Planning Your Evacuation or Bug Out Route


Evacuating or bugging out is not at the top of my list of planned responses to a emergency.  I will stay in place until it becomes more dangerous to stay than to leave.  Now my plan like anyone else’s may change on the spur of the moment depending on the emergency.  So I always have a plan for bugging out. Because I am getting old I am planning to use a vehicle if at all possible.

Many years ago I had a chance to review some of the old civil defense evacuation plans that were made during the cold war.  These plans always looked to be totally unrealistic and I thought would result in nothing but a massive traffic jam.

Based on what I saw then and the study of  the evacuations that have occurred during some more recent hurricanes, I suggest that you consider the following.

Map the Routes

Get out a map and take a look at the routes that the general population in your area would take if they were forced to evacuate.  It is not that hard to figure out, most people being creatures of habit will take routes that they are used to traveling.  This will mainly be freeways or highways that exit the larger cities and urban areas.

Even though I don’t live in a city, an evacuation of the city nearest me would affect my evacuation plans.  If the city nearest to me evacuated the majority would follow five major highways.  A few traffic accidents and other problems and these would become parking lots. 

This would force people to travel on foot and spread out. The first thing you want to do is to identify the routes that most people would take and avoid them when you plan your own bugout route.  The heaviest freeway traffic would be towards farming or recreational camping areas.  People would be looking for places to stay and food.

Choke Points

The second thing you need to look for is choke points. This is an area in which you are forced by the terrain to  travel though a narrow area, such as a mountain pass or over bridges. In my area, this would be mountain passes, Bridges and rivers especially in the winter due to snow.  If there are any choke points between you and your goal, you need to develop plans to get around them.

Weather can be a big consideration; you may need to take a different route in the winter than you would in the summer.  Where I live winter reduces the options.

As much as possible use side roads, dirt roads or even railroad tracks (they normally have service roads alongside them).  Study the maps of your area, but don’t trust them until you have driven the routes yourselves.  I know that in my area the Forest Service has blocked some dirt roads without any announcements.  If you are depending on Forest Service roads, drive them regularly.  They use one of the following methods to block them, a dirt barrier, a trench, downed trees or large rocks.  Depending on what you are driving, you can sometimes get around them.  Where I live, I would carry a chain saw in my vehicle.  If you are on foot, you may want to look for easements for power lines and canals.

If possible, know where you can get extra fuel or other necessary supplies along your route.  Depending on the distance you have to travel, you may want to cache some or store them with a friend.

When you plan a route like this it forces you to look over your area and become more familiar with the terrain.   This knowledge may make the difference between success or failure.

Family Evacuation Plan

Your Family Evacuation Plan Should Identify:

  • Start Point
  • Trigger
  • Destination
  • Route
  • Travel Mode
  • Supplies

Your starting point is home, work or school. If family members are at different places during the day, how will they communicate?

Discuss what your “triggers” might be. Do your own threat analysis. Hazmat release, house fire, flood or imminent hurricane landfall are more likely than nuclear war or space alien invasion. Discuss with family what your likely triggers will be.

If a trigger trips – GO NOW! Don’t hesitate once the trigger is observed – LEAVE! When an emergency is evolving is NOT the time to try to GAIN CONSENSUS! Your life depends upon action, so Get moving! NOW!

PACE Planning

Destination is key. If you don’t know a clear destination there is no plan. Your destination must be viable. A good location is a friend’s home which whom you have made prior arrangements. Your home may be one of their destinations in the event of problem. Both families need to discuss this aspect and know what types of events they are prepping for.

Your alternate destination should be in a different geographical area. In the event of a hurricane, earthquake or tsunami wide areas will be affected. If your nearby primary destination isn’t viable, you need somewhere else to go. Coordinate the alternate location same for the primary, and so on for your contingency and emergency destinations. This is PACE (primary, alternative, contingency, and emergency) planning.

Develop trustworthy relationships. The best destinations are with people whom you know and trust, from long association. If the host destination is not expecting you, you have no plan, but a “wish.”

Your route is based on your start point, conditions of your Trigger, where your Start Point is, and your Destination. The primary route assumes that you will get a head start before the unprepared masses leaving the city.

Start early, because essential to your Plan is to have your nose to the wind sniffing for threats. Using interstate highways to quickly put distance between you and the threat is OK only IF you can beat the crowds.

