Disasters come in all forms!

Emergency Escape Plan“There was a big explosion, the heat reached the cafe and then a big wall of fire enveloped the road…. It all happened so fast, in the space of a minute,” he said.  “There were people inside. I thought for maybe two seconds that I should go in, but the heat was too strong to get to the door,” said Theberge, who escaped with second-degree burns.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis in Nantes, Quebec, and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago)

First of all the USI team wants to express their sorrow over the loss of so many whom have been involved in a “Black Swan Event”. The Canadian train disaster referenced below brings to light how un-predictable and sudden a crisis can be.

But what is a Black Swan Event?. The term comes from the book “Fooled by Randomness” written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2001. Although there are many interpretations of a “Black Swan Event”, it comes down to three major points:

  • The event is a surprise (to the observer).
  • The event has a major effect.
  • After the first recorded instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected; that is, the relevant data were available but unaccounted for in risk mitigation programs. The same is true for the personal perception by individuals.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-flooded-car-image2856726Black Swan Events, by definition, are unique and unsuspected and therefore can’t be planned for. However, the overall disaster plan for your city should take into consideration as many “angles” as possible to limit, by preparation, the effects of a Black Swan Event.

Many events, as we all know, have core elements which can be planned for, and by expanding response to these core elements, we can limit some of the effects of a Black Swan.  For example, if Emergency Recovery Equipment was dispersed throughout a region, no single event could wipe out everything. Therefore, emergencies such as tornado, hurricane, flood or fire can have their impacts lessened on recovery efforts. Core element.

Black Swan Events are capable of touching any one of us at any time. Having an plan in place for yourself and your loved ones is the key to mitigating the effects of any disaster including a Black Swan Event. Creating a plan can seem daunting but USI has provided an excellent guide to get you on your way. Click HERE for more information.

Original story found at: http://news.yahoo.com/insight-train-ran-away-devastated-canadian-town-014559627.html

Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

 

Training is Everything!!

Training is EVERYTHING!

Svalbard Tourism“Practice makes perfect”. Not really, as a Navy SEAL and friend once pointed out to me “Perfect Practice makes Perfect”. For someone like me, with 34 years of experience in the field of isolated personnel recovery and survival, this statement was prophetic. I had never thought about there being “Bad” practices but there are and it answered a lot of questions which often haunted me.

Being properly trained is the key to success in any operation, from business to survival the training you receive is the basis for your success. Unfortunately, in the survival world training can be the difference between life and death. We talk about the 5 “Ps”; prior preparation prevents poor performance but maybe we should focus on 6 “Ps” Prior proper preparation prevents poor performance. And this Preparation should focus on Perfect Training!

I observe peoples equipment and preparation all the time and I read every magazine and article I run across on survival and prepping. I also watch different episodes on television and listen to the “experts” who profess to have all the answers on what to do if you are isolated and living off the land. Whether it is an urban environment or field they all have one thing in common, they eventually give out information which will not work or will flat get you killed.
An example of this is an article I read concerning fire construction where the “expert” ended the article with the statement “be prepared to fail”. What? You just told the audience in a national survival magazine that they could fail to save their own lives? Sounds like you need more “perfect practice”. I cannot think of a situation, outside of not having any equipment or nothing to burn, where a fire can’t be built. Sleet, snow, horizontal rain, high winds, one hand, hypothermic these are all the times you need a fire. If your situation isn’t life threatening then you’re building a camp fire, not an emergency fire. So, where is the disconnect?

DSC_0326

This disconnect comes from the instruction and the practice. In both instances people tend to take short cuts, employ bad habits or listen to people who frankly are clueless. As professional SERE Instructors we spend years researching and perfecting methods of self-preservation. I all things we focus on what it takes and how long it takes, to do a specific task, in order to save your life. In all tasks there are principles; principles that when not followed cause failure. Whether it is urban survival, surveillance detection, camouflage or trapping game if the principles are not followed then failure does.

