In this series, we will walk you through the necessary steps required to ensure that you are prepared in the event of a catastrophic disaster. If you think about it for a short amount of time, you will be surprised by the numerous steps you can come up with on your own to provide the best chance for you, your family, and friends–often called “your party”–to come out the other side of a disaster healthy and whole.
However, just because you feel confident in your abilities to work through this type of problem on your own does not mean you have accounted for the litany of potential issues that can bring everything to a crashing halt. That is why we have developed this series: to help guide you from random Joe Schmo to master prepper in no time.
The amount of information you need know at the drop of a hat can be staggering. If a disaster were to happen, you might know where you would go. You might even know what route you would take.
However, what would you do if your safe spot was not available or if your route was blocked by panicked people all trying to leave at the same time, causing a traffic jam, or worse, an impenetrable wreck. How many alternative plans do you have?
Could you travel on foot? Do you have anyone you want to save that has difficulties moving? What kind of supplies are the most vital yet still compact and lightweight enough to be easily carried? These are the types of questions you need answers to well in advance of actually needing to implement those answers.
That is what this guide sets out to do, and if you follow our advice, you can feel relatively confident that, should disaster strike, you will have a plan of action and be as best prepared for survival as you can.
EXPECT THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST: HOW TO DEVELOP THE RIGHT MINDSET FOR A BUG OUT
When disaster strikes, a matter of seconds can mean the difference between survival and failure. However, even the most battle-hardened veterans need to keep a cool head to ensure their survival and escape from a hairy situation. Still, there are a number of psychological habits and routines that you can develop to provide the necessary mindset to better ensure your survival in the event of a catastrophic collapse.
HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS, NEGATIVITY, BOREDOM AND FEAR DURING A SURVIVAL SITUATION
When engaging with a survival situation, there are a handful of mindsets that can create more danger than the scenario already entails. Some of these pitfalls may seem natural or benign, and in other situations, they may very well be. But when life or death is on the line, even minor mindsets can mean the difference between survival.
Fear – Fear is the mind killer. When your mind becomes overtaken by fear, your fight or flight response kicks in. This can be a lifesaver if you have seconds to survive and must react on pure instinct. However, in almost every other situation, your best bet is to take a breath and center yourself.
Keep in mind, your instincts are likely not developed to handle the multitude of life or death scenarios you may encounter in a survival situation. Just because you braved the fear of war does not automatically qualify you to handle the terror of being buried alive by an avalanche.
Unless you have specifically trained for a scenario to the point that the appropriate response triggers like muscle-memory, your first step should be to take a few deep breaths and calm down. From there, your next step should be to assess the situation as quickly as possible and make it a point to focus on motivations outside of yourself– friends and family.
Stress – Stress can create a situation similar to fear where you lose the ability to think and analyze rationally. However, in this instance, instead of an immediate and present threat, a general threat begins to grate on you cyclically.
Difficulty finding a freshwater source in the event that your supplies are lost can be incredibly stressful when survival is on the line. However, allowing yourself to be overcome with stress will not do anything to ensure your survival.
Similar to fear, taking deep breaths until you calm down, and other relaxation techniques can help. Moreover, indulging in a physical activity–even something as simple as unpacking and repacking your bug out bag–can clear your mind, allowing you to look at the situation rationally once more.
Boredom – This may seem a bit odd, but idle hands are the devil’s playthings. The main issue with boredom is that it breeds complacency. A complacent person is often a more careless one, and in a survival scenario, carelessness can get you killed.
Keep a deck of cards or some other item of entertainment that is small and light. Have a list of tasks that need to be completed before your survival can be sustained and continuously add to that list as you complete previous tasks. Regardless, if you do not have anything to do, then you likely have not done enough.
HOW TO BE ADAPTABLE ACCORDING TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES
While it is impossible to be completely prepared for all possibilities, you can still be better prepared for some of the most dangerous or most common threats to survival. The total number of possible threats are innumerable, but the probable threats do allow for planning and acclimation. Some of the skills and adaptations you can hone are:
- Training yourself to withstand extreme cold
- Practice shooting regularly and under different circumstances
- Learn the lay of the land of your bug of location and its surrounding area
- Build shelters and fire in a variety of adverse conditions
- Train yourself to go without sleep for long stretches of time
- Increase your endurance with stamina training exercises
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STOP ACRONYM
When you do come upon an unfamiliar situation, there is a method that you should employ in order to best react to this kind of event. This is called the STOP method and is broken down into four simple steps: stop, think, observe, plan. Whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation that requires a quick response to ensure your survival, this is the method you should use.
