Bugging Out - Theory and Practice

bug out, Slang. to flee in panic; show panic or alarm.

The Theory of 'bugging out' as it is known to survivalists is really quite simple.  When SHTF, hop into your large, fueled, well stocked (and preferably armored) BOV (Bug Out Vehicle) that you keep ready at all times in your indoor garage and drive to your BOL (Bug Out Location).  Your BOL is some place safe - preferably deep in the mountains where you have a second, strategically placed, fortified house full of every conceivable necessity to last a lifetime which is surrounded by walls and a moat full of laser guided robot sharks.

Now that I have actually done the bug out thing for real, I'm here to tell you that the actual Practice of 'bugging out' sucks.  I'm not talking about Tootsie-Roll-Tootsie-Pop sucking either.  Bugging out sucks the big one...but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's start from The Plan, and go from there.

When disaster strikes, there are two - and only two - options.  You can either stay in your home, or you can leave.  Sometimes you will have no option, however.  If the house is on fire, you're gonna need to leave.  If the streets are clogged with angry, rioting circus clowns, you're gonna have to stay home.  In either event, you need to be prepared for either of those two eventualities.  While I'd prefer to skip all this and go right to the derring-do tales of armed resistance against hordes of bloodthirsty looters, the mundane truth is that you win or lose the disaster survival game before the disaster even gets close.  If you have prepared to 'win', then win you will.  If you don't prepare at all, then you have to roll the dice like everybody else who watched Oprah reruns when they should have been developing The Plan.

Survival is NOT a kit, but it helps to have a few things together.  The very first thing to think about is The Plan.  What are *you* going to do to make sure that *you* don't end up in a place like the Louisiana Superdome or New Orleans Convention Center after a major disaster?  Believe it or not, it doesn't take a lot of money or a lot of time to be ready for many eventualities.  Developing The Plan doesn't have to cost you anything.  It can be free.  If you can't afford free, then you need to switch careers.

The Plan

FIREYou should establish with your family The Plan.  Every family should already have a Fire Escape Plan, and what I call The Plan just has a broader scope.  The Plan should be written down on paper and kept in an obvious location - like on the refrigerator.  If you have polite company coming for dinner, you can shove it in a kitchen drawer or something until they leave.  You will actually have two plans, but I'm going to talk about the bug-out plans first, because if you have the bug-out plans in place, then we can use those as a foundation for the stay-home (bug-in) plans. 

While some people make bugging out sound like an easy extended vacation, the actual practice is rather serious - which is why it is important to have The Plan well thought out on three pages of paper.

Page 1 - ESCAPE PLAN ALPHA, also known as the 60 Second plan.  The 60 Second plan is just that.  You will be out of the house in 60 seconds.  There are all kinds of possible needs for that.  Perhaps the house is on fire.  Perhaps there is some kind of terrorist attack.  Perhaps a tornado approaches.  Perhaps a foreign power is invading your town.  Perhaps alien space ships have landed in the next block.  Perhaps your mother-in-law called, but she's two miles away and if you hurry you can miss her.  Whatever.  If you play, "Why?", games with yourself, you'll only waste time.  The point is that you need to have the ability to get out of your house in 60 seconds and drive away.  You will attain some clarity on this if you stand naked in the middle of your living room and think to yourself, "OK, I am going to leave this house in 60 seconds or less and I am never going to return to it."  What do you grab? 

This is not an evacuation.  This is an escape.  You are fleeing for your very lives.  Your spouse and children need to be on the ball too.  If they want to know how many stuffed animals they can pack, the answer should always be zero.  Children shouldn't be doing anything but going to the car and putting on their seat belts in anticipation that you will drive off without them if they aren't there.  (Well, you wouldn't, but they shouldn't know that - it insures that they are where they need to be when you are ready to drive.)  Older kids and teenagers should have some reasonable role in either evacuating younger children or some other responsibility.  I am of the opinion that most pets should be left behind, but many people will call me a soulless monster for that opinion.  YMMV.

For folks rich, lucky, or crazy enough to devote the significant material wealth to keep a school bus packed with supplies and essentials in the garage, this exercise is somewhat boring.  Most of us though, will never win this game and make it out of the house in 60 seconds if we haven't done some serious prior planning.  I'll go into the actual planning in later pages.  Right now I just want to invite you to consider that having such plans is important.

Page 2 - ESCAPE PLAN BETA, also known as the 1 hour plan.  For whatever theoretical reason, you are standing in the middle of your living room in nothing but a sombrero when the need arises for you to 'get out of Dodge' quickly.  You are in no immediate danger, but you have to leave the area and you may never return.  The 1 hour plan involves less rushing about, swearing, and general panic.  You still need to consider those things that you need to take with you, and those things that you need to do to secure your property.

