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Are You A Survivor?
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Henry Blake
(Dragon) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Are You A Survivor? on 04/04/2009 11:03:19 MDT Print View

Aron Ralston was. He had guts to rise to a challenge none of us hope to ever be confronted with. You could say his philosophy when confronted with disaster became, "whatever it takes".

This thread developed from what became a 'chafe' thread called "Bug out bags and the apocalypse". The underlying idea of that thread (my opinion) was valid—that we need to "Be prepared". As John D. McCann in his "Build the Perfect Survival Kit" book wrote, "When an unexpected emergency situation rears its ugly head, will you be up to the challenge? 'I wasn't prepared for that' will no longer be a valid response...".

I'd like this thread to be about our own 'preparedness'. 'For what' you say? You tell me, and then what gear you have assembled for it, and is the gear in a pack ready to 'grab and go', or can you only hunker down in your house. Be sure to tell us your context—earthquake and forest fire is not on my list of what to prepare for where I live in the Twin Cities area of MN as it would be with someone in parts of CA. I handle the water questions differently where I am (among "10,000 Lakes") than would someone in AZ. Think 'Katrina' kit but tailored for what you anticipate where you live.

I have been concerned about this topic, and been preparing and 'tweaking' my "Preparedness Kits" for years. My ideas have partly been influenced because I know a family that personally went through the 1992 FL 'Hurricane Andrew' disaster(the last of only three USA category 5's in the 20th century).

I have a minature survival kit in an Altoids tin that I can take backpacking, for example, when I do a day hike away from camp. A car kit—I used the shovel one day this winter to dig a woman's BMW out at her home when she got stuck backing out of the driveway on the ice bank to the side and her plastic shovel wouldn't cut into the ice. Also, five kits in the house (in small cheap no-frame backpacks except for mine) for myself, my wife, and each of three children (ages 13, 14, 16). Neither my wife or children is 'onboard' with my ideas of need for this, so their "Preparedness Kits" lack their personal input (no clothes). This will unfortunately be to their detriment if the kits are ever needed.

So—prepare for what hazards, what's the risk level (none, low, moderate, or high), and how can I reduce my risk (the gear plus...)?

Let's learn from each other's insights and experience.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Are You A Survivor? on 04/04/2009 11:19:11 MDT Print View

Anymore I try to avoid the typical "survivor" mentallity as it tends to make you paranoid and believe the goverment is out to get you (I grew up knowing people who were the militia type).

However, preparedness is something I consider myself fairly good at. My car kit alone is one tub that has clothing and sleeping gear for three, plastic tarp for shelter and enough food and cookwear for 3 for 3 days as well as a personal locator beacon and various things like comprehensive med kits, flares, candles, alcohol based heating and cooking system for the car, signaling devices, spare flashlights and batteries, firestarters and 2 gallons of water along with purification systems. It's got a spare set of rain clothing and stuff to suppliment cold weather as well as heat (I travel a lot so the same trip may see below 0F and being in a hot desert). It also has another bag with car repair stuff (extra fluids, sepantine belt, lots of tools, spare parts, repair manual) and I know how to fix most things in the field if it comes down to it. I also have spare ammo in the car, but the guns stay inside in a locked but quickly accessable case (lets just list that one as the least likely needed unless your dealing with riots or looting, in which case it's far better to just leave if you still can). I've also got a mapping GPS with full US on it, so it's not too hard to find civilization. During winter, I usually add snow shoes in case I have to walk out.

For more typical emergencies, I also carry a spare credit card in the car that hasn't been activated yet - I had to use that when we bailed for a brush fire that got out of control on a windy day (65mph) and they had to evacuate our town. Lots of homes were lost, but fortunately it didn't get near ours.

So far, I've had to use it many times for medical emergencies that I drove up on or car repairs, but also for more mundante things like driving 20 hours and simply cannot drive anymore so I know the sleeping bags are in the back.

The way I figure with the above, I'm set for any car trip, most urban problems, most weather types. About the only weak points in the above kit is tornadoes but my basement in the room without windows is where my normal gear pile is and I usually have a pack ready to go on a hike minus sleeping bag, so it is essentially replicated.

