Five Critical Survival Skills You Need to Know

When making New Year’s resolutions, I always strive to challenge myself. It is my goal to learn at least one new skill related to safety and survival throughout the year — like building a new type of shelter or growing my own food.

I realize in this day and age, a lot of folks think these skills are outdated. But as you’ll see from the story below, you never know when one or more of these useful skills just might save your life.

And after the story, I’ll give you some ideas of what skills you should consider learning this year.

Lost and Found

In September 2015, a Treasure Valley, California, man named John Sain set out on a camping trip in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, in Idaho. John was an experienced outdoorsman and regularly went camping and hunting by himself.

After hiking about six miles, John set up camp deep in the national forest and began tracking elk in the area. While on the hunt, John stepped on a log and slipped. His foot became wedged, and the momentum of his fall pitched his body forward, causing two bones in his leg to break.

He was miles away from any trail, and with no cell service, John felt utterly helpless. Believing no one would find him, John wrote letters to his wife and two children saying his goodbyes.

After briefly struggling with the emotional aspect of the situation, John pulled himself together and began to do whatever he could to survive. First, he had to stabilize his leg to reduce the excruciating pain. He used sticks and torn cloth to make a splint. For the next 2½ days, he crawled and walked as much as he could while coping with the pain of his broken leg.

Each night, John would stop to rest and make a fire — but he was quickly running out of supplies. He was beginning to suffer from dehydration and his energy was dwindling. He began to wonder how long he could keep moving.

On day three, John came across a trail and was spotted by two men on motorcycles. One of the men immediately rode back and called for help while the other stayed with John. The McCall Fire Department responded to the emergency, as well as a Life Flight helicopter. Because of the remoteness of John’s location, firefighters had to use chainsaws to clear a landing zone for the helicopter.

John was flown to Saint Alphonsus hospital in Boise, where he spent the next few days recovering. Undoubtedly, the basic first-aid knowledge John had enabled him to stay mobile and eventually find the help that saved his life.

Be a Know-It-All

Below are some of the most critical skills that could make all the difference in whether or not you survive an unexpected disaster. You don’t need to become an expert, but it is well worth it to acquire a basic proficiency.

First Aid — With the increase in both natural and man-made disasters, improving your first-aid skills should be a priority. To be clear, first-aid preparedness should go beyond just having a first-aid kit. You should have some basic training along with the proper medical supplies. Many local colleges offer first-aid courses that will teach you CPR along with other basic first-aid skills — skills that are essential in any survival situation.

Handyman Skills — Let me preface this point by saying that nobody will ever confuse me with Bob Vila. But basic home repairs — such as fixing a toilet or a broken doorknob — are things everyone should know how to do. Because if you’re forced to hunker down at home for a while and the toilet won’t flush, you’ll want to know how to fix it. Otherwise, you should get really good at digging trenches.

On the other hand, when it comes to home repairs, know your limits. If you’re having electrical issues during some type of disaster, you probably shouldn’t try to figure out the problem unless you know what you are doing. You could injure yourself or start an electrical fire, which would only make a bad situation worse.

Firearms Training — Owning various guns for self-defense and hunting is important for survival. But do you know how to take apart your guns and clean them? Frankly, knowing how to clean and repair a gun is just as important as knowing how to shoot one. Often when people own guns for self-defense, they end up sitting unused in a safe. For every firearm you own, you should know how to take it apart, clean it and make basic repairs.

Communications — One of the most popular ways for preppers to communicate is using an amateur or ham radio. Since it’s one of the best ways to stay in contact with the outside world if you’re forced to hunker down at home, there are clubs all over the U.S. that offer basic ham radio training.

If this isn’t something you’re interested in learning, you should at least learn how to use a basic survival radio. Know what stations you’ll need to program on your radio ahead of time — including weather stations, emergency frequencies and the specific frequency you plan to use to communicate with friends and family members.

Hunting and Growing Food — In a survival situation, focus on hunting small animals, because it’s much easier to kill a squirrel than bag a buck. Whether you’re using traps or a gun, you’ll need to know where and what you can safely hunt.

Gardening is another great skill to hone. Even if you don’t have acres of land, you can still make a hobby out of caring for a small garden. I would recommend planting heirloom or non-GMO seeds — since those seeds can be saved and replanted from year to year. This is the type of skill you should practice now, even if you don’t need the food to survive. You never know when that will change and the experience will be invaluable.

The bottom line is being self-sufficient doesn’t mean selling off all your belongings and living exclusively off the land. But you should be able to provide your family with the basic necessities if and when the need arises.

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