Phone Distraction is Unsafe Beyond Driving

Copyright © 2015 Black Prepper

Black Prepper © Copyright 2015

One of the most dangerous and among the biggest threats to personal safety is something almost everyone has and many hold dear. The smartphone. Ironically, many people would say they have these devices for emergencies and they help them feel safe, but their use is often a distraction and a security threat. Distracted driving deaths has, in some areas, surpassed those from drunk driving, but distracted driving is only a fraction of how smartphone distraction is dangerous. While operating a vehicle or even walking while looking at these devices may result in an accident, the scope of the danger is much wider. Be aware that some states will give you a ticket for distracted driving even if you’re stopped, but still in traffic. (Crossing the Line: Knowing State Law)

Now if you’re parked in a parking spot, you’re free to use your phone as much as you want. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The same idea behind distracted driving being a problem still holds true when parked; being unaware of the surroundings. Of course it’s highly unlikely to cause an accident while parked, but what about that robber or deranged person sneaking up on you? You didn’t see them coming because you were looking at your phone.

With your head down and being totally immersed in the text conversation or social media, you are a target. The car you’re driving may be the prize for the criminal; it could also be your phone or even your life. By being distracted, you’re giving them the upper hand; you’ll never see it coming. Why should you worry, you’re in a 2,000+ pound vehicle with the doors locked and glass to protect you? Are your doors really locked or did they unlock when you put the car in park, a passenger opened a door or you turned off the engine? Being in a heavy metal car is meaningless when it’s surrounded by thin glass. Cars aren’t designed to keep you safe from a determined intruder trying to get in and they are remarkable easy to break into.

All too often we hear on the news of someone getting their phone snatched out of their hands, being held up at gun point or being assaulted and the thief running off with their phone. Recently, a woman walking with her 3-month-old child strapped to her chest in a baby carrier was kicked to the ground from behind and had her phone stolen. The video showed that when her assailant passed her, he noticed her phone and that prompted him to attack. We have to be aware of what is going on around us, especially when walking. We should not be consumed with the distraction. Many times I’ve had to suddenly stop my car because a pedestrian walked into the street without looking because they’re distracted by their phone.

There’s also an indirect casualty of smartphone distraction. The eyewitness. Although eyewitnesses are often unreliable, they help with understanding what transpired. With so many people being distracted, the number of eyewitnesses has diminished. Have you ever looked into a car driving next to you and see most of the occupants looking down at their phones? None of them would know what hit them in an accident. The same is true for other public places especially where there’s a waiting area. To pass the time, many people pull out their smartphones and tune out their surroundings, oblivious to any situation that may be developing. Sometimes looking at someone before they commit a crime may deter them.

We are living in dangerous times and should always keep our heads on a swivel. Criminals often try to employ distractions to catch their victims off-guard, but people are now providing their own distractions, making the criminals’ job easier. I don’t advocate giving up smartphones, I have one and it’s incredibly useful, but we shouldn’t become so immersed in them that we don’t know what’s going on around us. I don’t do anything too attention consuming on my phone while sitting in a parked car, and every few seconds, I scan the area. If it’s night, I don’t look at my phone at all. The glow is a giveaway and it’s much harder to see in the dark especially when your eyes have to readjust from looking at the backlit phone. Next time you’re in a public place and are looking at your phone, be aware that it’s a distraction and look around. Sometimes it’s best to just put the phone down, it may save your life.

Crossing the Line: Knowing State Law

It’s very important to know your state’s laws and the laws of states where you may plan to travel. Never assume that neighboring states have the same laws or that law enforcement is going to let an infraction slide because you were unaware of the law. Recently, a woman from Pennsylvania, with a permit to carry a gun, traveled to New Jersey with a legally owned gun, loaded with hollow point bullets. During a traffic stop, she informed the police officer she had a gun in the car, which is what you should do under normal circumstances. However, New Jersey doesn’t recognize the carry permits of other states. She was arrested, charged with possession of a firearm and faced 3 years in jail. Had she not mentioned the gun, she may have just received a traffic ticket. Not knowing the laws of the state she traveled to, she provided information that caused her arrest. Luckily, due to public outcry and actions by the Acting Attorney General, she was accepted into a pretrial intervention program. Once completed, her criminal record will be cleared. A situation like this could be avoided by knowing the laws of states you visit. This is especially important when you are carrying a firearm or any weapon. In knowing the law, if you realize you are breaking it, you may not want to divulge too much information.

About two months ago I was looking at stun guns on the Amazon app. About an hour after looking at the stun guns I noticed an email from Amazon thanking me for my order.  The problem is, I didn’t order it. I believe one of my kids got to my phone and inadvertently clicked the buy with one-click button since I hadn’t closed the app. It was purchased and it would arrive in two days. I could still cancel it, but I was probably going to buy it anyway so I left it alone. But wait, it’s important to know your state’s laws. The next day I decided to check how my state feels about stun guns and wouldn’t you know it, it’s a felony to knowingly possess one. The thing about felonies, they make you a felon and felons can’t own firearms, plus it’s public record so it will show up in any background check. Not really worth it for a stun gun. Even if no one knows I bought it, I can’t use it. Using it means I have it and having it is a felony. I contacted Amazon immediately and canceled the order and refused delivery the next day.

Knowing the law not only helps to keep you out of trouble, it also helps to keep the government from taking advantage of you. Municipalities with a revenue problem will come up with ways to get your money. The easiest targets are people who don’t know the laws, particularly motorists. We see this with the shortening of the yellow light at intersections with red light cameras. Fighting a red light camera ticket with a shortened yellow light will often result in the ticket being dismissed. Recently, a town in New York was ticketing drivers for speeding in school zones on school days. The problem with this was that schools were closed for summer vacation so they weren’t actually school days. Many drivers paid these tickets, but were eventually given a refund after community outrage and media exposure. Knowing the law allows you to challenge them when they are being applied incorrectly or unfairly.

But knowing and following the law doesn’t guarantee you won’t get into trouble. Texas has a castle doctrine, which means that if an intruder enters your home, you have no duty to retreat. If you have reason to believe the intruder will harm you, you are justified in using deadly force. Many states have similar laws, so check yours and be sure you understand what it means. I mentioned Texas’ castle doctrine because in early 2014, Marvin Louis Guy and his wife woke up at 5:30 a.m. to armed men attempting to enter their home through a window. Guy retrieved his firearm and opened fire, killing one, injuring another and hitting two others who received minor injuries because they were wearing body armor. Those intruders turned out to be police officers serving a “no knock” drug search warrant based on an informant “witnessing” cocaine being transported to the home. The officers didn’t identify themselves when attempting to enter the home, leaving Guy unaware of their identities when he opened fire. No drugs or traces of drug distribution were found, but Guy was arrested and charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder of the police officers. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out.

A mistake people often make is assuming they know what the law says by hearsay. I’ve heard a number of times that New Jersey law requires residents to retreat during a home invasion and only if they’re unable to, that is when they can confront the intruder. This is incorrect as New Jersey has a castle doctrine that states the residents or someone acting to protect the residents in a dwelling have no duty to retreat and can use force or deadly force against an intruder. When we hear many people “quoting” a law, we believe it must be true, but it’s best to read the laws yourself rather than base your knowledge on someone else’s understanding or misunderstanding.

Do you know where to find your state’s laws? Start with the state’s website and look for legislation or statues in the menu. Or google “[your state] laws” and look for the website with “state.[xx].us” (xx is your state’s two letter abbreviation) in the address. From there you get the actually legislation and not someone’s copy or interpretation.

Cold Weather Safety: Family Fall & Winter Prep

It’s that time of year again. It seems to have come a little earlier this year. It’s time to prepare yourself and your family for winter. Cold weather can be deadly. It is important to be prepared before you get a winter storm warning and before the temperature plummets.

Exposure to cold can lead to frostbite, hypothermia and death. It is important to be prepared for situations where you may become trapped in your home, stranded outside your home or without electricity and/or heat during a winter storm.

Do you and your family have a plan of communication should you be separated during a winter storm? Communication plans are important. Everyone should know who to call or where to meet should you become separated. Set up a plan to meet somewhere once the storm conditions calm down or have a number or email address that everyone knows so that you can check in should you become separated.

Be sure to stay abreast of the weather on a daily basis and pay attention to weather advisories. Become familiar with weather advisory vocabulary. It is important to know the difference between a winter storm advisory, which is winter weather that presents a hazard, as opposed to a winter storm warning, which means a storm is occurring or will occur within 36 hours.

Some things to consider when making winter preparations: Continue reading

Introducing: Preptobismom

I was going to jump right in with a prepping post but as I began to compile information and sources, I thought that maybe it would be best to begin with an introductory post. As an introduction, I am the BlackPrepper’s wife and a mother. As a mother and wife, preparing is an everyday task. Keeping the household organized so it can function occurs daily. Emergency preparation should not be an afterthought though.  

With this section of the BlackPrepper blog, I hope to bring prepping from a family angle to the blog and BlackPrepper community. I’ll blog about prepping for emergencies as well as other topics of interest to me, such as the benefits of baby wearing and breastfeeding, especially in an emergency situation. I hope to take general prepper talk and focus in on how it effects those with children (regardless of age). 

