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Bugging In [Guide to preparing your home for survival]

Bugging in is your best bet if, in a disaster or emergency scenario, getting on the move will put you at risk or decrease your chances for survival.

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They say home is best whichever side of the compass you live in, and you should believe them.

Home is a synonym for security, comfort, support, warmth, and love and everyone enjoys those things.

But what if disaster looms, is home still best?

Bugging in, or taking shelter in your home is your best bet if, in a disaster or emergency scenario, getting on the move (bugging out) will put you at risk or decrease your chances for survival.

We need not add that some types of disaster or emergency make bugging out downright impossible, and your only option is to bug in.

Take, for example, a chemical spill that poisons the air. You’ll be better ‘sealed off’ in your home.

Houses being affected by various disasters

When you bug in, you take shelter in your home and rely on resources you’ve stocked over the years.

Also, the precondition for survival when you bug in is that you’ve systematically reinforced your home with the required security details.

That gives you and your family higher chances for survival.

So, what does preparing your home for survival require so that your bug in option does not turn out to be a nightmare? We’ll answer that and other questions for you in this article.

But first, let’s solve the ‘bug in or bug out dilemma’.

If you're already familiar with the steps you need to take to prepare your home for bugging in, check out our gear guide with recommendations for the home survival kit.

In a hurry? If you just want to get to our conclusions, here are our top picks and recommendations!

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Disaster’s here! Should I Bug in or Bug out?

When the question, ‘Is it better to bug in or bug out in a disaster situation?’ is posed, a lot of us can be in a fix about what exactly our answer should be.

We are justified to be in a dilemma because the decision is not obvious.

Surviving disaster requires some ad hoc wisdom of judgment. So, it would be unwise to decide beforehand that you’ll bug in whatever the circumstances.

What if your home is at risk of catching a strayed forest fire (perish the thought!), are you going to wait for the flames to scorch your skin?

There are disaster scenarios in which you are better bugging in while you’d be safer bugging out in others.

Let’s look at what the bug in and bug out scenarios entail and when you should opt for either of them.

What does "Bugging in" mean?

This prepper’s term describes a situation where, faced with impending danger, you opt to stay put in your home and rely on resources you’ve previously stocked.

You also bet your security on a home you’ve taken time to reinforce.

There are advantages in opting to bug in:

  • You have greater safety and security
  • You can rely on available resources
  • You have better chances of being rescued should people consider you missing following the occurrence of a disaster- they’ll look for you at home first.

Despite these advantages, the decision to bug in should be taken on a case-by-case basis.

So, bug in if:

  • The imminent danger is more likely to put you at greater risk if you are in the open than if you stay indoors. This could be the case when there are civil war riots and aerial shootings among others.
  • You have reinforced the security of your home by fortifying windows and doors and they can withstand destruction from attackers.
  • You have firearms to defend yourself if attackers ambush you and you would be more exposed in the outside.
  • You have a survival shelter inside your home and it would keep you safer than if you hit the road in case of natural disasters like tornadoes or man-made calamities like nuclear fallout.
  • You have a health or physical condition that does not allow you to bug out (you would be at greater risk). Such conditions may include having a physical handicap that keeps you from running, being pregnant, and having a chronic sickness that would make the strain of bugging out life-threatening.
  • You live in a location where residents have a community spirit and you can count on each other for help in extreme disaster situations.

What is "Bugging out"?

Bugging out is originally a military term that preppers use to describe survival situations where you are forced to hurriedly leave your home in search of a safer haven.

Bugging out should not just draw images of the wilderness in your mind. When you bug out, you can be headed to an alternative bug in option away from the danger.

An alternative bug in shelter or home could be one where you have stocked stuff for survival and where safety and survival are more guaranteed than your current home.

Think of an isolated cabin in a minimally habited, but livable location of the country.

So, when is bugging out your best choice?

Bug out if:

  • There’s a tornado or hurricane watch and your house is not reinforced to withstand the effect of extreme weather.
  • There are bombing threats because of looming war and your home is likely to be destroyed.
  • There’s a risk of continuous looting and destruction due to civil war or an economic crash and your home is isolated, does not have reinforced doors and windows, and you do not have the security of a supporting neighborhood.
  • You live in an apartment and you do not have any security in place (doors and windows are not reinforced) or you cannot count on your neighbors.
  • There is a government order to evacuate. If you don’t, you will still be evacuated anyway.

