Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Bug Out Plan

A previous post noted that I do not have a BOL (bug out location) or permanent fixed shelter for bugging out to in the event of a disaster. What I do have is a bug out plan. Here it is, subject to change, of course:
  • My home. In the event of any kind of emergency or disaster, my highest priority, if it is possible, will be to remain sheltered in my home. It is well stocked with all of the food, water, medical supplies, etc. that we would need to survive for literally months on end. It is well equipped for security and has alternate water, heat, electrical, and sanitation systems. It is in a very good location, not excessively rural, not in the middle of the city, but miles from the city in an out of the way area, with a very good neighborhood of hard working, community-oriented people who don't get into your business but will help out any time there is a need. The area is also not prone to floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, or most other disasters however earthquakes are always a possibility. And the area is uniquely defensible. Nice.
  • Hotels. In the event of a minor disaster, we do have our Bug Out Bags at the ready with plenty of funds to cover as many nights as needed in a hotel. This is usually an option in very specific instances, such as when the entire city is not looking to stay in the same cluster of hotels. Many people I know have gone this route including a friend whose home flooded and required weeks of rehab, when the husband of a friend was in the trauma center for an extended period of time in the city, and when a friend's family was hit with an extended power outage during a snow storm and their home was too cold to stay in for all of their small children.
  • Homes of friends and family. We have friends and family all over the state, the country, and the world. There would be no problem either driving, taking public transportation, or flying to these various locations depending on the type of disaster, the location of the disaster, and the details of the disaster (ie: how long would we need to be away from our home, is it a disaster that would require us to resettle, etc). I would rather bug out to a hotel than have a prolonged stay with friends or family just because it is less of a burden on others. Knowing that we have these people to rely on, however, is an integral part of my bug out plan.
  • An RV or boat. We have had both boats and RVs in the past but due to lack of use and lack of time, have sold them, not wanting the effort and expense of keeping them "just in case". These are, however, excellent options for people to use should they need a place to shelter during an emergency since they are portable and can often provide many of the comforts of home. Buying either a boat or RV in the future after a disaster may be an option such as in the case of Hurricane Katrina when there would be a fairly long term of living in an alternate shelter while rebuilding a house for example. Nine months in a hotel would be outrageously expensive whereas nine months in an RV that you can pick up used for about $5,000 would be a better option.
  • Community disaster shelters. Right after a major disaster (or even winter storms in our area where shelters are opened for the homeless), the local or state department of emergency management or Red Cross is likely to open shelters if they are needed. This would be on par with the next option as I would seriously not relish living toe to toe with a bunch of strangers who I don't know and don't trust. In some cases, however, having a roof over your head may require that you stay at the shelters that are available.
  • Living "out in the woods". This would be my absolute last option for bugging out. This puts you in a very vulnerable position on a number of fronts: you would be an easy target for assailants, the people who live where you plan to bug out to would not be very happy and may show their displeasure at the end of a shotgun, you would be more susceptible to illness and disease due to sanitation issues, and it's damn miserable to camp for days on end in the winter, during downpours, in freezing temperatures, etc. While it is very important that you know how to live in the wilderness (ie: multi-week backpacking trips are a good idea for this sort of practice), this wouldn't be a good long-term option, especially for families. Or maybe I am getting soft in my later years...

Bug out transportation:

Getting away from the disaster area is a necessary part of our bug out plan. Staying at home would mean you don't have to worry about this, however leaving your home would require some pre-planning as to the what and how of transportation. We have settled this in a number of ways:

  • We keep vehicles that can be packed with crates of bug out gear (food, water, camping gear, etc) and driven away at a moment's notice. I also have fuel stored to ensure that we will be able to fill up the tank before we leave and have enough to provide an additional tank en-route. This mode of transport is only one transportation option as roads and highways can be gridlocked for hours on a normal holiday so an entire city of people trying to escape would be chaos and roads may not be passable. The idea here is to bug out early, ahead of the crowds, if possible. There is no such thing as "taking the back roads" when an entire city or large town is evacuating as those people will more than likely know the back roads as well. Another hindrance to driving away from disaster is that in the event of physical disaster such as an earthquake, overpasses, underpasses, and bridges will probably be down thus shutting down major roadways.
  • Mass transit is an option but not very dependable. Local buses, national bus lines, trains, and airline travel are all good ways to escape from where you are but these will have the same problems as when you try to evacuate yourself--everyone else will have the same idea and these transportation options, if they are even running because the drivers/pilots/engineers will also be trying to evacuate with their own families, will probably be immediately overloaded with people as well.
  • Walking, bicycle, motorcycle, etc. are last resort transportation options. Again, these modes of transportation where you are out in the open, schlepping your gear, put you in a very vulnerable position. There is no protection for you against the marauding hordes, or even the weather, if you are walking or riding a bike. These are, however, options to keep in mind as they may be your only means of escape.

Bug out info:

  • You should always have a Bug Out Bag at the ready.
  • You should have multiple sources of money on hand (cash, credit cards, checks, gold, stuff to barter with, etc).
  • You should have a plan made in advance if you plan to bug out with friends or relatives. A pre-arranged pact to shelter you (and vice versa) made in advance of a disaster is better than just showing up on someone's door step.
  • A bug out plan that works for your circumstances. In my case, I have two people to worry about (the spouse and myself) and we are both physically able to walk, bike, or even run if necessary. For other people, they may need to consider small children or babies, pets, an aging or inform relative, or a family member with serious health conditions which would need to be addressed in their bug out plan.
  • Bugging out with a lot of cool, useful gear may make you a target for theft, robbery, etc. Plan accordingly.
  • Listen to the local radio station before, during, and after you evacuate as important evacuation information is often provided this way.
  • Firearms and pets are often not welcome in community shelters.
  • When evacuating your home, bring as much useful stuff (food, water, camping gear, etc) that you can reasonably stuff into your car or carry on your back. If nothing else, it will be a good way to ingratiate yourself with those who are taking you in.
  • Take as much important stuff as possible. Prescription meds, copies of important documents, insurance info...all of these things will be important either during or after a disaster.

The bottom line is that there is no perfect "bug out plan". It simply doesn't exist due to the many and varied ways that disaster can strike. What you can plan for, however, is being able to take care of yourself, no matter where you end up, for as long as possible. The thing you don't want to do is end up walking away from your unlivable home, showing up at a shelter or family member's home with no cash, none of your important prescription medications, and only the clothes on your back. You will probably survive anyway but it won't be pleasant. Better to put some forethought into what things you absolutely need to live and get these things packed and ready to go. After you get your bug out bag together, determine what places you could bug out to then think about how you will get there. Even doing these simple things will put you miles ahead of the crowds.


  1. Great post.

    Is there a middle ground? Something like a pre-selected place in the ranch or farm that your friend or relative owns? Something like you placing an old trailer or camper that still has some use? something that wont cost an arm and a leg and thet farmer let you park it for very little $$$

    Couch Potato.

  2. Good idea. For a longer duration bug out, an option I considered was picking up a used RV and parking it on some property a family member owns. Of course it would be better to purchase the RV before anything happens as opposed to afterwards when the market for these things would be better (others would probably have the same idea if their homes were unlivable).