The ability to survive begins now. Being prepared and being in the right physical condition and mindset to endure a survival situation takes work. Ask yourself what you can do today to be prepared physically for the stressful and exhausting demands of a survival situation. First off having supplies and items which will aid you in a disaster are of course important. I’ve written extensively on what types of gear to evaluate and choose to put in your 72 Hour Bag. But in addition, it’s just as important to be in proper physical condition to have the ability to endure what ever nature throws at you. I’ve also spoken about keeping your vehicle in proper operating condition, not needing to use your 72 Hour Bag is better than having to any day of the week.
Just as important as those things is the psychological mindset. Having the will to live outweighs any preparation. There are countless stories of people surviving incredible situations and in the end they all say the same thing. It was their will to live which pulled them through. While there are ways to train for just these events, it’s doubtful many of us are going to go to SERE School to get in that mindset. So the next best thing is becoming aware of the enemies of survival.
In the Survival Handbook they came up with a mnemonic for the word SURVIVAL.
Size up your situation. Situational awareness is vital. What is the threat? Where are the avenues of safety? Every environment has its own characteristics, figure out which will be the immediate threats. Heat, Cold, Flood, violent attack. Asses the equipment you have readily available to you. What items should you seek out.
Use all your senses. The well trained react without thinking to an immediate threat in a positive reactive way. Most people who are untrained will react in a negative way which could get you into trouble. This is why it’s important to either get training or become aware of what to do in emergency situations. React in a calm manner, do not react in a manner which will make the situation worse and perhaps threaten your own safety further.
Remember where you are. Knowing where you are will help you to plan a route and not get lost or help you deal with the environment and emergency.
Vanguish fear. Hasty reactions can lead to fear and panic which can be more dangerous than the actual emergency situation. During the Falkland Islands war a study was done on English soldiers who received wounds in the battle. It was found that regular Army troops would go into shock and die with only minor wounds while Special Operations soldiers would have a much higher survivability rate even with extremely serious wounds such as head trauma. The difference was their training, they were taught to be calm under stressful moments. This was the determining factor in them surviving.
Improvise. Thinking outside the box and draw on all of your life experience can help you to survive the emergency. Figure out what your needs are and solve the problem.
Value life and living. As I said above some people with very little or no training have survived great odds with very limited resources. The will to live can be the determining factor in survival.
Act like the locals. Indigenous people often know the best way to solve problems of that particular environment. The Inuit and the Bedouin have vastly different wardrobes but they have spent thousands of years perfecting survival in those environments. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Solve the immediate problem and live another day.
Learn basic skills. Knowing the basics could give you the foundation to endure great hardships. Learn how to make fire, learn how to stay sheltered, learn how to find water and sanitize it.
There are seven Enemies of Survival which can work against you in any survival situation.
Boredom and Loneliness – When isolated like Tom Hanks in Castaway loneliness can lead to the feeling of helplessness. It’s important to create tasks and keep your mind occupied.
Pain – If you’re injured deal with the injury. Pain is your bodies way of telling you there is something wrong. If you don’t deal with the injury and the pain it will probably get worse and could ave devastating effects.
Thirst – Thirst is the bodies way of telling you to hydrate. Drink when you’re thirsty. Don’t ration water. Many people have been found with water in their canteen who have died from dehydration.
Fatigue – Sleep is an incredibly important survival tool. How much better do you feel after getting a full nights sleep versus tossing and turning for an entire night. The simple act of building a comfy bed to sleep in during a survival situation can be a huge morale boost. Being tired can work against you over time, impairing your judgement and preventing the body from healing itself.
Temperature – Keeping the body at 98.6 is the first priority in any survival situation. Allowing the body to either become too hot or too cold equals death, end of story. Create shelter and an environment in which you can survive.
Hunger – While hunger can become a long term problem it can be dealt with for a couple days by drinking water and pacing yourself. In the long term however you’ll have to be ready to nourish your body. It’s more difficult for a lot of Americans to think outside this box but you may have to. There are a lot of things in which you can eat and survive if only you can bring yourself to eat them.
Fear – A life lived in fear is only half a life. Quite literally fear can become debilitating. There is a delicate balance between being afraid and listening to that gut feeling. Use that feeling to create situational awareness and open your senses to deal with the threat, do not let it paralyze you.
In case you were wondering those Seven Enemies of Survival can be remembered by the mnemonic: Be Prepared To Face These Hostile Factors.