How Not to Die: 20 Survival Tips You Must Know

Accidents are the leading cause of  death among U.S. men 18 to 50 years old, accounting for 37,000  of the roughly 148,000 annual fatalities. Some instances of unintentional   death, to use the official term, are unavoidable—wrong place, wrong time—but  most aren’t. Staying alive requires recognizing danger, feeling fear, and  reacting. “We interpret external cues through our subconscious fear centers very  quickly,” says Harvard University’s David Ropeik, author of How Risky Is It,  Really? Trouble is, even smart, sober,  experienced men can fail to  register signals of an imminent threat. Here we present 20 easy-to-miss risks,  and how to avoid or survive them.

1.Outsmart Wildlife.

how-not-to-die-01-1013-mdnIf  you come face-to-face with a wild animal, the natural response is to bolt, but  that can trigger the animal’s predatory instinct. On July 6, 2011, Brian  Matayoshi, 57, and his wife,  Marylyn, 58, were hiking in Yellowstone National  Park when they came upon a grizzly bear and fled, screaming. Brian was bitten  and clawed to death; Marylyn, who had stopped and crouched behind a tree, was  approached by the bear but left unharmed.
STAT: Each year three to five  people are killed in North America in wild animal attacks, primarily by sharks  and bears.
DO: Avoid shark-infested waters, unless you are Andy Casagrande. As for bears,  always carry repellent pepper spray when hiking; it can stop a charging bear  from as much as 30 feet away. To reduce the risk of an attack, give bears a  chance to get out of your way. “Try to stay in the open,” says Larry Aumiller,  manager of Alaska’s McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. “If you have to move  through thick brush, make noise by clapping and shouting.”

2. Don’t Mess with Vending  Machines.

You skipped lunch. You need a snack. You insert  money into a vending machine, press the buttons, and nothing comes out. You get  mad.
STAT: Vending machines caused 37 deaths between 1978 and 1995, crushing customers who  rocked and toppled the dispensers. No recent stats exist, but the machines are  still a danger.
DON’T: Skip lunch.


3. Stay on the Dock.

On  May 20, 2013, Kyle McGonigle was on a dock on Kentucky’s Rough River Lake. A dog  swimming nearby yelped, and McGonigle, 36, saw that it was struggling to stay  above water. He dove in to save the dog, but both he and the animal drowned,  victims of electric-shock drowning (ESD). Cords plugged into an outlet on the  dock had slipped into the water and electrified it.
STAT: The number of annual deaths from ESD in the U.S. are unknown, since they are  counted among all drownings. But anecdotal evidence shows that ESD is  widespread. ESD prevention groups have  successfully urged some states to enact  safety standards, including the installation of ground-fault circuit  interrupters and a  central shutoff for a dock’s electrical system.
DON’T: Swim  within 100 yards of any wired dock. But do check whether docks follow safety  standards.

4. Keep It on the Dirt.

On the morning of July 14, 2013, Taylor Fails, 20, turned left in his 2004  Yamaha Rhino ATV at a paved intersection near his Las Vegas–area home. The  high-traction tire treads gripped the road and the vehicle flipped, ejecting  Fails and a 22-year-old passenger. Fails died at the scene; the passenger  sustained minor injuries.
STAT: One-third of fatal ATV  accidents take place on paved roads; more than 300 people died in on-road ATV  wrecks in 2011.
DO: Ride only off-road. Paul  Vitrano, executive vice  president of the ATV Safety Institute, says, “Soft,   knobby tires are designed for traction on uneven ground and will behave  unpredictably on pavement.” In some cases, tires will grip enough to cause an  ATV to flip, as in the recent Nevada incident. “If you must cross a paved road  to continue on an approved trail, go straight across in first gear.”

5. Mow on the Level.

Whirring blades are the obvious hazard. But most lawnmower-related deaths  result from riding mowers flipping over on a slope and crushing the drivers.
STAT: About 95  Americans are killed by riding mowers each year.
DO: Mow up and down a slope, not sideways along it. How steep is too steep? “If you  can’t back up a slope, do not mow on it,” Carl Purvis of the U.S. Consumer   Product Safety Commission  advises.

