Showing posts with label Recreation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recreation. Show all posts

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure: Information for Writers Prt 3

Image found on Facebook
Ach! With the tinkling of broken glass on her ceramic floor, your heroine was wide awake and on high alert. She ran to bolt the lock on her new bedroom door, the metal one her dad had insisted on as soon as he heard about his daughter's psycho ex.

After dialing 911, your heroine yells at the person jiggling her knob, "I have a gun. Leave now!" Then she hears her nephew's voice down the hall screaming her name. She had forgotten in her adrenaline surge, that she had house guests. She has to save them.

Video Quick Study (3:37) Using a safe room.

As an author I'm sure your realize that having a safe room doesn't mean your heroine is safe. Here are two example 911 calls where the callers did the right things, and they ended up pulling the trigger anyway:
Audio Quick Study (0:41) Man shoots intruder after his
               family is beaten and 911 operator accidentally
               puts him on hold.
Audio Quick Study (2:34) Mom is hiding in the closet with her
                two children when she shoots the intruder 5 times in the
                face and neck. He is still able to leave the house and drive
                down the road. The police find him and take him to the
                hospital where he fights for his life.

Shooting in the home or other structure.

Violent encounters statistically
* Occur at very close range (3 yrds or less)
* Often happen in low or no light
* Are over in a matter of seconds (3 seconds)
* Include the firing of three shots

According to NRA Guide to the Basics of Personal Protection in the Home, there are
 5 possible responses to a life-threatening encounter:
* freeze
* submit 
* posture
* flight
* fight

Stress and its accompanying physiologic reactions include 
* Difficulty breathing 
* Loss of fine motor skills
* Racing heart
* Tunnel vision and hearing discrimination issues
*  Shaking hands all create obstacles to defensive shooting and
    following safety rules.

Perceptual changes during a threatening encounter:
* Tunnel Vision - focus almost
    exclusively on the perceived
    threat    (Blog Link)
* Auditory Exclusion - 
   extraneous sounds are 
   inaudible. Your heroine may 
   not be able to hear instructions    being yelled at her by
   the police or other characters
* Time Dilation - slowed time,
   things seem to to be happening
   in slow motions.

Mental Preparation

Video Quick Study (4:49) Mental preparation tips.

* Your heroine must decide in advance that she is willing to be hurt
   and keep going. Once engaged she cannot give up the fight.
   (Aggression/Response Blog Link) If she doesn't have the right 
   mindset she's going to lose. So it's imperative that if you're writing
   a beta heroine that she have some impetus greater than her own
   will to stay alive and fighting - she's protecting her child, she's the
   only one who can replicate the anti-viral that will save humanity...
What should your heroine do? Listen to her limbic system
   Blog Link

Controlling the Encounter 

Strategies for a heroine who finds herself face to face with the villain.

* Both parties are experiencing high adrenaline. The problems of
   tunnel vision and auditory exclusion effect the villain as well. 
   The heroine should yell directives so the villain can hear and
* STAY AWAY - no matter how compliant the villain is acting. 
   Your heroine should keep well out of reach. Villains can have
    hidden weapons. Villains will often talk softly and reasonably as
    they make their slow approach. Your heroine will want to
    believe him and believe that nothing bad is really happening. 
    You're the author; you know what the bad guy is really up to -
    she should get as far away from as she can and not get cornered.
    This blog article discusses different tactics used by villains
    against your poor heroine.

It's bad. Your heroine is standing between the villain and her family. Gun in hand, ready to do whatever is necessary to keep her loved ones safe, she aims...

Found publicly on Facebook

A major safety rule is know your target and what's beyond. 
* Is your heroine sending a warning shot up in the air? What goes
   up must come down. And what if there is someone on an upper
* What if the villain is standing in front of a propane or oil tank, a
   kerosene heater or any other flammable liquid?
* What if she is shooting by a window or interior wall? 


Video Quick Study (4:19) Extreme Close Quarter Shooting

   Your heroine will be shooting in an enclosed space without ear
   protection. She may well not be able to hear anything for several 
   minutes following the blast. 

   If you've never heard gun fire in real life it is LOUD!

