The never-ending threat of the TEOTWAWKI  looms in the depth of all of our minds. My work experience lays primarily in public safety, government peroration to emergency response, tactical team assaults, gang mentality and survival, logistics and law enforcement radio communication. My personal experience is very broad beginning with my first job at age 15, working continuously through college, being married for the past 16 years to my “high school sweetheart” and raising three young children. I have been validated in court as an expert in several fields regarding gangs, firearms and narcotics. I would like to share with you my thoughts and expertise relating to successfully bugging out of an urban area.
My family and I happen to live in the California Bay Area and like many of the SurvivalBlog.com readers, live in a heavily-populated urban area. Don’t be fooled though, many of us urbanites are just like our rural area pepper counterparts; we just haven’t made the jump to move to the desirable off grid lifestyle, full time. That being said, most urban based preppers are vested in the communities we live in, go to Church/Temple, donate time and resources to local charities, and are involved in our children’s school(s) as well as many extracurricular activities. Most of us have bug out plans and a small network of family and friends to help us achieve the goal of getting our families out safely. However, the looming challenge is knowing the right time to leave, weather to leave together or in groups, what mode of transportation will be available (vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, small aircraft, boat), what we can bring based on how we can travel, safe routs of travel (neighborhoods, highways, bridges, chokepoints, time of day, waterways, air travel) and realistic time needed for travel to your safe location.
Deciphering the right time to leave the city or urban areas is something that you have to research in advance. It’s not something one can effectively do after the mass evacuation crisis has started. I recommend paying attention to the raw materials trade markets, indicators of local government preparations, public schools and local airports. While these are not traditional sources of impending danger information what each one of them show are immediate shifts in normal behavior, change in the flow of resources and change in human behavior.
The raw materials markets show the flow of milled lumber mostly white fir to China, metals, mostly recycled metals overseas especially at a reduced rate, recycled oil products to Southern America and lastly vehicle buyback programs such as Cash for Clunkers, Kars for Kids and Habitat.org. These programs receive significant government funding to get abandoned vehicles, boats, RVs and trailers off the streets of America. When we see the price of white fir lumber drop, the price per shipping container of metal or aluminum drop, the price to recycle your used oil increase or having to pay to “donate” your vehicle a shift in normalcy is on the horizon. While these indicators may not be immediate indicators you should maintain a watchful eye on one or all of them to make a predicative analysis of the fall of the USD.
Indicators of local government preparations include an increase of public disaster drills (outside the norm), more specialized emergency management equipment being stored extensively at and around public safety buildings rather than at city or county corporation yards and police and fire personal response times increasing to a higher than normal routine. When you notice changes in staged emergency management equipment and supplies at the public safety building in your community you should anticipate a large event taking place. If it’s a preplanned event such as a fair, a celebration or a parade generally there is no cause for alarm. But if the changes you notice appear unplanned or in such duration that goes beyond normal parameters you should pay attention. Again these signs alone may not be indicators you should bug out, but the totality of your research and observations will be the deciding factor.
Changes in behavior at the public schools relating to free lunch programs, after school program accessibility and an increase in teacher absences are signs that the transportation logistics are failing and the priorities of the school administrators are changing. The focus will shift from keeping children at the school to surviving with what funds and resources the schools left.
Changes of behavior at the airports will show similar concerns. When air fuel costs go up, plane tickets go up. When airport TSA restrictions go up, freedom and liberty go down based directly on actions of the TSA Director. This should raise eyebrows and should be evaluated along with the other change of behavior signs in your communities.
When you decide to leave you will need to already have a preplanned route as well as a secondary route for redundancy. Your primary route will generally be the shortest you can take by way of a vehicle on a paved road. If you have access to a small aircraft you will likely be traveling by vehicle with your supplies to the airport. The same goes for waterway travel. You will generally need a vehicle to get to a harbor or a boat launch with your gear to leave the heavily populated urban areas. The most significant dilemma for most urban area preppers is not leaving too early where you may face being fired for not reporting to work if things don’t go bad and not waiting too long where all the highways are packed bumper to bumper where you can’t get out. The last thing any of us want to do is lose our job if we leave without notice and are released from our employer in a non-emergency scenario.
A solution may be to leave in groups at staggered start times. Those who have a low risk of a significant impact for leaving early are those like home makers who would face no more than a child’s school absence, telecommuters who don’t have to report to an office, business owners who decide not to open their business for a day or two, retirees who don’t have commitments in their communities and obviously those who are on their regular days off from work. Those who can leave early with little or no recourse should leave as soon as the indicators outlined above begin to show. Those who have jobs where leaving would cause employer concern such as construction, infrastructure jobs, public safety, government offices or other employers who require prior notification for unplanned absences, will face a tough decision. At some point you will have to make the call to leave knowing your unexcused absence will have a substantial affect on your future employment. Sometimes it’s a gamble and sometimes it’s an educated decision on your part. Those who have fled suspecting troubled times in the past have suffered the loss of a job or disciplinary action because of their unexcused absence. They know all too well what can happen for their decision to leave. All I can suggest is you study the signs and make the best decision for you and your loved ones.
Determining you mode of travel is simple, if you have the discretionary free time and if you leave early enough. Unfortunately that is not the reality for most of the working class in the urban environment. You need to plan for moderate to heavy vehicular traffic. Pack extra provisions, fuel and comfort items you and loved ones need to make the extended trip palatable. Secondly plan for extra security measures. Having quick and easy access to a firearm is you first defense when faced with marauders so it’s essential that you have one close to you when traveling during these troubling times. If you flee in a vehicle is would be easy to inconspicuously and legally carry firearms with you even in the most restrictive states like California and New York. All states allow legal vehicle transportation of firearms. Some states are more restrictive than others and require the firearm be in a locked case and with the ammunition stored away from the firearm in the vehicle, but most do not specifically define what a locked case is and don’t require the ammunition be locked or unloaded from a magazine. That being said I have seen some very creative case locks which include “rope”, zip ties, bailing wire and twist ties. While under normal circumstances I would recommend sticking with a traditional key or combination lock, I think in a bug out situation law enforcement officials will be less worried about the manner in which you chose to transport your firearm and more concerned with problems of keeping the peace.
Be wary of hasty road blocks and haphazard detours. Most traditional law enforcement road blocks need to have proper signage and notification and will “look official.” Your best option to avoid checkpoints all together. When driving keep your must keep your eyes on the horizon and always be looking ahead. Travel efficiently but not too fast where you may come upon a roadblock too fast and can’t get out of the queue line before your trapped and committed. At the onset your most efficient way of travel will be on the Highways and Freeways. During the later stages of the exodus you will have to divert to your secondary travel route and stick to back country roads. Lastly as a general rule never park your vehicle(s) with less than half a tank of fuel. To do otherwise is lazy and foolish. I shouldn’t have to say anything more on that topic.
If another mode of travel is your plan such as a boat, small aircraft or motorcycle/quad then the options open up for you. Small winged air travel being the safest you will not need to be as concerned with the roadways. You will however need to be concerned about flight restrictions and filing of flight plans. If you are traveling by boat you are sure to run into some resistance and chaos at the docks with others fleeing the later you leave. You should expect to run into frantic citizens loading copious amounts of supplies onto their boats at the same time. The boat docks at most marinas are not designed for mass exodus and lots of people piling provisions along the docks at the same time will cause confusion and delay. For those scenarios, it’s imperative you store as much gear on your bug out boat prior to the event to avoid delays and confrontations on the ramps and docks. Stay light and quick and you can weave yourself and family through the rushes at the docks very efficiently.
If the motorcycle or quad is your planed way of travel be prepared to carry extra fuel along with all your other gear which will be seen by all. While we would like to conceal our gear and fuel it’s nearly impossible on a motorcycle or quad. I would suggest painting your jerry cans to at least appear like traditional saddle bags so at first glance it doesn’t look like a gas can. Also I would recommend a siphon. There small light and can make the world of difference between only making it part of the way and walking versus riding all the way to your destination.
Travel routes and times are critical. Plan primary, secondary and alternate routes out. Have a road map or atlas with you so you can recalculate your route if needed. GPS is a great tool until Murphy’s Law kicks in and it doesn’t work for any number of reasons (government satellite shut down, EMP, CME, system over use overload, etc…). Areas of concern are heavily populated areas, low income housing blocks, chokepoints, bridges, tunnels, and highway to highway intersections. Determining routs around these potential ambush points is your key to your safe travel. Leaving early enough to avoid these problem areas is ideal but may not be possible. If you run into a choke point sometimes it’s best to pull over to a safe location and observe for a half hour or so. Learn from others mistakes and adjust your route accordingly. Stay alert and watch your surroundings.
Most likely the best time to leave is late at night. Just as the early bird gets the worm, the early traveler gets less traffic. Leave after midnight but before 5:00 am. You should give yourself enough time to be out of the populated areas in into the country before 5:00 am so plan for delays and rest stops if needed. While headlights can be seen for up to a mile away and ambushes can be organized on you approach, it’s still safer and more efficient to travel at night. Night vision capabilities are premium when driving at night but most of us can’t afford such an expense. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst and always have contingency plans. The government does for just about everything having to do with emergency response, so why shouldn’t you?
The last two options are the least desirable. Bicycling or walking are obviously slow and open you up to all sorts of potential problems. While you will benefit from moving quietly while creating a small silhouette of yourself, you will have no cover or concealment. Additionally traveling by bicycle or by foot will extend your travel time immensely so plan for it. Coordinate it ahead of time with your group so members know to expect you in weeks rather than days or hours.
Realistic travel times need to be planned for. If your bug out location is a five hour drive during normal conditions, then plan for twice that during times of crisis. Inevitably you will be faced with delays, detours, unplanned refueling stops when the opportunity arises and necessary renaissance stops. Plan for stopping to top off your fuel tanks at every reasonable opportunity you have. Fuel prices could be rising every few hours and credit cards systems could be corrupted or shut down without warning. I would suggest using a charge card as much as you can while the systems are still active. Save your cash until the credit systems stop working then transition to your cash. If/when you reach your bug out location and the credit card systems are still functional, unload your gear and family and go back out to the closest fill station and top everything off. Fuel will be worth it’s weigh in gold when the refineries shut down and/or the fuel trucks stop rolling. If nothing more, fuel will be a good bartering item for the new America.
In conclusion, be prepared, make the sacrifices now so you can live comfortably in the future. Having preparations stored provides most with a sense of accomplishment and security in your future. As Americans we mustn’t forget the duty of charity and helping others out. That being said, take care of yourself, your loved ones and your group. After then, and only then as J. W. Rawles says, “Give until it hurts.” With that, be safe, plan ahead and God Bless.