Most people aren't going to "bug out" on foot in a serious scenario anyway, they'll drive at least as far as traffic congestion will let them and be stranded there.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/04/2009 11:49:34 MDT.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Are You A Survivor?" on 04/04/2009 11:33:29 MDT Print View

The first chapter in "The Complete Wilderness Training Book" (by an English survival expert Hugh McManners) is entitled "Are you a survivor?"

Just thought I'd share my 2cents

cheers :)

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Are You A Survivor on 04/04/2009 11:45:03 MDT Print View

Just an interesting observation, being prepared turns a survival situation into an "oops" moment usually. Being stuck on a mountain road in a whiteout suddenly becomes, "Well, we'll break out the food and sleeping bags, sleep here tonight and wait for a plow or at least better conditions, or if it stays bad, activate the plb and wait... pass the snickers bars and the hot chocolate would you? Oh, and rook to queen, it's your move."

I've had a lot of instances like that, and it could have gone much, much worse.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Are You A Survivor on 04/04/2009 11:50:12 MDT Print View

If you are here reading these forums, or just here in general, you are a survivor.

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Prepared? on 04/04/2009 12:10:49 MDT Print View

Am I "prepared" for some sort of disaster? Not in the sense that I have put any thought into it at all. I guess I could pack all the gear I needed in about 15-20 minutes if I had to, but I've never really been worried. I've been okay so far, and I don't have to carry the burden of the worry and paranoia. I tend to put my spare energy into planning backpacking trips, going fishing, hanging out with my friends, and whatever else that I find enjoyable.

I can't even imagine what on earth would happen where I live in Minnesota that I wouldn't have quite a bit of lead time on - at least a day or more. I could spend an afternoon putting some sort of "bug out" kit together, or I could just not worry about it, and do it some day if God forbid something ever did happen.

That said, I can see where it would be a fun mental exercise to do something like that.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"Are You A Survivor?" on 04/04/2009 13:03:08 MDT Print View

Henry, thank you for saving this thread.

My first and foremost kit is my head. I study wilderness survival then go out with different degrees of nothing and see what happens. When I do this I try and stay within 5 or so miles from my car so I can get back relatively easy if I cant take whatever situation that may arise.
My personal record with no food is 5 days it was not easy but now I know what I can do. My record overnight no tent tarp or bag 30 degrees, it sucked but again I know what I can do. My longest survival trip was 21 days, I was actually stuck in the wild with no food and few tools in my day-pack. Again now I know what I can do. I like to push the boundary's but I know my perceived limits fairly well.
I am training for an unassisted climb on Mt Everest. I don't entertain making it anywhere near the top but that's not the point. The more I'm out there the more comfortable I become and the less I feel I need in my survival kit.
In my house which I only live in several months a year I keep several months of food and basic tools such as an ax a knife whatever. I don't worry about water since I live in Washington and we get plenty. In my car I have another basic overnight kit with extra food and water. I have found myself in more than one mountain blizzard where driving was on the edge. Knowing I could survive the night or a few days let me concentrate on the task at hand. I always have my day-pack loaded and ready to go it goes where I go. I often fly in small single engine planes and again have my kit with me. All of my different kits have a small but usable first aid kit.
Once I had to give stitches in a 59' sailboat during a hurricane again being prepared made the difference.

My main kit is our 24' sailboat which has several months of food and water plus everything needed to survive anything that may come our way. We also have an extensive abandon ship kit which we hope to never use like all the kits but at sea a boat can go down in seconds. our abandon ship kit has everything we need to survive including our life boat a small sailing dingy so if that day came we would not just have to float around in the ocean, we could actually sail on. I also have been studying barefoot-navigation for years. This is basically navigating by the sun and stars but not using a sextant.
What we don't have is an emergency e-pirb or any type of location beacons. The way we look at it is that we put ourselves in this situation why should a complete stranger have to risk their lives trying to save us. We are in a constant state of attempting to be completely self sufficient. Its also really fun for us. Ali

Henry Blake
(Dragon) - F

Locale: Minnesota
MN Ice Storm Worry on 04/04/2009 13:32:50 MDT Print View

Living in MN, I don't worry much about fire (if my house burns down, it's very localized—I can stay in a hotel), tornado (drive a few miles out of the path, even after the home is gone if I survived), or flood (get to higher ground). I also don't worry about nuclear blasts or radiological dispersion devices (deemed low to no risk) You accept some level of risk if you're alive and get out of bed in the morning.

