The general consensus amongst the survival community is that it makes more sense for people to bug in during a time of crisis, than bugging out. But as we’ve recently seen with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, staying home isn’t always an option. Nature can be such a powerful adversary, that we don’t dare thumb our noses at her and ignore her threats. Doing so could cost us our lives.
Therefore, it is necessary to always be prepared and have an alternate; specifically, to have a plan for bugging out, should the need arise. All animals leave themselves an escape route, should a predator come after them, we should be no different.
Of course, the tricky part is deciding when it makes more sense to bug out and when it makes more sense to bug in. We don’t always have the long advance warning that hurricanes provide. Many disasters can take us by surprise. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking for signs of a pending disaster. Rather, we should be as plugged in as possible to reliable sources of information, which will warn us of anything coming our way. At the same time, we should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, in case we don’t receive any warning.
This is where the idea of a bug out bag comes in. The basic bug out bag is a backpack, which is kept stocked with the items we would need to have, in order to survive, if we were to suddenly have to abandon our home. By having it already packed, all we would have to do is grab it and go.
But our planning doesn’t start with the bug out bag. In fact, you can’t really build an effective bug out bag until you have a bug out plan. That’s the only way you’ll know for sure what you’ll need to bring.
Types of Bug Outs
Not all bug outs are the same. They can vary considerably in the reason for the bug out, as well as your ultimate destination. But it’s easiest to categorize them by destination, as that will determine much of what you need to do. There is some overlap between the various types, but they also have differences.
Bug out based on mandated evacuation
This is what happened in Florida, where the governor declared a general evacuation of the whole state, in preparation for Hurricane Irma. In this case, most people ended up looking for hotels to stay in or finding a Red Cross refugee center.
Bug out to a prepared survival retreat
For those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford a cabin in the woods or a bunker in some remote area, this is idea. It gives you someplace to go, where you will be safe and where you already have supplies and equipment stockpiled for your survival needs.
Bug out to a FEMA or Red Cross designated refugee center
Of all the options, this is the worst. Not only are these refugee centers overcrowded, they are dangerous. I personally don’t trust the government enough to go to one. I’d rather take my chances on my own.
Bug out to a rural location
If you can’t afford a cabin in the woods, this is your best option. If you have family or friends living in a small town, perhaps you could arrange to bug out to their home, in the case of an emergency. If not, then seek out a small town where you can integrate yourself, stockpiling supplies there in rented storage and scouting out locations where you can stay. Build relationships with some of the locals, so that you will be accepted in a time of crisis.
Bug out to the wilderness
Many people talk about this as the norm, but it’s the most dangerous option of all. There’s no way that you can carry enough food and water to live out in the wild, and living off the land is much harder than you’d imagine. Unless you are a true survival expert, this should only be your last choice.
Start with Your Destination
Based upon the various types of bug outs mentioned above, you need to find someplace where you can bug out to. This should be far enough away from your home, so that it will not be affected by any disaster that strikes. At the same time, it has to be close enough that you can get there, even if you have to travel on foot. Striking this balance is difficult.
More than anything, you want to pick a location where you will be able to survive, if you have to abandon your home. So you need to consider the resources that are available, how well you can stockpile supplies and how well you can defend yourself once you’re there. If you are bugging out to avoid social unrest, you need to expect that to exist in other places too. So your ultimate destination has to be secure and defensible.
Develop Travel Options
Your primary bug out plan will probably involve leaving your home in a vehicle of some sort; one that is big enough for your family and everything you need to bring with you. You will want to keep this vehicle in top-notch mechanical condition, so that you don’t have to worry about it overheating or breaking down along the way.
But you also need to realize that you may need to abandon your vehicle somewhere along the way and continue on foot. If a mass evacuation is going on, there will be a problem with finding enough fuel. Gas stations don’t have enough fuel in their tanks to accommodate such an evacuation. So, people will be running out of fuel along the road. If that gets bad enough, the roads will be blocked. In that case, you may have to park your car, grab your bug out bag and start walking.
You want to map out multiple routes to get from where you are, to where you need to be. Look for a combination of major highways and lesser known roads, creating a network of routes, with the means of crossing over from one to another. That way, if one is blocked, you can change routes and try another.
Determine Your Triggers
This is the hardest part of the process; determining the triggers that will tell you it’s time to leave. By triggers, I mean the things you will look for, which will tell you that it’s going to be too dangerous to stay in your home. That will be easier to determine for some sorts of disasters, like hurricanes, than others.
Each potential disaster scenario that you think can affect you will need its own set of triggers, so that you will know what to look for. The idea is to beat the mass exodus, if you can. But at the same time, you don’t want to be wasting a lot of time and resources bugging out when it’s not necessary. Looking at Florida, it wouldn’t be practical to bug out every time a hurricane is crossing the Atlantic, even though they probably get hit by more hurricanes than any other part of the country. But there needs to be a pre-determined point, where you say, “It’s time to go.”
Planning this out ahead of time can save you from having to make hard decisions during times of high stress. It’s harder to think clearly during those times, so planning ahead, while you have time to think it through clearly, gives you the opportunity to make the best possible decisions.
Create a Communications Plan
The decision to bug out isn’t a democratic one, it’s one that needs to be made by one person, working in behalf of the family. If you try to make it democratic, you’ll have people who don’t want to leave, simply because it interferes with activities or relationships. Survival has to become before those.
When that decision is made, you need a way to inform everyone in your family or survival team quickly. Fortunately, cell phones make that easy. That call should be a call to action, in which each individual leaves where they are and congregates at home or another designated location to bug out.
You need to take into consideration family members who don’t drive, but who will be at locations which are too far from home to walk. Who will pick them up? Where will they meet? What needs to be coordinated to ensure that they can meet as they are supposed to?
Once you have all your planning completed, it’s time to prepare. This consists of three basic areas:
- Preparing your bug out vehicle for travel and keeping it prepared.
- Preparing your survival retreat, stockpiling necessary equipment and supplies.
- Building bug out bags, as well as preparing anything else you need to take with you.
Don’t forget to test out your plan, running a few bug out exercises to make sure that everything will work as you plan. Testing is important, as it gives you the opportunity to find errors in your plan and rectify them. While the actual bug out will never go exactly as planned, the more potential problems you can find in your test, the better off you’ll be.
Rich is a long-time survivalist, having gotten started in his youth, during the latter part of the Cold War. Yet the collapse of the Berlin Wall didn’t put an end to his survival instinct. He has since added military experience and a career as an engineer to his survival knowledge. This has allowed him to design and build his own survival equipment. He is an accomplished author, who has written over 100 books on all aspects of survival.