Wilderness Survival

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<p>Emerg Med Clin N Am 22 (2004) 475509</p> <p>Wilderness survivalPaul M. Morton, MDa,b,*, Peter Kummerfeldtb,cDepartment of Emergency Medicine, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium (SAUSHEC) Emergency Medicine Residency Program, 59 MDW/MCE, 2200 Berquist, Suite 1, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX, 78236-5300 b USAF Survival School, US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, USA c OutdoorSafe, P.O. Box 62039, Colorado Springs, CO, 80962 USAa</p> <p>Survival training does not presume to provide people with the skills to run naked into the woods or to jump onto a raft in the open sea, look directly into the eyes of nature, and say, Im going to beat you. Rather, the intention is to help people nd answers that will teach them how not to challenge nature. Throughout the world, many people nd themselves surprised by bad weather, caught out after dark, injured, or ill (ie, becoming a victim to one of the topics discussed elsewhere in this edition), or lost and forced to spend a night or two in an austere environment. Spending an unexpected night out does not have to become an emergency or a survival situation. When one plans on the possibility of spending an unexpected night out, it becomes more of an inconvenience than an ordeal. Mental preparation is as important, if not more important, than the physical steps one needs to take. This introduction to wilderness survival discusses basic survival rules and psychology, mental preparation, selected survival skills, and essential equipment. The skills discussed include shelter building, re starting, water acquisition, signaling, and navigation. Among the litany of other survival topics in the literature, these skills are the most important. An eort has been made to concentrate on the skills and lessons that are simple, straightforward, and most easily used in a wilderness emergency. More complicated skills described in survival texts, such as trapping, elaborate shelter building, and very primitive re starting, are not discussed herein. The basics of survival specic to dierent environments are detailed.</p> <p>* Corresponding author. 4815 Abo Lane, Monument, CO 80132. E-mail address: paul.morton@usafa.af.mil (P.M. Morton). 0733-8627/04/$ - see front matter 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2004.01.009</p> <p>476</p> <p>P.M. Morton, P. Kummerfeldt / Emerg Med Clin N Am 22 (2004) 475509</p> <p>The information presented herein is not a substitute for properly equipping oneself, clothing oneself, or practicing life-survival skills. The purpose is to help readers to learn how to survive with the least amount of pain and the greatest possibility of success.</p> <p>Preparation for the survival situation One persons survival situation is anothers backyard. Humans live in some of the harshest conditions, and many argue that, the harsher the environment, the happier the people (eg, trauma surgeons, Eskimos, Indians). Survival is replaced by routine when we understand our environment well enough to know its potential to support life as well as take it. For most Americans, survival training involves things like crossing the street, using an automatic teller machine, changing lanes while dialing a cell phone, or learning how to build a retirement account. Most of our lives are spent overcoming our environment rather than living with it. So how do we become prepared? Mental preparation begins with accepting the possibility that somewhere, sometime in the future, you might be in trouble. Accepting this possibility is the rst step toward preparing for it. The next step is analyzing the risks and measuring your skills, your clothing, and your equipment against those risks and evaluating how well prepared you are to survive. Our ability to cope in a crisis is dicult to measure. As biased individuals, we would like to believe that we would never be in trouble and, if we were, that we could all cope with an unplanned night or two out. The reality is something dierent. If you let this belief interfere with the need to prepare for a survival situation, you may nd yourself grossly unprepared to cope when the time comes to do so. One must arrive in the wilderness clothed and equipped. Contrary to some survival books, improvising the clothing and equipment you may need will be dicult, if not impossible, to do. Arrive clothed and prepared to survive. One must practice survival skills. Once you have learned how to ride a bicycle, you never forget. The same can be said of survival skills. Once you have built a re under dicult conditions, with simulated injuries, using procedures that are no longer second nature (striking a match), you should be able to do it again when your life hangs in the balance. Survival skills are not intuitive but must be learned. Survival cannot be learned on the job. No matter how well prepared, skilled, or determined an individual is, a little good luck will always be appreciated. Well-prepared people make their own luck. As a wise philosopher once said, It is better to be lucky than good, but when your luck runs out you had better be very, very good!