Even though we no longer live in the Dark Ages and life is more easily predictable than ever, things can still go bad at a moment’s notice. And it’s always a great idea to know what to do in those kinds of situations so that you can actually increase your chances of survival. As anyone can tell you, there are countless ways in which one person’s life can be put in danger. Here are just 10 examples, and what to do in case you are faced with one of them.
10. Stop Panicking
As any survival specialist can tell you, the leading cause of death in almost every emergency situation is panic. We can’t talk about any survival skills without first addressing crippling panic and how to avoid it. The moment someone realizes that things are no longer in their control, most start experiencing fear. And there is absolutely no shame in that, because fear is, in and of itself, a survival tool. It gives us a surge of adrenaline which in turn improves our reflexes and our memory, among other things. The key here is to manage that fear and not let it run out of control and turn into panic. Panicking will make us lose all self-control; it will stop us from properly assessing the situation, and it will always leave us worse off than we started. But it’s one thing to talk about panic in the safety of our own homes, and totally another when reality hits us in the face like a 5-pound brick and a worst case scenario begins to unravel right before our eyes.
So, the first step in avoiding a panic attack is knowledge. Actually knowing what to do in any given circumstance will raise the point at which we feel like things are no longer in our control. By simply knowing what will happen and what steps need to be taken, we are still somewhat in charge of the situation, even if things aren’t going as originally planned. The next step is experience, because, as all of us know, experience is the best teacher. We don’t, of course, encourage you to place yourself willingly in a survive-or-die situation just for the sake of the experience, but we do encourage you to imagine yourself in one. By taking a moment to visualize a worst case scenario in your mind, and what steps need to be taken, you are forming a basis from which you can draw if a situation calls for it. The more you do this mental exercise, the likelier and faster it will be for you to remember it when the time comes.
Lastly, by doing adrenaline-inducing activities – basically anything that gets us out of our comfort zone – our brains release an amino acid called neuropeptide Y (NPY). This amino acid acts like a natural tranquilizer that controls our anxiety levels, our appetite, and the worst effects of adrenaline. The more we do these types of activities on a regular basis, the more of this amino acid our brain releases and the less likely we are to experience panic. But if you do find yourself in a panic situation, remember to STOP (Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan). If time is on your side, sit down and look at your gear. Examine each object you have with you in detail and think how it can be useful in your situation. By putting things in order, you calm yourself down and begin forming a basis of security on which you can then build.
9. Shelter, Water, Fire, Food – In that Order
Let’s say you decide to go on a hike one day. You pack light and expect to be back home in time for dinner. Though unlikely, there is the possibility of getting lost. Even if you’re familiar with the area, a mist or a heavy rain can push you off your trail and into uncharted territory, not even knowing the direction you came from. What do you do then? Well, you can call or text someone and tell them where you are… if you have a signal, battery, or even a phone with you in the first place (which you definitely should). Next, you can check your GPS unit and try to find your way back… again, that is if you have one. You can also hope that the person you told where you were going and when you’ll be back will call the local Search and Rescue unit, in which case you could be home by midnight. And yes, you should always tell someone reliable that you’re going hiking, where you’re going, and when you expect to be back. But let’s say none of these are viable options and you have to face the fact that you’ll not be sleeping in your bed that night.
It could be days before you find your way back, so you have to remember the basics: shelter, water, fire, food – in that order. The most dangerous thing in the wild is exposure and you have to address that first. A makeshift shelter could mean the difference between life and death in these kinds of situations, and it should be your top priority. You should always remember to stay dry, especially after nightfall. So, if you were working hard on your shelter and sweating heavily, or you were caught in a rain, remember to take off your clothes and dry them out in the sun before dark. Next on the list is drinkable water. Surprisingly enough, most water sources, especially in the wilderness, are safe to drink. As long as it’s not a stagnant pool of water and you’re upstream from large mammal populations, you’ll most likely be safe. Basically, the smaller the stream, the safer it is. Moreover, most water-borne illnesses take a few days to a few weeks before they start affecting you, and you should use that time to focus on how to get back home rather than how to purify your water.
