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How to Bug In

You are preparing for TEOTWAWKI and you have, for whatever reason decided that when times get tough, you will bug in. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this means that you plan to stay where you are, in your current home, whether you are in the city or in a rural area. The opposite is to bug out, which means that you have an alternate location that you have set up and prepared to take you through the long haul if you need to Get Out Of Dodge.

There are several reasons why you might make the decision to bug in. Maybe you feel more secure in your home than you do anywhere else or perhaps you simply have nowhere else to go. You might have a family member or dependent that can’t travel. Whatever the reason, if you are going to bug in, then you need to be fully prepared in your home. Here is everything you need to know to do just that.

Why Bug In?

Let’s elaborate on why bugging in is the best option under most circumstances – because most of the time it is the best option. Here are a number of reasons why you should bug in, rather than bugging out:

  • In most circumstances you are safer at home than you would be out on the road. Obviously, this would not be the case if there is a natural disaster that threatens your home or if there is imminent danger from looters or a pandemic and the city becomes far too dangerous to stay in.
  • If you don’t have somewhere to go that is ALREADY stocked and prepped, then you are driving – or more likely walking – into the wilderness with minimal survival gear or trying to lug with you everything you need, which is not practical. It is very difficult to survive in the wilderness, even for people who know what they are doing.
  • You know what your immediate surroundings are like when you are at home, but when you leave home, you have no idea what you might have to face. As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Unless you have a ham radio or some way to find out what the world outside your immediate area is like, leaving home is not a risk you should take without really needing to.
  • Away from home, you are a stranger. On the road, you are a stranger. At home, bugging in, the people around you know you, which makes you less of a threat and more likely to have a community to rely on.
  • If you aren’t all together (assuming you are not a one-person show) when the SHTF, then bugging out will make it much more difficult to get everyone in your survival group together. If you are bugging in, then at least everyone knows to go home/to your house.

How Long?

Now that you have made the decision to bug in, you need to plan how long you will prepare to take care of yourself and your family. The government says you should have three days’ worth of food, water, and supplies for each person. I say that’s ludicrous. I know people not far from me over the past two winters that went without electricity for close to two weeks after major winter storms. Hurricane victims, provided their home is still intact, will likely have to go for longer in some situations. In other words, a weather event alone can cause you to need two or more weeks of food, water, and supplies to survive when bugging in.

I recommend that you begin with getting two weeks’ worth of food, water, and supplies immediately, then building on that over time and as your budget allows. If you have six months’ worth of food, water, and supplies, then you are well on your way to being prepared to outlast anything. One years’ worth would be ideal because even if the event that happens is critical enough that the infrastructure doesn’t go back to normal in that amount of time, you will have a cushion of time to plan your next move without having to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Food and Water

I have put food and water first because these are the first things people generally think of during a disaster. When preparing to bug in, you need enough food to feed everyone in your family/bug in group for the length of time for which you are preparing. It is critical that you have this food on-hand before disaster strikes. Even a natural disaster from which the region will rebound can stall food delivery to stores for days and grocery stores only have about three days’ worth of food on their shelves to begin with. If you are prepared, then while everyone else is panicking, you and your family will have full tummies.

worm farming

You will want to stock food for the shorter term and for the longer term.

Short-Term Foods (good for a few weeks or months):

  • Foods your family regularly eats
  • Canned goods, which are great because you can open the can and eat the contents cold if need be
  • Dried foods, such as rice, beans, oats, granola, powdered milk
  • Honey
  • Condiments
  • Spices and herbs

Long-term Foods:

In most situations, you will probably not even need the long-term food items, but depending on what event has occurred, you might need to think even further ahead. For this reason, it is wise to think about food production:

  • Growing your own vegetables
  • Keeping backyard chickens
  • Keeping bees
  • Edible wild plant identification
  • Fish and/or hunt
  • Food preservation

When it comes to water, there are many circumstances in which your access to clean drinking water could be cut off, including a natural disaster or a grid-down situation. You will die in three days if you have no water, so you need to start storing it and you need to start now.

You can buy bottled water from the grocery store relatively inexpensively or you can store tap water. Just be sure to clean and sterilize any bottles you use if you store your own tap water and empty and refill bottles once a year. The rule of thumb is to have enough water so that there is 1 gallon (4 liters) per person per day. Don’t forget to store water away for pets, too.

