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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


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The number 3 can be the key to your survival in an emergency. When you must prioritize your needs quickly, it helps to know what is most urgent. Knowing the rules of 3 can give you the information you need to make smart decisions.


"It seems pretty obvious what your priorities should be in a wilderness survival situation once it is spelled out like this. However a lot of beginners think that finding food is the first thing they should do. So they spend all of their energy trying to find some berries, and before they know it the sun is setting. It's getting cold. Clouds are rolling in, and it starts raining. They still have no food, and now they don't have any shelter. That is not a situation we would want to be in. How 'bout you?"


3 SECONDS without hope
Most individuals freeze in an emergency. In the immediate confusion and chaos, the human brain tries to draw upon some familiar experience for a plan of action. Finding none, we become immobile. You have three seconds to decide that you have hope and move forward. Statistics show that in a plane crash, you have 90 seconds to exit the wreckage. Three seconds without hope can make the difference between whether or not you have time to clear the area.

Survival depends upon your ability to shake yourself out of the stupor of disbelief and hopelessness.

Walter B. Cannon studied the case histories of sudden, unexplained deaths from around the world. In 1942, he published his theory that the brain unleashes stress hormones that can cause fatal heart arrhythmias in individuals that have given up all hope of escape -- they are literally scared to death. Use fear to spur yourself towards life-saving action. Determine to grasp onto hope and make a plan to live.

3 MINUTES without air
Few people can hold their breath for 3 minutes. In circumstances where oxygen is limited, your next priority is to get to a place where you can breathe.

3 HOURS without shelter (in extreme conditions)
Once you have breathable air, your next priority is to find (or construct) shelter. Those who take off on prolonged hikes may find themselves going in circles and/or racing the setting sun to construct safe sleeping quarters. In extreme conditions, you can live for a couple of days without water and weeks without food, but you cannot survive without shelter. You could suffer from hypothermia at 50 degrees, especially if the wind is blowing and you are wet. In warm climates, you will need shelter from the sun. Protect yourself from the elements.

3 DAYS without water
The next challenge is to find clean water. This may mean collecting rainwater or finding a water source shared by plants and animals. Avoid activity that leads to lots of sweating and heavy breathing. This causes your body to lose water more quickly. Conserve what water your body has by working at a nice steady pace. Whatever your course of action, your body will need water soon.

3 WEEKS without food
Some of us will survive even longer without it, but food will become an urgent concern for survival after a couple of weeks. With plenty of water, some can even survive longer than three weeks, but you will want to locate a source of nourishment while you still have the strength to do so.

3 MONTHS without companionship or love
This is actually part of the first rule of 3. In order to continue in a prolonged survival circumstance, most people need to have a sense of purpose and belonging. Knowing that someone is there for you and caring what happens to you can help you continue doing what is necessary for survival when the days and weeks seem to drag. Strong faith will make all of the difference for these survivors.

This video offers important information on adaptability and a survival mentality by David Wendell.

The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood (ISBN-10: 0446580244)


  1. Interesting rule of 3's. I've never heard that before but I like it. I want to copy down this list and put it with my camping essentials.

  2. Rule of 3's is most interesting. I plan to copy and keep it in the home emergency kit. Thank you for posting.

  3. I was wondering if you knew where the Term Rule of 3's in regards to survival priorities came from? I cannot find the original source, and I would love to know. Thanks.



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a perpetual student of things I find interesting and (I hope) helpful to others. Feel free to use and apply all information with a healthy dose of common sense. :-)

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