Knowing when to bugout has been the topic of many preparedness articles in the Prepper Community. Many preppers have an idea of what should happen, but there is a real lack of experience. However, when a fellow prepper shares a real-life experience, it is a great time for other preppers to learn from them and try to apply their lessons-learned to their life. This article was written by D.B. and discusses his real bugout experience.
Hello Todd, I’ve just recently gotten into the whole podcast scene and came across your podcasts. I was listening to a recent episode with Fernando Aguirre. It kinda hit me that I may have a bit of a unique situation that not only happened to me and my family but practically the whole town I live in. I’m from down the road from you in the Beaumont area. You undoubtedly heard about a chemical plant explosion in the sleepy town of Port Neches in the early morning hours of November 27th. That plant is less than ½ mile from my home. While the memories are relatively still fresh, I wanted to put into perspective a different kind of prepared, being “ill-prepared”.
Path to Preparedness Background
A little bit of background. In late 2014, I kinda came to the realization that simple hurricane preparedness, a few days of food and water, were not going to cut it. I started talking to my wife and sister about prepping and the reasons why. My wife and sister agreed and started doing their own research. I have other siblings that agree with some of my thoughts, but “prepping” isn’t cool or it’s too kooky to actually do.
Suffice to say my sister and my family spent a good amount of money and time in 2015 and 2016 building a little prepper stash at our respective homes. We had bug-out/bug-in plans and strategies on where we would go should we have to, the advantages and disadvantages of bugging in at our respective homes. By no means were we expert preppers, we barely stuck to the prepper lifestyle; rotating food, practicing bugout scenarios, learning useful skills, etc. I called myself a part-time prepper. I got the tools but barely knew how to use them and thought that was enough. Now on to the explosion.
A Boom and Reason to Bugout
The initial explosion had all of us in the house thinking it was lightning. However, there were two differences that I initially noticed: there was no audible sound of thunder rolling away and the accompanying light with the “boom” was orange and not white. This left me confused in my sleepy state. I continued to listen for several seconds trying to determine if what I heard was real or my imagination. I heard numerous car alarms going off along with a large number of dogs barking. This was not normal in my neighborhood. I then noticed that the door to my A/C unit was wide open. I really knew there was something wrong then, but I continued to lay in bed listening for possible intruders along with still being confused as heck.
When I was confident that no intruders were in my house, I got up and got dressed and began to investigate. I noticed that there were pieces of insulation laying on the floor along with a cross, that had been hanging on the wall, was now laying on the ground. At this point, all I could still hear was car alarms and dogs, no sirens from first responders. One thing I noted while looking around my house was that I was physically shaking. I’m not entirely sure what caused that, probably an adrenaline dump. A few minutes after the initial explosion, I finally went outside. The sky was lit up orange. Having grown up in this area my whole life, I knew that one of the plants had exploded. I could hear the flames roaring from my house.
Now for some of the stupid stuff, like many people in my town after being woken up by the blast, I wanted to be a looky-loo. I took off in my car to get a better view and maybe video or pics. Well so did practically everyone else in town. The roads were clogged with people along with a major thoroughfare being blocked to traffic for obvious reasons. I ended up a few streets over from my house in the neighborhood closest to the blast. This was a really dumb move! People that lived on that street had a hard time leaving the immediate area due to us looky-loos. I was part of the problem and very stupidly so. After talking to family members, making sure they were ok, I headed home.
About 12 hours after the initial blast there was a second explosion, well there was actually more but officially there were only 2 major explosions. I was in my home watching updates when we heard a significant “boom”. I told my family that secondary explosions are to be expected. Shortly after there was another larger “boom” than the one before, enough that it rattled our house. I then did the complete opposite of what one should do, I went outside while my family went to the windows. There was black smoke where there had been light gray before. I told my family to start packing.
