We would all love to stay in our home, hunker down, and tough out any SHTF situation. However, this isn’t going to be possible in every situation, especially if you live in an urban center. This is why so many preppers have been creating a bug out emergency plan, getting prepared to get out of Dodge if the going gets rough.
But bugging out when disaster strikes is no easy task.
It takes an incredible amount of survival planning ahead of time to create an effective bug out plan. You need to know who, where, how, what, and when. You must have a communication plan in place. It is critical that you have the plan nailed down so tightly that you feel secure in the knowledge that you can get to your bug out location safely.
You also need to consider the situation at hand. Is it a wildfire that’s approaching? A CBRN incident? Is the emergency local or national? This will dictate what actions to take and your best moves to safety.
Who to Take
You need to decide who is bugging out with you. Obviously, you and your immediate family will be included in the group. But is there anyone else involved? Do you have extended family with whom you’ve made a plan? Are there close neighbors or friends that are part of your group? Do you have children or elderly parents? Do you have pets?
Whoever is going with you needs to be intimately involved in the survival planning process. They need to be contributing members of the group and have something of value to offer, at least as much as they are able. Everyone involved has to be ready to follow the plan to the letter when the time comes.
Where to Go
Presumably, you have chosen a bug out location or are in the process of finding one. Bugging out with no defined destination is a last resort. If you are without a bug out destination, particularly one you have set up in advance, you will be on the road and on the run. That is a tough way to survive.
If you can, make a chosen and pre-stocked bug out location part of your survival planning. This is a huge part of your plan and it will take some time and effort to get it ready. Aside from property purchased specifically as a BOL, a final destination might also be:
- The home of a family member or friend
- A campground
- A cottage or camp
- A state or national park
The key is to know where you are going ahead of time. If you don’t have somewhere specific to go and you absolutely must bug out, then you need to plan for that contingency. At the very least, you can plan ahead to make it to a campground or state or national park. Choose two or three places and scout them out ahead of time.
How to Get There
When it comes to reaching your destination, your survival planning should take two things into account. First is your mode of transportation. Second is the route you will take to get where you are going.
You need a means of reliable transportation to get to your final destination. This bug out vehicle must be part of your survival planning. After all, it doesn’t matter if you have the best, most hidden and well-stocked bug out location in the world if you have no way to get there.
Your mode transportation must be able to get you safely to your destination as quickly as possible. It should be able to handle the terrain you will need to cross. It should be able to carry what you need in terms of people, food, water, and supplies. Preferred vehicles include:
Obviously, the type of vehicle depends in part on how many people will be transported. Many people will be using whatever they have parked in their driveway. Regardless, do not let the gas level fall below half a tank, keep the vehicle in good repair, and keep it stocked with a good emergency kit and some food, water, and supplies.
Keep in mind that even the best laid plans involving a bug out vehicle can go awry. You always have to be prepared to bug out on foot. So, be sure you have a bug out bag or INCH bag (see below) ready to carry if you need to walk.
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When survival planning, choose back roads that are less traveled and less likely to be closed down or clogged with traffic.
You absolutely must plan your route from where you are to where you are going. A main route and at least two backup routes are required. You should avoid the main highways and roads whenever and wherever possible. These are the routes that will be clogged up or closed down first. Besides, it is just best to stay off the beaten track when bugging out.
Get out a map and study it. This can be a road map bought at a store or a printed out Google map. Don’t rely on your cell phone or any GPS tracking technology. These might not work when
Determine which roads lead to where you want to go. Draw out your primary route in one color. Then prioritize your backup routes, using other colors to mark them on the map. If you are printing out maps, be sure to use waterproof paper or get it laminated, and make sure that everyone in your group has a copy of the map and knows where they are going.
What to Take
Ideally, you have a bug out location already prepped and stocked full of everything you need. In this case, you will only need to take enough with you to get you there. This still requires the following:
- An emergency car kit
- A bug out bag for each person in the vehicle
- Enough food and water to last at least three days or the duration of the trip if it’s longer
If you don’t have somewhere already set up, then you will need to bring more. In this case, you will need to make sure you stock your vehicle with as much food, water, and supplies as you can fit in there. And every member of the group needs an I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) bag.
An INCH bag is like a bug out bag on steroids. It has everything you need to survive indefinitely in the case that you can never go home. You will need a good solid backpack to use as an INCH bag, one that is waterproof, has good support, and is built for your frame. In the INCH bag, you will need the following:
- Stainless steel water bottle (can be boiled over a fire to purify water)
- Fishing line
- Weapon (gun/crossbow)
- Advanced first aid kit
- Large and small knives
- Good Firestarter
- Gas mask
- Sewing kit
- Minimal warm- and cold-weather clothing
- Waterproof clothing
- Bivvy bag
Keep in mind that if you are never coming home again, you need a lot of skills to back up the things in your INCH bag. You need skills such as how to purify water, hunt, fish, start a fire, build shelter, and identify edible and medicinal plants. All of this learning and preparation should be a part of your survival planning.
When to Hit the Road
Many preppers have planned to head to their bug out retreat at the first signs of collapse. They might have saved up sick and vacation days to take time off if things look dicey. They might have had a few false alarms, during which they bugged out and everything ended up being fine. But it isn’t always possible to leave early.
