Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 6, by J.M.

We are wrapping up this article series on surviving a short or mid-length emergency while in an urban apartment or dorm. We’ve covered escaping the work place, water, food, skills, safety and security, and much more. Let’s get on with what else you need now.

Other Equipment and Supplies

There are a few other types of equipment and supplies that you should consider stocking as part of your urban preparations:

Medical Supplies

Stock up on medical supplies, such as bandages, gauze, medications, antibiotic ointments and antibiotics, along with books and training on how to use them. Note that medications will probably last a lot longer than the expiration date on the bottle indicates. There are a lot of good sources of information on medical preparations that can provide more detail. A common post-disaster issue will probably be diarrhea due to germs in the water and modified diets, so make sure to include a good supply of anti-diarrheal medications.


Everyone should have a good basic tool kit, since you never know when you’ll need to fix something even in normal times. I’d also highly recommend also owning a cordless drill driver and a spare battery, which will make putting up your security preps (and a million other tasks) a lot easier.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is the universal repair medium. It is useful for lots of other things, too.


WD-40 is useful for quieting squeaky hinges. It’s helpful to loosen bolts and for over 2000 other things.

Trash Bags

Have plenty of trash bags stored. They are useful for carrying, covering, and wearing.

Plastic Sheeting (clear and black)

Plastic sheeting has many uses. It’s great for covering up windows, making a rainwater collector, et cetera.


Cord, line, and wire are also useful for repairing, carrying, and tying things up. Most preppers tend to prefer paracord, but any decent and reasonably strong line will do. You should also add some steel wire for making stronger repairs.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is another item with hundreds of uses. Stock the heavy-duty type, since it’s stronger and will last longer.

Sewing Kit

A sewing kit will come in handy when you inevitably tear your clothes. However, duct tape may work also.


I’ve talked about a lot of different equipment and supplies that you should consider for your preparations. But you’ll need to find somewhere to store it all in your apartment. Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment or dorm room knows that storage space is at a premium, so you’ll need to get creative. Here are some options:

Under Your Bed

A standard full-size bed is 54” x 74”. With this space, you can get around 28 cu. ft. of storage for every 12” of vertical height underneath the bed. The least expensive and easiest way to do this is with some bed risers, or you can go crazy with a lot of other options.

Top of Closet

Even if your closet has an upper shelf, there’s probably a foot or two of space from the ceiling down that doesn’t get used. Add another shelf for additional storage.

Bottom of Closet

If you store things like shoes on the floor of your closet, you can add a platform and use the space under it to store more preps.

Inside Furniture

There’s usually a lot of empty space inside and below furniture that you can fill with stuff. You can also make your own storage furniture. You can do something as simple as stacking a couple of storage bins and covering them with a table cloth to make a nightstand or display table. It’s also possible to build a simple “library table” behind your couch with a few boards and some stain, and store items under it.

Storage Locker

Some apartments provide a storage locker that you can use to store boxes and other large items. Just make sure you don’t store anything too valuable in them. Also, get your supplies into your apartment as soon as possible after a disaster. Since many of them are made of simple chain-link fencing and everyone can see what you’re storing, you should consider putting weather-tight storage bins or water containers inside of big cardboard boxes and write innocuous labels on them like “clothes”, “bedding”, or “books”.

Tiny Houses

Since the tiny house movement has taken off, people have come up with tons of useful and unique ways to expand their storage. Just search for “tiny house storage” on the web for hundreds of ideas.

Maintain Storage Plan

Put together and maintain a storage plan of where all of your preps are and when you need to inspect, change, or rotate them.


A cache is a container with survival supplies stored or buried at some location removed from your apartment. This is meant to supply you in the event you can’t get to or have to flee your primary location. I’m undecided over the idea of depending on caches in an urban environment, since there are very few places in cities that don’t get poked, examined, or dug up on a regular basis. If you have a location that you’re confident would be safe to use for a cache prior to a disaster, then by all means set one up, but keep it simple and stock it with supplies and items that you can afford to replace.

An alternative would be to keep the container and supplies in your apartment and wait until after a disaster to move it to your backup location; the downside of this approach is that you won’t have the cache if the initial disaster destroys your apartment.

Self-Storage Units or Lockers

You can usually rent self-storage units or storage lockers in most urban areas. Be careful if you do; they’re likely to be targeted for looting soon after a major disaster. Pick one close to your apartment that has some degree of climate control, and empty it out as soon as possible after getting home in a disaster. Don’t store more prep supplies than you can carry in one or two trips, and make sure everything is packed up and ready to carry.

