Most people who are prepping have a bug out plan in place for when SHTF. When times get tough, when chaos erupts to a level that means you just cannot stay in your home any longer, it will be time to “bug out.”
Are you prepared to leave your home quickly and be confident that you are prepared to handle whatever might go wrong during a bug out scenario?
Most people, especially those who live in urban areas, will need to bug out immediately when things go wrong. One of the main advantages to bugging out quickly when something goes wrong is that you put yourself ahead of the massive crowds of people exiting the populated areas.
The reason to be ahead of the crowds of people is that other people, especially unprepared and desperate people, will be one of the most dangerous things you and your family will face during a bug out scenario.
Imagine that you are alerted to a region-wide danger of some kind that requires you to bug out. Are you ready? The goal for your bug out trip is to get safely from your home to your pre-planned bug out location. Do you have a plan in place?
Maybe you do, and that’s good. Your bug out bag is packed, and when the alarm is sounded, you head for the door, confident that you have what you need to get to your bug out location quickly and safely.
If you’ve been prepping for any length of time, your bug out vehicle is well-maintained, and you keep the tank full of gas. If you’re ultra-prepared, you even have extra gasoline stored and can take that with you during your bug out. But have you thought about all the things that can go wrong in a bug out scenario?
1. What if You and Your Family Are Separated?
Many preppers create their bug out plans with the assumption that family members are all at home together when chaos erupts and you determine it’s time to bug out. But the reality is that your family could be separated by miles for any number of reasons when a disaster or other event happens.
A comprehensive communication plan is needed so that you and your family can find one another quickly and easily. In a bug out scenario, timing is of the essence. Getting out early and ahead of the Golden horde will make a huge difference in whether or not you can get out away from the city quickly enough to survive.
You can’t just sit at home waiting for the one remaining family member to arrive if you don’t have confirmation that they are coming.
One of the most common reasons that families are separated is because children are at school while parents are at home or work. Do you and your spouse know without any doubt who will pick up the children from school in an emergency?
Make sure you are familiar with the school evacuation plan for various types of emergencies. In most cases, your child’s school will have a specific policy regarding pick up of children during an emergency.
Knowing what the school policy is regarding emergencies is critical because you will not be able to afford to take the time to drive to the school to get your children only to find out the school has put them on a bus and taken them across town per their evacuation plan.
Make sure your children are aware of how to handle an emergency at school. What if the school plan fails or is altered for some reason? Your kids need to know that you will come for them and where and how long to wait for you either at the school or the evacuation point.
2. What if Cell Phones and Landline Phones Aren’t Working?
Your communication plan during a bug out should not rely on cell phones or landline telephone systems. These will likely be non-operational or jammed, and service won’t be reliable. Your communication plan with family must include at least one alternate form of communication.
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Many preppers include walkie-talkies, CB radio, or even ham radio communication as part of their bug out communications plan. Make sure all family members are familiar with how to use radios, including which frequencies to use to communicate.
In addition to having an alternate form of communication, your entire family needs to know the main route and alternate routes to the bug out location. Each person needs to know how the family will move through the main route, where and how long stops will occur and what kinds of events will determine if an alternate route is taken.
Planning in advance will allow a family member who is separated to have a chance of “catching up” even if verbal communication isn’t possible.
It’s a good idea to have a physical or visual communication or signal to indicate which route you’ve taken and which family members have passed each stopping point.
Signals can be as simple as a symbol drawn on the back of a sign in permanent marker or even a spray-painted rock or symbol on the ground that can be seen from the road or another vantage point. This lets other family members keep moving toward safety even when you are separated by things that can go wrong.
3. What if Your Transportation Plan Goes Wrong?
As a prepper, you know how crucial good transportation will be. The entire success of your bug out trip depends on being able to transport yourself and your family safely to your bug out location.
But when SHTF and it comes times to bug out, what if:
- Your vehicle breaks down?
- You are in a car accident?
- The roads are jammed with traffic half way to your bug out location?
- Your main route is blocked by debris from a storm or other event?
- Your vehicle is stolen by a desperate neighbor or confiscated by police or someone else?
- Your vehicle is inoperable due to an EMP?
Any or all of the above issues could happen during a bug out. You need to make certain that you have a plan in place for each of these types of events.
Timing is so critical during a bug out. When thwarted by one of the above events, you need to be able to quickly decide what to do and act so you can keep moving forward.
4. What if You Are Subjected to Extreme Weather Conditions?
Protection from extreme elements is one of the crucial factors to a successful bug out situation. Experts recommend that your bug out trip from home to BOL should take no more than several hours by car and no more than 8-12 hours on foot. But the reality is that it’s quite possible for your bug out to be delayed unexpectedly.
