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AARP The Magazine

Survival Guide: 7 Ways to Save Your Own Life

Would you know what to do when faced with a crisis? Here are strategies that could help you come out smiling (or, at the very least, breathing)

wild animal  survival skills great outdoors bear attack large animal attack wild

If face to face with an animal, make sure to never turn your back. — Brent Humphreys

2. You meet a large animal in a foul mood

"Don't run," says Tony Nester, director of the Ancient Pathways survival school in Flagstaff, Arizona. "You could trigger a chase response in an animal that had no plans to attack you."

What's critical is to understand the basic brain of the animal — dog, bear, what have you. Even if it's eyeballing you as a potential meal, it prefers prey that won't put up a fight. Make sure the animal knows it'll have to work for its supper: Spread your arms, shout and make yourself look as large and threatening as possible. As you put on this show, retreat slowly, being sure never to turn your back to the animal. If a child is with you, he or she may be the more appetizing prey (smaller, weaker), so keep yourself between the animal and the child.

A complicating factor. You could be facing an animal that isn't hungry but is simply guarding its territory. The plan is the same, says Nester. The animal, however, will be more aggressive in this case. If all else fails and the animal attacks, use whatever you can — a stick, your fists — to fight back, concentrating on the animal's snout.

3. In triple-digit temperatures, your car dies while driving in a remote area

"Be smart with your sweat," says survival-school director Nester. "Contrary to what people think, a person can survive up to 48 hours in a hot climate without water. The secret is limiting evaporation." Think about how cowboys and Bedouins dress. Shorts? Tank tops? No, they cover as much skin as possible — including their heads — with clothing. This helps hold in body moisture. Some other tricks Nester teaches his desert-survival students:

  • Prepare seriously. If you know you'll be traveling in harsh conditions, stock 2 gallons of water per person, per day, along with some salty snacks, to replace the salt you lose during sweating. Throw a couple of big golf umbrellas in the trunk for instant shade. If hiking, don't travel alone, and let someone know where you're going and for how long.
  • Check your tires. Before you leave, make sure your tires are properly inflated. "In hot climates the biggest cause of vehicle breakdowns is tire pressure," notes Nester. "If the air is 100 degrees, the pavement can be between 180 and 200 degrees. Blowouts are common."
  • Stay with your vehicle. You may be tempted to walk for help. Don't, says Nester: "Your car is a rolling survival kit. It's easier to see a car than a person. A car provides shade and shelter. And it has lights and a horn for signaling." In the high heat of the day, keep the doors open for ventilation, and lift the hood so anyone who sees you knows there's a problem.
  • Get off the ground. That's the 180- to 200-degree ground, remember? Nester suggests sitting on one of the tailgating chairs you've stocked or pulling out the seats in your SUV.

Next page: Your plane is making an emergency landing. »

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