Editor’s Note: This article is an adapted excerpt from Jim Wagner’s acclaimed e-book Protecting Others: Self-Defense Strategies and Tactics for Third-Party Protection, now available in the Black Belt Store!
A lot of people seem to drop their guard when they are on vacation. They are so preoccupied with having a good time that they forget that criminals prey on unsuspecting tourists. Although having a good time is the primary focus of any vacation, situational awareness must remain paramount to protect yourself and others with you. The same is true for the business traveler. You not only must take precautions at your workplace, but you also must be just as vigilant when traveling to unfamiliar destinations and checking into a hotel.
Part of protecting others is having tools and items you need for a wide variety of incidents while you are traveling. A Go Bag is a tactical bag that has essential emergency supplies in it that you can grab and take with you immediately. A Go Bag should not stand out or attract any undue attention. You don’t want anything that looks militaristic if you plan to use public transportation. You want it to be a bag that looks like it could have been bought in any travel store, and stay away from any bright, flashy colors.
As a professional traveler and a person with extensive tactical training and experience, I carry certain personal equipment with me at all times anytime I travel both on my person and in a Go Bag. I suggest that you carry the same items that I do. Let’s go over each piece of equipment.
PHOTO A: I am in my typical traveling attire. I wear a shirt that has lots of pockets and pants that have lots of pockets. I also wear sturdy boots that have a zipper along their sides; this helps me get through airport security quickly.
PHOTO B: Attached to my key chain is always a small LED light. A light, even a small one, can be used in a variety of tactical situations in the event of a subway attack, a smoky tunnel or a blackout. It is also useful in everyday situations, like finding a light switch in a dark room.
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PHOTO C: Always have a throwaway wallet to give to the criminal should you ever be robbed. Inside this wallet are fake family photos. You don’t ever want the criminal to have photos of your own family, but having photographs of children, even if they are not your own, may get some sympathy from the criminal. You can also say, “Please, don’t shoot me. I have a family.”
PHOTO D: Inside your throwaway wallet should be some promotional credit cards. They are cards sent by credit card companies and usually have the impression “your name here.” They look like real credit cards when they are in the wallet pocket; a person can’t tell the difference. If you don’t receive these promotional credit cards in the mail, you can always take an old credit card you no longer use and cut your name off it. Also in your throwaway wallet, always carry enough cash to satisfy a criminal. I actually purchase things using the throwaway wallet so that if I am under criminal surveillance, the robber will see me hand him the same wallet that I was using to make my purchase. For a woman, I suggest wearing a money belt where personal identification and credit cards can be kept. There are companies that make form-fitting money belts for women. All other items, such as makeup, brushes, breath mints, etc., can be kept in the purse.
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PHOTO E: You must be prepared for car fires, structure fires and terrorist chemical attacks. You want a compact smoke hood that is designed to filter out not only toxic fumes from a vehicle or structure fire but also chemical weapons that a terrorist might use in a public place.
PHOTO F: I always carry a pair of flexible nylon handcuffs with me. They usually run less than $5 each, and two or three can fit into the change pocket of a pair of pants. There is no metal in them so they can go through any metal detector at an airport security checkpoint. I carry a minimum of two on me because they are one-time-only devices. If you pull it too tight and cut off the circulation of your prisoner, then you will have to put on another pair and cut the restrictive ones off. Because I am currently in a military police unit, I have about 20 of them in a cargo pocket on my load-bearing vest, should I have to make many arrests in a riot situation. Fifty of them can easily be shoved into one pocket. They are a lot easier to store than the plastic flex cuffs.
PHOTO G: QuikClot, a dressing and blood-clotting agent all in one, is a must to carry in your Go Bag or in one of your pockets if you have a job or anticipate a situation in which you will need to get to it quickly. Just place the dressing on the wound and then bandage the dressing in place to stop the bleeding. This product has been used extensively in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
PHOTO H: I always carry a bandanna in my back pocket. A bandanna has multiple uses: It can be folded up to make a sling for a broken arm, it can be made into a pressure bandage, and it can be soaked in cold water and made into a headband while rescuing people. You can also filter water through it in a wilderness survival situation as well as countless other things.
PHOTO I: Ever since I became a corrections officer back in 1988, I’ve always purchased shock- and water-resistant watches like those shown. Many smartphones have a compass program and can even act as a GPS receiver. Now I wear one that includes an electronic compass, an altimeter and a barometer. A compass is essential in a survival situation, and I always have an idea of which way I should head if my aircraft goes down in a hostile country.
PHOTO J: I carry a police-style tourniquet called SWAT-Tourniquet. The U.S. Army recommends the Combat Application Tourniquet, also known as CAT. A tourniquet is applied to an extremity (leg or arm) when the bleeding cannot be stopped by a dressing and bandage. You apply manual pressure, elevating the injured limb or applying a pressure dressing. Although you can improvise with a belt or shoestring, it takes precious time. Tactical tourniquets are easy to use, fast and can be self-applied in an emergency. Though you will probably not be wearing ready-made tourniquets, you should always carry one or two when traveling; have one in your personal vehicle in your first-aid kit and one or two in your home kit. It’s better to have the device on hand and not need it than to need it and not have it.
