Friday, July 30, 2010

Survival Situations Can Be Sneaky

It doesn't take a huge disaster like Katrina or Haiti to create a genuine survival situation. Sometimes, all it takes is a miscalculation on our part.

In recent weeks, two women from Wisconsin were visiting the Arizona desert and decided to hike Camelback Mountain.

I should pause here to point out that Wisconsin has neither mountains nor desert, so these women might not have had much past experience in those environments. (With all due respect to those who believe some of the bumps in the terrain of Wisconsin are really mountains, we lived there for four years and, being from the West, we know the difference.)

Back to our story — the women, ages 53 and 78 took off for their hike at about 6:00 in the morning.

Here's another issue: The desert is cool at 6:00 in the morning, but in the middle of July it will quickly transform into an unbearable furnace after the sun rises.

At 11:00 a.m., emergency personnel received a call. The women were in need of rescue. Although the women had water with them, they were exhausted, experiencing dizziness, and were incapable of making it back down the mountain. Fortunately, the fire rescue team brought them out alive.

So, what is the point of my relating this incident? Is this about being too old, or the wrong gender to participate in strenuous outdoor activities? Not at all! I know of women in their 70s who run Ironman triathlons in the heat of Kona, Hawaii. So it has nothing to do with being a woman or being a senior citizen.

It has everything to do with knowing what you're getting yourself into before you launch off into an adventure. It's about doing your homework, understanding the climate patterns for the area, gradually training your body to endure whatever you're going to impose upon it, wearing the right clothing, and preparing proper equipment to see you through the experience.

Was this a genuine survival incident? Absolutely! It is possible to perish in a matter of hours under conditions like that, so these ladies were lucky to get out alive. I have a file cabinet full of stories about people who went off on a little day hike and never made it back, so I never underestimate the danger of a short hike. But the fact that these folks were unfamiliar with the conditions they would face made it doubly dangerous.

This was a case of a survival situation being sneaky — gradually overtaking a couple of people who were not totally prepared with an understanding of the environment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bear Attack

It was 4:00 a.m. when the bear, or perhaps bears, rampaged through the campground, leaving one camper dead and others injured and scrambling to the relative safety of their cars to save their lives.

The Soda Butte campground, near Yellowstone National Park, was the scene of a similar incident in 2008, when a grizzly bear attacked and injured a man while he slept in this tent. The 27- site campground is located near the Beartooth (aptly named, apparently) Highway, 125 miles southwest of Billings, Montana The area is well known for its grizzly and black bear populations, according to a spokesperson for the Gallatin National Forest.

There are lessons for us to learn from all this.

  • Bears will tear the walls out of a tent to get to you, so nothing made of fabric (such as a tent trailer) will stop them from coming inside. 
  • These are nocturnal hunters, so while you're asleep, they're looking for a meal. 
  • Even if the bear doesn't kill you, one swipe of the claws, or one bite will cause horrible injury and perhaps even death. Bears are filthy, so an open wound caused by their claws or teeth will probably become infected. Even if you survive the attack, you might carry the burden of that injury for the rest of your life. 
  • Before you decide on a campground, find out if it is known bear (or cougar) country. A little situational awareness will go a long way toward making your decision. 
  • Find out if there have been recent reports of activity or sightings of these animals in the area. 
  • In bear country, never bring food or garbage into camp. Always suspend those items from a bear wire a distance from camp. 
  • Do not bring snacks into the tent. 
  • After cooking and cleaning up, remove your clothing and hang it from the bear wire. Don't wear into the tent the same clothes you wore while cooking or handling food. 
  • Always clean up every scrap of food around the food-prep area. Either burn the scraps or put them in the garbage bag that is hung from the bear wire. 
  • Report to local park or forest officials any encounter with bears and cougars. This information will be posted to alert others who might be camping, fishing, hunting, or hiking in the area.
  • If you are confronted by a bear, do not run. That will only trigger an attack. With black bears, it usually (but not always) works to make a lot of noise and make yourself look big. With grizzlies, that might be taken as a challenge to their local authority and will trigger an attack, so your best option (assuming you can't kill the bear with a gun) is to lie down and play dead. If you have a backpack, lie face down with the pack on your back to protect you from the manhandling you are probably going to suffer. If you're lucky, the bear will whack you around a bit, lose interest (if you are totally quiet and still), and eventually wander away. But there are no guarantees. 

