Prepper Basics – Shelter in Place

Sheltering in place, it’s a prepper basic. For those of you who may be new to prepping, or debating about your current living arrangements, let’s talk about the general things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, for this blogger, there’s no plan better than the shelter in place plan. Most bug out plans put you in the status of refugee.  That is never a good position to be in. Think about it for a minute. Even in the BEST case scenario for bugging out, with days worth of warning and a large vehicle, you’re still very limited in what you can take to survive.  How much food can you really fit in your bug out vehicle? If it’s well packed rice and beans, maybe a month’s worth, MRE’s, maybe a few weeks worth; canned goods, you might have 2 weeks of food in the car.  Plus water, there’s a basic.  How much water do you really think you can pack in that vehicle? 1 week’s worth of drinking water? 2 weeks?  If you haven’t found a place to settle by the time all that runs out… then what? Hope the Red Cross is headed your way? Hope your friends and family can provide for you? Risky propositions. But!  Calamity, there are always going to be situations where leaving is safer than staying.  Yes, yes there are, but I really think you should try to push it as far as you can to stay in place.

Bring Your Own Tarp


Know the hazards for your area.

If fires are the main hazard, put some fire prevention practices into use. There are metal roofing systems and  fire resistant soffits available that can help greatly reduce the chances of your shelter going up in a giant bonfire. says, ”box in the eaves, fascias, soffits and subfloors with fire resistant materials…

Clear cut the area around your house, and have adequate water storage on site to do some basic fire fighting. Rain water collection into some really basic cisterns or tanks would go a long way towards dousing your vital living structures if a fire was headed your way. Instead of planning to run at the first sign of smoke, plan to fight to save your hard work and survival gear.

If earthquakes are your main hurdle, planning to leave already puts you behind the ball, because no one gets warning for that shit. You have a MUCH better chance of making to the other side of an earthquake alive and with food and water if you plan your shelter appropriately. Build, or rebuild, your house to the maximum standards for earthquake resistance. A properly engineered structure does not necessarily have to be extremely strong or expensive. It has to be properly designed to withstand the seismic effects while sustaining an acceptable level of damage.

Tornadoes? Build a safe room, re-enforced to withstand the winds and debris and make sure all your supplies are in there. Losing your couch is ok, loosing a years worth of food is not so cool.  Digging a storm shelter can be a cheap and doable project.

Tsunamis? Well… I’m open to suggestions on this one, but there must be a way. Design a floating survival pod anchored to the ground, or plan your house so that the bottom half is submersible with only minor losses.  Trying to stuff your survival gear in your pickup in the 2 hours notice that the tsunami warning will give you… well, let’s just say I doubt your chances of making it out of town with anything even close to a good pack.

Sheltering in place keeps you near your life support systems.

You can’t bug out with your garden, staying in place means you can have fresh food as long as you can keep it alive and growing, and food for next year if you save the seeds.  You can’t bug out with your rain water collection.  If you shelter in place you’ll have fresh water, the smallest rain water barrels will give you 50 gallons of water that only needs a bit of filtering to be drinkable.  Once you have the basic system in place, you can scale up quickly and relatively cheaply if need be.  Books, a years worth of canned goods, tools, relationships, all of these things will be left behind if you have to leave.  Plan to stay, and your plans for survival get easier, not harder.

– Calamity Jane



25 comments… add one
  • SLHaynes July 31, 2012, 10:01 am

    The tsunami advice may apply to hurricane surges also. However, unless you are only in a wind warning area for hurricanes, bug out for sure if you live very near the coast or lower than sea level (i.e. New Orleans). Hurricane flood surges can be 20-30 feet easily. Shelter in place for possible wind damage only, though.

  • GA July 31, 2012, 10:35 am

    Good read. We too plan to stay put. Unless it is truly a life-threatening emergency I am staying with my preps that I have worked so hard over the years to acquire.

  • JL July 31, 2012, 10:53 am

    Yup bugging out is only for extreme situations. Tornados, we.have a good basement. earthquake we are screwed, we live near the New Madrid fault line. Fires are iffy, we never know. So I would much rather stay here and have all my food and nice bed. I would take my tent and a tarp if I had to bug out.

    • irishdutchuncle August 1, 2012, 8:12 am

      …yeh but, check out the pictures from Joplin MO.
      lots of empty basement holes.

      i’d like to have some overhead concrete protection too. retrofit is a little tricky. easiest method i can think of is a poured concrete “porch” over one end of your foundation.

