Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
For most people and most disasters, bugging in makes a whole lot more sense than bugging out. Unless you happen to have a prepared and stocked survival retreat – the proverbial cabin in the woods – there is no place you can go where you are going to be as well off as you are at home.
Of course, that’s assuming that the disaster you face is one where your home is not destroyed. The people of Paradise, California couldn’t stay in their homes when a wildfire burned down their entire town.
Nor could the people of the Southeast Houston area stay in their homes when Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston, dropping 35.48 inches of rain on the city, flooding their homes. At least that hurricane wasn’t as bad as the one that totally destroyed Matagorda, Texas in 1854, leaving only the courthouse standing.
Most situations aren’t this extreme, as not all disasters have the capability of leveling homes. When they don’t, it really doesn’t make sense to abandon everything we own just because a disaster has struck. If we are able to stay in our homes, bugging in, we’ll have shelter along with everything else we own. While not all of it will be useful, much will, including things we don’t expect to be of any use in a disaster.
But that doesn’t mean that we can stay in our homes, acting like nothing has happened. We’re obviously going to have to switch over to survival mode, using our stockpiles and the other resources we’ve prepared.
But there’s more to it than that: we don’t want to give neighbors and others the idea that we’re living in relative luxury while they are suffering and even starving. OPSEC (operational security) will be even more important during that time, than it is while we are preparing.
Here are some of the top things we will need to watch out for, during that time, to ensure our safety and avoid advertising to others that we’re doing much better than they are.
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1. Expecting Someone to Rescue You
I don’t care if it’s the government or your brother-in-law, don’t expect someone to come rescue you. While that brother-in-law or your best friend may actually come to rescue you, you may not even know if they’re alive.
Do what you need to do in order to survive, as if they will never come. Then if they do come, it can be a good surprise.
2. Lone-wolf Survival
Trying to survive on your own is difficult at best and impossible at worst. There are just too many things that need to be done for one person to do them on their own. Worse than that, you can’t really stand guard and work at the same time.
With so many other people out there who will be struggling and starving, you’re going to have to keep constant watch to make sure that they don’t steal from you or outright attack you for what you have.
3. Not Having a Guard Posted
Guard duty is going to have to be manned 24/7, regardless of the weather. The longer it takes for food and other supplies to be shipped in to your town, the more desperate people will get.
Few will be prepared or have the means to grow their own food. As people become more desperate, they will resort to whatever it takes to get the food they need. If that means killing you to get it, then so be it.
4. Not Having a Dog
Standing guard duty has its limitations. We do not have night vision and night vision scopes require batteries. On the other hand, certain dog breeds and some other animals are excellent at guarding the home and letting us know if anyone approaches.
Many will naturally attack those who come on to your property. Of course, dogs require feeding, which means that you have to stock dog food, along with everything else in your stockpile.
Another option, for those who are allergic to dogs or are concerned about stockpiling that much food is to buy guinea hens instead. Not only do they raise a racket when anyone they don’t know comes around, but they can serve as an additional food source.
5. Leaving the Home Improperly Guarded
There will probably be times when you need to leave the home for some purpose, whether that is to cut firewood, haul water or go to the local market to barter. The problem during those times is that you’re splitting your forces.
You need to have a strong enough force heading out from the home to discourage attack. But anyone who sees you leaving with that strong force is going to realize that the defenses at home have been diminished. For someone who has been watching and waiting for an opportunity, this is an ideal time to attack the home.
This is just one more reason to make sure that you have an adequate-sized survival team, with enough shooters to ensure that you can keep yourselves safe.
6. Not Having a Water Source on Site
If there is any resource that you need to have on-site, it’s water. You will be using water every day, just as you do now, even with the strictest rationing in place. Since it is virtually impossible to store enough water to last more than a month or two, that means having to harvest water from nature.
Here we see the previously mentioned item about not leaving enough people at home to guard it coming to pass. The solution is to make sure that you can harvest water on-site, either through rainwater capture or by having a well.
Otherwise, they can lay siege to your home, keeping you locked inside, until you die of dehydration, just like they would do to overcome the defenders in a castle, during Medieval times.
7. Allowing Water Stocks to Run Low
With water being so important for survival, you should never allow yourself to think “we’ve got enough water.” Drought can hit at any time, and there are very few places which are immune to it. Even places which normally receive a lot of water could find themselves in drought.
Harvesting water is an ongoing effort that should never end. About the only time that it might is when every container that you have to store water in is full. At that time, it’s time to look for more containers. Whatever happens, you don’t want to run out of water.
8. Not Rationing Water
You’re going to have to put very strict controls on water usage, even if you do have a well or rainwater capture. Granted, your well might produce plenty of water; but you don’t know that it always will. There have been countless stories, throughout history, of wells running dry.
How that rationing is put into effect will depend a lot on you, your water harvesting methods, how arid it is where you live, and how much water storage capacity you have. If you have an abundance in all those areas, you won’t need to ration water as much as someone living in an arid area; but you’ll probably still need some sort of rationing, just to make sure you don’t run into problems.
9. Cooking Indoors
Cooking indoors can be very dangerous, when cooking over propane or wood. Without adequate ventilation, the burning can consume the oxygen in the room, replacing it with carbon monoxide, which can be deadly when breathed in.
You’re better off cooking outdoors, if you can. If you can’t, then make sure you have adequate ventilation whenever cooking indoors.
10. Allowing Cooking Smells
This is going to go contrary to the last item; but hungry people’s sense of smell improves, especially for food smells. If you’re cooking outdoors or even cooking with a window open, that smell can travel, alerting your neighbors or anyone passing by.
One solution to this is to avoid cooking foods that produce an obvious aroma. Cooking meat over the fire produces an aroma that is obvious. You can cook that meat by boiling it, baking it or wrapping it in foil, reducing the aroma. Herbs and spices are another thing to watch out for, as their aroma carries well.
