Sunday, August 19, 2007
A Monster Fan Interview: Rick Cox
Rick Cox is a Jericho fan who is also a survivalist. I realize this article is longer than some but I felt you needed a good idea of his background. Someone said, "This is the type of guy who should represent a new era of "survivalism".
If you have questions after reading this please leave a comment and I will forward all questions to Rick for a response.
1. Can you explain a bit more about what a WMD
RC - In the Army, a NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) Specialist is trained in virtually all facets of WMDs. This is done for two reasons, partly to recognize when a NBC/WMD attack is taking place (or has taken place), and partly to know what must be done to protect the rest of the US forces in the area so they can continue their mission. These troops are trained in how to calculate fallout patterns, half-life of fallout (to know when it's safe to move into or through an area affected by fallout), types of nuclear detonations, the various types of chemical agents as well as how they attack humans, and how to decontaminate personnel, vehicles, and equipment. The only area that was largely neglected in my day was biological as most folks figured that bio weapons were not being worked on and thus not a significant threat.
2. When and why did you become survival oriented?
RC - When I left Active Duty I became aware of just how lax the US had gotten in the area of Civil Defense. I was shocked that so little was being done to protect US citizens. As I was married and had 2 young daughters at the time I figured it was up to me to use the knowledge I'd gained in the Army to do everything I could to protect them. Over the years this feeling has done nothing but increase as my interaction with First Responders (Police, Fire, and EMS) has intensified.
3. What are First Responders concerned about and why?
RC - First Responders, like most folks, seem to have cycles when it comes to their concerns and priorities. Most of us are aware of the Y2K scare, and thank goodness that was more fizzle then meltdown, that was the first concern of theirs that I became aware of. There have been several others since. These days my impression is that Pandemic Flu is the big concern out there. Every conference I attend for my "day job" in telecommunications, where I support the Public Sector, has some briefing or training (sometimes several) related to Pandemic Flu. There are, IMO, several reasons for this. 1) We're overdue for a Pandemic Influenza. Historically these happen 3 times each century. In the 20th Century they happened in 1918/1919, 1958, and 1969 if memory serves. Typically they happen every 30 years or so. We're at nearly 40 years since the last one. Now, the ones in 58 and 69 were fairly mild with very little global effect. The one of 1918/1919 was
far more deadly and effected nearly every part of the globe. Small villages in Alaska and the Amazon Valley were nearly wiped out by that one, in an age when it took days or weeks to get to these places. Today I can get to virtually anyplace on the globe in 1 or 2 days. 2) Back then most folks either farmed, or lived near others who did, today virtually everyone gets all their food at grocery stores. Back then there was no true global economy, today speedbumps anywhere in the world will probably have an effect on prices or availability of goods virtually everywhere else. 3) The only truly effective measure we're probably going to have to fight a pandemic is quarantine. If that's the case government has several problems a) how to enforce the quarantine, b) how to keep enough cops etc. on the job to do such enforcement, c) how to get food, fuel, meds, etc. to the people they're responsible for in a quarantine environment and d) how to keep something
resembling an economy going during a large scale quarantine. So you can see that in a pandemic these folks are going to have their hands full. The same concerns would apply to some types of biological warfare agents that might be released by terrorists or rogue governments, Smallpox for example.
4. What kind of training does a First Responder get?
RC - Lots of variables here. Obviously police, fire, and EMS have different basic training for their jobs. Then there are specializations out there, SWAT for cops, EMT for the EMS folks, Haz-Mat for the fire folks, etc. These days there is a fair amount of training related to Pandemic Flu, distribution of meds, quarantine, etc. Again largely based on the job that each person would have in this situation, Ie cops for security, EMTs to distribute the meds, and fire/Haz-Mat to handle decontamination and such. I'm sure this sounds relatively simplistic, but this is in fact a very involved topic that we could discuss for quite some time. There are also variations based on one's location. In California they learn about earthquakes, mud slides, and forest fires. In Florida they learn about hurricanes. In Illinois they learn about tornados. In Rochester NY they learn about blizzards.
