How To Survive a Natural Disaster

Natural disaster

Most of us will come prepared when venturing out into the wild. If we’re going on a camping trip, we’ll make sure we have plenty of food and supplies. When we plan for a day hike, we wear good boots and bring a walking stick. If we have just left for a hunting trip, there will be more than enough ammunition in our packs.

We don’t, however, always come prepared for the completely unexpected. Natural disasters are becoming increasingly deadly, and happening more frequently in the past 30-50 years than ever before. Billions of people have been affected by the horrors, such as floods, tsunamis, fires, severe storms, and more. Obscene amounts of money have been spent on rebuilding communities, providing insurance on homes and properties, and creating temporary shelters and resources for all those affected.

For outdoor enthusiasts, it is very important to be completely protected from and prepared for the worst. You should never leave home without a first-aid kit and a survival pack, just in case. You never know what may occur, or when disaster will strike, so staying one step ahead will benefit you tremendously, should you ever come face to face with nature’s fury.

There are several disasters that are becoming more and more common within recent years. These include blizzards (ice and snow storms), avalanches, wildfires, and floods. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive guide on how to fully prepare yourself for these common terrors, and what to do if you get stuck in the midst of one.

Wildfires

Wildfires are highly dangerous, and most of them happen in rural areas of widespread, untouched wilderness. Unfortunately, wildfires are almost always started by humans, though unintentionally. Dry grasses and trees, a gust of strong wind, and a heat source as small as a half-smoked cigarette or the dying embers of a campfire, can cause hundreds of acres to burn to the ground within minutes. Even a bolt of lightning or heat from the sun can cause a wildfire.

Prepare yourself for this disaster by notingwhere the nearest water source is, and how far you are from it. The ideal form of protection would be to get in the water. If possible (and you have enough water on hand) try to drench yourself and cover up in damp underbrush.

Lay face first in the ground and cover your mouth and nose with an article of clothing to prevent the inhalation of smoke. Outrunning wildfires are very hard to do and you’ll spend all of your needed energy passing up on possible places to wait out the blaze. If you’re able to find a ditch or a depression in the ground, remove as much fuel (grasses, leaves, twigs and dry branches, etc.) from the area as you can and dig into the damp ground.

Also read: How To Make Your Home Emergency Action Plan

Pack a collapsible shovel or multi-tool to help you dig and remove brush quickly. If you are on a mountain or a hillside, get to the back. You want the flames to travel over you (and the mountain), rather than toward you. Seek shelter under a cliff or a large rock and again, curl up or lay with your face down.

Coming prepared with things like masks and extra water bottles aren’t always doable, but in a sticky situation, these methods will increase your chance for survival.

Blizzard or snowstorm

With the winter months approaching, coldweather disasters will come along, too, such as a blizzard or a “snowstorm.” If you live in the regions where you’re expecting some snow or ice, never leave home without an extra layer or two of clothing. A spare pair of gloves and socks to keep on your person is always good to have, along with protein bars and energy mixes. If you’re camping in the winter, for example, and your site starts to experience a heavy snowfall, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got enough preserved food to hold you through a few days of rough weather.

Keep yourself energized, as your body will stay “awake” and your blood will continue to flow properly.

Staying hydrated is perhaps the most important thing. A lack of proper hydration will significantly increase your chances of catching hypothermia and frostbite. This does not mean you should eat snow.

While snow will provide water, the coldness of it will drop your core body temperature, which will naturally also open the door for hypothermia. Instead, carry with you a container to pack snow into, then melt it with your body heat or breath.

Once it’s melted, you can drink it without worry. If you’re stuck outside and completely alone during a blizzard, do your best to find some form of shelter.With strong, icy winds, you’ll lose stamina at a rapid pace, so it’s best to protect yourself from the harsh air.

