Preparedness 101: The Rule of Three

One of the fundamentals for being prepared for all that life throws at us is having what we really need, when we really need it--and having a back-up.  I accomplish a lifestyle of Panic Free Preparedness by living by the Rule of Three.

The Rule of 3, is the ultimate expression of one “preparing for the worst”. As I learned it, the Rule of 3 comes from a military training message: “3 is 2, 2 is 1, and 1 is none”, and boy howdy can I attest to that being the truth! What does it mean “1 is none”.  When the one and only item you had planned on helping you in a crisis breaks, gets used up, or worn out, your situation quickly becomes no different than if you had none of that item. The moment that something happens to that “one” and only chain saw that you planned on using during the winter to cut wood, you might as well as had nothing at all because all you did was prolong the inevitable, right?  Better at least have a back-up wood saw even if it’s one of those portable pouch chains you can saw with.

I don’t know who Murphy is exactly, but he’s awful about making sure that our spare tire is a flat tire when we really need it or that we can’t remember where we put our emergency first aid kit when we realize that junior has used up all of the Pokémon bandages to decorate his bed, or when our planned family meeting spot where we all agree to gather in the event of a crisis ends up being the very spot that was shut down because of the crisis.

Let’s just say for a moment that we find ourselves amidst a weather related crisis that has us holed up in our homes in the middle of a brutal winter storm.  The electricity holds out initially, but ultimately the fierce wind knocks it out. So how are we to stay warm?  Well, we put a fire in the fireplace or wood-burning stove, of course.  But the storm keeps us in our homes much longer than we had anticipated and the first 36 hours easily uses up our cut firewood.  Sure, when all was well you assumed that you’d just cut down more of those trees in your back yard, but in the midst of this storm, it’s just not practical. Well, fortunately, you’re living the Rule of 3 and you just so happen to have a back-up to your back-up plan in the form of propane operated portable heater.

If it’s an item important enough to have and and you're likely to use it regularly, then it’s an item important enough to have in triplicate. If I need one set of a hand powered rotary beaters, then I will always order 3. If one spare piece of glass for my solar oven is a good idea, then two is much better. You see, normal people think about having a spare, but when you’re exposed to long-term trials, a spare anything isn’t likely to get you to the finish line of a lengthy crisis scenario. A real prepper is wise and realizes that one crisis always leads to another; as such, Three is Two, Two is One, and One is None.

For some this might seem like an overwhelming discipline as they conjure in their minds how they’re going to have room for everything they need in their household, let alone having room for more than one of these things. But that kind of thinking belies a person who’s looking at “preparedness” as an event for which they are planning rather than a lifestyle they are living. Also, the Ruleo f 3 doesn't necessarily mean you need to have 3 of everything, rather it means you have a back-up to your back-up. So rotary egg beaters may be my first choice, adn when that fails me, I've got some sturdy whisks, and if those break then I've got elbow grease and a fork if need be. Regardless, it's all about having back--ups to your back-ups. Think about it. A new mommy would never DREAM of leaving the house with only one diaper and one wet wipe in her diaper bag, right? If you’re going to have 2 diapers, you might as well have 3, right? (If you don’t believe me, look in any mom’s diaper bag. I’ll bet ya there are THREE diapers in there. *grin*) How many writing utensils do you have by the phone regularly?  Three, right?  Most people familiar with firearms will always have 3 magazines in total. I always carry 3 doses of my vitamins and medications in my purse.

All that being said, I’ve come to discover that the Rule of 3 actually has many more viable applications to it in living a self-sufficient lifestyle than simply impacting the number of key tools that one has on hand.


I’ve found this Rule of Three to also be applicable in terms of becoming familiar with performing a specific task. I have a rule that you can always tell whether or not you’ve got a good doctor or a good hair dresser by the THIRD visit. You see, the first visit, everyone’s on their good behavior. The 2nd visit, well, anyone can do it well twice; but that third visit is when people start to get more comfortable and more casual. If you end up with a great haircut from the same person 3 times in a row, stop looking for someone else, ‘cause you’ve found your Hair Angel! *grin* Think about it. The same thing goes for dating, right? The 1st and 2nd dates are OK, but that third date is always very telling. Ask anyone who’s a bit OCD how many times they make sure the door is locked. Once when they actually lock it; then they go back to make sure they lock it, and then while they’re doing that they check it one more time—just in case.  There’s a reason for this.  The brain accepts validity and repetition once it’s been exposed to something THREE times.  Any defense attorney will tell you that THREE is the magic number when it comes to establishing character suitable enough to persuade a jury. Even the Lord tells us “…in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses every word may be established.” (Matthew 18:16)

Too many of us get those water barrels or the solar oven or those leather straps that sharpen knives without ever practicing how to using them. I can tell you from experience, as a self-defense instruction and a firearms instructor, that the person who only “practices” the work once, will be completely worthless in performing that task when the going gets tough.  Practicing it twice, yes, that’s a little better; but there’s a marked difference between that 2nd and the 3rd try.  It’s a compounded learning effect and it never fails me.  If I’m considering whether or not I like a particular firearm, I always give myself 3 tries at it because that 3rd time is always so valuable to me. I’m sure we’ve all experienced what happens when we learn something for the 3rd time as we finally start feeling like we’ve got the hang of it. The 3rd day in a new school or at a new job is typically about the time when we decide whether or not we’re going to like it there.  So, be sure you apply the Rule of 3 when it comes to strengthening your Mental Preparedness (Principle #2) and becoming comfortable and secure in actually using your tools or your planned procedures.

