The 6 Most Commonly Overlooked Items In Bug Out Plans

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What are the Doomsday Preppers judges forgetting about?

I believe the National Geographic television series on Doomsday Preppers is a good thing overall for the prepping movement.  Even though the editing tends to make people look whacko and more extreme than they probably are in reality.  It helps with spreading awareness about being more self reliant. Which is a good thing.  I think most people see through the sensationalism and understand the need for more self reliance.  However, there is one aspect to the show that they rarely if ever discuss and that is reintegration after a Bug Out.  Reintegration into the community after the disaster has passed is the most important part of any reality based Bug Out Plan.  The chances of there being a disaster that wipes out the entire nation is very very slim.  Even if it were to happen you can’t effectively plan for that anyway.  But you can plan for those “real” disasters that happen all around us all of the time.  Think tornadoes, forest fires, earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, snow and ice storms, terrorism, etc.   The thing about all of these real disasters is that they are generally going to be short term.  History has shown us that even severe events of this nature usually only last a few months and then life begins to slowly return to normal.  So if your bug out plan fails to incorporate the following simple items, you could be over looking the most important thing.  Getting things back to normal!

For two great resources on how to effectively deal with and plan for real world disasters see the links on my Resources page.  One book is It’s A Disaster, specifically geared toward disaster preparedness.  The other is Simple Survival which is more geared towards survival techniques but also touches on some disaster related information.

For the record, my position is that leaving your home should be an absolute last resort, no exceptions.  But if you decide it is time to leave, consider planning for the following before you go!

The 6 Most Commonly Over Looked Items In A Bug Out Plan.

1.  Mortgage, rent, utility and car payments.  You should consider the possibility that you might Bug Out, when it wasn’t really necessary or that will only needed for a few weeks to a couple of months.  Maybe it wasn’t “The Big One”.  So if you own a home or even rent, you should consider having a separate bank account set up with automatically withdrawn mortgage, rent, utility and car payments.  And the account balance should be high enough to cover at least three months worth of bills.  Three months should be long enough for you to be able to get an idea of whether or not the disaster will be one that requires you to stay gone permanently or if you will be able to return home.  Doing this gives you a huge safety net and peace of mind that you need to have in case you decide its safe to come back home.  This is also a very big factor for being able to reintegrate into civil society if it is needed! Lets face it, it is possible that certain events might not be as big of a deal as they were expected to be….think Y2K.

2.  Have your mail forwarded to a Post Office box at the nearest Post Office to your Bug Out location.  Of course getting the post office box in that area will need to be prearranged.  But once it is all it taken care of, all you have to do to get your mail forwarded is drop the post card in your home mail box telling the post master where to forward your mail as you head out the door.  Why bother? Mail piling up in your mail box is a very big indicator that your not home and it is telling criminals that it is safe to come and rob you blind.  An added benefit is that you will have the option of occasionally accessing your mail.  This will let you know what’s going on with your finances, utilities, communication with your extended family, etc.  All of this may be important just in case you have decided it’s safe to attempt to return home.  And even if you can’t or don’t want to pick up your mail, at least it will be piling up at a post office and not in your mail box signaling criminals that you are elsewhere.

3.  Yard maintenance.  Its sounds ridiculous at first but it should be on a checklist of items to put in place before or shortly after you Bug Out.  You can also work with a local provider to send them an email or a letter asking them to begin a prearranged basic service.  Having a lawn care professional mow your yard or shovel snow from your driveway as needed or at least once a month will do a lot from telling everyone in the area that you are not living there anymore.  A neglected yard and driveway will be a beacon for thieves and criminals.  Even though you may have taken a lot of the important things for survival when you left, you will have also left many important and expensive things behind.  Don’t leave your house neglected to become a target.

Sure it is possible that the company may not get to it on schedule or at all because of the disaster, but if later you have to try to reacquire your property through court proceedings because it was abandoned, at least you will have somewhat of a paper trail showing that you “intended” to return and you were attempting to do what you could to keep the property in good shape during your absence.  “Intent” is always a central issue in court proceedings.

4.  Interior lighting and television and radios.  You should consider getting several digitally controlled on/off timers.  I understand that many disasters may leave you without power for a certain period of time…  But power could also be restored during your absence.  If it is, you don’t want your house left looking like it has been abandoned.  Here are a few things that may help your home looked “lived in”.  Leave your television on at a decent volume.  Set several lights or lamps to go off and on and off at different times. Times that simulate your actual routine.  Also plug a radio into a digital timer as well.  Have it set to a talk radio station, with the volume set a little higher than the TV.  Make sure it is programmed to turn on and off several times a day.  Also make sure all of the shades and curtains are closed, to make it more difficult for a criminal to verify if you are at home or not.  These few things do a lot to making criminals uncertain if you are actually home or not.  If they are not sure they will typically look for an easier target.

