Safety on the Road with Jeff Dooley – Episode 4: RVing with Joe & Kait

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission on the products or services you purchase using the links. There is no additional cost to you and the earnings help keep this website running. Read the Affiliate Disclaimer for more information.

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission on the products or services you purchase using the links. There is no additional cost to you and the earnings help keep this website running. Read the Affiliate Disclaimer for more information.

In this episode of the RVing with Joe & Kait podcast, we explore the topic of personal safety and preparedness while on the road, featuring law enforcement veteran Jeff Dooley. With over 26 years of experience, Jeff shares invaluable insights into developing a safety-focused mindset, essential for ensuring a secure and enjoyable RVing experience.

As we all know, RVing is about the freedom and joy of exploring new places. But it’s equally important to do so safely and with the right preparation. We hope this episode provides you with valuable insights and practical tips for your RV adventures.

Safety on the Road with Jeff Dooley

RV Safety on the Road with Jeff Dooley of Personal Responsibility LLC

Where to watch/listen

If you enjoyed this episode of RVing with Joe & Kait, please leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify. It would mean a lot to us. Thank you!

Episode Guest

Jeff Dooley is the owner and lead instructor of Personal Responsibility LLC. He is a retired Sergeant for a local law enforcement agency with over 26 years of experience. During his career Jeff served in numerous units, including the Crime Suppression and Narcotics units, SWAT and K-9 units, CID, Patrol, and Firearms Training Unit.

Jeff is a Rangemaster with Gunsite Academy where he teaches pistol, rifle, shotgun, and CQP classes. Jeff is a life member of the NRA, NRA certified pistol instructor, member of IALEFI, a certified Tennessee P.O.S.T. firearms and tactics instructor, and certified FBI firearms instructor.


Key Highlights

  • Pre-Trip Planning for Safety Jeff introduces the vital concept of ‘environmental mapping’
  • Being Your Own First Responder The importance of self-reliance in emergency situations, carrying medical supplies and knowing basic first aid especially when you’re far from immediate help.
  • Leveraging Technology for Safety How modern gadgets can be lifesavers in remote spots and setting up sensors around your RV for enhanced security.
  • Self-Defense: More Than Just Firearms Jeff discusses alternative self-defense tools, highlighting the importance of a well-rounded approach to personal safety.
  • Real-Life Scenarios Jeff provides insights on handling potential threats and emergencies while RVing.


00:43 Welcome and introduction
02:35 What it means to have a safety mindset
04:41 How to apply safety and preparedness while traveling in an RV
06:22 Tools to carry and considerations for safety on the road
09:07 Importance of carrying a med kit and knowing first aid
10:58 Understanding and implementing situational awareness and multi-layered protection
17:43 Urban camping and how to deal with a knock in the middle of the night
18:30 Practical Safety Tips for RVers Practical advice and actionable tips to enhance safety while RVing.
20:50 Carrying bear spray or wasp spray for personal safety
23:49 Jeff’s approach to personal protection
31:30 Real life safety scenarios and how to handle them safely
55:29 Concluding remarks and final thoughts from Jeff

Book a 60 Minute Call with Joe

Are you researching your first RV or have questions about RVing? Let’s see if booking a 60 minute session with Joe is the right fit for you.

Learn More


Jeff Dooley Protect yourself and your family with the proper mindset. If we rely on picking our phone up and dialing 911, we’re already lost. What are the tools that I need to have to make this successful? What do I need to carry with me to ensure that I have a good time and safe? I don’t want to be lucky. I want to be prepared.

Joe Russo Welcome back to the RVing with Joe and Kait podcast. Today I’m talking to Jeff Dooley, who’s retired law enforcement with over 26 years of experience.

Jeff and I are going to be talking about safety, preparedness, and mindset while on the road in an RV. This is one I’ve really been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy the podcast, so let’s dive right in.

So, Jeff, tell us a bit about yourself.

Jeff Dooley Well, first, Joe, thank you for having me on the podcast. I’ve got 26 years, a little bit over 26 years of law enforcement experience on the local level. During that time, I pretty much ran the gamut of what you can do in law enforcement.

I was a patrol officer, obviously, for several years. I worked crime suppression, which was street crimes. I ran a K-9 for a number of years, and a detective for several years, and I wound up and ended my career as a sergeant on patrol.

Today, we’re gonna talk a little bit about mindset, about the mental preparation to protect yourself and your family.

Joe Russo People have all these fears because of things they see on the news, so I thought it would be great to talk to you and start to understand that mindset you talked about and if you could kind of convey that and explain what that means to have that mindset.

Jeff Dooley So when I think about mindset, it’s all inclusive, it’s an act of nature, storms, floods, tornadoes, and also human factors. You know, that’s people that are camping in the urban environment, yes, are they a target or could they be a target? Absolutely.

And it all starts to protect yourself and your family with the proper mindset. I don’t live my life paranoid and don’t go anywhere. I prepare myself mentally so I can go and do things that I want to do.

My wife and I travel abroad. Can we carry firearms there? No, we can’t. But we have a mental preparation to prepare ourselves where we go so we can go and enjoy those areas without being paranoid or stressed, if you will.

So when we talk about mindset, it is a multi-layered aspect. What is my mission and where am I going? What are my goals when I go there and what do I need to do to ensure I have a safe recovery? So I like to think of it as a pyramid. My ultimate goal is to get back home safely. So if I have that in mind, how am I gonna route myself to get there, enjoy my stay and then get myself back?

So when we talk about the mental preparation, what do I need to have? What are the tools that I need to have to make this successful? You know, do I have med kits? Do I understand how to apply basic first aid or stop the bleed if we’re involved in an accident or something, heaven forbid, an active shooter or active killer, an event happens? Do I know where to go? Do I have a rally point if I’m with multiple family members?

