The Survival Bank
By Kurt Levins Sr.
This article first appeared in Law Officer magazine: Subscribe
What if I told you I’d located a savings account that will accept credit cards from various sources, not cost you a red cent, allow instant withdrawal when you need it and will probably save your life? Would you be interested?
You better be.
Just as you owe your family and yourself to save for the future, you also owe it to them to stay alive and healthy. That’s where this new bank account comes in — your Survival Bank account.
How do you activate it? Simple, you’ve already activated it. If you’re reading this article and remain interested in your survival, you’ve activated it. Easiest bank account you’ve ever opened, isn’t it? Now, how do we make our deposits?
A survival account will accept numerous types of deposits. First, each and every time you exercise or do anything to improve your health or maintain your health, you make a deposit into your survival account. A yearly medical check up? Wow, that’s a major deposit. Give up a bad habit — say, tobacco use — that’s a huge deposit. Lose some excess weight — that’s a direct deposit.
Every round fired in firearms training is a deposit. Firearms training of any type in addition to your basics will greatly add to the balance of your account. Firing at qualification only, however, will only maintain a minimum balance.
Defensive tactics (DT) training and practice is a high-yield deposit. History tells us we are most likely to get killed or seriously injured while taking someone into custody. But how many of us have more than the bare minimum in our account for this area? I know this type of training can be uncomfortable or even painful, but the payout is heavy. The deposits are easy to rate: the more advanced, the higher the payout.
Sit back and trust your basic academy training, and that’s the payout you’ll get when you need it. Train and learn to apply advanced techniques with basic principles, and you’ll see an amazing payout.
Other credits: reading this magazine. Equipment maintenance. Reviewing that training tape. Attending a Calibre Press Street Survival seminar.
Only your imagination can limit your deposits into your Survival Bank account.
How does the withdrawal system work? How will it get to you instantly when you need it? This is the best part. Via the bank’s delivery system — your subconscious mind.
In a critical situation, you won’t have time to logically think out the situation. You will have to act as quickly as possible. Only the subconscious mind can deliver at this speed. Remember the last time you had to quickly swerve to avoid an accident? Did you have to logically think about it, or did you just react? If you logically thought it through, you probably crashed. That’s the type of speed we are talking about, not the speed of light, but the speed of thought. Anything you’ve ever deposited will be there instantly.
What won’t be in your account? Lessons you’ve never deposited. That combat-magazine change you never took the time to learn. The bladed-weapon defense you didn’t learn because the course was too physical. The novel way to stop a sucking chest wound won’t be there if you never deposited it.
My Survival Account
I didn’t know what it was called, but I opened my Survival Bank account on Aug. 29, 1985. You see, the night before, Detective Albert Mallen of the New Jersey State Police, my friend, was murdered during the execution of a narcotics search warrant in my town. At that time I promised myself I would do whatever necessary to learn every survival skill I could to keep myself alive.
I increased my firearms skills and attitudes. At FBI Hostage Negotiations training, I saw videos of police officers taken hostage. I began carrying a backup at all times on duty, and a firearm off duty whenever practical. The first time my friend Rich Norcross saw me take off my chill chaser and saw I was wearing a pistol in a shoulder holster, he thought I was crazy. Rich later changed his mind.
DT skills were always important to me, and, in 1984, I became a DT instructor (and continue to teach today). I paid for the bulk of my training out of my own pocket, not waiting for my agency to come up with the funds.
In 1993, I attended a training course called Surviving Critical Incidents. This course taught coping skills for dealing with critical incidents. We learned, for example, what physical effects stress places on the body during and after an incident, such as the adrenaline pump.
On April 20, 1995, the entire sum of my survival account was drained in a single incident. On that day officers from the Haddon Heights (N.J.) Police Department and an investigator from my office, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, were executing a search warrant for firearms that was related to a child abuse case. Investigator Jack McLaughlin was shot multiple times from approximately 10 feet away with a 7.62 AKM. Patrolman John Norcross, my friend Rich Norcross’ brother, was shot in the head at an approximate distance of 75 yards. Rich was shot seven times with the same weapon at close range.
As I wrote above, Rich and I had been friends for several years. Early in our careers we worked in small adjoining agencies. John Norcross started his career as my dispatcher.
The shooter was a transsexual who fired on approximately 70 other officers, pinning some down for an extended period of time. The officers who were behind cover quickly expended all their ammunition. Backup officers from different towns carried a wide variety of pistols.
The shooter stopped firing at the urging of a dispatcher, who was the first to open up a dialogue. The exchange of gunfire had lasted approximately 19 minutes. Because the backdrop was a park, we couldn’t ascertain an exact count of the rounds fired, but an estimate of more than 1,000 rounds (750 by the shooter) is reasonable.
Upon my arrival at the command post, I was told Rich Norcross was dead and John was injured. Jack McLaughlin was still in the house, but we knew he was dead. I was called upon to be one of the negotiators. A tough job — all I really wanted was for the shooter to be taken out.
I was one of two primary coaches and the liaison to the incident commander. Approximately one hour into the negotiations, I was told the truth that John Norcross had been killed and that Rich had been shot multiple times but was expected to survive. Without all of the hostage training I’d received, I have no doubt that neither I nor the other negotiators, George Saunders and Diane Cordell, could have performed adequately that day.
Rich Norcross was released from the hospital approximately seven days later, and no, his wounds were not mere flesh wounds. He survived because he was a survivor, and thought as a survivor. Rich was a regular weight lifter and had built up his muscle mass. A doctor told Rich he owed his life to the officer who picked him up and carried him from the house. No one picked up Rich — he walked out of the house and ran to cover on his own.
Doctors told Rich his weight lifting and increased muscle mass enabled his body to draw on specific proteins that helped speed his recovery. Not realizing it at the time, every time Rich lifted weights, he made deposits into his survival account.
Oh, by the way, Rich no longer thinks I was crazy for carrying a backup weapon.
Now that you’ve read this article, you’ve already opened your Survival Bank account and made your first deposit. Get that balance as high as possible. It will be there for you when you need it — instantly.
What happens if you never need to make a withdrawal? You successfully retire, love your family and pass on your Survival Bank account as an inheritance to the next generation through teaching, example and guidance.
Kurt Levins Sr. served 28 years as a law enforcement officer and retired as a sergeant with the Camden County (N.J.) Prosecutor's Office. Most of his service was in intelligence, narcotics and organized crime. He received extensive training in crisis negotiation and tactical operations. A former member of the policy board of the MAGLOCLEN RISS Project, he’s proud that most of his survival experience came on the streets of Camden, NJ “the most dangerous city in America.”