5. Exterior lighting, security cameras/signs and sprinklers.  Have at least two motion detecting lights at each of the main entries to your home.  There are solar power options available that may be a good as well as the standard AC powered ones.  The key to these lights being a little more effective is having them set to trigger at different zones.  The first one should be set trigger with motion further from your doors.  The second one triggers when the movement is very close to the door.

Also have your sprinkler systems (if you have one) set to go off sometime between midnight and three oclock in the morning.  This is also a good deterrent for petty thieves. This time frame is their “sweet spot”, they won’t want to get wet and be tracking in foot prints and it has the added bonus of making it look like you still live there as well.

Have a security camera with an exterior blinking LED light focused on each entrance. Whether or not its real and actually recording depends on your budget. But even a fake one can do a lot to keep people away.  Or post a security system sign near both entrances.  The power may be out but there are battery backups available.  Most low level thieves will just move along for a softer target.  Criminals always look for the soft targets.  Don’t let your house be a soft target while your away.

6. Your job and your ability to return to it with no problems.  If your like the rest of us your job is your primary source of income.  And having a job and relying on will be the hardest thing to walk away from…what if your wrong and you give it up for nothing? Consider the following.  It will be a hard decision to walk away after so long and give it all up.  One possibility for securing your job while you are gone (if you meet the qualifications) is to utilize the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  See the United States Department Of Labor website (http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm) on the FMLA to see if it would be possible for you to utilize this benefit of getting up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. Check the requirements of the FMLA to be sure, but I imagine this benefit could be invoked in writing through a pre-filled out letter that was sent when you decided to Bug Out.  Providing of course there was a provision of the act that you were entitled to use for your situation. The act seems like most government documents to be written fairly vague and unspecific.  I am not an expert in this area, but it appears to be a possible option depending on the circumstances.

The bottom line is this. You should consider doing what you can to make reintegration easier for you and your situation.  These six things may not be what you choose to do, but plan something that is geared towards reintegration into society.  I think incorporating these 6 things or at least some of them into your Bug Out Plan will give you a lot more flexibility upon returning from your trip to the hills (or more sensibly from staying at a friend or family members house that was unaffected) and getting back things back to normal.  Even if anyone does notice your absence you could probably just tell them you had to go and care for a sick loved one and they would never know the difference.

Doomsday Preppers frequently fails to talk about reintegration into society and I think that is a serious mistake.  It gives people the idea that they should plan to leave and never come back….that is a big mistake.  A person who recognizes that they could be wrong and that our society might be a little more resilient than they thought is a rational and well thought out prepper.  Just because your prepared to Bug Out if you are forced to, doesn’t mean that you have to walk away from your life never to return.  These simple things take very little time to enact, if properly planned out and can make reintegration much more smooth.  Don’t plan to leave and never come back!  Society will need your help rebuilding, so plan for your return as well as your departure!

What items have you done in your Bug Out Plan that are geared towards reintegration? What have I left out that may be important?

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About JJ

As a child I grew up in the Midwest on a small farm and fell in love with the outdoors. Later, that led me to join the USAF where I became a USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Instructor. As a SERE Instructor I have trained in all types of environments. Temperate, Arctic, Desert, and Rain Forest. After four years in SERE I retrained into the counterintelligence and counterterrorism field where I have worked for 11 years. I have traveled to the Far East, Asia, Southwest Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. The combination of both careers has thought me to see two sides of a coin. I consider myself a realist and while I enjoy primitive survival living, hiking, camping, and hunting for short periods. I also have the experience & understanding to know that living primitively is NOT fun or easy for long periods. Therefore, I try to be practical and logical in an effort to build a reliable, flexible philosophy of self reliance that can be utilized in any situation. Hopefully reading this blog will help you to do the same.

15 Responses to The 6 Most Commonly Overlooked Items In Bug Out Plans

  1. Omega Man says:

    Shutting off your utilities, unless they are part of your ruse to convince people you are home. Utilities can get damaged with even minor incidents. Even a slow gas leak can devastate your home if ignited. Shutting off your gas will minimize the risk. As will shutting off your water, if a pipe bursts your house could become a write off or at least you will have a hefty repair bill. Also your bills will be smaller if the utilities are off!

    If you live in a cold climate, setting your heat to minimum will prevent damage from freezing.