S – Stop
When the rubber meets the road, the untrained mind is liable to feel the need to immediately react. However, this is often not the best course of action unless your life is in immediate danger. This is because the initial reaction is based on instinct, and instinct is not truly rational. As such, the first step your mind should take in the event of a disaster to best ensure survival is to simply stop the initial natural fight or flight response.
T – Think
Once you have gathered control over your thoughts, your next step is to assess your current situation. When disaster strikes where are you? What supplies do you have on hand? Where is your closest bug out location? These are some of the most important and relevant pieces of information that weigh heaviest in the first five minutes–arguably the most important minutes–immediately following a disaster.
O – Observe
Once you have fully assessed your situation as it relates to your previous work and planning, the next step is to take stock of the conditions surrounding you. Remember when we told you to be prepared to adapt? This is the beginning of that process. In the previous step, your task was to take stock of your bug out plan. This step is all about taking in your present surroundings. What is the temperature? Time of day? Regional geography?
P – Plan
Once you have fully assessed both your current situation and the most immediate factors, the next step is to formulate a plan. Unfortunately, you will not have the luxury of time on your side, so you will need to formulate your plan of action relatively quickly. Still, it is far more important that your plan is of sound construction than of hasty preparation. Regardless, it is advised that the entire STOP process should take no more than between five to ten minutes total.
HOW TO CREATE A ROCK SOLID BUG OUT PLAN
All of the supplies in the world and the best-packed bug out bag will not mean a hill of beans if you never make it to a secure location once a disaster strikes. That is why it is important to have a plan to get you and your loved ones–be they family or friends–from ground zero to your bug out location.
FIRST STEP: CONSIDER THE KIND OF DISASTERS MOST LIKELY TO OCCUR
In the multitude of possible disasters you could encounter which would force you to enact your bug out plan, all can be categorized into two broad groups: natural and human. Granted, some of the possibilities may stretch those two categories or overlap, but broadly speaking, those are the general types of disasters for which your plan will have to contend.
Specific natural disasters are likely somewhat expected and are heavily dependent on your location. If you live in a cold weather climate, then blizzards and other snow or water-related disasters are relevant. Conversely, someone who lives in the desert is unlikely to have to consider those situations–aside from a possible “once a century” flash flood.
Human disasters are those that are caused by or made dangerous due to the presence and reaction of other people. A complete economic collapse or hostile invasion fall into this category. Similarly, while there is a natural element, the outbreak of a deadly disease is likely more influenced by human behavior–specifically, travel patterns and quarantine procedures–than the disease itself.
However, human disasters are far less likely to be confined to specific regions as even rural areas will see an influx of activity and potential threat in this event–though, remote locations stand a much better chance of escaping the worst of a human disaster.
Some disasters which blur the line include things like thermonuclear war. While this disaster would without question be caused by humans, your primary concern, once you are able to escape a heavily populated area will be environmental in nature–namely, escaping the radioactive fallout. Of course, as time wears on, other people will again become a threat in this event, once survivors make their way out of the hot zones.
SECOND STEP: DEFINE A RALLY POINT
Unless you are given clear indicators days or weeks in advance, disaster is liable to strike without warning. Since it is often impossible to predict when you will need to make haste to your bug out location, it is important that the people you intend to provide security to, know where to meet up once disaster strikes.
This rally point is actually one of the most important decisions for your bug out plan as it will affect how easy it is for your party to meet up and be accounted for. Without a well-defined rally point, trying to get everyone together can be a bit like herding cats. Either, one group of people goes out to look for stragglers–one of the worst things you can do in this situation–or you waste valuable time waiting for everyone else to meet up.
When selecting a rally point, there are a few characteristics that you need to consider so that the least amount of time is wasted and the chance of confusion remains minimal. These qualities are:
Accessibility – Accessibility should be analyzed two-fold: first, it is important that the rally point allows everyone to reach it simultaneously. Time is of the essence as the disaster in question will make things chaotic and inherently increase travel time. Waiting for a single party member to meet up because the rally point was not accessible can dig a hole that is difficult to get out of.
Specificity – “The city park” is not an appropriate rally point unless the park is effectively small enough to ensure that the party members all meet up at the same exact location–an unlikely reality. Instead, make sure that the rally point offers no chance for confusion. A specific house, room, etc is vital to ensure that you do not waste time looking for party members even once they have all reached the rally point’s general location.
