Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wolf Attack

Sixteen-year-old Noah Graham suddenly found himself in the jaws of a wolf. 
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that this is thought to be the first actual documented wolf attack on a human in their state. 
Graham and five of his friends were camping near Lake Winnebigoshish when the attack took place. One minute Graham was sitting peacefully talking with his girlfriend, and the next minute he was fighting for his life.
The wolf apparently came up behind Graham and chomped down on the back of the teenager's head. Graham said he had to reach back and jerk his head out of the wolf's mouth. Then he kicked and screamed at the animal, causing it to leave, but it left only reluctantly.

There is a persistent undercurrent of denial among some alleged "nature lovers" that claim wolves don't attack humans. Well, here's one more case to disprove that theory.

Graham was ambushed by the wolf. He never saw it coming, and never even knew wolves were in the area. To his credit, he did the right thing by fighting, screaming, kicking, and generally presenting himself as a target not to be messed with.

If you are confronted by wolves, face the animal head-on, stand tall and make yourself look bigger than life by raising both arms overhead while waving your jacket. Raise a ruckus, yell and scream. That will probably do the trick. But if the wolf, or a pack of them, continue to close in around you, prepare to fight with anything you can get your hands on — rocks, sticks, hiking poles, a knife, a firearm.

As wolves become more plentiful and more habituated to humans, they will lose their natural fear of man, and close encounters will undoubtedly become more frequently reported.

Do not believe that wolves are harmless to humans. These are top-of-the-stack predators who will do whatever it takes to feed themselves and their young.

They know how to survive, so if you're in their territory, you need to know how to survive an encounter with them.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Survive A Hazmat Incident

When a train pulling cars filled with flammable and corrosive materials went off the tracks recently in Louisiana, more than 50 families were evacuated, forced out of their homes to save their lives.
If you become aware of an incident involving hazardous materials, monitor radio or TV stations to learn what's happening. 
Now, you might think this type of hazardous materials incident can't happen to you but, before jumping to that conclusion, let's take a look at the numbers. According to FEMA, "varying quanitites of hazardous materials are manufactured, used, or stored at an estimated 4.5 million facilities in the United States. These substances are most often released as a result of transportation accidents or because of accidents in manufacturing facilities."

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that over the past 10 years "there has been a major growth in the amount of hazmats transported on a daily basis, resulting in a high level of risk."

In total, there are more than 3.1 billion tons of hazmats transported annually across the county by rail or roadway. By far (94%) is carried by truck. Five percent is transported by air. And about 1% goes by rail, pipeline or ship.

So, what do you think the chances are that an accident might happen in your community, resulting in the release of hazardous materials into the atmosphere, or on the ground, or into the waterways? Would it surprise you to learn that on average, there are more than 15,000 hazmat incidents reported in the U.S., resulting in more than $50-million in damage per year.

The big question is: What are you supposed to do to survive a hazmat incident? Here are the steps to take:
  • Follow instructions issued by authorities.
  • Stay away from the incident area, to minimize the risk of exposure and contamination.
  • The general rule is "Up" — stay upstream of materials released into a waterway; stay uphill (because these materials are generally heavier than air, so they sink to low ground); and stay upwind. 
  • If you're driving, and must remain in your vehicle, roll up windows, turn off the air conditioner or heater, and close vents. Try to drive out of the area to a safe zone.
  • If you're indoors, close and lock all exterior doors, so people won't open the doors and allow the hazardous materials inside. Close windows and all vents and fireplace flues. Use plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal all doors, windows, vents and ducts. Use plastic sheeting to seal over all electrical wall outlets, cable TV, and phone line outlets. Turn off ventilation systems that might bring in outside air. Seal cracks and voids around pipes or other openings through the walls.
  • Remain in place until given the "all clear" by authorities.

  • If you inadvertently come in contact with hazardous materials, follow decontamination instructions issued by authorities. Depending on the chemicals involved, you might be instructed to shower — or you might be instructed to stay away from water completely. Don't assume that the right thing to do is hop in the shower, because some chemical agents can be activated by water.

    If you experience symptoms that you suspect are the result of exposure, seek medical help as soon as possible.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    Lightning Survival

    According to the National Weather Service, about 400 people in the U.S. are struck by lightning each year and an annual average of 73 die — nearly one out of five.

