One of the best survival mantras I ever heard is the one I learned from my wife when she was the leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. The Girl Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared”—simple, easy to remember, to the point and maybe the best advice ever given. “Be Prepared” … words to live by. Let’s see how to be prepared to bug-out.
That is really all that a “prepper” is: someone who believes in being prepared for virtually anything. The term, “prepper,” is used almost derogatorily by some non-preppers to describe people who are wise enough to be prepared for many types and levels of emergencies. They invest the time, money and effort required to provide food, water, shelter and security for their loved ones in their time of need.
Preppers are quite often misunderstood and marginalized by non-preppers—simply for wanting to be more self-reliant than those who believe it’s society’s responsibility to take care of their needs. This is pretty absurd when you think about it.
THE GIRL SCOUTS’ MOTTO IS “BE PREPARED”—SIMPLE, EASY TO REMEMBER, TO THE POINT AND MAYBE THE BEST ADVICE EVER GIVEN.
So, if the “grasshoppers” prefer to be caught off guard and then have to go through the harrowing experience of trying to fend for themselves, competing against every other unprepared person around them, that’s their choice.
They will learn the hard way that when all walks of life begin to compete for limited resources and that no re-supply trucks or cargo planes are on the way, their survival is going to be an uphill battle.
The great advantage preppers have over grasshoppers is that we know it is always better to plan for emergencies before they happen than to try to react after society’s fabric begins to unravel.
Comprehensive Plans Are Best
Being prepared means taking steps to make some changes to your lifestyle. With a few simple adjustments, you can go from helplessly unprepared to being a full-fledged prepper.
Every journey is made up of individual steps. In the prepper’s case, some of these steps are: organizing your everyday carry kit (EDC); building a home-preparedness kit; having a survival kit in each of your vehicles; making a plan to survive in your home; developing a bug-out plan; and having primary and secondary bug-out locations to go to.
You can’t just have a bug-out bag and think it is going to make everything okay. That is a weak plan, at best.
Do you have life insurance? Do you have vehicle insurance? Do you have homeowner’s insurance? If you have all these reactive comprehensive arrangements in place, you should understand that the prepper’s proactive plans for when the crap hits the fan will have a greater impact on their quality of life and peace of mind.
Anatomy of a Bug-Out Plan
A bug-out plan is not something you should write on paper or brief your family on and then just forget about. It should be treated as a living, breathing plan of action, and it should be changed or revised each time circumstances change for you or someone in your party.
BEING PREPARED MEANS TAKING STEPS TO MAKE SOME CHANGES TO YOUR LIFESTYLE. WITH A FEW SIMPLE ADJUSTMENTS, YOU CAN GO FROM HELPLESSLY UNPREPARED TO BEING A FULL-FLEDGED PREPPER.
Have your kids gone off to college? You need to revise your plan and make one up with them for their new situation. Has someone in your party suffered a serious injury or contracted a long-term illness? If so, you will need to revise the plan. The more details that go into your plan and the better everyone in your group understands it, the better your chances will be of surviving.
One of the most effective acronyms I’ve ever used is KISS—“Keep It Short and Simple” (some know this acronym as “Keep It Simple, Stupid”). If your plan is too complicated, you increase the chances of someone in your group not remembering what to do. You should always keep your plans at a level that suits the lowest denominator of your party.
While there are literally hundreds of things you can do to create and improve on your personal bug-out plans, below are four of the most applicable lessons I’ve learned that give you the greatest odds of surviving and leading your family or group to safety.
Consider making a bug-out plan (BOP) that goes beyond just having a pre-packed bug-out bag (BOB) in your house.
In the U.S. Army Special Forces, one of the biggest differentiating factors between success and failure is detailed planning and rehearsals. We utilized something called MDMP (the “Military Decision-Making Process,”), along with CoA Development (“Course of Action Development”).
These processes allow you to set specific criteria for success, develop several initial plans, scrutinize and grade each plan, and then take the best parts of each and combine them into your final plan of action.
Our goal was to spend no more than one-third of our time planning an operation so that we had two-thirds of our time to rehearse it. When it comes to creating a good BOP, there is no reason you can’t apply MDMP, CoA and the one-third/two-thirds rule.
One of the greatest mistakes some preppers make is that they mistake their BOB for their BOP. The reality is that a BOB without a well-planned-out and rehearsed BOP is nothing more than a bag of stuff.
Without a solid plan that includes rally points away from your home at which everyone in your family or group should meet, along with a signal to let stray members of your group know you moved to an alternate or bug-out location, your chances of success decrease exponentially.
And don’t forget to conduct after-action reviews (AARs) when you practice your plan to identify the parts of your plan you need to sustain or revise.
