Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tough Enough

Sometimes, a life or death situation calls for extreme measures. That's when you find out if you're tough enough to do whatever it takes to survive. In the case of 61-year-old retired logger, Jon Hutt, it called for self-amputation.

Hutt drove his semi tractor-trailer alone into the Colorado forest to retrieve a load of felled trees to be used for winter firewood. That's when it happened — an accidental slip of the 6-ton trailer pinned his right foot by the toes.

He cried out for help, but there was no one to hear him deep in the forest. His cell phone was in the cab of the truck, so he couldn't call for help. But even if he could have reached the phone, there was no cell coverage in the area. He was truly stuck, with no one to help him, and no way to summon assistance. He had told his wife that he would be gone for several hours, but didn't know when she might start searching for him.

After struggling in vain for 30 minutes to free his foot, Hutt came to the conclusion that the only way for him to get loose was to cut off all five toes. With a 3-inch pocket knife, he cut away his boot until he could see his toes. Then went to work sawing them off, one toe at a time.

"It hurt so bad," he said. "I would cut for a while and then I had to rest."

Once he was free, Hutt wrapped the foot in a shirt to stop the bleeding, then hobbled to the truck and drove himself toward his home. When he got to an area where there was cell coverage, he called for help and an ambulance met him on his way home.

The lessons for us:

  • Don't go alone to engage in an activity that might result in an injury. Of course we never expect that to happen, but it does. It's wise to have a helper on hand. 
  • Use a personal locator beacon (PLB) or a SPOT Satellite Messenger. One press of the button will bring rescue. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sixty Five Million

What happens when 65 million people are all bracing for the arrival of a potential disaster? All we have to do is look at the East Coast right now, because the report is that 65,000,000 residents along that coast are trying to prepare for Hurricane Irene to hit.

One report is that the stores are empty. If you don't already have it, you can't go out and buy it. Oh, you might be able to find a fancy pair of high heels, but those are useless. In fact, that's exactly the reason you can find them — 'because nobody really needs them right now.

But if you want to buy something useful like bottled water, food or a power generator, you're a day late and a dollar short. When the crisis is looming, there might be folks willing to part with the extra generators they went out and bought in anticipation of a rush on the market. The price will double or triple, or more. Some people call that price gouging, but you would be happy to pay the price when you really need those items.

New York Mayor Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city, ordering residents to get out of town by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that public transportation in the city will shut down at noon tomorrow. The talk is about prior storms, like the one in September 1821 that brought a storm surge 13-feet high that flooded all of Manhattan south of Canal Street. That area now includes Wall Street. It's anybody's guess what's going to happen this time around.

A FEMA spokesman told the Associated Press, "We're going to have damages, we just don't know how bad. this is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time."

Bigger than Katrina? Yup, in terms of population being affected. And if it weren't for the population, the storm would come and go and be of very little importance. It's the populace that turns a storm (or an earthquake, etc.) into a disaster. It's the fact that the people are unprepared to take care of handling their own needs. That's what creates a disaster.

The more prepared you are, the less you have to depend on outside agencies to take care of you. To the degree that you fail to prepare, you become part of the problem.

The East Coast, right now, is learning that the time for preparation is not when you're staring down the barrel.

Tarp For The Tent

Let's keep going on the earlier post about having a good tent. No matter how tough the tent floor is, a rugged plastic ground cloth (tarp) will help extend its life and keep the floor from damage and soiling.

Carry a second tarp and some rope so you can rig up a roof for the camp kitchen or dining area.
  • String the rope tightly between two trees, about as high as you can reach. 
  • Drape the tarp over the rope forming the a ridgeline.
  • Use rope to secure the corners to other trees, keeping the “eves” lower than the ridge for drainage.
If there are no grommets along the edges of the tarp, tuck a small pebble into the material and fold it over. Then loop a simple overhand knot over the tucked pebble and cinch the line tight. That creates a grip point so you can "guy" the lines out to keep the tarp taut. 

