Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

Are you really prepared for an emergency? The 5-5-5 bug out test

Be prepared for an emergency - the 5-5-5 testIs your family really prepared for an unexpected emergency? If something happened tonight, would you be ready?

A lot of preppers spend an awful lot of time doing things like stocking up food, storing and inventorying supplies, learning first aid and so on. Those are all good things to do – and I encourage that – but if something happened at 2am tomorrow, are you really ready?

There are myriad scenarios that have caused people to have to leave their homes quickly all over the world and throughout history: an upcoming hurricane, a forest fire a few miles upwind, anarchy breaking out in the country you’re living in, a house fire, etc. Have no doubt that as unlikely as it may seem, someone somewhere in the world is dealing with it.

You can’t be 100% ready for every scenario at a moment’s notice. That’s impossible, and something that you shouldn’t strive for. You need to take a common-sense approach to things based on the scenario and how much time you have.

What I’m proposing is a graduated approach. Think of scenarios that you might face that would cause you to have to bug out of your home, either for the night or for an extended period. Think of how much notice you’d have in those scenarios. Then develop a system to allow you to be ready for those scenarios in that amount of time and then¬†practice.

One way to do this is to break up what you’re planning on doing into 3 different time categories: 5 seconds, 5 minutes, and 5 hours. If it takes more than 5 hours to do anything, you’re definitely in trouble.

Being ready to go in 5 seconds

  • House fire
  • Intruder
  • Tornado
  • Earthquake

Let’s just take the house fire thing for example. If you woke up with your bedroom on fire, you may not have time to run around the house getting things ready – in fact, you may not be able to run around the house at all. If you only had time to grab what’s ready-to-go in your bedroom, what would you have with you as you’re standing outside? Would you be outside in just your pajamas, holding your cell phone? What if it were in the middle of a drizzle in Winter?

For whatever emergency you’re preparing for that might only give you 5 seconds to go, think about what you would need to have with you or to do in those 5 seconds. Do you lay out your clothes the night before? Do you have a go bag in your room with goodies that would help you deal with the situation? If you don’t know what you might need to put in a go bag, there’s a good book on the subject called Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit. I also have a pretty thorough article on the subject.

When I was in Warrant Officer Candidate School, we had to have everything done in the morning and be outside in formation within about 8 minutes (I have a few details of that in my article on the importance of having a routine on my other blog). It drove home the importance of having things ready in advance.

You don’t really know just how much notice you’ll be given, so after you’ve set up a plan for being prepared to go in 5 minutes for example, think about what you’d do differently if you were given 5 hours. What if for some strange reason you were only given 5 seconds?

Being ready to go in 5 minutes

  • Tornado
  • Forest fire
  • Medical emergency

In most cases, even severe emergencies, you’ll have a few minutes to get ready. If you have a family, you can see how important it is for them to know what they need to do if something happens, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time getting them ready and none on getting yourself ready or the family as a whole. Break down each scenario into what you’d need to do and what you’d need to take. Then break that down into what each member of your family needs to do and take.

As you can see, tornado is in both categories. This is a key point. Wouldn’t you rather have 5 minutes to get ready for an emergency than 5 seconds? In addition to figuring out what you’d do if you only had 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes, try to find out ways that will give you 5 minutes. What if you were given an alarm that there was a tornado warning in your area? Not every neighborhood has tornado sirens – but – if, for example, you had something like a Midland WR-120B NOAA Weather Alert All Hazard Public Alert Certified Radio with SAME and Alarm Clock, you could be woken up by a 90dB alarm if something was happening in your area. That could be the difference between your family easily getting to a shelter or being caught unprepared. By putting a system in place such as an early-warning system, you’ve now moved your tornado response requirement from 5 seconds to 5 minutes. Obviously you’ll want to still be ready in 5 seconds if you needed to but you may help your family by giving them more time.

Being ready to go in 5 hours

  • Hurricane
  • Riots starting to break out
  • Regional power grid permanently damaged
  • SHTF

This is the traditional bugging-out scenario that you’ll probably be thinking out. If the grid goes down or the financial system completely collapses, you’ll have some time to get ready. You may not have several days though because everyone else will be panicking and doing all sorts of unexpected things.

If you’re planning on grabbing your stuff and heading out to a bug out location, could you do it in 5 hours? If you’re planning on loading supplies and taking several vehicles, pets, and family members, this may not be quite as ¬†easy as it seems. Even if you can do it in that time, have you actually walked through the process? Have you actually tried it to make sure you aren’t going to forget something or that everything that you need will fit? What will you do if you’re planning on taking 3 vehicles and one won’t start or breaks down along the way? Are you prepared for that? What if you find out that you thought you’d have 5 hours but when the time finally comes, you only have 5 minutes? Do you have a plan on how you’ll spend those 5 minutes?

Having a plan to deal with an emergency is more than just a checklist of things to do if something happens. It’s about changing things to your favor and making plans outside of just the most likely scenario. Take another look at your current plans and see what you can do differently looking at them in terms of how much notice you’ll have.



References used in this article: NOAA, Ready.gov, Red Cross,

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. excellent thought exercise capable of motivating to actual experiment. thanks brother

  2. Our bug out bags stay in our vehicles, so they’re ready for a sudden departure. The truck can be loaded out for a longer departure in less than an hour.

    But, your description of the sudden house fire scenario has me thinking that a box of alternate ‘necessities’ would be good to keep in the shed. (it’s like a garage for the lawn tractor). The shed could serve as alternate shelter, but a box with a change of clothes, some water, food, medical things, document copies, etc. would be good to have stashed out there — a very local ‘cache’ — in case there only time to grab the phone and run outside in pajamas.

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