Next is fire. As a general rule, you should always carry a lighter, and waterproof matches with you every time you go on a hike. Fire can keep you warm and dry, it can be used to fend off animals, it can signal your location, and it definitely lifts your spirits. But it’s in the third spot for a reason, despite its many advantages. Depending on the situation and the weather, fire might not be that important for you, so, instead of trying to light one by rubbing two sticks together for several hours, like you saw in a YouTube video once, you should focus on building a shelter and staying dry. When it comes to food, you should remember that a person can go on several weeks before actually dying of starvation. Hunting would be a good idea, but if you haven’t done it before, you might just end up losing precious hours and calories, and not catch anything. So, we would recommend you familiarize yourself with some edible plants before finding yourself in this kind of situation. If not, you can either try some insects or plain old fasting. Speaking of edible plants…
8. The Universal Edibility Test
If all else fails, there is a way to tell which plants are good to eat and which are not – to a certain degree. Known as the Universal Edibility Test, this is a technique that will help you do just that, but you should know that this is a last resort measure and you should only try and attempt it if you are facing severe starvation. You should also know that this test takes up to 16 hours to complete and even in the best of circumstances, you might end up suffering from diarrhea or an upset stomach. Moreover, eating wild plants won’t give you much nutrition, and even if a plant passes this test, it can still have some trace amounts of poisons that can build up in your system if you eat too much of it. The first step is to look for an abundant plant in your area. Since these won’t give you many nutrients, there should at least be enough of them around so you won’t have to look for it all over the place. Next, make sure they don’t have a white, umbrella-shaped flower bundle. Poison and water hemlock are both common and extremely poisonous plants and should be avoided at all cost. If it’s not flowering season, pull it out from the ground. If the root looks and smells like a carrot, then it’s most likely hemlock.
Also avoid plants that have waxy leaves, as well as those that have thorns and hairs anywhere on their bodies. Most of these plants are poisonous. Next, look at the plant’s sap. If it’s white, it’s most likely poisonous. You should look for plants with clear sap. If a plant complies with all of the above, then you can start the actual test. Take just one part of that plant – either a leaf, a piece of the stem, or its root – and rub it on a small part of your skin. Some plants may have poison stored in just some of its parts but not others, so, if you end up eating it, eat just the part you tested.
Wait 20 minutes and check your skin for any reactions whatsoever – reddening, itching, burning, swelling, numbness, or anything else. If that happens, it means that the plant is poisonous and you need to start over. If nothing happens, then take another small piece and place it under your tongue, and keep it there for another good 20 minutes. If you sense any reactions whatsoever, spit it out and start over. If not, eat a spoonful of it and wait 8 hours. If you begin feeling symptoms of stomach cramps, pains, vomiting, or anything out of the ordinary, it’s no good. If it passes, however, then eat a cupful and wait another 8 hours. If everything is fine, the plant is probably safe to eat. But again, we cannot stress enough the risks involved in this test and we do not recommend it unless there is absolutely no other alternative. A human can last several weeks without food, so you’re better off hungry than poisoned.
7. What If You Fell Through the Ice?
Falling through the ice can be an incredibly scary situation. Not only is the water freezing, but you may not be able to find the hole through which you fell in. Nevertheless, you have to keep your wits about you and be ready for what’s about to happen. Once you hit the freezing water, your body starts to hyperventilate and you will begin gasping for air. You need to fight this instinct while submerged. If you can’t find the hole through which you fell, look for contrasting colors. From underneath, the hole will appear darker than the surrounding ice. Once you find yourself at the surface, your main purpose is to keep your head above the water until you calm down somewhat. The cold water shock you experience the moment you hit the water will last for one to three minutes, after which your body gets slightly used to the cold.
At this point, your goal is to get out of the water as fast as possible. Though hypothermia is a great concern, it’s not your most immediate problem. After the cold water shock comes swim failure, and this is what you have to watch out for at this point. After several minutes, your muscles lose all strength and dexterity, and you will be incapacitated. This is why it’s important to get out as fast as possible. First look for the direction you fell in. Since that portion of the ice was able to hold your weight in the first place, it’s also your safest bet of getting out again. Grab on to the ice and lift as much of your upper body onto the ice as possible. Then, using your forearms and elbows, drag yourself forward while propelling yourself up using your legs. Once outside, do not stand up; instead roll away from the hole for at least several feet before standing. If possible, retrace your steps back to dry land.
Only here can you begin to worry about hypothermia. You can head indoors to warm yourself up, but if that’s not an option, then you have to look for a shelter that will protect you from the wind. Even some trees or a large rock will do if there isn’t anything else available. Here, remove your wet clothes, and get some dry replacements. If you can, do some push-ups and other basic exercises to get the blood flowing again. Next, get a fire going and keep your knees to your chest and your legs tight together to conserve heat. If there are other people with you, huddle together to conserve your body heat.
6. How to Escape a Sinking Car
A wrong turn, a deer in the road, or a poorly illuminated street can all end with your car in the water. If this happens, there are a few things you should know in order to get out of there alive. Under usual circumstances, it will take your car one or two minutes before it actually begins to sink. Take this time to unbuckle your seatbelt, unlock the doors, and open the windows. As long as the keys are in the ignition, your electrical systems will still work. If they are not, then you need to open the door and exit the car that way. This, however, will mean that your car will sink much faster, but it will be by far the easiest way to get out. If for whatever reason you can’t open your windows, try breaking them by using your elbow or anything pointy you have on hand. Those prongs on your headrest could come in handy here. Some cars are also equipped with tools especially designed to break car windows in case of an emergency, and you can also find them at your local hardware store. Aim for the center of the window. Do not bother with the windshield, though, because they are made to be unbreakable (or as close to it as possible).
