What can refugees teach us about bugging-out.

Bugging-Out (prepping): Grabbing a specially packed bug-out bag and quickly leaving a disaster zone.

Most of us will never have been forced to abandon our homes in a hurry.  Thankfully many will never have lived through a situation where we need to make a life and death decision between staying where we were or bugging-out.  We are in fact very lucky that this subject remains entirely academic.

Sadly this is not the case for everyone and there continue to be people who are forced to make these decisions daily.  My goal is to examine some of the things that they do and integrate their real experience into our own plans.

Making the decision to Bug-Out

No one should consider bugging-out unless they are forced into it by circumstance.  In the prepping community there tends to be an emphasis on bugging out as a solution to all potential problems.  Unfortunately there are very few discussions around the very real dangers that come along with trying to change locations in a disaster scenario.

To me this highlights the first lesson that we can learn from refugees; bugging out should always be a last resort.  It should only be attempted if and when all other alternatives are exhausted and there is too much danger in staying put.  If we were to look at the The Prepper Pyramid only Catastrophic or worse emergencies are really appropriate to this type of decision.  Simply said it’s an act of desperation.

The second thing we can learn is that bugging out requires a destination that will provide a significantly better situation.  It is vital that you are bugging-out to somewhere and not simply “going on the road”.  This will also provide you both a goal and hope.

Bugging-out is a desperate last resort and should not be done without careful thought. Click To Tweet
How to Bug-Out

Having read a lot of articles about what refugees have carried with them I’ve consolidated my notes it into a few insights that can be used to shape what you bring when you bug-out.

Travel Light and Blend in

Many refugees leave with almost nothing, sometimes due to circumstance and sometimes on purpose.   This is yet another affirmation on the importance of skills over stuff.  Stuff can also easy be lost either through accident or because you have made yourself a target.  Inline with this many also brought items which they knew would help them “not look like a refugee” in their new surroundings.

Keep ID and Keep in touch

Almost all will have ID and keep a cellphone with a backup battery or charger.  Being able to prove who you are is important especially when you have virtually nothing else with you.  It can make all the difference in terms of the potential support you receive.  I talk more about the importance of a passport in my last blog Preparing for a National Emergency.  Ensuring that you have a way to communicate is equally import.  You need a way to contact the people that you trust who can potentially support you either just as a sounding board or in more tangible ways.

Mementos are important

Almost all will carry a memento of good times.  The mental side of prepping is as important as the physical side and with bugging-out even more so.  Many “professional” survivalists say that the most important thing is keeping your mental game strong and not giving up.  Having an object that reminds you of those you love or those that are important to you is a significant part of this.  This is very infrequently spoken about in the prepping community but is a vital part of staying alive.  If you don’t believe me read this speech given by a holocaust survivor [Start at the bottom of the first page].

Mementos play a vital role in bugging-out. What are you carrying to give yourself hope? Click To Tweet


As you can see there is a lot that we can learn from refugees about this subject.  As a follow up I recommend these two articles on what refugees carry.  They provide a sad but real reminder of what could happen to anyone.  Passport, lifejacket, lemons: What Syrian refugees pack for the crossing to Europe and What’s in my bag – What refugees bring when they run for their lives.   I will also be posting more on the subject of bugging-out and it’s smarter cousin bugging-in in the future.

Stay Safe


Prepper Montreal

Preparing for a National Emergency.

The problem with trying to tell the future is that there is no way to know if you will be right or wrong.  This is part of why it’s important to prepare for as many types of emergencies as possible.  I stress focusing the majority of your energy on those things at the bottom of the prepper pyramid, however bigger national emergencies can still occur.

What to do in a catastrophic emergency

I defined a catastrophic emergency in my blog post The Prepper Pyramid as “affecting countries or continents”.  Today I want to talk about a key part of prepping for catastrophic emergencies that seems to go mostly ignored.  Simply said it’s the ability of any prepper to leave their current country or continent in an emergency.

