Survival depends a lot upon the conditions that you find yourself in. That includes your physical condition, your location, and the surrounding environment. Other sections on this site talk about preparation in our usual surroundings: home, office, school, or car. But what if you’re in a place where you are cut off. Now you’re back to basics: food, clothing, and shelter. Why is that important? You need to know the rule of three: humans can only survive for 3 hours exposed to extreme cold or hot temperatures, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Leaving your car in extreme weather conditions of cold or hot can end your life quickly, so just knowing what not to do can become very important.
Thinking through a possible survival situation ahead of time can make a huge difference. What could happen on your journey? Could you get lost hiking in the mountains? Could your kayak be taken by the currents and strand you somewhere unexpected? Will you be driving through sparsely populated areas where you could break down? Put the extra things you might need in your vehicle or backpack. A few simple things could make all the difference in survival and rescue.
The “Survivorman”, Les Stroud says that there are always two things with him: a knife and a multi-tool. A multi-tool is a compact, easy to carry apparatus containing several tools that might come in handy in an emergency such as a screwdriver, a knife, pliers, and a can opener. A fixed-blade or belt knife can do everything from preparing a meal to helping split wood. Be sure it’s strong, durable and sharp.
Part of developing your disaster personality could be learning certain survival skills to aid you in the event of an emergency. There are great books on survival skills that are informative and entertaining.
Making a fire is one of the most important survival skills. A fire will keep you warm and allow you to cook your food. It will keep a lot of wildlife from invading your campsite. Smoke from a fire can be an important signal to aid in a rescue, should you need that. Be prepared to start a fire by learning the basics of fire starting and by carrying a lighter, waterproof matches or a magnesium fire starter in your preparedness kit.
The next thing you’ll need is shelter. Making a shelter from debris or perhaps from materials found outdoors can be a good skill to learn. Building shelter and gathering firewood is a lot easier with an axe or folding camping saw.
One of those packet ponchos or emergency blankets can be very useful. Aside from their obvious use, a poncho can be used to make the roof of your simple shelter waterproof. A space blanket can act as a reflector to contain heat from a fire. Those brightly-colored and reflective items can also been seen from the sky.
It doesn’t take much space to pack emergency food and water for a three-day stint. Even though it’s great to be able to catch food and find water, it helps to start out with some. Consider having at least a starter supply of food and water. Unfortunately, most water isn’t safe to drink without boiling or treating – even those clear mountain streams. Water purification tablets are a compact way to make your water safe. Be sure to assess your emergency situation and ration your supplies so as not to run out.
Even a small first aid kit can be huge. Cuts can become infected and an infection is bad for survival. A small packet of antibacterial ointment and a band-aid will protect the wound. Hemostatic gauze (like ActCel) can stop a serious bleeding wound and stabilize a patient until help can arrive. It may take longer than expected to get to a place where you can refill your prescriptions. If you take critical medication, be sure to bring extra with you.
You need light for illumination and for signaling. A fire can be useful for both. A crank-operated LED flashlight will give you unlimited light. Some of those have a built-in radio to keep you informed and entertained. A high-intensity light stick or PowerFlare are waterproof signaling devices that rescuers can see from a distance.
The most important thing in a crisis or disaster situation is not to panic. Stop, think, assess the situation, and make a plan. Use the tools and supplies you brought along to help you in the situation. Being prepared can help you control the situation instead of having it take control of you.
Finally, make sure that friends and family know where you’re going and the route you’ll be taking. Help is much more likely to arrive if someone knows you’re missing.