The natural risk I worry about most here in MN is a severe regional ice storm. In a bad case, the forecasters miss it by calling it something else so people don't prepare properly, the ice brings down small and large power lines alike. You can't evacuate because downed power lines cross all the roads. The main lines are back up in a week, but all the neighborhood lines take at least a month to reach some semblance of order and restoration. No heat in houses since electricity is out. Even gas furnaces need that to run the fan. The grocery stores fast have empty shelves (employees can't get there to open them, but local people on foot take what's needed (ie. help themselves).

It's a bad, bad scenerio—one I'm prepared for, but one I deem low to almost no risk, so I certainly don't worry about it (partly because I am prepared). But, severe ice storms and other disasters have happened elsewhere in the country.

A higher risk for most is the economic situation we are in now that hasn't even begun to play out. If you've lost or lose your job, hopefully your educational skills are what's needed to get reemployed. No job is not as good a situation if you have to go back to school to get employed again. Education takes planning, time, and money.

The deniers of "Preparedness Kits" always say the disaster won't happen to them. A few deniers are no longer with us, when they could have been. Others that are prepared can at times share gear they have with those in need. I'm sure most of you have shared First Aid Kit components with others more than you have used them yourself. In Aron Ralston's case, he met a couple 'on his way out' that called for emergency help and gave him all their food.

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Re: MN Ice Storm Worry on 04/04/2009 14:01:34 MDT Print View

In a bad case, the forecasters miss it by calling it something else so people don't prepare properly, the ice brings down small and large power lines alike. You can't evacuate because downed power lines cross all the roads. The main lines are back up in a week, but all the neighborhood lines take at least a month to reach some semblance of order and restoration. No heat in houses since electricity is out. Even gas furnaces need that to run the fan. The grocery stores fast have empty shelves (employees can't get there to open them, but local people on foot take what's needed (ie. help themselves).

Okay, I'll bite. I'm not being argumentative, just realistic.

First, all of Apple Valley's neighborhood power lines run under ground, except some of the really huge ones, and I'm fairly certain an ice storm can't take them out. Maybe a few of them, but they'd also be the first thing back up. The power station is also on this side of the river, less than 10 miles from my house. So in my hood, I can't see how it'd be out for a month, let alone a week.

That aside, I have a fireplace that I can easily heat 1/2 my house with, and I always have about a cord of wood or so. I think that could last a month if I didn't burn it too fast and kept the area of the house I am heating relatively cool. I'd probably drain the water lines on the far side of the house to be safe. I'd drain them into a giant bucket in case I needed some water later - same goes for my 40 gallon hot water heater, which is 15 feet from the fireplace. So, I've got well over 40 gallons of water on hand. With minimal exertion, that'd last my wife and I a month.

It's winter, so my frozen foods can go in the garage and stay frozen, and I can easily melt snow for water in addition to the 40+ gallons I already have. I've got to have several weeks worth of food easy at any given time, so I think I'd make it just fine for anything less than a month without leaving my house. I've got a bushbuddy stove I can cook on, but I also have a gallon of coleman white gas in my garage, and a 1/2 gallon of denatured alcohol. I also have a spare 20 pound tank of propane for my gas grill.

The ice would be cleared off the roads within a week at most, and I've got a nice big gas guzzling 4wd that would get me to somewhere if I needed supplies. What would have I needed that would have been in a kit? My house is a kit isn't it? All that only took me 10 minutes to figure out.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Are You A Survivor? on 04/04/2009 14:46:58 MDT Print View

Does 3 weeks living in an urban house (no fireplace) with no heat or power count? If so, I've done that plenty in Missouri's wicked ice storms. We had no power for 100 miles and too much ice to travel anywhere.

During the initial worst phase of it, I had many people staying with me because they were unprepared. I was able to drive on some streets or cut through grass patches in my jeep to pick them up because I had chains, but there was no fuel, candles or food to be bought regardless.

The national guard had to evacuate most of them and set up shelters for over 300,000 and the rest were left to fend for themselves or were evacuated 120 miles away to where they still had power.