    That’s more than the average weather-related death toll from hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards — only floods rank higher than lightning strike, when it comes to deadly weather.
    One of the things that can happen to a lightning strike victim is cardiopulmonary arrest. Basically, that's death.
    To save a victim who has suffered lightning-induced cardiopulmonary arrest, administer CPR while waiting for the emergency medical team to arrive. In spite of best efforts, some victims remain in a coma and eventually die of secondary causes including hemorrhages and lesions to the brain, spinal cord, lungs, liver, intestines, etc.
    Those who aren't outright by the lightning strike typically suffer debilitating injuries — severe burns, burst eardrums, blindness, paralysis, memory loss, sleep disorders, weakness, dizziness, numbness, seizures, chronic pain, and other disabilities.
    Sometimes victims recover, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they live the rest of their lives with permanent disabilities. Needless to say, lightning strike is extremely serious.
    Due to predominant weather patterns, certain parts of the country are especially prone to lightning. The Southeast experiences more strikes than anywhere else in the U.S. Florida ranks number one, but there is plenty of risk elsewhere. In fact, there is no place in the world that is totally safe from lightning strike.
    So, what can you do to be safe? If you hear thunder, lightning is within 6-8 miles so you are within the danger zone and should seek shelter immediately. Safe shelters include: metal vehicles with windows up, substantial buildings, or the low ground.
    Avoid trees, water, open fields and high ground. Small shelters such as tents offer virtually no protection against lightning, especially if they are positioned on high ground or near a tree or a small group of trees that dominate the area.  If your only shelter is a tent, it should be located in a low area and away from tall trees.
    If you feel your hair standing on end or hear crackling noises, you are in immediate danger. Waste no time in distancing yourself from metal objects (toss the golf club or fishing rod away from you), place your feet together, duck your head, and crouch as low as you can, with your hands on your knees. You're trying to make a small target that has only one "ground" point at your feet.
    As a storm approaches, thunder will lag behind the flash of lightning by five seconds for each mile of distance.  For example, if you see lightning and the sound of thunder doesn’t reach you for ten seconds, the strike was about two miles away. The distance from one strike to the next can be six to eight miles, so you are in danger and need to take precautionary actions.
    After lightning and thunder have departed, wait a minimum of 30 minutes before resuming activities. Don’t be fooled by sunshine or blue sky. A bolt, literally from the blue, can travel from a storm cell as much as 10 miles away.
    The grim reality is that lightning is a capricious and deadly event that cannot be predicted with any degree of reliability. There is nothing you can do to prevent a strike. All you have in your favor is living by rules that offer the best chance for safety.

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    The Truth About Wild Edibles

    Cattails.jpeIt drives me crazy when I hear accounts of someone who is rescued after being lost in the wilderness for a few days and the story says the person kept himself alive by eating berries or pine nuts or cattails or some such thing.

    The addition of a few berries, nuts or weeds to the diet is not going to make the difference between life and death in a 3-day survival incident. The greatest value of those food items is psychological — it makes the individual feel like he’s doing something positive to survive and gives him hope.

    Granted, any food you can intake does help boost the energy level a little. But keep you from dying during a short survival incident? No. To actually die from lack of food would take much longer — weeks, not days.

    That said, there is tremendous value in knowing how to find and use wild edible plants. If a survival incident goes long-term, food gathering and preparation will be critically important. Over time, lack of caloric and nutritional intake results in loss of physical, mental and emotional strength, leaving the victim weak and apathetic, and unable to take care of basic needs. Supplementing the diet by every available source can help stave off those debilitating effects.

    But how do you find the right things to eat and avoid the wrong things? The truth is that if you indiscriminately “graze” your chance of ingesting toxic wild plants is huge. There are several hundred thousand plant varieties in the world, but only a small fraction of them are edible. Get into the wrong ones, and you might kill yourself.

    Imagine walking into a grocery store and all the labels are written in a foreign language. That’s what you’re facing in the wilds. The plants are all labeled, but unless you know how to read the language, it would be like opening a can of unidentified stuff and chucking it down your throat, not realizing that it's poisonous drain cleaner, not food.

    If you want to take advantage of wild edible plants, you must learn to read the labels. There is a false notion that you can rely on animals to show you which plants can be eaten. That is not true. The fact is that some plants that are perfectly safe for some animals to eat can kill humans. Examples: squirrels can eat deadly (to humans) varieties of the Amanita mushroom, and some birds can eat the berries of poison ivy.

    Unlike some survival instructors, I don't subscribe to the “edibility tests” that would lead you to test edibility by sampling a small amount and waiting to see what happens. My advice — if you don't know what it is, don't put it in your mouth. The consequences of making a mistake can be lethal. An example is the Water Hemlock with roots that smell and taste like parsnips. It is reportedly the most deadly plant in the U.S. and eating a piece the size of a peanut will kill a man.

    The good news is that you can easily learn to use wild plants safely. All that is necessary is to learn to make positive identification. It’s no more difficult than telling the difference between Romaine and Iceberg lettuce, or differentiating yams from sweet potatoes. Except that with wild plants, the edible parts are sometimes hidden underground or inside a shell or leaf cluster, so you need to know what all parts of the plant look like and the stages of the plant in all seasons. Begin with the plants in your region, and spread out from there. There are books about plant identification for all parts of the world, so start hitting the library.

    It can become a very enjoyable lifetime study, and might even save your life someday, if you're caught in a long-term survival situation.