Shelter In Place, Bugging Out, and Having A Kit Ready

The mentality of most people who practice some form of preparedness is not “if” the disaster happens but rather “when” it happens. When it happens will you have enough supplies? Do you have the right gear? Do you know when to shelter in place versus having to leave town (bug out)? In this particular article, we’re going to talk about the differences between sheltering in place and bugging out and what supplies to have available in both scenarios.

What Does Shelter In Place Mean?

Shelter in place is relatively easy to define. It means you’re staying put wherever you are, whether it’s work, school, at home, or even in your vehicle. The Red Cross defines shelter in place as “selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there.” During accurate in place event potentially harmful materials may have been intentionally or unintentionally released into the air, an active event may be ongoing, or a natural disaster has happened unexpectedly.

Shelter In Place At Home Versus At Work

If you are at home sheltering in place becomes an easier task. Your supplies are more readily available, and you may even have more than you need (see below for a list of items for a large kit). However, it does not always happen at home. Many companies have shelter in place cabinets in their buildings and routinely perform training and exercises, so employees know what to do and expect.

In the case of having to shelter in place at work, you should also prepare a small kit to keep in a desk drawer or a bag that is easily accessible (meaning you don’t have to run to your car for it). It would be hard to keep a large, 3-day kit at your work desk, so a small kit consisting of the following is a good baseline to have available:

  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Small first aid kit
  • Flashlight, small lantern, and chemlights
  • An emergency radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Prescription or specialty medications
  • Anything you might specifically need to last a shelter in place scenario

Sheltering In Place In Your Vehicle

While this seems like an unlikely scenario, you could find yourself having to shelter in place in your vehicle. The best way to do this is not to do it all together and get to someplace (home, work, or somewhere you know is safe) that has the gear and supplies needed. If you find yourself having to do it in your vehicle, then pull over someplace safe, turn off your vehicle, and seal the vents and windows as best you can. Stay in place until an all clear is given. While this is not an ideal situation to be in, having the same type of basic kit in your car as you might at work can go a long way.

What Does Bugging Out Mean?

There are many different variations of what bugging out could mean. During the Korean War, it meant a position was no longer defensible and was in danger of being overrun. In a disaster scenario, the term has more to do with leaving in a hurry than being overrun by an enemy (although I suppose you could classify a storm, tornado, or whatever is causing the bug out as the enemy).

Disaster events can cause evacuations of towns and cities on a mandatory order. If this is the case, ensure your kit is accessible and can be put into a vehicle without issue. If you have time prepare your rig like you’re going on a trip and supplement that gear with your disaster kit.

An evacuation is probably going to mean roads are potentially going to be full of traffic with other people trying to leave the area. Planning may play a role in whether you end up stuck in traffic or sail through with no problems. Having a disaster plan may mean leaving early or having an alternate route to take out of the area once an evacuation has been called for. These types of decisions should be made early rather than later.

Having The Right Gear and Supplies

With either scenario having the correct equipment and supplies available is paramount. Having the correct equipment takes some research, planning, and preparation on your part. In the first article in this series, we talked about the definition of disaster preparedness and the functions within. Part of those functions is to plan, exercise, and evaluate. Those three features should help you decide what is needed and what isn’t required. Always keep in mind you should have gear and supplies specific to your particular situation. If you require particular medication ensure you have enough or an extra supply for a determined amount of time.

The Basic Survival Kit

The American Red Cross, FEMA, the CDC, and much more all provide lists on what you should have in a survival kit. A good baseline, and what most lists use, is 72 hours (3 days), which can be adjusted up from there based on your particular disaster scenario planning. The Sweethome did an article recently that provides a very comprehensive breakdown of what items to have and why. Whether you are bugging out or sheltering in place, below is a list of the basic items you should have available:

  • Water: one gallon per person for x amount of days
  • Food: non-perishable, easy to prepare items for the amount of people in your plan for the amount of days you planned for
  • Utensils, can opener, etc.
  • Flashlight(s)
  • Two-way, CB, or HAM radio
  • Emergency radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Fire starting tools and helpers
  • Whistle and signaling devices
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Important personal documents (insurance cards, birth certificates, etc.)
  • Cell phone(s) and charger(s)
  • Extra cash
  • Extra clothing
  • Emergency blanket(s)
  • Map(s) of the area

Some other things to consider adding to your kit that end up being specific to your particular situation:

  • Prescription or specific medical supplies
  • Baby wipes, diapers, and formula
  • Games and toys for children
  • Pet supplies for x amount of days

Keep everything contained in one spot in a storage bin of some kind, so it is easily accessible if you are sheltering in place or you need to grab it in a bug out situation. Make sure to check the contents regularly so anything that expires can be replaced with newer items. Important and non-waterproof things like documents need to be kept in waterproof containers, so they do not get ruined. Depending on the types of disaster scenarios you are preparing for more specific items should be added.

What type of disasters do you prepare for? What do you keep in your kit? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Nick Howell

Nick is a lifelong Michigan resident, born and raised. He grew up in Bay City and transplanted to the metro Detroit area after college for work. Seeking more woods and outdoors time, he resolved to get out more. In a spark of creativity, he co-founded Michigan Overland with the intent to travel to parts unknown both within Michigan and abroad.

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