I’ve been at this prepping thing for a long time now. I’ve seen it go from a fringe idea talked about in whispers to something wildly accepted as reasonable and discussed around the office water cooler. One of the things that inevitably gets people started in prepping is envisioning how they’d respond to hypothetical bug out situations.
It might start with hearing news of a pending natural disaster, witnessing street protests, or – for some – just imagining a zombie apocalypse and the need to get out of Dodge (GOOD).
Inevitably, these scenarios prompt people to ask themselves:
- Where would I go?
- How would I get there?
- Who would I travel with?
- What would I need for gear?
- How long could I last?
If they hadn’t started one already, they quickly find themselves searching the web for information on building the best bug out bag. Such a pack is typically filled with equipment to enable one to get from point A to point B or to live safely in the bush for a period of time until danger passes.
But what are some of the actual events that could lead to the necessity of bugging out? Let’s take a look at 9 hypothetical bug out situations that could necessitate a full bug out. Let’s start with clarifying the basics…
Table of Contents
What is a Bug Out Situation?
A bug out situation is any dangerous scenario that requires leaving in hurry, a.k.a. to “bug out.” Unexpected danger, often to one’s life, is either present or approaching. There is little time to react, no chance of hiring movers to pack your things and head across the country. You have to grab your survival gear and go!
Bug Out Situations to Consider
I have fielded countless questions from people just getting started in prepping. It can be overwhelming! There is so much to learn, so many products people are telling you to buy, and so many situations to consider. One can reach information overload in a hurry, get discouraged, and give up.
My advice to anyone just getting started is to begin with a plan for SHTF! Knowing what threats you face in your situation will help you inform – and prioritize – your preps. It saves time and money.
A personal threat assessment requires a bit of imagination, though. You have to consider what the possible situations are that would lead to a possible loss of life or property. What are the likely threats, and of each, which would require bugging out.
That’s the focus of this article – imagining hypothetical bug out situations that would require a bug out. In other words, bug out situations you might face. Following are a few examples, but you could likely imagine many more.
1 – Religious Persecution
America was built, in part, out of European religious persecution. Colonists pursued religious freedom in a new land. Unfortunately, religious persecution continues as a persistent problem. On top of that, you have instances of church shootings, people targeting churches with IEDs, etc.
Religious persecution has taken place throughout virtually all of human existence. There is no sign it will end, and it’s not unthinkable to believe things could grow worse.
If tensions heated up, if tempers flared, if violence against your church – whatever church it may be – became a target, would you have the ability to disappear into the woods, desert, or mountains? It’s a bug out situation you want to consider.
- Beyond the Rapids: One Family’s Triumph over Religious Persecution in Communist Ukraine – by Evelyn Puerto
- Religious Liberty in Crisis: Exercising Your Faith in an Age of Uncertainty – by Ken Starr
- The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century – by Brian Grim and Roger Finke
2 – Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) / Geomagnetic Storm
A number of nations now have the ability to attack with a grid-destroying EMP. China reportedly even has a “first-strike” capability to melt the U.S. power grid. A geomagnetic storm would have the same effect – it’s happened before!
The threat of EMP is very real, and is likely going to be a weapon in future warfare. If you live within an urban environment when an EMP hits, your need to bug out is virtually guaranteed. Not having any power in a city means no ability to get water, utilize elevators, have proper sewage disposal, etc. It would only take a few days (when the threat of dying from thirst manifests or social chaos ensues) before you would need to take drastic action and get the heck out of dodge.
An urban environment would grow very violent post-EMP as well as desperate people turn to desperate actions to get the supplies that they need to keep them and their families alive.
In the event of such an attack, the sooner you can put as much distance as possible from the city and yourself, the better. Hopefully you would bug out immediately after learning of the attack.
Your car likely won’t work post-pulse, and so trekking it out on foot would likely be your only viable option (or bicycle). A bug out bag would be your only safe source of supplies in such an event. Strap it on your back and go!
- How to Bug Out of a City
- Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath – by Ted Koppel
- Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack – by Critical Infrastructures
3 – Doxing / Personal Threats
Doxing, in case you didn’t know, is slang for “dropping documents.” It’s done in a malicious manner, when someone does some cyber sleuthing to publicly expose personal details about someone’s life. What’s more, in most cases it’s completely legal.
Doxing probably isn’t what comes to most people’s mind when imagining hypothetical bug out situations, but it’s one worth considering in today’s day and age. The issue has only grown in intensity over the past few years.
The scary thing about it is that it can happen to virtually anyone. Typically, however, the targets seem to be people who have different political opinions than another. The person is then “doxed” as a means of exacting revenge or hoping others take some type of threatening action against the individual.
Should you become doxed you will likely not feel safe in your own home. You could find yourself contending with a large force of angry people headed your way. If this happened, calling the police is one option – bugging out is another. In fact, probably best to do both.
This could certainly mean bugging out to some wilderness location, but it’s just as probable you may want to bug out by paying with cash at an undisclosed motel somewhere in the middle of nowhere as well.
Either way, having a bug out bag ready with everything that you need in it will enable you to make a quick and clean break away with little fear of not being able to survive out there without all of the belongings in your home (and without leaving a phone/credit card trail behind you that could potentially give away your position).
- Protect Your Identity: Step-by-Step Guide and Workbook – by Carrie Kerskie
- SafeCyberHome: Protect Your Family From Fraud, Identify Theft, and Computer Hacks – by Billy VanCannon
4 – Economic Collapse and Severe Poverty
Let’s say that for some reason hyperinflation hits. Perhaps the national debt finally caught up with D.C., perhaps printing trillions of dollars finally got out of control, perhaps China decides to dump U.S treasuries, perhaps all of these things happen at once. Whatever the reason, the US dollar is now not even worth the paper it’s printed on, and nobody can afford anything. It’s because of this that few people can afford food, medicine, or other daily essentials.