6. Beware Low-Head Dams.

how-not-to-die-03-1013-deFound on small or moderate-size streams and rivers, low-head dams are used to  regulate water flow or prevent invasive species from swimming upstream. But  watch out. “They’re called drowning machines because they could not be designed  better to drown people,” says Kevin Colburn of American Whitewater, a nonprofit  whitewater preservation group. To a boater heading downstream, the dams look  like a single line of flat reflective water. But water rushing over the dam  creates a spinning cylinder of water that can trap a capsized boater.
STAT: Eight to 12  people a year die in low-head and other dam-related whitewater accidents.
DO: Curl up, drop  to the bottom, and move downstream if caught in a hydraulic. “It’s a  counterintuitive thing to do, but the only outflow is at the bottom,” Colburn  says. Surface only after you’ve cleared the vortex near the dam.

7. Don’t Hold your  Breath.

If you want to take a long swim underwater, the trick  is to breathe in and out a few times and take a big gulp of air before you  submerge. Right? Dead wrong. Hyperventilating not only doesn’t increase the  oxygen in your blood, it also decreases the amount of CO2, the  compound that informs the brain of the need to breathe. Without that natural  signal, you may hold your breath until you pass out and drown. This is known as  shallow-water blackout.
STAT: Drowning is the fifth  largest cause of accidental death in the U.S., claiming about 10 lives a day. No  one knows how many of these are due to shallow-water blackout, but its  prevalence has led to the formation of advocacy groups, such as Shallow Water  Blackout Prevention.
DON’T: Hyperventilate before  swimming underwater, and don’t push yourself to stay submerged as long as  possible.

8. Keep your Footing.

One  mistake is responsible for about half of all ladder accidents: carrying  something while climbing.
STAT: More than 700 people die  annually in falls from ladders and scaffolding.
DO: Keep three points of contact while climbing; use work-belt hooks, a rope and   pulley, or other means to get items aloft.

9. Ford Carefully.

A  shallow stream can pack a surprising amount of force, making fording extremely  dangerous. Once you’ve been knocked off your feet, you can get dragged down by  the weight of your gear, strike rocks in the water, or succumb to hypothermia.
STAT: Water-related deaths outnumber all other fatalities in U.S. national parks; no  specific statistics are available  for accidents while fording streams.
DO: Cross at a  straight, wide section of water. Toss a stick into the current; if it moves  faster than a walking pace, don’t cross. Unhitch waist and sternum fasteners  before crossing; a wet pack can pull you under.

10.Land Straight.

You  have successfully negotiated free fall, deployed your canopy, and are about to  touch down. Safe? Nope. Inexperienced solo jumpers  trying to avoid an obstacle  at the last minute, or experienced skydivers looking for a thrill, might  sometimes pull a toggle and enter a low-hook turn. “If you make that turn too  low, your parachute doesn’t have time to level out,” says Nancy Koreen of the  United States Parachute Association. Instead, with your weight far out from the  canopy, you’ll swing down like a wrecking ball.
STAT: Last year in the U.S., low-hook turns caused five of the 19 skydiving  fatalities.
DO: Scope out your landing spot well in advance (from 100 to 1000 feet up, depending  on your skill) so you have room to land without needing to swerve.

11. Stay Warm and Dry.

Cold is a deceptive menace—most fatal hypothermia cases occur when it isn’t  excessively cold, from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Wet clothes compound the  effect of the temperature.
STAT: Hypothermia kills almost  1000 people a year in the U.S.
DO: Wear synthetic or wool  clothing, not moisture-trapping cotton. If stranded, conserve heat by stuffing  your clothes or shelter with dry leaves.

12. Let Leaning Trees  Stand.

The motorized blade isn’t always the most dangerous  thing about using a chain saw. Trees contain enormous amounts of energy that can  release in ways both surprising and lethal. If a tree stands at an angle, it  becomes top-heavy and transfers energy lower in the trunk. When sawed, it can  shatter midcut and create a so-called barber chair. The fibers split vertically,  and the rearward half pivots backward. “It’s very violent and it’s very quick,”  says Mark Chisholm, chief executive of New Jersey Arborists.
STAT: In 2012, 32 people died  felling trees.
DON’T: Saw into any tree or  limb that’s under tension.