   Remember that the military and law enforcement officers use
   flash bang to disorient the individuals in a structure so they have
   time to run in and time to function, taking control of the area. A
   gun shot is loud and can have this stunning effect or a deafening

   Will your heroine be able to shoot a few bullets while standing in
    her bathroom, turn her head and chat with her cohort? Not likely
    unless she can read lips. 

   Couldn't that lead to a complication? What if the
   good guy was shouting instructions, "Get down! Get down!" She
   would never know. 

   If she is an avid shooter she may have silencer and that would
   help immensely as would subsonic bullets. Why do I say avid
   shooter? Legally it takes a very long time (about a year) to obtain
   a license for a silencer. So not something she can just decide on a
   whim to go purchase.

 Brian Coates demonstrating a silencer with 
sonic and subsonic bullets at 
Nottoway Wildlife Association Link

Your heroine will not be wearing protective glasses, though her regular glasses would serve this purpose.

Without eye protection, she could have eye damage from the gases and debris from the blast of the firearm, or a casing could fly back and catch her in the eye. Now your heroine is blinded and deaf. A terrible situation.

Use of Cover and Concealment

As soon as your heroine senses a threat - her limbic system lights up. She needs to immediately seek cover or concealment. She should not wait until someone fires on her or rushes her.

Your heroine is doing her best. She's standing strong. She took a bullet to the shoulder, but she will not give up the fight. Now that she has the injury, she realizes that concealing herself behind the cabinet was not enough. She needs cover, and she needs it now!

When you write a scene make sure you know which term to use. 


She concealed herself behind the sofa, holding her breath, hoping the sound of her beating heart wouldn't give away her position.

Concealment is - 
* Anything that will hide your heroine from observation
* Does not protect her body from incoming fire.
* Could prevent the villain from locating your heroine or being able
   to accurately fire on her.
* Could help her gain the upper hand through surprise.
* Could allow your heroine to avoid or escape from the intruder all

Cover - 

Cover will protect your heroine from incoming fire. A fridge would be cover. A wood burning stove would be cover.
* A regular mattress provides concealment; a water bed provides 
   cover .
* Regular walls provide concealment; brick, stone, or concrete
   provide cover. 
* There's actually very little in a normal house that will provide
   cover - but the villain may not understand this. He could be
   aiming at the tiny piece of your heroine that is exposed instead of 
   shooting through the door or wall.

Techniques for using Cover and Concealment

* Minimize your heroine's exposure - the less seen the better her
   chance of escaping detection.
* When looking around a barrier, have your heroine do a quick
   peek, bobbing her head out to get an image then popping back
   into her place. (much less than a second)
* She should vary the places that she peeks from so that the villain
   isn't just waiting for her like an arcade game.
* The human eye is predisposed to tracking movement. As long as
   your heroine is frozen in place, she will be harder to detect. Once
   she moves, the villain's eyes will be drawn to her. An old Indian
   trick would be to wait very still and then let out a war whoop - the
   sudden noise would make the hidden pioneers flinch thus giving
   up their location.
* If your heroine must fire from her position, she should stand arm's
   distance from the barrier, leaning out just enough to catch the
   villain in her sights.

U.S. Marine Corp., veteran Brian Coates
teaches how to acquire the target from behind barriers.

* In this video, I emptied my clip to time how long it took me to fire
   off all of my bullets. This is a VERY BAD idea in a shooter
   ^ Reloading takes time and attention, leaving your heroine at
      greater risk.
   ^ She doesn't have an endless supply of bullets. Once she's out,
      she's out.
* Your heroine should make sure that her muzzle is clear of the
    barricade. Sights being clear of the barricade does not equal
    muzzle being cleared.
    ^ Firing into cover at close range can cause serious harm to your
       heroine from ricochet or from debris.
    ^ Firing at close range into your own cover can lessen its
* If shooting multiple times (for example, your heroine needs to
   reload) she shouldn't pop out each time from the same spot.
* Your heroine should not rest or brace the firearm on the cover -
   this can cause the gun to malfunction and messes up the aim.