Do I have a firearm? Do I know how to utilize the firearm? Do I have a blade? Do I know how to utilize the blade? Do I have a impact weapon such as a stick, baseball bat, anything such as that? Do I know the proper strikes on a human to get them to stop their behavior? All the way down to avoidance.

That is my ultimate goal is, I will win 100% of the fights that I never get involved in. So if I can avoid a situation, that is a win. It’s not cowardly because if you’re by yourself, you know, you don’t have family members to worry about and you’re involved in an altercation, you know, you’re protecting yourself.

But if you have multiple family members with you and they can’t, such as children or someone that might be injured or elderly, most of the time they can’t protect their self the way an abled human can that’s younger and more resilient. So what is my goal there? It’s to get away.

Joe Russo Looking from an RVer’s perspective, you’re in your RV, you’re about to leave home, you’re taking that mindset with you. The goal is to go to a national park, spend a few nights and come back. Kind of walk me through what that person should be thinking about, and not only from a human threat, but animals and other things as they’re going through that process.

Jeff Dooley When I begin, I guess my journey, if you will, or my mission, as I like to call it, terminology really doesn’t make any difference. We’re going to a place, we want to have a good time, enjoy ourselves and make it back home safe.

So before I even go, I’ll, what I like to call, environmentally map the area. I’ll get on Google Maps, I will look at the campground or if I’m staying in a hotel, I’ll look at the hotel. If I want to go even a little further, there are plenty of websites that will map crimes where the area that you’re going. So it will show you what crimes are happening in that area and how frequently they are. So I know what to prep for before I even go.

So if I can environmentally map the area, is there just one way in or one way out or is there multiple ways that I can get in and out of this area? When I get there, you know, where do I check in? That’s going to help me out first and foremost. Where do I check in? Where could my room be? How do I get in and out of? The national park, most of the time those have one way in and one way out.

If I can’t get out, where can I go to make myself and my family safe, away from the masses of the people? And once I figure those items out, what do I need to carry with me to ensure that I have a good time and safe?

For me being retired law enforcement, I can carry a firearm nationwide. Some people can’t do that. Some people don’t want to do that. So look at the local laws there. Can you carry? Right, if you can’t, and you want to obey the laws, what else can I have? What other skills do I need to bring those tools along to ensure that I’m safe?

Make sure that I have my medical supplies. How much food, water do I have that can sustain me for a short period of time, when I say short period, 24 to 72 hours before somebody else can get there.

Because we have to understand, if we rely on picking our phone up and dialing 911, we’re already lost. We are our own first responders. If I’m back country camping or back country RVing, how long did it take you to get there? So when I call 911 and try to explain to them where I am. You know where you are, but they might not know where you are. So it could be hours before they get to you.

Joe Russo Yeah, unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way. We were up in Lake Tahoe, California, and I took the motorcycle out for a ride, dirt bike, and went up into the mountains and wanted to explore around a little bit. I told Kait what my route was. If I’m not back by this time, come get me.

Had a serious crash, dislocated my shoulder. I was on the ground in serious pain, and then I pull out my phone and no signal. So it was already starting to get dark and it was, do I sit here and wait or do I try to get out of here? So I made the decision to start hiking back along the route that I would have taken with a dislocated shoulder, bruised ribs, everything else. As I was going out, luckily I got one bar of service, enough to send text messages and not a phone call.

But by the time everyone got out there to get me and get me to a hospital, it was two and a half hours later. Had that been a serious accident? I probably wouldn’t have made it. And it was that right after that, that’s when we went out and bought the Garmin inReach.

Joe Russo What other tools besides med kit, something to protect yourself with, Garmin, would you bring along?

Jeff Dooley You know, that’s a specific question of once again, it all comes back to what is my mission. And if I go anywhere, even a local travel, going to work or going to the grocery store, firearm, an edged weapon, a blunt object or stick, a med kit, and I can’t stress enough on med kit.

It doesn’t matter if you want to use a tool to protect yourself such as a firearm or a blade, an edged weapon, impact weapon, if you don’t want to do that it would it would be in your best interest to at least understand. Because even though you might not ever be involved in an altercation, if you’re in a crash, and you have a loved one that needs medical attention, and you have no knowledge to at least support them until the local EMS get there, you could literally watch them die.

With some basic skills, you can ensure their survival at least until the people that are much more knowledgeable and have many more tools and resources available to them till they get there.

Don’t use the term always very often, but I always have some type of medical gear on me. And then some additional things, if I have cell service, my phone is usually on me. I have the thought process of if I’m my wife Ashley knows if something happens and I can’t drive, I will be here at the house. It might take me two days, but I have a route that I’m gonna get back to here.

If we’re traveling together and we separate, if something happens in the area, if a tornado comes or if there’s an active killer situation, we know to meet back at a certain rally point. So we pre-plan all of these things before we even get out of the vehicle on our way there.

The term that I used earlier is environmentally map your area. Where can I get into the building? Where can I get out of the building? And I need multiple ways. I need my primary way, my secondary way, and my tertiary way if it’s available to me. And if I have that knowledge, again, I set basic parameters or goals to successfully get from point A to point B and back to the house ultimately so we can have a good time. We don’t have to worry about those things.

We’re sitting here having this conversation and I have no doubt when people watch this there are those that will think that they’re not enjoying their self because they’re paranoid about something happening. That is not even close to my thought process when we travel. I don’t have to worry about what happens because I’ve already planned and set myself up for success when something happens.

Because the time to make a plan is not when it happens, because you don’t have the time nor the opportunity to structure what’s going to happen, because the stress hits you. And you’re not going to think rationally if you’ve never been involved in a critical incident.

So if I put these steps in place and think about this and have this discussion with who I travel with, family, children, my aging mother and father. When it happens, we can say one word or nothing at all and we can put our plan in motion and we can all make it out safe.

