Get Home Plans: When Disaster Strikes Away from Home

When planning for disasters, one of the most overlooked areas is often what happens in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Even more problematic – especially if you’re not ready to deal with it – is what happens when you find yourself away from home when disaster strikes.

Since a majority of us spend so much time away from our homes, having a get home plan is an essential part of the preparedness puzzle.

Route Planning: Having multiple ways to get home during a disaster.

Walking Home after a Disaster Strikes

Having multiple routes home is one of the first things you need to look at. For instance, if you work away from home, you need to have multiple routes mapped out and ready to go at all times.

Your emergency routes should include indirect routes, back roads, and even walking trails – as major highways will probably be blocked or highly congested during any emergency situation. Jump on Google Maps and select the Satellite View. This will help you find up-to-date alternative routes that might not be listed on standard maps.

Get Home Bags: Having what it takes to make it home.

Having a get home bag is a crucial part of any well-rounded get home plan. Unlike a Bug Out Bag – which is meant to help you survive an immediate evacuation – a get home bag is intended to help you get home.

Your bag should be filled with emergency gear and supplies that will help you survive, should you be stranded away from home for longer than you expected. It should be made up of items that will help you make it home, and should be crafted to fit your unique needs. There’s no such thing as a one-size fits all bag, so I’m not going to waste a bunch of time putting together some over bloated list of items, but there are a few things you might want to think about adding to your bag.

  • Water – This also includes a canteen and some way to purify water.
  • Emergency Food – Preferably high protein, high energy foods.
  • Walking shoes, sunglasses, a hat and emergency clothing (specific to the season).
  • Protection – Firearm and or Knife.
  • Communication Gear – Emergency Cell Phone & Handheld ham radio.
  • Extra Cash – This could come in very handy in certain situations.

Your Get Home Bags should be checked at least once every three months and should be restocked with seasonally appropriate gear.

Communications: Getting in contact with your loved ones during a disaster.

If at all possible, one of the first things you should do during an emergency is communicating your plan to your loved ones. A short call, text, or email letting them know you’re putting your plan into action will help give them peace of mind, and ensure they don’t needlessly put themselves in danger looking for you.

If you don’t have an emergency communication plan, I suggest reading our article on making contact during an emergency and then putting your plan into place. Once you have your plan in place, you need to practice and make sure everyone in your group or family is onboard.

Get Home Plan: Put it in writing.

When it comes to emergency planning, I am a big proponent of putting everything in writing. Not only will it help you remember your procedures during a time of crisis, but it will also help you find any weaknesses or overlooked dangers you may need to plan for.

During a disaster, your plan can help put your mind at ease and can help you avoid making bad decisions when your mind may be clouded from stress.

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  1. Good article. People talk a lot about what they will do when the SHTF and then somehow assume that they will be sitting on the couch at home, with access to all their fancy gear, when it happens. I myself have a definite choke point – a bridge over a major river – to worry about if I’m forced to hump the 20+ miles home and have explored ‘other options’ (e.g. local boat clubs along the river) to make the crossing. Gotta have a plan.

    And that is a good point about telling family to stay put and not come looking for you. I’ve already explained that if I ain’t dead I’ll get there eventually – might just take awhile – and that the chances of finding me ‘on the road’ would be nil since that’s exactly where I WON”T be…

    • Ok just some thoughts here on bugging out / survival in relation to this article.

      Yep getting home is an interesting concept, but why bother? suburbs and built up areas are your primary concern, get out of it asap. Other people are your problem now.

      I guess if you have a bug in plan with a fully self sufficient bunker to last you, I don’t know, for ever, it could be worth the life threatening trek home where you can live in hope no one else knows about how much good stuff your hording..
      I would suggest that if you are not ready in exactly what your wearing and with exactly what your carrying rite now, rite this second to leave your home, your workplace, the kids sport game or wherever you may be at any given point, then your simply are not prepared at all.

      One idea having multiple cashes of survival equipment food water or knowledge of access to food and water on your pre planned exit route is a must.

