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Friday, April 10, 2009

Survival Tips - The Rule of 3's

Survival Tips - The Rule of 3's

In emergency situations, one of the biggest problems is to focus on what matters most. That’s why in the field of emergency medicine, we use acronyms and steps like the “ABC’s” to help us control panic and remember what we should do first, then second, etc… Well survival is no different, we still need to control panic and prioritize our efforts. This is where the “Rule of 3’s” comes in.
The Rule of 3's simply stated is you have:
  • 3 minutes without AIR
  • 3 hours without SHELTER
  • 3 days without WATER
  • 3 weeks without FOOD
So what does all this mean? It tells us where our priorities should be. First, we should focus on 1st Aid and all life threatening situations making sure we'll still be breathing in the near future. Next, we should worry about shelter because more people die of exposure than any other incident in the outdoors (Hypothermia is the number one killer in the outdoors). Next is water. And then finally food, which is last, not first. You would be surprised at how long a human can go without food.
Often in survival situations people have a tendency to focus on food first with fears of starvation in their head or just plain aches in their stomach (we‘re a little spoiled in modern society in the area of food), when really it should be our last priority. 1st Aid and dealing with all life threatening situations is the obvious first choice, but then under stress people have a tendency to make poor decisions about priorities. Second is shelter and after 1st aid should be our main focus.
Of course, the question always comes, "building a shelter is a lot of work, shouldn't you try to conserve your energy in a survival situation?" The answer is Yes. But the question you have to ask yourself in any survival situation is "do the benefits out weigh the costs?" In survival energy means calories and you only have so many currently stored within you (i.e. food, undigested food, and fat stores), so you need to spend them wisely and conserve what you have.
So we're back to our question of whether we should conserve or spend those calories. The answer is Spend! Research shows that shivering uses up about 500 calories an hour and if you times that by an 8 hour night (not that you'll be sleeping much that night) you get 4000 calories spent shivering. Most people can build a shelter in under an hour and as they practice they can shave even more time off (some can do it in 15 minutes). So spend that hour using up calories to ultimately save more (the benefits gained out weigh the costs). Besides, there's an old saying "you warm yourself twice with a survival shelter, once while you build it and once when you climb in it".
Search and rescue statistics show most people are rescued within 72 hours, so if you handle the first 2 priorities, you’re most likely going to make it. This is where my books come in, they teach you the skills you need to build shelters fast and efficiently, so your odds of survival go way up.
If things do go longer, you know what’s next -- water. And finally, last but not least, the fourth priority is food. The “Rule of 3’s” (just like the “ABC’s” in 1st Aid) is a tool to help you control panic and remember in any survival situation what your steps are and what matters most.
See you on the trail,

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1 comment:

  1. Greg,
    Great blog.
    The NASAR FUNSAR course, the US National Park Service and the Boy Scouts use an expanded version of the Rule of Threes. Its a very effective tool to teach survival priorities. I'd love to send you a copy.

    Tim Woods
    Major, USAF SOF, Retired
    Wind, Water, Woods, Wisdom