Shelter Preparedness, Pt. 2, by Pete Thorsen

(Continued from Part 1. This part concludes the article.)

Obviously, the best bet is to stay with your vehicle if possible. You can carry a lot of stuff in your vehicle, and the vehicle itself can always be a temporary shelter. You might have to leave your vehicle to be closer to a water supply or for a different reason. Once you are bugging out and away from your residence, you might have to be much more flexible in your thinking. Such as: Your shelter can be anything, depending on the circumstances. If it is hot, maybe all you need is some shade. Your particular situation and location make all the difference.

While staying in your home is often the best choice (especially short-term) in some cases that is just not the best choice. If you are in an apartment or a condominium they can become poor places to stay very quickly in many situations. Both are very susceptible to fire. With either, you have many other people staying in the same building, and if any of them start a fire, everyone in the building must evacuate, very quickly. Also, those buildings are often located near the center of the city or town. So that could be very close to any ‘social unrest’ or riots. Often it is quite difficult to be very secure in those buildings.

Another problem with any living quarters in most cities or towns is that if the power goes off you lose your water supply. (Very few municipal water supplies are gravity fed from end-to-end.) You can prepare for this somewhat by storing some water, but lack of power also means lack of sewage pumps. This could cause raw sewage to back up into your house or apartment. As you can imagine this could force your evacuation.   Living on the second floor or higher or living on a hill will help prevent sewage backup from entering your home or apartment. Too bad for the people on the first floor because they will know every time someone above flushes.

Evacuating from a city or town could be problematic, depending on many factors. If many people are trying to leave at the same time, then the roads will likely be clogged possibly to the point of no forward movement. Earthquakes, fires, or other natural disasters can close off certain roads or even large sections of a town or city. So plan ahead: Plot several routes that you can use to leave the area and try them out to find their weak or strong points, and so you get truly familiar with the routes. If at all possible have plans to evacuate in more than one direction in case one direction becomes completely out of the question.

On Wheels

Plan in case you are unable to evacuate with your vehicle. A bike could be used, or you can always walk. If you own a motorcycle, they can often be ridden where cars cannot go because of tight spaces that might be encountered. To carry more stuff on a bike or motorcycle, you can install panniers (saddlebags) or attach a small trailer. Walking means a backpack or better yet some kind of a cart or even a wheeled suitcase.

Any weight that can be put on wheels instead of on your back will make it a lot easier to bug out. (The ability to carry more stuff, with less fatigue). Detailed maps can be invaluable to have, and you should have the actual paper printed form and not just depend on your GPS or smartphone. Have real paper detailed maps of your area. If you think that you might at some point try to evacuate on foot, then try it beforehand. Just leave your house or apartment and walk your planned evac route. Don’t even carry a pack the on the first try. Just try it. Then try it again with a backpack. when you get tired you can call a cab or a friend to get back home again. That will give you a good idea of your capability of on-foot evacuation.

Do you have any pets? What is your plan for your pets if you have to evacuate? Evacuating with your pets would likely be fine if you can use your vehicle but what if you have to leave on foot? A medium-sized or larger dog can be put on a leash and be taken with you without causing a lot of trouble but are you going to put leashes on each of your three cats? Can you carry all of them at once?

Are you going to carry food and water for your pets? Many people have more than one dog. Can you walk them on a leash together? What if you have a cat or two? Obviously, it would not be practical to carry a cat or try to walk it on a leash. So what is your plan? Let the cat loose to become someone else’s problem? Turn it loose to die a slow death from starvation? Leave them trapped in your dwelling with extra food and water?   I do not have an answer for what you should do with your pets if you ever have to evacuate your home quickly. But I do know that the time to think of your plan for pets is well before something traumatic happens.

Alternate Shelter

It is a good idea to have an alternate shelter lined up if you ever need it. Or several choices would be even better. Alternates can be a friend’s house or apartment or the home/apartment of a relative or even a motel. Maybe it is a favorite camping spot you have camped at before that is not too far away. Maybe it is your RV, and it can be driven (or pulled, in the case of a camping trailer) most anywhere. Or maybe you have a cabin or second home.

Many call this alternate place their bug out location (BOL). Your alternate should be at least some distance from your normal living quarters. A friend’s apartment in the same building might be handy but would do no good if the building is on fire. A friend a few blocks away might be fine,  but across town or in the countryside nearby would probably be a better choice. That is why have a couple of possible locations would give you much more flexibility.

An alternate location within ten miles could be reached by foot in less than a day for many people. Try not to have your main BOL more than a half a tank of gas away from your regular home. So maybe we are talking within two hundred miles maximum from your home. Consider several possible routes to get there and possibly friendly stops arranged in advance along the route, such as the homes of family member or friends.

