10 Things to Know About Bugging In

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Written by Bryan Lynch

Already, the year 2020 has shown us several reasons why one would “bug in” or shelter in place. More people than ever have probably had to experience this to some degree in just the last few months.

From that experience I think we can all agree that sheltering in place might not be as easy as previously thought. There are many factors that go into successfully staying in one location.

For this article I created a list of 10 things I think people need to know when it comes to bugging in. Should you have to shelter in place I hope the following list helps in making it more successful.

You can also download the 7 Critical Survival Checklists that cover all aspects of survival preparedness. Print them and use them to prepare.

1. Complete Self-Sufficiency

When it comes to sheltering place there is one key component that cannot be overlooked. Whether the duration is short term or long-term individuals need to be prepared to be completely self-sufficient. This may be obvious, but it is also easily overlooked for certain categories.

It also may seem a bit crazy to rely on yourself for absolutely everything, but that is the reality of the situation. Bugging in is essentially isolation from the outside world. This means that all bases need to be covered as it pertains to water, food, first aid, medical needs, hygiene, power needs, sanitation, and communication.

Let me offer an example of how I would walk through just one of these items: food.

  • Do the food/ingredients require refrigeration? If yes, then I need to plan for a backup power supply.
  • Is most of the emergency food canned goods? If yes, then I need to make sure I have a manual can opener.
  • Will the food require water for preparation? If yes, then I need to make sure I have plenty of clean water on hand in case tap water is not available.
  • Does the food need to be cooked? If yes, then I need to plan for alternative cooking methods in case the power goes out. Solar cooker, emergency stoves, or a campfire are a few examples.
  • Dishes and utensils. Most of us have these but do you have a manual way of cleaning them should the dishwasher become unavailable? Disposable dishes and utensils would be an alternative but then plenty of trash bags need to be on hand and trash removal planned for.

As you can see this can be a daunting task in order to cover everything, but if you go slowly and take it one step at a time you will get through it and ultimately be more prepared.

2. Organization

This is another key component to being properly prepared. I have known people that buy a bunch of supplies only to haphazardly throw them into the depths of an attic or basement.

Not knowing exactly what you have, its location, expiration dates or exposing the supplies to improper storage conditions negates the whole purpose of being prepared.

Here are a few suggestions for staying organized.

  • Notebook and a pen. Having a notebook will help you track of what you need and what you already have. Dedicate one for supplies and the other for emergency plans.
  • Clear Containers. Storing supplies in containers is an easy way of keeping them protected and organized. I choose clear containers because it provides quick visual access to what is inside.
  • Keep track of expiration dates. This does not only apply to food but first aid supplies and other items as well. Be sure to rotate food out as needed and create a list of expiration dates for all other items.
  • Store properly. My recommendation would be to have the proper means of storage before purchasing supplies. For example, optimal long-term storage of certain food items requires them to be placed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or to be vacuumed sealed. Also avoid storing unprotected supplies in “wet basements” or in hot and humid areas.

Being organized will better safeguard your supplies and will ensure that you know where they are when you need it.

3. Supplies Are Not Expensive

The idea that you must have a lot of money to be prepared is one of the biggest misconceptions of emergency preparedness. You need to make the decision of how important being prepared is for you. Because it is no more expensive than what people spend on entertainment, eating out, coffees, and other luxury items.

Cover the basics, shelter, water, food and first aid. The great thing about this is that most of us already do this. Those categories just need to be beefed up.

One popular example of how to do this deals with food supplies. Every time you go to the grocery, buy at least one extra item of something. One extra can of soup, a jug of water, a bag of rice, or whatever your needs and preferences are. Then put that extra item aside into your emergency supplies.

I guarantee that if you properly budget, this method will not hurt your bottom line. If your basics are covered, then you will have a significant advantage in being prepared.

4. Know Your Neighbors

Generally, it seems the opposite of this mindset is the approach people take. I do believe it is pertinent to abide by certain security measures, but I do not believe in fully investing in the “lone wolf” mentality.

Most of us today live in close proximity to others. It only makes sense that we have the best relationships possible with those near us. Having many people on board with a common goal will make an emergency situation more workable and safer. After all, “many hands make light work.”

This is especially important to consider for individuals who live alone. It is difficult for one person to take care of everything that needs to be accomplished. Additionally, you should plan for how you would care for yourself should you become ill or injured. Having good relationships with your neighbors can really be a life saver.

5. Do Not Advertise What You Have

This is one of those security measures I was referring to in the above category. It is a huge security risk to advertise what you have and to the extent you are prepared.

It is a great idea to put into place emergency plans with family, friends, and neighbors. But that does not mean everyone needs to know exactly what you have.

When things in the world go upside down and become unpredictable, people will do anything to protect themselves. This includes taking what you have by any means necessary.

