An Everyday Survival Guide for Personal Emergencies and Trauma

Not every emergency situation is a disastrous catastrophe that requires you to run for your Bug Out Location (BOL). We’ve covered what to do after widespread disasters in this article on the first 24-hours Post-Disaster.

dark alley

In reality, it’s more likely that you will experience or be impacted more frequently by what we will define as a personal emergency or personal trauma.

Personal emergencies are those unpredictable and unsettling events that occur and typically only impact a small group of people. They come seemingly out of nowhere, and often you and possibly your family members, might be the only ones affected by the event.

Personal emergencies are things such as:

Car and motorcycle accidentsMajor traffic jams
Electric shockDrowning
Rabid dog attacksCarbon monoxide poisoning
House firesBike accidents
Hiking AccidentsBoating Accidents
Street fightsAccidental falls, and cuts
Gun accidents Power Outages
Snake and spider bitesChemical Spills
Heat WavesAssault
MuggingsPetty Theft
Home InvasionsThunderstorms
Ice stormsAvalanches
Minor FloodingFainting
SeizuresArmed Robbery

Although none of the above personal emergencies and traumas can be predicted or absolutely avoided even with preparation, there are things that you can do to prevent the likelihood that you will be a victim.

And there are also things you can do that will lessen the severity of damage to you and family members if you are a victim of an accident or crime.

See the list of entries below for how to prepare for and respond to the most common emergencies.

Top Personal Emergencies and How to Survive Them

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an entirely common ailment that is considered little more than a “bad day” or rough weekend.

Thanks to modern medicine and medical care, most cases are not severe enough to warrant an intervention.

But the actual consequences are far more serious when you don’t have access to good medical care or are already injured, compromised or just elderly.

Staying hydrated is essential but very difficult since victims are often suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. Mass loss of electrolytes will create additional trouble in the body that can spiral into worse effects.

Dealing with serious food poisoning is done by treating the symptoms: Medications to assist with nausea, drinking plenty of water and occasional electrolyte solutions as needed.

In the most severe instances, an IV might be required. Could you administer an IV to save someone if you had no other option? 

Choking

When food or a foreign object in the windpipe impedes or stops breathing, choking occurs.

Every year, there are countless instances of choking, but happily you never hear of most of them since victims are rescued or the choking is averted.

Almost everyone has experienced choking at some point, even if it isn’t severe, but that does not mean it is not deadly serious. 

You should learn the signs and symptoms of choking so you can respond quickly if another person displays them.

The Heimlich Maneuver is the designated response for reducing (stopping) choking. You should understand how to use it for both adults and children, as well as yourself in an emergency situation.

Another good, modern option is a de-choking tool or mask, a valve-operated device that can swiftly and safely extract stuck objects from the windpipe.

Falls

Falls can happen for any number of reasons, and even though they might be grimly funny to onlookers, the consequences rarely are.

Loose objects, slippery ice, untied shoes, gravel and more can all cause falls from standing height. Uncontrolled falls and stumbles can result in injuries like fractures, strains, and sprains.

A blow to the head might result in a concussion or even a fractured skull, both of which are serious medical emergencies. A fall from a greater height, such as from a ladder or rooftop, sets the scene for severe injury or death. 

You should learn how to evaluate the most prevalent injuries caused by falls, and splint or sling fractures as appropriate. Victims with suspected head or neck injuries should not be moved unless there is no choice.

Do you know how to immobilize someone’s neck or head with improvised materials? Can you use a litter to move them without aggravating an injury if necessary?

Lesser injuries from falls can be treated with compresses, wraps and pain medication.

Homestead and Farm Accidents

There is a nearly limitless variety of injurious or potentially deadly accidents that could occur in your home or on your homestead.

Slips and falls are common. Power tools often get away from users. Farm implements and heavy equipment routinely cause injuries.

And not to be forgotten, sometimes our animal friends and livestock put their teeth, horns, and hooves to ill-tempered use. 

Accidents of this type may be minor or serious, but they are often made more serious by how far away you are likely to be from help.

This means it is important you have basic first-aid training and a well-stocked first-aid kit with trauma supplies nearby pretty much at all times, especially when you are in the field away from others.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

CO poisoning is a stealthy but certain killer. CO is readily generated as an inevitable byproduct of combustion when most substances are burned.

An odorless, tasteless, colorless and generally undetectable gas in nature that can kill quickly in sufficient concentrations. CO gas is commonly emitted by your car, fireplace, gas range, gas furnace and other fuel-burning items in and around your home.

Malfunction and misuse often result in dangerous accumulations of the stuff. Never, ever use outdoor heaters or grills to heat or cook inside your home or any other enclosed space.

