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Bug Out Planning
© 2006
When the situation around you is so bad that you have to leave, then go. The military referred to it as "Bugging Out". This can be a complete disaster all by itself, but a little prior planning will certainly help. There are three items that you should consider before going anywhere:
  1. Where are you going?
  2. How are you going to get there?
  3. What will you do when you get there?

Plan for the worst possible situation. If you live in a highly populated area the roads will be jammed up. The airlines may or may not be flying in or out of your area. Busses, trains and taxis will be full, if working. Walking may be dangerous. So what do you do?

Consider first: Stay at home. Bunker In. Everything you have is already there. You and your family know where everything is, and you are in an area you are familiar with. But are you safe staying at home? Is there a raging fire close by heading your way? Is there a hurricane? Terrorist threat or actual terrorist activity? Is there a biological problem in your area? Is the electricity and water still working? Are thugs running rampant? Is it summer or winter with lots of snow? Is there a wild elephant in the yard? You have to consider all the facts before you decide to bug out. If, after all this thinking, you still have to leave, what do you take with you?

Most travel today has to be by private automobile. Even with the streets jammed with others trying to get away, it is still your best bet for getting out safely. If you haven't already done it, prepare an automobile emergency kit. This kit depends a lot on the size of your vehicle, and the number of people in your party. Here's a list of some items you may want to include in your own automobile emergency kit:


  • Extra gasoline in an approved container.
  • Warm clothing for everyone in your party.
  • Maps of the area you are leaving/going to.
  • 12 Volt tire inflation pump.
  • Spare tire... a real one.
  • Blankets, towels, pillows.
  • Roll of plastic sheeting or large plastic bags.
  • Flashlight with spare bulbs and batteries.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Small shelter or tent.
  • Small cooking set & charcoal briquettes.
  • Individualized personal non-perishable items.
  • Snow Chains for tires.
  • Folding shovel.
  • Compass
  • Tools for automobile repair
  • Extra oil for engine and transmission
  • Change of clothing for everyone in your party.
  • 1 Gallon of water per person in your party, per day. Plan on 3 days
  • Emergency food for up to 3 days without re-supply, preferably dehydrated types.
  • Books suitable for all members of your party.
  • A heavy knife, axe, or machete.
  • Weapons of choice.

All the above items, except the water, can be kept locked in your car all year long. Water can only be included when the outside temperatures will stay above freezing. A frozen water container will crack, and when it thaws will leak out all over your stuff. Space permitting, feel free to add any other items you think you will need. For example, snow chains up north.


The Best Place to go is the place you've already set up.

Where are you going? And for how long? If you can safely travel, try for a safe place the shortest distance away from your home that you can find. Is it a hotel on the other side of town, or Grandma's house in another state? The shortest distance to safety gets you off the roads the quickest. Did you make arrangements with a friend or relative, in advance, to use their home as a "bug out" location? Did you agree for him/her to come to your house if they have an emergency? You should have.

Consider the following when deciding WHERE to go:

  • Is the location you have pre-arranged under the same threat as you are? Hurricanes will cover huge areas, but forest fires are generally smaller in area.
  • Does the location you choose have all the facilities that you need in order to survive? Is their water and electricity still on, or is it questionable? Are hospitals available?
  • Can every member of your party agree to where you plan to go?
  • Is food and water available where you plan to go?
  • Is the shelter large enough to handle you, your party, and everyone else who may show up to use the same facility?
  • Is the area you pick in a relatively safe location, or will the situation later deteriorate and force you to pack up and move again?
  • Are you comfortable with your decision?

Once you've considered all the items above, and you've made your decision, it's time to pack up. Everyone in your party must know ahead of time how much space they will be allotted in your vehicle. If you have a compact car and someone shows up with a steamer trunk full of clothes, you've got a problem. Like a ship at sea, if it's your car, you are the Captain. Your decisions stand...don't back down. Pack all the things you absolutely HAVE to have first. Then add all those "nice to have" items next. Don't forget important items.

PACKING CHECKLIST ("Need to Have" items)

  • Medications for a 30-day supply. Prescriptions for refill, if necessary.
  • Eyeglasses and spare eyeglasses, sunglasses.
  • Warm clothing for cold weather, regardless of the time of year.
  • Extra shoes, belts, gloves, and hats.
  • Cellular phone and 12 volt charger.
  • At least one change of clothing.
  • Extra shoes and shoelaces
  • Dental care items. Includes false teeth care.
  • List of names, addresses and telephone numbers for family, friends, co-workers; cellular phone and 12 volt charger.
  • Elderly care products, hearing aid batteries.
  • MONEY. As much as you can get. Hide it.
  • Female hygiene products.
  • Infant care items: diapers, formula, bottles, etc.
  • Personal hygiene items: Top of list: Toilet Paper
  • Laundry detergent, softeners, personal soap.
  • Rolls of quarters for vending machines and telephones.
  • Credit cards, ID cards, Insurance papers.
  • Medicare and/or health insurance cards.
  • Handicapped persons - special equipment and supplies needed for daily life.
  • Any special item of apparel that anyone in your party needs to live day-to-day.