Back to our question, “should you bug in or bug out?” And the answer is, “It depends.” You’ll have to make your decision depending on the nature of the danger.

But that does not mean you should start preparing when danger is already looming.

To be pro-survival, you should already have a bug out bag and a bug in plan with plenty of bugging in essentials stocked up before SHTF. That means now if you’ve not done it already.

So, how exactly should you prepare your home for survival before SHTF?

For more info on bugging out and finding a suitable survival spot outside of your home, check out our guide on bug out locations.

Emergency preparedness bug in plan

Preparing Your Home for Survival: The Essentials

In the times we live in, where an unseen Covid-19 virus forces us to stay indoors for days unending and doomsday threats are made real by the increasing role of nuclear weapons in the national strategies of nations, SHTF home prepping is no longer optional, it is a survival requirement.

While you can’t shield yourself from every danger, you can increase your chances of survival by reinforcing the security of your home and storing up resources for your bug in episode.

These 10 elements should make part of your home survival plan checklist:

  1. Reinforce your home security
  2. Stockpile food
  3. Store an emergency water supply
  4. Plan for sanitation and garbage disposal
  5. Plan for energy and lighting
  6. Acquire the necessary munitions for self-defense
  7. Acquire alternative communication devices
  8. Prepare a first aid kit
  9. Create and maintain good community/neighborhood connections
  10. Prepare an emergency bug out bag

Let’s discuss each of them at length.

Reinforce your home security

Since it is obvious that you might need to use your home for an eventual bug in, the first house prepping decision you should consider is to make it danger-resistant. There are two ways of doing that.

Build a home shelter for survival

A home shelter for survival is a bunker or room inside or outside your home that is meant to offer protection for you and your family when danger strikes.

Survival shelters should withstand destruction in case of natural calamities like hurricanes and tornadoes, which means they should keep you unharmed even if your main house is destroyed.

They are also meant to offer safety in man-made disasters like civil wars and riots.

Underground bunkers offer a hideout for you and your family in extreme survival situations. They are made to help you survive for weeks, or even months, without leaving the bunker.

This means that they should have all the necessary provisions to keep you going for the time you will be in the shelter.

Read the comprehensive details about survival shelters in our article on home shelter for survival.

Fortify your home’s entry points

The primary way to keep intruders away is by building a perimeter wall. While some people may think a 7ft tall perimeter wall is the most secure, that may not work to your advantage.

You can’t see through a high perimeter wall and the intruder might use that to their advantage.

Barbed wire or woven wire perimeter or one made with wood or steel rods with space between them is most advisable. You can reinforce it with a perimeter/driveway alarm like the 1/2 Mile Long Range Solar Wireless Driveway Alarm.

This alarm can be placed half a mile from the base unit and will tell you with both sound and light when the intruder is within a 30ft radius.

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hedges and shrubs are an option for perimeters. But they are easier to destroy. Also, some may tell you to put ‘no trespassing’ signs.

Although these will help you if you file a trespass case in normal circumstances, no intruder with evil intentions will heed a piece of metal in emergency times.

Having a couple of fierce guard dogs may be a smarter choice.

An equally important way to fortify your home’s security is by reinforcing your doors and windows.

According to, which is the official site of the National Council for Home Safety and Security in the US, 95% of all home invasions are through forceful entry and involve picking a lock, kicking in a door, or breaking a window.

To deter forceful entry into your home in emergency times, seek the services of a good locksmith by installing deadbolts. Also, replace short screws with slide plates and longer screws.

A metal door or solid core wood will give you greater security, and digging deep into the frame when fixing doors and windows will give them extra resistance.

Some people may opt to go the extra mile by making their doors and windows bulletproof or installing surveillance cameras.

If you can’t afford these extra measures, ensure that you can see the intruder through a peephole on your door. You can also install window panes that let you see the outside but do not show through from the outside.

For even more tips and tricks on how to make your home safer when bugging in, check out this comprehensive home security guide.