Stored in a Typical Apartment

To give you an example of what you can store in a typical apartment, a #10 can of FD food is 6¼” in diameter and 7” high. If you have at least 7” of height available under your full-sized bed, you can store 88 cans of food under there. A 3.5 gallon WaterBrick is 9″ W x 18″ L x 6 ½” H, so you could fit 24 of those under that same bed for a total of 84 gallons of water (but don’t do that, since it would weigh around 700 pounds!). If you can get 14” of clearance under your bed, you could fit a mix of double-stacked #10 cans, water storage, and plastic bins that would probably cover a big chunk of your prepping needs.

Another good example is a 7” wide library table behind your couch. For a typical small couch (that’s 35” high and 6’ long), you could stack about 55 #10 cans of food behind it.


You should also consider storage requirements for electronics in the event of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) disaster. While full protection from all possible types and strengths of EMP probably isn’t practical for an urban dweller, you should take steps to provide your electronics with at least some basic protection. An EMP box made from an ammo can can hold a tablet, batteries, battery charger, security camera, and a few other items, and you can carry your handheld scanner radio in an EMP bag.

Planning and Implementation

I’ve covered a lot of different skills, equipment, and supplies. You may be wondering how to get started and what you should focus on. Start by making a list of the possible types of disasters you think could impact you and the urban environment you live in. The list should include:

  • Type (blizzard, earthquake, hurricane, epidemic, super volcano, EMP/CME, et cetera)
  • Impact scope (local, regional, national, or world)
  • Immediate impact(s) (food, water, electricity, health, et cetera)
  • Duration of impact
  • Secondary impact(s) over time (riots, food, water, societal breakdown, et cetera)
  • Probability of occurrence
  • Required preparations (water, food, medical, heat, security, et cetera)

List What You’ll Need

Once you have a handle on what you believe are the most likely scenarios, make a list of what you’ll need to be prepared for them. Adjust your lifestyle as necessary. Take the appropriate training, and start acquiring and storing the necessary equipment and supplies. For the cost of a couple of beers ($10-$20) per week, you can put together a pretty extensive set of preparations in a year. And, by investing a few hours a week, you can gain the skills and capabilities you’ll need to help you survive.


Being prepared for a disaster in an urban setting tends to be different than preparing to survive out in the wilderness, but with some basic planning, skills, and supplies it can be accomplished to a certain degree. As I’ve mentioned several times, unless 99% of the population disappears overnight, I don’t believe that long-term survival is a viable option in an urban environment. However, you should still be as prepared as you’re comfortable being. What events and durations to prepare for is entirely up to you. Do some research and soul-searching to figure out what makes sense, and be sure you can live with your decisions.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part four of a six part entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
  6. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value).

Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. On the anti-diarrhea medication. Imodium is the brand name for the most common OTC. Loperamide is the generic equivalent. It is dirt cheap at the big box stores.

    You might want to re-consider using it for diarrhea caused by disease. Your body is trying to lose germs and taking the medication will keep them in. The more germs you have, the sicker you are. Talk this over with your doctor before this becomes problematic.

    Dehydration and electrolyte loss are the problems from severe diarrhea. Oral replacement is necessary. Pedialyte is one fluid to be considered. Gatorade is another and cheaper. Oral re-hydration salts are also available. They are not very expensive and are available on Amazon. Look for the ones following the WHO (world health organization) guidelines. The WHO recipe is also available online. A lot of this stuff is going to run right through you but you will be absorbing some of the salts and fluid. What does run through you is at the least flushing some of the bad germs out. If unable to take orally you might consider enemas with a slow drip. Avoid sugar with diarrhea as it can make it worse.

    1. Blackberry Root tincture or tea is my number ONE antiviral/antibiotic anti-diarrheal go to. I do not use Immodium as it impedes evacuation of toxins from the body. Safe and effective is Blackberry Root and just a little is very powerful. 15-40 drops of the tincture in 1/2 cup of water every couple of hours until symptoms are under control. Also effective for spongy gums, hemorrhoids, and bruises. A powerful astringent and a must for your preps. A 1/4 cup of the tea every couple of hours. 1 tsp of dried herb to 8 oz of almost boiling water. COVER and let steep at least 5 minutes. Blackberrry leaf is useful too if that’s all you have, but not as potent. As always, be aware to replace electrolytes during diarrhea episodes. Gatorade powder is good to store or prepare a homemade drinkable electrolyte solution (MIX 1/2 tsp. table salt, 1/4 tsp salt substitute, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp sugar in 1 quart boiled water, let cool, flavor with Kool-Aid or Emergen-C if desired) and give continual sips as can be tolerated around the clock until urine is normal. Even if vomiting occurs, continue to hydrate. Some of it will be absorbed. Dehydration quickly causes conditions to spiral out of control. Use Litsea Cubeba oil in a bucket of sudsy water to disinfect sick rooms plus it smells nice and lemony and gladdens the heart. These are only medical suggestions to complement your physician’s advice yaddy yaddy. I am not an M.D. but study and prepare for when they’re not available for help.

