Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
There are many valuable lessons to be learned in this edition of “Survival Stories.” Read on to discover how to survive all manner of natural disasters from avalanches to tsunamis, in addition to what you should teach your children so they can avoid being kidnapped and more.
Let’s get started.
“A Big White Explosion”: How U.S. Skiers Survived an Avalanche in Canada
The story: Last winter, a group of 12 childhood friends decided to head up to Mount Mackie in British Columbia. Everyone in the group was an experienced skier, but none of them was prepared for what happened. An avalanche was triggered on Jan. 19 and seven members of the group were buried by the snowslide. Thanks to the five remaining friends, all seven trapped vacationers were rescued — although it did take several frantic hours to find everyone.
My take: Luckily, this group followed several key steps that ultimately helped everyone make it home alive. Had they failed to take any one of these precautions, their vacation would have quickly turned into tragedy.
Whenever you go into the backcountry, always go in a group — NEVER go exploring alone. Just as importantly, even if you are traveling with others, be sure to notify someone who isn’t going with you where you’re headed and when you plan to return.
By having avalanche beacons, the other skiers were able to locate their missing friends. However, it took longer than it might have because they were confused by the signals. This is why it’s critical that you’re familiar with your survival gear and take the time to practice using it before your life depends on it.
When you plan a visit to an area known for avalanches, remember to check the avalanche forecasts before you go. Lastly, if you’re ever caught in an avalanche, try swimming with the slide or rolling like a log to avoid being buried.
Missing Mom Stranded for 36 Hours in Grand Canyon Snow
The story: On a trip to see the Grand Canyon with her husband and 10-year-old son, Karen Klein’s car broke down. They were in a remote area with no cell service and they could not get their car out of the mud. An experienced hiker, Karen figured she could simply walk back to the main road and find help for her family. Thirty miles and 36 hours later, rescuers found Karen inside the East Rim Visitor’s Center, which she had broken into to get out of the elements. Fortunately, the entire family survived after being treated at a nearby hospital for cold exposure.
My take: Clearly, Karen’s will to survive pushed her to keep moving forward until she reached the visitor’s center. Her husband refused to give up, too. He was smart for continuing to try to find cellphone service near where the car was stuck.
Because Karen kept moving, she was able to avoid falling asleep and succumbing to hypothermia. Thanks to her wilderness survival training, she was able to keep her energy up by eating aspen twigs.
The thing is even if you are just going for a relaxing Sunday drive, you should always let someone know where you’re going and what route you plan to take. It’s a simple matter of sending an email or text to a friend when you leave and one when you get back so they know everything is fine.
Also, make sure you have a bug-out bag in your car equipped with survival gear for different weather conditions. This should include several ways to stay warm, emergency food and water for sustenance and perhaps a deck of cards to pass the time.
Teen Held Captive for a Month Swims Across Lake to Escape Kidnappers
The story: In September 2017, an incredibly courageous teen escaped her three kidnappers and swam across a lake to get help. Thomas Barker, Joshua Holby and Steven Powers abducted 15-year-old Jasmine Block, tied her up with zip ties, held her captive, physically and sexually assaulted her and threatened her with weapons. After several weeks of torture, the three criminals left Jasmine alone. She didn’t hesitate to make her escape, swim across the lake, run to a nearby farm and call 911.
My take: This is an incredible story of mental strength and fortitude. Jasmine could have easily given up, but she fought to survive. After the trauma she experienced, she was still able to seize the opportunity to escape her captors and swim to safety.
This is a scary reminder that it’s important to know who your children are talking to or texting. It’s a dangerous world we live in and children are far too trusting.
Even at a young age, it’s a good idea to teach your kids how to escape duct tape, zip ties and rope since these are common ways abductors will tie them up. Train them to exercise situational awareness and to listen to their gut. If a person seems suspicious or a situation feels wrong, you need to let them know it’s OK to seek help.
One Man’s Harrowing Story of Surviving the Japan Tsunami
The story: On March 11, 2011, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake occurred 231 miles off the coast of Tokyo. In addition to the catastrophic damage from the quake, a massive tsunami battered the coastline, washing away entire structures in the blink of an eye and adding to the death toll. Ryo Kanouya was at home with his father and two grandmothers when the waves reached his village. There was no time to evacuate. Ryo and his family moved upstairs and prayed the water would not overtake them. Unfortunately, the tsunami destroyed Ryo’s childhood home and he was separated from his family in the swirling waters. Later reunited with his father, Ryo never saw his grandmothers again.
My take: Even though the government tries to issue warnings, you can’t always depend on their accuracy. In the case of a possible tsunami — or wildfire or tornado — you should use a two-way radio to contact others nearby for the latest information.
Always err on the side of caution and evacuate well ahead of danger if you can. It’s better to leave and come back to a safe home rather than take an unnecessary risk and end up stuck on a rooftop. Plan a backup escape route in the event a bridge is washed out or the main road is blocked.
If you are caught in moving water like Ryo, try to grab onto something that will help you float or pull yourself out of the water like he did. And remember — a tsunami is a series of waves. If you make it through one surge, know that there will be more coming.