5. Is there a difference in being survival oriented as
opposed to believing in preparedness?
RC - Depends on who you ask I suppose. To me they can be used interchangably. Others get real nervous when the word "survival" is used, and some freak about "survivalist". In any event I figure it's all about mindset. Some folks, my darling wife included, don't want to think about what I call "What If?" So they don't dwell on what could happen during a natural disaster, a massive terror attack, a pandemic, or a global economic meltdown. Which, I humbly submit, is what leads to the horror stories that came out of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Anytime we have people who are unable to deal with situations of delivery interruptions in food, fuel, and medicines we have a recipe for disaster. The more dependency a people has on the regular delivery of the items they need to survive the more at risk they are during any interruption. Being "survival oriented" or "prepared" means doing more to ensure that we are not at the mercy of some
supply chain to keep us alive with the necessities we all require. Some will say that having enough for 3 days is adequate. The current FEMA recommendation is 2 weeks if memory serves. Personally I try to keep at least 6 months of the basics on-hand at all times, and when I can manage it a full years worth.
6. What do we, in the United States, need most to
worry about when thinking about preparedness?
RC - Way too many variables for such a simple question. Different parts of the nation have different concerns, see question 4 for some examples of this. But there are other variables as well. Folks in a desert need more water and some way to keep things cool. Folks in Alaska have to deal with serious cold and lots of snow. So the needs of different areas will vary. For most people there are some decisions that must be made, and the sooner the better. What do they see as valid threats to themselves and their families? How long do they figure they may have to survive with little or no outside help? What skills and/or experience do they have? Are they planning for themselves, a nuclear family, an extended family, or a multi-family team? Are they in an urban, suburban, or rural environment? How good are the Emergency Management and First Responder folks in their area and/or state? All of these things will impact what folks need to do or plan for.
7. What do people not know about being prepared that
you think they should know?
RC - Another simple question with many possible answers. I've talked quite a bit about the threat of Pandemic Flu, so lets use that as an example for this question. I'd guess that most folks have some experience with the annual Flu viruses that we're at risk for every year. So most folks figure that a Pandemic Flu would behave in much the same way, you get sick, you rest, you feel like hell, you get better, you go on with your life. But a Pandemic like we saw nearly 100 years ago didn't act like that at all. It came in waves, 3 or 4 over a 2 year period. It affected as much as 40% of the population at any time. It killed young adults more than kids or old folks. It could kill in a day. And it went everywhere. Today it would spread like wildfire, so the % effected up front could be far greater. But more importantly from a survival perspective, we're far more at risk from what I call ripple effect. By that I mean the interruptions of critical
supplies. Knowing that quarantine is the only real tool we can use to slow this down I expect all ships to be barred from docking which will affect the delivery of food, fuel, etc. I expect trucks, trains, and planes to be locked down as well with similar if more widespread results. I expect companies to cease work as they can't get enough workers in to maintain productivity. For those companies that make things etc. they won't be able to get raw materials, nor will they be able to ship their completed products anywhere. So the economy will take a nose dive. Not only won't there be any food items in the stores, assuming people are able/allowed to shop anyway, there won't be any $$ coming in to buy anything. Which means the government will have to figure out how to get food etc. to the people. But, bear in mind that the Feds will be having problems of their own, with big chunks of people out sick or caring for others who are sick. They'll also
have folks who won't come to work due to fear of getting sick. They will have to find folks willing/able to drive the trucks and trains and planes to get the stuff delivered. Then they have to have folks (cops or National Guard) to protect this stuff and some means to get it distributed during a quarantine. Get the idea that might be tough to do? Now, my family and I, have no concerns with this ripple effect as we have ample food on hand, seeds to grow more, and the ability to hunt. Unless we get caught in that first wave of Pandemic Flu we should be just fine.
