The Prepper’s Conundrum: Bugging In (Pt. 2)

by Tess Pennington

Disasters can have long lasting impacts on local areas – the grid goes down, local infrastructures are damaged, supply trucks are unable to make it into the disaster area due to debris in the road – the list goes on and on. That said, there are times when disasters make it impossible to bug out and hunkering down is our only option.

Such events could be:

  • A sudden onset of natural disasters (earthquakes, tornadoes, flash flooding, wildfires).
  • An event that causes immediate widespread chaos and fleeing your home would put you in harm’s way. 
  • Sudden unplanned disasters such as a chemical leak or worse, a widespread power blackout, a terrorist or nuclear attack will make it impossible to evacuate.

Any of these reasons justify having supplies in place to lessen the stress and help you remain in place until the recovery period begins.

Another reason one would decide to bug in is if you or a loved one has physical limitations such as a debilitating illness or handicap that makes it impossible for you to bug out. Factors such as these and those listed in part 1 of this series create a set of unique challenges that we must prepare for.

Because disasters bring an air of uncertainty and chaos, we need to prepare ahead of time. The more time you can prepare and plan, the more prepared you will be.

Do You Have What It Takes To Bug In Place?

The single greatest advantage to bugging in compared to bugging out is all of your preps are organized and in place for a sudden emergency. In the midst of others in the community frantically deciding what to take and what to leave behind, all the while running to the store to gather last minute supplies, yours are already in place. And, because you have already made plans well in advance, you can concentrate on fortifying your home.

It All Starts With a Plan

I’m sure you have read plenty of preparedness websites that emphasize creating a disaster plan – but it’s the truth. It keeps you organized, on task and helps to ensure that all of your bases are covered. Before a disaster is imminent, do a risk assessment to weigh your pros and cons of bugging in or out.

  • What are the potential threats that you may face? How likely they are? What consequences they might have on you?
  • Is your home in immediate danger?
  • Do you live in a flood plain? Is it located above sea level?
  • Is your home built upon solid ground and could withstand natural threats such as high winds, hail, flooding, etc.?
  • How long do you plan to bug in for?
  • What events could cause you to bug out?

One more point I would like to make is there is a chance that you may not be in your home when a disaster strikes, therefore have a get home bag in your car and a sturdy pair of hiking boots in your car at all times. You never know if you will have to walk to get to your bug in location.

Put Thought Into Your Preps

It helps to have an emergency menu planned or shelf stable meals prepared to ensure that you have enough food to feel your family. Use a food calculator to find out how much supplies your family will need. Further, inventory your short term supplies to ensure you have enough food, water, fuel, batteries, medical supplies, etc., to make it through.

Put thought into your immediate survival needs when planning your bug in supplies and have them ready before a disaster is imminent. At the very least, you need a two week supply of preps. However, disasters have a mind of their own and to be on the safe side you should plan to be off grid for a longer period of time.

Shelter – Hunkering down in your home environment is less chaotic simply because you are most familiar with your home’s strengths, its weaknesses, your neighbors and community, land characteristics, etc. But in order to shelter in place, you need to safeguard your home.

Prepare your home’s exterior for facing the brunt storms and prevent further home damage by following this checklist. To go an extra step and take more extreme measures on your home to iron clad it against looters and vandals.

Water – Victims of previous disasters say the suggested water amount provided by disaster organizations is simply not enough to get through a disaster. Think about it, you need water to drink, to prepare food and for sanitation purposes. If we go by the suggestion from emergency organizations and have 1 gallon per person per day, a family of 5 will need 35 gallons of water per week – for drinking only.

There are a variety of storage containers on the market you can purchase to get a head start on your water storage. Here are 5 ways to store water for short-term emergencies. Further, it would be ideal to have some tools to treat water such as a portable filtration system, chemical treatment tablets, etc., as well as a portable filtration system for your bug out bags. To learn the different methods of purifying water, click here.

Note: As a backup plan, consider investing in manual water pumps, tarps, rain gutters for the home to collect rain water and condensation from the ground, trees and bushes. This could save your life!

Food – The foods we store may make all the difference in the world in terms of maintaining energy levels, decreasing stress levels and providing nutrition. The best approach to ensuring you have enough food is to calculate how much supplies you will need for a given period of time. Then, sit down and create an emergency menu based on your family’s food preferences and map out the nutritional needs that the chosen foods provide. This will help you stay organized for the disaster and will also help you create a well-rounded shopping list for your food supply. An example of a first time shopping list for your supply is listed here.

Your menu should be realistic in the sense that it will provide your body with the necessary energy needs. This chart can help in researching caloric needs based on gender and ages. At the very least, plan for 1200 calories per meal. Keep healthy whole grains in mind when adding carbohydrates to your larder. If you haven’t started stockpiling shelf stable foods, consider reading The Pantry Primer series.

Sanitation – When a disaster creates a situation where the water sources are compromised, the lack of sanitation in the given area will be a disaster in and of itself. When sanitary conditions are not up to par, there is an increase of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diphtheria.

