The Rule of 3’s is a method for prioritizing your basic survival needs. It provides a relative magnitude to the importance of 4 key elements of human survival: Air, Shelter, Water, and Food. We’re going to walk through each element to help you understand how you prioritize them in various emergency circumstances.
Air – 3 Minutes
Hold your breath and see how close you can get to 3 minutes. This “3” is the trickiest because it’s almost instinctual. 3 minutes is so fast, you don’t have long to think or come up with a plan. Additionally, if you find yourself in the role of first-responder, this gives you an idea of the danger the victim could be in.
Our bodies can’t function if deprived of oxygen. If you fall underwater you have about 3 minutes to get up for air, and rescuers have about 3 minutes to help you out before potential long term damage occurs. In a fire, smoke will make it difficult to breathe. In addition to the smoke that you can see, carbon monoxide can make it hard to breathe and you can’t see it or smell it. Making sure you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are critical for giving you a chance to escape.
Shelter – 3 Hours
We humans are not designed to handle harsh environments for long periods of time. In the harshest of environments, humans can really only survive for about 3 hours. Now, it is unlikely that you live in an environment that harsh, but you might. Think about the polar vortex that rolled through the country over the last few weeks. What would have happened if you had been caught out in the elements? Humans are not designed to live in sub-freezing temperatures for any period of time without some form of shelter. In a disaster, you want to stay dry and stay at a moderate temperature (not too hot and not too cold).
Water – 3 Days
The human body is over 90% water. Without adequate water, your body’s systems will begin to falter and fail. After you’ve secured some sort of shelter, you need to prioritize clean, drinkable water. Notice that I qualified that with “drinkable”. Drinking dirty, contaminated, or salty (ocean) water can actually accelerate your demise. Waterborne illnesses can cause dehydration, which in a disaster can be deadly. To avoid this, make sure you have a high-quality water filter or you’re utilizing a sound method of filtration (boiling, UV, chemical tablets, or distillation).
Food – 3 Weeks
You may be hungry, but you’ll still be alive for several days without food. Most disasters will see help and supplies arrive within a few days. However, depending on the size of the disaster and your location relative to the distribution points, you can’t count on this support. The best way to ensure you aren’t hungry for too long is to make sure you have a cache of food with you or close to you, always.
This will look very different depending on your location. You will likely have a large stockpile of food at your house. Make sure you have some food in your vehicle and in your everyday carry (we’ll spend more time going through vehicle and everyday carry setups in an upcoming article) so that you can sustain yourself until you can get home. I always make sure I have a box of protein bars in each of our vehicles and I always have a couple of bars in my everyday carry bag (laptop bag). That may not seem like a lot of food, but in an emergency, you won’t be eating on a normal schedule. Your goal is to ration until you make it to “safety”, not to see how fast you can eat your bars.
As you continue through your Preparedness Journey, utilize the Rule of 3’s to help you prioritize. It can help you prioritize which skills to learn. It can help you prioritize which gear to purchase first and which gear to invest in more. Most importantly, it can help you prioritize your emergency plan to keep you and your family safe.