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Survival

How to Teach Your Kids About Survival

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Life in the 21st century is pretty cushy. For many families, survival training just isn’t a priority. Food comes wrapped in plastic, we have machines that make sure the temperature is always agreeable and when it rains, we just head on indoors and reach for the remote control to watch television.

With all of these luxuries in place, it can be easy to get lazy when it comes to basic survival skills. However, kids can still get a lot of value from learning a few important outdoor survival techniques. It’s a good way to put them in the mindset of caring for themselves, and it doesn’t hurt if they get a little fun out of trying new things they’ve only seen in Hollywood movies.

Cooking Their Own Meals

When you think about survival, this probably takes on the image of a squirrel roasting over a pile of sticks. Your kids don’t need to get that extreme just yet, but helping them take ownership of meal preparation when they get home from school is a great first step and a way to introduce the concept of self-reliance. Maybe it begins with making a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Later on, you can teach them to cook over a grill or on a camp stove in the wilderness.

Building Shelter

Creating shelter is one of those skills that you can learn when you’re young and carry with you for decades. Besides, what’s more fun for a child than finding just the right materials and creating an amazing fort? Basic shelters like a lean-to or an easy-to-set-up tent can make all the difference in a wilderness situation where inclement weather or getting lost leads to dangerous outcomes.

Of course, your child shouldn’t be subject to this type of situation until they are old and mature enough to set out on a wilderness adventure. However, practicing their skills will make them that much more proficient when the day comes. When your family goes on a hiking trip, take the time to get your kids involved in building shelter. Eventually, these things will become second-nature.

Finding Water

When you’re lost in the wilderness, lack of water is a much deadlier situation than lack of food. It only takes three days to die of thirst, so practice finding streams and small bodies of water with your children — both when they do and don’t have maps and GPS equipment. Just finding water isn’t enough, though. Make sure you teach your kids you’ve got to purify it to prevent illness from dangerous bacteria.

Your kids can learn to boil water if they’re old enough to use a basic camp stove. A gravity filter is another solution that provides great output in terms of the volume of clean water provided but doesn’t require much effort to use. Other methods include using purification tablets and learning to use an altimeter to derive whether a stream’s height makes it likely safe to drink from.

Making Fire

Of course, there are certain qualifiers for this lesson. Not every child is ready to jump into making fire, so let your kids grow into it. When they’re ready, it can be a fun and interesting exercise for the whole family. There are plenty of kits on the market that provide a flint knife anyone can learn to use fairly quickly. It’s not just a matter of making a spark, though — you have to understand how to correctly stack your logs and set tinder so that the fire will breathe and burn clean. Extra points if you can learn to build one in rain, wind or snow!

These are just the basics, but as we touched on earlier, practicing these basic skills will give kids a feeling of self-reliance and self-confidence they can find pride in. Teaching your kids about survival gives them both a great set of skills and fond memories of family time that will stick with them for years to come.

How to Heat Your House Without Electricity

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With the winter months behind us, you might be thinking more about your air conditioning bill than how to warm your home right now. If you’re living off the grid, however, keeping warm is a serious need in many parts of the world. The sun goes down and things get chilly.

Heating a living space has been a need since long before people had electric heat. In this article, we’ll explore several ways to sustainably heat a reasonable-sized living space using natural resources and no power.

Use a Wood Stove or Fireplace

This method is probably the go-to for most people, and for a good reason. Wood stoves were once a staple in nearly every home. These days, air quality laws have made it difficult for people to use wood-burning stoves in many places. However, in the wilderness, you would be wise to have one available and to take advantage of it when the mercury drops.

It’s entirely possible to heat a house built with proper insulation efficiently using a wood-burning stove. A quality fireplace or wood-burning stove not only adds a heating element, but it is also an aesthetic component in your home. Make sure you have an ample supply of dry firewood. Before winter arrives, it’s a good idea to stock up on an energy-dense wood like madrone, ash, maple or oak. Depending on your needs, you may want to select a hardwood that will burn longer, or a softwood that lights easier and burns hotter.

A High-Tech Take on Burning Wood

As an alternative to more traditional wood-burning methods, newer pellet-burning stoves can heat a space with a minimum of smoke and soot. Pellets provide consistent, even heat, and are available in hardwood or softwood varieties in 40-pound bags designed to provide one 24-hour day of heat. So you’ll not only enjoy an easy-to-use solution, but you’ll be able to calculate your heating costs with little effort.

