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Survival Tips for Uncommon Situations
February 11, 2010 8:02 PM   Subscribe

What are your best survival tips for dangerous situations that someone might realistically find themselves in?

I'm interested in preparing myself for uncommon and dangerous situations that might still potentially pop up unexpectedly in my life. For example, what should I do if someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night? What would it be best to do if you're kidnapped and stuffed into a boot, or if you're lost in the wilderness with little to no equipment or stuck out in deep water with a shark approaching you?

So basically I'm not looking for survival tips for outlandish scenarios, but rather survival tips for situations that might realistically happen to an ordinary person where knowledge of what to do might save your life. Basically like this question, but without the Armageddon being a factor to worry about.

Share your expertise, Metafilter!
posted by Effigy2000 to Grab Bag (107 answers total) 255 users marked this as a favorite
 
Read Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales.

Another good book is A Paradise Built in Hell. Don't remember who wrote that.
posted by dfriedman at 8:04 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Complete Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.
posted by amyms at 8:07 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you ever find yourself caught in some deep water somewhere (like the ocean), there's a good chance your first concern will be keeping warm enough to stay alive. Try not to move around a lot. Huddle with anyone else you are with. If you are alone, adopt the "HELP Position", keeping your arms tightly crossed and your legs together. Like this.

This is probably more likely than the shark scenario, especially as it could apply to cold lakes too.
posted by Diplodocus at 8:09 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I was reading one of my medical textbooks. A conservative, well regarded, authoritative textbook. In the chapter dealing with avian flu it casually mentions that people should have 2 weeks of food and water ready in case of quarantine in the event of an avian influenza outbreak.

Reading that paragraph or so of text really sent home just how close to the cusp of meltdown a society can be if the wrong events occur.

"The Complete Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook."

Having read that book, and many, many other survival books, I can tell you that book is almost worthless. It is a coffee table book design to spark conversation, not teach survival. If you want a book, look at Tom Brown's stuff or military survival guides.
posted by 517 at 8:28 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wherever you go, make it a habit to know where the exits are.
posted by mlis at 8:35 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pay attention to the world around you. This goes hand in hand with MLIS's knowing where the exits are. Pay attention to the people in your vicinity. Knowing basic concepts of body language can go a long way to being aware of threatening postures. Seeing the possible uncommon situation and avoiding it altogether is the best way to "survive" it. Avoiding a fight is the best way to win one.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:41 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


When confronted by a grizzly bear, play dead*.

Do not attempt to beat it in a fight with a knife, no matter know much training you have had, even with the element of surprise.

* although, this doesn't always work.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


best survival tips for dangerous situations that someone might realistically find themselves in

My first reaction to reading this was that you are in a dangerous situation every time you are in a moving car. Because driving/riding in a car is so common, we often don't appreciate how dangerous it is. But although you realistically find yourself in this situation quite often, I'm guessing it's not quite what you mean, because you wrote

uncommon and dangerous situations that might still potentially pop up unexpectedly in my life

So what should you expect? How about looking at the top 10 causes of accidental death in the U.S. each year:

10. Machinery - Deaths per year: 350
9. Medical & Surgical Complications and Misadventures - Deaths per year: 500
8. Poisoning by gases - Deaths per year: 700
7. Firearms - Deaths per year: 1,500
6. Suffocation - Deaths per year: 3,300
5. Fires and burns - Deaths per year: 3,700
4. Drowning - Deaths per year: 4,000
3. Poisoning by solids and liquids - Deaths per year: 8,600
2. Falls - Deaths per year: 14,900
1. Motor vehicle crashes - Deaths per year: 43,200

So, I'd advise that if cars are too common a danger for you to focus on, how about avoiding falls?
posted by medusa at 8:54 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Two weeks worth of food and water is extremely sound advice and useful in a whole lot of situations. If you require medication to survive, it's probably a good idea to have at least a month's worth, if not more. Also think about heating and sanitation — do you have a source of heat (woodstove, fireplace) that will work without power? Does your plumbing have a pump or something else that would keep you from using it during an outage? (A fair number of people in the DC area just learned the answers to these questions the hard way.) Just about anything from an epidemic to severe weather could have you "sheltering in place" in your house for an extended amount of time, so that's probably the first and easiest place to make preparations.

The next place you probably spend a considerable amount of time (if you have a typical schedule) is at work. It never hurts to keep a flashlight and a few bottles of water at your desk — most office buildings have emergency lighting but it's usually at the perimeter of big rooms, and doesn't illuminate for shit in the middle of a cube farm.

If you wear any sort of impractical-for-walking dress shoe at the office, bring an old set of comfortable walking shoes in and park them under your desk or somewhere else out of the way. Keep in mind that in a disaster situation (e.g. 9/11), you might have to evacuate on foot without the benefit of public transportation, or elevators. A comfortable pair of shoes might be the difference between a little extra exercise and you becoming a burden on rescuers.

The third place to consider, again for a typical suburbanite, is your car. My suspicion / wild-ass-guess is that you are probably more likely to die or at least encounter a life-threatening situation in your car than just about any other place in your day, but there's not a ton you can really do (besides driving defensively, not driving while drunk/tired, etc.). Always keeping your cellphone handy is probably a plus. Remember to turn your car's engine off (after putting it in park and/or applying the brake) if you are in a crash; this cuts down the risk of fire tremendously, and it's the first thing that rescue personnel will do anyway.

I always keep a warm blanket and a small shovel in my car, to use to keep warm with. (The shovel is for clearing snow away from the car's exhaust; this is probably not quite as dangerous with modern cars as it used to be, but it also comes in handy for digging out parking spaces.) In warmer climates where dehydration would be the major risk rather than hypothermia, maybe a gallon jug of water would be more appropriate. (Really this would be good no matter where you are, but I've always been concerned about it freezing and bursting.)

My personal feeling is that addressing the broad question of "how can I ensure that I can take care of myself" (with the implication "so that somebody else doesn't have to") is more useful than trying to plan responses to specific scenarios, any particular one of which is unlikely (even though the lifetime odds of being involved in some type of disaster situation are relatively high), and is doubly unlikely to happen in reality the same way you planned for.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [29 favorites]


Seconding medusa! The front tire blew out on my parents' cars whilst I was driving. On one side, a concrete wall; the other side a tractor trailer. I remained calm, slowed the car to a stop. We then had to change a flat in the middle of the night in the fast lane.

I vomited from fear several times. We were so lucky to make it without getting injured or killed.
posted by effluvia at 9:00 PM on February 11, 2010


I seconded the Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales.

Also would add SAS Handbook by John "Lofty" Wiseman.
posted by aetg at 9:07 PM on February 11, 2010


Check out www.codenameinsight.com Their link directory has all of the survival links you would ever need and the blog is pretty good too. On TV check out Man vs Wild, Survivorman, and Spike TV's Surviving Disaster shows which you can watch online here.
posted by MsKim at 9:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Know how to use the various kinds of fire extinguishers that there are, especially the appropriate way to deal with a grease fire in the kitchen and an engine fire in your car.

It always amazes me how many people don't know how to use a fire extinguisher or that there even are different kinds.
posted by fshgrl at 9:15 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're stung by jellyfish in north queensland waters, applying vinegar to the stings can save your life. standing on a stone fish should be treated with hot, not boiling, water. Use pressure immobilisation for bites from snakes.
posted by b33j at 9:26 PM on February 11, 2010


I hope no one minds if I share a short anecdote. This question is awesome and I'm sort of hoping people might share some good survival stories - 'cause you can't really learn what to do in case of a bear attack from a book quite like you can from someone who has been attacked by a bear.

As a preface, I'm an Eagle Scout, something I'm conflicted about, but one thing I did get a lot of from the Scouts was wilderness survival. Case in point:*

I was living in Moab, Utah, and I liked to camp in the winter. One January, my SO, our friend C. (both females), and I took off for just a silly weekend camping, a trip more about drinking pbr and eating bacon and being alone than anything. We went down to the Needles District of Canyonlands, which is maybe a little more than an hour drive southwest of Moab. It's really remote. Just about as remote as you can get in the continental US. We got down to the Needles ranger station really early and went in to tell the rangers we were going to do some hiking. There weren't any tourists that time of year, and I wanted to make sure they knew we were going to be out. You know, being prepared and all that. We decided on a long hike out and around a huge crater.

We started with what we thought would be plenty of time to finish the hike before dark. But what we didn't count on was the crazy fucking canyon the hike went through, the canyon that involved descending more than one hundred yards of boulders down, across the canyon, and back up out of it. We hadn't exactly counted on this; and, while none of us were exceptionally un-athletic, we weren't exactly boulderers or rock climbers or even really hard core hikers, for that matter. We had, after all, met each other in college in nyc.

It started to become dark. If you're ever far out in the wilderness when it starts to get dark and you know you really have to get back to the trail head quickly or else, you start doing this 'it's gotta be just over that ridge,' or 'it's gotta be just around this sand flat.' And you keep going. And slowly it gets almost impossible to see the next kiron, and then you can't see the kiron anymore and you see a sort of pile of rock like shape and you think, 'is that a kiron? No, that's not a kiron. Where is the kiron?' THIS IS HOW PEOPLE DIE IN THE WILDERNESS. If you do not have flashlights - and, by the way, we didn't have any flashlights (ahem, preparedness) - and you find yourself in the wilderness and it's getting dark (and you weren't planning on spending the night), stop LONG before the kirons get even remotely hard to see, sit down, and STAY PUT. If you do this, the worst thing that can happen is you are forced to spend the night, which is not really that bad at all. Sure, the dessert in the winter can get fucking cold, but one night won't kill you. In the morning, you can pick up the trail. If you keep trying to move on when you start to lose the trail to the darkness, you will get yourself extremely lost to the extent that not only will you not be able to find any sort of trail back, though you'll wander for days and days until you either die of thirst or drowning (yes, you can drown in the desert), or you eat a moonflower and trip until you fall off a cliff or something, if you wander off the trail, you are making it immensely more difficult for the search & rescue teams to find you.