8. How much are we at risk for a biological attack?
RC - In my opinion this is the most dangerous threat we face. Whether it's a bio agent released by a terrorist organization such as Smallpox or a natural event such as Pandemic Flu, this is my main concern these days. I've already talked at length about Pandemic Flu, but I'll add a couple of things. 1) There is no vaccine for this, and there won't be for roughly 6 months after it hits us. Why? Because it will be a new mutation, or possibly a newly combined virus. So any vaccine will have to be created from scratch. 2) It could take as much as 6 months longer for enough vaccine to be produced to make a difference after its created. That means roughly 1 year from the time the new virus is identified before we could have a vaccine and enough to do any good. The worst will be over long before then.
RC - For an actual biological agent attack there are other issues. Smallpox is the most likely, and the worst case, when talking about bio agents as far as we know. I say that because we know the Soviets were working on Chimera viruses (artificial combinations of viruses, such as Smallpox and Ebola) prior to the implosion of the Soviet Union. We don't know if they were ultimately successful or not. Thus Smallpox, possibly a weaponized and vaccine resistant version, remains our main threat. The US stopped vaccinating for Smallpox back in the early 70s. Since then only some First Responders, hospital personnel, and military folks have been immunized. The Smallpox vaccination is thought to be good for roughly 10 years, after that it's doubtful that most folks will have any resistance to the disease. Which means that today most of the US population has little or no resistance to Smallpox, a disease which has killed more people in the world than all
of our wars combined, averaging 30% lethality. Many of those who survive end up horribly scarred and/or blinded because of their infection. There is no treatment for this, once you get it you just have to ride it out and hope for the best. Smallpox is very contagious, it has traveled the world many times when it took weeks to get anywhere, it infected folks in virtually every village at a time when many folks never once traveled outside their village/surrounding area during their entire lives. There are many ways that terrorists could spread Smallpox, with subways being the biggest risk.
RC - Many folks don't see Smallpox as a serious threat. The WHO did after all mount a global campaign to eradicate this disease, and they did a good job. There is no natually occuring Smallpox anywhere on the planet today. However, the Soviets used to mass produce the stuff as part of their WMD package, to the tune of more than 20 TONS each and every year for many years. A few ounces smuggled out and sold to the bad guys would give them the seed stock they need to make as much as they want. Then it could be distributed in many ways and could devastate the entire world.
I was born in Chicago, grew up in the near-West burbs, and left for the
Army before I turned 18. I spent 8 years on Active Duty (Scout,
Tanker, Telephone Systems Technician), followed by 6 years in the Reserves
(Military Intelligence as a German and then Russian linguist, and Tank
Crewman Trainer), and finished my military career with 8 years in the
Illinois National Guard (NBC [aka WMD] specialist, and Forward Observer).
I was a NCO (Sergeant) for 19 of my 22 year military career.
When I left Active Duty I began my Telecommunications career. I
also participate in various training exercises and drills, including
a huge one in St, Louis (with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting it) last
year that had roughly 5,000 volunteers acting as victims of a chemical
As a volunteer I've been active with my county Emergency Management
Agency for several years now. I've been on the county Search And Rescue
team since it was formed more than 2 years ago. I've been CERT
(Community Emergency Response Team) certified for nearly a year and serve on
the local Citizen's Corps Council. I'm also exploring the Infragard
organization as another way to give something back to my community. All of
this involvement gives me frequent insight into what First Responders
plan for, train for, and are concerned about.
I've been survival oriented since I left Active Duty back in 85. I had
already been trained as a NBC NCO, the sergeant with the most
knowledge of WMDs in a company sized unit. So I was very aware of the nuclear
threat posed by the Soviets. Once the Soviet Union imploded I had
hoped that I could relax and not maintain such focus on "What If?" but that
was not to be. Y2K, terrorism, Pandemic Flu, etc. have all taken
their place as threats to be on the watch for. I received even more
training with a Chemical unit in the Illinois National Guard and have done
more than a little study on my own. As I mentioned previously I'm often
in attendance at various conferences etc. for First Responders. So I
hear about their concerns, I see what products get the most attention,
and I talk to them every chance I get.