How Can You Be Sure it’s Time to Bug Out?


Bugging out is the most debated and talked about topic in the preparedness community today. Many of the top prepper authors advocate developing a bugging out plan and making a bugout bag as two of the very first items on your new prepper “to-do” list. Although I think the priority or importance of the classic wilderness survival bugout bag is debatable, I do think having a bugout plan is extremely important.


When new preppers first sit down and try to make a realistic bugout plan there’s one question that ALWAYS comes up:


“How do I know when it’s time to bug out?”


Even though there are going to be some small differences in this answer depending on your level of preparedness, there are a handful of key points that will be common for everyone to determine if it is time to bug out. These are not hard and fast bug out “rules”, however these are the indicators that I personally use to determine whether a bugout is necessary or not and can be a good starting point for your bugout plan.


Inability to communicate with others


In today’s modern world our loved ones and family members are much more spread out than they used to be. Even families and friends that see each other regularly usually don’t live in the same immediate area, let alone household. Although this is a provision of bugging out that can be debated, I personally think that lacking the ability to communicate with loved ones could be a cause for bugging out in a serious disaster, regardless of how well set up your bug-in location may be.


If you have the ability to use off-grid communication methods this could easily be mitigated or you could plan on having your family bug-in together should a serious disaster hit. Either way, for me personally, I could easily weather most bug-in situation on my own with my immediate family, but not knowing how the rest of my family and friends are faring would be torture. If you don’t have a way to bring people together or at least keep in communication with them this may be a reason for you to bug out.


Bug-in location compromised or otherwise unsafe


When people ask me when I think the best time to bug out would be, my typical answer is: “Whenever you don’t feel safe anymore, your stockpiles run out or your bug in location is compromised”. I admit, this could be highly subjective depending on your location, your circumstances and the nature of the disaster at hand. Here are a few examples of a compromised bug in location.


  • There is an immediate threat such as fire, flood, severe weather or human threats.
  • Your water or food reserves have been depleted and procuring more is either not possible or unsafe to do so.
  • It is no longer possible to keep your bug in location sanitary and clean.
  • Someone in your group has particular health needs that cannot be met at your current location.



It may be safe now, but will you be able to bug out later if it’s not?


It’s important to think ahead when dealing with a bug out/bug in situation. There are many situations where even in a grid-down situation it may be completely safe where you are. Your utilities may even be operational if it is a more localized disaster situation. That being said, there’s a strong possibility that although it may be safe now, if the disaster persists into a longer-term situation, that security may be lost at a moment’s notice.


For example, in a severe weather situation there is typically advanced notice before the worst of the storm hits and ample time to get out. This is an example of bugging out even when the situation is currently safe. In another example, even if someone were to stay in a disaster affected area and was able to weather the initial storm, in some ways the disaster has just started.


Looting, sanitation issues and various other “ripple effects” of the initial disaster event could go on for days or weeks. This means that even if the sun comes back out and you’re temporarily safe from the initial disaster, your safety could be compromised very soon after, which would mean that bugging out now, even though it is relatively safe, would be the best plan.


Would you be more comfortable somewhere else?


There’s a big difference between getting through a disaster situation and getting through one comfortably. Look at the thousands of people that went through hurricane Sandy, yes even the people that had no preparations at all technically survived that disaster, but they sure as heck weren’t comfortable.


I think a lot of preppers forget that just being a prepper doesn’t automatically mean that there’s some sort of huge difference between us and the unprepared. Yes, obviously we’re more prepared to handle a most disaster situations, but just because you’re a prepper doesn’t mean that every disaster is going to be a cakewalk and often times they are still quite uncomfortable even you’re prepared for it.


My general rule of thumb for bugging in is that yes, even though I could easily weather most disaster situations at home, I don’t have to. If me or my family aren’t comfortable somewhere, I’m prepared enough to go with another option. If a storm came in a took out power for a few days, I might just decide I don’t feel like using up gas for the generator or using up other preps and will just head over to a family or friends house if I think we’ll be more comfortable over there. Heck we might just decide that it’s a good time just to have an impromptu family vacation and head out of town to a hotel. When you’re truly prepared, you have the options to turn a disaster into an opportunity.


That’s the great thing about being prepared; it gives you a choice. The worst part of any disaster is having the choices in your life taken away from you. That’s called being a refugee. The truly prepared have options. They have redundancies for their redundancies and no matter the situation; they’re not stuck to only 1 option or plan because having only 1 plan is extremely dangerous. You never know what type of situation a disaster might bring up, and being prepared to roll with the punches is what gives us peace of mind.

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