      Multiple rally points for your family, if you have them and a means of communication other than cell phones all pre arranged. Additionally the capacity to “dig in” and stay out of sight until other family members have the ability to contact you, and the plan to move on to another pre determined point if no one shows within a prescribed period of time.

      If you are fortunate enough to be alone, then things get much easier, and you should never have to go home for anything at all, ever, or waste precious time and resources on other people.

      Keeping moving is the very best approch.

      Knowledge and skills in bushcraft and survival specific to your region, or region you may intend to move through is essential.

      Importantly, practice your skills, so you know what works and what doesn’t, what is relevant and what isn’t. Maintain physical and mental fitness and know your limitations, try to work with in them.

      Do dry runs, practice your plan alone or with family, and no don’t put anything in writing, other people can read also. Ensure your family is on the same page always as to what is expected of them individually and colectivly, the less reliance you have on communications during a disaster the better. Do all of your communicating before anything happens.

      In short, either your really ready or you arn’t. Owning an assault rifle and large hunting knives with packs you cant carry effectively for far will just make you an easy target or vulnerable to the elements.

      And remember, your survivability counts on you having a better plan and being more prepared than the other guy. :)

      Good luck, and bag yourself a drone along the way!! :D

  2. where I am, the only way out of here is North, all 4 other routes have wide creeks to cross & flooded bridges when massive rains have been here all other roads are flooded but the north passage.

  3. I’m not worried about me. Although my wife has a well equipped bag, she works in San Francisco. Getting home will be very difficult. Although we discuss our options, it is a very difficult situation.

  4. Very good posts, yet one thing I see no-one mention is their fitness requirements or lack there of . Being at an acceptable level of fitness will allow you to walk away from trouble if necessary , allow you to heal up from injury more rapidly, helps fight off colds, infections etc. and allows you to deal with stress more efficiently. Everyone wants material items , I believe you start with your own fitness and progress from there. IMHO

  5. Good article and information I’ve been strongly suggesting to all my friends for a number of years now.

    I have 2 “BIBs” (Bug In Bag), a large pack, designed for when I head out from home on excursions over 40 miles away, and a smaller one for local errands. I always have one, or the other, in my vehicle, every time I leave home. The larger pack has what I deem as the necessities to stay on the “road” for at least 3 days, or more (if I have to abandon my vehicle). The smaller one has the bare essentials to get me home on the same day, whether walking or jogging.

    One of my main concerns is if Cell Towers go down and cell phone reception goes down. Then things could get dicey, in terms of “knowing” what’s going on.

    • This is why ham radio is such a good tool to have. Yes, you need a license to operate legally. But the benefits are worth it. Hams have helped out in many disaster situations, where they were the only means of communication. The only things you have to worry about, is powering yoir own gear, and getting a good signal. I grew up before cell phones were around. If we needed emergency communication, CB and ham radio were our best options.

  6. I would love to have input on this from all you preppers. I work for the fire department. I have a get home bag that is probably a little heavy on supplies, and i also take both my AR and side arm with me and secure them at the station. In the event something major happens i know i will be there for a long time, and when it comes to getting home i will be traveling after the riots have started. My question to you all:
    When would you just say screw it and walk out on the job i took an oath to help the citizens. We as a 4 man crew are all preppers and decided before we leave the station to patrol the city to find where the help is needed we will call home first. But when do you just say i’m finished and walk away. I would love to hear from any of you your opinions. Feel free to email me as well. adrenoman gmail

    • That is a very good question. I am a police officer and have thought about the same thing. I guess it would depend on the situation that you are in and do you have family (wife, kids that depend on you) Worst case scenario like grid down mass looting and rioting will take place with no sign of it coming back on like solar flare type thing? Get out asap, your family is more important than some strager that may try to kill you for what you have when you show up to help them. Local event like Katrina where your family is safe, stay at the job until you are told to go home. Riots are usually locallized and if your home/family is not in the area dont worry about going home. For me my wife and son are the most important thing.

    • Curtis,

      Being in the FD you do have a problem. I believe the following applies:

      1. With the majority of people only able to apply a band-aid, much less a tourniquet, splint, or know what gauze is for, you’ll be needed to keep them alive.

