First and foremost, when faced with a survival or traumatic situation of any kind, one must calm down. Take a knee, so to speak. Calming down enables the person to start to use their brain power in a useful way for enabling salvation from the circumstances, whatever they may be. But just calming down is never enough, for it only stops the action of the moment. What comes next is the most important aspect of survival: making a decision and taking action. However, doing so without considering the options is foolhardy at best and likely to lead to disaster, more problems, or an exacerbation of the problems at hand. So, decisions must be made on how to move forward. So far all of this is not rocket science, yet how does one make decisions without knowledge? This is where the magic of survival skills, of all kinds, kicks in – with knowledge. Without ascertaining all kinds of details (knowledge) about your predicament, you are liable to make decisions that are ill thought out and potentially dangerous. But how do you get the information you need? Enter the zones of assessment.
Zone 1: Your Body & Clothes
You start with yourself:
Are you hurt?
Are you tired or hungry?
What are you wearing?
What do you have in your pockets?
Example: I am wearing a backpack with extra clothes, one sandwich and half a bottle of water inside of it. I have a power bar in my pocket, a small knife and I’m wearing good boots. I do not have a flashlight or any signalling devices. I have lots of energy and no one is injured, but my friend Brian is not physically fit.
If you are not alone, repeat this process so that everyone checks out their own zone 1 and determines what the group has collectively. Even to the point of saying, “Everyone empty out their pockets, and let’s take stock.”
Zone 2: Your Immediate Vicinity
This is simply the area immediate to you – the surrounding area of a few thousand square feet.
Do you have a tent?
Do you have any food or water or other items in packs?
What else is lying around you? Firewood? A swamp full of edible cattail? An all-terrain vehicle with half a tank of gas?
What can you glean from your immediate surroundings? Can you rip or break something apart to aid you? For example, can you make protective, insulated boots out of your car or boat seats?
Example: There are three of us. We have one tent and two sleeping bags, no group food, a small first aid kit and one lighter.
Zone 3: Your Extended Area
This is further beyond – maybe a mile or a couple of miles away.
How far are you from safety?
Do you know of anything not too far away that can help you, like a cabin?
Which direction is safety and how difficult will to be to get there?
How difficult would it be to get to safety and is everyone up for the task?
If not, what are the challenges to getting to safety and can you overcome them easily?
Does anyone know you are in trouble, and if so, how long before they effect a rescue?
How soon can you move, if you can move?
Do you know these answers for sure? (Not knowing something is as important to consider as is knowing something).
Example: I remember that there is a highway only one mile to the east if we walk straight, but I don’t know what the terrain is like and no one at home is expecting to hear from us for at least four more days. I also remember we passed a cabin only a half a mile back and I know for sure we can get to it for the night. It is only about 12 p.m.
After taking stock, this is the knowledge gained from examining the zones of assessment: I am wearing a backpack with extra clothes, one sandwich and half a bottle of water inside of it. I have a power bar in my pocket, a small knife and I’m wearing good boots. I do not have a flashlight or any signalling devices and I have lots of energy. There are three of us, no one is injured, but Brian is not physically fit. We have one tent and two sleeping bags, no group food, a small first aid kit and one lighter. I remember that there is a highway only one mile to the east if we walk straight, but I don’t know what the terrain is like and no one at home is expecting to hear from us for at least four more days. I also remember we passed a cabin only a half a mile back and I know for sure we can get to it for the night. It is only about 12 p.m.
It likely only took 60 to 90 seconds to get all this knowledge. Yet now you have many details and are able to make a series of quality and concise decisions about how to effect proactive survival – the only kind of survival there is.
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