Chapter 2 – Bug Out or Batten Down

Based on the previous section, you should have a good idea of the potential survival situations you might be facing. Now the question is whether to stay and face them or move to another — hopefully safer — location.

We all have a strong desire to protect what’s ours. Regardless of whether you own the largest house in the neighborhood or rent a ramshackle shack, home is where the heart is, not to mention all the rest of your stuff! You’ve worked long and hard to accumulate all that stuff, so abandoning it and running for safety may stick in your craw.

Thankfully, there are times when staying at home makes the most sense. If you can wait out the storm, ignore the heavy snow, batten down the hatches against civil unrest, or otherwise stay at home during an emergency situation without endangering yourself, then “bugging in” may be your best bet. The over whelming priority, however, is personal safety.  So choose to protect yourself and your family before you protect your stuff.  You can rebuild your life and probably buy new stuff, but only if you still have your life.

There are many advantages to staying home in a survival situation, if you can safely do so:

  • You will be in familiar surroundings with people you know (your neighbors) or at least have a common geographic and likely a socio-economic bond.
  • The food in your refrigerator and pantry can supplement your survival stash (see the next chapter).
  • If you loose power, you can quickly cook much of your food (or can it or smoke it) to extend its life.
  • You can monitor the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer (frozen food will usually keep at least 24 hours, often up to three days) and shift items to an ice-chest or other storage.
  • You’ll have more time to improve your home’s chances of survival (move items to high ground, put plywood over windows, etc.)
  • Your home offers shelter against most elements.  Even a house without heat is better than being outdoors in a storm.
  • You’ll have access to all your clothing, bedding and other materials which can help you keep warm.
  • You won’t suffer from boredom as much as you might in a shelter.
  • You can protect your stuff from looters.
  • You will limit your exposure to others, lessening the chance of catching a communicable disease or becoming a crime victim.
  • You will have complete access to all the tools, materials and food you have put aside for use in an emergency
  • You will be in charge of your future and can pick your own options.  If you put yourself in the hands of a governmental or non-governmental organization, you have to follow their path.
  • You will not become a refugee

Of course, there’s a downside as well:

  • You could be putting yourself in unnecessary, life-threatening danger. (The fire, flood, hurricane, riot, etc. might be worse than anticipated. We’ve all seen TV coverage of people clinging to their roofs as the house washes down stream.)
  • If you are not fit and healthy or need medical treatment, you may be placing yourself in greater danger.
  • If you decided to evacuate later when things get really bad, it may be too late.
  • Without heat or air conditioning, electricity, hot water or other services, home just isn’t the same.
  • There is no sense of community, unless other neighbors or members of your local survival group stay home, too. If everyone else evacuates, you may feel cut off and alone.
  • If a mandatory evacuation has been ordered, you may be prosecuted by local authorities (although this rarely happens) if you stick around.
  • Governmental authorities may try to force you to leave or may confiscate your firearms, as happened during Katrina.

When to go

No matter how much you wish to stay at home, there are times when evacuation is the only choice. These include a nuclear, chemical or biological event as well as any impending disaster that is likely to destroy your home. For example:

  • If the warning sirens on that nearby chemical plant go off at 3 a.m., unless you have a safe-room with special air filtration, you probably have no choice but to don your gas masks, grab your bug out bag and drive the opposite direction as quickly as possible.
  • If you’re beach-front home is directly in the path of a Force 3 or greater hurricane, staying put might show a surplus of guts but deficit of brains.
  • Likewise the time you spend, garden hose in hand, trying to fend off a raging fire that has already burnt out six neighbors might be better spent loading your valuables and items with sentimental value into your vehicle and bugging out.
  • If the nearby nuclear plant is melting down, staying put will ensure that you end your life where you lived it, and in a fairly gruesome manner as radiation sickness is an unpleasant way to die.

When to Stay

There are some common sense reasons to stay:

  • Always stay put if you are safer at home than leaving it.  For example, if travel conditions are dangerous, don’t leave a relatively safe environment.  Don’t evacuate in the middle of a blizzard or ice storm.  (An exception might be in the event of a severe medical emergency.)  Don’t evacuate if the roads are blocked, closed or if Martial Law is declared and you are not supposed to travel.
  • Stay put if you know your situation and can live with it, but the situation at your destination is unknown and may be worse.  Why trade the known for the unknown? If you are not in terrible danger in the foreseeable future, why risk moving through or into greater danger?  Some emergencies are regional – like a hurricane.  The further away from where it made landfall, the better off things will be.  But with something like an EMP attack, you may not be able to travel beyond it’s area of impact.

The first step in your evacuation plan is to develop a decision tree that says we will stay under these circumstances and we will leave under these other circumstances.  Then when faced with a decision at a moment of crisis, you can refer to the criteria you set using cold logic rather than be forced to make a decision based on fear, anxiety or other emotions.

One of the advantages of being a survivalist is that you can take advantage of your advanced planning and preparation to make logical decisions in a time of crisis rather than emotional decisions driven by fear.  Decision trees and other tools help you retain the cold, logical process and make wise decisions even when everyone else around you is panicking and unable to think clearly.  Survivalists are pragmatic; if the survival situation dictates an emergency evacuation, they evacuate, even if they emotionally do not want to.