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Rule of Three for Survival

You’re out hiking and get a little turned around. Before you know it, night has fallen and you’re completely lost. Your cell phone lost service hours ago so you’re not sure if you’re 3 miles or 30 miles from your campsite. You realize you’re sleeping out in the wild tonight.

What should you do first? 

Chase down a rabbit so you don’t starve to death? Lash together a shelter from tree branches? 

Or you’re home and an earthquake hits. A tree falls over both doors and you’re trapped in your house with only the supplies you currently have.

What should you do first? 

Eat all the ice cream in case the power goes out? Make sure you have drinkable water?

Eeek! Hopefully you’ll never be in either of these situations! But just in case, the first thing to do is remain calm. Easier said than done! 

But with a little bit of knowledge, and by using the rule of threes, you can know what to prioritize, so that you make it through the situation untraumatized. These are general guidelines and very by climate, season and elevation, but when used as a rule of thumb will help you prioritize your actions in an emergency. 

The rule of threes:

  • You can survive three minutes without air (or in icy water)
  • You can survive three hours without shelter (or in a harsh environment) 
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water
  • You can survive three weeks without edible food

Which means that in the hiking scenario the only thing to do is find reasonable shelter for the night. Depending on your elevation and the season, this could mean layering up and enjoying a night under the stars, or it could mean constructing a serious emergency shelter out of sticks and duff to trap all your body heat. 

In the home earthquake situation, since shelter is taken care of you were never in any real danger. Call someone to chop up that tree and you’re set! But feel free to eat the ice cream anyway! 😉 

No matter the situation, remembering the rules of threes will help you prioritize your survival needs. 


This post was written for a client that was creating a new website and needed content that was both relevant and useful while being easy to read.


Cover photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash