Having a Bug Out Bag that is adjusted for your particular situation and needs is a good start, but another critical aspect in the step towards being ready for an evacuation is to have a Plan. It is likely that you will overlook something or that you might need more information if you would ever really need to evacuate, but to having a Plan and some options is a good start.
In this article I will present some advice concerning what you can think of when making your own Bug Out Plan. There is no Plan that is perfect for every person or every setting. One Size does not fit all; you might have several personal needs that are not included in this article that you have to cover. You must own this process yourself; this is only advice and guidelines. First of all, let’s be clear: No Crisis Plan is likely to Survive its first encounter with reality. You will have to improvise and find solutions for situations that cannot be foreseen before they happen. You cannot plan for every possible scenario.
In a Crisis Situation you will face time pressure, insecurity and great values like you life or safety will be at stake. The very dynamic of the situation means that you will have to make decisions based on incomplete information. Not even the crisis staffs of government organizations will have access to all information during this type of situations.
Starting Out: Keep it Simple
As I first step I suggest that you make a very basic Bug Out Plan. It’s possible to make a very comprehensive Bug Out Plan but as your first step I suggest that you try to keep it simple. I suggest that you establish some basic parameters like:
1.) Establish two means of Getting in Contact with other Group Members; Cell phones are often the best primary alternative since most people carry them on an Everyday basis. HAM radio, CB-Radio, Social Networks like Facebook or E-mail can be potential secondary means of communications.
2.) Establish Meeting Points: One Primary Meeting Point and One Secondary Meeting Point.
3.) Establish Two alternative routes to get out of your area.
4.) Establish a Primary and Secondary means of transportation; Normally Vehicles like a car, truck or motorcycle will the primary alternative; travelling by foot, bike or public transportation can be a secondary alternative.
5.) Make sure that you have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) and some basic equipment available.
6.) Make sure that every Group member is aware of the Plan and have Copy.
Making a more Comprehensive Bug Out Plan
I suggest that the basic layout of your Bug Out Plan should be as easy and uncomplicated as possible. A comprehensive Bug Out Plan with multiple alternatives can have advantages but if a plan for a Group is extremely comprehensive it can be hard for members to remember all the details of the plan and it can also make the plan hard to understand. My suggestion is that you first make a Basic Plan and that you later add to this plan and adjusts it depending on new findings and developments.
Part 1: Activation
So when should one choose to evacuate? The easy answer is: when your chances to survive are better somewhere else then in your home or where you are right now. The dynamics of a Crisis makes it very hard being able to tell when it’s better to evacuate and when it isn’t. You will most likely not have all the information that you would need when you will make the decision to stay or evacuate. I would recommend that you do not just view this problem from a perspective with only two options. It can be good to have a sliding scale approach to the problem so that you have more steps to take than just too stay or go.
During your normal everyday life there are things that you can do in order to be able to get information at an early stage like
• Check the Media and your local news paper every morning
• Check the weather prognosis every morning
• Check FEMA or your local crisis management organizations webpage every morning
Many of these organizations can have news feeds that you can get for your computer or smart phone so that you can get information at an early stage.
• Have a Bug Out Bag Ready.
• Make sure that your Vehicle is in a good working condition and that you have some extra fuel stored that you rotate on a regular basis.
When a crisis situation takes place news papers, TV news channels, WebPages and the radio are common sources of information. During an early stage the information is often incomplete and sometimes even contradicting. If you receive this type of information make sure that you write down
• What information have you received
• At what time did you receive it
• From what source did you receive it?
Also make sure to:
• Inform the other members of your Groups
• Follow the Development
If you have received information that suggests that an evacuation might become necessary but don’t know the severity of the situation or if an evacuation is necessary I suggest that you start taking steps in order to prepare.
• Check in with everyone and make sure that they are informed, make sure that you have routines for this; having specific e-mail or text messaging lists ready can make it easy to inform several people at once. I also suggest that you create a standard procedure for the members to confirm that they have received the information.
• Stay Updated
• Is there any information that suggests that your intended routes may be affected?