Moving to cover/concealment
* Your heroine should try to keep as much distance between
    herself and her attacker as she can.
* Your heroine should try to move away from villain and toward
* Your heroine should practice moving backward and laterally to
   find cover. If she knows she's in danger
   -rabid ex, crazy stalker, etc - then she has time to practice and
   prepare. How will she move? Where will she go? What protective
   objects are placed strategically around? What if you showed her
   practicing and the villain thwarts all of those plans by attacking
   her elsewhere - where she was vulnerable? By moving
   backwards and laterally she:
   ^ Can keep her eye on the villain
   ^ Keep her firearm in a ready position (NOT aimed NO finger on
      the trigger)
   ^ She maintains her balance

Video Quick Study (3:46) How to move backwards and laterally

When your heroine is choosing her shooting position, the NRA manual indicates that she should consider the following list:
* consistency (she's trained in that position)
* balance
* support
* natural point of aim (versus torquing the body)
* comfort

Here's hoping your heroine does a great job and saves the day!

Image found publicly on Facebook
This blog article is based on my experience at an all-day dynamic gun training class that I took at Nottoway Wildlife Association, LINK  called "Personal Protection in the Home," following NRA curriculum. 

These are the same folks who taught me about rifles in this article: BLOG LINK.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

I used the book, NRA Guide to the BAsics of Personal Protection in the Home (2000) to write this article
As always, this is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.
Related articles

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arid Climate and Desert Survival: Helping Your Heroine Stay Alive with JT Sawyer

Fiona -

Let's start by introducing you to the readers. Can you tell us what you do for a living, and your background?

JT - 
I work as a full-time survival and bushcraft instructor in the Southwest. My training company provides 1-21 day courses in desert and mountain survival for the general public and the military special operations community. I started out writing non-fiction books on survival about twelve years ago
and now have seven titles out.

Fiona - 
Okay, so JT I have a heroine, and she is stranded (by some horrible plot twist written by some equally twisted author) out in the middle of the desert with no water. Can you walk me through how this intrepid heroine would save her life? 

Maybe touch on some of the myths and truths of the situation. Right now all I've got in my survive-the-desert file is the image of Bear Grylls peeing on his shirt and wrapping it around his head...That doesn't seem like much help.

JT - 
Well, first, she'll want to stay put during the heat of the day, from 11 am to 4 pm so she doesn't turn into jerky. That means keeping covered like a cowboy, hole up in the shade, and conserve precious sweat. 
Keeping covered will increase survival time in the heat by 25% so skip working on the tan.

Cholla desert
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Avoid trying to get water from cactus as it's high in alkaloids and will only make her sick; avoid solar stills as they are merely a cool, reality-show staple; and, by all means, avoid swigging down urine which will only add to her heat stress.

Fiona - 
Oh, thank god, no urine swigging.

I have a question about cover. Let's say our heroine was driving along and her car broke down. I'm assuming she should stay with her car but not in her car. What if there is no shade to be found?

JT - 
North-facing boulders, stringing up a tarp off the hood of the vehicle or over some walking sticks.. these are a few things that we've done. 
Pull a seat out during the day or sit on a spare tire in the shade of the vehicle, then retreat back inside during the cooler hours of the night.

The desert is one place you really have to be self-contained as you can't even meet 3 of your 5 critical priorities (shelter, water, and fire). Staying with the vehicle, which is hopefully well-stocked with gear and water, is the best bet. It's like having a rolling survival kit, and it's much easier for searchers to spot. 

You've also got your car horn and mirrors for signaling so staying put is always better than walking out unless you failed to leave a travel plan with someone and, then, you are truly on your own.

Fiona -
Ha! I thought you were going to say she was shit out of luck

JT - 
I'll take luck any day, but when you're luck runs out your better have some skills!

Fiona - 

JT - 
You have around 48 hours survival time in the heat without any water, if you are smart with your own sweat. By this I mean, holing up, adapting, not moving around during the heat of the day, as mentioned. There are a lot of variables to survival time such as time of year, temperature, injuries, fitness level, body weight & age, etc... so she might be fine for 4 hours to 48 hours without water depending on her activity level and the factors listed above.

Video Quick Study (5:25) Intro to desert survival
Video Quick Study (6:32) Desert Shelter
Video Quick Study (6:21) a variety of desert shelters

Fiona - 
What physical traits would add to her survival, barring massive health issues.

JT - 
Being aerobically fit is key. 

Any time I am going to working/teaching in the triple-digit heat, I amp up my aerobic workouts in the weeks leading up to the event. Being thin can be an asset, I suppose. 