This is where panic set in on my family members. We were running around, scrambling trying to get clothes from both dressers and the laundry room while trying to think of things to get other than clothes i.e. hygiene items, pet care items. I had to tell my wife to slow down, take your time and just make sure we are ready to go if we need to. I had to comfort my son since he was kinda freaking out and scared by the explosion, plus the live feed of the explosion that had just occurred.
The second explosion jettisoned a piece of a tower 200-300 feet in the air. Officially it was hinted that the tower landed in an empty field and away from storage tanks. However, my brother is a firefighter and helped work the fire as part of the area hazmat team. He showed me on google maps where the tower actually landed. If it had landed mere feet in either direction, it would not have been good. It just happened to land in the space between two storage tanks that could contain any of a number of flammable/explosive chemicals.
RELATED: The Bugout Formula – If You Have to Ask Yourself, It’s Already Too Late!
Not long after the second explosion, the county judge ordered a mandatory evacuation. This evac included the tri-city area along with parts of a 4th city to the south of us and parts of unincorporated areas just north of our town. I have to kinda explain a bit about my family’s “emergency plan”. When my sister and I began our prepping duties, our mother was still alive, fragile but still alive. So obviously she could not bug out should SHTF, so our plans not only revolved around our mother and bugging in as the main option, but also my in-laws who are also not as mobile as we are. However, this evac included all of our homes; my home, my sister’s home and my in-laws’ home. All 3 of our homes were considered part of our bugout or bug-in plans. We had no actual bug out location outside of our area. We could try to get a hotel, but so were about 50,000 other residents. After some time, the final solution was that we would evac to my brother’s girlfriend’s family. They live about an hour north of us.
From the time the evac was ordered and several frantic calls from my sister, my brother and my in-laws, the time it took to figure out where we were going to go, if we should take animals, etc., it took more than 4 hours to actually get on the road. The evac was ordered around 230 pm but we had actually started packing and gathering things before this. We were not on the road till well after 630pm. Ultimately, we were out of our homes for 4 days.
Bugout Lessons Learned
Some of the takeaways from this event:
a) There are no part-time preppers, you’re either prepared or you’re not. I was NOT prepared.
b) Practice, practice, practice.
c) If you can, a bug-out location with living quarters is the way to go. This event has renewed my resolve to own some land out in the middle of nowhere with proper living quarters.
d) If a bug-out location is not possible, then proper plans need to be in place. Your prepping plans should be looked at and updated regularly.
e) Leave early! Realistically we should have left earlier in the day before the evac was ordered, but I had developed a laissez-faire attitude towards not only prepping in general but the entire situation at hand.
f) Don’t be a looky-loo! You’re only in the way of not only people needing to evac the immediate area but also responding emergency personnel. I only realized this when I was almost plowed into by a resident who was frantically trying to evac their home which was very close to the explosion.
Do you have a “Prepper Lesson” story or experience you would like to share? Send it to todd [dot] sepulveda [@] prepperwebsite [dot] com.
RELATED: Using A Shed As A Bugout Hut: Being Stealthy, Stocking It and More
This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.
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Thanks for the real-life experience. Reality usually throws curve balls that linear planning doesn’t expect. At least you were semi-prepared. That saved you time or at least had you better equipped in the same amount of time.
The idea of having a remote piece of land with living quarters is the dream of most preppers (myself included). A downside to that dream is the reality of vandalism. Unsupervised items (cabin, etc.) tend to get robbed and/or trashed by local (to the parcel) ne’erdowells. Just when you need the place, it’s in no condition to support you.
For a purely local event like the plant explosion, a distant motel would probably suffice for the several days of the evacuation. As you found, local hotels fill up fast. One idea I’ve had, but never had the chance to use, is to call ahead for a reservation at a hotel maybe an hour’s drive away. The majority of evacuees will be looking closer. AND, to call in that reservation as soon as the event looks serious. Most hotels will hold a room on a credit card but not charge you if you cancel before 6 pm of the reserved day. If the event turns out to be minor, you call back and cancel. If it turns out to be an evac event, you’ve got a room reserved to drive to.