Your Gas Stove or Oven

Have you ever cooked a meal and realized the temperature in your home increased five degrees? That’s because your stove or oven puts out a lot of heat, and if you have gas appliances, you can use these to heat your home without electricity. Of course, this is not the most efficient way to heat a large home, but in smaller spaces, it can be reasonably economical. Just make sure your insulation is well sorted out.

Speaking of Insulation

None of the methods here will do much if you have a home with no insulation and single-pane windows. None of the heat you produce will stay in the home without the help of some well-placed fiberglass insulation, weatherstripping and quality windows. If you know you have a specific part of the house that insulates well, you may want to declare that your warm room and focus your efforts on heating that space to maximize efficiency.

It’s not all that difficult to keep your home warm without electricity. Mostly, you’ve just got to be up to the task of chopping some firewood or hauling a few bags of pellets around. Maybe brush up on your flint-and-tinder skills before next winter, so you’re not reliant on those expensive firestarters. A quality hoodie doesn’t hurt either. Keep warm, friends!

How to Prep for Extreme Cold

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Climate change is altering our seasons. Summers are getting hotter, and winters are getting colder which means that we need to start preparing for extreme cold, especially if you live in a northern state. What do you need to do to make your home when, as Ned Stark so iconically stated, winter is coming?

Have Your Furnace Serviced

You’ll be relying on your furnace to keep you warm during the colder winter months, so the last thing you want is for it to break down when it’s below freezing.

Before temperatures start dropping, have your furnace inspected and if necessary serviced by a professional. A little bit of preventative maintenance can save you from freezing during the winter.

During the rest of the year, keep up with the essential furnace maintenance. Change out your filters, and check the visible portions of your furnace for any signs of problems that could take your heating unit offline when you need it the most.

Protect Your Pipes

The pipes that bring water into your home are probably the most vulnerable parts of your home when the temperature drops. Frozen pipes can crack, pouring icy water into your home and causing hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage.

Start by taking a close look at your exterior pipes and make sure that they’re all adequately insulated. Don’t forget to check the pipes in the unheated areas of your home, like garages and basements, which are just as vulnerable.

For exterior faucets and taps, remove any hoses and empty them before you store them for the season. Even if the valve is insulated, the tube is not and can freeze, causing damage.

Drop the Interior Temperature

When the mercury falls, it’s tempting to crank up the heat to stay warm, but this could lead to a furnace failure. Your furnace will have to work even harder to keep the interior warm, and it might not be able to keep up with the temperature changes. Drop the thermostat to 68 or below if you can handle the cold or don’t mind layering up to keep your furnace from burning out or driving up your electric or gas bill during the winter months.

Have a Backup Plan

Your furnace can only keep you warm while it has power or fuel, so if you run out of gas or the electricity fails you’ll need to have a backup plan to keep your house warm.

If you’ve got a fireplace, this can provide heat, but you need to make sure to have your chimney serviced before you need it. A clogged vent can be a fire hazard and can cause smoke to build up in your home.

Consider keeping a generator or two in your garage, and use those to power things like space heaters if the power goes out.

Of course, you also need to make sure you have plenty of warm clothes that you can layer up because if push comes to shove, that will be your best way to stay warm.

Stay Warm!

Once you’ve finished all your prep, all that you have left to do is sit back and enjoy the beautiful winter weather. Stay warm!

How to Use Trees for Survival

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Trees help you survive every day just by cleaning the air, but that’s not all they’re good for. With a little knowledge, they could also give you a lift in a survival situation.

You might know indigenous peoples relied on Earth’s arboreous inhabitants as sources of food and material long before you could enjoy a pair of nylon hiking trousers or a handy plastic-wrapped granola bar. Read on to discover exactly how you can take advantage of various trees while in the wilderness. You never know when you might need them.

Trees Provide Food

Even though you probably think of more commonly farmed plants as sources of food, trees also provide a number of products you’ve likely purchased at the grocery store. You can consume things like walnuts, pine nuts, syrup and —when processed correctly — several herbal and medicinal teas. Black walnuts, acorns, hickory nuts and pecans can all provide sustenance on the trail or in a survival situation.