  • Juliette of OHio July 31, 2012, 11:11 am

    We’ve gone over and over this one, trying to decide what to do. We are from Oklahoma, originally, one of the saner states in the U.S., and would like to go back if things get really weird. However, we do live in relatively rural Ohio and have 12 acres here with a large house and private well. Unfortunately, the house is a semi-berm with a walkout basement. There is a bank of 13 windows on the SSE- facing lower level which is a huge security hazard. They’re triple pane and relatively hard to knock out, but easy to penetrate with a bullet. We have a large garden, on terrible soil, and a deep well which produces nasty-tasting, although potable water. With the drought, who knows how long the well will last. In case of power failure, we will have to send a bucket and line down the casing. A Bison hand pump purchase is waiting until funds are better. At least half of our family in Oklahoma/Texas are prepared for what is on the horizon. The other half is totally clueless. We don’t want to be a burden on the prudent, nor give away the vast majority of our food to the feckless. Any advice is wanted and welcome. (We are also nearing retirement age and a house is impossible to sell in our area at this time, so selling the Ohio house and buying one in Oklahoma is not doable. Otherwise, we’d have been out of here years ago.)

    • irishdutchuncle August 5, 2012, 9:57 am

      Juliette: I would start out by “boxing-in” a corner, or half of the basement with concrete blocks. (traditional fallout shelter style. you could delete half of the windows) Use something “decorative” along the visable side. (stone or brick veneer) It’s a “darkroom” or a “mancave”, workshop, utility room… it’s not a bunker i tell you.

  • irishdutchuncle July 31, 2012, 11:39 am

    you’d need to build your own “submarine” of concrete modules, or steel, in order to shelter in place from a storm surge. the “authorities” would never approve…
    you’d have to have someone else “bug-out” with your car ahead of time. a water tight garage door would probably be cost prohibitive.

    any type of surface vessel would take a huge pounding in the surf. it likely would “drag” its anchor, and you might have a hard time getting it back to your property. (if it gets carried inland) in a “worser” case scenerio, your shelter might be carried out to sea. (whether or not it was designed to float) the best compromise would probably be your “pod”; unsinkable, and heavily padded inside.
    (with a motor, to get you back to shore)

    a forest fire shelter wouldn’t be any easier… (not that i haven’t given it some thought…)

    if we had more frequent earthquakes here, i would build a “canopy bed” for each family member. the posts would be a minimum of 4″ square, with enough diagonal bracing, for them to remain upright, under the load of a house. the canopy would be heavy enough to repel falling chunks of plaster…

  • Walt July 31, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Too many variables I think. Bugging out to a pre-stocked second home with a couple adults in a 4X4, and carrying a motorcycle in the back? Or bugging out to “the country” with 2.3 children in a subcompact with your feet as the only second mode of travel?

    I used to be in the former situation, and was prepared to leave both my primary residence, and the truck on the side of the road if needed, to get to the retreat. The retreat just had too much going for it in most disasters over the primary home at that time. If we’d had an infant or an elderly parent coming along, that would have been different. Either way, I’d never consider a bugout unless I was prepared to abandon my vehicle along the way to where I was headed.

  • smokechecktim July 31, 2012, 1:58 pm

    I have always been a bug in sort of guy. I have collected toooooo much prepper stuff to leave it behind. Wildfires are a fact of life in the mountains where we live. We have Sealed tile roof, private well with a 5000 gallon tank with a fire dept hydrant for the fire trucks. In our area if you dont have a cistern or sizeable tank they will just drive past during a large fire. I always worried about getting stuck on a road in some sort of traffic snafu and then you are reduced to what you can carry. Thats fine for a day or two But in a SHTF situation I’d rather hunker down where I am if at all possible. I do have an emergency plan to fall back to a nearby isolated canyon if all else fails. I guess if you have the finances to build and supply a second location to fall back on fine, but I dont think most people have that sort of money or time. Buy a couple of reliable guns, stash some food, start a garden, raise a few chickens. know your neighbors, make a pile of firewood and ride it out. At least thats my plan until I win the LOTTO.

  • Brad July 31, 2012, 9:19 pm

    Stay home…ride it out until your ran out. If your get “ran out” go out with a fight.

    • Brad July 31, 2012, 9:20 pm

      I don’t live in a major suburban area though. You guys do your best to work together. It’s your only hope.

  • watchdog August 1, 2012, 12:47 am

    Okay, most of you guys seem to live out in the boonies where the population is relatively sparse. Less people = good people. But what about people who live in a large metropolitan centres in apartments or condos? When the zombies start to roam around looting and pillaging how would you secure your bug-in area?

    Does anyone out there have any useful ideas or suggestions?