Stockpile food

Do you remember TLC’s Extreme Couponing show? Some episodes in the reality show depicted couponers who had stockpiled their houses with all sorts of groceries that would last them for years.

That is the kind of stockpiling we are talking about here.

Plenty of food is one thing you should hoard when house prepping for survival. If you are locked up in a house without food, you’re as good as one who is exposed to danger in the open, you won’t last long.

So, what should your doomsday prepper food list look like? First, go for both quick-fix foods and long-lasting dry foods.

Quick-fix foods include canned or tight-packaged foods that you can simply open and eat or that need little warming.

Ensure though that they have a long shelf-life and keep a record of the expiry dates because you’ll have to rotate them to avoid keeping expired food that you can’t consume.

Here’s a quick list of some of the canned food you should hoard before SHTF:

  • Canned fruit
  • Tuna
  • Baked beans
  • Green beans
  • Instant coffee
  • Powdered eggs
  • Corn
  • Beef stew
  • Roast beef in beef broth
  • Pemmican
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Honey
  • Powdered milk
  • Cheese

Long-lasting dry foods will be an optimal choice if bugging in is prolonged. Some dry foods you should include in your doomsday prepper food list include:

  • Wheat and cornflour
  • Dried fruit
  • Dehydrated vegetables
  • Dried meat and fish
  • Rice
  • Dried legumes and lentils
  • Dried corn
  • Spaghetti and pasta

Do not forget some sugar, salt, olive oil, some vinegar, and soy sauce among a variety of other things that you could add to your list.

Store an emergency water supply

Water is life. Three days of dehydration are enough to kill you without having to face the wrath of rioters or nuclear fallout.

You certainly don’t want to go through the trouble of preparing your home for survival only to notice you have no water when you are bugged in. So, when you make your bugging in checklist, put water somewhere at the top of the list.

During a disaster, drinking water may be unavailable and your usual water supply may be cut or get contaminated. Storing enough water to meet the needs of your family is paramount.

Commercially bottled water is the most reliable for drinking. If you can’t have bottled water, make the available water potable by boiling, filtering, distillation, or using chemical disinfectants like chlorine dioxide tablets.

Be sure to follow user instructions to the letter.

The rule of thumb when storing water for survival, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is 1 gallon per person per day for 3 days. This is meant for both drinking and sanitation.

Store a 2-week supply if you can and more in hotter climates. If you have people that might occasion the use of more water like sick persons or a pregnant woman, be sure to store a lot more water.

A few other precautions should be followed when storing water for survival situations:

  • Keep a record of expiration dates for commercially bottled water and rotate it to ensure you don’t keep unusable water.
  • Replace the water in storage gallons every 6 months.
  • Ensure you have a water purifying option other than boiling in case you cannot. Using household chlorine or the earlier mentioned chlorine dioxide tablets is also an option.

Plan for sanitation and garbage disposal

Emergency times can bring the surprise of clogged sewers and dry taps. Planning to deal with these situations beforehand is important.

There are different ways you can do this.

Using toilet waste/garbage bags

One way of disposing of human waste when sewers are blocked and taps dry is by removing the water in the WC and then lining a toilet waste bags in the toilet. Hold the bags with the toilet seat.

You can choose a good biodegradable quality from those available in the market. See for example the Portable Toilet Replacement Bags 100% Biodegradable below.

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Add cat litter every time someone uses the toilet to reduce bad odor. After a couple of days, add a bit of bleach on top and tie it up.

You can store the bags in your garage and dispose them of once the emergency period is over.

Garbage bags are also your trash disposal option. To avoid piling too much garbage, do not prepare food that will be leftover and need disposal.

Also, re-use containers such as tins and glass food cans so you don’t have to dispose of them always.

Dig a hole outside

If you live in a house with a private space or in a rural setup, you can easily dig a hole in the backyard.

This will only work if you can go out of the house. The hole should be at least 6ft and 200 meters from water sources.

You can place wood or metal pieces to cover up the pit, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Save up used water for flushing

If you have an independent septic tank you can still continue flushing your toilet even though the taps are dry.

Just save up the water from washing dishes or water remaining from a bath to refill the toilet’s tank.

You can also do this if you are sure that the municipal septic line is operating normally.

Purchase a composting toilet

Especially for apartment survival where you don’t have independent sewer and garbage disposal systems, a composting toilet will come in handy.

If you have a family, purchase one like the Camco (41541) Portable Travel Toilet with a large capacity.

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Though you do not really need to if your composting toilet is working right, you might consider storing a catalyst to aid bacterial action.

That will be useful if the emergency period is prolonged. Go for one that doubles as a cleaner and is nontoxic like the Sun-Mar 16 oz. Compost Quick.

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Plan for energy and lighting

If you are bugging in during winter and utility lines cease working, you will no doubt need alternative energy to heat your home. A fireplace appears to be your best bet since the noise of a generator will attract attention.

Having a fireplace can also serve as energy for cooking, but you need to ensure that your home is well ventilated.

Wood-burning stoves can be installed easily if you do not have a fireplace. Present-day models are eco-friendly and can be installed in a way that a vent safely eliminates the carbon dioxide.

Of course, you’ll need a good supply of wood before SHTF.

Solar energy systems can be set up to provide energy in emergency situations. These will work best in places where there is sufficient sunlight during the day.

Solar energy can also be used to charge gadgets and flashlights for use at night.

It’s not advisable to light up your home in the dark during emergency periods as this will attract attention.

Acquire the necessary munitions for self-defense

Disaster can escalate the rate of crimes and first responders or 911 can be altogether unavailable. That means you need to fend for yourself when it comes to self-defense.

Owning a gun is one of the common ways of preparing to defend yourself during survival situations. It could be a shotgun, a pistol, or a long-range rifle.

You’ll need to couple that with the best and readily available ammunition. Of course, you’ll also need some training and practice so you don’t keep a firearm you can’t handle.

You will need to be informed about firearm laws. In the US, for example, the Gun Control Act of 1968 requires you to be 18 years to purchase rifles, shotguns, and ammunition.

However, you have to wait to be 21 to purchase a handgun and all other firearms.

Other types of defense tools you can keep include stun guns and pepper spray among others.

Remember that, even though we are talking about survival scenarios, it’s always best to give the intruder an option to leave first, unless of course, they are attacking you.

Using a firearm can escalate the emergency situation and should be your last resort.

Acquire alternative communication devices

Keeping contact with the outside world when you are bugged in is important.

It might be about contacting a family member in a different location or seeking help from a government agency when you need it.

Communication lines can go down quickly during emergencies.

This could be due to destroyed communication infrastructure or call overload.

Having alternative devices and communication modes becomes necessary. Here are some communication options you could consider.

Texting and internet use with smartphones

If everyone is trying to make a call during emergencies, lines will become overloaded. But texting and internet social networks uses less bandwidth and will be more effective.

You can easily and quickly send a text or a WhatsApp message to a family member to know if they are safe.

Also, think of features like Facebook’s ‘mark yourself safe’ where people can use to let others know that they are fine in times of emergencies.

Sat phones

Even though they can be pricey, satellite phones are an asset when cellular phones do not work anymore. You can connect to a satellite directly and reach people in any part of the globe.

Sat phones are especially useful in remote rural areas because they need a wide-open space to function properly.

They may not be your best bet if you are bugged in at a city residence, but you can find the most open position of your house and try to make a call.


Walkies-talkies or two-way radios are an optimal communication option in a SHTF situation. They are cheaper than sat phones and will also function when communication grids are down. They work well in urban contexts.

The latest models come with extra features like weather alerts, SOS signals, and hand-free options.

Their greatest drawback is that they use rechargeable batteries and will be useless if the battery is down. See the Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios for an example.

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Prepare a first aid kit

When SHTF, consulting a doctor is the last thing you will be able to do. You will have to assume the role of doctor for yourself and probably your family.

Since you can’t run to a pharmacy at the last minute either, preparing a first aid kit is required.

Here are some things you will need to include in your medical bug in kit list:

Prescription medicines

If you or a member of the family depend on some meds, always ensure you have enough to last you at least a month. You might have to find a doctor with a prepper mentality to let you keep an extra month’s supply.

Also, you will need to consistently rotate these meds to prevent them from expiring and becoming inutile.


A dose of broad-spectrum antibiotics for each of your family members is a crucial item in your first aid kit.

If someone should get a bacterial infection in the emergency period, you should be able to use the dosage to get them well again.

Talk to your doctor about getting the right broad-spectrum antibiotic for emergency situations.


Painkillers are another item that should feature in your first aid kit. A bad stomach, a headache, or toothache will all require the use of a pain relief pill especially because you can consult a physician.

Surgical spirit and gauze bandage

If anyone in a bug in house should accidentally cut their finger while opening a food can, surgical spirit for sterilization, and a gauze bandage to stop bleeding and wrap the cut will certainly come in handy.

Other essential items in a first aid kit include disposable sterile gloves, scissors, triangular bandages, antiseptic cream, distilled water among others.

Alternatively, you can purchase a professionally prepared medical kit like the Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit then include your prescription and emergency meds.

To be more adept at using your first aid kit, take a few first aid classes.

Last update on 2024-06-08 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For a comprehensive guide on building your own survival kit, check out our survival first aid kit checklist.

Create and maintain good community/neighborhood connections

This aspect might seem unnecessary when preparing for a survival bug in. However, having a supportive community and good neighbors is key to surviving a disaster.

Neighbors may have survival essentials you forgot to store or possess skills that can save you or a family member in a dire situation.

While it’s true that each one fends for themselves in an emergency, it is also true that survival rates increase significantly when people work as a group.

Here are 3 ways community/neighborly support can increase your chances of survival in emergency situations:

  • Decide to keep each other informed and check on each other during emergency times.
  • Agree to avoid destructive behavior that could sell you out to intruders: loud music, lights at night, etc.
  • Share resources should anyone run out of stock.

Prepare an emergency bug out bag

Even though you decide to bug in during an emergency, that does not mean that the possibility of bugging out is completely eliminated.

You might find out that the emergency changes nature at some point and you need to bug out or be evacuated.

In that case, a bug out bag should also be part of your bug in plan.

A bag out bag should contain the following basic items for a minimum of 3 days:

  • Air filtration masks
  • Water
  • Food
  • Tent or tarp
  • Sleeping bag
  • First aid kit
  • Self-defense firearm
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Rain jacket
  • Emergency radio
  • A change of clothes
  • Survival knife
  • Firestarter
  • Emergency light
  • Personal documents
  • Cash
  • Compass and maps
  • Power bank for charging gadgets

For a comprehensive guide on building your bug out bag in case your home is no longer safe, check out our bug out bag list.

Additional Emergency Supplies

There are a lot of other emergency supplies that you’ll need to hoard before SHTF. Here’s a quick list.

  • Personal hygiene items.
  • Whistle
  • Contact lens solution.
  • An emergency toolbox.
  • A manual can opener.
  • Pet food and poo bags
  • A fire extinguisher.
  • Books, puzzles, games, or other recreation activities.

Some of these items are for specific needs and situations. You’ll need to adapt according to your situation.

See FEMA’s proposal for Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit.

Note: It is very rare for home insurance policies to cover damages
caused by either flooding or natural disasters without specific add-ons.
After the above preparations have been made, review your homeowners insurance policy to ensure you are covered prior to any severe weather indications.

Bugging in FAQS

Is it better to bug in or bug out?

The decision to bug in or bug out should be made by evaluating the emergency situation.

While people tend to overemphasize bugging out, there are situations when bugging in is your best bet:

  • The emergency situation is mild and will be resolved soon.
  • Your home is already a good survival option.
  • Bugging out would put you at a greater risk.

What does the ‘rule of three’ mean in survival situations?

The rule of three is a slogan used to underline the most essential needs in a survival situation. The rule states that that:

  • You can’t live for more than 3 minutes without air.
  • You can’t survive for more than 3 hours without shelter in extreme weather.
  • You can’t go more than 3 days without water.
  • You can’t go more than 3 weeks without food.
  • You can’t go for more than 3 months without a motivation to live.

When should I start preparing my bugging in supplies?

Disaster does not set dates. If you have not started house prepping for when SHTF, you should start now.

Start by evaluating the security and safety of your home and proceed to make changes to reinforce it.

Stocking your home with food supplies and other survival items should also start immediately.

When SHTF, your home will be your first survival option. But that means preparing your home for survival now.

Good luck with your survival prepping for bugging in!

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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