You should be aware that specific tree nuts can be acidic, such as acorns. While they can be found throughout the American open space, you’ll need to rinse ground acorn meat in water to leach out the bitter tannin before consuming. Wild almonds contain cyanide and should be avoided unless you know how to prepare them for consumption. For a sweet treat, seek a mulberry tree and grab some juicy berries.

Tap Into Sap

In addition to the obvious nuts and berries, many trees are sources of sap that can be consumed or used for practical purposes. Maple sap, which you’ve probably eaten in the form of syrup, is easy to attain by boring a hole into the side of a tree. For easier access, insert a hollowed-out stick or length of tubing. Sap flows best on the south side of the tree, so see if you can orient yourself before making your tap.

Plant a Tree and Sustain Yourself

You probably won’t benefit from this if you find yourself lost in the woods, but if you’re the type of person who appreciates the ability to self-sustain, planting a tree is one of the best things you can do. It’s an easy job, and depending on the type of tree, it might just outlive you. You’ll be able to enjoy years of tree nuts, sap and other good things.

Many species of trees provide fibrous bark and branches that can be used to make basic tools and fabrics. The fallen leaves and bark can be used as compost and food for other plants. With a little work, you can even process raw bark into papyrus, a form of simple paper that has been in existence for thousands of years.

It’s no wonder people are so passionate about protecting our planet’s tree life. Trees are some of the plant world’s best and longest-lasting providers. Do some research and find out which types of trees grow in your area, and you might find a new survival partner.

How to Build a Bunker

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Nuclear holocaust may not be the threat today that it was 50 years ago, but a well-stocked shelter is still one of the best preparations you can take against any major disaster. The sturdy construction and simple nature of these structures make them useful for a multitude of disaster situations, and while initial investment is high, a finished bunker provides peace of mind with relatively little maintenance.

Purchasing a prefabricated bunker might mean compromising on features and quality, and having someone build you one can get expensive fast. Consider undertaking a DIY bunker project — you’ll have full control over the costs and amenities, and as construction projects go, bunkers are relatively easy to build.

Choose a Location and Layout

Your bunker is a living quarter just the same as your above-ground home. If you’re building close to your home, there’s a good chance you’ll have infrastructure such as electrical lines and plumbing to compete with for space. Make sure to survey the area and choose a spot to dig where you have a good knowledge of what you’ll encounter underground. Also, make sure you’re legally permitted to begin the project. You may need to check your city ordinances or complete paperwork before beginning.

Smaller bunkers will only accommodate a bare-bones layout. However, if you have enough space, you can incorporate multiple rooms. You should create a blueprint that details the floorplan of your proposed shelter as you begin to identify the bunker’s infrastructure needs. How will you plumb the structure, provide access and even install things like cable and internet?

Breaking Ground

Now you’re ready to begin digging! You’ll want to rent an earth mover for this job unless your project is on a multi-year plan. Most people choose concrete as their bunker-building material because of its strength, molecular stability and low cost. You can use poured material — however, this can pose some challenges in an underground setting.

Concrete blocks make an excellent building material for bunkers because you can purchase them in several shapes and sizes, allowing you to construct virtually any basic structure with them. They’re also available hollow or solid, allowing you to add strength to the structure’s load-bearing walls. You should consider adding multiple passages from your home to your shelter, because in an emergency, relying on a single point of entry and exit could make a difference for you and your family.

Finishing Your Bunker

It might feel cool and comfortable now, but your bunker will quickly become stuffy and unpleasant without a steady supply of fresh air. You can’t leave the door open all the time, so most shelters use an air pump to pull fresh air down into the bunker and provide continuous circulation. The size of your shelter and number of people it needs to accommodate will determine what size air pump to use.

In addition to air, you’ll need to add water and electricity lines, internet and essential radio communications equipment. Finally, be sure to stock food and water ahead of time. In a crisis, you won’t have time to run to Costco. Make sure to supply the shelter with nonperishable items and fresh water, as well as water purification equipment. Keep a log of expiration dates so you can refresh your stores before they spoil.

It’s no small project, but in terms of being prepared, nothing will deliver more value than a well-planned shelter. It’s an investment in something you might not use, but if it gives you peace of mind, it’s well worth the spend.