CO causes nausea and headaches in victims prior to the onset of generalized flu-like feelings and symptoms.

It also seriously impairs mental functions, with coordination and coherency suffering as a result. If a victim passes out in a place full of carbon monoxide, they will almost certainly die.

Your home and business must be equipped CO alarms and you should be familiar with CO poisoning symptoms so that you can identify them and work fast to save your own life or someone else’s. Removing victims to fresh air is generally your only option. 

House Fires

Fire is one of humanity’s oldest tools, yet we have never truly mastered it. This most elemental of man’s technologies will turn on you given half a chance and when it does it is always a major emergency.

House fires claim many tens of thousands of lives all around the world every single year, and inflict  billions of dollars worth of damage.

Because they may spread rapidly across and through a structure in mere minutes, they cut off escape routes and turn the air into a toxic miasma, commonly trapping and killing victims.

You should have a family fire escape plan drilled for dealing with and escaping a house fire, as well as several properly rated and maintained fire extinguishers in your home.

A fire extinguisher won’t do much against a proper blaze, but it might put out a small accidental fire before it grows too large, or allow you to escape past a fire.

Tornadoes

A tornado is the most powerful wind storm on earth,  with sustained winds up to 300 miles per hour.

The force of such winds can easily toss automobiles and train cars, flatten hardened buildings, and turn trivial objects into lethal projectiles.

tornado ravaging a city

While tornadoes do occur in most places on Earth, they are far more common in the United States, particularly certain regions of the Great Plains and Southwest. Any tornado warning is an emergency, and might prove to be a major disaster if it strikes a populated area.

Early warning, appropriate shelter, and having the correct supplies on hand for coping with the aftermath are all mandatory in tornado country. You should know where the best and closest shelter is at any given time.

The most powerful tornadoes can annihilate entire towns leaving many victims in the aftermath. It’s critical to have preparations in the form of food, shelter and first-aid supplies.

Ice Storm

Ice storms and blizzards are harsh cold weather events common in the far northern regions, but they may also occur in areas where people least expect them.

When the temperature drops far enough ahead of a weather front, a blizzard or ice storm may result. High winds, plummeting temps and serious precipitation may result in death by exposure if you are outdoors for even a little while.

Snow and ice accumulation can render roads and bridges impassible, collapse roofs and even topple trees.

Your best bet is fleeing before a blizzard arrives. Otherwise you’ll need to be prepared to hunker down and shelter in place.

Without a specialized snow-going vehicle you won’t be going anywhere!  Food, water, medicine, and hygiene supplies should all be on hand in abundance.

Power outages are all but certain, so stock up on sleeping bags and blankets to stay warm inside your home.

Car Wreck

In the United States and around the globe, automobile collisions are an everyday occurrence, but even so hundreds of thousands still get severely injured and many victims die.

Thousands of pounds of metal rolling down the streets propelled by several hundred horsepower means impact forces are enormous, both for people inside the car and for anything it strikes.

Injuries are harrowing, and run the gamut from lacerations and fractures to internal injuries and dismemberment. 

Avoiding and preparing for vehicle accidents should be your top priority since they are so prevalent and so very dangerous.

Keeping basic essentials with you in the vehicle at all times is mandatory, including a trauma kit and escape tool. Knowing how to safely get yourself and your passengers out of your vehicle before treating any severe injuries should be your focus.

Car Breakdown

Getting stranded on the roadside in a remote or dangerous area puts you and everyone else in the vehicle in danger, especially if you cannot reach anyone on your phone or radio.

People who get stranded in this way are vulnerable to exposure, accident and the predations of psychos that might take advantage of the situation. 

You can’t really do much to prevent all breakdowns but you can work to mitigate their effects with the right preps.

Make things easier on yourself by keeping your automobile maintained at regular service intervals and by learning how to change a tire and perform basic repairs. Filling a go-bag with basic survival supplies and select tools is also smart.

fire extinguisher antifreeze reflective vest hammer gloves duct tape
fire extinguisher, antifreeze, reflective vest, hammer, gloves, duct tape, and more inside a car’s trunk

Also, make it a point to let trusted friends or family know what your plans are by filing your itinerary with them anytime you are traveling a long distance or into remote areas on lesser used roads. 

Hypothermia

One of the most common causes of death for people who go outside is exposure, particularly hypothermia due to cold temps.

The stories of people getting caught outside when the weather turns for the worse or after becoming lost are virtually countless.

No matter what you are doing, no matter how safe and sure, the weather conditions can turn against you in a blink. When your core body temperature starts dropping, your life is officially on the line.

