Six Things That Could Save Your Life
You’re driving down a stretch of an
old state highway which Google
Maps recommended, when all of a
sudden, a deer darts across the road.
You swerve to avoid it and lose control
of the vehicle, helplessly pumping
the brakes as the car smashes
through the guardrail. It slides down
a steep embankment and comes to
a stop in a stream. Disoriented but
unhurt, you get out of the car and
assess the situation. Your car is totaled,
the embankment is too steep
to climb, and all you have is a plastic
water bottle, a light jacket, a lighter,
and a cell phone without any service.
Thankfully, you have read an
informative article in Reporter.
While it is unlikely that you’ll end up in such a
dire situation, it is better to be safe than sorry.
In any emergency situation, whether it is in the
middle of the Canadian wilderness or on the
mean streets of Rochester, the most important
thing is to keep a cool head. If you can make
rational, informed decisions, your chance of
survival will be greater. That being said, there
are a number of different factors that must be
taken into account while attempting to survive
in the wilderness.
Chances are, if you are stranded with no way
of getting help, you will need a place to sleep.
You must stay dry at all costs, and therefore,
sleeping under the stars is out of the question.
You could sleep in the car. Unfortunately, unless
it is the middle of the summer, that would
probably be a bad idea. Cars are not built to stay
warm. While they provide a nice roof, they are
not well insulated.
In a wooded area, it is very easy to build a simple
lean-to shelter out of materials lying in the
ground. Find a sturdy log, about 10 feet long,
and lean one end against a tree or a rock, making
sure that it will not fall over. Get smaller
branches and lean them against the log, forming
walls on both sides. Make sure to leave an
entrance opening near the rock or tree. Pile
leaves on top of the branches and the floor, ensuring
that there is a sizeable layer covering the
entire structure. The design is very basic, but
it provides a near waterproof cover and a good
amount of heat retention.
As mentioned before, staying warm and dry is
important. Hypothermia, when the body’s core
temperature decreases and cannot be maintained,
should be avoided at all cost. Contrary to
popular belief, hypothermia can develop in any
season, provided the conditions are right. First,
if needed, leaves can be placed between a shirt
and a jacket to add an extra layer of insulation.
A fire is another good way to keep warm, but
starting one is not as easy as rubbing two sticks
together. If you have a working lighter or a set
of matches, then you are all set. However, there
are other ways to start a fire.
For example, quartz, a common milky white or
grey mineral, will throw sparks when hit with a
piece of iron (such as a tire iron). If you can obtain
an easily combustible material, (like gasoline)
then you have found your source of ignition.
Once you have ignition, you need to apply it to
fuel. Gasoline burns fast, so you will need to
gather dry wood to keep the fire going. A good
fire is built. This means burning small stuff
first and adding larger pieces of wood later. If
you do manage to get a fire started, make sure
it is at a distance from your shelter or anything
Staying hydrated should be the number one priority
in the wild. A human can go weeks without
adequate food, but only days without water.
Thankfully, water in the Northeast is relatively
abundant. Therefore, finding a source of water
will be pretty easy.
However, regardless of how clear the water may
look, there are bound to be bacteria and other
microorganisms living in it. Those microbes
may result in nasty cases of gastroenteritis (diarrhea
and vomiting), causing you to lose more
water than you would gain from drinking it.
If you have no other means of sanitizing the
water, such as iodine tablets or a fancy portable
filter, boiling the water is your best bet. Rain
water is another option, but there may be pollutants
due to acid rain.
Depending on how long you are stuck in the
wild, you may need to find something to eat.
This can be a dangerous undertaking, if you
do not know what you are looking for. Many
wild edible plants have close cousins that
could make you sick. If you can, avoid eating
wild plants or fungi. The same goes for meat
and fish, unless you have a means of properly
cleaning and cooking it.
Another top priority in a survival situation is
being rescued. Making your presence known is
important, especially if no one knows you are
missing. Smoke, particularly black smoke, is an
easy way to get attention.
Wood and gasoline burn with a weak white
smoke that is nearly invisible from a distance.
However, burning rubber produces thick black
smoke which can be easily seen. Adding a spare
tire to your campfire will produce a billowing
black tower of smoke that, with luck, will alert
someone to your presence.
Rear-view mirrors can also be used to signal to
low flying planes or helicopters on a sunny day.
In any case, unless you know where you are going,
stay put and keep attempting to signal.
Hopefully, you will never be in a desperate situation,
but it does not hurt to be prepared. Having
a working knowledge of outdoor survival skills
such as building a fire, orienteering, and performing
first aid can be the difference between
life and death. Also, having an emergency supply
kit in your car, replete with iodine tablets,
matches, newspaper, and a first aid kit would be
useful. Always inform someone of your itinerary,
and watch out for deer.