Page 3 - ESCAPE PLAN GREEK ALPHABET LETTER THAT COMES AFTER BETA, also known as the 12 hour plan.  You can see some danger - like a hurricane - coming a long way off.  You have time to pack the car, secure the house, maybe have a nap, and then drive out.  You are standing in the middle of your living room in your sombrero, drinking Thai iced tea when you are suddenly struck by the notion that you should leave in a few hours for a long vacation from which you may or may not return.

After the escape plans, there is an evacuation plan.  Most people in most parts of the country will not really need this one, but for those persons who live in areas affected by hurricanes, we have the Hurricane Evacuation Plan.  This starts about five days out.  The NOAA issues a hurricane watch, and you start thinking about what you need to do to get the house ready to go.  You put all the potted plants in the garage, you board up the windows, and you have a lot of time to think about whether or not you are going to evacuate or if you will take the chance that the storm will miss you or that it won't be that bad. 

These are plans that I have always known about, and for which I have usually been ready.  For some stupid reason, though, despite years of strategic thinking, I was caught with my pants down when Katrina rolled into the Gulf of Mexico. Andrea and I had been reworking our hurricane preparedness plan, and things kind of fell apart the prior year and we didn't do anything about it. (LAZY PEOPLE DO NOT PROSPER!)  All my preparations are mostly made around staying in the house. That was an idea that wasn't viable any more, however, because Virginia was 5, and Madeline was only three months old.  I had a duty to take them out of harm's way.  Having two young children who need a bunch of stuff to come with them doesn't simplify the escape and evacuation plans.  In fact, even just one child complicates things.

All of these plans require similar components.  The primary component is that you actually escape whatever it is that you are trying to escape.  The second most important component is to escape with your Life, Health, and a significant portion of your Wealth.  The third component is to have some place to escape to - and you should know the location without having to think about it.  When you escape a fire, have some place to meet outside the home.  At the mailbox or at the neighbor's house, for instance.  If you are escaping the region, have a place to go no matter what direction you travel.  Some people buy homes and property in remote areas for this purpose, but I don't have those kinds of financial resources.  We were very lucky in that we had family in Houston, Texas that had the space in their home and the space in their hearts to take us in.  If you have escaped, that's all you really need.  All four of us slept in one small bedroom, and we were very thankful to be so well accommodated.  If you are so inclined, camping could be a part of your escape plan.  I always liked that idea, personally.  The problem is that all the campgrounds filled up really fast...which brings me to the next part of this long winded piece...

Bugging out sucks.  If 'sucks' is a little vague, then let me just say that bugging out is a wonderful theory that works out less than optimally in actual practice, to the point of being a very bad option in many circumstances.  Large scale evacuations generally turn into unworkable nightmares quickly.  People put every conceivable POS car on the road, and breakdowns are common which further complicates the traffic situation.  Given the size and timescale of the evacuation of south-eastern Louisiana prior to Katrina's landfall, it was carried off very well by all involved.  Unfortunately, just a few weeks later...


Thousands Fleeing Rita Jam Roads From Coast Evacuation Is Ordered as Hurricane Veers Eastward

By Blaine Harden and Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 23, 2005; Page A01

GALVESTON, Tex., Sept. 22 -- As they joined a vast, traffic-snarled exodus from Houston and the upper Texas Gulf Coast, hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Hurricane Rita were stuck in their cars throughout much of Thursday, with many running out of gas and sweltering on roadsides in 100-degree heat as they waited for authorities to bring them gasoline.


OK...  Does anybody here think it's good planning to be stuck in your car in 100-degree heat waiting on the government to bring you gasoline?  Anybody?  Anybody?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Hmmm...  No, I didn't think so...  Now, I know you just glossed over that piece, so I want to draw you back to it.  Read it again.  HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE.  Gads...

ZOMBIEMost roads leading into and out of major cities aren't designed for large scale evacuations.  Hurricane evacuations are somewhat better because the evacuation can be coordinated over a longer time period.  Those closest to the danger can escape first, and critical areas cleared in advance.  Unfortunately, if there is some sudden disaster, terrorist attack, or zombie uprising, the roads will quickly be clogged with people fleeing for their lives.  If you can't put your 60 second plan into immediate effect and get out before the roads clog, you are going to be sitting in traffic with thousands of panicking people. 

Putting your 60 second plan into effect while you are at home with your family is one thing.  Putting your plan into effect while you are at work, your kids are in school, and your wife is at the salon is a multi-level nightmare of epic proportions.  Even thinking about it for a few minutes will give you that 'Holy Shit!' feeling. 

So, what is a practical person to do in such a circumstance?  Over the next few pages, I'm going to tell you about my plans, and hopefully give you some things to consider when you are making your own plans. 

The escape plans you formulate for your family all involve several phases.  If you follow the steps I detail, you will eventually find yourself meeting the primary criteria of all escape plans which is:


If you are starting from scratch, this will be your mantra for the next few weeks.



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