The 3-Days Survival Blueprint Everyone Should Follow

A major disaster hitting in your area might leave you high, dry, and helpless unless you can think ahead, react quickly, and shield yourself and others in a crisis.

If you would only knew in time… And if you would, how much could you do to prep. Let’s say, could you prepare for any disaster in just 3 days?

Let’s see where to start from, and where to head to, in order to survive!


  • “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” – Harry Callahan. While survival is largely a DIY proposition, you have to realize your limitations and when calling in a specialist is your most effective move.
  • A plan needs a Statement of Commander’s Intent (SCI) to keep everyone’s eye on the desired end-result.
  • Using a modified version of the “Rule of Threes” as a mnemonic for survival priorities enables the survivor to plan for a wide range of survival scenarios without missing key priorities.
  • “Skills trump gear.” Is an oversimplification that reflects ignorance of the fact that both skills and gear are necessary to save lives in most life-threatening emergencies. Used effectively, emergency tools and supplies save time and calories, and saving time and calories saves lives.

A Loud Knock at the Door

Let’s say you’re not a prepper, and you are enjoying your favorite TV show when you are startled by a loud knock at the door. You approach the door and peer out.

To your relief, you see a beloved family member staring at her cellphone. It’s been a while as she has been busy with work as the county emergency manager and you are glad to see her. As you open the door, she bursts in and hurriedly explains that there a new airborne pathogen is raging out of control and that the math cannot be refuted.

A global pandemic with a mortality rate above 50% has begun, and the federal government is already frantically preparing. The feds will not announce the threat for 72 hours to give them time to move personnel and supplies, but a longtime colleague at the CDC could not bear the guilt and tipped her off.

She simultaneously pleads with you and issues a mandate that within three days, you must quarantine your home for 90 days to have any hope of your family surviving this without loss of life. You must be ready before the announcement because panic will surely ensue.

You knew that a major disaster was a possibility, but just did not ever think that it would happen during your lifetime. You have never seen the need to prepare before now, but then there was no concrete threat at your door.

Now things have changed and so your vision has changed. You have experienced the all-important paradigm shift and now have precious little time to act.

How much could our survivors possibly prepare in just three days?

3 Second SEAL Test Will Tell You If You’ll Survive A SHTF Situation

I know plenty of folks who have been preparing for months, years and even decades who don’t feel they are adequately prepared! Well, I enjoy a good survival challenge, so let’s take a stab at it.

3 Days to Be Prepared Blueprint

Even a relative novice to preparedness would be quick to concede that being prepared involves more than just equipment and supplies.

Our survivors must execute some immediate actions to give them any realistic hope of survival beyond sheer luck and the compassion and forbearance of others.

Immediate Actions

1. Establish Leadership

First things first, someone needs to step forward. A leader must be decided. Chain of command must be established. A state of emergency should be declared. There will be times when they can, and should, be democratic, but this is not one of them.

The leader should explain that this is not permanent. They should also explain why the changes are necessary and clearly describe the circumstances that will bring it to an end and they will step down and things will get back to normal when the family is out of danger.

2. Secure a Plan

Normally, I would say to create a plan, but as the family in our case study could not hope to become experts in any aspect of preparedness in just three days, our would-be survivors would do well to enlist the services of a competent emergency-preparedness expert to guide them in their preparations.

Our new leader does not have to be an expert to execute a well-drafted plan, and everyone would benefit greatly if that plan was drafted by someone with considerably more experience than they currently possess.

A realistic appraisal of the situation and decision to pay the price to bring in an expert would be our new leader’s best move. The plan should be simple and focus on the basics necessary to survive the situation at hand.

3. Execute the Plan

In executing a plan, the family should be instructed to pay attention to the first lines, which will communicate the Commander’s Statement of Intent. It this case, it will should be along the lines of “Enforce a strict quarantine of the structure occupied even if the use deadly force is necessary to enforce the quarantine.”

Systems will be put in place to warn the public to stay out and hopefully make the use of any level of force unnecessary, but since is the number one place the plan could break down, the family must be ready, unflinching and must not hesitate should use of force be necessary. If they pay attention to this, it is possible that everything else could fall into place.