Alternate routes probably use lesser travelled roads. Avoid the hordes of the “unprepared in denial.” Check out several routes. Identify decision points along each where you may either continue, or change to an alternative route. Scout decision points on your alternate routes beforehand. Then actually – drive them. Take notes, photos help too. Designate the most viable as Primary, the next as Alternate etc.….. Get good map coverage of the area. Mark your routes on the map(s) using colored highlighters for the different routes, such as Green for Primary, Blue for Alternate, Yellow for Contingency and Red for Emergency, so that if you are injured, other family members carry on. Mark potential choke or decision points – and decide how to address them.

Mode of Travel

Your primary mode of travel is the car you drive every day! It needs to be well maintained, fueled and viable to execute your plan. A smoking rust bucket that can’t make it across town without stopping at a junk yard will not do. Alternate travel means may be your neighbor’s borrowed truck, which you have made prior arrangements for or a private plane, boat or train (if you left early)

Emergency travel will be on foot. Have sturdy shoes, a rucksack of essentials, light enough that you can actually carry it, water, rations, map, compass, and a staff to steady you.

Supplies, types and amounts depend on your mode of travel and destination. If going to Grandma’s ask her what to bring. It is a good idea to pre-position clothes, blankets, cleaning supplies and food at your primary destination ahead of time. Your car can carry a lot. But you can’t carry very much on your back for very far. What you will carry and how if you have to abandon your vehicle and walk?

Load plans. Practice your plan then decide how much to pack and where it goes. – draw a chart – this will greatly speed up the process of getting out of Dodge. Make sure you don’t bury the jack underneath those fifty gallons of water cans…

See also  22 Uses for Plastic Trash Bags for Preppers

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7 thoughts on “Planning Your Evacuation or Bug Out Route”

  1. re bugging out by vehicle . it has been my practise for several years to NEVER let my fuel tank get BELOW ONE HALF FULL . before that, i used to feel comfortable with a quarter tank. not now. thanx for the good advise howard.

  2. Consider a bike, stealthy, reliable, and if all else fail, if there’s no gas, electricity, everyone will see, hear, and know you have gas. Not good!

  3. Well written article. I was just talking to someone the other day about having maps of snow machine / atv trails, hiking trails, bike paths, power lines, etc. Old State routes will probably be less congested outside of the cities as everyone will think the Interstate system is their salvation.

    Access to a truck with rail wheels is an option (but probably not possible), a motorcycle or car with high fuel mileage, a boat or a friend with a small plane perhaps?

    Think outside the box and look at every possible option.

  4. Well written article! This is one of the things most people never plan. And we might even have to plan for destinations elsewhere in the world if things heat up.

  5. Great article! I have thought of leaving my area, but only if the power goes out in the summer b/c where I live it’s too hot to survive without ac. Or if my small town runs out of water in drought. The water plant manager recently told me they had a larger generator on order (6 months out delivery!) to keep the water on in the event of a power outtage. But what I wanted to comment is about Hurricane Rita. There’s an article titled “How Hurricane Rita anxiety led to the worst gridlock in Houston history” I lived in Houston in 2005 and my hubs and I decided to ride it out, take a chance it wouldn’t be so bad. And it wasn’t. The real catastrophe was on I 10 and I 45 leaving Houston. The small towns along the highways put up blockades to keep cars OUT! Keep cars from exiting. People didn’t have water so others who lived along the highway came out and served them in some cases. But people also had no place to use the bathroom. There were elderly who suffered and I believce some even died in the gridlock. I was so thankful we decided to stay and everybody in our apartment complex gathered in the parking lot to discuss possible looting going on down the road. We cooked for an elderly lady as I’ve always been a prepper my whole adult life.

  6. Solid advice on a planned exit of an urban area. I would take it one step farther and suggest you pre-bug-out now. Move to the country, or a small rural community. Take the same route planning advice given here and apply it to your new country environment. Choke points, rivers, crossings, think defence. Grow a garden, learn to hunt and fish, or do more of it.

    Within the interconnectedness of our modern society (internet, cellphone) many of us no longer really need cities. Move out now and beat the crowds. At the very least you might be a few a hours ahead of the crowd if you do need to flee the same event.

    Northern Survivalist

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