Everything else is on the "Nice to Have" list. There are just a few items that I include on my "Nice to Have" list. Most of them involve entertaining children. But, in planning for any trip, water, food, and shelter have to be considered:

WATER: The number one priority on your list of survival items. One gallon per person per day. There must be a means of refilling or re-supplying your water while you travel. If your travel is planned for 1 day...and the roads are may take 3 days. You must have water to live. If the electricity is out all along your route, you will not be able to get either food or gasoline. Most of the stores and restaurants on the route will be closed. Don't depend on someone else to help you...they're probably worse off than you are.

FOOD: Dehydrated food requires water to re-hydrate it so it can be eaten. Pre-plan what foods you ALL can eat, and add them to your car. Plan at least for 3 days worth of food. You can live a long time without food, but only a short time without water. Do not take foods that are overly salty or make people thirsty. An ice chest of fresh fruit and sandwiches goes a long way. Small children need milk, so don't forget that item. I won't try to guide you through what to take or not to take, just use this planning sheet to insure you have all the meals covered.

Breakfast Meal Lunch Meal Dinner Meal

Include some snacks to augment the above supply. Don't be afraid to have the same thing 3 days in a row. It's boring but it cuts down on buying supplies. If you include perishable food, you must eat it the first day out, or it will spoil. The ice in even the best quality chest will eventually melt. (Melted ice = water.) You can wash up using melted water from the ice's very "refreshing"...and cold.

Every car should already have an emergency first aid kit. There are many commercially available kits out there that have adequate supplies for up to 3 days, barring catastrophic accidents. However, most kits only include enough Band-Aids for one person, for 2 or 3 days. Consider buying extras and throwing them in the kit. You don't have a first aid kit...get one.

WARNING: Many states that have tunnels or bridges have prohibited the carrying of extra fuel or propane. If they catch you with it, you'll be in big trouble. Trailers with extra propane tanks have to take the long way around to wherever you're going. If you have extra gasoline, hide it so it cannot be seen...and drive very carefully. Your car is designed to survive an accident and still keep the fuel tank intact. This does NOT include those extra cans of gas in the trunk. You are literally a traveling fire bomb with those gas cans. Consider the risks, and act accordingly. Nowadays, police and/or troops who search vehicles get very nervous when they see too much extra fuel in your vehicle. They instantly jump to the "Terrorist" mode...and that's you.

SHELTER: Shelter includes the time you are traveling as well as when you get there. Nobody can drive continuously for 3 days without relief. Eventually, you will have to stop, eat a meal, and sleep. Hotels and motels may not be available. The roadside rest areas will already be full, if you're allowed in them at all. What to do? If you can find a friendly local citizen in the area off the main highway (particularly farmers), you can ask to camp on their property. Be sure to assure them you will clean up your mess before you leave. You can even offer to pay them for their inconvenience. Private property is safer than public areas in a mass evacuation. But public campgrounds (parks, forests, etc.) may still be open. They may or may not have electricity. If you can find the local authorities, ask them. By law, public parks cannot raise their prices during emergencies. Private people are not supposed to, but they do anyway. If you're at a private park, prepare to be gouged.

OK: You've got your vehicle fully packed with everything you need to travel. You've counted heads, and everyone is present and ready to go. Are you ready? Not yet.

HOW TO GET THERE? The route of travel between two places in the United States is almost infinitely variable. The only exception to this that I can come up with is if you are traveling to Key West, Florida. Only one road in and or out. Sorry. There's a lot to think about on how you are going to travel to your destination:

Route Planning Considerations

  • Does your planned route avoid major populated area? More people = more problems.
  • Are all the roads open?
  • How many drivers are available you trust?
  • Are there places available where you can reasonably expect to get water, fuel, and food?
  • Is the civil government still available to direct traffic and provide emergency services?
  • Is another route available, even if it's longer?
  • Are all the bridges and tunnels open?
  • Does this route avoid bad weather conditions?
  • Can this route safely be driven at night?
  • Can anyone unfamiliar with the route drive it while you are resting?
  • Does an alternative route offer better conditions and safety than the originally proposed route?
  • Are there safe areas within a reasonable drive that you can use for emergency sheltering, including camping overnight, if required?
  • Is driving time a planning factor?
  • Are mountains, deserts, or hazardous terrain a problem for your vehicle?
  • Can you safely get to "A" from "B"?

You made your decision, you're on the road. You left word with friends in the area you just left on where you were going, and how you plan to get there. You promise to keep others informed of departure and arrival times. You know someone will miss you if you don't show up in a reasonable time period. Your plan works perfectly, and now you have arrived where you were supposed to be.

Once at your destination, quickly evaluate the shelter arrangements. Is it too crowded? Is it safe or unsafe. Are there people there you don't trust? Evaluate everything. If something doesn't "smell right", move on to another shelter. The last resort is to sleep on the side of the road or in the lot of a shopping mall. Ask the local police if there is a safe place to park and sleep. You probably will not be allowed to cook over a campfire in the local McDonald's parking lot. Putting tent pegs in concrete is very difficult too. But, assuming the current shelter will be OK, they next logical step is to ask "NOW WHAT?"...


You're alive and well. You have money and the tools to survive. Get on with your life. Post-Disaster Recovery is an entirely different problem.