You can’t have just one! Instead of thinking of a BOB as a single item, think of it as a system of kits. Your main BOB should be kept where you spend the majority of your time.
Your “bug-in” or “get-home” bag should stay in your vehicle and have the essential tools and gear to get you from your vehicle (should you have to abandon it) to your home.
Your “EDC” (everyday carry) kit is nothing more than those essential items you should have on your person at all times; these might include a pistol, knife, smart phone, lighter and your wallet.
In a perfect world, you will have to do nothing more than grab your BOB and run out of your house as soon as the SHTF. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law says that your group will be separated from each other when an emergency hits. That’s why having each person kitted out with multiple bags described above is critical to surviving the threat.
Some things you should already have in your vehicle are jumper cables or a rechargeable jump-starter, a jack, lug wrench, functional spare tire, road flares, reflective vest, good first aid kit, paper map and a flashlight.
Heading for the Hills?
You’ll have to learn how to live off the land if your BOP is to head into the wilderness to survive catastrophic events at home. There are many questions you need to honestly answer and address before you should consider yourself able to live off the land.
YOU NEED TO DO A THOROUGH AND HONEST SELF-EVALUATION ABOUT YOUR SKILL SET. ONCE YOU’VE IDENTIFIED AREAS YOU NEED TO IMPROVE, GET TRAINING—AND THEN PRACTICE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT … BECAUSE, ONE DAY, IT MIGHT.
Even with natural resources available in many parts of North America, if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, you could easily starve to death—while a virtual grocery store of untapped natural resources surrounds you, ripe for the taking. Without the knowledge to harvest these resources, you might as well be stranded on the moon.
Do you know how to find or construct a shelter or make a fire in a downpour? Do you know where to find water, and do you know how to make it safe to drink? Drinking raw water in a remote survival situation can be a fatal mistake.
Can you treat yourself and those in your party for illness and injury? A simple, unattended cut can become infected and kill a person just as surely as a bullet.
What about finding food? Do you know how to hunt, trap, snare and fish, and are you able to process your harvest? Do you know which plants are edible and which ones are poisonous?
Are you able to maintain a secure environment? What kind of military, law enforcement or other applicable tactical training do you have to protect yourself and those you love?
The point I want you to understand is that this array of skills takes quite some time to master, and you’ll need to have them in place before an emergency occurs. You need to do a thorough and honest self-evaluation about your skill set.
Once you’ve identified areas you need to improve, get training—and then practice as if your life depends on it … because, one day, it might.
Have a Backup Plan
Another great acronym to remember is PACE (primary, alternate, contingency and emergency). I’m not saying you have to come up with four unique bug-out plans. However, in many situations, one plan just won’t do.
A BUG-OUT PLAN … SHOULD BE TREATED AS A LIVING, BREATHING PLAN OF ACTION, AND IT SHOULD BE CHANGED OR REVISED EACH TIME CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE FOR YOU OR SOMEONE IN YOUR PARTY.
Murphy’s Law proclaims, in essence, that anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time.
With that in mind, what if your plan is to hold in place—but before you start digging into your stockpile of MREs and freeze-dried food, Murphy’s tanks come rolling down your driveway? Guess what? It’s time to switch to “plan B,” so you’d better have one.
The chances are that if you don’t have at least one alternate location to bug out to, you’re going to be up the creek without a paddle.
Perhaps the most important advice I can give you is to not delay making a BOP just because you don’t think you have the time to create the perfect plan the first time.
… THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE I CAN GIVE YOU IS TO NOT DELAY MAKING A BOP JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T THINK YOU HAVE THE TIME TO CREATE THE PERFECT PLAN THE FIRST TIME.
U.S. Army General George S. Patton is quoted as having said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” When it comes to a BOP, start with the best plan you can come up with and then use the techniques I have laid out to revise and improve your plan.
I hope you will never have to use your plan, but if you do, at least you will have the confidence of knowing that it has been well-thought-out and rehearsed, giving you the greatest chances of surviving to live another day.
Remember: The Girl Scouts have it right—be prepared!
In many, if not most, survival situations, one plan will not be enough to respond to the challenges at hand. Be prepared for surprises by using this helpful “PACE” method to create viable alternatives to your ideal strategy.
P > PRIMARY
The plan that is most efficient and has the highest likelihood of achieving all goals in a given situation
A > ALTERNATE
Similar to the Primary plan but has expectations of a somewhat less optimal outcome
C > CONTINGENCY
Less efficient than “P” and “A” but still achieves the main goals of the Primary plan
E > EMERGENCY
Option of last resort; likely to be slowest and least efficient way to achieve the main goals of the Primary plan
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April, 2018 print issue of American Survival Guide.
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