4. Understand Physiological Responses to Danger

For most people, functioning effectively in an emergency is more easily said than done. Academics use the 10/80/10 Rule to describe this: Only 10% of people respond effectively in an emergency, 80% freeze, and 10% panic or respond in ways that are counter-productive to survival, such as drinking seawater or opening an emergency exit on a pressurized airplane at 30,000 feet.

You may have heard disaster survivors describe instances of tunnel vision, tunnel hearing, feelings of time slowing down, instances of victims repeating, “This is not happening.” over and over or outright refusal to recognize threats.

Physiological responses like tunnel vision and normalcy bias occur when the brain provides less detail in effort to prevent us from succumbing to analysis paralysis and freezing like a deer in the headlights. The connection I think academics fail to make is the role that the modern pattern of life we have engineered for ourselves plays in this process.

“Developed” modern city life insulates people from life and death decisions to such a degree that it causes the evolved protective response to backfire, resulting in paralysis, like it evolved to prevent. Understanding that physiological responses to danger exist is the first step to overcoming them.

5. Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

Emergencies are dynamic and even the very best plans do not survive contact with the enemy. Survivors plan to shelter in place and end up having to move to another dwelling or location to survive. It is not the strong who survive, but the adaptable.

The Plan

What might the plan look like?

Depending on the size of the household, the family may benefit greatly by doubling or tripling up with other families as they may not have the manpower to mount an effective watch and secure the quarantined structure. The best candidates would likely be other family, friends or neighbors who are already prepared. Our professional would surely advise them of this need should it exist.

As mentioned under immediate action number 3.) the plan will be headed with a Statement of Commander’s Intent (SCI). The rest of the plan will support this statement. Beyond the SCI, the plan should include pre-quarantine, quarantine, end of quarantine and post-quarantine phases, and should focus on the following principle areas:

  • Quarantine/PPE
  • Security
  • Austere Medical
  • Shelter
  • Water
  • Food
  • Hygiene
  • Communications
  • Morale

Pre-quarantine (The next three days)

I will detail the pre-quarantine phase of the plan since that is the first phase that this article deals with. The pre-quarantine focus will be a three-way split:

  • Procurement
  • Preparation
  • Training


Most of the procurement should be done locally. Again, the survival consultant or experienced survivalist uses established best practices (based on a modified rule of threes mnemonic) to guide the family in creating a list of supplies to procure in order of importance and urgency:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Antimicrobial Products, Antibiotics, First Aid & Austere Medical Equipment
  • Air Filtration, Positive Air Pressure, Quarantine and Barrier Materials
  • Zoned, Layered Security, Lighting (and a renewable energy solution to support it), Movement Denial & Self-Defense Gear Including Bullhorns, Materials for Signs, Yellow Quarantine Flags and Field Phones (to act as an intercom and avoid face to face communication and create space and time to react), Firearms, Ammo, Concealed Carry Gear, LBE, Cleaning Gear and Force Multipliers such as Night Vision if resources allow for such.
  • Appropriate Clothing, Heaters, Interior and Personal Lighting, Cordage & Tools
  • Water, Water Treatment, Transport, Storage Supplies, Drinking Water Hoses and Buckets
  • Food Storage, Stove, Cooking Fuel, Fire & Carbon Monoxide Safety Equipment
  • Hygiene Supplies and Accommodations
  • Bug Out Bags, Service Vehicles, Gasoline Storage, Map & Compass
  • Battery-powered Radio Communications Gear
  • Reference Library


A quarantine zone must be established. Ideally, it should establish a posted perimeter to create a reactionary gap and identify the home as quarantined.

The principle aspects of the household must be modified to operate off-grid since infrastructure requires maintenance and an event like this would almost certainly affect the workforce that maintains the infrastructure that the family depends on for power, water and trash pickup.

  • Establish Perimeter, Area Denial, Signage, Communications Points, Entry/Exits & Decontamination Points
  • Seal the Structure, Establish Positive Air Pressure, Air Filtration, Entry/Exits, Decontamination Points and a Quarantine/Treatment Area (in case someone becomes infected.)
  • Establish Security Barriers, Fighting Positions, Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP), Guard Posts, Charge of Quarters Desk and Duty Roster
  • Create and Stock Medical Triage and Treatment Areas
  • Establish a Mud Room, Heating Systems and Fuel Stores
  • Establish Water Storage, Treatment, Transport & Hygiene Systems
  • Setup and Test: Lighting, Renewable Energy & Communications
  • Create Hidden Off-site Caches of Emergency Supplies and Weapons (This way you may still be able to survive if your home is captured, destroyed or surrendered to a superior force. Do not inform the children of their existence.)


Three days is not a lot of time, but it is enough time to get a lot done. Luckily for our survivors, three days is enough time for an initial training, followed by three spaced repetitions. This will get the best bang for our buck memory-wise given the time available with the instructor.

After that, the family will have to continue training on their own. Unfortunately, the first day is going to be a long one, but it’s OK if the family doesn’t not have high initial retention. Repetition is the key.

Training sessions will be short, but they will be hands on. The basics of each topic will be introduced the first day and repeated once each day. Classes will be videoed for reference and the family will learn the material knowing that each of them will have to re-teach it. The training regimen will be along these lines:

  • Biohazard PPE & Enforcing Quarantine of an Occupied Structure
  • Quarantine and Treatment of an Infected Individual
  • Armed Self-defense & Defense Drill
  • First Aid
  • Shelter
  • Water Treatment
  • Food Preparation (using the fuels and gear they will be using), Preservation and Food Storage
  • Hygiene Under Quarantine Conditions
  • Renewable Energy, Lighting & Communications


Should we consider a longer-term scenario? The problem is that no amount of stuff can ever make you prepared for a more challenging ordeal, and three days would not give a person who had not started preparing a realistic chance.

Still this less-challenging, shorter-term scenario is more easily survivable, not because training and skills trump gear, but because you need BOTH to realistically give you the best chances and to help prevent the morale compromise and traumatic experiences that result when survivors lack either. If you do not cache supplies, you are not likely as skilled equipped to deal with serious survival ordeals as you think, and cannot possibly know until you are already in the situation … and that is too late.

There is an attraction of carrying a little less equipment and supplies than you need and relying on your wits and skills to see you through. That is an effective way to train and develop antifragility, when you have a safety backup, but not such an antifragile approach to actual emergencies.

It is thinly disguised too little, too late and the story too often ends with a damaged operator, which not antifragile, it is just plain fragile.

The moral here is to prepare. You do not have to identify as a “Prepper” to be responsible, stay fit or to survive a disaster.  The truth is that if you have a first aid kit, exercise or a keep a little cash on hand, you are already preparing for emergencies and fit the widest definition of a “Prepper.”

It is my hope that more people will recognize that emergency preparedness is simply a responsible behavior, just like owning a fire extinguisher, volunteering or brushing your teeth, and that these actions are responsible independent of labels or stereotypes.

This is what actually makes the difference between a victim and a survivor!

This article has been written by Cache Valley Prepper for Survivopedia.

Written by

Cache Valley Prepper is the CEO of Survival Sensei, LLC, a freelance author, writer, survival instructor, consultant and the director of the Survival Brain Trust. A descendant of pioneers, Cache was raised in the tradition of self-reliance and grew up working archaeological digs in the desert Southwest, hiking the Swiss Alps and Scottish highlands and building the Boy Scout Program in Portugal. Cache was mentored in survival by a Delta Force Lt Col and a physician in the US Nuclear Program and in business by Stephen R. Covey. You can catch up with Cache teaching EMP survival at survival expos, teaching SERE to ex-pats and vagabonds in South America or getting in some dirt time with the primitive skills crowd in a wilderness near you. His Facebook page is here. Cache Valley Prepper is a pen name used to protect his identity. You can send Cache Valley Prepper a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • You are not realistic. for a family or any other small group non-prepers. you suggest “First things first, someone needs to step forward. A leader must be decided. Chain of command must be established.” The leader and the chain of command would have to know what to do to prepare. They are highly unlikely to be found in your group ov non-prepers.

    The list of equipment you suggest will not be available at the local harware store and how would Non-prepers know they neededit or how to use it. It would take longer than three days to aquire and install. where would they get the time to train, even if they knew what to train for?

    I belong to a group of preppers and we don’t have a leader or chain of command. We do have intelligent well trained people who can go into action with out any orders and smoothly work in cooperation each doing his or her part.

    • John,

      You forgot, or are forgetting, that in every immediately occurring crisis (when one gets notice just minutes ago) that everyone within communication range is asserting their self-report of their anxieties and fears! People can get bad news of a crisis anywhere:: at work,, at a restaurant for lunch, at home when kids are at school and a spouse is at work.. The fear itself tends to freeze some (as you know) and propel others (as you know). ‘

      If the phone lines could go down in five minutes, somebody had better tell the folks one is with to immediately (right now this second) call family and tell them to come home (and possibly pick up kids at school before arriving home). That is leadership. being exercised and this leadership has nothing to do with what you addressed..

