Aug 182014
One quarter of the entire country believes this Ferguson looter is behaving appropriately.

One quarter of the entire country believes this Ferguson looter is behaving appropriately.

One of the biggest unknowns that we as preppers face is what will happen if/when some sort of event occurs that disrupts our modern society and its smooth functioning.

To put it in more specific terms, what will happen if something means the supermarkets run out of food, water no longer comes out of the taps, the toilets no longer flush, and our power is out?  How will people respond – positively and constructively?  Or negatively and destructively?

We are concerned about what will happen not so much five minutes after these events, but more like five days after these events (possibly sooner).

In particular, what will happen when people start to realize that these outages will be longer term rather than temporary, and most of all, when people face the fact that the government won’t be coming to help them?

The massive calming concept of overarching authority has gone, and that points to the big question – what will people do when law and order breaks down?

There are two main schools of thought here.

1.  Some people believe that everyone will band together and positively work through the problems.  This would be similar to the ‘Blitz spirit’ demonstrated by determined Londoners during the German air raids in World War 2.  Or not tremendously different from many poor countries today.

People who believe this is the more probable outcome point to the rational reasons for acting this way, and point to mankind’s underlying noble spirit and caring nature.  They expect the people who have spare resources to share those resources with the people who need them, and the people who need the scarce resources to be polite and respectful, and appreciative of the assistance they are given.

We desperately hope this scenario proves to be the correct one.  Now let’s look at scenario 2.

2.  Some people believe that chaos and anarchy will rule, with gratuitous senseless violence taking over, and indeed, senseless mobs destroying some of the scarce remaining resource rather than caring for it and using it carefully.

People who believe this point to the occasional outbreaks of lawlessness and looting that sometimes bedevil parts of western society, and rather than claiming man is an evolved creature with higher moral principles, they suggest that mankind is inherently base, selfish, and if not actively evil, certainly not actively good, either.

Can we say one thing about these two outcomes.  The first type of outcome envisages a scenario where there is still enough resource for everyone to manage to survive.  Maybe no-one will live well or very comfortably, but there will still be enough basic food, water and shelter for everyone.

That’s a big weakness of the first scenario.  If there is a major failure in our society, and if the supermarkets don’t get their daily or even twice daily shipments of ‘just in time’ food deliveries, there simply won’t be enough food, and it is going to run out very quickly, rather than gradually and slowly.  The supermarkets will be empty within a couple of days.  People’s pantries will empty out a couple of days later.

Where, other than supermarkets, will an urban population of some millions get food?  Even if people had garden space, they don’t have gardens, and neither do they have seeds.  By the time any sort of basic gardening was underway, the enormous bulk of most urban populations would have starved to death.

The other big weakness of the first scenario is that in almost all cases where people do act nobly, the ‘rule of law’ has remained intact and in-place.  That was true during the London Blitz, for example.  It is largely true of normal life in poor countries – there is a social and legal structure regulating people’s activities.  Even if the local effectiveness of such things might be briefly shattered, everyone perceives it to be a short-term, temporary, and very local phenomenon.

No-one thinks that the rule of law has been fractured and broken for a long-term, and no-one thinks that other external support resources aren’t about to come in and provide alternate and additional support.  But what happens after some truly major national disaster?  What happens if a solar storm destroys our electricity grid and there’s no likelihood of its restoration for several years?  What happens when it is unavoidably obvious that there is no ‘deus ex machina’ coming to magically save the day?

We suspect in such cases, people’s restraint will be abandoned, and it will indeed become a ‘dog eat dog’ struggle for survival, with no remaining rules or constraints on how people behave.

The Rasmussen Survey

There’s another reason to fear that scenario two is the more likely.  It is easy to perceive the people who loot and riot, and those who support them, as ‘outliers’ and as tiny minorities, albeit with a disproportionate impact on our society.  If only a very small number of people ‘go rogue’ in an adverse scenario, maybe the rest of society can ‘keep it together’ and voluntarily continue to observe laws and act in a civilized manner.

But – we suggest – the perception/hope that the anarchistic element in our society is small and insignificant is sadly wrong.  It may be massively larger than we think.  A national survey by Rasmussen and just now released has now shown that 25% of the population believes the mob violence and looting in Ferguson is appropriate and justified, and another 23% are not sure.  Barely half the country view it negatively!

As for the shooting that started things, the survey finds that 23% of the country has already decided that the police officer should be tried and found guilty of murder (indeed, these people probably don’t even feel the need for the trial).  Another 51% are undecided – we guess they want the trial, but aren’t quite so insistent on the guilty verdict automatically following.  Only 26% are giving the officer the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was acting in self-defense.

Note this is a national survey, and adjusted to be representative of the country as a whole.  It is not just a survey of ‘poor black folks’ in Ferguson.  It is a survey of all of us, everywhere.

These numbers seem to clearly illustrate that WTSHTF it won’t only be a troublesome but tiny minority of people who cause problems for the vast majority of decent citizens.  It will be a quarter the population, probably more, and possibly half the population who are quick to adopt an ‘every man for himself’ approach – as well as a ‘what’s yours is now mine’ approach.

This points to an interesting additional point, one we’ve seen for ourselves in some other countries.  When a certain percentage of the population starts acting in a particular fashion, the remaining people feel compelled to join in, otherwise, they are the foolish few who are being taken advantage of by the vast majority.  The social norm has shifted.  In this case, which would you choose to be?  A taker of other people’s property, or the victim who the others are taking from?

We’re not saying that you too will be caught on a security camera, triumphantly carrying a blender or a television or something else equally useless out of the local store WTSHTF, but we are saying that most of your neighbors – probably including the least likely of them – may act in such an irrational fashion.  And, yes, when we’re all struggling to eat, and there’s no electricity, we do expect the local gangs to still be stealing DVD players and televisions!

The Bottom Line

We suggest this Rasmussen survey points to a much larger slice of the population being poised to ‘go rogue’ at the slightest provocation, and with no qualms or concerns about their behavior when they do so.

Even if we say that only some of the 25% of the US population who support the Ferguson riots would actually go out looting themselves when things first go haywire, isn’t that enough to destroy things totally?  And at that point, the balance of the 25% will surely join in, and then more and more of the 23% of ‘not sure’ people will decide they may as well help themselves too.

Then, what will happen to the remaining 52%?  How many of them are sheep – are lambs moving blindly to the slaughter?  Only a very very few are the people who will fight back to protect themselves and their families.  Quite likely, there won’t be enough of those people – of people like us – to influence the outcome.

Our best hope is to ‘Get out of Dodge’ – to bug out to our rural retreat – at the first sign of the cities degenerating into chaos, mayhem, and murder.  It seems inevitable that if our society is disrupted, the people in our society will respond negatively and in the least appropriate manner, endangering not only their own survivability but that of everyone around them too.

So, the bottom line?  We suggest that the Ferguson riots, and the Rasmussen survey, both point to there being a much larger segment of society who is poised to ‘go rogue’ at the slightest provocation, and we suggest we need to plan for a future where society turns on itself in a destructive manner.

Most of all, we suggest that the large urban population concentrations will fall into violent anarchy.  Think rioting, fires, looting, raping, senseless destruction and violence of all kinds, and also think of no police or other law enforcement presence to constrain and control these evil forces.  We suggest this will all happen more quickly than you might think, when a disruptive event occurs.

Think of bugging out early, in other words!

Aug 052014
This compact foldable bike costs $200, has six speed gears, front and rear brakes, a load carrying platform, and weighs under 30lbs.

This compact foldable bike costs $200, has six speed gears, front and rear brakes, a load carrying platform, and weighs under 30lbs.

Your retreat absolutely must have bicycles.

There’s no better, low-tech, energy-efficient means of transportation than a bicycle, for when the grid goes down and gas for your regular vehicles becomes scarce or unobtainable.  We’re not saying rely solely on bicycles, but we are saying be sure to have at least once each (if you have additional ones left over, the chances are they’ll make great trade goods).

There’s another potential use for a bicycle, in addition to being used for transport around your retreat.  It may possibly also be used as transportation to get to your retreat – as a bug out vehicle.

Bicycles are light and maneuverable and can almost literally go anywhere, and as long as you can lift your bicycle, you can even climb over fences and other obstacles and manhandle your bike over them too.

A bicycle might not be your most desired or primary bug-out vehicle, especially if you live hundreds of miles and several snowy mountain passes and/or dry deserts away from your retreat.  But there may well become times when it will be your best remaining, and ‘least-bad’ choice.  (Your worst choice is probably just staying where you are!)