In any case, we were discussing this very thing when we realized, oh fuck, we have totally lost the kirons. Where was the last one? Who could say? Shit. C. started to get extremely anxious, and, with no klonopin available here, began to throw up quite enthusiastically. The SO was also getting pretty freaked out. And I, I the Eagle Scout and fearless leader, was also starting to get freaked out. So I did what any good Eagle Scout would do; I climbed to the highest point I could find that was relatively close to the girls, and I turned on my cell phone. I got a shaky, flashing one-bar on roam. So I call 911 and explain the situation. Then, hilariously, the problem becomes that, because we are so out in no man's land, no one is quite sure what county has to deal with us. So, between the static-y, broken conversations about 'Hey! We're lost out here! Help!' I kept getting transferred back and forth between county emergency offices. Finally, they had the stroke of genius to call the ranger station. At this point, my battery light was blinking, as my power had been sucked dry by the roaming signal and the length of time I'd been on the fucking phone, and I'm just trying to ask the operator what we should do. I'm like yelling, 'My battery is almost dead. If someone is coming, how will they find us!!' To which, just before my battery gives out, she tells me, 'the rangers have granted you permission to start a fire. So go...go start a fire.'

Now, I don't know if most people realize how rare a privilege (?) it is to be granted official permission to start a fire in a National Park, and in a desert on top of that. Luckily, I had brought my hatchet, which, I will mention, the ladies had been mocking me about all day, and I chopped up a juniper tree and gathered some needles for kindling and...then it came time to start the fire. Now, we had a lighter, but the wood and the needles were damp and lightly dusted with the January snow, and we were going to need something dry and flammable that could burn for a few minutes to dry the fuel up just a bit and get it going. I had a thin little notebook I used as my journal, which I didn't really want to burn plus paper is shit for getting a fire started. I was about to start tearing little pieces off of the blank pages in back when C. comes to the rescue with the perfect winter fire starter: the tampon. NOTE: ALWAYS CARRY TAMPONS WHEN IN THE WILDERNESS. THEY ARE EXTREMELY VERSATILE. They have many first aid purposes, as well as being very dry, dense, excellent fire starters.

And so we got a raging fire going. Which changes everything. Fire is all that's really needed to turn the terrifying, lonely wilderness into home. We fed the fire into the night, until finally we saw the spot lights of the rangers team. There were four of them. We packed snow onto the fire for a really long time, and then they led us out. They were so incredibly nice. I was so embarrassed, having brought no flashlights and having to be rescued, but I was also really relieved. Park rangers rule. Thanks guys.

tl;dr - I'm a shitty Eagle Scout, if it gets dark when you're hiking just stop and wait until the morning, never go into the wilderness without either some tampons and a lighter or a flashlight and always take your cell phone. If things get really bad, hope someone rescues you.


* irony
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:28 PM on February 11, 2010 [231 favorites]


Don't park in a parking lot next to a van, esp. with a sliding door on the side you would be exiting your car from (bad guy could pull you in easily). Walk with your keys in hand (fist) so that the biggest, baddest one sticks out between your first and second finger so you could use as a weapon. Keep your eyes open in public areas. Don't let yourself get crushed/trampled in a crowd by being more in the periphery than the center (if you can!). I agree that knowing the exits in any building is a great idea. Also the point about keeping two weeks of food/water/medicine around (refresh/rotate) is great in the instance of some types of disaster (ie Avian flu outbreak) -- don't forget you need that much for every person in the household, and certain types of societal breakdown will certainly require cash money in order to survive (cash under the mattress, not in the bank, where you can't get to it!).
I've heard that you should try to kick out/remove a tail light (thereby alerting drivers behind you) if ever end up in the trunk of a car. Never eat snow for hydration, find a way to warm it up as you will advance hypothermia if lost in a cold environment. Lots of bad outcomes would (IMO) have ended up differently without the pure panic which ensues in some situations, the increased heart rate and blood pressure and "freak" hormones can wear you down FAST and lessen your chances for survival in many situations, so try to learn how to control it. Learn how to use firearms even if you don't want to keep one around yourself. Save your energy, don't get a sunburn, don't drink alcohol for hydration, but do use it as an antiseptic. I know there's lot's more but can't think of anything else right now. Some of the best advice I ever got (while driving in deep snow) is to keep your eyes trained on the 35 or so yards ahead of you (not the just immediate part) so you know how to approach (rev up, slow down, plan a slide) on the next part of the road, and I think that, when possible, that advice works for many life situations.
I'll bet the books referenced above would have lots of useful information, too, and plan to check them out (I've got kids to take care of, you know!)
posted by bebrave! at 9:31 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's the little things. Which is one reason I lift weights. And I do not like lifting weights what so ever. But it's for the basic every day tasks that, perhaps one day I may need some extra strength. Such as holding heavy luggage that I need to transport quickly to get to another airport gate that is all the way on the opposite side of the airport. Crunch time and a matter of serious money and time on the line. Also, reading the newspaper. To get a good survey on the world around me. Such as finding out people getting scammed or making observations about accidents, deaths, crime in certain areas, etc.

Car and computer issues are horrible to go through but are dependent on technical people to answer and fix. But to get a grip of what may be the issue, I try to read up on it via a magazine because the internet is too broad. Also putting in numbers on your cell phone of electric companies, car issues, etc. is something I've done.

Crime always happens whether or not you try to prevent it. Have your cell and don't put yourself in high risk situations. Sketchy areas, being alone, and trust your gut.

In crazy situations like sharks, bears, etc. Those are exotic situations. Camping, you would prepare. And for snorkeling, you have to be certified. Or going on a cruise and it could sink, you are aware of life floats and safety precautions.

More often, it's not knowing that hurts and leads to suffering consequences that are ten times worse if you could have avoided them. But I've realized too, that I just have to expect the unexpected.
posted by proficiency101 at 9:33 PM on February 11, 2010


First thing you will learn in a first aid course, handy for many situations: DR ABC.

D is for danger - is there danger to myself, or others? You must always stay safe, never endanger yourself trying to help others. If you are safe, you may proceed to help others.

R is for response - can the person respond to your voice? what if you nudge them? shake them gently? ask them to squeeze your finger?

A is for airways - Is something blocking their airways? Can you free them?

B is breathing - If airways are free, are they breathing? No, start cpr.

C is for circulation - if they're not breathing, do they have a pulse? No, start CPR.

This is a handy way to prioritise in an emergency situation.
posted by smoke at 9:39 PM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, and please don't buy into Man vs Wild. In addition to being largely fraudulent, his advice in the areas that I know anything at all about is frequently fanciful, often dangerous, and usually completely wrong.

I would be surprised if his advice in areas I don't know about is any better.

That show is about survival like Rocky is about boxing.
posted by smoke at 9:49 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cash, including small bills. Realistically find one's self in? Happened twice.

In the Montreal Ice Storm blackouts in 1998, we did need to venture out to buy things, including food, and only people who had money and could make their own change could buy stuff, as the bank machines, cash registers and credit/bank card machines were not available. In our blacked out neighbourhood, water was more important than heat even in sub-freezing temperatures.

Cash and small bills was also important when traveling in Brazil in 1990, and an economic freeze meant no credit cards, or traveller's cheques. Even when we had money, you had to make your own change.
posted by kch at 9:55 PM on February 11, 2010


My friend what you are looking for is the "Worst Case Survival Guide" series. Sure, there are a few "joke" entries in the one I have (the "Travel Handbook" ) such as what do do when abducted by aliens, but the vast majority of the advice is actual real, reliable stuff that you should think about (like "how to bribe a corrupt official" when in a war zone, or "how treat a severed limb"... the latter of which my mom, a registered nurse, said was straight out of a medical text book she once read).

Also, 5 ways to get drinkable water in a remote location (my favorite being how to harvest morning dew). How to survive in a burning building and escape to safety. It's all in there.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:04 PM on February 11, 2010


When the police are having a standoff with your crazy neighbor - JUST GO WAIT IN THE BASEMENT! You are not going to bring anything to the party.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:04 PM on February 11, 2010


I was talking to an ER doctor awhile ago about some of the horrific machinary accidents, and he said the best indicator of whether they'd survive was how healthy they were before the accident.

So it's not very exciting, but staying fit and healthy is probably a good plan.
posted by kjs4 at 10:14 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think fire and first aid education will help you (and those around you) far more than any amount of preparation for animal attacks or spontaneous kidnappings.

First Aid - do the course, get the kit, keep one in your car and one at home. It's almost guaranteed that you'll be in a situation where it's needed.

Fire - know how to use an extinguisher, and which ones are appropriate for which fires. The wrong extinguisher can often be worse than no extinguisher at all: a metal fire is so hot that if you put water on it, the H2O will split into H (flammable) and O (feeds fires). Not clever. And if you put water on a grease fire in the kitchen, the water will sink beneath the oil, then instantly vaporise when it hits the hot pan, shooting burning oil all over you. Have an extinguisher or fire blanket on hand, and make sure it's the right kind.
posted by twirlypen at 10:35 PM on February 11, 2010


Learn what you can and cannot eat: lambsquarter is everywhere (in the US at least) and actually quite tasty, elm tree seeds are bland but very nutritious. Learn what the main trees are and how to use them - don't try to start or maintain a fire with cottonwood specifically or any green wood generally.

Aside from learning what you can and cannot eat and how to get water, the best thing my survivalist father taught me was that you have to learn to think outside the box. A door may be a door, but it can also be a barricade, raft, table, bridge, roof, or sleigh. A cedar tree may make fragrant firewood, but it can also be stripped and whittled into a walking stick, makes great insulation over a buried sleeping fire pit, or used with its textured branches to give your wheels traction in mud or snow.

If you are stuck in a city and have to interact with people, it would help to have precious metals. If things go terribly wrong, someone may consider your cash to be worthless and you may be using your credit card to clean your nails, but those 24k gold cuff-links and silver candlesticks become very valuable, especially if you know the weight.

