Scouting magazine

Faced with a survival situation? Use the Survivorman Zones of Assessment

It’s easy to imagine a survival situation: dumping a canoe in a set of rapids, falling off a cliff or simply getting lost. What comes next is not as simple. Your decisions could be a matter of life or death.

First and foremost, take a breather. Calming down enables you to make a decision and take action. Acting without considering your options is foolhardy at best and will likely lead to disaster.

The “Survivorman Zones of Assessment” can help you make the best decisions in the face of adversity. Here’s how to use them with the sample scenario of getting lost. 

Zone 1

Your Body and Clothes

Start with yourself:

Calm down.

Are you hurt?

Are you tired or hungry?

What clothes are you wearing?

What do you have in your pockets?

If you are not alone, repeat this process so everyone checks out their own Zone 1 and you can determine what the group has collectively.

Your Assessment:

I am wearing a backpack that contains extra clothes, one sandwich and half a bottle of water. I have an energy bar in my pocket and a small knife, and I’m wearing good boots. I do not have a flashlight or any signalling devices. I have lots of energy and no one is injured, but my friend Brian is not physically fit and lost all his gear.

Zone 2

Your Immediate Vicinity

This is the surrounding area of a few thousand square feet.

Do you have a tent?

A canoe?

Do you have any food or water or other items in packs?

What is lying around you? Firewood? An all-terrain vehicle with half a tank of gas?

What can you glean from your immediate surroundings? Can you rip or break something apart to aid you? For example, can you make protective insulated boots out of your car or boat seats?

Your Assessment:

The three of us have one tent and two sleeping bags, no group food, a small first-aid kit and one lighter.

Zone 3

Your Extended Area

This is up to a couple of miles away.

How far are you from safety?

Do you know of anything not too far away that can help you, like a cabin?

Which direction is safety, and how difficult will it be for each individual to get there?

What are the challenges to getting to safety and can you overcome them easily?

Does anyone know you are there and, if so, how long will it be before they attempt a rescue?

How soon can you move … if you can move?

Do you know these answers to be absolutely true?

Your Assessment:

There is a highway one mile to the east if we walk in a straight line, but I don’t know what the terrain is like. No one at home is expecting to hear from us for at least four days. I remember we passed a cabin about half a mile back, and with it being only noon right now, I know for sure we can get to it for the night.

Using the “Survivorman Zones of Assessment,” it took less than two minutes to assess your situation, learn the facts and help you make a plan that should get you to safety as quickly as possible. This is called proactive survival — the only kind of survival there is.

Les Stroud, aka Survivorman, is an award-winning TV producer, director, host and author of Survive!, a best-selling manual on survival. Learn more about Survivorman by visiting survivormantv.com, a subscription-based web portal for all things survival and adventure.