Friday, December 31, 2010

The Rule of 3

When we speak about survival and self rescue in the Canadian wilderness we quite often talk about the importance of fire.  The ability to start and maintain a fire in a wilderness survival emergency is arguably the most important skill that you can have that may save your life.

When I discuss this survival skill with people I will often ask what they carry with them when they travel into the winter wonderland that will help them start a fire.  The responses are varied but include the usual responses:

  • lighter
  • matches
  • waterproof matches
  • magnesium and flint
  • ferro rod
  • etc.,
However, very rarely do I receive a response that includes more than one of the above.  So it begs the question - Do you trust your life with that single source of ignition ?.

Your ability to make fire is directly related to your training, confidence and preparation.  If you are like many a lost person, you will be located by a search and rescue team who will observe no fire, no attempt at signal, and no prepared shelter.  Yet that same search and rescue team will find that you possess many of the items necessary to survive and self rescue but failed to train or prepare for your winter emergency.

The Rule of 3 applies to many things in life, and your ability to start and maintain fire is no different.

During advanced winter survival courses you may find yourself lucky enough to complete cold water submersion.  A requirement for all highly skilled Search and Rescue Teams around this Country.  Cold water submersion forces the student to break through the ice into the icy cold water of a lake or river at which time they must self rescue and pull themselves out of the water.  Once out of the water the real clock starts ticking.  Your body has but a precious few minutes to start a fire that can save you from immediate hypothermia and sure death.

During these cold water submersion tests the student will learn very quickly that the necessity to start fire becomes a life and death situation.  

Take it from me, when you pull your freezing cold, soaking wet body from the water and the bitter wind strikes against your hands you will be rendered near useless.  This is not the time to realize that your rotary wheel lighter requires fine motor skills, which are gone, or that your water proof matches won't strike and light against the soaking wet match box.

So now is the time to prepare.  If you snowmobile, cross country ski, hike, snowshoe, etc. in the Canadian Wilderness you will at some point cross a river, creek, stream, or lake.  The danger is very real.  Remember the Rule of 3 and carry with you 3 implements to start fire.  Practise with them, submerge them in icy water and see how they perform.  Submerge your hands in icy water and see how they perform.

A real life survival emergency is not the time nor the place to find out that your gucci $60 butane jet fuel lighter does not work.

Take a flint or ferro rod striker, cotton balls dipped in Vaseline, and some waterproof strike anywhere matches and place them in a Ziploc bag.  Keep them in your pocket and hope  never to have to use them. 

But be prepared to !                      

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