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What is the Rule of Three? You may have heard the phrase before, you may even have a vague idea of what the Rule of Three covers. In a nutshell, the Rule of Three:

You can Survive for

3 minutes without air (or in icy water)

3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment (except icy water)

3 days without water, if in a shelter

3 weeks without food, if you have water and shelter

These are the priorities of survival.

If you find yourself in a survival situation, your top priority is to find shelter. According to the U.S. Army Survival Manual, a “shelter can protect you from the sun, insects, wind, rain, snow, hot or cold temperatures… It can give you a feeling of well-being. It can help you maintain your will to survive.” Do not worry about food or water until you have secured a shelter. In some conditions, such as extreme cold, shelter will outweigh your need for food and water. Prolonged exposure to cold can leave you exhausted and zap your will to survive. Food and water will make little difference if you lack the strength or will to stay alive.

Shelter is so often overlooked when preparing for survival. When you are faced with harsh conditions, the first thing you should do is find shelter or remain in the shelter you already have. Here is a real life example. A few years ago my brother and his friend went “Jeeping” around the Wasatch mountains of Utah. It was only October and the weather was still pleasant. At the top of a mountain, the Jeep became stuck. No matter what these two large guys did, they couldn’t release the Jeep. My brother is in the habit of keeping supplies in his vehicle (no, this was not the first time he got stuck somewhere remote), and was able to find a jacket. His friend was not as lucky. With no cell coverage, only a flashlight, and no food, the two huddled in the Jeep overnight. They didn’t try to explore, they didn’t attempt to hike down the mountain at night. Instead, they got some sleep (rather cold sleep), and in the morning, they were able to call for help. (Now my brother keeps a spare sleeping bag in his Jeep as well as his jacket.)

This example wasn’t very serious and the weather wasn’t so cold that either of them would freeze with what little preparations they had. These two were often out camping and hiking and “Jeeping” and knew what to expect. There was enough experience and knowledge between them that they knew better than to leave their shelter.

When might you find yourself in a similar situation? You can’t really know in advance, but you can prepare in advance. When you venture out into the wilderness to hike or camp, picnic or hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, prepare yourself and stock your vehicle with everything you may need. A tent, warm jackets for all passengers, a few extra blankets or sleeping bags, and your Every Day Carry (EDC) kit. Pack your backpack with a weather resistant tent and warm sleeping bag. Remember, you can always remove clothes to cool off, but you can’t pack on more blankets or sleeping bags if you are cold. Make sure your tent is the right size for your needs. Too large and the tent will lose heat.

If learning survival skills is your goal, the U.S. Army Survival Manual is a good read if you want to know more about building shelters with items on hand.

How do you prepare yourself and your family in the event of a natural disaster? Disasters aren’t scheduled and they can’t be predicted. Sure, there are areas where certain disasters are known to occur with frequency. Think Tornado Alley or the southeastern states and hurricanes, like Katrina. Everyone who lives in these areas knows that there is some risk, but even they couldn’t have predicted the devastation that Hurricane Katrina would bring.

There are risks living anywhere; blackouts, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, extreme heat and extreme cold, even war. The news is full of stories; stories of sadness and hardship, and stories of survival. Be a story of survival and prepare your shelter in advance. You may not know when a disaster will strike, but you can have a plan in place that provides you and your family with adequate shelter for long-term displacement.

There are early warning systems for some disasters, such as tornados and hurricanes. These systems aren’t always enough, but they can give you the advantage you need, if you are prepared. As you prepare for emergencies with your family, put in place a plan in the event that you are faced with possible evacuation. Where will you go? Where should everyone meet? How will you contact family?

Make a list of what you and your family will need. 72-hour kits, EDC kits, sleeping bags, water and food; these items are good, even life-saving, however, your shelter should be at the top of your list.

Now that you are prepared-you have your shelter, food, emergency kits-how do you decide when you should “bug out”? In some cases, you won’t have a choice. You will be evacuated in instances of floods and fires knocking on your door. In these cases, gather your emergency kits and shelters, and evacuate following the directions given by local authorities. For more information on your state’s emergency procedures, please refer to our State Emergency links post. In other situations, such as severe weather (snow storms), you are not forced to evacuate but are able to decide whether this would be the right action for your particular situation.

Do your research. Vital Domes and Journey Tents are built for long-term use. They feature waterproof fabric with a 7+ year UV life protection, plus water resistant windows and zippers, and a weather-tight door. You can even add a stove package. But don’t just take our word for it; do your research and find a shelter that works for you and your family. We know you will be back.

Vital Domes is the leader in geodesic dome shelter manufacturing, rental, and sales distribution in the Intermountain west. Located in Clifton, ID, USA, everything we create is proudly American Made!

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