Am I doomed for death if I crash in the wilderness? Oh Hell No! As Demi Lovato says: “What’s wrong with being confident?”
I spent two, full, insightful days at the FAA in Oklahoma City recently. During this “educational business trip” I met some great pilots. The point of the trip was to get away from my teenagers. Oops! What I meant to say is: it was for me to learn some survival skills if I found myself in an isolated area after a forced landing (aka crash). There were also some physiological aspects that I experienced first-hand that can affect pilots, in particular. Or Mt. Everest climbers. Today, I will be discussing the survival skills portion.
My inner girl scout was revealed during this adventure. I learned three different methods for starting a fire. Did you know you could start a fire with a 9-volt battery and steel wool?? There is zero skill involved. You simply touch the positive/negative end of the battery to the steel wool and BAM! Google it. We learned all the ways to collect water, which I had actually already learned from the dozens of episodes I’ve watched of Man vs. Wild, Dual Survival, and Naked and Afraid. For any person who has any amount of testosterone in their home, they have seen at least one of these shows! It’s one thing to see it on a show and another to actually practice doing it. I am a kinesthetic learner. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing. They learn by experiential, hands-on training. Basically, that means, it costs me a lot more time and money to learn something. Maybe that’s why people call me “high-maintenance??”
Not only did we learn to start fires under normal conditions, we learned how to start fires in a water raft and in extreme cold. When your hands are numb and you’re shivering, patience is difficult to sustain. God help any surviving passenger who’s with me after I smash my plane anywhere north of Kentucky! We learned about the various types of signals you can use to draw attention to yourself, audible and visual. We learned the different types of shelters you can create with a few supplies in any type of environment. We learned how to prioritize your needs when stranded so that you don’t spend your time doing things that are really not that urgent or life-threatening. A human can go for 3-5 days without water. We can go approximately 30-40 days without food. The need for shelter and the ability to manage core body temperature are at the top of the priority list.
It’s encouraging that with all of the technology available, being found in search and rescue efforts is more likely than it was in the past. We have cell phones with GPS. Airplanes are equipped with ELT’s (Emergency Locator Transmitter’s) that can be activated either manually or are automatically activated upon impact. There are even more precise locators known as EPIRB’s that can be easily purchased through national retailers. All of these new devices have improved the efficiency of location services from years past.
The main take-away for me was the importance of maintaining optimism and a will to survive. In general, I’m a positive person. I realize this could become a real challenge if I’m uncomfortable (ask anyone whose been around me when my WiFi isn’t working)! Knowing that from the beginning is beneficial. I will be prepared to resist the potential despair. Aron Ralston cut off his own arm after being stranded in order to survive. When his story first broke, I couldn’t imagine having the will to perform such a gruesome act. After some thought about my life and the people that I love, I knew that I would do the same thing. Mental strength is something we have to have to deal with the everyday distractions and annoyances in our lives. These inconvenient interference's are exactly what we need to build mental strength. Facing daily difficulties are bound to allow us the ability to fight the really difficult battles that we have not planned for. So, think of that the next time you’re cut off in traffic or handed a Tall Skinny Vanilla Latte instead of the Grande Double Shot Extra Whipped Cream Cappuccino you ordered. Mental strength. You will survive.