survival first aid basics

Survival First Aid Basics: Skills and Gear to Keep You Alive

survival first aid basics

With the current state of modern medicine, getting a cut, sprain, or broken bone is no longer the death sentence that our ancestors faced. With proper medical attention, you can get patched up and on your way in no time.

But what do you do if these medical systems fail, are destroyed, or are jammed with other survivors?

How will you make sure you or someone you love doesn’t die unnecessarily?

The best way to insulate yourself from this type of tragedy is to make sure you learn some basic survival first aid.

First aid is an invaluable skill set to learn and to help get you started we have teamed up with Dr James Hubbard of TheSurvivalDoctor.com.

Besides being a practicing doctor for the last 30 years, Dr Hubbard has also published five easy to understand books on survival first aid (see them here). In this article he walks us through some basic problems that are likely to occur in a survival situation and what you can do to save lives when it matters most.

What are the 3 basic First Aid skills you should learn for a survival scenario?

JH: The skill I most recommend learning is how to stop a wound from bleeding. Most of the time, applying pressure to the wound will work. Also know how to use a tourniquet.

Learn abdominal thrusts for choking. A person can die from choking within minutes, so even in normal times, when emergency services are available, this technique can save a life.

A third important skill is the skill of improvisation. Remember to use what you’ve got. If you don’t have the perfect medical equipment, you may be able to make it out of something common. For example, you can make a decent tourniquet from a belt or a T-shirt. I go over a lot of other ideas for makeshift supplies in the book.

But what about CPR?

JH: That is important to know, but a lot of people are surprised to learn that CPR is only going to keep you alive for a certain amount of time. So it’s most helpful if emergency services are on the way or if you have access to an AED—automated external defibrillator. A lot of public places and even some homes have them.

The longer you keep doing CPR without a defibrillator to restart the heart, the less likely the person is to survive. Experts say to do CPR until you’re completely exhausted. I agree, but in truth, after about ten minutes, the person is unlikely to survive.

Exceptions are victims of hypothermia and drowning. They’re likely to live longer, without irreversible brain damage, because they have lower metabolism—less need for blood and oxygen. Some people, especially children, have survived after multiple minutes—even an hour—of having CPR.

What’s your number-one piece of survival equipment?

JH: Besides my book, I’d say the brain—knowledge. You’re not always going to have the specific equipment you need. If you have knowledge, you can improvise.

What are your top-five must-haves for a “go” bag?

JH: Vinyl gloves to protect yourself from infectious disease and fluids. I like vinyl because some people are allergic to latex. It’s better to buy too large than too small because you can always get a larger size on. And if someone else is using the gloves, they may have bigger hands than you. You could improvise by putting any type of waterproof material over your hands.

I like to keep some SAM Splints. They’re flexible splints that become rigid when you bend them. They’re so versatile, and you can use them for many types of sprains and broken bones.

Have some elastic bandages to use on sprains. They help with stability and with compression, which in turn can decrease swelling. With compression, watch the circulation though; your toes or fingers shouldn’t become numb or cold. You can also use an elastic bandage to keep a SAM Splint in place.

You’ll need bandage scissors or any type of strong scissors that can cut cloth, tape, and the SAM Splint.

And throw in some tape. Duct tape is my favorite. It’s a good waterproof, very sticky type of tape. However, any type of tape will do—the stickier the better. You can use it on bandages or to cover a wound after putting down some sort of cloth or padding. If you have to walk for help and your shoes are causing blisters, put duct tape in the shoes on the pressure points to relieve the friction. Duct tape does have latex in it, so it’s good to keep a latex-free option in case someone is allergic.

One reason I like these supplies is you can use most of them in multiple ways for multiple problems.

I live in a busy city and never go hiking; do I really need these skills?

JH: Yes. There’s always the risk you won’t be able to get medical care due to natural disasters, upheaval, or all kinds of other things.

A few years ago, there was an episode in England when some city dwellers, because of riots, were not able to get medical treatment in a timely manner. Ambulances were overwhelmed with calls, and it wasn’t safe to go into the streets and try to get to help. For unsafe times like that, the book also gives hints on when you really need to get to the doctor if that’s possible and when it can wait.

Even in ideal times, with emergency services just down a couple of streets, that first few minutes before they reach you can save a life.

What are some common household items you can use to treat a cut or wound?

JH: You can stop the bleeding by applying pressure with any clean cloth material, like a T-shirt. Wadded up, the material can apply deeper pressure than your hands would to a rough wound’s nooks and crannies.

You can clean the wound with drinkable water. Or many types of clean liquids will do.

And you can tape the wound with duct tape if the person isn’t allergic to latex. Not all wounds should be closed, but for those that do, a specific taping technique, which I go over in the book, can substitute for stitches if necessary.

What’s the main concern with broken bones and dislocations?

JH: The main concern is usually blood and nerve supply. If the bone is out of place, it can press on a nerve or blood vessel, and you could develop permanent problems. If blood flow is stopped, you could even lose the limb. In the book, I go over ways to check for these problems and try to fix them or minimize the damage, at least temporarily, if you’re unable to get professional help.

If you’re dealing with an open fracture, a main concern is infection. “Open fracture” means a broken bone has gone through the skin—maybe only briefly before going back in. This puts you at high risk for a serious bone infection.

How can you tell if someone has had a concussion?

JH: If a person has had head trauma—from either a hit or a jerk of the head or neck—and then has any symptom caused by that trauma, they probably have a concussion.

Many years ago, we thought you had to be knocked unconscious to have a concussion. Now that belief has changed, and we know there can be at least temporary brain damage with much less. For example, you might be dazed, have a headache, feel nauseous or dizzy, or have trouble sleeping. These are just some of the possible symptoms of a concussion.

