survival priorities

Survival Priorities During An Emergency

survival priorities

A few thoughts about prioritizing one’s priorities in a survival situation.

Whether you are planning for, or actually encountering an emergency or disaster, consider this list of priorities.


The right Attitude for Survival


Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

Beginning with, and maintaining an attitude that includes positivism, adaptability, and clear thinking. One’s immediate assessment, decisions and subsequent actions are foremost.

The opposite would include panic, undue pessimism, brain freeze.

The following list is a good framework and basic approach to have in the back of your mind when it comes to survival situations:

During an emergency situation, we may need to mitigate the following:

Immediate Survival Priorities

– Air / Oxygen. We need air, and the ability to breathe.
– Safety / Security. Immediate danger, threats, security.
– First Aid. Stabilize if necessary.

Top Survival Priorities

– Body Core Temperature. Hypothermia can set in fast. Overheating too.
– Shelter. Protection from the environment when necessary.
– Fire. If required – body core temp., water purification, food.
– Hydration. Three days without water, and… (not good!).

More Survival Priorities

– Food. Maintain caloric energy to keep going.
– Transportation. To safety. Under your own power or other means.
– Operational Security & Defense If the situation warrants. 2 or 4 legged.
– Sleep. Without sleep, decision making abilities will deteriorate.

One Version Of The Rule of Threes

If you PANIC you could be dead in 3 seconds.
If you have no OXYGEN you could be dead in 3 minutes.
If you have no SHELTER you could be dead in 3 hours.
If you have no WATER you could be dead in 3 days.
If you have no FOOD you could be dead in 3 weeks.

The Rule of Threes

There could be some variability. For example if there is a serious injury, this must be attended to very early if not immediately (First Aid).

Note: Shelter includes body core temperature. Maintaining with safe limits.

The 5 & 10 C’s of Survival

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  1. Good overview. From observing folks over the years in bad situations and the reports of the Hawaii Nuclear Missile Drill getting people to Not Freeze Not React BUT to Respond promptly with a plan is pretty hard.

    Takes prior planning and plenty of real practice.

    1. Getting people to slow down and shut up too,,,
      I was in the middle of the missle alert, my significant other and her family members to different degrees were not helpful, its like, calm down, shut the hell up and see what info you can find,,, not that i was worried as i know for a fact that my area is most likely not a first strike location, but babbling oh my God oh my God for 10 minutes is not useful

  2. If you do not have the financial resources to cover the essentials, taxes, food, heat, meds, … you may not survive. There are not many out there that give a crap about the down and out. Even in the most liberal areas of this country, many will walk around you as you lay starving on the street. So, if you do not look down that road and get it together, most will say tisk tisk. My negative view is based on witnessing urban situations – rural areas still have a little more empathy for those that try to work things out themselves.

    1. Just my personal experience, so take it for what it’s worth. The liberals among my family/neighborhood/friends are more likely to say “It’s the government’s job to help, not mine” and pass on. My favorite was “That’s what I pay taxes for.”

      Many years ago “prudent man” rules were eliminated across much of the US, along with the “Good Samaritan” laws that allowed people to help without being subject to lawsuits. The threat of a lawsuit if you try to help is a strong deterrent to those who would like to.

      1. Some municipalities will give you a fine for feeding the homeless.
        I’m not sure what is in the Trump Agricultural plan but there was a suggestion that some work for foods stamps might come. My parents had to pick fruit one summer to make ends meet when there was no other work. Survival is one’s own responsibility not the gov.

  3. I just finished reading a book called Smoking Skillet by Ron Foster about a couple who found themselves miles from home at a relatives house who had passed away when a Cyber Atrack hit. The preparation issues brought up in the book really struck home for me living in a suburban enviornnrnt one mile from a small cities limits. The BOB preparedness issues along with other emergency preparedness problems brought up really hit home as it mirrored my own situation to a T. Especially hard hitting was their having to eat backyard birds to survive as we feed the critters and birds at our home throughout the tear. Our dear squirrels are grain fed and should be quite tasty if and when the time comes. Eating our songbirds will be tough but if you have to survive, there it is!

    1. Broadwing,

      My grandfather raised my mother and her five siblings during the great depression. Robins were a regular part of their diet. He harvested them a night, by hand, using a kerosene lantern to catch them on their tree roosts. I’ve thought that Ken might want to do a thread on unusual survival food options such as insects.

      1. Dennis,
        In the book the author mentioned it was either eat the birds to survive or eat what the birds were eating, bugs worms, and grubs. Thankfully he didn’t get to that point yet. I’m sorry but I would draw the line at eating our Chicadee pair who have been around for years. I’d rather eat a grub! I think! Anyway the book was really honest and down to earth on how foolish we are in thinking we’re actually prepared especially with bug out bags and traveling with them. The overall premise was we aren’t even close to being prepared for a long term grid down situations.

      2. Broadwing and wood56gas,

        Back when my kids were young, I would take them hunting in the pastures surrounding our rural prairie home. We hunted the fence rows that usually were grown over with brush and smallish trees which provided cover for small game. My rules were that you could shoot any animal you wanted, but you would also eat any animal you shot.

        On one such hunt, two of my sons were working the brush next to the fence while I paralleled them further out into the pasture. I lost sight of them as they entered a heavier patch of overgrown fence row and stop walking to make sure I didn’t get ahead of them. I heard a shot from the oldest son’s shotgun. I shouted out to him, “what did you get?”. Silence. So, I shouted again, wanting to know what he had shot. After a short time he answered, hesitantly, “I don’t know, I thought it was a quail, but it ain’t”. He was hesitant because he knew he was going to have to eat the meadowlark he had mistaken to be a quail.

