Sentinel Handbook

Tips for security, safety, and crime prevention volunteers

Archive for April 2013

Patrol Tip: Always Carry A Flashlight

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A small battery-operated flashlight consisting...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most important tools you can ever carry on duty, night or day, is a flashlight. In the old days, flashlights were larger and more cumbersome, but today’s flashlights can easily fit in one hand, and can be clipped onto a belt or inside your pants pocket comfortably. Remember, it is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Whether you are a security guard on station, or community safety volunteer on patrol, you will come into situations where you need personal illumination. Unexpected power outages, entering into dim interiors from daylight, looking under vehicles or desks, etc, are all examples of when you might need extra light to be able to see. Some models of light even give you the option to use them for effective self-defense.

Qualities of a good flashlight:

  • Long battery life while in use
  • Powerful long-range beam (preferably 100 Lumens or stronger)
  • Weather proof
  • Shock/drop resistant
  • Sturdy metallic body
  • Uses LED “light-bulb”
  • Can be held and operated easily with one hand

Qualities of a bad flashlight:

  • Takes specialty batteries that are not available locally, or that take three weeks to arrive from over seas
  • Flimsy activation switch, or twist to turn on
  • Only stays on when button is pressed
  • Uses old-style bulbs (do not handle being dropped well)
  • Poor quality construction (plastic and thin aluminum do not resist accidental damage well)
  • Heavy/long bodies (large mag-lites are still good lights, but also present additional problems)

You can expect to pay $15-$25 for a good serviceable flashlight. DO NOT ENTRUST YOUR SAFETY TO A CHEAP FLASHLIGHT!

Two later articles, in the planning, will deal with using flashlights for self-defense, and tricks for seeing better in the dark.


Dealing With The Unexpected: HazMat Emergencies

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English: Source: "Emergency Response Guid...

English: Source: “Emergency Response Guidebook.” U.S. Department of Transportation, 2004, pages 16-17. Category:Hazardous Materials (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pop quiz, Hotshot.

  • You come across a scene where a tanker truck has a loose valve and is leaking fluid. What do you do?
  • You’re patrolling along a construction site and find a barrel tipped over on its side, spilling the contents. What do you do?
  • A pickup truck from a local pest control company has gotten into an accident and has caught fire. What do you do?

There are many ways you can come across dangerous, potentially lethal, materials in your neighborhood. As the first on scene, you need to know what to do. Fortunately, several government agencies, some from the United States and some from other countries, have collaborated on a guidebook for first responders during the initial phase of a dangerous goods / hazardous materials incident. This guide will help you identify hazardous materials, give you directions as to what to do, and who to contact.

There are printed versions of this manual as well as versions downloadable for your computer, iPhone, or smart phone. I suggest getting both a hard copy for your vehicle, and downloading a copy to your electronic device. Familiarize yourself with how to use the manual BEFORE an incident so that you don’t waste precious time trying to figure out how to find the information you are looking for. Having this information handy could save lives.. and I mean a LOT of lives, by telling you what to do, and allowing you to give VITAL information to emergency dispatch. (Emergency Response Guidebook – 2012 Edition)

You can download a version called WISER, that can be accessed on a Windows compatible device.. like a Blackberry. You can also download a version for your PC.

WISER – Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders, the mobile application designed to help first responders with hazardous material incidents. WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression advice. The new WISER for Android and iPhones is available for free from the apps stores.

Dealing With The Unexpected: People With Special Needs

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English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not every patrol is going to be a piece of cake. You will run into the unexpected, and you will have to be prepared to deal with the situation. Keep in mind that you are only a volunteer. Without special training, you can do more harm than good if you don’t know what you’re doing. If in doubt (and there is no immediate danger) call for the professionals and wait for them to arrive. Remember, you’re there to help, do no harm.

No matter what type of situation you are responding to, there is the possibility you will encounter someone with some form of disability who will require assistance. Some disabilities may be obvious, but other disabilities, such as mental illness, may not be easy to detect. Often you may not be able to tell if someone has a disability simply by looking at them. If you find yourself in a situation where someone is slow to respond, don’t become impatient. Take a deep breath, let it out, and assess with a clear mind.

People You May Encounter Who Need Special Assistance:

  • Seniors
  • People With Mobility Impairments
  • People Who Are Mentally Ill
  • People Who Are Blind Or Visually Impaired
  • People With Cognitive Disabilities
  • People With Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
  • People With Autism
  • People Who Are Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing
  • Childbearing Women and Newborns
  • People With Seizure Disorders

In order to better help official First Responders, a basic guide was created. While not in great depth, it does give people first on scene some tips of how to help assist those people with special needs. Again, when in doubt (and there is no immediate danger) call for the professionals and wait for them to arrive. (Tips for First Responders 4th Edition – 486kb, PDF file, 30 pages)

Tactical Breathing: Control Your Center, The Rest Will Follow

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Safety and neighborhood patrols can sometimes become stressful. Either you run into an emergency, or find yourself in a confrontation of some sort. Most people are not trained to handle stress well, let alone in-your-face confrontations, or emergency situations. The body becomes tense, breathing becomes shallow, less oxygen gets to the brain, and mental focus turns into tunnel vision. Kiss higher functioning rational thought goodbye and say hello to the more primitive areas of the brain. To paraphrase, Emeril Lagasse, “BAM! You’ve got the perfect recipe for disaster.”

