Daily Disaster Drills and The 5 C’s of Survivability

by Todd Walker

Everyday life if full of daily disaster drills.


1.) Red Barn Forge Bushcraft knife 2.) Fire kit – ferro rod, lighter, magnifying glass, fatwood, char tin 3.) USGI poncho 4.) Pathfinder stainless steel bottle and cook set 5.) #36 tarred bank line

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?

Let’s see…

  • 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.

Vehicle Kit

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.


My nephew, Kyle, enjoying some wild ginger tea on our last rainy dirt time session

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

  1. First-Aid/Self-Aid – craft splints, dig splinters, remove ticks, etc.
  2. Shelter – craft stakes, toggles, supports, and other needed tools
  3. Fire – a 90º spine for ferro rod use, carve feather sticks, process wood
  4. Food – processing game and collecting edibles

B) – Combustion Device

  1. First-Aid/Self-Aid – sterilize cutting tools and needles
  2. Shelter – core temperature control
  3. Water – purification
  4. Fire – heat to complete the triangle of fire (heat, fuel, oxygen)
  5. Signaling – smoke rescue signal
  6. Food – cooking

C) – Cover (proper clothing is first layer of cover)

  1. First-Aid/Self-Aid – core temperature control
  2. Shelter – creates a micro climate for core temperature control
  3. Signaling – if your cover contrasts with your surroundings

D) – Container

  1. First-Aid/Self-Aid – make herbal concoctions and infusions
  2. Water – transporting water
  3. Fire – metal water bottles can be used to make char cloth for your next fire
  4. Food – collecting and cooking stuff

E) – Cordage

  1. First-Aid/Self-Aid – slings, pressure wraps, and bandaging
  2. Shelter – lashings and knots
  3. 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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Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “Daily Disaster Drills and The 5 C’s of Survivability

  1. Pingback: Daily Disaster Drills and The 5 C’s of Survivability | Modern Homesteader

  2. Pingback: Prepper News Watch for September 19, 2014 | The Preparedness Podcast

  3. plowboy

    Yes I will tell you those poor souls were not in a wilderness after katrina and sandy. they knew things would get better and they did. Teotwawki is when it goes bad and just keeps getting worse and that is where this prepper website is failing us, it is always under the assumption things will get back to normal in soon.


    • Appreciate your opinion on this, plowboy, but respectfully disagree. There are many doom and gloom sites that might fit your perspective and world view better. We aren’t one of them. Our main focus is to build self-reliance and practical skills that add value to life, family, and community – even if the worst happens.

      As far as being a prepper site, prepping is only a small part of what we do around here to build self-reliance. I’m just a regular guy with a non-bunker mentality committed to Doing the Stuff of self-reliance. I do hope you stick around and check out all our stuff to get a better view of what we do. I’ve never been through a wide scale TEOTWAWKI scenario, but I have been through a few personal TEOTWAWKI events, so it’s hard for me to address what other “experts” say will happen or happened. I suppose things got better (normal) for them since they’re blogging about it on the other side.

      We all go through wilderness experiences, personally or as a whole. The point of the article is to get through the “wilderness”. Isn’t the purpose of building skills so that you can get through an emergency or life changing event and back to “normal” (whatever normal is)?

      I came to grips a while back that I will fail a lot of folks with my take on “prepping”.

      Best wishes on your journey!


      • William Pentney

        Great response, if a person did a risk analysis on the nuke bunker teotwawki as opposed to the most common disaster to strike an American …house fire. any benefit to cost analysis would favor the housefire… then chemiclal spills…then natural disasters floods tornadoes huricanes then earth quakes then pandemics and somewhere down the line comes they type of nuke bunker teotwawki….. prepare smart.


      • And our individual plans will differ from individual to individual, locale, etc. Good point, William.