    • j.r. guerra in s. tx. August 1, 2012, 7:21 am

      Check out Selco’s website, you might learn a trick or two. At least stimulate some ideas. The experiences and feedback there is very good. Nothing like 1st hand experience.

      Personally, apartment sheltering in place sounds very difficult, though knocking holes in adjacent units for extra space is an advantage. Fire risk though is very high – just take one individual who gets a fire started in their space and the whole place goes up in flames.

      I hope this helps.

      • watchdog August 2, 2012, 12:03 am

        Hi J.R.

        I tried to google “Selco” but came up with only building supplies .????

        Could you give me a little more detail. Thanks in advance.

  • izzy August 1, 2012, 1:43 am

    The earthquake/tsunami/flood/hurricane plan should be simple – build where people used to build – on higher ground, preferably rocky. I’ve been noticing that many cultures live in the uplands and go to their farm in the lowlands, maybe fertile areas aren’t necessarily the safest places to live. But if you can’t get to higher ground, there’s not many things that will survive being hit by raging floods let alone the debris in them (trees, rocks, houses).

    Anyone who faces the possibility of wildfire should read up on the Peshtigo firestorm in 1871. A few people survived by jumping into wells or other water… but that wasn’t a given.

    If you’re in a city then you DEFINITELY want to shelter in place. At least while the police are fighting the zombies – their first priority will be to have the metropolitan centers zombie-free. Either it will pass over quick, or it won’t & you’re screwed anyway.

    If you really felt you had to go to the corner store for milk (which you shouldn’t, if you read this stuff), figure out how to dress like a zombie. Apparently that worked in Britain recently…

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. August 1, 2012, 7:28 am

    My immediate area dangers are hurricane zone and adjacent Mexico which could go revolutionary due to drug cartel violence there at any time. If that were to occur, I’m pretty sure the southern border would become a militarized zone quickly. Tsnunami danger – well, we are 60 miles from Gulf of Mexico, but near the Rio Grande River – a major one could flow up river and cause some major flooding, it entire area is a flood plain. Too, natural water sources are very few and far between. Good thing there – water table is very high, approximately 10 -12 feet from grade. An auger would likely get you a well quickly.

    Then again, that means easier ground contamination when sanitation leaves and outhouses become the norm.

    Like Rossana Dana said – ‘THERES ALWAYS SOMETHING’.

    • irishdutchuncle August 3, 2012, 8:27 am

      …and if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

  • Ray August 1, 2012, 10:08 am

    Flood, fire , big wall a water. OH! MY. The hand of GOD comes down, all we can do is Run ,Hide, or pray. IF we make it we Start Over. For me as long as the house is here , so are we. My family was in Kentucky the last time the New Madrid went,( 1812-1814) we survived that one. Might do ‘er again. If ya’ll live out on the Big Flat Spot I’d think a cement and steel lined hole should be in order . Big water= RUN AWAY. Fire = RUN. My Granny used to say “In this life it’s root hog or die” the best prep we have is the will to fight,for our kids ,our hope,for all the things we love. thats the best prep; the will to carry on . —Ray in Ky

    • j.r. guerra in s. tx. August 1, 2012, 1:45 pm

      The big advantage of log cabin construction is that it takes a pretty good shaking for them to fall apart – already has spaces for expansion / contraction. Stick built construction (brick shell w/ wood or metal stud framing) – not nearly as accommodating. Its why wood roof and floor trusses are built with nails, vs. screws. Screws break – nails bend.

  • Novice August 1, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I completely agree, Calamity. Bugging out should be a back-up plan, not a starting point.

  • millenniumfly August 2, 2012, 7:46 am

    Sheltering in place should always be the first and second option. Bugging out just leaves you and your family too vulnerable unless you have a well stocked location to go to and it’s highly likely you’ll make it there.

  • ORRN on LI August 2, 2012, 3:13 pm

    We reside smack in the middle of an island, with NYC and NJ on the other side of the worst bottle neck evah! No way could we make it off with the masses if shtf. I am setting up to stay put, garden is growin, chickens are happy, trying to talk the hubby into drilling a well, just in case, and making sure the kids can swim…..

    • irishdutchuncle August 5, 2012, 10:09 am

      some kind of boat would be better than trying to swim.
      build a strong fiberglass “hatch-cover” to keep out heavy seas, if the weather catches you. (leave before the weather can catch you)
      if you can keep it watertight, you can keep it afloat. (it may be a rough ride though) “Don’t give up the ship!”

  • Butane October 31, 2017, 3:45 pm

    We all know our homes and land better than anyone. Stick it out at your homestead and dont go down without a fight. I like my chances because I know every inch of my home, I know where I can hide or where I can store things no one else will find.


Leave a Comment