Preparing for an uncertain future when living in an apartment or a condominium (“condo”) can be a struggle. When the Lord has not chosen to give you land to work with, you work with what he has given you, knowing first and foremost that he is your first retreat, and no matter what happens, “All things work together for the Glory of the Lord…”. There are many limiting factors when you do not have the smallest amount of land. And if you are reading this, you probably agree that our future has many uncertainties from economic, to natural, to spiritual. I would like to share a bit of my families walk in this world that the Lord has chosen for us.
As a starter, I have been married for 12 years, and have two wonderful children who are not in school yet, although when the time comes, we will likely do home-school. Our finances are poor, weighted down by circumstances beyond our control, and poor spending habits from our youth, so living on a budget is a new thing for us. We have lived in our condo, that is for all intents and purposes, an apartment on the top floor, with neighbors beside and below, for five years. Our condo is in a cold climate, with a very abbreviated growing season, but with much hunting and wilderness close by. Still, as you might expect, the condo is in a small city, about 80,000 population, and not in the best neighbor hood. During our time here, we have learned many lessons, and would like to share those with you.
Before you start anything, it is wise to have a plan, and a destination. Our goal over this time has been to prepare for any situation that may arise, so that we will be self sufficient for 30 days minimum in our condo, and then have resources to contribute should we be forced to relocate.
The first concern of any prepping situation should always be water. It is the most vital component of any survival situation, second only perhaps to shelter. You can understand the difficulties of storing watering an apartment, but there are some things that can be done. The 5 gallon office jugs that are used in office are great for storing gallons of water, and can easily be stored in a closet. For 30 days and 4 people, it was decided that 30 gallons would have to do. Worthy of note, is that you should still add a cap full of water purifier to this, since it will be stored for a long period of time, and should be rotated about once a year. This provides a gallon a day, and could be supplemented by a nearby creek. This is the next step in our water prep plan, to have a water filter capable of handling raw water to supplement what is on hand. Also an option I have considered, is installing a large water tank in the condo (in a closet or under a cabinet) and have all the water run through it, so if the water goes out, there will still be a large tank of water we could draw from, and it will constantly be rotated and fresh. This will take some investment though, and handyman work, so for now, the 30 gallons and filter plan will have to do.
Food storage is also an issue that has special considerations. Space being the most obvious. For living in an apartment, all the same food rules apply, but I would say that storage is a bit different. Here again, a converted closet fills in as a Larder. When an item is used up in the pantry, it moves in from the Larder, and you go shopping for the larder. But there is a catch for the apartment dweller, so everything is made mobile. Placing everything in 5 gallon buckets, that may or may not be sealed, but this makes them portable in case the need to relocate comes up. Also, there are no ‘root cellars’ or basements in apartments, and not in our condo. So keeping things cool dry and dark becomes an issue, and the 5 gallon bucks with gamma lids seems to work will, especially with mildew issues, that seem to happen.
Expanding food stores to a year or more is something else that is a important, but as the space is an issue, has to be handle carefully. We decide to diversify our food and store it within our community of friends, so if a retreat is necessary, we will have already been contributing to them, and relocating should be a little easier.
A surprise is that a garden is not out of the question. Although it is small, the association or manager may allow you to put up a small garden were flowers or anything else may grow. We setup a square foot garden behind our unit. Its not private, and pretty open to the neighborhood kids, but it is better then nothing, and also teaches us need to know stuff information for when the Lord decides we may have a home.
Fuel is a large concern for apartment dwellers. It is dangerous to store, and very needed when temperatures can reach 20 below zero (Fahrenheit) all winter, and even colder, at times. Not to mention the need to cook, and power for other living needs. Our solution at this time is to make sure we can last for 30 days, and with this in mind, we have gotten a Big Buddy heater. This has the low O2 sensor on it, and in addition, we have a CO2 detector. In our apartment, we have ventilation vents, about 6 inches in diameter that allow fresh air into the house, but I don’t think I would rely on these. When push comes to shove, there are also the dryer vent, stove vent and bathroom vent that will allow rotation with outside air. At this time we haven’t tested our heating, and possibly cooking means, but with a little piping, a heating system should be available. As for storage, Some of the small enclosed fuel for camp stoves are kept in the house, but the large propane tanks that would be required for the heating are stored outside, at a friends house within walking distance.
Security for some people is large concern. I personally believe it is taken out of proportion to other needs that may exits, that is why I mention it only after 4 other points. That being said, it is a priority, and I do believe that in a worse case scenario, we would be more like New Orleans then Japan. To that end, I do have arms in the form of:
- A semi-automatic rifle with full capacity magazines,
- A hunting rifle,
- A .22 rimfire rifle
- A 12 gauge shotgun
I hope to add a large caliber revolver, later.
Of more import though is the operational security (OPSEC) of keeping what you are doing out of direct light of your neighbors eyes. With an apartment dweller, this is all the more important because of the close proximity of potential threats, especially, if like me, you do not live in the greatest neighborhood. This is best handled in the obvious ways. Keeping things low key, and moving equipment and food in small amounts. [JWR Adds: I advise apartment dwellers to use musical instrument cases when they transport their guns. Used cases can often be found for very modest prices at thrifts stores or via Craigslist. ] As a follower of Christ, it is still important to reach out to your neighbors, and form bonds with them that the gospel may be spread through love, but at the same time, there is no need to broadcast your preparation plans. Here the saying is best applied, loose lips sink ships.