But if I have to think about the structure of getting from point A to point B in a situation of a tornado where multiple buildings have been blown down or an active killer situation where I don’t know who’s a good guy and who’s the bad guy. If I’m trying to give direction to multiple people, the likelihood of me getting out of there in a timely manner is pretty low.

Joe Russo Let’s take what you were talking about, especially with the hotel and mapping areas out. Let’s bring that to the RV.

Jeff Dooley So when I think about protecting myself on the road, or even here, I look at it as a multi-layered protection. So if I can at least get three rings of protection around my RV or where I am, that’s great for me.

So we can think of the first ring as, so if you’re camping in a campground, the perimeter of the campground. You obviously, there are other campers around you that have paid, they’re there legitimately and they might have been vetted before they even showed up. So I’m not saying that I’m worried about them. I’m always cautious.

But the perimeter of the campground, if I hear a commotion or something going on outside of that, it alerts me, what can I do? What is that? My attention will not be taken away from that until I resolve it. Either I need to act and get out, or it’s not a threat to me. It was something else, it’s gone away, now I can relax.

Joe Russo So for example, let’s say someone else in the parking lot, you hear a man and woman yelling and screaming at each other. Something like that?

Jeff Dooley Right. A crash, or you hear sirens coming, you could see a fire. Is it involving me? Or will it encompass me if it gets closer? So I will watch, I will figure out, is it a threat to me? Is it not a threat to me? And then when it resolves itself, the local authorities get there, the fire department gets there, and it doesn’t encompass me or involve me, now I can go back to relaxing.

Joe Russo So that’s the first thing you said. What about the other two?

Jeff Dooley The second layer is my immediate campsite. Now how can I protect myself with that? There are items and tools out there that you can get that will alert you if someone comes into your campsite.

For example, I have on my property here, I have sensors that if something passes in front of the sensor, it makes a certain noise. And that wildlife will set it off, but also humans will. People driving a car, people walking. It’s inexpensive, it’s battery operated, solar powered.

So when you set up your campsite, you could get these items that will protect the perimeter of your camper. So if someone breaks that sensor, they will make different sounds. You can get up to, I believe, five on one system, and each area will give a different sound. So I know where they are outside of my RV or my home or where they are on my property.

So that’s some valuable information that I know that will alert me before they even knock on my RV or my home and let me know that somebody is around. Is it someone that’s there to steal things that I have outside the RV? Is it someone that’s trying to knock on the RV and rob me or steal what I have inside.

So once again, it alerts me and I can put my plan of action in place. What is that plan of action? Again, it goes back to what is your mission? What tools do you have with you? But it doesn’t get you to the startle effect to where you wake up somebody standing over you.

Joe Russo And then what about from inside the RV?

Jeff Dooley Okay, so the third layer is the actual, so for my home, it’s the exterior of my home. So it’d be the exterior of your RV, right? Someone knocking on the door, someone knocking on the window. That is my last layer. I don’t have enough time, I don’t have as much time to react because it is that much closer to me. But if it’s secured, they haven’t broken that last layer, again, what do I need to do? I’m not just gonna open the door without seeing who’s out there.

I can talk through the RV. Those of you that can, that’s in an area that you might have a ring doorbell on your RV or you have the capability of hitting your backup camera or other cameras that you have around your RV, can you look and see who it is? Is it multiple people? Do they have a weapon? Is it the police? But if, I don’t want to break that barrier and just open the door if I have no idea who it is.

Joe Russo Yeah, and speaking of which. So we like to do a lot of urban camping. And people are always afraid of urban camping because they might park somewhere and not pay attention to the rules or laws of the area and then get that knock at three in the morning concern that it’s the police and for some reason kicking them out of the area. How should someone, if they do get a knock in the middle of the night, how should they respond to that? What are some of the steps they should go through before they open the door and interact with that person?

Jeff Dooley The knock at three o’clock in the morning. Nobody likes that. It’s either bad news that somebody’s going to give you or it’s trouble. Or it’s the police.

So let’s back up a little bit and say if you’re urban camping and you might not have seen you can’t overnight camp here or it’s not marked but somebody has called for good reason. The police might come and ask you to ensure that everything might be safe or you’re safe for the public is the Christmas Day bombing that happened on 2nd Avenue of Nashville. It was an RV parked on 2nd Avenue, loaded with explosives, blew up half of 2nd Avenue in Nashville. So the police were called because there were a whole lot of other things involved with that would alert that it was a danger.

Why someone would call or have the police show up to knock to make you move is that they might think the community is unsafe. So don’t think that, and I’m going to talk as a police officer’s perspective, I don’t want to go and knock on your door any more than you want me to knock on your door. But I have a job to do because someone is called and they’re concerned. So if that happens, first off, we’ve already discussed this, let’s see who it is first.

A group of four or five young males that have bats in their hands, probably not going to open the door, right? But is it a uniformed officer that you can see that there’s a badge, they have a belt, they have a radio? You can talk to them through the RV to ensure that it’s an actual police officer, it’s not someone dressed up. You can actually call 911 and say, hey, look, this is where I am. There’s somebody dressed as a police officer knocking on my RV. Is it police? If you are unsure.

And there’s nothing wrong with that because let’s face it, in our world today, there are people that will impersonate officers so they can victimize others. But once you ensure that there’s a police officer and they’re legitimate, you know, see what they’re there for.

They might be just checking on your personal welfare. They might tell you that, I’m sorry, you can’t park here. We’ve gotten complaints or we want to make sure that the community is safe because certain things stood out that they were concerned about. But if you just ignore that, if it’s legitimate police, they’re not gonna go away. They’re gonna get some type of an answer of if you’re safe or you’re not safe.

Joe Russo I’ve gotten a lot of comments and seen a lot of people who don’t wanna carry a firearm. They carry bear spray and or wasp spray, which I always thought the wasp spray thing was crazy, but I’m curious to get your take on what alternatives there are to a gun and what those two items bring to the table?