Call For Help

The worst thing you can do with a survival situation is to prolong it. The sooner you get rescued, the sooner you can remove the word survival from the description of the incident. And the fastest way to get rescued is to notify someone that you are in trouble. Even better is to let that person know exactly where you are, so the search teams don't have to waste time scouring the countryside looking for you.

Fortunately, we live in a day when technology gives us the ability to pinpoint our location. That's half of the problem whipped just by having a GPS. But that still doesn't solve the problem of letting others know that we're in trouble and need to be rescued. To do that, requires another piece of equipment that can send a message to a satellite system and beam our GPS coordinates to the rescue team.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is by using a device called the SPOT Satellite Messenger. This is the device I carry because it's multifunctional — it will track your movements, send a "checking in" message, send a "help" message, or call for rescuers to come and get you.

One of its functions is to keep track of where you are, and send this information to persons you have selected to be on your notification "team" back home. When you activate the tracking function, the device automatically sends your GPS coordinates every 10 minutes, and your team members can follow your progress on a Google map.

The second function allows you to send a personal pre-recorded message to your team. My message says, "Hey, just wanted to let you know where I am and that everything is okay here." That helps relieve stress at home while you're out exploring the backcountry.

Third is the function that calls for help. This isn't the button to push when your life is at risk and you need helicopters to come and pull you out. Rather, this is the function that sends a pre-recorded message that might say something like, "I need your help. Please come to the location shown on the Google map." You might use this one if you are in a moderate amount of trouble, but it's not yet worthy of a full-blown rescue team. You can't modify the pre-recorded message, so you can't specify if you've got a flat tire, run out of gas, or are just lonely and in need of some company. But if your team is reliable, they should show up and lend a hand with whatever is troubling you.

Finally there's the 911 button that calls for professional rescue. The satellite picks up this signal and relays your GPS coordinates to the GEOS International Emergency Response Center for processing. They, in turn, relay the information to the rescue organization nearest your location.

There are numerous stories about people who have been saved because they used this device, and countless others would have been saved had they been carrying it. I highly recommend that you examine the website at to learn more about this life-saving technology.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Protect Children

As I write this, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office is conducting a search, aided by more than 50 people. The subject of the search is a 2-year-old boy who was camping with his family. He was last seen inside a tent while sleeping with family members. Sometime around 1:45 in the morning, he went missing from his sleeping bag.

I don't have all the details yet, so I can't say for certain what precautions were taken to keep the child from wandering away in the night. But I suspect that the bug screen across the entrance to the tent might not have been zipped securely. Arizona is hot, and the family might have left the screen open to allow better airflow. If that's the case, it also would make it easier for a child to get out of the tent.

Parents with young children might want to reconsider their camping habits to improve the security of the youngsters. That might begin with always zipping the tent doors at night. Being a bit uncomfortable is worth it, if it will prevent a tragedy.

Sailors at sea routinely wear a harness and tether arrangement to keep from being lost overboard, and I can see how a lightweight version of this type of thing might be useful for keeping a young child from wandering away unnoticed.

Just an idea, and I welcome comments and suggestions that can be passed along in this blog.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Campfire-Related Tragedy

Of all the threats brought about by natural events that we sometimes refer to as "disasters," flooding takes the highest toll in human life. In hurricanes, for example, it isn't the wind that directly causes the most deaths — it's the flooding, some of which is caused by the wind blowing water ashore in what's called "storm surge" and some of which is caused by swollen rivers due to intense rainfall.

While wind is impressive, water is downright powerful stuff. Each gallon weighs nearly 8.5 pounds, and when it's moving it creates an enormous force that people simply are not strong enough to stand against. If you get caught in moving water, you're going to move with it. If it's fast-moving water, you'll get swept away.

That's what happened to a 12-year-old girl in Flagstaff, Arizona this week. A heavy thunderstorm dumped a load of water on an area that had been denuded only a month before by wildfire. When the water hit the ground, it just ran downhill as fast as gravity could pull it, with no vegetation to help slow the gathering flood. Soon, it was a roaring black river rushing through a subdivision where no river was supposed to be. The little girl was caught in the flow and swept down a culvert. They still haven't found her.

