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THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO
By Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht
C H R O N I C L E
SAN F R A N C I S C O
The authors wish to thank all the experts
who contributed to the making of this book,
as well as Jay Schaefer, Laura Lovett, Steve
Mockus, and the entire team at Chronicle Books.
Copyright © 1999 by book soup publishing, inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in
any form without written permission from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data available.
Printed in the United States of America
Designed by book soup publishing, inc.
Typeset in Adobe Caslon, Bundesbahn Pi, and Zapf Dingbats
Illustrations by Brenda Brown
a book soup publishing book
Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books
9050 Shaughnessy Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6P 6E5
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12
Chronicle Books LLC
85 Second Street
San Francisco, California 94105
When a life is imperiled or a dire situation is at
hand, safe alternatives may not exist. To deal with
the worst-case scenarios presented in this book,
we highly recommend—insist, actually—that the
best course of action is to consult a professionally
trained expert. Do NOT ATTEMPT TO UNDERTAKE
ANY OF THE ACTIVITIES DESCRIBED IN THIS BOOK
YOURSELF. But because highly trained professionals
may not always be available when the safety of
individuals is at risk, we have asked experts on
various subjects to describe the techniques they
might employ in those emergency situations. THE
PUBLISHER, AUTHORS, AND EXPERTS DISCLAIM
ANY LIABILITY from any injury that may result from
the use, proper or improper, of the information
contained in this book. All the information in this
book comes directly from experts in the situation
at hand, but we do not guarantee that the information contained herein is complete, safe, or accurate,
nor should it be considered a substitute for your
good judgment and common sense. And finally,
nothing in this book should be construed or interpreted to infringe on the rights of other persons
or to violate criminal statutes: we urge you to obey
all laws and respect all rights, including property
rights, of others.
Foreword by "Mountain"
Great Escapes and Entrances. . .17
How to Escape from Quicksand... 18
How to Break Down a Door... 20
How to Break into a Car... 24
How to Hot-wire a Car... 28
How to Perform a Fast 180-Degree Turn
with Your Car... 31
How to Ram a Car.. .34
How to Escape from a Sinking Car.. .36
How to Deal with
a Downed Power Line.. .39
The Best Defense... 41
How to Survive a Poisonous Snake Attack... 42
How to Fend Off a Shark...46
How to Escape from a Bear.. .50
How to Escape from a Mountain Lion... 54
How to Wrestle Free from an Alligator...57
How to Escape from Killer Bees...60
How to Deal with a Charging Bull...64
How to Win a Sword Fight...66
How to Take a Punch.. .69
Leaps of Faith...73
How to Jump from a Bridge or Cliff into
How to Jump from a Building into
How to Maneuver on Top of a Moving Train
and Get Inside...79
How to Jump from a Moving Car...82
How to Leap from a Motorcycle to a Car...84
How to Perform a Tracheotomy...88
How to Use a Defibrillator
to Restore a Heartbeat...91
How to Identify a Bomb...94
How to Deliver a Baby in a Taxicab...99
How to Treat Frostbite...103
How to Treat a Leg Fracture.. .106
How to Treat a Bullet or Knife Wound...109
How to Land a Plane...114
How to Survive an Earthquake... 120
How to Survive Adrift at Sea... 125
How to Survive When Lost in the Desert...129
How to Survive If Your Parachute
Fails to Open...l37
How to Survive an Avalanche... 140
How to Survive If You Are in the Line
How to Survive When Lost
in the Mountains.. .146
How to Make Fire Without Matches... 150
How to Avoid Being Struck by Lightning... 155
How to Get to the Surface
If Your Scuba Tank Runs Out of Air...l60
The Experts... 163
About the Authors...176
THE RULES OF SURVIVAL
By "Mountain" Mel Deweese
I am a Survival Evasion Resistance Escape
Instructor. I have developed, written, attended,
and taught courses around the world to more
than 100,000 students—civilians, naval aviators,
and elite Navy SEAL teams. I have more than
30 years of survival training experience, from
the Arctic Circle to the Canadian wilderness,
from the jungles of the Philippines to the
Let's just say that I've learned a few things
about survival over the years.
Whatever the situation, whether you're out
in the mountains, on board a plane, or driving
cross-country, to "survive" means "To outlive, to
remain alive or in existence; live on. To continue
to exist or live after." After all, that's what it's
really all about—about continuing to exist, no
matter how dire the circumstances.
• You have to be prepared—mentally, physically,
I would have to call my training in the
Arctic Circle the ultimate survival adventure.
The Arctic is an extremely harsh and unforgiving
environment, and yet the Inuit people (Eskimos)
not only survive, they live here at the top of
the world. Most of the items you need for Arctic
survival must come with you when you go—
the Arctic offers little for improvisation.
