Survival Rule of 3 and Survival Priorities
Trying to assemble a disaster survival kit and develop an emergency plan can get a little overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been in a survival situation before.
There are so many variables that it’s easy to get lost in the details. This is where the Rules of Three come in handy.
These rules provide a baseline for surviving under four separate conditions. You can use these conditions to assess how to prepare for different disasters, depending on their effects.
The Rules of Three state that an average human can survive:
- 3 minutes without air
- 3 hours (in extreme temperatures) without fire and/or shelter
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
Again, these are averages. Your personal time may be longer or shorter, depending on factors such as physical fitness, medical issues, etc. Let’s go over these rules in a little more detail.
The Rule of Three Survival Guide
3 minutes without air = asphyxiation
The most common cause of asphyxiation is choking, so you should know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, both on others and yourself.
Choking can also pose a danger to unconscious people, as they may not be aware enough (or able) to clear their own air passageways if an obstruction occurs.
Another common cause of asphyxiation is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas which can replace the oxygen in your body and suffocate you.
You can be exposed to carbon monoxide by breathing car exhaust fumes in an enclosed space such as a garage, but also if your car’s exhaust pipe is blocked by snow, mud, or other material, which causes the gas to back up into the car’s interior.
If you are waiting out a disaster in your car, only run it a few minutes every hour (if you need the heater, for example), and always leave a window cracked an inch or so. You should also install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home.
Your chance of drowning can be lessened by learning how to swim, and do not to try and drive or walk across flooded areas. It only takes one inch of fast-moving water to knock a person off of their feet, and six inches is enough to carry a car away. Debris carried in the current can injure you, and downed power lines can turn the water into an electrocution hazard.
3 hours in extreme temperatures without fire or shelter = exposure
The two most common exposure-related ailments are heat stroke and hypothermia.
Heatstroke (or hyperthermia) occurs when a person is subjected to high temperatures for a long period of time and is usually brought on in combination with dehydration. It is characterized by:
- a core body temperature of 105° Fahrenheit or higher
- pounding headaches
- dizziness and/or fainting
- a lack of sweating
- skin that is hot and dry and red
- panting breaths
The fastest way to treat heat stroke is to move the affected person to a cool, shady spot, remove unnecessary clothing, and bathe them in cool water. Ice packs may be applied to the armpits, groin, neck – anywhere blood vessels are close to the surface of the body.
Prevention of heat stroke is usually accomplished by limiting exposure to hot temperatures and staying hydrated.
At the other end of the temperature scale is the danger of hypothermia. Hypothermia is caused by a long period of exposure to cold temperatures, resulting in a body core temperature drop to 95° Fahrenheit or below.
Cases of hypothermia can run from mild to severe, and symptoms include:
- Mild: shivering, higher blood pressure, faster heart rate and breathing, paler skin
- Moderate: violent shivering, confusion and uncoordinated movements, blue extremities
- Severe: a sharp decrease in heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, difficulty in speaking and thinking, amnesia, loss of limb use
Treatment of hypothermia depends on the severity of the case. For mild cases, moving into a warm room and changing into warm, dry clothing will usually suffice. Moderate cases may require the addition of placing hot water bottles or chemical heat packs on the body wherever blood vessels are close to the surface.
Severe cases require the administration of intravenous warmed fluids. Lacking medical facilities, this may be best-achieved by drinking warm liquids.
Prevention of hypothermia primarily involves dressing in layers. Wools and synthetic fabrics work best because they retain heat even when wet.
Make sure you cover your extremities with hand coverings (mittens are warmer than gloves), hat, scarf, etc. You can also place crumpled newspaper, popcorn, Styrofoam packing peanuts – anything that creates a lot of little air pockets your body can heat– in between the layers of clothing to add insulation.
Those thin, silvery Mylar sheets you see in the camping aisle reflect almost all of your body heat and can be used as a blanket, an insulating layer in your clothing, or inside your shelter to keep heat in.
By and large, the easiest way to prevent hypothermia is to build a fire. See our posts from a couple of weeks ago on this subject for tips.
How long Can a Person Survive without Water?
3 days without water = dehydration
How much water do you need each day? As we’ve discussed previously, the answer depends on weather, activity level, physical fitness, and many other factors. Most lists recommend a gallon per person per day for cooking, cleaning, and drinking.
Be sure to check out our post from last week on finding and treating water in an emergency situation.
Can You Survive 3 Weeks Without Food?
3 weeks without food = starvation
The food you pack is a highly personal choice, based on tastes, allergies, comfort vs. convenience, etc.
In general, you want foods that will last a long time in storage, be easy to prepare, and provide a lot of healthy calories by weight. The United States Coast Guard has developed commercially-available food bars that last five years in storage and provide 2400 calories per day.
Similarly, military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) provide an average of 1250 calories per meal and last nearly as long in storage. These are also available through various retailers.
You can also pack dehydrated meals. These offer a variety of dishes such as stews, stroganoffs, and, of course, soups. These only require hot water to reconstitute them, and the majority can be cooked in their own packaging. Be sure to have utensils.
If you have space (and it’s not too heavy), you can always pack canned goods in your kit. Most are already cooked and can be eaten straight from the can if necessary. You’ll want foods that are high in protein for good, healthy energy.
And keep an eye on the sodium content. Too much sodium will increase thirst, leading to a need for more water. If you go with canned goods, remember a can opener. Check the expiration dates of your food regularly, and rotate them out with a fresher fare.
NOTE: While it takes an average of three weeks to die of starvation, as time goes on, you will become weaker, less coordinated, and less coherent. Don’t wait until the third week to try and find food!
Take Rule of Three as Guide For Your Survival Kit
These rules provide an excellent starting point for constructing an emergency disaster kit since they touch on the very basic needs for survival.
We hope you have found this article to be helpful. Join us the rest of the week as we discuss First Aid supplies and procedures, and talk about what to do when a tornado appears! See you then!