If you have no tent at all, a tarp (or even a piece of lightweight plastic sheeting) can be rigged up to provide good shelter. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Good Tent

If you are forced to evacuate for any reason, you'll need someplace to go. Depending on the situation, one option might be to seek isolation from the masses of other evacuees. In that case, it's a good idea to have a tent in your evacuation kit to serve as primary shelter.

Granted, in a survival situation you need to know how to improvise shelter from whatever is at hand, but having a tent puts you miles ahead of the game.

Tent size will depend on the number of people in your group and their ability to carry gear. For example, if your family includes teens or able-bodied adults, have them carry additional tents so everyone doesn't have to crowd together.

When it comes to design, dome-style tents are simple and work well, but they don’t offer as much headroom as a cabin-type tent, and the sloping walls reduce usable interior space. I have both types and like both of them, but the cabin tent is easier to live in.

A tent that is designed to be free-standing without the need for guy-lines is easier to pick up and move if the need arises (like suddenly water starts to puddle in your campsite). If the tent requires the support of guy-lines, everything will collapse when you try to move the tent.

For every style, pegs are used to hold the floor fully stretched out. But free-standing tents can actually be erected and used without the pegs. Guy-lines are needed for the rain fly, but if you need to move the tent it is only the fly that will collapse, and that can be quickly re-set.

The tent must be durable and easy to erect. You don't want a tent that can't stand up to the rigors, or one that's a mystery every time you pull all the pieces out of the storage bag. Here are some other specific characteristics to look for in a quality tent: 
  • DAC aluminum poles linked with lightweight shock cord make assembly easy. Aluminum poles are generally a little larger in diameter but are stronger and more durable than fiberglass poles. 
  • Double-needle seam stitching throughout will help keep the seams from coming apart even after years of use. 
  • All tent floor and rain fly seams should be sealed so water won’t leak through where the stitching thread penetrates the fabric. I re-seal my seams every year. You can buy seam seal at any sporting goods store. 
  • The tent floor must be tough, waterproof and “tub” shaped with floor material that extends part way up into the sidewalls. A good waterproof coating will measure something on the order of 1500mm thickness. High-denier rating for the fabric means better resistance to wear and tear. 
  • The best wall materials are waterproof and breathable (Gore-Tex, ToddText, Klimate and MemBrain are some brands), so condensation created by living in the tent can migrate through the fabric to the outside. But for general camping use, there are perfectly good (and much less expensive) tents made of polyurethane-coated polyester taffeta that are not breathable. For non-breathable tents, ventilation is very important (see next item). 
  • Zip openings with bug screen material on all sides (and maybe even in the ceiling – which would necessitate a rain fly for foul weather use) provide ventilation to control both interior temperature and condensation. Screened windows and doors also gives you the ability to see outside while keeping critters out. Solid zip panels for doors and windows take care of privacy issues. For best access, the entryway screen should zip open across the bottom, top and one side, so you don’t step on or snag the screen when entering or exiting. YKK zippers resist snagging adjacent material and are more durable than other zippers. 
  • A rain fly made of 1500mm-coated polyester that extends over the windows and entry doors will prevent rain from sneaking inside through those openings. The fly allows you to have an open screen in the ceiling without risk of rain getting into the tent. 
  • A vestibule is a small external sheltered area where you can store your boots or other gear overnight out of the rain. Sometimes this is built into the tent itself, or sometimes it is a design feature of the rain fly. 
  • Inside the tent, look for handy mesh pocket organizers attached to the sidewalls where you can stow a pair of glasses or other small stuff up off the floor while you sleep.


As I write this, hundreds of thousands of folks are evacuating their homes on the East Coast in anticipation of Hurricane Irene making landfall, or at least a close fly-by in the next few days.

They're smart — they're getting out early. But with that many people trying to get out of town at the same time, there is likely to be some gridlock even though they are leaving ahead of the storm. It's hard enough when you're trying to move a couple hundred thousand vehicles during normal rush hour, and it gets worse if you're trying to move those vehicles when there's a touch of panic in the air. The closer to the hour of crisis the residents come, the higher the stress is going to be. That's why it's always a good idea to see the handwriting on the wall and make your move early.

