You never have to go in the woods, roam the desert without water, or find yourself drifting on an iceberg to know the benefits of being mentally and physically prepared for a survival situation. It doesn’t have to be a catastrophe like a nation-wide power loss or even a post-apocolyptic zombie attack to use basic skills to not only survive, but make a bad situation better.
My office was closed today due to bad weather. The freeway was shut down and pipes had burst at the main site. So I spent my day working out of a local coffee shop. I tend to much better work here anyway without the distractions offered in a corporate office.
Around noon, I decided to head to the gym and get a pool workout in. After a rigorous swim routine, I was resting in the pool when suddenly I heard alarms going off. Immediatly the life guards started directing us out of the pool and towards the exit.
One of the first things I learned early in survival training is to question authority on its level of competence. When leaders are stressed, they make bad decisions. When leaders are fed bad information, they make bad decisions. Finally, when leaders are given direction by someone who is not on scene, yep….they make bad decisions.
Our bad decisions were made by a life guard, who probably was not more than 20 years-old. For the 20-30 people who were once in the pool and now standing at the back door with me, what he was asking could have been a death sentence. All of us soaking wet were being told to immediatly go outside. The past few weeks we have had ice and snow, along with single digit high temps. The life guard in shorts and a fleece jacket was sending women, children, the elderly, and tri-athletes (none of these groups do well in the cold) out to the parking lot while still wet in sub freezing temps.
As a group, we opted for a stall technique. We were clustered by the door in a highly open area where there was not an immediate threat. We could have easily stepped out the door if a dangerous situation broke out. Fortunatly, some fast thinking life guards began shuttling towels to us. I normally swim with a thermal swim shirt since I have had hypothermia and stillsuseptable to it. When I realized we were going to walk outside to wait, I immediatly pulled my wet shirt off and began to dry myself.
As more towels arrived, I grabbed not one or two….I took eight. I made booties for myself to walk in with two of the towels. Using a small dive knife that stays in my swim bag, I sliced the towels with life guards looking on and fashioned protection for my feet. I also made sure I had the other six towels to cover and build insulation with. An older gentleman (and Korean era Ranger) asked if I would make him a pair….another two towels and I had a fashion trend.
Eventually, word came from the fire department, we would have to go outside. Our stalling allowed us an extra 20 minutes of warmth, dry bodies, and towels for protection. In tne mean time, a bus had been commandered for us to go into.
Walking on tne snow was a wet and somewhat painful experience….for those who looked on in amusement of my booties before, now openly wished they had a little more than the damp (becoming soaking wet) towels laid on the ground by the gym workers.
Getting on the bus another strategy came into play. I opted to sit as close to the driver as possisble, but out of wind-shot of the door. This was the first seat on tne left. This allowed me to hear any information and updates, gave me a first out of the bus opportunity, and if needed, I could share a seat with someone, providing additional warmth.
We sat on the cold bus for about 20 minutes before being released. As soon as I was back in, I hit the hot tub to regain some warmth. Hot showers, dressing in the sauna, and then hitting the nearest cafe for soup and coffee followed.
No one died of hypothermia. No one was placed on heat packs. But having a few people aware of the decisions that were being made and making their own decisions kept folks out of trouble. I kept myself more comfortable, and possibly out of danger, while stalling for time. Being gung-ho to follow direction would have placed me, and possibly other followers in danger. Once we were outside the doors, there would not have been anyone to check on our progress for close to a half-hour. Enough time for hypothermia to set in.
Know the basics of simple improv can turn a bad situation better. Feel comfortable in making your own decisions, and don’t be a sheep….there are well intentioned shepherds just doing what the boss says…history shows us many cases of confident and well-intentioned leaders killing their followers……