To survive is to continue to live or exist despite dangerous or life threatening situations. There are many circumstances that could threaten the survival of a person or a group of people. Some of these include dire socio-economic situations and war. It could also be unexpected situations which arise suddenly such as being shipwrecked or marooned on an uninhabited Island, lost in a desert, or cold, isolated Arctic regions or in a dense forest. Looking at these various scenarios, it is clear that to survive in each of these situations one would most certainly need somewhat different sets of skills. Therefore, survival skills have to be discussed in terms of the scenario to which they apply and, hence, one could say that there are physical survival skills and economic survival skills among others.
Natural disasters can strike seemingly any time, and often with little warning. Today, the world and specifically the U.S. is facing disaster, after a disaster. Can we even keep count anymore? It’s time to be prepared and knows how to survive a natural disaster — before a truly catastrophic disaster strikes.
Survival Skills and Techniques During Disaster
1. Securing a Suitable Campsite
Selecting a comfortable and suitable tent or shelter campsite is a useful skill, regardless of whether you set up camp in a designated camping area or if you stealth camp in a natural, unprepared site.
Locate a suitable site for camping. You will need to avoid spots that have natural danger like insect nests and places that are prone to be flooded.
The easiest and often most suitable way to choose a campsite is to look for a site that already exists.
A good campsite should be close, but not too close, to water. By camping close to a water source, you get the convenience of a lighter pack (you don’t have to carry all that water).
Avoid camping beneath the tallest trees. Weather can change quickly (depending on your area), and camping beneath tall trees during a storm is, well, not smart.
Look for trees with suitable branches for hanging your food, because if there are bears around… and if you have food, they want food.
2. Building a Shelter or Debris Hut
Build a suitable shelter that will insulate you from cold and precipitation.
When it finally occurs to you that you’ve lost your way and need a shelter, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and look around. A quick scan will reveal how much protection you may need to survive in the terrain. Check out what kind of plant material is readily available in the area to make a debris hut. You’ll need some strong structural material and plenty of insulating materials.
Look for a long, sturdy pole to form the backbone of your hut. You will need more wood to form the ribs of the structure. Bring in as much dead leaves, pine needles, dry grass and moss as you can. Shrubs, as well as green boughs, that you can break off low lying branches of trees are welcome, too.
3. Starting a Fire from a Small Battery
A small battery and fine steel wool can be used to start a fire. Simply bridge the battery terminals with the steel wool and a spark will instantly form in the steel wool.
How does it work?
The basic principle involved is that you need enough “electrical current” flowing through the steel wool to get it hot enough to “light.” If the steel wool is too “thick” (strands are too large in diameter), then there isn’t enough “resistance” in the strands. In that case – you are just discharging the battery – and not ending up getting fire.
A nine-volt battery is great – since it has a reasonable high voltage – and the terminals are close together. You can ignite steel wool with a 2-cell flashlight. Just take the “end” off of the flashlight and brush the steel wool against the contacts.
The best route is to get an assortment of steel wool, and an assortment of batteries – and then to play for a while. Soon it should become pretty obvious what the optimal combinations might be.
4. Building Up Your Fire
Even though it is not directly a survival need, fire is one of the most useful basic survival skills. It can help warm your body or your shelter, dry your clothes, boil your water, and cook your food. Also, fire can provide psychological support in a survival situation, creating a sense of security and safety.
Build up your fire by using dry easily flammable materials like dry leaves and twigs. There are four key ingredients: tinder bundle of dry, fibrous material (cotton balls covered in Vaseline or lip balm are an excellent choice, if you’ve got them) and wood in three sizes—toothpick, Q-tip, and pencil. Use a forearm-sized log as a base and windscreen for your tinder. When the tinder is lit, stack the smaller kindling against the larger log, like a lean-to, to allow oxygen to pass through and feed the flames. Add larger kindling as the flame grows, until the fire is hot enough for bigger logs.
5. Finding a Drinkable Water
Getting lost or stranded in the wild is something that could happen to just about anyone. The single most important thing you need to live is water. If you’re resourceful and know where to look, you can find or collect good drinking water in just about any environment on Earth.
Find drinkable water. Your ability to distinguish between clean and unclean water will be critical here. As a rule, water that is stagnant or has been in the same spot for a while is to be avoided, while snow, dew, and rainwater are good for drinking.