Jeff Dooley I’m gonna back up a little bit. Do you have to carry a firearm to be safety? Absolutely not, right? It’s all about the six inches between your ears. If my mindset is right, I can ensure my safety, right? For avoidance. There are those times that I’m ambushed, that I didn’t see it and I’m there, what can I do?

Those that don’t wanna carry a firearm, that’s fine that have no problem with people that are not confident. And quite frankly, I applaud them because they just didn’t buy something and now they don’t know how to use it and they point it in a direction and they, heaven forbid, harm somebody that wasn’t even involved, right?

So that comment kind of brings me back to a quote from Miyamoto Musashi from the Book of Five Rings, “to become over familiar with one weapon is as much of a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.”

So if you think about that, if I have a favorite weapon, and I’ll reference a little bit to my career with this, if I have a favorite weapon and it doesn’t work, now what is my plan? And if I don’t know it well, so example, if I decide to build a house and I just go buy a hammer, do you really think I’m gonna be able to build a house properly? No. I need to have that knowledge of how to use those tools to build it properly.

It’s no different with a firearm. Just because I have a firearm doesn’t mean I’m gonna be able to use that properly. One weapon and it doesn’t work, now what do I do? All right, I need to be well rounded.

The wasp spray, bear spray, is that an option? It absolutely is an option. But there’s a dichotomy to that. If I rely only on that, I’ve seen, and I’ve dealt with people that spray or chemical weapons had no effect on them whatsoever. That could be the mental disconnect that they have. That could be the chemical cocktail that they’ve injected in their body that they feel no pain or that doesn’t have an effect on them. It might later but it doesn’t immediately.

So if that doesn’t work, now what is your plan? And if I don’t have another answer to that, I’m going to pause and I’m going to have to think of something and at that point do you have time to pause and call time out when someone’s trying to attack you to make another plan? The answer is absolutely not. So those that carry that and they rely only on that, they’re setting their self up for failure.

So when I look at personal protection, I’m looking at an all encompassed system here. First, mindset. That’s a common theme here. The mind drives anything and everything that you do. So think of it this way. The six inches between your ears or your mind is your main computer. That drives any and all tools that you decide that you want to carry or utilize in a personal protection situation.

Gun, edge weapon, blunt object, taser, chemical weapons, or medical supplies. If this isn’t right, it’s all gonna fail. Unless you’re lucky. I don’t wanna be lucky, I wanna be prepared. Cause luck favors the prepared. If I get this right, now what do I feel comfortable carrying? And when I figure out what I feel comfortable carrying, now what are the skills I need to have for those? I figure that out, now I have a plan to train myself.

Stay in practice with these and when I say practice, that doesn’t mean that I have to spend eight hours a day in a dojo for seven days for six months to be proficient in something, right? I need to have a little bit of knowledge on all of this, all of the things that I choose to carry with me and that could be, that could take 15 minutes three times a week and if I do that over a period of time, my skill level starts to get better and better and better and better.

There are those people that like to immerse their self in something, and if that’s the case, that’s good. But there are those that don’t have the time or the opportunity to do that, that’s fine as well. But how many times do we pick up our phone and we are just mindlessly scrolling for 15 minutes when I could have been practicing a skill to make myself and my family a little bit safer and a little bit more proficient in the skills that I want.

Joe Russo Yeah, and I think in terms of training, like the class I took with you, we will bring this up towards the end of the podcast where you and I and Kait have come up with a class that we wanna offer to the community. And I think there are a lot of opportunities out there. And there are some that people don’t even think about.

Like Kait found a class for us to take a first aid course. It was offered, I think it was $10, but it was offered through our health department of our county. We went in there, we learned CPR, we learned burn techniques, all sorts of stuff. We learned how to use tourniquets and essentially our whole med kit, everything that was in our med kit, we kind of went through with her and she explained how to use it, went through all the processes and everything else and coming out of that, both Kait and I felt much more confident having that med kit and understanding how to use it and it’s just one of those, it’s also a skill that goes away after time that you have to practice, renew, make sure you know how to get the tourniquet on, that sort of thing.

But in terms of other things, you mentioned the firearm and people just going out and buying one, putting it in a drawer, for example, and then hoping they never need to use it but never training on it. What about things like the bear spray and the wasp spray? Let’s say that is your preferred method of protecting yourself. Are there ways to train with those?

Jeff Dooley There are. So first off, where do I carry it? If it’s in a drawer in the RV and I need it outside, do I have time to go get it? Most of the time, the answer to that is no. Do I have it on my person? Is it easily accessible? And when I have it, how do I deploy it? Where do I spray either the animal or the human with this? How far is the stream from where I’m standing to get to the other person? Do I have to be in contact distance? Or will that stream stretch out 10, 15 feet? Is it full? Is it half full? Is it almost empty? So if that’s the case, is it gonna reach to that maximum level or distance that I need?

Most of the time when you talk about wasp spray, now those are large canisters. Am I gonna walk around that in my pocket or is it uncomfortable? Because I promise if something is uncomfortable and you think you’re going to carry it to protect yourself, more times than not you’re going to leave it because it doesn’t feel good when you carry it. So you’re going to leave that back. Same thing for firearm.

Humans are naturally lazy. I’m going to keep what feels good to me and I will leave the gun because it’s like, ah, it’s not going to happen to me. Again, it goes to the mindset. You want to bring the comfort over the discomfort.

Joe Russo I like to liken a lot of that stuff to when people say, what do you need a gun for? What do you need bear spray for? We’ve encountered a lot of hikers up in Montana and that, I don’t need that, I’ll be fine. It’s not gonna happen to me. I always ask the question, well, in your RV or your home, do you carry a fire extinguisher? How many times does your house burn down? Probably never, but it’s something we keep around because we know there’s a possibility. And when that unlikely situation happens, if you don’t have that tool, your SOL and you know, a lot of bad things could happen.

