For anyone who has successfully made it through a disaster, I bet you're well aware of the rollercoaster of stress, emotion and fear these type of emergencies bring. For everyone else, it's going to be eye opening. Bugging out effectively requires you to overcome these initial sensations of panic, to remain strategic and have clear and logical decisions at every step of the process. Blindly following a bug out plan can get you into more trouble than you expect, risking your life if you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. To better understand what it takes to bug out safely, the team here at APE Survival recommend asking yourself these six simple questions.
1. Do you have a plan? Without a plan you're going to be winging it, but the disaster surrounding you means this tactic puts your family at a much greater risk. Bugging out effectively requires a destination, a secure means of travel, and a variety of different routes to get there. The interstate in a disaster will become a car park, so consider the alternative vehicles you may need to use. Do you have these ready? Have you packed appropriate gear to survive three days on the road? How about food and supplies in your bug out location? All of these need to be planned for in advance, it's far too late once a disaster strikes.
2. Is it the right time to leave? If you wake to sirens in the middle of the night and turn on the news to discover you're in the middle of a localized disaster, take a moment to think before you decide to run out the door. Panic causes mistakes, mistakes that may very well cost you and your family their lives. Sit down and quickly run through the information that is available. What has happened, who is involved, where is it occurring, and how long ago did it start? The television, radio and even Twitter can be great sources of information to discover what's actually happening at ground zero. You will never have perfect information, but postponing your exit by even just a couple of hours could mean you learn new information that keeps you from wandering into a dangerous area, and enables you to better time a bug out so you never inadvertently risk your personal safety.
3. How fit are you? Really. Be honest with yourself here. Many of us are (still) carrying a few extra pounds from Thanksgiving we've yet to shed. Bugging out puts a massive amount of stress on your body, especially if you end up having to hoof it over the last several miles with a pack on your back. To be really safe, prepare for this eventuality. Walking off the island of Manhattan was how New York was evacuated following the 9/11 attacks, and if you're out of shape, now is the perfect time to start a light exercise program (check with your physician first). Take your time and slowly start building your fitness levels until you're able to go for a decent hike with a backpack without a second thought.
4. Have you got your family contingencies in place? Disasters are not convenient. It's highly likely your immediate family will not be in the same place when one strikes, perhaps your kids are at school and you're in the office, or they're off on a trip with friends, perhaps even living away at college when the SHTF. You need to prepare in advance what you will do if there is a disaster, making clear rendezvous points if you're unable to stay in your family home so that everyone knows where to head next to bring your family back together, even if you have not been able to communicate during the disaster.
5. Is your bug-out-bag overloaded? A major problem for beginners who are just starting to learn what it takes to survive a disaster, is the amount of gear they carry. Believing you truly need one of everything is actually a bigger liability, as an overloaded pack will turn you into a slow-moving human turtle when the SHTF. This paints a target on your back for anyone who may be travelling lighter, and you lose the core aspect of that makes bugging out such a fantastic survival technique, your mobility. To test this one out for yourself, pack your bug out bag and go hiking for the weekend. You'll be immediately surprised at how quickly the combined weight has you slowing down after walking only a couple of miles. When you get home, separate everything from your kit into two piles. One is everything you used, and the other is for the gear you packed ‘just in case.’ Unless there is a really good reason to keep an item you didn't use (like a firearm or a small first aid kit), do not repack any of your ‘just in case’ items in your bug out bag.
6. Have you forgotten any key items? This final question comes in two parts. First, you need to ensure you have everything you need to bug out successfully. What many people fail to adequately prepare for is having enough water (or water purification tools), as well as a set of dry clothes to change into should you manage to get wet. Gun's will not keep you safe if you die from hypothermia. Second, consider for a moment what would happen if everything in your home is destroyed. Of course, you cannot cart 25 family photo albums with you as you bug out to the wilderness, so make a plan beforehand to secure anything that is too important to lose. Backup all of your pictures and family memories on a portable hard drive you can take with you, and consider using secure cloud storage solutions as a fall-back contingency. Have hard copies of every important document, especially identification like your passport, house deed, the title to your car and your marriage certificate, as well as a shortlist that contains valuable information like your insurance policy details, bank account records and contact details for your family and friends. Your goal is to ensure that when you leave your house with only your bug out bag, you're not missing anything important that you need to start putting your life back together. The real key to surviving a disaster and getting to your bug out location safely is your ability to use your head. A plan is only good if it can be executed, and while we highly recommend taking steps to ensure your safety before a disaster hits, you need to be adaptable and use your brain if you want to survive the a disaster scenario. In an emergency anything can happen, and the safety of the circumstances around you can change by the hour. In reality the only way you can guarantee you and your family can safely reach your bug out location is to think smart, and be ready for anything.