Survival School: Five Critical Needs in Order to Survive-Survival Gear Systems

Editor’s note: JD is the founder of His site is dedicated to a wide variety of skills that improve survivability in emergency situations as well as everyday life. He is a retired Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist with 20 years of active duty service teaching aircrew and special operations personnel how to survive, evade, resist and escape at the U.S. Air Force Survival School located at Fairchild AFB, Washington.

At the U.S. Air Force Survival School, we teach students that there are five basic needs that must be prioritized if a person is to survive a life-threatening event.

• Health

• Personal Protection (Clothing, Shelter, Fire, Equipment)

• Sustenance (Water and Food)

• Signaling

• Travel

Regardless of the circumstances, if you’ve got these five areas covered, you’ll likely come out on the other side in one piece. Whether it’s an ice storm that knocks out power for two weeks or a long-term economic collapse, focusing on your basic needs will see you through the traumatic event.


Risks abound with any event that throws us out of our daily routine and a robust medical kit is critical for covering everything from simple cuts and scrapes to gunshot wounds and everything in between. Survival Gear Systems carries a wide-variety of medical kits to keep you splinted and stitched.

It’s easy to focus on physical needs and forget about the mental stressors that accompany trying circumstances, so consider adding some simple games to keep your mind active and prevent the boredom that’s sure to creep in. If you’ve got small children like I do, keep them occupied with items that serve a multitude of purposes like chem-lights. They’re fun, make a good light source, and when attached to a string and spun in front of you make a great signal!

Personal Protection

A major factor in many emergency situations is keeping the body at 98.6 degrees. Your clothing should protect you from varying environmental threats like cold, extreme heat, insects, or even the dangers that come from urban hazards like dust and debris.

We’re not always at home when disaster strikes, so shelter is the next layer of protection that needs attention. I’ve stayed in just about every kind of shelter imaginable and I can tell you that one of the most spacious, lightest and easiest shelters to employ is the tipi like this one from Onyx Range-Tentipi. You can even use it with the stove in sub-zero temps and sleep warm and cozy inside!

From cooking and purifying water to signaling or improving morale, fire makes all the difference in tough times. It’s essential to have at least three ways to make fire; redundancy is key, especially when it comes to a tool that is so valuable.

Equipment rounds out the Personal Protection category and this includes all the various tools you’ll use to make life more safe and secure like weapons, backpacks, gardening tools, or items for tasks like purifying water.


People don’t function well for very long when they’re dehydrated. With uses ranging from cleaning to cooking, water should be at the top of the list in any circumstance. If you don’t have a water source that’s free-flowing like a nearby creek or consistent rainfall, consider storing water with these stackable water drums. Water collected from open sources should be purified to keep you protected from the “wee-beasties” floating around at the microscopic level. Don’t cut corners when choosing a water-purifier or you could find yourself doubled over in intestinal distress with diarrhea, which only makes you more dehydrated!

In emergency situations, people often need a higher than normal caloric intake, so a long-term food storage plan makes good sense. Even with a harmless winter storm, the crowds can wipe out the grocery stores in about 24 hours. If you’re not a fan of packing your own buckets, here are some really good turnkey options to keep your belly full.


Sometimes, weathering the storm by yourself is just not feasible and you’re going to need to attract attention and get some help. Size and contrast are the foundations of a good signal; think loud noises, bright colors and ridiculously bright lights. I’m sure you’ve heard that size matters, and this is one time when it’s accurate and you’re betting your life on it. Options range from simple space blankets or signal mirrors to more elaborate devices like strobe lights or road flares. If you can’t get help to find you, it might be time to get moving.


Typically you’re better off staying in place when the balloon goes up, but having a plan to bug out is wise. You’ll need a plan on where to go and how to get there, but in addition to that, you’re going to need a good way to transport your gear. Even if you're just going from A to B in your vehicle, a Bug Out Bag in the trunk gives you a lot of alternate options in a worst-case scenario. Check out this slick little system they’re calling the “world’s best 72-hour survival kit.”

Regardless of whether you’re just getting started or simply fine-tuning your preparedness plans, Survival Gear Systems offers a wide variety of gear to address your basic needs and even the niceties that will make your next adventure a success. Contact their friendly staff today and they can help you get your bases covered for the uncertainties of tomorrow.

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