10 Must-Have Winter Survival Items

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We’re in for a strong El Niño winter this year, meaning lots of snow and lower temperatures across many of the states. While that’s no cause for panic, it is crucial that you stay prepared during this time of year. The following 10 items are at the top of the list for winter survival — keep them on-hand to stay safe and warm during a severe weather event.

1. Snow Shovels

Starting off the list is perhaps the most essential item for winter survival: shovels.

While anyone in an area that gets snow will almost certainly own a sturdy shovel, it is essential that you keep yours in good shape, especially during winter weather advisories. Also, be prepared with a backup shovel or two, just in case one of them breaks. Shovels are your most reliable way of excavating your house, keeping the driveway and steps free of snow and ice and creating an easy escape route during an emergency.

2. Car Blanket

Some of the worst winter emergencies can occur when you’re driving. It’s easy to hit a patch of black ice or catch your wheel on a snowdrift. Even if the incident isn’t too severe, there is always a chance you could be stranded far from help and need to hunker down in your car for a while. Keeping a warm blanket in your vehicle for these occasions is the best way to stay warm until help arrives.

3. Food

Getting to the store during a snow-in can be nigh impossible, especially if the plows haven’t arrived your street yet. Make sure you have a supply of canned or nonperishable food that doesn’t rely on electricity to eat. Trail mix, beef jerky and canned veggies and beans are all excellent options for this type of situation. Be careful to eat the perishable food in your fridge first, as there is a high probability you will lose electricity during a storm.

4. First Aid Kit

Accidents happen. When they do, and there’s no reasonable way to get down the road to the hospital or doctor’s office, you need to have the materials necessary to make it through in your own house.

Having an extensive first aid kit will help you in any medical emergency you may run into when you don’t have any assistance. Be sure to secure extra medicine for any of your family’s pre-existing conditions or allergies. You can’t prepare for everything, but stock up with the essential bandages, antibiotic creams, scissors and a needle and thread.

5. Rock Salt or Sand

Your second step to shoveling should always be laying down a layer of salt or sand to keep yourself safe when heading out the door in the morning. More than 800,000 people are hospitalized due to slipping and falling each year — and that gets a lot worse if there are no usable roads to the hospital.

6. Flashlights

Like shovels, most people have a flashlight somewhere in their house. However, many people don’t know where exactly that flashlight is, and — ironically — could have trouble finding it once the lights are out.

Always have multiple flashlights stowed around your place, and keep plenty of extra batteries on hand, as well. A long-lasting flashlight with a good grip is your best option, as it won’t slip out of your hand and get lost in the snow. The Flateye is an excellent choice, as it fits well in the hand and has an excellent LED light. I personally have one of these, and it’s like having a car headlight in the palm of your hand. Super powerful, but also lightweight and easy to hold.

7. Winter Boots

Again, almost everyone has them, and almost everyone can benefit from maintenance and extra pairs.

Most people don’t go through the process of waterproofing their boots, which is a huge mistake once it becomes necessary to walk long distances through the snow. The heat from your feet and the friction of walking will cause snow to stick and melt on your boots, inevitably soaking your feet if your boots aren’t proofed. Walking to get help for an emergency or going into town after you lost your car in a ditch or snowbank is a lot harder when your feet are wet and freezing.

8. Water

There’s plenty of water around you when it snows. However, unless you want to go through the process of boiling and decontaminating all that snow, it’s a much better option to have bottled water or to fill up your own bottle ahead of a storm. Pipes freeze, and losing your supply of fresh water can be a deadly inconvenience.

9. Books

Part of surviving a winter event is dealing with the boredom and cabin fever that inevitably comes after hours of being cooped up inside without electricity. Luckily, if you have plenty of candles and flashlights available, a book or two will last you through the worst of the event. Even people who aren’t big readers can peruse some magazines or other forms of old-fashioned entertainment. Board games are also a worthy investment.

10. Ice Scraper

Keeping your car in good working order is essential, especially if a real emergency arises. Make sure you have a sturdy ice scraper for removing the worst of the snow and ice from your windshield and door handles.

With another rough winter coming on strong, you’ll want to stay prepared for the worst mother nature can throw your way. Keep these 10 items in mind as you gather your supplies to ensure personal safety, warmth and comfort through the worst winter times.

