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.

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.

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.


4 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.

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