As we were about to graduate instructor training, we asked one of our senior instructors how could we be considered survival experts compared to Australian aborigines, South American tribesman or the Massai in Africa. What he told us was that we were specifically trained with the principles of survival in mind. We weren’t to focus on how to survive in one specific environment, but how to survive in every environment everywhere around the world. Let’s discuss what I consider are some of the important survival skills from a prepper point of view. And let’s consider that list with S.E.R.E. in mind.

Photo courtesy of United States Air Force, USAF S.E.R.E. School

S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape)

Survival-Medical, Sustenance, Personal Protection, Navigation, and Signaling and Recovery

Evasion-the ability to move stealthily, as an individual or in a group

Resistance-how to deal with mentally and physically resisting dire situations or interrogation

Escape-getting out of a tricky situation or the more extreme measures of absconding from captors

Keep in mind as you read this that you can always go more in-depth on any issue to become and expert. For example, you can study about edible plants. Instead of them all, you just focus on edible berries, not just all berries but just blue-colored berries. You then learn the Latin names of every edible berry in just the Northern hemisphere. We aren’t going to dive that deeply into any particular topic but look at a broad spectrum of skills that you should know as an individual surviving alone in a remote environment.

Survival Basics

Medical-this is definitely a subject for which there is no end in learning. We all know that various situations will arise where some medical knowledge will be needed. Dire situations will require a doctor but what if no doctor is available? Learn how to apply a splint, stitch a wound and give an IV to a dehydrated person. Even something as simple as a child sticking something up their nose can be difficult if the child is crying and screaming. The video link below shows you how to do a “Mother’s kiss” to dislodge and item. I personally did this on a child one night at church and saved the mom a trip to the emergency room.

Sustenance-food and water has a broad range of skills that are needed. Procuring food can be via shopping of course, but also hunting or gathering wild edibles. Can you identify ehdible plants? Can you effectively hunt with various modern and primitive weapons? Can you procure water besides bottled or tap water? Do you know how to procure it AND purify the water?

Personal Protection-when we discuss personal protection we are breaking it down into three subcategories: clothing, shelter and fire

–Clothing largely involved the care and use of each piece of clothing as well as how to improvise a piece of clothing you might need

–Shelter can be anything from a natural type of shelter to something you have to build or improvise

–Fire involves any way or means to start a fire, modern or primitive

Photo courtesy of United States Air Force, USAF S.E.R.E. School

Navigation-plain and simple, how do I get from point A to point B. The knowledge and tools necessary to do so. That means not just relying on a GPS, a map or a compass; it also means knowing how to use cardinal directions and celestial navigation.

Signaling and Recovery-can you use electronic devices such as a cell phone, satellite phone and locator beacons? Can you set up a ground to air signal such as letters, fires, and flags? Do you know how to set them up so they will mean something to rescue forces?

Evasion-The art of acting like a ninja!!! You just need to be able to do so in any and every environment. That also includes doing so in an urban environment if it comes to it. This is much like stalking while hunting; being very quiet while moving and looking for anything around you. The art of evasion also applies to how you differ your basic survival methods, so you AREN’T detected. The best place to start practicing this is at home!!!! Get to know your house, where the floors squeak, how the doors squeak when you open them, where the blind spots are. Once you know these basic concepts practice sneaking up on your loved ones without them noticing.

Resistance-generally in SERE, this means resisting the interrogation of an enemy or anyone trying to obtain information from you when you don’t want to give it. In a survival sense, this can also refer to resisting giving in. Giving in to despair, the cold, the heat, temptation to quit, temptation to do many things that would be counterproductive to one’s survival. This can also mean resisting being questioned by law enforcement until legal counsel arrives.

Escape-this DOES NOT refer to escaping from lawful custody!!! This would refer to leaving a dire situation that is life threatening such as being in a fire, flood, attack or being help prisoner. Various skills are useful in this case; how to pick handcuffs, how to get out of ropes and zip ties, how to defeat duct tape or any other detaining method. It also involves knowing how to plan for your escape, gathering the necessary equipment and executing the escape to have the best chance of success AND to know what to do once you have escaped to avoid recapture.


If you are being detained by a governmental entity while traveling abroad, DO NOT ESCAPE!!! The return rate of American citizens being held by another friendly government, and even UNFRIENDLY GOVERNMENTS, is 100%. You must allow the diplomatic and legal process to work. If you escape while being lawfully detained, you can then be charged with a crime in that country. This will make your return MUCH MORE DIFFICULT!!!

Here is a list of what I consider are vital skills a SINGLE person must know to be able to survival indefinitely:

  • First aid and beyond
  • How to find and prepare plants
  • How to hunt and prepare animals
  • Water finding, gathering and purification
  • Clothing care, procurement and improvisation
  • Shelter building
  • Fire building using modern and primitive methods
  • Navigating using modern tools
  • Navigating using a map and compass
  • Navigating using the sun and stars (celestial navigation)
  • Know how to use electronic devices to contact help
  • Know how to make a ground to air signal
  • Know how to communicate with rescue forces to get yourself rescued
  • Camouflage-for the body and how to hide your location
  • Evasion movement-stalking, hunting, stealth movement in general
  • Resistance-how to resist interrogation
  • Strengthen the WILL TO SURVIVE

This list is in no way, shape or form all inclusive. Arguments can be made to add MANY items to this list, I quite agree. Yet, this is a basic list from which to start your mastery of survival. This list is a SURVIVAL 101 list of what any ONE person should know, IF they are alone. In a group setting this list is much more detailed but the wealth of knowledge can be shared amongst the group. In a future article we can look at a breakdown of various jobs for a team environment.

If you have read this article you now know what you need to start working on! Start with one topic that interests you and work that skill as much as possible. Then move on to the next one, constantly improving your knowledge base. Don’t just be stagnant once you’ve learned one skill. Keep broadening that skill level and work on new ones. Never stop learning and someday you too will be a Survival God!!!