Remember that the tank on your toilet and your hot water heater both have potable water in them. You might want to add a couple of drops of bleach to the water in the toilet tank. If you have warning about an impending disaster, then fill your tubs and sinks with water ahead of time. You can also use rain barrels to collect water, which is an ideal long-term solution. Finally, it doesn’t hurt to have alternative ways to purify water, such as with water purifying tablets or a purification system.

You should also consider the fact that you need water for other things:

  • For cleaning yourself
  • For washing out wounds
  • Washing clothes
  • For watering your vegetable garden

You need to plan ahead to have water for these purposes so you don’t have to use up your drinking and cooking water. Have rain barrels, set up a garden watering system, and make use of your gray water.

Heat and Power

Heating and power are incredibly important during a grid down disaster. First of all, it doesn’t matter if you have five years’ worth of food and water tucked away if you freeze to death in the first week after the disaster.

If you live in a northern climate, then you need a source of heat during the winter. Ideally, you have a wood stove in your home, but most urban houses don’t have that.If you have a fireplace, that’s something, but fireplaces lose more heat through the chimney than they give to the house. However, if you install a convection insert in your fireplace (not one that operates with the use of a motor), then it will help draw cold air in and push warm air out, maximizing the heating potential of your fireplace.

The majority of people would have no recourse if they were without power for an extended period of time. The best way to prepare for this situation is to have a couple of forms of backup heat. Here are some suggestions:

  • mr heaterTemporary wood stove: You will need the stove, chimney pipe (including an elbow), a piece of plywood, and a convenient window in the area you wish to heat. Do NOT use a pellet stove, because even though they are more efficient, they don’t burn wood so when you run out of fuel, there is no more. There is always more wood.
  • Kerosene heaters: A kerosene heater is ideal for heating a decently large space for an extended period of time. Plus, kerosene has an incredibly long shelf-life and will work effectively even after 20 years of storage.
  • Portable propane heater: One of these heaters can throw out a lot of heat and can heat an area for 4-6 hours on one 1-pound tank of propane.

When you do have to have heat during the winter, you should move the family into one room of your home and shut off the rest of the house with doors or blankets. Cover any large windows to prevent heat loss and ensure you have some ventilation (even a cracked window or outside door) if using a propane heater. Make sure you have lots of warm clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags.

When it comes to electricity, unless you have a generator, you won’t have any if the grid is down due to bad weather or another, more serious issue. That is, of course, unless you have prepared ahead of time and installed solar panels or some other form of alternative power.

If you do have a generator, then be sure to have enough fuel on-hand to run it for an extended period of time, although you don’t have to run it continuously. You can run it 2 hours on and 4 hours off. This is an effective cycle. Without electricity, you won’t have refrigeration, except in the winter in northern regions. You also won’t have lighting. You can get oil lamps or kerosene lanterns to provide you with light when the sun goes down.

I also want to dip into the issue of security here, which we will cover in more detail below. If everyone else in your neighborhood is without electricity and you run a generator, the sound of that generator will carry and you will have people knocking at your door.

Depending on the situation, a generator can be more of a danger than a help when it comes to survival. Even having some form of lights of candles when the sun goes down attracts attention. For this reason, you should either install blackout curtains or simply not use flashlights, candles, or other forms of lighting when it gets dark.

Cooking

Cooking your food will become an issue if you have no electricity, so you will need a way to have a warm meal, something that will not only be nourishing, but comforting, as well. If you don’t have a wood stove or a fireplace that accommodates cooking, then you will need a backup. Here are some suggestions:camp stove

  • Camp stove: Be sure to stock enough fuel for it.
  • Barbecue: Be sure to stock enough propane or charcoal for use over an extended period of time.
  • Rocket stoves: These are great for cooking one-pot meals. The best rocket stoves are the ones that use natural materials for fuel, such as small sticks and small pieces of split wood.