But here's the strange way one event links to another. A month ago, the wildfire that killed off all the vegetation in that area was caused by a careless camper who failed to fully extinguish a campfire. This is Smoky The Bear 101, but it still happens. That lingering campfire ignited the wildfire that stripped away the vegetation that might have helped reduce the threat of flashflood when the thunderstorm hit. In a sense, that careless camper is directly responsible for the loss of this little girl's life.

So what do we learn from all this?
  • Be careful with your campfire. Make sure it's dead out before you leave. 
  • Be aware that burned out areas are prone to flashflood, mudslides, etc. when big storms hit. Stay tuned in to what the weather is doing, and leave those areas ahead of the storm. 
  • Children (and adults) might be curious and attracted to something exciting like a sudden rush of water nearby. Teach children to run away from rushing water. They should run perpendicular to the flow of water, not parallel to it. They should run uphill. 
  • Do not drive through rushing water that is crossing a road. It takes very little current to sweep away a vehicle. And the roadway might be damaged by the flow of water, leaving a crater you cannot see below the water. 
Floods are a serious threat. Already this year in China, more than 1,000 people have died or disappeared in floods. The worst year ever for that country was 1998 when 4,150 died in floods. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pocket Water Filter

It's inconvenient to carry a cumbersome pump-type water filter every time you take a hike in the wilderness. You might be able to carry what you need for the day, but what if your stay becomes longer than anticipated? All it takes is a sudden storm, the onset of illness, an injury, or getting lost to extend your stay in the outback longer than you planned for. And if you don't have some kind of method to provide yourself with clean drinking water during that additional time, you might end up in serious trouble.

There is a way to carry a lightweight water filter in your pocket. It's called the Aquamira Frontier Filter (available from the company at or from other online sources). This little filter is used just like a straw, and it breaks down into two very compact parts so it's easy to carry in a shirt pocket. And it weighs next to nothing. Not only that, but it will screen out giardia and cryptosporidium, the two most prevalent illness-producing waterborne organisms in North America.

The filter is rated for 20 gallons, assuming that you don't suck a lot of silt into it. Cloudy water will quickly clog any kind of filter, so it's important to allow particulates to settle to the bottom and then draw your drinking water from the clear top layer. You can help clear the water by spreading a t-shirt on the surface and allowing the fabric to act as a pre-filter by catching silt and allowing clear water to pass through. Then you would draw your drink from the clear water above the shirt. 

Use this filter just like a straw, to suck water directly from any body of water. Even a small puddle can provide lifesaving liquid. 

Aquamira also makes larger filtration systems, but this one is my favorite as a grab-and-go unit for short trips into the mountains or desert. With a 20-gallon capacity, it would provide almost 3 weeks worth of survival water, if I were drinking a gallon per day.

For about $12, it's hard to beat this essential piece of survival equipment.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Is it more important to have food, water, shelter or fire?

There is a common belief that shelter is always the highest priority, followed by fire, followed by water and then food. Logical arguments can be made for that being the correct order, but survival situations are not always so simple as to leave us with a single order of priorities.  Examples:
  • If the problem is that you fall overboard in 40-degree Lake Manitscold, the most important survival consideration is to stay afloat until you are rescued. 
  • If the problem is that you accidentally shot your buddy through the leg with your killer broadhead, first aid becomes the first priority. 
  • If the problem is that you’re lost in the woods and night is coming on, everything depends upon whether it’s August or February and the woods in question are located on Oahu or the north end of Vancouver Island. 
You get the picture. There are many factors involved in making the determination about what is the most important survival issue at the moment. But because you can only do one thing at a time, you have to know how to decide where to start and why. This is really a question of knowing how to set priorities.

Establishing priorities is extremely important to the successful outcome of a survival situation, because if you don’t know what’s most important, you’re likely to work on the wrong thing.