One thing that makes evacuation a lot easier is being prepared to simply grab an evac kit, throw it in the car, and in 30 seconds you're gone. If you have to slow down to gather up survival supplies, look for a way to carry them, and figure out how much of this and that you're going to need, the whole process gets mired down and costs precious time.

Even if you're evacuating to a relative's or friend's house several hours distant (a much nicer idea than evacuating to a FEMA refugee camp), you still need to be prepared with all your own personal supplies. You don't want to have to borrow someone else's toothbrush or underwear, if you know what I mean.

Everyone, whether they live in a hurricane (or any other kind of disaster-prone) zone or not, should have their own personal evacuation kit already prepared and ready to grab and go. The kit should have everything to meet your basic needs for at least 72 hours (longer is better).

The concept is that after that much time, life will probably return to normal and you'll be able to go back home. However, that may not be the case. Sometimes there's nothing to go back to where wildfires sweep through communities, or earthquakes knock everything down, or tornados obliterate whole neighborhoods, or floods wash everything away. That's when the evac kit might need to keep you going for months.

Think about that, and plan your kit accordingly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prolonged Water Shortage

Any number of emergency situations can result in a prolonged water shortage. If there is a power outage caused by a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc. the municipal water system will not be able to pump water. If that disaster also causes the breakup of the water treatment system, there could well be major contamination to contend with.

In a report about Critical National Infrastructures by the government's EMP Commission, the issue of how an EMP might adversely affect community water systems was raised. Keep in mind that his report is about the destruction of electronic equipment to operate pumps, not a simple short-term power outage.

"Demoralization and deterioration of social order can be expected to deepen if a water shortage is protracted. Anarchy will certainly loom if government cannot supply the population with enough water to preserve health and life. The many homeowners with private wells also would face similar problems. There would be fewer workarounds to get their pumps operating again, if the pump controller is 
damaged or inoperable. Even if power is restored, it is unlikely the average homeowner would be technically competent to bypass a failed pump controller and figure out how to power the pump with bypass power lines. The first priority would be meeting personal water needs. Federal, state, and local 
governments do not have the collective capability, if the water infrastructure fails over a large area, to supply enough water to the civilian population to preserve life."

But even in the event of a more "normal" power outage than one caused by an EMP, the report had this to say:

"Storm-induced blackouts of the electric grid have demonstrated that, in the absence of electric power, the water infrastructure will fail. Storm-induced blackouts have also demonstrated that, even in the face of merely local and small-scale failure of the water infrastructure, the combined efforts of government agencies at all levels are hard pressed to help."

  • Don't expect the government to supply you with water (or anything else)
  • Become as self-sufficient as possible, especially with regard to your water supply, storing as much as possible on your property
  • Locate sources of freshwater that you can access when the municipal system fails
  • Be prepared to purify all water that you'll consume, cook with, or wash dishes with
  • Learn to conserve in the use of water, so you will already know how to live through a severe water shortage

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Will To Survive

As I review case after case of survival situations — whether it's in the wilderness, or in an urban setting after a disaster, or in an incident involving conflict such as an abduction — there is one common thread that ties all of them together.

It isn't luck.

It isn't age.

It isn't gender.

It isn't physical fitness (although that never hurts).

It isn't survival skill (although that doesn't hurt either).

It isn't experience in prior survival situations.

The one common element in all successful survival incidents is The Will To Live. The will to survive is what keeps people alive. It's the inability to say, "I quit."

It's some kind of motivation that creates an unwillingness to give up and die. That motivation might come from thinking about the family and having an overwhelming desire to live long enough to be with them again.  It might be raw stubbornness. It might be a wonderful faith in God that everything will work out okay, if you just keep going.

Whatever it is, you need to have it if you want to survive. Those who don't possess the will to live are the ones who die without a fight.

