“Listening to Katrina” website: Bugging out is a tool to escape danger and then find home

The recent discussions about Hurricane Ida reminded me of a website I had skimmed years before called “Listening to Katrina” (see here: http://www.theplacewithnoname.com/blogs/klessons/ ). I re-read the website in full, and think it has a key idea that people here may appreciate thinking and talking about, so I made this new thread.

(I did a quick search, and didn’t see too many official The Prepared contributor articles on the recovery process, aside from making sure that important documents are in the Priority #1 bag for bugging out.)

The “Listening to Katrina” website is an extended read about the author’s personal experience with evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, starting the recovery process for his family, and a lot of discussion of what he learned about general emergency preparation from his experiences, listening to the experiences of others and combing through additional information available. It’s mostly the view of one person, so in addition to the news and historical records he draws from, it’s replete with anecdotes, opinions and personal color. I don’t anticipate readers here will agree with everything on the site.

Instead, I want to point out the part of his discussion that struck me the most: his philosophy about the ultimate goals of preparing (especially bugging out, but also bugging in). If you would like to read it in his words, that specific page is here: http://www.theplacewithnoname.com/blogs/klessons/p/0025.html 

Here’s my summary of that page: the point of bugging out (and bugging in) is to…

First, Safeguard your health and wealth by letting you escape from/avoid danger

Second, Help you “Go Home”

Third, Help you profit by using “the rebuilding as an opportunity to grow wealth”

The second point is what made the biggest impression on me when I reread the website (years after first encountering it and not remembering much beyond “put information about insurance and identification into your bug out bag”). A lot of discussions around bugging out and bugging in rightly emphasize how this lets you avoid/reduce danger. But equally important is to emphasize how bugging out/in is a tool to facilitate your recovery process.

Whether Getting Home is returning to your previous home, or finding/building a completely new home, the goal of bugging out/in isn’t to be bugged out/in forever, it’s a stepping stone. It’s a tool you use to safeguard your health and wealth, and to create the launching platform for Finding Home, wherever that may be. So, planning to bug out/in shouldn’t be divorced from planning to recover/Find Home. Connecting the two addresses the question “after you’ve successfully evacuated to ____/after The Event has passed, then what?”

I’m adding this philosophy to the toolbox I use for evaluating my personal preparations — specifically, asking the question “will this prep also help me Get Home, wherever that may be?” Hopefully that is useful food for thought.


  • Comments (6)

    • 3

      Having your bug out bag be a stepping stone in between your current life and your soon to be rebuilt life is an interesting idea that I hadn’t thought about before. I will have to ponder on this some more and see if this rational changes the setup of my bag. Cause you are right, the bug out bag doesn’t mean that I’ll be living out of there for the rest of my life, it could happen, but probably not.

    • 2

      Thanks for posting this. I read this blog many years ago after Katrina/Rita and learned a lot from it. I live in an area where many of the evacuees ended up after having to evacuate twice in the space of 3 weeks. To say things were chaotic is an understatement. It was when I realized how fragile civilization actually is. 

    • 2

      Good evening RS,

      A BIG addition learned post-Katrina is to have proof of residence in BOB/on person.

      It’s easy if a home owner using DMV license.   A renter does need some documents eg utility bill(s), library card.

      This new addition generated after authorities learned some criminals would enter vacant dwelling and loot the place.  Thus, the “re-entry permits”. Some towns issue in advance placard passes with pre-established approval to return to dwelling.

    • 3

      Thank you for calling this out and posting this. This is an excellent set of essays. Along with this site (The Prepared) and lcamtuf’s “Disaster Planning for Regular Folks” , the “Listening to Katrina” blog is one of my favourite preparedness resources. It is a fascinating read with many good lessons. The page you have linked to is one of the good central pieces on his philosophy and mindset.

      I agree with the author’s philosophy on being able to regroup or rebuild. He says “Keep moving forward!”. “When civilization collapses, people are going to put it back together to whatever extent they can. .. Once we have escaped the immediate danger, we want to be able to put our lives back in order as soon as possible”. I have read similar sentiment from some history books, looking at humans’ tendency to rebuild, specialize, and trade with each other even after large events.

      I think his overall plan does well to cover this:

      1. Escape any danger to safeguard your health and wealth
      2. Once you have escaped immediate danger, be able to put your life back together as quickly as possible
      3. Use your preparations, organization, and togetherness to grow and improve your life’s wealth, and make your life better on multiple levels

      And he mentions several good preparations to fit this approach – e.g. “Good relationships with friends, family, and neighbours is an important kind of wealth that cannot easily be stolen”.

      I like that he based much of his advice on lessons learned from what *not* to do, or what he and others missed when Katrina happened. His descriptions of mistakes are very motivating: (paraphrasing) “Have your stuff packed and ready to go, so you’re not running around the house panicking like I was”. His discussion with his wife about “I’m saving the supplies we need!” vs “I’m saving the memories we can’t afford to lose!”. And his description of talking to Katrina survivors and asking them what they wish they had done, or what they wish they had had, if they knew.

      It’s that quote about learning from experience:

      > “Any fool can learn from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
          — Otto von Bismarck

      It is quite kind of the “Listening To Katrina” author to synthesize many experiences and mistakes, and share them so we can benefit.

    • 3

      I’ve read through this blog several times over the years.  Having grown up on the gulf coast, I can appreciate the author’s viewpoint on preparing for such scenarios.  I found the personal perspective very engaging and the lists very useful.

    • 2

      Thanks for the reminder about this site—I’ve not visited it for years. I happen to know the author from another group I’ve been a part of for almost two decades, and he’s the real deal (and definitely an interesting and quirky personality, as RS notes).

      I appreciate the “life goes on” section, which I don’t remember reading before; good food for thought. He also now has a full page of links to both PDF and Word versions of all of his lists and plans, which is a great resource to download and make your own. I plan on doing that with updates for some of our unique concerns here (Northern CA, so: wildfires, smoke, frequent power outages (some due to storms, some due to PG&E proactively shutting down lines to reduce fire risk), earthquakes…sheesh; maybe it’s time for us to move somewhere else!)