As I advanced in my police career, I continually evaluated my individual readiness for armed conflict. I “war-gamed” potential scenarios, talked to my family about what to do, upgraded my weapons and everyday carry (EDC) gear and generally tried to stay prepared for the dangers that lurked on- and off-duty. On several off-duty occasions, I ran into people I had arrested. This made me feel the need to stay vigilant to the possibility of attack for no other reason than because of what I did for a living.
Today street cops are called “first responders”—and I like the term. When trouble starts, and everyone else is running away, cops run into the fray—no matter what it is—to either help the citizens they’re sworn to protect or stop the carnage that’s underway. As Col. Dave Grossman so eloquently stated, cops “run to the sound of the guns.” This is what cops do, and I’m damn proud to say I’ve done it.
At the same time, I’ve been involved in a number of situations off-duty that had little to do with armed conflict. I had the proper state of mind to act instead of dither—something most street cops have. I’ve helped traffic crash victims, found lost senior citizens, directed traffic until additional units could arrive, pulled a drowning child out of a pool, talked to a suicidal subject and even cut away the trouser leg off a child whose pants got caught in an escalator.
Yet with all of these situations under my belt, I’ve never thought about my EDC carry gear being appropriate for anything other than armed conflict. A recent situation once again reaffirmed the need for first responders to be ready for a wide variety of situations both on- and off-duty.
Recently, I read a story in the Salt Lake Tribune that really made me think (Dec. 31, 2011: “Passers-by rescue children from submerged car in Utah river”). Three children were saved by passers-by after the car they were riding in lost control, fell down an embankment and landed upside-down in the icy Logan River.
The 46-year-old driver was able to free himself, but the children—two nine-year-old girls and a four-year-old boy—were trapped in the freezing water. The doors of the car wouldn’t open, so one of the first responders, a retired police officer named Chris Willden, shot his Glock 23 into the window to break it. Passers-by then assembled, flipped the car over and helped pull the children out of the broken windows.
Although the youngest child wasn’t breathing when freed from the car, he was resuscitated and flown to a hospital. The two girls were treated for hypothermia.
Calibre Press founder Chuck Remsberg recently interviewed Willden on PoliceOne about entering icy cold water to save the three children. Willden offered these learning points to all who might face a similar circumstance.
Fellow trainer and my good friend John Farnam of Defense Training International told me that Willden was one of his students. After talking with him about the incident, he told me: “There were several other well-meaning citizens present, who bravely endured the freezing waters that day. But only Willden was truly prepared.
“He had the necessary tools at hand and the boldness to unhesitatingly take unilateral, dicey, audacious action, not waiting around for ‘someone else’ to ‘do something,’” says Farnam. “Through preparation and boldness, he snatched victory from the jaws of disaster.”
Even though Willden is retired (he currently operates a training company called Strategic Tactical Group), he still rose to the occasion and took action when others didn’t. He was prepared mentally and had the gear he needed to accomplish the task.
How many of you can say the same? Could you stand back and watch three children drown? I couldn’t either! So it’s smart to stay ready.
When it comes to EDC gear, what do you carry? Have you given it careful consideration based on your real world of work and play? Let’s examine the subject a bit.
Like Willden, I carry a gun, knife and flashlight every day.
A Gun: It’s obvious—it’s a tool of personal security to be used when deadly force is reasonable based on the circumstances. But how many of us would think to use it to break a car window when nothing else would do? As Clint Eastwood said in the movie Heartbreak Ridge, “Improvise, adapt and overcome.”
My gun of choice: A Glock 19 in a Dan Hillsman Bolatron holster and accompanying magazine pouch with a 15-round magazine loaded with Speer Gold Dot hollow points. The G19 is compact enough to carry in all but the hottest weather, and is as reliable as any human-designed and engineered product can be.
A Folding Knife: It’s a cutting tool in my mind. Sure, it could be used as a weapon, but how many people can remove it from their pocket and get it open while under attack? Very few without extensive practice. If you disagree, grab a folding trainer and try it as you spar with a training partner—a humbling experience to be sure.
Having cut a few people out of seat belts, I can tell you a knife is a handy thing to have. I can also tell you that not having a cutting tool when you need one is a gut-wrenching, hopeless feeling. How would you feel if you were in Willden’s place and had to watch those children perish because you had no way to cut them free?
Although I’ve carried any number of folding knives over the years, I’ve settled on the Surefire Jekyll folder. The Jekyll is no larger than the palm of my hand, but has a three-inch blade that can be opened with either the dual thumb studs or index finger flipper that doubles as a hand guard. With an aluminum handle and a titanium blade lock, this lightweight knife is also rock-solid and tough as nails. I wish it had a small section of serrations for sawing through tough materials, but seldom can you have everything you want. That said, the Jekyll is everything I look for in an everyday folding knife.
A Flashlight: An EDC flashlight doesn’t have to be a large or exceptionally bright light. It just needs to be able to search and navigate in bedroom-sized places. Or, in many cases, just needs to be bright enough to find a light switch or find your way out of a smoke-filled room.
I had the opportunity to hear one of the survivors of the World Trade Center attack speak, and he made it quite clear that the people who had flashlights on them, or nearby, were able to find their way out of the smoldering buildings. Smoke, dust and other debris can easily fill the air to the point where the naked eye can’t see. Having a white-light source can mean the difference between life and death.
My EDC flashlight has also been a bit of a journey. I’m an admitted Surefire fan but I found myself hanging at the Brite Strike booth while attending the 2012 SHOT Show longer than I thought I would. Brite Strike is offering a very impressive line of lights for law enforcement and military applications, and I admit to being impressed by their BD-180-MH-1C one-cell flashlight.
At 3.5 inches in length and offering 190 lumens of white light, this one-cell lithium unit is easy to clip to the waistband or just drop in a pocket. The single-function, tail-cap switch appeals to me because I don’t want to worry about the level of light output I might get when I depress the activation button. I push it and I get 190 lumens, I release it and it goes off—simple and functional. If I need a constant-on, I must push deeply into the button, which means it’s quite unlikely the unit will go constant-on when I need the momentary function. The light is completely waterproof and built like a tank. It might very well be the ultimate EDC flashlight—at least as I write this. Technology doesn’t stand still for very long, which is a good thing.
The bottom line: As a first responder, be prepared for a wide variety of situations both on- and off-duty. If you haven’t given careful consideration to your EDC gear, it’s time. Take a good look at what you need—someone’s life, or even your own, may depend on it.
Strategic Tactical Group