Not consuming any food unless you have water to go with it is key as doing so can further dehydrate you. 

Adaptation to heat stress takes about a week, and we see many very fit hikers and even triathletes succumb to heat exhaustion in the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, etc... because they have "big engines but little radiators." Dousing yourself with water (wet t-shirt) will help with convective cooling, too.

First aid
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Time-out for First-Aid 101
Heat exhaustion is part of a spectrum of heat induced medical conditions, starting with heat cramps and moving - sometimes rapidly - to heat stroke. 

Heat exhaustion is a medical emergency and must be treated as such.
* Being active in a hot environment can overwhelm a
   person's ability to regulate their body temperature.
* Heat Exhaustion symptoms include:
   `muscle cramps
   `profuse sweating
* When the body progresses past the point where it can cope then
   the following symptoms might occur:
   `If possible remove person to cooler environment
   `Rehydration is PARAMOUNT
   `Because heat induced symptoms can include vomiting sometimes
    rehydrating is difficult and requires an IV infusion.
    Link to further information

Video Quick Study (3:24) Tony Nester talks about signs of dehydration and choices about drinking untreated water and water purification. Caution about iodine tablets - who knew?

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
Once, I went on a camel safari in Egypt. My experience with the desert was that when it was 129 degrees outside, my brain functioned erratically, and I forgot things like nouns. At night it was freezing cold, even by a fire. These extremes, I thought, were very
physically exhausting. Is this
your experience as well?

JT - 
You nailed it for sure- the desert is a land of extremes. 

Most visitors to the Southwest think of the cactus and the heat but often forget about the fact that we get snow. (6" yesterday at my house!) I've been out on field courses where we're cooking during the day in 110+ degree heat and then cloaked in a down jacket come nightfall. The fact that a desert has little cloud cover causes the radiated heat of the day to dissipate quickly at night. 

Yuma, Arizona holds the record out here where it once went from 120 F during the day to 34 F at night so you really have to be prepared by having water and electrolytes along with a fleeced or down jacket, even in the summer.

English: The Sonoran Desert near Yuma, Arizona...
The Sonoran Desert near Yuma, Arizona  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
Look JT, our heroine is still sitting in her car. She didn't tell anyone where she was going - she's on her own. She's decided that she needs to hike out to save her life. What should she take with her from the car?

JT - 
English: Polycarbonate water bottle
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All the water she can carry! Even if it means lugging 3-4 gallons which is what she may consume in just one day in the searing heat.

Next, an umbrella would sure be handy for creating instant shade. 

Bust off a side-view mirror for later use in signaling and cut the seat belts out for lashing material or shoulder straps for carrying water. A CD, while becoming rare, can be used for signaling as well as a cutting implement. 

Some transmission or brake fluid can be used for assisting with fire lighting (not hard in the desert much of the year). Hopefully, she has some food, first-aid kit, knife, etc... but water and the ability to create shade/shelter are going to be the two most critical items to carry.

Video Quick Study (8:06) Finding Water in the Desert
Video - a little bit longer Study (19:39) More Finding Water in the  Desert
Video Study (25:08) 3rd part of Finding Water in the Desert
Video Quick Study (9:04) Finding your way the heck out of there.

Link to Ancient Pathways other videos with Tony Nester

Fiona - 
Wonderful. Now I'm going to admit to you that I'm not a huge zombie fan. But I really want to read your books because I love reading about survival. Can you tell us a little about your novels and how you put your years of bush craft experience to good use for our edification and entertainment?

JT - 

Amazon Link 99 cents!

In reading a lot of books in this genre over the years and having grown up on zombie flicks, I was always drawn to the types of characters who relied more on their brains and tactics than on their blazing automatic weapons to solve problems. Plus, having been out on month-long survival treks where you depend on the dynamics and cooperation of a small group of people, I really wanted to show what was possible, in terms of bushcraft and extended living, where the umbilical cord to civilization is severed. Readers have commented that they enjoy the fact that there is

a blend of survival, relationship
development, and military tactics
amidst a backdrop of zombies.

Fiona - 
That brings to mind an article I read about being stranded in the ocean. The author came to the conclusion that it is better to be alone because panic is contagious. I'm sure it depends on the personalities involved, but are your characters happy to be in a small group? Or do your guides wish they only had to look out for themselves? Help or hindrance or a little of both? 
(I'm also thinking of their sharing limited resources...)

