This is Part 4 of a 4-part series in which experts from all parts of the country and areas of expertise weigh in on the big question, “When do I know it’s time to get out of Dodge?” There is no one-size-fits-all answer, which is why I wanted you to get a wide variety of opinions and observations.
From Fernando Aguirre (FerFAL), author and blogger at The Modern Survivalist
Don’t miss my interview with Fernando and our discussion of relocating out of the United States. Is it practical? A really bad idea? Click here to listen.
I think that the first question to answer is why are you leaving. How is it that you are improving your situation by doing that? In general, the standard answer is that you only leave when staying isn’t an option. Staying in a secured, known
location, where you have assets, supplies and a network of people you know and trust is the best thing to do as long as you can do it.
Leaving makes sense when there’s a true risk and evacuation is the wisest course of action. If there’s flooding, tornado or storm warning and your area is recommended to be evacuated, then it makes a lot of sense to leave. Sometimes its disasters like a house fire, gas leak or nearby industrial accident that forces you out with very short notice. Again, its not as if you have much of a choice other than to leave in those cases.
Now, and maybe this is where it gets more complicated, should you leave because of economic instability, civil unrest threats or rioting on the streets? The answer here is generally no. You don’t really fix the economy by evacuating or relocating and take it from someone that’s been through more protests, roadblocks and looting than I care to remember, when there’s out of control crime and rioting on the street, the best thing to do is to close all doors and shelter in place until the situation defuses.
Hopefully you have somewhat hardened your home and have a proper tool for defending yourself and your family. No matter how bad looting and rioting gets, it eventually dies off and its much safer to stay put than risk traveling when criminals are rampaging on broad daylight. In terms of bugging out because of an economic crisis or even an economic collapse, how would it help? What you need is an income to keep the bills paid, and running doesn’t solve that unless you’re moving somewhere where you have better job opportunities.
There are some cases in which staying or leaving is even more confusing and not that obvious. Here, to a degree it becomes a matter of personal choices and the standards of living you consider acceptable.
If an economic crisis or collapse causes a significant decrease in the quality of life in your state or country, then I see the wisdom in leaving to greener pastures. Its not easy but when the situation has degraded enough it may get to appoint where things aren’t going to get much better for years to come. The level to which things have degraded may be beyond your tolerable standards. In my case, I left Argentina because the level of crime, cultural and social degradation was so big I simply didn’t consider it acceptable anymore.
Something similar may happen during social and cultural uprisings as seen in the Arab world. When there are threats of war or higher than acceptable risks for the civilian population, especially when a specific ethnic or religious group is being persecuted, in that case you may also want to consider bugging out, maybe even bugging out abroad to a different country.
As you see its not always that clear, and what some people may consider acceptable in some cases may not be acceptable for others. Either way, I believe that no matter want you should still have plans for evacuation in case you are left with no other option.
From Jim Cobb, author of Prepper’s Home Defense, blogger, and editor of Survival Weekly
One of the most common questions I get, just behind What kind of gun should I buy? and just ahead of, Who sells the best-tasting dehydrated food? is “How will I know it is time to bug out?” Variations of this include “How will I know this is the event?” and “How can I get out before the crowd?”
It is very difficult to give any sort of concrete answer to these questions because they are, at least in part, very subjective. For almost all potential scenarios, my pat answer is to remain at home until such a time that home is no longer tenable or safe. But, I’ll readily admit that is side-stepping the actual question.
Here, then, are some indicators, “red flags” if you will, that things are likely to get much worse before they get better.
Stores aren’t seeing stock coming in.
We’ve all heard the statistic that grocery stores only have about 3 days worth of stock at any given time. While that figure varies depending on the item, such as having enough toiletries to last a typical month but enough fresh meat to only last a couple days, the average for the store on the whole is likely stock levels to last a week or less. If something causes disruption to the replenishment process, that not only makes it difficult to purchase food and other supplies, the secondary result is people begin to panic.
In our modern society, most people are accustomed to immediate gratification. They want something so they go to the store and buy it. Now, how often have you run to the store to pick up something and upon arriving you learn they don’t have it in stock? It makes you feel frustrated, maybe even angry. How dare they not have the new season of Justified on DVD!
Now, imagine that instead of a set of DVDs, it is canned vegetables, milk, or bread and your family is already getting pretty hungry. One of the first things we’ll see in the wake of a major event is store shelves not being stocked. The disruption may only be for a few days but you don’t want to be around when people find out they can’t get food from their normal sources.
You hear eyewitness accounts of looting in your area.
I want to stress the “eyewitness” part of that. In chaotic situations, rumors are guaranteed to be flying left and right. Case in point – think back to all the rumors you heard about what went on inside the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. No doubt about it, there were bad things going on but, as far as I know, the rumors about infants being killed were never proven to be anything but stories.
So, if you hear that a neighbor was told by a friend of their cousin who heard from a guy down their block that their uncle saw some looters, you might take it with a grain of salt. However, if said neighbor instead tells you he saw a band of ne’er do wells going house to house as he was coming back from scouting the area, that’s a sure sign things are likely to be heading south quickly.
Emergency services are overwhelmed.
As we’ve seen in the aftermath of major disasters like Hurricane Katrina and various tornadoes in Oklahoma, law enforcement agencies as well as other emergency services can easily become overwhelmed. Please do not take this as a gripe against them. Thousands and thousands of good men and women work in those fields and do the very best they can to respond to emergencies large and small. However, they are only human and they have limits. They can’t be in two places at once and there’s only so many of them to go around.