The key to maintaining personal control during high-stress situations is breathing. A common technique that was adapted from yoga by the armed forces, is called combat or tactical breathing. Remembering to breathe might seem like a no-brainer, but studies show (and you may have already experienced this yourself) that people tend to breathe rapid and shallow, or may even hold their breath entirely, during tense, high-risk situations. Training yourself in the habit of tactical breathing during stress situations eliminates this tendency, allowing you to reduce your hear rate, and keep your edge. Practice tactical breathing before, during, and after stressful incidents and you will find yourself more relaxed and capable of handling whatever the situation at hand.

Tactical breathing is very easy. Breaths should be deep ‘belly breaths’, that is, during inhaling, your stomach expands like a balloon. Each step is done to the mental count of four:

  • Breathe in through the nose.. two.. three.. four
  • Hold.. two.. three.. four
  • Out through the mouth.. two.. three.. four
  • Hold.. two.. three.. four

Repeat this cycle at least four times for best effect. Feel free to experiment to find what works best for you. Maybe you’d prefer to breathe in on a longer count, or exhale on a longer count, or vice versa. The point is to establish a smooth, continuous cycle of breathing to calm your mind and body.

Patrol Tips: Pickpockets 101

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First, a word of caution! Pickpockets prefer to use stealth, misdirection, and surprise to remove items of value from their victims, but do not presume for a moment that a pickpocket will hesitate to use physical force to escape when intercepted. Always assume that a pickpocket is armed if you attempt a physical intervention. Some would-be rescuers have been slashed and stabbed for their troubles without even realizing it!

Pickpockets are like coffee, they range from mild to extra bold, and come in more varieties than you can imagine. Skilled pickpockets can make easy money in nearly any community around the world. Educating yourself as to how they work and operate is your first step in protecting yourself from them, and helps you to know how to spot them easier too.

Misdirection and distraction are common ploys. Mind your valuables whenever someone stops you to ask the time, bumps into you, drops items on the ground in front of you, or generally attempts to momentarily distract you. It is not unusual for pickpockets to work in pairs/teams. One distracts while the other does the actual picking. If the target discovers something is amiss, they usually mistakenly confront the bait person who obviously doesn’t have the target’s possessions. The target can suspect the baiter is working with someone, but will have no proof. If you intervene, without reasonable proof, no citizen’s arrest can be made.

When in public, usually in an area with plenty of foot traffic or crowds, note individuals who seem to be silently signaling each other. Often they will not appear to be together. Pay attention to behavior, not appearances! One might be dressed as a business man, while another is dressed like a student. Pickpocket schemes often use women and children as part of their plans. Few people would not stop to help a lady in distress, or a child asking a question. Counting on preconceptions and assumptions about what they look like are all part of the pickpocket’s stock in trade.

If you’re on a train/subway, watch for anyone leaving the car by one door, only to re-enter by another door or car. Look for two people that enter separate cars then taking up positions where they can cover the other. Watch those who sits next to someone sleeping, or who has a bag, brief case, or other carry on, as they might get up at a stop and slip away with the other person’s property unnoticed.

Watch for two people having a conversation, split up and then later reconnect. Look for surreptitious hand offs, or quick passing motions (often mistaken for hand shakes). Observe individuals nodding to each other while texting. Generally keep an eye out for people who may be teamed up, even if they’re not side by side.

Sit in a mall, or a train, and watch.. just watch. You’ll begin to note who is watching who. Don’t watch directly, but use sunglasses, or look at reflections in windows and other reflective surfaces. These are the same tools and methods the pickpockets use, so note who is using them that way.

Related Articles:

Gene Turner (America’s Friendliest Pickpocket) Gene’s Pickpocket Prevention Tips –

Paris: Tackling the Problem of Pickpockets –

Revealed: The secret sleight of hand used by thieves to remove a watch from a victim’s wrist –

Community Service: Gift of Sight Project – 2013

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English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCost...

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCoste frames. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea for,”Gift of Sight”, came to me in the summer of 2011, after two accidental medication overdoses in my hometown in which the patients had misread their prescription bottles. I realized that a simple pair of reading glasses may have prevented those incidents. It was while researching reading glass programs that I learned just how useful an affordable pair of reading glasses (often called cheaters) could be for many people in the local community.

My wife and I decided we’d purchase reading glasses in bulk and distribute them to local libraries, nursing homes, and senior centers, in an effort to help those with poor eyesight. Even children can benefit from having affordable reading glasses if they are unable to afford prescription glasses.