So, how do you develop a powerful will to survive? You have to be a fighter, a scrapper, a person who doesn't give up easily. Some folks seem to be born that way — they come out of the womb and hit the ground running. Others must work to develop these qualities.
  • Discover something about life that you just can't live without. It's your passion, your driving ambition, the reason you live. 
  • Develop self-confidence by thinking about all the successes you've had, and knowing that you can also succeed at whatever you're facing right now.
  • Work on a plan for what you're going to do when you get back home safely. See yourself actually doing those things. 
  • Take command of yourself, your thoughts, your attitudes, your actions. Don't lay down and play the victim. 
  • Learn to endure pain and misery without whining about it. Whiners whine so someone will feel sorry for them, and come to take care of them. They live an entitlement lifestyle, and they are not survivors. 
  • When things are tough, get up and do something about it. Plan your work, and work your plan. 
  • Do a little bit every day to improve your situation, then reach out and help someone else. 
Don't wait until you find yourself in a survival situation to develop a powerful will to live. If you're alive today, prove it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Deadly Amoeba

In a survival situation, it is imperative to have access to freshwater to drink. But you can't simply bend down and suck water out of a pond or stream with impunity. There are organisms in the water that are dangerous to human health, the most common of which are giardia and cryptosporidium. 

But it gets worse. Consider the case of 16-year-old Courtney Nash. Two days after she went swimming in the St. Johns River in Mims, Florida, 44 miles east of Orlando, she died of an infection that she contracted from the water in that river. 

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the killer was a deadly amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri. Brevard County health officials said they believe the parasite entered Courtney's nose while she was swimming, and worked its way to her brain where it caused a lethal infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). 

The disease spreads rapidly, leaving the victim suffering symptoms that include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of the senses of smell and taste, and a stiff neck. In most cases, death occurs within 3 to 7 days. The good news is that the disease cannot be spread from one person to another, because the amoeba itself has to enter the victim's brain in order to do the damage. 

The bad news is that the amoeba is commonly found in lakes and rivers. A health advisory issued by the State of Virginia warns that the amoeba proliferates in stagnant freshwater lakes, ponds, streams and rivers when temperatures climb into the 80s. 

Officials advise safety precautions when swimming:
  • Shower with soap before and after the swim
  • Be careful not to swallow pool, lake or river water. 
My issue with these precautions is that, if the amoeba gets into your nasal passages, a shower is not going to stop its destructive trek to your brain. The safest course of action is to keep your face out of the water altogether. If you are camping or in a survival situation and want to wash your face, do it with water you have boiled and then allowed to cool. Boiling will kill all organisms in the water, leaving it safe to use for ingestion and hygiene.

If you must cross a body of water where the stated conditions exist, take every precaution to make sure you don't get your face in the water.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


The good news is that Jared Ropelato has been found alive and in good health. According to the Daggett County Sheriff's spokesperson, "He had done some hiking, but was in good condition. He told us that when night fell Friday, he made himself a lean-to and settled in for the night."

Nearly 300 people took part in the search before Jared was finally found nearly 5 miles from where he was last seen.

This incident is filled with lessons for us.
  • When you realize that you're lost, don't keep hiking in the hope that you'll somehow find your way back to where you want to be. Come to grips with the fact that you're lost. That means you don't know where you are. And that also means you don't know which direction it is to where you want to be. That's the definition of being lost. 
  • If you keep hiking, there's a strong likelihood that you're going to move farther away from your intended destination. Jared managed to walk 5 miles farther away from the last place where he was seen. Searchers will begin their search at the LKP (last known position) and work outward from there. If you keep wandering, you might stay one step ahead of the searchers in their expanding grid. That's why it is critical that you STOP and make camp. 
  • Another reason not to keep wandering is because you are expending energy and internal fluid supplies that you will need as the survival situation continues. 
  • Yet another reason not to keep hiking is because you risk injury the farther you go, especially as your energy begins to diminish and you become dehydrated or hypothermic. 
Jared was lucky. Searchers on ATVs spotted him. Being on vehicles allowed them to search farther afield than would have been possible if they were restricted to foot travel. Had that been the case, Jared might still be out there waiting to be found.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Young Garrett Bardsley was never found.