One of the big concerns when bugging out is that the regular roads may become jammed with regular vehicles – either jammed in the sense of very slow-moving, or in the sense of stalled/broken down vehicles on the road blocking the way for other vehicles.  Indeed, the first scenario inevitably leads to the second, as and when vehicles run out of gas and become immobilized.  Our suggested solution is to bug out early, but this is sometimes easier said than done.

Note – we’re unconvinced that simply using a SUV or other 4WD type vehicle would give you a solution to jammed roads.  If you’re on a restricted access freeway, with barriers protecting the sides of the freeway from the side of the road off the freeway on one side and the oncoming traffic on the other side, you’ll not be able to drive your SUV over/through those barriers to get around any stalled vehicles blocking the road.  And even if there was simply an emergency lane outside of the regular vehicle lanes, those will all quickly get jammed up with vehicles too.

Maybe it might be possible to drive off the freeway and onto the surface streets or whatever is next to the main highway, but that assumes you’re in the lane closest to the edge of the highway, and further assumes there’s somewhere you can drive onto from the highway.

There are better solutions if jammed traffic is your greatest concern (and depending on how far you have to travel to get to your retreat).  In particular, we are writing a series on using motorbikes as bug out vehicles, and they clearly present as a more resilient way of getting through jammed highways and of traveling on non-traditional road surfaces.  Even better is to fly to your retreat, but not all of us are fortunate enough as to have our own private plane, which also would need to be close to our normal residence, and able to travel to very close to our retreat.

The problem with a motorbike is that it is pretty much an ‘either/or’ decision you make before setting out on your journey.  But if you use a push bike, possibly supplemented with extra power as a moped, although adding the weight of a motor and possibly batteries does compromise the bike’s ultimate maneuverability and slightly increases your reliance on technology, you don’t have to necessarily make this decision up front.

Bicycles can be used as a back-up with a regular bug-out vehicle.  These back-up bikes don’t even need to be full-sized (and probably you’d not be able to fit three or four full-sized bikes into whatever your main bug-out vehicle is.

You can get small folding bikes, typically with 20″ wheels, still having multiple speed gears, weighing under 30lbs, and at a cost of under $300 (click the link to see what’s currently on offer at Amazon and see the picture at the top of this article for an example).  That’s a very sensible bit of ‘insurance’ to keep in the back of your vehicle if your primary backup transportation becomes ineffective.

Thinking Through the Issues if Using Bicycles

Talking about insurance, if you’re going to keep some emergency bikes in your bug-out vehicle, you’d also need to keep some essential repair/maintenance items with them.  A puncture repair kit and pump would definitely be prudent.

You should also consider the implications of what you’d keep with you or leave behind if you needed to transition from your bug-out vehicle to your bikes.  We’d recommend practicing bike riding with backpacks on, using the portable bikes you’d take with you, and get a feeling for what sort of load you can either hang off the bicycle frame or have on your back.

Have these things pre-packed so that if you need to transition from vehicle to bicycle, there’s no need for anything other than getting out of the vehicle, opening up your bikes, putting on your backpacks and saddlebags, and then cycling off, without a second thought.

Part of what you’d want to have in your bicycle based bug-out bags would be weather protection.  In the summer, protection against the sun, and in the winter, protection against the cold.  Possibly also wet weather gear.

Depending on distances, you might want to also keep some water, possibly food, and possibly even overnight shelter items too in these packs.  And, alas, probably some personal defense items too.

By the time you kit out your bags with the essentials for your bike-based journey, there might be little space/weight remaining for other things to bring with you to your retreat.

But, truly, that shouldn’t be a problem because your retreat should always be ‘ready to go’ without the need for any last-minute top-up supplies.

How Far Can You Travel in a Day

This is an essential question for you to consider, but almost impossible for us to answer in general terms.  You’ll have to do some experimentation to get a better feeling for your likely range of travel per day.

Some obvious things to consider are how efficient and ergonomically friendly your bikes are.  Lightweight portable bikes will probably not be ideal in this regard, and adjusting them correctly is essential.  You might want to get a specialty bike-shop to help you fine-tune the various adjustments to make them best suited for the lengths of your arms and legs, etc.  Put marks on the various adjustable parts so you know exactly where to set them when deploying your bikes.

It also depends on the amount of gear you’re carrying in your backpacks.  And on the weather.  And on the type of road surface you’ll be traveling on.  And on any hills along the way.  And also on how fit the least fit member of your group is.

As regards this last point, while – short of ridiculous obsession – there’s no such thing as being ‘too fit’, in this case your situation is a bit like the group of people being chased by a bear.  You don’t need to be able to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun the other people with you!

With the biking, the main focus of fitness training will be on the least-fit people in your group.  Obviously you’ll also balance out the pack loads so the less fit people carry less than the more fit people, particularly if there is any up-hill travel involved.  But your group’s ability to travel, as a group, will be limited by the least fit members, and this is the aspect you most need to optimize.

In ‘average’ conditions and on sealed roads, people travel anywhere from 30 to 100 miles a day.  Switching to dirt trails will probably at least halve this, and maybe reduce it even more.  Yes, that’s a big range of distances, isn’t it – clearly anything you can do to move your capabilities closer to the upper end of this range, the better you’ll be.  Even if your retreat is only 50 miles away, the range of your daily travels makes the difference between getting there, still refreshed, in half a day, or struggling to make it in two days.

The further you can go, and the faster you can cover the distance, the less time you’ll be exposed to all the risks and uncontrollable factors out there, ranging from weather to wild animals to unpredictable encounters with other people.  The less food and water you’ll need to carry with you, and the sooner you can be occupying your retreat (and defending it against anyone else who might stumble across it, empty).

We shouldn’t have put that last comment in brackets, because it has to be a major consideration.  No matter how secretive you think you’ve been, people know about your retreat, and more people will find out about it in the future (see our article ‘Is it Realistic to Expect Your Retreat Won’t be Found‘).  If society crashes in a heap, and the rule of law fails, then anyone who knows about your retreat may choose to go and take it for themselves, particularly if they see it empty when they get there.  Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and so you do need to get to your retreat as quickly as you can to head off such unpleasantnesses.

On a single day, you could probably push yourself and go a greater distance than the 30 – 100 miles we mentioned above, and of course, competitive cyclists on their many thousands of dollars bikes go much further.  But probably, for you, on a multi-day journey, these sorts of distances represent a fair range of sustainable capabilities.  On level ground with no head wind, it is reasonably easy to cycle at close to 10 mph without expending too much energy, so 30 – 100 miles becomes 3 – 10 hours of travel a day.  Sure, there might be daylight for more of the day, but your legs will be complaining somewhere in this sort of range.

Unfortunately, if you’re bugging out, you might not always be traveling on the best roads, and not always in a straight line.  Plus you may detour off the route, sometimes considerable distances, to avoid dangerous areas, and to find safe places to camp at overnight.  So 50 miles of travel may not be the same as getting 50 miles closer to your retreat.

There’s no substitute for actually trying it out, for real, to see how well you do and how far you go, and to determine who needs the most training to bring them up to the capabilities of the other people in your group.

Oh.  One more thing.  Please also remember to do this during weather extremes – when it is stormy, raining and pouring.  When it is scorchingly hot.  And freezingly cold.

Don’t Give Up

You might find that the weakest person in your group can only manage 10 miles a day, and that due to extremely difficult travel conditions, even a best case scenario sees you only traveling 15 miles a day, with your retreat being 150 miles distant.

Many people might decide, at that point, that a ten-day cycling journey to your retreat is impractical and impossible.  It would have to be either by motorized vehicle, or not at all.

You’d be dead wrong if you thought that.  Or, possibly, you’d just simply be dead.  If you need to bug out, you need to bug out.  You need to get to your retreat, or die in the attempt, because the alternative, if you do nothing, is also death.

Clearly if there is an enormous disparity in abilities among the different people in your group, you might have to make some difficult choices.  Yes, that is a polite way of saying ‘leave someone behind’ when your vehicle fails.  If a person is too frail and infirm to make it to your retreat, you have to dispassionately determine just how much value they’re going to add to your survival once you get to the retreat.  You can of course politely pretend that the traffic blockage may get resolved, and you can politely laugh that the person you’re leaving behind will get there first (and you should definitely keep in radio contact with them just in case this proves to be true!), and these polite fictions will make it easier for everyone, but when you are faced with this issue, you need to do what needs to be done.

