The Psychology of Survival | Part 2 – Assessment of the situation

Assessment of the situation

Every survival situation outdoors is based upon some type of emergency that poses a threat to human life. Peril to you or others could be the problem. The problem could be immediate or escalate to a more serious level. Every situation presents unique challenges, each with its own set of variables. If we look at survival situations as a whole, we can see the common threads that connect all these predicaments and provide clues on how to deal with them.

Evaluation of the Situation

The evaluation phase is the first step to managing any crisis situation. Before you can create a plan of action, it is important to stop and analyze all aspects of the situation. Although the analysis phase does not have to take too long, it is necessary to continue with a logical and effective plan of action. You must continuously assess the situation from the moment you arrive at a survival event until you are rescued. The evaluation should take into account the complexity of the situation as well as the number of participants.

  • Health status: Are there any people who are seriously injured or ill, dead? Are there any signs of psychological breakdown or disease?
  • Immediate physical dangers: bad weather, wreckage and hazardous materials, prey animals with attitude, etc.
  • Long-term physical problems: shelter, water and food.
  • This list could go on. These things will help you decide what should be done immediately and what should wait for later. The priority list is ranked according to how urgent the need or threat is. Let’s say you get lost in the mountains. You are not injured or sick, the day is dry and warm, you have water and a daypack, and your body is healthy. You noticed a mountainlion following you along your trail, flicking his tail and looking intently in your direction. He’s now licking his lips. How high do you rank food and water in this situation? Is there something more important? A secure shelter, a weapon or knowledge about how to respond to a stalking cougar?

You might be faced with hypothermia if you don’t find shelter or make arrangements immediately for another situation. You might need to find water for your body or you could die from dehydration. Every predicament has its own priorities. It’s up to you to assess the situation and determine which priorities are most important.


How to determine your assets

Once you have assessed the situation, the next step is to determine your assets. What assets do you have that could be of assistance in times of need? Which circumstances favor you? Consider the following:

  • Your supply of potentially useful items includes everything on your body, in the pack, in your car, and in your camp. Make an inventory. Consider all possible uses for these items.Later posts will contains valuable information about camping gear and survival gear made from natural materials.
  • Take a look around to see what nature has to offer that can be added to this inventory. All of these things can be used as shelter: brush, tree limbs and boulders. For water supply, there are streams, snowbanks, lakes, and ponds. Dry wood, fibrous bark and dead grasses are all good fuels for a fire, insulation, or padding. You get the idea.
  • Location: Are your lost or are you just isolated? Is there anyone who knows where you are or when you can expect to be back? Is it likely that they will start a search? For a detailed discussion on navigation techniques, see Chapter 8.

The longer the list of things you have in your favor, the better. Recognizing all the things that you need to do well lifts your spirits, and encourages creativity in your search for ways to improve your life.

Develop a Plan of Action

Next is the creation of a plan. Depending on your situation, it might be best to stay low and conserve energy, while trying to improve your camp and provoke rescue efforts through signalling. The plan might call for self-rescue. One thing is certain: you won’t be able to come up with a rational plan of action unless you make a thorough evaluation of the situation. Also, take stock of all your resources.

Do not try to make the situation seem less serious than it is. This isn’t John Wayne. People do really bleed and die. Someone else will get the girl. Be realistic about your capabilities and inabilities. Don’t underestimate terrain, weather, or distance from civilization.

Don’t let yourself be fooled into believing that the situation is hopeless. Take a look around and pay attention. It isn’t over if you don’t see her fat lady or hear her singing. If you do not see or hear her singing, it is probably over and you are already dead. You can take the rest of your day off.

If you are still alive, the following is what you should do:

  • Find out how to draw attention. Your friends are sound, sight, smell, and touch. You can think of different ways to make sound that travels a long way, how to show your presence visually, and how you can stink up the air to let someone know you are there.
  • Camp improvement projects are a great way to keep your energy up if you’re stuck in one spot and waiting for rescue. You can save your water and food by being patient and only working when it is convenient.
  • Leave a note for rescuers if you leave camp to attempt self-rescue. They will likely find your vehicle or camp before you are found. Hint: If you had stayed in camp, you would have been rescued by now. The note should include the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all members of your group, as well as a description about your clothing, equipment, supplies, and travel plans. It also includes information about your health and any special medical requirements. This will ensure that special supplies, such as insulin, are available immediately in case of emergency.

Knowing how to handle a survival crisis can make it easier, more efficient, and more comfortable to live through one. It can help you to reduce your suffering and even save lives by doing the right things at the right time.

The Psychology of Survival Part 2


Is it more important to have shelter, food, water, shelter or fire when it comes to survival? It is common to believe that shelter is the most important thing. Then comes water. Although it is possible to make logical arguments that shelter, fire and water are the right order, survival situations can often be more complicated than that. Let me illustrate.

The most important survival consideration in case you get into an accident in Lake Manitscold at 40 degrees, is to remain afloat until help arrives.

First aid is the priority if your friend has been accidentally shot in the leg by your sharp broadhead.

The problem with being lost in the woods at night is whether it is August or February. It all depends on whether the woods are located on Oahu, or the north end on Vancouver Island.

This is how you see the picture. It is not easy to decide which survival strategy is best. There are many factors that must be considered. You can only do one thing at once so you need to be able to identify where and why you should start. It is all about knowing how to prioritize.

Prioritizing is crucial to the success of any survival situation. If you don’t know what’s most important, it’s likely that you will work on the wrong things.

To establish a reasonable priority, you need to evaluate your situation realistically.

  • Life-threatening immediate threats
  • Long-term threats
  • Physical health, including injuries or illness
  • Mental and emotional state
  • Terrain — swamp, mountains, desert, etc.
  • Location — Do you know where exactly you are?
  • Weather — long-term and immediate outlook
  • The number of survivors
  • Resources available — food, water and medical supplies
  • Natural resources — shelters, fire, water and food
  • Probability of rescue

You can start to create a survival plan once you have a clear understanding of the situation. You can’t do this unless you truly understand the first and second points of our list, which are immediate and long-term dangers to your life.

The following are the ways that the human body can be threatened:
  • A variety of events can cause death, including drowning, animal attack and a fall off a cliff. Wildfires may also be a possibility.
  • Exposure to heat or cold can cause death in minutes or hours.
  • In a matter of days, water deprivation can lead to death.
  • Injuries and illnesses can cause death on a varied schedule. It may take as little as a few days to reach your grave.
  • You can die from starvation in a month. If you don’t take care of your more immediate needs, you won’t be able to live for long enough to starve. If you don’t have enough nutrition, your ability for thinking and functioning will be severely affected, which will impact your survival chances.

This might lead us to conclude that shelter is more important than food. However, survival situations can vary so much that the priorities can easily be swapped. It could be that food is the priority in a situation where every other item is not urgent at the moment or has been satisfied. Example: You are in good health and marooned on Survivor Island. There is a freshwater spring right at your camp and the temperature is always pleasant. All you need is food to fuel your body and provide comfort for your mind. After lunch, you can work on a lightweight shelter and then look into signaling devices.

We can’t carve priority list in granite, it is obvious. Because each situation is unique, there is no universal list that will work for everyone. Only then can priorities become clear. The survival process starts with being able identify your most pressing needs. Next step is to identify the details.

To Top