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I Call BS On The Rule Of Threes For Survival — I May Have A Better Idea

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  • Post last modified:January 13, 2024
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In my typical method of going against the grain, I call BS on The Rule of Threes Of Survival. In this short article, I cover the shortfalls of this simplistic and unrealistic standard of survival requirements that have been spread throughout our community for years.

I also offer a possible solution – an acronym (ASS-WTF) that may serve the prepping community better.

Rule Of 3’s For Survival

  • AIR: You can survive three minutes without breathable air (unconsciousness) or in icy water.
  • Shelter: You can survive three hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold).
  • Water: You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • Food: You can survive three weeks without food.

* Some have added rules to the survival rule of 3s, e.g., three seconds without hope or three months without social interaction.

I call BS on the Survival Rule of 3s.

You may survive the rule of threes, but you’ll be dead in the water long before that. Survival is not pushing yourself to the brink of death.

You may survive three weeks without food, but your organs will likely begin shutting down long before that.

By the second day without food, your glucose and glycogen are depleted. Your body will begin to break down muscle tissue to provide energy.
~
You’ll begin to experience severe adverse symptoms during the stage of starvation where your body is using its muscle reserves for energy.

Healthline – How Long Can You Live Without Food?

In most cases, as in SHTF, we’d be useless, suffering, and dying long before the rules of three promise to finish us off. We better hope a medivac and a team of equipped and experienced professionals come to the rescue.

That doesn’t seem like a viable plan.

I won’t go into a bunch of exceptions (The person who survives hours underwater or survives months without food) and differences in situations (Health, environment, prior hydration level, exertion, or the will to live). Everything is relative.

The Reason Behind The Rule Of 3’s For Survival

I understand the reasoning behind the continuous regurgitating of the Rule of Threes for Survival we see all over the internet.

It’s About Priorities

The ultimate reasoning behind the Rule of Threes For Survival (or The Survival Rule of 3) is to list the priorities to survive. It lists the importance of bare necessities based on what our bodies need.

We tend to break things into easy-to-remember acronyms, abbreviations, jargon, and slang. The 3s are easy to remember and not necessarily based on science.

The military is obsessed with acronyms because it works. The basics range from OPSEC (Operational Security) to PACE (primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency.) Easy-to-remember priorities are also factored in, i.e., PERMA (planning, embarkation, rehearsal, movement, and action) and OODA (observe, orient, decide, act).

The Problem With The Rule Of 3’s For Survival

If an Army Ranger sends a SALUTE (Size, Activity, Location, Unit identification, Time, and Equipment) report, it has the information and order their chain of command expects. That Soldier or Marine can easily remember what is required and in what order.

Everyone is on the same page – they live that life.

The problem can come into play when Kyle, the waiter, thinks he can worry about food later in an SHTF event because he has three weeks. Or Sally, the computer programmer, is confused that she keeps hearing everyone say she needs a gallon of water a day to survive, yet she can go three days without any.

We assume everyone is on the same page with the Rule Of 3’s For Survival. Eventually, we hope they’ll figure it out. Hope is not a plan.

I Don’t Mean To Criticize Anyone

I held back on this opinion for years because I didn’t want to come off as criticizing well-meaning people intent on helping others within our community.

Many, if not most, of the people I highly respect offer this rule of thumb to help new people plan and equip themselves to survive an SHTF event. Some even go out of their way to qualify the popular saying so it’s not misunderstood or taken literally.

After reviewing survival rules of thumb, medical observations, statistical observations, and how other factors can affect survivability, experts agree that fourteen days is the best approximation for how long you can survive without food.

Rusty Collins – The TruePrepper

At best, people try to convey the severity of certain elements and what is needed to stay alive. They want you to understand the importance of factoring in air, shelter, water, and food for your preps and planning – in that order.

At worst, they’ve heard it a thousand times on YouTube and want you to know they know.

I know this thing. I’m repeating this thing; therefore, I should look smart. Please understand I am smart.

The problem, as it pertains to survival and planning, is that a bunch of people are basing their bugout preps on false pretenses. They are under the misconception they have three weeks to get to food or days to find drinkable water.

The truth is, they won’t be looking for food after a week of hiking without it. They’ll be lying on the ground, exposed to the elements, hallucinating about their prom date as vultures fly overhead.

ASS-WTF – Wouldn’t This Be Better?

ASS-WTF: Survival Priorities
Air: Get to breathable air.
Security: Ensure your safety from surrounding threats.
Shelter: Limit exposure to extreme temperatures and elements.
Water: Find or make safe and drinkable water.
Then: Next/Finally
Food: Secure food. Calorie and nutrition intake is necessary to survive.

This took me all of a few minutes to create. I’m sure someone smarter can come up with a far more clever acronym for planning not to die when thinking of survival resources.

I wish the survival community would leave The Rules of Three to the rescue teams looking for hope as they search for a missing child and stop injecting it into every survival preparation video.

Am I making sense? Then subscribe:

Next Step: With these considerations in mind, develop YOUR Realistic Preparedness Action Plan.

Stay safe. Stay prepared.
Hawkins Out.

I Call BS On The Rule Of Threes For Survival

Image Credits:
Featured image background: Gordon Johnson and 21967857 from Pixabay.
Cow on a toilet for the BS Alert by Clownshoe via Cleanpng

Brian Hawkins

Father, grandfather, Veteran, animal lover, law-abiding taxpayer, homeowner, trucker, and a United States Citizen. Oh, and I'm also a prepper, survivalist, responsible gun owner, and hiker.

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