While the thought of leaving someone behind sounds dreadful and uncaring, what is the alternative?  Three people go to the retreat while leaving one behind?  Or all four people sacrifice themselves and stay behind?  How does anyone benefit if you commit gratuitous group suicide?

If the less-strong person/people is/are children, that probably also means they are light rather than heavy.  By the time they become heavy, they also have become able to ride a bike.  But while they are young/small/light, you can validly consider carrying them in a backpack style carrier, or in/on a bike trailer (less desirable and more unwieldy) or something.

Even if you are all very fit, and you still find yourself confronted with what seems to be an impossibly difficult journey, you have to ask yourself – what is your alternative?  You either stay behind and risk probable death, or you struggle to your retreat as best you can.

Maybe you can make your journey easier by advance identifying some overnight places to stay on the way.  Maybe you can cache some supplies at some of these places so you don’t have to carry everything with you.

Or maybe you need to rethink your entire ‘where do I normally live and where is my retreat’ equation.

Do what you have to do, but whatever you do, do something!  Surely it goes without saying that having a retreat but not the matching very high probability of being able to reach it WTSHTF is an exercise in self-deception and foolishness.


Few people would find a bicycle an ideal primary bug-out vehicle to travel to their retreat when it comes time to ‘Get Out of Dodge’.  But small portable bicycles can be stowed in your primary bug-out vehicle and if something prevents you continuing the rest of the way to your retreat in your primary vehicle, you then have an alternative means of travel that is still massively much better than trudging there on foot.

Because they are affordable and easily used, we urge you to keep bikes for all probable members of your bugging out group in your vehicles so you have this emergency alternative.  Don’t just have the bikes.  Have pre-packed loads of necessary gear and equipment in backpacks so if you need to switch to bikes, you can quickly load on your backpacks (and possibly saddle bags) then continue on your way.

May 082014
Patterns of volcano ash fallout from past mega eruptions.

Patterns of volcano ash fallout from past mega eruptions.

Although there are plenty of people who are concerned that the Feds are indeed secretly preparing for future problems (ie, not in the way we might wish and hope for), maybe we should also be pleased to learn of such things.  Is it possible the Feds have both a bug-out plan and also a distant safe retreat for us all?  Or, at least, for some lucky souls among us?

Here’s an interesting article which, on a very thin level of evidence, suggests that maybe the Feds have made – or are making – or are trying to make – plans for a mass exodus of Americans in the event of a national disaster such as an eruption of the mega-volcano in Yellowstone (and probably in the case of other major disasters too).

According to the article and its sources, in such a case, the US might send (ie, fly) an unknown number of millions of us to South Africa, or maybe Brazil, Argentina, or Australia (can I put my name down for Australia, please).

But, really and realistically, how practical is this?

First, do you remember the Iceland volcano eruption of a few years ago, and how it disrupted air traffic for weeks?  A mega-volcano eruption in the US may cause similar problems in the air.  Or the ash (and possibly lava too) may impact on runways and ground operations, making it impossible for planes to land, spend time on the ground, and take-off again.  How would the millions of people affected by the eruption get to staging points and to operating international airports?

But, let’s ignore that for now.  Let’s simply consider how long it would take to fly 10 million people to South Africa.  For the sake of argument, let’s say people fly on 500 seater Airbus A380s, the largest passenger planes currently flying.  That means we need 20,000 flights.  At the time of writing, a total of 128 A380s have been delivered by Airbus, none of which are owned/operated by US airlines.  But let’s say the US can charter half of these – 64 planes.  That means each plane has to do 312 roundtrips between the US and South Africa.  In other words, it would take over a year to evacuate all 10 million people.

Okay, so there’s no reason why the US couldn’t also use 400 seater 747s and 300 seater 777s as well.  Could it possibly cobble together a fleet of 250 planes, averaging 400 seats each?  We’re not sure about that, but let’s say it could be done.  That means each roundtrip would see 100,000 people moved out of the US – assuming perhaps 36 hour roundtrip durations, that would mean in five or six months the 10 million people had been successfully evacuated.

But, what if it is 20 million or 200 million?  That means one year, or ten years.

And, ummm, what will people do while patiently waiting weeks, months or years for their turn to be evacuated?  Where will they live?  What will they eat?

Talking about eating, how will the host country then suddenly handle a massive influx of millions of people?  South Africa has a population of 51 million, many (most?) of whom live in severe poverty.  How could it handle a sudden addition of many millions more people?  What living standard could we expect?  (Of the other countries mentioned, Argentina has 41 million people, Australia 23 million, and Brazil 199 million.)

That also begs the question – if it takes six months or six years to evacuate a person, and if there will be major infrastructure and support problems where the people are being relocated, is flying them half-way around the world the best way to handle the disruption?

The article in the South African newspaper says we would have ‘a few weeks or days’ of warning prior to an eruption.  But, with an evacuation rate of 100,000 per day – and an uncertain amount of time to spool up the evacuation process to that rate, combined with the unwillingness of people to suddenly abandon their lives and homes and leave, perhaps forever, with no more than one or two suitcases each, how many people could actually be evacuated in those few days or weeks?  A million?  That’s probably only a very small percentage of the people who would be impacted by the Yellowstone volcano coming cataclysmically to life.

So just how impactful and helpful might any such evacuation program be?  Is this the best the government can come up with – evacuating as many of us as possible to South Africa?  And, oh yes, South Africa doesn’t want us, no matter how much our government is offering to bribe them ($10 billion a year just to have the contingency open!) for fear that their country would be overrun by white people.  Hmmm – why is it only offensive outrageous racism when white people say that about blacks, but never vice versa?  There are 45 million black/colored South Africans at present – just how many white Americans are too many?

One also wonders, based on the objection of being inundated by too many white folk, whether or not such relocation is being proposed as a temporary or permanent measure.  Still it is nice to think that maybe the government is planning to fly us to some exotic location rather than intern us in a FEMA camp!

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the article is the map image at the top (we have a small size version of it at the top of our article, too).  It is interesting to see how the ash from past eruptions has spread across the country – and when you think that radioactivity would follow a similar dispersion/fallout path (assuming similar release locations, of course) it is clear that it is much better to be west rather than east of any potential events.

Oh – and as for the government being there to save us after a national disaster?  And should you keep your passport current, just in case of a sudden unexpected relocation to some far away foreign country?  Call us cynical if you must, but we think you’d be well advised not to rely on this ‘deus ex machina’ coming along to save you.  Continue to plan and prepare to be self-reliant is by far the wiser choice.

Aug 252013
Hopefully your group will be happy and positive, but chances are the stress and the rush will make for a difficult time for all.

Hopefully your group will be happy and positive, but chances are the stress and the rush will make for a difficult time for all.

This is the fourth part of a series on coordinating a bug-out action among a group of people who hope to all travel together to a retreat location.

If you arrived here direct from another link or search engine, you might wish to start reading at the first article (‘The Group Dynamic‘) and then work your way in sequence through the rest of the series.

As we’ve commented before in this series, the more people in a group, the massively more complex any attempt to manage and coordinate them all becomes.  Add to that the extraordinary high stress level everyone will be experiencing, and add still further some unexpected problems that may be interfering with your bug out process as part of whatever event it is that caused you to bug out, and no part of the bugging out will be easy or simple.

You need to get your group members to accept some discipline and constraints during the bug out process.  Right from the decision to bug out being made, everyone’s lives are massively changing and the world has instantly become a much tougher and less forgiving place, and there will be less time for discussion, and a more urgent need for (appropriate and coordinated) action.  People have to become responsible for themselves, and realize that there won’t be any second chances or other people to blame for their actions in this less forgiving future.

That’s not to say you should start acting like a parade ground sergeant major in a bad mood, and whatever you can do to give kindly reassurance and to radiate calm yourself will go a long way to help your group members, and give them confidence in you, and help them accept your advice and directions.

Earlier articles in this series have covered how to keep in contact with group members, and how to make and convey a decision to bug out.  We’ll continue the narrative from the point where you’ve advised everyone that a bug-out has been called.

Communicating with Group Members On Their Way to the Rendezvous

Don’t think that after having told each group member of the bug-out decision, then you have done all you need to do.  It would be very valuable to keep in touch with everyone as they make their way to the rendezvous point.  After all, the group as a whole is weakened if not everyone can join up with the group, and conversely, it is strengthened if everyone can join in.  So for the good of the group, as well as for the good of the individual members, you want to ‘quality control’ every part of the bugging out process.