When heading out for any activity where you might be trapped outside by circumstances or accident, you must have appropriate clothing with you to ward off precipitation or dropping temperatures.

Even if you were going out for an easy half day hike, it is highly recommended that you keep a small survival kit with you that will allow you to create shelter and make a fire.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is another type of exposure, and occurs when the body’s capacity to cool itself is unable to deal with the heat load. Heatstroke usually occurs when conditions feature high humidity, and extreme heat combined with sustained physical activity.

Victims first become nauseous, and experience headaches, then rapidly progress to cramps, vomiting, and eventually disorientation and coma. Organ failure follows soon after.

Avoiding heatstroke is mostly a matter of avoiding physical activity in hot weather or during the hottest part of the day and making a point of rehydrating constantly.

Recognizing early symptoms of heat exhaustion is imperative for preventing disaster before it’s too late. Cool compresses, shade and preventing shock is vital for treatment efforts. If you succumb to heatstroke in any place where there is no help, death is likely.

Blackout

Blackouts can be an emergency unto themselves or an effect caused by a greater disaster. In any case, when electricity is unavailable, the effects on society at large are terrible.

Without electricity, communication networks go down leaving you isolated and unable to call for help, refrigeration stops, spoiling food, and of course all the lights go out. All together this makes it very difficult to survive without power.

You must be fully prepared for blackouts pretty much at all times: food, water, shelter supplies, plenty of flashlights, and so on.

Establishing a family plan for how you will handle things and proceed if separated is important. Weapons are also an important part of a blackout kit since criminal activity frequently surges during blackouts.

Electric Shock

Electric shocks can come from many sources in everyday life. Downed power lines, faulty appliances, energized water- any surface, item or material that is currently electrified can deliver an injurious, even fatal, shock.

Power lines falling down or dropping live lines is a frequent occurrence in major disasters, meaning you’ll always need to be on guard for shock in the aftermath of a major event.

Effects of electric shock include severe burns, cardiac arrest and coma. You must know how to safely intervene if you suspect someone has fallen victim to electric shock from a live source in the vicinity.

If you don’t want to become a victim yourself proper procedure and safety is paramount. After a victim receives a major shock, CPR will be required in most cases so you had better know how to perform it. 

Lightning Strike

A typical electric shock is bad enough, but electricity can do so much worse. Whether in the woods, in the middle of a city, on a mountaintop or standing in your own driveway, a single bolt of lightning can change your life in a flash.

Lightning is perhaps the most iconic and vivid display of raw power in the natural world, and accordingly being struck, though highly unlikely, will almost certainly leave you unconscious, singed and near death. 

Lightning strike injuries are often deadly and even if you survive the effects and wounds are difficult to treat. Lightning strikes on people are quite rare, but certain activities significantly raise the probability.

Things like standing on a hill or near a tall tree, carrying long metal objects or being exposed on the surface of the water.

If you have to work in a thunderstorm or cannot take meaningful shelter, be cautious and keep in mind that lightning may hit locations far outside the visible edge of a storm front.

Accidental Gunshot Wound

If you regularly practice shooting or just own a gun, you’re far more likely to be shot unintentionally than you are to be murdered by a bad guy.

While you may relentlessly drill yourself to be as safe as possible when handling a firearm, you can’t see all ends or prevent all accidents from happening, particularly while someone else is handling a gun.

Dealing with a gunshot wound, or GSW, necessitates quick thinking and and having proper medical supplies on hand. To stop blood loss you’ll need a trauma kit that includes tourniquets, chest seals, plenty of bandages, hemostatic gauze and more.

More importantly, you need training and experience!

You must be medically trained on the topic if you want to intervene successfully. After that, rushing the victim, or yourself, to higher level care and surgery is the only recourse.

Mugging

Mugging is a serious problem anywhere that a criminal decided he wants what you have, and is willing to injure or kill you to get it.

Compared to common theft, mugging is a violent act in which your goods are taken from you by the explicit threat, or use, of violence.

The interaction is clear enough: your valuables, or your life. Complying with the mugger may be enough to avoid harm, but can still result in significant injuries or death.

Mugging is on the rise due to recent decreases in the rule of law and police presence, and can be expected in most major cities or high-crime areas.

If you’re alert enough and detect pre-mugging indicators in time, avoiding being mugged might be easy enough.

But when you are actually jumped and mugged you must decide whether to comply or try and fight back. Self-defense skills are essential, as is having defensive weapons. 

Rioting

Rioting looks like it will just be a part of life from here on out, even in formerly peaceful and prosperous places.

