How to Create a Custom Bug Out Plan

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

A bug-out plan is a strategic evacuation roadmap, designed for swiftly leaving an area during emergencies. It underpins your safety, ensuring prompt, organized departure amidst chaos.

Throughout this guide, you’ll learn to create a tailored bug-out strategy, covering essentials from kit composition to route mapping. While no two disasters will be the same, learning these general strategies will give you a head start when SHTF.

Understanding Your Situation

Before looking into the specifics of your bug-out plan, you should find out the types of disasters that could most likely occur in your region. This knowledge allows you to tailor your plan to realistic scenarios, ensuring that you’re not preparing for a desert sandstorm when you live in an area prone to floods.

Start by researching historical data and trends regarding natural disasters and emergency events in your locality. Government agencies and local community organizations often provide hazard maps and risk assessments.

Check for information on the frequency, severity, and type of previous emergency events. For those living in the United States, resources like the FEMA website can be invaluable. Don’t stop at the natural dangers though. Man-made threats such as chemical spills or nuclear plant incidents can also quickly become a reality.

Once you have a grasp of the potential threats, start exploring your immediate area. Identify multiple escape routes, taking into consideration factors like traffic patterns during peak hours and natural barriers. Expand this new understanding by examining the regional geography — rivers, mountain ranges, and highways can all influence your evacuation.

It would also be a good idea to be aware of the capacity and location of local shelters, hospitals, and police stations. This can give you a strategic advantage during a disaster, providing options and alternatives.

Building a Custom Bug Out Bag

A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains all the essentials you would require to survive for at least 72 hours if you need to evacuate in a hurry. It’s designed to enable you to leave quickly and sustain yourself until you reach safety or the situation stabilizes.

The purpose of a bug-out bag is to ensure that in the face of disaster, you have access to necessary supplies for survival including food, water, shelter, and first aid materials.

Essential Items to Include in a Bug Out Bag

The list may not be limited to what is mentioned here, but this should give you a good idea of what to start stocking up on for your bug-out bag.

  • Water: A minimum of one gallon per person (you’ll need to stay hydrated), per day, and a portable water purification system.
  • Food: Non-perishable food items that require minimal preparation, such as energy bars, dried fruits, and ready-to-eat meals.
  • Shelter: A lightweight tent or emergency shelter and a sleeping bag rated for the climate.
  • Clothing: Weather-appropriate clothing and layers, including rain gear and sturdy boots.
  • First Aid Kit: A comprehensive first aid kit that includes personal prescription medications and everything you’ll need to deal with on the road.
  • Tools: Multi-tool, flashlight with extra batteries, and fire-starting materials are good basics to start with.
  • Communication: A battery-powered or hand-crank radio, fully charged power bank, and emergency whistle.
  • Navigation: Maps of the area, a compass, or a GPS device.
  • Personal Documents: Copies of important documents, such as identification, insurance policies, and bank records in a waterproof container.

Tips on Customizing Your Bug Out Bag

To customize your bug-out bag, consider your personal needs and the likely disasters in your area. If you have a medical condition, be sure to pack extra medication and supplies. Families with infants should include baby food, diapers, and other necessary items.

Assess the natural disasters that are prevalent in your region. If you’re in an earthquake-prone area, for example, additional dust masks and heavy-duty gloves may be important. For those in areas susceptible to hurricanes, include waterproof wear and flotation devices.

Regularly revisit and update your bag as your needs change and as you gain more insight into the potential emergencies in your area.

Choosing Your Bug Out Locations

When it comes to selecting bug-out locations, several critical factors come into play.

  • Distance is a key consideration; your location should be far enough to avoid the immediate dangers but close enough to reach by foot if necessary.
  • Accessibility is also important; ensure the location is reachable by different modes of transport or different routes in case some are blocked or unsafe.
  • Resources at the location are vital. Look for natural water sources, availability of food such as wild game or fish, and materials for shelter and warmth.
  • The location should be safe, meaning it should be hidden from plain view and offer protection against both the elements and potential threats.
  • The terrain should be familiar to you, providing natural advantages while being difficult for others to navigate without similar knowledge.

Having multiple bug-out locations is wise, affording you options based on the disaster’s nature, direction, and severity. Different scenarios may block routes or make some locations unreachable.

Scouting and occasionally visiting these places can keep them realistic and reliable options. Regularly review and adjust your choices as environmental and personal circumstances evolve.

Planning Your Route

In a crisis, your primary route may be compromised due to traffic jams, natural disasters, or other unforeseen obstacles. Every bug-out plan should have alternative routes planned out, as well as the means to quickly determine the best one under pressure.

To further emphasize the importance of redundancy, keep updated paper maps in your go-bag. Digital devices and GPS systems are prone to fail in emergencies, either from dead batteries, damaged networks, or technical malfunctions. Paper maps are reliable, do not require power, and can be used to navigate when electronic systems cannot. Laminate the maps if you have to, something to keep them safe from water and abuse.

To effectively use these routes in an emergency, familiarizing yourself with them beforehand is key. Regular practice runs to your bug-out locations via different paths can hone your navigational skills, help you recognize landmarks, and allow you to adjust your route planning based on practical experience.

You should also mark down potential safe havens along these routes, like friends’ homes or public shelters. The combination of detailed planning, having physical maps, and practical familiarization with your escape routes are indispensable elements of a well-rounded emergency preparedness strategy.

Fuel and Transportation

If you have enough fuel for the first 72 hours then you can make it much further than you could on foot. An extra cache of gasoline, safely stored in appropriate containers and kept away from potential sources of ignition, ensures that you can travel significant distances even when gas stations are closed or supplies are limited.

Beyond storing fuel, the condition of your vehicle warrants regular attention; a well-maintained car is more reliable, efficient, and ready to handle the challenging conditions that may arise during an emergency. Routine checks and maintenance, from tire inspections to oil changes, should be completed consistently.

If traditional vehicles are not viable options due to road conditions or fuel scarcity, alternative modes of transportation must be considered. Bicycles, motorcycles, or even horses can serve as practical alternatives, especially when navigating through congested or off-road terrains.

Keep in mind the storage capacity and speed of these modes, and align them with your bug-out plan. Often this may mean leaving things from your initial bug-out plan behind.

Other Essential Bug-Out Preparations

A communication plan is vital to keeping you and your loved ones safe and informed during a crisis. A good plan outlines how you will connect with each other, establishes meeting points if separated, and designates trusted sources for updates.

For example, having a solar-powered or hand-crank radio ensures access to public alerts without relying on electricity, while agreeing on a family password can secure your communication in confusing times.

Another tip regarding food and water supplies, prioritize non-perishable items that have a long shelf life and require minimal preparation. Include a balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, alongside essential vitamins and minerals. Keeping your energy levels high will keep you moving and a healthy body seldom gets sick.

Securing your home before departure is a simple yet often forgotten-about step. Reinforce windows, lock all doors, and if time permits, position sandbags in areas susceptible to flooding. Disconnect appliances and utilities to prevent damage from electrical surges or gas leaks.

By taking these precautions, you have a higher chance of protecting your assets and avoiding additional stress upon your return (if you end up returning).

Final Thoughts

A bug-out plan, to me, is akin to preparing for a long-term camping adventure. I prioritize items that offer multiple functionalities or those that can be utilized more than once. One thing many seem to forget is that formulating a bug-out plan isn’t the end of the process.

It’s important to continually reassess, refine, and modify it according to evolving circumstances. A well-devised bug-out plan can significantly alleviate stress during tense situations, but only if all the different aspects work well together. 

Backyard Liberty
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