Situation: “Normal,” Everyday, Routine, and Your Vehicular Operations
What is “normal,” everyday, or routine? Most people in America assume that these words mean orderly peacefulness, a lack of chaos and violence, and a Merry Christmas to all. They think that way because for so long that was “normal” in this country. Anyone who watches the news at all knows that these are things that can no longer be taken for granted; those sentiments do not represent the “realities on the ground” in our current state of affairs.
Post “event,” what will become the new “normal” will likely be far different than what was “normal” five minutes before. You have to adapt quickly to the new reality or face some pretty serious consequences.
Whether or not you subscribe to the belief that we are in a period of “gray slide” towards bad times, you will benefit from increasing your awareness of the situation around you. Situational Awareness can be divided into three macro-levels– strategic, operational, tactical.
From the standpoint of your vehicular operations, the strategic level involves awareness of the larger situation. What are present conditions like nationally and regionally? Does the current state of affairs fit into a pattern, and if so what’s the trend towards?
Operational awareness would involve perceiving present conditions in a region to the local level. Are there riots in your city? If so, which roads are open for you to drive on? Has there been a natural disaster? If so, which streets aren’t flooded?
Tactical awareness concerns what is happening immediately around you in your vehicle. What is the white car that is speeding and driving aggressively through heavy traffic likely to do next? If you start taking rounds from that group of protesters, how should you orient your car to maximize cover (put that engine block between you and the baddies). What is your best option to avoid a problem?
The information you gather and mentally file into one of these three categories is fairly useless, unless you put that information to effective use. What is effective use? Humans make decisions and act upon them in a format that has become known as the OODA loop. OODA is a military acronym created for fighter pilots to learn how to “break into” their opponent’s decisions making/action cycle and shoot him down by thinking/acting faster than their foe.
There are four steps to OODA– Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. For you to take any action, you must first observe something and take note of it before you perceive the need to act at all. The “orient” stage consists largely of analysis of what has been observed. It is in this stage that many untrained people experience OODA failure. They know what they’ve observed and what’s happening around them, but they get hung up on what was or the “way things should be” instead of proceeding to decide and act on the way things actually are.
Orient flows more easily into decision and action for those who are trained and have prepared. Indeed, for the properly trained, there should be very little or any gap between decision and action. Once the decision has been made, it should immediately be put into effect. Could it change? Sure, that’s why OODA is a loop. Feedback received at any stage triggers another OODA cycle.
So, how is this relevant to you and your vehicle? It’s actually relevant to everything, as the OODA loop should be running non-stop in your life. OODA is not something to pull out of your hat when things get bad; it should be working for you every day.
For example, you’ve observed that things don’t quite seem to be living up to the “Hope and Change” mantra everyone was into just a few years ago. The analysis of your orientation leads you to conclude you might want to start living a more aware life. You make a decision to do so and act on that by seeking alternate routes to and from work. That was easy and builds your confidence, so you buy a local roadmap and mark out multiple color-coded routes from your house to places you frequent. You include on your map good rally points that are easily secured along such routes of march. You create “phase lines” on the map at prominent intersections or landmarks for quick reference. You purchase another map and mark it identically to ensure each vehicle has the same map. You equip each vehicle with a CB radio  and practice efficient, clear communication of vital information over the airwaves with your team (family).
With all the positive feedback from your OODA loop, you began to practice “crossdecking”– moving essential gear and personnel (and in the case of your family, they’re all essential) between vehicles, in case one is damaged or disabled. You begin to PT regularly in case you have to get out and move on foot. Your OODA loop needs to always be engaged and switched on.
Let’s say you don’t go to the “extremes” I’ve just mentioned, but you do decide to go gain a little local road knowledge. You can do that every day with minimal intrusion into your current daily lifestyle. Why could it matter? GPS may not always be working, and if you have a flat or break down, 911 or AAA is going to need to know where you’re at before they can send someone to aid you. For you to tell them, you need to know where you are. If you are calling someone you know to get help, the first piece of information you need to give them is where you are at. That way, they have a starting point for getting to you, if your phone suddenly cuts out.
Tactics and Your Ride: A Few Brief Thoughts
When you get into a vehicle, lock the door. Doors have locks for a reason. I’ve worked carjackings where the victims decided not to lock the doors, even at the perceived approach of danger, for fear of being thought of as “paranoid” or “racist”.
When you are in the “parking lot of life”, the rules are universal. Keep your head on swivel and be willing to leave that cart if it’s time to leave. You can always get more groceries. Practice getting in and out of the car, getting over the seats from inside the vehicle. Be able to access the appropriate “tool” effectively and quickly. Keep magazines for “vehicle carry tools” physically attached to holsters or to the firearm itself, if it’s a long gun. This way, you can grab and bail out without needing to dig through the trunk. A “vehicle gun” is just that. Your carry gun needs to be on your person and easily accessible.
Always be able to see where the tires of the vehicle in front of you touch the pavement over your hood. If you can’t, you’re too close and can’t quickly turn out from behind that vehicle in a single fluid movement.
Remember, your vehicle is a several thousand pound weapon, if need be. The vehicular answer to being in lots of bad scenarios is found in the gas pedal. Don’t drive through trouble if you can drive around it.
Vehicles are frequently a target for rioters during civil disturbances. Damage may range from broken windows and “light” vandalism to vehicles being overturned and set alight. If you think bugging out may be necessary at some point, you’ll get much farther with more equipment if you can access a working vehicle. The best vehicle to access is your own because, in addition to the issue of morality, attempting to jack someone else’s ride post-event is a good way to end up shot.
Hopefully, you don’t drive a vehicle that is easily mistaken for a law enforcement car. This is an important consideration. While in good light and to a sober thinking citizen your car may look nothing like a police car, remember that most riots take place at night and involve people who are not thinking clearly or acting rationally. Regardless of the type of car you drive, try to avoid parking it on the street, where a riotous crowd would have to flow around it and could easily decide to destroy it as a way to commemorate their team’s latest basketball championship. Kept it in a locked garage is best, as it is out of view and out of reach unless the mob decides to detour onto your property and smash doors in. Then it’s time for something else altogether.
Vehicles and their operation are a cornerstone of our daily lives. Understanding and being confident in their uses and limitations is a key element of preparedness in the modern world.