Pre-Positioning Gear at Your BOL

If possible, it would be a good idea to stash at least a few things at your bug out location just in case you show up there with nothing but the clothes on your back. Handy things to stash there might be some clothes (include shoes and boots!), maybe some cash, a spare cellular phone charger, special medications that you need, backpack/camping gear, Basically, whatever you think might make your stay there easier and safer. Or items to use to re-supply you to continue your journey to a more distant destination. Perhaps consider storing some stabilized fuel if it is more of a re-supply depot on the route to your BOL. This is possible if this spot is a friend or relative’s house. If this spot is just a camping spot then stashing supplies there would not be practical or at least they could be problematic. This spot could also be a rental storage place but that would also mean a monthly fee you would have to pay.

Thoroughly explore alternate routes to get to your planned BOL. Do this until you are familiar enough with each of these other routes, that you do not need a map. (But always have a paper map with you). In an emergency situation of just about any kind, you can expect roads to be closed off, or clogged with cars. That is why you plan ahead for these alternate routes.

You should even plan a route or two for if you are on foot, or on a bike. Do you have to cross a river or stream? What if the bridge is down or completely blocked? Earthquakes can happen almost anywhere even though you might not have heard of one happening near you in the past. That could cause many different routes to be impassable and that is why you need alternates. But many things can cause a route to be closed down. A large accident might close even a major highway for many hours. Police might close down highways due to nearby wildfires. There can be many reasons for any road or even major highways to close so you must be ready to go a different way.

In summary and conclusion: Plan ahead. It may save your life!



  1. Not saying this is a good idea depending on circumstances, but you can get a Kitty Holster and teach your cat to walk on a leash. Better than carrying an animal. At first when you put the harness on they will flop over like you killed them, then they will realize it’s your arms or being able to investigate smells as they go, and they’ll take to the idea of leash walking. It’s a good idea for short-term disasters, too: Places that won’t take an unrestrained animal may consider one that’s controlled in a carrier with a leash. If you’re going to include your pet in your plans, your pet needs a BOB too, which you can put right in the carrier with a harness and leash. Throw their vet records in there too; just like with people, vet records tend to be concentrated in one office or computer system. You’ll need proof of rabies/distemper vaccination to have them in a place there’s other pets. Don’t forget one of those hamster bottles they can lick to dispense water for them.

  2. I have always found that a cat is not as domesticated as a dog. If left to its own devices, a cat will survive just fine,not so with many dog breeds. Although, it is true, some would for packs. Many would die of neglect.

  3. Remember, ALL, interstate highways are under Federal control. During a major social upheaval they could be closed at anytime. They will more than likely have check points. Just plain ahead, you have to know how to get around any choke points and there are more than you have likely thought about. Check things out closely!

    1. I just personally experienced a major upheaval in Nebraska. The highways were actually under state and local control. The State government had the Highway Police shut down the interstate during the blizzards on March 12-14th. This forced over a thousand semi trucks and many other travelers off of Interstate 80 from milepost 300, west to the Wyoming state line.

      As the floods developed, starting March 13th, cutting other State and County highways and roads and washing out bridges, it was the local entities-volunteers mostly- who established roadblocks.

      I encountered road blocks whose descriptions came right out of prepper fiction: vehicles parked blocking roads with no one around, vehicles with people barricading roads, stand-up barriers across roads and at town edges with no one around, vehicles with flaggers and traffic cones stopping traffic.

      In no case did I see any official uniforms, except for one volunteer fire department person in an evacuated town. All the rest were in plain civilian clothes, except for a couple flaggers at a one spot where water was a foot deep running across a raised roadbed and they were controlling traffic each way.

      In this case, all barriers and personnel were there for benevolent purposes. But the physical experience increased heights of ‘what if?’ considerations.

      1. In a “grid down” situation, I have no doubt that many people blocking roads will consider themselves acting benevolently. Indeed, some of us may be in that position. May we use whatever power we assume wisely.

        Carry on

  4. If walking out with your dogs, and you have a cat or two, you might find that the cats will follow on their own. I used to have both dogs and cats. I walked the dogs every day. One dog on a leash, one dog that didn’t need a leash that would walk with us, and a couple of cats that would follow leisurely behind us. If your dogs and cats are brought up together, they want to be together. Cats are kind of funny that way.

    If I still had my pets, and I had to bug out on foot, I’d still bring the cats. If they split on their own, they’ll be just fine. The dogs, well, that depends on the dog.

    My advice would be to take regular walks with your dog(s) and let your cat(s) follow. Get your pets used to the journey now, rather than during an emergency. If you just have cats, try the leash and get them used to it.

  5. I personally think that you should never release your dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, hamsters, or any other pet into the wild. Your pets are 100% your responsibility not the responsibility of anyone else. Released pets will always cause trouble in one way or another unless they die on their own quickly (which would usually be the case). That is why I stressed having a plan setup for your pets now.

  6. Good to know that I am not the only person who has their house cats leash trained. Whenever I go to the vet, everyone looks like they spotted a Sasquatch or Alien!

    Cats do not learn like dogs, but if you start very young they do well. While I would never want to turn my pets loose, cats could do quit well in the right environment. My old warehouse is plan C and has been prepped for that – just in case! Honestly I would rather see them there, than on the road with or without me.

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