My country is super stable, why would I need that? There is always the potential for a massive catastrophe that could make any country unlivable.  If this happens what are your options?  When your country goes through economic collapse, or war what will you do?  A volcano erupts how will you escape if you need to?

There will definitely be some who will discard this advice in a patriotic fit.  “My country will always be safe.” or “I’ll take my chances  in the wild.”  I wish you luck.  However I will not let nationalism cloud my judgement and eliminate some of my paths out of harm’s way.  Given a choice between eating grubs out in the bush or re-establishing myself in some new country with next to nothing I can tell you very easily which one I’m going to take.

The one document you need
A passport is a key prepping tool that can be used to get you out of harms way. Click To Tweet

So what document is going to allow you to deal with these types of situations?  A passport.  Leaving any country without a passport will be very difficult and having a passport simply opens up possibilities.  It allows you to access land borders without having to risk your life sneaking across.  It allows you to book flights or ships if any are available.  Lastly it will also let you get back into your country without issues if you are forced to flee.

I’m not going to walk you through the process of getting yourself a passport because it will vary from country to country.  Most of the time it’s going to cost you some money and it’s going to take at least a month or two to get setup.  This is part of the reason that you should be getting it done now.

For an added bonus go Dual.
Being a dual citizen opens up possibilities when needing to flee across borders. Click To Tweet

If you already have a passport great! If it’s possible then get two.  Dual citizenship confers even more benefit and gives you a backup.  If the country you are from is suddenly persona non-grata on the world stage you have an out.  If you’re from country X and everyone is dealing with an influx from there then it’s great to have the option to be from country Y.  This may not be an option for everyone but if it is, do it!

As a side note some of you may consider leaving your country a very scary thing.  Having had the opportunity to travel extensively I can tell you there is no better thing in life.  Even as a prepper I have learned so much about life and survival by being able to go to places where people live very differently.  Take the opportunity to travel if you can, I doubt you will regret it.  I’m also certain it will help you in your prepping journey.


Stay Safe!

Prepper Montreal

Situational Awareness is a key prepping skill.

Most preppers understand that skills are more important that stuff.  But which skills are the important ones?  Situational Awareness specifically is one of the key skills that you can develop as a prepper that could potentially save your life.

What is situational Awareness?

For the purposes of prepping and disaster readiness you can define situational awareness as understanding of your current situation and predicting how it may change.  In scientific circles it is broken down into 3 progressing levels: Perception, Comprehension and Projection. Perception is simply being aware of your environment. Comprehension is understanding your environment and what is shaping it.  Projection is determining what happens next.  We should all aim for the highest level of situational awareness in disaster situations.

The highest level of situational awareness is predicting what will happen next. Click To Tweet

Although you’ve probably never put a name to it you are likely already using situational awareness regularly.  A good example is if you have ever been driving along and just knew another driver was going to cut you off before it happened.  This is an example of Projection and the more experience you have with driving and the more you pay attention when you drive the more likely this is to happen.

How is situational awareness useful?

The advantage of situational awareness at the highest level is that it could give you a head start on any situation.  It allows you to start reacting before a specific situation starts to play out and this can make all the difference.  Lacking situational awareness on the other hand is a primary factor in accidents attributed to human error.  Simply said people that are not paying attention or not understanding what they see are more prone to screwing things up.

This skill is not limited to observing people either.  If for example you are cutting down a tree with a chainsaw have you taken a moment to look around and be aware of your surroundings?  Are you on level ground? Is there wind and if yes in what direction? Are there other people around?  Is the tree dead or diseased?  Where will the tree fall if cut a specific way?  Taking the time to notice and understand these things can make a big difference to your safety and to the safety of people around you.

How do you improve situational awareness?
The first step to improving situational awareness is looking up from your phone. Click To Tweet

The first and most important things is to take the time to observe your environment regularly.  Become more aware of your surroundings.  If you would normally be staring at your phone take a break to look around, become aware of what is occurring around you and try and figure out what will happen next.

