There are three very important things you will need when developing a bugout plan – pen, paper, and time.
Spending just an hour or two conducting an inventory of your preps, and mapping out a TEOTWAWKI escape route simply will not suffice. Realistically, it will take not only multiple planning sessions but practice runs to find out if the bugout plan suits all the family’s needs and actually works when enacted in a real-world disaster scenario.
Creating a bugout plan is a monumental task which will likely feel overwhelming even for a seasoned prepper. Breaking down the plan into actionable segments is an essential part of the process.
Part 1 – Where will you go?
Bugging out without a known destination is a recipe for failure. Before you can plan what type of bugout vehicles you will need to transport the family and what gear and supplies are necessary to take along, a specific end spot must be established.
Don’t just think, “I’m bugging out to the countryside” and mark that down as a destination in the bugout plan. Circling an unfamiliar, and likely unwelcoming, rural community on a map is not a destination. Tens of thousands of panicked folks living in big cities and the suburbs will have exactly the same idea – all at once.
Rural residents, whether they are preppers or not, are more than aware of the marauding hordes which will be headed their way should a doomsday disaster strike in America. These people have guns, and know how to use them. It will take only a few hours after the SHTF for rural residents, who tend to be on a first-name basis with one another, to block off their dirt roads and stand on the county line and stop any strangers attempting to come into their neck of the woods.
Ideally, buying land to turn into a TEOTWAKI prepper retreat in a rural locale far from a metropolitan area offers the best chance at survival. But, if going that route is just not in your budget, there are other more affordable and viable options.
Securing a Bugout Location Options
Form or join a mutual assistance group – Being a part of a like-minded group of preppers not only enhances the overall available skillsets necessary to survive a disaster, it also allows a pooling of funds to purchase a prepper retreat property – and gives you the numbers which will likely be necessary to defend it.
Prepping Leases – Rural residents often lease a portion of their land for hunting purposes on a seasonal basis. It may be possible to engage in a similar arrangement for bugout reasons. Sure, a non-prepper might think you are absolutely crazy if you ask them to rent a spot on their land to park your camper year around and allow you to come live there after the SHTF, but don’t let that deter you – the lives of your loved ones are worth being stared at like you have two heads for a few moments.
Use social media and websites like Craigslist to find rural residents who are already allowing hunting leases on their land. These folks might be less shocked by a prepping lease proposal. Estimate a getting-to-know you period before getting a long-term lease contract.
When approaching a possible landlord, come prepared. Show the land owner background checks on all the adults in the family, share several heart-warming photos of the family to reassure the rural resident you are not a bunch of crazy people.
You should also be willing to show some financial documents and a credit check to further showcase your responsible nature and ability to pay for the prepping lease. Draft a “skills sheet” for each person who would be on the leased property. This may convince the property owner of the benefits of having you and your loved ones around during an apocalypse.
Create a prepping lease contract which details how the land will be used both now and after the SHTF and include a release of liability waiver to ease any concerns the property owner might have over potential accidents and injuries occurring on the property.
Once a contract has been signed, turn the site into as much of a functional survival retreat as the landlord, your available funds, and time allow. Get to know the community as much as possible, interact with the people there to increase your level of acceptance into their ranks during the rebuilding phase after a long-term disaster.
Every member of the family should carry with them a copy of the prepping lease to prove they have a right to access the property. This may help you get passed any armed community force protecting the area, especially if the land owner does not survive whatever type of disaster has taken place.
State and National Parks – Bugging out to a park is far from ideal, but is better than not having a specific destination at all and could be used as a bugout backup plan for the detailed plan you develop.
Both state and national parks offer various types of lodging facilities, fire rings/grills for cooking, typically have stocked lakes or ponds, and plenty of wildlife running around to hunt and trap. Most parks have a dining hall, restaurant, or concession stand which can be raided for extra food and supplies. Emergency gear and medical supplies are also stored somewhere on-site. A souvenir shop will be filled with clothing items and other useful tools and supplies geared to campers.
Part 2 – Bugout Communications Plan
Far too many Americans have become dependent upon modern technology to communicate. Folks younger than 28 probably do not even remember a time without cellphones and having their every question answered by grabbing an electronic device and “googling” it.
When the SHTF, regardless of just about any type of disaster you can think of, the communications will become overwhelmed and crash or be destroyed by the apocalyptic event itself. Every bugout plan must devise multiple low-tech means of alternate communications so the family or mutual assistance group can connect with one another.