The Go Bag
I always carry a Go Bag with me whenever I take any kind of public transportation. You want your Go Bag to have several securable pockets and a one or two very large pockets for the larger items. The Go Bag should have a single strap that you can slip over your shoulder comfortably. My Go Bag even has room to slip a book and newspaper into. This gives the illusion that it is not a tactical bag. The photo to the left shows you what I carry. It is even gray in color because I always want to be a “gray man” (a surveillance term meaning that a person wears subdued colors so he or she will not stand out in a crowd).
PHOTO A: I carry a SWAT-Tourniquet in a pocket and one or two in my Go Bag because they are very compact.
PHOTO B: Like the tourniquet, I can carry one or two smoke hoods in my Go Bag, and in this photo, I show how it looks once it is deployed.
PHOTO C: It is always important to have a tactical flashlight (torch). This is a sturdy impact-resistant flashlight that can light up a large area. You may need this to blind your attacker, find your way out of a kill zone, or set up so you can see what you are doing while rendering first aid.
PHOTO D: I am holding three very important items.
- Item 1: I am wearing a bright orange-colored hat. I carry one in my Go Bag for two purposes. The first is for rescue. Perhaps your aircraft was ditched in the ocean and you are floating in the water. By wearing the bright-colored hat, you are more visible from a distance. The second reason for such a hat is in a hostage-rescue situation. Perhaps you, and those you are with, are being held hostage in a bus. It is three o’clock in the morning and you just happened to peek out the window and see a SWAT team moving up on the bus in a stealth manner. You slowly get out your orange hat and put it on. No terrorist in his right mind would wear such a color, and you will instantly be identified as a hostage, which can prevent you from being mistaken for a terrorist and getting shot.
- Item 2: The item in my right hand is a pair of thick leather work gloves. Perhaps I was on a subway train that derailed because of a bomb blast three wagons forward of mine. The exit door is jammed and there is jagged metal all about. The gloves will protect my hands against cuts and scrapes and even hot surfaces. Or you may have to pull out chunks of glass before you slip out the window to get free of the wreckage.
- Item 3: In my left hand, I have a bag of parachute cord, also called 550 cord. Parachute cord is very strong and can hold a lot of weight. It can be used to climb out of a hotel window to escape a fire, for improvised tourniquets, to tie up a bad guy, to help fashion an improvised stretcher, to pull a car door handle if a bomb is suspected, and a thousand other things.
PHOTO E: I have three more items in my hands, but they are all related. I have three different packages of QuikClot to stop the bleeding for various wound sizes and a few bandages that take up very little room.
PHOTO F: In my right hand is a CPR protective shield, a device to give someone mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while maintaining a biohazard-free barrier, and emergency room latex gloves to avoid bloodborne pathogens.
PHOTO G: I am holding travel duct tape in my right hand and clear plastic zip-lock baggies in my left hand. The traveling duct tape is the same as regular duct tape only it comes flattened for easy transport. Duct tape has 1,001 uses. You can use duct tape to tie up a prisoner, as an emergency bandage or splint, or to tape a chemical light to a wall, among other things. In regards to the plastic bag, there are many uses for them: sealing a sucking chest wound, keeping documents or electronics from moisture, using for urination (such as in a hostage situation) or using as a fishing bobber in a wilderness survival situation.
PHOTO H: I have a survival straw in my right hand and a U.S. government “Meal, Ready to Eat” (MRE) in my left hand. You can live up to three weeks without food, but you can only function for three days without water. Besides air and shelter, water is your most important survival element. A water filtration straw can be placed into any water, and the straw will filter out virtually all bacteria and contaminates. A straw like the one I have can filter up to 60 liters of water. As long as you have a water source, you can eat food. A pack of unopened military food can have a five-year shelf life if unopened. I keep one or two of my favorite menus in my Go Bag.
PHOTO I: In my right hand is a chemical light and in the left hand is a space blanket. The chemical light is activated by bending it until a small tube inside the plastic tube breaks, releasing its contents into the larger tube. After being shaken vigorously, some last for two hours, eight hours or 12 hours depending on what type you buy. This is a good device if you need light for a long period. To signal a rescue aircraft, you tie one end to five feet of paracord and then spin it in a circle above your head. You can mark the location of a victim who was ejected from a vehicle or place the light on your back and lead people out of a kill zone. The space blanket, when wrapped around a person, can reflect 90 percent of a person’s body heat. In Germany it is mandatory to have a space blanket inside of a first-aid kit in every vehicle. A space blanket is placed over someone to prevent shock by keeping him or her warm. It can be used as a signal device or a rain poncho. Another of its many applications: Squares can be cut to make a first-aid “flutter valve” for a sucking chest wound.
About the Author:
Jim Wagner has been a soldier, a jailer, a street cop, a SWAT officer, a diplomatic bodyguard and a counterterrorist agent for the U.S. government. The author of a library of reality-based personal protection titles — including the books Reality-Based Personal Protection and Defensive Tactics for Special Operations, the e-book Protecting Others: Self-Defense Strategies and Tactics for Third-Party Protection and a two-part, 11-volume Reality-Based Personal Protection DVD series — Wagner was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as the 2006 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year.