For us, we still had natural gas, but of course, the heaters use electricity, so I made a routine of filling up the tub with hot water as well as large containers which were then dispersed around my house for radiant warmth. Despite the daily highs of 15F, it kept the baseline warmth in the house around 45-55F. I rigged a garden hose to a faucet and snaked the hose around the floor of the room we were using and set it to trickle and the end was snaked back to the sink so it served as a radiating heat coil (ok, this idea only worked a little, I'd have needed a much larger water heater for it to work the way I hoped).

We then made tea candle chandaliers which both lit the house and raised the temp to the lower 60s. I also used a trick I learned from an old fisherman about using a small coffee can, stuff a roll of toliet paper in it after removing the center cardboard, in a larger coffee can, add a 2" layer of sand or kitty litter (serves to keep the bottom from getting too hot and as a safety measure), place the smaller can inside the big can, add a few ounces of rubbing alcohol to the TP and light it. Have a lid handy to snuff the flame. It burns (relatively) clean until the alochol runs low, warms the house well and is easily contained. That brought the house up into the lower 70s when used.

To get those temps, we blocked off circulation to the parts of the house that were unused. We kept the water at least on a drip to prevent frozen pipes.

We had plenty of propane/isobutane fuel for my camp stoves and pretty much used whatever food we'd normally prepare on a camping trip. We even made smores.

Morale was the roughest part, the radio stations were out for the first several days and I don't have CDs. Lots of board games and a deck of cards are highly recommended. We took turns reading books aloud, we managed to get through much of the Harry Potter series if that says anything for how long the blackouts were.

We kept up with the weather on my weather channel emergency flashlight, radio, hand crank cell charger thing. It works pretty well and I have since put one in my car kit.

In the cold, candles are pretty much your more reliable way of supplying light and the double for heat. We rarely used flash lights unless we were going in the rooms we blocked off.

Fuel for the vehicles was another concern. Before the storm hit, I had a half tank of fuel in my jeep and rapidly found I was the only one in my neighborhood that had chains for a 4x4. I ended up shuttling my neighbors to the national gaurd stations and had little left for my own.

Several of my neighbors decided to try and get gas generators. They found that some rather questionable business people had bought all of the ones from home depot and were outside in the parking lot selling them for $2000 instead of the retail of $450. Some that got them home only had a couple gallons of gas and didn't have the training necessary to splice them into the electrical system so they basically blew $2000 for something to turn on a TV and a couple light bulbs, but were still in the cold. One neighbor insisted his small generator would run electric heaters, but of course as soon as it was plugged in, it would trip the breaker on the unit.

We found that we were overall more comfortable and better up to date than the people who had generators, and we didn't have to fight our way out of town and pay 5X normal cost for gas to fuel them.

Here's my photos of the last destructive that I was in (2007): Springfield Missouri's Ice Storm

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/04/2009 14:53:05 MDT.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Are You A Survivor? on 04/04/2009 15:00:59 MDT Print View

Not to be inflammatory but discussions like this always remind me of the 'Who would win in a fight- Batman or Spiderman?' arguments I used to have when I was a kid.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Are You A Survivor? on 04/04/2009 15:39:03 MDT Print View

Most if not all here are survivors, since we can go self-sustained for at least short periods of time.

The important thing is not to get mentally wacked out about it. Most of you don't remember, but during the 1950's personal bomb shelters shelters were fairly common in the U.S. (at least they were on the west coast). A lot of people were walking around in a state or fear.

In California, we are always aware of earthquake potential. I have been in several, to include 3 over 6.0 and one over 7.0 on the Richter scale. The bad thing about these, is there is no forewarning. But if one worries about them, you will become a head case.

We do a lot of camping in a tent trailer that has solar power and 2 40lb LGP tanks. So we can (and have) used it for situations where we lost power for extended period of times. Almost had to set it up last night, as we had extreme winds, lost power for several hours, and lost part of our patio roof and some of the shingles on the roof. I had to cancel a trip this weekend and am now repairing damage today.

It is good to learn basic survial skills, and at least practice them (fire making, etc.). A lot of these you can practice at home. If you feel the need to go into the wilderness for a few days with no gear, I guess that is your perogative... but I don't necessarily feel everyone needs to go out and starting building emergency shelters and chop up our wilderness.

The most important thing is to learn not to panic, and to carefully assess your situation before taking action. Most people who do not survive an emergency situation panic and make poor decisions.

Henry Blake
(Dragon) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Joe's Home Experience on 04/04/2009 18:15:44 MDT Print View

Joe learned that it's probably more common to be homebound perhaps than 'out in the wilderness' when a calamity happens. Many here are at a job location much of the daytime week, or have kids at school (kits needed?). In MN in my car, I carry my jumper cables and a tow strap year around. I'm more likely to need them to help someone else as I am to need them myself. But it has certainly happened to me both ways.

I do other little things. In the winter, I carry my Arc Alpinist in the car along with a heavy down coat I try to keep my gas tank on the upper half of being full. I always keep some granola bars in the car (their dates don't expire too quickly) and water in seasons when it won't freeze. If I'm leaving town, I carry more. I have a wind-up radio and a tiny battery-powered portable—both include AM/FM/short wave channels (one has NOAA weather).

There is gear I have decided to forego for the time being. Each person/family has to decide at what level they want to prepare. I decided the hassle of buying a generator and storing fresh fuel for it wasn't worth the value of what's in my freezer. I decided not to buy a kerosene heater since I have a gas fireplace space heater in my family room with no electric fan. I haven't bought a chainsaw, although it would likely be extremely useful.

I do keep two spare LP tanks for the BBQ, a gallon of coleman fuel for the old whisperlite, about 10 propane fuel containers (6" tall x 4" wide cylinders) for the 2-burner. And then I keep cash in small bills on the assumption ATM's may not work (like in Katrina). Some $$$ in the car kit I have used when I've changed pants and forgot to grab the wallet—to get a little gas of food. Then I replenish it when I get home. I keep some in each family members kit, and extra elsewhere in the house, just in case it's needed.

I can tell you this. The exercise of thinking about what hazards we could encounter, and doing even a little something to prepare, provides quite a bit of peace of mind. And for people on this site, most of us have older but still great gear (if only a little heavier) laying around to begin creating an effective 'Preparedness Kit'.

Here are two links for FEMA and Red Cross preparedness.,1082,0_239_,00.html

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Aron Ralston on 04/05/2009 19:33:27 MDT Print View

Bah, now I remember who Aron Ralston was....

I'm sorry, but this guy really ruffles my feathers. I'll put my professionalisim to the wayside for a moment and share what other what the average climber thinks (read up on if you wish for futher information and a reality check on the bloke):

He's a "climber" who got in over his head, did everything wrong that an unexperienced climber can do and epitonmized the newbie mistakes that any real common sense would have avoided.

He surived his stupidity of getting stuck solo climbing by luck, but if he'd have not broken any of the common sense rules for rock climbing, he'd have never been in a situation like that, he'd have either avoided it altogether, had a partner, or had someone know where the hell he was so his rescue would have been imminent. If he'd have died, he'd have been in the running for a Darwin award.

Irresponsible climbers like him threaten the access issues for climbers significantly and his actions contribute to the banning of rock climbing in many areas where the sport is already established. No, he wasn't suing a national park, but private land owners see news of things like that and decide it isn't worth the risk letting people climb on their property any more. We've had major closures within the two years after his little stunt.

It would have never been noteworthy had he not capitilized on it after the fact with book deals and such.

Yes, I do not doubt his mental fortitude to emerge from his experience. I just think in his case he caused his own situation 100% and ended up burdoning others for his mistakes.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/05/2009 19:38:26 MDT.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Are You A Survivor? on 04/05/2009 20:25:27 MDT Print View

> I just think in his case he caused his own situation 100% and ended up burdoning others for his mistakes.

Burdening others, but cutting off his own arm and walking out? Anyway, Ralston admitted all of the mistakes you detail.

Henry Blake
(Dragon) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Aron's Mistakes on 04/06/2009 12:06:18 MDT Print View

Joe K.

Not being a climber, I wasn't aware of the negative effects for others Aron created for the sport. Thanks for setting me straight.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Aron Ralston on 04/06/2009 12:54:01 MDT Print View

Thanks Joe, well said.
This guy ticks me off as well.
He completely F@#ks up and becomes some sort of "hero".
What about all the people that are smart enough not to get themselves stuck in completely irresponsible situations?
As a climber, I'm also concerned that bozos pulling stunts like this ruin access for all of us.

Edited by xnomanx on 04/06/2009 12:55:15 MDT.