JT - 
The main character is a recently retired from the military and he was looking to get away from it all by going on a 22-day river trip with a friend who was leading a small commercial trip. He quickly finds out the world has unraveled from a pandemic. He is once more thrust into a leadership role. So he is definitely a reluctant figure but has little choice, given his skills. 

Amazon Link 99 cents!
I have quite a lot of very strong female characters in this books and have had a lot of women tell me how much they enjoyed the characters and how the female leads balanced out the male characters. I have found on field courses that are all men, they often have very little social dynamics compared to groups that have even women present. The latter courses are always more lively, fun, and way more banter involved compared to the lone-wolf, "I don't need any advice" mentality of the all-male groups. Again, I've tried to incorporate these
strong male-female elements in the
story rather than it being simply a
slaughter-fest against the undead.

Fiona - 
JT you are beyond awesome. Now my

final question is this - what is the story
behind your favorite scar?

JT - 
My favorite scar would have to be the Uncle in the Lion King. 

Seriously, I have an embarrassing scar on my left ribs that came from working a military course. I was teaching a class on mantraps and evasion for a special forces unit who came out for a 9-day survival course. 

Amazon Link 99 cents!
We had gone over how to set a particular type of trap whose trigger mechanism (the part that springs once the trap is released) was place about twelve feet up in a tree. I had just set the trap and was standing on this branch, explaining to the soldiers below just how this was all supposed to work when the branch cracked, and I slipped down about four feet. No big deal as I caught myself on another branch. However, while sliding along the tree trunk, I gashed open my side on the broken branch. I wasn't about to complain or grimace given my audience below. I just grated my teeth
together while muttering how the trap
could be used. Once we were finished,
I climbed down and had my medic patch
me up. 

I still shake my head and laugh about how "effective" a mantrap can be, especially for the instructor setting it!

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

PS - I bought and read all of JT's books. My very first zombie books. While I'm not a fan of that genre - I thought JT's books were fabulous reads. I even e-mailed to him to ask for a sneak peek at his latest (now available). Audacious I know, but I needed to know what happened next! 
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Police Dive Teams - How to Find People and Evidence Under Water: Information for Writers


Oxygen toxicity occurs when the lungs take in ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last fall at the Writers' Police Academy, I attended a seminar in how the police dives for evidence and conducts searches for bodies that are underwater.

The divers that we interviewed were all police officers; they trained on a regular basis as a water recovery team. When a need arose, they would leave their normal workday duties and dive.

These divers were involved in cases that included:
* Evidence recovery
* Submerged body recovery, including:
   `victims of a crime

Teams might also participate in:
* Inspecting the hulls of ships in
   anti-narcotics operations
* Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bombs)
   in anti-terrorism efforts

The team that I interviewed maintained a minimum of three dive members per event.
* A below water surface diver
* An attendant diver who stayed on the surface to assist the underwater diver and to signal/communicate
* A supervisor who works on the surface to direct the operation

Video Quick Study (6:05) Norfolk, England but this is the same information that we received.

Most of the diving investigations are done in highly hazardous environments which might include
* Cold temperatures
* Zero visbility
* Contaminated waters including chemical hazards
* Sharp objects that the divers must feel with their hands since they can not see
* Entanglement and entrapment objects such as submerged trees, rocks, and debris

Video Quick Study (3:32) What it looks like under there.
Video Quick Study (8:21) Difficulties of suiting up, moving, and seeing underwater.

This is picture of one of our instructors, "Cookie." Cookie's technique for keeping the heebie-jeebies at bay while he's groping through pitch-black water for a dead body includes singing as loudly as he can. That's why he makes extra bubbles.

