Bugging Out………Digitally!

Bugging Out………Digitally!

by Gary Hines


“ITS TIME TO BUG OUT!”  If you’ve ever heard those words before, you know, your heart starts racing, the gears in your head start turning, and all your “fight or flight” mechanisms kick in telling you to flee!  You may not have time to discuss the reasons you’re bugging out, or your options.  The people in and around Chernobyl got 15 minutes to round up their family and what belongings they could before most of them were put on buses headed out of the city prior to a nuclear meltdown of Chernobyl’s reactor.  Your first thought is your family and pets.  Where are they, and how fast can I get them in the car (or alternate bug out vehicle).  Then you think firearms, water, food, clothes, prescription medicines  (usually in that order) etc.  One thing is for sure, if you are bugging out, you’re leaving behind probably 90-99 percent of your belongings, and you don’t know yet if you’re coming back for them.  Some of the items least thought about are our physical records, documentation  prescriptions, insurance policies, and things that cant be replaced like family photo albums.  These items are both precious and important for many reasons.  You may need documentation for survival purposes, rebuilding your life elsewhere, travel,or for legal reasons. 


Living near Atlantic City, and having just gone through Hurricane Sandy, I can tell you many of my friends living on the barrier islands did not think of these things.  In fact, most of them were complete idiots and completely ignored the multiple warnings to evacuate.  Several of them who were smart enough to flee prior to the storm remembered to bring their laptops, but never bothered to scan or save important information on them.  Now, granted, storing important documentation on your laptop can be a recipe for disaster for security purposes.  You wouldn’t want your laptop stolen or hacked with copies of your drivers license, social security card and birth certificate on them!  Computers are a place thieves look for your valuable information.  Even a damaged discarded computer could still have your vital stats on it if you did not properly delete them.  Storing information on a laptop is not fool proof either.  Your hard drive could melt down, your laptop could be subjected to water, you could forget to bring it or not be able to carry it in an emergency.  Even disasters like a power surge, a nuclear event or EMP could render your PC and all its files useless. The solution is to keep a high capacity USB flash drive on hand, store your information there, and keep it updated and stored in your bugout bag.  USB flash drives are readily available, secure, will plug into virtually any PC, and they’re cheap.  Some companies even give them away as promotional items. USB flash drives are very compact and can easily clipped to a key chain or kept in your pocket.  I recommend you keep them stored in a waterproof container like an Otterbox and stashed in your BOB.  Because they are not constantly plugged into your computer, its near impossible for a hacker to get info off of one, and since there is no electricity going through an unplugged flash drive, they’re technically even EMP proof to the best of my knowledge.  But hey, feel free to wrap yours in aluminum foil if it makes you feel more secure. Depending on where you have to bugout to, its a pretty safe bet you’re going to find a working computer and printer to make copies of your documents. 


Here is a list of the most practical doccuments to have backup copies of and why:




1) Your drivers license.  God forbid you lose your wallet, and are without identification, you could find yourself in all sorts of trouble.


2) Social Security Card.  Like your drivers license, this is used to identify you, and difficult and time consuming to get a copy of without going to a Social Security office. 


3) Your Birth Certificate.  Ever try to replace a lost or damaged birth certificate?  I have, and I can tell you its no fun, and can be time consuming in a time when you dont have time to waste. 


4) Your Passport.  Of course, the actual passport should ALREADY be in your bug out bag in the event you have to leave the country.  But god forbid, you lose your passport in a foreign country.  You will obviously need your passport to get back into the US, and if youve lost it, having copies of its contents can prove helpful in getting back in, or obtaining a replacement from the a US embassy.


5) Family.  As you have copies of all of the above personal documents on your flash drive, you should also have those of your spouse and your children.  They may not be able to gather these items in an emergency, and god forbid you find yourself in a situation where you need proof your child is actually yours!


6) Firearms Permits.  Got a CCW permit?  What if you bugged out, remembered your pistol, but forgot the permit and found yourself in a legal situation where you didn’t have it?  Could be a big problem.  At least with it stored on your flash drive, you could provide a backup if necessary.  In my state of NJ we are required to have a “firearms ID card” for purchasing firearms and ammo.  Keep copies of any pertinent firearms identification you may need in your state.





1) Bank Account Information.  Keep copies of at least one bank statement per bank account on your flash drive. Most banks have online banking or bank by phone options, but what if the internet went down or the power grid? This is why I also tell people NOT to opt for paperless bank statements.  If a catastrophe ever caused your bank to lose its records, you’d better have paper records to fall back on!  On your bank statement, you will have your account and bank routing numbers along with bank phone numbers in case you have to contact your bank.


2) Credit and Debit Cards.  Scan both sides of each of your credit and debit cards, and store them on your flash drive.  Its important to scan both sides of the card.  Obviously, your account numbers are on the front, but just as important is the CV2 number and 1-800 customer service number on the back. 


