Survival's Law of 3




Introduction: Survival's Law of 3

There are dozens of lists of things to bring when you're in an emergency, but what do you actually do? What do you do first, and when do you do everything else... That's what this instructable is for. Instead of one more list of crap in your pocket, I want to give you a list of things to think of, God forbid, you wind up in a survival situation.

Step 1: The Concept...

Anyone familiar with battlefied medicine will understand the concept of triage. For the rest of us let me explain. In essence it is priotiziation based on severity. Focus on the critial patients first, worry about the less critical issues later.

Applying triage to the Survival Situation.
Think of any movie or tv show where people get lost or trapped in the woods someplace. What is the first thing they panic about?

"'What are we going to eat?
The simple truth is the average American is carring around several pounds of calories on them that will take care of them for a while, weeks in fact...

So what should you be focused on?
Read on . . .

Step 2: Law of 3 - Part 1

3 seconds
3 minutes
3 hours
3 days
3 weeks

This is intended as a simple memory aid. I can't say as I've read anything that is as simple as this, but I've read and practiced many volumes of materal to vouch for its truth.

Step 3: 3 Seconds . . . .THINK!!!!!

3 Seconds . . .
Stupidity can kill you! Especially in a survival situation. Hysterics get you nowhere. It is likely that stupidity is what got you into this mess, it's not going to get you out!

The first think you have to do is think, rationally, and logically think.
Now, I'm not saying spend hours contemplating your options as you sit in the car that's burning. But I do recommend you pause the split second it takes to see which way is the safest way off the cliff.

This also includes looking out for your company. Chances are if your group is in a survival situation, someone is going to freak. Provided you are all safe for the moment, your first priority is calm everyone down, because if you don't the panic will spread and stupidity doesn't just add with members it doubles.

You've got to nip it in the bud.

Now I'm not saying don't show fear. That 80's crap is crap. I'm just saying do what needs to be done through your fear.

General George S. Patton said, "Courage is not action in the absence of fear, but the presence of action despite it."

Step 4: 3 Minutes . . . Breath!

Breathing... so simple we tend to forget about it . . . until you or one of your group can't. if that happens you've got about 3 minutes to do something to avoid brain damage . . .or worse.

Generally there are two primary reasons why a person can breath, and there are two skill to know that can literally be life savers.

The first reason is choking, typically on food. In this case the best responce is the heinlich manuver. Now, this is something you should know BEFORE you try it.

WARNING: Gasping and shortness of air is NOT the same as choking! If some on CAN gasp and get some air, attempting the heinlich can actually lodge what ever the problem is into a full choke, which means the 3 minute clock is then ticking!

The second common reason a person can breath is drowning. The best responce to that is CPR. Again, this is something, you should learn and know BEFORE you try it.

Step 5: 3 Hours . . . Warmth

In the wrong weather you can freeze to death in hours. Luckily, there are two very good things you can do about it: fire and shelter.

Fire is obvious, but the trick is making it. Yes, every survival kit has matches in it, and smokers carry lighters, but what if . . . -fill in the blank-?

Carry the mentality of the Law of 3 out to this level. If you're going to have a kit, have 3 means of fire starting. Some of the best, (besides matches and lighters):
magnifying lenses
flint & steel
magnesium stick
fire stick (my favorite)
car battery and steel wool
compression fire starters

Then there are countless skills you may want to learn about how to make fire from friction. I know of at least 4 methods "rubbing sticks" (and I've learned 1 of them).
AGAIN, you may want to learn some things BEFORE you need them.

Speaking of fire... there is a old comparison of fires that I think bears remembering.
A white man generally builds a big fire and sits far away from it.
An Indian would build a small fire and sit close.

Lesson: Keep the fire small and stay close to it. (without burning your shelter.) Gather a lot of wood in the light so you don't have a 3AM search because you ran out and you're freezing.

Shelter... never forget your body makes its own heat. The shelter's duty is to keep your own heat contained. I always am amazed when I see a couple of kids think they will keep warm with a few pieces of bark over a stick. Insulate your shelter, just in case. If you're in a survival situation, chances are you don't know the weather report for the next few days. I'd rather be in a situation where I was so warm I needed to take a jacket off than shivering with everything on.

Step 6: 3 Days . . . Water

Foolish bags of mostly water....

You and I are 90% water so naturally finding water is a greater priority than food. In this day and age there are 2 issues with water. Not just finding it, but also treating it.

Finding Water.
Thanks to that neat thing called gravity water convienaly flows downhill so when in doubt start to check the bottoms of hills and valleys. That is common sense.

