It’s fairly easy to find advice for bugging out with ‘people in good health,’ but what if you, or someone you love, are not in reasonable health? How can you ensure all your family members – not just the healthy ones – are prepared to bug out?
This concern was recently raised by Kimberly, a reader of this site, who emailed me asking how she and her husband could adapt their bug out plan as they age to ensure their deteriorating health doesn’t limit their evacuation options.
Kimberly’s already on the right track – considering potential problems before they happen is fundamental to preparedness. The best tools against survival challenges are knowledge and proper planning. Thinking about plausible future scenarios and how they could potentially impact her bug out plan puts Kimberly ahead of the game.
Let’s take her the rest of the way by examining ways we can modify our bug out plan to accommodate someone with limited mobility, whether they are elderly or disabled.
Keep in mind that this post can apply to any less-abled person in your crew, not strictly people with age-related mobility issues. The following suggestions can be used to accommodate a disaster plan for an elderly relative, an injured or sick person, an infant, or an otherwise disabled person.
Let’s look at two possible scenarios:
- Bugging Out With Limited Mobility Family Members
- Making Your Own Plan If You Have Limited Mobility
Bugging Out With Limited Mobility Family Members
The first step is to realistically evaluate their ability to move over long distances.
Make sure you’re aware of exactly how much movement they’re capable of – can they walk for a full day, half a day, two hours, or less? Some people, specifically infants and people in wheelchairs, will need your help to be mobile, while others could improve their speed with the help of aids such as walking sticks.
If current limitations could be overcome through improved fitness or lifestyle changes (e.g. better eating, quitting smoking), encourage your family member to start making those changes now.
Based on the results of your assessment, the next step is to choose the best option for your situation:
1. For people with highly limited or no mobility: Shelter in place (bug in instead of bugging out)
Your first consideration will be where to shelter – will you stay in the person’s home or move them to another location?
Wherever you choose, make sure you consider the following:
- If you will be assisting them, consider using their home as your bug out location
- Write a list of all the items you will need in case of emergency (e.g. food, dry goods, tools, water) and make sure there are adequate stockpiles at your shelter location
- Thoroughly assess the location for possible threats – is it in a flood plain, tornado corridor, or earthquake fault zone? Understanding the type of emergency situations you could potentially be facing will help you better prepare.
- If you don’t live with the person or may be out of the house when disaster strikes, consider what obstacles may interfere with your ability to reach the shelter – are there roads between you and them that may be blocked, impassible, or clogged with traffic?
- Ensure the location can accommodate everyone in your bug out team with sleeping areas and sufficient stores of food, water, and hygiene items.
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In
2. For people with a medium level of mobility: Shelter in place or limit your bug out
Even if you are planning to bug out with a person of moderate mobility abilities, the best option may still be to shelter in place. If you live in an area with rough terrain or frequent bad weather, consider sheltering in place and follow the guidelines above.
Limited bug out
If you believe there’s a reasonable expectation that your limited mobility member will be able to walk for half a day or more, you can plan a limited bug out that will accommodate their needs.
If it’s possible to use a car to cover some ground, plan to drive as far as possible and walk from there. When incorporating a car into your survival plan, be sure to consider the following:
- Make sure you have the right vehicle to bug out in as well as a specific vehicular bug out kit packed in addition to your personal backpacks
- Include alternative locations in your bug out plan in the event you can’t get to your car or travel in the direction you had originally planned
Packing for a limited mobility person can be challenging as they may only be able to carry a light BOB, or more realistically, none at all. If you’ll be traveling with a group, distribute gear needed for your limited mobility member amongst other members so as not to burden one person, maximizing your group’s ability to travel.
Ensure you pack items that will make camp as comfortable as possible for them. The more comfortable the person is, the better able they will be to recover and travel further the next day. Consider packing a larger bed roll than you would typically bring or perhaps a lightweight folding stool or backpacking hammock for rest breaks.
For people with fair mobility: Bug out with some adjustments
A person with fair mobility should be able to travel a decent distance, albeit at a slower pace or with more frequent rest stops than a healthier person. However, consideration should still be made for easing the impact of hard travel.
A bug out vehicle would still be great in this scenario if that option is available to you. If not, and your group must carry their gear, be sure to limit the amount carried by someone with only fair mobility to ensure the burden won’t impact their ability to travel.
While it is always important to be supportive and focus on the abilities – not disabilities – of your bug out team, try and keep expectations realistic.
People, especially those with little backpacking or survival experience, can sometimes become overly enthusiastic of their own abilities. It may be a long journey and everyone will need to keep their strength up.
Despite the confidence some of your members may have in their endurance abilities, make sure to use your best judgement and plan to enforce periodic breaks if need be.
Making Your Own Plan If You Have Limited Mobility
Now let’s take a look at the opposite scenario: you are now the individual with the physical limitation that a bug out plan must be accommodated to.
If you have family members or friends to rely on, share the tips above with them to ensure you’re all prepared should you need to bug out. However, if you don’t have the good fortune of having someone close by you can depend on, you will need to build your own disaster plan to accommodate your needs.
Your first step in developing a functional plan is to perform a realistic assessment of your own abilities. If you are on your own or bugging out with another person of limited mobility, the best option will most often be to shelter in place, also known as bugging in.
The following are ways you can prepare your home or chosen shelter to accommodate your physical limitations in case of disaster:
- Ensure your home is adequately stocked with supplies you will need in case of emergency such as food, water, tools, medications, etc.
- Secure a means to communicate with the outside world should cell phones and landlines become unusable, such as a HAM radio
- Learn basic survival skills and practice them as much as possible to maximize your odds of thriving without support
- Do whatever you can to increase your ability to be self-sufficient, such as growing a garden or learning new skills
- If possible, dig a well to ensure access to a reliable water supply (keep in mind you will need a manual pump or electric backup for this option)
- Bugging out in a vehicle should be considered only as a last resort; if your car fails and your physical limitations prevent you from traveling by foot, you could be stranded without help
- If you are considering bugging out in a vehicle, make sure you have a vehicle BOB packed and anything you may need to help you travel by foot once you reach your destination (cane, wheelchair, walker, crutches, etc.)
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In
The best offence is always a strong defence; using these tips to modify your bug out plan to accommodate for current or future limitations will make you that much more prepared when disaster strikes.
As I mentioned in the beginning, this article was inspired by a real-life problem faced by one of our readers. If you have any questions keeping you up at night about survival, preparedness planning, survival skills, or the best gear to choose, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know, it just might save your life!
Have you been planning on supporting a limited mobility person in your bug out plan? Are you planning to overcome any limitations you have yourself?
Let us know how in the Comments Section below, thanks!