At some point, triage will have to take place and decisions made as to which emergencies are more important than others. This happens every day, actually. Police dispatchers routinely need to determine which 911 calls get priority when things get really busy. A traffic accident with possible fatalities on a major highway takes precedence over a complaint about an out-of-season campfire in a backyard (yes, people call 911 for such inane complaints).
However, after a major event, staffing levels may drop due to officers having been injured in the disaster, being ill, or just plain wanting to remain at home with their families and this will result in many calls for assistance going unchecked for longer periods of time, if responded to at all. Even if attendance at roll call is 100%, the sheer volume of requests for help may become too much for any department to fully bear. In the event that takes place, you really don’t want to be one of the people standing around, waiting for a squad car to arrive and hoping they’ll resolve a problem for you.
Above all else, trust your gut. If that voice in the back of your head is telling you it is time to head out, do so. You may only have one chance to get out ahead of everyone else and make it to your secondary destination rather than end up in the middle of an interstate that has become a large parking lot.
From James Smith, The Covert Prepper
When the balloon goes up: What are my indicators to Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD)
Increased activity of the following:
1) Business closures such as Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Burger King, etc. This may be preceded by news stories of credit difficulty or stories about re-alignment, accounting method changes
2) National unemployment above 10%. They’re lying if it’s not actually higher
3) Zero or near-zero growth of all economic indicators
- Don’t listen to MSM, look at John Williams’ website, ShadowStats.
- May be masked by say growth was less than last quarter/week/month, but will not state an actual amount.
- New home sales, Baltic Dry Index (BDI), and Municipal bond sales will be the key indicators.
4) Mass retirements of CEO/COO/CIO of Fortune 500 companies.
- This may be masked by announcements of new people filling the spots, not necessarily that someone is retiring.
- The same companies will be suffering high layoffs and low productivity.
1) Loss of General Services at the local level. This demonstrates a collapse of government that cannot protect its citizens.
2) Preceded by:
- Municipal bankruptcy — This has already happened in Detroit, Stockton, and other cities.
- Foreclosures increasing
- Watch county sales of tax-delinquency homes
- Unemployment increasing
Why should you Get Out Of Dodge?
1) Increased civil unrest
- Race related
- Class warfare (Occupy movement)
2) INCH (I’m never coming home)
- To be with a family members.
- Large city with too many “needy” folks.
- FEMA camps being set up to house people.
- Look for press announcements of tenement camps (Hoovervilles) being closed down by police, and then the camps will open up as a humanitarian gesture.
Why Stay at home? When is hunkering down better?
1) INCH is just not an option
- Physical health
- Health of a family member
2) Small town with a close network of friends and family.
3) Rural setting is already an ideal Bug Out Location (BOL).
4) The area is resource-rich (hunting, fishing, farming).
Creative options to Getting Out Of Dodge
1) Go on “vacation”
- Provides the opportunity to come back if conditions are still within your tolerances.
- Allows you to leave without prior warning to neighbors.
2) Go on weekend “fishing trips”
- Shorter term departure and allows you to simply not return one day after an expected trip.
- Does leave your home open for theft.
3) House Hunting
- Provides an excuse to leave town at random times to your BOL for random reasons.
- Can be done for just the overnight.
- You’ll need to tell neighbors you’ve got to get a bigger/smaller house weeks in advance to make the cover story most plausible.
If you want to be covert about your movements, here are a few excuses.
1) Excuses allow us to abruptly leave, but providing a cover story as to the real reason. Should anyone ask, a simple explanation is usually best as the neighbor would repeat your reason.
- “Family is ill.”
- “Found a job.”
- “Moving in with family.” (Most plausible as families do tend to stick together.)
From Chris Slife, owner of Howling Coyote Silver
Before I share the metrics that I use when considering these questions, I want to say that I believe that the ‘American Age’ is going to end badly for most people. As I see it, there is either going to be a slow grind into the Third World, or a sudden collapse into a Bosnian-esque hell-hole.I do not pretend to know which scenario plays out. In my opinion, there are far too many variables to know how the ‘American Age’ comes to an end. Therefore, I want to encourage everyone to continue doing their research while continuing to live life to the fullest in the here and now.
Now, when considering the questions posed by Lisa, I ask myself the following general question: “In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, is it more likely that I will survive by staying put (ie., bugging in), or getting out of Dodge (ie., bugging out)?” The nice thing about the following metrics is that you can use them in a short-term disaster scenario (ie, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, et cetera) or a long-term economic/societal collapse scenario.
Metrics I use for staying put or bugging in:
- a) Protection / safety, water, and food are available.
- b) The disaster is likely going to be short-lived.
- c) You can live off of the supplies you ALREADY have stockpiled for a short-term emergency.
- d) And lastly, you stay put if it is too dangerous to travel.
Metrics I use for ‘getting out of dodge’ or ‘bugging out’:
- a) Protection / safety, water, and food are not available.
- b) Disaster is going to be prolonged
- c) Life is in imminent danger
I know I will get some comments about my being too ‘vague’ with my metrics, but, the reality is, there will be NO NEON SIGN flashing, “Get out now or you’re doomed”. In considering whether to ‘Bug In’ or ‘Bug Out’, everyone is going to have to make tough decisions based on INCOMPLETE INFORMATION. The amount of variables bombarding all of us will be overwhelming. My suggestion to everyone is to develop their own metrics and game plan based on their own research, and then, “be like the willow and not the oak, the willow bends but the oak breaks” (Cody Lundin). In other words, make your plans, BUT BE FLEXIBLE.
Don’t miss the entire series of expert advice!