11. Looking Chubby & Well-fed
Speaking of food, almost everyone will be losing weight, considering the obesity crisis in the United States, they’ll probably be losing a lot of weight. With that being the case, if you and your family stay pleasantly plump (or more) it’s going to tell everyone around you that you have plenty to eat.
I know it’s going to be hard, but you will need to put yourself on a very restrictive diet, say 1,500 calories a day, to make sure that you lose weight too. You won’t be losing as much as others are, but you won’t stand out as much.
12. Lack of Light Discipline
Lighting inside the home is a sure sign that you’re better off than anyone else. It doesn’t matter if that light is coming from electric lights, a flashlight, oil-burning lamps or candles.
If others don’t have it and you do, it will set you apart as someone who is in better shape than most. Best to cover your windows with blackout curtains, so that none of that light escapes.
If you’re going to make or buy blackout curtains, be sure to test them out. Any blackout curtain needs to be wider than the window to work, so that light can’t get around the edges. So be sure to buy them big enough and to hang them so that there is no place that light can get around them.
13. Lack of Noise Discipline
I’ve read where some people have included entertainment in their survival prepping. While I personally think that we’ll all be too busy with survival tasks to have much time for entertainment, I can see where it would be useful. It’s always nice to get a break from work and stress.
One of the forms of entertainment that has been mentioned is movies. If you’re already producing electricity, there is the possibility of using your entertainment center. Modern TVs are much more energy efficient than the older ones, making this a possibility if you have movies on DVD.
But if you’re going to watch a movie or play music, don’t make too much noise. Neighborhoods are eerily quiet during blackouts, so any noise you make could attracted unwanted attention.
14. Obviously Using Electric Devices
Besides lighting and entertainment centers, there are a lot of electric devices we use in the average home, especially tools and appliances. Granted, if you have solar panels on your home, everyone in the neighborhood is going to know it and know that you can do things that they can’t.
That doesn’t mean that you need to rub it in their faces though. Doing so will just rub that in their noses and could cause resentment. Go ahead and use what you have, but do whatever you can to keep it from being obvious.
15. Driving Your Car
There will probably be gas available for the first few days after a major disaster; then there’s a good chance that it will run out, unless they manage to ship it in. If there’s no gas, people will be forced to park their cars and walk.
If you’re the only one driving your car, that’s going to be extremely obvious, getting people to wonder what else you might have.
I’d recommend keeping your last half-tank of gas for emergencies. That way, if you have to use your car to run someone to the emergency room or even to make your getaway, you’ll be able to.
16. Using Gas-powered Tools
Like driving a car, using a lawn mower or chainsaw is going to let people know you have gas. This isn’t to say that you can’t use them at all; but they should be used with discretion. Occasional use of a chainsaw probably isn’t going to be a red flag, but mowing your lawn every week is.
17. Trying to Heat too Much Area
We’ve grown accustomed to heating systems that heat our whole home. But the types of heating systems we’re going to have to use when the electricity is out, especially wood, aren’t going to allow that.
Any wood-burning stove is really only going to heat one room, with the possibility of a little bit of heat spilling across into adjacent rooms, especially if there is a large opening between them.
Don’t think you can use small space heaters for other rooms, just because you are generating electricity with solar panels. Those small space heaters consume a lot of power and the propane-powered ones will go through a lot of those little propane bottles.
Unless you have the means of refilling them off a large tank, you’d better save them for true emergencies, like someone being bedridden.
One thing that our ancestors did, back in the days where they heated with wood, is to use soapstones for portable heat. The soapstone was placed in the embers of the fire, allowing it to absorb heat.
It was then taken out and put into a fabric sling, allowing it to be carried to another room or even put under the seat in a wagon, providing heat to those riding in it. While the heat eventually radiates out of the stone, it’s better than nothing.
18. Treating Candles and Oil Lamps like Electric Lights
Electric lamps of all kinds offer some great advantages over what people used before, namely candles and oil-burning lamps. Not only do they not need to be replaced as often, but they aren’t prone to stating fires when left unattended.
But if we’re going to have to depend on those oil-burning lamps and candles once again, we’re going to have to learn some new habits.
Granted, candles in a candle holder aren’t likely to start a fire and oil-burning lamps are designed to prevent the spread of fire. But that still doesn’t mean that we should leave them unattended.
Besides, with the difficulty we would all have in finding wax to make candles, as well as finding something to burn in our lamps, leaving them burning in an unoccupied room would be wasteful.
19. Not Helping Your Neighbors
I’m going to go against the normal wisdom in the prepping community and say that we need to help out our neighbors rather than telling them to get lost. If there’s anyone who has an idea that any of us are preppers, it’s our neighbors.
They’ve likely seen us do the types of things that preppers do and wondered about it. Even if they haven’t wondered, they will start wondering when they don’t have food and they remember that we’ve got a vegetable garden.
Here’s the thing; if we don’t help our neighbors, we could very well end up with them as enemies. On the other hand, if we do help them, they become a buffer zone between us and everyone else. They can become part of our joint defense and if we can help them start a garden, they can become self-sufficient and ultimately become part of our team.
That seems like a better arrangement than constantly having to watch to make sure they don’t jump the fence at night to steal a chicken or some vegetables.
20. Not Having a Bug Out Plan
Finally, we all need to have a good, detailed bug out plan in place, that we’ve not only thought out, but practiced. Regardless of how secure our home is, there are always those types of situations, like I mentioned at the beginning.
When and if they come, we need to be ready to bug out. So, we not only need a plan for how and where we’re going to go; but we also need to build a stockpile of everything we’ll need at that secure location, ensuring that we’ll be able to eat and to start a garden when we get there.
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