Bugging in is the ultimate goal for most people who want to be prepared. It makes sense, because our home is where all of our memories, stuff and comfort lives. It’s security, familiarity; it’s your home turf. We are the most relaxed and prepared at home.
There may be instances in which leaving your home due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a wildfire, hurricane, chemical spill or other emergency or disaster is the best option.
Every circumstance will be different and will dictate whether you stay or go.
In this guide, I’m going to show you how you can prepare yourself, your family, your home and your plans in order to be ready to bug in for any emergency or disaster.
When should you bug in?
This is a heavy question to answer. There honestly is no definitive answer, as lame as that sounds.
Here’s how we can assess whether we should bug in or bug out:
Where is your home in conjunction to the incident? – Do you live feet from the ocean and a hurricane in impending? Might be a good idea to think about whether you’d be safer leaving or staying. Assess your physical location to the actual incident. Some incidents may be further away, but you may want to take precautions anyway because storms and the like are very unpredictable.
What’s the news saying? – Watch/listen/read the news. Stay up-to-date on current intel through ham radio, social media, local news sources, friends, etc. Keep a close eye/ear to the news/skies and use information to help make the decision about whether you should go or stay.
What’s your gut telling you? – If your gut is telling you to leave, then leave. If it’s saying you’ll be cool at home, then stay. Listen to your gut, even if you think it’s nothing, listen to it. Too many people ignore their intuition; don’t be one of them. You’re not crazy for wanting to take precautions. If it’s all over and nothing bad happened, then that’s fantastic news! You get to return to an untouched home and return to your life.
You might have specific thresholds about whether you stay or go and these can be determined when you create your emergency disaster plan. By determining thresholds, you can already have a good idea about what your threshold would be based on specific incidents.
So when you should be bug in would be based on the event. In the instance of a pandemic, staying indoors more often might be an easy decision. However, a hurricane which keeps changing directions and getting stronger then weaker, then stronger…might be a bit tougher.
Listen to your gut. Talk to your family. You’ll make the right decision.
Food & Water
A variety of circumstances need to be kept in mind. In the instance such as poor water quality in Flint, having clean water on hand was a must. Either that or you had to sanitize all the water that came out of your faucet.
In the instance of this pandemic currently happening as I type this in July 2020, basic supplies are scarce and even inflated.
It’s not always about the end of the world, simply having some extra food and water on hand is a good idea.
How much should you have on hand? As much as you can! Find creative ways to store your food, even in small spaces.
Here are some videos that go into detail about food storage:
There’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to food storage. Get a few extra bits of food each time you go to the grocery store.
Stick with your budget, stick with your space, stick with foods you and your family enjoys eating and lastly, make sure you know how to cook with your food storage.
Water can be a little more difficult because it’s heavy, bulky, etc. There are lots of options, though, including collecting rain water.
Here are some videos about water and water purification:
A great at home water purification option that’s easy to setup and use is something like a Berkey.
Other water purification methods might be:
- Water tablets
- Or even a pump system like the one you take with you camping, like a Katadyn.
- Of course, there’s also good ol’ fashion boiling water. Filter the water with a bandana or other cotton cloth into a pot, then let the water reach a rolling boil. Let it boil for 1 minute.
Don’t forget about water and food for pets and livestock!
Consider alternative cooking options, as well. Even if you have a gas or propane stove, you may need an alternative method.
- Camp stove like a Coleman propane stove
- Alcohol stove
- Buddy burner
- Rocket stove
- Solar oven
- Fire ring/pit
These are just some ideas. Always have at least one backup as well as plenty of fuel that will be needed.
What happens when the lights go out? Will you be ready?
Here are some supplies we should keep around for a blackout:
- Flashlights (headlamps are great for hands-free!)
- Batteries (dispensable and rechargeable)
- Portable solar panel
- External phone battery chargers
- Generator (solar or gas or propane)
Blackouts can happen at any time for any reason. Be ready to function without modern amenities such as no electricity, no hot water or no running water at all. Some things in your home may run on propane or gas, but it’s always good to still not rely on those modern conveniences always being around.
Ideas for alternative heating:
- Layer clothing
- Stay in one room
- Invest in a wood stove
- Consider solar heating
- Invest in good sleeping bags
- Drink warm beverages
- Cover windows and any drafts with blankets or towels
Ideas for alternative cooling:
- Build a swamp cooler (only for areas without humidity)
- Make or buy a cool wrap
- Dip a bandana or shemagh in water and place on the back of your neck
- Wear cotton or other moisture absorbing clothing
- Invest in battery powered fans
- Open the windows at night
- Invest in light blocking curtains during the day (could also open windows during the day for additional breeze)
- Stay in the shade
- Get into a body of water (even if it’s a small kiddy pool)
- Drink plenty of water
Ideas for medical conditions:
- If you have a CPAP, consider getting several extra batteries.
