How to Use a Compass for Survival: Baby Steps for Preparedness Week 4

Do you know how to use a compass for survival? I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about using one. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to learn, so we’ll talk a bit about how to use one after this week’s shopping list.

How to use a compass

Person holding a compass: Free Stock photos by Vecteezy

I’m a bit behind, so I apologize for that. There has been so much going on here that I’m about ready to go dark and hide under a rock somewhere. But that’s easier said than done, so onward we go.

Week 4 Shopping List

This week we’re back at the hardware store. Here are the items for you to buy.

  • Heavy-gauge metal strapping* (look for a kit – see Action Steps below for more information)
  • Crowbar
  • Smoke detector (and batteries) and/or carbon monoxide detector
  • Tarp
  • Signal flare
  • Compass

Optional Items:

  • Patch kit and Fix-a-Flat for vehicles as well as any mobility aid you might have with tires
  • Extra medications and prescriptions labeled “Emergency Use”

Time to go shopping!

A Note About Medications

It is pretty easy to stock up on over-the-counter medications, but rotating them out is important so they are still good in an emergency. Out-dated medications are actually good for longer than you may think. 

A law passed in 1979 requires drug manufacturers to stamp an expiration date on their products. Until this date, the manufacturer can still guarantee the drug’s full potency and safety. However, a study from the FDA found that 90% of more than 100 prescription and over-the-counter drugs were still perfectly safe to use even 15 years after they expired.

Despite the fact that a drug’s effectiveness may decrease over time, much of its original potency remains even after its expiration date. Most medications are long-lasting, except for nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics. A medication will remain potent for many years if it is kept in a cool place, such as a refrigerator. If you need nitroglycerine or insulin, talk to your doctor about the best way to have an emergency supply onhand.

Action Steps

Now that you’ve done your shopping install and test your smoke detector. You should install smoke alarms on every level of your home, as well as in every bedroom and hallway. You should place alarms 4 inches from the wall if you mount them on the ceiling. If you mount your alarms on the wall, place them 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Keep alarms away from windows, vents, and drafty areas.

Next, use metal strapping to secure your water heater to the wall. This will prevent it from falling in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. You can probably find a handy kit for this at the hardware store near the water heaters. 

*Kits should have strapping, lag screws, washers, spacers, and tension bolts. You can also use heavy-gauge metal straps and 3-inch lag screws if you can’t find a strapping kit. 

How to Secure Your Water Tank

Tanks should have very little space between them and the wall to prevent them from tipping backward. You can attach a wooden block to the wall with long lag screws if there are more than one or two inches between the tank and the wall. 

Wrap the heavy-gauge metal strapping around the tank 1-1/2 times. Begin by strapping the tank at the back. Wrap it from the front and then back to the wall. Secure the strapping using several 1/4-inch lag screws with oversized washers to the wall studs or the wood block. Or use 1/4-inch expansion bolts instead of screws to secure it directly into concrete.

How to Use a Compass for Survival

Now that you have a compass, do you know how to use it?

The red and white arrow on your compass is called the compass needle. First, you must know that the red arrow always points to the earth’s magnetic north pole. Don’t confuse this with the black or white arrow on your compass. This is a common mistake. 

If you want to travel north, you have it made. But what if you want to travel in another direction?  What do you need to do?

Compass Parts

There are two parts to a compass. The compass housing is the thing that turns. The edge of the compass housing usually has a scale. Usually, the scale goes from 0 to 360 or 0 to 400. These represent the degrees or the azimuth.  

The letters N, E, S, and W represent the North, East, South, and West directions, respectively. Now let’s assume you’re lost in the woods and want to travel northwest toward the nearest town. What do you do?

Finding Your Way Around

First, locate northwest on the compass housing. Then turn the housing until northwest is aligned with the large travel arrow on your compass. 

Hold the compass flat in your hand so the arrow can move freely. Now, turn your entire body, hand, and compass until the compass needle aligns with the lines on the compass housing. Make certain that the compass housing has not turned during this step. If the compass is not relatively flat, it cannot work effectively, and it will throw off your direction.   

Be careful that the red arrow is pointing toward the north portion of the compass housing. If the south or white arrow points in that direction, you will walk in the opposite direction of where you want to travel. Be sure to double-check for accuracy because this is a common mistake. 

When walking in your desired direction, check your compass frequently to stay on course. Don’t stare at the compass all the time. Instead, choose an item off in the distance to aim for, then check the compass to ensure you are on course. For instance, you want to walk toward a tall tree or mountain in the distance.

An Essential Tool

By knowing the direction of a nearby town, highway, or river, you can walk towards help. Compass and map can enhance your ability to navigate, but the compass can provide the guidance you need when maps aren’t available.

The compass is an essential survival tool. Make sure you know how to use it before you need it to save your life. Get familiar with this method by practicing in familiar areas. You will master this survival skill without the risk of getting lost or disoriented with plenty of practice. 

Need to Catch Up?

If you missed the previous weeks in our Baby Steps series, you can find them here:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3
Be sure to also check out my articles on creating a disaster plan for your family.

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