Many survival rules apply across the board to everyone. I would like to talk about survival in the winter. The cold completely changes your priorities. You can die from it in as little as three hours. That makes it a top priority around here. Whether you are in a house with no heat or lost in the woods, your number one priority needs to be shelter.
There are many layers of shelter to be considered. Your first layer of defense is your clothing. You need to be able to keep in your body heat while getting rid of excess moisture. Cotton clothing will not do this for you. Cotton will absorb moisture and leave you cold and wet. The best way to control your body temperature is with layers of clothing. Start with a base layer made of a breathable material such as polypropylene. This will wick up any sweat and it will evaporate away from you. Be aware that polypropylene will melt if it gets near an open flame or high heat. Next comes an insulative layer. Wool retains between 80 and 90 percent of its insulative properties when it is soaking wet. Some synthetic materials may also be suitable for this as well. Finally, a shell to keep you dry and to break the wind. I personally prefer Gor-tex for this. It is available in the military surplus market as well as the sporting goods market. With these layers you should be able to last a while on foot.
Your next priority should be heat. In the wilderness, this usually means fire. In your home this may be your only option if there is no electricity. You need to be able to start a fire and sustain it. This will require fuel and an ignition source. These are simple things you can carry all the time. For example, you can carry a cigarette lighter for ignition and a piece of cloth or cotton for a starter fuel. In wet conditions sustaining a fire can be a real challenge. You may have to start small and as your fuel wood dries work your way up to a good fire. You want to establish coals at the bottom to keep the fire alive through the night. You must also be mindful of your exhaust. Carbon Monoxide WILL kill you. Make sure your smoke has a place to go.
The final priority should be a shelter from the elements such as snow, rain, and wind. If you are in a building already than this is already accomplished. If you are in the wilderness, you may have limited options. Look for a natural shelter such as a cave or underneath a tree. Avoid hazards like trees that are fallen. They call them widow-makers for a reason. If you can’t find anything already constructed, try to burrow in the snow or under a pine tree if it is available. You need to insulate yourself from the ground or it will suck the heat right out of you. Make a platform from whatever material you have to keep you off the ground. If you are seeking rescue then you need to make yourself visible outside of your shelter. Hang a brightly colored piece of material above you. If you can, make a large X on the ground for over-passing aircraft. Three fires in a triangle shape is also a sign of distress.
When you are done with your shelter you can concentrate on other priorities. Food isn’t very important in the short term because you can last quite a while without it. You will need water next. Melting snow is a very slow method of obtaining water but it may be necessary. If you get water from a stream or other source, make sure to boil it before drinking to avoid illness. The last thing you need is to be sick in this situation. You need to keep hydrated to keep your body temperature up.
I hope this has been informative to you. Keep alive and keep safe.