How to Get Ready for a Major Snowstorm

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Winter is coming on, and many areas of the U.S. are already hunkering down through their first major snowstorms. Many of us are new at snowstorm prepping — having just moved from a city, down south, or into independent living for the first time — and snowstorms can pose a daunting challenge to the unprepared. However, prepping for a foot or two of snow is actually much easier than you might expect. Here are a few ideas.

1. Snow Removal

Snow is an obstacle: it clogs up your driveway, covers your steps and otherwise prevents you from going about your day. Having a plan — and the proper tools — for getting rid of the snow should sit near the top of your prep list. Check your weather channels and have an understanding of how much snow is expected, both for the specific storm incoming and for the region throughout the year.

Many areas experience only light snows and won’t require much more than a shovel and some rock salt. However, even light snow can be a huge nuisance if you aren’t able to remove it: it can ice your windshield, soak your shoes and make your normal path treacherous and slippery. So make sure you load up on the rock salt, shovels — or even a snow blower, depending on your geography — and car brushes well ahead of the storm.

2. Tires

It’s hard to overstate the importance of snow tires. The thing is, snow tires are not really location-dependent. Assuming you are in an area that receives any snow, tires are a good — and often necessary — option. Even an inch or two of snow can have cars sliding around the roads, spinning out into ditches, and otherwise causing mayhem.

Furthermore, areas that don’t experience much snowfall are usually the areas least prepared when the snow comes. Having a good pair of snow tires can be the difference between getting to work on time and spending your day waiting for a tow.

3. Emergency Prep

Those of us not living in metropolitan areas should spend some time preparing for the worst. While snowstorms are usually not life-threatening in and of themselves, the chance that you’ll be snowed in and unable to safely get to the store remains a looming possibility throughout the winter season. Again, this is highly location-dependent: those living in rural areas should implicitly understand the importance of stockpiling food when the flakes start to fall.

A few other things to keep in mind: power lines are susceptible to going down during large snowstorms, especially in rural areas. Investing in a generator is often an excellent idea. Rentals, also available for the days the storm is at its worst, may save you some money if you don’t expect regular snowstorms. Beyond this, it is also imperative to make sure your heating is in order and to go through the proper steps to make sure it is winterized and ready for the storm.

Road conditions are also something to keep in mind: even if your house is not buried in snow, poorly-plowed roads can stop you from getting to the store. Stock up on food before the storm.

Putting some cash and a few hours towards these three areas can really make the difference once the snow starts to build up. Personal snow removal helps you dig out from under the drifts and get about your day, while tires help you traverse the worst roads. Finally, when the time comes to hunker down, you want to make sure you are warm and safe and that you have plenty of food and water.

How to Survive a Winter Storm

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To quote a top-rated show and book series, winter is coming and with it comes winter storms. Depending on their severity, these storms can damage or destroy houses, knock out power grids, freeze water pipes and generally make life difficult. If you’re worried about getting through a storm, here are some tips and tricks to help you weather the winter.

Restock Your Storm Supplies

Getting to the grocery store in the middle of a blizzard might be possible if you’ve got the right accessories for your car, but even if you get there, chances are it will be closed. Take the time to restock your storm supplies before the temperatures drop. Ideally, you want to try to get to the store well before the panic sets in and the shelves are emptied of essentials like milk, bread and nonperishables.

A good storm supply kit should include:

  • Food: Nonperishables and things that can be prepared without the use of a microwave or oven are always good choices.
  • Water: If your pipes freeze or municipal water supplies fail, you will need to have water for each person in your house. Plan on having a gallon per person per day stored, or a way to purify water collected in the form of rain, sleet or melted snow.
  • Communication: Cellphones are only useful until the cell towers go out. Keep a battery-powered radio tuned to the local NOAA station for weather alerts.
  • First aid: Keep a fully stocked first-aid kit with your winter supplies.
  • Lighting: Flashlights, candles, and oil or kerosene lanterns are all useful tools to keep your home lit even if the power goes out.

Anything you won’t be able to access during the storm easily should be kept in your winter storm kit. This includes things like pet or infant supplies, and any prescription medication you will need for the duration.