Anyone that knows a sliver of U.S. history knows this has happened before during the Great Depression. Combined with the effects of the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression led to migration within the U.S., creating American refugees in their own country. This migration is – essentially – a large-scale bug out situation.
Such a happening could force thousands of people to vacate their homes either from eviction or in search of work somewhere else. It could leave the United States ripe for violence. Desperate people do desperate things, and roving bands of people breaking into homes would not be out of the question. We always think these are things that happen to other people, but remember that “other people” thought that too.
- Spiraling Downward: Thinking About and Planning for Economic Collapse – by Peter Damaris
- The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse – by Fernando “Ferfal” Aguirre
5 – Nuclear Fallout
Nuclear war has been a threat towards the U.S. ever since The Cold War, and though it’s no longer a hot topic of discussion, the fact of the matter is that the threat still exists. There are a number of countries (and organizations) out there that would love nothing more than to see America turned into a desolate wasteland. To make matters worse, national enemies are building their nuclear arsenals (or the ability to create such).
Though you would not survive a direct nuclear blast, the threat for most people would be the subsequent nuclear fallout. Let’s say that the mushroom popped up in a city 300 miles to the west of you, and the wind in your town comes in from the west. You know it’s only a matter of time before the nuclear fallout reaches your location.
In such an event, you’re likely going to want to bug out as far away as possible from the range of the fallout. This is especially if you don’t have a safe shelter available at your current location (e.g. business trip, vacation, etc.).
- Free Fallout Shelter PDF Designs – by Me
- Nuclear War Survival Skills: Lifesaving Nuclear Facts and Self-Help Instructions – by Cresson Kearny, Edward Teller, and Eugene Wigner
6 – Natural Disasters
Not a year goes by where you don’t hear about a major natural disaster impacting some area of the United States, let alone around the globe. These can take the form of drought, ice storms, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes – you get the idea. In 2018 alone, 38.4% of the continental U.S. was in a drought (source).
Hurricane Katrina was (anecdotally from my observations) the single biggest natural disaster that prompted more everyday people to become preppers. The reason wasn’t so much the devastation itself but the federal government’s horrific response. People woke up.
If the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, could not step up to save its own citizens in a defined area during a natural disaster, who could? The answer – no one other than ourselves.
For better or worse, sometimes saving yourself means bugging out! While the story of the Hurricane Camille party has been debunked, there are plenty of people who choose to face danger and protect their home as a devastating storm rolls in. This is unwise. Your life is more important. Pending natural disasters mean bug out!
- The Prepper’s Complete Book of Disaster Readiness: Life-Saving Skills, Supplies, Tactics and Plans – by Jim Cobb
- The Ultimate Survival Medicine Guide: Emergency Preparedness for ANY Disaster – by Amy Alton
7 – Plague
We all have COVID-19 fresh in our minds. For many people, that did not necessitate a bug out per se, but there were plenty of instances of people opting to live in more rural areas to ride out the pandemic. That is a “bug out” of sorts.
This has happened before. During the Black Death, refugees fled plague-stricken areas in droves. This undoubtedly led to the spread of the disease, but who can blame anyone for fleeing an area riddled with contagious death?
If a more deadly version of the coronavirus came back, and struck your area hard, would you bug out?
- The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Infections Disease – by William Forgery M.D.
- The Prepper’s Medical Handbook – by William Forgery M.D.
8 – Localized Attack
Of course, it wouldn’t have to be a full-blown nuclear war to necessitate a bug out resulting from acts of foreign aggression. Take the 9/11 terrorist attack as the most obvious example. That attack, executed by a handful of virtual nobodies, led to a national crisis unlike any we’d seen before and to large-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Whether an attack by hijacked planes, a so-called “dirty bomb,” or even just a prolonged mass shooting, a localized attack could require a rapid bug out situation. There are times to play the hero and there are times to just save yourself (or the lives of your family). Sometimes dealing directly with the threat is what’s required, and other times fleeing the scene is required. Soldiers know when to retreat. You should, too.
- Survive A Shooting: Strategies to Survive Active Shooters and Terrorist Attacks – by Alain Burrese
- Surviving the Threat: Terrorist Attacks, Mass Shootings, and Dangerous Situations – by Antaeus
9 – Zombie Apocalypse
Alright, this one was added for fun, but for good reason. Despite being fiction, a zombie apocalypse is, without question, the most widely considered hypothetical bug out situation.
Zombies have caught the fascination of the public ever since Night of the Living Dead (watch it free on YouTube). Countless zombie films have been produced since then, and more recently, The Walking Dead series captured viewers’ attention. Scenes from that series picture bug out situation after bug out situation. In fact, the characters are almost always bugging out.
There is not much of a leap from being a fan of zombie films to becoming a prepper. There are plenty of similarities. I’ve even been known to attend a zombie convention…
Zombie films, shows, books, etcetera can all bring about scenes that prompt questions of “What would I do if…?” Those scenarios all involve a bug out of some type.
Zombies represent an easy way bridge a more serious conversation about prepping, a way to move from the fun to the serious. This might be their biggest benefit of all.
- Could a Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen? – by Aden Tate
- The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead – by Max Brooks
- Zombie Preparedness – by Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Are YOU Ready?
Undoubtedly, there are other bug out situations in which you may be forced quickly flee. The important thing though is that you have the supplies in place already to be able to do so when your life depends upon it.
Are there other situations where bugging-out could easily save your life? Are there particular items you like to include as “specialty items” within your bug-out bag? Let us know in the comments below!