Bug-In or Bug-Out?

One of the most important decisions to be made during an emergency situation is whether you’re going to stay put (bug-in) or head to another location, such as a retreat or family or friend’s house (bug-out).

Bugging-in keeps you near several important resources: your house, emergency supplies, friends and family.  However, many emergencies can cause your area to become either uncomfortable or even unsafe to live (for example, destruction from natural disasters).

Bugging-out means packing up the essentials (you, your family, and a small amount of supplies), and heading out of the area temporarily.  Doing this at the right time can remove you from harm, but you have to be aware of the potential problems you may encounter after leaving.  We’ll be discussing this option further in the next post.


We all have the basic desire to protect what’s ours, and bugging-in gives us the opportunity to stay close to all of our belongings.  For many emergencies, bugging-in may be the safest choise.  That said, you need to understand the tradeoffs, as well as the situations where bugging-in will be your best option.

Here are some of the pros and cons of Bugging In:

Pros of Bugging-In:

  • You don’t have to actively do anything – just get to your house and stay put
  • Your house gives you built-in shelter and the essentials as long as they haven’t been cut off (water, power, etc)
  • All your emergency supplies are nearby
  • The rest of your belongings are nearby, and you can protect them
  • You’re probably near your friends, family and neighbors, so you can give each other support
    • By the same token, you may be able to help those less-prepared

Cons of Bugging-In:

  • You may be putting yourself in danger’s path (for example, destruction from a natural disaster)
  • You may be forced to leave by local authorities at some point anyways, and at that point you probably won’t be able to take much with you
  • Will your supplies last long enough?  What will you do as you run low on essentials?
  • If you change your mind and want to leave at a later date, it might be harder at that point (for example, natural disasters destroying roads)
  • While you are in your own home, it probably won’t be as comfortable as normal every-day life (for example, if the power is gone or your heat is out)

When to Bug-In

The decision of whether you’re going to bug-in or bug-out can’t be made before the disaster strikes.

You can, and should, prepare to take either action as necessary when the time comes.  For example, if high winds take out the power lines in your area, you should be able to bug-in with a small amount of supplies until the repair crews are able to turn your power back on.  On the other hand, if a hurricane is heading your way, you might choose to bug-out to another state.

If you have a good emergency kit and you store it in an easy-to-reach location, you can prepare yourself for either option by putting the supplies in or near a portable container, such a a duffle bag.  It may not be practical to have all of your supplies in portable containers, but if everything is in the same place, it’ll be easier and quicker to organize it.  You should keep a list of items that are not in the same location as your main supplies, so you remember to grab them if you’re bugging-out.

How to Bug-In

First of all, you should come up with a plan.  What will you do when an emergency is imminent or has already struck?

If you’ve made the decision to bug-in (at least for now):

  1. Stay put, or get to your pre-determined meeting location
  2. Account for everyone you’re in charge of (family, relatives)
  3. Try to get details on what’s going on
  4. Get immediate supplies ready so you’re prepared for the right now.  This includes:
    1. Put on proper clothing, such as more durable outerwear, boots, gloves, etc
    2. Get tools such flashlights, a Leatherman, candles, etc
    3. Prepare your home, such as shuttering windows, turning off the gas line, etc
  5. Stick around until the situation improves or you decide to bug-out

Tailor these steps to your family.  Write it down in your plan.  While the emergency may cause panic, having an already prepared, written-down plan will help you focus on the immediate tasks you need to do to get right-now prepared.  Keep in mind though, even the best made plans will change as the emergency is unfolding.  Stay flexible.

In summary, bugging-in is appropriate for many emergencies.  With the right supplies, it will be more convenient than trying to get out of the area.  As long as you have a good stock of organized emergency supplies, you can make the decision on whether to bug-in or bug-out at the time of need.

Next: It’s not safe to stay put?  Learn how to bug-out.

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