The idea of a "prepper" has been badly twisted over the years to give the impression that anyone "prepping" is some kind of nut-case with a 3 foot long beard and hides in their crawlspace during a storm. TV shows sometimes make preppers look like that but in reality preppers are everyday people who just have their act together in case an emergency takes place.
Links to Personal Safety, Bug-Out, Prepping, and Outdoor Stores
At the bottom of this document we will provide links to the most popular items mentioned in this document. If you do not see the links, give it a day or so as we are constantly adding and building items for this document.Important - Take Note: This page is designed for the everyday person, not for the over-the-top armed-to-the-teeth preppers who have bulletproof glass in their homes and escape tunnels in their yard (we applaud them for their efforts - that's not easy work to do). This page is for everyday people who want to just be a little more "prepared" for when the day comes for them to bug-out and hit the road.
Prepping has been active for 50+ years and everyone from the next door neighbor to politicians, mayors, and heads-of-state often have a plan of what to do with their family in the event of an emergency.
Everyone that walks the Earth should at least have a basic plan of what-to-do if something terrible was taking place in their country, city, community, or neighborhood. It's not some elaborate plan involving hundreds of hours of work and thousands of dollars of hard earned money. The plan should be something that you are comfortable with and allows you to execute it quickly and safely in the event that day comes when a real emergency happens. Prepping might even save your life some day.
The Importance of Drills or Practice
A good plan is essentially useless if you have not walked through each step repeatedly so those steps become habit. Repeating the plan over the course of a year will enable most people to quickly engage the plan if needed. Remember the saying "practice makes perfect" ? That's very true with prepping. Many people have very fancy plans on what to do in the event of an emergency but when given a test to see how ready they are - they fail, often badly because they did not practice. Coming up with a plan on paper is much different than executing that same plan. You need to build muscle memory and develop clear recall abilities to carry out your plan in the event of a real emergency. Often times a real emergency will happen in the middle of the night or at a time when you least expect it, and having muscle memory and clear recall abilities will make your plan as easy to carry out as it is to put on your shoes.
One common plan for practicing is the "3-2-1 drill" which means once you have your plan drawn up, you practice it 3 times the first month, 2 times the second month, then once a month thereafter. You don't stop practicing, you continue to run on a schedule you like, forever. It may seem like a nuisance to practice over and over again but if or when a real emergency strikes, you'll be able to carry out the plan calmly and hopefully without missing a step.
Books on Prepping and HomesteadingTo get a good idea of what works and what doesn't when it comes to basic or advanced homesteading (some very useful information relating to prepping as well), pick up some books on the topic as everyone has their own ideas of proper prepping.
Buy this Book: Autopilot Homestead
Buy this Book: The Ultimate Survival Guide - Are You Prepared?
Most plans involve family members to do their part so you need to make sure everyone is willing to carry out the plan at any time you choose. The key phrase is "any time" and that will be important because a wise part of practicing your plan is to run the plan at least once or twice in the middle of the night. Some family members, especially if they are kids in their teens, will not be too receptive to a 3am wake up call, but it must be done if they are involved in your plan. Explain to them that emergencies don't wait for sunrise.
Your Bug Out Bag
Many people use a backpack as their bug-out bag because it's something they can carry and keep their hands free. We recommend a backpack for that reason. Shop around for a good waterproof bag with lots of pockets and storage areas as you may need them when on the road. If you insist on a box for your bug-out bag then be sure the box can withstand freezing cold temps in case you have to bug-out in the dead of winter. Plastic sometimes is brittle when cold so you don't need a box that is going to shatter if dropped.
The Basics of the Plan
For the purpose of this document we are going to talk about a get-out-of-town plan. There is another "shelter in place" plans which is needed for every home but this document will cover only the get-out-of-town plan.
You don't need an elaborate safe-house or hidden room to store your prepping materials. Most people who follow basic prepping plans use their existing pantry or a shelf in a cool basement to store their items. The best option is to use something within easy reach because you will be using the food that you stock occasionally during non-emergencies (see below.) Cool, dark, and dry places are best.
Plan on being out of reach of water for at least 7 days. If a real emergency happens and everyone has to bug out of your town at the same time, one of the first things that will vanish off the shelves will be water. So the first few days is going to be hectic so the last thing you need to worry about is finding quality drinkable water. Plan on one gallon of water per day, per person in your family. You may not need that much in real life since many people drink less than a quart of water per day but that's unhealthy living. You may also find you need water for other things such as cleaning or cooking so the extra water will be useful. Try to purchase and store sealed containers of water, often the 2.5 gallon type with a handle. Also have at least one gallon of distilled water on hand. Don't refill old milk jugs because its very hard to wash 100% of the old milk out which means you'll be growing harmful bacteria and that's a no-no.
Don't forget your pets! They will need water too!
