Showing posts with label Outdoors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outdoors. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arid Climate and Desert Survival: Helping Your Heroine Stay Alive with JT Sawyer

Fiona -

Let's start by introducing you to the readers. Can you tell us what you do for a living, and your background?

JT - 
I work as a full-time survival and bushcraft instructor in the Southwest. My training company provides 1-21 day courses in desert and mountain survival for the general public and the military special operations community. I started out writing non-fiction books on survival about twelve years ago
and now have seven titles out.

Fiona - 
Okay, so JT I have a heroine, and she is stranded (by some horrible plot twist written by some equally twisted author) out in the middle of the desert with no water. Can you walk me through how this intrepid heroine would save her life? 

Maybe touch on some of the myths and truths of the situation. Right now all I've got in my survive-the-desert file is the image of Bear Grylls peeing on his shirt and wrapping it around his head...That doesn't seem like much help.

JT - 
Well, first, she'll want to stay put during the heat of the day, from 11 am to 4 pm so she doesn't turn into jerky. That means keeping covered like a cowboy, hole up in the shade, and conserve precious sweat. 
Keeping covered will increase survival time in the heat by 25% so skip working on the tan.

Cholla desert
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Avoid trying to get water from cactus as it's high in alkaloids and will only make her sick; avoid solar stills as they are merely a cool, reality-show staple; and, by all means, avoid swigging down urine which will only add to her heat stress.

Fiona - 
Oh, thank god, no urine swigging.

I have a question about cover. Let's say our heroine was driving along and her car broke down. I'm assuming she should stay with her car but not in her car. What if there is no shade to be found?

JT - 
North-facing boulders, stringing up a tarp off the hood of the vehicle or over some walking sticks.. these are a few things that we've done. 
Pull a seat out during the day or sit on a spare tire in the shade of the vehicle, then retreat back inside during the cooler hours of the night.

The desert is one place you really have to be self-contained as you can't even meet 3 of your 5 critical priorities (shelter, water, and fire). Staying with the vehicle, which is hopefully well-stocked with gear and water, is the best bet. It's like having a rolling survival kit, and it's much easier for searchers to spot. 

You've also got your car horn and mirrors for signaling so staying put is always better than walking out unless you failed to leave a travel plan with someone and, then, you are truly on your own.

Fiona -
Ha! I thought you were going to say she was shit out of luck

JT - 
I'll take luck any day, but when you're luck runs out your better have some skills!

Fiona - 

JT - 
You have around 48 hours survival time in the heat without any water, if you are smart with your own sweat. By this I mean, holing up, adapting, not moving around during the heat of the day, as mentioned. There are a lot of variables to survival time such as time of year, temperature, injuries, fitness level, body weight & age, etc... so she might be fine for 4 hours to 48 hours without water depending on her activity level and the factors listed above.

Video Quick Study (5:25) Intro to desert survival
Video Quick Study (6:32) Desert Shelter
Video Quick Study (6:21) a variety of desert shelters

Fiona - 
What physical traits would add to her survival, barring massive health issues.

JT - 
Being aerobically fit is key. 

Any time I am going to working/teaching in the triple-digit heat, I amp up my aerobic workouts in the weeks leading up to the event. Being thin can be an asset, I suppose. 

Not consuming any food unless you have water to go with it is key as doing so can further dehydrate you. 

Adaptation to heat stress takes about a week, and we see many very fit hikers and even triathletes succumb to heat exhaustion in the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, etc... because they have "big engines but little radiators." Dousing yourself with water (wet t-shirt) will help with convective cooling, too.

First aid
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Time-out for First-Aid 101
Heat exhaustion is part of a spectrum of heat induced medical conditions, starting with heat cramps and moving - sometimes rapidly - to heat stroke. 

Heat exhaustion is a medical emergency and must be treated as such.
* Being active in a hot environment can overwhelm a
   person's ability to regulate their body temperature.
* Heat Exhaustion symptoms include:
   `muscle cramps
   `profuse sweating
* When the body progresses past the point where it can cope then
   the following symptoms might occur:
   `If possible remove person to cooler environment
   `Rehydration is PARAMOUNT
   `Because heat induced symptoms can include vomiting sometimes
    rehydrating is difficult and requires an IV infusion.
    Link to further information

Video Quick Study (3:24) Tony Nester talks about signs of dehydration and choices about drinking untreated water and water purification. Caution about iodine tablets - who knew?

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
Once, I went on a camel safari in Egypt. My experience with the desert was that when it was 129 degrees outside, my brain functioned erratically, and I forgot things like nouns. At night it was freezing cold, even by a fire. These extremes, I thought, were very
physically exhausting. Is this
your experience as well?