Keep the Lights On

If you’ve got an electrical heating system in your home, it can be hard to stay warm during a storm that knocks out the power. Consider purchasing a generator or two for your home to keep power to your lights, heat and other appliances like your refrigerator running during the storm.

Make sure you don’t wire your generators into your home’s electrical system. It might seem like a good idea instead of running extension cords from the generator, but it can create dangerous feedback in the local electrical grid that could harm or kill linemen trying to restore power after the storm has passed.

Stay Warm

Brutally cold temperatures are one of the most dangerous things that accompany winter storms, so your primary focus should be staying warm. If you have a generator powering your home’s heater, keep it fueled. Also, keep your doors closed as much as possible. Every time you open the door to go outside, some heat leaks out — meaning your heater needs to work harder to keep the interior warm.

If you don’t have a generator and the power goes out, starting a fire in your fireplace can be a good alternative. Be careful and make sure your chimney isn’t obstructed by snow before you light a fire, or smoke and carbon monoxide could build up inside your home.

Be prepared to layer up with appropriate clothing if you don’t have heat. Again, keep the doors and windows closed. Your body heat will warm the room slowly, but only if you don’t open the door and let in cold air.

You can’t do much about winter storms other than being prepared for them. Restock your supplies before the storm hits and ride it out. Being ready is the best thing you can do survive a winter storm.

How to make it through the 5 most common survival situations

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No one wants to think about being stuck in a survival situation but when it comes down to it, being prepared could mean the difference between life and death — and we mean that literally. Here are some tips and tricks to help you learn how to be prepared in the five most common survival situations.

No Water

During an emergency, it’s entirely possible that the water services to your home will fail. The human body can only function for about three days without water, so it’s important to have backup supplies available. For this, you’ve got two different options:

  • Keep Bottled Water in Your Home: Keep in mind that you will need a minimum of one gallon per person per day — half for drinking and half for hygiene needs and washing. Now, this is potable or drinkable water. If you want to use your flushing toilet during this survival situation, you will need a bucket and some water — it doesn’t necessarily need to be clean or drinkable. Use the bucket to fill your toilet tank, and you’ll be able to flush.
  • Keep Water Filters or Purifying Materials on Hand: These take up less space but require that you have a nearby source of water to treat. Iodine tablets, bleach or portable filters like the Life Straw can all help remove contaminants like bacteria even from natural water sources, making them safe to drink.

Ideally, you’ll want to have both of these options covered in case of an emergency. Make sure you rotate your bottled water once or twice a year to ensure it’s clean and safe to drink. Individual water bottles might be more convenient, but for long-term storage, you’ll want to store your water in opaque green or blue containers.

Fire

Fires can spring up without warning within your home, or rage throughout your neighborhood, giving you very little time to prepare.

For house fires, you want to get out of the house as quickly and safely as possible. If there are any necessities or valuables within arms reach, grab them before you leave — but don’t put yourself at risk for anything. Think back to your elementary school fire safety classes. Stay low to keep your head out of the smoke and check each door for heat before you open it. House fires can move fast and unpredictably, so the goal should be to get out of the house as quickly as possible.

Wildfires are an external threat, but they can move just as fast and unpredictably as house fires. If you’re told to evacuate, do so. Unlike house fires, you’ll usually have enough time to collect a few important belongings — such as important paperwork like car titles, photos and birth certificates — as well as some supplies. If you live in a fire-prone area, you should have a bug-out bag — prepared emergency supplies you can quickly grab if you need to evacuate.

Winter Storm Power Outage

Most powerful storms cause power outages, whether you’re in the path of a hurricane or a blizzard. Winter storm power outages are more dangerous, though — in addition to the wind and snow, the storm also brings freezing temperatures that can get dangerous or deadly quickly.

If you’re in the path of a winter storm and you’re not evacuating, make sure you’ve got a good emergency supplies kit ready before the storm arrives. This should include a first aid kit, bottled water, nonperishable foods and any prescription medication you might need during the storm. In some states, when the governor declares a State of Emergency, you can get an emergency 30-day supply of your medications, regardless of how recent your last refill was.

You might also want to consider investing in a generator to power things like your home heating and water pump. This could help prevent dangerous low temperatures in your home, as well as prevent your pipes from freezing inside your house.