Video Quick Study (3:34) includes information on equipment, sonar, finding a car

US Navy 090628-N-5710P-319 A U.S. Navy diver c...
 A U.S. Navy diver conducts a dive supporting Infinite Response 09, a bilateral exercise between the U.S. Navy and the naval forces of a Middle Eastern country (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The team might be called to investigate:
* Natural water ways such as oceans, rivers,
   and ponds
* Dams
* Caves
* Sewage ponds - there's a nasty plot twist for

In some cases sonar is used to reduce diver exposure. This includes side-scan sonar and radial sonar. The sonar can help locate:
* Vessels
* Vehicles
* Planes
* Bodies
* Evidence

Search Patterns:

graphic from Wikipedia

Arc Search

* Also known as a pendulum search and a fishtail search
* The diver has a rope that is fed to him by his attendant diver.
* The diver will start on one side of a designated line (such as a shore
    line) and swim/grope through the water at the far reach of the line.
* At the end of the arc, the diver turns to go back the other way. The
   line is then released at a measured increment, knotted to maintain
   a record, and fed to the diver. For example: if the diver is looking for
   a bicycle the attendant might release a foot and a half of slack between
   arc rotations. If it is a gun, the arcs are much tighter.
* Once the diver has searched the area that can be conveniently reached
   with the rope line, the center point is moved to search another area. 
* This search works best when the general area is known.

graphic from Wikipedia

Circular Search

If the team was out in the water, away from a shore line, they would use a circular grid pattern.

This operates in a similar way as the arc search.
* Fixed central point
* Diver swims 360 degrees before his line is 

Other Search Patterns

* Jackstay - Has divers swimming a straight line along a shore then moving out a length to swim another
   straight line.
* Snagline - When an object is large enough, like a car or fridge, a line can be held in parallel swimmers'
   hands so that it will catch on the item.

English: An Engineer-Diver with KB Bandmask
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Underwater communication 

Can take place via
* Line signals 
* Communicators

Once an Object is found

* The diver sends up a signal marker
* The GPS coordinates are documented
* The item is elevated using air balloons

Video Quick Study (2:21) You can see the lift bags bringing up a car.

A Body 

* Does not lay flat on the floor of the water. The upper half is held at an angle buoyed by air trapped in the
* Will float after about seven days as the body fills with gases
* After several more days as cavities are punctured by fish, birds, and other animals, the body will sink back
   into the water.
* The rate of decomposition depends mostly on water temperatures. The colder the water, the longer the
   body will remain intact.
* The deceased is bagged underwater.
   `This is for the sake of the survivors watching from shore
   `This helps to maintain any evidence that will help investigators

Video Quick Study (2:26) Divers talk about their experience and shows arc, and signalling.
Video Quick Study (3:29) Canadian and American divers certify in ice diving. YIPES! 

Video LONG Study (47:00) If you are writing a SCUBA scene you may want to spend the time learning 
                                about the problems of hypothermia, dry suit, and choices.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuck in the Car During a Snowstorm: How to Save Your Heroine's Life


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Your heroine was out of there! She jumped into her car and drove at break-neck speed, racing away from the troubles that you wrote into her plot line. She couldn't see the distant city lights yet as she flew down the lonely dark highway, but surely she was getting closer to civilization and some sanity - or maybe just a stiff drink.

Not so fast, silly heroine! Your author has written you an empty gas tank. Looks like you're stuck in sub-freezing temperatures by the side of the road. Now what?

Maybe she isn't even out there alone and far from civilization? Here's a link to a story where a family with a baby is stranded on a highway for 26 hours along with everyone else. No rescuers coming to the rescue. Did your character come prepared?
LINK (1:21)
A cricket groundsman's nightmare - geograph.or...
Photo credit: Wikipedia)

YIPES! Maybe this is what happened to your character:
Video Quick Link - (1:35) black ice
Video Quick Study (0:56) slush

... or maybe she's a kick-ass driver?
Video Quick Study (6:20) - Driving well on ice - besides the bloke has a great English accent (always a
Video Quick Study (4:14) Acceleration
Video Quick Study (1:14) Did you put your heroine into a four-wheel drive?

Here are some ideas on how to save your heroine and make her look like she knows how to take charge of a bad situation. Or reverse if you feel like making her life really miserable.

RULE #1 Do NOT leave the car!

Best case:
* She told someone when she left, the route, and when she should get to her destination.
* Heroine should be aware of where she is travelling so she can give an exact location to rescue workers.
* Arrive safely and let everyone know she made it. Whew!

