Survival situations seem to spring up when you least expect them, and most people don’t seem to ever be prepared.
YOSAR's stats show:
Out of 2328 individuals rescued by YOSAR, 50% were trauma emergencies, 24% medical, 15% searches for missing people, and 11% assists of uninjured lost or stranded people.
The 2 most common trauma isolated injuries were fractures (30%) and sprains/strains (19%).
The top 3 medical injuries were hypothermia/frostbite (14%), fatigue/dizziness (12%), and dehydration/hunger (12%).
Body regions affected by injury, 14% were localized to the head, 11% upper extremity, 12% body, 50% lower extremity, and 13% diffuse to all regions of the body.
The most common regions affected were ankle (24%), lower leg (11%), and knee (10%).
The 2 most common activities that patients were pursuing at the time of injury were hiking (56%) and rock climbing (21%).
The 2 most common mechanisms of injury were falls (31%) and slips/trips (20%).
Sure a small part of these rescues might have been unavoidable accidents, but for the majority it was a simple case of not listening to A.N.E.E.“I didn’t think I would need a jacket. The weather forecast called for temperatures in the mid eighties.” Hmmm! Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve thought “What can happen? I’ve done this a million times before.” I can go on and on, but you get the idea.
As an instructor, I constantly remind students of A.N.E.E. and as long as you listen to her teachings, you can potentially prevent a serious accident.
We’ve all run into A.N.E.E. before. She’s that little voice in our head that tells us maybe we shouldn’t be doing this or that, or that perhaps we shouldn’t be so cocky and actually practice.
Yep! A.N.E.E. seems to be everywhere and is always trying to teach her lesson… Assume Nothing
-- Expect Everything.
Ahhh! It all seems to make sense now… or does it?
In his book, “98.6 Degrees, The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive,” Cody Lundin has a chapter that covers the seven Ps “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. That statement is one hundred percent correct and sounds like someone has actually taken A.N.E.E.’s advise.
In an effort to cater to my teaching style, I came up with my own seven Ps “Proper Preparedness and Practice Provides Physical and Psychological Protection”. Because of A.N.E.E. and my own seven P’s, I was able to keep positive during a series of events on a recent gathering with like minded individuals.
This past May, I drove with a friend to the state of Washington, to attend an outdoor gathering with several friends.
Upon setting up my hammock, I realized I had forgotten my sleeping bag—right next to the front door of my house. Sheesh! Talk about “Haste makes Waste!” Fortunately, because of preparedness and practice, I was able to sleep warm and cozy… the entire cold and rainy weekend!
As part of my emergency kit, I carry an Adventure Medical Kits. Heatsheets® Survival Blanket as well as the Emergency Bivy, both provided to me by Alex from http://www.redflarekits.com. While both products are excellent, I used the Survival Blanket. Having used the Survival Blanket before, I knew I could depend on it to keep me warm.
I’ve tried many of the commercial style emergency blankets, but they all fail against repeated use and tear fairly easy. Of the beefier big ones, while they do work well and are made to last, they have one short coming… they don’t pack small.
Enter the Heatsheets® Survival Blanket. First of all, unfolded, the blanket is bigger than your standard Mylar emergency blanket—It is so big, you could comfortably wrap two people in it. On one side it offers the typical reflective properties of the Mylar blanket. On the other side, however, it is orange in color, which makes it visible to search parties. Not stopping there, the company decided not to waste space and printed directions and illustrations, on the orange side, with a few other configurations the Survival Blanket can be used as. Finally, at slightly bigger than two decks of cards, side by side, and less weight than the cards, this blanket packs small, is tear resistant, durable and reusable.
I knew from my previous experience and practice with the blanket I would sleep warm… I wasn’t let down!
Web, or Boots as we like to call him, was one of the instructors also attending the event. Unfortunately, the night before he got to the gathering in the Cascades, he became victim to food poisoning.