So to compensate we begin to build redundancy in our equipment at the cost of weight and the possibility of physical fatigue. We also begin to overlook necessary equipment to make room for the redundant. For six months of training, in the art of survival, myself and my team mates lit our cigarettes with a ferrocerium rod (then known as a metal match), lived out of a poncho or natural shelter, used only a canteen cup to collect and prepare food and had two knives; one straight and one folding. We here taught to maintain our equipment and not to lose it because that could mean death.

flood watersI’m not saying that everyone, who wants to learn how to survive, needs to go through the painful and long training that I did. However, the type of training and who is giving the training should be evaluated. There are many questions you should be asking before you get involved with buying equipment or attending training, but the first one should be to ask yourself “why am I doing this.” Is it because of natural disasters and I’m waiting for help? Is it because I’m waiting for National upheaval or a meteor strike or am I just wanting to take care of myself if I fall down and get injured on a weeklong hike?

All these questions come into play when choosing the right training format or equipment. It may be that you only need some medical training from the local Red Cross or it could be that you need advanced survival training under tactical conditions. Regardless of the type of training you require you need to ask the facility you are training under what their credentials are.

SOME POINTERS

  1. In the US only the United States Air Force has a designated career field built around “Global Survival”. All military courses and documents are based on information complied and researched by the Joint Services SERE Agency (JSSA). The only information which doesn’t come from there is based on Native Americans, aboriginals and Mountain Men. However, JSSA researches, studies and applies some of these also.  Home grown courses may not be following current or even safe doctrine so ask for qualifications.
  2. Is the school technology driven or is it primitive means driven? If your looking for a school which teaches you all the new toys, fine. If your looking for a course which trains you to live like a native then good. In either case enjoy yourself and have fun. However, if you’re looking to save your life just keep in mind that Natives don’t build a friction fire in the rain and batteries die in the heat and freeze in the cold. So find out the focus of the school. If you want to survive you have to use technology where it is best suited and primitive means where they are best suited. A good training school will teach the best of both. 
  3. Don’t get caught up in the hype! Whether it’s TV, Articles, movies or conversations don’t get caught up in the hype. Do the research and pick what fits your needs. I understand the need for advertising, but it’s only designed to do one thing….sell something. Remember that and also remember your life depends on your decision. If they are selling equipment, look at the quality. Someone who takes the protection of life seriously is not going to handle substandard equipment regardless of the profit margin.  
  4. Look at the equipment used by the instructor. Is it for show? Is it the same as what he/she is trying to sell? For example, the instructor may have a giant Bowie for the entire world to see but it never comes out of its sheath, ask yourself why? Same thing applies for demonstrations and practices. A good instructor should never ask a student to do something he has not demonstrated with GREAT proficiency and with the same type of tools as the student. “Beware the Instructor who shows you a perfectly constructed natural shelter but doesn’t have time to demonstrate how he made it”.   
  5. Good Survival Instructors are very opinionated and grounded in what works and what doesn’t. This is based on research AND experience. The best advertised knife in the world may fail and the most popular pack on the market may rip so you may NOT see your Instructor with the latest and greatest gear. In fact he may be carrying a well, worn pack and a old knife. So if you ask them their opinion on what the best piece of equipment is you may not get the answer you are expecting! 
  6. Watch for POSERS! Just because they wear the beret doesn’t mean they are “Special”.

Once you have asked yourself all the right questions and have chosen you’re training facility or Instructor go into the training with an open mind. All of us have our built in paradigms on how something is to be done, but in this case try to put them aside and learn from scratch. Skills taught right and learned right will always serve you better. Also remember that survival is just that, SURVIVAL and skills which are not proven under adverse conditions are no skills at all. So everything you learn should have gone through a litmus test and not just created as “woodsy goods to know”. After all we are not camping, we are surviving! Remember there are no special tactics just perfected principles practiced over and over again.

“Perfect Practice makes Perfect” will always ring in my ears.

Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

 

Cold Weather Dehydration (Part 1)

Empty canteen and bodyMany schools and programs teach the importance of hydration as a factor of survival.  All too often, however, this instruction revolves around, or is associated with, hot environments. In addition, many books place a great emphasis on staying well hydrated but put little detail in what that means, other than quantities such as “minimum of two liters a day”.

Unfortunately, this “generalized” information can lead the survivor into dangerous territory. Hydration is a very young and under-studied science, and got its beginnings with an individual named Pablo Valencia. Pablo, through a series of unfortunate events, found himself stranded in the Sonora desert of the United States for six days. When he finally reached civilization he was nursed back to health by WJ McGee, who later wrote the first case study on dehydration, “Desert Thirst as Disease”

Pablo’s incident and the subsequent study by McGee all occurred in the very early 1900’s.  But it wasn’t until physiologists, mobilizing from the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory in World War II and conducting research at the Fort Knox Armored Medical Research Laboratory, that a true understanding of the effects of dehydration began to be understood. To this day, the primary research on dehydration comes from the US Army and their civilian contractors.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-helicopter-team-image334860For the isolated person, dehydration from a hot environment may not be the most dangerous situation. This isn’t to downplay the dangers of a hot and arid environment, but rather to emphasize the dangers of a cold one.  There are many reasons for emphasizing the danger of a cold environment, but the primary reason is lack of understanding.

As shown by modern studies, “the effect of air temperatures on thirst and drink­ing behavior consistently report depressed voluntary drinking during cold weather activities.” To a survivor this means that maintaining hydration is a willful act, and one which may not be regulated by the normal indicators of “thirst” (Water Requirements and Soldier Hydration; Scott J. Montain, PhD, and Matthew Ely, MS)

Also, there is a physiological reaction to cold which is called “cold-induced diuresis”, also known as an osmotic diuresis, and can increase urine water losses. (Water Requirements and Soldier Hydration; Scott J. Montain, PhD, and Matthew Ely, MS) This increased urine flow not only is involuntary, but it can rapidly lead to dehydration. This can be a dangerous situation since the body will continue this process until all the excess liquid is out of the body. In fact, when the desire to urinate stops, this is a flagrant warning sign that dehydration is just around the corner.

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Widow-Makers. Campsite Killers.

DSC_0010Dead trees can come in three forms and the survivor or camper needs to understand the difference.

  • Widow-Maker
  • Snag
  • Dead Fall

All of these types are potentially deadly but of the three, the Widow-Maker can be the most deadly because it is a live tree with only the top dead. This is important to know because when checking for potential hazards, it is never good enough to just “look up” because a Widow-Maker cannot be seen when looking straight up. The tree looks healthy from this angle. Lumberjacks named this type of tree and rightly so. If the top 20 feet of a tree comes down on your shelter….well you get the picture. Check your site properly before you pitch your tent!

The staff at USI stresses shelter site selection more than they do construction of a shelter. Anyone who has attended a USI class or has seen the A.S.I.S.T. Video on Improvised Shelter Craft knows how to inspect their shelter site to ensure it is clear of potential dangers before the decision is made to set up camp.

Excerpt from: ASIST Improvised Shelter Craft 

Our condolences goes out to the families who have lost loved ones.

Supporting Articles:

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

ADVANCED NAVIGATION

 

compass1Speed of movement can be critical on a trek route, especially in an emergency situation. Making it back to a major road or to base camp when an individual is injured can mean the difference between life and death. In these cases standard navigation techniques can slow an individual down and “back tracking” may not be the most expedient path to rescue. For example, an injury on AT trail can leave individual stranded miles from the nearest help. However, if an individual as better than average Navigation skills it may be possible to cut “cross country” to a small town or highway.