- If you need an oxygen tank, store extra oxygen tanks that are easily accessible.
- Whatever medications you take, keep at least one extra bottle on hand.
Start thinking about ways to live without modern conveniences now so you’re not scrambling or uncomfortable during a blackout.
Communication is more than transmitting, it’s also about receiving. You want to make sure that you have a consistent stream of intel throughout the emergency or disaster. If you have electricity, internet is still running then your options for gaining consistent intel through social media, news sources, etc are still available.
However, we should also plan to receive intel without electricity, internet or TV available to us. In some cases, you may even rely more on the alternative sources as they’re more up-to-date.
Here are some communication options:
- Ham radio is a great option, especially for peer-to-peer information gathering. If you don’t have your license, you can receive, but cannot transmit. Receiving information may be all you need, unless you need to reach out for help. However, I would highly suggest that you get your license so you know how to actually use the radio properly, which frequencies are best, how to tune, etc.
- NOAA weather radio is great for instant weather information. If a storm is approaching your area, it will alert you immediately. I suggest that you consistently have your NOAA weather radio plugged in and on. If the electricity goes out, it has batteries to keep functioning.
- Landlines are a great way to keep in touch with friends, distance/out of state relatives and other sources. You don’t necessarily need to have your own landline, but knowing a neighbor who has one would be helpful.
Don’t get caught off guard, keep a steady stream of consistent information flowing in, especially during a bug in situation when you’re waiting for an uncertain situation to resolve.
Hygiene and Sanitation
Whether it’s a blackout or not, hygiene and sanitation need to be kept top of mind.
If no running water or even just no hot water, how will you bathe? You can boil water and use that for a quick bath. You could also invest in some waterless soap and shampoo.
If your plumbing is no longer working, how will you continue to go to the bathroom? You could turn 2, 5 gallon buckets into your disposals. Could invest in a composting toilet. Could invest in a camp toilet. You could create an outhouse in your backyard. There are a variety of options, but you should have a plan for ‘just in case’, instead of trying to figure it out as you go.
How will you throw away trash if there’s no trash pickup? You could (discreetly) burn some trash. Bury the trash (several feet down). Try to recycle as much trash as possible. Reduce the amount of trash you produce. There are many ways to deal with trash without throwing it in a landfill, however, there certainly needs to be plan(s) in place.
Consider keeping these items on hand for hygiene and sanitation needs:
- No rinse body wash
- Cotton towels of various sizes
- Rubbing alcohol
- Soap; bar, liquid, castile, dish soap, etc.
- Trash bags
- Compostable toilet bag liners
- Extra toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss
- Baking soda
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizer
One important aspect about hygiene and sanitation to keep in mind would be to think about more reusable items and making your own items. Such as using reusable diapers, reusable wash cloths, reusable disinfecting wipes, reusable baby wipes, reusable towels, etc. It might be easier to clean things than it would be to dispose of trash.
In general, continuing to keep your home clean will still be important. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but cleaning dishes, wiping counters and floors will help keep your home clean, as well as keep insects and other critters at bay.
Don’t forget about entertainment for the whole family! A crisis doesn’t always mean running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This is especially true if you have kids.
Here are some ideas for entertainment:
- Board games
- Card games
- Various boxes with different types of crafts inside
- Books (read aloud to each other!)
- Puppet shows
- Camp inside
- Blanket forts
- Nerf wars
- Hide and seek
- Making things out of paracord
- Baking (if able, or make no bake cookies)
- DVD player that takes batteries (plus DVDs, of course)
- Science experiments with common household items
- Jogging around the house
These entertainment items should be (somewhat) planned out before-hand. For instance, you could have a few ‘bug in’ boxes that have specific entertainment items that are only used when it’s time to ‘bug in’ during a crisis. This way, all of the items inside of the boxes are brand new and exciting for the whole family.
You could also fill a jar with pieces of papers that have ideas written on them. Then during the blackout or other event, an idea would be plucked from the jar and accomplished during the blackout.
During times of uncertainty when stress levels are high, entertainment will be very much needed to take our minds off of the situation. Even if it’s “just a blackout”, it’s still an interruption to our normal everyday lives. You know your household best and know what would be a hit.
When it comes to children during a crisis, there are a few things we need to keep in mind.
