In our digital, social media age, it’s easy to quickly get all your information from social media. It’s also incredibly easy to believe things that aren’t true by getting all your information from social media.
Normalcy bias also comes into play. We tend to look online for stories that confirm our worldview and ignore those that don’t.
The current state of affairs here in America is a classic example of this. People on both sides are saying that if “their guy” wins, all of the conflict will magically be resolved, and both sides are also saying that if “the other guy” wins, rioting and violence will continue. Both sides point at these comments to confirm their own normalcy bias…”See, it’ll all be fine after the election.”
What neither side sees, because of normalcy bias, is that both sides are both wrong and right. If the person whichever side wants loses, there will be violence. I hate to break this to you, but one of them HAS TO lose.
So what can you do to develop the ground truth where you are? Get out and make some observations on your own.
David Perrodin, PhD, (safetyphd.com) is a well-known expert on school safety and he calls this process “Face Validity”. Essentially, when you are given a piece of information, decide how you can confirm it, rather than just panicking off internet rumors.
Let me give you an example from today. A few days ago, someone posted a photo of empty shotgun ammunition shelves at Wal-Mart. Several of us chimed in, speculating on the cause, but it was just that, speculation.
This morning, a post came out as BREAKING NEWS….that Wal-Mart had removed all guns and ammunition from their shelves, in anticipation of unrest following the US election. Rather than run with the unconfirmed report, I immediately reached out to some of my counterparts at Wal-Mart, and jumped in my car, to drive to the nearest Wal-Mart that still carries guns.
Upon my arrival, I noticed immediately several vehicles from an alarm company in the parking lot, along with two patrol vehicles from a local security guard agency, which is HIGHLY UNUSUAL. I went in and went directly to the sporting goods area. All of the guns were removed from the display, which is always full, all the ammunition was gone from the shelves, and even the single-shot muzzleloader rifles were taken down and off the floor.
Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the United States. It is currently the hunting season throughout the United States, and Wal-Mart makes a lot of money off the sale of ammunition during this crucial time period, but they removed it all. That should illustrate the risk level as far beyond mere speculation.
As a career corporate loss prevention professional, these decisions would not have been made for a low risk or a medium risk event. They made the decision because they assessed the risk of national civil unrest as HIGH, not low or medium. That means “PROBABLE”, not “POSSIBLE”.
If a company as large as Wal-Mart thinks it probable enough to cut out a huge area of profitability at a critical time, shouldn’t you take steps to prepare?
Another point to observation is just looking at what’s going on around you. I frequently pass a local service center for the local power utility. The facility is not a power production location, but a customer service center and a garage for the utility service trucks and is generally open to the public. In the last few weeks, they have installed a row of incredibly-bright security lights, facing outboard. Bright security lights are common, but facing them OUTBOARD only, is an anomaly.
They also installed a temporary Vehicle Checkpoint (VCP) at the entrance, limiting traffic to a single lane. There is also a higher-level (read professional military contractor-grade) security vehicle parked behind the normal security vehicle.
This is an indication that the energy company is expecting people to arrive at this location (it’s in an industrial park not near residential areas) and trying to enter the property without authorization. Ask yourselves why people would want to force entry into a utility company service center and it’s not hard to imagine that the energy company is expecting a disruption to power and resultant civil unrest or unhappy customers over-running their facility.
Stores locally are also re-instituting purchases limits for water, toilet paper, and other items.
Taken apart, these are all just odd one-off situations. Taken together, they are an indication that mass civil unrest is HIGHLY PROBABLE throughout the US related to the election. Installation of security lights, upgrading alarms, and tactical-level security services aren’t cheap. Companies wouldn’t spend that money unless they considered it CHEAPER than the losses they would incur if they didn’t spend the money.
But what can you do?
You can continue to be aware, buy some extra supplies, and have a plan for your family and friends to stay connected and in touch with each other. Scroll through my other posts to find gear lists and ideas.
Conduct an area study (forwardobserver.com).
Carve out some time each day to drive around to local critical infrastructure and see what emergency security measures are being put in place.
Check out the preparations at your local polling center. Over lunch yesterday, I was informed that in Flint, Michigan, they are closing all the roads directly in front of polling locations, to protect against potential vehicle attacks. That’s an indicator.
Visit local stores and see what security measures have been added, what purchase limits have been put in place, and what shortages there are, particularly in groceries.
I can’t stress this enough, observe and gather information.