• Check Vehicles and Fuel Levels
• Check Bug Out Bags
• Check Supplies
This step can be taken either after an Early Warning or Incubation period or it could be taken at a moment’s notice like in the case of a Tsunami Warning or an alert for some type of immediate danger. In some situations like a Tsunami all efforts must be focused on getting to safety at once; no time can be spared to load equipment etc; waiting to do this could cost you your life. Therefore I recommend that you Plan for two types of scenarios: An Evacuation when you have the time to prepare and an Evacuation when you must leave at once.
If the scenario does not present an immediate danger like a tsunami it’s important to establish routines for how the decision to evacuate will be made. If there is a group will there be a vote or will someone that the group trusts make the decision? What does one do if some members of a Group want to stay behind? This is a very difficult subject and you must find a solution that makes sense for You.
When deciding these parts it can also be good to think of different types of Scenarios like:
• The Scenario takes place during daytime when people are at work or school
• The Scenario takes place during the night
• The Scenario takes place when you are at Home
Part 2: The Routes
Establishing the best routes in case of an evacuation can be a hard thing to do. During many large scale evacuation the evacuation takes time for several reasons; it takes time for people to get ready and meet up with family members. Other potential problems like pile ups can result in a situation when the pace of the traffic comes to a complete halt or moves very slowly. During a large scale evacuation this is a problem that will be very hard to completely avoid.
Making the Routes
• Start with selecting some Primary Meeting Points
o A natural primary meeting point is your Home; it can also be good to have a designated location close to your Home in case of events like a Fire if your house would be inaccessible.
• Select some Secondary Meeting Points
o Secondary meeting points should be easy to access and be well known by all members of a Group. The location of relatives or friends can be a good secondary meeting point.
o I also suggest that you establish a way of signaling to the other members of a party if you have been at a meeting point but had to keeping on moving. When did you arrive at the meeting point; were you alone and where are you planning to go next?
• Mark the potential routes on Maps; using markers with different colors can make them easy to view and follow. Online tools like Google Maps can also be used to establish routes.
• Add information about the Route. Where can you find potential shelters, access to water, gas stations, hospitals, hotels, motels, hostels, hazards, repair shops, do you have any stashes on the way etc.
• Try to identify Potential Choke Points like bridges, tunnels etc and potential ways around them.
• Identify key infrastructure on the routes that can possibly be affected by events. Bridges could possibly be damaged or collapse from an Earthquake and Tunnels or roads be flood by a dam break etc
• Are there community plans and routes for an evacuation? Check with your local and regional agencies. If you haven’t made a Risk Assessment also ask for their latest Risk Assessments if they have public reports.
• Has there been Previous Evacuations from your community? Are there any lessons that can be learned? How did the evacuations work?
Part 3: The Party
The next important step that I recommend that you take is to collect information about the members of party that can be necessary to have during and evacuation. I suggest that you list all the members and add details like
[ ] Home Phone Number and Fax Number
[ ] Home Address and Type of Housing
[ ] Mobile Phone Number
[ ] E-mail Address
[ ] Work Address and Occupation
[ ] Work Phone Number
[ ] Date of Birth
[ ] Special Medical Needs
[ ] Blood Group
[ ] Immunizations
[ ] Known allergies
[ ] Physical Description; Length, Weight, Hair, Eyes etc, a photograph can also be useful.
[ ] Skills and Education
[ ] What type of driver licenses does the person have and what vehicles can they operate?
[ ] Friends and Family (Possibly Phone Number and Address to those)
Part 4: Equipment
The needs for evacuation can come fast and without warning. There are some types of threats like a Tsunami, Dam Break, Spills from Chemical Plants or Transports, a Massive Earthquake, Melt Down in a Nuclear Power Plant and other events that may require an immediate evacuation. Other types of scenarios when an Early Warning can be given like with the case of Hurricanes or Blizzards can allow for a more planed sollution.
In a worst case scenario all you might have is what you carry on your person; your Every Day Carry (EDC) or a Get Home Bag (GHB). These may not be designed for an evacuation scenario: But they may all that you have.
If an Early Warning is given it may be possible to make preparations before; go to your home, load up vehicles, get your Bug Out Bag and other supplies.
