Survival Lessons from the Ukraine War

10 Survival Lessons from the Ukraine Invasion. Survival / By Tom Marlowe

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the international community and drawn the world’s attention to the importance of personal readiness. As we watch the events unfold, it is easy to imagine ourselves and our loved ones being caught in the jaws of events that are so much bigger than we are. The fear, the uncertainty, the danger. And ever the question that hangs over our heads: How would we do in the same circumstances? By observing the events and listening to the testimony and stories of those who survived it for real, the rest of us can learn many important lessons about being prepared for all kinds of emergencies, not just the threat of invasion and war. As the

Establish a Comprehensive Family Survival Plan

No single individual can survive in a hostile environment on their own. A cohesive group has a much higher chance of not only surviving, but also of thriving and rebuilding after a disaster. The first step to being prepared is to establish a comprehensive family survival plan that takes into account the unique needs, skills, and resources of each member of your family. Just as importantly, you must be prepared for disaster to strike when your family is scattered. Too many people make the fundamental mistake of assuming they will begin from the word go with all of their loved ones at their elbow or safe and sound at home. The reality might be the farthest thing from that example. Understanding how you will respond to a major crisis if you are at your distant workplace while your partner is elsewhere at theirs, two of your children are in school and another one is away on vacation is an entirely separate level of difficulty and complexity that must be accounted for to consider yourself truly prepared.

Understand the Contextual Vulnerability of Your Home. The next step is to understand the contextual vulnerability of your home area. This means understanding the risks specific to your location that could potentially lead to a disaster, and how different events and circumstances could result in unique threats. For instance, most people who practice a lifestyle of preparedness know what sorts of natural disasters are to be expected in their home area, but it pays to look deeper than that. You might live in a city or region that has many chemical plants or other refineries operating in the area, installations that could result in massive and dangerous toxic spills into the air or water should they be damaged by natural events or attacked by terrorists or government forces. Likewise, people who live in major urban areas or other dense population centers will have different contextual threats in all circumstances compared to those who live in sleepy rural hamlets. Both areas have advantages and disadvantages during different incidents that smart survivors will know how to exploit or avoid at turns.

Complacency Kills One of the biggest killers in any disaster is complacency. People often think “it can’t happen to me” or they become so used to a situation that they stop being vigilant. Disaster can and does strike people who are not prepared, often with devastating consequences. Complacency often disguises itself as the siren song of ease and comfort, but that song can surely result in you and your family being split open on the rocks just like the heroes of fable.

Avoiding complacency is easier said than done when most of us have lives that are packed from stem to stern with chores and tasks that must be accomplished, be there for family or otherwise. But if you consider the fact that investing in your own personal readiness is as necessary and vital as anything else you might have to accomplish to maintain your way of life, you should find the process easier. Allowing yourself to become slow, listless and less capable is tantamount to sin, and should disaster strike you’ll be found wanting. Remain alert and be prepared for anything.

Normalcy Bias Can Blind You to Real Dangers On the other hand, being too confident in your assessment of a situation as “good” or “stable” might be just as dangerous. People who are constantly on guard may begin to perceive threats where none exist, resulting in a condition of paranoia, but believing that nothing is going to change because nothing ever changes leads to a condition called normalcy bias. Normalcy bias is a form of blindness that inhibits you from seeing real dangers. Normalcy bias strikes when you refuse to accept what you are seeing or sensing as real. Normalcy bias is sometimes subtle but is almost always tragic. It is normalcy bias that sees a bystander essentially ignore an active shooter walking into a mall with a rifle because they convinced themselves that it is a prank or the rifle is just a BB gun or toy.

Normalcy bias also slows the necessary intervention required when a loved one is incapacitated or hurt because a person believes them to be playing or horsing around. Overcoming normalcy bias is not as easy as it sounds, but it can be done if you are ruthlessly dedicated toward following proper procedure in response to specific stimuli. In the case of the Ukraine invasion, you would not want to convince yourself that the booming of a major ordnance and bombs is thunder, a car backfiring or anything else.

Don’t Let Your Principles be Tested in Extremis In a disaster, your principles will be put to the test. You may find yourself in a position where you have to choose between what is right and what is expedient, between what you believe in and what will keep you alive. It is important to think about these things ahead of time so that you are not forced to make a decision in the instant that can have grave or even lifelong consequences. Considering the invasion of Ukraine, for instance, pretty much the entirety of the male population was drafted overnight for military service. How would this change your plans if you were a person drafted to fight, or one of your immediate family members? Would you try to get your remaining family members to safety in defiance of the government order, or would you send them away and report for duty? Similarly, if you were confronted with a tidal wave of refugees quite literally fleeing death in front of enemy guns, would you help them by sharing supplies with them or even your own home? Would you do the same knowing that this will come at the expense of supplies that you and your loved ones might desperately need later, and have a little hope of replacing? This scenario is made all the more complicated by the competing desires and input of your loved ones. It is imperative that you discuss such situations ahead of time and reach a consensus or at least acceptance well prior to having your core principles put to the test.

