Monthly Archives: February 2015

Swimmer Rescue

Navy Search and Rescue Training

Photo by TSgt Chris Hibben

Rescue Techniques Refresher

THIS video, produced by Lifeguards Without Borders is a good introduction to lifeguard rescue techniques.

As a disclaimer and caution, the video was produced for use by lifesaving professionals. Rescuing a drowning person in the ocean is extremely risky. In the event of a drowning emergency, summon a lifeguard, call 911, throw something that floats to the drowning victim, or attempt to reach them with a long pole or stick as a last resort, in that order. Never compromise your own safety to attempt to save someone else. Lifeguards receive extensive training and have specialized equipment to deal with drowning emergencies.

Information contained on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. Please refer to our Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions before attempting any technique described herein.

The Survival Poncho and Tarp


Ponchos and Tarps

Lightweight tarps, ponchos, and poncho liners are critical must-haves for easy and effective temporary shelter. When I was climbing White Mountain a few years ago with two of my kids, the weather turned a little colder than what we had dressed for (I was in shorts in early Spring with snow still on the ground). In addition to water and my EDC, the only other item I packed for the quick 8-hour climb was a 25-year-old poncho liner and a Patagonia Houdini Jacket. If it wasn’t for that liner, it would have been much more difficult if not impossible to summit that day. The liner kept all three of us sheltered during breaks and was surprisingly warm and windproof. We simply huddled together near a rock outcropping and tucked the edges under our legs and bodies. The dark camouflage material soaked up the intermittent sun and seemed to easily shed the gale force winds blowing through valley all the way to the summit.

The “Ray-Way Tarp Book: How To Make A Tarp And Net-Tent, And Use Them In The Wilds” is a little overkill but is an excellent source of information related to tarps, their uses, and how to construct your own with lightweight materials. Be advised, the book can get expensive depending on availability (its popular among trail hikers looking to save an oz. for the AT or PCT). Link to AMZ.

Poncho. Common military ponchos are made of coated nylon and are waterproof. It can be used as a rain garment, ground cloth, or sleeping bag. It can also be used to make a shelter or tent. Two ponchos can be snapped together to make a two-person shelter. If possible, air-dry the poncho before folding it up. Ponchos can also be used as an expedient raft, hammock, or stretcher.

Back to basics for basic

Good livin’ in a two poncho shelter. US Army Photo

Ponchos and tarps are available in many styles, qualities, and features. US and German military ponchos are usually the best and least expensive. More expensive alternatives use breathable but waterproof materials. A simple waterproof layer with a strong backing, hood with draw string, and corner grommets is all you need. Large contractor grade plastic bags are an expedient alternative. Pack two or three.

Ponchos have many uses including rafts, stretchers and hammocks. See THIS post for detailed poncho raft instructions.

Best Sapper Competition 2010 Wisconsin Guard soldier a top finisher in 2013 Best Ranger Competition

Some materials degrade and waterproof coatings delaminate over time. How long depends on use and storage. Periodically inspect all water resistant equipment and replace or repair when needed.

Poncho Liner. The poncho liner is a lightweight padded panel about the same size and shape as the poncho. It can be attached to the poncho with its tie tapes and snap fasteners. It can also be used as a blanket. The liner can be hand-washed with warm soapy water. It should not be dry-cleaned.

Poncho Shelter

The poncho shelter, or tarp tent, is a reasonable shelter for most wet/semi-wet climates. This type of shelter does not provide any real insulating qualities or heat conservation. A poncho or tarp with grommetted corners (eyelets for tie down cord) works best but any sheet of waterproof material will work. Lay insulating bedding on the shelter site then string a stout length of cordage between two anchor points. This is called a ridge-line. The ridge-line should be about three feet off of the ground (approximate). If using a poncho, the hood must be “goose necked.” This is simply twisting the hood until it gathers into a tight bundle, closing the hole in the poncho for your head. Then tie the twisted bundle with any available cordage, (the drawstrings in the hood are good) so that it will not unwind.

Poncho Shelter

The poncho is draped over the ridge-line lengthwise, one half on one side, the other half on the other. The ridge-line is pulled up through the grommet, producing a loop that a small stick can inserted into. The tension on the stick (“cobbler peg”) will hold the poncho in place on the line and can be easily and quickly removed. A length of cordage can be tied to the hood of the poncho and secured to any over-head anchor point (branch or another ridge-line). This helps give the shelter sag relief during a hard rain or snow. Whittled out stakes can be driven through the grommets on the edges. This will draw the poncho down tight to the ground. If you need more room in the shelter, loops of cordage can be tied into the grommets (6-8 inches long). Stakes are driven through the loops, which raises the poncho edges off of the ground. If you are using a tarp, the corners can be twisted a few turns and cordage tied to the comers.

If Moderate to heavy rain is expected a trench six inches wide and six deep, should be dug. The trench should trace the shelter edges just at the dripline. Lead the trenches away from the shelter a few feet, preferably down hill. Drainage trenches are critical if you expect even moderate rain.

Poncho Lean-To

The poncho lean-to is another method that can be used in rains or heavy morning dew. The lean-to can be constructed from any large piece of sheet material (plastic, canvas, etc.) Natural insulation should be laid down for bedding. Two anchor points are selected and a ridge-line is tied about 3 feet off of the ground. The poncho is then secured to the ridge-line, with “cobblers pegs.” Stretch the poncho out to full length and stake it down to the ground. If the ground is rocky and you are unable to drive a stake, tie a 6-8 inch loop of cordage through the grommet. Place a stake through the loop, then lay the stake flat on the ground. Now place a large rock on top of the stake and the cordage.