Stranded

Getting stranded in the middle of nowhere is more than an inconvenience — it can be downright dangerous depending on your location and the weather conditions.

One good rule of thumb is that if you don’t know where you are, stay near your car. It will be easier for tow or rescue crews to find you if you’re near your brightly colored vehicle. Turn on your hazard lights, too.

If it’s cold out, stay in the car as much as possible, but don’t run the engine unless you’re sure the tailpipe isn’t blocked by snow — running the car with a blocked tailpipe will cause dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide to build up inside your vehicle.

Consider keeping a pack of emergency supplies in your car, as well. Include food, water, a first aid kit, a toolbox with some basic tools and some extra clothes or blankets in case you get stranded in cold weather.

Driving into Water

Vehicle submersion accidents aren’t as common as you might think, but if by some twist of fate you end up in the water in your car, knowing what to do could save your life.

As soon as you hit the water, roll down your windows. Yes, it will let more water into your car, but even with the windows closed, your cabin will fill up in about 90 seconds, and having open windows will give you a way to escape the car. Once the windows are down, take off your seat belt and get out of your vehicle.

If you can’t get the windows down, try to kick them out. You probably won’t be able to open the doors until the water pressure equalizes, but that means the car is full of water. If you can’t break a window, this can save your life, but you’ll have to hold your breath.

Keeping a seat belt cutter and window breaker in the car where you can easily access it from the driver’s seat can be a useful tool, too, if you don’t have enough leg strength — even boosted with adrenaline — to kick out the windows.

Knowing what to do in these common survival situations can save your life. Always be prepared for everything that life might throw at you, and you’ll never be surprised.

How to Sharpen Just About Anything

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There’s nothing worse than pulling out your knife only to find that the blade is dull — or even chipped. While this is a minor inconvenience, in a survival situation, it can be dangerous or even deadly. If you’re stuck with a dull blade, here are some tips and tricks to help you sharpen just about anything, no matter where you are.

What Do You Need to Sharpen?

What sort of things do you need to sharpen? That will depend on what tools you use regularly, but it could include:

  • Knives: Knives can run the gamut, from short to long to straight to curved. It doesn’t matter what your knife looks like or how long it is — it will eventually need to be sharpened.
  • Axes/Hatchets: These tools are useful for chopping wood, clearing brush or digging, in a pinch.
  • Machetes/Falchions/Kukri: Longer than standard knives, these can be used as weapons or for clearing brush.
  • Spears: If you’re in a survival situation, spears can be useful tools.
  • Saw Blades: It might be easier to replace the blades on a hacksaw or a sawmill, but if you can’t make it to the store, sharpening the blades could draw some more life out of those tools.

How to Sharpen at Home

Let’s start with how to sharpen your blades at home. Blades dull from everyday use — you don’t necessarily have to be in a survival situation to sharpen your knives.

You’ll need a whetstone or another sharpening stone and either a good grasp of geometry or a protractor. The angle you hold the blade will vary depending on what you are sharpening. Kitchen knives usually need to be held at around 20 degrees to be sharpened properly. Survival knives need a thicker edge — about 25 degrees — and machetes and other blades used for hacking need a 30-degree angle. Axes should also be filed at roughly 30 degrees.

Once you have your stone and your angle, you simply have to move the blade along the stone until you get a nice clean edge.

How to Sharpen in a Survival Situation

So how are you supposed to sharpen your blades if you’re stranded out in the wilderness and your whetstone is at home?

There are plenty of things that you can use as a DIY whetstone that you can find just about anywhere. Any rock with a flat surface can be used as a whetstone. Just pour a little bit of water on it and go to town.

If you’re wearing a leather belt, it can be used as a makeshift strop — similar to how a barber sharpens his razor. It won’t hone your blade to a razor’s edge, but it can make it a bit of sharper if you don’t have anything else.

If you find a discarded ceramic coffee mug with a rough bottom, you can use that to sharpen your knife, too.

There are plenty of things that you can use to sharpen your knife, even if you don’t have a whetstone with you. There are also wearable whetstones you can keep on your belt if you would prefer to carry a stone with you.

Sharpening your knife is a good way to make sure it will be usable no matter what you need it for. Learning how to sharpen your knife means you will be able to stay safe no matter what happens.