Typically, women and children are the most affected by poor sanitary conditions. Women’s personal hygiene is essential to her health and should be considered a priority in your sanitation preparedness measures. Taking proper precautions and stocking up on sanitary items will help eliminate most issues regarding poor sanitation.

At the very least, educate yourself on the effects on unsanitary conditions and create a basic sanitation kit and prepare for the fact that toilets won’t flush, trash won’t be collected and you will be on your own.

Health – During short term disasters, medical situations are unplanned and they can be complicated. It is imperative that you prepare for them if you want to keep your loved ones and yourself healthy. Have medical response kits made ahead of time to help you act quickly. Create a medical supply based on the most likely medical emergencies.

Having medical supplies that could assist in these common medical emergencies would be proactive on your part.

  • Children Fever
  • Childhood Earaches
  • Various injuries such as sprains, strains, broken bones
  • Chest Pain
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Shortness of Breath

Source – 2006 Emergency Department Summary

During an emergency, medical issues may arise from contaminated water, infected skin abrasions, and dehydration. Have supplies that will reflect these types of emergencies as well. Consider some unconventional items to add to your medical supplies.

When buying medical supplies, keep in mind family members who have preexisting conditions, allergies, or are accident prone. It is within your best interest to ensure that you have any and all necessary medications that require prescriptions before an emergency happens. Further, consider those who are under a doctor’s care, or have medical issues. If you will be bugging in and living in an off grid environment, those that are dependent on medical equipment to stay alive could suffer.

Power – Disasters of any kind cause grid down scenarios that have the capacity to create severe damage to necessary infrastructure such as transportation, electricity, the access to fuel, heating, banking and other systems that we rely on daily. We realize our dependency on these only when we are without them. Moreover, our modern appliances are hooked into the grid in order to run and we must plan to be without them during times of disasters. Generally, short term disasters cause off grid environments that span 2 weeks or more, so take this into account when making preparations. Learn how to protect yourperishable food sources during off grid events and know which disaster items are the first to disappear so that you can purchase them ahead of time.

Look into alternative means of power and invest in rechargeable batteries, solar battery chargers, generators, ample supplies of fuel and even a siphon for fuel. As well, if cold weather threatens the area where you live, have ample firewood and matches or a way to start a fire.

Further, because of the likelihood of you being off grid for an extended amount of time means that you should have hard copies of your preparedness information. Having books, eBooks, manuals, etc., within arm’s reach will help you survive the odds better.

Communication – You can’t cut yourself off from the world, especially in a disaster. Our normal forms of communication – television, cell phones, land lines may not be available following a disaster. Therefore, you will need alternative forms of communication to communicate with neighbors, loved ones or to learn what is happening in your community. Having police scanners, radios, Ham radios to communicate to the outside world will give you a huge advantage in survival and security.

Security – Never underestimate the desperation of those who are unprepared or ill-equipped to survive. When one’s needs are not met, there is nothing they won’t do. Bugging in will require more planning and security on your part. Although living in an urban center may be the most difficult in terms of survival, those that live on the city’s outskirts and suburban areas will not be without their own set of challenges.

Considering that the majority of the U.S. population is centered in 146 of the country’s 3000 counties, chances are most of us live in urban areas, and special attention must be placed on security. We’ve read enough survival stories to know that drug addicts, released prisoners, those with mental illnesses and the unprepared will be the ones looting and pillaging. Those that live in densely populated areas will be the most vulnerable to this. To curtail this, amp up your security endeavors and preps.

  • Blackout curtains to ensure that your well lit house doesn’t become a beacon lighting the way for looters to come. Windows are weak links in homes and can easily be broken to gain access.
  • Shatterproof window film would be a good investment to decrease this vulnerability.
  • Diamond plate sheets can also be fastened to windows and an added benefit is they are bulletproof.

Further, beef up your security layers in and around your home, work with your community or other neighbors who are sheltering in place to create a secure perimeter.

Another consideration for bugging in place is due to a possibility of widespread crime and looting, you must assume that martial law will be activated and prepare for the fact that your firearms will be confiscated. If you are unable to protect what is yours, it could be taken by force. Looters will feel very confident invading homes to steal from you especially since the threat of firearms are gone.

Planning for the Unexpected

No matter how extensive your bug in plans may be, everything could go wrong and there may be events beyond your control that could force you and your family to evacuate or bug out. Plan for change! There may be situations that present themselves where your life may be in danger and the only contingency is to bug out. If your immediate needs can no longer be met, then it’s time to fall back to Plan B. To avoid the turmoil of last minute evacuation plans, get your bug out plans in place early. Bugging out will be discussed in further detail in the next section of this series.

To conclude, although the majority of the United States population lives in highly populated areas, urban preppers understand the dangers that go with it. Moreover, you realize that disasters are real and could pose a threat to your survival. Be prepared, be ready and have your preps in place before a disaster is upon you.

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years. Visit her web site at

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