Jeff Dooley You’re absolutely right. It’s no different carrying a fire extinguisher around with you because this could happen, no different than carrying a firearm around because some act of heinous violence could happen to you.

Once again, we’re not looking for trouble. We are the good guys here. We carry that for our protection as a last resort. If all my other options of avoidance has failed and the person or persons are still coming towards me and it is either me, my family or them, that’s when I will utilize a firearm. The last resort. Everything else that I have exhausted has failed or it wasn’t time that I could go to it.

When we carry a firearm, it is not an intimidation tool. It is not the answer to all of it. Once again, if I only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail to me and I wanna hammer it. I don’t want to think of a firearm as that way, because if somebody knocks on your door at three in the morning and you pull a gun out and pointed at them, and it was a police officer, it might not turn out very well.

Or if it’s somebody just wanting to know heaven forbid, because humans are, you can’t really figure out what they’re doing. They want to knock on your RV and say, hey, where’d you get this? This is awesome. Let’s talk about this at three o’clock in the morning. If you point a gun at them, you could be and should be charged with aggravated assault. You need to understand when to deploy your weapons, whatever you carry, at the right time.

And that could be a whole other conversation is that when do I deploy these? When is it okay? I have to understand the laws and the rules of the areas that I’m in before I do certain things.

Joe Russo But one thing I don’t think we’ve talked enough about yet is those first steps. So we’ve talked about getting to the firearm, but you mentioned earlier the most important thing and what can get you out of almost all situations is avoidance. And I don’t think we have enough time in this podcast to go through what all that means, but can you give some examples of you know, either being in an RV or being in a situation and what avoidance looks like and how that mindset works.

Jeff Dooley Absolutely. So, once again, if I can identify some type of a threat, or let’s say it’s just an altercation, outside the RV, or right outside the restaurant that I’m in, wherever you are, you can apply this with whatever situation that you’re in.

If I am at the 45 degree syndrome with my phone and I’m not paying attention to what’s around me and something literally happens right next to me and I am not aware of it and then I look over, I have a startle effect. I don’t want to hit that startle effect. I want to be able to see what’s going on prior to it getting to me or encompassing me in the area that I’m in.

Since I’m a Range Master at Gunsite Academy, you know, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper’s color codes comes to mind here. So his color codes in a simplistic form is white, yellow, orange, and red. And those codes are not reference to the amount of danger that you’re in, but it allows you to be situationally aware of your surroundings, and if you see something, I can raise from one level to another.

So to step you through those white is unaware. I’m not paying attention to what’s around me. Most of the time, we can’t always be higher than white sometimes because we have to sleep, and we’re in our own layer, if you will, that we feel comfort, right? But white is what I don’t want to leave the house in or I don’t want to leave the RV in and go into the world because I’m not aware of my surroundings.

Joe Russo So for example, we all, if we’re talking RVs, you pull up to that gas station at midnight as you’re on a long drive and, you know, a lot of these RVs have huge tanks. You’re gonna be there for a while. Stick the pump in and then you get on your phone or you start paying attention to something else. So you’re in white mode right then.

Jeff Dooley Absolutely. You don’t see somebody walk up to you, tap you on the shoulder and it startles you. You should have seen them at least around the perimeter of your RV or somebody tries to open up your passenger side door while you’re on the driver’s side. And now they’re in your RV. So yes, that is white.

If I’m getting gas, I’m pumping it, then my head is up. So we think about predators in the wild. Do you ever see a predator in the wild not paying attention, you know, because their survivability relies on awareness. Where’s their next meal coming on from? Or where’s the apex predator that’s above them? Are they trying to attack them and feed? We don’t, we need to be no different than that.

So we get out, we put our nozzle in, we know we’re going to be there 15 minutes, our heads up, we’re looking around and making sure that nobody is coming up to talk to us could be a homeless person that just needs some money, or it could be somebody that’s trying to get close to you so they can victimize you, right? But yes, that to sort answer, yes, that is the white condition.

The next is gonna be yellow. This is what I wanna do most of my operating in, in the wild, right? My head is up, I’m alert, I see things around, I can look, but there’s a difference between looking and seeing. I need to see if something is trying to pick me out or is there an altercation going somewhere that I don’t need to go in that direction.

I’m generally aware. I’m not focused on anything. And let’s face it, I’m not hyper-focused anyway. I’m just generally aware. I’m enjoying myself. I’m looking and seeing. I can enjoy the outdoors, I can enjoy anything that I’m around. If I’m in an urban environment, am I looking for a nice coffee shop or I’m looking for a nice place to have a beer in a cool bar? I can enjoy myself when I do this.

The next is orange. What I’m looking for there or what has made me go from yellow to orange is that a specific thing has happened or an anomaly has happened that’s out of the norm. Somebody’s staring at me or I’ve been walking down the street and they have followed me into two or three areas, my attention is on that.

I’m not going to take my attention off of it until it answers a couple of questions for me. Are they, have they picked me out? Are they a threat to me? Or now did they just go off somewhere else because now I’ve, they see me looking at them, right?

If I’m in a market, I went to the restroom, I come back out, somebody is at the checkout counter yelling and screaming at the clerk. Am I just going to walk right next to that? Probably not, because I don’t know what’s going on. Because what could happen next is a gun could come out, a blade could come out, or a fistfight could come out, and now it has encompassed me. Is there a back door that I can go out to avoid that? That’s what I’m looking for.

And then the next step is red. So orange, I have a specific event or person or thing that has drawn my attention to it. And I’m not going to take my attention off of that until I resolve safe or not safe, or I’ve exited the area, right, to make myself safe.