It happens.

The rules are:
  • Stop the minute you suspect you are lost.
  • Move to the nearest clearing that will allow you to be seen by distant searchers.
  • If there is no clearing, make an emergency camp right where you are. 
  • Don't wander off the trail you've been using, or searchers might pass you by without seeing you.
  • Start signaling immediately, using a whistle, a mirror, brightly colored items that can be easily seen from a distance. Use anything that creates a visual attraction (motion, color, pattern, contrast), and everything you can think of that makes noise. 
  • Don't scream for help — use audible signals that don't wear you out or create panic as you hear your own desperate voice calling for help.
  • Create an emergency shelter in a safe spot. 
  • Start a controlled fire (you don't want it to get away from you and burn down the forest) and use smoke during the day and the bright flames at night as signals
  • Conserve your energy and water supply. Pace yourself so you don't become exhausted or dehydrated. Don't work yourself into a sweat.
  • Stay dry and protected from the wind, to avoid hypothermia.
  • Take inventory of everything you have with you and think of possible uses for each item as you improvise shelter and other camp implements. 

Lost Boy Scout

Jared Ropelato is missing, somewhere in the heavily forested mountains of northeastern Utah. Jared is a 12-year-old Boy Scout, who was on a campout with his troop when he disappeared during a hike.

This kind of thing has happened before. Back in August 2004, a 12-year-old Scout named Garrett Bardsley went missing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah during a camping trip with his scout troop when his father sent him back to camp after the boy got his pants and shoes wet while fishing. That was the last anyone ever saw of Garrett. In memory of their lost son, the Bardsley family established the Garrett Bardsely Foundation, which helps locate missing children. The Foundation has stepped in to join the search for young Jared Ropelato.

These two cases — Jared Ropelato and Garrett Bardsley are disturbingly similar. Young Scouts out for a dream trip to camp and hike and fish with their buddies, under the supervision of Scout leaders, and in some cases even with the parents along. How, then, can this happen? How can a young man go missing from among a crowd of other boys, and from beneath the watchful eye of adult leaders? That's a question that should disturb us.

But here's the answer — it just happens. It is SOOO easy to get lost! I've interviewed experienced backcountry enthusiasts who have become lost while hiking trails they considered to be virtually in their back yard — familiar trails they had hiked many times before. Then suddenly, they found themselves in an unfamiliar place. Maybe they missed a critical fork in the trail. Maybe they were overtaken by darkness or a storm and lost their way. Maybe they just weren't paying attention. But it happens. CONFESSION: Much as I hate to admit it, it happened to me once!

I feel fairly secure in saying that if you have never been lost, you just haven't spent enough time in the wilderness yet. Or you're living in denial.

It's only a matter of time, so the important issues are:
  1. How to try to avoid it
  2. How to prepare for it when it does happen
    Trying to avoid getting lost consists mostly of maintaining situational awareness.
    • Always know where you are in relation to where you want to be.
    • Use a detailed topographic map and compass to make sure you're heading the right direction.
    • Periodically take a "fix" on topographic features (peaks, bodies of water, etc.) to verify your location on the map.
    • Watch your backtrail so you will know what the scene will look like when you are returning on the same trail.
    • Mark the trail with brightly colored pieces of survey tape tied to trees or hanging from bushes at eyeball level. Leave the next mark while you can still see the last one. Remove these markings when you leave the area.
    Preparing for that inevitable event when you discover that you are lost involves wearing the right kind of clothing and carrying the right kind of gear.
    • Top priority when lost is to get found (duh!), so carry signaling equipment so you can call for help. That includes a signal whistle, mirror, cell phone (on the off chance that there is cell coverage in the area), small two-way radio to communicate with others in your party, a GPS personal locator beacon (PLB) or SPOT Satellite Messenger.
    • Wear clothing that will help keep you alive if you end up spending the night (or several) awaiting rescue. Merino wool base layer, synthetic fleece insulation layer, windproof and water repellent shell. The jacket should feature a hood, or carry a wool watch cap to cover your head. 
    • Carry an emergency shelter — emergency blanket or bivvy, pocket poncho, etc. 
    • Have a knife and some lightweight cordage (550 line is ideal), so you can make the structure for an emergency shelter of natural materials in a suitable location (dry ground, as level as possible, away from widowmakers or other threats). Be knowledgeable how to do this. 
    • Be equipped to start a fire to be used for warmth as well as signaling.
    • When you realize you're lost, stop immediately. Move to open ground where you can establish an emergency camp where you will be seen by searchers. Start signaling efforts. 
    Everyone, kids and adults alike, should be well trained and well equipped before taking off for a camping trip, a fishing trip, or a hike in the backcountry.

