As an author in the field of disaster preparedness, naturally I read a lot of what’s out there in the way of advice, and there’s plenty; some good and some bad. In fact, there is too much info in my opinion, which leaves readers trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. I think that most people ‘get-it’ when it comes to having some stock-pile of water and food and at least 72 hours of supplies that are portable. It’s the training that may be pulling people in too many directions.
Over the decades, I have intentionally and unintentionally placed myself in situations that could legitimately be called emergencies or disasters, where the lives of others were at stake if I failed to act in a timely and correct manner, and in other instances in my own life with the same ramifications. Nobody is inherently a better Prepper than anyone else. When the going gets rough you either have the training that will get you through your fear so you can get the job done, or you don’t. And if you don’t then the fear-panic cycle can kick-in leading to a kind of mental and physical paralysis.
For instance, finding yourself lost in the wilderness alone at night can instill some fear, but having some training about how to survive in that situation will help you overcome your fear and remain effective, because you can do something about the situation. Experience is helpful because you will have used the ‘training’ in actual conditions, and this builds your confidence because you know your training works, and that helps to reduce the fear during an event. Don’t let anyone tell you that they aren’t/weren’t afraid; in any real emergency or disaster situation there is a level of fear that varies with the individual and the amount of experience of that individual. Rather than go into any long and detailed stories, I think it may serve readers better to just cut to the chase, and just tell you what minimal training I think makes the most sense when you have a limited amount of time.
1. There is absolutely no substitute for actual experience, so if you don’t already have it, get some hands on training from someone who has the actual experience with the training. If you’re a single person or a parent, these are some skills that you should master no matter what, before anything else:
– Get CPR and first-aid training from an EMT or a firefighter with EMT qualifications. A couple simple examples of how I used the training: When I was operating a SCUBA diving boat off Hawaii, an older man who was an M.D. came out of the water and fell onto the deck with a heart attack after removing his wetsuit. His heart had stopped by the time I reached him… I administered CPR and revived him; the training works if you react properly. On another occasion at sea, a crew member suffered a scalp laceration that required sutures, and I was able to suture the wound, which prevented a more serious and complicated situation. On another instance, we were having T-bone steaks for dinner on our sailboat in the Sea of Cortez… one of the guests cut-off the long 6 inch strip of fat along the edge of the steak and left it on her plate. A while later my son runs up to me holding our unconscious 6-pound Miniature Pincher dog, who had choked on the long piece of fat; I could see it down her throat but couldn’t reach it with my fingers and didn’t have time to retrieve our medical kit and a pair of forceps, so I did the Heimlich maneuver and that forced the strip of fat up and out and the dog regained her airway and consciousness. Once again, the training worked, even on a dog.
– Learn some basic fire-prevention, firefighting and fire/smoke survival techniques. Here again, these skills are taught for free at most fire stations across the U.S. in every city. I have used the techniques to stop fires early-on. Fires are very common so this training may be a life and property saver.
– If you don’t know how to swim, get some lessons and learn how. The YMCA and other organizations will teach you. It doesn’t cost much and in some cases lessons are free at public pools. They will also teach you how to rescue another person in the water without getting drowned.
2. Learn basic camping and bush-craft skills: If you can’t pitch a tent, make a shelter, make fire or read a map and use a compass to navigate you should acquire these skills and other basic bush-craft skills. There are lots of ways to accomplish this task. One of the easiest (possibly the least expensive) is to volunteer to assist a Boy Scout or Girl Scout master on some of their outings. They always need some help with transportation, as well as extra hands and eyes when there are lots of kids and you can learn the skills from the scout masters as they teach them. Don’t underestimate this level of training… a skilled scout master is an excellent source of know-how when it comes to bush-crafts, etc. Just remember, buying a bunch of equipment that you can’t effectively use won’t get you very far. On the other hand, having some solid basic skills and even a minimal of equipment is far superior to the former in a survival situation.
– Learn how to prevent and treat hyperthermia and hypothermia.
– Learn how to pitch a tent (that includes important details like; the best place to pitch the tent); and how to build an effective shelter using local resources.
– Learn how to find and treat water for drinking and cooking.
– Learn how to forage for naturally occurring sources of nourishment; this includes plants and animals and the preparation of these foods.
– Learn how to make fire in varied weather conditions (inside and outside a shelter) using local materials (no matches or strikers)… then learn how to start a fire using only ‘one’ match, and also using a striker.
3. If you want to go the extra mile, and learn about disaster response, you can also sign up for CERT classes (http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams/training-materials) … But whatever you do, don’t sit home on the computer and try to learn any of this stuff by reading the blogs or watching You-Tube… In a real emergency, what comes to mind is the stuff you have actually done! It’s not like on TV, trust me! You’ll likely be scared and your emotions (and adrenaline) will be in high gear… no time to try and remember a You-Tube video. Hands-on training creates a lasting memory and confidence.
Here’s one example how my wife and I used our ship-handling, search and rescue and communications skills to positively affect the outcome of a life threatening situation:
Just remember, there is no substitute for training and experience. Get Some Today!
Cheers! Capt. Bill
Capt. William E. Simpson – USMM
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