What’s the first thing you should do if you get bitten by an animal?

JH: Get away from the animal!  If we’re talking about wounds: If it’s dangerously bleeding, stop the bleeding. Wash the wound out well with water.

Do not close it or get it sutured. Animal bites are especially prone to infection, and closing the wound will give those germs a nice breeding ground. Keep it open so you can regularly clean it and so your body can get rid of some of the germs.

With most normal wounds, cleaning with plain water will suffice. But for animal bites, there’s some indication that Betadine-type solutions work better when you’re trying to wash out rabies germs.

survival first aid basics
If you get bitten by an animal: FIRST get away from the animal, then do what you can to avoid infection.

What do TV shows and movies get wrong about CPR?

JH: The actors don’t press hard enough—because they can’t. You’re supposed to press the chest down about two inches, but you don’t want to do that on a living actor.

Also, the actors usually still do artificial respirations with the chest compressions. Today, it’s recommended that in most circumstances, when laypeople perform CPR, they only to do the chest compressions. Exceptions are when you’re performing CPR on children younger than puberty or on drowning or drug-overdose victims.

Also, in the movies and on TV, people come back to life just from chest compressions. In real life, that’s basically unheard of. It’s very, very rare. You do the chest compressions in order to keep the brain alive until you can shock the heart back.

survival first aid basics
Don’t do what the TV Doctors do. Especially this guy.

What’s the main concern with broken bones and dislocations?

JH: The main concern is usually blood and nerve supply. If the bone is out of place, it can press on a nerve or blood vessel, and you could develop permanent problems. If blood flow is stopped, you could even lose the limb. In the book, I go over ways to check for these problems and try to fix them or minimize the damage, at least temporarily, if you’re unable to get professional help.

If you’re dealing with an open fracture, a main concern is infection. “Open fracture” means a broken bone has gone through the skin—maybe only briefly before going back in. This puts you at high risk for a serious bone infection.

What’s the first thing you should do if you get bitten by an animal?

JH: Get away from the animal!  If we’re talking about wounds: If it’s dangerously bleeding, stop the bleeding. Wash the wound out well with water.

Do not close it or get it sutured. Animal bites are especially prone to infection, and closing the wound will give those germs a nice breeding ground. Keep it open so you can regularly clean it and so your body can get rid of some of the germs.

With most normal wounds, cleaning with plain water will suffice. But for animal bites, there’s some indication that Betadine-type solutions work better when you’re trying to wash out rabies germs.

survival first aid basics
If you get bitten by an animal: FIRST get away from the animal, then do what you can to avoid infection.

Where is the best place to be in a thunderstorm to avoid getting hit by lightning?

JH: In the inside part of a house—away from windows—or in a car. If you’re in the woods, there’s no great place.

Some experts have said to keep walking, so if lightning strikes you, hopefully one foot will be up and one down and you’ll be grounded. Others have said squatting on the balls of your feet, heels together, head down, hands off the ground, will help.

survival first aid basics

These theories are debated. I think the best idea is to stay away from metal poles and structures, and make sure you’re not the tallest thing around—or beside the tallest thing. Squat under a low-lying group of short trees.

People don’t usually die when they get struck. They sometimes have burns. There will be a boom that can cause hearing loss. They can have abnormal nerve troubles and are prone to get depression later on.

Can you really drink seawater, urine, and blood?

JH: Yes. It might help very short-term—meaning several minutes or so; it may get you out of a dangerous situation. But after that, it’s going to do more harm than good.

There’s too much concentration of chemicals in these fluids. Your body will try to dilute those out, so you’ll urinate more than usual. In turn, you’ll become more dehydrated.

Also, you’re putting toxins into your body. With urine, your body has just expelled those chemicals because it doesn’t need them. They’re not like a poison; they won’t kill you immediately. But they’ll be more concentrated in your body and will affect your kidneys in multiple ways.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of skills we can learn to improve our chances of survival. If you are interested in this topic, start off with the basics and build your survival skill set from there. This is a skill that no one ever regrets learning. Always remember, Chance Favors The Well Prepared.

Further Reading:

Your Thoughts?

Is there a survival first aid skill you think everyone should know? Do you have a piece of first aid gear that is a must have for a bug out bag? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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herbal medicine chest

Primitive Skills: Herbal Medicine Foraging & Uses


herbal medicine chest

One of the most important things to stock in your home and pack in your bug out bag is your first aid kit. One way to keep your first aid kit full when bugging out is to learn herbal medicine foraging skills so you can identify and harvest useful natural remedies as you move.  A person’s health is, after all, essential to survival and should always be a top priority no matter what the situation is.

In this article we are going to teach you how to find and use 12 life saving herbs that can be used to treat illnesses, alleviate pain, and give you energy. The best part is that ALL of them can be grown at home of found in the wild at little to no cost!

Learning From Our Grandparents

Way before our reliance on pharmaceutical products to help improve our health, our ancestors relied on herbs and other natural products to alleviate their illnesses.

Many people are already starting to build and grow their herbal medicine chests to create an at-home pharmacy. In addition to making sure that only ‘organic and chemical-free’ elements enter your body, another advantage to creating an at-home herbal medicine chest is that it ensures a constant supply of alternative medicine during emergencies.



How do you start herbal medicine foraging?

It will take years for one to master the science of medicinal herbs, so the best thing that one can do is just figure out what the are the most needed items (check out our list below to see what you may need).  

Once you have done this it is time to start putting that knowledge into action!  Go out and try and find some of the herbs you think you may need in the future.  It is never too early to start building up a stockpile.

