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The Survival Rule of Threes


The Survival Rule of ThreesWhen you’re preparing for or facing a survival situation, there is a rule that will help you prioritize. It’s called the Survival Rule of Threes. It means you can live:

  • 3 minutes without AIR.
  • 3 hours without SHELTER.
  • 3 days without WATER.
  • 3 weeks without FOOD.
  • 3 months without HOPE.

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Imagine you are stranded in the wilderness. It could be days or even weeks before you get home. If your stomach is growling, you might go ahead and start collecting berries or setting animal traps. But what if the temperature drops and it starts raining?

If the temperature is in the 40’s or less, you could get hypothermia. And before long, you’ll be dehydrated. When that happens, your head will hurt, nausea will make it difficult to eat, and you’ll be too tired and weak to keep gathering food.

This can be avoided by following the Rule of 3’s. The first thing you should do is build a shelter to protect yourself from the wind and rain. Next, you should build a fire so you can keep yourself warm. After that, you’ll need to find a source of clean water, or find a way to purify the water you have (you could boil the water with the fire you built). After all this, then you can start searching for food.

Of course, this rule applies more to wilderness survival situations, but it is also worth considering if you’re going to survive in place in an urban disaster. You could call it the Urban Survival Rule of Threes. When preparing for an emergency in the city, consider how these rules affect your preps.

If the air is contaminated, you’ll need a gas mask.

You’ll want to secure your home by reinforcing your doors and putting bars on your windows. If you really want to secure your shelter, stock up on bullets and guns. Also, ask yourself how you’re going to heat your home.

Next, you should concentrate on water storage and water purification.

After that, focus on food storage and everything you would need to cook that food. What other sources of food do you have? What do you need to grow it or hunt it?

And finally, what about hope? This is just something I added so of course, 3 months isn’t exact. I just think it’s important to get some encouraging books, games or instruments–anything to keep yourself sane.

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  1. Joe Bonhomme on August 13, 2018 at 12:56 am

    Fire / shelter / water / food when your in the woods urban areas lot easier to survive than in the elements poeople who talk about surviving probably talking about a nucleur war or a catastofic event the lucky people there would be the ones to parish in that case I was raised living off the land I know how to trap and harvest food with no issues the one thing that scares me is doing it with out loved ones to talk that I think would be the hardest with out going insane

  2. Carol in Texas on July 13, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    We all should practice some level of preparedness. When you have nothing-no food- no shelter-no fire- then no hope follows. Change one of these and then you have hope
    to change one more. That is survival

    • Joe Wagner on January 31, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      Determination has to be in there somewhere. But I do agree with what you say..

  3. Miss Kitty on April 25, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Gee, and I was really looking forward to rapelling down the side of a mountain in the pouring rain and then cozying up to a nice meal of tree grubs…NOT! Doesn’t it seem though he always takes the longest, most difficult way to do anything? LMAO

  4. Don on April 7, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    3 seconds without being able to bring your weapon to bear and put three in three ten rings.

  5. John on November 14, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Also, 3 minutes with arterial bleeding

    • Dane Ronnow on May 16, 2018 at 9:12 pm

      90 seconds for arterial bleeding. In half that time, you’re unconscious. Forty-five seconds after that, you’re dead. (Level 4 EMT)

      • Dale on September 12, 2019 at 7:37 pm

        perhaps 30 seconds to put a tourniquet on yourself until you don’t have the brain power _and_ strength to get it tight enough

  6. Lost My Way. on March 13, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    3 hours without shelter makes no sense at all, under that logic you couldn’t move more than 1.5 hours from home or travel anywhere ever.

    Seems shoehorned in to fit unless you’re talking about seriously inhabitable locations, which isn’t the case for nearly everywhere on the planet.

    3 weeks without food is optimistic, after only a few days you’ll be seriously weak and incapable of the strength required to find any, you may live 3 weeks bit you won’t live well or any longer. I’d limit the rule to 3 days of food and shelter has no rule as it could be a minute or it could be infinite.

    • Beer and Bacon on May 15, 2016 at 6:49 am

      A car, train, workplace etc. is providing shelter.
      This is talking of an emegency and in a blizzard, storm or the like, 3 hours seem resonable.
      Still thinking of an emegency, when you have air, shelter and water, 3 weeks without food is possible. It’s first around 40 days things start to look bad and after 60 you die.

    • John on November 14, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      The number one killer in the wilderness is “exposure”, usually hypothermia (body temperature getting too low). The three hours is assuming a hostile environment; the shelter is that which will keep you warm and dry in such an environment. Note that if you fall into and remain in cold water, you won’t even last three hours.

      Three days without water and three weeks without food says nothing about how pleasant it is, or how it will negatively impact you; it is how long, on average, you will live.

      None of these are guarantees, either way. They are a guide to PRIORITY, not importance, since lack of any of these will kill you.

  7. Larry Tate on February 29, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Where do you live? You sound a bit insane.

    • Lost My Way. on March 13, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      He has a valid point though but yeah he was a tad more intense with it than he needed to be.

      But if the place I live had a societal and law brake down a certain section of people would be my biggest concern, I shudder to think what they would be capable of with no threat of repercussions and a pack mentality.

      And I assume he lives or is referring to an inner city, probably one with a strong drug/gang culture and high aantisocial behaviour. (Hopefully our fears wouldn’t come to pass and people would come together but I wouldn’t bet on it)

  8. Skwyrlsl on October 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    i love this article great advice

  9. azheat on December 8, 2010 at 4:10 am

    The 3 months without hope is interesting because if you watch Man vs. Wild very much you’ll notice how often he mentions the importance of staying positive and keeping your spirits up. He often talks of how a fire will warm his spirit as well as his body.

    • I'm not dead on May 15, 2016 at 6:51 am

      Others say 3 seconds without hope.

    • Brett in TX on February 24, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Please God, don’t ever do anything Bear Grylls says, it’s a wonder he hasn’t gotten some poor fool killed.

      • Don on April 7, 2018 at 6:30 pm

        Amen to that Brett.

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