In order to establish a reasonable priority list, you must evaluate the following elements of your situation realistically:

  • Immediate threats to life 
  • Long-term threats 
  • State of physical health — illness or injuries 
  • Mental / emotional condition 
  • Terrain — swamp, mountains, desert, etc. 
  • Location — do you know exactly where you are? 
  • Weather — immediate and long-term 
  • Number of people in the survival party 
  • Available resources — equipment, food, water, medical supplies 
  • Natural resources — shelter, fire, water, food 
  • Likelihood of rescue 
Once you clearly understand the situation, you can begin to formulate a survival plan. But you can only do this if you honestly understand the first and second points on our list — immediate and long-term threats to life. In chronological order, the human body is threatened in the following ways: 

  • You can die almost instantly from any number of things, such as drowning, animal attack, a fall from a cliff, being overrun by a wildfire, etc. 
  • You can die from exposure to heat or cold in a matter of hours or even less. 
  • You can die from lack of water intake in a few days. 
  • You can die from illnesses or injuries on a varying schedule that ranges from almost immediately to months, depending upon the seriousness of the malady. 
  • You can die from starvation in a month. You probably won’t live long enough to die from starvation, if you fail to take care of more urgent needs. However, if you can’t get enough nourishment, your ability to think and function will be severely hampered, and that will play a detrimental role in your ability to survive. 
From this, we might be tempted to jump to an unfortunate conclusion and make a general assumption that food is not as important as shelter. But survival situations can be so varied that items on the priority list can easily swap positions. There may actually be a situation in which food is the priority, because every other item on the list is either not critical at the moment or is satisfied already. Example: You’re marooned in good health on Survivor Island where the temperature is always pleasant and a freshwater spring is right at your camp — all you need right now is food to bolster your energy and comfort you psychologically. Work on a lightweight shelter after lunch, then try to figure out some signal devices. 

Obviously, we can’t carve priority lists in granite. There is no one-size-fits-all list, because each situation must be evaluated on its own merits. Only then can priorities be established. But being able to accurately identify your most urgent needs is where the whole survival process begins. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Right Base Layer

I've been evaluating a base layer (the clothing worn next to the skin) made of merino wool. For those of you who don't like wool because it's too "itchy" and rough against the skin, this would be perfect. Merino wool has very fine fibers that are crimped so that when they are woven together into cloth they trap more air. It's the trapped air in the fabric that creates the insulation to keep your body at a comfortable temperature. The fine merino fibers do not itch the skin at all. In fact, the material feels downright silky…so much so that you might doubt that the stuff is wool. It's delightful to wear.

One of the nice things is that these articles of clothing can be washed like any other clothes. However, it is recommended that they be hung up to dry, rather than putting them in a hot clothes drier. But that's no big deal, because merino wool dries quickly. In fact, that's one of the great characteristics of this material — when you wear it, it retains its insulation properties even when it gets wet, and then it dries fast.

In  my opinion, merino wool is the only natural fiber that should be worn as a base layer in an outdoor setting. Cotton (the other natural fiber) is horrible when it gets wet. It's like wearing a sponge that refuses to wring out. Wearing wet cotton is an invitation to hypothermia — it's like saying, "come and get me." Wool, on the other hand, keeps insulating and wicks the moisture away from the body, and dries quickly.

One of the arguments for cotton is that it is comfortable to wear in warm weather when it is dry. And most folks think wool is hot, so it wouldn't be comfortable in warm weather. Well, before you believe that, I suggest you compare the materials in the real world. My experience with merino wool makes me believe that, even on a warm day, I prefer the wool.

No question about it, the drawback to merino wool is its cost. If this fabric were as cheap as cotton, nobody would wear cotton. While cotton balls are cheap to grow, a Merino sheep is another story. This type of sheep was bred specifically for its soft, fine wool, and it is more expensive to produce than cotton or synthetics. But honestly, it's worth it to own a couple of shirts and pants made of this material. We bought ours from at very reasonable prices, but you can find merino wool clothing at REI and other outlets as well.

One side note about fabric's role in survival — I was researching survival of aircraft wrecks and the fire that sometimes engulfs an airplane after a crash landing. It turns out that the kind of clothing you're wearing can sometimes mean the difference between making it out alive or burning to death. Synthetics catch fire and melt to the skin. Cotton burns much less aggressively, and wool is the most protective of all the fabrics that people normally wear. Unless you're a firefighter wearing Nomex, wool is your best protection. Something to think about.

Merino wool is excellent as a foundation for your outdoor clothing. Consider it your first layer of shelter from the elements.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rules For Being Lost

You're lost — at least you suspect that you are. How can you know for sure if you're lost? Take a look around; if nothing looks familiar and you haven't a clue where you are … sure enough, you're lost.

