Don’t Forget to Take Out The Trash

Looking for a good multi-use survival tool? Don’t ignore those trashy thoughts…

Drum liners are meant to line 55-gallon barrels and drums, though they can be used for many other applications, too. Hand one of these generously sized plastic wonders to a crafty survivalist, and he’ll only be limited by his imagination. If you weren’t a believer in the utility of drum liners before, here are 15 good reasons to toss a couple in your survival kit.

1) Solar Still: Use a clear plastic liner it to build a solar still for drinking water production. Cut open the bag and lay it over a hole in a damp, yet sunny, location. This hole should have a container inside to catch water, and the drum liner should be buried around the hole’s top perimeter. The final touch for this solar powered water machine is a small stone in the center of the plastic liner, which should create a cone shape out of the drum liner cover, pointing at the container in the hole. A productive solar still can kick out several cups of water per day.

2) Cordage: Twist strips of the plastic into a serviceable—albeit slippery—cord.

3) Sleeping Bag: Fill a drum liner with insulating material to use in place of a sleeping bag. It’s even waterproof and wind-proof. Use leaves, grasses, clothing, or crumpled paper to keep out the cold.

4) Transpiration Bag: Place the entire drum liner over a healthy, non-toxic tree branch in a sunny spot. Tie the mouth of the bag shut around the branch and let the water vapor from the leaves condense and run to a low point in the bag for several hours. This water is ready to drink, though it will probably only be a few ounces. Move the liner to a new tree branch each day for best results.

5) Rain Jacket/Poncho: Poke a head-size hole in the bottom of a drum liner and pull it over you to ward off  rain, sleet, snow or wind.

6) Igloo Window: Igloos and snow caves can be dark, cold, gloomy places. With a panel of clear drum liner plastic, you can build a window to let in light while keeping out the wind and cold. Optimal placement for such a window is on the south side of the shelter, as it will receive the most sunlight.

7) Rain Catch: Place the liner in a hole in the ground or other low spot to catch precipitation.

8) Food Storage: Cut the drum liner into sections sized to fit the foods you have. Bundle up these plastic sections with string, twist ties or tape. They’ll keep your food clean, dry, and separated.

9) Brewery: A common brewing container in prisons is a simple plastic bag. Scale it up at home with a big drum liner, and you’ll be able to get your whole neighborhood tanked up. Mix up your mash, beer, or wine in a food-grade bucket, set it inside the drum liner, and loosely close it with a bag tie. Carbon dioxide will seep out of the bag opening, despite the bag tie, but it will allow the completion of fermentation and prevent spoilage after fermentation.

10) Shelter Door: Regardless of the survival shelter you have made, you’ll still need a door for warmth and weather-proofing. Attach a drum liner to the top of your door frame. Then you can go in and out under it, like the flap on a dog door.

11) Bug Harvester: Wrangle some bugs for food or bait after dark with a clear drum liner and a flashlight. Suspend the liner with the opening facing upward. Turn on a flashlight and drop it into the open bag. Wait for the bugs to arrive in the dark, close the bag, and squeeze out the air to examine your haul.

12) Boot liners: Turn the drum liner into boot liners by cutting the corner sections to wrap around your socks inside your boots.

13) Fish trap: Use a few sticks and string to build a small frame to hold the liner mouth open. Attach that frame to the bag. Poke enough tiny holes in the bottom of the clear liner to allow ample water to flow through the bag. Stake the bag in place underwater in a slow-moving waterway and watch the small fish and crawdads pile up.

14) Temporary Backpack: Sling the bag over your shoulder and haul your supplies from one camp to the next like Santa.

15) Flotation Device: A drum liner full of air will keep you afloat if you find yourself adrift.

It Ain’t Always Obvious…

The Instinctive Drowning Response, so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect it to. When someone is drowning there is very little splashing, and no waving or yelling or calling for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents). 50 percent of them will do so within 20 metres of a parent or other adult. In 10 percent of these drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.

Drowning does not look like drowning. Dr. Pia, in an article he wrote for the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

  • Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is a secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  • Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  • Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  • Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  • From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response, people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs. (Source: On Scene magazine: Fall 2006 page 14)

This doesn’t mean that a person who is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble — they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long, but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, reach for throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over onto the back
  • Appears to be climbing an invisible ladder

So, if someone falls overboard and everything looks okay, don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look as if they’re drowning. They may just look as if they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all, they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents — children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.