One morning, as we huddled inside our
igloo drinking tea to warm up, I noticed that
our senior Inuit guide drank several more cups
of tea than the rest of us. "He must be thirsty,"
I thought. We then proceeded outside for our
morning trek across the frozen landscape. After
we reached our camp, the senior instructor
walked over to a small knoll. Our young Inuit
guide interpreted his words: "This is where the
fox will come to seek a high lookout point. This
is a good place to set a trap." The older man
then took out his steel trap, set it, laid out the
chain, and to my surprise, urinated upon the
end of the chain!
The younger instructor explained: "That's
why he drank all that tea this morning—to
anchor it!" Indeed, the chain had frozen securely
to the ground.
The lesson: Resources and improvisation
• You must not ignore the importance of the
mental aspects of survival; in particular, you must
stay calm and you must not panic. And remember
that willpower is the most crucial survival skill
of all—don't catch that terrible disease of "Giveup-itis." All these mental strengths especially
come into play when someone makes a mistake—
which is inevitable.
One trip into the jungles of the Philippines,
our old guide Gunny selected and gathered various
plants while we were trekking. Upon arrival at
the camp, Gunny skillfully prepared bamboo to use
for cooking tubes. To these he added leaves, snails
(he claimed only the old men catch snails because
they are slow—young men catch fast shrimp),
and a few slices of green mango. He also added
a few things I could not discern. Topping this off
with leaves from the taro plant, he added water
and placed the bamboo cooking tube on the fire.
After the jungle feast, we settled into
the darkness for sleep. During the night, I
experienced pain, contraction, and itching in
my throat. We were in pitch darkness, far from
civilization, and my airways were progressively
closing. The following morning, the condition
worsened and my breathing was becoming restricted. I questioned the instructor, and he agreed he
had the same problem. That we shared our
distress was reassuring and it led to our determining the source of the problem. It turned out
we had not boiled the taro leaves long enough.
Recovering hours later, I mentally logged this as
a lesson learned the hard way: Even the old man
of the jungle can make mistakes.
We all make mistakes. Overcoming them is
survival as well.
• You must have a survival plan. And your
plan should consider the following essential
elements: food, fire, water, and shelter, as well
as signals and first aid.
I remember a military survival training course
I took in another jungle. A tropical environment
is one of the easiest to survive, if you know where
to look. It offers all of the needs for survival—
food, fire, water, shelter. We needed water badly
but could not head for the major streams, rivers,
or bodies of water to quench our thirst, as the
"enemy" was tracking us. The enemy knew our
dire need for water, and he would be watching
those areas. Looking into the jungle foliage, our
guide Pepe pulled his jungle bolo (a large knife)
from its wooden case and pointed to a thick,
grapelike vine, 3-4 inches in diameter. He cut the
vine at the top, then sliced off a 2-3 foot section,
motioned to me, and held it above my parched
lips. Excellent! In total, it produced almost a large
glass of water. Then he cut into a rattan vine that
provided nearly the same amount.
That evening we tapped into the trunk of
a taboy tree, placed bamboo tube reservoirs we
had constructed beneath the tap, and left them
overnight. Early the next morning, I was surprised
to find 6-8 quarts of water in our reservoirs.
The next morning in the rain, Pepe stopped to
cut a tall bundle of grass. He selected a smoothbarked tree and wrapped the grass around the
tree to form a spigot. He then placed his bamboo
drinking cup under the grass spigot. I was not
convinced about the quality of his filter, but it was
a good way for us to gather rainwater. That night,
after we had reached the safe area, the jungle
darkness fell upon us and we sat in the flicker of
the bamboo fire. Pepe smiled at me and said,
"Once again we've evaded the enemy and learned
That simple phrase became our motto—and
in fact, is the motto of every survival trainer,
whether or not they know it. "Learn to return."
This guide might help you do just that.
Anything that can go wrong will.
—Boy Scout motto
The principle behind this book is a simple one:
You just never know.
You never really know what curves life will
throw at you, what is lurking around the corner,
what is hovering above, what is swimming
beneath the surface. You never know when you
might to be called upon to perform an act of
extreme bravery and to choose life or death with
your own actions.
But when you are called, we want to be sure
that you know what to do. And that is why we
wrote this book. We want you to know what to
do when the pilots pass out and you have to land
the plane. We want you to know what to do
when you see that shark fin heading toward you.
We want you to know how to make fire in the
wilderness without any matches. We want you to
know what to do in these and in dozens of other
life-threatening situations, from being forced to
jump from a bridge to being forced to jump
from a car, from taking a punch correctly to
outsmarting a charging bull, and from escaping
a sniper to treating a bullet wound.
