Survival situations can arise unexpectedly to anyone, anywhere, whether you are on a hiking trip, caught in a natural disaster, or find yourself in any other type of emergency scenario. Knowing the basics of survival can make a significant difference in these critical moments. The 5 Ws of Survival—Who, What, When, Where, and Why—offer a structured way to think about survival skills and preparedness. Let’s dive into each of these Ws to understand their importance.


Who: Know Your Company

In any survival situation, the ‘Who’ can significantly impact your strategy. Are you alone, or do you have family, friends, or even pets with you? The skills, physical condition, and emotional state of each person (or animal) with you can affect your priorities and decisions. For instance, protecting and caring for children or elderly companions may necessitate different shelter or food and water considerations than if you were alone.


What: Identify the Essentials

The ‘What’ in survival refers to identifying the essential elements you need to focus on to survive: shelter, water, food, and signal for help. Each of these elements is crucial, and the priority can vary depending on your specific situation. For example, in extreme weather conditions, finding or creating shelter may be your first priority, while in other scenarios, securing a water source might take precedence.


When: Timing Is Key 

Understanding ‘When’ to take certain actions is crucial for survival. This includes knowing when to stay put and wait for rescue versus when to move and seek help. The decision can depend on various factors, such as your location, the weather, your preparedness, and whether rescuers are likely to be looking for you. Additionally, timing your movements to conserve energy and avoid exposure to harsh conditions can be life-saving.


Where: Know Your Environment

The ‘Where’ involves understanding your environment and its resources. Are you in a dense forest, a desert, near a water body, or in an urban setting affected by a disaster? Each environment offers different resources and challenges. Familiarising yourself with basic navigation skills, learning to recognise local edible plants, and knowing how to find water are all valuable skills that depend on your specific location.


Why: The Purpose Behind Survival Efforts

Lastly, the ‘Why’ focuses on the purpose behind your survival efforts. This often involves a strong will to survive and the motivation to return to loved ones or simply to persevere through a challenge. The mental aspect of survival is just as important as the physical one. Maintaining a positive mindset, managing panic and fear, and setting small achievable goals can significantly impact your ability to survive.


The 5 Ws of Survival offer a framework to think about preparedness and action in potential survival situations. Understanding these aspects can help anyone develop a more robust survival plan, enhancing their ability to navigate and emerge safely from emergencies. Remember, the best time to learn and prepare for survival situations is before they occur. Taking the time to acquire survival skills, assemble emergency kits, and plan for various scenarios can make all the difference when the unexpected happens.