But then she got stuck in a snowbank?
* Stay with the car
* Call for help, giving location
* Start car periodically to warm it up and keep the battery from draining.
   (so the horn will work to signal for help)
* Make SURE that the tailpipe is free of obstruction (like snow drift)
   you don't want your heroine to asphyxiate on carbon monoxide. Or maybe you do...
* Have your character weigh the pros and cons of getting out of the car
   `Drop in core temperature when exposed to wind and snow
   `Damp clothes that wick heat away from the body and no longer provide
    insulation and warmth.
   `Are there things in her trunk that might be helpful? That could save her from
    discomfort, if not save her life?

Video Quick Study (5:27) family go stuck overnight.

Which leads us to her EDC (Every Day Carry)

How smart and prepared is your heroine?

This is an example EDC winter kit that she might have in the back of the car along with water bottles.
All of these items tuck easily into the small plastic bucket with room for other things your heroine might want.
This kit contains:
* Food for three days (fiber bars, jerky, raisins, peanut butter, candy)
* An in-car toilet kit. Okay guys, roll your eyes, but "going" out in sub-freezing weather for ladies in winter
   clothing would take a yoga master. Also, every time she opens the door, she lets out any warmth she's built
   up in the car, and exposes way too much of herself to the elements - the cold and the wet. So instead, she
   lines the white plastic bucket with a draw-string bag, uses that with the TP, then closes the top firmly.
   Tah dah!
* A hand crank radio/flashlight (ours also has a phone charger - though this is only helpful if your heroine is
   travelling where there is a phone signal.) This will:
` Keep the car battery from going low
` Give her needed information on weather conditions
` Help keep up her morale and help her pass the time
` Have her keep her circulation moving by doing this light exercise without breaking a sweat and
   moistening her clothes.
* Glow light
* Hat
* Emergency blanket - which can be tented over the in-car heater to help reflect
   even more heat onto the heroine and help keep her toasty warm.
* Lighter
* Knife
* Extra trash bag (to collect snow if she forgot her water bottles or runs out of water)
* Hand warmers
* In-car heater: unused paint can, small Crisco, piece of paper

(NOTE: this heater with one wick raised the ambient car temperature to 68F while the exterior temperatures were dropping. Two wicks would increase the amount of heat output but increase smoke and fire hazard.)

Other things that she should/could have on hand:

* Signal flares and other signalling devices. She can use the mirrors in her car, and beep the horn in a
   sequence of three. REMEMBER any grouping of three - light flashes, sound blasts, etc. - are an
   international distress signal. Call AUTHORITIES immediately to get them involved in the situation.
   If your character is running into an unknown situation- she should do so with caution.
   It could be a home-invasion/kidnapping scenario.
* Extra gloves
* Sub-zero sleeping bag
* A folding shovel
* Jumper cables, windshield scrapers, tire re-inflation cans and other normal car EDC items

Consumer Reports talks your heroine through pre-winter preparation. If she didn't do it, well there you have your plot twist! Video Quick Study (11:00)
Taken in mirror by subject after shoveling sno...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here's hoping both you and your character stay safe. 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vehicle Crash Forensics: Car Accident Information for Writers


English: Front end destruction to a Saturn aut...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My daughter and I were driving through a toll when the driver ahead of us hit the column, backed up, and swerved on down the road.

My daughter is a type 1 diabetic, and my mind went instantly to the idea that the other driver wasn't perceiving properly; they were having a medical emergency. This happens for diabetics when their cognition and eyesight is suddenly impaired, and they cannot think their way out of the situation.

This could be a plotting device where a very innocent person could be having a very bad medical day and do some very heinous things that would not only twist a plot but leave the heroine psychologically damaged. A new medication, a recent stomach bug that dropped her blood sugar levels, so many ways to get a driver into trouble - maybe all of those sleepless nights that you've written into her plot line are coming back to haunt your heroine. Exhaustion has a similar effect on driving ability as alcohol.

The good news is that traffic fatalities are statistically down because of:

* Redesigned cars
* Seat belt and child seat use
* Decrease in driving under the influence
* Legislation such as increased driving ages and incremental drivers licenses

Common Causes of traffic accidents include:

English: Surprise parking manoeuvre? Or skid m...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Right of way mistakes
* Failure to yield
* Excessive speed
* Following too close
* Disregarding traffic signals
* Driving styles
   - texting
   - talking on the phone
   - eating
   - doing makeup

Equipment failure is NOT a significant cause of car accidents. So if you want to call attention to a murder or attempted murder cut the brake lines or otherwise manipulate the equipment because this would be a heads up to forensic investigators that something is off.

