Anyone who doesn’t have his or her head buried in the sand has probably considered what they would do if something happened and they had to flee their home. Sort of like when some people imagine what they would do if they won the $1.28 billion Mega Millions lottery.
The common refrain remains “I’ll bug out.” But clearly it’s far more complicated than that.
Unless your residence is on fire, bugging out in an emergency should be akin to pulling the trigger in a confrontation. As in something that’s done as truly the last resort – because nothing good happens after you execute that trigger pull. Just as lots of bad things may happen after a defensive gun use, lots of bad things may happen after you leave your home during turbulent times.
What sort of bad things can happen when leaving your house behind? Becoming a refugee for one, either voluntarily or forcibly. Or dying from exposure to the elements or from an armed bad guy who wants your stuff. One or more of your family members could be abducted or sexually assaulted. Then there’s dehydration.
You will leave most of your stuff behind, even if evacuating via your motor vehicle(s). And if your transportation breaks down or runs out of fuel (or gets stuck in an Interstate turned parking lot), you will have to leave a lot more behind.
Just like people who have a tendency to reach for the gun at the first sign of trouble, some people seem inclined to “bug out” from their homes the moment the going gets tough.
For some, especially apartment dwellers in big cities, bugging out early might be a good call for them. Provided they have a place to go where they will be welcomed and a means to get there in relative safety.
On the other hand, staying at a private residence, around neighbors you know, will prove better than leaving – for virtually everyone.
At home you (hopefully) have a handle on who’s who and what’s what. You have all of your clothes, tools, medicines and medical devices (think C-PAP) and your supplies right there. Home represents normalcy psychologically as well. What’s more, if you’ve made half an effort to get to know your neighbors and shown yourself to be an asset, you’ll have help nearby.
Not only that, but water and ammo is heavy. Your UPS man probably thinks unkind things about you while carrying 50 or 75 pounds of ammo from the curb to your front door, especially if you live somewhere besides the ground floor. (Just as Brown’s drivers no doubt hate humping heavy bags of cat litter or dog food from chewy.com.) The average Joe (or Jane) is not going to carry a case of .223 (or even 9mm) on their back for long at all.
Instead of risking a herniated disk prematurely, build relationships and communications with the good people nearby and identify the dregs to watch. Be polite to the dregs, but have a plan to, ahem, “deal with them” if they become… dangerously uncivilized.
“How many of you know your neighbors by their first names?” Nick Klementzos asked at a Guns Save Life Chicagoland grassroots gun rights organization meeting back in early 2020 just as COVID was getting underway.
Nick encouraged everyone to build relationships with their neighbors. Learn their names, their kids’ names and even their pets’ names. Get their phone numbers and email addresses and share yours with them. Assess whether they are a potential asset or a liability in “challenging” times.
Help your neighbors put you into the asset column. Whether or not you let them know you’re a gun owner is up to you. But if you do, offer to take them (and their kids) to the range sometime. Either way, let them know if they need help they can call upon you.
He gave the example of his neighbor needing someone to dog-sit their mutt after their usual dog sitter became temporarily unavailable. “Sure, I’ll watch your dog,” he told them, assigning his teen daughter a task she truly enjoyed.
Hey, it’s summertime right now. Buy some cookies or other sweets from your local bakery, then share them with the neighbors as you introduce yourself – or build upon previous introductions.
Again, spend more time getting to know your neighbors than fine-tuning your bug out bag. The BOB might prove priceless in a once-in-a-lifetime instance, but good neighbors will help you on a regular basis. Later, among the best and most dependable friends, family and neighbors, formalize agreements to look out for one another and to provide assistance during an emergency.
Then if there is a multi-day power outage for whatever reason or other disaster strikes, and things get worse as food and fuels become scarce, you’ll have identified allies nearby instead of unknowns and suspicions.
No matter if it’s a housefire, tornado or a local or regional disaster such as an earthquake, good friends and neighbors (and family) will prove priceless in many ways. Allies can turn life-threatening problems into inconveniences. Especially if traditional first responders become unavailable or greatly delayed, leaving everyone pretty much on their own.
Allies in your neighborhood and the support they provide are a precious reason to stay put during a crisis and not “bug out.” As are your pets. Ditto if you have young children.
But let’s say you decide to execute Plan Bug Out. You load up the car, van, SUV, or Lord forbid the Tesla, and “bug out.”
Finding the hotels full – or unwilling to take your credit card because the internet’s down – will pose your first challenge. So then you decide to stop and “camp” at a local, county or state park. Or maybe an Interstate rest area. At any of the above, you will probably find many ill-prepared folks, some of whom are downright desperate.
The ethically-challenged desperados will eyeball your “stuffed to the gills” vehicle and smile. While you’re taking a leak inside, they’ll bust out a window or two and help themselves to your stuff. Maybe truly derelict sex offenders will help themselves to your son or daughter, too.
Oh, you’ll shoot the bad actors? Have you considered they will likely be armed too? Maybe with rifles or shotguns – and you, if like most, haven’t practiced for months with your pocket carry piece. How’s that gonna play out for the home team?
Okay, you’ll skip the state parks and rest areas and look for a place to sleep in the woods somewhere. Assuming the authorities don’t corral you into a refugee center while you’re finding a spot… Oh, they’ll call it something nicer, but it won’t be pretty. Remember the Superdome in New Orleans during Katrina? Google it and look at the images. You want that for your family?
So you found a spot. Great. Got a tent? Know how to set it up? Do you know how to build a fire (which will give away your location, of course…)? How many nights have you tent camped in October through March in near or below freezing temperatures? Or below zero temps for those living above the Mason-Dixon Line? You better have brought a really warm sleeping bag for everyone.
Whatcha gonna eat? Do you have a way to make water that won’t cause you and your loved ones to defecate frequently and uncontrollably? Speaking of water, what happens if you get wet?
Got your medicines?
What will the property owners think of squatters like you camping on his/her/their (or whatever their preferred pronouns) property? Don’t expect a warm apple pie or a bottle of fine wine as a squatter-warming gift. They might, however, share some hot lead with you.
Nah, if you don’t have a pre-planned destination not too far away where you will be welcomed and a way to get there that doesn’t involve an Interstate or crossing bridges over major bodies of water, you should start planning – TODAY. In addition to getting into better physical shape (a tall order, I know) and beefing up your emergency food supplies and potable water solutions, build those relationships as part of your layered preparedness plan.
Also, have a way to communicate with your circle of friends that doesn’t involve a cell phone or the Internet. Yes, that means either smoke signals or radios, so if you don’t have a radio, you best be getting one and figuring out how to use it to communicate. Or you better get good at waving a blanket over a smoky fire.
The alternative to planning ahead? Finding members of your family dead, or traded or sold into sex slavery, or maybe sent to a government camp as refugees.
For most folks who aren’t apartment dwellers, staying home is almost certainly the best course of action in any emergency except under the worst of the very worst conditions.
There’s a multitude of good videos out there about bugging out. One really good overview is by City Prepping at YouTube.
Plan accordingly and work towards improving your “stay at home” option. At the same time, flesh out plans for where to go in case of fire or other emergency forces you out of your home. Just don’t plan on coming back to your residence if you leave when things are really bad, because if nobody’s home, it’ll probably get looted at best, and burned to the ground at worst.
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