We also learned how to do extreme first aid. How do you irrigate and clean wounds? Can you tie a surgeon's knot and do you know how to sterilize your tools? Which kind of wound should you try to stitch and which should you just dress and keep clean?
posted by Tchad at 10:46 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Learn to shoot and operate weapons. A pistol, a rifle, a shotgun, a bow and arrow, a crossbow. Learn to make basic weapons. A spear, a bow, an arrow (unfletched, most likely), maybe an atlatl.
posted by Netzapper at 11:01 PM on February 11, 2010


A writer once said that behind every person stands 30 ghosts. These are the people that have lived and died in the past. There are 30 dead people for every one of us that is alive today.*

These people lived, and they died of various causes. Some natural, some not.

We have learned something, as a human species, from each one of these lives and deaths. Some of the lessons are great -- because people died of disease, we created vaccines. Some of the lessons are more mundane -- because people wrapped their cars around trees, we made seatbelts.

When we fail, it because we failed to really accept and internalize these lessons, and realize, you are not smarter than any one of those 30 ghosts. You can, and must, learn something from them.

A great book is Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. Christopher McCandless rejected the lessons of the past. He had his reasons, but he rejected the lessons, and rejected the advice of other people, such as the last man to see him alive, who urged him not to go into the wild alone. And he paid for it.

People died alone in the woods long before we've been around. We learned from those people, and we made maps. If Christopher McCandless had brought a map with him, he wouldn't have starved to death. If he had done an ounce of real planning, he wouldn't have starved to death.

My survival tip? Don't forget the lessons of the 30 ghosts.

* I have no idea if this number is even close to accurate, or if the writer was merely being poetic. Just stay with me on the larger point.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:04 PM on February 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you have some plastic and a tin, you can collect fresh water from plants. Dig a hole, place your tin in the center of the hole. Surround the tin with fleshy plant cuttings, place plastic over the top, using stones to keep it there, and one stone directly above the tin. Throughout the day, the heat will cause the plants to transpire, the vapour will rise and cling to the plastic sheet, and when night falls and the vapour cools, it will drop from the lowest point (where you placed the centre rock) into your vessel.
posted by b33j at 11:11 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of stuff here about being lost in the wild, which is great, but this isn't just about being lost in the wild. I think medusa's list of the top 10- things that accidentally kill people every year is great and should inform us somewhat going forward. For example, what to do if you're alone and poisoned? If someone pulls a gun on you? And other situations like these.

That said, great answers so far everyone, keep `em coming.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:30 PM on February 11, 2010


My rule of thumb is to stop what I'm doing when two conditions go bad.

For example: Once, a girlfriend and I were kayaking back from an island off the coast. The wind was blowing strong in our faces, and what should have taken two hours took six. Condition one. She started getting hypothermic. Condition two. We finally made it to an island halfway between where we started and where we needed to be, and the wind died down.
We had to decide, do we press on, or call the Coast Guard? This was the deciding factor: It was going to get dark on us if the wind picked up again. Strong wind, incipient hypothermia and in the dark? That's how you end up in the newspaper. We called the Coast Guard. Half an hour later we were on the beach.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:46 PM on February 11, 2010


Cash, including small bills. Realistically find one's self in? Happened twice.

Nthing this. During the blackout of 2003, ATMS weren't working, businesses couldn't process credit cards, wouldn't accept checks, so those few businesses which stayed open (mainly mom & pop shops who made change from their pockets since the cash registers weren't working) accepted cash only.

We also bought a combination handheld radio/flashlight/survival device that is operated by crank power (has a handle you crank vigorously to juice it up, no batteries needed) and keep that in the house or take it in the car with us on longer trips.

I saw on a survival TV show once that a universal distress signal in the US is a triangle of three - three campfires, three piles of rocks, etc. That same show suggested that if you find yourself trapped in a building for whatever reason (one guy was stuck in his house during a flood, another in an office building after a small explosion) to make a triangular "three" symbol somehow on a window (for example, using three Post-It notes) so rescuers know that someone needs help.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:04 AM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


The FM 21-76 US ARMY SURVIVAL MANUAL (a 3MB PDF) may have some of what you're looking for.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:41 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you're out surfing and get knocked into the water and tumbled about, its pretty easy to lose your sense of direction and can't find the way "up" (maybe you hit the bottom/your surfboard, there's a lot of sand in the water, etc.etc.). Stay calm and blow some bubbles, feel/see how they move and that's they way up.
posted by alchemist at 12:50 AM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Check your smoke alarm batteries regularly and know your fire escapes.

Royal blue, geometrical shapes are supposed to be the easiest to see from the air if you ever need a plane or helicopter to find you somewhere.

Learn to listen to the little voice in the back of your head when it says, "Wait a second, something here feels wrong."

Remember that there are very few emergencies that are so life-threatening that they require instant decision-making. Do your best to take a deep breath, smoke an imaginary cigarette and examine your options before you make any rash decisions.

Pay attention to the world around you whenever you go out into it. Don't ever space out as completely as you might in your own home.

I've had a number of cops tell me that if you ever get mugged, you should just give the bastards what they want and do your best to remember what they look like, because as soon as you try to fight them, your chances of getting badly hurt go way up, and frankly, your wallet and your ipod aren't worth that. Then call the cops as soon as possible with your description.

If you're ever in a situation where you are severely low on water, don't hoard it. It's better to drink it and store that water in your body than to just let it sit there unused forever while you die of thirst.

If you're ever crossing an intersection and realize that you're about to get T-boned by another driver, turn away from them if you can (i.e. turn in the direction that they're going). It's been a long time since I took Physics and drew vector diagrams, but if I'm remembering properly, the idea is that ideally you'll go skidding along diagonally with your lesser combined momentum instead of just smashing together in a dead halt.

And, on preview, if you're alone and poisoned and not in the wilderness? Call 911 pronto.
posted by colfax at 12:53 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


"... For example, what should I do if someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night? ..."

Have a plan for home security and defense.
Deter them, in advance.
Prepare a "panic room" or "safe place" to retreat to, in advance.
Don't count on your dog to deter them.
Shoot them.
Better yet, shoot them with the right shotgun and ammunition.
posted by paulsc at 1:04 AM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Isn't the dangerous situation the most likely to happen.. a car crash? There are a lot of terrible drivers on the roads who do stupid things, don't be one.

When I used to read Daily Kos a lot, some of the off-topic, non political blogs could be really interesting. One that struck me and has been reposted frequently since, is this piece by a truck driver on safe driving. It's colorfully written and good advice, covers everything from how to drive when sharing the road with tractor trailers, how to drive in bad weather, what to do when bad sh!t happens, etc.
posted by citron at 1:31 AM on February 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


They're recommending you keep a loaded weapon close by at all times in your house, and make a habit of getting it and putting it in your pocket whenever someone knockson the door or rings the doorbell? Seriously?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:42 AM on February 12, 2010


Well, I see the person who asked the question is elsewhere, but in the USA, if you are about to knock on the door or ring the doorbell at a stranger's house.. it's good to be aware that other people might be armed, and there are a lot of firearms here, in general. Out in the rural areas near where I grew up, sure some people keep a loaded weapon close by. If I was living in an isolated area and home alone quite a lot, I can't say as I wouldn't consider keeping one myself, of course only after I went through all the proper training. I wouldn't trust a wikihow article to tell me a thing about how to do this.
posted by citron at 2:14 AM on February 12, 2010


Well. I just got back from a 6-mile hike through the frozen French Riviera. Don't know if it was on the news, because news sites have now been blocked by my company, it being the end of the week and quotas having been used up (I'm the only one here who reads MeFi, so it's never blocked; that said, I haven't yet read the front page, so if the major, once-in-a-lifetime snowfall we had here yesterday is on there, I don't know it yet).

I grew up in Oregon, camped and hiked a lot in various wilderness areas, also lived in Finland for two years, and my ex bf (we were together for 8 years) was from Savoie, so, as they say in colloquial French, "winter weather knows me" ("ça me connaît"). Winter weather does not, however, know people who've never experienced freak snowfall.

Tips that two others from areas with true winter weather and I had to teach everyone in our offices yesterday, keeping in mind that it started snowing heavily at 11am and was predicted to continue snowing all afternoon, with a storm rolling in around evening: if you leave the office by car, and have only gone a mile/kilometer or two in an hour, park your car anywhere that's safe (and doesn't block the road), and walk back to the office. Stay there until the snow and ice has melted and the roads are clear, even if that means spending the night. If you want to walk to a friend's or colleague's place nearby, leave at least two hours before nightfall (it's dark around 6pm here). If you leave, tell us when you do, tell us where you're going and how long it should take, and call us once you get there.

Why all that? A lot of people thought that if they got stuck in their cars, it would be fine, since they could sleep in their cars. Except that cars are only warm when the engine is running. If you keep the engine running, two things can/will happen: first, and most obvious, you will run out of gas and be stuck for good. Second, and less obvious, you could die from carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if you're surrounded by other cars doing the same thing. If you turn off the engine and stay in your car, chances are good you don't have wool blankets laying around in your car, and since, y'know, it's below freezing, you run the risk of hypothermia. One solution to this would be to have your phone on you and ask someone to come get you... if they can. And if you've driven more than a couple miles from a familiar place, well, that's at least half an hour of walking back to it.

Then there is the risk of other drivers when you take your car onto the road. A lot of people in our offices were scoffing at me, saying that I didn't trust their winter driving skills. As I told them: first, ice is ice, and when you start sliding on it, unless you have driver's training in icy conditions, or chains, which they don't (for both), you cannot control your car. Nor can other drivers. Second, they had no way of knowing how the weather was going to change. Actually, that should be the first concern... but most of them were so accustomed to gentle French Riviera weather that they were unable to conceive of how quickly and dangerously snowy conditions can change. And we even had plenty of warning they were going to change! The highways had been closed, our prefect had given a formal declaration that no one was to get on the roads, a freaking snowstorm was announced... and they still wanted to drive their cars home!!