Kinds of accidents that cause fatalities include:

* almost half are collisions between moving vehicles
* another 25% fixed objects such as walls or trees
* 10% pedestrians
* 10% non-collisions like going over cliffs
* 2% bikes
* 1% trains


Result of a serious automobile accident
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Is the accident scene safe for medical intervention?
a. Are there people with guns shooting? EMT cannot go
    in until the scene of the accident is secured.
b. Are there any chemical hazards? Perhaps from a
   delivery truck? If so, a hazard team (hazmat) must be
   called in.
c. Several teams usually work together (the fire, police,
    and EMTs) to save the occupants.

2. A road block is established to maintain the integrity
   of the scene. Then an investigator will become
   involved to help determine what exactly happened to
   cause the accident.

Investigators should:
* Make sure they are visible and not creating further victims by getting themselves in trouble.

Accidents have reasons and rules

* They leave a trail of forensic evidence.
* 90% includes human error
* 50% include a problem like highway design
Video Quick Study (9:41) Shows an accident investigator talking about how they use crash forensics.

Investigators will use:

* Length of skid marks
* Crush depth
* Positions where vehicles come to rest after the accident
* Direction the vehicle had been traveling
* Point of impact (if it can be determined)
* Were the lights and turn signals used properly (they check the filaments in the light bulbs for this
* Some cars are equipped with black boxes which stores car use information.

Video Study (22:15) For your inner geek: Understanding car crashes Basic Physics
Video Study (23:51) More inner geek: Physics Meets Biology

As a writer you'll want to decide:
* Speed of heroine's car.
* Car that your heroine is driving (model year makes a big difference)
* What she hits
* If another car, what type and how fast.

And then do a little research on what the outcome would generally look like.

Video Quick Study (2:33) Size and weight matters in survivability.

The investigator creates a map of the scene

* Includes accurate measurements
English: Crash and rescue workers
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* The location of any crash debris

The investigator will also:

* Look for paint transfer evidence
* Attempt to determine the road worthiness of the
   car both prior to the accident and after.
* What was the time of day?
* What were the light and weather conditions?
* What were the physical and mental conditions of
   the drivers involved?
* Levels of sobriety?

Video Quick Link Simulator of how it feels to drive drunk
Video Quick Study (5:17) Following a drunk driver and confronting her for her driving

They look for clues of distraction:

* How high was the radio volume setting?
* Are there open containers of food?
* Does a woman have her makeup kit out and opened?
* Is there alcohol or drug evidence?
* Are there headphones?
* They will check the driver's cell phones for texting or calls.

English: Accident
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Forensic Engineers - analyse the data collected by the investigators to apply the laws of physics such as Newton's Laws to determine such information as speed at the time of impact. Forensic Engineers are typically called in after the fact. They will use:
* Reports written by responding investigators/police
* Photographs
* The vehicles or what's left of them
* Statements by eye witnesses
   Blog Link - Eye Witness Reliability

Video Quick Study (8:36) high tech 3D engineer model created for court evidence

Vehicles often look different when being analyzed than they did at the scene of the accident because:
* They often need to be altered to remove the people who were involved in the crash.
* Towing
Video Quick Study (5:55) Accident clean up after accident and how the remove the cars.

The investigators also try to determine who was sitting where

English: Car accident in Russia
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Legitimately, the passengers could have been ejected
   from the car or thrown around inside of the car making
   it difficult to tell who was driving.
* But what if your bad guy was in a wreck, and the
   passenger died? He might try to switch seats with the
   dead guy to implicate the deceased and keep himself
   out of trouble. What if they weren't dead but
   unconscious and the bad guy wants to blame the
   wreck on an innocent passenger? Then it's his word
   against your heroines.

A responding investigator would look for evidence of this such as:
* Blood stains (can by typed as A, AB etc)
* Hair transfer
* Injury profiles

Thank you for stopping by. I wish all of my readers safety. To that end, I'm including a safety tutorial to help you and your heroine in case there is an accident either fictional or real-life. Video Quick Study (9:46)

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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