12 Basic Medicinal Herbs

To help you get started, here is a list of the most basic medicinal herbs including what they are used for and where they are found:

  1. Echinacea – A popular herb, also called as the coneflower, is the best in the list when it comes to fighting colds. What is even better is that aside from being a great plant for boosting one’s immune system, it is also a beautiful plant that can prettify your garden. These flowers naturally grow in Eastern and central North America, in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas.


    herbal medicine chest

    Echinacea, also known as Coneflower

  2. Astragalus – When it comes to the Echinacea’s best partner in boosting the immune system, the Astragalus is on top of the list. Also, the herb also comes with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties essential in getting back to good health. For conditions related to colds and flu, diabetes, heart diseases and even side effects of chemotherapy, the root of the Astragalus can be used. It grows in the wild along the edges of woodlands, in thickets, open woods and grasslands and is hardy enough to survive a North American Winter, should you decide to plant it in your garden.


    herbal medicine chest

    Astragalus can help boost the immune system

  3. Licorice – Although it is super sweet, chewing on licorice root is the best remedy for a sore throat. You can create a tincture or decoction for this, or you can keep licorice ‘sticks’ handy in your herbal medicine chest. Licorice grows best warm climates in deep, rich sandy soil near a stream in full sun.


    herbal medicine chest

    Licorice is great for a sore throat

  4. Chamomile – Chamomile is the go-to herb for those with belly aches. It is also best made into tea and drank in the evenings, along with honey, because of its calming effects. Chamomile grows along fence lines, roadsides, and in sunny fields from Southern Canada to Northern U.S., the plant does not tolerate hot, dry climates.


    herbal medicine chest

    My Mother used to make me Chamomile when I had a stomach ache and I still use it!

  5. Wood Betony – This plant belongs to the mint family and is best used against stress and headaches. It is also great for covering up wounds to relieve it from soreness and inflammation. As you start growing your wood betony, make sure to protect them from harsh conditions and the wind and transfer it only to a herb garden once it has been established. Wood Betony typically grows in woodlands and in copses of trees, although it can occasionally be found in more open areas.


    herbal medicine chest

    Wood Betony can be used to cover a wound or treat a headache

  6. Calendula – This pretty little flower can be eaten and mixed with muffins. Yum! But, aside from filling your tummies, the Calendula is also used to soothe one’s skin. They are used to help heal and soothe rashes. You can make a salve out of it so you can easily grab it to use regularly. Calendula is also very mild even for kids to use. It can be found growing in the wild in open fields and prairies.


    herbal medicine foraging

    Calendula can help make a rash go away

  7. Feverfew – Just like the wood betony, feverfew is also great for headaches and can help dilate the blood vessels. You can take this one as a tincture or tea. Feverfew is commonly found along roadsides and along the borders of wooded areas.


    herbal medicine foraging

    Feverfew is great for headaches

  8. Elecampane – As a member of the sunflower and ragweed family, the Elecampane can grow as tall as five feet. Aside from stimulating the digestive system, it is also used to relieve congestion. Elecampane grows abundantly in pastures and along roadsides, preferring wet, rocky ground.


    herbal medicine foraging

    Elecampane can help with indigestion

  9. Horehound – Although horehound is among the best herbs for coughs, they are extremely bitter and will require lots of sugar – or honey – to make it easier to one’s taste. Horehound is a hardy plant that thrives in full sun and needs little moisture, it usually grows along roadsides, in disturbed areas, and in fields.


    herbal medicine foraging

    Horehound tastes bitter but is great for treating coughs

  10. Valerian – The root of this herb may not smell its best, but it works very well in a tincture or decoction for relaxation due to its sedative properties. Valerian likes moist soil and its native habitat is marshes and river banks.


    herbal medicine foraging

    Valerian has been used as a sedative for thousands of years

  11. Marshmallow – Nope, this is not the sugary stuff that we all love to roast in the campfire. In fact, this herb works as a mucilage to coat both the throat and stomach. It is also used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Marshmallow plants grow in sunny but cool climates on the edges of marshland and on grassy banks along lakes and rivers.


    herbal medicine foraging

    Marshmallow can help with a sore throat or stomach

  12. Comfrey – This herb, which is also known as bone knit, is great only for external wounds. It should never be taken in as it can be toxic to the liver. Simply mash the leaves and soak them in hot water for a few minutes then wrap the soaked leaves around the wounded area.

    Aside from this, comfrey is also recommended to be planted around fruit trees as it aids in pulling up calcium and minerals from the soil. Comfrey most commonly grows in in damp, grassy places. Although it likes damp soil it’s root is hardy enough to survive a minor drought.


herbal medicine foraging

Comfrey is great for healing wounds but should NEVER be ingested

How are these herbal medicines used?

Any of the medicinal plants listed above can be used to cure ailments in different ways, except for comfrey which should only be applied externally.

Method 1: Making A Tea

Among the most popular ways to use herbal medicines is to make them into a tea. To do this, one simply needs to create an infusion by boiling water and adding the leaves into it. Steep it for about 10 minutes (but going longer is okay as well), strain the herbs and use it as your drink all throughout the day.

Method 2: Making A Decoction

As for the roots and bark, one can create a decoction by adding a handful of the dried or fresh herb into a pot of water. Let it simmer after boiling then strain the herbs out. The decoction can be kept for a day inside the fridge but is best used within the day.

Method 3: Making A Tincture

To create tinctures, you can use alcohol to get the oils out from the herbs and preserve them. It is recommended to use dried herbs and enough vodka or brandy to soak it to about a quarter inch. Shake it every day for one month to eight weeks then strain and bottle. The regular dose of a tincture is about 30 drops for three times each day.

Herbal Medicine Foraging Conclusion

Growing, creating and using medicinal herbs can be a lot to take in but it can get easier once you get used to it. In time, your garden will not only make your house beautiful but will keep your family healthy as well.