Here are some resorts on where and what kind of water that you’ll drink is safe.
- Clear, flowing water is your best option, as the movement doesn’t allow bacteria to fester. This means that small streams should be what you look for first. Rivers are acceptable, but larger ones often have a lot of pollution from upstream. Lakes and ponds are okay, but they’re stagnant, meaning there’s an increased chance for bacteria.
- Collecting and drinking rainwater is one of the safest ways to get hydrated without the risk of bacterial infection. This is especially true in wild, rural areas (in urban centers, the rain first travels through pollution, emissions, etc.). One method to collect is to tie the corners of a poncho or tarp around trees a few feet off the ground, place a small rock in the center to create a depression, and let the water collect.
- Collect heavy morning dew. Looking for a way to collect up to a liter of water per hour? Tie some absorbent cloths or tufts of fine grass around your ankles, and take a pre-sunrise walk through tall grass, meadows, etc. Wring out the water when the clothes are saturated, and repeat. Just be sure you aren’t collecting dew from any poisonous plants.
6. Identifying Edible Plants
Be able to differentiate between edible and non-edible plants. Going after big animals might prove to be a costly waste of valuable time. Instead go for the little things that are easily available such as small rodents, reptiles, and plants. You need to buy books that tell you about edible and non-edible plants in different environments and memorize them.
Here are a few plants which are abundant throughout North America:
Cattail: known as the “supermarket of the swamp”, the roots, shoots, and pollen heads can be eaten
Conifers: the inner bark, known as the cambium, is full of sugars, starches, and calories, and can be eaten on most evergreen, cone-bearing trees [except for Yew, which is poisonous]
Grasses: the juices from the leaves can provide nutrition, and the root corn can be roasted and eaten
Oaks: all acorns can be leached of their bitter tannic acids, and then eaten, providing an excellent source of protein, fats, and calories
Be sure that you properly identify any plant you plan on consuming (using field guides and/or the guidance of an experienced expert). Many plants can be difficult to identify and some edible plants have poisonous look-a-likes. If you cannot identify the plant, do not eat it.
7. Making and Using a Multi-pronged Spear
Learn how to make and use a multi-pronged spear with wood and knife. This is the easiest way of hunting small game.
Gigging (hunting with a multi-pronged spear) is the simplest way to catch anything from snakes to fish. Cut down a sapling of about an inch in diameter, and then split the fat end with a knife (or sharp rock) into four equal sections ten inches down. Push a stick between the tines to spread them apart, then sharpen the points. You’ve got an easy-to-use four-pronged spear. Much easier for catching critters than a single sharp point.
8. Navigating During the Day
Learn how to navigate during the day by using the position of the sun or by using an analog watch to get your general bearing.
On the other hand, irrespective of whether you carry a GPS or not, the ability to interpret a map and navigate with a compass are fundamental backcountry skills that every serious hiker should know.
The key to being a proficient navigator is paying attention. Establishing the habit of keeping track of where you are at all times means regularly correlating what you see on the map with what you see on the ground.
You can also use an analog watch to find the north-south line. Just hold the watch horizontally and point the hour hand at the sun. Imagine a line running exactly midway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. This is the north-south line. On daylight savings? Draw the line between the hour hand and one o’clock.
9. Navigating During the Night
Learn how to navigate by night by finding the North Star (Polaris). Polaris is at the end of The Little Dippers handle. By drawing a line between the two stars once you find The Big Dipper and by extending this line beyond the Little Dipper, you will find that it aligns with Polaris. If you then face Polaris you are facing the true north.
If there is a crescent moon in the sky, connect the horns of the crescent with an imaginary line. Extend this line to the horizon to indicate a southerly bearing. Once you determine your direction, pick a landmark nearby or in the distance to follow by daylight.
10. Tying a Bowline
Learn how to tie different kinds of knots particularly the bow line, it may be your lifesaver in the jungle.
The Bowline makes a reasonably secure loop in the end of a piece of rope. It has many uses, e.g., to fasten a mooring line to a ring or a post. Under load, it does not slip or bind. With no load, it can be untied easily. Two bowlines can be linked together to join two ropes. Its principal shortcoming is that it cannot be tied, or untied when there is a load on the standing end. It should, therefore, be avoided when, for example, a mooring line may have to be released under load.