Bugging In: What to Do When Bugging Out Is NOT An Option
Bugging In VS. Bugging Out
While our general focus here is on bugging out, true emergency preparedness requires you to be prepared for all eventualities—including the less exciting thought of bugging in. In fact, bugging out should be your last option in most situations, not your primary plan. Think about it like this—home is where the bulk of your supplies and gear are located, right?
On top of that, there really aren’t that many potential scenarios where bugging out is going to be your best option. By their very nature, most disasters, natural or manmade, will result in conditions that are decidedly unfavorable for travel. Moving about, whether on foot or by vehicle, can make you a target, too. If you’re the only person or group out on the roads, people are going to notice. Even if there are other people out and about, they might decide you look much better equipped than the average refugee.
Therefore, bugging in (often referred to as sheltering in place) is going to be the best course of action in most situations. Of course, that means you need to prepare for doing so ahead of time…
And don’t hear me wrong and leave saying “Jim told me having a bug out bag isn’t a good idea.” I’m not saying that at all.
If anything, having bug out bags ready to go will make it easier for you to leave at a moment’s notice should you need to, and it will also make your gear easy to transport and locate when you have specific need. Just because it’s a bug out bag, doesn’t mean you can’t use it for bugging in as well.
So let’s run down the list of basic needs and what you can do to prepare in case you find yourself bugging in for a period of time.
(Editor’s Note: When sheltering in place, security is a major component, but far too involved for this article overview. Here are some practical, yet effective tips and solutions to secure your home from unwanted intruders.)
Bugging In Basics: Preparations and Survival Tips
Realistically, the more water you have stored, the better. Various experts suggest one gallon of water per person per day of the crisis is sufficient. Okay, but how do you know ahead of time how many days you’re going to be on your own? And really, one gallon per person isn’t much, not when you consider that might be all the water you can access.
Shoot for 1.5-2 gallons of water per person and start with at least one full week’s worth. When you hit that point, extend it to two weeks. One case of half-liter water bottles comes to roughly three gallons of water. Storing cases of bottled water is cheap and easy. Just keep them in a cool, dark corner and they’ll be fine until you need them. Under beds or in the back of closets are great locations.
In an extreme pinch if the water gets shut off, you may also decide to use water from your water heater as well as tanks above the toilet bowl. Depending on its carrying capacity, a water heater alone could supply anywhere from 20 to 80 gallons of untapped water. Of course you’ll want to purify any water source before consuming…
This brings to thought, don’t overlook the necessity of a good water filtration system, too. With it, you can make use of “wild” water, such as collected rainwater or water from nearby streams and rivers. Boiling water is the best way to render it safe but that requires heat and fuel.
Similar to choosing the best bug out bag food, you don’t necessarily need to stockpile any *special* food to use in emergencies. Instead, just stock up on the stuff you and your family like to eat, with an eye toward foods that will store well over lengths of time. Examples include canned soups and stews and boxes of pasta with jars of sauce.
In an emergency during a lengthy power outage, consume the perishables first. Cook up meat before it goes bad and eat up the veggies in the refrigerator. It makes little sense to let those resources go to waste.
If the power is out, the microwave isn’t going to be working. Neither is the stove top if you have an electric one. Gas ranges should still work, though you might need to light it with a match. Either way, plan ahead for ways to cook food and boil water. Patio grills work well for food, though they are very inefficient for boiling water or cooking small pots of soup. Campfires in the backyard will work, too. Picking up a small camp stove and the correct fuel for it might not be the worst idea, just in case.
Don’t overlook the importance of comfort foods. A little bit of junk food and sweets can go a long way toward raising spirits.
Many homes don’t have much more than a half-full box of adhesive bandages and a bottle of ibuprofen. You’re going to want a little bit more than that. The most common injuries are likely to be cuts and scrapes, so you’re going to want plenty of gauze pads as well as disinfectant. Pain relievers are going to be needed, too.
On the illness side of the equation, stomach upset is a common reaction to stress and sudden diet changes. Stock up on meds that will treat tummy troubles.