JT - 
You nailed it for sure- the desert is a land of extremes. 

Most visitors to the Southwest think of the cactus and the heat but often forget about the fact that we get snow. (6" yesterday at my house!) I've been out on field courses where we're cooking during the day in 110+ degree heat and then cloaked in a down jacket come nightfall. The fact that a desert has little cloud cover causes the radiated heat of the day to dissipate quickly at night. 

Yuma, Arizona holds the record out here where it once went from 120 F during the day to 34 F at night so you really have to be prepared by having water and electrolytes along with a fleeced or down jacket, even in the summer.

English: The Sonoran Desert near Yuma, Arizona...
The Sonoran Desert near Yuma, Arizona  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - 
Look JT, our heroine is still sitting in her car. She didn't tell anyone where she was going - she's on her own. She's decided that she needs to hike out to save her life. What should she take with her from the car?

JT - 
English: Polycarbonate water bottle
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All the water she can carry! Even if it means lugging 3-4 gallons which is what she may consume in just one day in the searing heat.

Next, an umbrella would sure be handy for creating instant shade. 

Bust off a side-view mirror for later use in signaling and cut the seat belts out for lashing material or shoulder straps for carrying water. A CD, while becoming rare, can be used for signaling as well as a cutting implement. 

Some transmission or brake fluid can be used for assisting with fire lighting (not hard in the desert much of the year). Hopefully, she has some food, first-aid kit, knife, etc... but water and the ability to create shade/shelter are going to be the two most critical items to carry.

Video Quick Study (8:06) Finding Water in the Desert
Video - a little bit longer Study (19:39) More Finding Water in the  Desert
Video Study (25:08) 3rd part of Finding Water in the Desert
Video Quick Study (9:04) Finding your way the heck out of there.

Link to Ancient Pathways other videos with Tony Nester

Fiona - 
Wonderful. Now I'm going to admit to you that I'm not a huge zombie fan. But I really want to read your books because I love reading about survival. Can you tell us a little about your novels and how you put your years of bush craft experience to good use for our edification and entertainment?

JT - 

Amazon Link 99 cents!

In reading a lot of books in this genre over the years and having grown up on zombie flicks, I was always drawn to the types of characters who relied more on their brains and tactics than on their blazing automatic weapons to solve problems. Plus, having been out on month-long survival treks where you depend on the dynamics and cooperation of a small group of people, I really wanted to show what was possible, in terms of bushcraft and extended living, where the umbilical cord to civilization is severed. Readers have commented that they enjoy the fact that there is

a blend of survival, relationship
development, and military tactics
amidst a backdrop of zombies.

Fiona - 
That brings to mind an article I read about being stranded in the ocean. The author came to the conclusion that it is better to be alone because panic is contagious. I'm sure it depends on the personalities involved, but are your characters happy to be in a small group? Or do your guides wish they only had to look out for themselves? Help or hindrance or a little of both? 
(I'm also thinking of their sharing limited resources...)

JT - 
The main character is a recently retired from the military and he was looking to get away from it all by going on a 22-day river trip with a friend who was leading a small commercial trip. He quickly finds out the world has unraveled from a pandemic. He is once more thrust into a leadership role. So he is definitely a reluctant figure but has little choice, given his skills. 

Amazon Link 99 cents!
I have quite a lot of very strong female characters in this books and have had a lot of women tell me how much they enjoyed the characters and how the female leads balanced out the male characters. I have found on field courses that are all men, they often have very little social dynamics compared to groups that have even women present. The latter courses are always more lively, fun, and way more banter involved compared to the lone-wolf, "I don't need any advice" mentality of the all-male groups. Again, I've tried to incorporate these
strong male-female elements in the
story rather than it being simply a
slaughter-fest against the undead.

Fiona - 
JT you are beyond awesome. Now my

final question is this - what is the story
behind your favorite scar?

JT - 
My favorite scar would have to be the Uncle in the Lion King. 

Seriously, I have an embarrassing scar on my left ribs that came from working a military course. I was teaching a class on mantraps and evasion for a special forces unit who came out for a 9-day survival course. 

Amazon Link 99 cents!
We had gone over how to set a particular type of trap whose trigger mechanism (the part that springs once the trap is released) was place about twelve feet up in a tree. I had just set the trap and was standing on this branch, explaining to the soldiers below just how this was all supposed to work when the branch cracked, and I slipped down about four feet. No big deal as I caught myself on another branch. However, while sliding along the tree trunk, I gashed open my side on the broken branch. I wasn't about to complain or grimace given my audience below. I just grated my teeth
together while muttering how the trap
could be used. Once we were finished,
I climbed down and had my medic patch
me up. 

