Pine River Police Officer Shawn Birr and local Military Surplus shop owner Rodney Helms taught students skills that could save their lives in an emergency.
Birr and Helms offered adults and kids the chance to attend their first survival class in the Pine River-Backus School Commons on Saturday, May 18. The class was dedicated to preparing those present for emergencies that could happen to them during an outing in the woods.
“Anybody who goes out, period, for any reason, should take some type of course, or read up,” Helms said.
“There’s tons of stuff on the Internet,” Birr said.
This class taught students various important survival tips, including: always travel with other people; always tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back; walk with guns unloaded during hunting seasons; wear harnesses in deer stands; and be aware of what you have, and other tips.
“If you are lost and it’s dark, stay in one spot,” Birr said.
“Don’t keep walking,” Helms said.
“That’s the worst thing you can do,” Birr said. “You’re going to walk out of the area where we are supposed to be looking for you. Sit down, start a fire. That’s the main thing. Around here, if you get lost, you’re going to have Cass County’s finest looking for you, and if it’s a deal where we can’t find you, they will put up a State Patrol helicopter.”
The class taught students the rules of three. Three loud noises such as gun shots, whistle blows or banging noises in a row are universal help signals when lost in the woods. Students also learned that when it comes to emergency needs, you can survive three minutes without oxygen, three hours under exposure, three days without water and three weeks without food.
There were only four adult students present and 19 children. John Kempf brought his son, Christos, to the class for peace of mind.
“It’s kind of a confidence thing. He’s starting to get old enough. I’m going to start letting him run loose in the woods by himself and I’d like him to not get panicky when he gets into one of these lost situations,” Kempf said. “We also just crossed over from Webelos into Boy Scouts.”
To prepare students for outdoor trips, Helms and Birr gave them all canteens with belt pouches, fire steels, thermal blankets, trigger locks for guns and emergency whistles with compass and thermometer.
They also broke the group in two and had participants practice making shelters from debris they found in the school forest, and then had them practice starting fires with fire steels, cattail fluff and dryer lint. All of this, they said, would help them to survive in the woods by preventing exposure as well as providing a method to purify water.
Helms told stories of experienced hunters and hikers who lost their lives in the woods because they got lost and didn’t have a means of starting a fire, didn’t know how to build sufficient shelters and had no water. All of these situations could be prevented using the knowledge and gear given to those who attended the class.
“Everybody gets turned around in the woods,” Birr said. “It happens, and if you’re not prepared for it to happen, things can get hairy. If you’re prepared, it’s not as bad as it can seem.”
Birr and Helms hope to hold more survival classes in the future. Those who are interested should watch the Pine River-Backus Community Education booklet for future opportunities.