In an animal care and use program in a research setting, events that have a negative impact on animal well-being do not typically occur spontaneously and arbitrarily. It takes the convergence of multiple missteps, miscalculations and misinterpretations of conditions for a serious accident to take place. Two concepts drawn from wilderness survival training can be applied to any research animal care and use program to reduce adverse events. The first, derived from the accident matrix model, is the concept of 'problem vectors,' or conditions, behaviors and policies that increase the likelihood of an adverse event. Identifying problem vectors and diverting them before they intersect to create an adverse event can considerably improve animal well-being and reduce the number of protocol violations and reportable events. The second concept is that of doing the 'next right thing' when an adverse event does occur in an animal program. The next right thing is a response characterized by unified directed action toward fixing problems without engaging in behaviors that might worsen the situation. Adopting an institution-wide approach of diverting problem vectors and pursuing the next right thing can result in better prevention and management of adverse events.