Red comes to be, for example, if I’m at the pump and I’m in yellow, I’m looking, then I see somebody around the perimeter of the gas station, right? Then they start, they look at me, they start walking toward me, which pushes me to orange. They have a hoodie on, their hands are in their hoodie, right? Now, I can verbally talk to them, “hey, stay back, I don’t have anything for you, move on.”

They keep coming, they start to pull something out of their hoodie, then I’m going to switch to red. If they pull a gun out, then I’m going to do this. Because the decision is already made now, because I have that line in the sand. If they’re going to try to rob me or try to shoot me or try to stab me, once they cross this barrier, once they pull something out in an area to where I need to defend myself, the decision is already made. I don’t have to make it up right then.

So they start walking to you, they pull a gun out of their hoodie. Obviously I’ve switched to red. Now what is my plan of action? If I don’t have a gun, right, what can I do? Where can I move? Is there a piece of cover that I can move to? Can I get into the store and have the clerk lock the door, call the police? Can I get in my RV? Am I getting in my RV? Can I just drive away? So the red is the action part.

I don’t wanna go from white to red because then they’re right on me. I don’t have time, I have that startle effect. I don’t wanna go from yellow to red, right? It’s that time I want to see things. I want to see the things that don’t stand out to me, the anomalies, if you will, that’s not norm. And I answer those questions before they get to me.

When people are victimized, there’s a five-step process. You know, you have to be in the same area. They have to pick you out, right? They have to close the distance, however that will. And once they close the distance, then they have to act.

Joe Russo Can I make the assumption that if you are someone, if there’s a gas station and that predator is there and they see someone looking down on their phone paying no attention and you with your head up looking around and then you spot them, they’re much more likely, less likely to pick you out as a target.

Jeff Dooley Absolutely. They want an easy target. It’s no different than a predator in the wild. They look for the weakest prey. Humans are no different. If you look like an easy target, you will be an easy target. If you’re not paying attention, they can easily get in contact distance with you. And I want to avoid being in contact distance with someone that is going to try to victimize me because they can do multiple things to me.

Joe Russo Now let’s talk about a situation which I failed in. When I was taking your class and you and I had spoken about this, but I want to reiterate for the, or tell the audience about it.

So, I was, we had gotten done with the class for the day, and I’d gone over to Planet Fitness to go grab a shower and just kind of recoup. And after I got done, I had to rearrange some things in the van, one of which being my firearms that I had in there for the class and I was pulling stuff out, putting it on the ground. I had the doors open, and I was kind of paying attention to what was around me, but I was also paying more attention to what’s happening in the van, and my back turned to the parking lot.

The next thing I know, I have a woman coming up on me who looks homeless. When she does come up, all I can smell is alcohol. She seems like she’s on drugs. She’s telling me this story about her grandkids and how she needs money and everything else and all the while she’s talking, I’m trying to get all my stuff back in the van, so she doesn’t necessarily see it, but I don’t know who else is out there.

So with that situation, tell me how I could have done things better and been more aware?

Jeff Dooley So, you know, when you have situations like that, you can learn a lot from it. And what can I do better to ensure that I don’t even put myself in that situation?

So, think of it this way. If you could have rearranged that before you left a known area, the range, you know you’re in good company with people in class, we know each other, you’ve been vetted to come to class, it’s a safe area, we’ve been shooting all day, we know who’s around, could I have done that before I got to that destination?

Once I get to that destination, once again, if you’re by yourself, and someone comes up there dividing your attention. Could another person with her, while you were dealing with her, trying to get her away, got into the front of your RV. Or went to another side where there’s a bag or something just inside your RV, taken it and moved on before you even knew that they were there.

So if we’re doing something in the wild and we’re by ourself, we need to think of a couple of things. Is there multiple accesses to my RV? Multiple doors or places open to where somebody can get in if I’m on one end I can’t see 360 degrees around unless i’m on top uh It do I do I need to close the doors and lock it and just have the certain doors open that I’m controlling right there no one else can get in if you’re looking you see someone approaching you obviously you can say “hang on just a second I’ll come over to you, don’t come any closer.” You know, “let me get this situated and I’ll come talk to you.”

Or just tell them hang on you talk to them, shut your doors, get in your van and drive off. You don’t have to go talk to anybody you don’t want to. Especially if it’s obvious that they have some type of a mental issue, they could be a danger to you or they’re intoxicated in one way or another. If they continue to come up on you, once again, “stop. Don’t come any closer. I don’t have anything for you.”

This is not the time to be politically correct and nice if you think someone could be a threat or is going to try to steal something or victimize you in one way or another. That doesn’t mean disrespect them and demean them, but I’m going to be assertive, tell them to stop, clear, precise words so they don’t get any closer to me.

Joe Russo And for someone who’s, especially someone who’s traveling solo, we’ve been in plenty of situations, one this past week where we were at a parking lot and we had gotten up that morning and a woman came around to the van and asked for some help. Their vehicle had died overnight. They were also camping there and asked if we could jump them. I assessed the situation, broad daylight, everything else. They looked normal. “Sure, I’ll come over and help you.”

But if you’re, especially if you’re a solo person and you don’t have someone watching your back, I know there can be that feeling like you have to help this person or I’m a bad person for not doing it, but you put yourself in a situation where you might not be sure of. What are some alternatives? Like saying, “hey, I can’t help you, but maybe I can call someone for you.” Or what else can I do without having to interact with that person?

Jeff Dooley Most people care about what other people think about. Most people do. And you don’t want to be labeled, oh, they’re mean, they didn’t want to help me, they didn’t want to do, you know, they just left me here.

But we have to listen to our sixth sense. If it doesn’t feel right, there’s something that just stands out to you that doesn’t feel safe, look, I can call somebody for you. If you don’t have a phone, I’ll call somebody and they’ll be over here. We can call the police, they can jump you off. I don’t have the equipment to do that for you.

