by Todd Walker
Everyday life if full of daily disaster drills.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The fire alarm blared mid-sentence second period. My first thought was that this couldn’t be a routine, scheduled drill. Our sixth graders were taking one of those useless, high-stakes standardized tests. A prankster either pulled a fire alarm in the hall or the building was on fire.
Waiting for fire trucks to arrive, our class stood in a hot Georgia sun. Sweat and hints of body odor began to waft through the crowd. Occasional whines floated through the air. But no visible smoke from the building.
Thirty minutes later, “all clear” was given. A defective alarm in the system cause 850 middle schoolers to line up, somewhat orderly, on the safe edges of our school yard. Every teacher and student knew exactly what to do and where to go. We practice fire drills, religiously, once a month. No coaching or coaxing needed. It’s automatic!
Had this been a real emergency – school burns to the ground – would I have been personally prepared to get home? I know many coworkers who leave car keys, phone, wallets, and purses in their classrooms during evacuation drills. Real “what if” situations aren’t likely. It’s only a drill, right?
Emergency preparedness doesn’t cover the entire scope of self-reliance. However, it often times serves as a gateway or starting line for deeper self-reliance and Doing the Stuff skills.
Having the skills to properly use supplies and equipment is even better. Layered redundancy in tools, coupled with practiced skills, equips you to handle stuff when the “what if” actually happens.
Two is One – One is None Mentality
What’s in Your Pockets?
Back to the school yard. What’s on my person that could affect my personal survivability? Do I have the 5 C’s of Survivability on me at all times? How about backups to these essentials?
- Car keys in my pocket – √
- Brain – √ (“If I only had a brain.” ~ Scarecrow)
- Combustion device in pocket and on key ring – √
- Cutting tool in pocket – √
- Communications device (phone) in pocket – √
- Cover in emergency car kit – √
- Cordage in wallet (Gorilla Tape) – √
- Candling device (flashlight) – √ [one of the 10 C's of Survivability in my pocket]
If you’re familiar with the 5 C’s, you noticed I’m missing the all important Container from my list above. No worries.
Get Home Bag
I only teach one hour in my own classroom each day. The other four periods I move to other classrooms – away from my Get Home Bag. I can’t grab this bag if we evacuate the building after 9:50 AM. That’s why it’s smart to have layers of redundancy in your vehicle emergency supplies.
My car keys are literally the KEY to accessing more essential survival stuff – metal container included. My vehicle is my preferred method of conveyance. If my ride dies, my hiking boots and spare socks (stored in the vehicle) are plan B for my 21 mile journey home.
I’ve written a detailed post on my car kit if you’re interested in seeing the junk in my trunk.
The Why Behind The 5 C’s of Survivability
These 5 tools have passed the test of time to help humans survive and thrive. From the first human who discovered a sharp edge on a flake of stone, our entire history changed – as did the size of our brains! The cutting tool put us at the top of the food chain. Animal fat and protein could now be harvested with sharp stuff and processed with another tool in the 5 C’s – combustion/fire.
Skills to use these 5 items will always trump the “hottest”, shiny survival gadget on the market.
Here is the run down of why you should include these 5 items in every kit you pack.
To sum it quickly, specialized skills and material are needed to reproduce these 5 essential tools in the wilderness.
So you’re not into wilderness self-reliance?
You should be and here’s why…
Chris Noble at Master Woodsman just gave me a different, and enlightened, perspective on what wilderness really means. I lifted these bullet points of his broader definition of Wilderness…
- when you’re lost in the woods, roadless or not
- it’s when the electricity stops coming through the wires to your house for a long period of time
- or even worse, your home is damaged or destroyed from a storm or other event. Don’t tell me after Katrina and SuperStorm Sandy those poor souls weren’t in a wilderness.
- wilderness is an emergency situation with no immediate help [emphasis mine]
The 5 C’s are essential for any setting, urban jungle or vast wilderness. The tools pictured above fit nicely into my haversack and/or attach to my ring belt and accompany me on all treks, short or long, into my wilderness.
Below is a brief explanation and a minimum of three redundant uses for each of the 5 C’s.
A) – Cutting Tool
- First-Aid/Self-Aid – craft splints, dig splinters, remove ticks, etc.
- Shelter – craft stakes, toggles, supports, and other needed tools
- Fire – a 90º spine for ferro rod use, carve feather sticks, process wood
- Food – processing game and collecting edibles
B) – Combustion Device
- First-Aid/Self-Aid – sterilize cutting tools and needles
- Shelter – core temperature control
- Water – purification
- Fire – heat to complete the triangle of fire (heat, fuel, oxygen)
- Signaling – smoke rescue signal
- Food – cooking
C) – Cover (proper clothing is first layer of cover)
- First-Aid/Self-Aid – core temperature control
- Shelter – creates a micro climate for core temperature control
- Signaling – if your cover contrasts with your surroundings
D) - Container
- First-Aid/Self-Aid – make herbal concoctions and infusions
- Water – transporting water
- Fire – metal water bottles can be used to make char cloth for your next fire
- Food – collecting and cooking stuff
E) – Cordage
- First-Aid/Self-Aid – slings, pressure wraps, and bandaging
- Shelter – lashings and knots
- Food – snares, fishing line, hanging a bear bag, etc.
* The 5 C’s are adapted from Dave Canterbury’s Pathfinder System which I follow
Our other kits (vehicle, get home bag, and Bug Out Bags, hunting/fishing) contain duplicates of these 5 C’s and more. Obviously, our vehicles can haul more than these five items. When carrying capacity is a consideration, cull the shiny survival objects and build your skills with the 5 C’s.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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