If your plane crashes in the jungle, your car breaks down in the mountains or your boat starts taking on water at sea, then I'm the guy for you. It's not that I am particularly lucky. In fact, my friends will tell you that one sure way to guarantee bad weather is to invite me along on your next adventure. And it's not that I am overly resourceful, even though I'm often heard preaching to the boys in my Cub Scout pack … improvise, adapt, overcome. No. The reason why I'm the guy you need when disaster strikes is that I always have a plan.
People think Florida is a sub-tropical paradise where the sun shines 365 days a year. While our weather may be great most of the time, we still get our share of cold fronts each year, some of which prove deadly for the unprepared.
Nobody likes to think of their boat going down in a storm, but the truth is it happens more often than people think.
Every winter, people die in the Gulf of Mexico. During the summer, our local water is warm and flat as a pancake. But come November, the water temperature drops as the wind and waves pick up.
Smart boaters wear life jackets. But that term is a misnomer. Personal flotation devices will keep you afloat, but they will not keep you alive.
Hypothermia, the reduction of the body's temperature below the point of normal functioning, can kill in a matter of hours. Everybody reacts differently to cold water. Body size, level of physical fitness and percentage of body fat are factors in how quickly your body temperature drops. But the best advice is to not to get into a survival situation in the first place.
Before you head offshore, down a river or into the woods, check the weather. If conditions look sketchy, stay home. There is always tomorrow.
If you do go ahead with your adventure, leave a float plan (or the terrestrial equivalent) with trusted friends or relatives. Let them know where you are going, who you are going with and what time you expect to return.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best. It is better to have too much gear than too little.
Pack warm clothing, even if it is sunny and warm when you leave. Synthetic fibers are better than cotton, a.k.a. "death cloth," which can actually draw heat out of the body when wet.
A knit hat will trap warmth in your head, where 75 percent of body heat is lost. If nothing else, try to keep your vital organs, such as the heart and lungs, warm.
Pack extra food and water just in case your day trip turns into an overnighter. And every emergency kit should include kindling, waterproof matches and some "napalm in a tube" that will burn even wet wood.
Use your head
Most survival situations last less than 72 hours. While equipment is important, the most important tool at your disposal in any emergency situation is the human mind. If you keep your cool, chances are you will make it out alive.
But the best advice is not to get in a survival situation in the first place. If you do, stop, evaluate your situation and plan a course of action. If you consider what could go wrong ahead of time, chances are you will make the right decision when there is less time to think.