Blagg: All in the preparations
I’ve been interested in survival for a long time, probably ever since my Boy Scout days. Back then, I wasn’t particularly enthralled with birdwatching (that’s changed!) or the environment or other subjects.
But I studied firemaking and finding shelter and using your watch to determine north intently and to this day I try to make sure I have anything I might need in some unexpected situation.
It’s the challenge that intrigues me, I guess.
Recently, I sprang for a bunch of little plastic gizmos and insisted that my kids Velcro them inside the armrests of their respective cars.
Each little red tool contains a razor made especially to slice through car seat belts and a small steel point, powered by a spring. Press it hard against the inside of a car window, down near the corner, and it will pop suddenly, shattering the glass.
In the very unlikely event that the car goes into the water and sinks, that little tool could get the kids and their kids out. It was cheap, but well tested, and I thought it was worth the investment. The kids, long used to my obsessions (we always had a survival kit in each of our cars), just rolled their eyes and said, “Thanks, Dad.”
OK, OK, I might go a bit overboard, but just consider that recent story about the family of six that spent two days in the Nevada wilderness in sub-zero temperatures after their Jeep rolled off the side of a dirt road and into a crevice.
They survived, despite all predictions to the contrary — and despite the sad fact that so many American families in similar situations have been found dead.
James Glanton, the driver, and his girlfriend Christina McIntee, survived by keeping their heads and using whatever was at hand. They kept their two children, and McIntee’s nephew and niece, alive.
How did they do it?
First of all, before they headed off into the Seven Troughs mountain range, they took the time to tell relatives about their plans. That narrowed the search parameters when they failed to return on time.
And they stayed with their vehicle, even though it was upside down, not wandering off into the wilderness and splitting their resources. That Jeep provided shelter — a lot better than anything they could have built from local materials — and also valuable resources.
Since they were going to be in snow country, they had good, heavy, winter clothing. I can’t count the times I’ve read about people who expected to be back at their car in a few hours and struck off into bad country with only a windbreaker.
But the real key to their survival was their ability to keep their heads and improvise. They burned a tire for warmth, added dead wood to it, and then heated rocks in the fire that they brought inside the Jeep to keep everyone warm.
And they had some food — and especially water — in the Jeep with them.
There was no cell service up in the mountains, but officials were able to trace their cell location for long enough to get an idea of which road they were on.
A few basics — a map, a compass, some matches, a knife — can make the difference between life and death, even in the woods that surround us here in western Mass.
I try to make sure I have those with me just about everywhere I go. I guess the old Boy Scout credo, “Be Prepared” has really stuck with me all these years.
I’ve never had to fend for my life, but you’d be surprised at how many times those items in the back of my car, or in my shell coat pocket, have come in handy for all sorts of things as the years have passed.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re interested in the car escape gadget, here’s a website:
Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.