Sometimes a disaster forces you to leave your home and when that happens the last thing you need to be doing is to start gathering the things you need without planning and preparing. You are bound to forget really important supplies and equipment in your haste. The best thing you can do is to think about preparing to leave now, make plans and start organizing the things that you need to take with you.

If you have not read Disaster Preparedness for SeniorsPart 1, Part 2 and Part 3, please do so that you have some context for this post.

It would also be valuable to review other posts on my site such as Concerns with our Power Grid and Effects of a Prolonged Power Grid Outage.  If you are not a senior but have elderly family and friends, this should help you in thinking about talking to them about getting prepared.


So, are you bugging out or evacuating? Depending on who you ask, some might say they are the same thing others will say they are totally different. To some in the preparedness community Bugging Out means you have a place to go that is already stocked with food, supplies and equipment for a long-term stay with the thought that you may never be coming home. Evacuating to some means that no thought has taken place and you just pack up what you can and leave as soon as possible thinking you will be back in a few days.

Can you bug out without a cabin in the woods that is totally stocked? Can you evacuate with a lot of planning and multiple options of places to go? Probably. You can call it whatever you like but to me the important thing is that you have planned and have the resources for your family to survive outside of your home for as long as you can.

For me, bugging out implies that I have planned as well as I can to be away from a disaster and my home for as long as necessary. I do not have a bug out location that is already prepared but I do have family and friends a few hundred miles away where my family could stay for a prolonged period. This would be my first choice but I also have scoped out hotels that are not as far away that I could stay at for a period of time to determine if I will be going home soon or whether I need to move on to a place to stay longer.

Why You Would Need to Bug Out

The obvious reasons for bugging out include a hurricane, rising flood waters, wild fire, and a chemical disaster. But there are other things that could push you to leave like:

  • A long-term power outage that has led to civil unrest and you are concerned for your safety.

  • Pandemics/Epidemics where the mortality rate is high in your area. 

  • An earthquake that has damaged your home and support infrastructure in your area. It could take a while before services like water and sewage and food delivery are restored.

Where Are You Going?

You need to plan on 2 or 3 destinations to bug out to. These locations could be family or friends that have the room and capability to house you for a period of time or hotels that are within a day’s driving distance.  

Depending on your location and possible threats, choose locations in different directions so that if a disaster prevents you from going in one direction you have options in other directions.

If you are going to a hotel, do not chose one that is fairly close. The farther the better because a lot of people will be looking for hotel rooms. Record the names, phone numbers and addresses of the hotels and put it in your Estate Preparedness Portfolio. That way you will have it with you and can make calls while you are on the road.

Make hotel reservations as soon as possible but don’t delay your departure just because you have one. If there is a mass exodus, hotels may go ahead and rent your room out if others are backing up at their doors.

Have three different routes to each bug out location drawn on road maps.  Do not rely only on your phone and have topographic maps to understand the terrain in case you have to walk.

Use Google Maps or other map apps to check on traffic during different times of the day and especially the days leading up to, during and after holidays. This helps you get an idea of congested areas when things are normal and lets you choose alternate routes to your destinations.

Senior Tips:
  • If you struggle with stairs, make sure you get a hotel room that is on the first floor.

  • If you or someone with you is in a wheel chair, check with the hotels to see if the bathrooms are accessible.

  • Make sure you pack a lighted magnifying glass in your car to help read maps.

  • After picking your routes to get out of your area, practice driving through them a couple of times a year to become familiar. We can struggle remembering things as we get older so it is good to practice.

When do You Bug Out

As soon as possible. Don’t wait until authorities tell you to go. If you do you can easily get stuck in traffic for a long time, maybe a day or more, before it is cleared up. More than 100 people died during the evacuation for Hurricane Rita in Texas, many due to heat stroke. People didn’t pack enough water and the elderly suffered the most.

Senior Tips:
  • Seniors can get dehydrated more easily so pack as much water in your vehicle as you can.

  • Purchase packages of powders that add electrolytes to your water.

Communicating Your Plans

Make sure that family, neighbors and close friends know what your plans are. Give them phone numbers for where you will be staying and ask them to check in on you if they don’t hear from you in a certain amount of time. As soon as you get to your destination call people to let then know you are ok and where you have settled in.

Preparing to Bug Out

There are a ton of checklists and articles on bugging out on the internet. I just Googled “Bugging Out Checklist” and there are over 6.8 million results. With all of that information out there I am not going to create a checklist for you in this post but instead will highlight some important things to think about.  The Bugging Out page on the Prepper Website is a great resource on this subject that will help you understand food, water, supplies and other equipment that you need to consider.