You can reduce your risk of becoming a target simply by not talking about your level of preparedness. As the old saying goes, “loose lips sink ships.”

6. Plan for Additional Security

Primary bug in locations are almost always everyone’s home. This is where most of our supplies are and it is also the place where we feel the safest and most comfortable.

This can lead to a false sense of security. Houses have multiple entry points that include windows, patio doors, a front door, a side door, a back door, a doggy door, and a garage.

Apartments are probably better off as they generally only have one entry point that needs to be secured. A front door and possibly a window with a fire escape.

In a worst-case scenario, it would be a good idea to invest in materials that can be used to shore up the security of multiple entry points. Examples of such materials are:

  • Sheets of plywood to cover windows
  • 2×4’s to put across door frames
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal up your location should there be a threat of biohazards.
  • Do not forget nails, screws, screwdriver, hammers, saws, measuring tape and a prybar. These items will help in the completion of the project.

7. Mental and Physical Health

I do not see this talked about all that much when it comes to bugging in, but they are incredibly important to keep in mind. Human beings are social and adventurous creatures.

Being subjected to a confined space without reprieve goes against our nature. Bugging in, especially for a long period can take its toll on one’s mental and physical health. I will separate them in order take a closer look at each.

  • Mental Health. Bugging in can result in “cabin fever.” This is a general state of irritability and restlessness due to being in a confined space. However, prolonged exposure is no joke. This can lead to more serious issues such as paranoia and illogical ways of thinking. To help reduce the seriousness of this it is best to stay busy and keep your mind occupied with positive projects.
  • Physical Health. This is just as important as our mental health. Staying physically active helps keep energy levels up and boasts the immune system. This can be difficult in a bug in situation where space is limited, especially for apartment dwellers. Luckily, you do not need much space for a dedicated workout routine. Remember to set aside some time daily and stick to it.

8. Plan for Non-Digital Resources

This one is easily overlooked as we become more and more dependent on technology in our daily lives. I have a love hate relationship with technology. I love the convenience it offers and the wealth of information available at our fingertips. I hate it because it has become the Achilles heel of modern society.

Most of us have smartphones that allow for the instantaneous access to anything we want to know. Take a moment to think about how many times a day you use your phone. We look up answers to questions, directions to destinations, instructions for projects and even cooking recipes. One flip of the switch and everything stops working and no more answers.

Make sure you have a healthy supply of non-digital informational resources. Maps, cookbooks, first aid manuals, DIY home repair books and any other reference guides you deem essential for your way of living.

9. Have Escape Routes

Even if the plan is to bug in it is still necessary to have backup locations that you can go to. Primary bug in locations can become unlivable for a variety of reasons. The area may become hostile, environmentally unstable, or resources simply run out.

It would be wise to have a cache of portable emergency supplies set aside in a vehicle or in various packs. Packs such as Bug Out Bags or an I.N.C.H Bag (I’m never coming home) These supplies should be substantial enough to get you to a new, safe location.

10. Being Prepared is Your Responsibility

I make no apologies if this one hits a little too close to home. Solely relying on others to take care of you during a disaster is not only impractical but a childish way of thinking.

Take a pandemic for example. As we have seen, when a large-scale event happens it is nearly impossible to ensure the safety of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Not to mention making sure there are enough supplies on hand for everyone.

On a side note, anyone who has the mentality of “I’ll just come to your house,” or “I will take from others,” should seriously reconsider that standpoint, for their own safety.

Ultimately there is only one thing you can count on during an emergency. Your skills, your supplies and what you are doing right now to be better prepared.

Wrapping It Up

The above list is just a few main points that should be taken into consideration when bugging in. As you can see, sheltering in place is not as simple as shutting the door and thinking you will be alright.

There is a lot to do when it comes to preparing oneself for emergency situations. But do not let that deter you. As I stated earlier, take it slowly and one step at a time. Each step that you accomplish will make you that much more prepared to take care of yourself and those you love.


About the Author:

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. Bryan is a regular contributor over at SurvivalCache.com.


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  1. I’ve been teaching Desert Safety and Survival now for the past 10 years. As a Former Green Beret, Vietnam Vietnam Veteran Survival Instructor-I’m on the same page with you on Bug In. Having a plan of actions for in or outdoors could save you life.

    1. John, Good to hear from an experience d survival expert on this subject. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Very good article. I like how it expanded on what I’ve been doing already, especially the first point about being completely self-sufficient. It really helps to see it in print (even if only in a web browser).

    I’m having trouble with point 9 (have escape routes). I definitely need to beef up this area of my preparation. Thanks for making it clear to me. I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking “I’ve got it all covered”.

    1. Hi Jerry, We all have holes in our plan and it’s good to recognize them now before something else happens. Thanks for the comment!

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