Even when your plan is laid out to the best of your ability, knowing when to leave can be very difficult. You can plan to leave when it becomes unsafe for you to stay at home, but what does that mean and when do you know that time has come? Essentially, there are two broad reasons to bug out:
- When your safety and security have been compromised
- When your resources have run out
Signs that your safety and security has been or will be compromised include:
- Communications are down
- Radio and television are no longer operating
- Stores, banks, and gas stations have shut down
- Law enforcement and first responders are no longer functioning
- Increase in military and/or police presence in the streets
- Gangs and raiders are threatening your home
- Disease is running rampant
- Threats reported in the news
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Signs that indicate your resources have run out include:
- You have run out of food and water
- You have no electricity or water
- Long lineups of people trying to buy gas, food, water, and supplies
- Empty shelves are a sign resources are running out.
- Long lineups of people at ATMs
Obviously, these reasons are independent of the need to bug out due to an immediate disaster, such as a natural event or nuclear event.
Sometimes, there can be a fine line between when to go and when to stay. If you wait too long to leave, then you might not be able to make it out. The roads might be clogged or military or law enforcement might turn people back. The window to easily and safely get out of Dodge can be a narrow one.
Since every situation will be different, only you can decide the best time to bug out. Just be sure to know the signs that indicate bugging out is necessary and be fully ready to go at a moment’s notice.
The best time to communicate is before you have to enact your plan. What I mean by this is chances are, when the S does HTF, members of your group will not be in one place. You should have pre-planned exactly where you will meet up and what you will do if you can’t.
This meet up might be at your home or the home of someone else in your group. You might have decided to meet up at a different location so you can make your way home together. You need to be specific about this. Instead of meeting at the North End Mall (general), you will meet outside Entrance 4 of the mall (specific).
You cannot rely on your cell phone for communication. If it is working, that is a bonus. But what do you do if not everyone shows up at the meetup location? How do you let someone know that you have moved on and where you will be? Forms of communication include:
- Walkie talkies/2-way radios
- Ham or CB radio (Note: You need a license to broadcast via ham or CB radio, but not to listen. Although, if total collapse happens, no one is going to be monitoring those frequencies.)
- Notes and messages
- System of signs and symbols
Here is a scenario for you. A SHTF event is in the midst of going down. You have met up where you agreed, all but one. The group waits the 30 minutes you agreed to wait before moving on and the person still hasn’t shown up.
You leave a message telling the person your next move, so if they make it that far, they will know where to go. This might be a note left in an inconspicuous spot or a symbol drawn on the back of a sign.
You go home and prepare to leave town, but the person is not there. Everyone decides to wait another 30 minutes and she doesn’t show up. You leave another message, indicating the route you are taking. Then you leave.
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On the road, you find you can’t go the way you intended. You pull over at the nearest accessible agreed-upon place to leave a message and tell the person you took an alternate route and which route that was.
You arrive at your bug out location. Three hours later, the missing person arrives because she found your messages and was able to follow you and make it there safely.
As you can see, you need to have a predetermined method of leaving messages. You will also need predetermined places where you will know to leave and look for those messages. This is something that you as a group will need to work out well in advance of any potential disaster. And it is a critical part of your survival planning.
Organization is important but so is security. Some people are fine with writing down a plan and keeping copies where family members can reach them. You can write out plans leaving out some basic info that everyone can remember. For example, you don’t necessarily have to give directions to a bug out location if everyone is aware that it is your weekend cabin.
As far as knowing where cache’s are, some people prefer to use GPS marking points while others keep paper maps with locations marked. It really all depends on the level of privacy and security you desire and how good your memory tends to be.
This is why you practice. Discuss what went wrong and how to improve. Do not be overly negative or harsh. It is very important to highlight what went right too! Offer praise and constructive criticism and then try again.
Honestly, the only people that should know about your bug out plan are those that you trust with the safety of your family and those that you won’t get mad at for showing up asking for help. How much you share with others is up to you. Keep in mind that once you are safe you can try to find ways to let others know that everyone is ok.
A cache is a store of food, water, and supplies that you hide somewhere. Part of your survival planning should include setting up caches along your travel routes and around your bug out location. That way, if for some reason, you get held up on your way to your destination and you run out of anything you need, you can rely on one of your caches.
If you get to your bug out destination and you find out it has been compromised in some way, you can rely on your caches. These are emergency supplies and rations that will keep you going when you don’t have access to your main stores.
Practice Makes Perfect in Survival Planning
Finally, survival planning involves practice. You need to run drills. You need to get everyone in the group to practice all parts of the bug out plan. The plan will not run smoothly if you don’t practice.
Practicing your plan will allow you to spot kinks and work them out. It will help you see where you can make changes to make the plan better and determine how to alter your plans if necessary. The following are things you can practice:
- Run a drill in which you “sound the alarm” and have everyone gather at your meetup spot.
- Practice loading everything into the BOV and getting your BOBs together.
- Travel all of your planned routes to your bug out location to be sure you know them intimately. You need to know what to watch out for on these routes. It is important that you know how to get off them in a hurry. You need to know how to get around them if need be.
- Practice leaving and retrieving messages in predetermined locations.
- Run practice drills of your entire bug out plan.
Survival planning takes a lot of organization and logistics to get it down. However, when you do this well in advance of any SHTF event, you will be as prepared as humanly possible to deal with what is to come. This doesn’t mean there won’t still be stumbling blocks, but you will be much better prepared to deal with them when they arise.
Anything you think we missed? Let us know what your survival planning considerations are in the comments below.