When It Hits the Fan/Rebuilding
This section was created as to permit the analysis of hypothetical situations that one, and possibly an indeterminate number of people, may face when faced with general survival situation, in a somewhat insulated set-up. Stranded in a what may be an uninhabited remote place (e.g. an island, new unexplored landmass, specific will covered to provided for any plausible alternative) that has may have edible vegetation and possibly animal life.
Do not automatically assume that access exist to any man-made objects other than (perhaps) the clothes on ones back, a common objects most people carry around in daily life. As we covered in previous sections, it may make note of small advantages given by items and knowledge that you may and should have on your person (such as pens, paper, keys, the contents of your wallet and so on), but will not require these elements. When standing next to a wreck (plane, car, ship or bus), consider it a major bonus and a source of useful material.
Your safety first
Before anything else, make sure you are safe and well. That means making sure the ground is stable and that nothing is about to fall on you, that you are physically well and that any situation-specific hazards have been taken care of (e.g. the boat is not about to capsize, the plane that you may have crashed in is not on fire or that you are not in it).
If you were injured, assess the gravity of the situation and call for help, don't move unless you are forced to, don't make demands of others or be hysteric, if it hurts scream, consider that others will only help you if you are indeed in need of help. As others can be useful to you, you are also useful to others. If among strangers take in consideration that this will be your first impression on them.
For those who are conscious, obtain name, current physical/emotional state and any important information (medical conditions, allergies, etc.). Keep track of this information for future reference. Write it down if you can, this information will be useful for future relations and decision making. Avoid adding in writing any personal remarks or negative observations, if you need to do it in a short-form code that you understand by that others reading it will not take offense or use it against you at a later date. Keeping a log of events is extremely useful not only to keep one's sanity but for future rescuers, at times it can even serve as a distraction from an asher reality. It can even be the basis for a best selling book, plenty of examples abound.
Other survivors are a resource, sharing the same goal, but also rely on the few resources available. So after you attend to your personal safety you should determine how many people are with you (naturally, if you are still doing triage you may want to hold off on the headcount, as you may have less people later if adequate medical attention cannot be provided), and if they need immediate help. Don't put yourself at risk of injuries, at this point you are on your own, no social structure exists, be as helpful as you can without entering in conflicts and becoming emotional, the other survivors are strangers to you, assess priorities according to how useful others will be to you later on. Don't give orders, but request help and work in tandem by joining efforts with other fit survivors to bring safety to all.
Finding or making shelter is important because it allows a person to stay protected from the elements, and even wildlife. Depending on the environment shelter may be the number one priority.
There are however two major possibilities where the threat of the environment may not be readily apparent:
- Warm or arid environment.
- Cyclic environment (day/night or winter/summer).
- Contaminated or radiated environment.
A warm climate may feel relatively comfortable, but it may also cause you to lose a lot of body fluid - if water is not nearby this could be dangerous and shade would be a good idea.
Cyclic environments may surprise you with storms or vastly different conditions during day and night or summer and winter. However you may find warning hints to this in the environment itself - if dead leaves cover the ground its because cold winter comes around every year or if the air is not very moist it can mean rapid changes in temperature come nightfall or dawn etc..
If the environment is partially dangerous be careful with the food and water you take in even if it means going hungry and watch the wildlife for signs something is wrong. If a place makes you feel even slightly bad leave it for a vastly different kind of place, for instance you might go from low grounds to higher grounds or the other side of a mountain.
The next priority after finding shelter is water.
It is your most critical resource as a human may potentially survive only hours without water, but easily days or a month without food. The length of survival mostly depends upon climate conditions and physical exertion.
Water may usually be obtained from places of condensation like mountain tops and glaciers, vegetation or deep from the ground through wells.
Procuring resources may also help elevate you to a position of leadership through your obvious contribution and the trust it creates or through the raw power the resources give you. From this position you can then continue to help the group.
If the weather is harsh for instance because of arid conditions consider sleeping in the shadow in the day and working and traveling only at night.
If the water may be contaminated fresh but potentially poisonous fluid may be obtained from plants and animals, water may be filtered through old and flayed clothes or water may be boiled for 10 minutes.
Food is also essential for survival. This is especially important during winter, as one has higher calorie-burning needs.
After a while food begins to claim your attention. You want to be ready before that if possible since it may take time to grow crops or find the non-poisonous fruits. Remember that finding one nut is not the same as feeding the entire group for an extended period of time. You need to find and secure a large area for foraging or a slightly smaller area for growing foods.
For longterm survival you will need to get to know the area and environment, in the short-term you may be able to hunt or gather plants for feeding. Plants may be poisonous, to test this use the look, rub, taste and eat procedure:
- Look at the plant - does it look fresh and are other animals willing to eat it? If not do not eat it.
- a Bright warning colors may also indicate a poisonous plant.