Their routines might be altered because of whatever is going on. Every child will handle the change differently. It’s up to us as adults to remain calm, keep them busy and try to add some normalcy and/or happiness into their lives during this stressful times.
Again, even if it’s “just a blackout” that blackout could last several days and it’s a good idea to try to keep kids, of any age, set in some type of rythme. Or at least lots of distractions!
Here are some ways to keep children happy and occupied during a crisis:
- Keep their minds and hands busy with school work, crafts, playtime, etc.
- Try to keep a consistent schedule of meal times, (naps), bed time, etc.
- Make it fun, keep the situation cool, calm and collected
- If they ask what’s going on, be as honest as possible without scaring them, kids are extremely smart
- Involved them in chores, cooking, etc.
- Keep their favorite meals on hand; if they like mac and cheese, don’t forget to store plenty of items to make mac and cheese
- Talk to them about emergency preparedness and how they can be involved; such as helping with their bug out bag, picking up their toys, etc.
- Let them carry a glow stick or other flashlight around the house; aka, give them purpose during the event
- If you have a baby or toddler in the house, keep extra diapers, pull-ups and plenty of their favorite snacks or pouches around
- Consider the need to possibly have to do some quick washing of clothing (or reusable diapers) or sheets in the sink/tub
- Keep plenty of kid-specific OTC medications on hand
- If they need a night light when they go to bed, but there’s no electricity, can you provide a glow stick or a battery powered night light?
Kids are smart, however, we don’t want to scare them. We need to make the experience as pleasant as possible. So the next time it happens, they’re more open to helping and being an asset to the whole household and the situation.
Take a look at the daily routines of your children, their interests and favorite foods and do your best to plan accordingly for emergencies and disasters.
Don’t forget about pets! Pet routines may be changed during a bug in event. It really depends on what’s going on, but they may not even be able to go outside to use the restroom.
Here are some bugging in considerations for pets:
- Do you have plenty of their food on hand? Consider having at least one extra bag on hand, maybe two
- For dogs, if they can’t go outside to go to the bathroom, consider setting up some training pads or newspaper in the bathroom
- Be sure to factor stored emergency water for pets needs
- If they require any type of specific medications, have at least one extra bottle on hand
- If you typically buy your pet food from the store, look into alternative means of feeding them from your stored foods
Pets need to be planned for and taken care of just like the rest of the household.
No matter where you live, security needs to be taken seriously, especially during times of uncertainty.
Protect your home and your loved ones with these tips:
Install motion sensor lights. I prefer solar motion sensor lights so I don’t have to worry about batteries. But there are plenty of various motion sensor options that take batteries, as well as wired options. Place the lights all around your home, especially really dark corners.
Consider installing security cameras. I prefer motion sensor cameras that take batteries. Try to look for security cameras that send instant motion updates to an app on your phone, that way you’re always in the know immediately when the camera is triggered. But there are also options that wire in directly and record to a DVR. In addition, something like a Ring doorbell can be a great asset to knowing whether you should open the door or not, as well as knowing who’s creeping around your house when you’re not there or late at night.
Secure windows and doors with strong sticks or security bars. I’d also recommend getting the door and window alarms. They’re run on batteries and whenever the door or window is opened, it emits an ear piercing noise.
Trim tall hedges, bushes and other foliage to prevent anyone from attempting to hide behind them. In addition, plant spiky or thorny bushes under windows and around fences.
Add a kick plate to outside doors.
Add a lock to your garage so people can’t open it from the outside. Additionally, always keep your garage door closed and locked. Never leave it open or unlocked, even while at home, it’s an invitation for people to walk right onto your property with no hassle. Also be sure to lock the interior door that goes from your garage door into your home.
Consider personal defense. While I recommend a home defense firearm, I also understand that isn’t possible for many people for various reasons. If you are unable to have a firearm and train with it for self-defense, there are other options. Nonlethal weapons such as knives and baseball bats can be effective if you train regularly with them and know how to use them. But not only that, you should train your mindset and learn to control your fear. It’s your home, gain the upper hand by blinding them with a flashlight, hitting them with a pan; whatever it takes.
The whole point of all these measures is to make your home a hard target. Keep blinds shut, keep doors and windows locked; make everything extremely difficult for anyone thinking of breaking in. Plus, the harder it is for them to access the home, the more noise they’ll be making and will most likely alert you and you’ll be able to take action to deter the threat further.
Make your home and the people inside a hard target.
Make the most of bugging in. Stay strong and keep a positive survival mindset. You’ll get through this. Regardless of what’s keeping you ‘bugged in’, there are plenty of ways to keep busy, challenge ourselves by creating amazing new dishes with our food storage and stay vigilant.