Being lost is a lot like being misplaced. Kind of like the missing sock that falls between the washer and drier, leaving you with one unmatched sock and a nagging question about where the other one could possibly be. The difference is that the sock's survival doesn't depend on it being found anytime soon — it'll still be there a month from now, dusty, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

You're different. When you go missing, time is of the essence. Depending on what the weather is doing and the kind of equipment and experience you have, your life could be over pretty quickly. Granted, you'll still be there a month from now, but unlike the sock, you will definitely be worse for wear.

So there you are; you've studied the terrain and are bewildered. Nothing looks familiar; you have no idea where you are. What do you do now?

There are rules to being lost, if you want to be a survivor.
  • Rule #1 — Stop right where you are (unless you're hanging from a cliff or in some other precarious situation — in which case you can move to a safe location and then stop).  Don't keep going — you don't know where you're going anyway, and if you keep moving you're only burning calories and water. 
  • Rule #2 — Sit down. The very act of sitting down will help you obey Rule #1. The psychological shock of having to admit to yourself that you are lost can cause feelings of panic. Sit down, take some deep breaths, calm your mind and slow your heart down. 
  • Rule #3 — Stay put. Decide right then and there that you will make an emergency camp right where you are, and then work on strategies for getting out of the situation. By doing this, you emotionally accept this spot as your base of operations, and that gives you some psychological strength and helps ward off panic. 
  • Rule #4 — Take inventory of everything you have with you. Then take inventory of what nature provides in the way of shelter materials, water, fire (tinder, kindling, fuel wood), and signaling opportunities. If, as you take inventory of the surrounding resources, you note that you would be better situated if you moved camp, do so. But don't be tempted to abandon the idea of making camp so you can continue trying to hike around and hopefully find yourself. Stick to the concept of an emergency camp, and don't go very far from your original stopping point just to position camp more favorably. 
  • Rule #5 — Find a clearing near camp. This might be where you position your camp, if being in the clearing is acceptable from a weather standpoint. But in any case, use the clearing as a location to establish visible signals that can be seen from overhead and/or from a distance on the ground. Searchers will be attracted to big, bright, colorful, reflective, or highly contrasting visible signals if they are placed in a clearing. Use anything you have on hand to make these visible signals. 
The reality is that, when folks get lost and searchers go looking for them, the rescue team always, ALWAYS, finds the camp or the signals before they find an individual who is wandering around still trying to find his way out. The reason is because the camp and the clearing outfitted with visible signals are not moving. And they're bigger and more noticeable than a person. If you stick with the camp and employ some highly visible signal devices, your chances of being rescued are WAY better than if you just keep wandering around lost. 

If you stop when you first realize that you're lost, you'll probably be within a mile or so of the trail you want to be on. If searchers have an idea about where you intended to be, they will begin their search along the prevailing trails and spread out from there. If you stubbornly insist on pressing on, in an attempt to "find yourself," you very likely will wander right out of the search area and continue to be lost.

Not only that, but the longer you keep trying in vain to get "unlost," the more frustrated and frightened you become. You wear yourself out, use up your energy and food and water, you throw yourself into panic mode, you risk injury, and make the whole situation worse. 

Stop. Sit down. Stay put. Take inventory. Use a nearby clearing to erect some visible signals. Then relax in your emergency camp and take care of the usual survival business of staying dry, maintaining a proper body core temperature, saying hydrated, and conserving your energy. 

NOTE: Before your trip into the outback, leave information with friends or loved-ones about your intended location and activities. File a flight plan, and then when you become lost, the process of finding you quickly will be much easier. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Profound Look at a Survival Situation

If you want to see (albeit from the safe distance of a casual observer) what it is like to survive a catastrophe, I urge you to log onto and then select the Movie section and type in Untold Stories of the Tsunami. This will take you to a 45-minute documentary in which survivors of the 2005 Tusnami that killed nearly a quarter-million people tell their stories.

What you will witness here is some of the video footage that was shot by survivors as the earthquake was felt and half an hour later the waves rolled ashore. You'll hear the desperate cries and screams of those who are swept away and those who were left behind to deal with the aftermath. You'll see the total devastation of civilization that was in the path of the tsunami.