  2. Omega Man says:

    Shutting off the gas and water are important to do prior to bugging out. A small leak in either system can severely damage or destroy your house. Also, why pay for leaked gas or water when you are away? Keep the utility bills small.
    Omega Man recently posted..Introduction to Surface Water TreatmentMy Profile

  3. JJ says:

    Yea, shutting off the utilities is one of those things that you would have to make the call on at the time, based on the particular type of disaster. If it was an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado or anything that could physically effect the structure of the home then you are correct. It would be a good idea to shit off the utilities. If the disaster or situation was more of an economic things with luting, or a snow storm, etc. Then it may be better to leave them on. I guess it is sort of a judgement call. Personally, I wouldn’t be as concerned with the payment aspect because the usage would be pretty low and if I was prepared I would hopefully have saved back a few months of payments anyway. However, as you indicated gas and water wouldn’t really add to the “Ruse” that much. Electricity would be the big player there, so it may be best to go ahead and leave the electric on and shut off the rest. Thanks for the comment! Cheers JJ

  4. JJ says:

    Agreed. Thanks!

  5. LP says:

    I really liked this list – and I generally hate reading yet one more list of this and that, or prepper 12 step programs to ultimate survivability.

    …. but I makes lists, too.

    Points 1 and 4 got my attention the most.

    As for the gas shut off, I think that’s something that could be done for any evacuation of any type. There are no appliances that need to be run for the still lived in look that require natural gas. electricity, yes, but that’ not generally a problem, with circuit breakers in good working order. I’m with omega man….. kill the gas. Simple enough to get back going when you return.
    LP recently posted..Developing a Plan – RevisitedMy Profile

  6. OD says:

    The gas I would agree to shut off unless in a climate where needed to keep property warm, same with water.

    Small Solar power for property backed up by rechargeable batteries would overcome need to be tied into the mains for a period of time and if can program indoor lighting / radio etc on a 7 / 14 day cycle even better.

  7. JJ says:

    Yep, you are probably right about the gas and water. I live in Nebraska so I would for sure need to keep the heat on through the winter, but in warmer climates there really wouldn’t be the need to do so.

  8. Pingback: Survive and Thrive Outfitters | The 6 Most Overlooked Items In Bug Out Plans | Reality Survival

  9. Sean D. McGuire says:

    What about pets? Dogs you could probably bring with you and maybe cats, but what about birds, fish or other types of pet.

  10. Pets are something to think about for sure, but most of the plans I had seen had taken them into account, so I didn’t mention them in this post. But they are definitely something to plan for if you are going to take them with you.

  11. Sean,

    What have you done in your plans to prepare for taking care of pets?

  12. Adam Allen says:

    Great advice on lawn service. That never crossed my mind when we were planning Y2K back in ’99.
    Adam Allen recently posted..The Best Survival HatchetMy Profile

  13. Adam, Thanks. It is easy to think about how to leave with the idea that you will never come back, but the Reality is that coming back is probably more likely that staying away for ever. Cheers JJ

  14. Dave says:

    JJ,

    That was a very thought provoking article. People don’t often focus on the reintegration aspect. I guess it’s not as exciting; however, it is more realistic.
    On a different flavor (yet the same topic), one of the common overlooked items in a Bug Out Plan are failing to have a designated Bug Out Location (BOL) and alternate locations. I know plenty folks who have high dollar survival gear and elaborate plans of living in the wilderness but don’t have the first clue of where to do this. If this is more than just a fantasy you at must have a designated location, know how to get there and have the means to do it.
    Another overlooked item I usually see is what to take while bugging out. In addition to not having a plan to where they are going or having the means to get there, a lot of survival/preppers make the mistake of taking way to much weight in weapons and ammo. This translates to an Internet- trained warrior driving a Ford Taurus into the mountains loaded down with an SKS rifle, 5,000 rounds of ammo and a Jansport back pack filled with cans of soup.
    This is why I love this web site. It offers a LOT of “Reality Survival” info and not a lot a phony bravado. Sure, I like guns, ammo and toys as much (OK more) then the next guy but I understand that realistic planning is the key to survival. A zombie apocalypse, while fun to plan for, it most likely not the threat we are planning for. Great article!

  15. Dave,
    Yep I tend to think that we should be focusing our planning efforts on the smaller more realistic threats that we know can and do happen all over the country all of the time. That isn’t to say that there aren’t scenarios that could still cause us to have to bug out for a short period of time, or even a longer period of time. But to forget about the possibility that we may need to come back, just seems silly to me. Most people have a huge amount of time and money invested in their homes. Why totally walk away from all of that if it was absolutely needed? I think most people want to live in a civilized world, even though they sometimes do seem like mindless zombies…lol.

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