is walking behind her on the sidewalk, is aware of someone shopping in the same aisle in the shoe store, sees the  manhole cover on the sidewalk, and vehicles (makes and models, even drivers) which take multiple turns with her as she drives home.

Interestingly, and contrary to what you would think, she is not paranoid because she is aware. (I would argue that people in Condition White are probably the most paranoid.) She is not scared because she is prepared. Everyone should stay in condition yellow—women and men—until they encounter a threat.

Condition Orange defines a state when a specific threat has been identified, such as the man who followed her around the shopping mall and is now standing next to her car. Once she has recognized a threat she will move to Condition Orange. She might have seen someone many times, over time and distance (not someone she notices in the same store, over a short period of time, for example), and has confirmed that she is under surveillance—that she has been followed by someone threatening. She will now take steps to either move away from the threat, or fight to escape.

Condition Red: At this point, the man who followed her through the movie theater has blocked her path towards her car, and tries to drag her inside his van, or the thug at the restaurant is trying to pull her out the exit door. She now has the Flight or Fight. (I put Flight first, since that is her best bet.) She will scream for help, she will resist with all her strength, she will run, she will kick and scratch and spray him with her pepper spray, and she will fight with all her strength, even fight dirty.

By remaining in Condition Yellow, by staying aware of her surroundings, a woman can avoid many situations before she is in danger, maybe when an assailant is still planning something. Many assailants, including rapists or sexual predators, follow a similar, chain-of-attack (unless they find a “target of opportunity”).

Predators will:

  1. Select a target
  2. Follow and surveil her to identify habits and route
  3. Finalize a plan, or possibly choose another, softer target
  4. Surveil her some more, and lastly,
  5. Deploy at a site along her usual route, waiting on the “X” (figuratively, the spot where he wants to kidnap, rape, assault, or even seduce a woman—for some sexual predators, it might be the back seat of his car)

Obviously, the optimum time to thwart an assault is early on—the earlier the better: better to identify him when he first approaches her, or strikes up a conversation, or is following her, or watching her, than to wait until she is standing on the “X”, or is in the back seat of a sexual predator’s vehicle.

How can she break the chain?

She needs to be observant and aware. She needs to see when a predator’s actions correlate with her own. She needs to notice when he is browsing through magazines and then leaves the store at the same time she leaves. She needs to see him enter another store with her. She needs to notice when he finishes his coffee at the same time, or walks to the food court at the same time. She needs to notice his demeanor: is he nervous, glancing at her, loitering without a purpose. She needs to really see him.

When she sees possible correlation—between his actions and hers—she can take more provocative steps to confirm that he is following her. She can walk through the Walmart in a “stair-stepping” pattern, making several turns while heading to the Pharmacy, for example, rather than two long straight-aways. This will force him to take the turns with her, and make it easier for her to confirm that he is following her.

She can execute a “reversal,” turning back down an aisle towards him, maybe looking him in the eye and letting him know that she knows. She can do a u-turn (vehicular reversal) when driving, heading back towards him, while jotting down his license plate number as she passes. She can then speed dial her dad, brother, friend, or the police, depending upon the situation. If she is in a store, and knows that someone is following her, she can go to the Manager of the store, or a security guard, and ask him to escort her to her car.

What happens when she is aware?

When a woman is aware, she will recognize an “X” and not go anywhere near it. If she sees a man standing next to his van, on her path ahead of her while walking from class to her dorm, she can stop well in advance. She will notice if he stops what he is doing, to see if there is any correlation with her action. Does he look in her direction, and act nervous? Or does he grab bags of groceries from his vehicle and head up the stairs into his home?

She might see a group of men in a parking lot near the exit of the movie theater, before she exits. She will stop, possibly act like she’s on the cellphone. She will notice whether they continue talking and laughing before they proceed to their vehicle, or she will notice that they are watching her, and wait.

She will notice a young man who is loitering near the entrance to her apartment building as she approaches. Is he sexual predator who is waiting for a young woman to arrive so he can push his way in the door and rape her? She can assess the situation and know if he is dangerous by stopping and waiting some distance away. She can watch, and might see the man’s girlfriend exit a minute later, and see them leave hand-in-hand—mystery solved, danger averted.

How will she feel?

Will her situational awareness cause her some perceived embarrassment? Will she feel paranoid when she turns down a ride from a man she does not know well? Will she feel foolish that she hesitated, that she was a scaredy-cat, when she waited inside a store, or asked the manager to accompany her to her vehicle? Will she be embarrassed if she intervenes on behalf of a friend who might be in danger?

No! She will feel proud that she is careful, aware, and smart. And you know what? She may never know that that her observation, awareness, and pause—that extra few seconds of waiting—might have just saved her life or the life of a friend.

Was I embarrassed that I got in a second fight, in less than 6 months? Maybe, a little. But I was glad that I was aware enough to notice a young woman in need of help. What might have happened if I had been oblivious and focused only on getting my son on that bus, anCIA Street Smarts for Women 9781462117680_fulld hurrying off to work? Who knows. But it didn’t happen, because I was situationally aware. And Jean went to school and returned home later that day, safe and sound.

B.D. Foley’s new book CIA Street Smarts for Women: Spy Skills to Tell the Prince from the Predator provides more information and specific skills, the same skills that he used and taught in the CIA, on how to test, vet, and “read” men; elicit information on their true intentions; avoid emotional vulnerabilities and manipulation; project a confident demeanor to stay off a predator’s “radar”; turn down an invitation or break-up safely; and much more. Stay safe!