    Hopefully, the news will be positive with regard to Jared Ropelato. Let his experience be the catalyst that moves us in the direction of better preparation, both for ourselves and for those we care about.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Death By Vampire Bat

    When I was in Brazil, years ago, I hiked into a remote farm and spotted a sad looking horse standing in the field with blood stains streaming down its neck. When I asked the farmer what had happened to the horse, he said it was vampire bats. Made me involuntarily shudder and look up. Of course there were no bats zeroing in on my neck at the moment because it was broad daylight.

    Vampire bats hunt by night. Typically, they will land on or near their prey without disturbing its sleep, then creep to a position that will give them good access to blood flow. With razor-sharp teeth, they slit the skin of their victim and then lap up the blood as it oozes out. In most instances, the raid is so gentle that the victim never is aware of the attack until the next morning when the blood is apparent.

    The biggest problem isn't the loss of blood — it's disease. Bats are carriers of rabies, and they can transfer the disease to their victims through the open wounds left by the bites.

    Up until now, in the U.S., vampire bats have been nothing more than mysterious characters in horror stories. But the recent death of a Mexican teenager who had migrated to Louisiana to work on a sugar cane plantation has brought a focus on the issue of vampire bats and rabies invading the U.S.  And the speed of the young man's death raised eyebrows at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    According to a CDC report, the victim suffered an especially virulent form of the rabies virus. Normally, the incubation period for rabies is about 85 days, but in this case it was only 15 days. The symptoms progressed from fatigue to shoulder pain, to a drooping left eye, to numbness in the left hand. He developed a respiratory distress and a fever that climbed to 101.1 degrees F. A postmortem test of the victim's brain tissue confirmed a vampire bat variant of rabies.

    Of great concern to the CDC is the feared expansion of the vampire bat habitat. The bats are common in parts of Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico, but now appear to be expanding toward the United States. According to a CDC spokesman, "Expansion of vampire bats into the United States likely would lead to increased bat exposures to both humans and animals, and substantially alter rabies virus dynamics and ecology in the southern United States."

    A bat attack on a human is not the only way for the rabies to spread. If the bat attacks a dog or cat, or some other domesticated pet or livestock, the rabies virus can eventually be transferred to humans through interaction with the affected animals.

    If you think you might have come into contact with a rabid animal, contact your doctor as soon as possible. The symptoms listed above that the Mexican fellow suffered are typical.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Wilderness Meets Urban

    Burbank, California isn't where most people would expect to see a wild mountain lion roaming the city streets. But it does happen. In fact, just yesterday evening, residents were placed on alert by city officials because a cougar was spotted wandering around town.

    Mountain lions are among the most dangerous predators in the wild, because unlike bears that will respond with an attack when surprised or cornered by humans, a cougar will actually stalk a person until an opportunity arises for a planned attack.