You Must Train to Survive You must be both physically and mentally prepared in order to survive a catastrophe. This implies that you should train for any potential emergency that may occur. It also implies having the necessary equipment and resources so that you are not caught off guard when disaster strikes and more importantly knowing how to use it.

Knowledge is fine, but it is not nearly as valuable as wisdom, and wisdom is the possession of knowledge that is refined through lived experience. You must train if you want to survive in any domain, from life or death self-defense to survival in devastated urban zones or remote wilderness retreats. A live event is not the time for figuring it out or making it up as you go. Although there will be plenty of times in a chaotic and variable survival situation where you’ll have to improvise and adapt on the fly, not having a reservoir of experience to draw from that will inform your choices soundly is the mark of an amateur and likely a future victim.

Don’t Be a One-Trick Survivor The key to survival is not just being good at one thing, but having a variety of skills and resources that you can draw on when the time comes. This means being well-rounded in your knowledge and training, as well as having a diverse set of tools and supplies that will help you in any situation. This is most commonly expressed by those who only practice what they enjoy practicing. For those who enjoy exercise they’ll turn into gym rats who neglect other hard skills. People who enjoy camping will be more than happy to work out their outdoor survival skills. Folks of a defensive mindset will spend most or all of their time in the martial arts dojo or at the gun range. As one famous author once remarked, specialization is for insects. It is imperative that you become at least passingly competent in a wide variety of survival skills in order to consider yourself truly and holistically prepared for any situation that might come your way. First aid, land navigation, improvised construction, sourcing food, treating water, fighting, driving, repairs and more are all skills that you should possess.

Open-Source Info can Help or Harm The advent of the internet and social media has given us access to a wealth of information, both good and bad. It is important to be able to discern between reliable sources of information and those that are not, as well as separating fact from fiction. The same goes for social media, among other sources; it can be a great way to get information out quickly, and obtain it quickly, but learning to sift fact from fiction is a skill unto itself.

Accordingly, though you can quickly scan several major websites to get a gist of what people are talking about and potentially inform your own decisions, you must be careful to vet that information lest you take it as gospel and make a terrible mistake. This is rarely easy, as you’ll be competing against misinformation, deliberate propaganda, rumor and good old-fashioned human error. Only by carefully cross-checking important information against multiple sources and applying a healthy dose of logic and common sense will you be able to determine what is reality and what is worth incorporating into your decision making process.

Develop Alternate, Contingency and Emergency Plans No plan is foolproof, and Murphy’s Law will always be in effect. That is why it is important to have alternate plans, contingency plans, and emergency plans in place for any potential scenario. This way, if something does happen and your original plan falls through, you still have a backup plan that can get you through alive. These plans should be increasingly granular compared to your primary plan. Let us take another direct example from the Ukraine invasion, that of the massive and grinding evacuation from Kiev. By now we have all seen the pictures of the massive, total miles long gridlock that has completely stymied the efforts of those trying to get out of the city by vehicle. In this case, your alternate plan would be to take back roads and lesser traveled highways away from the city and another direction before dog legging back towards your destination. Your contingency plan could be to head in the same direction via boat or some other watercraft, theoretically. Your emergency plan could be to hoof it out of the city on foot using wagons or some other labor saving implement to carry vital supplies and small children. By applying this planning system to the most important elements of your survival or readiness plan you will be drastically more prepared for dealing with the many curveballs that are sure to be thrown your way.

The Best Protection is Early Avoidance. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid disaster before it happens. This means being aware of potential risks in your area and taking steps to mitigate them. It also means having a plan in place so that you know what to do if something does happen. And it most definitely means getting out of the way of trouble or well away from it before it arrives or occurs. The rumbling of invasion was announced loud and clear well before Russian vehicles and troops started streaming across the border. Troops were massing, diplomatic talks grew more desperate or confrontational and all of the other dancing steps of War were on full display. Why did so many wait until it was too late to take action? Nobody wants to jump the gun, wasting time and resources, in the case that nothing winds up happening but it is for worse to be wrong in this case and then caught flat-footed and behind the eight ball when disaster strikes. We see the same sort of behavior on display in coastal regions when a monster hurricane is barreling down on residents who wait until the very last minute to evacuate. By then, it is too late. By acting early in response to fresh warning of potential threats, you can be sure you have the maximum amount of time and leeway to affect a meaningful response, and ultimately will potentially save your life and the life of your loved ones. The earlier you can identify a potential problem, the better off you will be.

Ready for War?

These are just a few of the things that you can do to increase your personal readiness for any potential emergency. By following these tips, you will give yourself the best chance of surviving and thriving in the face of disaster.

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