A Reminder of our Vulnerabilities

Hector Santana
9 min readDec 3, 2023

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In a troubled part of the world? Get out at the first sign of conflict.

The stunning attacks along Israel’s border towns by HAMAS fighters revealed gapping vulnerabilities in the Israeli security apparatus. Not just security failures but also intelligence failures. Some in the media have said that Israel was distracted by the fight over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s changes to the Supreme Court. Over the months before, thousands protested against weakening the Israeli Courts power to strike down executive overreach. The Israeli government was under attack not by foreign adversaries but from within. Then came the attack.

But can such national distractions serve as opportunities for terrorist organizations? Of course, they can. Nothing is more valuable to an unseen enemy than sustained distractions. Terrorism is a very real threat to American society and always has been. What makes it different today? We are a very divided America and that certainly does not help. What does this have to do with preparedness? Everything.

Preparedness is the constant task of examining how you can be alerted and react to life-threatening scenarios. At times, we may believe that we have done enough to be prepared. Unfortunately, that’s when disaster strikes. Was the Israeli government satisfied that they were prepared? At first glance, it appears that they were comfortable with their posture.

How can you avoid the notion that you are always prepared? By understanding that preparedness is a continuous process of evaluation, action, and reaction. Don’t be fooled into believing that you are ALWAYS prepared. Look for holes in your preparations, obvious flaws are easy to spot. Look for those things that are insidious and patch up those flaws with solid solutions.

Escape plans, self-defense plans, and bug-out plans all come with sacrifices. Identify what those sacrifices are, and you will be better prepared. In this instance, the element of surprise was a key factor to why so many people perished. Can you be better prepared for a surprise? Yes, but it will involve constant evaluation. This is not back seat driving or Monday morning quarterbacking, it is simply looking at what you can do to respond to unexpected events. Did the victims know escape and evasion techniques, were they tactically proficient, and were they armed? Of course not, most were civilians, sadly there were those instances in which the surprise was so sudden that there was simply no time to react.

Signs of trouble should keep you alert and ready to move at a moment's notice.

What can you do? Stay alert to your surroundings, particularly in the distance. If you are walking or driving pay attention to what is happening in front and behind you at all times. If there is an attack, be prepared to extricate yourself by moving behind cover and away from the danger area. Many will try to hide in buildings, cars or elsewhere. However, in most instances continuously moving will save your life. In this case, the border was attacked, if you are aware of that fact you know to move away from the border and deeper into areas where the attackers have not yet reached.

If you are driving, remember that evading in a vehicle will make you a larger target. If you do not have a clear path forward, getting out on the opposite side of danger will give you a chance to escape. Always seek cover as you move away from the vehicle. Do not present a larger target by moving together. Move quickly between cover and always be tactically proficient by keeping five meters or more apart. This is difficult to do when we are intent on keeping everyone together, but it is essential to make your enemy earn every shot they take and give your group more time and opportunity to escape. Yes, there are inherent risks, but this technique will enhance the possibility of survival. To be prepared, take the time to study the nature of moving across a danger area.

If you have a weapon do not always use it. If you’re undetected, do not draw attention to yourself. Opening fire will immediately make you a priority target for the terrorists. If there are only a few and you are a good shot, shoot to end the firefight. If not, fire your weapon only if spotted and only to suppress your immediate opponent and to cover your movement. If you only have one clip, fire for effect or to keep your opponent’s head down but keep as many rounds as possible chambered in your weapon. Most times, single opponents will not pursue targets that shoot back. But if they have superior numbers, they can afford the risks of engaging you. Remember that when assessing your response.

If you are walking and hear gunfire or an explosion, determine its source and move away from the area. If there is an alley you can move through, do so with haste. Remember to always seek cover while doing so, even if you do not immediately see threats in the horizon. Stop, look, and listen before moving from cover to cover but do it quickly and without hesitation. Hesitation is responsible for more casualties than you can imagine. Avoid going out in the open and if possible, move across wide areas from cover to cover. If there is no cover look for an alternate route, if you find none then look for the shortest distance between cover and run across one person at a time to reduce exposure to being fired upon. Moving in a zig zag pattern can help to make it difficult for the untrained shooter.