If you have family members who rely upon prescription medications, be sure to have a supply of those meds on hand to last at least a couple of weeks. An easy way to do that without incurring added expense is to refill the prescription as soon as possible every month. Usually, there’s an overlap of a couple of days before the current supply will run out. Use the doses from that overlap period for your stockpile. Next month, do the same, but make sure you use the older doses and replace them from the new supply. Over time, you’ll build up a small stash of medications. Never skip a dose for the sake of stockpiling!
Most homes have adequate supplies of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and the like to last at least a week or two. If you don’t fall into that category, consider stocking up when you find your preferred brands on sale.
If the plumbing isn’t working due to the calamity at hand, you’re going to need an alternate method for disposing of waste. Many restaurants, delis, and bakeries have empty 5 gallon buckets available either free for the asking or at a nominal cost. Call around until you can secure one. Then, get a pool noodle and a razor knife. Cut the noodle down so it is just long enough to go about ¾ of the way around the bucket. Then, slit it along one side and slip it over the lip of the bucket. Say hi to your new commode. When you need to use it for real, line it with a heavy-duty garbage bag. Keep a box of baking soda or powdered laundry detergent nearby and sprinkle a bit in after each use. Be sure to change the bag before it gets too full and thus heavy.
You might also consider stocking up on toilet paper. While there are alternatives, such as cutting up old t-shirts, good ole TP is what we’re used to.
When the power goes out, so do the lights inside and out. Invest in several good quality flashlights and a supply of batteries. Crank powered flashlights are good for children’s bedrooms as they won’t run down the batteries and render the light useless.
Know where the water and gas shutoffs are for your home and invest in a gas shutoff wrench. Remember, while you’re able to turn the gas off in an emergency, only the gas company is allowed to turn it back on.
Disasters often bring storm debris and such. A good chainsaw and fuel will make short work of downed tree limbs. Work gloves and safety glasses are a must when dealing with such things. Be on the lookout for downed power lines and stay away from them. Notify the authorities when you’re able to do so.
We often say on this site – “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” While we have many communication tools at our fingertips, such as our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, we need to plan for the possibility that the Internet, texting, and such won’t be up and running. A simple crank powered radio will allow us to still listen to news broadcasts and gather information about the situation. Information is critical so we can make decisions based on facts rather than guesswork.
At first, this sounds like a frivolous category. However, I guarantee you that about 2 hours into a power outage, if you have kids who aren’t able to access their favorite games or apps, they’ll be climbing the walls and driving you nuts.
Board games can be found very inexpensively at thrift stores and garage sales. Decks of cards are cheap, too. Teach your kids that it is indeed possible to play solitaire without a computer.
Many preppers are avid readers and likely have plenty of unread books on hand already. That said, library sales are great places to stock up on new reading material. Storytelling is a lost art and something you might explore as a family when the power is out. Pick a book and each read a chapter out loud.
For the younger crowd, arts and crafts can keep them busy for hours. You can find construction paper, crayons, markers, glue, and all that other fun stuff on sale pretty cheap during back to school time.
An added benefit of these family oriented activities is that it keeps everyone in one room. In the dead of winter, keeping the family together like this will help to keep everyone a little warmer. Cover the windows with blankets, close the door, and the room will warm up a fair amount in a short period of time.
Sheltering in place or hunkering down is likely going to be your best bet in the vast majority of disasters. Of course, the circumstances will determine exactly what the safest course of action will be. As with any other area of preparedness, there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all solution.
Did we forget anything? Are you planning on bugging out or bugging in the event of an emergency?
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About the Author
We are pleased and excited to welcome the highly esteemed Jim Cobb to Bug Out Bag Academy ranks. Jim is the owner and lead trainer for DisasterPrepConsultants.com. His seasoned experience and witty, well articulated articles on preparedness have been published in national magazines such as OFFGRID, American Survival Guide, Survivor’s Edge, and Boy’s Life. You can find him online at SurvivalWeekly.com.
His growing stack of accomplished books on emergency preparedness include Prepper’s Home Defense, Prepper’s Financial Guide, and Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, among others. Jim lives in the Upper Midwest with his beautiful wife and their three adolescent weapons of mass destruction.