A major component of being well prepared for whatever life may bring is building a repertoire of skills and a bank of knowledge. If you’re on a journey to enrich your own life and become better prepared, check out this new book series by Liz Long, a long-time contributor to The Survival Mom blog.
26 Basic Life Skills is the first book in a new series (Survival Skills for All Ages) that covers important skills to survive and thrive in life. Some, such as trusting your instincts, are really the same in every day life as well as in an emergency. Others, like doing laundry, can change drastically in an emergency. A few, such as staying warm when your heating system goes out, can be an emergency in and of themselves.
Beginning with 26 Basic Life Skills and then continuing through the additional books in the series, each skill is covered first from the point of view of every day life, then from how it might be different in an emergency. Even something like having your heating system go out can either be the result of your furnace being broken or a complete power outage, leaving you with no on-grid way to stay warm and no way to use any other electrical device or appliance.
The 26 chapters are divided into 5 parts, or categories. Every chapter ends with an activity to help practice that skill, a five question True/False quiz, and a series of resources to deepen your knowledge. These resources include online articles, books, related Scouting badges (BSA and GSUSA), and videos that provide more detailed information and fun activities to reinforce the topic.
To give you an idea of what you’ll find in this new book, here’s a sneak peek:
Part 1: Basic Survival Life Skills
These life skills are so basic, almost no one talks about them. Trust your instincts. Know who to trust. Be aware of your surroundings (situational awareness). Practice problem solving and plan ahead. Dress for the weather. Stay physically fit.
Situational awareness and staying fit are both discussed a lot in prepping, but not necessarily in practical terms for regular people. Situational awareness is about more than recognizing someone trying to steal your purse or break into your compound. It’s about being aware of what is going on around you, in general, and noticing things that are out of the ordinary.
Rather than just talking about the need to move and be healthy, the focus on physical fitness from a survival stand point is on activities that can help you get fit and be better prepared for emergencies at the same time. Activities like hiking, biking, and backpacking are all fun, enhance fitness, and are good for emergency preparedness.
Other basics discussed in this chapter are learning to trust your instincts and knowing who to trust. What I was impressed with was how thoroughly each skill is covered, with examples from Liz’s own experiences and family life.
Once you cover these basics, it’s time to move on to what most consider the basics: Food and water.
Part 2: Food and Water
As much as we all want to believe we never have to worry about safe drinking water, the news periodically proves that is not true.
- Flint, Michigan – Improperly treated water.
- Charleston, West Virginia – Long-term chemical dumping.
- Colorado, Utah…– Dump of toxic water from a gold mine.
- New Jersey / New York – Hurricane Sandy.
- Florida – Hurricanes can interrupt regular utilities.
- California – Earthquakes can interrupt regular utilities.
Learn about important fundamental skills in these chapters. Does your family know how to determine if water is (or can be made) potable? Do you know uses for non-potable water? What about skills needed to grow food and then preserve it for future use?
Now that you have food and water, do your kids know how to make it into a meal?
Part 3: Cooking and Cleaning
The first step in making a meal isn’t cleaning or cutting up the food. It’s meal planning – deciding what to have, preferably in advance. This task doesn’t sound like much fun until you realize that whoever plans the meals knows that they will like (or at least not hate) what’s for dinner!
The next concern is food safety. Food must be kept at a safe temperature and handled with care. An oft-forgotten part of food safety becomes very important in an emergency situation: Recognizing and disposing of spoiled food. Of course, hygiene and sanitation are part of this as well.
Once you have the meal planned and understand basic sanitation and food safety, it’s time to actually prepare the food. Do your kids know something as simple as how to measure food without making a mess? Do they know the difference between chopping, dicing, and mincing? Can they use basic hand tools such as a whisk or an egg beater, or kitchen appliances such as a slow cooker or food processor? I have used a whisk for decades, but I still learned something new while writing this book from a video that demonstrates how using a side-to-side motion is more efficient than a circular one. For the many people who rely on electric appliances, this is a good refresher on basic hand tools in the kitchen.
The life skills in this section can not only be useful in everyday, non-emergency life, but should be used in everyday life. Kids may not be planning meals for the whole family but there is no reason they can’t plan their own lunches. Even kindergardners can choose from a list of choices to build their own menu and look at the school menu to decide what days they really want to buy lunch.
Anyone who messes up on basic sanitation or disposing of spoiled food may end up sick. How do you handle that?
Part 4: Health and First Aid
In this section, chapters 17-20 detail basic and not-so-basic skills that help insure safety and good health.
Calling 911 seems so basic that including instructions for it must be a joke, but consider this: What do you tell (and not tell) the operator when they pick up? Do your kids know what to say? Many cell phones automatically call 911 for the area closest to the billing address. What do you do if you are traveling?
Do your kids (and your spouse) know about family medical issues? Can they rattle off a list of who is allergic to what and how they respond (rash, anaphylaxis, etc.)? Do they know where to find this information in case of emergency? Do they know where to find critical medical items including epi-pens and insulin?
Many home remedies, and a lot of basic first aid, are so simple even preschoolers can handle them. Aloe vera for a burn, cayenne pepper for a heart attack, Epsom salts for sore muscles: These are just a few of the many easy, proven home remedies everyone should know.
A discussion of common first aid classes rounds out Part 4.
Part 5: Miscellaneous Survival Skills
Like most of the life skills in this book, these are skills most of us need in daily life. Sewing, swimming, safe knife use, and surviving without any heat in the house are clear examples of this.
Sewing can be as simple as re-attaching a button or fixing a tear, or as complex as a beaded, multi-tiered custom wedding gown, but it all starts from a few basic skills. There is no need for fancy, expensive machinery. Remember, the complex gowns of the late 1800s were all created with, at most, a very basic machine.
Safe knife use may not seem like an important skill in daily life if whittling and outdoor use are the only things that come to mind. When you consider how much we use knives in the kitchen, it doesn’t take long to see how important it is in daily life.
Other skills covered in this final chapter are how to build survival packs and how to safely and appropriately react to the sound of gunfire — a skill that is sadly needed in today’s world.
These 26 basic life skills aren’t complicated or exotic, but they are important in everyday life and emergencies. I recommend 26 Basic Life Skills: Survival Skills as a manual that can guide you and your family toward better preparedness. It’s well researched and provides lists of additional resources for deeper learning. Add this one to your family library of survival books!
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