Traffic and tactical condition reports can be shared among group members as they make their way to the rendezvous point.  That might prove to be very helpful and will help group members make realtime decisions about which route to take to the rendezvous, based on reports from other group members about traffic and safety issues.  And, worst case scenario, if something goes wrong with someone, they could tell you ‘Sorry, we’ve been blocked in by stalled traffic and don’t think we can make it in time, don’t wait for us’ and that would free the other group members to leave sooner.

It also means that rather than sitting, waiting (and doubtless worrying), with no idea of where people are and when they might arrive, the group at the bus knows, with regular updates, where their other members are and how soon they expect to arrive.  That helps everyone to feel slightly less helpless and slightly more ‘in control’ – or, at least, informed.

Bugging-Out Ground Rules

We precede this with a reminder that group members have an obligation to the group to participate in the bug-out event, and to do so in the most practical and positive nature possible.  Each group member both gives the other group members added safety and security, and also receives the same back again, but this concept assumes that all group members have optimized their bug-out actions so as to be least likely to have problems and most likely to be able to participate fully.

So this fairly means that all group members can be expected to conform to certain group norms and expectations.

With that in mind, you should have both a list of ‘mandatory’ items that people are required to have with them when the group bugs out, and also a ‘maximum’ restriction on how much people can bring with them.

If people are bugging out by car, the mandatory items would clearly start with ‘sufficient fuel for the journey plus an emergency reserve of extra fuel’, and might extend to essential spares for the vehicle, perhaps some defensive equipment, bad weather clothing, and anything else that would be prudent or necessary for the journey.  The maximum restriction in such a case would probably only be something like ‘no more than you can conveniently fit in your car’.

If people will be sharing cars, then the maximum restriction needs to be better understood.  There’s a huge difference in space per person when a car has two, three or four people in it – two people gives each person half the trunk and half the back seat – probably more than they’ll need, but four people gives each person one-quarter of the trunk and no space inside the vehicle at all – quite likely less space than they want.

If people will be on a group coach, then you will need to set limits on the size and weight of bags to go in the cargo bays and to be brought onto the coach.

Needless to say, you probably won’t be obsessively checking every person and their vehicle for all mandatory items, but also needless to say, if a person suffers problems on the journey due to not having some item that was required, then that would be their problem, not a group problem.

This might sound harsh, but it has to be understood and accepted that people who fail to comply with the requirements will be expected to suffer the consequences, and the safety of the group absolutely will not be compromised due to a group member’s noncompliance.

While this might seem to be ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ – as we’ve said before, the group is strengthened by having everyone participate successfully, and weakened by anyone who fails to come, it could also be thought that a person who fails to comply with the clear list of procedures and protocols for the bug-out is likely to pose additional nonconforming problems at the retreat.  Consider it ‘evolution in action’ if such people are lost on the way to the retreat as a result of their noncompliance with group policies.

In a post-TEOTWAWKI situation, there will be no ‘safety nets’ and ‘second chances’ for people – or for the groups they jointly make up.  If people make mistakes, or do the wrong thing, they may suffer grave consequences – as may also the other people in their group who are relying upon them to do their necessary part of the group’s survival plan.  If something is broken through misuse, there’ll be no going to the store to get another one.  If something is wasted, you can’t replace it tomorrow.

The concept of being responsible for oneself and one’s actions and their consequences – a concept currently out-of-fashion in many parts of our society – will need to be revived and accepted, for the good of the individuals directly, and for the good of the groups they belong to.

For example, a person can no longer say ‘it is your fault for not explaining this clearly enough and warning me about the dangers’.  Instead, the situation will be ‘it is your fault for not asking for clarification if there were things you didn’t completely understand’.  That is a huge paradigm shift which you’ll have to clearly spell out to everyone joining you.

The only slightly counter-balanced concept to this is that the loss of a person weakens the group as a whole.  The group needs to protect itself wherever possible and prudent, but the degree of risk the group will accept in order to save a member will be ‘appropriate’ rather than extravagant.

To rephrase that last statement another way, the current concept of ‘there is nothing more precious than a(ny) human life’ will need to be revisited.

These are concepts very much at odds with today’s mainstream thought.  You need to understand the reasons for these changes, and get them accepted by everyone in your group.  We’ll talk more about this in other articles, outside of this specific article series.

Coordinating the Vehicle Load Out

If you have multiple vehicles all traveling to the same destination, the chances are you’ll end up with one vehicle that has only one or two people in it, and others with three or four.  It makes tactical sense to have the same number of people in each vehicle, or at least to have a minimum number in each vehicle – a minimum of two, three is better, and four better still (see our article on convoys for a discussion of each person’s duties/role).

You might consider having some people leave their car behind and consolidating into fewer vehicles with more people per vehicle.  If there is room in the vehicles (after whatever supplies might be loaded in) and if there are already a reasonable number of vehicles in the convoy, this would be good, but if you have very few vehicles, you probably would prefer more vehicles in case any get disabled on the journey.

Needless to say, if consolidating, eg, a vehicle with one person and a vehicle with three people, don’t automatically assume the person by themselves should go join the group of three.  Make that decision based on the suitability of the vehicles, and perhaps also based on who you’d feel most comfortable leading the group.  Maybe the group of three should go join the individual.

You might also want to equalize stores over vehicles, for even loading and even dispersion of critical supplies, meaning that if something bad happens to one vehicle, you don’t find yourself having lost your entire supply of some vital thing.

One more thing about stores.  Ideally, everything you need is already at your retreat.  The only things that your group should be bringing with them now are ‘comfort’ items (and some perishable fresh food, perhaps) that aren’t an essential part of ensuring a comfortable life at the retreat.  By all means, if there is spare space in a vehicle, and if it doesn’t slow down the bug out process, of course people can bring more stuff with them, but the priority, in coordinating the vehicle load out, is to get at least two, preferably three, and ideally four people per vehicle, and if you do that, there’s unlikely to be much remaining space for stores.

A note of realism too – the chances are that you won’t have much time to finesse these details – as soon as everyone is at the rendezvous point they’ll quite understandably be keen to move out.  So the more that is pre-planned prior to the bug-out, the better.

The Need to Practice, Practice, Practice

We again return to the fundamental truth about how group dynamics become massively more complicated, due to the growing nature of the group and its lack of experience interacting closely together with each other.  This needs to be anticipated and avoided, as much as possible.

One of the ways of countering and controlling these complications is to have as many things as possible planned and specified in advance, and we’ve been talking about many of these issues in this article.

But, invariably, there will be many things arise on the day that you had not earlier considered or planned for.  So, what do you do?

You carry out ‘dress rehearsals’.  You do practice drills, at different times of the day and night, and on different days of the week, and in different weather.

You can’t push too aggressive a schedule of drills of course – consider how sullenly many people respond to fire drills to see how some people will quickly be turned off by army drill type repetitive practice.

You can also selectively practice with just one or two group members.  Maybe you have an arrangement whereby when you hold a full group practice, the last two car loads of people to arrive will be required to do an extra practice the next week, or something like that, so as to motivate the group members.  A fun thing like ‘the first third of the people who arrive will have drinks bought for them by the last third’ would also add an edge to the event, but probably there will be some people who just because of their location relative to the rendezvous will always be first.

The practice times should be in morning and evening rush hours, on weekends, late at night, on hot days and in the snow.

We suggest that the group should agree on a window of time, at some point during which, a practice rendezvous will be called.  The broader the window of time, the better, so people aren’t ‘cheating’ and being ready to rush out the door, all ready to go.

There’s another, more subtle reason for practicing (and planning).  The bug-out process will be high-stress for everyone.  The more that people have practiced, the more comfortable they will be with the ‘real thing’ and the better they will perform.  That much is perhaps obvious (but can’t be overstressed).  The more subtle thing is that the more practiced you are, as group leader, the better you will be able to lead, and the more calm and confident you can project yourself.  This will calm and soothe your group members, and also encourage their compliance with your requests.

Sometimes you might just practice having everyone get to the rendezvous.  Other times you might then drive some distance in a convoy too.  Perhaps you might even create some ‘thought experiments’ and announce that roads are closed and require people to divert, and randomly declare vehicles to have problems.  For sure, you want to have everyone skilled at changing tires, and maybe you could have an occasional fan-belt break scenario too.