Immediately, upon setting up his shelter, he dove under his tarp and got some rest. Some of us knew he didn’t feel well, but we weren’t sure of the severity of his condition. Regardless, we kept a vigilant eye on him and even spoke to him, to determine if he was starting to suffer from Hypothermia.
… Was there a change in his speech pattern, was he acting confused, was he shivering words instead of speaking them? No! Was he wearing warm dry clothes, did he have his head covered, was he out of the elements? Yes… okay, good for now.
If Boots’s situation worsened we were completely confident with our skills, ready to administer proper aid to our fallen comrade. This, of course, is because we’ve prepared and practiced for such situations.
The next morning, I watched Boots wake up and immediately make some warm tea. It was obvious he knew he had to keep his core temperature in check. Having suffered from food poisoning, he hadn’t eaten anything and was suffering from a calorie deficit—his body had nothing it could metabolize to keep him warm. I knew from his experience he knew exactly what to do. Shortly after, I witnessed him eating bread, further proof he was taking the steps necessary to rev up his internal engine and create some warmth.
The way Boots handled himself is of no surprise; he’s an experienced climber as well as a member of a Search and Rescue team in New York.
Later that day, Boots, Josh (another experienced instructor), and myself, all conducted a class on the importance of preparedness and practice and how it is vital to your physical and psychological security.
Boots began the class by sharing his experience while there and sharing some statistics from NASAR. He also emphasized the importance of owning your skills by practicing under different conditions.
Josh then picked up where Boots left off, sharing his experience as a survival instructor and shared stories and ideas that further supported what Boots said, creating the perfect transition for the last part of the lecture… the exercise!
I asked everyone to show their hands if they were right handed. With the hands still in the air, I asked them to take their right hand and either stick it behind there backs, or in their pockets. Left handed people were asked to do the same with their left.
Next, I announced “Without using matches or a lighter start a fire”... Surprise! This was an "injury suppressed fire starting" exercise. We were about to find out how many people actually listened to A.N.E.E.
Almost everyone who participated had some sort of ferrocerium (Ferro) rod or striker. Those who didn't knew they had colleagues who would start a fire and then share it with them.
Josh, Boots and I walked around and observed everyone. People were coming up with some creative ways using only one hand, while others were fortunate to have one-handed fire starting tools.
One of the tools I noticed was the small spark-lite available from http://fourseasonssurvival.com. I mention this tool, specifically, because I’ve performed several tests with it. What makes this such a great tool is size— two and a quarter inches tall and one quarter inch square. Sure it doesn’t have as hot a spark as the other tools, but it more than makes up for it in other areas: It floats, can be used with one hand, and is compact. In fact, one can even hang it from a keychain by drilling a hole on the end, at least everywhere you drive your fire starter is sure to go.
The spark-lite, however, doesn’t come alone. It is part of a fire starting system enclosed in a small case that floats. Inside you will also find Tinder-quik tabs, which will easily catch a spark when pulled apart. The beauty of the tabs is they also float. And, even after having submerged the tabs under water for several minutes, I found them to be waterproof and able to take a spark, again, when pulled apart. In my opinion, this is a great little system for fire starting.
Of the one handed techniques used with the standard spark methods, most people used their mouths to hold the ferro rod or equivalent. One person stuck his knife into a log and drew his ferro rod across the blade. And only one person actually used their foot to hold firmly the ferro rod against the ground.
I’ve personally practiced with all three methods and in my experience, the method that works best, providing the best support for your tools, is the foot pin technique. This technique was demonstrated by Josh—its effectiveness over the other methods was apparent.
When the exercise was over, I asked some of the students to de-brief and share their thoughts on one handed fire starting. Several learned they had to re-evaluate their kit, others were surprised at how an injury can really hinder your success in a real survival situation. Overall, I feel everyone walked away with something.
At the very least, they learned to listen and pay a little more attention to A.N.E.E. and her 7 P’s of survival success “Proper Preparedness and Practice Provides Physical and Psychological Protection.”