For the individual who needs to avoid a dangerous situation, such as a country in turmoil, advanced navigation skills is the difference between a slow straight line heading leading through trouble areas and an bypass course to safety. In these situations there are three primary skills which assist in speed and accurate travel through unknown terrain. They are Map knowledge, Use of handrails and the use of backstops.http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-man-desert-image941446

Area knowledge and map familiarization is the single most important thing a wilderness trekker needs to know. This doesn’t mean look at a map, it means STUDY it and understand it.  A good quality map has marginal information which gives everything from magnetic variation to manmade structures. If the map which you are relying on doesn’t have these features, get a new one.

In addition the map needs to be current, so check the date. Many USGS maps, because of limited development in an area, have dates as far back as the 60’s. In most instances this wouldn’t be a problem, but in those areas where there is a logging presence the cross country hiker can run into numerous roads which are not on the map and can lead to frustration if not outright confusion.  If more current maps are not available then it is advisable to use a program like Google earth to update the map by hand drawing manmade changes prior to the trip.

Not enough can be said about the importance of a good up to date map and familiarizing with it. EVERYTHING relies on the map and your area knowledge. All other aspects of navigation rely on this one point. In fact all other aspects of navigation including the compass, triangulation and heading determination can me improvised. A map and area knowledge can’t!

Once a solid understanding of the map and knowledge of the area are secure in the head then a trek route can be established for movement. There are two general methods of movement. The first is point to point and the second is known as “the path of least resistance”. Point to point is exactly as it sounds. Moving from one known point to another regardless of what is in the way.  For accuracy this can’t be beat, however it can lead to a long and miserable day as it can lead into drainages and straight up mountain faces.

DSC_0055The path of least resistance does just the opposite and allows the trekker the ability to avoid obstacle which could slow or totally impede progress. The person on foot utilizes the terrain features to “funnel” himself into the area they wants to go and uses “handrails” and Backstops to ensure correct direction. This technique works in all but the most austere and isolated instances. In most wilderness areas there are enough terrain features to quickly and easily get to the objective without beating yourself to death.

A “handrail” is a terrain feature (manmade or natural) which guides the person on foot to a desire location, or in the vicinity of it. This terrain feature can be a river, ridge line, power line or road and even though it may not be directly on course as long as the individual keeps moving parallel they will eventually make it to the destination. The best case scenario is a pair of handrails, one on each side such as a ridgeline and a river which funnels the individual to the target. Even it they are miles apart as long as the hiker doesn’t cross one or the other they will make it to the objective.

In addition to the handrails there is the “Backstop”, a known perpendicular land features that tells the individual that they are on target or have gone too far. Backstops, like handrails, can be composed of numerous manmade or natural features as long as they are easily identifiable and impossible to miss. Again a power line or major ridge line would make a great back stop; a lake on the map would make a poor one as it is too easy to bypass. Even a good size open area can be easy to miss in thick vegetation or extremely rough country.

Advanced Navigation takes practice and study. However, it can save your life in the case of a lost compass or medical emergency! Understanding the terrain and map can be the difference between getting lost or another “walk in the park”.

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Survival Training at 10 thousand feet!

girlsActually at around 9000 feet and change, the camp at Covenant Heights in Estes, Colorado was one of the best areas for survival training the USI team had ever seen. To top it off the high school students, which where taking part in the training, were amazing if not extraordinary. The Covenant Heights project was taken on as part of a ‘from the ground upwards’ design program for a continuing survival course which included a PSK (Personal Survival Kit), Course outline and Curriculum.

DSC_0005The overall project took a little under two months to prepare, and when it was ready, two members of the USI staff headed to Estes, Colorado. The idea behind the course was to prepare the participants for a three day hike through Rocky Mountain National Park. This included preparing them for medical emergencies and environmental situations. Needless to say the trip went great, the participants did great, and EVERYONE had fun. Our ‘hats off’ to everyone at Covenant Heights for a spectacular camp environment. However, all bragging rights really go to the students who, in the end,could build a knee high fire with a spark in under five minutes, and sustain it (among a lot of other cool stuff)!

SUPER JOB, Y’ALL!

 Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN