Facing Lockdown in an Apartment – Part 2, by J.F.J.

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

Barricade doors and windows with heavy or bulky furniture. Keep the intruders out of your apartment, but do not trust your barricades to stop bullets. Remember that reinforced doors, boarded-up windows, and bookshelves-turned-barricade are for keeping out intruders; they are not for ballistic cover. Building bullet stops for a safe room is not the focus of this article. Please consult the shooting and ballistic experts for advice on that subject. For our purposes, let us turn to the needs of water, food, and fuel.


Unless facing a water outage because of the failure of the municipal water system, continue to use tap water for as long as possible, using decontamination protocols if needed. For example, suppose that the municipal water supply is still operational, but a broken water main results in a boil order for downstream users. Filter and boil (or use chemical or other purification) the tap water for drinking and food preparation to avoid using your emergency water. In some situations, such as impending storms moving toward one’s town, store extra water beforehand in case of utilities outage. Those who have ever lived on a rural or private water system that has failed because storms knocked out the electricity to the neighborhood pumps know to fill up pitchers and the bathtub with water just in case the system goes down.

Even if the municipal water is out, water trapped in the pipes on the apartment floors above yours (if applicable) may run out of your sink or tub taps because of gravity flow. The same applies if your community uses a water tower to create water pressure. If the municipal water is likely to be out for an extended period of time, one can use the water stored in the hot water heater, but with two caveats: first, apartment hot water heater drains may not be easily accessible to tenants; and second, if no pressure exists in the water lines, gravity can force water from the heater back through the cold water lines of the building. (I have had this experience with a house that sat on piers, placing the water heater about three feet above ground level. I later had a plumber install a cutoff valve to keep the tank full so it would not drain back into the cold water pipes.)

Try the taps to get what water may be available. But what about the water in the toilet tank? Most municipal water piped into apartment buildings and homes in the U.S. comes from one main source and is therefore potable. Some survival books, nonfiction and fiction, discuss using the water from the toilet tank (not the bowl) as a last resort, unless of course the tank is dirty or has an in-tank chemical toilet cleaner. Depending on the condition and cleanliness of the toilet tank, treat this as pond water that should be avoided except in dire emergency after other supplies have been exhausted.

Do not overlook swimming pools, fishing lakes, and decorative ponds as sources of non-potable water for flushing toilets. Do not use these for drinking water because of the pool chemicals; runoff from lawn care fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides; or pathogenic microorganisms. If these are the only remaining sources of water, use appropriate techniques to purify the water before consumption, the same as one in other survival situations. Although purifying or distilling pond water is possible, it requires prior planning for equipment and fuel. For most apartment situations, storing drinking water is a much easier option than purifying ground or surface water.

The primary concern apartment dwellers have about stocking food and water is the lack of storage space. Over the last several years, the messages from FEMA, the Red Cross, and the CDC have changed from telling citizens that help is on the way, to having three days’ of emergency supplies at home, to having supplies for two weeks. Some preppers advocate having three months to a year of food and water. Since apartments often have limited storage, one may well ask where to keep two weeks’ worth of food and water. According to FEMA, the Red Cross, the CDC, and other survival information resources, the average person needs one gallon of water per day, usually divided into two quarts for drinking and two quarts for personal hygiene.

Following these guidelines, a single person living in a one-bedroom apartment must store fourteen gallons of water; a family of three must find space to store forty-two gallons. Although a fifty-five gallon water drum will meet the minimum needs of a family of three, it will not find a convenient location inside many apartments. In addition, should the barrel for some reason leak or become contaminated, the entire water supply is compromised.

It will be much better to break down the water supply into smaller units, such as one-gallon jugs, five- or six-gallon jerry cans, or even five-gallon BPA-free food storage buckets (with snap-on sealing lids, preferably with pour spouts). Those jugs or buckets may be stored in various cabinets or in the bottoms of closets throughout the apartment. If desired, one can purchase cases of half-liter water bottles and stash them in available nooks. Be sure to keep track of the dates when the water was stored and the dates of expiry, so that you can rotate the old stock and keep fresh supplies on hand. In addition, check the containers often for leaks, especially if they are stored in cabinets with pans, utensils, or other gear that might puncture them. It may seem improbable, but it does occur that manufacturing flaws cause containers to leak even when stored safely by themselves. (I once had a sealed gallon jug leak inside a cabinet.) As with any other survival items, inspect and replace water stock on a regular schedule.

Your Stored Food

Food supplies also need inspection, rotation, and replacement. Simply tossing a box of MREs and three cases of ramen noodles in the back of the bedroom closet does not constitute a disaster food plan. Since storage space is limited, store sealed containers, especially normal-sized (not foodservice-sized or number ten) canned goods, not in the pantry with the daily groceries, but in empty spaces under beds, in closets, behind books on shelves, under or inside end or coffee tables (hidden by long tablecloths if you wish), or inside other furniture such as wardrobes, dressers, hope chests, and the like.

