What does It Mean to Bug out?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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Many people have heard the term "to bug out." In many settings, "bug out" is simply slang for removing oneself from a given location or situation. However, in recent years, bug out has taken on a special meaning, having to do with the evacuation process during an impending or recent disaster.

Of course, evacuating at the onset of a natural disaster is always a good idea, but this particular form of initiating a bug out requires some planning and preparation. Here are some suggestions for preparing to evacuate or bug out when conditions are threatening to human life.

An essential part of any bug out operation is planning an escape route. Many coastal jurisdictions in the United States have procedures in place that provide for an orderly evacuation using the country’s Interstate system as well as the network of state highways and roads. Often these call for converting major roadways into one way thoroughfares leading away from the area that is about to experience some sort of disaster. Converting all the roads to one direction of travel helps to get the largest number of people out of the danger zone in the shortest period of time. Any effective bug out plan will ensure that evacuating is conducted with order and precision, so that the loss of life is kept to a bare minimum.


Another important component of the bug out process is to provide needed supplies to get people through the period immediately following a disaster. For example, many people who live in hurricane and tornado prone areas keep a survival kit on hand at all times. Sometimes referred to as a bug out bag, these kits will contain elements that will make survival more likely even in the event of major damage. Often, these kits will include a full compliment of basic camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags, and propane or butane cooking stoves. Drinking water and food that can be prepared without heat are essentials.

Generally, it is a good idea to have enough water and food on hand to get through seventy-two hours, if at all possible. Extra clothing is also an important part of the bug out bag, as is plenty of over the counter medicines and any prescription medications that are necessary. Of course, a first aid kit is important, as well as radios that can be operated with a hand crank. Flashlights and candles may also be included in the bug out kit.

At one point in time, "to bug out" was slang for running away. In our world today, however, the term is more closely associated with getting away from some sort of natural disaster that could be life threatening. Since most parts of the world are subject to one type of disaster or another, it is a good idea to always be prepared to bug out, if necessary.


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Post 2

I've heard that "Bug out" probably derives from the phrase "bulge out," which would refer to both the eyes sticking out in fear and to the act of fleeing from a group, striking out on one's own.

Post 1

Even Boston, with its winding roads and confusing system of alternating road names and circling streets, has very clear roads marked for bugging out. In the advent of an impending tidal wave, natural disaster, or disaster of any kind, these routes become essential ways for the population to get to safety outside of the city.

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