The issue of cooking brings up another security issue. If you have a neighborhood full of hungry people who don’t know you have a stockpile of food, as soon as you start cooking outdoors, which you will have to do at some point, the smell of what you are cooking will drift and attract unwanted visitors. Here are some tips on cooking without attracting the neighbors:

  • Cook/prepare food inside whenever possible
  • Prepare your meals at odd times of day, rather than the conventional meal times, such as late at night or very early in the morning when people are likely to be sleeping
  • Avoid using spices while you are cooking and add them to the food after you have gone back inside
  • Use freeze-dried foods whenever possible to minimize smell (they only need water added)
  • Cook foods in special cooking bags (you can purchase ahead of time and add to your preps) or in foil
  • Avoid any form of cooking that sends out smoke (you can use an indoor thermal cooker or something similar)
  • Keep your meals small and avoid having leftovers to throw in the trash because this will alert others that you have food
  • Burn or reuse as much food packaging as possible

Medical Supplies

When it comes to injury and illness, you might not be able to get to a doctor or a hospital during a disaster. You might not even be able to get to a pharmacy and there is a good chance they will be running out of supplies. You need to have your First Aid training up-to-date and have a very comprehensive store of First Aid supplies.

You should also have some more unusual or advanced medical supplies, such as pure alcohol for sterilization, suture needles and thread, splints, and anything else you can think of. See a complete list of what you should have in this article and be sure to learn how to use anything you store away.

Personal Hygiene

You will need to have ways of keeping yourself clean during an extended period of time without water and electricity. You won’t have access to running water and you won’t want to use up you precious water supply by having sponge baths every day, so having a stock pile of the following helps:

  • Baby wipes
  • Extra toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminine hygiene products

Comfort Items

When you are in an emergency situation and you have to bug in for an extended period of time, having a few comfort items around will help you make it through. Store away some of the following:

  • coffeeChocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Coffee
  • Anything else you can think of that will give you a little bit of escape or comfort in the face of harsh reality

Since you are bugging in at home, chances are you have games, activities, and books to help pass the time. Not only will these things help comfort you; they will also be items you can use for barter if things get bad enough and go on for long enough.

Sanitation

If water is unavailable and there is no electricity, then it is very likely that there will be no garbage pickup and no way to flush the toilet. You will need to find ways to deal with the waste you create when municipal infrastructure is down, even temporarily. When it comes to toilet use, you can get camping toilets that allow you to dispose of your waste in heavy-duty plastic bags. If you don’t have one of these, then any 5-gallon bucket and strong garbage bags will do the job.

You should also make sure you have strong garbage bags on-hand for trash. If things go on for a while before the infrastructure gets back up and running, you don’t want garbage piling up. Find a place to bury it or burn it as you produce it.

Getting Home

There is a high chance that not everyone in your family or group will be home when disaster strikes. That includes you. Everyone in your family who is any distance away from home should have a Get Home Bag (GHB) that is filled with the supplies needed to help them get home as quickly and safely as possible. To see a complete list of what a GHB should include, check out this article.

Communication

voyager radioDo you have a way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your community, in your city, in your country and the world? You need to be sure you have a radio that you can power without electricity. This can be solar-powered or hand crank, but be sure you have something. It is also very useful to be able to keep in touch with others in the prepper community, people you have made a connection with or people with whom you have formed a mutual assistance group (MAG). Even just extended family who will be joining you at your bug-in location will need to communicate with you.

The best plan is to get your radio license so you are legally allowed to operate a ham radio. If you and others in your group do this, then you will be able to keep in touch with each other over long distances. Whether or not you have this means of communication, you should consider setting up a method of communication that doesn’t require technology. This might be a set of signs and symbols you can post for others to see and they can be used to say if you are in danger, if your home neighborhood is safe, if you had to bug out, and which way you have gone.

Security and Self-Defense

This is something many people fail to consider, but it is not something you can leave out of your bug-in plans. The simple truth is that when disaster strikes and hard times go on for too long (and it doesn’t take more than a few days), people get desperate. If you have food and water and warmth and other people know it, yours will be the first door they knock on when the grocery store shelves are empty and it’s cold outside. Thus, the first rule of security is to not tell ANYONE you are prepared to bug in.

You will also want to prepare your home so it is more defensible, because let’s face it, the average home is not a fortress. This means ensuring that it is difficult for unwanted people to enter your home. In fact, once they enter your home, you have most likely lost the battle already, so you need to keep them out.

