The Ohio Chemical Spill: You MUST Be Prepared to Bug Out

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By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook

We occasionally receive a reminder that bugging out might not be such a crazy idea. One recent example is the train accident in Ohio, where tons of toxic vapors were released into the environment due to the explosion and burning of dangerous chemicals. What is the best course of action if you reside anywhere near East Palestine?

As Erin Brockovich advised, “Trust your eyes and get out of there.” Smart girl. The first law of survival is to not be there.  

The incident is still shrouded in mystery, however, the reports of animals falling sick and dying in the area are a big, bright red flag. Even if the authorities have declared it is okay to return home, I would remain away for a while because of that and the truncated, conflicting information coming out. 

Some would counter that it was just a train accident and that such incidents happen but are rare. That’s true, but it’s also obvious that things aren’t normal and that things are unstable and tumultuous everywhere. When a situation is this fragile, things take on a different dimension, and hazards are multiplied. As a result, our perspectives and vulnerability-reduction tactics need to be updated. 

Even if you don’t plan to bug out, you still might have to do it.

Rethinking bugging out and relocation with perspective on the new reality: unrest and danger can erupt anywhere, at any time. 

We frequently discuss actual bug-outs brought about by human and natural factors. I’ve related tales of people fleeing their homes to set up camp in front of police stations out of fear of a runaway serial killer, families leaving their homes to escape violent riots in South Africa, and residents moving to other parts of the city to avoid a crackhead group invasion brought on by a police raid. 

Jose also shares some wild bugging-out tales here on TOP. During the worst of the pandemic, we saw the gridlocks and chaos as thousands attempted to flee Paris and London ahead of announced lockdowns. And exactly a year ago, we witnessed the dramatic episode when, at the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukrainians fled their cities on foot amidst the crossfire and missile strikes. 

Bugging out, or even moving ahead of a crisis, is and will always be an extreme and uncommon scenario (hopefully). The wisest course of action in 99% of the situations is to shelter in place. In light of the rising volatility, though, it is imperative to reevaluate these strategies and consider all available possibilities and probabilities. It’s important not to stubbornly say, “I’m never bugging out.” The situation might require it, like it or not.

Whether in urban or rural settings, there are a variety of risk variables to take into account.

To continue on the subject of instability and systemic risks, I’ll concentrate on the ones that are tied to human activity. However, keep in mind that nature will always be a component that may affect human-related ones.

Risk factors for bugging out in cities and areas with high population density

People, in general, tend to believe that rural places are safe havens and cities are death traps, but history proves that’s far from true. Resources will certainly disappear quickly from the shelves anytime anything extraordinary happens because of the high density, the distance from production, and the just-in-time supply chain. Panic can swiftly start and spread. 

But cities don’t grow and thrive for being fragile and inhospitable, but precisely because living conditions are favorable. Higher density also means quicker access to more robust services, such as law enforcement, firefighting, civil defense, media presence, and political, economic, and social influence. Those are needed to uphold or restore order in the event of an emergency. They may go unnoticed, yet they exist and have an effect on how any situation turns out. 

Nevertheless, cities can pose distinct risks, some of which are directly related to the concentration of people, resources, and importance. Examples include diplomatic and political representatives, residences of high-ranking figures, police stations, hospitals, and government buildings. These dangers, along with others, can occasionally arise. 

I go into deeper detail about that subject in my book Street Survivalism and devote an entire chapter to the significance and practices of city mapping because I know from experience they may be determining and have personally faced some problems on a few occasions because of that. 


People will panic and rush to the food stores and gas stations due to the large population and scarce resources. Above all else, though, is the potential for the situation to quickly deteriorate and elicit a response from the authorities that might result in even greater hazards and dangers. In the current climate, these things can be triggered by actual, made-up, or fictitious causes (or no cause at all). 


Protests, riots, revolutions, curfews, lockdowns, martial law, and strikes are just a few of the potentially dangerous civic events that could result in enough unrest, bloodshed, and disruptions in urban areas to warrant a temporary or even permanent evacuation. This risk has significantly increased as a result of CV-19 and all that has occurred since 2020. 


High crime may not be enough to convince individuals to bug out or even temporarily relocate because there are methods to cope with it. However, some places will experience an increase in violence to the extent that many will believe that leaving their current town, state, or even country is the only option to improve their quality of life or even their chances of survival. In many locations, it’s already occurring covertly (or overtly). 

