The thing about emergencies is that they hardly ever announce when they’re going to happen. Whether you’re sitting in your home and a storm knocks the power out, you’re out on the road and your car breaks down, or you’re hiking and have lost your way, disaster is never too far away. With so many things that can go wrong, how can you ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe? One word: preparation.
Preparing for emergencies requires two things, gear and skills. Having gear like a water filter, knife, first aid kit, and fire-starting material on hand wherever you go will help you meet the challenges that come with most emergencies. But arguably the most important thing you need to do to prepare yourself for emergencies is to sharpen your mind and know how to use your survival gear ahead of time. By learning these top 5 survival tips and practicing them often, you’ll be able to deal with most of the emergencies that you may face in the future.
1. Foraging for Water
When you find yourself in an emergency situation, one of the first things you need to prioritize getting ahold of after dealing with any immediate dangers is water. People can survive for weeks without food but can only survive a few days without water.
The absolute best water source you can find is running water. Running water pushes harmful bacteria and parasites around so that it’s less likely that you’ll accidentally ingest them while drinking. Running water sources include:
But sometimes running water isn’t available, so where else can you look for water? Standing water found in lakes, ponds, and even puddles can also be used in an emergency situation. While they’re not ideal due to the potential for picking up bacteria or parasites, it’s extremely important to ensure that you hydrate yourself.
And if you can’t find any standing water, you can use some plastic to help catch condensation. Dig out a small hole and drape the plastic over the hole. Use some rocks to help anchor the plastic above the hole. Let the plastic sit for a while, especially overnight, and you should be able to catch some of the moisture in the air on the plastic.
2. Treating and Purifying Water
Regardless of where you get your water, it’s imperative that you treat it before you drink it. Even running water sources can carry harmful waterborne illnesses like giardia that can make you incredibly sick, so before you treat yourself to a big drink, be sure to treat your water first.
The easiest way to create potable water is to use a water filter. Water filters are great because they can easily be stashed in a backpack, vehicle, or even in your pocket. They not only filter out any harmful bacteria and parasites, but they also can filter out the sediment that you’ll pick up when you gather the water.
If you find that you don’t have a water filter, the next best thing to do is to boil the water before you drink it. Start a fire and boil the water for at least 1 minute to ensure that you kill off anything in the water that could get you sick.
3. Starting a Fire
Once you’ve located and purified water, it’s important to regulate your body temperature. Hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 13°C (55°F) when you’re wet, so being able to dry your clothes as well as warm your body is very important.
Getting a fire started requires that you locate some dry wood and cut it up into smaller pieces. Use a knife to help process any wood that you find into useable firewood by cutting it into smaller pieces and to remove any wet bark from the outside of the wood.
Once you’ve prepared the firewood, find some small dry fuel to help get the fire started. Dry pine needles, grass, newspaper, paper towels, napkins, and cotton balls all make great starter fuel. Bundle up as much of that starter fuel as you can and stack your processed firewood around it.
Then, use a lighter, match, or flint and steel to ignite the starter fuel. Once you’ve got a small spark going, be sure to give it plenty of air by gently blowing on the starter fuel until the firewood ignites.
4. First Aid
Dealing with wounds is essential when in an emergency situation. Traumatic injuries can be life threatening if not treated quickly. The most important thing you need to do when administering first aid is to stop any bleeding as quickly as possible.
Apply pressure to the wound with a gauze pad or piece of cloth. Check on it every few minutes and apply more gauze or cloth if the bleeding has soaked through. If you can’t stop the bleeding with pressure after 5 minutes, you need to apply a tourniquet to effectively stop the bleeding. Once the tourniquet is applied, don’t remove it in the field.
Wait until you’ve been rescued and have a doctor remove the tourniquet at the hospital. Otherwise, you can risk getting blood poisoning due to the unoxygenated blood that will pool up in the area below the tourniquet.
5. Shelter Building
If you find yourself away from home or your vehicle, it’s important that you find shelter to keep your body temperature regulated. Whether you’re in a hot environment or a cold environment, having a shelter system in place will help keep you from overheating or going hypothermic.
Take a moment to look around and see if you can find a shelter that won’t require that you build anything. Large trees and rocks can help shelter you from the elements without having to do much to improve them.
If you can’t find anything suitable, you’ll want to build out a shelter to keep you safe from the elements. A couple great emergency shelters include:
- An A-Frame
- A Lean-to
Remember that these shelters don’t have to be perfect to help protect you from the elements. They just need to be enough to help guard you from the sun, rain, or snow so that you can regulate your body temperature until help arrives.
The number one way to mitigate any emergency is to plan ahead and practice your skills. You don’t want to wait until disaster strikes to try out any of the skills we’ve gone over for the first time. Make it a point to master each skill and practice at least monthly so that you’ll be able to effectively employ your skills when it comes time to use them.
Also understand that there are so many more skills and gear that you can add to your survival arsenal that will help you mitigate all sorts of other disaster situations. Sign up for our newsletter by entering your name and email into the subscription box at the bottom of this page. By joining the club, you'll get the best survival tips and gear recommendations sent directly to your inbox to help you continue to learn. Stay prepared. Stay alive.