Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

Spy Secrets That Can

Save Your Life

Get Out Alive

Mailbag Monday

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I live in Ohio near the recent train derailment. To ensure the water is safe to drink I’ve been using a filter. But I’m almost out of filters. Can I use water purification tablets? Do these work?

-From Teresa R.

Answer: The question of filtering water vs. treating water really depends on what your situation is. Basically, if you are drinking water from a high mountain river then the water is probably pretty clean and you could simply use iodine tablets.

However, there are a few different reasons why I prefer using a water filter to get fresh drinking water. First and most importantly, in a survival situation chances are that I would be drinking from a dirty water source that may have floating bugs or other nasty things.

If I just treat the water with tablets, I’m still going to have the floating bugs and other dirt.

Second, iodine tablets take at least 30 minutes to treat the water before it’s safe to drink.

In a survival situation I want to be able to stop and drink water immediately at the source because I may need to keep moving.

Overall, I think a filter provides the best way to provide clean drinking water and I would only use tablets as a last resort


I purchased tactical pens for all my family members. They are the best gift! My question is, how do you travel with them through airport security without getting stopped and questioned?

-From Brett C.

Answer: When I travel, I typically put my tactical pen inside my carry-on and send it through the security screening.

In addition, I will put the cap of the pen on the sharp end so the screeners can see it is a writing pen. I never carry the pen on my body or put it in the little tray with my wallet.

The thing is, I’ve heard some people will show off the pen or even tell the security screeners about the pen. Frankly, the TSA agents can take away anything they deem dangerous, so if you show it to them, you will most likely have it taken away.

However, I have traveled all over the world with my Tactical pen and I have never had any issues.


I have a question about putting signs up at your home regarding having a security system on premises. Do you think there is any truth to the fact that it would attract burglars to break in?

-From Wade V.

Answer: The number of homes that have security systems is increasing thanks to the many security options including DIY systems.

The reality is more and more people are getting these systems for personal safety especially at night and not just because they may own valuables. Most burglars are looking for easy access to homes and they don’t want to set off an alarm.

Typically, burglars aren’t masterminds and won’t be planning an elaborate burglary. I personally think having an alarm sign will act as more of a deterrent to the average burglar and is something everyone should have, even if they don’t actually have a security system.

The fact is, if I am a burglar, I want the home with the easiest access, not the home that’s going to set off a loud alarm that notifies police. This is why I have security alarm signs around my home.


My wife gave me a handgun safe for my birthday. It has an electronic battery-powered keypad. I worry that battery-powered access could fail. Do you think these types of safes are a good idea?

-From Theo M.

Answer: There are multiple factors to take into consideration such as who manufactured the safe, and if they are a quality company.

Yet, even the best quality safes could have batteries that run out.

The fact is, the only way to virtually guarantee your safe wouldn’t fail would be to purchase one with a mechanical lock. (Simplex safe that doesn’t run on batteries.)

I have two gun safes on my nightstand.

One is a battery powered keypad and the other is a mechanical lock safe. If something happens to the battery powered safe then I have my backup.


Is there a way to put a tracking device on the gun itself? This way I can track it if it is lost or stolen.

-From Julie P.

Answer: GPS trackers are so tiny you can literally attach them to almost anything these days.

But, I personally wouldn’t attach a tracker to a firearm because I would never want it to accidentally get in the way when I need to use the firearm.

I’m not a big fan of adding too many accessories to guns and I think a GPS tracker would not be worth it.

One option is to attach the tracker to the case that you typically keep the gun in. Ideally, the gun is either on you or in the case. So, it would be easy to locate.


I live in a big city where crime is out of control. Would you ever make a bulletproof vest part of your normal everyday attire? I’m so worried about getting shot that I’m considering it.

-From Alex B.

Answer: Before joining the CIA, I was a police officer and I can tell you that bulletproof vests are uncomfortable and not something you would want to wear every time you leave your home. (They are brutal in 100-degree heat.)

However, I can understand your desire to keep yourself safe, which is why I do recommend carrying a bulletproof insert in a backpack or laptop bag if you carry one of these.

You can also buy body armor and store it in your car or have it on your nightstand for home defense.

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