And if they say, well, I have jumper cables, I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable with this, let me call someone for you, because I have somewhere to be. Again, you don’t have to be rude about it, but you can deny, you can get them help. So you are helping them, and you just didn’t leave them and had no contact with them at all.

It’s just, you didn’t put yourself in that situation to, A, now you’re hooked up to them, and I’m in an area that I might not be able to get away from in an efficient manner, and if now they’ve set me up to victimize me, what are my options? So I don’t wanna get involved with that. Offer to call somebody for them if they don’t have the contact. And you were on a timeframe that you have to leave. You don’t have the time for this, but you’ll get them help.

Joe Russo Now let’s say we’re in our RV. Something happens. You experience a hit and run. You were somehow victimized, any number of things, and you have to call 911, you have to call the police, they’re gonna come. What are things that you can do to help them? What are things that you should be paying attention to and be able to relate to them in order to, for them to help you?

Jeff Dooley It’s a good question. So, when the police arrive, they wanna make sure that they’re safe first and foremost.

Joe Russo And I guess before we even get there. A lot of us who are, let’s say, boondocking, we’re out in the wild, what are some good tools or how are we going to tell the police where we are? We can’t just say, hey, I’m out in the middle of the forest.

Jeff Dooley Right. And if you don’t know your location, that’s an issue in and of itself, right? I need to know where I am. Especially if you’re boondocking out in the middle of nowhere, how did I get here? And most rural police departments, sheriff’s departments, do you know your GPS coordinates? Because nowadays they have the ability to type the GPS coordinates in and finds you on a map and they can direct the officer or the deputy to where you are. So having that information right off the bat, just on your phone to where you could take a screenshot of it. And if something happens, you can say this is where I am. The dispatchers that you call into will have that information that can direct in there.

So that’s, again, if it’s a timely manner and you’re trying to figure out where you are, that takes time. It’s too late at that point.

Joe Russo Absolutely.

Jeff Dooley So having that knowledge, you can write it on a whiteboard if you have a whiteboard in your RV. That way if something happens, you might know it, but everybody that’s with you needs to know that because what if you can’t communicate or you’re unconscious, now how do they find where they are? And if they don’t have the means or understand how to do that, it’s going to take that much longer.

So you could have a simple little whiteboard or a structured area of if something happens, this is where we are, this is what we do, and this is how we make contact. It’s just a simplistic thing, and then we’re prepared for it in case it happens.

But going back to your question, I want to make sure when the police arrive, they know that I’m not a threat. So if I’m there and there’s the altercation or whatever happens, happen and I’m just waiting on them, I’m gonna turn my lights on. I will be out where they can see me with light that I’m not a threat to them. I’ll have the information from my vehicle or RV readily available to them.

If I’m stopped on the roadway in just a regular car before the police officer gets up there, I will turn all my interior lights on, roll my windows down so they can see everything in my vehicle. They’re not going to feel safe, but they can see their environment to make sure that there’s not an immediate threat. It shouldn’t be any different with an RV or an RVer when you call the police. Set them up to where when they show up that they can see their environment, then they’re not going to experience an immediate threat.

How is that? Well, how are you set up? Do you have lights you can turn on the interior where they can see you? Stay in a lit area if it’s a parking lot, they can pretty much see everything around.

So that’s my first suggestion. So because when they show up, remember they’re coming to something that they have no idea what went on, the information that you give the dispatcher might not be the exact same that they give out or it’s on their MDT or their computer that they get the call on. So they have to figure out what’s going on when they get there.

Second is have all the information available to them. Where is your registration? Where is your insurance? Where is… do you have video of what happened? And my suggestion is if you have an RV or you’re driving across country and you live is you should have some type of a recording device that records when you’re in motion and almost 24 hours just like on my home here.

I have video cameras that continuously roll and or on and if movement happens they’ll start recording because if you have that it’s easy to give that to the law enforcement agency and they can actually see who did what. If it’s a hit and run they’ll see the actual vehicle. Maybe they can get the tag from that from that video. They might if it’s a person to come that comes up smashes a window or does something they’ll actually see the person.

If you see them, you don’t have the video, some of the worst evidence is eyewitness evidence because we’re all human, right? We make mistakes. We see something, but it’s not what we actually see. So just saying it was a white guy in his 20s, well, that’s a huge population, right? What are something to, did he have visible tattoos, right? Was there scars? Did they walk with the limp? If it’s a vehicle, is there damage on the vehicle? Did you know the make and model of the vehicle? Did it have anything that stood out to you? Did it have aftermarket wheels on it? Did it have loud exhaust? Was one panel a different color than the other part of the car? Was this windshield smashed on it? Things that are not easy to change, right?

Because if I say it’s a white-male-twenties with blue jeans and a white shirt, it’s easy to change the blue jeans and the white shirt. I’ve had people at crimes commit a crime as soon as they get out of visual area of where somebody saw them, they’ll take their shirt off and put another one on, or take their pants off and put some different pants on to immediately change their appearance. And there’s a whole lot of things that’s not easy to change that stands out. What was their accent? Right? If they sounded like me, they could be from the southern states, right? Or did they sound like they’re from Boston, right? That’s what we’re looking for. Something that’s not that they can’t change or is hard to change.

Joe Russo Okay, yeah, I think when I had that incident at Planet Fitness, I went inside later and spoke to the manager there, just to let him know this woman was in the parking lot. And when the manager started asking for a description, I was given a physical description, and it was pretty general, because I wasn’t able to get, I was just trying to get away from the woman.

But once I started telling her about what the woman sounded like, the alcohol in her breath, the story she told me. And I told her, I remembered the story and I told her the exact story and she goes, yep, we know exactly who that is. She either uses this story, this story, and like some of the things I had told her were able to pinpoint to that woman. And that woman had already been banned from that parking lot so now she was getting a trespassing. So the police came, filed a report, all that stuff. So those little details were the things that helped me identify who exactly that person was.