Medical and G.O.O.D. bag
These two I will mention as they are important to any prepper, but only in passing as these do not differ greatly for an apartment dweller then with a home owner. But there are some points that I will bring up that I think should be made.
G.O.O.D. bags are easy enough to put together, and should include a mini set of everything you would normally make for prepping. I include at the end of this a simple list of our bob bags, a starting point that we used. We put these together for less then $150 over the course of two weeks. Special attention was placed on the weight, and should be a special note to an apartment dweller, as if it comes to bugging out, you will have to hike your bag out.
The First Aid kit or Medical Cabinet as I am coming to call it is also a priority, but does not differ greatly for the apartment dweller. There was recently a fantastic post about your first aid kit (What is a Well-Stocked First Aid Kit?, by K.M.), and I will simply reference it here and say that is what we are aiming for. For preparing, there will be a medical cabinet that is currently under construction, a first aide kit for the BOB bags, and a car kit, for any camping or out of the house needs.
Retreat and Community
It is apparent to me, as a condo or apartment dweller, making plans beyond 30 days would be unreasonable, as the logistics and OPSEC become more and more complicated and dangerous with each passing day. The time to move out to a retreat would be highly dependent on the situation. Should there be an event were a break down in society takes place, waiting 30 days may be suicide. But this is very situational, and should be handle as such. I would add to this only that you should not push it, if you wait until the last minute when the decision is obvious, it may be to late.
Now a retreat is not like it sounds to to most, and perhaps I should not call it so, but for the lack of a better word. Here it means going someplace for the long term, a year or more. This could be a friends house, or perhaps a relative, but someplace planed far ahead of time, as dropping in on anyone only adds to your problems, and theirs. This will likely get you turned away, even by the best intentioned people, when it comes to choosing your family or theirs. So Planning ahead is important, probably the most important, and this leads into community.
By connecting with like minded people in your area, you can begin to plan ahead. Finding out what they need, and building relationships that will endure. You can learn skills that will add to the group, buy things to supplement what they have or add to needs that they may have already. This will provide you some place to retreat to. It is highly advisable that you pre-stage food and other things there ahead of time. This proves your commitment to them, and at the same time diversifies your assets, in case of fire or other eventuality, all your resources are not lost with your apartment.
Something else that can be considered in conjunction with the retreat portion is a trailer. Getting a trailer, or a pop-up camper, is a great way to expand your flexibility. You may not be able to keep it in your apartment parking lot, but by setting one up, you add to you storage space, add space to store volatile things best stored outdoors, and also provide a living space in case you are forced out at the apartment.
Don’t get down yet, there are some positives for being an Apartment Dweller!
This deserves its own special section. Lets face it, if the SHTF, then apartment dwellers are going to need someplace to go. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Everyone can’t know everything, and as an apartment dweller, you can make yourself much more valuable to your group by learning and expanding skills that will be needed. In addition to two strong arms and like minded faithful Christian loyalty that any apartment dweller can bring they should also be able to bring other skills, like Sewing, woodworking, cooking with raw ingredients, baking, engine repair, and many others. Personally, I am focusing on butchering, as that is what is needed in my community. So I am gathering those skills, as well as some of the specialized equipment that demands. This coincides with planning ahead for your retreat, so people are not doubling up on skills, and invests you in the group, even if you don’t have your own dirt.
Communication is a point that is often overlooked in prepping. If a community wants to be effective in coming together and working together, then they will have to be able to communicate in a grid down situation. This is actually an asset for the apartment dweller. Communications gear, and ham radio training is relatively cheap, and with little creativity, is easy enough to keep out of sight. For the community, which is likely not in the middle of town, information will become more important then gold. This is were the apartment dweller can and should shine. Just like a scout that feeds information back, the apartment dweller can do the same, and holds a highly valued place in the system in which they support. Countless people have died for lack of good intelligence, and an apartment dweller can give this back to the group like no other.
I often wonder why the Lord keeps me where I am, I have tried to move into a house 5-6 times, and it just was not to be. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your best to prepare. When “you see the red sky in the morning” you should prepare for the storm. And to those who may think that an apartment dweller has nothing to offer, think again, the Lord has placed us all exactly where he wants us. All things work together for the Glory of the Lord and those who serve Him!
As a final point, I have found very little for apartment preppers, so I have started my own little blog. Please drop by. If I get enough interest, I will keep up with daily posts and tips on prepping while on a budget and living in an apartment.
Appendix–My G.O.O.D. Bags Contents:
Bag X2 Waterproofing Clothes Base layers Fleece pants Fleece shirts Wool socks Hats Gloves Undies Diapers Covers for Diapers Re-usable wipes for diapers Ring Sling Packable rain coats/ pants x4 Gun and ammo Water Food 6-8 Mountain House meals Chocolate Blanket–wool or emergency blanket Fire Matches Magnesium or fire key Fuel, steel wool, fire sticks Propane cook top Camp cooking set Knifes Sharpening stone Leatherman Saw Hand axe Machete Tarp Compass Magnifying glass Mirror whistle Duct tape String & rope & hooks & Carabiners Documents – copies Cash Optics–binoculars Traps–rat traps Emergency radio Batteries Water filter Pencils, paper, books Waterproof cards Survival books Portable med kit Insect repellant Fishing box Sewing box LED Flashlights and headlamps Children’s bags – Blanket, bottle of water, food, book, and stuffed animal