Staying Put vs. Bugging Out – Survival Self Defense

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Most people preparing for a disaster situation support one of two philosophies for survival: sheltering in place (staying in) or hightailing it out of there (bugging out). Some people have the resources and abilities to have a plan that involves a mixture of the two.


Whether or not you decide to stay put and defend your home depends on a variety of factors. Do you live in the county, suburbs or city? Are your neighbors potential threats or allies? Do you have the resources to form a defensive perimeter and weapons and skills to protect your property? Beyond the short term, does your property allow for you to live comfortably and safely for an extended period of time? Are there any individuals in your family or party, or other adverse circumstances, that completely prevent you from bugging out?


Depending on how you answer these questions, you may need to consider relocating when disaster strikes and face the possibility of taking as many survival-sustaining items as you can carry. In urban and high-crime areas, you’ll face additional threats whether you decide to stay put or bug out.


If you live in part of a shared building, such as an apartment complex, condo or other residence, your chances of making it outside are severely reduced as panic and chaos will overcome most people’s ability to reason and act efficiently. Have an escape plan and route laid out to be ready to leave at the first sign of trouble.

Taking the Minimum & Making the Maximum

No matter what your intended survival plan, you need to have emergency gear at the ready to ensure your short-term survival (at the very least). What you must understand from the onset is that you will not be able to take everything with you. People that survive real-world disaster situations often have access to very few, if any, tools and resources to help them survive; yet, they must make the most with what they have.


Your load will be limited to what you can carry on your person or store in your vehicle. If you are traveling with multiple individuals or vehicles, you can and will need to carry more food, medical supplies and other life-sustaining supplies.


Below is an example list of some of the most practical, storable and versatile items to include in survival kit. The list is not comprehensive, but it covers the basics that will help you sustain yourself for short-term survival and self-rescue.


Every member of your survival party should have his or her own kit containing:


  • A knife (large models are best, but quality folding knives may be sufficient)
  • LED flashlight (mechanically operated or with extra batteries)
  • First-aid kit
  • Paracord
  • Compass
  • Local map
  • Multi-tool
  • Duct tape
  • Waterproof matches and/or fire starter
  • Water filter/sanitation tablets
  • Signal mirror
  • Survival blanket
  • Emergency whistle
  • Cook stove
  • Sewing kit
  • Poncho or lightweight rain jacket
  • Toilet paper
  • Zip ties
  • Resealable bags
  • Crow or pry bar
  • Mess kit
  • Change of clothes
  • Sunglasses
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic sheet or tarp
  • Toiletries


These are just some of the basics that most peppers include in their disaster survival kits. Sticking to the items on this list and following the mantra of minimalist survival will keep you alive until you can find refuge or are rescued.

Avoiding Detection on the Move

In the event you do decide to bug out, you are going to want to draw as little attention to yourself as possible. Depending on the type of disaster and its aftermath, being out in the open could put you at risk to both environmental hazards and human threats. The latter may be an unruly mob with intent to capture, kill or steal from every survivor they encounter in a post-disaster wasteland.


Keep in mind there is a difference between taking cover and being concealed. Cover is some kind of barrier, manmade or natural, that can protect you against bullets and help hide your position. Cover can come in the form of a tree, a vehicle, a concrete wall or the corner of a building.


On the other hand, concealment only hides your position without offering protection. Tall grass, shrubs or other natural foliage are often associated with concealment. In any case, you should always seek cover during survival situations, especially when under attack, and only resort to concealment if cover is unavailable.


But not all cover is going to protect you, depending on the type of weapons and rounds being fired your way. A cinderblock wall may stop most handgun and rifle fire, but a high-caliber round will have no problem obliterating the entire structure. Accordingly, trees, dirt mounds and the flimsy metal of car doors will eventually be chewed up by gunfire and leave your position exposed.


In general, you should strive to keep a low profile when on the road in a post-disaster world. Don’t let anyone know where you are going. Move efficiently and constantly, change camp frequently, and always have someone one watch over your perimeter.

Home Bunkers

When it comes to keeping your family and your turf defended during a crisis situation, the best offense is a good defense (as the saying goes). The options are endless when it comes to fortifying your home and perimeter against an invasion, a mob of intruders, or any unwanted activity on your property.


Some preppers swear that a fortified bunker, a well-stocked arsenal and a cache of food, water and other survival items are the keys to surviving a disaster. Unfortunately, not everyone has the extra cash, property space and skillset to acquire these items, nor does everyone agree that this is the route to take.


There are manufacturers popping up across the United States and Europe that specialize in building in-home, underground, bug-out bunkers, many that are equipped with enough supplies to sustain a family of four for a year or longer. A well-fortified bunker would certainly give most families peace of mind in the event of a disaster, knowing that they have a few weeks’ or even months’ worth of supplies to give them an edge over the non-prepared.


While some of these new survival concepts are quite impressive in design and function, they are often entirely too costly and impractical to install for the average homeowner or family. The choice is yours, but your money could easily be put to use fortifying your home in less-conventional ways and learning proper survival and self-defense skills so you don’t have to bury your head in the sand in a worst-case scenario.

Fallout Shelter Flaws

Though proponents of fallout shelters think them to be nearly impenetrable, this is not the case. Rather than building their own, many preppers purchase prefabricated bunkers that are either buried underground or positioned in a certain landscape backdrop that forms a defensive perimeter. These capsules can be shipping containers, school buses or specifically designed survival pods that can be packed with food, water, weapons and supplies.


Although water is always said to be the most critical component for survival, oxygen is really the most vital bodily need. For that reason, bunkers need to be outfitted with multiple ventilation systems to circulate fresh air and release dangerous carbon monoxide. No matter how much you try to hide them, these tubes, hoses and vents will be the most vulnerable point of your shelter. In the event an intruder makes it past your perimeter defenses and reaches your shelter walls, he or she will likely be intent on one of two things: eliminating whatever threat lies inside and moving on, or taking everything you have and potentially claiming your shelter as their own—neither of which is favorable for you and your family.


Your bunker may be bulletproof, have flame-retardant walls, and withstand high amounts of pressure, but anything that obstructs your ability to breathe inside becomes life threatening. All of your preparations could become futile should an attacker attempt to flush you out of your shelter via a ventilation port. This could come in several forms:


  1. Smoke – The most likely method, one smoke grenade would do the trick, as would smoke diverted from an outside fire source.
  2. Fire – Gasoline or another flammable liquid could be poured in or around your shelter and lit from the outside.
  3. Water – Hopefully your shelter was built to withstand inclement weather, but it’s possible to flood the inside via the ventilation system, especially if the disaster results in flooding (though this method remains unlikely).
  4. Explosion – Very few individuals will have access to hand grenades and other conventional explosives in a survival situation, but homemade alternatives could be dropped into your bunker or used to breach the walls or doors.
  5. Earth – Your shelter could be bulldozed, and you could be buried alive in dirt or sand if your invader had access to the right equipment. Blocking the ventilation access points with dirt and debris would be enough to slowly drain your shelter’s oxygen supply.




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