        Seeing a chance for a learning experience, I suggested we stop right there, build a fire and roast the bird and all of us find out what it tasted like. Now there are thousands of better ways to cook wild game than over a campfire on a spit, and this experiment proved it. The bird was dry, stringy, and we had no spices, but it was edible. I’m sure my sons never forgot that day, and I’m sure we all learned some things.

        1. Dennis;
          My Father had the same rules on Hunting/Shooting, lesson well learned to never shot unless you know EXACTLY what your shooting at. FYI Muskrat stew is not all it’s cracked up to be, but like your Meadowlark it was not really all that bad. Sure glad Mom felt sorry for us all and spiced the daylights out of it and added a LOT of other goodies :-)
          Ohhh and guess who ended up Skinning, gutting, and cleaning up that nasty thing ??

        2. I had the same rule with my boys. If you shoot it you will eat it. I told them if it is a dove or rabbit we will skin it and eat it the right way, but if you are shooting robins or cardinals you will eat them whole feathers and all. I never caught them if they shot them.

        3. Dennis, once upon a time Meadowlarks were considered ‘game’ birds and were regularly hunted. They often appear in prints and paintings of harvested birds. Now, of course they are protected. My grandfather said that as a boy he often shot a Flicker for the pot, now also protected.

  4. About this subject, for real in Hawaii, as would be seen in any other large municipality, the majority of our citizens are unprepared for the real possibility of an natural or man made EMP, Nuclear attack, or Cyber attack on our infrastructure. We’ve felt secure for so long even with 9/11 as an eye opener, we are unprepared to implement emergency procedures. The government has no plan for the masses except for continuity of government for the few who are deemed priority. The rest of us are SOL. We will be on our own. The few of us who have/are preparing for the worst better look deeper into our plans and work under the assumption that the worst case scenario we can think of will be the norm. I hate to sound all doom and gloom but I’m just being realistic. When the message flashes on our screens “THIS IS NOT A TEST!” Honestly, how ready are you? Set the timer for 30 minutes until missile impact. “This is Lawrence Kansas, is ANYBODY out there?!”

    1. @Broadwing
      With all of the government-based criminal activities that are coming to a head right now, a false flag would not surprise me at all.

      1. MT,
        It would seem to be a definite possibility the way things are playing out especially against NK., or Iran.

    2. Broadwing I know my priorities when we got that warning were

      1. Find out if it was for real

      2. Find out where my significant other was and make sure mom was paying attention, got to look out for her too, is my neighbor!

      3. Find more info.

      Everything else was pretty much ready to go with what I have.

      My only changes are to try and get more variety of ready to eat stuff and move stuff like batteries and game stuff into the basement.

  5. One of the best ways to identify and establish priorities is by the acronym S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L , as per the Army Survival Manual. Would be good reading for the preparedness minded
    How’s that for steering the ship back on course 😉.

    1. Excellent. I actually wrote on that awhile back:

      SURVIVAL – How To Survive

      Size Up the Situation

      Use All Your Senses, Undue Haste Makes Waste

      Remember Where You Are

      Vanquish Fear and Panic


      Value Living

      Act Like the Natives

      Live by Your Wits, but for now…Learn Basic Skills

      1. Ken,
        This is sums it up perfectly. But for me I have to add “Remain Calm” or “Don’t Panic” as the first step. Then jump into this list. I swear I can be my own worse enemy sometimes. I think initial panic has done more to kill people outright than any one factor. Just MHO.

      2. Ken
        a long while back I took a First Aid course. The first/second/last thing they strongly impressed on us was a bit like your list…

        Assess the situation for your safety / security first. No one is going to be helped/recussitated/etc, if you run whilly nilly and get run over/drowned/shot.

    1. Ya, I missed the section in the Army Survival Manual that said “never volunteer”. :)

  6. An extra “C” to consider Companions. For example I would not find it useful to tell children (and some “adults”) all the dread facts of our situation but keep them as safe and comfortable as possible. Group safety is FIRST but making them terrified will not aid the situation.

    Who would you choose to join your now suddenly Ad Hoc survival group if you were say at Boston Museum of Art and your cell phone just bleeped with THAT MESSAGE?

  7. Part of the survival practice for me was to practice under the worst possible scenario under the worst conditions. I used to go in a shower under cold water and tie knots in climbing rope when I was a young ranger. This proved helpful later when I was setting anchor lines on a cold and windy ledge in the Sierras.

    At work, some of my fellow coworkers were discussing defensive firearms within their homes. (all of us are 2nd amendment supporters). I pointed out several things to the group: 1. Odds are, the attack will come at night (so do you have alternative lights or remote switches?). 2. Practice shooting and reloading using only one hand and practice with your weak hand. ( Your other hand is going to be used to shepherd your spouse or children into the designated safe zone.). 3. This is not about killing your opponent like a video game. The goal is to survive until the cavalry arrives. 4. 2 items to keep in the home invasion grab bag: charged cell phone and house key on bright color flagging tape so you can talk to 911 operator and give instructions to responding officers. ( friendly fire is just as deadly as any fire.).

    Panic was never part of the picture. There is no time for that. Keep that brain working.

  8. Lesson learned from the Corps and my current job as a Fire/Medic:
    1. The emergency has already happened, you can’t change that
    2. Stay calm, or at least look calm, your family needs a leader
    3. Is there still a threat? Take cover.
    4. Don’t needlessly expose yourself to a threat you cannot overcome, you’re no good to your family dead, they need a leader not a dead hero
    5 . Make a decision and go with it.
    6. The enemy of good enough is perfect; better an okay plan enacted now, than a great plan enacted after it is too late to make a difference

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