Always be on the lookout for things that aren’t normal or seem wrong.  Is someone’s behavior off somehow or are they acting inappropriately to the place or situation they are in?  Are they somehow uncomfortable?  Ask yourself why.

Get comfortable with your tools and how to use them.  The more comfortable you are with them the more awareness you can maintain of your surroundings while using them.  Don’t get too focused.

Understand your current head space and how it’s effecting your perception and judgement.  Are you hungry or tired?  Could this be reducing your awareness or pushing you towards incorrect assumptions?


Interested in learning more about situational awareness and how to improve check the links below:

Do you know of other good blogs or articles about situational awareness?  Let me know!


Stay Safe

Prepper Montreal

What’s your #prepping communications plan?

Communication is a hugely important and often overlooked part of prepping.  Even for “Minor” emergencies an effective communications plan can be the difference between chaos and order or even life and death.  This post will therefore provide a framework for creating effective communication plans.

I deal with this subject in three different sections.  How to prepare before the emergency, how to find out about the emergency and how to communicate during an emergency.

Communications Preparation
A key part of communications #Prepping is actually having a plan Click To Tweet

This may seem silly but this is something you should think out and prepare ahead.  It will mean that when things go bad you know exactly what to do.  You may even want to have a list of steps that you can simply follow.  That way you don’t need to think about it or can hand this off as a task to someone else.  A few things to consider if you are starting to put together a plan:

  • Who do you contact?
  • Are you giving a heads up or expecting action?
  • What will you expect from them?
  • Do they understand your expectations?
  • How will you contact them?
    Consider text message as your go-to.  It uses less bandwidth and is more likely to get through when the cell system is likely to be strained.  Creating a text group ahead of time is a good idea.  Something online like WhatsApp might also be a good option.

In addition to having a plan there are a few others things you should do:

  • Ensure you have ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts on your phone and that they are accessible without unlocking your phone.
  • Keep your phone charged and keep a spare battery charged.
  • If you will be travelling ensure that you know what the local emergency numbers are (911 in North America, 999 in the UK, 112 in the EU, etc.)
Emergency Awareness
Ensuring you are aware of emergencies as they occur is key in #prepping Click To Tweet

Frequently overlooked this section is vitally important to ensure yourself the best possible head start should things start going wrong.  If everyone else around you knows things have suddenly gone bad and you don’t this is a huge disadvantage.

As a Canadian I cannot overemphasize the importance of installing the Weather Network App.  The reason is that this is the only app that officially supports the Alert Ready network and is the only way for you to be alerted on your smartphone.

This however should not be your only option.  You should also consider having a radio setup to broadcast any alerts as soon as they arrive.  This can either be through a dedicated alert channel or by tuning that radio into one of the official NPAS stations. In addition to those measures I also follow several local emergency twitter accounts (in a list) to ensure that I can immediately get more details as soon as I find out something is wrong.

Communication during an Emergency
Situational awareness and inter group communication are key during emergencies. Click To Tweet

Things have definitely gone wrong now.  You have sent out your first round of communication as detailed above and need to establish a more sustainable infrastructure for communications.

Keeping awareness is important.  You will need to have some form of radio which can be charged easily.  Crank and solar options are quite plentiful.  This will be a key way to keep yourself informed as things continue to evolve.

Inter group communication is also important.  Having some method of communicating with the rest of your group or team when you might be separated will be important to ensuring your mutual safety.  A portable hand-held radio can be a great option for this.  There are options out there like Firechat which will allow you to communicate without a grid in place however they are currently quite limited due to lack of adoption and technological limitations.

For longer term and great distance communication it may be a good idea to get familiar with CB Communication.  There are many resources out there who are better prepared to get you up to speed on this.

The Catastrophic or End of World level of preparation for all of this is to keep your technology stored in a Faraday cage.  It is very unlikely this will be needed but if you are storing them out of the way already then it probably won’t take much time or effort.

That’s all I have for now.  Can you see anything I’ve missed?  If so give me a shout out in the comments below!

Stay Safe!