Jeff Dooley And most of the time, local people, if it’s somebody from there, they know exactly who it is, just like in your case. And to back up a little bit, if that happens and it was just something that happened small, they didn’t steal anything, they didn’t get anything, it was just a weird confrontation, don’t be hesitant to call the police because that person might be somebody that victimizes RVers all over the country or in their area because they know that they don’t live there, they don’t know them, and you could give some information that could lead to the arrest of somebody that victimizes RVers that come to this area all the time.

So don’t think that the knowledge that you have or your incident that has happened is insufficient. Because that one small little tip could help identify somebody that they’re already looking for.

Joe Russo Sure. And law enforcement, you give them a call and let them know. They’re not going to be upset that you called to tell them this.

Jeff Dooley That’s what they’re paid to do. They’re going to respond to help the individual out and solve crimes.

Joe Russo Now we’ve covered a lot of ground today, and I think a lot of it, as we mentioned earlier, some just grazing the surface of all those details. But are there other things that for this discussion today that you want to impart to the audience or things that we haven’t gone over quite yet?

Jeff Dooley You know, to sum this up, I’d like to say don’t take the fun out of what you’re gonna do, right? The reason why you’re RVing is to go out and spend quality time with your family and loved ones to experience new things. And when we talk about this, even though I’m very passionate about it, you know, some people think that now this is the only thing I think about when we’re traveling and that’s not the purpose of this.

The purpose is to make you aware of how to prepare yourself so you can do all of that and not have to think about your welfare or safety until something happens. I mentioned a little bit earlier, when we travel, some people that know us are like, oh, y’all must not have that much fun because, you know, you’re always thinking about your your safety, that is not the case. We travel stress free because we know we are prepared to handle anything that happens. And if I have that knowledge, it frees you even more to go do what you want, when you want, where you want, because if something happens, you know you can survive that, escape it or handle it. And you’re here to live another day go experience the stuff again.

Joe Russo Sure, and if I could provide an analogy, tell me if you think this is correct. But having that mindset is very similar to, we don’t have kids, but I know plenty of people who do, but when they go to, let’s say Disneyland, or they go RVing and they’re bringing children along, those parents know they need to bring wet wipes, snacks, there’s all sorts of things like a mom might pack in her purse for the kids if they have a breakdown or whatever it is, and be able to be prepared for those moments.

Like if you, I remember as a kid, we would go to Magic Mountain, go on the water rides. My parents always brought along dry socks, because it was just part of life, and I think it’s the same thing. It’s just stuff that you keep in the back of your head. It becomes second nature. You’re prepared, and you’re not worried about what happens when I go on the water ride and I get wet socks, so I have to walk around in those all day.

Jeff Dooley You’re absolutely right. It’s the preparation and the mindfulness to accept that things can and will happen. It might not be extreme, or it could be extreme, but just the acceptance that something can happen on the road to me or to us is a reality. Because if I don’t accept that, I’m living in denial. And if I’m living in denial and something happens, once again, I’m not prepared. I don’t have the tools, I don’t have a plan, and all I can do is hope that I’m gonna come out of this on the high end of it.

Joe Russo Yeah. Well, speaking of which, our training.

Jeff Dooley Yes.

Joe Russo So, you, Kait, and I had a phone call about two weeks ago and I was interested in putting together a class with you for the community. And do you want to tell, kind of explain the class that we all kind of designed together and what we’re thinking about doing?

Jeff Dooley We can, we’ll get together and discuss the mindset, the proper mindset to have. We can discuss the tools that, you know, you should have or you would like to have, what training you need for those tools.

We’re also going to introduce a beginner’s pistol class to where if you don’t have a pistol or you’ve never really handled a pistol or you have one and you’ve never really had any formal training, you know, safety, proper manipulation of it, proper presentation of it, and just get you an introduction to being comfortable with a firearm.

And then from there, we’ll just build on what people want. Because everybody’s mission and everybody’s vision of what they want is going to be a little bit different. Understand that things can and will happen and it’s okay I’m gonna survive and thrive in this because I’m prepared for it.

To ensure that everybody gets what they want out of class I don’t like to run large classes, but we will limit this to about 12 people.

When you talk about mindset and preparation it’s a lifestyle. So there might be a little bit of changes, but it’s not all encompassing. But I appreciate the opportunity to let me share my knowledge and failures over the years that put me in the position that I am now.

Jeff Dooley And if people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that? Yeah, it’s pretty easy. The company name is It’s just as it sounds. Everybody’s personal responsibility to protect themselves and their loved ones. It’s not the police’s decision or responsibility. It’s yours. So if you need to get in touch with me, that is the best way. You can send me emails, text messages, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Joe Russo I could have spent hours talking to Jeff, and I really feel like we were just scratching the surface on a lot of those topics. One thing that really stood out to me that I haven’t thought that much about is you know, if we’re out boondocking, let’s say out in the middle of the forest or the desert, if something happens, help might be hours away and we are really our first responders.

I took a lot out of that and we’ll be applying it into our kind of day-to-day lives of RVing. That said, I would love to have Jeff back on this show and if there are specific topics or things you would like us to discuss, head on over to the YouTube video if you aren’t there already and leave a comment.

Now for those of you who are interested in the class Jeff and I were talking about, in the show notes of today’s episode we will leave a link to a listener form that you can fill out and we will notify you when the details drop for that class.

If you’re a new or experienced RVer and you’re looking for more resources, head on over to our website at I have an article there specifically on traveling with firearms, new beginners guide for RVers, and many other things to help you in your RVing journey.

Down in the show notes, you’ll find a list of the resources we mentioned in today’s episode, along with the books that I’ve written about the RV lifestyle.

So that’s it for today’s episode of RVing with Joe and Kait. Hope you enjoyed it, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe or follow on whatever platform you’re using, and we’ll see you next time. Bye.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment