By Brian M. Morris

Photo by Brian M. Morris

One of the best survival mantras I ever heard is the one I learned from my wife when she was the leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. The Girl Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared”—simple, easy to remember, to the point and maybe the best advice ever given. Be Prepared. Words to live by.

That is really all that a prepper is: someone who believes in being prepared for virtually anything. The term prepper is used almost derogatorily by some non-preppers to describe people who are wise enough to be prepared for many types and levels of emergencies. They invest the time, money, and effort required to provide food, water, shelter, and security for their loved ones in times of need. Preppers are quite often misunderstood and marginalized by non-preppers, simply for wanting to be more self-reliant than those who believe it’s society’s responsibility to take care of their needs. This is pretty absurd when you think about it.

When a disaster occurs on a massive scale, you can expect the majority of first responders from your area to head toward the disaster location, leaving you to essentially fend for yourself if you are in need of assistance. Knowing the right time to bug out will help you avoid the traffic jams and gridlock that are sure to come with a mass evacuation.

So, if the “grasshoppers” prefer to be caught off guard and then have to go through the harrowing experience of trying to fend for themselves, competing against every other unprepared person around them, that’s their choice. They will learn the hard way that when all walks of life begin to compete for limited resources and no re-supply trucks or cargo planes are on the way, their survival is going to be an uphill battle.

The great advantage preppers have over grasshoppers is that they know it’s always better to plan for emergencies before they happen than to try to react after society’s fabric begins to unravel.


Being prepared means taking steps to make some changes to your lifestyle. With a few simple adjustments, you can go from helplessly unprepared to being a full-fledged prepper.

Every journey is made up of individual steps. In the prepper’s case, some of these steps are: organizing your everyday carry kit; building a home-preparedness kit; having a survival kit in each of your vehicles; making a plan to survive in your home; developing a bug-out plan; and having primary and secondary bug-out locations to go to. You can’t just have a bug-out bag and think it is going to make everything okay. That is an incomplete plan.

The time to identify evacuation routes in the event of an emergency taking place near your home is now—not after it occurs. Be sure you have pre-determined rally points so that all the members of your family know where to go in the event an emergency forces you to abandon your home. A camper is a very cost-effective and efficient way to enhance your bug-out plan. You can pick up a used camper truck for a lot less than an average new pick-up.

Do you have life insurance? Do you have vehicle insurance? Do you have homeowner’s insurance? If you have all these reactive comprehensive arrangements in place, you should understand that the prepper’s proactive plans for when the crap hits the fan will have a greater impact on the quality of life and peace of mind their policies afford.

If your bug-out plan is to head for the hills, be sure to put your plan into action in a full-blown rehearsal to help you identify seams and gaps in your plan. Make sure you take small children and elderly members of your family into consideration when mapping out your bug-out plan. It is a good idea to keep a pack in your vehicle with items you would need if forced to abandon your car and walk home or to your back-up location. Always have a good first aid kit on hand that contains all the things you could need in an emergency. In the event that you have no access to GPS technology, it’s a smart move to keep a detailed map or atlas that shows all the roads, trails, and obstacles between your home and your bug-out location.


A bug-out plan is not something you should write on paper or brief your family on and then just forget about. It should be treated as a living, breathing plan of action, and it should be changed or revised each time circumstances change for you or someone in your party.

Have your kids gone off to college? You need to revise your plan and make one up with them for their new situation. Has someone in your party suffered a serious injury or contracted a long-term illness? If so, you will need to revise the plan. The more details that go into your plan and the better everyone in your group understands it, the better your chances will be of surviving.

One of the most effective acronyms I’ve ever used is KISS—“Keep It Short and Simple” (some know this acronym as “Keep It Simple, Stupid”). If your plan is too complicated, you increase the chances of someone in your group not remembering what to do. You should always keep your plans at a level that suits the lowest denominator of your party.

While there are literally hundreds of things you can do to create and improve on your personal bug-out plans, below are four of the most applicable lessons I’ve learned that give you the greatest odds of surviving and leading your family or group to safety.

Just keeping a bug-out bag by your door is not enough. You need to have a solid bug-out plan that is continually revised and improved upon.


Consider making a bug-out plan (BOP) that goes beyond just having a pre-packed bug-out bag (BOB) in your house.

In the U.S. Army Special Forces, one of the biggest differentiating factors between success and failure is detailed planning and rehearsals. We utilized something called MDMP (the “Military Decision-Making Process”), along with CoA Development (“Course of Action Development”). These processes allow you to set specific criteria for success, develop several initial plans, scrutinize and grade each plan, and then take the best parts of each and combine them into your final plan of action.

Our goal was to spend no more than one-third of our time planning an operation so that we had two-thirds of our time to rehearse it. When it comes to creating a good BOP, there is no reason you can’t apply MDMP, CoA, and the one-third/two-thirds rule.

One of the greatest mistakes some preppers make is that they limit themselves to a BOB and forego a BOP. The reality is that a BOB without a well-planned-out and rehearsed BOP is nothing more than a bag of stuff. Without a solid plan that includes rally points away from your home where everyone in your family or group should meet, along with a signal to let stray members of your group know you moved to an alternate or bug-out location, your chances of success decrease exponentially. And don’t forget to conduct after-action reviews (AARs) when you practice your plan to identify the parts you need to sustain or revise.

Make sure you have a way to communicate with all the members of your party in the event cell phone towers are not working. A line-of-sight radio, such as a walkie-talkie, is an excellent way to stay in contact when everyone is within relatively close proximity.


You can’t have just one! Instead of thinking of a BOB as a single item, think of it as a system of kits. Your main BOB should be kept where you spend the majority of your time. Your “bug-in” or “get-home” bag should stay in your vehicle and have the essential tools and gear to get you from your vehicle (should you have to abandon it) to your home. Your EDC (everyday carry) kit is nothing more than those essential items you should have on your person at all times; these might include a pistol, knife, smartphone, lighter, and your wallet.

In a perfect world, you will have to do nothing more than grab your BOB and run out of your house as soon as the SHTF. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law says that your group will be separated from each other when an emergency hits. That’s why having each person kitted out with multiple bags described above is critical to surviving the threat.

Some things you should already have in your vehicle are jumper cables or a rechargeable jump-starter, a jack, lug wrench, functional spare tire, road flares, reflective vest, good first aid kit, paper map, and a flashlight.

Put together an emergency preparedness kit for your home that contains all the things you will need in an emergency situation.


You’ll have to learn how to live off the land if your BOP is to head into the wilderness to survive catastrophic events at home. There are many questions you need to address and honestly answer before you should consider yourself able to live off the land.

If you are planning on tackling Mother Nature in the event the SHTF, make sure you have the proper gear and the right training—or you might become another statistic.

With natural resources available in many parts of North America, if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, you could easily starve to death—while a virtual grocery store of untapped natural resources surrounds you, ripe for the taking. Without the knowledge to harvest these resources, you might as well be stranded on the moon.

Do you know how to find or construct a shelter or make a fire in a downpour? Do you know where to find water, and do you know how to make it safe to drink? Drinking raw water in a remote survival situation can be a fatal mistake.

Can you treat yourself and those in your party for illness and injury? A simple, unattended cut can become infected and kill a person just as surely as a bullet.

Be sure to include your pet in all your emergency preparations—especially food, water, medicine, and mode of transportation—in the event you have to bug out.

What about finding food? Do you know how to hunt, trap, snare, and fish, and are you able to process your harvest? Do you know which plants are edible and which ones are poisonous?

Are you able to maintain a secure environment? What kind of military, law enforcement, or other applicable tactical training do you have to protect yourself and those you love?

The point I want you to understand is that this array of skills takes quite some time to master, and you’ll need to have them in place before an emergency occurs. You need to do a thorough and honest self-evaluation about your skillset. Once you’ve identified areas you need to improve, get training and practice as if your life depends on it. Because one day, it might.

Don’t forget about anyone in your party with special needs when devising your bug-out plan.


Another great acronym to remember is PACE (primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency). I’m not saying you have to come up with four unique bug-out plans. However, in many situations, one plan just won’t do.

Murphy’s Law proclaims, in essence, that anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time.

With that in mind, what if your plan is to hold in place, but before you start digging into your stockpile of MREs and freeze-dried food, Murphy’s tanks come rolling down your driveway? Guess what? It’s time to switch to Plan B, so you’d better have one. Chances are, if you don’t have at least one alternate bug-out location, you’re going to be up the creek without a paddle.

A rugged shelter in the woods might be at least a temporary home if you have to bug out of your primary location. You might not have the time or ability to bring a temporary shelter with you when you bug out, so be prepared to take advantage of materials you may find along the way.

Perhaps the most important advice I can give you is to not delay making a BOP just because you don’t think you have the time to create the perfect plan the first time.

U.S. Army General George S. Patton is quoted as having said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. When it comes to a BOP, start with the best plan you can come up with and use the techniques I have laid out to revise and improve it.

I hope you will never have to use your plan, but if you do, at least you will have the confidence of knowing it has been well-thought-out and rehearsed, giving you the greatest chances of surviving to live another day.

Remember: The Girl Scouts have it right—be prepared!

In many, if not most, survival situations, one plan will not be enough to respond to the challenges at hand. Be prepared for surprises by using this helpful PACE method to create viable alternatives to your ideal strategy.









 Brian M. Morris is the author of two bestselling survival books, The Green Beret Bushcrafting Guide and The Green Beret Survival Guide