If you have the time, take off your shoes or baggy clothes, as these will become a hindrance while swimming. If you’re unable to open the window, or break it, it is also a possibility that the door won’t open either. This is because the pressure from the water outside will prevent you from doing so. In this case, wait for the car to fill up, and when the water reaches your chin, take a big breath, open the door, exit the car head first, and swim to the surface. When there is enough water in the car, the pressure will even out and you will be able to open the door. If by any chance the car is upside down or you get disoriented, follow the bubbles to the surface.
5. How to (Maybe) Survive an Avalanche
You would need a tremendous amount of luck to come out an avalanche alive, but it never hurts to increase your chances any way you can. The most important thing to have with you when going into avalanche-prone regions is avalanche survival equipment. We mean… duh. This consists of a receiver that transmits your location, a probe that is used to locate others, a shovel to dig both yourself and others out, a helmet to protect your head, as well as skier’s airbags that will help you stay at the surface of an avalanche. Taking a course on avalanche preparedness is also advised if you frequent avalanche country often. Nevertheless, here are some tips on what to do if you’re ever facing one head on.
Your first reaction to an avalanche bearing down on you would be to get out of the way. There’s a good chance that you might be the catalyst of one in the first place, so, if you see the snow fracturing below your feet, try and jump up the slope above the fracture – it’s worth the effort. If an avalanche is coming towards you, don’t try to outrun it and instead move to the side as fast as possible. Avalanches can travel at more than 200 miles per hour, so even if you’re on a snowmobile, you won’t outrun it. Make yourself as light as possible by ditching your backpack and anything else that might be slowing you down – every second counts here. If you are, however, caught by an avalanche, try ‘swimming’ upstream. A human body is heavier than snow and you will sink to the bottom if you don’t do anything about it. By thrashing around, you can keep as close to the surface and to the side as possible. Here’s where that airbag comes in handy. Also try to keep one arm raised above your head and one close to your face when you sense the avalanche slowing down. This will help you figure out where the surface is, and your arm may even wind up poking out of the snow, making it easier for a rescue team to find you.
Once you stop moving, and if you find yourself buried alive, try and dig a pocket in front of your nose and mouth. This will give you enough room to breathe. This should keep you going for about 30 minutes if you don’t panic. It’s also important to remember that once the snow settles it becomes extremely hard and if you’re buried deeper than a foot or so, you won’t be able to dig yourself out. You can also get your bearings by spitting. In the chaos of an avalanche you might end up not knowing which way is up, so, if you start spitting, you should try and look which way the spit is going, and if possible, wiggle your way out in the opposite direction.
4. How to Escape a Riptide
The term “riptide” isn’t the perfect way to describe this phenomenon, and that is why many specialists prefer the term “rip current” instead. This is because it has nothing to do with the tides, per se, and the name can be misleading. Basically what it is, is a narrow band of water that forms along the shoreline and has the power to suck up a swimmer and drag him out to sea in a matter of seconds. They form usually when there’s a bottleneck created between two sandbars, and the water receding from the shore is funneled through that channel. These riptides can be permanent, or they can be fixed. That means they can last for days, up to several months; or they can be flash rips, meaning that they can form suddenly and disappear equally as fast. In and of themselves, rip currents aren’t deadly, but if you panic, can’t swim, or if you don’t know what to do, they can kill.
Riptides never pull you under – you should remember that. They will also not take you into the middle of the ocean. They might pull you some distance away from the shore, yes, but sooner or later it will stop. In fact, the water dynamics of a riptide is cyclical, and after you’re past the breaking waves, its power will begin to subside, the current will branch off, eventually bringing you back close to shore on one of its sides. The most important rule in case you are caught by one is to not swim against the current, no matter how good a swimmer you are. It will only exhaust you and you might not have the power to come back. This is actually the main reason people are killed by riptides. You should instead let it take you, and once you feel its pull slow down, begin swimming parallel to the shore in order to escape it. If you’re not that good of a swimmer, try and keep yourself afloat by lying on your back, and signal someone on land. In many cases, a riptide can even bring you back on its own.
But the best way to escape one is to recognize it and avoid it in the first place. A break in the incoming wave pattern is the first telltale sign. Riptides also stir up sand and collect floating debris like seaweed and you should look for a strip of debris moving seawards. Because of the sand, it can also have a different color that the surrounding water. They’re usually choppier and foamier too, so look out for that as well. If you feel a strong current pulling at you, try to get out of the water, but only if you can walk back. If you’re chest deep, it will be next to impossible to fight it, and you had better just go with the flow.