In short, as others have said, prevention is the best medecine. If you stay at the office, sure, it kinda sucks. But kinda-suckage is a hell of a lot better than injury or, god forbid, death. I have two friends who have died in similar winter conditions. One, a woman who was going to get married, decided to drive home to her fiancé despite warnings not to. She drove slowly, safely... and a deer hopped across her path. She braked. On an icy corner. Next to a ravine. Into which she fell, and died. The second was a guy I'd known since elementary school. A bit hot-headed, proud, liked to take risks. "Y'all are wimps, it's nothing, just a bit of snow!" Took a corner a bit too fast. Slid into the ditch, and a tree.

Me, I went to work dressed in my Salomon GoreTex hiking boots, thick wool socks, wool knit cap I'd got in Finland, wool gloves, turtleneck, and wool coat. Just one other guy in our 50-person office did that as well. People teased us for going overboard. We were the only people still warm and in good shape at the end of the day. I was even the only person who had thought to bring a first aid kit, just in case... ended up using it this morning, for a colleague who'd slipped and fell on ice. No one else had anything! Not even band-aids! There are so many simple things you can do that seem pointless and "overboard" when all is going well, but that keep you in good shape, which is also essential to survival/not getting injured/being able to keep on going even if injured.

Further, that other guy happened to live 6 miles from our offices. We walked those six miles to his and his wife's place; they kindly let me sleep there. We had the most gorgeous walk. Because we were equipped and in shape, we were able to profit from an incredibly amazing hike through one of the most beautiful places on earth: the Mougins area, where Picasso lived (we passed his house!!), the Pre-Alps, the red rocks of the Esterel, the Mediterranean coast, all covered in snow, and right as the sun was setting (we were in the final mile by then), making for breathtaking views. So a little planning ahead can also put you in a position where you can benefit in ways you hadn't imagined!
posted by fraula at 2:19 AM on February 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


"... Seriously?"
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:42 AM on February 12 [+] [!]

I answered my front door twice this week with my (hidden by the front door) pump Remington in my left hand, my barking dog behind me, and a smile on my face. One guy seemed to want to know if I wanted to sell my pickup truck, which is always sitting in my drive way. Later in the week, a woman seemed to want to sell me house cleaning services.

Neither stayed long, or took away anything I valued. Neither was harmed, or delayed the slightest in their appointed rounds.
posted by paulsc at 2:19 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you must stop your car in thick fog: Get off the roadway, and TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF so as not to lead other vehicles astray.

I've seen three severe accidents in 4 years caused by people who stop in fog by the side of the road and leave their lights on.
posted by pjern at 3:02 AM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're caught in an avalanche and you're buried in snow, before digging, drool to figure out which was is down (and therefore, which was is up).
posted by Hiker at 6:18 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Have to jump from a significant height into water?

Cross your arms over your chest, cross your legs at the ankle. Feet first. Never dive.
posted by Loto at 6:23 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


For our drive out from Connecticut to western Montana in January of this year, I was more of less convinced that we were going to have some road accident or breakdown in the middle of nowhere in extremely cold weather. Our car was already packed with the makings of am emergency kit because we needed it all for our destination (lots of belongings, down sleeping bags (rated for 20º or so because that's just what we have) ground pads, lots of food for the drive). Additionally this is what we packed and what I keep in the car anytime I drive anywhere out here:

- two gallon jugs of water
- foil heat blankets they wrap marathoners in
- Hand and foot warmers
- A snow emergency kit from Auto Zone (has a shovel, flashlight that doesn't need batteries, waterproof matches, jumper cables, tools for common car stuff, etc.)
- road flares
- meal bars and jerky
- AAA maps of every region we were traveling through
- chargers for our phones
- first aid kid

The whole was really not difficult or expensive to compile. Half of it lives in a box in the back seat, the other half (water we don't want to freeze, etc) we keep in a grocery sack by the door and grab it on the way out!
posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:26 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Have to jump from a significant height into water?

Cross your arms over your chest, cross your legs at the ankle. Feet first. Never dive.


And never jump into water from any height if you don't know how deep it is. You can't judge the depth from above, and if it's not deep enough you can break your legs.

8. Poisoning by gases - Deaths per year: 700

Make sure you have a (working) carbon monoxide detector on any floor of your house that has bedrooms.

4. Drowning - Deaths per year: 4,000

Always keep an eye on young children around a pool or beach. Always wear a lifejacket when on a boat. If you're swimming in the ocean and start being pulled out to sea, you might be caught in a ripcurrent, so try swimming parallel to the shore to get out of it rather than fighting against the current.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2010


"Seconding medusa! The front tire blew out on my parents' cars whilst I was driving. On one side, a concrete wall; the other side a tractor trailer. I remained calm, slowed the car to a stop. We then had to change a flat in the middle of the night in the fast lane.

I vomited from fear several times. We were so lucky to make it without getting injured or killed.
posted by effluvia "

I don't mean to derail but I had to comment on this one. Why would you even consider trying to change a tire in the fast lane? That is what a breakdown lane is for, blown out tire or not. Get over. Don't ever ever just stop on the highway until you are in a breakdown lane. Your first and foremost concern is safety for yourself and the other drivers on the road. You are lucky that you didn't die and that you didn't take a random stranger on his/her way home out with you.

I drive a lot for work and I am amazed by how many people I see with zero common sense on the highways. Worst offender I ever saw was someone doing just what effluvia said they did. I was just on my way home from work at night. Highway curved to the right. I come around the curve and someone is at a dead stop in the fast lane changing a tire. If I hadn't been paying attention we would have both been dead.

I called the state police and they already had many calls saying other drivers almost did the same thing.

So yes, learn the basics of driving safety, especially highway safety.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also for hiking: an emergency whistle. I was only a few hundred yards from my car when I broke my fibula, and was able to hobble back to it and drive myself to a hospital, but I realized then I would have been seriously screwed if I had been farther from my car (or had a worse injury) and out of cell phone range. Since then I've always carried an emergency whistle when hiking, no matter how short the hike.

Here's a good list of equipment for hiking.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those blankets, hand warmers, etc...if you keep them in your trunk it'll be harder to get them. Keep them in your car if possible or, if you have a back seat that folds down so you can access the trunk that's good too.

Sometimes it's worth it to keep your doors unlockrd so the lock doesn't freeze.

If your location becomes dangerous, say, there's a fire, get out of there and call 911. Someone gets really sick or hurt, call 911. Anyone goes unconscious, call 911. They can put out fires better than you, do CPR better than you. Take a Red Cross training course so you actually KNOW how to do CPR

And--IMPORTANT--always know where you are. The address or at least the cross streets. It helps if 911 can find you.

Poisoning: childproof. In a home with children strongly consider getting rid of toxic cleaners. Clearly label the products that contain tylenol. If you or someone else takes too much tylenol call poison control and keep the bottles. You'll feel fine but your liver is not fine.
posted by kathrineg at 7:57 AM on February 12, 2010


I think paulsc's comment about how he answers the door with a gun in his hand is actually pretty valuable, though not necessarily for the reason he made it. Consider the safety risk for the person knocking on the door, who may unknowingly trigger (no pun intended) a threat response in the armed homeowner.

So my survival tip for knocking on strangers' doors in the U.S. would be - stand well away from the door in a well-lit area and, if possible, in full view of the person coming to answer. Depending on how common paulsc's approach to receiving callers is, this could avoid some accidental fatal unpleasantness.
posted by chinston at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Drowning. It's almost never worth it to have little kids (especially babies to preschoolers) around water unless you are within physical reach of them at ALL times. Not just an eye on them, close enough to grab them.
Be friends with and know how to contact as many people as possible, especially your neighbors. Often your best resource in a bad situation is other people who look out for you. Not as exciting as some other tips but important. Maybe they have batteries and a wood stove. If they like you they won't bust out a shotgun.
posted by kathrineg at 8:13 AM on February 12, 2010


If you ever go into the woods for any length of time, for any distance, especially when it's going to be less than ideal conditions (such as winter), bring proper gear, clothing, water and food. Always bring a flashlight (preferably a headlamp) with extra batteries. Don't expect you'll be able to start a fire, but have some matches and firestarter with you in case you're lucky enough to be somewhere with enough wood that isn't covered in snow.

And always, always assume your cell phone isn't going to work. Never rely on someone to come rescue you. Be prepared to rescue yourself.
posted by bondcliff at 8:45 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And always, always assume your cell phone isn't going to work.

Same goes for your GPS. The batteries could die, it could malfunction, you could end up in a steeply-sided ravine or sinkhole or something where you can't get a satellite fix.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:52 AM on February 12, 2010


Nighttime urban safety tip from a friend who was badly beaten in a mugging: if something looks kind of sketchy, avoid it. Cross the street. Go to another block. Stay where there are lights and open businesses.
posted by avianism at 9:09 AM on February 12, 2010


Let's also consider urban "disasters". In eastern Ontario, I've seen two large scale ones in the past dozen years; the big ice storm of 1998 and the black out that affected most of north eastern NA in 2003.

