Monday, January 23, 2012

Know When to Hold 'em — When to Fold 'em

Remember the song by Kenny Rogers that became the theme for the movie The Gambler? The repeating chorus was "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run."

That is a perfect explanation of how to survive just about any kind of emergency. It alludes to the fact that you need to assess the situation before making a decision to hold, fold, walk or run. If you don't figure things out based on all the cards that are on the table (elements of the emergency), then you have no foundation for your decisions.

What you're trying to determine is which of all the elements poses the greatest threat to your physical welfare.
  • Is it starvation? 
  • Is it dehydration? 
  • Is it hypothermia? 
  • Is it that geyser of blood spurting from your femoral artery? 
  • Is it a drunken brawl at the local bar?
  • Is it that you're lost and have no idea which way to go?
  • Is it a raging bull charging at you from across the pasture? 
  • Is it the kid on drugs wildly pointing a gun at you and demanding your money? 
I could go on adding to the list of bullet points forever, but you probably get it. For any emergency, the first order of business is to assess the situation and figure out what is the highest priority that needs your attention. There are probably a lot of high priorities, but only one will rise to the highest position on the list. After you get that one handled, move on down the list.

Sometimes you multi-task, handling more than one priority at a time — like seeking to stay dry at the same time you're gathering materials for building a shelter. But both tasks are calculated to take care of the same core priority: avoid hypothermia.

In a disaster scenario (wildfire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc.), you'll have to determine whether to "shelter in place" or evacuate. That's the "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" part.

If the house is not in the path of a threatening storm or wildfire, or is not already so badly damaged by the event that it poses a risk if you stay there, standing your ground might be the right thing to do.

Sheltering in place (if the place is habitable) leaves you in possession of all your supplies. When you decide to evacuate, you can only take so much stuff with you, and you don't know for certain (although you should have a plan to work toward) where you're going to end up. You might wind up on your own, ducking and running for cover, or living in a refugee camp. In some circumstances, those are better options that trying to shelter in place. You have to figure that out.

If you're in the crosshairs of a lethal storm, or the fire is advancing toward your house, or some similar scenario is playing out with regard to urban unrest or war, it's probably time to fold 'em and walk away (or run).

Start with assessing the situation and establishing priorities. Only then will you know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.

1 comment:

  1. I love that song.

    Hum, think I'll put my finger in this bullet hole and try to slink away. :-)