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Cold Weather Survival
With winter just around the corner for you folks in the Northern Hemisphere, I’ve decided now is the perfect time to discuss The Basic Principles of Cold Weather Survival.
It is more difficult for you to satisfy your basic water, food, and shelter needs in a cold environment than in a warm environment.
Even if you have the basic requirements, you must also have adequate protective clothing and the will to survive.
The will to survive is as important as the basic needs.
There have been incidents when trained and well-equipped individuals have not survived cold weather situations because they lacked the will to live.
Conversely, this will has sustained individuals less welltrained and equipped.
There are many different items of cold weather equipment and clothing available today.
If you have the money then you get hold of newer, lightweight gear such as polypropylene underwear, GORETEX outerwear and boots, and other special equipment.
Remember, however, older gear (such as Army surplus clothing) will keep you warm as long as you apply a few cold weather principles.
If the newer types of clothing are available use them.
If not, then your clothing should be entirely wool, with the possible exception of a windbreaker.
You must not only have enough clothing to protect you from the cold, you must also know how to maximize the warmth you get from it.
For example, always keep your head covered.
You can lose 40 to 45 percent of body heat from an unprotected head and even more from the unprotected neck, wrist, and ankles.
These areas of the body are good radiators of heat and have very little insulating fat.
The brain is very susceptible to cold and can stand the least amount of cooling.
Because there is much blood circulation in the head, most of which is on the surface, you can lose heat quickly if you do not cover your head.
There are four basic principles to follow to keep warm. An easy way to remember these basic principles
is to use the word COLD–
C - Keep clothing clean.
O - Avoid overheating.
L - Wear clothes loose and in layers.
D - Keep clothing dry.
C – Keep clothing clean. This principle is always important for sanitation and comfort.
In winter, it is also important from the standpoint of warmth.
Clothes matted with dirt and grease lose much of their insulation value.
Heat can escape more easily from the body through the clothing’s crushed or filled up air pockets.
O – Avoid overheating. When you get too hot, you sweat and your clothing absorbs the moisture.
This affects your warmth in two ways: dampness decreases the insulation quality of clothing, and as sweat evaporates, your body cools.
Adjust your clothing so that you do not sweat.
Do this by partially opening your parka or jacket, by removing an inner layer of clothing, by removing heavy outer mittens, or by throwing back your parka hood or changing to lighter headgear.
The head and hands act as efficient heat dissipaters when overheated.
L – Wear your clothing loose and in layers. Wearing tight clothing and footgear restricts blood circulation and invites cold injury.
It also decreases the volume of air trapped between the layers, reducing its insulating value.
Several layers of lightweight clothing are better than one equally thick layer of clothing, because the layers have dead-air space between them.
The dead-air space provides extra insulation.
Also, layers of clothing allow you to take off or add clothing layers to prevent excessive sweating or to increase warmth.
D – Keep clothing dry. In cold temperatures, your inner layers of clothing can become wet from sweat and your outer layer, if not water repellent, can become wet from snow and frost melted by body heat.
Wear water repellent outer clothing, if available.
It will shed most of the water collected from melting snow and frost.
Before entering a heated shelter, brush off the snow and frost.
Despite the precautions you take, there will be times when you cannot keep from getting wet.
At such times, drying your clothing may become a major problem.
If you’re on the move, hang your damp mittens and socks on your rucksack.
Sometimes in freezing temperatures, the wind and sun will dry this clothing.
You can also place damp socks or mittens, unfolded, near your body so that your body heat can dry them.
In a campsite, hang damp clothing inside the shelter near the top, using drying lines or improvised racks.
You may even be able to dry each item by holding it before an open fire.
Dry leather items slowly.
If no other means are available for drying your boots, put them between your sleeping bag shell and liner.
Your body heat will help to dry the leather.
A heavy, down-lined sleeping bag is a valuable piece of survival gear in cold weather.
Ensure the down remains dry. If wet, it loses a lot of its insulation value.
If you do not have a sleeping bag, you can make one out of a rubbish bag (or something similar) and natural dry material, such as leaves, pine needles, or moss.
Place the dry material between two layers of the material.
Other important survival items are a knife; waterproof matches in a waterproof container, preferably one with a flint attached; a durable compass; map; watch; waterproof ground cloth and cover; flashlight; binoculars; dark glasses; fatty emergency foods; food gathering gear; and signaling items.
