Recent world events have brought about the subject of self-defense in a critical situation. Now, you may think me crazy, or you may have already, but the latest earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have vindicated my position on the importance of a good, well stocked 72-hour kit. If you think you are immune to mother nature, think again!
Self-defense is important to survival because when people are hungry and scared, they will often act irrationally. Being prepared is a double-edged sword. On one side, you are prepared to ride out the storm, as it were. On the other hand, you may very well become a target of opportunity to those who are desperate. Since a stash of equipment doesn't do you any gun if it is stolen, you need to be able to defend yourself and your supplies. Your supplies may be all you have left after a major catastrophe. When FEMA becomes a four-letter word, and riots break out, your supplies become your life-blood. To keep your blood from being spilled over your supplies, you will need a few things.
First, let me get you on the same page; come to an understanding. Nobody wants to hurt or kill anybody. We all wish to just live our lives as we want to and go in peace. However, the world doesn't always work that way. Hunger, lack of shelter, stoppage of basic social services, inability to travel, paranoia, etc can lead anyone to doing something that is completely out of character. The nicest person you know could turn evil simply due to the human need to eat. Your best friend can turn into your worst nightmare. We need to understand this and also understand that we need to do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our families, and those things which keep us alive in time of great need. How you come to grips with this reality is completely up to you, but you must be willing to make the hard choice when all of your options have been used up.
If you are able to do so, it is advisable that you keep a gun in your 72-hour kit, or at least have one that is available for it. Not only should you have a gun, but if you go that route, it is your responsibility to train with it, get proficient with it, and come to know it well. With that, you must learn the laws of the land regarding use of deadly force and when it is and isn't acceptable to use a gun in a self-defense situation. A good resource is Washington Gun Rights and Responsibilities, by Dave Workman. It is not a difficult read, and it will unlock the laws regarding gun rights and your responsibilities in the state of Washington.
For most cases, a small pistol, like a .38 revolver, or compact automatic will suffice. This is ideal for a pack style 72-hour kit because it won't weight a lot and will provide sufficient protection against a random passerby that just happens to want what you have. Carrying an extra couple of magazines or keeping speedloaders (for your revolver) is a must!
In some cases, your 72-hour kit may be less mobile, or maybe you aren't restricted to just keeping a pistol. Say, for instance, your kit is in the trunk of your personal vehicle or at home. There is nothing wrong with keeping a shotgun or rifle in there either. Just know that walking around with a loaded rifle or shotgun in plain sight might get you some unwanted attention. The main goal is to avoid confrontation, not to attract it.
If carrying a gun is not for you, or if you are restricted from doing so (either legally or because of work), then carrying other forms of defense might work. For instance, a strong folding knife can be easily deployed to save your butt. Be careful with the knife you choose, however, because some types are illegal. Carrying a fixed blade knife might cause you to come under scrutiny by law enforcement. The knife itself might not be illegal, but law enforcement can always call into question your intent. In a critical situation, law enforcement can become as powerful as it is powerless.
Other improvised weapons can be made or used from tools. Carrying a hammer, or baseball bat, a club of some kind, a crow bar, pipe, axe, etc are all weapons that will give an upper hand in a situation where a thug might not be so well armed.
More important than the weapon you carry is how you present yourself. You don't want to appear as a victim or look weak. To avoid confrontation, you will want to make it so that any person won't want to confront you. Make them seek out easier prey. This isn't always possible, but carrying an air of strong presence about you helps. Additionally, avoid areas that are completely isolated when possible. If no one is around to hear you scream, then someone might take advantage of you. At the same time, it is wise to avoid areas that have widespread panic. In the aftermath of an earthquake, urban centers with dense populations are probably best avoided completely. If that means adding another few miles to save your butt, then that is what needs to be done. Remember, the goal is to keep YOU safe so that you can return to your family and then keep THEM safe. You cannot do that if you are incapacitated.
Now, it can't be clearly said when panic about food and supplies might set in. It depends on the severity of the situation at hand. It also depends on the logistics of relief efforts in your area. The first day or two might go without much of a problem. The problem begins at the third day because most households only have enough food in them for 3-7 days. If you happen to be walking around with a pack full of food, people might confront you. At first, it may be to barter for something of value (and if you can spare the food, by all means go for it). But when a situation degrades to a point where people are hungry (and Americans hate being hungry), it could get violent really fast.
Avoid slums and high crime neighborhoods, period! These places are the first to go apeshit in the wake of a catastrophe. If you don't believe me, then recall the L.A. riots. If you happen to be in a questionable area during the event, GET OUT FAST!!!
Try to keep your vehicle as long as possible. I know I've covered the vehicle before, but it is important. The vehicle moves faster than people and can provide some measure of protection. Remember, it's not bullet-proof and it can be immobilized really fast if you end up in a crowd of people. Be ready to ditch it if necessary. Just don't make the decision lightly. Driving an extra five miles can shave 2-3 hours off a hike. Drive 30 miles and you've coverd a day and a half on foot; you also avoided any foot-born confrontations in that distance.
Remember, the best self defense is to avoid confrontation completely. But should avoiding confrontation become impossible, you fight to win. I don't believe in a fair fight. I believe in winning. I fight for my family and my safety. Keep that mindset with regards to self defense. People who get desperate have most likely lost a reason to exist. We exist for our families and that is worth fighting for.