If you don’t have a garden try going out in the woods and identifying (or even harvesting!) some of these herbs.  Herbal medicine foraging is a skill that pays dividends for the rest of your life once you learn it!​

Further Reading


Your Thoughts?

Do you have a natural or herbal medicine that you use? Do you think this is a good skill to add to our survival knowledge?  Do you have a herbal medicine foraging tip to share?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

Author Bio

Lisa Farland is a writer at Happy to Survive – a blog that will help you thrive and survive, and offers articles about preparedness, and off-the-grid, self-reliant living. Lisa is an avid minimalist camper, prepper and survivalist.

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how to carve a wooden spoon and bowl

Bushcraft Skills: How To Carve A Wooden Spoon and Bowl


how to carve a wooden spoon and bowl

In a long-term survival situation, you may need to fashion your own cooking and eating tools from whatever is available. This article will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a spoon and bowl from wood that you can scavenge or find.

The wooden bowl and spoon are a good starting point for making tools as well as a useful introduction to wood carving. Carving them will teach you the primary skills you need to implement when creating other useful utensils. I suggest you start off with this basic project and then expand from there based on your personal needs.

This is a great skill for people of all ages. Kids find whittling fun and adults often find it relaxing so let’s get started!

The Humble Spoon And Bowl

Wooden spoons and bowls were some of the first tools carved by our ancient ancestors thousands of years ago. They were valued for their ability to help prepare, cook, and eat food. In modern times, we have the advantage of having metal tools and a seemingly endless supply of wood carving and whittling resources online that help us perfect our craft.

Essentials Tools And Materials

Project 1: How To Carve A Wooden Spoon

Choose Your Wood

It helps to choose a block where the fibers in the wood run straight and parallel. Basswood and other soft woods are common choices as they are easy to use and allow you to make precise cuts without needing to apply a lot of force.

Flatten The Wood

Begin by taking your axe/hatchet and evening out one side of the wood. You’ll need to refrain from striking the wood. Instead make precise and controlled cuts with the grain. Following this, use your knife and continue making controlled push cuts until the grain is even enough to draw the outline of a spoon on the flat side of the wood.

A push cut is a whittling technique where the carver holds the object being carved in their off hand and the knife in their dominant hand while making strokes away from themselves to remove the desired amount of wood shavings from the block. In our case, it would be to make one side of the wood flat.

Draw Your Outline

Once you have the side flat, draw a rough outline of a spoon. Visualize how small or big you would like the spoon to be and make a rough sketch of it on to the wood. It doesn’t need to be nice and pretty, just obvious enough to give you a visual barrier throughout the guide.

Safety Note!

Whatever knife you use, make sure it is SHARP! Dull knives become extremely susceptible to accidents when carving since they are more prone to slip and cause you to lose control. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!

Shaping The Handle

After drawing your rough outline, you will want to position the wood vertically with the handle side pointed downwards. You are going to be carving with the grain so start removing material downwards with your knife.

The goal here is to remove wood shavings along the edge where the handle and the head of the spoon meet. Aim to remove small portions of wood instead of hacking off chunks. This will leave you with a larger margin of error should you slip.

Carving is all about maintaining control of the knife, this is necessary for the item being carved and for the safety of the carver.

Do not carve on the drawing or against the grain. If you go against the grain it could very well split the wood and ruin it. Leave just enough space, about a 1/2 inch, between the edge of the wood and the outline of the spoon.

Take care of your tools and they will take care of you!



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Shaping The Spoon

Flip the spoon over so that the head of the spoon is now pointed down. Use your knife to make push cuts and thumb push cuts around the top part where the spoon head is located. Leave about an inch of space between the edge of the wood and the outline of the spoon. We will be drawing a line outside our previous rough drawing to determine the thickness of the edge.

Be careful carving end grain, this is where people are most likely to cut themselves. Stay mindful of where your hands are and how much tension you apply when making cuts.

Scooping The Spoon’s Bowl Out

With a hook knife, make controlled downward scoop cuts while pushing the blunt part of the hook blade with your thumb. Think of it as if you’re scooping ice cream from a bucket, at first you’ll need leverage from your other hand to get the initial scoops, and the further into the wood you get with the hook knife the easier it gets.

Eventually, the head of the spoon starts taking the shape of the hook knife. Afterwards, take a carving knife and do thumb push cuts to shave off the side material so it is flush with the outline.

Re-size

Even out one of the sides flat enough to draw the spoon’s profile. Once the side profile outline is complete, carve off the excess material to finalize the shape of your spoon.

Sanding

The final and most time consuming part is sanding down the project, which is to help create a more detailed and aesthetic finish to the final result. When you reach this step, ideally, you’ll use a low grit sandpaper, a medium grit, then a high grit.

I use a 400 grit to help get rid of all the uneven cuts, then an 800 grit to shape the spoon/bowl, and finally the 1200 grit to finish it all out so that it looks nice and clean.


Project 2: Making A Wooden Bowl

The steps in making a wooden bowl are quite similar to the steps explained for making the spoon. The tools we will use will be slightly different while the size and thickness of the piece of wood will be larger.

Generally when making a wooden bowl, as with the spoon, you start by selecting your wood. We can carve our bowl in any size or style we like, so choose a block that will match what you are going for.

Select The Right Wood Block and Tools

With enough time and dedication it is possible to make a wooden bowl out of nothing more than a straight carving knife, but that also requires more experience. I suggest starting out with the following tools:

Make A Rough Outline

The outline will be a guide as you remove bulk pieces from the wood during the first stage of carving. Use a tape measure to mark the desired thickness of the edge of the bowl, this will help maintain consistency all the way around. Once you attain measurements, draw an outline that connects all the marks into two concentric outlines. If you want a large bowl, then the lines should be about an inch apart.


how to carve a wooden bowl and spoon

Some advanced woodworking tools

Shape the inside of your bowl

With the adze tool, make downward cutting motions similar to when using a hatchet for removing large portions of wood. Don’t constantly cut one way, you will need to cut from opposite angles in order to evenly cut your bowl to a desired depth.