Remember, a cold weather environment can be very harsh.
Give a good deal of thought to selecting the right equipment for survival in the cold.
If unsure of an item you have never used, test it in an “overnight backyard” environment before venturing further.
Once you have selected items that are essential for your survival, do not lose them after you enter a cold weather environment!
With the weather getting colder in the Northern Hemisphere I think it’s the right time to give you guys they run down on one of winter biggest killers, Hypothermia.
When exposed to prolonged cold weather a person may become both mentally and physically numb, thus neglecting essential tasks or requiring more time and
effort to achieve them.
Under some conditions (particularly cold water immersion), even a person in excellent physical condition may die in a matter of minutes.
The destructive influence of cold on the body is called hypothermia.
This means bodies lose heat faster than they can produce it.
Hypothermia can occur from exposure to temperatures either above or below freezing, especially from immersion in cold water, wet-cold conditions,
or from the effect of wind.
Physical exhaustion and insufficient food intake may also increase the risk of hypothermia.
General cooling of the entire body to a temperature below 95°F is caused by continued exposure to low or rapidly dropping temperatures, cold moisture, snow, or ice.
Fatigue, poor physical condition, dehydration, faulty blood circulation, alcohol or other drug use, trauma, and immersion can cause hypothermia.
Remember, cold may affect the body systems slowly and almost without notice.
Anyone exposed to low temperatures for extended periods may suffer ill effects even if they are well protected by clothing.
Signs and Symptoms
As the body cools, there are several stages of progressive discomfort and impairment. A sign that is noticed immediately is shivering.
Shivering is an attempt by the body to generate heat and the pulse is faint or very difficult to detect.
People with temperatures around 90°F may be drowsy and mentally slow.
Their ability to move may be hampered, stiff, and uncoordinated, but they may be able to
Their speech may be slurred.
As the body temperature drops further, shock becomes evident as the person’s eyes assume a glassy state, breathing becomes slow and shallow, and the pulse becomes weaker or absent.
The person becomes very stiff and uncoordinated.
Unconsciousness may follow quickly.
As the body temperature drops even lower, the extremities freeze, and a deep (or core) body temperature (below 85°F) increases the risk of irregular heart action.
This irregular heart action or heart standstill can result in sudden death.
First Aid Measures
Except in cases of the most severe hypothermia (marked by coma or unconsciousness and a weak pulse), first aid measures for hypothermia are directed towards protecting the casualty from further loss of body heat.
For the casualty who is conscious, first aid measures are directed at rewarming the body evenly and without delay.
Provide heat by using a hot water bottle or field expedient or another person’s body heat (snuggling can save lives!!)
When using a hot water bottle or field expedient (canteen filled with warm water), the bottle or canteen must be wrapped in cloth prior to placing it next to the casualty.
This will reduce the chance of burning the casualty’s skin.
Always call or send for help as soon as possible and protect the casualty immediately with dry clothing or a sleeping bag.
Then, move him to a warm place.
In the case of an accidental breakthrough into ice water, or other hypothermic accident, strip the casualty of wet clothing immediately and bundle them into a sleeping bag.
Rescue breathing should be started at once if the casualty’s breathing has stopped or is irregular or shallow.
Warm liquids (NOT HOT) may be given gradually if the casualty is conscious.
DO NOT force liquids on an unconscious or semiconscious casualty because they may choke.
The casualty should be transported on a stretcher because the exertion of walking may aggravate circulation problems.
Hypothermia is life threatening until normal body temperature has been restored.
The first aid measures for a casualty with severe hypothermia are based upon the following principles: attempt to avoid further heat loss, handle the casualty gently, and transport the casualty as soon as possible to the nearest medical facilty.
If at all possible, the casualty should be evacuated by medical personnel.
Rewarming a severely hypothermic casualty is extremely dangerous in the field due to the possibility of such complications as rewarming, shock and disturbances in the rhythm of the heartbeat.
These conditions require treatment by medical personnel.
Resuscitation of casualties with hypothermic complications is
difficult if not impossible to do outside of an Hospital setting.
The casualty is unable to generate their own body heat.
Therefore, merely placing them in a blanket or sleeping bag is not sufficient (if you put them in a sleep bag then put either a hot water bottle in with them of climb in yourself and huddle together to share body heat).