Thank you to Jill for submitting the following question:

I’m about to start delivering remote first aid and was wondering if you are able to provide some further information regarding the rule of three’s? i.e. 3 minutes without oxygen etc. This was something I learnt a few years ago when I took part in a wilderness first aid course. It related to things the body needed and how long it could last with them.

Reply by Fiona McColley – Remote and Wilderness First Aid Consultant & Dr Edi Albert – Director, Wilderness Education Group

Hi Jill, thank you for your question.

The question is related to survival. In an extreme situation you cannot survive for more than:

  • 3 minutes without air (oxygen)
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

There is a fine line to tread between teaching remote area first aid and getting drawn into questions on survival. Consider what benefit there is to the student in learning another ‘rule’.

Each of the ‘threes’ is not cast in stone, they are rough guesses only. I’m sure I’d last all night quite comfortably lying on Mission Beach 🙂

I think it important we teach understanding of principles, not rules where the only link is an arbitrary number. In survival terms it is important that people understand the order, that’s about all.

Hope this helps.