Avalanche

Another common winter disaster is the infamous avalanche. Over half of all avalanches are caused by humans, mainly winter sport enthusiasts, such as snowmobilers, skiers, and snowboarders. The snowmobiles themselves are heavy pieces of machinery, so when traveling over the snowpack, it is much more likely that the weight of the snowmobile will cause a soft spot to collapse. While there will be times where you cannot help being in the midst of an avalanche, there are tools and forecasts that will help you to stay updated on the conditions for the day.

The best thing to do to avoid an avalanche disaster is to steer clear of any snow-covered mountains. As outdoor enthusiasts, however, that is an impossible thing to ask. Therefore, you should carry the equipment necessary to survive at all times. These items include, but are not limited to: avalanche probes or poles, a collapsible shovel, ski floats or airbags, and a transceiver (GPS tracking device). Never scale the mountains alone. For some of you daredevils out there, the “buddy system” may sound childish, but you’ll wish you had a friend to track you once you’re buried under ten feet of densely packed snow.

If you happen to be in the path of a sudden oncoming avalanche, try to move uphill and to the side, in order to avoid the pile up. You will not be able to outrun it, so don’t even try. Just get to the side as quickly as you can to avoid the center, where the snow will be at its deepest. If you’re getting closed in on, drop your equipment and move like lightning. Your equipment is great and all, but it will slow you down and eventually, when you’re buried, it will sink you deeper. If there are trees around, grab onto one.

This is easier said than done, but it will possibly save your life if you can manage to scramble up into a branch quick enough. Once the snow takes you out, try the “swimming” method, with your face towards the sky, and backstroke uphill and to the side. This will force the rush of snow around your limbs, keeping you closer to the surface.

If you swim with the snow, you’ll get swept right into the center, and even in three feet of it, once it settles, will be impossible to get out of alone. If you’re getting buried, don’t panic.

Don’t panic?! Of course it sounds absurd, but try to relax your body and your breathing to conserve energy  and oxygen. The more you strain, the deeper you’ll sink, and the heavier your breathing gets, the more oxygen you’ll waste.

As soon as you’re under, dig a small pocket with your hand or a shovel. If you feel yourself sinking, stop digging. The pocket needs to be just big enough for a softball to fit in, and this will provide an extra 30-60 minutes worth of oxygen for you to breathe. With the transceiver handy, even if you had to drop it while running, you’ll be found much faster, as rescuers will be able to pinpoint an approximate radius of your location.

Flood

Once winter starts coming to an end, the snow will melt, saturating the ground. When spring arrives, the possibility of floods will arrive with it. Floods are most likely to occur in early spring. Most floods happen slowly, over a period of days, but when particular floods come on suddenly (these are called flash floods), they can be fatal.

The first and most important thing to do is to try to get to higher ground. You won’t want to be in the path of the flood, where the possibility of getting swept away is much more likely. Another important thing to remember:

DO NOT drink the water to stay hydrated. It is not in pure form, but rather a mixture of everything the water has destructed while moving thus far, and can contain toxins. If you need to cross flood waters, and you’re alone, find a pole or a long, sturdy stick to create a “tripod” form while you walk. If you get caught in rushing waters, try to grab ahold of a grounded structure, such as a tree.

When in groups, do not make a human chain by holding onto each other. Instead, form a circle by grabbing the shoulder of the person to the right and left of you. The circular formation will drive the water around your group, rather than pushing all of you over.

When crossing flood waters in this formation, have the biggest and strongest person at the head of the  circle that’s moving across. They’ll be the leader and have the pole to help maneuver the rest of you through the water.

Being caught in the middle of a natural disaster is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person, because it is completely uncontrollable. There is nothing to do but wait it out and try to stay alive during the worst of it. If you find yourself trapped in a forest fire, or amidst a raging body of water that’s headed straight for you, stay prepared by taking basic survival courses to gain knowledge.

Check the weather, stay up to date on current crises, and never leave home without your survival kit. You may have to face dangerous situations unexpectedly, but with a little research and a few necessary items, you’ll never be a victim, but instead, a survivor.

Post by John Miler

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