You can read all you want about survival and emergency preparedness, but unless you practice your skills, chances are you’ll never be ready for when it hits the fan. Testing your survival drills should become an important part of your prepping plans as it will help you challenge yourself for a real life scenario.
Reading magazines, books and all sorts of articles online are great ways to start with emergency preparedness. Discussing with friends and instructors to learn basic survival skills is a good way to gain confidence and support, but it shouldn’t end there. Testing your survival drills and practicing the things you’ve read or heard of in real-life situations is mandatory. You will be able to put your knowledge to the test, you will be able to learn from your mistakes and it will provide you with a feeling of accomplishment that few things can offer. The feeling you get after doing something right, even though you assumed it will be too complicated for you and your skills.
Survival drills and the stages of competency
There are some survival experts that talk about the theory of learning and how it could help with your survival drills. There are four stages of competence and they can be applied to any learning process, regardless the scope behind it. Here are the four stages of competency and a simple example for testing your survival skills:
- Unconsciously incompetent. This is the first stage of any learning process and you will quickly realize that you don’t know you can’t do something and even more, you don’t have enough information to realize what you don’t know. Give someone a Ferrocerium rod and ask him or her to start a fire. Most beginners won’t know they need a fire striker, like steel to begin with, yet alone that they need proper tinder and a fire setup. Testing your survival drills is almost impossible during this stage and any attempt should be done in a controlled environment.
- Consciously incompetent. The second stage of learning implies that a person knows just enough to realize he or she doesn’t know enough about the topic. The person knows that besides the ferrocerium rod, a striker and tinder is needed, but things get complicated. How to hold the rod, how to strike it and what should be the proper stance are all unknown factors. Testing your survival drills under this stage is possible and it’s considered to be the tipping point in your learning curve.
- Consciously competent. When someone reaches this stage, it is implied that he or she already knows how to do the skill and there are no more secrets to discover. However, this stage is governed by the time and effort needed to complete the skill. This is the stage most people find themselves in and it’s basically the testing process itself. You test your survival drills and whit each passing session you improve your skills (gathering tinder, striking movements, tinder lighting duration, etc.).
- Unconsciously competent. This learning stage is the one we are all aiming for and it’s the culmination of all your time and effort put into testing your survival drills. If you are able to reach this stage, things will go on auto-pilot. After testing your skills numerous times, you will get the hang of it and everything you do comes naturally. You have tinder readily-available, you made you fire-setup based on your needs and you are able to start a fire as fast as the situation requires it.
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These are the learning stages you will go through every time you learn something new, regardless if it’s a computer application for your job or a survival skill you would need for your prepping plans. Every time you read an article or watch a video about a survival topic, you are in stage one. Your goal should be to go up and reach stage four as soon as possible, if that topic is essential for your prepping plans.
Testing your survival drills in real-life situations
Logic dictates that you should go out and use the new knowledge you acquired in a practice scenario. After all, it is the only way to discover how much you learned and how much is just residual information. However, you shouldn’t rush out into the woods without thinking it through and it’s better to have a safety net.
If you decide you want to test your skills into the wilderness, never try a new skill for the first time more than 10 miles away from your car. Make sure you are able to get back to it, in case something happens. Another alternative would be to test your survival drills in your backyard or at a local campsite. Even if you screw up, you can always get back to safety without the risk or getting lost or injured.
It is advised to accompany an experienced friend that has the same interests as you. An experience survivalist or prepper can mentor you as you practice your new skills and provide you with tips learned on the field. Learning by seeing and doing under experienced watch is one of the best ways of acquiring new skills.
You can also take classes that include survival and bushcraft hands-on practice as these classes are designed to handle both beginners and experienced preparedness likeminded people.
Try everything, regardless how trivial it might seem. Most people concentrate only on certain survival drills or skills and they won’t try out everything they plan on doing in a SHTF scenario. Only by actually practicing the skills you plan on using for your prepping scenarios you will discover the hidden challenges it holds. Don’t buy expensive gear that you don’t know how to use. Don’t stock up on items that you can’t cook with and don’t take things for granted.
Keeping your skills fresh is a must and you will be able to rely on them to protect and provide for yourself and those who depend on you. People tend to get lazy and rusty overtime as they acquire the “know it-all comfort”. You might be unconsciously competent when it comes to your survival drills, but you should always keep things fresh by challenging yourself and shaking of the rust.
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A few suggestions for testing your survival drills:
- Moving to your bug out location
- Spending a night in the woods with your bug out bag
- Sleeping outside under bad weather
- Cooking without modern means, both at home and in the wild
- Build up various type of fire
- Getting from point A to point B only using your map and compass. Return to point B using alternative routes.
- Setting up a shelter using just a plain tarp
- Test your bug out plan during crowded events (festival, national holidays, etc.)
- Use your first-aid training to splint a broken arm or leg, improvise a stretcher
No matter how much knowledge you acquire or how well you plan for a certain emergency situation, your survival will still be dependent on the things you tried and the skills you acquired. Survival will be difficult without testing your gear, without learning how to complete certain survival drills and without challenging yourself.
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