(Want more information on escaping in a hurry? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to emergency evacuations to learn more.)

Risk factors for bugging out in rural and low population density.

The infrastructure and facilities used for some activities are typically constructed in less populated locations due to the nature of those operations, among other things. Anyone living close to these should have a bug-out plan and preparations in place. 

Find civic or governmental agencies or platforms that are in place to issue emergency alerts or communicate with the community if you haven’t already. Keep in mind, though, that authorities may do the opposite in order to prevent panic, even if that puts the population in jeopardy. 

It is nevertheless advisable to avoid relying on “official” sources of information and much less on assistance in the event of an emergency. That is yet another tenet of preparedness and you still need to practice it when bugging out. The systems are frequently not updated or kept in good condition. Start networking and creating your own system if the neighborhood does not already have a decent one. 

Nuclear plants

These stand out as the most obvious. Living close to a nuclear power plant makes it nearly impossible to be unaware of its presence. The management, the municipal, state, or federal authorities typically implement some sort of warning system around these. Be certain of it – and keep prepared – even if a nice history of malfunctions and leaks suggests these are safe to be around. 

Biological and chemical facilities 

Chemical and biological plant accidents and disasters can have an even greater negative impact on the environment and local community than nuclear disasters. In some cases, accidental releases might linger for decades. For many reasons, including the Hollywood and propaganda effect, the oversight and social awareness produced by those also tend to be less severe than with nuclear plants. 

Dams and mining reject reservoirs

Last month I recalled the Brumadinho tragedy that happened here in Brazil in 2019. Nearly 300 people were killed by the mudslide, which also severely harmed the environment and wildlife. Some consequences may never entirely heal and continue to exist today. Get a topo map and determine whether you are downstream of these locations, in a basin, or in another dangerous area. 


A few years ago, I would only bring up prisons as a high-risk element in developing nations where insurrections and escapes are common. But even if I were to live in a first-world country, I would remember how unstable everything is going forward. For obvious reasons, prison breakouts pose a serious threat to the neighborhood.


People should look at what occurs in countries like South Africa, Argentina, Venezuela, and my own nation, Brazil, before ignoring the risk that crime poses in rural areas. The distances and the lesser density mean that violence in rural regions can be harsh since criminals can act more freely, even though it is not as common or prevalent as in major cities.

Railroads and roads 

As the case of the train tragedy in Ohio demonstrates, there are risks associated with living in the vicinity of a railroad or heavily used road. Even if train accidents are relatively infrequent (at least until now), the overall scenario is unstable and strange things are happening all over, as I’ve been trying to emphasize. Keep as far away from hazards and threats as possible rather than just focusing on becoming ready to handle them. A toxic spill on a highway in Arizona forced an evacuation just this week. In fact, Daisy reported that a local friend there said that residents were warned not to have ANY kind of flame due to the highly flammable contaminant in the air – including that on gas heat or gas stoves. With a cold front moving in, that’s a bad situation.

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Bugging out isn’t just in the woods.

The key lesson here is that bugging out doesn’t necessarily mean running into the woods with a backpack, and strategic relocation doesn’t always mean relocating permanently to a different state or nation.

Both can involve a quick excursion to a hotel, a family member, or a friend’s home in another city or part of town, or something like that. The issue then becomes how to plan and get ready for that. No matter the circumstance, the following must be taken into account to ensure a safe and effective bug-out:

  • A well-thought-out plan is necessary to avoid panic and improvised solutions in case of emergencies. We make stupid decisions when we’re desperate. Prior testing and looking for gaps are equally crucial.
  • Remaining informed at all times to prevent being taken off guard. Create whatever mechanism is required to stay up to date on the circumstances in your area in order to avoid being caught off guard.
  • Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice by keeping the essentials organized and close at hand, so you and your family can go as quickly and efficiently as possible in case something arises. To assist with that, check out my book on how to build up an emergency bag (bug-out bag) and EDC, available here on TOP’s Self Reliance and Survival Learning Center

For more ideas of how and where to go, check out Daisy’s guide, The Bug Out Book.

I’m finishing another book, this time about bugging-out drills, and will write an article on the topic in the near future, too. These exercises combine city evasion, backpacking, and stealth camping with tactical and strategic emphasis. I frequently lead folks on these dry runs in my city on motorcycles, but I also do them for fun and fitness on foot whenever I can.