Any of the things that can go wrong in a bug out scenario could mean that you and your family are stranded out in the elements without adequate protection.
Even if you live in the mildest of weather climates, it’s important to carry the supplies needed to create a shelter and protect your group from extreme weather conditions including extreme cold, rain, snow, and heat or the sun.
5. What if You Become Ill or are Injured?
No matter how well prepared you are for your bug out trip, you will be at risk for injuries and illnesses, including dehydration.
Timing is so critical during a bug out that you will push yourself and your family physically, mentally, and emotionally harder than ever before. Even little annoyances like a blister can slow the pace of the whole group.
It’s important that your bug out supplies include a comprehensive first aid kit that contains the supplies you will need to treat any injuries or illnesses that may occur. In fact, even minor issues such as blisters, sunburn, or insect bites can become infected without treatment and cause serious illness.
The most common illnesses will be gastrointestinal because you will be eating differently and may be exposed to contaminated drinking water. Make sure you are well prepared to treat some of these issues before they escalate to the point where your bug out is completely derailed.
6. What if Your Gear Doesn’t Hold Up?
The quality of the gear in your bug out bag will be crucial during a bug out scenario. The last thing you need is to have that multi-tool break when you need it most or the strap or zipper on your bug out bag break so that now you can’t wear it on your back.
Make sure your BOB includes a kit for repairing rips, holes, broken zippers, or other issues so that you can make minor repairs and continue to your destination.
It will also be important to make sure other gear you’ve purchased is high-quality and will hold up when you need it. Test the gear in advance to make sure that it will be reliable.
7. What if You Encounter Unfriendly People?
As noted earlier, one of the most dangerous things will be other people who are unprepared and desperate. Other people may take your supplies by negotiation, pity, or even by force. They could take your transportation or even cause physical harm to you or a family member.
Personal security and self-defense will be crucial during a bug out scenario. The best way to prevent a problem is to avoid other people as best you can. But if the confrontation is unavoidable, make sure you are prepared.
8. What if Your Supplies are Lost or Stolen?
Your bug out supplies are your lifeline during a bug out trip. But there is always the possibility that you will accidentally lose your BOB or part of your supplies will be ruined. There is also the chance that someone could forcibly take your supplies or you will need to hand them over to protect your family.
If your supplies are lost or stolen, make sure you have a backup plan in place. Something as simple as hiding caches of supplies along your main and alternate bug out routes could save your life.
9. What if Your Bug Out Bag is Too Heavy?
Hopefully, you’ve packed your BOB and have practiced carrying it around so that you know you can handle the weight for an extended period during a bug out scenario. But what if it does become too heavy? What if you injure yourself and just aren’t able to carry the weight of your full bug out bag?
Make sure you think about this when packing your BOB. Organize supplies so that you could quickly decide what to remove from your BOB and what to keep. You can also consider what types of modifications you can make to reduce weight in the pack without losing too many of your essential supplies.
10. What if Martial Law, Quarantine or Curfew is Enacted?
Imagine that as you are about to depart for your bug out location, martial law, or a curfew is enacted for your entire area. It is no longer as simple as just getting in your vehicle with your family and heading to your BOL. You now must bug out in complete secrecy, without being noticed by authorities.
Consider how your bug out plan would change in this scenario? You need to plan the ways in which you could alter your route, the supplies you carry, and even the time of day (or night) that you travel to avoid detection.
11. What if a Hostile Take-Over of Your BOL happens?
Even if you’ve thought of all the above issues and planned for each of them, there’s still one more thing that can go wrong in a bug out scenario.
What if you overcome every obstacle during your trip, only to arrive at your BOL and discover that someone else, another group, has found your location and taken it over?
All of your BOL supplies and resources are now under the control of strangers. Of course, your bug out plan should include taking steps to secure your BOL in advance to prevent this from happening.
But what if even with all your efforts toward security, your BOL is still taken over by intruders? Make sure your plan includes backup supplies nearby or even an alternate BOL that you and your family can travel to.
It should be clear by now that bugging out is one of the most dangerous options for you and your family during a SHTF situation.
Any one or more of these 11 things that can go wrong in a bug out scenario could throw a wrench in your plan. Or something entirely different from the things on this list could happen.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof plan for a bug out scenario. The only thing you can do to increase the odds that you and your family will come through a bug out trip safely is to create a plan of action to address as many of these things that can go wrong as possible.
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of nine grandsons and one granddaughter, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.