As you progress deeper, the cuts will need to be more precise to prevent from cutting too far.

Once you are happy with the depth you have carved, even out the inside as much as you can with the adze tool or a straight carving knife. Either work fine, but I prefer to switch over to a carving knife since it is more accurate, which makes this process easier.

Cut and carve the outside

Ensure that the wood is secured to your work surface and then begin to remove the outside wood carefully. You will be working towards the outline you drew on the top and the base of the bowl.

This carving should be done using push cuts with the carving knife. You can start off a little bit aggressive but make sure you rein it is as the outside of the bowl quickly starts to take shape. Ensure that you frequently check the thickness of the bottom and sides to keep things even. Make sure you do not punch through the wall of the bowl!

Sanding

Again, one of the most time consuming steps, but necessary to remove all the uneven edges. You may use the same assembly of grits to sand it down that was mentioned for the spoon, moving from roughest to finest grit as you progress. A nice touch to add is melting beeswax and mineral oil together then lathering it over the wood brings a classic color to the final product.


Conclusion

As you can see, carving a spoon or bowl is a relatively easy task that does not require a lot of time, material, or money. People of all ages can master this skill, you never know when it may come in handy! I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how it goes. Good luck whittling!

Further Reading


woodworking projects

Click on the image to get access to 16,000 woodworking projects complete with step by step tutorials!

Your Thoughts?

Have you ever carved a tool out of wood? What was it? Do you have any wood carving tips or tricks that you would like to share? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About The Author

Nathan Dobson operates a wood carving website that provides highest rated top quality recommendations for all things wood carving related. Includes reviews, how-to’s, wood carving guides, and everything else to help beginners start and veterans learn new techniques. Go to our website to see our top picks http://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/

Nathan began wood carving 6 years ago with just a basic pocket knife while camping. He ended up thoroughly enjoying the craft and learned everything he could about it. He’s come to learn various methods to carving wood while discovering the best techniques to give to those looking to start and even veterans like himself.

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active shooter survival tips

How To Survive An Active Shooter or Mass Shooting


active shooter survival tips

Mass shootings and Active Shooter incidents have seen a steep rise in the US and across the world in recent years. To many people this is one of the most terrifying situations to imagine and prepare for. Most modern mass shootings seem to have an element of randomness and primal rage rolled into them which only serves to heighten anxiety. What can an average person do if they were in church, at work, and a shopping center or elsewhere when bullets suddenly started flying?

What is an Mass Shooting?

What is an Active Shooter?

Mass shooting refers to an incident involving multiple victims of gun violence The Congressional Research Service uses a definition of a “public mass shooting” if 4 or more people are actually killed. (source)

An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. (source)

What Would YOU Do?

Given the massive increase in these incidents, it is something we should all think about and prepare to survive. I encourage everyone to sit down and have a serious think about what you would do if you were in an area that was under siege by an active shooter bent on doing the most damage possible. Would you run? Would you fight back? Would you barricade yourself in a “safe” place and wait for help?



The upward trend of Mass Shootings continues, sadly

Increasing Your Odds Of Survival…

To help answer these questions I reached out to Robert Richardson, an experienced prepper and author who has written about this topic on multiple occasions on his site Off Grid Survival. Robert was very helpful and gave us some practical strategies and tips for maximizing the odds of survival should you ever find yourself under attack from an active shooter.

What can a person do to prepare themselves for the possibility of being involved in a mass shooting?

The number one thing a person can do is realize that the danger is real; this alone already puts you ten steps ahead of the rest of the public, because at the very least you will start to become a little bit more aware of your surroundings and the possible dangers that exist.


active shooter survival tips

Active Shooter Preparedness Drills are becoming more common

Modern day shootings seem to have an element of randomness, what can a person do to reduce their chances of getting caught in the crossfire?

While this might be true in some cases, if you look at a vast majority of these shootings many of them have a couple things in common.

First, a vast majority of these shootings happen in what are known as gun-free zones. For me, I try not to frequent any establishment or area that limits my ability to defend myself. Most of these mass shooters want a large body count and they want easy victims; that’s the reason most of them target gun-free zones. They know they will meet little resistance.

Second, they tend to target events that will get the most media attention; large public events, grand openings, and opening night premiers are all higher-risk situations. I’m not saying you should live your life in fear, but you should be more alert in these types of situations.


active shooter survival tips

If a shooting occurs what is the first thing a person should do?

The first thing you should do actually begins before the shooting ever takes place. Whenever I enter a new place, I make sure I know exactly where my exit points are; that way should something happen, I know right where to head once the danger strikes.

And for those that think this is being overly paranoid, remember this one strategy can save you not only during mass shootings but also during threats like earthquakes or fires. You should always have an exit strategy.

When should a person run vs fight back?

You always want to make escape your number one priority; fighting back is a last resort option, but an option you must be prepared for. Remember this isn’t the movies; all it takes is one bullet to end your life so escape is always the best option.


active shooter survival tips

Should a person who decides to move to safety run as soon as the bullets start flying or hunker down and wait for an opportunity?

It really depends; it’s something that you’re going to have to decide at the moment, based on what’s going on – there really are too many variables to say for sure. But in general, hunkering down or sheltering in place is almost always a death sentence. I really hate when businesses or schools suggest that sheltering in place is an actual strategy for survival; it’s not!