[ ] Bug Out Bag.
[ ] Extra Equipment for Vehicles; Spare Parts, Fuel, Etc
[ ] Maps, Compass and GPS
[ ] Additional Supplies: Water, Food and Clothing
[ ] Equipment required for specific Scenarios
[ ] Paperwork and Documents
Part 5: Scenarios and Risks
If you have made a Risk Assessment I also suggest that you add information about the potential hazards that you have identified that could require an evacuation.
• Could these scenarios affect Routes?
• Is there any particular additional equipment that could be critical?
Part 6: Standard Operating Procedures
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are different types of standardized means of approaching a potential problem. Creating SOP:s in a Bug Out Plan can be a way of training for different types of problems and challenges. Examples of SOP:s can be to train radio commutations and decide what frequencies or channels that the party will use and always make sure that walkie-talkies work before leaving with vehicles. Other procedures can be to have a checklist so that one can check that all equipment has been loaded.
• How to make Contact and Communications
• SOP:s for Equipment Check, Radio Check etc.
• SOP:s for how to make Decisions or the Chain of Command
How does the Group make decisions? Is one person in charge or do the group make decisions together? Create routines.
• SOP:s for Travelling with Vehicles
The Distance Between Vehicles; Always Keep Windows Up, Doors locked, Keep valuables hidden, Seat Belts, Check Fuel Levels, Always park in the direction you intend to leave etc.
• SOP:s for Traveling by Foot
• SOP:s for Transportation of Injured Persons
• SOP:s for Checkpoints
Part 7: Appendix
It can also be good to have additional information attached to your Plan in an Appendix. Some suggestions for information that can be useful to have:
• Telephone numbers and addresses to hospitals, police, fire departments, CERT, The Red Cross, FEMA, local Non Governmental Organizations (NGO:s), Insurance Companies, Power Companies etc.
• Possible Alternative Forms of transportation; Airports, Trains, Boats, Subways etc. Phone numbers, websites and addresses to companies.
• It could also be good to know what the different persons plan on bringing along when it comes to equipment and have an inventory list of this in the plan.
Most groups will likely consist of some people that have special needs; these may be children, elderly persons, people with some type of disabilities etc. Individuals may also have special needs like glasses, hearing aids or medication. These needs must be planed for and taken into consideration when making your Bug Out Plan.
Paperwork and Documents
Having the access to documents can be very important during an evacuation scenario. If you have to evacuate your Home there is telling for sure how long it will be until you can return or if you will ever be able to. I suggest that you include paper works as a basic part of your Bug Out Plan preparations. Some examples of paper work that can be vital:
• Passports, ID, Driver Licenses, Vehicle Registration and Immunization Cards. Possibly other information like medical insurance, insurance, permits, birth certificate and other types of information.
• By scanning the paper work you can make a digital back up that you can store on some kind of device like your cell phone or USB stick. Some of this information may be private and sensitive; make sure to check out options for encryption and password protection in order to protect the information.
Distributing the Plan
A printed version a Bug Out Plan can be a good thing to have in your Bug Out Bag. A waterproof container can be good in order to protect it from the elements. If you are really serious and have the money Rite In The Rain makes water resistant copy paper than can be used with laser printers. A PDF version of the Plan can be kept on a USB stick or viewed on Smart Phones.
The Bug Out Plan is only a part of what should be your general Plan for coping with crisis and Survival Situations. In this article I have present some advice on what you can include into your own Bug Out Plan; Your Plan must be adjusted accordingly to your own specific needs and situation. You must reach the point when you feel that your plan is made by you and for your own situation. Own the process.
The aim of the Plan as I see it is twofold; the first part is to provide some options for action; the other aspect is to provide a tool to deal with unexpected events by having critical information about your group and local setting available.
Checklist for the Bug Out Plan:
[ ] The Bug Out Plan
[ ] Maps; City Maps, Topographical Maps, Road Maps, Sea Charts etc.
[ ] Passport, Driver License or ID
[ ] Birth Certificate, Immunization Card, Permits, Prescription for medicines, Medical Insurance Card, Permits etc
[ ] Cash (Bills and Coins) and Credit or Debit Card