PLAN: A Framework For Prioritising In A Survival Situation

PLAN: A Framework For Prioritising In A Survival Situation

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As I mentioned here, I aim to bring all of my best free material and resources in one place, here on my blog.

When you subscribe to email updates for this blog I send out links to 22 free videos. A couple of these videos relate to powerful but easy to remember frameworks for outdoor safety and survival.

On a number of occasions, I’ve wanted to share one or both of these two videos with people to help answer a question or to add to a discussion.

The above video is one of them (the other one is here) and in order to make it more visible I’ve created this article, in which it’s embedded.

Also the video is tweaked, remastered version of the original video.

N.B. For the benefit of viewers who have difficulty hearing, the text below is based on a transcription of the video and follows its narrative closely.

A Framework For Prioritisation

If you’re in an emergency situation in the outdoors, if you’re lost, if your stranded, if you’re in a situation that may ultimately become a survival situation, what do you do? How do you prioritise?

It’s raining, you don’t have the right equipment, you’re lost, one of your party’s injured, nobody knows where you are. What do you do? What do you do first?


What you need to do first is deal with any medical issues.

Any first aid that needs to be done, that’s your priority.

A casualty will die of a blocked airway or uncontrolled bleeding. This will happen before they die of hypothermia, or lack of food, or lack of water.

If they’re bleeding profusely or if they’re not breathing, that’s certainly going to kill them first.

I’d strongly recommend anybody heading outdoors – particularly off the beaten track – to have some good first aid and medical training.


Once you’ve dealt with the medical issues, what you need to remember is the acronym PLAN.

That’s P-L-A-N and what this stand for is protection, location, acquisition, and navigation.

We’re going to look at those each in turn…

PLAN - Protection


One of the biggest risks we face outdoors is hypothermia particularly when faced with wet, windy, and cold conditions.

Our first line of defence is our clothing, and it’s up to us to manage our clothing properly by ventilating, adjusting our layers, and regulating our activity.

Protecting yourself from environmental conditions isn’t just about the cold. You also need to take care to avoid dehydration, overheating, or getting too much sun.

The highest priority is likely to be shelter, particularly if anybody is injured.

A good shelter can provide cool shade or protect us from cold, wet, or windy conditions.

Fire is very important for staying warm outdoors. We can warm ourselves directly, we can heat a shelter, we can produce hot drinks and hot food, as well as dry our clothes.

Therefore, fire lighting is one of your most important skills. Make sure you practice various techniques before you really need them.

A shelter and a fire makes for very protective combination. It’s a combination that will keep you alive in conditions where you might otherwise perish.

And wherever you are, as the sun goes down, you will appreciate a fire not only for its warmth but also its light. Plus, it’s a fantastic boost to your morale.

You don’t always sleep well outside without sleeping kit but a fire makes it more bearable and will warm your bones until the first rays of sun in the morning.

PLAN - Location


Imagine there is a plane going over.

Maybe it’s looking for me, but I don’t have anything ready.

I don’t have a signal fire.

I don’t have anything to signal with.

I’m wearing drab clothing.

Nobody is going to see me. Particularly not in amongst trees.

To maximise the chances of being located by searchers, you need to be able to see and be seen.

And you need to make the necessary preparations before you start looking for food, even before you start looking for water.

There’s no point in having loads of food if people can’t find you.

Do everything you can to maximise your chances of being seen by searchers or passersby.

Make sure that you can actually see the searchers when they come looking for you. If there’s more than one of you, taking turns to keep watch.

PLAN - Acquisition


Next comes acquisition of resources. The most important is water. Sometimes, gathering water is obvious and easy.

Other times, it needs more ingenuity.

Then comes food. And unless you have a weapon, your best bets are carbohydrate rich plants, small game and fish.

The greater your bushcraft skills, the more you’ll be able to improvise from nature, tools, materials, and other useful items.

PLAN - Navigation


It’s never been easier to reach wild and remote parts of our planet, and we’re doing it more and more for recreation and adventure.

The question is though, what do we do when things go wrong?

Walking out to safety is commonly most people’s first thought but there are often advantages to staying put. These include materials, equipment, food and water that might be carried in vehicles or other modes of transport.

There are also dangers in moving away from your last known position.

Provided you told someone where you were going, people will know where to look for you.

So in many situations, it pays to sit and wait for your rescuers.

Covering rough unknown terrain can be arduous at the best of times so be realistic.

Ask yourself, are your navigation skills up to it, are you used to negotiating this type of terrain?

Will you cope out in the open if the weather deteriorates, or will you put yourself into an even more desperate situation?

PLAN: Summary

Remember PLAN. Protection, location, acquisition, and navigation.

But before you even start with plan, remember to deal with any medical issues, any first aid that needs to be done.

Then protection, location, acquisition, and navigation.

Hopefully, you never have to put that into action but if you do, I hope it serves you well.

If you like the video please share with others via the social media buttons above so others might also benefit.

If you don’t already have access to the 20 free videos mentioned in the video above, get them here.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

A Framework For Preparing Yourself For A Survival Situation

Survival Psychology With Dr Sarita Robinson

The Importance Of Leaving Word Before Heading Into The Wild

What To Do If You Get Lost Outdoors: STOP

13 thoughts on “PLAN: A Framework For Prioritising In A Survival Situation

  1. Excellent, Paul, We need more videos like this. Lots of value. Thanks!

  2. To me PLAN is the best Mnemonic to follow. Easier to remember, simple to remember and makes a lot of sense. Another great post Thanks

  3. Very good information and video.
    Congratulations and warm regards from Spain.

  4. Hi Paul,

    I learned the following mnemonic as part of my military SERE training to counter fear in an emergency or bad situation:
    S stands for Stop – Don´t do anything in haste,
    T stands for Think – What is the situation and how to avoid detection (It’s a military thing…),
    O stands for Orientation – Where am I and what have I got to help me,
    P stands for Plan – Where to go from here,

    Regards Erik

    1. Hi Paul,

      Just saw the second video… where you explained the mnemonic STOP just great…

      Regards Erik

  5. Hi Paul and all of You
    That video was fantastic, the content relevant, and timeless. You are correct sir: like the American
    mountainmen in earl 19th century, I fell in love with the freedom of the hills. Literal years spent mostly
    solo in the depths of the North Cascades and River Of No Return wilderness in Washington and Idaho.
    Going solo is a dangerous thing to do, especially if you go cross -country, but I love it. To be above timberline, at 8,000 ft ele., listen to the roar of distant waterfalls. A land from sea level to the glaciers
    at 9,000 ft elev, in the Pasayten Wilderness. Aurora Borealis in mid summer. Scared myself badly
    more than once too! Your videos express the incredible beauty of your experiences.
    Kind Regards
    Jim-Pacific Nw

  6. That video was fantastic, the content relevant, and timeless.

  7. Hi Paul,
    Very good informations and easy to remember.

    Thans a lot for teaching me.

    Pierluigi Tucci

  8. Would like to add that under the navigation tab that want to leave a trace of where you are going. Can look at the old Boy Scout trail signs with rocks or blazes on trees etc. so if someone comes looking for you that they have an indication in which direction that you are traveling.

  9. Great framework you have shared this will help lots of people and the videos are great… keep posting articles like this.

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