What is not always so commonly thought of is morning dew. Anyone who walked outside pre-dawn knows the kiss of dew on everything from grass to glass. It doesn't take anything more than a bandanna or a t-shirt to start collecting it. Granted you're not goning to fill a pool here but if you are striking out with the "water hole search" this will buy you time.

Treating water.
I don't buy a lot of the enviromental doom and gloom. I don't belive in the "Global Climate Change". But I do believe toxic dumping happens, and I believe that fertilizers run off farms, so it is a sad state of affairs when we say we can't even dunk our heads in the streams God gave us with confidence anymore.

This being said the simplest and best way to treat water is to boil it.
Now you're saying, "Sure Sherlock, but in what?"
Well, first it is another sad state of affairs when we realized that there is verly little space on this planet that does not have some sort of trash on it, and tin cans are plentiful. Not to mention the soda/beer cans you may have in your own car.

Besides metal, it is possible to boil water in nontraditional containers, such as a plastic bottle or paper cup. The key is to keep a flame focused only on areas that are filled with water, so the water will take the heat. If you let flames hit the top where there is no fluid, well, you could loose your container and your fire.

Yet another skill I recommend you practice before you find you need it.

Step 7: 3 Weeks . . . Food

Now we start talking about needing food, and there are two large broad categories: Plants and Animals.

It always seems everyone want to whittle a spear and hunt for deer. In a real situation, that is not realistic. Most of us Americans, especially in a Survival Situation make far too much noice to stalk and hunt like Native Americans did. If you can, great and go forth, but for most of us... let's talk about Plan B.

If your heart is set on meat, then I suggest two focuses, fishing and trapping. Fishing is likely the easiet for the most novice individual to pick up, just two bits of advice. Remember that dusk and dawn are the generally the peak times for catching fish and that keeping quiet and still is th best way not to spook them.

Trapping is good because you can set a few traps and have them work for you, around the clock. Plus you are not just limited to the lake/river/etc.

The drawback again is, this is something you would likely want to have some practice Before you need it.

Then there are plants.
Plants are great. They stay put. They don't run. The down side is most of us don't know rasberries from nightshade. This means the smart man might want to start studying what are good and bad plants so he can recognize them when he sees them.

Step 8: Law of 3 - Part 2

You can die in:
3 seconds without thinking.
3 minutes without breathing.
3 hours without warmth.
3 days without water.
3 weeks without food.

So now that we've got the these guides down, I do want to remind them that these are guides, not written in stone. When your out gathering firewood, and you find a wild orchard, consider youself blessed. If you're building a shelter and a squirrel runs across your way, I'd try my luck and throw a stick at it too.

This "Law of 3" is simply intended to be an easy way for someone to cut through the crap of whatever sitution they have the misfortune they are in. It's like the old debate of "wants" and "needs". You may want a steak, with baked potate and all the trimmings, but all you need is something as simple as a trout with some walnuts.

Step 9: Bonus Law . . . THE 3

I'll be honest, I'm a Christian, and I developed this concept to easily teach some of my kids in my childrens chuch adventure camp. When I teach it to what I know will be a Christian audience, I like to add in a seperate Bonus Law above all others, Faith in THE 3, the Trinity. Father, Son, and Spirit. Especially when you are in a survival situation, Faith can be the determing factor in your will to live. If you haven't thought about that, I encourage you to.

Step 10: Homework

Well if you haven't noticed, throughout this instructable, I mentioned several things that might prove useful to know should something happen. The problem with emergencies is they never give you notice, never call in advance, never knock nicely. They just hit you. So I will take this section to give you a check list of skills it might do you well to practice... just in case.

Learn the Heimlich maneuver.
Learn CPR.
Learn several methods of starting a fire. (At least 1 with all natural materials.)
Learn to build a well insulated shelter.
Practice collecting dew.
Learn to identify a variety of plants, but especially some edible ones. (Maybe even try them.)
Practice fishing from basic parts (sticks and string, not rod an reels).
Practice setting traps and snares.

Those were what were listed. But there are of course many, many skills that would prove handy. If I may be so bold may I recommend you try to learn Morse code. It is a handy way to communicate complex information with primitive tools. As simple as a car mirror or two rocks. Perhaps even print this listing out and tuck it in your wallet with the Laws of 3 printed on the back... just in case.

Beyond this 'ible though. Get out, read, learn, grow. It is my personal beleif that one day, for whatever reason, something major will happen and society as we know it will be no more. The lights will go out, and won't come on for quite awhile. For those reasons I think it is vital that we have a good understanding of the skills of those who came before us... again, just in case.