When people turn up in their vehicles at the rendezvous point, you should also do safety checks on the vehicles and their spare parts.  Are all fluids topped up?  Are fan belts and hoses in good order and condition?  Sufficient tread and inflation on the tires?  And so on.

Remember the saying ‘Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance’.  Remember it, and then adopt it!

This is the fourth part of a six part series about bugging out as a group.  Please now read on through the other parts of this series.

Part 1 – The Group Dynamic

Part 2 – Initiating a Bug-Out

Part 3 – Communicating the Bug-Out Decision

Part 4 – Managing the Bug-Out

(The final two parts will be released in the following days, please come back to read it, and consider getting our site updates sent to you via RSS or email or Twitter (choose your preferred method from the box near the top right of this page headed ‘Get Free Updates’).

Part 5 – A Policy on Uninvited Guests

Part 6 – Traveling in Convoy

Aug 202013
You may need to use many different forms of communication when attempting to reach your members prior to bugging out.

You may need to use many different forms of communication when attempting to reach your members prior to bugging out.

This is the third part of a series on coordinating a bug-out action among a group of people who hope to all travel together to a retreat location.

If you arrived here direct from another link or search engine, you might wish to start reading at the first article (‘The Group Dynamic‘) and then work your way in sequence through the rest of the series.

A key part of making a bug-out decision and then implementing it is communicating with group members.  You need to be able to have good communication to go through whatever type of consultative process you do so as to decide when to initiate a bug-out, then you absolutely need to ensure that everyone in your group knows about the bug-out, and you will want to keep in touch with them as they move to the rendezvous location.

Layers of Communication Alternatives

No matter what the emergency situation that is causing you to consider bugging out, it is likely that it will be accompanied by increasing difficulties of communication.  You should have a group communication plan worked out, whereby you each know how to contact other group members, and you establish a series of alternate methods of communication.

For example, you might agree you’ll try to contact first by cell phone, second by landline, third by Skype, fourth by other messaging programs (Yahoo, ICQ, or whatever else), fifth by text message, sixth by email, and seventh by wireless radio (or whatever other process you agree upon).

There are other ways of getting in touch too – other cell phone type messaging products such as TextPlus and WhatsApp and Google’s messaging program.  But these are layered on top of basic cell phone data service – if there is a problem with cell phone data, then they will not work.

It is best that you have a way to send out a group message quickly to everyone, and then if the situation allows, follow up with interactive calls where possible to make sure each person gets the message.

Those people who you can’t interactively contact should be sent messages by all non-interactive methods (ie text message, perhaps through multiple text messaging services, and emails, perhaps to multiple email addresses).  You should also send out radio messages – hopefully having them acknowledged too.

The Burden of Responsibility for Sending/Receiving Messages

Clearly, with an interactive message system, you know for sure if the message has been received or not.  When you’re communicating via a non-interactive process, you never know if the person got the message or not, and that leaves a very uncomfortable area of ambiguity.  Did they get the message or not?  And should you keep trying to contact them every which other way?

Now for a very important thing.  You and your group need to understand that the responsibility to convey a message successfully lies not with the person sending the message, but with the person receiving it.  In particular, if a person forgets their cell phone, or if its battery dies, or if it is on silent mode, or out of coverage, that is their fault, not the fault of the person trying to send them a message.

You as the sender of the message will of course do all you can to get the message to everyone in your group, but once a schedule has been set, there might come a time when you’ve not even be able to reach people before your group is due to depart, or possibly you’ve reached someone late, and they say they can’t make it to the meeting point in time.  That is not your fault, that is their fault, and the rest of the group can’t have their plans and safe travel arrangements threatened by the failure of some group members to keep adequately in contact.

Make sure everyone understands these ground rules.  If they do, they will become more active and less passive when it comes to being contactable.

Be Careful What You Say

If you are communicating by radio, you should not use real names or addresses, unless you want to have all sorts of uninvited and unwanted guests arriving at your rendezvous point as well.

You need to have agreed upon frequencies for your radio contact, of course, and agreed ‘clear code’ terms to use if communicating by radio on a public channel that other people will be listening to.  It is illegal to use code when using radios, and if you do use code, you also attract interest.  Better to use plain language that sounds sort of sensible and doesn’t make other people wonder who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing.  Just be vague about the details of what you’re arranging.  Talking about ‘our club meeting’ instead of a bug-out, and talking about ‘Alan’s place’ as a reference to the first possible rendezvous point, Bill’s place for the second alternate, Charlie’s for the third and so on (the first letter of the name indicating the location number) also sounds normal.

So you could say ‘Peter, do you copy?  Did you get our message for our club meeting which will now be held today at 5pm, and Edward’s place?  This is Bill, (call sign) calling Peter (call sign) or anyone who can relay to him.’

That sounds reasonably normal, and in the course of the conversation you’ve advised that a bug-out is being called for today at 5pm at the fifth possible location.

Some people would go even further and say you should obscure the time, too – perhaps by specifying a time two hours later than the real-time you’ll meet – for example, if you are meeting at 3pm, you would say 5pm, and everyone would know to take two hours off the stated time.

We’re a bit ambivalent about that.  Our concern is that no matter how much you train and practice, there’s a danger that someone will forget about the two-hour time shift and turn up at the wrong time – they will add rather than subtract, or forget to do either.  Better just to obscure the location and not worry about specifying the exact correct time.

The message you need to convey to your group members is very short and simple.  The group has decided to bug out, and you simply need to confirm the rendezvous point and the rendezvous time.  Probably you’ll have pre-agreed upon one or two or three possible rendezvous points, so you won’t even need to spell out the location and directions in any detail, all you need to do is tell them which rendezvous point will be used.

A text message could simply be “GOOD LOC2 3PM” – the ‘GOOD’ being an acronym for the phrase ‘Get Out of Dodge’ (as in ‘we are about to bug out), ‘LOC2’ means ‘meet at the second location’, and do we need to explain what 3PM means?

Keep messages short.  You don’t have time to chat – you can do that when you’re safely at your retreat.

A Rendezvous Point

Most people would prefer a rendezvous point to be on the outskirts of the city and on the same side of the city as you’ll be proceeding towards the retreat.  It would help if there were somewhere appropriate for group members to park their cars if you were all then going by shared community coach – a park and ride facility would be a good choice.  If you are driving in convoy, then that isn’t so much a consideration and you just want a safe place where you can wait until everyone is present.

Depending on the exact situation of your city and where in it your members are located will depend on where you choose as a rendezvous point.  You want to minimize the distance that members travel alone to the rendezvous point, but you also want to minimize the time that any of you are in the most perilous inner parts of your city.

Sometimes it might make sense to have two meeting points.  This depends on the layout of the city area you live in, where your group members are located around the city, and where you’ll all be traveling to.

If you have two meeting points rather than one, be careful not to make things overly complicated, and be sure that there really is good value in having two meeting points.  Usually there isn’t.

If you are grouping together to travel by coach, it becomes more important to protect the safety of the coach, and so to rendezvous a bit further out of the city center.

One thing we suggest you don’t do though is make it a group matter to coordinate things within each family or ‘carload’ of people who are traveling to the rendezvous point.  Each group member has their own personal responsibility to arrange their own travel to the group rendezvous point.  If some group members want to arrange among themselves some sort of one-on-one coordination of travel plans, that is between them.  The responsibility of the group, for the group, only starts when people reach the group rendezvous point.

That’s not to say you would be unhelpful, on the actual day, if a group member said ‘Help, my car is stuck in the parking garage and the door won’t open, is anyone able to collect me?’  You’d of course help them to find any alternate way to get to your rendezvous point, but only if it didn’t delay the departure time or imperil other group members.

To put this another way, the group has one or possibly two official rendezvous points.  If people want to create sub-rendezvous points where individuals meet up prior to continuing on to the main group rendezvous point, that is fine, but those arrangements should be direct personal arrangements, not part of the group meeting plan – otherwise, things will become massively too complicated with too many different rendezvous points and dependencies.

The group has its main meeting point or two, beyond that, people do whatever they want, however they want, to get to the group meeting point.

This is the third part of a six-part series about bugging out as a group.  Please now read on through the other parts of this series.

Part 1 – The Group Dynamic

Part 2 – Initiating a Bug-Out

Part 3 – Communicating the Bug-Out Decision

Part 4 – Managing the Bug-Out

(The final two parts will be released in the following days, please come back to read it, and consider getting our site updates sent to you via RSS or email or Twitter (choose your preferred method from the box near the top right of this page headed ‘Get Free Updates’).

