When you’re in the outdoors on a camping expedition, emergencies can occur at any time and can come in all shapes and forms, from a simple wasp sting to breaking a leg on a mountain.
It would be impossible to outline procedures here to take into account all possible emergency scenarios but the guidance here will be based on a typical wilderness situation. Now, all emergency situations are not going to be like this but for the purpose of looking at emergencies in general, the advice can be useful and can be applied to many similar situations.
The first rule is – don’t panic!
A positive mental attitude will keep you alive and get you through the situation better than any survival gear in the world. No matter what technical gadgetry and equipment you may have on you, it will be your attitude, above all else, that can mean the difference between life and death.
Check yourself for injuries.
If you’ve suddenly fallen but find yourself still conscious, your first experience will be one of shock but you should quickly get your brain into gear and try to establish if you have any injuries. Look and feel closely and don’t discount anything, no matter how insignificant. Even minor cuts or fractures can soon develop into something more serious. Remember to try not to panic! If you feel a sense of panic, lie down, elevate your feet and breathe deeply. Counting down from 100 to 1 can help. This is the best way to prevent hysteria and shock from setting in.
Once you’ve gathered your thoughts and feel a little more relaxed, assess the situation you’re in. Can you move around? Can you hear anything? Try to find others, look, call around and listen. If you find others, check each other out for injuries. Watch out for dizziness, bleeding, shortness of breath etc. and if you suspect people have neck or back injuries, don’t move them.
Check your equipment.
Give CPR or first aid if needed. If you cannot locate your first aid kit, think creatively! A T-shirt underneath your fleece might be used as a bandage to stem the flow of blood and could save a life. Always remember your brain is going to be the best tool at your disposal. You’ll have to think on your feet and maybe have to come up with creative ways to make do with what you have. For example, if a snow flurry is moving in, making a fire is going to be your main concern. If it’s windy or rainy, finding shelter is going to be number one priority then fire.
Try to build your shelter where you can be easily recognised from the air. This will help rescuers find you more easily should search and rescue be called. Wooded areas can provide you with branches and foliage to construct the most basic of shelters. Improvise where you need to.
Get a fire going! It’s going to be your best friend.
You can use it to cook food, clean bandages and purify water. If you’ve lost your water supply, try to find a natural source or purify a source you can find by boiling it. Try to find food if you’ve lost that too. It’s always a good idea to see what any animals nearby might be eating. Whilst, it would be useful to have an idea of what kind of berries, leaves etc might be safe for human consumption in the area you’re in before setting off on your trip, if you haven’t got that knowledge, then doing what the animals do is often your second best bet. If food rations are extremely low or you are unsure about the safety of what you’re eating, only eat a very tiny amount and compensate for that by filling yourself up with water, assuming you have a plentiful supply. Do not panic if you don’t find immediate access to a food supply. Providing you have plenty of water, your body is designed to cope without food for several days.
Once you’ve found shelter, have heat and some form of food and/or water supply, your attention should then turn to being rescued NOT the other way around. Use smoke signals, flares if you have them or a torch, anything that might lead you to getting out of the situation.
Try to conserve your energy.
Unless you’re absolutely certain that you know where you are and that you only have a short distance to walk to safety, stay put and wait for others to find you. Many people have died simply because they were lost, had no water and died of exhaustion walking countless miles trying to reach safety. It’s important to remain calm, not to panic and wait. As long as you have fire to keep you warm, water (and ideally food), and shelter, it’s far easier for rescuers to eliminate areas which they know you’re not located in, than for you to keep moving around.
Obviously, these procedures are not going to be particularly relevant to all emergency situations but it is useful advice that can be applied to a wide range of situations you might find yourself in.