3. How to Recognize a Heart Attack Before it Happens
Over 2,200 Americans die every day because of heart attacks, making it the leading cause of death in the US. In fact, one in four people will die of a heart-related problem, so this is probably the most important entry on this list. A heart attack happens when the blood flow to the heart is greatly reduced or is completely cut off. Most of the time, this happens because of blood clots blocking an artery to the heart. Luckily, however, there are (in some cases) telltale signs of a possible heart attack even a month before it happens.
The most common is chest pain or discomfort. Some people describe it as a pressure, while others feel it like a burning or pinching sensation. Another sign would be feeling tired for no reason. As the heart has to work harder to get the blood around the body, you get fatigued more easily and more often. You will also sleep more or feel the need to take naps during the day. Your legs, ankles and feet can become swollen and you might also notice a blueish tinge on your lips and extremities. You might also be sweating more than usual. Dizziness or shortness of breath are also a result of your heart struggling. Contact your doctor if you notice these signs.
When a heart attack is imminent, you could experience chest pains that will radiate or even move around your upper body, along your arms, your shoulders, your upper abdomen, neck, or even your jaw. Heart palpitations are also a strong sign. Vomiting, indigestion, and nausea can accompany a heart attack too. If you’re incoherent, or can’t properly lift your arms, try not to panic and don’t attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Call 911 immediately, unlock your door, and take an Aspirin. It’s better if you chew it because it acts faster and might give you some extra time before help arrives. In fact, you could take half an Aspirin every day, but you should speak to your doctor about it first.
2. If You Were Born Before 1989 and Traveling Abroad Get Re-Vaccinated for Measles
Back in 1989, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention realized that it wasn’t doing enough to eliminate measles from the United States. That’s why they decided to double the original dose in vaccinations to all young children from that moment on, and recommended all others who were planning a trip abroad to check their vaccination status, especially if they never had full-blown measles. That recommendation stands to this day. The chances of contracting measles in the US are extremely slim, with only 70 cases being reported in 2016. But much of the rest of the world is still struggling with it to one degree or another. In the first quarter of 2017, for instance, Europe experienced a measles outbreak, with France reporting 134 cases. There were 410 in Germany, and Italy had 1,600 cases. The CDC makes an exception to their recommendation for people born before 1957, however. This is because the disease was so widespread in the US at the time that everyone was exposed to it and everyone who survived became immune.
Nevertheless, many Americans born between 1957 and 1989 travel abroad without knowing the risks involved. Furthermore, a new research performed by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and others, have shown some troubling numbers. Of the roughly 41,000 adult travelers they surveyed and who also visited vaccination clinics before going abroad, 6,600 of them needed an extra dose, but more than half didn’t get it. Statistics show that 48 percent didn’t want it in the first place, saying that they weren’t concerned about contracting measles. Another 28 percent didn’t get it because their doctor decided not to give it to them, and another 24 percent hit a lot of red tape and other administrative issues before their departure date.
1. How to Improve Your Chances In Case of a Nuclear Blast
For over 70 years now, we’ve lived under the threat of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were stockpiling nuclear weapons like there was no tomorrow. Other countries joined in, but nowhere near that same scale. In any case, with the eventual fall of the Soviet Union, while many of those weapons still remained humanity could finally take a breather from that constant fear and look forward toward a time of cooperation. In a film called Nuclear Tipping Point, Colin Powell talks about his experience with nuclear weapons throughout his career, and how he finds them completely useless. He talks about the suicidal nature of nuclear weapons and how any sensible and logical government will not use them for whatever reason. But in light of the past decade’s rising instability and suicidal terrorism around the world, he also talks about the importance of reducing the planet’s nuclear arsenal. Despite his proposal, both the US and Russian governments are talking about going in the opposite direction.
Together with North Korea’s ballistic missile tests, the many lost nuclear weapons around the globe, and the outdated technology used in the ones in service today, we think it’s time for a refresher course on what to do in case one does go off in your city… and you’re not vaporized instantly. Michael Dillon, an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has actually studied this scenario and has some advice for us. If you don’t have a nuclear bunker already built in your back yard, then your safest bet would be a basement. And the more concrete is above that basement, like a large office building for instance, the better. What he suggests is to leg it for these places as fast as possible, preferably before the fallout reaches you, assuming they’re within a relatively short distance of you. If that distance is longer, however, you’re probably better to just stay in your house for 12 hours before looking for a better place a bit farther away. After reaching a safe place, remove your clothes and take a shower. Use mild soap and warm water. If a shower is not possible, then use sanitary wet wipes or a wet cloth. Blow your nose, and clean your eyes and ears too. Be as thorough as possible. Fallout in the form of irradiated dust, smoke, sand, or ash will stick to your clothes and body until they are removed.