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In survival, the rule of threes involves the priorities in order to survive.[1][2][3] The rule, depending on the place where one lives, allow people to effectively prepare for emergencies[4] and determine decision-making in case of injury or danger posed by the environment.[5]


Normally, the rule of threes contains the following:

  • You can survive three minutes without breathable air (unconsciousness generally occurs), or in icy water.
  • You can survive three hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold).
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • You can survive three weeks without food.

These conditions are assuming that the one(s) above it are met. For example, if you have a large quantity of food and water yet are exposed to the environment, then the harsh conditions rule applies. These rules are also useful in determining the order of priority when in a situation. There are several other conditions to the rule. For example, it is also said that it takes a three-second psychological reaction time to make a decision during an emergency.[1] There is also the claim that individuals can last three months without companionship.[6]

There are kits available that specifically include items that cover the rule of threes. These include the pre-assembled go-bags that can be purchased in stores.[7]


  1. ^ a b Colin Towell (2011). Essential Survival Skills. Penguin. ISBN 0756673380.
  2. ^ "Survival and the Rule of Threes (What it all Means)". UK Survival Guides.
  3. ^ "Wilderness Survival Rules of 3 - Air, Shelter, Water & Food".
  4. ^ Williams, Scott B. (2010). Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press. p. 26. ISBN 9781569757819.
  5. ^ Towell, Colin (2011). Essential Survival Skills. New York: DK Publishing. p. 154. ISBN 9780756659981.
  6. ^ Dorrell, Darrell D.; Gadawski, Gregory A. (2012). Financial Forensics Body of Knowledge. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 506. ISBN 9780470880852.
  7. ^ Nowka, James D. (2013-05-28). Prepper's Guide to Surviving Natural Disasters: How to Prepare for Real-World Emergencies. Penguin. ISBN 9781440235849.