How To Bug-In: What You Need to Know To Survive a Grid-Down Disaster
by Creek Stewart
Art of Manliness
As the East
Coast of the United States recovers from Hurricane Sandy, aka ďFrankenstorm,Ē
the rest of us watch the unfolding aftermath from a distance Ė thankful
Mother Nature hasnít unleashed her fury on our
doorstep today. Hurricane Sandy is yet another sober reminder that
none of us are exempt from disaster. Mother Nature doesnít discriminate.
She doesnít care where we live, what we drive, how much we make,
or what we do for a living. Her antics are diverse and far-reaching.
She has a recipe of devastation for all parts of the world: hurricanes,
tornados, floods, wildfires, winter storms, earthquakes, tsunamis,
droughts, heat waves, volcanoes, land-slides, and sometimes even
a combo pack.
It is human
nature to avoid potentially bad news. It is also human nature to
procrastinate. Consequently, many of us avoid going to the dentist,
taking our car in for routine maintenance, implementing a home security
plan, getting our yearly physicals, and many other important preventative
and preparative tasks. Unfortunately, avoiding the thought of potential
bad news has absolutely no bearing at all on whether or not it will
happen. In fact, this attitude is completely self-destructive. Avoiding
preparing for or prevent a very dangerous and probable threat is
irresponsible and incredibly foolish. Yet, people do it all the
time when it comes to potential natural disasters. The mentality
of ďitís not going to happen to meĒ is no longer an acceptable excuse.
In the 15 years Iíve taught Survival and Preparedness courses Iíve
come to the conclusion that there are no acceptable excuses and
I have run thin on patience to those that offer them. Burying your
head in the sand is not a strategy and depending on the government
to save you is not a plan.
Many of you
remember the article I wrote a while back titled How
to Make a Bug Out Bag. ďBugging OutĒ is the decision to abandon
your home in search of a safer destination in the event of a large-scale
disaster. Sometimes, Bugging Out is not necessary nor is it the
best decision. A disaster may, in fact, make it impossible to Bug
Out. The alternative is called ďBugging In.Ē Bugging In or hunkering
down during a large-scale disaster can present many challenges to
a survivor. Oftentimes, the utilities we depend on are ripped off-line
Ė known as ďGrid-Down.Ē
devastate our most critical services including water supplies, medical
facilities and first responders, waste and trash processing and
removal, transportation options, fuel and grocery supplies, natural
gas lines, electricity, phone service, and even public safety. A
Grid-Down scenario can last for several days or even weeks. During
this time, you must be able to provide basic survival needs for
you and your family. These Bug In preps and plans need to be made
in advance. They cannot be made in the heat of a disaster.
Long Should I Prepare to Bug In?
question of the century! The government says 3 days. I have preps
to get me through 1 year. My answer is a minimum of 2 weeks and
then keep prepping for longer as time and money allow. Start with
3 days then work up from there. Donít let this question prevent
you from making progress.
Are the Categories I Should Consider When Prepping?
Our basic human
survival needs remain the exact same no matter where we are in the
world or what circumstances we face. They will always be: shelter,
water, fire, food, first aid, and self-defense. The order
of priority may change, but the basic categories will not. Below
is a brief breakdown of each category including several solutions
to consider for a short-term Bug In scenario.
During a Bug
In scenario, shelter may seem fairly obvious. It is your primary
place of residence. However, there is more to shelter than just
a roof over your head. Shelter must protect us from the elements
Ė even if access to modern utilities is limited or nonexistent.
Shelter becomes your #1 priority in cold conditions. You must have
alternative heating solutions in place just in case a disaster strikes
during cold weather. Some excellent and affordable options are wood
burning fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and portable propane heaters.
back-up kerosene heater I keep at Willow Haven that will heat
1000 square feet for 11 hours on one tank of fuel.
heaters can be purchased for just over $100 at virtually any
home improvement store. My grandparents heated with a kerosene heater
in their living room most of my life. They donít require electricity
and are very easy and safe to operate. Some countries use kerosene
heaters as a primary heat source, in fact. The fuel (kerosene) also
has an extremely long shelf life Ė Iíve heard of 20-year-old fuel
burning just fine, and Iíve personally used kerosene thatís been
sitting for 5 years with no issues. Above is a photo of a back-up
kerosene heater I keep at Willow Haven that will heat 1000 square
feet for 11 hours on one tank of fuel.
spaces or supplemental heat, portable emergency propane heaters
are excellent little solutions. Mine photographed above takes a
one-pound propane canister that is available at most camping and
home improvement stores. It really puts out the heat and lasts a
surprising length of time (4-6 hours) on one tank. Extra propane
canisters are easy to store as well.
I had the wood
burning fireplace pictured above installed in my home for about
$1500. Even a small stove like this one will heat 1000 square feet
of space to a comfortable temperature in freezing conditions for
as long as you have wood to burn. If you opt for a fireplace, choose
one that can also cook and boil water. Multifunctional uses are
always a survival plus. The brand I have is Jotul though there are
many excellent brands on the market.
Below are some
other home (and car) heating tips Iíve collected from personal experiences
testing my preps:
- Close off
certain rooms of your house and Ďmove iní to the room with the
heat source. Close doors or hang blankets to zone out other areas.
- Hang blankets
in front of large windows to reduce heat loss.
- Have good
blankets and sleeping bags on hand to help keep you and your family
- Just one
candle can warm the inside of a freezing car as much as 8 degrees.
on an alternative heat source
- Buy it
/ install it
- Test it
to calculate how much fuel you need for your chosen prep period
up on fuel
we had the worst drought in over 100 years here in Indiana. It sucked
my well dry for over 2 months, and I had to live on my water storage.
It wasnít fun, but really put my back-up plans to a test. Whether
you use a well or depend on municipal water service, a disaster
can put a stop to your flow of fresh drinking water. Without water
you can die in as little as 3 days. The best short-term Bug In water
solution is to simply store extra water in your place of residence.
You can buy commercially bottled water by the case/gallon or you
can bottle and store your own water in food-grade containers.
A very popular
do-it-yourself water storage solution is repurposed 2-liter pop
bottles. Below is the process I use (I donít drink soda but friends
and family members are happy to give me their empty bottles):
1: Wash each bottle using water and dish soap.
2: Sanitize each bottle and cap inside and out with a
bleach solution (1 teaspoon bleach mixed in 1 quart water). You
can use this same solution to sanitize other types bottles. Rinse
the sanitized bottle with clean water.
3: Fill each bottle with tap water. Add 2 drops of standard
unscented household bleach (4-6% sodium hypochlorite)
4: Empty and refresh your water storage once each year.
There are countless
water storage solutions available ranging from fancy interlocking
containers to 55-gallon drums. Youíll have to choose a solution
that is right for your environment, budget, and consumption needs.
Always store your water in a cool place away from full sun exposure.
A few additional
emergency water storage tips:
- Keep a few
gallons of unscented household bleach on hand at all times. This
can be used to purify water and for other sanitation needs.
- A 55-gallon
rain barrel used to collect water from your gutters is really
easy to install and only costs about $100. You can make your own
for even cheaper.
- Your hot
water heater contains many gallons of emergency water storage.
All hot water heaters have a drain valve at the bottom. This water
does not need to be purified.
- In the event
of a large-scale disaster, fill your bathtub(s) with water as
an extra precaution. This is bonus water if your supply is threatened.
- Pets? They
need water too Ė donít forget to store water for them.
- If itís
yellow let it mellow, if itís brown flush
- One gallon
of water per day per person is a good rule of thumb for water
whether you are filling your own containers or if you are buying
commercially bottled water
how much water you need (one gallon x people in household x
days in your chosen prep period)
During a Bug
In scenario, fire represents two categories: warmth (which weíve
covered) and cooking. Youíll see in the next section that I recommend
your emergency meals be very simple to prepare, requiring no cooking
at all, if possible. However, itís important that you have an alternative
cooking solution in place to cook meals and boil water if necessary.
Several affordable and turn-key off-grid options exist. Iíve listed
a few below in no particular order.
# 1: Fireplace or Wood Burning Stove
Not all wood
burning stoves can be used to cook meals or boil water. If you are
installing one, be sure it can do both. Even an open concept fireplace
can be used to cook and boil water. I installed a metal swing arm
in the fireplace at Willow Haven that can hold pots and kettles
over the open flame. This is an excellent cooking solution.
Even an outdoor
fire pit can be an efficient means of cooking or boiling water.
A tripod and swing-away cooking grill make these tasks much easier.
# 2: Good ĎOl BBQ Grill
Now this isnít
even roughing it! However, you canít cook on the grill if you donít
have a propane tank or charcoal. Always keep an extra full propane
tank (or two) or several bags of charcoal on hand if you choose
a BBQ grill as your back up cooking solution. Both store long-term
# 3: Natural Fuel Rocket Stoves
Stove works really well for one-pot meals for one or two people.
have come a long way in recent years. They are incredibly efficient
and can operate on a variety of natural fuels such as sticks, twigs,
pinecones, charcoal, and other biomass. Above is a photo of a small
version from Solo
Stove that works really well for one-pot meals feeding one or
two people. You can literally cook an entire meal with a little
pile of twigs and sticks.
EcoZoom stove is also a great off-grid alternative that can burn
small sticks and split wood for fast efficient cooking.
stove is also a great off-grid alternative that can burn small
sticks and split wood for fast efficient cooking. The cooktop can
accommodate big pots when cooking or boiling for larger groups of
# 4: Camping Stoves
are endless when it comes to lightweight camping stoves. They are
all fuel dependent so you will need to stock applicable fuel canisters
if you intend to use this option for more than a few meals. They
are also designed to cook for one or two people at a time versus
a large group.
of which cooking stove you choose, make sure you have the necessary
metal cookware, pots, and utensils to both cook meals and boil water
in an emergency.
an off-grid cooking solution that best fits your needs and budget
up on fuel
- Make sure
you have metal cooking pots and pans that fit your stove choice
Our food supply
is dependent on a myriad of factors. When disaster
strikes, it screws with pretty much all of these factors. 99% of
the food you see in a grocery store is on the shelf. Their back
rooms are filled with empty cardboard boxes. The food arrives on
a truck and is immediately stocked on the shelves. If itís not delivery
day, guess what? No milk and bread today Ė thatís what. But you
wonít have to worry about that because youíre stocking your own
shelves in advance.
and eat meals.Ē Ideally, your emergency food rations will consist
of meals that require little to no preparation. Boiling water for
reconstitution should be the most complicated step of any emergency
food ration. Your food preps should also have a long shelf life
and not require refrigeration. Thereís no sense in stocking your
shelves with fresh vegetables that are going to rot in a few days
or with frozen dinners that will go bad without electricity. Itís
very easy to overcomplicate food storage. Keep it simple! Below
are a variety of emergency food storage options.
Storage Option # 1: Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Meals
dehydrated meals have a 10+ year shelf life.
are easily reconstituted with hot water. You can eat most of them
in the pouch they come in. And, many of them have a 10+-year shelf
life. This is a really easy and nutritious food storage option.
Some reputable brands are Mountain
Foods, and Backpackerís
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© 2012 The Art of Manliness