- Rub a small amount of sample on your skin.
- a Observe the patch for minimum 3 hours, if there is any discomfort or rash do not eat it.
- Now you may taste a small piece of the plant, do not eat or swallow.
- If the plant tastes foul, bitter or just a little strongly - do not eat it.
- You may now eat a small bit of the plant.
- Wait 8 hours minimum and if there is no discomfort you may try larger portions.
Do not let the group eat the same unknown plants, if you must get yourselves poisoned by your ignorance there is still no reason to kill or discomfort everybody at the same time - although it surely would seem hilarious in those last flower induced death.
It should not be overlooked what the will to live means in a life and death situation. Stories of heroic feats of survival by regular people with little or no training are not uncommon. Even with a strong understanding of the way we may be mentally affected, even a trained survival expert may feel the crushing effects of psychological strain during duress.
Understanding the effects of stress will reveal that while it may not always seem like it, stress is a necessary evil and belongs not only for malice but for good as well. It serves as a measuring stick for our success, it presents one with challenges, and it is a good way to show us how far we can bend and not break.
Reality sometimes has a nice way of pointing out that things could indeed be much worse. On the flip side of the coin too much stress can be a awful thing. The carnage that stress can breed within a human being is almost without limits. Too much stress can lead to forgetfulness, increased propensity to making mistakes, lessened energy, outbursts of rage, and carelessness.
Emotions are hard wired into our brains. Survival situations are bound to invoke strong emotional reactions from anyone involved. There are a few emotions that most often accompany this type of event. They drastically lessen our ability to combat the situation. It is not something that initially comes to mind when thinking of surviving but they are as important as any other survival skill.
There are 6 emotions that must be overcome to allow a chance at survival and have a good time, in general.
- Once placed into a survival situation one of the initial reactions for anyone is fear. It is a perfectly normal reaction, however fear is the enemy. It drastically lessens our ability to make clear decisions, which ultimately will lessen the chance for survival. In an effort to minimize our fears, we can train in realistic situations to condition ourselves to have the mentality needed to increase our confidence and more effectively manage fear.
- Typically anxiety and fear run hand in hand with one another. It may start as a uneasy feeling in the pit of our stomach but by the time the mind is added into the situation it may quickly spiral out of control. Anxiety will oftentimes take over the mind and quickly make it difficult to make decisions with any clarity. Anxiety must be fought through in order to focus on the tasks at hand. Typically once some of the critical survival needs have been met, anxiety will be easier to keep at bay.
- It is inevitable that in a survival situation there are going to be problems. With the endless possibilities of things that can go wrong and probably will, to imagine that tempers may flair should not come as a surprise. Anger can sap one’s drive necessary to want to survive. Finding other ways to channel this emotion will prove more useful than losing ones temper.
- An overall sense of malaise is not uncommon in wilderness. Being alone in the wilderness trying to survive is almost certainly bound to bring about a depressed state. Overwhelming depression can lead to the body shutting down and not unlike anxiety can also cause a human being to give up hope. Staying positive can allow one to combat this.
- Often accompanying a survival situation is loss of life. The guilt may not even come from someone taking responsibility for the person’s death, rather a sense of guilt as they are alive and the other person is dead.
- Boredom (and Loneliness)
- An often unanticipated side effect of being in a survival situation. Boredom and loneliness can both contribute to lowering morale. It is important to be able to keep your mind busy and your spirits up. It may be one of the most critical skills to survive.
For future reference, and in case of an emergency, you need to find out who your "go-to" guys/girls are. You will need to figure out who are your fighters, who your nature boys and girls are, and the smart guys/girls. Considering your position you may be one of the above mentioned three.
A fighter would be a person who is skilled in some kind of combat, any kind of weapon (if you have any such weapons) or is just a relatively strong/able person. You'll need him/her to help keep watch over the camp at night, scout the island, and just handle any kind of danger to the rest of the population.
A nature boy/girl is a person who understands nature and is used to working in the wild. The nature boy/girl should have knowledge of animal behavior, plants, and wilderness survival. You'll need him/her to find food, help organize the camp site and in many cases the nature people can be just as useful for the camp's defense as the fighter.
The smart boy/girl is necessary to the group just as the mind is necessary to the body. The smart person or persons should have a vast knowledge in engineering and technology, and can design and build just about anything the group needs. You'll need the smart people to help build the camp as well as to eventually find a way to get back home (if that appears to be possible - this manual does not guarantee such an occurrence).
Although less important, it may be helpful for future reference to know who does not have any any of the above three traits.
