Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Basic Mindset for Survival

This is the first of the articles in the series “The Psychology of Survival”. The articles will describe some of the problems to you might face during a survival or crisis situation. This article will describe the nature of a crisis and what kind of problems that you may have to overcome.

The will to survive is by many experts considered to be the single most important factor for making it through a survival situation. There are many examples of people how have survived horrible situation and hopeless situations, pain and suffering, people how have kept going and against all odds made it through. Few people have died because they have continued to fight, but many have died because they stopped trying.

Any crisis or survival situation will be a difficult situation to cope with. A crisis is a situation where urgency is important, there is a threat and action must be taken fast. A crisis presents a threat against basic values like life, health or property. A crisis also results in uncertainty; the scope of the disaster is seldom known right away. It is also often unclear what current and future consequences the event will have. These three factors make it into a difficult task of handling a crisis: for individuals but also for government agencies and the media.

Some examples of possible threats that can result in a crisis or survival situation can be found in the chapter about Risk Assessments. By familiarizing yourself with different types of Risks you will get a more realistic perspective on what effects such a situation might result in and what can be learned from previous situations. It also helps you to mentally prepare for what you could expect from these situations but also gives you a chance to plan ahead and take precautions in order to avoid or minimize the effects from such risks. However some disasters may be threats that no one has seen coming or been preparing for, these situations present much larger challenges when it’s hard for the affected people to understand what is happening and government agencies may lack both routines, training and equipment to deal with the situation.

Possible challenges
• Sleep Deprivation and Fatigue
• Loss of property or economic loss
• Personal Injuries
• Disease
• Fear and Uncertainty
• Exposure from wind, cold or heat
• Dehydration or lack of food
• Stress
• Injuries or death to friends or loved ones
• Unfamiliar threats and situations

It’s up to you
In some situation government agencies may be able to provide healthcare and other needs like shelter, water, food and security. But during a large scale disaster no government has enough resources to provide immediate help to everyone that needs it. Infrastructure like the electrical grid, water, sewage, roads, railways and airports may be damaged. This can make it hard to transport the resources and supplies needed to an affected area. It may also result in a situation with secondary effects like the outbreak of disease, no access to clean water and dangerous or damaged buildings. In these situations you must help yourself. There may be days, weeks or even months before outside assistance will be provided. During large scale disasters help is normally provided from both national government agencies like first responders, police, fire fighters, military, national guard but also from Non Governmental Organization (NGO:s) like the Red Cross. If the situation is extremely severe help may also be provide by other nations and international organization like the United Nation World Food Program (WFP).

Staying positive is extremely important and this can be very hard if suffer from exhaustion, sleep deprivation, stress, injuries, disease or if you just lost someone that you care about. If let you self become negative the risk is much bigger that you will only see problems, if you try to stay positive the chance to you will be able to find solutions for different problems is much bigger. This also makes it easier to improvise and work with the terrain. Your own knowledge, health, experience and equipment will also make it easier to find solutions.

The nature of a crisis situation makes it very likely that both government agencies and the media may misinterpret the situation when they have to make decisions based on incomplete information under time pressure when people lives and property are on stake. Even if experts and journalists have access to modern communications and training no one can get everything right during this type of situation. This is the nature of the situation and you must take this is into consideration when you receive information.
• It’s of no use to become angry or feel despair if information about help turns out to be incorrect, this must be expected. Keep your focus on the situation at hand.

Adapting to the situation
• Try to stay positive
• Do not complain, especially not if you are in a leadership position. Your reactions will affect others as well.
• Make sure that you keep busy. Work continually to improve your situation, ensure that you have the access to shelter, water and food.
• If you are in a group make sure that everyone has a task to do and that everyone is included in the work and that everyone has access to the information available about the situation.
• Don’t second guess yourself; keep the focus on the situation at hand. What can you do to minimize the consequences and improve your situation?
• Try to stay alert and calm.
• Plan your actions and take risk into account – if you injure yourself during a survival situation because you’re careless your situation might become much more difficult.
• Take care of your friends, family and the other people around you.

Be Ready
It’s impossible to be prepared for every possible threat, but by getting knowledge, skills and experience you will improve your chances to survive a crisis situation. Equipment and supplies can also make it much easier to deal with crisis situation if you have access to water, means of purifying water, food, equipment to prepare the food, a radio so that you receive messages, different sources of light, first aid and other medical supplies and so on.

A Survival Knife, Pocket Survival Kit and Get Home Bag (GHB) can provide you with equipment to deal with a crisis or survival situation in your everyday life.

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