Your Complete Guide to the Survival Rule of Threes
How To: Survive Anything, Anytime, Anywhere
The survival rule of threes is a framework to guide how you prepare for emergencies and how to prioritize your efforts in dangerous situations. These situations could include civil unrest, a natural disaster, or a travel emergency. Thinking about survival situations will help you prepare and select the gear you store at home, pack in an emergency go-bag, or store in a pocket emergency kit. In prior articles, we covered how to use a prescription pill bottle to construct a pocket emergency kit and how to pack a travel medical kit.
Whatever happens, you will need to prioritize your actions over the first minutes, hours, days and weeks that follow. The rule of threes is particularly useful in planning for and surviving extreme environment exposures, as you’ll see below.
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You can survive up to 3 Minutes Without Air
Clean, breathable air is the first requirement in this survival pathway. You can only survive up to three minutes without air. This could include submersion underwater (no air around you) or if you are choking (unable to breathe in the air around you). If the problem is related to air quality, you might last longer depending on the cause. Poor quality air could be the result of fire, tear gas, or any other cause of environmental pollution.
How to prepare: Firstly, you can learn some key medical skills by taking a “heartsaver” course by the American Heart Association. This course will teach you how to administer rescue breaths to others and how to perform the heimlich maneuver to assist choking victims. If you find yourself choking while alone, this handy youtube video reviews the procedure and demonstrates how to do this maneuver on yourself (skip ahead to minute 1:58).
You can survive up to 3 Hours Without Shelter (in Extreme Weather)
The second priority in this survival framework is shelter. While this may not be an issue when weather conditions are ideal, extreme weather conditions (heat, wind, cold, altitude, sun exposure) can threaten your survival within three hours. These conditions can cause heat related medical illness (heat exhaustion and heat stroke) and cold weather injuries (frostbite and hypothermia).
How to prepare: A variety of items can be packed to prepare for extreme weather. These include a bivy sack, tarp, or emergency blanket. In cold weather conditions, pack extra warm clothes and a variety of fire starting materials (additional links here, here, and here). Fire starters are a key component of our pill bottle emergency kit.
You can survive up to 3 Days Without Water
The next survival priority is water. Without steady hydration the body weakens in about 3 days (faster in extreme heat environments).
You can survive up to 3 Weeks Without Food
Finally, after you have addressed and endured the previous three challenges, you can think about food. The human body can survive a surprisingly long time without food, though after three weeks it will be in an extremely weakened state.
How to prepare: For short trips you can pack a selection of your favorite snacks or perhaps a few high density ration bars. To prepare for longer term emergencies, where you may need to shelter in place for several weeks, you can add a few “meal ready to eat” (MRE) ration pouches.
What items have you incorporated into your gear to address the survival rule of threes? Let us know in the comments below!
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