The unskilled laborer is anyone with no specialized survival skills for this situation, at least in the early days of rebuilding civilization, such as an accountant, lawyer, or nuclear physicist (at least until complicated finances, complex law, and nuclear power plants are rebuilt). These are common, and you are likely to have a couple in your group of survivors. To keep them busy and to free up time for those with more important skills, these laborers should be used in tasks which are easy to teach but time consuming. Primarily, they should be used for gathering firewood, gathering building materials, and testing edible plants (as explained in the Food section), after given specific instructions on how to acomplish these tasks, by those with knowledge regarding those subjects.
Scouting the Area
After the incident is over (the plane crash, shipwreck, etc...) and all the injured are being taken care of, the first thing you need to do as leader is to put together scout team(s) to gather knowledge of the area, to find ways to gather things in the area such as food (fruit, vegetables, edible animals, etc.), water, possible building materials for the future and to look for any nearby dangers. If you have a useful skill or trait (like being able to identify plants or being relatively strong), you may want to join the scout team. The scout team may also find something important that may or may not be beneficial to the group: like an aggressive tribe or a hidden hatch, either way it is important to mark all things of that nature.
It may be useful to mark the path you take (trailblazing), so that the scouting party can find the base camp again (rather than getting lost further and further away from base camp, or getting stuck going around and around a big circle). Also, if you find something useful that cannot immediately be carried back to camp by the scout team, the trail marks can help you find it again.
Reminder: Always use the buddy system when leaving the camp, and tell others where you are going and (if possible) roughly when you plan to return.
Setting Up the Base Camp
While the scouts are looking for food and materials, those left at the camp should start by trying to create a camp fire. The fire is needed: to keep the camp illuminated at night, (depending on where one is) to keep warm when it gets cold, also to ward away aggressive animals. As an added bonus it will create a large amount of smoke that could get the attention of nearby ships and planes. If you are fortunate the ship/plane you came in on may have some dry matches left behind. If the wreck you came in on is extremely serious you may want to use the broken parts as fire burning material however you may want to leave the plane/ship alone on the off chance you can repair it later (Note: this assumes that you have access to a ship/plane wreck. This manual does not guarantee that.). If your skill sets involve building or cooking then you may want to stay to set up camp.
Rather than have the one person who knows how to tie knots do all the knot-tying from now on, encourage that person to teach everyone the more useful knots.
Another idea, once the camp is established and the immediate necessities taken care of. A base perimeter should be made. Think of this as a safe zone from animals, who may try to steal your food, or other predators (man or animal).
Find the highest ground available, and set-up a signal fire, ready to be set a blaze at the first sign of rescue. You may also use that mirror from the make-up compact now to reflect light at the cockpit of the vessel you see.
That is, stockpiling weapons and ammunition you may have, storing spare parts and such (canteens, backpacks, paper, books, writing utensils, eating utensils, etc.), and so on. Part of this may include requisitioning supplies. DON'T FORCIBLY TAKE POSSESSIONS. People should contribute for the good of the group. Doing otherwise will not help you make friends and influence people. And having friends in this situation could save your life.
A better way to put this is to take a an inventory. Your wife's mirror in her make-up compact has now just become a signal mirror and 1/2 of a periscope. Nothing is insignificant, and when there is no WalMart nearby, nothing should be wasted.
This may be better served being done immediately after taking a health assessment of the group. As stated before, all contributions should be voluntary, while explaining that there is power in numbers and sharing resources, rather than "strking out" on one's own to fend as an individual. Those who choose to remain independent and not share are simply nailing their own coffins shut. Their choice is their own, remind them.
Lighters, pocket knives, keys, leather belts, strong prescription vision glasses, all now have alternate uses for survival.
Later Days and Secondary Projects
After having a basic campsite built with roofed shelters, a campfire going (with the necessary fuel to maintain it), water security (even storage) and there is an organized method of collecting or hunting for food, you may notice that there is a large increase in down time. Although it is good for your fellow castaways to get their rest, too much downtime can lead to depression, boredom, hopelessness and possibly a dangerous amount of unrest. It may sound mean but the leader must keep the castaways busy to reduce the problems mentioned above. A wise man once said “if you can give a man one thing give him something to love, if you can't do that give him something to hope for, and if you can't even give him that, give him something to do” this saying can mean a lot in this kind of situation.
The effort and planing may depend on the situation, specific project and resources, consider the urgency and expenditures before selecting a new task.
After things have settled down, you may wish to conduct extended exploratory trips to gain information about your surroundings. This could mean, but does not necessary implies a travel by sea, week-long hiking trips, and so forth.
Governance is about establishing and maintaining a lasting leadership structure. Even if you have a fairly small group of people (say, less than 10), you may need a form of official government. This goes especially if the group is anything but close friends. Its tempting to think we are evolved enough to do everything by consensus and there is no need for the rigidity of formal structures. Keep in mind that once people settle into a habit they develop a certain resistance to any change so while getting that water may seem really important right now, this issue is no less immediate.
