Monday, November 8, 2010


Escape and Evasion (E&E) is generally thought of as a military survival technique to be used when you're in a combat theater and there are people out there trying to kill you.

Normally, in a civilian survival setting, we aren't concerned about having to escape and evade to keep from being hunted down and destroyed by the enemy. Actually, under normal circumstances, just the opposite is true — we want to make ourselves so visible and so audible to the outside world that rescuers will have an easy time finding us. That's why the fundamental principles of signaling are such an important aspect of survival education.

However, there are situations in which it is desirable to make ourselves invisible. This can happen in both wilderness and urban settings. Let me paint a couple of scenarios for you.
  • You are hiking the deep woods of the Oregon coast and stumble into a marijuana plantation being tended by a couple of gorillas carrying weapons. They see you just about the time you decide it would be prudent to evaporate into the forest, and they come a hunting. 
That would be a nice time to know how to vanish into thin air.
  • In an urban setting, imagine that you are in New York City the night the power grid fails and the city goes dark and spooky. Traffic lights die, and instant gridlock occurs. Everybody is on foot — good guys and bad guys. But the bad guys are looking for ways to take advantage of this windfall, filling their pockets and maybe notching their guns at your expense. 
Becoming good at E&E takes practice, but there are a couple of foundational concepts that might help you live through experiences like those I've described. I'll just hit the high points, and then I will urge you to go out and practice these techniques by playing a game of "stealth" and seeing how imperceptible you can become.
  • Movement is the enemy. When you're trying to hide, you must become an absolute stone statue. Any movement at all will give away your position. Motion will get you caught because it is often accompanied by noise, and the enemy doesn't even need to be looking directly at you to see you — he can detect you in his peripheral vision. If you can get to a hiding place, don't be tempted to leave it and scurry to another one. Take up your position and be completely still until you are totally certain that the threat has passed. Then wait another half hour before moving. 
  • Noise is louder and carries farther than you think. If you are on the move, you must be so methodical that you create no sound. This takes a lot of practice. Go out in the woods on a dry autumn day when crisp leaves and twigs cover the ground. Practice walking through them without making any sound at all. Learn to pick up your feet and put them back down without disturbing anything. If you feel a twig underfoot, pick that foot up and put it down someplace else. This requires superior balance, and I recommend Tai Chi training to achieve this quality of balance. 
  • Silence your clothing and "stuff." Anything that jingles in your pocket will give away your position. It's better to empty your pockets and leave those things behind (hidden, so as not to leave a trail) than to keep them with you if they are going to give you away. Don't drag your feet or swish your pants cuffs against each other. Quiet your arm movements so the fabric of your shirt or jacket doesn't make noise. 
  • Quiet your breathing. This is difficult when you're frightened. Inhale and exhale deep, slow breaths through your nostrils. If it's cold enough to cause your breath to be visible, exhale into your shirt or jacket collar so you aren't sending up "smoke" signals. 
  • Do not look around. The movement of your head, or even the movement of your eyes, can give you away. Your face, regardless of color, is a solid block that, when it moves will catch the enemy's eye. If you wear glasses, remove them and put them in your pocket, if you can get along without them at all. A sun glint off the glass or frame will light up your location like a beacon. Same goes for all jewelry - watches, rings, etc. 
  • Take the difficult route. The enemy will likely stick with the easier path, so if you escape and evade along a highly undesirable route, you might not be followed. But move slowly and silently. Avoid the temptation to get up and run or make time too quickly. 
  • Hide where no one will look for you. I heard about one evader who hid in the pit of an outhouse, because he knew nobody would look there for him. 
There is much more to E&E, but begin your practice with these techniques (okay, you don't have to crawl under an outhouse) and build your skill.

In my military years, I have been literally close enough to reach out and untie the enemy's boot laces, but he never knew I was there. Remaining hidden takes discipline, but it's a technique that can save your life if the situation requires that you escape and evade.

1 comment:

  1. My preference is to sit at home in a dark house with a loaded gun.

    I've had others walk right me in broad daylight that didn't know I was there but I guess that is beside the point being as they were no threat anyway.

    But if nasty things come here it may come in handy.