Security – A rally point that is in and of itself treacherous does little good in protecting against a disaster. Areas that are in central urban regions should be avoided at all costs if possible. Similarly, rally points with few routes of escape should be crossed off the list. While the perfect rally point for all situations may not exist, try to set up a point that minimizes your contact with non-party members as much as possible
Variety – Ultimately, you should have a couple rally points with clear guidelines for when which one applies. If everyone is scheduled to be on one side of town, you will want to designate a different rally point in case two groups are across town or if everyone is spread out equidistant. Different starting configurations of your party should inform different possible rally points.
THIRD STEP: HAVE MULTIPLE DESTINATIONS, ROUTES AND DROP POINTS
One of the worst things you can do is hem yourself into a single plan because plans rarely go accordingly. As such, it is a good idea to develop numerous plans.
These plans should include different bug out locations, different routes to each location, and multiple supply caches along each route. Having this type of redundancy built into your bug out plan ensures that if an option is unavailable, you have many others to choose from.
Moreover, if one plan seems ideal in the beginning but sours due to emergent conditions, you are able to effectively change plans without a loss of time or a significant increase in risk. This prevents you from getting stuck following through with a plan that disintegrates on the fly.
FOURTH STEP: TEST OUT YOUR ROUTES AND THE TRANSPORTATION YOU’LL USE
While you cannot necessarily predict how your route will fare during the chaos of a disaster when a general population is likely to present an impediment, you can still test it out. Do a dry run of different routes with different types of transportation.
Walking and driving are the most likely, but if you access to horses or ATVs, see how developing an off-road route compares to an on-road route. Moreover, try to test on-road routes during rush hour when traffic is liable to be more similar to the mad panic of a large population trying to flee all at once.
FIFTH STEP: WHAT ARE THE ITEMS YOU’LL NEED
While we will go over what and how to pack your bug out bag in a later section, there are a handful of items that you will want to ensure are located at the various cache locations along your routes to your bug out location. These include:
- Communication devices
Ideally, it would be nice to have a fully packed bug out bag at every cache as well, though that may take time depending on your means and the quality of chosen gear.
SIXTH STEP: DON’T FORGET TO IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
What skills have you already developed, and what skills yet would you ideally develop to be better prepared? These are vital considerations, but they should not be taken as static ones. The best preppers are constantly adding to their repertoire of valuable skills.
As such, you should make it a point to identify what you can proficiently accomplish. These should be classified as your strengths. Granted, you may exhibit varying degrees of skill beyond competency, but that should be a baseline.
As you a acquire new skills, update your assessment to identify other skills in which you are relatively untrained (hint: reading a book about a subject can provide valuable insight, but it is no substitution for the time you will need invest in developing skills in the field–under adverse or stressful conditions if possible).
Once you feel confident in achieving at least base proficiency in the most relevant survival skills, then you can move on to refinement. Regardless, keeping track of this progression can aid you when making your way to your bug out location.
If you are not skilled in orienteering but can recognize various natural formations and understand what they mean, maybe let someone else be the navigator while you act as the forward scout.
SEVENTH STEP: CONSIDER THE PEOPLE YOU’RE GOING TO BUG OUT WITH (CHILDREN, ELDERLY AND SO ON)
It is quite likely that your party will contain members which may not necessarily be up to the task of survival on their own. Whether they are young or old, sick or lame, or afflicted with any sort of condition which could impede their chance of survival, these things must be considered ahead of time.
If someone cannot walk, how will you transport them in the event that you cannot travel by vehicle? Who will carry the additional weight of supplies for a party member who cannot bear their own load?
When the rubber meets the road is the worst time to figure these things out. Instead, it is better to not only plan for these conditions but practice with them ahead of time. If you have a small child, do your practice runs with additional gear to simulate what you would be carrying should disaster strike. If someone has difficulty walking, do a dry run pulling a cart laden with 150 pounds of stones.
EIGHTH STEP: IS NOT ENOUGH TO HAVE YOUR PLAN IN YOUR HEAD, DOCUMENT IT!
A proper bug out plan requires numerous steps and contingencies. Keeping track of all of this information is not something you should simply rely on your memory to do. If you have an exceptionally good memory, great.
It is still important that you keep track of the details of your bug out plan. Maybe members of your party do not have as good of a memory as you. Maybe you focus on certain details or routes more than others based on the likelihood of necessity or use.
However, if that day comes where the least likely solution is the one that will keep you alive, having a hard copy of your plan will not only save you the stress of having to recall that information in the heat of the moment, but save your life.