Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shelter, Water, Food

I took survival classes in college.  Yes, multiple.  You may or may not be surprised that it would fill an entire college-level course.  The extension service stuff was more hands-on.  Like deciding in advance what you will and will not fight for (or against) it's important to figure out what you're going to do well in advance of a survival situation.

Not that we're in a survival situation, but I do daily inventories on food and water to make sure we don't have to ration before the so-called weekend thaw.  I've also got a plan if we need to get into town for whatever reason.  It's called hitching a ride.

It wouldn't exactly be a plush holiday vacation, but we would actually be fine for a whole 'nother week, and we'd be whiny but sustainable beyond that on sausage, ramen, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, bread made in the bread machine and cookies.  We also have enough brownie mix to make several batches of brownies, which as we all know make the whole world better.  But, even though we're not in trouble in any sense of the word, I thought I'd blah blah about survival strategies.

The reason survival classes order shelter, water and food in the order that they do is priority.  Exposure to the elements is usually your worst enemy, whether it's desert sun, rain, cold, wind, drowning, etc.  Most people lost in the wilderness are killed by exposure first.  Now, putting together a reasonable shelter is different than hiding in a panic.  Lots of people panic and then hide.  If you put yourself in the mindset of constructing something that will keep out the worst of the weather using the natural terrain as much as you can and then setting up some sort of marker that will clue in searchers to your whereabouts, you'll be better off (in most cases) than wandering around trying to find your own way out until you freak out, go animal and hide.  At that point you won't be in control of your emotions and you won't be rational--lost people have failed to respond to searchers calling their name because they become so fearful.  If you know for an absolute fact that no one will be looking for you, or looking in the wrong place, or will absolutely for certain not find you in time, and you need to navigate out, you'll have to put together mobile shelter, aka clothing.  Hats and insulation from natural materials suck, but they're better than nothing if you're not dressed for the weather.

Second is water because dehydration is a quick killer too, just not as quick as exposure to the worst Momma Nature has to offer.  Most people worry about water in the desert, but it's easy to get dehydrated in rainy or snowy conditions too.  In snow it's bad because your sources of water sap precious body heat.  In cold rain often the thirst mechanism is suppressed, so you don't start to feel thirsty until you're in trouble.

Food, although hunger is miserable, is last on the list because it's the slowest of the killers.  People quickly weaken from hunger, but having done a five day fast while continuing my normal activities including karate and archery, I can tell you from personal experience that you won't weaken as quickly as you think assuming you're able to stay warm in a cold environment. You'll weaken faster in the cold because your body burns so much more energy trying to maintain proper body temperature.  This is a similar problem to sweating away precious water reserves when you're in hot/desert situation and you're low on water, though it's still slower than dying from exposure or thirst by quite a large margin.

More information is good.  If you know the whys of an order of importance you can modify that order based on your particular circumstances.  But do think over those circumstances before you walk out the door (or before the storm rolls in.)  Once you're in the middle of it, it'll be that much harder to get by if you haven't planned ahead.

Be safe out there!


The Moody Minstrel said...

I was video-chatting with my family today (for the first time. Yay! It works!), and they were saying they don't have any snow or ice on the ground there on the coast, but none of the supermarkets have milk or produce because the trucks can't get over any of the passes.

Time to hire schooners to ship it in, just like in the olden days!

Kami said...

Sign me up for schooner duty!

Oh, wait, they have those new-fangled diesel ships now. Poop. Never mind.