Speaking of Mental Preparedness, the Rule of Three also applies to the number of METHODS that you want to be familiar with in order to carry out a vital task. For example, you can be comfortable with your Dutch Oven cooking efforts, but what if that’s no longer an option? I have a surefire way for handling a hornets nest, but what if that one option isn’t available to me? I have plenty of propane stored, but what if… you get the point, right? Again, always have back-ups to your back-ups. That 3rd practice or 3rd set of tools or 3rd pair of socks may very well be the difference between a needless tragedy or “thank goodness I planned” kind of day.

The Rule of 3 also applies to having CHOICES! There are a hundred different snack possibilities in a busy mom’s refrigerator and yet somehow the kids still open it up, stare inside blankly and then loudly proclaim that there’s “nothing to eat!” Let’s say you do find yourself living strictly on the food that you’ve prepared for a “rainy day”; having to eat the same vegetable over and over again will quickly lead to Appetite Fatigue. But if you know finicky eaters, you know that having two choices isn’t much better. Give yourself a better chance of success by having THREE choices wherever possible. You’ll find this same approach applies to nearly all of the Ten Principles of Preparedness. First aid options for example; a lot of folks are allergic to one of the typical pain relievers of aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Some have stomach sensitivities to all but one of those. So increase your chances for success by having a 3rd option and you’ll discover a great level of true Peaceful Preparedness.

Sure there’s merit in being able to think like MacGyver under tough circumstances and making do with what you have available to you, but we’re not in the midst of dealing with a major crisis just yet, and as such we should be spending this time PREPARING.

 I take comfort in knowing that by practicing the Rule of 3, not only do I ensure a greater level of success and peace of mind in my daily efforts of being prepared, but it may very well enable me to help someone else who has NONE. My husband teases me sometimes that I’m planning a menu enough to feed us, my boyfriend, and then my boyfriend’s unexpected girlfriend. (Yes, he thinks that’s funny. Bear with him). Warped sense of humor aside, he’s right though in that the Rule of 3 can not only save us, but it puts us in a position in which we can save others too if need be.  A wise man by the name of Spencer W. Kimball once said “If you’re obedient you’ll prepare enough for your family but if you’re wise, you’ll prepare enough for someone else’s family.”

So remember, Three is Two; Two is One, and One is None.

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I've never heard this "little

I've never heard this "little saying" about the rule of three. I really like it because the simplicity of the "saying" makes it easy to remember and the concept is up front in your memory.

Now, I just hope the government is following the rule of 3's for our national electrical grid.

Absolutely love the quote

Absolutely love the quote from Spencer W. Kimball. Put everything in a different light.

This past winter we had a

This past winter we had a major freak (!) winter storm in South Carolina. It nocked the power out for two weeks in some places. My parents' house is behind ours on the same land. My dad had checked the generator a week before the storm hit and it started up like a dream. He made sure he had enough fuel to cover both houses use of the generator. Murphy's law hit and when my dad went to start it wouldn't work. He's very handy yet nothing he did worked. So, we used our fireplace...lets just say fireplaces don't put out much warmth. Nor do they heat other rooms. Not to mention you can't get close to the heat because the dogs/cats have occupied the surrounding area. At night my husband, daughter and I ended up sleeping under three comforters with our three cats in the same bed. Our dogs slept on blankets by the bed. We still froze. The stores sold out of propane in a couple hours (literally) so we ended up cooking our food IN our fireplace. In a way I am very thankful for the winter storm. I thought I was prepared and had my stuff together. It showed me how unprepared I really am. Needles to say, this winter I will have better back-ups to my back-ups.

I know what you mean. We also

I know what you mean. We also live in South Carolina and it was shocking how bad the weather got. We are not used to snow and bad weather here such as he had this past winter. Thankfully we had bought a bunch of propane tanks for heat and cooking and had plenty of food and water. Hopefully we will never have another winter like that again.

We too had a storm which took

We too had a storm which took our power out for two weeks and we have livestock. We thought we had prepared but not for handling 2 weeks! We have a free standing stove to cook on and that works great, we store 500 gallons of water in basement and have lots of lamp oil, wicks and lamps. We store board games & puzzles to keep us entertained as you can't read by lamplite. We can and don't freeze lots because you will loose all that is frozen. We actually took to chopping ice out of the horse troughs to thaw and use for toliets and animals. No showers and you were back into bed as soon as it got dark, sleeping as the others in the one room by the fireplace closing off all other rooms in the house. We both learned a lot, we thought we had plenty but we didn't. Now we have 2x what we need and I am always worried it won't be enough. You become exhausted just from doing all the manual labor and feeding that fireplace 24 hours a day every day. 5 cords of wood went very very fast but did make it thru the 2 weeks, but we had nothing left for the rest of the winter! Luckily we plan our animal feed for two month in advance in winter, so food was plentiful for them plus lots of hay, but water was frozen so we had to share the 500 gallons with them! You can't imagine what this was like unless you experience it. We also couldn't go anywhere because we live in the woods and the roads were covered with downed trees and ice. The day we hear chainsaws and saw a truck on our road was like Christmas Day, at least we could get out but there wasn't much left to buy as everyone else had the same problems. So do like she says, stock up and think hard about what you really need, forget candles, go with oil lamps. Get a free standing fireplace you can cook on and heat with AND provide light thru glass doors. Large piles of good heating hardwoods, minimum of 500 gallons of good water. Extra pets/livestock foods. Recipes for cooking on stove, way to close off all rooms except fireplace area and plan to sleep in that room, sofabed nice option. Lots of heavy blankets and some 5 gal buckets for hauling water. Large pot of some sort to keep on fireplace for hot water. Actually just read the Little House on the Prairie series and you will get the idea! It was a rough 2 weeks, but also fun in a weird way.


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