I still shake my head and laugh about how "effective" a mantrap can be, especially for the instructor setting it!

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

PS - I bought and read all of JT's books. My very first zombie books. While I'm not a fan of that genre - I thought JT's books were fabulous reads. I even e-mailed to him to ask for a sneak peek at his latest (now available). Audacious I know, but I needed to know what happened next! 
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Police Dive Teams - How to Find People and Evidence Under Water: Information for Writers


Oxygen toxicity occurs when the lungs take in ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last fall at the Writers' Police Academy, I attended a seminar in how the police dives for evidence and conducts searches for bodies that are underwater.

The divers that we interviewed were all police officers; they trained on a regular basis as a water recovery team. When a need arose, they would leave their normal workday duties and dive.

These divers were involved in cases that included:
* Evidence recovery
* Submerged body recovery, including:
   `victims of a crime

Teams might also participate in:
* Inspecting the hulls of ships in
   anti-narcotics operations
* Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bombs)
   in anti-terrorism efforts

The team that I interviewed maintained a minimum of three dive members per event.
* A below water surface diver
* An attendant diver who stayed on the surface to assist the underwater diver and to signal/communicate
* A supervisor who works on the surface to direct the operation

Video Quick Study (6:05) Norfolk, England but this is the same information that we received.

Most of the diving investigations are done in highly hazardous environments which might include
* Cold temperatures
* Zero visbility
* Contaminated waters including chemical hazards
* Sharp objects that the divers must feel with their hands since they can not see
* Entanglement and entrapment objects such as submerged trees, rocks, and debris

Video Quick Study (3:32) What it looks like under there.
Video Quick Study (8:21) Difficulties of suiting up, moving, and seeing underwater.

This is picture of one of our instructors, "Cookie." Cookie's technique for keeping the heebie-jeebies at bay while he's groping through pitch-black water for a dead body includes singing as loudly as he can. That's why he makes extra bubbles.

Video Quick Study (3:34) includes information on equipment, sonar, finding a car

US Navy 090628-N-5710P-319 A U.S. Navy diver c...
 A U.S. Navy diver conducts a dive supporting Infinite Response 09, a bilateral exercise between the U.S. Navy and the naval forces of a Middle Eastern country (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The team might be called to investigate:
* Natural water ways such as oceans, rivers,
   and ponds
* Dams
* Caves
* Sewage ponds - there's a nasty plot twist for

In some cases sonar is used to reduce diver exposure. This includes side-scan sonar and radial sonar. The sonar can help locate:
* Vessels
* Vehicles
* Planes
* Bodies
* Evidence

Search Patterns:

graphic from Wikipedia

Arc Search

* Also known as a pendulum search and a fishtail search
* The diver has a rope that is fed to him by his attendant diver.
* The diver will start on one side of a designated line (such as a shore
    line) and swim/grope through the water at the far reach of the line.
* At the end of the arc, the diver turns to go back the other way. The
   line is then released at a measured increment, knotted to maintain
   a record, and fed to the diver. For example: if the diver is looking for
   a bicycle the attendant might release a foot and a half of slack between
   arc rotations. If it is a gun, the arcs are much tighter.
* Once the diver has searched the area that can be conveniently reached
   with the rope line, the center point is moved to search another area. 
* This search works best when the general area is known.

graphic from Wikipedia

Circular Search

If the team was out in the water, away from a shore line, they would use a circular grid pattern.

This operates in a similar way as the arc search.
* Fixed central point
* Diver swims 360 degrees before his line is 

Other Search Patterns

* Jackstay - Has divers swimming a straight line along a shore then moving out a length to swim another
   straight line.
* Snagline - When an object is large enough, like a car or fridge, a line can be held in parallel swimmers'
   hands so that it will catch on the item.

English: An Engineer-Diver with KB Bandmask
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Underwater communication 

Can take place via
* Line signals 
* Communicators

Once an Object is found

* The diver sends up a signal marker
* The GPS coordinates are documented
* The item is elevated using air balloons

Video Quick Study (2:21) You can see the lift bags bringing up a car.

A Body 

* Does not lay flat on the floor of the water. The upper half is held at an angle buoyed by air trapped in the
* Will float after about seven days as the body fills with gases
* After several more days as cavities are punctured by fish, birds, and other animals, the body will sink back
   into the water.
* The rate of decomposition depends mostly on water temperatures. The colder the water, the longer the
   body will remain intact.
* The deceased is bagged underwater.
   `This is for the sake of the survivors watching from shore
   `This helps to maintain any evidence that will help investigators

Video Quick Study (2:26) Divers talk about their experience and shows arc, and signalling.
Video Quick Study (3:29) Canadian and American divers certify in ice diving. YIPES! 