13. Dodge Line Drives.

America’s national pastime may seem a gentle pursuit, but it is not  without  its fatal hazards. The 2008 book Death at the Ballpark: A  Comprehensive  Study of Game-Related Fatalities, 1862–2007 catalogs deaths that have  occurred while people were playing, watching, or  officiating at baseball games.  Among the causes is commotio cordis, a concussion of the heart that leads  to ventrical fibrillation when the chest is struck during a critical 10- to  30-millisecond moment between heartbeats. About 50 percent of all victims are  athletes (and the vast majority of these are male) engaging in sports that also  include ice hockey and lacrosse, the U.S. National Commotio Cordis Registry  reports.
STAT: The registry recorded 224 fatal cases from 1996 to 2010. Commotio cordis is the  No. 1 killer in U.S. youth baseball, causing two to three deaths a year.
DON’T: Take a  shot to the chest. Even evasive action and protective gear are not significant  deterrents. Of note: Survival rates rose to 35 percent between 2000 and 2010, up  from 15 percent in the previous decade, due mainly to the increased presence of  defibrillators at sporting events.

14. Climb with Care.

Accidental shootings are an obvious hazard of hunting, but guess what’s just as  bad: trees. “A tree stand hung 20 feet in the air should be treated like a  loaded gun, because it is every bit as dangerous,” says Marilyn Bentz, executive  director of the National Bow hunter Educational Foundation. Most tree-stand  accidents occur while a hunter is climbing, she says.
STAT: About 100 hunters a year die falling from trees in the U.S. and Canada, a number  “equal to or exceeding firearm- related hunting deaths,” Bentz says.
DO: Use a  safety  harness tethered to the tree when climbing, instead of relying on wooden boards  nailed to the tree, which can give way suddenly.

15. Avoid Cliffing Out.

Hikers out for a scramble may end up on an uncomfortably steep patch and,  finding it easier to climb up than down, keep ascending until they “cliff out,”  unable to go either forward or back. Spending a night freezing on a rock face  waiting to be rescued is no fun, but the alternative is worse.
STAT: Falls are one of the top  three causes of death in the wilderness, along with cardiac arrest and drowning.  Cliffed-out hikers  account for 11 percent of all search-and-rescue calls in  Yosemite National Park.
DON’T: Take a shortcut you  can’t see the length of. If you realize you’ve lost your way, either backtrack  or call for help. Gadgets such as DeLorme’s inReach SE provide satellite  communication to send a distress call from anywhere on the planet.

16. Don’t Drink Too Much.

We all know that dehydration can be dangerous, leading to dizziness, seizures,  and death, but drinking too much water can be just as bad. In 2002, 28-year-old  runner Cynthia Lucero collapsed midway through the Boston Marathon. Rushed to a  hospital, she fell into a coma and died. In the aftermath it emerged that she  had drunk large amounts along the run. The excess liquid in her system induced a  syndrome called  exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), in which an imbalance  in the body’s  sodium levels creates a dangerous swelling of the brain.
STAT: Up to  one-third of endurance athletes who collapse during events suffer from EAH.  Between 1989 and 1996, when the U.S. Army mandated heavy fluid intake during  exercise in high heat, EAH caused at least six deaths.
DON’T: Drink more than 1.5 quarts per hour during sustained, intense exercise. But do   consume plenty of salt along with your fluids.

17. Use Generators  Safely.

After Hurricane Sandy, many homeowners used portable  generators to replace lost power, leaving the machines running overnight and  allowing odorless carbon monoxide to waft inside. The gas induces dizziness,  headaches, and nausea in people who are awake, but “when people go to sleep with  a generator running, there’s no chance for them to realize that something’s  wrong,” says Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical  Safety Foundation  International.
STAT: Carbon monoxide from  consumer products, including portable generators, kills nearly 200 a year. Of  the Sandy-related deaths, 12 were due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
DO: Keep  generators more than 20 feet from a house.

18. Don’t Slip–Slide  Away.

Hikers on a glacier or in areas where  patches of snow  remain above the tree line may be tempted to speed downhill by sliding, or  glissading. Bad idea: A gentle glide can easily lead to an unstoppable plummet.  In 2005 climber Patrick Wang, 27, died on California’s Mount Whitney while  glissading off the summit; he slid 300 feet before falling off a 1000-foot  cliff.
STAT: One  or two people die each year while glissading.
DON’T: Glissade, period. But if you ever do it, you should be an expert  mountaineer  with well-practiced self-arrest techniques. Glissaders should always remove  their crampons and know their line of descent.

19. Go with the Flow.



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