Reading glasses, contrary to popular myth, do not damage eyes. They are acceptable for everyday reading, though not for ranged vision. Just one simple pair of glasses can save a life by preventing an accidental overdose, help someone pass their GED, or bring the joy of reading to a low income child. People of all ages can use them to see well enough to read books, magazines, newspapers, prescription bottles, computer screens, and textbooks.

We decided to avoid Dollar Store glasses because mass produced bargain glasses often have unwanted lenses distortions. A little online research turned up affordable lots for sale of glasses with higher quality lenses. Eventually we found a supplier that had made glasses for the Target store chain, that was promoting a drive to provide better bargain glasses at a lower price, at the time. The glasses we eventually purchased checked out to be more than satisfactory for our needs.

For about $65 plus shipping and handling, we were able to purchase 100 pairs of eyeglasses, at an average of 65 cents a pair! Granted they weren’t the most stylish of eyeglasses, but they were quality made and free of defects. We then donated them FREE of charge to organizations in our community that could get them to those that need them. You can’t put a price on quality of life and helping your neighbors.

My wife and I did this in honor of my mother, who loved to read. Mom believed that reading was the key to opening new doors to those to whom they might otherwise remain closed. We hope to continue doing this whenever we have the personal funds to do so.

In the last two years, we have given out around 200 pairs of glasses to those in need. This year, we hope to distribute 100 more, if not double that in connection with other organizations outside our local area.

Written by Silver Sentinel

April 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Patrol Tips: Patrol Mindset Color Code

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I’ve purposely taken the, “Combat Mindset: Cooper Color Code”, and have changed it for the purposes of the “Patrol Mindset”. The Combat Mindset is just that, a system created for combat and situations in which deadly force may be used. It has been developed for those who use firearms and others forms of deadly force. The Patrol Mindset has been developed for those who “patrol” and are not expected to engage in physical confrontations unless in emergency situations. Police officers have a “Duty to Act” and thus must have a combat mindset. Civilians [in most States] have a “Duty to Retreat” and thus are not expected to engage in combat, but to stay out of it whenever possible.

Because most civilians are not familiar with the Cooper Color Code, I have simplified the Patrol Color Code to a system readily familiar with most people already.. the colors of common traffic lights; green, yellow, and red. White has been added as a baseline. Each color represents a level of awareness, and preparedness, of an individual during various times while on patrol. Each color and level of alert is listed below.

  • White: Unaware/Unconcerned – This is the baseline normal state that most all of us live in while tucked away safely in our familiar environments. Inside your home, watching television, you’re not likely expecting to be attacked by ninjas or have an angry girl scout throw a rock through your window for not buying cookies that year. A person in condition White is pretty much on auto-pilot and not really concerned with their safety or paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Green: Aware – When we leave the house to drive to work, go to the store, or jog through the neighborhood, we tend to be a little more alert. We know that we must watch for traffic, a neighborhood dog might not be on a leash, or you may need to walk around sprinklers along the sidewalk. You’re not expecting any trouble, but are maintaining an awareness of your surroundings. This is the level of preparedness a person should be in while on a patrol.
  • Yellow: Alert/Prepared – Something has given you reason to be cautious. You spot a group of youth rough housing down the block, someone is stopping along the street and looking into car windows, or you hear shouts in the distance. Condition Yellow is when you are alert for signs of trouble or danger and may need to act to defend yourself, or someone else, if things go sideways, but right now there is no immediate danger.
  • Red: Fight or Flight – Condition Red means there is the very real possibility of danger present. You may be called upon to defend yourself, or retreat to a safer location. A group of strangers approaching you may have bumped you into Yellow, but when they start to surround you.. you jump to Red.

These condition colors are simply a way of being able to think about your personal awareness and to communicate clearly with anyone else who might be on a patrol with you. They give you a vocabulary to be able to articulate yourself to team mates quickly without having to go into long explanation. i.e. “Yellow alert, Bob. That guy over there looks like he’s jimmying the lock on that Ford Escort.” This alerts Bob to; A) Get ready to call 911, B) Also get ready to dive for cover or run for it in case the suspect spots him and draws a weapon.

The color code helps to formally label a situation for others involved whereas an informal code could cause confusion or be misunderstood. For example; Yo dawg, things are chill (Things are all quiet, or relax, nobody needs to get hurt here?).. I have a bad feeling about this (how bad? enough to run like hell, or just be very careful?).. or “It’s a trap!” (What kind of trap? The woman you were just ogling is actually a guy with long hair, or holy crap, that guy has a machete?)

Related Links:

Cooper’s Colors, A simple System For Situational Awareness –

States of Awareness, the Cooper Color Code –

Jeff Cooper on Wikipedia –

Written by Silver Sentinel

April 15, 2013 at 3:53 am