Survival of the Fittest

These days, kids seem to be natural experts at all things technology. Give them a phone or computer and they usually end up teaching their parents how to better use the devices. But, do you think they know how to make a tourniquet if a friend suffers a major cut or bone break? Do they know how to use the sun, stars or landmarks to find their way out of a wooded area and back to a main road? Do they know how to find safe food and clean water without using an app?

As technology makes things easier, many of us lose our ability to fend for ourselves. No one ever sees the point in practicing something like that … until they are faced with a situation where they cannot Google their way out. In the ever-changing world we live in, it is important for families to have emergency plans in place and that kids have the skills they need if they are faced with a life or death situation.

The first step, as with so many topics with kids, is to talk about how your children would react to a disaster or emergency at home. At some point, you also need to practice these skills. When faced with life-changing circumstances, it may even help kids step outside of their bubble and recognize how to prioritize the severity of problems or life situations. A major consideration is the developmental impact that takes place when children and teens are taught to rely on themselves and are forced to trust their own judgment and intuition. To survive in stressful situations, a positive mental attitude is required.

Some basic survival skills include first aid training, fire use and safety, how to build shelter, finding clean water, how to signal for help and growing/finding food. Whenever you can, turn this type of learning into a game. For first aid training, have one child pretend to have a broken leg while the others work together to find sticks and an old shirt to make a splint. When it rains, have a contest to see which kid can collect the most rain water using plastic bags, half burying containers in the ground or see if they can come up with another idea. Another important subject to consider is how and who to approach for help. When is a situation that kids might need to hide? Do they know how to defend themselves?

Eric Giles, the owner of Texas Survival School, takes training basics a step further. His camps are designed for adults and children (as young as age 5) to learn firsthand what it takes to survive in the outdoors. The team specializes in teaching wilderness and urban survival through actual camping experiences. Mr. Giles says, “It makes kids more independent. By the end of the class, they have confidence that they can do something without their parents.” He adds jokingly that parents can show their children that “they are not going to die without their phones.”

His program has four different levels. The first level involves a camping trip, where kids learn the basics, including how to use a compass, how to make a fire and what to do if they experience an injury. Mr. Giles says that it is about 90 percent hands-on learning. In the second level, you spend the first night in a tent, but during the second night, you learn how to make your own shelter and that is where you sleep. The third level allows you to bring an approved list of items and food and you build your own shelter for the entire trip. The fourth, and most advanced level, allows you to bring only a knife and the clothes on your back. You then spend five days completing different tasks.

Mr. Giles started the school because he wanted to teach people to rely on themselves instead of needing to be rescued. He and his staff are ex-military, and he says, “We believe you never know what is going to happen, so it is important to be prepared.” He also says that once kids successfully complete these camping trips, they gain confidence in other areas of their lives.

Another consideration is how prepared your children would be if an accident or emergency were to occur at their school. The Frisco ISD works closely with local police and fire departments and other partner organizations on issues related to safety, wellness and prevention. Students have the opportunity to visit Frisco Fire Safety Town and learn about home hazards, severe weather, fire prevention, how to prevent injuries, etc. The Frisco Police Department engages students regarding drug and alcohol prevention, motor vehicle safety and more. School counselors provide educational outreach and support on topics such as bullying, suicide, abuse, violence, substance abuse and more.

In terms of disaster preparedness, FISD schools participate in 10 fire drills and four lockdown drills each school year. There are reverse evacuation drills and shelter in place drills (approximately two each school year). There is also a SAFER inspection each school year, in partnership with the Frisco Police and Fire Departments and there are safety audits every three years.

In addition, each school has a Campus Crisis Team, which meets throughout the year to make sure everyone understands the policies and procedures that would be implemented in the event of an emergency on or near campus. To learn more about what the school district teaches kids so they can stay safe and so they undoubtedly know how to react to situations, visit friscoisd.org/departments/security/community-partnerships.

The odds are, your children will never have to use these lessons in a real situation, but just like anything else, having peace of mind that they have ideas about what to do goes a long way for both the parents and the kids. Camping and outdoor activities can be fun for the whole family, and provide a great way to learn how to take care of yourself in case you lose Internet connection for an extended period of time. Whether you are concerned with outdoor safety, disaster preparedness or emergency response, kids will respond and learn as you teach them to be responsible for their safety and the safety of those around them.

Christi Redfearn is a wife, mom and Aggie in search of that perfect lap time in her weekend race car.