Your number one priority is to get as far away from the danger as possible.

You Should ALWAYS Have An Exit Strategy



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If they decide to fight back, how do they identify their opportunity to strike?

Your best chance might be during a temporary pause, or when the gunman is reloading. It’s really going to depend on the situation, and you may never have a good window of opportunity. That means if you have no possible route of escape, you need to act. That is your window.


active shooter survival tips

Stat Shot: There were 372 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015, killing 475 and wounding 1,870. (source)

How would you convince random strangers in the same area as you to rush an attacker?

It’s probably not going to happen; most people panic in this type of situation because they never prepared for the possibility. The best you can hope for is yelling “GET HIM!!!” or something like that and hoping others instinctively follow.

What if there is more than one shooter? What should I do differently?

More than one shooter definitely changes the equation, but again these things happen so fast that you really aren’t going to have the opportunity to change things up. You will have to be more aware of where the shooters are, but in general your options are about the same; escape if you can, fight back if you have no other options.


active shooter survival tips

If you had to hunker down how would you signal the outside world for help?

If you can quickly dial 911, without taking your eyes off the danger, then yes. And remember, when hunkering down there’s a difference between cover and concealment. You need to take cover behind something that’s actually going to stop a bullet. Real life is not like the movies, and things like chairs, cars, etc. are not going to stop a bullet.

What should you teach kids to do if there is a shooting at their school?

I would tell them the same things as I would an adult; your best chance is to escape. I don’t care what policy the school has in place, if they tell your kids to shelter in place inside a classroom they are wrong, and I would have some serious doubts about sending my kid to that school.

Make sure your child knows where the escape routes are, and if possible download a map of the school and show them where to go.

Robert’s article Protecting Your Children from Active Shooters & Mass Shootings covers this topic in detail.


active shooter survival tips

From an Active Shooter drill, too late to make a plan now…

How do we increase our level of Situational Awareness to be able to detect danger?

Part of it is just starting to make a conscious effort to look at your surroundings on a daily basis.

Take note of the types of people that are around you, what they are wearing, what your environment normally looks like, etc… that way if something odd happens you will instantly recognize that things aren’t right. And don’t be afraid to trust your gut, we have these feelings for a reason.

If you have kids, point things out to them when you’re out in public. Teach them what to watch out for, where exits are when you enter a business, and encourage them to look around at the world. Make them put down the electronic devices! If your face is staring at your phone you’ll never see anything!

What are some areas/events to avoid if you want to minimize your chances of being a victim of a mass shooting?

  • Avoid opening night events or premiers.

  • Avoid politically charged rallies or anything that has a planned protest around it.

  • Avoid high profile events like championship games etc…


active shooter survival tips

Top Priority: Know where your exits are

What big mistakes are we told to do by the media and authorities if we are faced with this type of situation?

The biggest mistakes, or downright lies and misinformation spread by the media, include telling people to shelter in place, and not mentioning the importance of carrying your own firearm protection. The simple fact is, these shooters want easy victims, and there is no way the police are going to be able to respond in time to save you. You can be a sitting duck, or you can even the playing field and give yourself a fighting chance.

You can be a sitting duck, or you can even the playing field and give yourself a fighting chance



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Conclusion

Active Shooter Situations are a cold, hard reality in modern day life. We need to face this reality and prepare for it like any other. As we see from Robert’s advice, there are a few simple things we can do to increase our odds of survival:

  1. Avoid high profile events if possible

  2. Know your exits whenever going someplace new

  3. Practice situational awareness to get a gut feeling of any situation

  4. If a shooting occurs evacuating the area should be a the priority

  5. Fighting back or sheltering in place are distant second options but may be necessary

  6. If you choose to fight back look for an opportunity where the attacker is distracted or reloading

  7. If you choose to shelter in place find something solid (preferably concrete) that you can hide behind and call for help

Further Reading

Robert has two articles on his site Off Grid Survival that cover this topic. They are great resources and if you want more info I encourage you to check them out:

Here is a fairly good instructional video on what to do if caught in an Active Shooter situation:

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any suggestions for how to survive an Active Shooter scenario?  What would you do if you were caught in the crossfire?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About Robert Richardson

Robert Richardson is the founder and head writer at OFFGRID Survival, one of the top emergency preparedness/survival websites in the world. He is preparedness and survival training expert with over 20 years of real-world experience, and a licensed ham radio operator with over 20 years of emergency communication experience. He is a hunter, fisherman, & extreme backpacker. He writes about his hunting and fishing adventures at monsterfishandgame.com

Robert Richardson is the Author of the Book: The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide: Self-Reliance Strategies for a Dangerous World. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.



Get more great survival strategies from Robert here.


Active Shooter Survival Tips

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how to predict the weather

How To Predict The Weather In The Wilderness

how to predict the weather

Typically we count on weather services and electronic devices to know what to expect from the sky. We may alter travel plans, make a quick trip to the store, or simply pack an umbrella in reaction to an impending storm. However, these services will likely come to a halt if disaster strikes and alternative means of monitoring weather conditions will be necessary. For those that opt to head for the hills, it will become vastly more important to know how to predict the weather in the wilderness.

Nature itself provides many clues as to what is in store. The clouds, plants, animals, insects, and the moon have been used for centuries to predict precipitation, droughts, and floods. Farmers, fishermen, sailors, and others who spend long periods of time outdoors, and whose livelihood depends heavily on the weather patterns, have devised ways to foresee the weather in order to prepare themselves.

Having the skills to read the warning signs that nature provides has short-term and long-term benefits that can greatly increase your chances of survival in a bug-out scenario. Whether a major storm is brewing and you need to prepare to build a shelter in for the day or if the likelihood of flooding doubles and you need to reconsider your location for the season, learning how to predict the weather using nature is a valuable survival skill.