</p> <p>P.M. Morton, P. Kummerfeldt / Emerg Med Clin N Am 22 (2004) 475509</p> <p>477</p> <p>Psychologic versus physical skills Who will survive? Although how people react in the midst of a crisis varies from one person to another, studies have identied three broad behavioral patterns that are consistent [1]: Ten percent to 15% of people will remain relatively calm. These people will be able to collect their thoughts quickly; their awareness of the situation will be intact; and their reasoning abilities will not be impaired to any signicant extent. They will be able to assess the situation, make a plan, and act on that plan. Seventy-ve percent of people will be stunned and bewildered. Their reasoning ability will be signicantly impaired, and they will have a difcult time thinking clearly. These people will behave in a reexive, almost automatic or mechanical manner. Their eld of attention becomes very restricted, and, visually, they may suffer tunnel vision. These people are unable to express any feelings or emotions. Ten percent to 15% of people will tend to show a high degree of inappropriate behavior that is ineffective in coping with a lifethreatening situation and that may be counterproductive, adding to the danger. Uncontrolled weeping, confusion, screaming, and paralyzing anxiety characterize this group. Panic is ones greatest enemy and must be controlled. In the authors experience as survival instructors at the Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion (SERE) School at the United States Air Force Academy, we have seen some of the best and brightest ocer candidates panic or not know what to do in a survival situation. The purpose of the school is to prepare military aviators to survive in the environments over which they y. The training has helped bring back many of those aviators to friendly hands after being shot down or ejecting. Those who have had the training and who have lived through a real survival situation tout the importance of the preparation beforehand. Coping with a survival emergency has been said to be 80% mental, 10% equipment, and 10% survival skills. Having had some prior preparation is key to the psychologic component, in addition to the skills and equipment component. If you can use your head, you can survive. Because panic is a noncerebral function, maintaining a logical approach to staying alive can most eectively control it. When you get lost, the rst thing you must do is admit to yourself that you do not know where you are. Get as comfortable as possible; priorities should be rst aid, warmth, and shelter. Sit down. Get o your feet. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to regain control. Control the urge to keep moving. Try to relax. Think about the clothing you are wearing and re building potential, and then take stock of your supplies and situation. Some people use the acronym STOP (sit down, think, observe, plan) to help them. If deer mice, chickadees, and squirrels can survive the worst conditions</p> <p>478</p> <p>P.M. Morton, P. Kummerfeldt / Emerg Med Clin N Am 22 (2004) 475509</p> <p>nature can oer, so can you. People choose to live in desert regions and in the arctic! The decision to travel or stay put When you are as comfortable and protected as possible, try to remember the path you took earlier in the day. Look at your map. What landmarks did you see along the way? Can you identify these landmarks on your map? Have you been going uphill or downhill? How many rivers did you cross? How many ridges did you climb? Did you leave tracks? It helps to draw a map on the ground. By a process of deduction and using common sense, you may be able to unscramble your thoughts and reorient yourself. Often, you will nd that you are not as lost as you rst thought you were. Unless you can positively locate yourself, the best advice is to stay put and not travel. Do not run around looking for something familiar. This activity will not only cause confusion but will also exhaust you, dehydrate you, and increase the likelihood of injuring yourself. It will also make the searchers job much more dicult; you may move into an area that has already been searched and that may not be searched again until all other possibilities have been investigated. Wait for rescuers to nd you. They are trained and equipped to rescue the lost and injured. Sit tight, protect yourself, signal, and let them nd you. Most rescues in the United States are accomplished within 72 hours, especially when the person has told someone else where he or she was going. Your job is to survive until they arrive. The time it takes to be found and recovered may seem to drag on forever, and remaining in one place, waiting to be found, will take all of your willpower. History shows that survivors who have been able to overcome their impatience and desire to walk out and who have stayed in one place have had a better chance of surviving than persons who continued to move. Sit tight, survive, and wait for rescue to come to you. On the other hand, if you have located yourself and decide to travel, take it easy on the march back to civilization. A forced march will tire and hurt you. Do not fall into the trap of underestimating the distance and overestimating your ability to travel. Navigational skills are discussed in a later section. Basic survival rules Now that you have calmed yourself, it is time to prioritize. The following rule of threes gives a framework from which to select the most important tasks rst. People can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. AirThis need is self-explanatory. Avalanches, res, near drowning, altitude, toxic gases, and so on can result in situations where the lack of oxygen becomes a problem for the survivor.</p> <p>P.M. Morton, P. Kummerfeldt / Emerg Med Clin N Am 22 (2004) 475509</p> <p>479</p> <p>ShelterFrequently, we ask our students, If you were lost in a snow blizzard late in the day without any gear, what would you do? The answer we hear most is, Build a re and start building traps for wild food. This is not exactly the best answer. Although shelter and warmth are early priorities, wasting energy on a difcult skill such as trapping might not be the best option. WaterHydration becomes a huge priority in any survival experience. Dehydration quickly reduces a survivors ability to function safely and efciently. One should drink enough to urinate approximately 1 quart per day (1 quart = 32 oz = approximately 40 mL of urine produced per hour, which is adequate hydration per standard medical practices). It takes an average human approximately 60 seconds of timed urination in a day to provide 32 oz of urine. FoodAre you low on energy when you feel that impatient funny thrumming in your gut? No. For every extra pound of fat, there is approximately 4000 calories of energy. This energy source does not become mobilized until 18 to 24 hours of fasting. Practice going 24 to 48 hours without food. Once you get past the initial 18 to 24 hours, it gets much easier.</p> <p>Ten basic survival rules Ten basic rules for surviving a wilderness emergency will help you return to safety. Tell two reliable people where you are going and what route and equipment you will be taking. Being involved with search and rescue (SAR) groups, the authors realize how important this information is in expediting and preparing for a search. It governs the search method (hasty teams, line searches, dog searches, or air searches), the equipment needed (technical climbing gear, medical supplies), the number of searchers and teams, and so on (Figs. 1 and 2). Tell those persons when you are going to return. In addition, plan to return to your camp or vehicle before dark. Call those persons when you return. Sign into backcountry logs and ranger stations when available. Never travel alone; often, you cannot assess your own medical condition, especially with altitude sickness, dehydration, hypothermia, and so on. Take along two compasses and a topographic map specic to your locale. A second compass serves two purposesit can be used if your primary compass is lost or broken, and it helps conrm the ndings of the rst compass. Many lost individuals tend not to trust a single compass, trusting instead their own directional abilities and thinking that the compass may not be functioning properly.</p> <p>480</p> <p>P.M. Morton, P. Kummerfeldt / Emerg Med Clin N Am 22 (2004) 475509</p> <p>Fig. 1. SAR teams require vastly dierent types of equipment and gear depending on the rescue scenario. The more information the SAR team has about your skills and your equipment, the better o you are. Photograph shows one of the authors (PMM) involved in a high-angle rescue drill. (Courtesy of Paul M. Morton, MD and Peter Kummerfeldt, MD).</p> <p>Do not leave messages outside your vehicle. Leave them inside the vehicle upside down on the seat so that thieves do not use the information and authorities can nd it. Stop and look back frequently; know what the way out looks like. Carry a survival kit (see the section on survival kits). Practice your survival skills. You should not count on anyone else to help you when you get in trouble. These rules and the skills and equipment discussed in the next sections will help you to take care of yourself.</p> <p>Survival skills A multitude of skills may be useful in a survival situation. The following sections cover some of the more important skills. Shelter building In most situations, protection from the elements is the immediate need. The rst shelter will be the clothes you are wearing, any extra clothing you may have, and the waterproof windproof material in your survival kit. Although re can be very benecial, it may not be necessary if you are wearing good clothing and can construct an eective shelter. The need for an emergency shelter in which to spend the night or sit out a storm often becomes apparent to the inexperienced pers...</p>