Lessons learned:
1. Electrical power is key to so much of our modern life. Without it, many things fail: water can stop working, fridges fail, food delivery, cooking and storage gets more complicated, even getting gas can be impossible with modern electric pumps.
2. Keeping more than the 3 days of provisions recommended is important. Help didn't begin to reach people during the 1998 ice storm for weeks in some cases. Food and fuel for that interim was quite important. Water, not so much.
2a. Heat is a big issue if the weather is cold. If power is not restored within a few days when it's cold, it's often better to evacuate to a relative or even a community shelter. The biggest issue here is mental preparation. People don't want to leave what they perceive as a "safe" location even when it's become unsafe.
3. Cell phones are not dependable during a civic emergency. Particularly in the immediate aftermath, people start checking in with their loved ones and the system overloads. POTS Landlines will often still work when the power fails; they have centralized and separate power systems from the municipal grids. Note that VOIP and Skype phones will have trouble too, this includes a lot of office phone systems now too, but not most residential lines.
4. Your vehicle is an excellent power source for recharging small electronics---car chargers for things like cell phones, which are still quite valuable, particularly later on, are useful. Even better are general purpose converters like a 12volt to usb or 12-volt to 120-volt inverters. Small 100Watt ones can be had for about $30 now.
5. Speaking of vehicles, refill your car at the half-mark, not at empty. Sure you're filling twice as much, but you'll always have at least half a tank of fuel.
6. Personal disaster assistance (PDA) kits, go-bags, survival kits are great to have, but what you need is often not what's in many of them: a blanket; a change of clothing, hats, mitts, scarves and jackets; sunscreen, bug repellent and bite care; flashlights with batteries; a way to make a cup of soup or hot chocolate. First aid supplies are always good to have, but environmental exposure is the bigger practical hazard. Be prepared for people who are underdressed for the conditions. Cold, wet and shock can kill as quickly as a wound.

One thing though that you'll see on a lot of preparedness sites which I find utterly baffling is a concentration on personal defence. In my experience, the ice storm and the power blackout, people came together rather than falling apart. In extremis, people mostly just want to help, not fight over scraps. Carry a weapon if you must, but be aware that that it's mostly for your own comfort.
posted by bonehead at 9:22 AM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ok I know you're interested in more than just wilderness advice, but I want to make an amendment to the bear advice. The response to a bear attack depends on the bear's behavior. A bear will attack either because (a) it is stressed (surprised a bear, came between a mother and her cubs, etc) or (b) it is hungry and wants to eat you. If you have surprised a bear it will act very differently than if it wants to eat you. A surprised bear appears "stressed." It will charge at you, maybe huff or roar or bear its teeth. It is best in these cases to play dead so that you are no longer perceived as a threat and usually the bear will leave after a minute or two. Lay face down with your hands clasped over the back of your neck.

A predatory bear exhibits none of these behaviors and is far more dangerous. If a bear is following you, circling, and particularly if one approaches casually, it is probably a predatory bear. If a bear pulls you out of your tent (as in Timothy Treadwell and partner's case) it is a predatory bear because you have done nothing to provoke it. It is best in this case to fight back with all your strength. I doubt very much that this would have done Treadwell and his SO any good, but really it is your only option. Also, if a stressed bear attack goes on for too long, it may have decided to eat you and you should abandon the plan to play dead and start punching.

Personally I don't go into bear country without a firearm. At least bring bear spray. Bear bells do nothing.
posted by stinker at 9:45 AM on February 12, 2010


Err "Lie face down...". You'd think I didn't know better
posted by stinker at 9:47 AM on February 12, 2010


More personal disasters: my parents experienced a housefire, which completely displaced them from their dwelling for a year. This sort of problem is rather different from the larger scale urban disaster because while the personal losses are much higher, society still functions around your and there are often many more resources at hand.

0. Immediate safety: do you know two ways out of every room in your house? If smoke was rolling down the basement stairs, how would you get out? It's worth thinking about this in advance and discussing it with your kids.

1. The first 72 hours are really important. While a good insurance agency will be on site soon, many will not. And, if you don't have insurance, municipal aid many not be immediately available. On average, 72 hours is what it can take for your insurance or social safety net to kick in. In Canada, at least, the Red Cross is often available to provide aid (they're funded to do so, in fact). they can provide essentials of life, like clothing, toothbrushes, even hotel rooms for a day or so, at least until you get back on your feet.

2. In the immediate aftermath, if you don't want to use charity, deputize someone close to you, but not directly involved, to make arrangements. You're going to be in shock and not thinking straight. You need someone with a clear head to get you accommodation, find clothing, buy nappies and toothbrushes, look after pets. Almost certainly, You will find this overwhelming.

3. Records are going to become really important later on. Do you have copies of your records outside of your home? Do you have lists of house contents? Do you have receipts? I have made PDF scans of many of my important documents. My brother and I used to exchange CDs every year with updates, but now, services on the internet make this much more reasonable. Dropbox is great for this. For extra protection, encrypt your documents in a Truecrypt "drive" on the online service. Even if Dropbox gets hacked, my data is secure.

4. Personal stress and feelings of loss are also important issues that will need to be dealt with. Even if there's no significant personal harm or loss of life, being displaced from your home is enormously disruptive. Don't expect to have a "normal" work or home life afterward for a while. My mother essentially spent a year full-time dealing with purchasing, the insurance insurance claim and the builders after their fire. Don't kill yourself because things take a while to resettle.
posted by bonehead at 9:48 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is more of a preventative than a survival tip. Never drive through an intersection that is covered in water. Never! drive through an intersection that is covered in water. So many people drown or nearly drown because they think they can drive through a flooded intersection. Not to mention the deaths and near deaths of the people who try to rescue them.

And if you find yourself in a car surrounded by water, it's a good idea to something to break the windows with, because the electronics will stop working and hardly any cars have manual windows anymore.
posted by patheral at 9:52 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If your keyless entry fob quits working and you don't have the spare key and your cell phone battery is dying and you don't know exactly where you are so no lock smith will come help you (can you tell this happened to me recently?), use another key to pry open the fob and rub the battery in your hands to warm it. Then take a cloth (your shirt will do) and rub off any oils on the battery. Also wipe the spot in the fob where the battery goes. Reinsert the battery and try again.
If my case is any indication of what will happen, as soon as you get enough power to unlock the door, a locksmith will show up.
posted by deadcrow at 10:11 AM on February 12, 2010


If a bear pulls you out of your tent (as in Timothy Treadwell and partner's case) it is a predatory bear because you have done nothing to provoke it. It is best in this case to fight back with all your strength. I doubt very much that this would have done Treadwell and his SO any good, but really it is your only option.

According to this site, the audio recording of the attack shows that Treadwell tried both playing dead and fighting back. At one point when he was playing dead, the bear apparently left long enough for the two of them to have a conversation, but came back a short time later. It also suggests that, after the bear had critically wounded and Timothy and dragged him away from the tent, Amie's high-pitched screaming may have provoked the bear into coming back and attacking her.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:37 AM on February 12, 2010


Why would you even consider trying to change a tire in the fast lane? That is what a breakdown lane is for, blown out tire or not. Get over. Don't ever ever just stop on the highway until you are in a breakdown lane.

Or better yet - get off of the freeway entirely. It's better to bend a rim than die.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:38 AM on February 12, 2010


Oh...and carry flares with you just in case stopping on the freeway is unavoidable.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:40 AM on February 12, 2010


Many highways have no shoulder--just a concrete wall on one side and opposing traffic on the other side. This goes back to the best safety tip out there, avoid driving.
posted by kathrineg at 10:44 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few fire survival tips, since fire is one of those "it will never happen to me, and if it does I won't panic" type of disasters.

If you're in a large building or room with lots of people (a banquet hall, a theater, a concert bar, etc) make note of where the emergency exits are. It is human nature to exit from whence you entered, and this is why so many people get crushed/trampled/smothered in building fires - a mass of humanity rushes to the main entrance door when the room starts filling with smoke.

If you live in an apartment building or dormitory and you notice that the areas in front of fire escapes (often rarely used landings in stairwells) are being used as an alternate storage area and are cluttered with strollers, bicycles, and other miscellany alert the management. You'd be surprised how quickly an area can fill with dark smoke during a fire, and visibility is usually nil. You won't be able to see what's blocking your escape route or how to move it so you can proceed or open the door during a time when seconds count.

If you live with an infant and must quickly escape a burning room/building, wrap the baby in a throw rug or large bath towel (if either are handy). This will help to keep him from wriggling out of your arms as you run for safety, and will also cushion him if you have to hand him off quickly (or toss him) to rescue personnel.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:55 AM on February 12, 2010


If you have surprised a bear it will act very differently than if it wants to eat you. A surprised bear appears "stressed." It will charge at you, maybe huff or roar or bear its teeth. It is best in these cases to play dead...

A predatory bear exhibits none of these behaviors and is far more dangerous.... It is best in this case to fight back with all your strength.


This page suggests the above is correct for grizzly (a.k.a. brown) bears, but that one should not play dead if attacked by a black bear, regardless of the bear's motive.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2010


Skills: 1st aid, CPR, swimming, being in good shape and able to lift/shovel/walk distances, tire changing, battery jumping, belt changing, general car repair, map reading, fire building, lock-picking, basic construction, firearm skill.

Stuff: fire-starting material(lipstick/gloss is a good firestarter, too), matches, lighter, flashlight, radio, batteries, cash, 1st aid kit, rope, twine, water, chocolate bar, knife, utility tool, fire extinguisher, charged cellphone, mylar and fleece blankets in the car.

Resourcefulness: Read the Red Cross disaster preparedness site, read up on 1st aid, Where There Is No Doctor, read lots of survival stories.

The obvious: Wear a helmet, seatbelt, have and use a smoke alarm, CO alarm, drive skillfully.

If somebody goes through ice, find a board, branch, ladder, or anything to help distribute weight. Stories of 2 people dying when 1 tried to help are even sadder.