Expedient poncho shelter. Photo by MC1 Roger Duncan.

A fence can be used for the ridge-line because this shelter can be entered from the sides. Of course the cobblers pegs cannot be used with the barbed wire, so it will need to be secured with cordage at the grommets. The shelter can be constructed without the ridge-line, by placing the edge of the poncho on a solid object (log, dirt mound, tailgate, etc.) and weighting down the comers with rocks.

Using a length of cordage, goose-neck the poncho hood and pull out the sag in the middle of the shelter. Attach the hood line to any close anchor point. If you don’t have an anchor point for the hood, two stout ridgepoles can be used. Cross the ridgepoles and lash them together with the hood line, then lean them out and away from the shelter. The pole’s weight will pull the sag out of the poncho. If the poles are stout enough and lean out at a steep enough angle from the shelter, they will weather most storm conditions.

Information contained on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. Please refer to our Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions before attempting any technique described herein.

Being Shot

Photo by Sgt. Bobby Yarbrough

“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”

Winston Churchill

From the Fire Pit:

“Let me offer my perspective on being shot. I feel that if you have some idea of what to expect, you have a much better chance of survival.

I have been shot. I have friends that have been shot and I have seen the results of several gun-shot wounds of various calibers. After much comparing of notes and discussion, this is what we feel you can reasonably expect to experience if you find yourself in this situation. This is not a first-aid course so I will not go into the “fixing your shit after you get shot” stuff here. My only intent is to help you survive the initial attack by providing information on the first few critical minutes and maintaining the warrior mindset. Knowing what to expect has kept me alive in several instances, and my colleagues here tonight probably echo that statement.

The first rule of surviving a gun-shot wound is not to get fucking shot. Use your training and judgment to avoid it at all costs. Period.

The second rule of surviving a gun-shot wound is to forget what you’ve seen on T.V. or heard from the friend of a friend about gun fights. People don’t fly through the air or get thrown ten feet back unless you are hit by a .50 or something bigger. If you do get hit with a .50, just throw away the body part it hit and prepare to meet your maker.

Most victims of small arms do not even immediately fall down. It’s anti-climactic; many do not even know they are hit if there is some excitement going on. THE GAME AIN’T OVER just because someone is hit with small arms. The Human body can handle tremendous amounts of damage. I personally feel that unless the victim is dead, he/she is a viable threat. And you should be the deadliest fucker still alive if you are wounded and are still faced with a threat.

The first time I was shot, it was in the hand with a .38. I was diving toward the perp from 10 feet away in an attempt to decrease his angle of fire. I knew he was pulling the trigger. I knew that if I ran he would shoot me several times in the back. I also knew what I am telling you now…that unless you are killed you are still a viable threat. The Bullet hit the palm of my hand at the base of my thumb and went right through…deflecting the bullet upward just enough to put a burn over my scalp. I did not even know I was hit…the guy never got off a second shot, the struggle was a struggle but the one thing remember was the stunned look on his face when I put my knife into his gut. My weapon was emptied on his buddies and I had no time to reload. Everyone lived because rescue was right there.

When I found the hole through my hand I gave myself first-aid and called the ambulance (the officer with me curled up, went into shock and had to be hospitalized; she wasn’t hit by anything at all). That brings me to some other points…you WILL experience shock. If you can keep your head after the fact, you have several advantages, believe it or not, and a good chance of living and winning.

If you are lucky, the shooter will think you are out of the picture when they nail you. They go on to the next target and are scanning for immediate threats. Get ready, you are in for an adrenaline smack that will literally make you feel like Superman. We are talking strength and speed like you have never known. Those are your advantages…it’s up to you what you do with them now that you know, but I STRONGLY recommend that you do SOMETHING other than lay there and wait to bleed to death.

In Iraq, I was shot in the Leg and hip several times by a 7.62 X 39…I knew something was wrong but it did not dawn on me that I was hit. I just couldn’t seem to keep my feet under me long enough to stand up. I thought I had tripped over something and fell into a patch of oil. Even so, once I figured out that the oil was my blood and that I was hit, I managed to still return some sort of effective fire until help arrived. Expect to feel “detached” for a few moments…this feeling will come and go but is greatest after the threat is over.

KEEP CALM OR YOU MAY DIE. FEAR is the mind killer. If hit in an extremity, the limb may not work…so expect that and practice off hand shooting, shooting prone, etc. Usually there is no initial pain…that comes later. And it will come. You MAY feel a tingling…but I doubt it unless you are really the Ricky Ranger type. As stated before, expect a MAJOR adrenaline rush… this may cause you to overcompensate when you return fire, but for a minute or so you are going to be stronger than you would ever believe possible. You can also expect your thinking to be very, very clear and quick…if you remain calm and decide you want it to be (and you had BETTER want it to be). Think it, and your body WILL respond.

If you are hit in a major organ or nerve center…and the bastard is within arm’s length, at least grab the bastard by the throat, hair, or balls and take him with you…make them have to pry your fingers out of his eyes or your knife out of his chest.

Your stomach may feel cold and it may hurt terribly after the initial threat is over… it may even feel as if you have been “gut shot”. Your whole body may feel different. Inspect. Be sure you are not bleeding out anywhere else, but remember that this is normal.

This will not be a walk in the park…in just a few minutes you will have to deal with all kinds of complications…I am only trying to let you see that God gave us, and a few other predators, POWERFUL survival mechanisms to help give us an edge. Most prey animals don’t have these mechanisms…just watch National Geographic. Don’t be prey. Don’t waste the edge by allowing fear or confusion to take over.”

Information contained on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. Please refer to our Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions before attempting any technique described herein.