Observing The Sky To Predict The Weather

The most intuitive way to predict the weather is to look to the sky. The clouds, wind direction, air pressure, and even the moon are directly related to incoming weather. Paying close attention to the changes in the sky and knowing how to interpret what you see gives you advance warning of what is to come and enables you to prepare.

how to predict the weather
A red rising sun warns of rain to come.

There is an old saying, “Red sky at night a sailor’s delight. Red sky morn, sailors take warn.” At sunset, the red sky is caused by sun rays passing through dust particles which accumulate at the forefront of a high pressure system. However, in the morning a red sky occurs when a low pressure system carrying moisture is on the way. Therefore, a brilliant red sunset usually precedes a clear day but a red sunrise is a warning that a storm is coming.

how to predict the weather
A red sky as the sun sets in the west is a sign of clear skies.

Another colorful way to predict the weather is the formation of rainbows. In the northern hemisphere, a morning rainbow in the east indicates rain is on the way, as weather generally moves east to west.

Reading Clouds

Cloud identification is a science in itself but there are some simple indicators that can prove very useful, especially when trying to predict the weather in the wilderness.

how to predict the weather
When you see cumulus clouds, it’s a good day for traveling, foraging, and other outdoor activities.

White, fluffy clouds sitting high in the sky are non-threatening as they pass overhead. When the cloud cover is low and dark, a storm is building and appropriate measures should be taken to prepare your camp. Gathering extra firewood and storing it in a protected location will ensure that you have dry fuel to burn during and after the storm.

how to predict the weather
Low, dark cloud cover is a sure sign that a storm is building. Make sure your shelter is ready to withstand rain and wind.

To give yourself more time to prepare, there are two easily identified types of clouds that form prior to storm clouds: mare’s tails and mackerel skies. Mare’s tails are wispy cirrus clouds that are somewhat hazy and undefined, as the tail of a galloping mare. The same conditions that cause them to form also cause airplane trails to linger in the sky.

how to predict the weather
Cirrus clouds precede incoming frontal systems and indicate changing weather. Image credit k4dordy on flickr.

Mackerel skies are altocumulus clouds and are also a sign of rising moisture levels. Independently, these each warn of rain coming within a few days, but seen together, rain will typically fall within 24 hours.

how to predict the weather
Mackerel skies are named for their resemblance to the scales of a mackerel fish.

While clouds are often thought of as bringers of rain, they also act as a layer of insulation. On an overcast night, the radiant heat from the earth is trapped by the cloud layer, leading to a higher temperature in the morning. When the sky is clear at night, the radiant heat escapes and the morning will be cooler as a result.

Wilderness Survival Kit

Detecting Air Pressure

Though air pressure is less noticeable than cloud cover, it is a very dependable indicator of incoming weather conditions. Low atmospheric pressure leads to cloud formation and precipitation. High pressure systems are associated with rising air and clear dry skies.

One way to detect the current air pressure conditions is to observe the smoke from a campfire. If the smoke is rising steadily in vertical column, the air pressure is high but if it is sinking and swirling, the air pressure is low and precipitation may soon follow.

survival after bugging out
Studying how to predict the weather turns your campfire into a barometer.

What The Wind Tells About The Weather

Wind is named for the direction it comes from, so an easterly wind blows from east to west. A gentle prevailing wind or light, variable winds are signs of clear weather. Strong winds occur when two fronts with different temperatures meet, and usually mean that a storm is forming.

An awareness of the surrounding climates will also help you read the wind. For instance, if a desert lies to the east of your location, wind coming from the east will typically carry dry, warm desert air. Mountains also play a role in that air flowing over a mountain will usually release precipitation as it rises along the side facing the wind and will move down the opposite side with dry air.

“Circle Around The Moon, Rain Or Snow Soon.”

People have long looked to the moon to provide insight into atmospheric conditions. As the old saying states, when the moon has a hazy ring around it, precipitation is on its way. The ring is caused by the presence of dust particles building up in the atmosphere. It means that a low pressure system is on its way, bringing rain or snow with it. As it passes through, the low pressure system will push the particles along.

how to predict the weather
You can see how the moonlight reflects on the particles in the air, forming a hazy ring.

When the moon appears clearly defined and bright, it is due to an absence of particles and moisture. This is characteristic of a high pressure system and the next day has a high chance of being dry. In the short-term, this is a simple and effective way to predict the weather.

how to predict the weather
When the outline of the moon is clearly defined, fair weather can be expected.

For long-term or seasonal weather predictions, the phases of the moon can reveal clues. When two full moons occur in the same month, there is a higher chance of flooding. It is also said that when the tips of a crescent moon point upward and the moon looks like a bowl that can hold water, a dry spell is coming. When the new moon looks like a frown, or a bowl that water would spill out of, a wet spell is predicted.

how to predict the weather
This bowl-shaped moon is often associated with a period of dry weather.

Weather Signs In Nature

The natural world is built to survive and living things will make adjustments in order to maintain life and produce offspring. Sometimes the changes are so subtle they can hardly be detected but there are some common plant and animal behaviors that reveal clues about the weather. When bugging out, you can use these clues to increase your own chances of survival.

How To Predict The Weather Using Plants

Upon waking, take a close look at the ground. Morning dew on the plants, while itself is wet, can actually be a sign of a dry day to come. A lack of morning dew can occur when dry winds have been pushed through ahead of a storm system bringing rain close behind. Of course, if it rained the night before, this will be more difficult to observe and you will need to look for additional signs in order to predict the weather.

how to predict the weather
A dewy morning can mean that a dry day is in store.

