Disaster Planning

Employing Les Stroud’s 3 Zones of Assessment in a Disaster Scenario


Of the television survival personalities I’ve grown to like Les the best. He seems to be very genuine and humble. And, most importantly to me, he doesn’t act like he knows it all.

As such, I still enjoy watching his Survivorman episodes on occasion. A while back he did a show where he was pretending to be stranded in a car during the winter on some cold and snowy mountaintop and during that episode he outlined his “three zones of assessment” that I thought was a good idea and worthy to share.

The “three zones” are nothing more than assessing what you have on your person (the first zone), what’s in your immediate surroundings such as your car (the second zone), and then what might be accessible nearby by short walk (the third zone).

Basically, before he made any major survival-related decisions he would employ this three zone assessment to fully understand what he has at his disposal as well as what the next best course of action should be. Only after his assessment was completed would he make his move. The three zones is likely something most of us might do instinctively and is meant for wilderness survival but could probably be put into action at anytime that you’re in a survival situation.

Let’s look at the three zones a bit more in depth…

Zone 1 is really just your EDC, including whatever you have in your pockets as well any EDC bag you might carry. Fortunately, this zone is highly controllable most of the time. Granted, there might be some situations where you cannot always control what you have on your person (e.g., weapons in an airport, for example) but by-and-large you have control. And, depending on your thoroughness zone 1 can include a lot of useful gear, from fire starting equipment to firearms and more. Remember, however, that you can’t rely on such equipment if you don’t carry it, so it’s in your best interest to figure out what’s important to you and then to develop a system to ensure that equipment is with you at all times.

Zone 2 is whatever’s in your immediate vicinity. In Les’ scenario it was whatever he had available in the car. This zone could, obviously, be a bit more under your control as well since you could include a large bag of equipment or other supplies and gear if it’s your own car. But, let’s say zone 2 isn’t that under your control, perhaps it could be your office at work (also slightly under your control) or maybe something else like any building you could be currently inside (e.g., a restaurant or retail store) that wouldn’t be in your control. These places would be far less familiar to you but you may still find plenty of useful supplies… you just need to consciously look around.

Zone 3 is whatever you might be able to access within a “reasonable” walking distance of where you are now. If zone 2 was your office then zone 3 might be the rest of the workplace. If zone 2 was a restaurant then zone 3 might be nearby stores. Obviously, you’re not going to spend hours rooting through dozens of stores in an emergency situation and, no doubt, it matters what the emergency is but you might willfully take a few moments to consciously step outside and take a look around at what stores and buildings are nearby and quickly compute what types of supplies might be found in these stores that might be able to further your survival.

Again, I would imagine most of this is fairly instinctive, though, it never hurts to be made aware of the thinking behind it. In fact, this could be a good mental exercise to practice when you’re out and about. For example, the next time you’re going out to eat at a restaurant take a mental snapshot of the types of stores and buildings nearby as you enter. Then, once inside the restaurant look around and contemplate what supplies might be around that you could use. What might be in the back? And, of course, remind yourself of the gear you keep on yourself, what’s in your car, and so on.

Maybe this type of assessment is best utilized in situations where you’re on your own and in very unfamiliar surroundings but I would suggest even the metal exercises alone will help you get your mindset right if/when you truly need it.

By Damian Brindle

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5 replies on “Employing Les Stroud’s 3 Zones of Assessment in a Disaster Scenario”

I agree it is a good idea to be aware of your surroundings. I teach environmental awareness and defense classes I also reinforce being aware. Keep up the good work

He has a group of people , its looks like the surviver show that is on now , looks cheesy . very teenie boper -ish .

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