Participants, motivated by inflamed passions about change or some other ideology seek to disrupt, damage and destroy as much as they can in order to draw attention to their cause or force local governments to comply with their demands. Riots are fast forming, fast moving, and extremely hard to predict.

riot

This makes assessing and protecting yourself or your property a dicey prospect.

Rioters often attack people who are defenseless, commit arson and much more under the anonymous protection of a mob, and often seek to do so wherever the eye of public opinion is aimed.

To stay safe when a riot breaks out, learn to avoid the most high activity areas. More people means more problems, namely in the risk of violence or police presence.

If you find yourself caught up in or approaching a riot, your best bet is to get away by any means necessary. Never attempt to fight through a crowd if you can avoid it.

If you’re caught up in the middle of a rapidly emerging riot, emulate the calls and activities of the rioters until you can get to the fringes and slip away.

If you or anyone else with you gets wounded by rioters, having medical supplies close at hand will be of benefit. Basic trauma equipment kept on your person or in your vehicle is a 

Road Rage Encounter

The automotive mayhem just does not stop. Sometimes, drivers just go crazy, or they were crazy before they climbed into their own cars.

These loons could grow furious because they think you cut them off, or didn’t let them move over because you failed to signal, or for any number of other reasons.

These drivers often behave erratically, driving recklessly and even ramming into you in order to intimidate or harm you.

When stopped, road ragers frequently get out of their vehicles in an attempt to hurt or kill whoever is the subject of their ire. Weapons often come out.

The best thing you can do to avoid being made the latest victim of an insane driver is to keep cool and simply get away from the crazy person driving near you.

Call the cops for help and don’t wait. If you are followed or unable to get away, stay in your car and make ready to defend yourself with whatever you have at hand.

Carry an EDC

One of the most effective things you can do to prepare for everyday personal emergency events is to have an everyday carry kit or EDC kit.

Your EDC kit or gear are items you put on your person every morning and take off just before bed. Having these items with you, on your person, at all times is what differentiates your EDC kit from other gear.

EDC kit: phone, wallet, cash, multi-tool, watch, tactical pen, folding knife
EDC kit: phone, wallet, cash, multi-tool, watch, tactical pen, folding knife

EDC gear can assist you or someone else during a personal emergency or trauma. Rather than being stored all in one bag, EDC items are carried in different places on your body or clothing.

You can use your wallet or purse, around your neck, wrist, ankle, waist, in your shoe, for EDC items. Take advantage of pants and shirt pockets, jacket pockets, and even hidden pockets to carry your items discreetly and comfortably.

An EDC kit comes in handy for little inconveniences, like opening stubborn packaging, patching a radiator hose or cracked washing machine hose, and repairing your glasses or your son’s bike tire. I guarantee that you will rely on some pieces of your EDC gear on an everyday basis.

An EDC kit is also helpful in accident scenarios because it means you can quickly do things such as cut jammed seatbelts or car seat straps, break glass, and even administer basic first aid.

In a tough encounter, your EDC kit may mean that you can fend off a potential attacker, or quickly signal for help from passersby.

In some cases, having an EDC kit or not having one, could actually be the difference between life and death for you or someone close to you.

And the bonus is that in a more serious SHTF situation, your EDC kit can help you to filter water, signal for help, start a fire, communicate with family, defend yourself, open jammed or locked doors, or break into vending machines.

Basic EDC Items

I’ve included some of the very basic EDC items in the list below:

  • Whistle (worn around your neck but tucked beneath your shirt for example)
  • Paracord bracelet, anklet, or shoe laces
  • Cell Phone
  • Keys
  • An EDC knife (typically a sturdy folding knife)
  • Mini-flashlight
  • Key chain Multi-tools
  • Extra cash and coins (for vending machines that still work)
  • Mini First Aid Kit (FAK)

For more ideas on items that can be included in an EDC kit and more ideas about where to carry them discreetly, check out our EDC gear mega-list.

If you are one of those folks that just don’t wear clothes with a lot of pockets, such as cargo pants, if you’re attending a formal event like a wedding, or if you just can’t carry only select EDC items and feel well prepared, you can consider one of the smaller, more discreet EDC bags on this list.

The key is that your EDC gear or kit should be comfortable enough to have it on your person at all times. It should be discreet enough to not raise eyebrows from co-workers, clerks, and others around you.

Get creative when looking for or making your gear. It’s not very hard to create your own mini first aid kit from your larger kit.

Use an Altoid tin or an old pill bottle to keep like items together. Look for smaller sized items such as mini-flashlights, a Swiss army knife, and mini-tools that will attach to your keychain.

Tips and Practices For Everyday Survival

Follow Safety Precautions and Procedures

Another way to prevent accidents or to help lessen the damage that you experience if you are involved in an accident is to know and follow safety precautions and procedures.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the majority of people who drown were those who were not wearing flotation devices at the time of the event.

