Ten Principles of Survival
Written By: James C. Jones EMT/CHCM
Brought to you by The Prepared Pirate
Each of the “principles” discussed here have been covered in more detail in past issues of the American Survivor and/or in my lectures over the past 20-plus years. The purpose of this article is to bring them together as they need to be practiced and adapted to ongoing and potential disasters. They apply equally to coping with long-term situations such as a declining economy, climate changes, shortages and threats to basic freedoms and privacy and sudden disasters such as storms, civil unrest, fires, accidents and epidemics. Once one has moved from denial, through deliberation to the decision and action phases of survival reaction these are important principles that must be applied to guide your actions.
Ten Principles of Survival
- ANTICIPATE: Those who assume that things will not change or that nothing can go wrong wind up being victims. Those who do “what if analysis” on potential hazards and trends are ready to survive. While those who say, “This can’t be happening!” are still in denial, the survivor is ready or has already acted.
- BE AWARE: The military calls this “Situation Awareness” or a “big picture” level this means being aware of the national economic, political, and environmental situation and the developments in your communities and at your employment. What are the trends? What are the developing hazards, shortages, and threats? On a more immediate level you must develop the habit of observing and analyzing things around you and ahead of you. No texting, no cell phone use, no daydreaming. Who are those people coming towards me? Do I smell smoke?
- BE HERE NOW: This sound obvious, but think about it. When we are on the phone, reading, texting are playing a game we are there not here. We tune out what’s going on around us. This is okay in a safe environment, but never in an “at risk” situation. A survival situation requires being 100% at this time and at this place. Any distractions or thoughts about how nice it would be to not be in this place at this time will only make the situation worse and survival less likely. Focus!
- STAY CALM: Easier said than done. If you have followed the first three principles your reactions are going to be automatic and appropriate. Once you have escaped the immediate (assault, shots, fire, etc.) threat. Take some slow deep breaths. Gather your thoughts and follow the next six guides. Remember your calm (or apparent calm) will help others follow your lead.
- EVALUATE: Think about where the situation is going and what your options are. Evaluate the risks if you do nothing versus various actions. Consider your own level of health, knowledge and resources. Will you have help or are you on your own?
- DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING: Sometime you can let the enormity of the situation panic you into inappropriate actions or into giving up. You eat the elephant one bite at a time. Once you know what must be done to survive focus just on how to take “step #1.” Don’t think too much about the other one thousand steps ahead.
- TAKE CONTROL: Happen to the situation instead of letting it happen to you. This is what we all must do now as we face the so-called EOTWAWKI situation and what we must be ready to do immediately when bad things happen. You need to own the situation. You should own the future not fear it. That’s the difference between survivors and victims.
- HAVE WHAT YOU NEED: That sounds simple, but it requires careful anticipation and awareness to have the right stuff where and when you need it. For example: having lots of food and firearms is not what you need when you have a house fire. You need good fire extinguishers now! Having a full NBC suit and mask at home will not help in the more likely situation of smoke or biological hazards encountered on the streets. Its not what you have, its what you have with you. Prioritizing and acquiring skills, supplies and equipment based on personal and realistic expectations rather than popular media scenarios is critical.
- USE WHAT YOU HAVE: The accumulation of stuff alone will not assure survival. You have to know how to use it and then use it effectively. You will also be faced with situations where you need to improvise and scavenge. Junk and scraps can be made into needed items. Nature provides food, shelter, fuel and other necessities when we do not have other options. Survival training greatly increases you options and capabilities with and without stuff.
- DO WHAT IS NECESSARY: That may sound obvious, but it is often the failure to do what was required that resulted in death. Civilized living has programmed us to adopt habits, fears and reactions that are counter to survival necessity. Will we plunge our hand into an open wound to pinch off an artery? Will we hesitate to pull the trigger on an armed assailant? Will we be too shy to strip off cold wet clothing? Will we trash or abandon expensive equipment in order to escape? Pride, fear, revulsion, fatigue, pain and false values are mental states that can result in bad decisions. This is not to say that morality, loyalty, and compassion are to be abandon. If you have abandoned those you have not truly survived
That’s my ten, but of course there has to be one more. The 11th is NEVER GIVE UP. Having advocated preparedness and expanded self-reliance for over 40-years, I guess I got that one. Remember, “survival” is not about you. You survive for your mission and for what you do for others.
Several of the above principles are interpretations of concepts set fourth in Laurence Gonzales’ book Deep Survival published by W. W. Norton Inc.