In an emergency scenario, what do you need to stay alive until help arrives?
Here’s the scenario, gents: You are on a light aircraft with a few other people on the way to a business conference. Midway through the flight there is a malfunction with both engines and the plane goes down in to the middle of nowhere. Thankfully the pilot is able to take the brunt out of the crash with some skillful manoeuvres, so you all survive. Once you’ve stumbled out of the wreckage you take stock and realise that you only have a very general idea of where you are and no real survival equipment; what do you do?
No idea? It’s a good thing you’re reading this, then. Although this exact example may be unlikely, this type of thing happens far too often for you to believe it will never happen to you. Below, I’m going to briefly run through some of the essential manly skills every man should possess.
With night closing in it is absolutely vital to get a fire going for four reasons:
- It provides light and warmth.
- It wards off wild animals.
- You can cook food on it.
- It will alert any rescue parties to your location.
I think they’re pretty compelling reasons, myself.
Anyway, back to the fire. Assuming you don’t have matches or flint and steel to hand, starting a fire isn’t easy. The best way is to find a stick which has a bit of flexibility in it, tie your shoelace (not one of the ones with a plastic coating) to either end, making sure it is taut. Then, get another stick and drive it firmly into a piece of dry ground and surround the base of it with tinder (dry moss or leaves or anything that will catch easily). The final step is to rub the ‘bow’ rapidly near the base of the standing stick; if all goes to plan after a minute or so smoke will appear from the tinder. Steadily add more fuel until you have a roaring fire.
Note: Many aircraft will actually carry matches as part of a survival kit although that is not to be replied on. Not to mention that the downed aircraft is just an example scenario, these skills can be adopted in any circumstances.
Although most modern aircraft will have some form of distress signal, it is still important to be able to get a rough idea of where you are. The simplest and most obvious way to do this is using a compass or GPS device, however, I’m assuming most you don’t carry a compass or a TomTom to a business conference. Smartphones are unlikely to work in the middle of nowhere (if they do, your provider deserves a pat on the back) so that leaves you with your brain and nature.
There are a few ways to use nature as a compass but I’m only going to cover one on how to use your analogue wristwatch as a compass. You should start off by pointing the hour hand at the sun. Then imagine there is a arrow radiating halfway between the hour hand and a hand pointing at the 12. That imaginary middle line is pointing south. North is in the opposite direction. Voila.
Note: There are some ways that are popular like using the moss on trees and wind direction; although these may work they are just as likely to lead you astray. So just make sure you start wearing a watch.
Ideally you’d be able to use the aircraft as a shelter but if it is too mangled or there is a risk it will explode you won’t be able or wish to shelter inside it. Depending on how much time you think you’ll be out there, in part determines what kind of shelter may be appropriate. If you’re about a day away from civilization then a full blown ‘Lost’ style camp is probably a bit over the top.
Obviously you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. But in the scenario above you may be able to use any parachutes as a large and fairly waterproof canopy. Or you could just cover yourself as best you can (share body heat?) and lie near the fire. Once again it all depends where you are: shelter in the arctic tundra, in the desert or rain forest is more important than that in say, a forest. If it’s cold you’ll need to focus on insulation, but if you’re in a rain forest then keeping dry is important.
It is important to try and locate the nearest source of water. In most scenarios you’ll probably be rescued within 24 hours in which case thirst won’t kill you. However, it is best to prepared for the worst so establishing a water supply is important. There aren’t many tricks to finding water: the only ones I can recall are to follow animal tracks—they always find the quickest route to water. Although that idea could very easily lead you away from water or into a bear cave (not to mention you’d have to be able to track). You could also try to head downhill (water always flows down) or listening for any sounds of water which travels far in the silence of the wild.
Once you have found water, in order to make sure it’s as safe to drink as possible you can do two things. Either only drink from flowing water or if you can only find still water you should boil it before drinking. If you’re trapped somewhere with a lot of snow you should melt it before drinking it otherwise it will lower your body temperature and dehydrate you.
You’ve managed to extricate yourself from the wrecked aircraft but you notice that one of your fellow passengers is sporting a fairly nasty cut down their leg and you can’t tell if they’re breathing or not. This is where at least a basic knowledge of first aid comes in handy; obviously first aid is a tricky business and it should only be attempted if you’re confident andcompetent or there is no other choice.
In this situation you’ll want to first check if the passenger is alive; you can do this by seeing if they’re breathing or by checking their pulse. If the passenger is unconscious, and it is safe to do so, put them in the recovery position. Once that’s done you’ll want to stop the bleeding. Using a piece of clothing as a tourniquet, tie it tightly above the wound, which will restrict the bleeding. Then use another piece of material to stop the bleeding directly; apply pressure firmly until bleeding stops.
In the case of a broken leg there is very little you can do (unless you’re a doctor). In most cases it is recommended to strap a sturdy stick on either side of the leg to act as a kind of brace. With a broken wrist or arm all you need to do is construct a makeshift sling to provide support for the limb, which is fairly simple.
So there we go, gents: that is the lowdown on the five key survival skills that I think every man should know. I honestly hope you’ll never need to use them. Don’t wait until you’re in a life threatening situation to practice survival skills like making a fire or tracking animals to water. Once you’re confident, you can show off your new-found manly skills to impress friends on a camping trip, or teach your kids something practical and memorable.