Recently there have been many discussions about end of the world scenarios, fueled by 2012 predictions. In addition to threats of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes, we are threatened with economic meltdowns, nuclear war, the oil crisis, and other fears. Many people have become interested in preparing for a disaster.
Addressing this increased interest, National Geographic Channel has been featuring a series called “Doomsday Preppers.” This series shows the stories of people who are preparing for such disasters. The series gives ideas for how we may all prepare.
Camping outlets are all in favor of folks buying camping and related supplies. I have had a survival kit ready since I got out of the Army. I follow the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” Interested individuals, like Boy Scouts, may want to look at BePrepared.com, for items related to food storage and Ready to Eat meals.
In addition to food preparation, here is a quick survival lesson: There are seven priorities in any survival situation. In every Army survival school, we learned these seven priorities, in the order listed below. They may switch priority, depending on the situation.
1. Communication: You need to know what is happening, and you need to let others know what is happening. I have a combination, hand-crank AM radio/flashlight in my disaster kit. If electricity goes down, communications will be hampered. You may want to consider a ham radio and battery powered radio equipment. You need a way to charge your cell phone.
Even with a fully charged cell phone, cell phone stations may be out of service. You want important phone numbers and papers at hand. You need plans for outside contact and rendezvous. In more primitive situations, a compass and map are a good idea.
2. Shelter: More people die of exposure in survival situations than anything else. Think of these three areas: Tent, Bedding, Clothes.
Tent: Your house is a first choice. A Civil Defense or Red Cross shelter, or the local school are next. I carry a bedroll and small blanket in the back of my truck. The truck itself is a form of shelter. In case you have no building, car or tent, you can make a primitive shelter from a poncho and emergency blanket.
Bedding: A bedroll or even two blankets work well as bedding. Avoid sleeping on the ground: even a thin ground cloth or poncho under you is a great idea. Wrap up in the blanket, one layer below you, one over you.
Clothes are your next layer of survival protection. Don’t forget gloves: your hands get torn up quickly in primitive disaster cases. Good shoes, a hat, and a jacket are needed. For additional warmth, sleep in your jacket.
3. Heat: Closely related to shelter, this prevents exposure and hypothermia, but also provides warmth, light, a sense of well-being and a place of refuge. You may need to heat water, cook or warm food, or sterilize your knife blade. Sterno, matches, flint and steel, steel wool, a Bic lighter, even your car or flashlight battery can provide sources of heat. Yes, you can rub two sticks together, but a match is so much easier.
Learn how to build a fire; carrying a camp stove and fuel is heavy, but worth it if you have a car and plenty of gas. By the way, gas burns as fuel for a stove also. Gas only explodes if under pressure: we used to use gas for our cooking fire in the Army, but be very careful. If you are in a primitive survival situation, collect dead, dried wood; live wood is hard to cut, and does not burn well.
4. Water: Water is essential, and if you survive exposure, the next threat is dehydration. You will die of dehydration in three to six days. No one usually starves to death in a survival situation. Carrying water is difficult. Water weighs 8 lbs. per gallon, so carry a quart or two if hiking, and have a plan to get more. I take four gallons of water in plastic milk jugs when I camp in the hills of California for two to three days.
In any disaster, you need to find clear, clean water, but you also need a way to purify it. Boiling is good, but requires a fire. You want a fire anyway. Many lakes and streams are contaminated; use a chlorine tablet in each quart of canteen water. If you are collecting water, put a screen over the top to screen out gross contaminants. I carry a 5″ X 5″ section of window screen with my canteen kit. I then toss in a chlorine tablet to further purify the water.
For larger amounts of water, decontaminate your filtered water with common household bleach: it is a 1:10 dilution. If you have 1 quart of water (1000 mls.), put in 100 mls. (5/6 of a cup) of bleach in only 900 mls. (9/10 of a quart) of water. It will taste like swimming pool water: some carry Kool-Aid to make the water taste better. If you have a gallon of water, save 400 mls (13.3 oz.) of that water in another container, and add 400 mls. of bleach to the gallon of water.
5. Food: No one dies of starvation in a natural disaster; someone from Civil Defense will find you, or you will get to a Red Cross shelter. In the forest or jungle, there are many plants and animals that can serve as sources of food. Plan to carry some freeze dried or dry foods: trail mix, beef jerky and dry milk are great choices. Canned food is the next choice, but is heavy to carry in a backpack. You can use the can as a cup, by the way. Don’t forget a can opener… and a mess kit: plate, bowl, utensils. Your knife will be handy here.
6. Tools: I suggest a knife in any survival kit. In survival school, we were given four items: a poncho, waterproof matches, a canteen kit, and a knife. A good knife is a universal tool. It can be used to cut, pry, smash, probe, lever, hammer, cook, open, etc.
Other useful tools are a hatchet (both knife and hatchet are nice weapons if needed), a saw and shovel (also nice weapons). The more tools you have, the better you are, but weight is a concern. Much of survival is what you bring with you. Trying to make rope from tree bark is painful, tedious, and does not give you much product. Take a rope. Use it to build a shelter.
A first aid kit is a very good idea: bandages, scissors, first aid cream, and a pain killer like Tylenol is great: you will need it if you are outdoors. A canteen kit: canteen, carrying case, flexible screen filter, chlorine tablets. A hygiene kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss (also can be used as string), razor, fingernail clippers, scissors; toilet paper is a luxury to some. Include a washcloth and small towel. Wash your face, hands, arm pits, groin and feet at least every other day.
7. Travel: Last on the list. In an “I’m lost in the woods” scenario, let civilization come find you. They have many resources at hand, and you can’t walk that fast. Unless you really need to leave an area, stay put. It takes energy to move out, and they will be looking for you where you were last seen, or where the car broke down.
Stay with the car or the airplane, they will look for you near the wreckage. Use the wreckage as a shelter. If the plane is on fire, move about 50′ away, and use the fire as a source of heat. When the fire is done, you have a smelly shelter. Have you tried building a shelter out of branches? Stay in or near the wreck. In a doomsday survival scenario, walking or biking will be “no gas” options. Or, saddle up, anyone?
I’m hoping you will never need this information. Be safe out there.