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Peter Kummerfeldt: Preventing Dehydration During Emergencies

150 150 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Editor’s note: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink…” Recent widespread flooding throughout many parts of the United States makes this quote from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” particularly appropriate. The mariner was stuck in the middle of the sea, so he was surrounded by salt water he couldn’t drink.

But flood victims, people awaiting evacuation, or trapped by rising waters are in the same situation. Being surrounded by muddy, polluted flood waters and a lack of potable water to drink can put you at risk of dehydration. This, in turn, could lead to other problems. Here’s some information from Peter Kummerfeldt about the danger of dehydration, and how to purify water in a survival situation.

By Peter Kummerfeldt

The Problem: When the water we use or lose each day, through normal body functions (urination, defecation and sweating) is not replaced, dehydration results.

Where could you find drinkable water?

Dehydration severely reduces the body’s ability to function efficiently which frequently results in poor decision-making and contributes to accidents occurring. The loss of one-to-two quarts of water, from a starting water level of about twenty quarts in the body, can result in a significant reduction in working efficiency.

Contributing Factors:

Altitude – The air we breathe contains less humidity as we travel higher — dry air has to be humidified before it reaches the lungs.

Many of the fluids (coffee, tea, alcohol and colas) we drink daily contain diuretics, chemicals that cause us to lose even more water.

Increased activity increases water loss by sweating.

Injury and illness, especially diarrhea, can increase water loss.

Mouth breathing increases water loss.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Headaches Nausea and vomiting Fatigue
Infrequent urination Yellow urine Increased pulse rate
Irritability Dizziness Weakness
Loss of balance
Catch it early and re-hydrate using diluted sports drinks or water with a little sugar and salt added. (1/4 teaspoon salt and 4 teaspoons sugar per liter of water.)
Severe dehydration will require intravenous fluid therapy — usually not available in the back country or most emergencies!
Increase the amount of water you drink each day — three to four quarts is good – more is better
Don’t sweat
Don’t breath through your mouth


Note: Dehydration is a contributing factor in many other medical problems that occur in the outdoors. It is also a significant factor in determining how successfully the body can keep itself warm — a dehydrated person will have a much more difficult time staying warm than a hydrated one.


Water disinfecting:

Boiling – Bringing water to a rolling boil is sufficient to kill all harmful organisms.

Halogens – Chemicals such as iodine and chlorine kill microorganisms.

Filtration – Filters remove all harmful agents except viruses.

Purifiers – remove all harmful agents including viruses.


Peter Kummerfeldt has walked the talk in the wilderness survival field for  more than 40 years.

Peter grew up in Kenya, East Africa and came to America in 1965 and joined the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of the Air Force Survival Instructor Training School and has served as an instructor at the Basic Survival School, Spokane, Washington; the Arctic Survival School, Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Jungle Survival School, Republic of the Philippines. For

Peter Kummerfeldt

twelve years, Peter was the Survival Training Director at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 30 years of service.

In 1992, concerned with the number of accidents that were occurring in the outdoors annually and the number of tourists traveling overseas who were involved in unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening incidents Peter created OutdoorSafe.com. He is the author of  Surviving a Wilderness Emergency and has addressed over 20,000 people as the featured speaker at numerous seminars, conferences and national conventions.

Click here to visit Peter’s website!


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