Practice: Help people as often as you can. Develop as many competencies as possible. Your local Red Cross may offer 1st Responder training, build houses for Habitat for Humanity, lead a Scout troop. Not only will you learn, but you'll develop a community of helpful, practical people. For most situations in life, having a network of capable friends will get you out of a jam.
posted by theora55 at 11:04 AM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


In general, I would say it's important to know when to ignore the part of you that wants to believe that everything is okay, really, you're just panicking over nothing, calm down already.
I was very imaginative as a child, and people were always telling me that I was just imagining {thing that was bothering me}, really everything is okay. And what those people were doing was fine. I really was imagining most of that stuff. There was nothing in the closet waiting to eat me.
But when I fell off that trampoline in high school, I really did break my elbow. By then I had somehow internalized the voice enough that even after I noticed that I couldn't hold any weight with my left arm, I just kept quiet about it. At this point (I, too, am in the future!) I see that I should really have brought this up to the adults at the house I was at. It was a real problem, definitely not my imagination. At the time it seemed like I just shouldn't complain, maybe it would go away? No one else had noticed it, clearly it wasn't a real problem. I just needed to go home and get cleaned up.
So that's how I ended up driving my car with a broken arm.
Trust yourself. Sometimes you will be the first person to notice that, hey, things are quickly going wrong. Do not rely on other people to make this judgment for you. Someone may be dismissive of your concern. That person may be yourself. Take that under advisement, but don't be too quick to decide that everything is just peachy. That is how you end up explaining to the nice nurse that actually, you just stopped at the emergency room on the way home because your arm no longer straightens past a 90 degree angle.

Oh, and if you're jumping into water from any significant height clench your butt.
posted by Adridne at 11:11 AM on February 12, 2010


I third Deep Survival. And underscore it: seriously, read that book.
posted by weston at 11:23 AM on February 12, 2010


kch writes "Cash, including small bills."

Best emergency money to keep in your car or house is rolls of change. Less temptation to spend $100 in dimes during non emergencies. and TaDa; you can make change when things go pear shaped. We're lucky enough in Canada to have coins up to $2.

Really though you shouldn't _need_ to be venturing out for basic supplies in the first week or so of an emergency unless you are desperately poor. Water for weeks is a simple as treating water filled milk jugs with bleach; hard rations can consist of stuff you'd use anyways like canned fruit, dry cereal, granola bars, dehydrated fruits, nuts, and indulgences like chocolate and potato chips. It's completely idiotic that every hurricane season sees news reports of suburbanites stocking up in a mad rush in empty stores as the storm descends.
posted by Mitheral at 11:44 AM on February 12, 2010


Follow the running water downstream. Civilization is next to the running water, downstream. Eventually.

Also, in the US, if you get lost (with no maps and GPS, you crazy person, you), every time you come to an intersection, pick the bigger road. Eventually this will lead you to an interstate (if not to a road you're familiar with). I guess this is the car version of going downstream. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:49 AM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

It describes clear warning signs that precede so-called random and unpredictable violence.
posted by cjets at 11:50 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some things I have done are to try to consider exactly what are likely scenarios I might find myself in. Car issues (accident, mechanical failure, flat tire, etc.) are most likely, so I have; a full spare & all tools, a bag in the trunk with water, anti-freeze, oil, flares, reflective triangle, gloves, folding shovel, blanket, flashlight, etc. Also am a AAA members.

I also keep an "evacuation bag" in the house in case I have to get out, and have only a minute to grab things (the bag, shoes, jacket, keys, water). And the reason would be for likely situations - gas main emergency, flood, hurricane (can happen in my area). So it contains enough for me to be able to "rough it" for a few days; toiletries, some food (energy bars, dried stuff), clothes, money, first aid kit, medication, etc. But reading this thread reminds me that I have to include info on home owner's insurance, bank, credit cards, etc.

So consider where you are, where you go, and what could go wrong. Have contingencies. Every person/location is different. (This thread has some pretty good advice, as well as situations to consider.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:56 AM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Industrial safety:

Stop smoking. Really. Stop smoking right now, and you dramatically improve your chances of having whatever body part you accidently severed off being re-attached. I worked with a one armed smoker, and when he said: "don't smoke" he would motion toward his right shoulder. There was no arm.

Second: Lock out machines before working on them. It doesn't matter if it is 5 feet away or across the building - lock out the power so someone can't flip the switch - a post it note doesn't cut it. Always double check the power.

Third: Wear proper safety gear and no loose clothing. Good fitting safety glasses, gloves & boots. I would go further and would avoid synthetic materials when possible, when I caught my hand in a catcher chain I was able to easily tear the cotton/wool blended shirt and avoided serious injury. Many men don't like wearing gloves that fit - opting for large gloves that poorly fit can cost you your little fleshy digits. Well fitting work boots, real ones, make a major difference, and this is no place to skimp - get recommendations for those from people there- falling boots are different from the ones I had- the floor I stood on vibrated & was oily.

Fourth: Knowledge & Attitude. Everybody feared & respected giant killing machines like the chipper, it was dumb familiar pieces of mechanization that you were going to get careless that most often caused injuries. The guy with one arm got caught in cog for a chain - like the one on your bike, just way bigger. The fear of death is usually earned (we always joked: the easy way: ie someone had died) and some machines are just very dangerous - like the planer, so get training. Remember you are not tough for volunteering to work on this machine, you are just getting an extra 40 cents an hour.
posted by zenon at 12:18 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't mean to derail but I had to comment on this one. Why would you even consider trying to change a tire in the fast lane? That is what a breakdown lane is for, blown out tire or not. Get over. Don't ever ever just stop on the highway until you are in a breakdown lane. -WickedPissah

Or better yet - get off of the freeway entirely. It's better to bend a rim than die.
-The Light Fantastic

This happened to me! Note the poster said there was a tractor trailer on one side at the time. In moderate to heavy traffic, it may be impossible to get over to the right side from the left. Once stopped, it becomes virtually impossible.

Assuming cell phone and coverage, I'd simply call for help at that point. In that situation I'm still safer in my car than out of it. What I *did*, though, before, was to cross the freeway on foot(!) and call using a call box. I don't believe we had any cell phones. In retrospect, it seems that if I had time to sprint across I had time to drive across, but I'm not sure, not on a blown tire.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:37 PM on February 12, 2010


My dad always told us this old gem when we were rafting, "If you fall out of the boat, stand up!"
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2010


And as for bears: my general opinion of any woodland or wild creature is that if they are no afraid of you, you should be very afraid of it. Bears fit in this category.

The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) is a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and certainly not the same deal. As the latin name implies - the grizzly is something to avoid altogether. The brown is big, the grizzly is gigantic, and both are nothing to trifle with. I have had numerous encounters with brown bears - curious, and somewhat indifferent to me or the other humans in those encounters. Any sign of grizzly we promptly departed the scene. We were generally well armed with large caliber weapons- but I would not encourage anyone who has zero experience shooting bears to pop a grizzly or any bear in the head- the smart bet is leaving quickly. You play dead because these guys will keep at it until you are or look dead - shot bears have still killed folks. Handy woodland guide: They are BROWN and bigger is badder.

The American black bear (Ursus americanus), which is just called the black bear, is a small, too friendly garbage can invader and beer cooler breaker. While not serious business like the brown varieties, think of them like giant wild dogs, who also happen to be very smart- they can certainly mess you up. Tip: These ones are BLACK, and like the brown, also avoid.

In my experience across the western bit of N. America, bear bells have generally been very effective at scaring off most wildlife, including badgers, bears, cougars and any dear in a click or so. They are not effective if you are hiking:

1. During a salmon run.
2. In an abandoned fruit orchard.
3. At the town dump, which is the most popular place to see a bear up close. NOTE: this is my preferred method of viewing bears.
4. And have quit for the day and are cooking bacon in your tent. Now, I have never brought food into my tent, but got to see this one the morning after. The black bear had opened every can with its teeth & only ate what it liked.

They are very effective:
1. With 20 boy scouts. There are few things that are willing to brave 20 scouts with bells on - however, grizzlies are likely one of them.
2. Almost always when I've been just scamping about the woods on foot.
posted by zenon at 2:32 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thank you RikiTikiTavi, for the response on the blowout situation, you got it. I live in Los Angeles and I was hyper aware that I wanted to be on the shoulder, but crossing a huge freeway of cars traveling fast was also a deadly option. Try steering a car with one tire and one rim on the front through fast traffic.

There are many times in emergencies when you know the best option, you just can't take it for whatever reason, and you have to make the best of a really bad situation.


I went through the 7.2 Loma Prieta quake in Northern California. I had all the emergency stuff, short wave radio, cash, full gas tank, food, all that stuff. No one else I knew had any preparatory supplies, and they all wanted my stash. So that also taught me that if you are prepared, you're going to have to figure out how to conserve resources without alienating your immediate social web.
posted by effluvia at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2010


As for the gun: I don't know what to do if someone pulls an actual gun on you. But my instinct when someone CLAIMED to have a gun pulled on me was to "do exactly what he says." Even though there was a very large chance that what he really had "pulled on me" was his cocked finger hidden in his pocket.

All he was asking for was my wallet. I gave it to him (I was lucky enough to have just BOUGHT that wallet, in fact, so it had nothing in it but sixteen bucks -- NO credit cards, bank cards, or ID, just a ten, a five, and a one), and that was that.

Even though the odds were in my favor on that angle, it REALLY would have sucked if I was wrong. And all he wanted was money, so....there you go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:47 PM on February 12, 2010


My thoughts on surviving bear encounters mostly matches Stinkers. Bear Bells as I understand it are intended to give the Bear a heads up and prevent surprise. Devils Advocate, I think the assumption in that article is that if a Black bear attacks you, it is probably predatory.

If you're lost in the outdoors take every opportunity to leave clear and distinct footprints, and if you think of it, try to leave a couple next to your car at the start of the hike so that your sole markings can be identified. Searchers are going to assume that you are taking the path of least resistance (usually downhill) so you will likely be found earlier if you conform to their expectations. Always bring the cell.

Personally, my biggest fear in life is death or maiming on the road and I'm always trying to improve the odds by conservative driving, driving predictably and anticipating others mistakes.

Here's a good video to keep in mind when stopped on the side of the road. People tend to look to see what's going on and unconsciously steer in the direction they are looking.
posted by Manjusri at 3:40 PM on February 12, 2010


Learn to walk away. If you're in Brisbane, Queensland, I've known more people beaten badly on the streets there than anywhere else (admittedly I'm talking personally - news-wise Melbourne seems to be worse). A friend was kicked to death and his shoes stolen. Learn to run, learn to negotiate and learn to swallow your pride. Learn your local area and the streets and the public transport lines. Learn the various ways to walk/bike/run/public transport your way home or to safety.