But most important, you will hear survivors tell the intimate details of what happened to them just before, during and after the disaster struck. How did they survive? What did they do to stay alive? What were their thoughts and feelings? What was the scene like as everything civilized was destroyed and they were faced with massive casualties and nobody to help them? In retrospect, what would they (or could they) do differently? How do they deal with loss of loved ones?

This short feature film is a bold and honest education in what really happens when all havoc breaks loose. I recommend that you watch it more than once, and analyze what really happens when all the trappings of modern society are suddenly gone.

For this movie, forget the popcorn — bring a notepad and pencil.

Choosing Footwear

I was riding a ferry across Puget Sound a few days ago and, with a half hour to relax, started noticing footwear.

What do people put on their feet when they leave the house to travel? These folks weren't just stepping outside to retrieve the newspaper or check what's in their mailbox. They were traveling from somewhere to someplace. And as I watched the parade of flip-flops (thongs for feet — in the best tradition of the "thong" it offers no coverage, no protection, and leaves feet virtually naked), bedroom slippers (I'm not kidding), dress shoes, cowboy boots, stilettos (again, not kidding), open sandals, and sport shoes, my brain was working all kinds of scenarios in which what you have on your feet makes a difference to your ability to survive.

It is true that if everything goes perfectly, your choice of footwear probably won't have much of an impact on your survival. You walk from your house to your car, drive someplace, get out and go inside another building where life is good. No problem.

But we can't always depend on life going perfectly. What if on your way from Point-A to Point-B you are involved in a traffic accident? Or maybe you have a flat tire, or run out of gas. What if there's a natural disaster (an earthquake, sudden storm, flood, wildfire), or some other kind of event (terrorist action) that leaves you unable to continue your trip in your vehicle? What if suddenly you have to abandon the car and walk five miles to reach safety?

I've chronicled lots of incidents in which this is exactly what happens to folks who end up in survival situations at one level or another. In these cases, what the individual has on his or her feet makes all the difference in the world. There are times when, if you can't travel by foot, you're dead. And that might mean anyone with you is also dead.