The phrase “it smells like rain” has some truth to it. The moist air of a low pressure system brings out the scents of plants, as they release their waste under this condition, so the air will smell more pungent just before a rain. Swamps will also release gases during a low pressure system, making for a telltale sign that a storm is moving in.

Visual signs that it is time to prepare for wet weather are readily apparent in trees. The leaves of deciduous trees will curl upward in anticipation of a rainstorm. Pine cones will open their scales in dry air but close them in high humidity.

how to predict the weather
The increase in humidity prior to a storm causes deciduous leaves to curl upward.
how to predict the weather
It looks like a dry sunny day for this pine tree.

Plants also have the ability to foresee more long-term conditions and will adjust their growth accordingly. Crops, such as onions and corn, will grow thicker husks when a harsher winter is predicted in order to provide more protection to their seeds. Similarly, evergreens will produce larger, more robust pine cones, and acorns will form thicker shells- all to provide the seeds with a better chance of surviving extreme winter conditions. If you notice these signs, be prepared for a cold, long winter.

how to predict the weather
A thicker husk provides the seeds with better insulation against extreme temperatures.

How To Predict The Weather Using Animals

The combination of heightened senses and well-developed instincts makes animals highly adept at sensing bad weather conditions. Be on the lookout for changes in feeding patterns, behavior, and sound level that may indicate rain is on the way.

Here are some specific examples of animal behavior that can be used to predict when a storm is coming: 

  • Fish will feed voraciously at the surface prior to a storm so that they can ride it out in deeper water where food is scarce, so an excellent day of fishing usually means you should seek shelter and be prepared to cook the day’s catch in the rain.

how to predict the weather

  • Turtles begin to seek higher ground 1-2 days before a large rainstorm, so you may see them on roads or other areas above normal water levels.
  • If birds are flying high, the weather will likely be clear for a few days. Birds will fly lower in dropping pressure systems because the change in pressure hurts their ears. They will also exhibit frenzied feeding. Squabbles at the bird feeder can mean that a storm is coming and birds are stocking up in preparation of riding out the storm in their nest.

how to predict the weather

  • Along coastlines, seagulls will take shelter before a storm and birds in general become very quiet.
  • Squirrels, similar to birds, will aggressively stock up on food prior to a pending storm.
  • Cats’ ears are very sensitive and they do not tend to wash them but a change in pressure may cause your cat to rub at its ears, indicating a drop in pressure and a storm on the way.

how to predict the weather

  • Horses and cows are known to exhibit similar ear sensitivity behaviors when the pressure changes.
  • Herd animals, such as cattle, will group tightly together, usually facing the same direction, when a storm is approaching. They also tend to head for high ground.

In addition to predicting major storms, animals can also sense long-term threats in the weather pattern. This information is highly valuable when preparing your bug out camp to withstand low temperatures and difficult conditions. A harsh winter means that food will be scarce and opportunities for foraging and hunting will be limited.

bushcraft skills

Depending on the amount of snow cover, it may be challenging to gather firewood. Keeping a fire going will be vital and your bug out party will need as many warm layers as you are able to find or make. All of these preparations take time, so the sooner you know, the better.

In general, if you notice extra thick coats of fur on domestic animals or local wildlife, expect dropping temperatures. Conversely, when their fur comes off in tufts, warmer temperatures are right around the corner.

If birds begin migrating earlier than usual, it is a sign of harsh winter to come. The brown section in the middle of a woolly bear’s body is also used to predict how harsh the upcoming winter will be; the thinner the brown stripe, the harsher the winter is expected to be. While there is not much research to back it up, a 70-80% success rate is pretty good for an old wives tale!

how to predict the weather
The Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, often referred to as the “woolly bear,” is an age-old predictor of winter conditions. The one on the left (photo credit Sheila Sund on flickr) is thought to indicate a short winter, while the one on the right (photo credit USFWS on flickr) shows a harsh winter is in store.

Farmers have even used cow fertility rates to predict whether there will be a drought the following year- a drop in fertility occurs in anticipation of a future water shortage.

how to predict the weather
Do cows know how to predict the weather?! Many animals will make similar adjustments in breeding in response to foreseen conditions.

Resources On How To Predict The Weather

To futher explore the topic of how to predict the weather using nature, check out these excellent resources on clouds, weather, navigating, and storms.

ResourceAuthorSubject
The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs
Tristan GooleyForecasting, tracking, navigating and more by reading clues from nature
The Natural Navigator
Tristan GooleyHow to read navigational clues from the sun, plants, tides, stars and more to find your way
The Weather Wizard's Cloud Book
Jim Duncan, Louis D. Rubin Sr., Hiram J. HerbertA full guide to using clouds to predict the weather
Instant Weather Forecasting
Alan WattsCloud formations and reading the sky to predict the weather
Instant Storm Forecasting
Alan WattsFocuses on forecasting strong winds, thunder, hail storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and waterspouts
Instant Wind Forecasting
Alan WattsLearn to read clues to make predictions for wind conditions
Truth About Nature: A Family's Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors
Stacy Tornio and Ken KefferGreat for families! Explore myths about nature in this interactive guidebook
Click the image to view the book on Amazon.

Conclusion

Plants and animals have been “bugging out” and surviving in nature since the beginning of time. There is much to gain by observing their weather predicting skills and honing our own. When living in the natural world, a simple thunderstorm can be catastrophic if you are not prepared for it. Anticipating a harsh winter can help you ration supplies and apply your energy effectively so you have adequate food and fuel stored. Knowing how to predict the weather will help you to make wise decisions in favor of your survival.

Your Thoughts

Do you know any other ways to predict the weather in the wilderness? Have you been in a situation where knowledge of weather signs in nature benefitted you? Share your experiences in the Comments section below, thanks!

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