    A friend of mine was stalked for 7 miles by a cougar that stayed about 100 yards behind him all the way from the campground until he reached his truck. He kept a wary eye on the lion all the way back to his truck and told me later that he knew that if he ignored the cougar, it would sneak in close and jump him.
    I have no doubt of that. It is the pattern for these animals. California statistics kept between 1986 to 1995 listed 9 verified attacks, about one per year in that state alone. Three attacks took place in 1994 alone. The modus operandi for attack is for the cougar to lie in wait, hidden from sight until the victim is close enough. Then the animal leaps on the back of the victim and bites through the back of the neck, severing the spinal column.

    An example — On April 23, 1994, Barbara Schoener was killed by a cougar. Since she was alone, there were no eye-witnesses. But the supposition is that she was jogging along a trail and attacked by a cougar that was lying in wait on a ledge above the trail. She was apparently knocked to the ground and evidence is that she fought the animal with bare hands until she was killed. Her body was dragged off the trail and most of it was eaten by the cougar.

    To avoid a cougar attack:
    • Travel in groups. Cougars are not known to attack groups, preferring to take down solitary individuals. 
    • Don't take your pet dog with you into the wilderness. Dogs attract mountain lions, so having one on a leash is like trolling bait through shark-infested waters.
    If you are confronted by a cougar:
    • Stop. Do not run! Running will trigger an attack.
    • Make yourself look bigger by standing tall and holding your jacket above your head. 
    • If you have small children with you, put them on your shoulders. That will help make you look larger and also make the kids look less like a convenient meal. 
    • If you're alone, attract others to your location, because the cougar likely will not attack when confronted by a group. Yell "cougar" not just "help" to let others know what the situation is. 
    • Prepare to defend yourself. Pick up a weapon — rock or stick that can be used as a club. If you have a knife, take it out and prepare to use it. On August 16th, 1994, Robin Winslow used a 12-inch kitchen bread knife to help fight off a cougar that was attacking her friend Kathleen Strehl. During the battle, the cat bit off Troy Winslow's (Robin's husband) thumb, when he grabbed the mountain lion near its mouth. Life can get ragged when you're fighting for your life against a mountain lion. 
    Cougars are increasingly coming into urban areas in search of food and water. This often takes place after dark, making raids on food and water dishes left outside for pets. With this most recent sighting in Burbank, city officials again reminded residents to take pet food and water dishes inside at night. And with the cougars boldly prowling neighborhoods, it would also be a good idea to bring the pets indoors after dark. 

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Plane Crash

    A plane filled with more than 160 people crashed in Guyana this past week, and reports from survivors have brought up some issues we ought to discuss here.

    On the news, the footage showing the wrecked airplane were taken in full daylight. But the crash happened at night. The aircraft was crushed and broken in two pieces. The electrical system failed, so there were no lights. Inside the darkness of the fuselage, passengers were confused, terrified, and had no idea where to go to exit the plane.

    According to one survivor's report, the man sitting next to the emergency exit door didn't understand how to get the door open.

    So, here are my thoughts about this particular situation:

    • Pay attention— whenever you board an airplane, memorize where you are sitting in relation to the emergency exits.
    • Learn exactly how to operate the emergency exit door mechanism, in case you have to take over for the fellow sitting by the door who doesn't have a clue. 
    • Carry a small LED flashlight on your keychain. There are LED lights the size of a nickel that use a button battery, and can be attached to a lanyard around your neck or to your key ring.
    • Keep your shoes on during the flight, in case you have to fight your way through debris and then jump to the ground. 
    On that last point, when this airplane came to rest in a field adjacent to the runway, no rescuers showed up for a long, long time. Passengers were forced to crawl out onto the wings and then jump 12 feet to the ground. Some suffered broken bones, others were knocked unconscious by the impact with the ground. Those who made it most safely to the ground were:
    • Wearing sturdy shoes (no flip-flops or high-heels or other junk that people wear as shoes). 
    • They knew how to hit the ground feet first, knees bent, and then tuck and roll to one side to absorb the impact. This is known as a PLF or parachute landing fall. It's a good idea to have this technique in your skill set.