So, what's up with footwear in general?
  • The only reason you need footwear is for protection. By choosing good shoes, you protect your primary means of transportation (vehicles are secondary means of transportation, because they cannot always be depended on). 
  • Fashion is, in most cases, the enemy of appropriate footwear. If you buy shoes so your feet will look cute or cool or fashionable, you need to rethink the point I just made above. 
  • The largest segment of society that is victimized by the footwear fashion industry is women. But, ladies, you have the ability to choose not to wear stupid shoes that torture your feet, cripple your posture, and offer no logical function. You can only become a victim if you choose to. 
  • Whenever you leave the protection of your home, you should always think, "What if I had to walk 5 miles … could I do it comfortably in these shoes?" Why do I use 5 miles as my standard? Maybe when things break down you won't have to walk 5 miles, but if your choice of shoe will carry you that far, it will also carry you a lesser distance. Think of it as a safety factor, like speed ratings for tires that will endure 100 mph … the logic is that if they can go 100 mph without exploding, they can probably go 70 mph safely.
What's up with the kind of footwear I saw that day on the ferry? I'll start with the worst and work toward more appropriate shoes:
  • Flip-flops — Virtually zero protection from anything, even walking on a beach. They leave feet vulnerable to sunburn, blisters, impact injuries, cuts, stone bruises, thorns, contact-poison plants, bug bites or stings, and they are impossible to run with in the event that your escape must be made at more than strolling speed. 
  • Bedroom slippers — Bedroom slippers won't take you very far if you have to walk. The sole is too soft to prevent stone bruises to the bottom of the feet, and the totally open rear invites pebbles or other junk to slip in and cause injury.
  • I saw one gal with a pair of shoes that resembled ballerina slippers. They had paper-thin soles that were not much better than going barefoot, so there was precious little protection being offered.
  • Cowboy boots — Hey, I have some. They're perfect for riding horses, because the pointed toe slides into the stirrups easily and the aggressive heel keeps the boot from slipping all the way through the stirrups. They offer heavy leather protection for the foot and lower leg that's important for busting through brush when rounding up cattle (yes, I used to do that), or on a trail ride. But as walking footwear, they are horrible. In my book, they rank right up there with high-heels for women — they torture feet, are slick and don't hold the ground well, and cause posture problems. 
  • High-heels and other women's business shoes — Not only high-heels, but nearly all women's fashion shoes are an abomination. Yes, they're cute. Yes, they show off the curve of your calf nicely. Yes, they make you look taller and more statuesque. But if you ever have to step off the fashion runway and actually walk anywhere you'll regret having these horrors on your feet. Tell me I'm wrong. Tell me why I see women remove their shoes and rub their feet every time they have a chance, and why I see some walk down the sidewalk barefoot while carrying their shoes. If you think you're wearing this stuff to please men, think again. Real men who care about the welfare of their female friends would support you in wearing what is comfortable and protective. 
  • Men's business shoes — While men are not subjected to horrible dress shoes as much as women, most men's dress shoes are not built for foot travel that covers any distance on uneven ground. Slick leather soles are the worst, but all slick soles, no matter what they're made of, are a problem in wet conditions. These shoes also tend to have very thin soles that offer little protection against stone bruises. 
  • Open sandals — Any kind of footwear that is open along the sides, front or back invites a certain amount of risk of injury to the feet. I admit that I have a favorite pair of Skechers sandals that I love to wear when there's a chance I'll be stomping around in water. They drain instantly and are comfortable enough for me to walk a pretty good distance. I wouldn't want to have to go 5 miles in them, though. The soles are hefty and have aggressive traction lugs, so they protect against stone bruising and hold the trail pretty well. Problem is they allow small pebbles to invade, and that can injure the feet. They're also not protective enough against plants (thorns, stinging nettle, etc), insects, or sunburn. 
  •  Sport shoes — Fortunately, we live in an era when excellent sport shoes are available and inexpensive. Unless you're engaged in serious mountaineering (or digging your way through collapsed buildings, where work boots would be best), quality sport shoes offer good protection for the feet. With full coverage, they protect against sunburn (if you think I'm overdoing it on the sunburn issue, you just haven't suffered a serious sunburn to your feet yet. Toasted feet are absolutely disabling), they keep pebbles from entering, shield against plant irritations and insects, prevent stone bruising, and can comfortably carry you as far as you care to walk. 
Bottom line — pay attention to what you put on your feet when you leave the house. Consider your feet to be your most fundamental form of transportation, and take care to not diminish your ability to walk long distances. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Worldwide Disaster Numbers

In 2009, there were 335 notable natural disasters reported around the world. Those events were responsible for 10,655 deaths, and impacted the lives of 119 million others who survived but suffered consequences of the catastrophes. On the economic side, the financial toll was more than $41.3 billion, if measured in U.S. dollars.

These numbers were released in a report called the Annual Disaster Statistical Review, compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. The study goes on to reveal how some parts of the world get more than their fair share of misery, while others are less impacted. Out of 111 countries that were hit by some sort of natural disaster, 18 of them accrued 75% of the death-toll and economic damage.

So, what were the disaster hot spots around the world? There are two ways to tally the numbers. First, let's look at the top 10 countries listed by the number of events.
  • Philippines — 25
  • China — 24
  • USA — 16
  • India — 15
  • Indonesia — 12
  • Brazil — 9
  • Mexico — 7
  • Australia — 6
  • Bangladesh — 6
  • Viet Nam — 6
But that tells only half the story. The other way to tally the numbers is by the death-toll. The top 10 countries by mortality were:
  • India — 1,806
  • Indonesia — 1,407
  • Philippines — 1,334
  • Taiwan — 630
  • China — 591
  • Australia — 535
  • Peru — 419
  • Viet Nam — 356
  • Italy — 335
  • El Salvador — 275
Floods were the most common events, and accounted for 53.7% of the natural disasters counted. Next were storms, making up 25.4%. And geophysical events such as earthquake or volcano comprised 2.7% of the natural disasters. 

Keep in mind that this list was compiled for 2009, before the catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti and Chili, and the winter storms that buried the U.S. east coast early in 2010. According the the numbers already accrued for this year, 2010 is turning out to be above average for natural disaster casualties. 

Do I need to remind anyone to get prepared to survive in the event that food outlets, water supply, fuel, electricity, hospitals, and other services are rendered unavailable?