We were not survival experts ourselves when
we undertook this project—just regular, everyday
folk like you. Joshua grew up in the East—a
street-smart city boy. David grew up in the West
and spent his youth hiking and camping and fishing (even though his family used a Volkswagen
van most of the time). We were just a couple of
inquisitive journalists from different backgrounds
who worried a lot and were interested in knowing
how to survive a variety of crisis situations, likely
or unlikely (mostly the latter). Together, we consulted experts in a variety of fields to compile the
handbook you have before you. The information
in this book comes directly from dozens of expert
sources—stuntmen, physicians, EMT instructors,
bomb squad officers, bullfighters, survival experts,
scuba instructors, demolition derby drivers,
locksmiths, sky divers, alligator farmers, marine
biologists, and avalanche rescue patrol members,
to name a few.
Within this book, you will find simple, stepby-step instructions for dealing with 40 life- and
limb-threatening situations, with instructive
illustrations throughout. We've also provided
other essential tips and information—marked
with red bullets—that you must know. Any
and each of them could save your life. Ever
wonder how you would deal with the kinds of
situations that usually only come up when you
are a movie action hero? Now you can find
out. And then, like the Boy Scouts, you too will
So keep this book on hand at all times. It is
informative and entertaining, but useful, too. Get
a copy and keep it in your glove compartment.
Take it with you when you travel. Give a copy
to your friends and loved ones. Because the Boy
Scouts know what they're talking about.
And you just never know.
—Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht
HOW TO ESCAPE
When walking in quicksand country, carry
a stout pole—it will help you get out should
you need to.
As soon as you start to sink, lay the pole on the
surface of the quicksand.
Flop onto your back on top of the pole.
After a minute or two, equilibrium in the quicksand
will be achieved, and you will no longer sink.
Work the pole to a new position: under your hips
and at right angles to your spine.
The pole will keep your hips from sinking, as you
(slowly) pull out first one leg and then the other.
Take the shortest route to firmer ground,
How TO AVOID SINKING
Quicksand is just ordinary sand mixed with upwelling
water, which makes it behave like a liquid. However,
quicksand—unlike water—does not easily let go. If
you try to pull a limb out of quicksand, you have
to work against the vacuum left behind. Here are a
•The viscosity of quicksand increases with
shearing—move slowly so the viscosity is as low
• Floating on quicksand is relatively easy and is
the best way to avoid its clutches. You are more
buoyant in quicksand than you are in water.
Humans are less dense than freshwater, and
saltwater is slightly more dense. Floating is easier
in saltwater than freshwater and much easier in
quicksand. Spread your arms and legs far apart
and try to float on your back.
When in an area with quicksand, bring a stout pole
and use it to put your back into a floating position.
Place the pole at a right angle from your spine
to keep your hips afloat.
HOW TO BREAK
DOWN A DOOR
Give the door a well-placed kick or two to the lock
area to break it down.
Running at the door and slamming against it with
your shoulder or body is not usually as effective as
kicking with your foot. Your foot exerts more force
than your shoulder, and you will be able to direct this
force toward the area of the locking mechanism more
succinctly with your foot.
(if you have a screwdriver)
Look on the front of the doorknob for a small
hole or keyhole.
Most interior doors have what are called privacy sets.
These locks are usually installed on bedrooms and
bathrooms and can be locked from the inside when
the door is shut, but have an emergency access hole in
the center of the door handle which allows entry to
the locking mechanism inside. Insert the screwdriver
or probe into the handle and push the locking mechanism, or turn the mechanism to open the lock.
If you are trying to break down an exterior door, you
will need more force. Exterior doors are of sturdier
construction and are designed with security in mind,
for obvious reasons. In general, you can expect to see
two kinds of latches on outside doors: a passage- or
entry-lock set for latching and a dead-bolt lock for
security. The passage set is used for keeping the door
from swinging open and does not lock. The entrylock set utilizes a dead latch and can be locked before
closing the door.
Exterior doors are of
Kick at the point where
the lock is mounted.
Give the door several well-placed kicks at the point
where the lock is mounted.
An exterior door usually takes several tries to break
down this way, so keep at it.
(if you have a sturdy piece of steel)
Wrench or pry the lock off the door by inserting
the tool between the lock and the door and prying
back and forth.
(if you have a screwdriver, hammer, and awl)
Remove the pins from the hinges (if the door opens
toward you) and then force the door open from the
Get a screwdriver or an awl and a hammer. Place the
awl or screwdriver underneath the hinge, with the
pointy end touching the end of the bolt or screw.
Using the hammer, strike the other end of the awl or
screwdriver until the hinge comes out.
ASSESSING AMOUNT OF FORCE REQUIRED
Interior doors in general are of a lighter construction
than exterior doors and usually are thinner— 1 3/8"
thick to 1 5/8" thick—than exterior doors, which generally are 1 3/4" thick. In general, older homes will be
more likely to have solid wood doors, while newer
ones will have the cheaper, hollow core models.
Knowing what type of door you are dealing with will
help you determine how to break it down. You can
usually determine the construction and solidity of a
door by tapping on it.
HOLLOW CORE. This type is generally used for
interior doors, since it provides no insulation or
security, and requires minimal force. These doors
can often be opened with a screwdriver.