Video LONG Study (47:00) If you are writing a SCUBA scene you may want to spend the time learning 
                                about the problems of hypothermia, dry suit, and choices.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Paracord Bracelets: How to Save Your Character's Life


paracord bracelet
 (Photo credit: Carriagehouse2011)
Here's a fun project and very useful.

Paracord comes in all kinds of colors from pink to blaze orange and camo.

What you'll need:
Paracord - 10 feet
Bracelet latches
a lighter

Video Quick Study This is the tutorial you will need to put it together - very very simple clear instructions.


Add a key chain ring and small carabiner so that when not able to use it as a bracelet (because it wouldn't be office or Sunday wear, for example) then someone could still slip it into their pocket and have help at hand. This is also a great addition for the person who throws their keys in their backpack or purse and is forever losing them - they can just snap the bracelet over the strap, and they are now easily accessible.

You can incorporate a tiny compass towards the clasp.

If your recipient is a fisherman or camper or hiker, you might want to go to a little extra time and expense to make them a survival bracelet with fishing gear incorporated. - won't they be impressed? Video Quick Study (23:46) Watch the basic video first.

Fire Starter Survival Bracelet - Video Quick Study very cool indeed.

These can also be made into belts like the one my son made for my husband last Christmas. This provides 1 foot of survival rope per 1" of belt so a 34" waist offers over 10 yards of cordage which could come in very handy. (Do not buy small packages as above - buy it by the yrd.)

How to Save Your Character's Life with a Paracord Bracelet.

A paracord bracelet provides two five-foot sections of cordage when needed. Simply unravel the bracelet and voila! 

It's called 550 paracord because it is supposed to be able to support 550lbs before it breaks. That's pretty impressive.

Well chances are in the everyday world people would run into NORMAL problems that could be remedied with some paracord:

1. Replace shoe laces while your out and about.
2. Lowering objects down inclines - pulling things up when hiking.
3. Basic first aid when out for a walk like tying on a splint, creating an arm sling, or tying cloth to an open
4. Make-do lead if you find a dog and need to walk it home.
5. Tie down the trunk when you bought too many Christmas gifts
6. Tie the tree to the roof of the car when you forgot your bungees
7. Tie your hair back when you get hot and sweaty (actually just wrap the braclet around 2x and clasp.
8. Replace a zipper pull
9. Inner strands can be used for dental floss 
10 Secure something to you such as a water bottle or other object you're afraid to lose

There are all kinds of uses for the paracord bracelet and as long as you don't cut the line, it can be quickly and easily re-tied for the next need.

But your character probably isn't getting off that easily. Knowing you, they are hacking through a jungle or left for dead at the bottom of the ravine. Now let's get them home safely so they can pour out their heart to the one they love, kiss, and live happily ever after.

Remember there are FOUR things to put in place for survival: Shelter, Fire, Water, Food

* Traps for food 
* The inner strands can be used for fishing.
   Video Quick Study (14:43) This uses the fishing
   paracord bracelet from above. If your heroine
   doesn't have this particular kind, she can use a bobby
   pin, paper clip etc.   

* Use for your tie down on a poncho tent
* Tie together sticks to form a debris hut

* Help create a bow drill to start a fire.

*Clothes line
* Inner strands can be used for sewing to repair clothes and equipment
* Hang a bear bag
* In a car accident it could tie a door open when on an
   incline, allowing the heroine to work on the victim
* String a trip wire to protect an area especially if your heroine can tie cans on the line
* For a trip line if your heroine is being pursued.
* Garrote for choking out the villain without breaking a nail. 
* Tying up the bad guy until the authorities can get there
* Rig a pulley system to raise heavy objects (maybe your heroine loved her physics class)
* If your heroine has to get the injured hero out of the woods she can use the paracord to create a
   branch drag to move the person. (I'm not saying this is going to be easy - I'm just saying it's better than
   leaving him in the woods with the predators)

EDIT - a reader asked me how to un-ravel the bracelet to have access to the ropes, so I made this video of me gnawing on the paracord, LOL!

And what if the paracord roping is not long enough, and your heroine needs to join the two pieces together securely?

Video Quick Study (14:04) Man goes into the woods with only the clothes on his back and his paracord 
                               bracelet to start his fire, create shelter, and provide his food.
Video Quick Study  (14:19) 101 uses(ish). 

And there you have it - handy-dandy piece of EDC for your hero or heroine.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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