Basically, do all the things your mother nags you about. Wear your seatbelt, don’t text and drive, don’t drive under the influence, take a defensive driving class, and a winter driving class, etc.

If you’re a boat or motorcycle owner or you’re going hiking, make sure you follow safety guidelines. Wear a helmet, don’t go hiking if there’s a storm coming, etc.

The same is true for things like assault, petty theft, home invasions, or muggings. It is most certainly not your fault if you are a victim of one of these crimes.

The blame is clearly with the criminals. But there are things you can do to stay safe and lessen the chance you will be their target.

Know the proper way to protect yourself, your family, and your home for any type of weather related event that could potentially affect your area. If you are in a hurricane prone region, cut boards in advance.

Take precautions when using candles or alternative forms of heat indoors. Make sure you and your family members know where the nearest storm shelters are located and what to do for each type of weather emergency.

Avoid or Leave Dangerous Situations

Another way to avoid problem situations or lessen their impact for you is to stay alert and up to date on what is happening around you. One of the keys to staying out of trouble and dodging danger is having advanced or early warning.

You need to have enough time to get out of an area before the real danger begins, avoid being a target of criminals, or to protect yourself and home during weather related events.

Sensing a dangerous situation is only possible when you stay oriented and free of distractions that can steal your focus, like your cell phone, kids fighting in the back seat, headphones, etc.

If you are distracted, little things will happen all around you without you noticing. If you are paying attention, if you are able to be situationally aware, you will notice little warning signs before anything really bad hits.

You will notice that car with tinted windows parked across from the ATM as you approach, you will notice the temperature drop and the sky darken rapidly, you will hear the footsteps behind you, the argument escalating in the corner of the bar, or the neighbor’s dog start barking as a dark figure darts through their yard to yours.

Noticing these little warning signs gives you precious moments to prepare for trouble or leave before it impacts you.

Know Your Local Area

I cannot stress enough the importance of staying oriented and knowing where you are in relation to your home or to community resources (police, fire, etc.) at any given time.

Do NOT rely solely on your GPS to get around. This is important because you just NEVER know for sure when something can go amiss. If you sense danger and need immediate assistance, you don’t want to waste precious time running in the wrong direction.

Take Steps to Defend Yourself and Belongings

Make sure you include ways to defend yourself as part of your EDC gear. In my opinion, every adult and every child over the age of eight years old should take some type of self-defense training.

In today’s society, no matter where you travel, you can be a potential target to be pickpocketed, raped, kidnapped, assaulted or mugged, or worse.

In a SHTF scenario, criminals are more aggressive, and more people will be willing to go to desperate lengths to secure things they need to survive.

Being able to defend yourself is critical to your safety. Your home is your castle. There has never been a truer statement. And it’s crucial to fortify your house like a castle.

But your house is useless if you can’t stay safe while you are out and about town. Your EDC gear should ideally include a gun. If that seems over the top for you, at least carry and be familiar with several non-lethal methods for thwarting an attacker, including pepper spray.

Become a Gray Man or Woman

The best way to avoid a fight is not to be in one, right?  The same is true for dangerous situations. The best way to avoid a confrontation is to blend in, keep a low profile, and not draw attention to yourself or your family.

Accidents are generally non-discriminatory. Wearing a camouflage backpack won’t increase the odds that you’re in a car accident.

But, it is helpful to learn how to become a gray man or woman, so that you can lessen the chances that you will be selected as a target by criminals, by desperate people trying to feed themselves, or by government officials.

Prepare for Worst-Case Scenarios

Once you are in the habit of carrying your EDC kit or gear every single day, at all times, it’s time to start thinking about and preparing for trouble on a larger scale. There may come a time when your EDC gear just isn’t enough to get you through a longer term or wider scale disaster scenario.

One way to be a little more prepared is to gather items for a car bug out bag or car BOB. This is a bag that would contain additional gear and items, including items to make minor repairs to your vehicle. Your car BOB should be customized for your situation and family size.

It’s also good practice to have a Get Home Bag or GHB. A get home bag is a slightly larger bag, still discreet and plain, that you use to carry additional items.

You keep your GHB within easy reach at all times. Hang it on a hook in your office or set it on the floor under your desk. There are many different kinds of bags to choose from for your GHB.

So, take some time this week to prepare your EDC kit. Get in the habit of putting on your EDC gear each and every morning, no matter what is planned for your day.

It will make those little inconveniences less inconvenient. And the next time you experience a personal emergency or trauma like the ones listed above, your EDC gear might just save your life or the life of someone else.

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