Your doors should be secure and solid, well-locked with deadbolts; preferably made of solid material, such as steel or wood; attached to the door frame with steel supports; and with a bar you can put across the door to secure it from the inside. In addition, do as much of the following as possible:

  • solar lightsSolar-powered motion sensor lighting around your property and trip wires
  • Remove as much cover (places unwanted people can hide) as possible within a 100-meter radius around your home
  • Put up barriers, such as fences, rock walls, ditches, ponds, dense brush that will keep people from getting close to your house
  • Design your landscaping to direct anyone on your property where you want them to go, using pathways, thorny bushes, etc. and be sure you have a good vantage point of any potential area of cover you have provided
  • Rose, raspberry, or other thorny, defensive bushes beneath all main-floor windows
  • Strong window locks and cut wood-block stoppers inside windows and boards to cover windows when necessary (be sure not to completely block your view of outside)

Once your home has been reinforced, you will need to think about self-defense, which means having the proper self-defense weapons and the training to use them safely and effectively. This is not what anyone wants to think about, but when the situation goes south, you will want to be sure you and your family are safe from desperate people and criminals who want to take advantage of you.

Just remember that no matter what type of a weapon you choose to keep at home in case you need it, it will be more of a liability than an asset if you are not properly trained in how to use it. This includes guns, cross bows, knives, stun devices, staffs, and other self-defense weapons. Besides, you can’t own a gun without having the proper training and license, so it is best to get that done.

In addition to preparing your property and having a way to defend yourselves, you will need to implement some kind of operational security (OPSEC). When disaster strikes, you want to stay as low-key as possible, but you can’t just hide and hope for the best. Have members of your groups secure the perimeter and keep guards on duty at all times.

Choose good vantage point from which you can see what is happening and determine the most concealed ways of getting to and from those vantage points. Be sure that you know who is nearby and who is coming and going, but do so in a way that doesn’t draw suspicion. If you can get your neighbors onboard, set up a neighborhood security detail to help keep everyone safe.

Have a Bug-Out Plan

With all of your preparations to bug in, you should still have some sort of plan prepared in case you need to bug out. If the power grid is down permanently, a pandemic has moved into the city, or the city has become unsafe for some other reason and you have to leave, then be prepared. Have a backup place to go, if need be. If you can’t set up a place ahead of time, then prepare yourself for living in the wild and on the road until you find a safe place to be. Have the proper tools and skills prepared ahead of time in case this is required. It would be foolish to be unprepared to bug out, should the need arise.

It’s In Your Hands

How prepared you are to bug in is completely within your control. Do as much as you can as quickly as you can without short-changing yourself and your family in day-to-day life. Even if you are only partly prepared when a catastrophe happens, you will still be far more prepared than the average person and you will be able to protect and care for yourself and your family during a time that would otherwise mean suffering and hardship.

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About Karen Hendry

An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats. In her spare time she is writing the next great apocalyptic novel of our time, full of government conspiracy and betrayal at every level.

2 comments

  1. Thanks for such a wonderful article. Bugging out is NOT possible for me as I am currently disabled with multiple disorders. I’ve been trying to prep for over a year now but my friends (& caregiver) don’t want to think about it. I live in an apartment complex, have been growing a small garden on my back patio, but am having a LOT of problems with the children who live in my complex (there’s only 59 units). Children nowadays don’t seem to have respect for others property. I don’t have a fence around that patio but it’s the only place that gets a lot of sunlight. My front patio is larger & has a gate, but not very much sun. Any advice for my problems would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Glad you enjoyed the article. I’m sorry that your friends and caregiver are not supporting your desire to be prepared. It’s difficult for anyone when that happens. My suggestion would be first to just focus on your EDC items and add them to your shopping list. A whistle or other way to signal for help is reasonable considering you aren’t fully able to care for yourself. As far as stockpiling, try just gradually items a couple at a time to your shopping list. Research what types of natural disasters could happen in your area and focus your conversation with friends and caregivers around being prepared if something like a tornado or earthquake would occur. If you focus on the fact that you’re afraid to be stranded without a way to call for help in a natural disaster they may be more accepting of that. I wish you luck.

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