Thank you for reading this. I appreciate your feedback.

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    10 years ago on Step 8

    This is a very good way to put down the survival info many people forget when building a survival kit.

    I have never gone through more Instructables before I found this one. Out of the dozens of pages, this was ion the last one! I think it should be on the first!

    Good work breaking down the basics...


    11 years ago on Step 9

    Awesome! I always knew the rule of 3 but the end really was awesome. I have been dodging this tutorial for weeks because I thought why do I want to see something that I already know. But the thing is I have been struggling spiritually lately.



    11 years ago on Step 9

    I really like your article, especially the end. Thanks for the good word.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    This is a GREAT Instructable. Clear and to the point without going into too much detail or off any tangents. And it gives a good device for remembering what your priorities are. 5 stars. P.S. Good work not buying into "Global Climate Change". People like Al Gore are actually profiting off of selling "carbon credits". Seems a little hypocritical to me.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I'd be keen to see your evidence that global climate isn't changing - start a topic in the forums, let's see what you've got.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I shall do so as to not hijack strods i'ble. Thanks for the tip. BTW, I believe the climate IS dynamic and therefore changing. I am referring to the idea of "Global Climate Change" as a result of "greenhouse gas" caused by humans.


    4 years ago

    Great effort. This survival rule of 3's came about during WW2 when British, Nazis and the USA were preparing their pilots for combat action. The Nazis used live human test subjects to establish the 3 minute icy water immersion rule and 3 dehydration rule. Today we must also add Radiation Exposure and Loss of Blood / chocking etc / heart attack / stroke / - Triage cases. The USA's 3 rule were established in a warm temperate zone under shelter and NO work was permitted. The very good WW2 US military survival training film (I watched it 4 decades ago as a formal part of my training) is no longer on You Tube. The 3 hour rule applies equally to hot-Arid & Cold-Arctic environments. The 3 Day & 3 Week rules are greatly shortened if food gathering and water collecting & processing Work is required. // Your final point Moral Guidance applies in the 3 second phase, we were created with intellect for our survival (so being stupid and failing to reasonably prepare is not resolved by prayer!)..


    4 years ago

    Thank you for this advice. The Survival Rule of 3s was developed during WW2 as a part of survival training, all of whom were fit, young, healthy, strong, brave and of above average intelligence.(The Nazis used life test humans to determine the icy water survival time.) The 3 minutes Radiation exposure and Icy water immersion. The 3 days - Water & 3 weeks Food were established in a temperate environment, under shelter and NO work to be done. So the final two are a rough guide only and this goes back to the three second fundamental of Prior Knowledge and situational awareness. This also relate to your bonus point on morality (no point being a fool and then praying for rescue). We were given intellect to use for or survival. Thanks, Greg


    5 years ago

    I remember hearing a story in USAF arctic survival training of a Herc going down that had a CAF survival expert on board. The crew survived, but he walked off a few dozen yards from the plane and died in the snow. They attributed the crew's teamwork with their getting home, but the expert was an outsider and apparently wanted to go it alone. I heard this over 30 years ago by now, and it still haunts me.


    7 years ago

    Thank you. This is great advice.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Wasn't the quote "Ugly bags of mostly water"?


    9 years ago on Step 7

    remember one thing about berries just because the bird is eating it doesnt mean that you can eat it.

    Oh and a strawberry is a strawberry there are no poisonous plants that resemble them


    10 years ago on Introduction

    for the record, I've expanded a little more on skills in an new 'ible. It's also my entry in the Survival Challenge, check it out if you like an vote. Survival Skills Guide 

    Ze Grant
    Ze Grant

    10 years ago on Step 6

    Unless you're a jellyfish, your body ain't 90% water...


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    Jellyfish are actually 99% water :-)


    11 years ago on Step 3

    are you equally offended by pictures "making fun of" short people, fat people, old people, handicapped people, WHITE people? I don't think strods chose this to be racial. He just took the kind of poster that is WIDELY available on the interwebs, and ran with it.
    I had an instructor in the Navy who was a jerk. He was not a great instructor and we all hated him, at school and on the beach. But oddly, I remember his classes more than many others, civilian or military. I'm no longer sure that he was a "real" jerk, it was just his way to make us prove we were better coming out of his class, than we were going in!
    I HOPE that you read this Law of 3's, and remember it even IF it's because of being offended right now. It may just save your life.
    I can send you my picture, I'm kinda goofy lookin'!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I have a friend that told me once,Teach the children to have fath and in any trial in their lives, They will never be alone(i,e In the forrest scared and not thinking)