(Editor's Note: I am not in 100% agreement with all of Mike's theories. I believe there are circumstances, such as natural disasters, where bugging out is exactly the right thing do and there is enough lead time to do so intelligently.
If you do plan to bug out: Have a destination; have multiple routes and methods to get there; have contingency plans for when those routes and methods fail.
That said, taken in context with the typical "Civilization suddenly collapses" doomsday scenario, Mike's advice is valid. Keep an eye on your situation so that you are not taken by surprise; the best advice for avoiding disaster is not being there when it happens. )
“Bugging Out”: The #1 Prepper Delusional Fantasy
by Mike SixEight
There is this fantasy in some prepping circles and with some sorts of preppers that they will immediately be able to “bug-out” when “the shit hits the fan”. They’ll know exactly when society is going to collapse; tell their boss “IT’S TEOTWAWKI! I QUIT!”, head home and get all their “preps” (I've never heard anyone actual call supplies “preps” until Doomsday Preppers)and “bug-out”. The balloon goes up and you think that everyone else is just going to carry on like nothing has happened, allowing you more than ample time to make it home, grab the wife and kids, meet up with your buddies and take off to your Super-Secret Hideout in the West that you've stocked with decades full of supplies, ready to hunker down and come out and rebuild some Glorious Utopia based upon what you think the Founding Fathers actually meant when they rebelled against Britain?
I hate to burst your bubble, but: no, you won’t. Because you’re not even going to make it out of the city. You’ll be lucky to make it out of the suburbs. How do I know this? History. Recent history. Not just in this country, but in others. Remember those blocked roadways leading out of New Orleans? Something catastrophic happens and you think that the roadways will be clear? People are animals. When they get scared, they tend to run. Most of them don’t even know where they’re running to, they’re just trying to get away from whatever is scaring them. And they clog up the roads in their panic. So much for the “bugging out to my Secret Squirrel Tree Fort” idea (this doesn't even include the possibility “What if you’re wrong?” How many times can one pull this stunt and keep coming back to their boss a few days later and saying “Uh, I was wrong. Can I have my job back?” I’m guessing once, if you’re utterly awesome at your profession and your boss is absolutely in love with you).
When something bad happens, and by bad I mean horrific natural disaster (typhoon in the Philippines) or the complete collapse of a country (Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, the USSR), people tend to revert to more base instincts. Primary needs are to be settled first: shelter, water, food, fire, and defense. The instant that those needs, all of them, cannot be met, people will turn on each other.
In the Philippines and Kosovo, it was common to see roadblocks preventing people from passing through certain city blocks or other areas. If you wanted through, you gave up whatever those manning the roadblocks wanted - assuming they didn't just kill you and take whatever you had anyways. Does anyone in their right mind assume that we would not see the same here? I’m sure many people would assume that everyone will just band together, help their neighbors and “love one another”, as that old peacenik song said. Sorry, hippies. Humans are animals. We just run better software than the others.
The conflict in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina is a prime example of societal collapse and how people respond to such an event. Kosovo is still a mess. Rapes, looting, arson and murders were common. Men didn't go out in groups of less than three because there were always larger groups of bandits on the roadways. To say nothing of the snipers that would simply shoot you down, wait a bit to see if anyone else was coming along, then climb down out of their perch and loot your body. Expect that to happen here after a catastrophic event, because people are people, regardless of where they live, where they’re from, what color they are, what gender or lack thereof they are, or how much they love puppies. And people will be people. This is to say, like animals with opposable thumbs.
Perhaps if you have a significant amount of resources and time, you can build a Super-Secret Doomsday Bunker made out of an old missile silo to live in, feel good about yourself for taking something designed to house a weapon that could obliterate a city and turning it into a place that will save lives, stock it full of patchouli, incense, your favorite Buddhist monk and spiritual healer and be all set for the End of the World As We Know It (and feel fine).
The rest of us, however, will have to shelter in place. That means keeping a low profile. If you walk around decked out like an extra in a video game, you’re not saying “I’m ready! I’m a badass! Don’t mess with me!” You’re saying “I’m an idiot. Shoot me in the back from behind that dumpster and take my shiny stuff.” Low profile is just that: low profile. The I-don’t-have-anything-worth-taking look. Hunker down; stay indoors as much as possible.
Light security is a must. And by that I mean only use the lights that you absolutely need. Got curtains? Good. Close them, and hang dark colored sheets behind them. Be as quiet as possible. Roll up towels or other thick cloth and put them at the base of your outside doors to muffle inside sounds and light. If at all possible, take old clothes, books, CDs, video games, whatever, and throw them out on your lawn or walkway. Do everything that you can to make it appear like your home has already been looted. If this camouflage stops one group from kicking in the door, then that’s one less potentially lethal problem that you’ll have to face.
It is, of course, good to be friends with your neighbors. That’s a subject for another post, but for this instance, it’s nice to know that Jim next door won’t be the person kicking in your door and trying to take your last nine cans of ravioli (“I mean, nobody wants to admit they ate nine cans of ravioli, but I did and I’m ashamed of myself.”) Stay low. Stay quiet. Stay dark.
For those that are insistent that they will “Bug out and live off the land” (or whatever), I have one final thought to consider: When you put on your camo, strap that bag to your back, grab your rifle and hit the road, do you know what you are? A survivor? A prepper? A tough-as-nails individualist who will survive while others perish?
Wrong. The instant you strap on that bag and leave your home without a specific place to end up, you are a refugee.