In wilderness survival circles, The Rule of Threes is an accepted guide for staying alive during an emergency situation.
Generally accepted as a way of determining the order of priority in dangerous conditions, the Rule of Threes contains the following guidelines:
- You can survive three minutes without air.
- You can survive three hours without shelter.
- You can survive three days without water.
- You can survive three weeks without food.
Even if you never find yourself stranded on a desert island or isolated mountain range, it’s still a smart idea to always keep in mind the Rule of Threes. It is appropriate for every emergency situation.
It is easy for the modern survival junkie to get caught up in the glamor and glitz of cool gear and gadgets, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what is ultimately important. Nothing is more essential to survival than air shelter, water, and food. Even in modern survival situations.
The Rule of Threes should be your starting point for all survival preparations. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
3 Minutes Without Air
Three minutes is not a lot of reaction time. Responding to a situation where clean, breathable air is not readily available takes some advance preparation. With the threat of chemical and biological warfare looming and the modern hazards of air pollution, having a quality gas mask on hand for each member of your family will help reduce your response time.
Besides, the gas mask has become a mascot of sorts for the modern survival junkie.
Essential Facts About Having a Modern Gas Mask
- Surplus gas masks are usually poor quality. This isn’t an item you want to buy cheap.
- Not all gas masks are created equal. Make sure to get a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) gas mask.
- An adult gas mask will not work effectively for a child.
- Make sure you have filter replacements.
- Practice with your gas mask. Don’t wait for an emergency situation to try to figure out how to use it. Remember: You only have three minutes.
- Don’t let your gas mask give you a false sense of security. You can’t live forever in one, and there are often bigger threats than what is potentially floating in the air.
3 Hours Without Shelter
This particular rule is most applicable in harsh environments. Unfortunately, harsh environments can pop up unexpectedly. A passing thunderstorm or cold front can turn a comfortable afternoon into a pressing situation if you are unable to seek shelter. Knowing how to find shelter from the elements is an important skill whether you build your own or use what is readily available.
You may want to hunker down in your own home during most survival situations. If so, make sure you have means to protect it from potential invaders. Once you have shelter, you want to keep it. Sometimes what creates a harsh environment isn’t the weather at all. Sometimes it’s the danger of our fellow human beings.
3 Days Without Water
Up to 60 percent of an adult human body is water. The amount of water a person needs to consume in a 24 hour period varies based on age, gender, climate, and activity level. In general, a grown man needs at least 3 liters of water each day, although some of that water intake will be consumed in the food he eats.
Our bodies use water for several essential functions including:
- Regulating body temperature.
- Transporting nutrients in the bloodstream.
- Flushing waste from the body in the form of urine.
- Lubricating joints.
- Aiding in proper brain function.
Hydration is obviously important to survival. When storing water, you should plan on having at least a gallon of water per person per day. Having at least a three day supply is recommended as a precautionary measure. We should all remember Flint, Michigan when it comes to water supply. Contamination of municipal water systems is a very real, and potentially long-term situation we should be prepared for.
Storing water can be a complicated task, however. Plastic jugs degrade over time and the chemicals from the plastic can leach into the water. To help prevent this, store plastic jugs or bottles in a cool place away from sunlight for the best shelf life.
Having a way to filter water will help provide a longer term water source. There are many quality water filtration systems available. (Check out “What to Do About Water – The Best Survival Water Filters” for more information.)
Rain water collection is also an option, although it may be illegal in some areas.
Something else you may want to have on hand is an antimicrobial agent such as chlorine bleach or iodine tablets. If water is of questionable quality, these will make water potable so long as the contaminants are not chemical.
3 Weeks Without Food
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Doomsday Preppers you already know that food is where average survivalists focus most of their energy and resources. While food should definitely be an area of preparation, make sure you don’t neglect the areas of air, shelter, and water.
The easiest way to begin to build an emergency food supply is to buy a little extra of what you normally put in your grocery cart. Focus on buying basic nonperishable foods such as canned goods and dried foods. Adding a little bit to your food stores with each trip to the grocery store will add up over time. Just make sure to expiration dates and regularly rotate your food stores.
Another option is to stock up on freeze dried meals. The major advantage to adding freeze dried food to your survival cache is its extremely long shelf life and light weight, a convenience you’ll only appreciate if you ever have to haul it long distances. (For more information on the tastiest freeze dried meals, check out “The Freeze Dried Food Guide.”)
When you boil it down to slow gravy, all of your survival gear will supplement or complement the basic survival elements of air, shelter, water, and food. Just make sure you have the basics covered before you get too fancy with your preparation measures.