FoodThis topic has a lot of debate in the prepping community so we're going to use the most common sense concepts. Plan on having at 7 days of food available for each person in your family (don't forget pets!). Canned food that has long expiration dates is always best and it allows you to rotate the old cans during non-emergency times with the new cans so you'll always have the freshest supply on hand. For example, if you buy canned corn that expires next year, don't sit on it an entire year - use it and replace it as you go. That way you don't have to keep throwing out cans of food because they expired. Keep using them for day-to-day eating and replace them as you use them. That means if an emergency happens and you need to bug out, the food you have will be the freshest. For example, if you choose to store baked beans then make sure that if you are going to have baked beans during a non-emergency time that you use those beans first. Keep things rotating so the cans stay as fresh as possible. Then replace them with new stock back onto your prepping shelf. Look for foods in the grocery store that have very, very long shelf life. Dry foods often carry a 5+ year shelf life so check the expiration date and make note of those expiration dates on a sheet of paper you can check as you practice your prepping plan.
Important tip: Be very, very (extremely) careful about food spoiling. Do not let cans of food go past their expiration date even if someone tells you that "those dates don't matter" - assume they do matter and assume that you could get gravely ill or even die if you consume the wrong can of spoiled food. Don't play games with food expiration dates. Don't forget about food your pets will need!
Smart preppers have a mix of silver bars, silver coins, real cash, and real coins stored in a bag on their prepper shelf. Store an amount that does not put a strain on your finances during your initial prepper buildout. Some preppers have $200 worth of real change in the form of quarters and silver dollars. The idea is to make it easy to spend small amounts of money without using a debit card (assume the electronic network may be down).
This one is debated all the time by the prepper community. Some believe you should have everything scanned and in digital form ONLY, others believe in paper copies. In reality you should have both. Important documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, Why not all electronic? Because if there was some type of electromagnetic event such as an EMP from a nuclear detonation or a X-class solar flare that wiped out the electrical grid, those electronic copies aren't going to do any good.
Basic papers to keep in your bug-out bag:Birth certificates.
Deeds to your home(s)
Social security cards.
Health insurance cards.
Friends/relatives contact information.
Attorney phone number/address.
Medical records (allergies, current pills etc.)
Vet contact info for your pets.
Bank / Financial Account Numbers/contacts
This is very important for two reasons. First, you need the ability to communicate with your family when out of the house and they may be out scouting for a place to sleep or camp so you will all need to be in communication. Second, if there is a major disaster you may find other people needing to communicate with you to share information, etc. so having the ability to communicate with others (from a distance) is important.
We recommend two-way radios that operate on common batteries as well as whatever rechargeable batteries they come with. You can find some good quality radios on Amazon that run on common AA or AAA batteries (not NIMH AA batteries but traditional AA batteries you buy in a grocery store.) It is more difficult finding these radios but Midland makes a few and they are available on Amazon.
This is a must have for every bug-out bag. Look on Amazon or any online shopping site you use for "solar chargers" that have the standard and high-power USB recharging ports. These are often 10,000 mAh battery packs that are charged up by the sun. Many preppers have two (2) of these devices and have them sitting near a window so they are kept charged. These are important to have because if you run down a mobile phone (if the mobile network is still running) or need to use a rechargeable device - these will keep them powered. You can also run solar powered lamps from these so you will have ample lighting capabilities.
Lighting / Lamps
Always assume that the power grid will be down if you have to bug-out due to an emergency. What will you do for lighting? This is completely up to you for what you wish to keep in your bug-out bag. Keep in mind it is wise to have a combination of traditional battery powered lamps or flashlights (AA, AAA, C or D cell batteries) as well as having some rechargeable lanterns or flashlights. Be sure whatever devices you select use LED light bulbs so the batteries will last 5x as long.
Rescue strobes on some flashlights may come in handy if someone is searching for you. A bright red strobe feature is useful in a flashlight as it will mark your location for others to find (if you want to be found).
Lighting can also be used as protection so if you have the funds available get a very bright flashlight that has a high lumen rating of 10,000 or greater. If you are approached by a stranger at night then an extremely bright flashlight may work to temporarily blind the person in the event you are attacked.
You can also purchase a flashlight that is designed as a weapon. Those are also called tactical flashlights. Be aware that most people who get close enough to an attacker will not be able to use the defensive end of the flashlight due to fear or being overpowered. Please do not think that a tactical flashlight is all you need for defense. It is not.
Also have at least two (2) wind-resistant lighters in your bug-out bag as well. You may find it useful to have the ability to light a kerosene lamp or start a campfire, both of which provide light.
