Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Wilderness Survival
Originally published November 22, 2013

I don’t about you, but I just love a good survival story. When I read of someone who has been given an opportunity to lose a battle against nature, but then comes out on top, I want to find out how he did it. What did he do? What did he have with him that was useful in his battle against the elements? What little tidbit can I learn that I may be able to use if I’m ever in that situation?

A few weeks ago, most of the major news networks carried the story of 72 year old Gene Penaflor who had gone deer hunting in Northern California. Nineteen days earlier, Penaflor and his hunting partner split up to try to flush out a deer. A search was launched after Penaflor failed to meet up with his companion a few hours later. Unknown to his hunting partner, Penaflor had fallen and was knocked unconscious for several hours. When he woke, it was foggy and he was disoriented. According to news reports, he kept his wits about him and managed to get a small fire going and find shelter. Among the items he carried were a rifle and some ammo, two garbage bags, a knife, a lighter and a water bottle. The knife and water bottle were lost in the fall.

Although the temperature at times fell to 25 degrees, he built a small fire and sought shelter from rain and snow under a fallen tree. He also stuffed dry leaves and grass under his clothing for insulation and used the garbage bags as makeshift rain gear. His Gore-Tex boots were another key item credited with his survival.

Penaflor reported he survived by eating three squirrels, one snake, two frogs and two lizards. He simply threw them on the embers of his fire and made sure they were thoroughly cooked before he ate them.

He was rescued 19 days later by a group of hunters who heard him yelling for help. After a short stay in the hospital for observation, he was released and is reportedly doing fine.

So lets take a look at what he did that helped keep him alive. First, although he was injured and disoriented, he did not panic. He simply took stock of his situation and calmly did all the right things.

Secondly he had some things with him that were of value. A cigarette lighter probably contributed greatly in that it was a great fire starter. Not only was the fire used for warmth and companionship, but he now had a means by which to cook his food. And speaking of food, you and I might think it odd (or downright icky) to eat squirrel, snake or lizard, but we only say that because we aren’t real hungry at the moment! Never look down your well-fed nose and say you wouldn’t eat something like that just because at the moment it seems gross! Your opinion may change if you haven’t eaten for a few days.

Lastly, we get a hint of the value he places on quality equipment when we learn he was wearing Gore-Tex boots. Some life-saving decisions are made before you ever leave home!

So the next time you prepare to venture out, pause for a moment to consider what you may want to add to your pockets (or backpack) that just may increase your chances if something goes wrong.

As always, send your comments, questions or survival stories to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson