How to Survive in a Wildfire Situation

A wildfire is, by definition, a fire that burns strongly and is generally out of control. The term has its root in the ancient Greek word. This word referred to a combustible liquid that could be lit easily but was difficult to extinguish.

Whilst the Greek wildfire was used in warfare, especially against ships, today a wildfire poses a threat to civilian lives and property.Typically, these fires rage in rural areas and often start on their own. However, because of the nature of the terrain and vegetation, a wildfire will often burn uncontrollably and sometimes for weeks at a time.

As fire often spreads fast and wind- borne embers jump from one hotspot to another, you can find yourself quickly surrounded and cut off from safety.

6 Tips to survive a Wildfire

  1. As soon as you see, hear or smell a fire, leave the area. Take the lowest route because fire burns in an upward direction.
  2. Avoid taking an evacuation route that could channel you into a narrow valley or onto a steep slope. Both act as a chimney for a fire.
  3. Cross a section of burning or smoldering ground to get behind a fire. Before doing so, remove clothing made of synthetic material, jewelry and cover your mouth with a cloth.
  4. If in your car, stay put. Close all windows and vents and lie on the floor. The turbulence caused by the fire will shake the car but not cause the sealed fuel  tank to explode immediately.
  5. Once the fire has passed over you car, get out and move in the direction from which the fire approached.
  6. If your clothes catch fire, do not stand. You might inhale the smoke from your burning clothes and affect your lungs. Simply stop, drop and roll on the ground. Do not use your hands to beat out the fire, just keep rolling.

H.E.A.T. tip: If caught in a wildfire, immerse yourself in a deep body of water if available. Do not immerse yourself in a puddle. The water will boil.

Join one of our courses and learn how to survive any natural or man-made disaster.

Nuclear blast

Following the ending of the Cold War in the last decade of the 1980’s, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief. But, has the threat of a nuclear attack ended?

Whilst it is unlikely that a nation state will start a nuclear war, there is a growing concern that terrorists and other criminal gangs might detonate a ” dirty bomb”. 

This type of device is a combination of radioactive material and conventional explosives such as ammonium nitrate-fuel oil mixture ( ANFO), picric acid or trinitrotoluene ( TNT). Placed in a briefcase and remotely detonated by a mobile phone, such a bomb would cause extensive damage and spread radioactive material over large distances. Chechnya has been implicated twice of attempting to use such a bomb containing radioactive caesium- 137. More attempts, and not necessarily by Chechen rebels, are likely to occur over the next decade.

In order to survive a nuclear or radiation attack, consider how a nuclear bomb works. After the detonation, there is a blinding flash. This is accompanied by a super heated thermal heat wave. After this, there is a blast wave and electromagnetic pulse ( EMP) which will destroy most infrastructure and  communications in the vicinity.

But, the most destructive element of all is the alpha, beta and gamma radiation emitted by the blast. This fallout, especially the gamma rays, can be life threatening.

6 steps to protect yourself from a nuclear blast.

  1. Shelter behind or under a  barrier of solid materials.Make this barrier from steel more than 12 cm thick or  earth at least a metre thick.
  2. Lie on the ground with legs crossed and mouth open. Face away from the blast.
  3. Decide if you want to outrun the radioactive fallout or shelter in place. If the former, be fit because there will not be any transport available. If the latter, have a quantity of medical countermeasures available such as Radiogardase ( aka Prussian blue) or potassium iodine.
  4. Run to safety  in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the wind.
  5. 5.If you seek shelter indoors, create an L- shaped entrance. Gamma rays cannot turn around corners.
  6. Dispose of contaminated clothing and wash yourself thoroughly with salted or soapy water. Alternatively, use unaffected soil by sprinkling it on your body and sweeping it off.

H.E.A.T. tip: Any fresh food, even if wrapped in plastic, will be contaminated. Only eat canned food.

For more information on how to survive a nuclear, biological or chemical ( NBC) attack by terrorists, attend one of our courses.

Lightning travels at 5920 km per second. That is faster than a bullet fired from an assault rifle- 1000 metres per second.

A natural disaster poses serious risks to your life, liberty and limb. People die, are trapped or injured during and after a natural disaster. Whether a fire, flood or storm, natural disasters are life threatening.

By understanding the causes of natural disasters, we are better equipped to survive.  Natural disasters are caused by three factors: the Earth’s movements; weather; and extreme weather. In Africa, extreme heat would be classed as a weather- related disaster. But,  a subsequent famine would be the result of extreme weather. 

6 Survival Tips for a Storm

  1. Stay indoors. There is a very real threat from flying debris and broken infrastructure.
  2. Equalise pressure in your building by opening the windows a couple of centimeters. This will reduce the risk of your building imploding.
  3. Tie down or lock away outdoor furniture such as tables, chairs and portable  bbq equipment.
  4. Know how to turn off your water, electricity and gas at the mains.
  5. Make a plan to relocate or protect your household pets.
  6. Check that your windscreen wipers are working, the petrol tank is  full and the spare Tyre is inflated

Remember, during a disaster, people panic. This panic makes people frustrated and they often become violent. Avoid this violence by knowing what to do and when to evacuate.

H.E.A.T. tip: Although lightning hits the tallest object in striking distance, it also strikes metal and electrical surfaces. Do not use your mobile phone whilst outside in a tropical storm.

Learn more survival techniques by joining others on one of our regular H.E.A.T. courses during 2018

Drinking water when SHTF

For many of us, water is a resource that is only appreciated when it is scarce. Often, the shortage of food is a nuisance but you can  live for 3 weeks without it. You can only live 3 days without water. But, in a SHTF scenario, your need for water will increase because of stress, activity and anxiety. The problem is that you do not know how drinkable that water is following a disaster.

Once you realise that a SHTF scenario could happen, you need to fill up bathtubs, buckets and bottles with water from your taps. As the disaster occurs, it is likely that chemicals, fuel or sewerage will contaminate the municipal water supply and your water resources.

In a flood, for example, drainage pipes burst and vehicles overturn. The flood waters become contaminated and this water needs to be treated before it can be drunk. In a fire, storm or bombing, similar destruction of the water infrastructure could make the water undrinkable.

How to make water drinkable:

Before boiling water, filter out the debris using a sock, stocking or a cloth. Bring it to  the boil, let it cool and store.

Add a few drops of food colouring to a teaspoon of bleach. Add the unscented bleach to two litres of water. Wait until the bleach has settled. Drink.

Use what the military uses: iodine tablets or an iodine solution. Mix with water according to the instructions.

Chlorine dioxide tablets will purify one litre of water at a time but let the tablet fully dissolve. The taste is similar to a swimming pool but not as strong. Experimen and buy some tablets to add to water from the tap. You will not enjoy the taste but you might get used to it. 

Fill some clear glass or plastic bottles with clean water ( no murkiness or floating debris). Place the bottles in direct sunlight for 6 hours or more. The sun’s UV ( ultra violet) rays will disinfect the water. Alternatively, invest in a  battery- powered Stripen. These units destroy bacteria by using UV to modify the molecular structure of the molecules found in the water.

For the best results, use a ceramic filter. Unlike the five methods listed above which will get rid of viruses, bacteria and micro- organisms, ceramic filters remove almost 100% of all contaminants. Even lead, fuel and other toxins.

H.E.A.T. tip: Keep a 7 day  supply of bottled water in your home before a SHTF scenario. Whilst a minimum of 2 litres per person per day will be suitable for drinking and cooking, you will need other water sources for washing and cleaning.

SHTF gear

The prepper community and survivalist community post more checklists than an airline pilot. Whilst checklists are useful, they can also limit one’s thinking. 

For some, they will never leave home without a fishing kit and a condom. Yet, have they ever  tried to catch fish in their neighborhood or attempted to fill and carry water in a condom?

Others recommend carrying a few MREs and a gas or biofuel stove. But, the bulk of these items far outweigh the benefits of speed that travelling light provides.

Before filling a bag with all the absolute necessities you think you might need in a SHTF scenario, practice using some EDC ( every day carry) items on a regular basis. If you do not use items in your EDC container on a regular basis, review what you have packed and consider alternatives.

That said, herewith 6 SHTF gear items that you can easily pack into a small tin, Tupperware or pouch for daily use:

  1. A means of making fire- lighter, ferrochromium rod, tinder
  2. A means of handling water- non lubricated condom, purification tablets, potassium permanganate
  3. A means of cutting- folding knife, scalpel, hacksaw blade
  4. A means of signalling- a whistle, torch, mirror
  5. A means of navigation- button compass, magnet, pen and paper
  6. A means of nutrition- hard candy, corn syrup, dried meat/ cheese 

Tip: Do not eat unless you have water.

Join one of our courses to learn more about really effective SHTF gear you should carry daily. 


The Prepped community uses as many acronyms as the military. In order to develop an effective SHTF plan, you need to understand what many of the preppers’ acronyms stand for so you can communicate with these self- reliant individuals.

SHTF ( shit hits the fan) describes a scenario where civil society has been disrupted by a man- made or natural disaster. For many, this disruption will raise many questions about how to survive. Yet, these questions are best answered by understanding the impact of other scenarios described by acronyms such as TEOTWAWAKI ( the end of the world as we know it) and WROL ( without rule of law).

Your plan needs to address the immediate needs of yourself and your loved ones. This plan can be extended to other family members, friends and work colleagues depending on the situation.

Most SHTF scenarios are accompanied by WROL. Yet, a TEOTWAWKI scenario might be so drastic that neither law enforcement, the military or civil society have the skills orc resources to assist you and your family.

You cannot prepare for every scenario. Rather, you should understand the principles of survival, practise skills and develop the mindset that you are a survivor.

So, develop your SHTF plan around the principles of survival:

  1. Seek and secure protection from the elements. Adverse weather will kill you quicker than a zombie attack, pandemic or a coup.
  2. Develop a communications system to inform your loved ones about your location and alert rescue personnel, if possible. Consider that you would rather see than be seen.
  3. Acquire local and useful knowledge about the immediate area and people who can assist you. Such knowledge will help you to supplement your water and food resources and help you if you decide to leave the area( bug out).
  4. Maintain the ability to navigate. Use a compass, draw maps of the area, know your cardinal points and be able to navigate to safe and secure locations.
  5. Have access to suitable medical supplies at all times. Whatever the cause of a man- made or natural disaster, personal hygiene is quickly compromised.You need to maintain your personal hygiene at the highest level. Keep yourself clean and your clothes repaired. In this way, you will minimise the risks of infection, sickness and disease.

Tip: Plan what you, as a family, will do once you have recognised and accepted a SHTF scenario. This plan need not be documented but it helps to rehearse specifications when you can.

To get more knowledge about surviving a SHTF and prepping yourself to cope, attend one of our H.E.A.T. courses.

Niger ambush

Whilst the Pentagon might claim that the US military does not have an active, direct combat mission in Niger, the local Islamist probably disagree. 

Which is why the death of four American Special Forces soldiers in an ambush outside the village of Tongo is a portent of further military conflict in the Sahel.

The US and France both recognise that the Sahel is a security threat. The French have 4000 troops in the region and the Americans have deployed over 800.These troops are engaged in counter- terrorist operations and the  training of local forces.

Yet, the recent ambush by Islamists fighting for the Al- Qai’da affiliated Group for Support of Islam and Muslims highlights the connection between climate change and conflict.

Three terrorist groups were born in the Sahel during the 1990s and 2000s. An American military research centre in April 2007 described desertification as a ” threat incubator”. Deserts breed violence.

Perhaps, America and France could defeat the Islamist in the Sahel by conquering the desert first.

Cape Town kidnapping

kidnap courseThe kidnapping and beheading of Robin Kemper is both a tragedy and a lesson. It is a tragedy because it was a senseless murder. It is a lesson because the beheading was designed to send a message. To whom and why remains unknown.

A beheading is not a typical act of violence by South African criminals. The recent study of murders on Free State  farms over the past decade has suggested that when beheading have occurred, the murderers were foreigners. Were Kemper’s abductors paid foreigners or was their act a copy cat beheading to instill fear? If so, to whom and why?

Meanwhile, there are lifesaving lessons to be learned from this incident. Every criminal act follows these six steps:

  1. Target selection
  2. Planning
  3. Resources allocation
  4. Attack
  5. Escape
  6. Exploitation

As one of the few companies globally, and the only one in South Africa, Zero Foundation provides specialised training and consultancy to executives who are prone to abduction, detention, kidnapping and restraint. 

Whether at home, at the office, in public or in transit, we show you the tried and tested techniques to remain safe and secure.

By stopping the criminal cycle, you will survive and your loved one’s will be protected.

H.E.A T. tip: Always try to escape within the first 24 hours of a kidnapping. You will be hydrated, fed and rested, albeit scared. After a few  days, you will be much weaker and probably hurt.

Election violence in Africa

Election violence is defined as violent action against property, people and the electoral process. Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leonne, Chad, Uganda, Zambia , Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have all witnessed electoral violence. So has South Africa.

In the DRC, ethnic, economic, political and social divisions have created a volatile environment for the delayed presidential elections.

Kabila refused to step down as President when his final term ended in December 2016. Now, it is unlikely that the balloting will not take place until 2019 because of the need to update the electoral roll.

Whatever the reasons, activists in DRC want action. The situation could turn violent.

If you are in a city during a riot or election violence, stay indoors. Fill the bathtub with water. Barricade the doors and windows with heavy furniture. If you can, move to an upper floor and arm yourself. This creates a choke point which is easier to defend if there are several intruders. Wait for order to be restored.

To learn how to protect yourself during election violence in Africa, join one of our courses.

H.E.A.T. tip: You can reduce the effects of tear gas by wearing swimmers’ goggles and a nose-clip. These will protect  the sensitive membranes in your eyes and nose. Cover your mouth with a cloth but remember to breathe.

Madagascar misery

There are three types of plague: bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. Madagascar is experiencing a pneumonic plague outbreak and over 1000 people have recently been infected  by the bacterium Yersina pestis.

This form of plague has 3 characteristics: victims contract a severe lung infection; treatment is with antibiotics; and the mortality rate, if untreated, is high.

Given the prevalence of counterfeit antibiotics in Madagascar, the use of cheap but crowded  transport and the growing rat population because of poor sanitary conditions, it is likely that the plague could reach epidemic proportions by the Christmas holidays when many travel from the Highlands to the coastal regions.

However, cases of the plague have now been reported in another 9 African countries. Many of these countries are holiday destinations for tourists from the Northern hemisphere chasing the sun. South Africa has been identified as one of the priority countries that could be affected, along with Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania,Ethiopia and Seychelles.

Apart from the danger of spreading the plague by infected air travellers over the holiday season, there is another recently identified threat of far greater concern- bioterrorism.

Last April, Bill Gates warned the Royal United Services Institute in London that an outbreak of the plague or smallpox could spread and kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. The Nuffield Council of Bioethics supported Gate’s claim by reporting that a new technique called Crispr was easily available online. This technique allows ” garage scientists” to cut and paste genetic code for their own use.

But, if that sounds too complicated, security experts have observed that terrorists now have access to over 10 diseases that can be aerosolised. One or two small  cans discharged in a plane before take- off could infect all the passengers before the plane reached cruising altitude.

This might add a sinister dimension to the phrase ” spray and pray”, as used by terrorists who randomly fire machine guns into crowded venues.