      I am a prepper because I have not finished all my preps for every possible eventuality. Once I am totally prepped, I may cease calling myself a Prepper! But even that makes no difference. Once I get told that SHTF close to my home is upon me, I will feel threatened and worried about my family and everyone else that I have concern for. I had better become an immediate effective leader with those I most care for–because the consequences of failure to act immediately can be far reaching. .

      So, my point is only that leadership is the first need among everyone, but probably especially non-preppers. Cache Valley was cutting to the quick. He was not adding explanation after explanation for every possible type of crisis. Who could do that anyway , when what has happened is already plenty serious?

      If there are 5 people in a Crisis setting and there is no leadership, then there will become 5 plans. If there are 10 people in a crisis setting with no leadership, there will be 10 plans.. it is good that you are already in a leadership group, where there may be 1 plan with 10 views (depending upon specialties participants may have). But for those not so prepared, a leader will step forward:: an unprepared one or a prepared one. Leadership is the first immediate need in the context of first-news of danger.

  • Great information….i just hope that it wakes people up because the simple bottom line is that there is no way to prepare in 3 days. If you haven’t been thinking and planning at the very least to get up to survival speed in 3 days is well, a joke. for your scenario based on some air borne pathogen. If i had just 3 days with the amount of skill or normal people i would 1/learn about that pathogen if possible while the internet is working. 2/ I would discuss with family to make 2 plans; staying home or leaving. Make detailed plans for each. in between discussions, go get procuring water, flashlights, firestarters, sleeping bags, food that doesn’t need cooking, pack bags for plan B the one where you leave the home to include water, food, guns, (only if you are familiar with guns, please), bear spray would be good, dress in layers with everything you will ever need for coolness, warmth and keeping dry (garbage sacks). Stay away from all people. if you have learned this air pathogen is carried in other animals, stay away from those animals. If one freaks they die.

    to imagine people that have never gone backpacking, hiking for more than a day, who have never grown any plants out of doors for food, that have never shot or trapped or gutted or skinned an animal before cooking it over a non smoking fire away from hungry noses, people who have a tough time using a porta potty much less eliminating on their own out of doors without Tp OR FANCY TOILETS…? i was amazed that people would rather suffer than use a bush, dig a hole, wipe with proper vegetation or bag it all together or the best policy is to use a bag and keep your excrement unnoticeable.

    one will need to become invisible. no brushing teeth, few words, no cooking smells, be able to endure hours without phones, entertainment of any sort and staying still.. just to be able to have a clear mind to think and plan will be a major trick for most humans even smart ones. 3 days is truly a joke.

    most of these people will become the looters, zombies and cannibals. there is just no way to prepare in 3 days. and sorry, your suggestion that these newbies go hire a professional to guide them through preparation in 3 days started me laughing. come on. really. if people were smart enough to believe the lady at the door they would already have been making plans of some sort if only to become familiar with the wilderness, plants, what to eat what not to eat, what is hypothermia, how does one make suspect water drinkable (and no, you don’t try it first grins), how to be invisible and why one should be invisible, gees, how to defend oneself and one’s family. guns, shotguns, tazers, pepper spray, trip wires, night vision….? if you don’t know how to use them, are very familiar with these tools, they won’t do a person any good at all.. just knowing the kind of person you will become when hunger or thirst kicks in will be a major learning experience…sure hope people learn that all people when hungry and thirsty become crazy idiot zombies and won’t care one bit if you point a gun at them. it is a different world, different in every way. 3 days would be ok for myself….i still haven’t made up bug out bag for plan a, bag for plan b, map of caches (food ammo and other survival items) and prepared the bug out places as yet. if people think they are in for a rustic picnic they truly have a huge surprise waiting.

  • Good “POOP”… Regarding Point 2 – Please consider N-hour sequence (Notification hour). D-day is CDC reveal date. Having said that prep the priorities
    for an N-hour sequence. Example…at N+1hour shop costco list. At N+3 Hour fill cars with gas. At N+5 charge cell Phones.

    Do same for D-day…D-3 to D+10…