Getting stranded can happen to anyone. Perhaps it’s taking a wrong turn in a snowstorm and getting stuck alongside the road. Or falling and injuring yourself while hiking solo on a vacation in the mountains. When it happens, no one wants to be caught unprepared without the knowledge and tools for survival.
Sure, I could use this post as an opportunity to just share basic tips and tricks for worst-case scenarios in which you find yourself stranded. But I think it will be more interesting to use specific tales of survival as lessons we can learn from.
Today, I’m sharing three stories about people who got stranded, and what each of them did to survive. Additionally, I’m covering several essential tips on what to bring in your car or backpack when traveling.
Ready? Here we go…
Last Summer: Stranded on a Beach
It started as a normal day for Angela Hernandez. In July 2018, she was driving down California’s Highway 1 on her way home to Southern California. Suddenly, a small animal darted in front of her car, causing her to swerve and plunge her Jeep off a steep cliff along the Big Sur coastline.
Miraculously, despite landing some 200-250 feet below on a beach and suffering a brain hemorrhage, four fractured ribs, a break and fracture in both collar bones, a collapsed lung, ruptured blood vessels in both eyes, Hernandez was still alive. Since her car was partially submerged with water, she used a multitool she kept in the car to break the driver's side window and get out.
However, her tale of survival had just begun.
With no one else in sight, and with no way to safely climb the cliff back up to the road, Hernandez spent an entire week stranded and injured on the beach. Ultimately, she was rescued when two surfers who had decided to go on a hike found her.
Here are a few of the following tactics she used to stay alive:
- She used a ten-inch radiator hose she found in her car to siphon water from a nearby stream.
- Hernandez persevered and was determined to beat the odds. She kept her spirits high by remembering her favorite songs and daydreaming of foods she'd get to eat after she was found. As Monterey County Sheriff Steve Berna put it, "For her to survive for seven days, on the coast, with waves crashing over you at times with injuries that she had is amazing. She was a fighter, she had the will to survive.”
Additionally, I would recommend keeping supplies in your car while traveling, such as a basic survival kit, a supply of water, and a solar recharging kit to keep your phone powered. Add bonus points if you have these items in an easy-to-carry go bag.
Last Month: Stranded in the Snow
Recently, in February of 2019, Eric Rose and his wife, Francesca Watson, found themselves stuck in an Idaho snowstorm. They were traveling with their one-year-old child en route to California. They took what they thought was a shortcut but soon realized they were lost, and at that point, the snow was too high to turn around to find safety.
Stranded in their SUV for days with no one else in sight, they…
- Used melted snow as their water source.
- Put snow in a tin cracker container they found and held it up to the heater in the truck until it was warm enough to use it to mix formula for the baby.
Though they stayed warm by running the heat in the car, by day three they were running low on fuel. At that point, Eric decided to go look for help or cell phone reception. After taking refuge in an empty cabin nearby for several more days, Francesca and her child were eventually rescued after about a week total by snowmobilers that stumbled across the car. Unfortunately, Eric is still missing.
As Francesca shared, “never in a million years” did she think a situation like this could happen to her or her family. You may think the same, but it’s important to be prepared no matter what. Clearly, it can happen to any one of us.
Armed with things like a preparedness crate, thermal blanket, and fire disc while on family road trips, you’ll feel a bit more peace of mind. Again, add bonus points if you have these items in an easy-to-carry go bag.
2017: Stranded in the Desert
Getting stuck in cold temperatures is one thing. But finding yourself stranded in high heat is equally dangerous. This was the case for 55-year-old Phoenix, Arizona-based Mick Ohman in 2017. After traveling 80 miles to a ghost town out of Phoenix for lunch and explorations, Ohman began driving back home. However, he took a different route, looking for a more scenic experience.
This led to unpaved narrow roads and jagged terrain, inevitably causing his car to leak fluid and break down miles away from anyone. After trying and failing to find phone reception, Ohman realized he was in big trouble.
Though he very quickly became hungry and thirsty, all he had with him were a spoiled sandwich, crackers, and a few cans of Mickey’s Malt Liquor. He was so desperate and thirsty that he even decided to drink his own urine.
According to Slate, “A healthy person’s urine is about 95 percent water and sterile, so in the short term it’s safe to drink and does replenish lost water. But the other 5 percent of urine comprises a diverse collection of waste products, including nitrogen, potassium, and calcium—and too much of these can cause problems.”
Ohman eventually also found a small creek he was able to sip from. In an attempt to flag down help from planes flying by, he fired bullets into the sky in the pattern of SOS and wrote “H” on the ground with rocks. None of this proved successful, until his third day of being lost. After wandering in the scorching heat and sun, Ohman stumbled upon a dirt biker who took him to safety.
Even while traveling on what you might expect to be a short day trip, you’ll want to keep a supply of nonperishable food, first aid kit, and whistle (like this amazing 5-in-1 whistle) on-hand. They’ll come in handy one way or another. Are they in your go bag?
We never know when our circumstances can, in an instant, take a 180 and put our lives at risk. These three stories demonstrate how brave and quick-thinking people found themselves in desperate situations but made it out alive. In all cases, they lost communication with the rest of the world. They found a way to drink water. And they innovated.
Consider their stories and the tips and tricks associated with each whenever you find yourself traveling (will you have that go bag packed and ready?), exploring, or even remaining in your home during a natural disaster.
Have a great weekend and stay alert!
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply