The Seven Steps of Survival

In order of priority: 

  1. Recognition - Recognize the problem. Is it immediate onset or delayed onset?
  2. Inventory - Take inventory of the situation. How severe is the problem? 
  3. Shelter - Is your vessel sound or at risk of loss?  What are your alternatives? Do you have a life raft or dinghy?
  4. Signals - What do you have for communications? Reflecting mirror, whistle, VHF radio, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), AIS (Automatic Identification System), flares, smoke, bright colors.
  5. Water - You can go three days without water.
  6. Food - You can go three weeks without food.
  7. Play - You can go three months without personal interaction. 

In today's world of technology, the "search" in "search and rescue" is considerably reduced and the emphasis is on executing a rescue, provided you have successfully deployed some kind of satellite transponder, AIS, VHF, or some combination of these. If you have, then items 5-7 become potentially less critical.

However, if you have not been successful signaling, then the likelihood of being found quickly is dramatically reduced, even if you are near a coast line, and you will surely be faced with a survival situation.

Summoning rescue services should not be done casually. You should make every effort to be self sufficient and prepared to meet any challenge.