      2. With less than 10% of the population having fire extinguishers, much less how to use them, you’ll be needed to save the neighbors house.

      3. Then there’s car wrecks, rescues, etc.

      If I were in your boots I would look at your supplies and the current support levels. If you don’t have what you need, or can’t get it, you can’t do your job, so why be there. I would make sure the station is secured as best as can be before you bail. Won’t do a lot of good since the ‘unprepared’ will tear down the walls to get a can of vienna sausages.

      But, I would take a radio and charger. Nice to know what’s going on. If you are on the P-25 network, and if it is working, you might be able to get some accurate info.


    • hey Curtis,

      I hear you man. I’m former law-enforcement. I never had to even consider that issue because I never had a family while in, my brothers worked with me daily, and I would have gone through any door for them. Having a family now, all I can say is that they are everything. For our situation, I’m at the bug in location, self-sufficient farm in the country, and Mr. Man has to make it home from wherever. He’s an over the road truck driver. This issue became very real a couple of months ago. We discussed it and I put together for him what I call a “get your butt back home bag”. We are in the process of getting him a good bicycle, just because you can cover more ground faster that way. Just a thought for you. You’ll know when throwing your effort into helping other people is pointless, and honestly, your family is your responsibility first, just saying. Good luck.

    • I understand your concern. To me – your family is your first responsibility above all others. You will know when to leave the job when it becomes aparent that whatever has happened is such that it is catastropic and will last long tirm – 3 weeks or more in duration liker a Sandy or Katrina for example. Before you can help others – you must first make sure that your family is secure – safe. If you do not and something bad happens to them and they die because you were away helping strangers – you will not forgive yourself for a very long time if ever. No job is worth your family.

    • I have two requirements for staying on the job:

      1. My family is not in immediate danger.
      2. I can still EFFECTIVELY do my job.

    • Try to ralley friends and the community to be prepared to protect each other..
      But you family comes first…
      You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself

  7. Instead of google maps, I’d go with Bing maps. They have a birds eye view option that is extremely clear and allows you to look very closely at a route to take.

    • It was that way the last time I checked anyways. Either way it’s a good ideas to check multiple sites I think.

  8. Great article and an important topic!

    I remember during the first few hours of September 11, 2001 that all cell phone traffic was jammed.

    The cell towers couldn’t handle the massive traffic spike of volume and the lines were effectively cut.

    You linked to another of your articles about contacting loved ones during a crisis. Having these other options available is CRUCIAL.

    Thank you for including this!

    Some form of first aid kit for your get home bag could be useful, too.

    Great article!


  9. A note regarding cellular/internet map access such as Google or Bing maps from your cell phone. These may prove unreliable since they depend upon downloading adjacent quadrants as you zoom or move across the map. Plan on downloading one of several off-line map apps to your cell phone that will remain fully functional without network or internet access. Remember, the phones GPS may still be functional even though the cell towers are down, jammed, or intermittent. Several Android or IOS apps have provisions for fully off-line mapping including Topo, satellite, and detailed way-point mapping. But… they are only effective if you have downloaded them to your phone BEFORE you need them. I like OsmAnd Maps & Navigation on Android with it’s wide selection of offline map sources.

  10. “but when do you just say I’m finished and walk away?”

    I would think if your ability to effectively help others is predicated on knowing if your “family” is “relatively” safe, and will continue to be safe in your absence, then continue helping others, where you are, as long as the communication lines are open with family. I believe one’s obligation is to family first then community second. That may mean get home, make sure family is secure, then help those in your local neighborhood, and beyond.

    The nature of Life is to be Happy. You’ll be much more beneficial to those in need if you are Happy during an event, as strange as that might sound. I would think this happiness goes hand and hand with knowing ones personal family is being taken care of, and consequently, in the state of happiness, one is more productive.

    If one doesn’t have an immediate family, then one can reach out to the greater human family and returning “home” might not be such of concern. Working at a FD has it’s advantageous and disadvantageous; helping the community with skills and resources at hand and/or defending the structure from those who might be coming for various types of “supplies” in your possession, there.

    Safety First.

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