      • plowboy

        Please don’t label me “doom and gloom” there is plentious proof to back up my side of the story. Ten years ago in Sudan all you could hear out of the Americans was things will get better. Their pathetic ‘rapture’ was just days away. Later when things got really bad the Americans went home, the native Sudanese died. Why: No place to run to. This time it’s our turn. There will be no place to run to. It’s over for us as a nation, family, and individual when the lights go out. If just one person sees thru the facade of “things will get better” and deals with the reality of the coming choas then my life has been worthwhile. All I ask is that people look at where we are, how far we have fallen, then look around and identify one leader that can lead us out of this mess. There are none. We are a ship without a rudder in the eye of the worst coming storm imaginable. Those are just the facts. thanks


      • Sorry about the label, plowboy. I hate labels too. We certainly don’t have our heads in the sand concerning our fragile systems or the direction in which our country is heading. I do not and will not look for one leader to turn this ship around. The solution is not political. The entire system is corrupt.

        You’re view is a bit fatalistic for me. Look at history. Humans may be more resilient than you think. No doubt, bad things are coming but the facts, well, I’m not qualified or able to predict the future. I’ll just keep doing the stuff of self-reliance. Hope you do the same, brother!


  4. Kathy

    I find your advice very helpful. While we cannot know when, or if, a major world changing event will happen, small, “my world changing” events happen to people every day and being prepared for those scenarios is good common sense. Thanks for all you do Todd!


  5. john lilgreen

    i like and appreciate this article, i do have to say i prefer my e.d.c. pack(everyday carry), i carry this backpack everywhere everyday and its has a ton of light(thankfully) survival gear along with alot of stuff just to make this more comfortable. i have been in the prepping world all my life and have not run into a situation yet where my bag doesnt cover my basic and extended needs. so the edc pack to my personal specifications is my prefered choice.


  6. Pingback: Daily Disaster Drills and The 5 C’s of Survivability - Prepared Bloggers

  7. Mike the Gardener

    I enjoyed this article very much. A lot of information and kept it simple. I have my truck stocked with theses necessities without making my truck look too packed or like a hoarder (maybe bad choice of word, but you get the idea).


  8. Soooo good. I take it up a bit and build my packs around the 10 c’s. That covers all my bases then I can add the 11th C. COFFEE.


  9. Pingback: Survival, the 5 C’s | Able 1 Rescue Solutions LLC

  10. Pingback: Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | Survival Sherpa

  11. Pingback: Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability » Survival Gear & Food Storage

  12. Pingback: Cocoa: The 11th C of Survivability | Survival Life

  13. Pingback: Tulip Poplar: A Rich Resource for Year-Round Wilderness Self-Reliance | Survival Sherpa

  14. In the face of ignorance, all information is useful. The information in this post is a solid starting point, especially for those who think prepared means having your chapstick with you. While I have two or three different ‘bags’ set up, and at least one of them is accessible at all times, this kit could easily fit in a purse, bookbag, or similar small carry item and provide essentials in the event of…Thank you for your useful information.


    • Thank you, Noah! The best kit is one that is small enough to carry with essentials to do the stuff that needs to be done. And yes, chapstick doesn’t count… though I carry it daily.


  15. Survival kit doesn’t you have to bring everything in your house, you just have to put what is really needed in case you need to evacuate, in case f emergency. Just be sure you have evey important things that you need, like coffee filter that can be put right in the pocket of yor bags. It can be use to filter dirt in the water for a much cleaner waet to drink besides it des’t need much space.


    • Hum, coffee filters may work to take the floaties out but not enough to make water safe to drink. For that, you need to boil or use a commercial filter. I like the Sawyer mini for my kits.

      Thanks for the comment and support, Tedd!


  16. Damndiver

    I am most grateful for your posts. There is a treasure trove of good stuff for me here. Thought-provoking and educational.

    Thank you.

    Please tell me what the small bag between items 4 and 5 is. I think I may need one.


  17. Pingback: Knowledge vs. Knowing: 37 Woodlore Lessons | Survival Sherpa

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