Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Rule of 3`s

I admit it, of late most of my blog posts have been a little bit serious, this was intended. I have said it before and I will keep saying it until people realise that we are living in uncertain times, in my opinion it is absolute madness not to be prepared for an emergency, of any kind.

In my last post I talked a bit about how knowledge is key, you can have the best gear in the world but if you don't know how to use it, or you don't know how or what things you can use in a grid down urban or wilderness environment all the gear in the world won't help you unless you know what you're doing and have practised doing it.

That being said, one thing you will hear a lot of in emergency preparedness circles is "The rule of 3's". It occurs to me that there is some confusion with some aspects of these rules, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about my take on them.

The Rule of 3's
You can live 3 minutes without oxygen
You can live 3 hours without shelter in severe conditions.
You can live 3 days without water.
You can live 3 weeks without food.

It is not unusual to see the rule of 3's laid out in a list form, just giving the rules with little if any explanation as to why these apply.
For one, these rules are not hard and fast rules which must be adhered to, they are guidelines and as such are subject to an individual's abilities and needs at that moment in their lives. Let's start at the beginning.

You can live for 3 minutes without oxygen.

When you were a kid did you ever play the holding your breath game with your friends? The winner was the one who could hold their breath the longest. I could hold my breath up to around the one minute mark, today I can hold my breath for about a minute and a half. Pearl divers and free divers have trained them selves to be able to hold their breath for a lot longer, some for up to 10 minutes.

With this in mind we need to look at the rule of 3's in a more personal level. I know that I could never hold my breath for more than 2 minutes, not without proper training.
The human brain can last up to 6 minutes without oxygen after the heart stops at which point it begins to die.

So we need to look at the first rule as a mean average and as most of us are average people with little if any super powers we can assume that most of us would be in trouble if we were to be without oxygen for 3 or more minutes, some of us could last longer then 3 minutes, some of us less.

You can last 3 hours without shelter.

This is the one which causes the most discussion among Preppers.
Have you ever spent all day at the beach, lay in the sun? Or have you ever spent the day at the park or out hiking?

When we say that you can not live for more than 3 hours without shelter, we are assuming that you will be in a severe environment, such as somewhere where the temperature has dropped way below sub zero or you're in a desert environment where the temperature can get way above 45°c and some.
In this case, yes, getting some kind of shelter would be way up there on your things to do list, but if you are in a rural or urban setting or in an environment where the weather is more "normal* to your day to day life then my priorities would be water, food, shelter, fire.

We should also consider what your intentions are at that point, if you are in an urban or rural/country side environment and you have a place to be, chances are you will want to keep moving, only setting up a makeshift shelter when you plan to stop and rest.

Again, living 3 hours without shelter is subjective in my opinion as there are a lot of things to be considered, such as environment, weather conditions, your intentions at that time.
It is worth mentioning that regardless of your intentions, rest is a priority, when you feel like to really need to rest, rest. Pushing yourself too hard can be dangerous and the last thing you need is an injury.

You can live 3 days without water.


Water is life. That's absolute. I'd you are in a grid down situation and you are on the move with your Bug out bag you are going to sweat, in this situation you should be drinking at least 3 gallons of water a day, minimum. Dehydration can and will kill you and you will start to feel the effects of dehydration well before the third day.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:
feeling thirsty
dark yellow and strong smelling pee
feeling dizzy or lightheaded
feeling tired
dry mouth, lips and eyes
peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day

Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:
vomiting or diarrhoea
been in the sun too long (heatstroke)
drunk too much alcohol
sweated too much after exercising
a high temperature of 38C or more
been taking medicines that make you pee more (diuretics)

These symptoms will get progressively worse as you become more dehydrated to the point where you can not think straight and start hallucinating.
It is also worth noting that these symptoms will start before three days have elapsed, possibly even on day one depending on the amount of exercise you are doing, weather conditions and the terrain you are covering.

There are a number of ways to check your hydration levels, a simple pinch test on the back of your hand to check the elasticity of your skin, putting pressure on your thumb nail to make it go red and checking the speed it returns to its natural colour are two methods.
The mindset you should have is, if you're thirsty, take a drink, bearing in mind the amount of water you have with you.

You can 3 weeks without food.

Again, this rule is subjective depending on your location and what you are doing.
A man needs around 10,500kJ (2,500kcal) a day to maintain his weight. For a woman, that figure is around 8,400kJ (2,000kcal) a day. However, if you are on the move and carrying your bug out bag you will burn more calories than you would if you are static and not carrying a heavy bag.


The nonviolent activist Mahatma Gandhi survived for 21 days on total starvation, only allowing himself sips of water while some hunger strikers have lasted over 40 days without food, one up to 70 days.

Needless to say that these people would have been inactive during this time.
After around 5 days without food your body will start to eat its self to gain back needed calories, starting with your fat store, during this time concentration will become more difficult, as the days go on you will find it harder and harder to find the energy to do anything, you will want to sleep more and more.

Depending on where you are, will depend on what wild foods are available to replenish those needed nutrients. Remembering that not all wild plants are edible.
The idea that if an animal can eat it, so can we is a mistake, a lie and 100% not true. It is important to know what foods you can eat and how to prepare them. The last thing you want is to poison yourself or get diarrhoea, this will only make things worse as you loose valuable key tones, calories and water, thus compounding any dehydration effects you could be going through.

To end, I am not saying that the Rule of 3`s is incorrect or outdated, but I would and do use the time scales given as a baseline and time scale as to how I should prioritise my preps and organise the things I carry in my day bag and bug out bag.

Good luck

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