But even though I love going on outdoor adventures, I don’t entertain fantasies of being the Lone Wolf living in a forest. I reside in a large city. Thus my primary strategies, plans, and preparations to face crises and emergencies are oriented toward surviving and thriving in the urban environment. In an emergency, my first response is to seek shelter with my family.

However, the world is getting crazier by the day, so we never know. And that’s why we prepare.

What do you think? What was the cause of the train crash? Do we need to rethink aspects of bugging out? Are there other facilities you think people should take into consideration outside of those listed above? Would you be prepared for a rapid and unexpected evacuation in case of such a disaster? If not, can we help you brainstorm potential solutions? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

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  • I feel fairly unprepared, not gonna lie. But do you all keep a bug out bag in each vehicle & one at home & always when/if you travel plus your normal luggage?? It may be a dumb question, just trying to learn.

    • I feel the same despite the fact that my van us a bug out vehicle n ready at all times. You can never be prepared for everything at all times.
      I m in central Ohio less than 200 miles from East Palestine where the derailment bomb happened. Our air quality did change n it was so downplayed that no one thought anything was really going on there beyond a minor inconvenience.
      Now, that is one if my greatest fears with future events happening; the lies, deceptions, manipulations n deceptions are more the enemy these days.
      In the future, I will be moving away from any kind of possible threat without a second guess ni matter the inconvenience and expense.
      This incident in Ohio is a cautionary tale for self protection at least.

    • Jennifer, we used to keep a bag in both vehicles, but then downsized to one vehicle.
      I still keep two bags, but now they’re specific to Fair and Foul (weather based). The Fair bag goes in anytime we go anywhere and pretty much stays in the vehicle year round. The Foul bag gets added in September, and stays in until April/May. The Foul bag acts as a supplement as it contains Winter Survival items not normally kept in the Fair bag. I also toss in our sleeping bags with the Foul bag.
      Others do it differently, but we’ve used this system for 9 years now.
      What you keep in it is really dependent upon where you’re at and where you’re going. The biggest difference between our two bags is the Fair one isn’t really set up for cooking. Emergency Food in it is edible without cooking SOS Bars, Jerry and so on. The Foul bag contains a folding stove and fuel tabs as well as a small cook set to heat water, as most of what’s in there is freeze dried add water and eat meals. We can still eat the cold prepared stuff, but in the winter a hot meal really lifts your spirits.
      A lot depends on your locale and the availability of water, your weather conditions and so on.
      Personally, I think it’s better to build a Bug Out or Get Home Bag than to buy one of the already made bags. Those are pretty generic and don’t take a lot of things into consideration as far as your personal requirements. To me, they’re just a gimmick. Hope this helps. You might contact Daisy, as I believe she’s printed some Bug Out/Get Home supply recommendations in past OPs.

  • This is only one of 4 train “derailments” in recent history. Are they accidents or are the railroads being targeted. I am not into conspiracy theories, but this one has me thinking!

    • Cutting costs by cutting maintenance. Happens in every company. I’d also suggest thinking long and hard about where you live – as in a city where trains carrying who knows what come through on a regular basis. Funny how those who squeal like pigs when it comes to regulations are now having a veritable cow over what the train was carrying. Good chance those chemicals are made somewhere in the US also. The anti-regulators, anti-OSHA, anti-everything are getting a good dose of karma. Too bad they aren’t the ones experiencing the hell.

      • Well now I have a concern about living in the country! Lol, we are less than 1/2 mile from railroad tracks, dang it. AND a conservative area, double dang. 😉

    • You raise a valid concern Mel, and one we need to think about especially with all of the other things going on, like fires at egg production facilities. One thing we can bet on though, is whatever the cause, our current Regime will Lie about it.

  • When I lived in Floydsville, one of the riots occurred about 4 blocks from me and I didn’t even know for days later, until I drove down N Broadway and saw the burned out auto store. A few months later, a gang shootout on my front lawn finally convinced me to move away from the insanity. Can’t say I miss it too bad…
    Out in the barrens our main safety concerns are probably forest fires. In that case, our best bet is to break out the Visa card and book it to a motel in town, far enough away to avoid the smoke and close enough to lend a hand if needed.

  • Having seen a graphic of the distribution of the toxic plume from Palestine, it is apparent that most of the ‘cloud’ went in a northeast direction away to the rest of the US and Canada. Thats a good thing I suppose for the residents, but the ground water pollution and residual is a huge problem nonetheless, not to mention the pollution to the rest of the country. The decision to burn the chemicals was a very poor idea…some of the leaking tanks could have been scavenged/sequestered for the contents and dealt with and the intact ones either brought out or emptied correctly. Decision makers/idiots who ordered this are criminals. I expect no resolution to any of this due to the current political construct of our country.

    • The chemicals carried in the train are lethal. They will ruin ground water kill all life bacterial to large animals.

      The water basin/flow maps from usgs suggest the midwest crop land is now going to draw contaminated water or have no water this year. This goes to Mississippi outflow.

      Liquid pvc is one of the most toxic substances you can get it is skin touch it and your will get cancer in a short period of time.

      As for bug out bags yes in every vehicle has group bag and everyone carries their own season adjusted personal pack. You need to keep packs up to date and rotate food items and batteries and any thing that expires or winds down like medication sunscreen bug protection. Need to check on fire starters and cordage ect.

      If i was there i would sell and move asap distance west or east is your friend south … no way .

      • You know it!! Mike Adams has done research n has dynamic reports on Brighteon.Sell to whom; only a stupid idiot would buy there.

  • I do not believe these are accidental.

    Another Derailment?! Train Carrying Hazardous Materials Crashes Near Detroit

    “Amid the chaos in Ohio, and two more (one in Texas and one in South Carolina), yet another train has derailed Thursday in Van Buren Township outside Detroit, Michigan.

    Fox News reports that at least one car contains hazardous materials.

    Police told Fox2 Detroit that there were no injuries and the area is not a hazmat situation.”

  • Shockingly, that happened to me. We were told to evacuate because of a fire. It was weird to see neighbors come out, some to talk, others getting in their cars and leaving.

    Police going in a car and announcing on a bullhorn to evacuate. This has never happened in my area before. It was surreal like a Hollywood movie.

    We were ready to exit also but decided to stay. Fortunately, the fire died down and there was no threat. It was scary and tense the first few minutes.

  • Facts:

    On February 12, 2023, in a small town south of Tucson, AZ, a family overheard emergency services respond to a 18-wheeler fire close to their residence. The family quickly looked out their window in order to see the smoke. No smoke, but seconds later, they heard the sounds of several sirens approaching the area. Updates from emergency services indicated that the 18-wheeler was carrying hazardous material and the area needed to be evacuated. Immediately after, emergency services stated, “This is a drill.” Emergency services continued with the drill for the next 15 minutes.

    On February 14, 2023, this same family received notification to shelter-in-place if close to Interstate 10, east of Tucson, Arizona due to a hazmat spill. The above article mentioned the spill.

    “A toxic spill on a highway in Arizona forced an evacuation just this week.”

    Having to “Bug Out”, almost touched the family that I referenced. Luckily the first was a test and the second was too far away. It is important to be prepared and to have a plan. Even if you never have to “Bug Out” the preparation will provide a small sense of comfort in an otherwise stressful situation.

    There seems to be an uptick in hazmat emergencies lately. Although horrific, I hope we can learn from them and better prepare ourselves.

    Thank you for the article.

  • Good article Fabian, and one I agree with you on being prepared. Even though we now live in a remote rural location, I-70 is still too close for comfort, and it’s a major trucking route in an out of the State.
    For me, bugging out requires a vehicle, I’m too crippled up to hoof it afoot.
    We’ve a bag in the vehicle and smaller personal bags for individual needs ready to throw in the SUV and split.

  • I’m responsible for the care of an elderly relative who owns her own home. No way does she want to bug out. She does not realize the amount I’ve prepared to bug in, which is our first choice. Even so, the need to bug out is still on my mind. I have made arrangements with a relative in a nearby state (we can reach there with a half tank of gas) that we could come there, as long as we bring our own food. I’ve also mapped out side roads we can take to get there, as we don’t trust the freeways to be free. I don’t have everything ready yet, but my goal is to have as much as possible just ready to be thrown into the car along with a list of other things (food, cooking utensils, and be ready not to come back for a long time, if ever). A short-term camping trip is pretty much out of the question, as the elderly relative may not physically be able to deal with camping, therefore a small bug-out bag is out of the picture. Much of what we will bring is in present use, so what I am doing is making lists of what to bring so that when we do have to go, packing will be planned and orderly. We are not ready for a semi with toxic chemicals to overturn in our neighborhood.

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