If you are met with deadly force leave the area quickly and have your party meet you several blocks over where there may be no opposition. When you reconnect, quickly leave the area away from where you were engaged by an opponent. But remember that you could be tailed by those forces that you evaded. Always look forward and back as you move through the area. Some would say that you should shelter in place. But, without knowing how far this attack will travel you may expose yourself to danger if the attackers search building by building. If you decide to do that you should make an effort to lock yourself in a basement where they can expect to find locked doors. They should rationalize that no one lives there and simply move along. So, you hope. Moving continuously is your best bet, especially if you are moving away from the danger areas and behind friendly forces. When you see many police officers or an army staging area, you know you are safe, for the time being.

Friendly forces? Don't take that for granted. Keep moving further until you are safe from the conflict.

Should you remain there just because you see friendly forces? No, you should leave the area and travel to friends or family far enough to make you feel comfortable. Look for reports on the radio or television. If you have a radio scanner, use it to monitor what is happening. If you realize that things are coming your way, get out fast and travel opposite to highly urbanized areas. If you had a bug-out plan now is the time to use it. Look for food and water along the way. Get as much as you can or at least three days' worth for every person. You may not need it but its better safe than sorry. Once you find safety stay there and monitor the radio until you are sure that the situation has been stabilized and you are out of danger.

Let’s face it being in the middle of a war zone is hard. Staying in buildings close to targets of opportunity is a bad idea. Get out immediately once you realize there is an impending attack. Move quickly through the backstreets and away from heavily urbanized areas. Stay away from areas where there are military units mobilizing. They are clear targets and will present the greatest danger to you and your family. Know your area and look for routes out of your city and into safety. Do not enter tunnels or infrastructure that may be attacked. Even decommissioned infrastructure is not safe. If you absolutely have to do so, do it expeditiously and let others know you are making that journey. If the worst should happen, they can call for help.

If you are prepared, you will have food and water. If not, you will have to make your journey fast and efficient. Being prepared means not just having stored goods but having resources you can use along the way. A good water filter is indispensable as is small rations of food that are easily hidden on your person. Families with babies should always keep extra powdered milk on hand for just such an emergency. Always track the amount of time it will take to get out of the area not just by vehicle but also on foot. Use that number to figure out how much powdered milk you will need to feed your baby along the way. Overestimating is ok but keep the weight manageable. Keep that on hand and be prepared to carry it with you as you exit the city.

Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable in an urban war zone.

Those with mobility impairments will face the greatest danger, as extricating them out of harm's way will be difficult. If you have a loved one with accessibility issues, always keep a lightweight, foldable wheelchair in your storage area for any emergencies where you will have to evacuate from the area. Those with small children should have always have on hand backpack style baby carriers to make your exit as quick and efficient as possible. Parents should make every effort to protect their children from danger. At times, that will mean moving more than five meters apart from cover to cover. I don't have to tell you to keep flashlights and dried goods readily available.

If you are visiting and don't know the area, always have a current map. No, not a tourist map but a topographic map. At the first sign of widespread conflict leave the area and return to your hotel. Are you safe there? No, because in foreign conflict zones hotels are one of the first places terrorists go to look for foreign hostages. Get information from the staff because they know the area and they should be getting phone calls from loved ones informing them of what is happening. If you determine that moving south there is no danger, then leave but wear non-descript clothing and a hat to mask your appearance. Avoid luggage, carry a backpack and use the map to avoid the main roads. Do not let anyone see you using the map, it signals that are not a local. Move toward industrial areas if you see them as there is little interest in those areas if it is a terrorist attack. Terrorists often attack high traffic areas such as shopping malls, airports, hotels and commercial strips. Move with the aim of getting behind the danger area and away to safety.

Like in Gaza, many residents did not think that the situation would deteriorate to the level it has today, and they waited. Now, with hundreds of thousands in the same plight it is harder to get away from danger. Closed borders and the lack of aid only exacerbates the situation. Only the prepared stood a better chance. If you find yourself in parts of the world where conflict is the norm, take precautions to be ready. Even having extra water, a map, and some snickers bars is an improvement over having nothing. Take these events as a reminder about being as prepared as you can be. Right now, you have the time to take a class, go to the gym or get some self-defense training. The point is don't wait to do tomorrow what you could have done today. That way you will be as prepared as you can be. Safe trails out there…

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Hector Santana

*Top Writer-Camping and Survival. I love to write about the great outdoors, survival and foreign policy. An avid outdoorsman and survival instructor.