How to know when it is time to bug out
I receive emails from time to time asking about how you will know when it is time to bug out. This is not always an easy question to answer, as many emergencies strike without warning, and typically the situation remains fluid.
I am a big proponent of riding out most emergency scenarios at home. (Click the link for more details.) I believe that if you are properly prepared and have adequate plans in place, you should be able to make it through most disasters and emergencies by staying at home.
But as I have said before, you need to have bug out plans in place as well. There may come a time when you need to get the hell outta Dodge.
“But James, how will I know when it is time to bug out?” you might ask.
If you bug out too soon, you may find that the emergency was not really as bad as you first though. Hence you end up wasting time and resources.
But if you bug out too late, you could find yourself in a worse position than you were in had you stayed.
Well, here is an old adage I have used before. I wish I knew who to give credit for it. I heard it years ago and honestly do not remember who I heard it from. But I like it and want to pass it on to you.
When it comes to bugging out, I use the acronym R.E.D.O.U.T to help me know when that time has come. Hopefully this will give you some ideas as to when it is time to carry out your bug out plans.
R – Resources are almost gone
If things get truly dire, and the resources you have stockpiled are almost gone, you might think about moving on to greener pastures. I say almost gone, and not completely gone because if you find yourself on the road, you will need some resources (things like water, food, etc) to help you in your journey.
For example, I have about a 5 day supply of food and water (for me and my family) stored at home. If a SHTF event happens and those supplies begin to run low, I will start making preparations to move on to my bug out location. Depending upon the scenario and my situation, I might leave even before that. But if not, once those supplies are running low, it’s time for me to move on.
I still say that simply bugging out into the unknown is the last thing you want to do. But if your life-sustaining supplies are dangerously low, and you have no way of replenishing or obtaining more in your current area, then you may not have any choice but to leave.
E – Environment no longer safe
The disaster event you are experiencing could be one such as a flood, wild-fire, hurricane, (click the link to learn more about prepping for these) chemical spill, etc that could make your area unsafe to stay in. In these situations, you need to activate your bug out plans and get out of the area.
Keep in mind that during this time, you will NOT be the only one planning on getting outta town. Your streets and highways could very well be flooded with hundreds or even thousands of other people with the same idea. So be sure to have several different routes in your bug out plans.
To give you some ideas on how to make those plans, here are some pointers:
- If you have multiple members of your group/family, the chances of you all being together at the time disaster strikes are slim. Make sure everyone in your group knows the bug in/out plans and they know the final location or BOL. (Bug Out Location)
- I would have pre-determined rally point along the way to meet at if your final location is a long way off. You might also devise a means of communicating with them should the rally point become unsafe
- Know the routes you plan to take AND the area in general ahead of time. Where are the gas stations? Is there a grocery store nearby? A hospital? What other points of interest are along your intended route?
- How many different ways do you have of getting to your destination? Your primary route may suddenly no longer be accessible, so have contingency plans in place for different routes to take or even different means of getting to your final location
- Do you have not only the gear you need, but a way of safely and securely transporting it?
- Identify areas that you could potentially cache supplies. Are there friendly areas (a friend’s house for example) that you could make a pit stop if needed?
- Identify areas that could potentially be choke points or trouble spots, and ways to avoid them
D – Destination to go to
As I mentioned earlier, I may choose to leave my home and bug out earlier if I feel that I would be safer at my bug out location than it would be at home.
For example, if the worst case scenario happens, and my area is devastated by a large-scale SHTF event (like an EMP) I would not wait until my supplies run low. I would immediately activate my bug out plans, and head for my BOL. For an event like this, common sense tells us that things are about to go bad in a hurry! The sooner my family and I get to a safer locale, the better!
Another example, say that you live in large, urban area. You know that your area could be targeted for riots or unruly protests. This could be after an event like a police shooting or before a large political rally that has the potential to get out of hand. In this case, you might feel it is safer to spend a few nights at your BOL or a safer locale. If you feel that there is an increased chance of violent protest, riots, civil disturbances, (click the link for more details) etc in your area, you might think about moving to a safer area for a few days.
I know many people, (myself included) would feel the urge to stay home and protect their property. But you need to weigh the choice of staying versus the risk to your life and health. For some folks, the risks to their safety out weights the danger they could very well face by staying and trying to protect their property.
This will be a judgement call on your part. You know your situation better than anyone else, and it is something that you and your family must decide. But I would decide ahead of time at what point you will bug out from situations like these.
O – Overwhelming force against you
Ok, let me start off by saying that the chances of a “Mad Max” scenario where your home is under attack by roving bands of marauders is VERY slim. This event is at the far end of the probability spectrum.
That being said, the vast majority of houses around the world are NOT designed to stop full-out assaults. Especially with high-powered firearms.
Today’s rifle rounds, like the 5.56 or 7.62 will tear through brick, mortar, dry wall, etc like a hot knife through butter. So for many, the fantasy of defending their home from roving gangs of looters and pillagers will NOT be realistic.
How many times do we read stories of people inside of houses being hit with rounds from a drive-by shooting? Sadly, way too often. So don’t think you can duck underneath your window and engage in gun battles without the very real risk of being hit by return fire. Your house is concealment, NOT cover!
Also keep in mind that something as simple as a well thrown Molotov cocktail will make your home undefendable and unlivable within a few short minutes.
If things get truly desperate, it might be wiser to move on and preserve your life and that of your family than to try to defend your home from a large group of determined attackers.
If however, you are bound and determined to make your stand in your home, there are some great resources that can help you. I recommend the book Prepper’s Home Defense by Jim Cobb. It is a great place to start learning about how to defend your home.
U – Unprepared for the situation
In reality, this is a situation that you hope to NEVER find yourself in. You should be ready for any type of situation you might encounter. The problem is that the possibilities of emergencies are endless. And you cannot know what the future will entail.
I will encourage everyone to NOT prep for just one or two situations. I see a lot of preppers out there who are prepping for an EMP for example. Their plans, gear, preps, etc are all centered around that. But what happens if the SHTF event is a financial collapse? Or a flood hits their area? Hence, I warn preppers about the dangers of focusing on just one or two SHTF scenarios. Here is a great article warning about the dangers of planning for only the worst case scenarios only.
Still, there could be events that happen that you are not prepared for. Like a medical emergency for example. You might not be able to treat the medical issue at home, so you have to leave to try to find medical help.
It is always a good idea to have contingency plans in place for the unexpected. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen that catch us completely off-guard. During those times, you may have to make a judgement call as to where you will stay, or whether you will make a hasty retreat.
T – Threat is increasing
If you find that the danger in your area is increasing and growing, it maybe time to bug out while you still can. Be it an approaching storm that is gaining in strength, or a wild-fire that is starting to move closer to your area; when the threat to you and your family increases, you need to start looking at all of your options.
If you decide that you would be safer by moving on, then by all means do so. Don’t hesitate. Hence it is vital that you remain up to date with current news about what is going on around you.
Both my wife and I have an emergency radio in our get home bags. My wife used hers during a tornado two years ago to stay up to date with the weather. It came in VERY handy because cell towers were down and there was no cell coverage. So her radio was the only source of news and information for her and her neighbors in the tornado shelter.
Remember, bugging out into unfamiliar territory is the absolute last thing you want to do. Make bug out plans now (click the link for more info on bug out plans) so that if you find yourself having to evacuate, you won’t be going off into the unknown!
For more info on bugging out, check out these articles:
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