Modern scouting workbooks and badges may focus a lot more on technology merit badges, but the old training manuals offer a multitude of back-to-basics skills an easy-to-understand step-by-step instructions. Old Boy Scout manuals prioritize wilderness survival tasks in a no-frills manner that we should still be mimicking today. The wilderness survival skills which abound in old Boy Scout manuals could help us all become more prepared for an emergency.
What We Can Learn From Old Scouting Manuals
1. Security is the immediate need which must be assessed during any type of emergency scenario. Getting away from danger as quickly and quietly as possible will likely save lives.
2. Emergency first aid should be addressed second. It may be difficult to fight the urge to patch up a gunshot wound before leaving the area, but if the entire group spends just a few seconds working on a patient at the scene, more victims and potential fatalities could likely occur.
3. Self-protection, and by extension, self-defense issues should be tackled next. If you and those in your group are possibly at risk from predators of either the four or two-legged variety, you need to arm everyone in the group. Yes, everyone. Even the youngest members need to possess some item that can be used for self-defense. If everyone is not in possession of a firearm, or is too young to safely carry a gun without training, then do as the Boy Scouts instruct and sharpen a stick into a weapon or secure a knife to a pole and use it to defend yourself.
4. Once reaching or establishing a safe zone and taking care of weapons and first aid issues, other physical needs now need to be addressed, according to old Boy Scout manuals. You and members of your group are now encouraged to construct a temporary shelter, gather wood for a fire, find or evaluate available water, and address any hygiene matters which could impact your ability to function – bandage changes, wet socks or clothing, and cleansing hands before eating to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness. 238
5. The first Boy Scouts of America handbook issues in 1911 encourages all troop members to eat whole wheat for its “muscle-building” properties and because it is easily digestible. “It is ready-cooked and ready-to eat. It has the greatest amount of body-building nutriment in smallest bulk,” the manual said.
6. Old Boy Scouts manuals also note that the way to achieve big things is to prepare yourself for doing all of the big things. Training and observation are noted as the best way to survive in the wilderness. Learning about the woods and animals in your area and watching the creatures in their native habitat will reportedly enhance tracking and hunting skills, as well as navigational awareness in the woods.
The old manuals also encourage the study of woodcraft, as well as animal signs and tracking to determine how fast an animal was going, if it was frightened when running, and to determine how long ago the tracks were made. Such knowledge may enhance your ability to hunt and to know if possible other people or natural elements (fire, earthquake tremors, etc.) are an immediate danger.
7. Woodcraft skills outlined in the old training manuals also teach readers about edible roots, nuts, bark, and fruit which are found in the woods. Knowing not only what is safe for you to eat, but what is routinely consumed by animals, may also help in the tracking and hunting process.
8. Knot tying instructions in old Boy Scout manuals will guide users through the steps necessary to complete the type of knots necessary for building a shelter, a snare, a slingshot, and even a primitive rod and reel.
What would you need after a fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, power grid down scenario, or other disaster?
Storing survival basics is often a priority for off the grid families, but some of the most important items probably are missing from your safe. We have become so accustomed to turning on cell phones, tablets, and computers to find necessary files and to share photos that the old-fashioned paper counterparts to the files might be getting lost in the shuffle.
Items You Should Have In Your Safe Or Fire Proof Box Right Now
• A grab-and-go binder with photos and pertinent information of people in your house. Include any medical or mental health conditions, medication being taken, identifying marks, age, birthdate, and likely places the individual, if a child, could run and hide if frightened during an emergency. Although mom and dad might know all the details well, both could perish during a disaster and it would be a distraught grandparent or neighbor attempting to help out. Making at least two copies of each family member’s page and laminating them with clear contact paper could be helpful.
• Passports, Social Security cards, shot records, school records, insurance policies, marriage certificate, and birth certificates – and extra copies of all of them. Multiple people may need copies in an emergency. If each parent is armed with all the necessary identifying documents and proof of custody, time will not be wasted doubling back to garner the documents from the other parent in order to retrieve the child from a rescue center or hospital.
• Bank statements along with safety deposit box keys. If there is any chance at all of recovering your money after a disaster such as a power grid failure, a paper trail of transactions, proper identification, and proof of account ownership will be needed. For the sake of redundancy, keep cancelled checks, deposit slips, and ATM withdraw slips in the safe, as well. 240
• A copy of a filed real estate deed and legal will. Many folks in New Orleans after Katrina could not prove they owned property which had been in their family for generations because the courthouse flooded and deed copies had not been stored in a safe capable of surviving the flood.
• Photos and a jump drive or other electronic copy of the interior of the home and of belongings. Proof of the state of the home and items contained within it could help garner a positive insurance settlement after a disaster.
• Gold and silver – while you may have precious metals stored elsewhere, consider storing some inside the safe. It can help to have previous metals in various places after a disaster.
• Maps of your city, county, and state. A traditional map will become extremely beneficial if GPS runs out of battery or fails to work. A map designed specifically for younger children is also a great backup item. The map could simply be drawn by hand or be created on the computer with photos of landmarks, safe hiding places, emergency caches, and relative’s homes incorporated into the document. If children are home alone or left with an injured parent during a disaster, a map they can understand will help guide them to safety.
• An address book with names of close friends or relatives should be stored with the maps. Although the journey to a relative’s home in a presumably safe location could be a long one on foot, the trek could become necessary. The list of relatives with their relationship to you noted next to their name also could be used for rescuers to locate next of kin for identification purposes or to find a loved one to assume care of orphaned children.
• A homestead care guide for children and a personal note for them (or a spouse) to read. The note could bring solace to the mourning loved ones, but also help those left behind maintain the livestock, necessary energy and water systems, and garner deeper knowledge of the planting and harvesting process.
Also consider storing a second safe complete with identical materials away from the home. It is not safe to assume that flooding or a fire will not prevent you from reaching the at-home safe, or that your home will even still be standing after disaster strikes. A fireproof safe may not be large enough to include your entire preparedness library, but it could contain an instruction guide which corresponds to color-coded binders where detailed reference material can be found.