Handheld radios and HAM radios could become the most advanced and useful modes of communication during a doomsday disaster. These items should be properly stored in a Faraday Cage, even when bugging out, in case the apocalyptic scenario involves a solar flare or EMP which could fry all sensitive electronics.
A printout of emergency frequencies should be memorized by the family while they are being trained to properly use the devices. The list of frequencies should also be printed out, laminated, and carried with everyone who has a radio with an additional copy being placed in the fireproof box alongside other important documents.
Low-tech modes of communications only members of the family understand are essential to the bugout plan as well. Creating symbols or colors which relay a simple allow the family to leave warnings and messages for one another. Spray paint, permanent markers, or colored bandanas or string can be used as a non-verbal mode of communication.
Sample Emergency Phrases for the Communications Plan:
- Not safe here, danger
- Moved to next rally point
- Launch bugout plan
- Take alternate route
- Moving on foot
- Avoid roadway
Part 3 – Meeting the Family’s Needs
Next to selecting and securing a bug out location, this is the most important aspect of the bug out plan. While you have likely done the research and the math to determine how much food and potable water is needed to get to the bugout location, and have all those items organized into numbered or color-coded totes, there is so much more to consider when figuring out how to move your beloveds safely and quickly from wherever they are when disaster strikes to the survival retreat.
Survival skills are far more important than gear and must be carefully taken into consideration when drafting the bugout plan. If the family members cannot meet the expectations of the plan and emergency alterations of the plan, it is merely a useless piece of paper that took weeks or even months, to create.
Do not assume the entire family will be either in arm’s reach of each other or be able to chat/text via a cellphone or landline when the disaster happens. When I was a school teacher fire drills were always conducted first thing in the morning during homeroom, when no student was in the rest room, a teacher was always present with an attendance sheet in hand – never when the students were out to recess or eating lunch when there were only three adults supervising up to 100 students and none of them had an attendance sheet or even knew all the names of the children in their temporary charge.
If a fire had happened any time other than homeroom, neither the staff nor the students would be able to react quickly, safely, or with a clear head. Do not let confusion and panic be the go-to response for your loved ones during a disaster. Establish a set of simple protocols for all the family members to follow, despite their age – and drill for various scenarios when practicing the bugout plan.
School-age children will be faced with adults in a position of authority attempting to follow rules created by a non-prepper administrator if the SHTF while on campus. You need to know the details of the school response plan and how to factor it into your bugout plan – or teach your children when and how to defy their teachers and to put your escape plan into action. No school district is going to permit an older child to come take a younger sibling out of their care, know this now and plan for it.
Evaluate the family’s strengths and weaknesses during both the family’s survival training and the bugout plan practice runs. Chart the progress made by each loved one after each session and continuously work to improve the physical, mental, and emotional preparedness levels of your loved ones while working on survival skills. Always cross-train when learning and honing skills – if the only person who knows how to do an important aspect of survival, all that knowledge is lost if the person dies during the disaster.
Part 4 – Identification and Emergency Contacts
Create a binder of essential emergency contact information, relative’s names and addresses, photo of all members of the family members bugging out, and important documents such as birth certificates, medical records, and insurance and property deeds – in case society does return to “normal” after a long-term disaster. The binder should be placed inside a light-weight and portable fire proof safe and placed with the first box of preps that will be loaded into the bugout vehicle – and kept handy in case the family has to eventually abandon the vehicle and travel on foot.
A smaller folder of photos and emergency contact information should be carried by at least all the adults in the group, but ideally by each of the children as well. If the group becomes separated while bugging out, you will not be able to get on your cellphone and pull up a photo of the missing child or loved one to show to strangers.
If the adults in the group perish while bugging out or after reaching the BOL, the emergency contact information of relatives or close friends could be used to find someone to take the children in and care for them.
Part 5 – Rallying Points
Incorporate both the weekday and weekend schedules of the family into the bugout plan. The family could be in different location in the same town, or even in different towns and unable to communicate when the SHTF. This very real possibility makes what you pack in each family member’s bugout bag even more important.
The established routines of all members of the family should be used when creating rallying points in case of separation when it is time to bugout. The locations of the rally points should be practiced until they are memorized and laminated list of the locations always with each member of the family.
Children cannot take a bugout bag to school, but you can pack them extra snacks, juice boxes, a change of clothes, and a flashlight in their bookbag.