First Aid - Health
Assume someone is going to get hurt in a real emergency where you are bugging out and are racing to get to some location. What are you going to do to help that person? Always have a first aid kit packed and ready to go, even if you keep it elsewhere in the house (we will explain the "bug out checklist later"). Make sure you have non-expired Aspirin in pill and in effervescent form (for people who can't swallow pills) and also look at stocking some non-aspirin (Acetaminophen) products such as Tylenol. There may be people in your family or that you encounter on the road that are allergic or have reactions to NSAIDs so always have options.
If you can afford it have some Aleve PM or Advil PM for night time use that will help ease common over-used muscles and will also help someone sleep at night (in bug-out mode there may be a lot of stress so having a good night sleep is critical.)
Bandages are wise and often come in first-aid kits so look around for a kit that you feel has an adequate supply of bandages, gauze, tape, band-aids, etc that fit your family size.
Be sure you know exactly where everyone's prescribed medication is kept as you will need to grab that when bugging out. Make sure you know where it is, all the time, every time. We will explain later in the bug-out practice section why that is so important.
Click to purchase:
We all can know how easy life is right now with power, water, and shelter. Toilet paper is just one of those things you use and don't think about. But what happens when you are in bug-out mode and need to relieve yourself? TP will be scarce so be sure to bring at least 7 days worth based on your family size and what you feel is more than adequate. If your bug-out turns into a months-long event then you'll need to think ahead for what to use for TP as it takes up a lot of space in a bug-out bag and most preppers don't rely on TP being around for a long time. If you want to prep for longer term supplies please search online for toilet paper alternatives for prepping.
Hand washing is absolutely critical while in bug-out mode. You don't want to pick up a virus or something nasty while out of your home. Stock plenty of hand sanitizer that is 85% or greater in alcohol. Don't skimp on this - clean hands are a must.
Body washing is also important as you don't want to get stinky. That just makes people around you uncomfortable and the less stress you can bring to a bug-out condition - the better. Many sites including Amazon sell small individual-use soap products can be stored in a baggy and that can last for months (if you are around a water supply.) If you feel you will not have any access to water then look on any shopping site for waterless body wash products. Again 7 days of this is a good start.
If you plan on washing clothes then look for *bars* of detergent. You can use traditional soap if you need. Do not bring any liquid detergent as it just takes up space. Everything needs to be in dry form.
We leave this section completely up to you. How many shirts, pants, socks, undergarments do you need for 7 days and 7 nights? Can you gather that quickly if you needed to? Make a decision on what you want to bring and document that.
This really should not be the last item on the list but we put it at the end so it's clear that it is important. If part of your plan is to bring firearms along with you on the bug-out then make sure you follow every law in your city or state about carrying firearms in your car. If you need a permit to carry - GET ONE!
Never let anyone that has not handled a firearm, touch a firearm without going through a training course. You don't want an incident with a firearm as that could lead to a fatal accident. NEVER let a child handle a firearm without them first being given a detailed training by a registered firearms instructor. Even then use EXTREME caution when they handle firearms.
If you have any edged weapons (knives) then be sure those are part of your bug-out bag because you may need to cut up food, cut rope or wire, or protect yourself.
These days it is very hard to know the true intent of anyone. You don't really know what is on the mind of a stranger and during an emergency when everyone has bugged-out or has run from the area, emotions will be running high and people will not be thinking clearly. Do not blindly trust anyone. Make them earn your trust and do not let ANY stranger handle any of your weapons, ever! If a real national emergency was underway many people will go off the rails and will do things based entirely on emotion and some of that may involve making you disappear - and you don't want that. So just keep an eye out for what strangers are up to and be friendly and courteous - but keep your guard up until you have been shown they can be trusted.
Practicing For the Real Bug-Out Event
This is where it all comes together. Your planning, stockpiling of enough items, and understanding how to get out of your home as fast and as safely as possible.
Write up your "grab plan"
The grab plan should be a one page checklist in LARGE TYPE that lists items that you need to bring but do not stock in your bug-out bag. For example, medicine, kids clothes, spare shoes, etc. Go through your home and create a list in an order that best works with the way you walk through the house. For example you don't want to have tasks in the master bedroom followed by the garage, followed by the master bedroom again. You need to use time as wisely as possible so write out your grab plan so you gather items in your house with efficiency and ease.
If you are involving other family members then make sure each person has their OWN checklist because it will be too confusing in a real emergency to all read off the same checklist. Also if you have two people grabbing things in the same room make sure they are not going to run into each other during the bug-out grab.
The Big DAY - Bug Out Practice #1
(IMPORTANT: You are responsible for the safety of all persons that take part in all tests. If you are incapable of doing tests safely, don't do any tests until you are.)
What many preppers find to be useful for their first practice is to do one run in the morning (daylight) and one at night (total darkness.) Set an alarm for sometime in the mid afternoon or at a time that is convenient for you. Make sure everyone in your family (that is involved in your plan) is ready and able to get into action at that time. Then just go about your normal day.
When the alarm rings, starting the bug-out plan, meet up with your family at a designated spot in your house (most people meet up where they keep the printed "grab plan") and hand out the grab plan to the family members that are involved. Make sure each person has their sheet and turn them loose and have them gather everything on their part of the plan. Have everyone meet back at a designated location (usually where the plan started) and confirm everything has been collected and all actions on the plan have been completed.
Once everything is accounted for, grab your bug-out bag and head to the car or vehicle you plan on using for the bug-out plan. Once all the items you gathered up are in the car and family members are in and ready to go - check your watch. How long did that take? On average most plans take about 10 minutes maximum from start to "ready to roll" phase. Is that about the same time it took for you?
Review the plan with everyone that took part in the practice. Was there anything that could be done to make the process more efficient? Was anything missed? Did you notice something that should have been in the plan? How did the pets handle it? (assuming you have pets).
Congratulations - you just completed the easy part of the bug out plan. Now it's onto practice #2
The Big NIGHT - Bug Out Practice #2
(IMPORTANT: You are responsible for the safety of all persons that take part in all tests. If you are incapable of doing tests safely, don't do any tests until you are.)
This is where you will find efficiency problems if they exist. Do not do this practice on the same day as the daytime practice. It must be separated by at least a day or two so people forget some of what they did in the first practice.
Set your alarm clock for sometime well after midnight and before sunrise. If you have other family members taking part in the plan you decide if they should be alerted to "something" happening that night. Some people believe that a real test should be totally unannounced while others believe the members of the household should know something is about to happen that night. Giving the exact time of a test is unwise as it skews the results of your test. Get to sleep. It is very important that everyone is completely asleep when the alarm goes of because you need to see how your team (family) will respond to an early-morning bug-out emergency test. Having people a little bit fuzzy in the head because they are sleepy is an excellent test to see if you designed your bug-out plan correctly.
When your alarm goes off, quickly wake everyone else that is taking part in the test. Make sure everyone acknowledges that the test has begun. (the reason why you need acknowledgement is becauase someone, somewhere, will always say "oh I wasn't sure if this was really a test or not.) It always happens, and it usually involves teenagers.
MOST PEOPLE USE NO HOUSE LIGHTS AT ALL DURING THIS TEST BUT YOU ARE RUNNING THE TEST SO YOU DECIDE LIGHTS-ON or LIGHTS-OFF
(some people have gone as far as cutting off the main breaker to make sure nobody cheats. But that may be on the extreme end of testing and it not really necessary).
Running a test at night is important because you need to see how everyone is going to respond and operate in complete darkness. Just as if the electricity had failed during an emergency.
Use common sense! if you have a flight of stairs or any "trip hazards" in your home you will need a FLASHLIGHT to be ON and the area completely illuminated when someone is in that area or is using the stairs or is near any hazards. It is your responsibility to ensure everyone is safe during your tests. This is your moment to shine and show your family that you have planned for this event.
Always keep safety in mind when running through your plan when stairs or anything hazardous is involved.
Be sure everyone knows they should use their flashlights ONLY during the test. Everyone should meet up where you keep your bug out plan and repeat the process, reminding everyone that no house lights should be used. Flashlights only! This is going to be a test to see how people work together in the dark and while a little sleepy.
Run through the same process that you did in the day time. How long did that take? Most people can execute their bug out plan within 15 minutes in total darkness. Find out where it took the longest time and see if there is a way to shorten that time to make things faster.
Don't forget to look out for your pets! Running a drill at 3:50am may mean your pet is rather excited and may be running around with you - so be careful not to trip over them while you are working your way through a dark home. Use good flashlights with fresh or newly recharged batteries and make sure all family members have flashlights at their side (Everyone should have a flashlight near their bedside regardless if a test is bring performed or not. A flashlight should always be within reach, all the time).
The importance of Running Multiple Tests
Testing once and forgetting about it is essentially a waste of time. People will forget their tasks so it is important of running through your test several times per year. Many do follow the 3-2-1 plan to make sure the plan is thoroughly remembered. You likely have heard the phrase "muscle memory." Think of your brain as kind of a muscle and if you don't repeat processes your brain will not keep those steps handy for easy recall. Test, repeat, test, repeat, test!
It is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your family or team during drills and during real-world events. There should be no difference in care and assistance between tests and real-world events. The author of this guide takes no responsibility and makes no claim or guarantee that you will not be injured during the test. Use your head and keep safety in mind at all times. If you don't feel comfortable running drills or testing, just don't do it.
Since the 3-2-1 plan is the best method to build muscle and recall abilities, repeat the above tests 3 times during the first month, 2 times the next, and then once a month or on a schedule you feel comfortable with. You don't need to always include the "lights out" drill but it's good from time to time to make sure everyone is capable of carrying out your plan at any time, day or night.
Best of luck to you and let's hope you never need to really bug-out for an emergency.