By Rob K12
Emergency survival situations can take many forms. You might be lost in the wilderness or have suffered an aircraft or vehicle crash. You could be caught up in a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. No matter what kind of situation you face, there is a set of concepts that always applies - the Priorities of Survival.
The order in which you address the survival priorities may vary based on your situation. But in any emergency, you will probably end up addressing all of them eventually. The seven Priorities of Survival are: Positive Attitude, First Aid, Shelter, Signal, Water, Fire, and Food. Depending on your situation, Security and Navigation may come into play, and Tools can also prove useful.
Survival is 90% psychological. Maintaining a positive, proactive mindset is essential to your survival. Mental and emotional stressors like fear, anger, fatigue, boredom, depression, and isolation only add to any physical challenges you face. Consider all this for a moment, and it becomes very clear why you need to be mentally prepared. Identify psychological stressors and overcome them with something to live for, like family, friends, faith, or even revenge. Whatever it takes, use something to motivate yourself through the situation.
There are numerous cases of people who survived unfortunate circumstances only because they wanted to get back to their loved ones. Realize that you are in a survival situation. Decide that you will get yourself - and anyone with you - home alive. Be a leader and apply your survival skills. Other factors come into play when you have elderly people or children in your group. You now need to consider the possibility of different dietary needs, physical stamina, or medications.
You will need to rest to maintain your mental abilities. During your survival situation, you should incorporate a rest plan into your daily chores. Sleep deprivation significantly degrades your ability to make sound decisions.
First aid is important because you need to treat injuries immediately, especially life threatening ones, to ensure that you and anyone with you can keep going. You will have a difficult time performing any other tasks if you do not tend to the injuries first.
Shelter gets you out of the elements and helps maintain your core body temperature. Hypothermia is the number one killer of outdoor enthusiasts. Make sure you have gear and a plan to deal with hypothermia. Your clothes are your first line of shelter. Stuffing debris such as leaves and pine needles into your clothing will increase heat retention. You can also look for natural shelter such as fallen trees and caves. Your next line of shelter is man-made and can be constructed from tents, tarps, emergency blankets, or even a trash bag.
There are two types of signals – audio and visual. Three of anything is an international sign of distress. Three whistle blasts, three vehicle horn blasts, or three signal fires are good examples. Signal fires should be smoky during the day and bright at night. You can use anything shiny to reflect the sunlight and serve as a signal mirror, like a CD, DVD, or the screen of a cell phone.
Water naturally runs downhill. To increase your chances of finding a water source, travel toward the base of a hill. Other places to look are natural crevices such as those found in trees and rocks. Simply laying a piece of waterproof material – plastic sheeting, an emergency blanket, or even a jacket - into a bowl-shaped depression in the ground will catch rain and provide you with some potable water.
There are many effective water purification devices on the market. Boiling is the best way to make water safe to drink. Bring water to a rolling boil for five minutes to kill all living pathogens.
There are almost unlimited uses for fire: heat, signaling, light, cooking, and entertainment are only a few. Fire preparation is essential and you must have four components ready before you try to start a fire. The components are an ignition source, tinder, kindling, and fuel. Types of ignition sources include lighters, matches, and ferrocerium spark rods. Tinder is a thin, dry, fluffy, flammable material with a low combustion point, like dry leaves, dead grass, or pine needles. Kindling is small, dry twigs up to about the thickness of a pencil. Fuel is categorized as wood that is about wrist diameter and larger. Fuel maintains the fire once you’ve got it going.
Food is extremely important to maintain your energy and stamina. Prepare yourself with a supply of freeze-dried food, trail mix, and high-protein bars before you head out into the wild. If you find yourself in a survival situation and are without food, there are other options. You can eat almost anything with fur, feathers, or scales once it’s cooked. All animal food must be cooked thoroughly to kill parasites. Plants, bugs, and nuts are also sources of sustenance and are an easier way to provide needed vitamins, minerals, calories, and fat.
No matter what tools you choose for security - firearms, blades, pepper spray - you must obtain proper training before you need to use them. Although you are in a survival situation, all the rules of safe handling of weapons must be observed. You cannot risk injury due to the mishandling of a weapon.
Before you head out to the wilderness, you need to have a map of the area and a functional compass. Also check with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to get an up-to-date and accurate declination for your area of travel. If you don’t know what "declination" is, study up on it before you venture out.
You can navigate without a map and compass using the moon. Both the sun and moon rise from the east and set in the west. When the moon has two points, as in a crescent moon, draw an imaginary line starting from the top point to the second point and continue down to the ground. That is roughly south. You can now orient yourself from there.
Tools make work tasks easier and more efficient. Tools may include modern devices such as: multi-tools, axes, hatchets, saws, or more primitive options such as rocks, sticks, and bones. Try to have a few basic tools on hand at all times.
Rob K12 is the owner and chief instructor at K12 Survival Solutions. He is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has extensive experience all over the world. He is a graduate of the “C” level SERE school and earned his Wilderness First Aid certification from the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.