A few simple items like these can help keep them safe and feeling prepared while waiting for you at a rally point. The extra weight of carrying a family member’s bugout bag to the rally point if maneuvering on foot, must also be factored into the bugout plan practice runs.
Create a backup-rallying point close by each primary rally point in case the area the loved one is supposed to meet in unreachable. All family members should carry some type of paint pen or permanent marker so they can leave a coded message to if they had to move to a safer location, such as the backup rallying point or the next primary rally point on the list.
Part 6 – Mode of Transportation
Whether you will relocate using a bug out vehicle (BOV) your everyday driver, or on foot – have a backup plan in case the chosen mode of transportation is no longer an option – which could be very likely.
Unless the BOV is EMP-proof, it might not move during the doomsday disaster. Even if the BOV runs flawlessly, the roads may be too clogged or unpassable due to the nature of the disaster, to make bugging out behind the wheel possible.
Bugging out on foot and on horseback, should be worked into the bugout plan. All the carefully packed gear in the BOV may need to be left behind, the bugout plan must take that into consideration if it is to have even a remote chance at being successful.
The weight of each bag must be feasible for each member of the family to carry – even the little ones. An all-terrain stroller for babies and young children should be a part of the bugout plan. Even if the stroller ultimately must be ditched along the way due to terrain issues, it will have substantial value for the quick movement of the family for the duration of time it is used.
Practice the bugout plan on foot to the logical degree possible to ensure each family member can carry the weight of the bag and is in top physical condition in case bugging out on foot is the only option.
Bugging out on horseback offers a far quicker pace and the packing of more survival gear possible. If you cannot keep a horse at your home, lease barn space at a residential or commercial facility nearby. Burying caches of gear near barn will allow you to pack more survival gear than you can carry on your back while walking to reach the horses.
Part 7 – Understanding the Terrain
Seasonal weather fluctuations are also integral factors for the bugout plan. An escape route which is perfectly reasonable and accessible when you are working on the plan, could be impassible during a season of heavy rain, unseasonably cold weather that causes a waterway to freeze if bugging out by boat, or too rugged with dry waterways during the summer months.
Both the primary escape route and the backup route should be traversed by all possible modes of transportation incorporated into the bugout plan should be tested during practice runs during all four seasons of the year – and after an unusual weather disturbance.
Do not limit practice runs to daylight hours, the apocalypse might occur on a dark cold and stormy night – the family must be prepared to maneuver safely and quickly in low-light conditions while being pelted with a chilly rain.
Typically, a reasonably fit person can walk between 2.5 to three miles-per-hour on even flat ground for an extended period. When carrying a BOB the pace will be slower and it is not likely you will remain on solid ground for the entire journey. Burying caches along the entire bugout route is a great idea, but if it takes the family hours longer than planned to reach the next cache of hidden water or dry clothes, the group might never make it to the bugout location.
Traversing the route on foot is the only way to give you a realistic idea of how long it will take the family to travel regardless of the season and weather conditions. You may need to simulate portions of the bugout route with similar terrain for safety or OPSEC reasons.
If the journey to the prepper retreat would involve walking along a paved road if forced to abandon the BOVs, take the family to a public track or walking path and cover the same amount of ground while still carrying their bugout bags to get a close comparison of travel time and reaction to the pack weight.
Remember, the bugout plan is written on a piece of paper, not stone. Use what you learn during practice runs to adapt and improve the bugout plan!
Part 8 – What Disasters are likely in my Area?
World War 3 would impact the entire United States, as wood a power grid down scenario, but some types of both short and long-term disasters are more likely to strike in some regions more than others.
Do your research and learn what types of natural disasters have historically impacted both where you live and your bugout destination. A life-changing event which could prompt you to bug out does not have to involve the end of civilization as we know it – every flood or hurricane survivor will remind you of that.
Bugout bags should not only cover all the survival basics but be filled to address likely needs specific to your location. If doomsday occurs during the time of year your town becomes an “island” due to flooding, your SHTF gear must meet those needs in additional to all the general ones.
Packing small individual inflatable floats or several blow-up vinyl boats and a manual foot pump with your gear could get the family over water-covered roads while bugging out. Utilizing waterways in your area when creeks are flowing could also give your feet a much-needed break when bugging out on foot.
Learning what areas could be rendered impassable during natural disasters will prevent unnecessary and potentially deadly, routes from be included in the bugout plan.