You hopefully already have a Get Home Bag in the trunk of your car but it is surely not everything you need when it is time to bug out. The Get Home Bag is a backpack that has essential supplies and equipment that will enable you to survive walking home in a catastrophe where normal transportation or routes are not available. There are several good articles on Get Home Bags on the Prepper Website for you to learn more.

Key Things for Your Bug Out

Start creating a list of the things that you will need when you bug out and put it on a bulletin board or tape it to your refrigerator. If you already have a list for packing for a vacation this would be a good place to start but will not be the end all for bugging out. If you forget things on vacation it is easy to go to a store and buy it. This may not be the case in a disaster. As you go about your daily business think about your bug out list and add things to it that come to mind that will be important.

One of the most important things to take is your Estate Preparedness Portfolio. This binder or attaché should have copies/originals of important estate documents like wills, trusts, driver’s license, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, passports etc. that could be destroyed with you home in a disaster. Things will be bad enough during recovery from a disaster without have to get new estate planning documents.

A very important thing to take with you is a personal property inventory that documents all of your belongings in your home. If you home is destroyed, your insurance company will want a list with pictures to verify the things you owned. Without this inventory you will settle with the insurance company for far less than you should. See my blog post called The Importance of a Property Inventory for more details.  Our Estate Preparedness Forms package contains an excellent spreadsheet for this task.

Although it is best if you can drive all the way to your bug out location, be prepared to walk if you run into problems. You could be stuck due to snow or ice on the roads. Hopefully you can hunker down in your car but you need to be careful not to run out of gas to stay warm.

Try and keep your gas tank full as much as possible. You do not want to have to worry about finding gas as the last minute. Keep 3 to 5 gallons in a gas can ready to pack in your trunk.

Make sure you have sturdy, comfortable shoes. Some sort of boot is preferable that is water resistant. Include weather appropriate clothing like rain gear, winter boots and gloves.

Organize your supplies into multiple bags so that if you have to leave your car on foot you don’t have to sort through all of your bags to find necessities.

Make sure you have your phone charger and car adapter with you so you can use for phone to call for help, check on news and communicate with people. Consider buying a battery bank as a back up to charging your phone.

Until you get out of an area where the power is out, you need to have cash to purchase items that you need including gas, food, water and ice. Have more small bills than large one incase the retailer does not have enough small bills and change.

Senior Tips:
  • Time will be of the essence when you need to bug out so once you have a good list together, go ahead and pack things up into bags and put them in your trunk. It will save you time when you have to start gathering things to leave. Keep an inventory of what is already packed in your car.

  • Another thing that will save you time is to have a checklist ready of things that are not already packed that need to go with you. Divide the tasks of finding and packing among the people in you home.

  • If you have medicine that needs to be refrigerated you need to have a cooler that you can pack with ice or ice packs that can keep your medicines cool. Make sure your plans include looking for ice along the way to replace what has melted.

  • If you use a cane to walk make sure you pack an extra one for the road.

  • If you use hearing aids, have extra batteries ready to go.

  • Add your old prescription glasses to your bug out list in case your current one is lost or broken.

  • Some seniors can get cold easily. Think about packing hand warmers for your hands and feet, mylar blankets and regular blankets to add layers to keep you warm if you are stuck.

  • You really need to consider a hand gun to provide safety. Seniors will be perceived as easy targets on the road and you need to have a fire arm to thwart the attack. You may not be able to survive an all-out fire fight but simply showing you have a weapon will deter a lot of would be attackers.

  • When you stop to purchase gas or food, do not have all of your cash and cards on you. Only take the card or some of your cash to pay and leave the rest locked in your car. During disasters some people will be looking to take advantage of seniors at stores.

  • Some seniors need special medical supplies so make sure you have these on your list and ensure you have a week or more supply packed with you.

  • If you or your spouse uses an electric wheelchair, make sure you have a manual one and have room to pack it in your vehicle.


Bugging In for a disaster is the best option for seniors because all the things you need are in your home but there are times you may be forced to pack up and leave. In those scenarios, things will already be stressful and it is not the time to be thinking about what you need to take with you. Getting your plans completed and the supplies and equipment you need to bug out ahead of time will greatly increase your chances of a smooth survival and return.

If you haven’t completed your Estate Planning Documentation, recorded a property inventory or documented your medical information, our Estate Preparedness Forms Package helps you get this important task completed. There are a lot of checklists on the web that you can print out and write on but our forms package contains 26 editable PDFs and spreadsheets and resources that let you electronically record this information easily. It is only $34.95 and is a bargain for the value. Check out the details on our website.

Have a blessed day!

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  • Andrew Parks

    Good stuff, Chip! On the subject of weapons, I would encourage a less than lethal option as well. Some people who are not trained in the use of a firearm are more likely to injure themselves or some other innocent person or may have the weapon taken away from them during a struggle. Having mace or a taser can help during the escalation of violence.

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