What would you do if you were lost and alone in the wilderness of East Tennessee? Each week, the Tri-Cities Examiner will focus on another survival tip. Get the basics on finding drinking water, building shelters, finding food and first aid.
Clear rivers and lakes may look clean, but there are millions of organisms in fresh water. If you don’t purify it, you can get extremely sick from bacteria or viruses. Freshwater springs can be safe to drink from without filtering, but in a survival situation you should err on the side of caution.
The first thing you should do if you are lost is find a safe source of drinkable water. The most obvious sources are streams, rivers and lakes. Animals always know where the water is, so be on the lookout for wildlife or animal tracks. Lush green vegetation is also a sign that water is nearby.
Rainwater in most rural areas can usually be consumed without risk of disease or illness. If it rains, use any and all containers you can get your hands on to collect it. If you have a poncho or can find some plastic sheeting, spread it out and tie the corners to trees a few feet off the ground. Find a container and tie the poncho on a slant with a slight sag to allow the rain to collect and drain. Remove the odor from water by adding charcoal from your fire. Let the water stand for 45 minutes before drinking it.
To make a filtering system, place several centimeters or layers of filtering material such as sand, crushed rock, charcoal or cloth in a tin can, old bottle or an article of clothing. Pour the water through the filter and into a container.
In order to safely drink river water, you need to purify it. Boiling is the best and easiest way to make fresh water safe — 10 minutes at a steady boil is a good rule. Boiling water means you need fire and a container of some kind. If you don’t have a container, you can probably find one or more of these items: Soda can, plastic bottle or glass jar.
Believe it or not, plastic bottles do work for boiling. One method is to completely fill the bottle with water, cap it and drop it into some hot coals. The lack of air in the bottle should keep it from melting. If you don’t have enough water to fill the bottle, suspend it above the fire with rope or vine so the flames just touch the bottom. The risk of boiling in a plastic bottle is that your bottle and main collection device may be gone. If you can’t start a fire, leave the water in the sun in a clear container to help kill bacteria.
Note: Some stores do carry water purifying kits with tablets and filtering bottles. It’s a good idea to purchase these and have them on hand if you plan to go hiking or for emergencies.
Please visit the Tri-Cities Examiner again next week for another Survival 101 tip.
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