Part 5 – A Policy on Uninvited Guests

Part 6 – Traveling in Convoy

Aug 182013
Perhaps the hardest part of the entire bug-out process will be agreeing on when to bug out.

Perhaps the hardest part of the entire bug-out process will be agreeing on when to bug out.

This is the second part of a series on coordinating a bug-out action among a group of people who hope to all travel together to a retreat location.

If you arrived here direct from another link or search engine, you might wish to start reading at the first article (‘The Group Dynamic‘) and then work your way in sequence through the rest of the series.

Making a Bug-Out Decision

Clearly, the first part of any group bugging out event is making the decision to do so.  That is easy when it is just you and your spouse/partner, but the more additional people you add to your group, the more complicated it can become.

You might think that the need to bug-out will be obvious and impossible to argue about, but we are certain that will not be what happens when the S truly does, for real, hit the F.  Even the most severe of scenarios – let’s say a solar storm wipes out the nation’s power grid – will still see a range of opinions about what to do and (perhaps more importantly) when to do it.

Most future problems are as likely to be of an insidious ‘creeping evil’ nature rather than a sudden catastrophic event.  And even the sudden catastrophic events have ambiguity within them – the uncertainty of whether it will prove to be only a Level 1 situation (that you can survive while staying in place) or get more severe and become a Level 2/3 situation (which you need to respond to by bugging out to your retreat).

To look at an extreme event example which you might think is obviously a Level 2+ event requiring a fast bug-out, let’s think about what would happen if the nation’s power grid is wiped out.  Most significantly, there won’t be any public announcement to that effect.  Why not?  For the simple reason that all mass forms of communication will have been destroyed or at the very least, made inoperable due to the lack of power to studios, data lines to their transmitters, and to the transmitters themselves.  Let’s not forget, also, that the radios and television sets in people’s homes will be without power, too.

All you are likely to know is that you and everyone you know has lost power, and once you get your generator up and running, you’ll see that nearly all the radio stations are either off the air or else are full of empty-headed speculation about what is happening and ‘live updates’ that substitute an endless flow of realtime nonsense for the actual valid meaningful data you desperately need.  As for tv, you probably have cable, and that will definitely be down, as will the internet, and very quickly, your cell phones will go offline, too.

You will have no way of knowing if the power will be out for an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or a decade.  You don’t know if it is just out in your city, or in the county, the state, the region, or the nation.  Such reports as may filter through to you will start off being optimistic – we’ve all had experiences of major regional power outages, and being without power for a day or two or three or even four, and that has hardly been the end of the world, and all the officials will be talking positively about ‘crews working around the clock’ to get power restored, the same as is always promised.

So for the first day or two, there will be more annoyance than concern at the delays in getting power back – no-one will guess, at this stage, that it will take some years for new replacement transformers to be built in China and shipped to the US.

At what point will you decide that ‘enough is enough’ and it is time to get out of Dodge?  Will it be before or after law and order starts to break down?  Will it be before or after it becomes no longer safe to be on the streets?

Your Group Will Disagree on When to Bug Out

So, no matter what the circumstance, when you and your group members discuss the event, some will be optimistic and want to wait a few days to see what happens, others will want to bug-out instantly.  An unspoken undertone to the discussion will also be the group members who have other friends/relations/immediate family members who do not belong to your community group, and who they would now have to leave behind (and are reluctant to do so).  You should expect lots of misgivings and second thoughts when all of a sudden, a distant unlikely seeming possibility (the need to bug-out at some future time) becomes a sudden and unavoidable ugly reality.

How do you all reach a compromise decision?

If you are all traveling in your own vehicles in a convoy, you could simply agree to disagree and maybe go in two or three waves.  The ‘right now’ wave, the tomorrow wave, and the ‘in a few days time’ wave.  That might seem to be a simple solution, but think about what just happened.  You’ve disrupted and destroyed the entire concept of a group movement.  So much for all your previous planning and coordination, and so much for your convoy structure and collective security during your bug-out journey.

And that is the ‘best case’ scenario.  If you’re sharing a vehicle with another couple, how does that work?  And if everyone is sharing a bus, which is an ‘all or nothing’ concept, then you need to have some way of making an official determination.

There’s nothing magic to this.  You agree in advance what the requirement will be for deciding what to do.  Maybe you have a ‘bug out committee’ of two or three people who decide on behalf of the group.  Maybe you have a group vote – in which case you need to decide what percentage of the vote is needed for the decision to be implemented.

There’s an interesting thing about deciding what percentage is needed – if you make it anything other than a simple 50% majority decision, then you’re biasing the decision in favor of either the pro or anti bugging out faction.  If you say ‘two thirds majority needed to approve a bug-out’ you’ve allowed a smaller one-third group dictate to the other two-thirds.  When it comes to bugging out, the two outcomes are both equally much a commitment – there are upsides and downsides to either staying or going, and so we’d recommend you allow a simple majority to pass the vote, or else let a special bug-out committee decide for the entire group.

One related question – will the vote be of all group members, or only of those who can be contacted in a timely manner?  Our suggestion is that if people can’t be contacted after trying all agreed methods of communication, then their vote does not count – not only because they probably won’t be bugging out with you because they can’t be reached, but also because that is again unfairly biasing the vote in favor of not bugging out.  In other words, if you have 25 people in your group and a requirement for a 50% vote to decide to bug out, then if you can only contact 15 people, your 50% is calculated on the basis of half of 15 (ie 7.5) rather than half of 25 (ie 12.5).

The Obligation of Group Members to Support the Group

One thing to consider when setting these ground rules.  Make it a part of the eligibility process to join your group – members must have a willingness and commitment to bug-out early and to bug out fast, and be willing to accept that when the group makes the decision to bug out, they either join in or become responsible for making their own way to the retreat subsequently.

Similarly, whatever the rules and timings are for meeting at the rendezvous point, when the point comes for the convoy or coach or whatever to depart, it will depart at that time, no matter who is not yet present or why.

Lastly on this point, members need to realize that if your group is traveling as a convoy, each couple/family in their own vehicle, there is still a strong obligation on all members to participate, because the whole concept of a convoy is safety in numbers and division/allocation of duties.  Each car and its people that doesn’t participate as agreed weakens the convoy as a whole, and whatever those people’s assigned duties were now need to be reassigned, on the fly, to someone else.

So people need to realize that if they wish to be part of the group community, they agree to join a group bug out event, even if they are not fully persuaded of the need to do so.  If they don’t, it becomes a loose-loose situation for everyone.  The main group convoy is weakened and the earlier assigned organization and duties of people in the group need to be re-worked on the fly, and the non-participating group members also have a much riskier bugging out experience if/when they subsequently decide to make their own way, alone, to the retreat.

We’ll let you decide how you arrange things to encourage everyone to participate together.

This is the second part of a six-part series about bugging out as a group.  Please now read on through the other parts of this series.

Part 1 – The Group Dynamic

Part 2 – Initiating a Bug-Out

Part 3 – Communicating the Bug-Out Decision

Part 4 – Managing the Bug-Out

(The final two parts will be released in the following days, please come back to read it, and consider getting our site updates sent to you via RSS or email or Twitter (choose your preferred method from the box near the top right of this page headed ‘Get Free Updates’).

Part 5 – A Policy on Uninvited Guests

Part 6 – Traveling in Convoy

Aug 082013
Coordinating and controlling a group of people in a high-stress bug-out situation will be difficult.

Coordinating and controlling a group of people in a high-stress bug-out situation will be difficult.

This multi-part article series follows on from our series about a group using a bus as a bug-out vehicle.  We have written this article series so it applies both to a group traveling together in a bus, or to a group traveling together, in a convoy, but in separate vehicles, individually.

If you are planning to bug-out as a group with other people, – maybe all in a bus, or maybe all in private cars, then it is good that you will have other people to support your bug-out process, but the new group dynamic exposes you to some new potential problems.

It is close to accurate to say that the complexities and challenges of organizing a group of people increases with the square of the number of people in the group.  In other words, if you double the number of people, you multiply four-fold the challenges; if you triple the people, you make the problems nine times larger!

But your challenge is not just the added complication of ‘herding cats’ – or, in your case, getting a group of probably fairly independent self-willed people to work in unison; your problem is also that the group will ‘think’ and decide issues on a very different basis to what you are used to either in a family or work environment.

