The Rules of 3’s & the Get Home Bag

A disaster can occur anywhere at any time day or night. Most of us have somewhere to be five days a week, eight hours a day. This place is called a job. Now days, most jobs take us away from our homes for up to 12 hours a day when you count travel time to and from your place of employment. Most of us also work in an urban environment. In offices, stores or factories that are near or in a center of population. Some of us have recognized these facts and have stashed a Get Home Bag (GHB) in our vehicles that will provide us the tools we need to make it back to homes and families. However, not everything you may need for the trek home may be in your GHB. You may have to pick up supplies along the way.

Let’s take a moment to review the “Rules of 3’s” as it pertains to a survival situation.

  • A person can survive 3 minutes without air or in icy water.
  • A person can survive 3 hours without shelter in a harsh environment.
  • A person can survive 3 days without water.
  • A person can survive 3 weeks without food.

Now, let’s apply these rules to a get home situation.

The first rule may or may not be a concern based upon the situation. Is there a riot with law enforcement using tear gas or some other riot control agent? If so, then you will need an expedient form of respiratory protection. Will you have to cross a river or stream in an area without a bridge? Then you will have to recon the area for a “loose” boat or some other way across the river without getting wet. So unless you are going to experience one of these conditions or something similar the first rule will pretty much take care of itself.

Now the second rule, shelter in a harsh environment. There are several ways to look at this, but for the get home situation I believe it should include not only shelter in the traditional sense, but also outer clothing. Depending on the weather during the get home situation, an outer jacket at the very least is a must. The GHB should be outfitted based upon the season. A bag without winter clothing or boots would be worthless during a winter storm.

A person may be able to survive without water for 3 days, but you don’t want to. However, it you have done any backpacking at all, you know that water is perhaps some of the heaviest items that you can carry. In an urban environment, there are several places you should be able to retrieve some sort of water, but would you want to drink it?

One answer for this issue is today’s filtering devices. There are several on the market today that are light weight and do a great job of filtering almost any water source. It a great idea to have one of these filtering devices in your GHB. Another idea is to pack a couple of bottles of water in your GHB. If you decide to keep water in your GHB, be sure to rotate it out every couple of weeks. This will help to insure the water has a fresh taste when needed. There is almost nothing worst that funky tasting water.

Straw Water Filter Device

Straw Water Filter Device

For the final rule, hopefully you will be able to make it home in 3 weeks. If not, you have a killer commute! A couple of snack bars can take the hunger a way while on your trip and they don’t weigh very much. Snack bars are pretty stable and store fairly well. One down side is that most of the ingredients are dehydrated, so your water intake will increase to compensate for the dehydrated ingredients. If your route is going to take you a day or two, you will be thankful for the food.

There are several other items that you can carry in the GHB. A survival blanket weights almost nothing, but can also provide you a little shelter, and warmth when needed.

Survival Blanket

Survival Blanket

A small flashlight or a chem-lite/glow-stick can provide the need light and again weights very little.



A weapon is always good to have in these types of situations. A knife and or a hand gun could provide you the security and means of defense when needed. Remember, a GHB is just that, a Get Home Bag. The GHB is not a Bug-Out bag and shouldn’t be packed as one. Most GHB’s will be small & light weight & will contain only the items that you will need to make it home.

Based upon the situation, it’s always good idea to set priorities. Think about the items you have in your GHB and what items you may need to pick-up, find or even scrounge along the way. Using the “Rules of 3’s” as they relate to your current situation, perform a quick mental listing of the hazards that you may encounter on the way home and refine your list of items that you may need to “pick-up” along the way.

Dumpster Diving

Dumpster Diving

Remember, while in a survival situation you should always try to better your situation somehow. You may not be able to do this, but if you can you will increase the odds in your favor.

The trip home is going to be hard and full of hazards of all sorts. The GHB won’t be the answer to all you’re the issues that you will face along the way, but it will provide you with some of those items that will increase your odds.


  1. Sound advice. I had to drive from Cleveland to Akron to get home, during the big blackout of 2003. It was quite scary being stuck for hours in traffic, not knowing what was going on and how long it would take to get home.

    And that was a non-event, actually!


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