Learn to identify heat stroke, when a mole is turning dangerous and the local wildlife - bear safety is all well and good but if you don't know how to deal with a dingo/funnel web/blue-ringed octopus/shark, then you're not going to ever get close enough to a bear. Sharks can be fought off but you wanna get rescued immediately - it's a temporary situation at best.

Learn to identify a rip.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:23 PM on February 12, 2010


I work in outdoor education and I've had to take a couple of Wilderness First Responder (first aid when you're more than an hour away from a doctor / hospital/ med equipment) courses. The instructors are usually pretty awesome people that have spent a few years working as EMTs and enjoy telling colorful stories to help uhm, terrify us into expecting the worst possible thing at any moment and being prepared for it. Most of them relate back to an earlier poster's point about DR ABC - always assess the danger of a situation before you proceed to try to be a hero.

A couple of their anecdotes that made me pause:

Our instructor told us a story about a little boy who fell into an abandoned gas well of some kind - several firefighters came to the scene, climbed in after him, and one by one also fell unconscious. There was a dangerous leak of some type of gas that killed both the initial victim and the rescuers. Basically, if a person entering an area ahead of you falls unconscious - don't rush in after them. I think I've also heard a similar story told about a couple of industrial accidents involving gas leaks.

Another story involved the improper administration of an epipen - a would-be rescuer applied the epi-pen the wrong way, essentially stabbing himself in the hand and administering a shot of adrenaline that caused him to pass out and wake up next to a dead person. So make sure your rescuer knows how to use an epi-pen, if you ever need one.

She ran into a life-threatening situation personally when she got a bad burn while cooking. This progressed into a systemic infection - made her blood vessels turn yellow, cause massive swelling, etc. This took several days to develop, but by the time she took it into to be treated her doctor freaked out on her - I guess her confidence in her own ability to treat her wounds made the problem much much more severe.

When you get a cut, or if you get bitten by a dog or what not - always always rinse rinse rinse your wounds until you feel like a pansy, for like ten minutes or until it starts to hurt. It feels stupid, but it's the best way to prevent much worse infections.

Don't panic and carry a towel.
posted by ajarbaday at 8:43 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Don't store water in milk jugs. Store it in pop bottles. Milk jugs are simply not built to last, and they will leak. Try it if you don't believe me.)

If you live somewhere with a CERT program (Community Emergency Response Team), that would be right up your alley: Disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medicine, light search and rescue, organization/decisionmaking, disaster psychology, terrorism preparedness. Even if you don't get involved with the organization, the trainers will be more than happy to see you walk away knowing the material.
posted by eritain at 10:20 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, re food storage: You don't have to be Mormon to use Latter-day Saint canneries, and they'll sell you wheat, beans, sugar, dry milk, etc. at cost. See under "Food Storage Checklist" here for an excellent spreadsheet, put together by people I know, to help you calculate what to store, how much, what it will weigh, and what it will cost. The prices are from last year, but you can update them if they're much different.
posted by eritain at 10:45 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're in a disabled car on the shoulder of the highway, waiting for help or whatever, keep your seatbelt fastened. You're in a great position to get hit by another car. (especially if you got to the shoulder by skidding out in icy conditions or similar conditions that will affect the other drivers too.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:46 PM on February 12, 2010


Falls: If you need to do something involving a ladder or a roof, pay someone else to do it
posted by kathrineg at 6:25 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lutoslawski: What the hell is a "Kiron"? Google's got nothin'
posted by bonaldi at 9:22 AM on February 13, 2010


Lutoslawski: What the hell is a "Kiron"? Google's got nothin'

Yeah sorry, Kiron was the eggcorn-esque way we referred to cairns in Southern Utah.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2010


Learn how to recognise a rip current.

Coming from an Australian summer where is seams like people are drowning by the minute.
posted by arha at 3:44 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're car is on fire or submerged and filling up with water, keep a spring loaded center punch handy
posted by P.o.B. at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2010


Generally, get yourself in relatively good physical condition (good cardio, strong enough to lift heavy objects) and if you have any health problems, make sure you have the medication you need with you at all times. Keep your feet and legs healthy, because it's hard to survive if you can't move. If you get lost/ isolated/ dumped into a large body of water, and have time to think, take it--establish immediate goals helps to prevent you from panicking even if they don't absolutely solve all your problems. A lot of survival situations go badly because people are too panicky to respond intelligently to what's happening, and by the time they realize that they're going in the wrong direction/ in need of shelter/ wearing themselves out, it's too late.

If you're dealing with an armed person who wants something from you, give it to them unless you're willing to run the risk of getting shot/ stabbed. There aren't a lot of things in this world that are more valuable than your life. Keep around $20 cash with you to make muggers happy enough not to hurt you if you happen to be in a bad area.

Drowning with clothes on (not just a bathing suit): take your pants off. Tie off the legs of your trousers. Put this around your head, with the knotted trouser legs behind you. Trap air inside the trousers by either holding the waistline just below the water and slapping the surface of the water or by spreading the waistband with your hands and dunking it suddenly (point being, get the legs to inflate). Done properly, this can keep you treading water for three or four days--I think there was a guy who fell off an aircraft carrier and was in the ocean for this long until they pulled him out alive. Of course, if the water's too cold you won't make it. Doesn't work as well when the cloth that you're using is heavy or porous. The same concept applies to a shirt, although it's quite difficult to get it to work unless the shirt has long sleeves and a collar.

Depending on how seriously you want to take this survival stuff, make a little waterproof kit with matches, a multi-tool, some twine, and a large, durable trashbag--keep it in your car or carry it with you. That way, you can make fire, carry water, make tools, and have a very rough shelter from the weather.
posted by _cave at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Walk with your keys in hand (fist) so that the biggest, baddest one sticks out between your first and second finger so you could use as a weapon

This is straight up terrible advice. If you are walking to your car and a stranger is acting in a dangerous or suspicious manner, you should attempt to de-escalate the situation, not respond with violence that will likely result in you getting hurt worse than if you had de-escalated.

Mugging? Give them what they want. If they want your wallet or purse, set it down on the ground and step backing while facing them. Avoid making threatening movements. They are already anxious and unpredictable, don't give them a reason to be violent. If they have a knife, try to make as much room between them and yourself. If they have have or claim to have a gun, don't try to grab it or attack them. It's easier to for them to pull a trigger than to fight you.

Car Jacking? If you are still outside of your car, throw the keys away from you (but not at them) and run towards an area where you can get help. This usually a well lit area where you expect to find people, often the store or house you came from. The idea is that they probably want your car more than they want you, so you should give them what they want while making yourself as safe as possible. If you are inside your car, you are at more of a disadvantage because your escape routes are less accessible. If they want you to give them the car and step out, do that. If they want your belongings, offer them. If they want you to drive them someplace, that is a bad sign. They probably taking you to a less safe area where you will be left without a way of getting help. If you have your mobile phone and the attacker is unaware that you do, try to keep it that way. That way, you at least have a way of getting help after it is over. Some people suggest turning your car radio to a Christian station as a way of getting the attacker to calm down and think introspectively, but it seems like the better option would be to leave the radio off, allow you to hear the attacker's instructions. This means that you have a better chance of positively IDing his voice if the police nab him as a suspect.

Attempting violence upon your is almost guaranteed to fail. Whoever is doing the attacking is more psychologically and (chances are) physically prepared than you are. The number one priority should be to keep yourself safe, even if that means sacrificing pride or property.
posted by arcolz at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Atempting violence upon your is almost guaranteed to fail. Whoever is doing the attacking is more psychologically and (chances are) physically prepared than you are. The number one priority should be to keep yourself safe, even if that means sacrificing pride or property.

Of course, if you fear for your life, violence may be the way to solve it.

A good approach is to wear your seatbelt. If your attackers are not wearing theirs, then simply accelerate to 40 or 50 mph and crash into a telephone pole on the passenger side. He should be much more disabled than you are, allowing you to escape.
posted by Netzapper at 11:08 AM on February 15, 2010


During the blackout of 2003, we realized that all our telephones rely on electricity. So don't be without a plain old non-cordless phone.
posted by emeiji at 2:51 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


My dad always told us this old gem when we were rafting, "If you fall out of the boat, stand up!"

DO NOT STAND UP IN MOVING WATER! There is a very real risk of foot/ankle entrapment. Only stand up when you can feel the riverbed from your defensive swim position, which is floating on your back, arms out like a cross, feet together, and knees bent, looking downstream for a calm, safe place to exit.

If you do find yourself on the outside of a kayak, canoe, raft etc. attempt to position yourself on the upstream side. You do not want to be pinned against an obstacle and have to fend of the craft. Always wear a life jacket and a helmet when boating on a fast-moving river and if you're going to bring a safety rope, bring a knife to cut the line if the rescue goes south.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:59 PM on February 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Never be alone in the house with an alcoholic whom you don't know very, very well.
posted by serena15221 at 11:16 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


wear a seatbelt. watch out for motorcycles.

if the doorbell rings when i am not expecting someone, particularly at an unusual time, i answer the door with a cordless phone on my person. i've had to call 911 for people outside my house in need of emergency services, and i figure if something happens to me, then being able to call 911 quickly is a good thing. if i'm particularly uncertain before opening the door, i'll start the phone up and dial 91.

oh, and this is a cordless phone, not a cellphone. the cordless phone connected to the landline will 1. go directly to my city's EMS, and 2. give them a fixed location for me. cellphones around here go to the state EMS, and while phones have GPS's, it's easier for the emergency folks if they have the address right there on the calling number's info.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:36 PM on February 16, 2010


My dad always told us this old gem when we were rafting, "If you fall out of the boat, stand up!"

Generally, this is not good advice. If you are in whitewater, that water is flowing over boulders. If you stand up, it is possible for the current to force your foot under a boulder and keep it there. The force of the current will likely push the rest of you underwater and kill you.

