Anyone who has lived through a disaster of any type knows the roller coaster of emotions and stress such a situation causes. Those circumstances, if nothing else, do not need additional burdens piled on by mistakes made in the heat of the moment or from simply being unprepared. Avoiding common mistakes will help manage an already difficult and potentially chaotic situation.
1) Winging It
Bugging-out without a plan will only end in a disaster loaded atop the calamity already happening all around. You need to have a specified destination, a destination appropriate for the circumstances. Do not head to a relative’s house if they are in the path of the very same wildfire that sent you escaping from your own home. Coordinate with friends and relatives about staying with them in the event of an emergency, offering to reciprocate should they have to bug-out themselves. If a truly TEOTWAWKI level disaster befall society, have an isolated location already designated, in an area where you are extensively familiar.
Know how you will get there. Plan the route to the bug-out destination and identify alternatives. These plans should also include alternate modes of transportation. Interstates will clog up in an evacuation scenario meaning you may have to walk or ride a bike.
Decide ahead of time what you will do once you reach the destination. How long can you stay? The last thing you want to do is overstay your welcome at the in-laws’ or a friend’s home. Plan for alternatives should your stay last longer than the typical three days. What will you do if an extended time away from home is necessary?
2) Poor Physical Shape
An emergency is stressful in of itself. Sheltering in place, at your own home mitigates, at least, some of that from a taxing situation. Throw bugging out into the mix and that stress is compounded. It is entirely possible the circumstances may call for slinging the pack on your back and hoofing it for miles to reach the family’s destination. If there are any doubts about such prospects, just remember back to how people evacuated New York during the 9/11 attacks. They walked off the island of Manhattan.
Ask yourself, “Can you handle walking for hours with a loaded backpack slung on your back?” Answer honestly because if you are overweight or out of shape, the strain of the overall situation compounded by the physical exertion will put yourself in serious risk for dehydration, heat stroke or even a heart attack. How will your family handle a health emergency on top of the currently unfolding disaster? If you’re out of shape, start now. Under the supervision of a physician or armed with credible advice, begin working out. Go slow in the beginning and incrementally increase your activity level over time. Go for hikes with the family, get everyone involved. You can have fun while improving your health and preparedness for an emergency.
3) Thinking Family will be together when SHTF
Disasters happen at inconvenient times (they are inconsiderate in that way) making it all too likely your family will be separated when one strikes. The parents will be at their respective jobs, kids at school or away at college, at the store or the mall or out on a hike in the middle of the wilderness, unpredictability is the nature of disasters. Your disaster plans should take this likelihood into account. Identify meeting places if getting home is delayed or not an option. Since cell phone systems are the first to become overwhelmed, plan for alternative ways to communicate like walkie-talkies or CB radios.
4) Bug-out Bag too Heavy
Many people overestimate what to pack in their bug-out bag. In doing so they add significant weight to the pack, weight that the person lugging it on their back for miles will come to regret. Your bug-out bag should be light, carrying only what is needed for that first 72 hours. One of the best methods for determining what to pack is to go on a weekend, backwoods camping trip. Hike in with the backpack stuffed with all you anticipate needing. When you return home unpack, separating those items you’re used and those you didn’t into two piles. It’s a safe bet the unused pile will be twice the size of the used one. In addition to being cognizant of the pack’s weight, it should also fit comfortably with most of the load resting on your hips rather than your shoulders. This will go a long way to managing your burdens throughout the situation.
5) Overdoing it with Guns and Ammo
All too often the priority of disaster prep is on personal defense. While this aspect is important, such planning is frequently centered around a society destroying, a apocalyptic event where those left will battle it out to survive. Now, there is a possibility of this happening but the probability is low compared to the frequency of natural disasters. And during those situations, evacuations tend to be efficient and orderly. Setting the infrequent failures witnessed after Hurricane Katrina aside, local and state governments have detailed, well-practiced plans for handling such events, essentially eliminating the chances of widespread panic and violence. Simply put, the bug-out scenario someone may have to deal with at any given point in their lives will not require an armed defense of life and property.
Now, don’t think of this as advocating to leave the guns at home, instead think if it as practical advice. Guns and ammo are not lightweight. The weight and space they take up in your pack could be used for extra water, food and other emergency supplies. Government disaster plans often include utilizing city or school buses to transport evacuees out of the area or to evacuation shelters. It is worth noting, neither of these will allow people to carry guns. Refusal to leave them behind could delay your evacuation or even separate you from your family should they go on without you. If you are concerned about your family’s safety and want the security of a weapon consider carrying only one, easily packable handgun and a modest amount of ammunition that can be tucked away, out of sight in your bug-out bag.