Group Dynamics and Decision Making is Very Different to Family Type Scenarios

In your immediate family/personal social group, you have, over the years, established unspoken but understood roles and processes for resolving issues.  Maybe the wife generally handles some parts of the family’s life, and the husband focuses on other aspects, and the children know what they can and can’t do and when they need parental permission.

Furthermore, the family has both a history and a future.  That means that, for example, a married couple creates a series of ongoing compromises and swaps – ‘I’ll agree to this thing you want, because you agreed to the thing I wanted last week, and I know you’ll agree to another thing I want next week’ – that sort of thing.  So each conflict or decision/compromise is not a ‘stand-alone’ issue, it is part of an ongoing process.

It is also fair to say that most decisions or conflicts in a family environment aren’t of huge massive life-changing importance.  Do you paint the bathroom green or pink.  Do you eat chicken or beef tonight?  Do you want channel 45 or 76 on television?  Do you vacation in Mexico or Florida next?  You could probably live with either choice in all these scenarios.

Now compare these dynamics to your group deciding when to bug-out.  This is a huge high-stakes decision, almost literally a life and death decision, and also a one-off decision.  The thought of ‘I’ll compromise about this and let the other guy get his way, because he did a favor for me last week/next week’ doesn’t apply at all, and the perceived downside ‘cost’ of accepting a ‘wrong’ decision is huge.

So when you and some other people all get together to discuss and debate things as an amorphous unstructured group, you invariably get one of two different, but both dysfunctional outcomes.

The first outcome has everyone being painfully polite, and deferring to everyone else, with the group ending up in what seems to be happy and consensus agreement on an issue, with some sort of middle point compromise.  That might seem like a good thing, but studies of group dynamics suggest that this compromise is probably an outcome that no-one actually wants.  This is best encapsulated in the fascinating and amusing story of ‘The Bus to Abilene‘.  If you’re involved in any type of group decision-making, you need to guard against your group taking its own ‘bus to Abilene’.

The second outcome is quite the opposite but still ends dysfunctionally.  With the second outcome, people ‘stand their ground’ and refuse to compromise or consider other perspectives at all; vociferous arguments fly around the room, and people almost come to blows.  Either the group ends up agreeing on nothing at all, or the group splinters with people saying ‘You do whatever you want, but I’d doing this’ for their respective preferences.  Sounds a bit like Congress, doesn’t it.

Neither of these outcomes is acceptable when you’re trying to get agreement on when to bug out.  In the first case, you end up ‘agreeing’ on a strategy that no-one actually supports and which is probably inappropriate.  In the other, the group fragments with people doing their own thing their own way, and the underlying premise – ‘we all bug-out together for mutual safety and support’ is destroyed.

So we know that families can usually (but not always) agree on things, whereas ad hoc groups often (but not always) can not.  There’s one other form of group to consider, and you’re familiar with it already – a workplace type group – a structured group with a clearly understood hierarchy, authority, responsibilities, duties, accountability, obligations and consequences.  It is in its clearest form in a military organization of course, but just about every workplace, unionized or not, ’employee owned’ or not, still has a clear hierarchy and all that goes with it.  While we know plenty of cases of companies (and armies) making colossally bad decisions – there’s no guarantee that a corporate or military hierarchy will get things always fully correct – at least they can and do make decisions, and at least the members of the company or force then comply and implement the decision.

In your case, you want your group to be able to make an appropriate decision, in a timely manner, and to have the group members then accept the decision and comply with it.  An amorphous structure clearly won’t guarantee this, a family structure is not feasible, and so that leaves the concept of a hierarchical structure as one which the group should adopt.

Your group should create a structure that delegates decision-making authority to a designated leader, rather than requiring amorphous consensus style decision-making.  When TSHTF the last thing you want is a lengthy existential debate about should you/shouldn’t you be bugging out yet.

Create a consensus list of parameters for what constitutes a bug-out event, and then designate one, two, or three people to be the committee who decides, on behalf of the group, when to pull the trigger and initiate a bug-out, and, most of all, get all group members to solemnly agree to then abide by that decision, whatever it is, and whenever it is made.

When People Allow Another to Decide For Them, They May Switch Off Their Common Sense

There is another important factor to appreciate – one we have way too much personal experience of, and if you’ve not been in a leadership role in the past, you might not yet have encountered it.  We’re not now talking about decision-making, but rather about how the people in the group behave when implementing the decisions.

The classic example we’ve seen is on group tours.  You get a group of sensible, capable, aware and experienced travelers, all of whom have traveled by themselves in the past, but now they are on a tour bus with a tour leader, they seem to switch their brains off.  They become like helpless little children, needing to be told everything (repeatedly!) and not thinking for themselves or for that matter, thinking about the others in the group.  The tour leader needs to shepherd them from the bus to wherever they are going, keep them together, and make sure they all get back to the bus before it leaves – the individual people seem to lose their ability to plan for themselves, to find their way, and definitely lose all sense of time.

The thing is that their thought process – whether consciously or unconsciously – goes ‘I don’t need to pay attention, I don’t need to be focused, because I now have someone who is responsible for ensuring that nothing bad happens to me’.

When you add the truly mind-numbing shock of TEOTWAWKI, you’ll find that the people in your group will require a high degree of ‘hand-holding’ and you’ll need to reduce your assumptions about the degree of self-responsibility and initiative your people will display.

Even if you were counting on people ‘fending for themselves’ you need to assign duties and responsibilities and coordinate things.  Otherwise, you’ll find clusters of too many people all choosing to attend to some tasks, while other tasks go largely ignored and overlooked.

Things will improve once people create a new comfort zone (ie at the retreat) and a new routine and everything else, but for the bug-out process, you’ll need to provide a carefully structured process for them, where everyone understands exactly what they should and should not be doing and what is expected of them.


Group dynamics and decision-making can be very different to those in corporations and families.  You need to understand these differences and then structure your group so as to minimize the pitfalls and maximize the efficiency of the essential decision-making processes associated with initiating and managing a bug-out procedure.

You do this by structuring the group in advance, anticipating what issues will exist, and creating agreed upon procedures and a hierarchical system of leadership.

Traveling as part of a group can be great, but only if the inherently anarchistic elements of such a group are tamed and controlled.

This is the first part of a six-part series about bugging out as a group.  Please now read on through the other parts of this series.

Part 1 – The Group Dynamic

Part 2 – Initiating a Bug-Out

Part 3 – Communicating the Bug-Out Decision

Part 4 – Managing the Bug-Out

(The final two parts will be released in the following days, please come back to read it, and consider getting our site updates sent to you via RSS or email or Twitter (choose your preferred method from the box near the top right of this page headed ‘Get Free Updates’).

Part 5 – A Policy on Uninvited Guests

Part 6 – Traveling in Convoy

Aug 072013
This 1999 Prevost would be a lovely bug-out vehicle, and has seats for 56 people.

This 1999 Prevost would be a lovely bug-out vehicle, and has seats for 56 people.

Here’s a really off-the-wall concept, but don’t reject it out of hand.  There are several aspects to this suggestion, and if you consider it carefully, it might open up exciting and extending new prepping opportunities.

Think about the problems we all face as preppers, if we live in cities.

First, ideally, we’d like a retreat some hundreds of miles from our city location; indeed, depending on where we live, maybe even a thousand miles or more away from the city.  But how can we be sure we can safely and conveniently get there in an emergency?

Second, ideally, we’d like to move to a retreat with a group of other people who we already know and who we’ve ‘quality controlled’ in advance.  This enables us as a group to create a retreat community for mutual support and greater overall viability.  But, living in the city, we have no chance to build up a community presence where our retreat is or could be located, and the same problems that make it difficult for us to maintain a ‘dual life’ as between our city life and our standby retreat are at least as discouraging for other potential group members, who might be less committed up front to the prepping ideal than we are.

You doubtless already know these problems, because we all face them, every day.  Now for an unexpected solution – a bus.

Create a prepper group among your family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, in the city.  It is probably easy to find some other couples who would ideally like to join a prepper community, but the challenges of doing so has put it in their ‘too hard’ pile, the same as you.  Having a bus as an easy/convenient way to travel from your normal homes to your retreat might encourage them to become more participative and supportive of the overall retreat/prepping concept.

Then, when you have your community members, buy a second-hand bus.  Share the cost as best you can among the group of you.  The very good news is that a 40 – 60 seater bus, probably ten or more years old, is not going to cost you a great deal of money.  We’ve seen ideal buses priced anywhere from as little as $10,000 to no more than $100,000, and when you split that ten or twenty or more ways, it becomes very affordable on a cost per person basis.

