Car rescued from an avalanche
It's hard to breathe—let alone think—when you're trapped under a wall of snow or submerged in a frozen pond.

As unlikely as these situations may seem, it doesn't hurt to be armed with basic survival skills...just in case.


Survival Guide:

If you're traveling through a snowy mountain pass or planning a ski trip, the Forest Service National Avalanche Center says to always carry a beacon, shovel and probe pole.

Many avalanche victims die when carbon dioxide builds up in the snow around their mouths and noses, which can cause carbon dioxide poisoning. Use your hands to clear a space in front of your mouth. Then, push your hand toward the surface. The Utah Avalanche Center reports that chances of survival increase dramatically if rescuers find you within 15 minutes.

It Happened to Me...
One afternoon, David and June Boon were driving to their cabin in Winter Park, Colorado, when a wall of snow and ice—200 feet wide and 15 feet high—came crashing down on their car. The fierce avalanche swept the Boons off the road and sent their car over the guardrail, where it flipped four times and plummeted 200 feet. The car came to a crashing halt when it hit a tree.

After several minutes, David managed to free himself from his seat belt and crawl out of a window. He went to the other side of the car to help dig June's head out of the snow, which was still piling around her. He used a pocketknife to free her from her seat belt and pulled her to safety.

Lightning storm
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
Survival Guide:

The American Meteorological Society estimates that lightning kills about 100 people every year in the United States—more than hurricanes and tornadoes combined. To protect yourself during a storm, the National Lightning Safety Institute suggests waiting out the storm in a large, enclosed structure like a house, school or library. Once you're safely inside, avoid electrical appliances, lighting fixtures, electrical sockets and open windows or doorways.

If you're stuck outdoors, steer clear of open areas like beaches and golf courses, and by all means, never seek shelter under a tree, the American Meteorological Society says.

If you see someone get struck by lightning, begin CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as soon as possible. Despite enduring myths, lightning strike victims don't retain an electrical charge, so you're safe.

It Happened to Me...

During the summer of 2006, high school friends Zach and Ernie set out on a hike up a Colorado mountain. They climbed the 13,000-foot peak, and as they began their descent, storm clouds rolled in. Suddenly, both boys were knocked to the ground. They'd been struck by a bolt of lightning, which struck Zach in the back of the head, traveled the length of his body, came out his left foot and then hit Ernie.

When Ernie regained consciousness a few seconds later, he realized Zach wasn't breathing and his pulse had stopped. Fearing for his friend's life, Ernie performed CPR on Zach, which jump-started his heart.

Singapore Airlines crash
Survival Guide:

According to a April 2007 report in O, The Oprah Magazine, you're safer when you board an airplane than when you get behind the wheel of a car. The chance that you'll be killed in a crash in any given year is only about one in 11 million for planes; it's one in 5,000 for automobiles.

Despite the odds, airline emergencies do happen. If your plane is at risk, take the usual precautions—tighten your seat belt and follow the instructions of the flight attendant, says Todd Curtis, founder of when asked if there's a section of the plane where the odds of survival are greater, Curtis says: "Tell me the kind of plane you're in and the kind of accident you're going to have, and I'll tell you where to sit."

But, Curtis adds, the middle seating area near the wing is the strongest and most structurally stable part of most aircraft. And at the very least, you'll feel less turbulence when you sit there.

It Happened to Me...

In October 2000, music producer John Diaz was wrapping up a business trip in Asia when bad weather, caused by an approaching typhoon, hit Taiwan. Despite heavy rain and strong winds, John's flight, Singapore Airlines Flight 006, stuck to the scheduled departure time.

As the wheels began to leave the runway, the plane hit a barrier. Then, a second collision ripped a hole in the plane and fiery jet fuel filled the cabin. John, who was sitting in the first row, shielded himself with a leather carry-on bag and escaped through an exit door. In all, the crash killed 83 people. John was one of 96 passengers to survive.

Frozen lake
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
Survival Guide:

First, find your best escape route and pull yourself out of the water as quickly as possible. To avoid breaking more ice around you, survival expert Bear Grylls, host of Man vs. Wild, says to channel your inner seal and keep a low center of gravity as you slide to safety.

As soon as you're a safe distance away, remove your wet clothes and try to get dry. According to Bear, a former member of the British Special Forces, you lose heat 25 times faster when you're wet than when you're dry. It may seem counterintuitive, but Bear suggests using powdery snow to sop up excess water.

To get the blood pumping, do push-ups, jumping jacks or run in place. Do whatever it takes to get warm, but remember, unless you can get a fire going or find shelter, you're still in danger.

It Happened to Me...

While on location in the European Alps, Bear willingly jumped—fully clothed—into a frozen lake. Despite the risk of hypothermia and cardiac arrest, Bear wanted to teach viewers how to escape from this life-threatening situation.

Do you have a chilling survival story? Leave a comment below.


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