If you find yourself swimming in whitewater, hopefully you're wearing a PFD. Turn onto your back, put your feet up in front of you, and use them to push yourself off of obstacles. If you can float to shore this way or someone hits you with a rope, great. If not, chose a calm spot along the shore downstream and swim for it, hard, using the crawl stroke. Hold your breath for waves and holes; flush-drownings are common. Don't stand up until the water is below your knees. Swim hard away from caves and trees in the water; they will try to kill you.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:59 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you decide that you want more than a weekend's worth of training in Emergency Medicine, I strongly recommend the Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician course at SOLO: Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunties. The National Outdoor Leadership School also has a WEMT program that I gather is very good. I got my WEMT training at SOLO when I was in university as I was leading outdoor trips for undergraduate students at my university. SOLO is the oldest wilderness emergency medicine training school anywhere and is a top-level course. When I was there, other students were professional wilderness guides and even members of the US Navy Seal Teams.
posted by gen at 11:01 PM on February 16, 2010


How to recognize aggressive signals from a dog

and

how react if a dog attacks.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 8:21 PM on February 17, 2010


If you are stopping in a hotel and the door to the bed room locks with a key, keep the key in the lock or if not possible as close to the door as possible so if you have to get out in a hurry (say waking in the middle of the night during a fire) you don't have to fumble around for it. Also check out the route to the nearest fire exit.

During any emergency a certain number of people will not react or leave it up to others to 'sort it out' often out of not wanting to stand out in a crowd. If in doubt, get the hell out.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:13 PM on February 19, 2010


In light of this today (and given past history, and homicides being just behind car accidents in terms of dying at work)

- If it sounds like gunfire, treat it like gun fire and move away from the sound. Worst case you've maybe missed someone blowing fireworks off. Boo hoo.
- If it is gunfire and you can run, run in as erratic a zig zag as you can manage (serpentine, Shel) and try to get to cover. Shooters are looking for targets, don't make eye contact.
- Run from cover to cover and get as much distance as you can with as little exposure as you can. Call the police as soon as you can.

- If you can see/hear the shooter(s) reload, great use that opportunity to move away (unless you're used to stress situations, odds are your heart will be pounding in your ears, plus if you're smart you've been running and zig zagging from cover to cover).
- If not, look/listen for a likely opportunity while remaining behind something solid that can deflect bullets (concrete benches, support beams, etc) - not just something that hides you (interior doors, drywall).
- If you can't run and you can't hide, play dead if you can.
- If you can hide, try to barricade yourself until you can run. Lock the door, shut the lights, etc. While you're hiding, use the time to collect yourself, plan and look for ways to escape. If you haven't called the police yet, call them. Leave the area as soon as you can.
- If the shooter has moved off and/or you can come out of hiding and run without being a target: run, zig zag, and take cover while increasing distance.

- If the shooter(s) has advanced on you, and you have no other retreat options at this point, distract and defend. If he/they speak to you, reply with an out of context (but not nonsensical) question that redirects attention.
- It's like playing the drinking game 'Questions' with a local environmental imperative (Val Kilmer in 'Spartan' is also good accessible example of this, e.g: 'Why is the T.V. on if no one is watching it?' - redirects attention to the t.v. Diverts situational awareness from assessment and engages sensemaking. 'Whys' are good. If you're near a vending machine 'Why is the vending machine falling?' etc.)

- If you have retreat/hide/barricade options while he's looking at (say) the vending machine, use them.
- If not, but he's distracted and you can hit him while he's not looking, great. Preferably with something. Over and over. Plenty of things around, scissors and fire extinguishers are nice. Coordinate the attack with others if you can. Aim for sensitive areas if you can (eyes, groin, throat).
- If he's not distracted but you're a target anyway. Hit him.
- If you are shot DO NOT STOP FIGHTING until the shooter is neutralized. Shot does not equal dead. Odds are he's too close for you to play dead at this point anyway.
- If you can take his weapon, swell. Shoot him. If you can't/won't, neutralize him however you can (that hot coffee pot, say).
- Do not bring the gun to the police, bring the police to the gun. (Leave the gun, take the cannoli) Or tell them where it is. Leave it under a bush or in a desk drawer or other out of the way spot if you can.
- If you are bleeding put direct pressure on the wound. If you can move, move to a high traffic area and/or where someone will see you.
- With a self-defense class you can defend yourself and perhaps others from an attack. With a Red Cross (et.al.) first aid class you can save lives in a variety of situations.
- Mnemonics are handy under stress. Make some up. Repeat them.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


“- shot bears have still killed folks. Handy woodland guide: They are BROWN and bigger is badder.”

A while back two guys put six rounds of .338 in a bear who was pretty sure their elk was his. He was about 5 feet from being right too.
In perspective the recoil on that is about 31 lbs in a 9 lb rifle, double that of a .308. It should, figuratively, stop a truck.
(I like .338, generally. I like the.338 Lapua Magnum. Wouldn’t use it for hunting, but just generally I like big heavy bullets that hurt my shoulders because I like shooting once. I don’t need power to cover for shot placement, but I don’t want to hike all over hell after an animal in pain. And I handload so I can change to suit. .300 win is nice and 26 lbs to 31 lbs – meh. But closer in drag isn’t so much of an issue for a .338 round. And just ‘cause you’re loaded for elk, doesn’t mean you’re going to find only elk.)
It's good to try all the advice in bear attacks. But being afraid of them is very good advice.
Unless your weapons rate of fire is measured in rounds per minute, if a bear really, really wants to kill you, there’s two things you can do about it: nothing and like it.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:22 PM on February 19, 2010


I stepped through the ice of a frozen lake this past weekend. Here is what I learned from that experience:

--A lake that is frozen over enough to skate on probably still has spots where the ice is unsafe
--Keep an eye out for running water; if you know where the inlet and outlet of the lake are, stay away from those spots
--Move backwards: At first only one of my legs was in the water; when I stepped forward with my other foot to climb out I broke more ice, and when I reached sideways with an arm I broke even more. When I started moving in the direction I had come from (which had just been supporting my weigh), I had better luck.
--Spread your weight out: In order to get all the way out I rolled out of the water in a lying down position, slid a bit backwards, and then stood up.
--Get out of wet clothes fast: Luckily I was close to the AMC Hut where I had been staying and had extra layers to change into. By the time I made it there, the water in my sleeve and pants was freezing solid. If I had to, I would have stripped, wrung out my wet clothes, then put them back on and gotten moving.
-- Carry at least one extra set of clothes on a winter trip. Cotton = death. Wool continues to insulate when wet, but not when frozen.
posted by cubby at 6:14 PM on February 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd respectfully disagree with Lutoslawski's post. The number-one thing to carry if you go out into the wild is plastic sheeting. A folded-up trash bag in your pocket will do - one per hiker.

If you are forced to camp out overnight unexpectedly, the biggest threat to your survival is hypothermia, and the most likely cause will be wet clothes. A trash bag with two tiny holes punched in the bottom corners, and one in the bottom center, becomes a life-saving poncho. Forcing your arms & head through makes the seals fairly water-tight. When I was in college, I and a few friends got caught in a rainstorm while canoeing. Temperatures dropped, and there was no real shelter in sight. We didn't know enough to make a shelter, back then. I used our trash bags (which were for empty beer cans, mostly) to make rain jackets (as described), and we were all safe - EXCEPT the first guy I made a jacket for. Draft #1 had wide armholes & neckhole; the pouring rain ran down his neck and down his body. He turned blue-lipped, with uncontrollable shivering... but made it through the storm. I'm convinced that, without the bags, we all would have ended up much worse than he was.

Additionally, the bag will help retain heat by limiting air flow, and trapping body heat.

The secondary reason to carry plastic is the ability to gather water from streams or dew-laden bushes. I'd add tree sapping, an excellent source of potable water, but if you aren't trained in survival, you probably won't even think to obtain drinking water from trees. Dehydration is the biggest threat to wilderness survival after hypothermia. You can survive for days without eating. Even moderately dehydrated, you will become clumsy, groggy, and disoriented.

After dryness and drinking water are assured, the next most important thing is the ability to make a fire (if you're staying overnight, to help fight hypothermia), OR a light (if you really believe you can walk out after the sun is down. Walking in the dark = serious chance of eye injury from branches, plus the chance of twisting your ankles, falling, etc. Fire, of course, can help provide light, but in general you won't be able to make a decent torch to light your way - so it's really a choice between fire/warmth and flashlight/safe travel after dark.

So, my list reads:
#1. Plastic trash bag
#2. Fire source
#3. Flashlight
posted by IAmBroom at 1:56 PM on February 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


- If it is gunfire and you can run, run in as erratic a zig zag as you can manage (serpentine, Shel) and try to get to cover. Shooters are looking for targets, don't make eye contact.

The first thing I thought of was this scene. About the one minute mark. So, perhaps the zig zag stuff is what not to do.

This is a great thread though. Off the top of my head; chest compressions during CPR should be in time with the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive. It's about 100 beats/minute.

If you get into a tankslapper on a motorcycle, grab the throttle and try to wheelstand. Taking the weight off the front will allow you to steady the bars instead of letting the oscillations build up. Consider a steering damper before one happens because they are terrifying.

One of my colleagues with me now was an EMT in America and he says don't smoke, wear your seatbelt, don't be in a house with a firearm and don't ride motorcycles.
posted by Jenga at 5:54 PM on March 9, 2010


The first relevant google hit says no wheelies.
posted by cmoj at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2010


Kadin2048: "where dehydration would be the major risk rather than hypothermia, maybe a gallon jug of water would be more appropriate. (Really this would be good no matter where you are, but I've always been concerned about it freezing and bursting.)"

To avoid this, fill the jug mostly-but-not-all-the-way, squeeze out all the excess air, and cap. When the water freezes and expands, the jug will expand with it.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 4:00 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


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