Survival isn’t an accident: it can be taught. Teach your kids this week.

CNN has been covering the story of a young Scout momentarily separated from his Troop, with a rare happy ending four days later.  Relieved parents and relatives all around, and all’s well that ends well.

An explanation for this:  I listened to an excellent medical CME tape about two years ago.  The speaker was a Navy SEAL who taught survival to SEAL candidates.  It was mind-opening.  He opened with the story of going to LA talk to college kids about survival, and starting with the following exercise:

"Get a piece of paper, and draw the outline of your house/apartment.  Now, draw where the gas and electric cutoffs are."  (Blank stares come his way).  "You live in an earthquake zone, you need to know this.  Survival isn’t some way-out concept about rubbing sticks together to make fire, it’s about thinking ahead and anticipating problems".

I paraphrase, and it’s from memory, but that was the gist I took from it.  I think about survival a lot, it’s an occupational hazard.

This is an excellent occasion to have a chat with the kids about survival, the do’s and don’ts, those basic things that make happy endings that don’t get covered on TV, thankfully.  There are web resources, and please use the ones you want, but I like these: Texas Parks and Wildlife and A Kid’s Wilderness Survival Primer .

Tomorrow I’m taking the little ones out back where there’s trees and some space, and we’re going to talk about survival basics.  Do it with/for your kids, even if you don’t intend to go into the wilderness.

Whistles for less than a buck each (don’t leave home without one for everyone).


  1. Amen and amen. (BTW, I don’t live in an earthquake zone, but I intend to find out where to turn off the water to my house. I know where the electricity turns off.) I am a Cub Scout den leader and each year we do a section with the boys on what to do if you are lost in town and in the woods. This child violated the first rule for when you are lost in the woods, which is “Stay Put”.
    A common sense tip for parents: get your child a backpack as soon as they can carry it. Put a whistle, a rain poncho, a few granola bars or crackers, and a bottle or two of water in it. (This can weigh 5lbs or less.) Also, give them a map of the area you are hiking and show them the trail you intend to use.

  2. What frightens me most about this event is the concept of “stranger danger” that may have kept the child from getting help sooner. The people children (and most adults) should be wary of are those we know already. They are the ones (in most cases) who perpetrate crimes.

  3. A few random tips…

    1) Teach your children that, if they are lost, they should “find a mommy” and approach her for help. Any randomly-selected adult female with children is almost certain to help a lost kid.

    2) If you carry a lighter, you want the piezio push-button kind, not the kind with the little wheel. (Wet your thumb and try to it for yourself). Piezio lights work even after than have been dunked, just shake them out a bit first.

    3) Oil lanterns are cheap (about $10) and are a good source of light when the power goes out. They are far safer than candles and last longer than anything with a battery. Use purified liquid paraffin for fuel if you can find it, but you can use vegetable oil in a pinch.

  4. a good reminder. careful not to make your kids think you are some paranoid dad, but they can’t expect a pride of lions to save them everytime either. thanks for the reminder, any books you recommend on the subject?

  5. Here’s a link to some handy urban survival tips: Emergency Preparedness

    If you live in California and aren’t prepared for the big shake, shame on you.

  6. Jim in Texas says:

    Let’s not forget that in the kid hid for several days whenever he spotted any of the search party looking for him.

    There is a balance in teaching your kids to have a healthy skepticism and not inducing full blown paranoia.

    On top of everything, the kid went uphill! What?s with that? The only people who go uphill in a situation like that are pilots in enemy territory or smart escaped prisoners.

    All in all he was damn lucky to have survived.

    If nothing else, teach your kids to always go downhill when lost in the woods. Oh, and make a lot of noise if they are in bear country.