I am not a survival specialist, nor do I play one on TV. I provide this as my own opinion of what I have learned over time. Your choice to apply this is your choice. In all cases, use common sense to guide your actions. Do not attempt anything I discuss without appropriate safety gear or guardrails in place. Engaging in any activities I describe will be at your own risk.
Emergencies, no matter the nature, are the definition of uncertainty. Preparing ourselves for these situations is challenging. Planning for emergencies is oxymoronic. Any plan, prepared for this type of uncertainty is immediately useless; however, the act of planning helps us visualize what we might face. It helps us think through scenarios and discover what might help us, what tools we must have, and what steps we must be ready to take. Our conclusions and ideas developed in these planning exercises are informed by what we know as we go into them. The information we discover in them will color our readiness and sustainability.
It is not my intent to tell you exactly what books or web pages you should look for to find information about dealing with emergencies or preparing for uncertainty. In fact, I want you to discover those by doing the research yourself. It is my goal to help you discover how deep you need to go in your quest for information. That will determine what you need to know and where you will need to look. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on three levels of concern. These levels should not be considered inclusive. In fact, splitting this topic into levels may obscure some things you may need to consider, so please realize this is a graduated scale and not a fixed set of levels.
At the shallowest level of focus is the individual who realizes they need to be more prepared, but expects there will be plenty of help readily available.
At the deepest level is the individual who is the person others are relying on. This person knows there is likely no one else available to help because everyone is looking to them.
In the middle of these two extremes is the individual who expects they will need to be able to rely on or provide their own tools and resources in an emergency, until some other individuals and responders arrive.
As you can see, based on these levels the amount of information and knowledge each individual will need will be different. You need to ask yourself where you fall on this graduated scale. Are you in the middle, or deeper? You will need to decide where you fit. Once you do, you can start to discover what you need to know to prepare yourself for emergencies.
One thing that helps sustain an individual in uncertainty is confidence in their ability, or the ability of those they rely on. Throughout this spectrum of needs there is a core of information everyone needs to know. Every person needs to start by understanding what things must be available for them to survive. Shelter, water, fire, and food are the most basic items you will see repeated over and over in survival guides. The order in which you acquire or establish them depends on your situation. Learn how to insure you can secure these and even more, understand the relationship between them and how to decide which to focus on first. Please do not depend on me to tell you the right answer here. If you want to sustain yourself in uncertainty and specifically in emergencies, you must take ownership of the one thing everyone agrees on. You must have knowledge, and only you can acquire that.
To acquire the knowledge, start simply. In fact you already have. You are reading this post. Now, dig deeper. Start with simple but reputable survival guides. Be careful to avoid the ones that sensationalize survival. Find the ones that focus on the four basic needs (Shelter, water, fire (heat), and food). The federal government provides guides on preparing for emergencies including how to create an emergency plan at www.ready.gov. Basic military survival guides provide the essentials. Start here, and then grow your knowledge as you discover how deep you need to go. Before you start this discovery though, remember to try and decide where you are on the spectrum I talked about before. Be realistic, and when the urge to go deeper than you think you need comes along, stop. If you still feel the need to go deeper after taking a break, come back to it. It is easy to let fear drive you in this instance, so starting with a realistic understanding about how deep you want to go will help you set a boundary.
Now, back to our three levels. If you are the shallowest level, the information we have covered so far my be as deep as you want to go. Learn the basics and understand the tools you need to have to secure your four essentials of survival. This discovery may drive you deeper after you get started, but make sure it is curiosity and excitement driving you deeper and not fear.
If you are at the deepest level, you will need to establish much deeper understanding and experience. Consider finding reputable trainers to help you understand how to secure those essentials and even how to do so in different situations. You will want to make some plans and even practice them to make sure they may work. Try to force variance on your practice to make sure you also work through problem solving. At this level, your search for knowledge and understanding will probably never end. Your search will be dangerous, because you will be actively practicing survival. Always be mindful of safety and consider practicing with a friend or specialist who can help you in case your practice goes bad. You will always be looking to understand more. Experience and practice will be your ultimate trainer.
Most of us will be somewhere in the middle. Some of us may never go any deeper than discovering some ways to secure our four essentials. Even when you do start digging deeper, remember to avoid sensationalized or over-dramatized survival guides. As an opinion, I often start with older guides and then cross check them with newer publications to see if the guidelines have changed. Interestingly, there will be some things that vacillate. CPR and tourniquet use are a couple of examples that I have seen that change over time and even change back and forth. One final item that I will share in all of this that you must consider. Once you have the knowledge, you will need to customize your approach to take into account personal needs, requirements, and restrictions that only you are aware of. Don’t forget to bring these into your process of discovering what you need to know. Start to improve your sustainability in uncertainty by developing the knowledge of how to deal with challenges like survival during emergencies. Build your foundation and grow your confidence.