Prepping shouldn’t be something that is done only when there is some sort of weather warning in your area. Prepping is a way of life. Whatever you do, you should be prepared. 

I will cite sources for information I find around the internet so you can further research topics that interest you. It is only by the sharing of information that we grow.  

I am a busy working mother and wife so there won’t be a post everyday but when there is a post, I invite feedback – good and bad. I promise to be respectful of all opinions and in return expect the same. But keep in mind that respect is mandatory and trolls will not be entertained.  

Feel free to post on our Facebook page, tweet us on the main page at @Blackpreppers or me directly at @preptobismom or shoot me an email at [email protected]. I look forward to our discussions and to help build this community of preppers sharing information and experiences.  

Preptobismom 

Twitter: @preptobismom 

Email: [email protected] 

 

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter @blackpreppers and @preptobismom, and check in on the blog regularly.

Ebola – No Need to Panic, S didn’t HTF

With the recent report of an Ebola infected patient surfacing in the US, there is widespread panic. How many people did this person infect? How did they enter the US without anyone knowing? Is this the plague we’ve been waiting for to validate why we are preppers? In the vein of the popular memes, I’ll say, “Keep Calm, You’re Not Going to Get Ebola.”

There is a lot of misinformation and fear mongering when it comes to Ebola. There are many ways of contracting it and they all include bodily fluid contact. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids when symptoms are present. Period. Simply being in the same room or plane is not enough to be infected. Transmission occurs from direct or close contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids when they are exhibiting symptoms. It can also be transmitted from contact with a surface that is contaminated, which is why it is important to wash hands regularly and not touch your eyes, mouth and nose after touching public surfaces.

Washing hands is the single most effective preventative method, as well as using alcohol based hand sanitizer. In most cases, Ebola was contracted when providing care to those who were infected. It’s best to listen to information presented by institutions that have been studying and following Ebola as well as other viruses for decades. Conspiracy theories and misinformation only create unnecessary panic and will lead to distrust of facts. As preppers, knowledge and accurate information is key to survival. Prepping based on misinformation will ultimately lead to death.

Want to know more about Ebola from an authority that has been looking at it for years? WHO – Ebola Disease Virus

Cold Weather Safety

snow_streetWith the current extreme cold temperatures sweeping the nation, we should look at this as an opportunity to reassess our cold weather preparedness. This should not only take into account what we do at home, but should also include what we do while traveling. As always, prepping isn’t just about being prepared for what we can foresee, it’s also being prepared with the knowledge and tools to adapt to the unimaginable. Many communities are experiencing record low temperatures that many of us have never experienced. As the temperature falls, the number of situations we should be prepared for increases.

The highest priority situation to be ready for is fire, rather, taking the necessary steps to prevent a fire. Many of us have space heaters that we use when our standard heating element isn’t sufficient. These are one of the leading causes of fires during these cold spells. The best course to take is to replace older space heaters with newer ones for a number of reasons. Most fires caused by space heaters are from the constant power being drawn and old and ill-maintained circuitry in the home. Modern space heaters have automatic temperature controls that turn the unit off when the set temperature is reached. Another reason to replace old units is the possibility that the cords may be worn and brittle. The very least one should do is to inspect the space heater itself for obvious damage, including the power cord and plug. Be sure to keep flammable material and liquid away from the heater and outlet. This may seem like common sense, but sometimes we get lazy and don’t always do our due diligence. Electric blankets and heating pads should be inspected for damage as they also pose a risk of fire and injury.

Damaged Space Heater Plug

Damaged Space Heater Plug

Another avenue of concern is using an oven to provide heat. This should never be done as it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. It may be tempting when it is bitterly cold and you have no heat, but the risk outweighs the benefit. Using candles as a heat source also runs the risk of fire and the heat provided by the candle is minimal. Again, this is not worth the risk.

While we should also be prepared in our vehicles, special considerations should be made during the cold weather. Keep a blanket in the car, any blanket. There is no need to get a fancy, fold up into a matchbook blanket, when a regular full sized blanket will work. Check tire pressure; cold temperatures cause tires to lose air pressure. Underinflated tires lessen gas mileage as well as increases the tires’ susceptibility to a blowout. Also, replace worn tires. Driving on snow or ice with severely worn tires is asking for trouble. You may pay a premium now, as demand is high, but it is better to shell out the extra money than to put it off and pay for it with an expensive car repair bill. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank filled to at least half tank. Being stranded in the cold is among the last things you want. No gas means no heat. Invest in roadside assistance. Your cellphone company may offer it, your car insurance company offers it and there is AAA.

These are just a few cold weather preparations to consider. Remember, like in situations of extreme heat, extreme cold can be deadly. A few preparatory actions can save time and money and in some cases, your life.