3) Your Portfolio.  If you own stocks or bonds, you should keep current statements of your portfolio on your flash drive.  Also keep a phone number to your broker AND firm so you can contact them in an emergency.  Remember, your broker may have bugged out as well, and most large brokerages have offices nationwide.




1) Health Insurance.  Keep copies of you and your families health insurance policies and cards on your flash.  You should also have medical records as well as any necessary maintenance prescriptions for you and your family stored. If your injured and need medical attention, you will need these things.


2) Homeowners / Renters / Flood Insurance Policies.  Fires, flood, tornado’s, earthquakes, nuclear catastrophe, biological events, or any myriad of disasters could render your home destroyed, unlivable, or unable to return to.  If this is the case, it is going to be necessary to rebuild your life possibly in another state.  You’re going to need to be able to contact your insurance company for reimbursement for your loss.  If you rent an apartment, I recommend you have a renters policy that covers fire, flood, other acts of nature and terrorism.  Renters policies are usually under a hundred bucks a year, but I can tell you first hand, I know people who were renters who lost anywhere from 20-50 thousand dollars worth of belongings in Hurricane Sandy that they would have been able to get paid for had they simply invested a few bucks in a renters policy.


3) Auto / RV / Boat / Motorcycle Insurance and Registrations.  Depending on your bug out vehicle or vehicles, you should have copies of all pertinent insurance policies.  Again, if you have full coverage and a vehicle you leave behind is destroyed, you will want to recoup the cost of a replacement.




1) Make yourself a small file, and keep a copy of automobile titles, property deeds, firearm receipts, and any other pertinent receipt in your life that you may feel is necessary to have backed up.




1) Photo Albums.   Most of us are clearly using digital cameras these days and storing photos on our computers.  But what about those old photo albums?  You know, the ones with your parents, grandparents, pets, maybe children?  Those things are not replaceable.  That’s why you should be scanning them and backing them up digitally. 


2) Video’s.  Maybe your wedding, friends, baby’s first steps.  You want to preserve these treasures as long as you can.


3) Diploma’s, College Transcripts and Resume’s.  These may be useful in finding work in the future in another place.


4) Music.  Its nice to have backups of your favorite music. 



So, there is your next bug out project.  Don’t risk losing those important and irreplaceable things you cherish most and can easily preserve with a little effort.


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8 thoughts on “Bugging Out………Digitally!”

  1. Very good article. And don’t forget if you are a business owner to back up important business papers onto a USB drive and keep it in your bugout bag as well.

  2. Exc. post Gary H. I vote it as one of the best!!!!I will get myself organized with your suggestions as I am only partially there -yet I AM prepared in so many other ways- so thanks !!!We helped many Hurricane Irene flood victims in our area and many folks didnt bring what they needed from their homes in time.. Arlene
    Two items I wish to add -animals medical/vet records and medical human records -prescriptions etc.

  3. Good article. I have a drive I EDC inside a jumbo aluminium pill carrier. The drive fits in it very well and I hope it adds to the EMP protection. I don’t have all those files, but I will work on getting them done. A friend of mine went through an ugly divorce in which his ex stole his kids. After that he set up a drive with info to start a missing child amber alert faster. Pictures, personal information, descriptions, etc. On my USB drive I keep a file with the information & serial numbers of all my guns. You could even do one of those insurance video walk throughs of your home and store it on you EDC/Bug Out drive.

  4. I have a flash drive on my key ring. I got it for free from Wounded Warrior Project. They’re always giving me stuff. Anyway, I did download copies of our birth certificates, Social Security cards, my marriage certificate and homeowners insurance. I may have scanned my driver’s license and Concealed Carry Permit as well. You bring up some very good points! I should print this article and use it as a checklist. Besides, I keep printed copies in a TEOTWAWKI binder, along with some local maps, our weapons/ammo/food/water/medical/manual inventories and several survival books. I do plan on taking this binder with us, if we have to leave our home for an emergency. If for nothing else, it would make a great bullet stop.

  5. Short comment. Make TWO of everything, and I WOULD store them in an EMP proof container. In the event that we get cooked, I also keep a cheap netbook in that container (a fire proof lock box will do) so that I am CERTAIN that I can access that information. I also keep a ton of prepper files on things that I don’t know or don’t know enough of in labeled folders on my drives. Good list, nice article. Regards, D.

  6. I enjoyed the article and had a couple of ideas. Id your moving out predators may want to steal your data. You might want to look at using an Iron Key USB drive for secure portable storage. Not Iron Key USB have a self destruct after 10 incorrect logins, TruCrypt is another option without the self destruct option but is completely free.

    Good Luck,

  7. This is a good Idea ………but always have more than one with exactly the same information on it . I have had flash drives fail , its rare , but it does happen , and at present , there is no software available to retrieve information on a malfunctioning flash drive . I was told that IT guy , that the easiest way to avoid data loss on a flash drive is to make a very small partition in it ………….something very small will do , what that does is create a back door to retrieve data . Just a warning from a bad experience . They are also easy to loose in a chaotic situation because of their small size , have a duplicate just in case .


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