Leadership is absolutely essential for survival (short-term and longterm), without it there won't be any rebuilding of civilization as much as there will be back to scratch. Leadership, mind you, does not mean that a guy is in command; if you end up putting the emotionally charged but charismatic/strong fool in the seat you might as well have anarchy.
Giving power to the alpha males and/or females of the group means the quieter voices don't get a fair say. Structure does not have to mean hierarchy. Of course democracy creates politics but until we are all in perfect harmony it is the best system possible.
The "leader" doesn't have to have dictatorial powers though, but he may be the guy who is told to think on a plan while the rest scouts and take responsibility for the outcome. One should try not to get too much status from the function and think of it as a necessary duty, even sacrifice for maintaining social order and moral in face of failure.
Governance is a *hard problem* as proved by the struggle so many countries, communities and societies have with it. Democracy has however evolved and there are some good new styles of democracy which would work well in a community.
Most people know only two kinds of system, the one where the strongest are in command or the one with the more popular guy (democracy) - considering your situation the prevalent system structure may have proved to be catastrophically flawed, maybe you should adopt a new one.
One such style is Direct democracy which comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein all citizens can directly participate in the decision-making process. Direct democracy in its traditional form is rule by the people through referendum. The people are given the right to pass laws, veto laws and withdraw support from a representative (if the system has representatives) at any time.
The main objection to Direct Democracy is that deciding all or most matters of public importance by direct referendum is slow and expensive, and can result in public apathy and voter fatigue. The solution to this is Delegated Democracy.
In delegated democracy all people have a vote on all issues as with direct democracy but they can delegate their vote in any area to any other person. If I vote on a topic my vote is counted if I do not bother to vote and I have delegated votes in that field to someone else then my vote is added to their tally.
Some examples: - Nina is a great cook and nutritionist and I trust her with regards to running the kitchen and feeding us. Therefore I delegate my votes on food buying and cooking to Nina thus if there is ever the need to vote in this area Nina will cast my vote on my behalf. - My friend Naoise knows a lot about money and is trustworthy and I think has a good balance between investing and being too cautions. I would delegate my investment votes to him in most instances. - If friends decided to delegate their votes to me on certain areas where I feel confident (community, governance :-), education) I would be honored to vote on their behalf.
Remember you can always still vote yourself and you can always move your vote from one person if you feel they no longer adequately represent you.
Inventing a new system (one that has not been tested so far) is a very hard preposition but making a point may be required, to do so use science, when the group has time to spare organize two equal teams with each their command structure/command rules and see who wins at at a friendly game - work from there.
Indeed more importantly the system you begin now may stand for the next hundred years, think of your responsibility to the future and the precedence you set for it.
Living communally was the first social structure that emerged from human social interactions, it can be beautiful but it has its costs in terms of restriction to individual freedoms. In a fully participated community the good of the many will always surpass the good of the few. Yet the alternative of each of us living alone and alienated is just as unsatisfactory. For tens of thousands of years humans lived together in tribes. Mimicking small scale biologic evolution, from single cell to multiple cell animals these social structures arose from the benefits to the survival of individuals in a hostile environment, permitting large gains and opening the door to specialization and the conquering of the environment.
The cornerstone of any organisms is reproduction, an extension of the biologic imperative for the survivability of the gene-pool. Even today the basic social unit is still the family. The sixties and seventies with the a sexual revolution and civil freedoms saw the first wave of experimental modern communes, a rediscovering of the tribal life. Many of these failed as individuals had become acculturated to a different set of priorities and appealing ideologies that had started to arise from in the 20's (World War 1) that were only possible in a industrialized and consumerist society. The reasons for failure in this attempt to revive more closely netted social structures are many. Competition with the outside, the legal frameworks had evolved toward a different structure permitting and empowering complex politic power games, endangering established hierarchies and ownership structures.
Living communally is more efficient in all regards, the imperative to share, save and to think ahead to needs of future generations emerges as part of the mutual preservation spirit, something that has been lost in the present mainstream social setup that is mostly about the selfish self to a point that it is putting our Planet's at risk, especially in face of the demographic pressures created by industrialized lifestyles that have lost any contact with the natural world.
In a community an appliance can be shared among many people - do 20 people really need 20 dishwashers. We can share cooking, cleaning, childcare and can create together.
After watching many communes go down the tubes and seeing past effort go to waste many are understandably reluctant to commit energy and money to something without a clear idea of what might happen to it. This is what makes communal ownership so important.
If the commune is incorporated as a Limited Liability Partnership all those involved in it can legally have a share of it. That way if one wishes to leave one can sell out or if it does not work and needs to be wound up any assets will be shared out among those who contributed.
If you are going to set up a village-type camp, it may prove beneficial to construct (or designate, in the case of a cave or natural open area) a large multipurpose center. This can be used for "camp" meetings, spirituality and organized sports and recreation activities (such as soccer or dancing).