Now here’s the thing.  Think about the capabilities the bus gives you.

First, it gives you the ability to transport a large group of people together with a large collection of supplies.  Sure, we know that you should have everything you need pre-positioned at your retreat, but we also know there are sure to be personal and essential items that you keep with you, wherever you are, and we know that if/when you need to bug-out, there are things you need to bring with you – both to ensure your safety on the journey, and last-minute essential items to have for when you get to your retreat.

Second, if you make an appropriate choice of bus, it will have a rest-room on board and 150 – 250 gallons of diesel in its tanks, giving you 1,000, maybe even 2,000 miles of nonstop range.  You don’t need to stop for anything (except swapping turns at the wheel).  Maybe it also has a kitchenette/galley so you can boil water and prepare some snacks, and if the 1,000+ miles you can go on the diesel in its tanks isn’t enough, you can readily carry hundreds more gallons in the bus’s capacious storage lockers.  Truly, a bus could convey your group pretty much from coast to coast without stopping or needing to rely on the ability to refuel or on any other external dependencies at all (other than the ability to find open roads to drive on).

Please Continue Reading Our Bus Series of Articles

So, what do you think?  Crazy idea, or exciting idea?  Hopefully you can see the possibilities and the potential, so please now continue on to read the other parts of our new series all about using a bus as a bug-out vehicle.

Part 0 –  Introduction

Part 1 –  The Pluses and Minuses of Using a Bus/Coach as a Bug-Out Vehicle

Part 2 –  Things to Consider When Evaluating Buses/Coaches as Bug-Out Vehicles

Part 3 –  Things to Consider When Buying a Bus/Coach

Part 4 –  Tactical Considerations When Traveling by Bus/Coach

Part 5 –  Coordinating a Community Bug-Out Event

We also have other articles on other aspects of the broader general subject of bugging out.

Aug 072013
This large 55 passenger 1996 MCI bus could be yours for about $25,000.

This large 55 passenger 1996 MCI bus could be yours for about $25,000.

This is part of a series on using a bus or coach as a bug out vehicle.  If you arrived here from a search engine or link, you might like to consider starting your reading at the first article in the series, and then working through the complete series in sequence.  But you’re of course free to roam through the series in any order you wish.  Links to all the parts are at the end of this article.

If you’ve not thought about a bus as a bug-out vehicle before, you can probably immediately think of some issues and problems with the concept, but hopefully you’ll also see the positives.  Sometimes the positives may outweigh the negatives, but sometimes they won’t.  But let’s look first at the minus issues, then move on to the positive reasons in favor of a bus.

Oh, one more thing.  Let’s understand the naming convention, too.

The Difference between Buses and Coaches

We are incorrectly using the term ‘bus’ to describe the conveyance we are discussing, because it is the generic term most people loosely use.  But we should explain that, to the purist, a ‘bus’ is a vehicle designed to uncomfortably transport people short distances.  It is the vehicle used by your local city metro public transportation services, and will have hard small seats, room for standing passengers, probably a low floor rather than a high floor, no restroom or other comforts on board, little or no space for luggage, and probably travels fairly slowly.

What we have in mind for a retreat bug-out vehicle is a tour bus or a motor-coach (often simply called a coach).  This is a vehicle designed to carry people comfortably and long distances.  It has a high deck, giving good views for the passengers and allowing for capacious luggage compartments underneath the coach’s passenger compartment, used to hold passenger bags, spare parts, and whatever else.  A coach has a powerful diesel engine capable of moving the bus at freeway speeds, it has comfortable seats that probably recline, it has air conditioning, and sometimes a tiny restroom and maybe even some type of kitchenette or galley facility too.

Don’t confuse the local transit bus with the long-distance tour bus.  We are exclusively considering tour buses, not transit buses, in this article series.  We generally use the word bus rather than coach, but we always mean tour bus, not transit bus.

The Downsides of Using a Bus as a Bug-Out Vehicle

There are two main downsides to using a bus as a bug-out vehicle for a group of people (let us know if you can think of more!).

The first is that a bus is more unwieldy than a private car or a motorcycle.  It is less likely to be able to travel on dirt/gravel forestry type roads, it is slower and unlikely to be able to out-run any pursuers in cars, and it is a much larger target; although being a larger target does not necessarily also make it a more tempting target – some potential attackers, if they understand the bus is full of people willing to aggressively defend themselves, might choose to leave it well alone!

The larger size and weight of the bus makes it more dependent on quality roads and bridges, and it also of course has height clearance issues too – not a problem on most regular roads, but may be a problem if you’re needing to detour on back country roads that seldom see trucks and buses.

The second downside is that with a group of people all on one bus, you have put all your eggs in one basket.  If the bus has a mechanical problem of any sort, or is involved in an accident, then the entire group risks ending up with no transportation at all.  Compare a bus with ten couples in it to a convoy of ten private cars – if any one or two or even three or four cars failed, the people in them could be conveniently loaded into other cars and everyone could still continue on their way.

There is a partial solution to this – get two buses!  But even two buses are more vulnerable than ten cars.  So you need to carefully understand the pluses and minuses of consolidating your transportation into one or two coaches, or splitting it into many private cars.

The Benefits of a Bus as a Bug-Out Vehicle

Okay, enough of the negativity for now.  Let’s look at the other side of the coin – benefits of using a bus (or coach, if you prefer) as a bug-out vehicle.

Our first point is to acknowledge that the benefits of a bus vary depending on the size of your group and the distance you would travel to your retreat.  The more people who would be traveling together, and/or the longer the distance to your retreat, the more beneficial a bus becomes.

There’s little good sense in having a bus if there are only two other couples traveling with you, and your retreat is only 150 easy driving miles away.  But if you’ve managed to get ten couples together, then a bus may be more convenient than separate vehicles, and if your retreat is 1500 rather than 150 miles away, a long-range motor-coach might be a more comfortable and secure way of traveling the long distance.

We really like the ability of a bus to travel very long distances, non-stop, being completely self-contained, having its own restroom, basic food preparation capabilities, and carrying all the diesel that is necessary for the entire journey.

While it is true that any normal car has potentially a lot of storage space in it, especially if it has only one or two people in it, if the number of people increases, and if much of the trunk storage space is taken up with canisters of extra fuel, the storage space might end up as very minimal.

But a bus will potentially have 15 – 20 cubic feet of storage space per person in its storage bays underneath the passenger compartment (the actual amount of course depends on the size of the bus, the number of people, and how much space might be taken up with spare parts for the bus and extra fuel).  In addition, assuming the passenger compartment isn’t totally full of people, there will be lots more storage space in the passenger compartment too, both in the overhead racks above the seats and wherever there are empty seats.

Even if you don’t need the storage space to bring essential items to your retreat, you can use it to store potentially essential items to ensure the safe completion of your travels to your retreat.  Spare tires, fanbelts, hoses, extra fluids and filters and any other essential parts that can be conveniently replaced and which could fail – you should have plenty of all of these with you.

The main consideration when weighing up the concept of investing in a bus is probably the size of your group.  To make best use of a bus, you need to have ideally ten or more people; any less than about eight and a bus is an unnecessary complication (and probably an unnecessary expense) rather than an added value improvement.

On the other hand, if you do have a bus, that might help you grow your group, by offering a very convenient easy way to bug out together.  And while we’ve been focused on the minimum size for a group to make a bus viable, the larger the group, the more and more viable the bus becomes (and the larger the group, the more viable your retreat community becomes in general, too).  You can almost certainly accept 40 – 50 people onto a single bus (or, for the sake of safety through redundancy, two buses).

But don’t buy the bus until you’ve built your group!

Please Continue Reading Our Bus Series of Articles

This is part of a broader series of articles on the concept of using a bus as a bug-out vehicle.  You can see our other articles, conveniently linked below, and of course, we have plenty of other articles on the broader subject of bugging out as well.

Part 0 –  Introduction

Part 1 –  The Pluses and Minuses of Using a Bus/Coach as a Bug-Out Vehicle

Part 2 –  Things to Consider When Evaluating Buses/Coaches as Bug-Out Vehicles

Part 3 –  Things to Consider When Buying a Bus/Coach

Part 4 –  Tactical Considerations When Traveling by Bus/Coach

Part 5 –  Coordinating a Community Bug-Out Event