Many prepper websites discuss the bug-out. Some disaster scenario unfolds, and your home is no longer safe. You grab your bug-out bags, plural — one for each family member — and hit the road in your favorite bug-out vehicle. Then, when the disaster passes, you return home. How far do you go in this scenario? Not too far. And how long do you stay away? Not too long.
But what happens if a severe disaster requires a bug-out that is either long-term or long-distance or both? Let’s consider our options.
Does that seem unlikely? Recall that after Hurricane Katrina had passed by, the city of New Orleans was so devastated that many former residents never returned. And some had bugged out to cities in Texas or to further locations. It could happen again. And the disaster in question need not be a hurricane. Other disasters are capable of long-term damage, which would make it difficult for residents to return at all.
A dirty bomb (God forbid) could strike a U.S. city, and the result would be an evacuation of the surrounding area. When might people return? It could take years to clean up the area, if a clean-up is at all possible. A nuclear power plant disaster could have a similar effect. The Fukushima power plant disaster area is still a no-go zone. So is Chernobyl, several decades later.
An earthquake might not seem like the type of disaster that would cause a long-term evacuation. But if it were severe enough, and if enough buildings remained unusable due to damage, many residents would be forced by circumstances to relocate elsewhere. The amount of safe housing left in the city could be greatly diminished.
There are other, more severe disaster scenarios which would also make an area difficult to live in for a lengthy period of time. But these scenarios are also much less likely, including: mega-tsunami, asteroid strike, nuclear explosion, and severe solar flare or an EMP weapon.
An EMP weapon could conceivably knock out all the electronics in a city (or a wider region), making the area uninhabitable. The population density of a city makes electronics an absolute necessity. Without it, you can’t heat or cool large buildings. You can’t run elevators. You don’t have the abilities of modern transportation and communication. And as a result, you wouldn’t really have enough food or supplies coming into the city. In many disaster scenarios, cities become untenable places to live.
Where To Go?
When a short-term bug-out is not an option, where do you go? The first consideration is how far away is safe. You need a margin of safety. If the issue is nuclear fallout, the affected area can literally change with the weather. For fallout, that might be 100 miles or more.
If the issue is damage to a region from a storm or other disaster, you don’t want to be on the edges of the disaster zone. The affected area might be a lawless region, and criminals from that area might spread out to look for persons and places to rob. And the economics of the area adjacent to the damaged region will also be adversely affected. So you want a location surrounded for many miles by safe and unaffected land.
Where will everyone else be going? Even if you flee to a location that is far enough away, you could be in deep shit if the area is flooded with many other refugees. The resources of the area will be overwhelmed, and you’ll have nowhere to live or work. Food and water may be difficult to obtain.
So you might be better off traveling very far. You could fly, if that is even an option in the circumstance. Or you could just get in your vehicle and drive across several States until you’ve left all the other evacuees behind. Get very far away, where there are plenty of resources and options.
Have a plan. Pick multiple distant locations, as you won’t know in advance which places will be safest. I would suggest choosing location where you have lived before, or where you have relatives or friends. Maybe you could even scout the area in advance, using Google Maps and other online resources, so that you are familiar with the area.
Finally, in many cases, rural or at least suburban regions will be better for survival. The overcrowding of cities offers multiple disadvantages for survival purposes.
When To Return?
Maybe never. But in any case, for a long-distance bug-out, the disaster would have to be severe, and so the length of time will probably be long also. Choose a safe location, and settle down. Make preparations as if you will stay there long term, even if there is a possibility you will return to your prior location.