    2. Just a little tip! In the infant section of grocery stores and discount stores such as Wal Mart, you will find a powdered form of PediaLyte that is intended to be mixed into a standard water bottle.

      Since they are flavored, the taste is tolerable and the little pre-measured packets are quite convenient when you are on the go.

      I have included these in the medical kits of our Bug-0ut Bags as an added layer of protection against dehydration.

      They are a little more expensive than mixing your own electrolyte solutions, but I always felt that the more palatable taste coupled with convenience is definitely worth the negligible expense.

  2. Re: Cord/Line/Wire

    Look into rebar ties. You can buy them 100 at a time for a few bucks. They come with a loop at both ends for easy twisting but if you straighten out the loops you gain another 2″ plus to wrap things. They are soft iron so they aren’t bullet proof strong but they are easy to put in place with one hand, stronger than string and handy for may uses. I put a dozen or so in my tool bag, my back pack and a couple dozen in my motor home.

    Another good idea is don’t throw out that old T-shirt. I had my wife sew across the top from under the armpits and just under the neck and cutting off that waste area. They make great bags, strong (I use the heavier Carhart T-shirts). You can wrap dirty things to protect your car seats or use them to gather food or just to hold your laundry.

  3. Great list.

    You can store twenty four 6-gal. pails of food under a queen size bed. Just put a 4’x6′ piece of OSB or plywood on top of them and a bed skirt. Too expensive you say?

    Let’s say the average pail of emergency long-term food costs $70. The average family with 2 smartphones spends $150 each and every month. If they traded down to Tracfones the family could purchase all 24 pails in 2 years with the savings. Food or frivolity?

  4. I think this is a great article for young adults who are away at college or who have moved to the big city on their first jobs. Many young adults have never had to face a crisis or emergency by themselves and without the ability to phone mom/dad would be an easy target for bad guys. Good job J.M.

  5. When I lived in a high rise apartment after getting out of college, the building had storage areas in the basement for residents. Storage bin was about the side of a walkin closet –consisted of a wall area fenced off with fencing wire and 2×4 framing. Anyone living in a high rise building might check with the building manager for similar space.

  6. Do some research before getting a waterbed – some apartments don’t allow them due to weight and flooding concerns, and some of the anti-fungal treatments they use can be harmful if swallowed.

  7. WOW! Been with SB since about 2006 after reading Patriots and following the link at the back of the book. Can’t praise Jim and Hugh enough. Talk about a wealth of information! This series of articles stood out as simply outstanding. Only additional suggestion…be sure to read the comments. Awesome added info. Just proves there are some really smart people out there in the prepping world. Have 8 three inch binders of SB articles I have printed out. If the grid goes down still have important info in hard copy. But that said…love the flash drives from SB. Got them all, and will continue to obtain every new one (better to have and not need..etc). To J.M. Well done sir! Very impressive! Heartfelt thanks to all in the SB community!

  8. Excellent information, well laid out – thank you!
    Small point though.
    In anything more than a short-term weather problem, it would be best to bug OUT – not in.
    The buzzards would soon gather…

  9. Plastic Sheeting (clear and black)

    2-3 mil, contractor bags (found at Sam’s Club) can work well as an alternative to black plastic sheeting. One item, two (actually many more) purposes.

    Enjoyed the series. Thanks for writing it.

  10. The biggest problem in movement is going to be police,checkpoints,barricades etc.,they are illogical and detrimental to public safety(just doing what they are told). Try having a hardhat(white or yellow depending, with some usage wear or even some stickers (electrician/plumber’s union), a safety vest and a “contractor” ID to circumvent these obstacles. In a vehicle you can add a “emergency services” magnetic sign and a yellow flashing light with a line of Bravo Sierra can get you past. The Gray Man isn’t always gray but what is expected (blend in or stand out.) YMMV.

  11. VT – Agreed, and that’s one of the reasons I stressed collecting intel at the beginning of the event. A scanner that can pick up law enforcement/emergency channels can help you plan your route home to avoid checkpoints, riots, fires, etc.

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