To keep insects out of dry goods such as sugar, flour, or pasta, place those foods in sealed plastic containers, jars (be careful of breakage), or even large resealable bags (such one-gallon Ziplocs). Choose emergency foodstuffs according to your family’s tastes, the amount of water it takes to cook or rehydrate the food, the ability to break non-perishables into smaller meal-sized amounts, and the ease of food preparation without normal cooking techniques in case electrical or natural gas utilities are interrupted.

And Your Fuel

Fuel is a daily need that most people take for granted, whether electricity, natural or LP gas, wood, coal, or fuel oil (such as kerosene). Suppose that the electricity goes out because of a storm, a car hitting a power pole upstream from your residence, or even a squirrel blowing a transformer. If you have a gas stove, then you can still cook meals and heat water for cleaning. However, many apartments are all-electric because of the added expense of gas plumbing, individual meters, maintenance, and fire prevention. While a handful of apartments may have gas fireplaces, they are not designed for cooking. Fuel is a particular problem for the apartment dweller because there is limited safe (or allowed, in some complexes) space to store it.

Fuel for lighting includes batteries, lamp oil (paraffin or kerosene), waxes in candles or for home canning, and even cooking fats such as olive oil and butter. Battery lights are safer simply because of the decreased risk of fire associated with candles and oil lamps. However, oil lamps produce heat which will help in winter bug-ins when no electricity is available; in addition, one can heat small canned foods over paraffin lamps, as long as one uses extreme caution. Be sure to have fire extinguishers not only in different places in the apartment, but also with your cache of fuel. Store liquid fuels, such as plastic bottles of lamp oil, according to their instructions, and in larger leak-proof containers, if possible. Candles and improvised fat lamps are best left stationary instead of being carried around the apartment to decrease the risk of fire. They may not provide much light, but they will produce sufficient light for moving around.

Cooking fuels include chafing dish heaters (such as Sterno cans), butane-powered stoves, and propane camp stoves and grills, or tabletop grills. Chafing dish fuel is basically alcohol-saturated jelly that comes in small cans. They are designed to sit on tables under serving pans of cooked foods, so it may take longer to cook with them. Butane stoves designed for indoor use, either single- or double-burner tabletop type (such as those by Iwatani or Gas One), work well for emergency cooking.

Propane camp stoves, such as the Coleman brand that uses the one-pound cylinders of propane, are designed for outdoor use only. Both butane and propane stoves require adequate ventilation, which may not be available in a bug-in lockdown situation. Regardless of the type of emergency cooking fuel you choose, remember to store it safely. Some apartment complexes have leases which forbid storing any type of fuel, especially propane cylinders, in the apartment or in outside storage closets. As previously stated, in an SHTF or WROL situation, people who are trying to survive may not be worried about the details of a rental agreement.


Living in an apartment does not mean that you cannot prepare for disasters, even SHTF situations. Take advantage of the space that you have, storing your emergency water, food, and fuel as safely as possible in otherwise unused space. Fortify your apartment against burglars and intruders. Determine what supplies and methods you can use to protect your family in case of disaster. Surviving disaster is your goal, and that goal is the same whether living in a castle, a house, or even in an apartment.


  1. I’ve always lived in apartments, to this very day. Couple of additions:

    “It may seem improbable, but it does occur that manufacturing flaws cause containers to leak even when stored safely by themselves. (I once had a sealed gallon jug leak inside a cabinet.)”

    I have had *several* gallon jugs of water burst (in climate control, out of direct sunlight) and leak over the years, to the point that I now only use purpose built water storage jugs. In my experience a grocery-store jug is only good for a year, and needs to be kept in a spill catchment of some kind (boot tray, plastic storage bin, etc.)

    Chafing dishes *will* evaporate and dry out eventually, just like a zippo lighter. I don’t know how long it takes, but I’ve seen it happen. I prefer jar candles, which are prohibited by my current lease, for this reason. Candles do need to be kept somewhat cool, or they will melt and run out everywhere.

    Lastly, don’t forget the water that is in your sprinkler system. This water is non-potable, but it is there. Depending on the system used, the sprinklers should function for some time even without electricity, so removing the water should be a last, last resort of dire need.

  2. 1) No discussion about weapons?

    2) I’m not sure but my impression is that even New York City allows one to have hunting rifles and shotguns. A 12 gauge pump and a lever action rifle in 44 magnum provides a decent defense — of course, a trained militia of buddies armed with such would be even better. Note that the lever action can be reloaded on the fly unlike assault rifles which are rendered inoperable while reloading with a new magazine.

    3) If firearms are banned, then a Navy boarding pike backed up with a Kabar should allow you to protect an apartment against the more common intruders. Best pike has spike 7-8 inches long continuing into a bulbous nose at the front of the shaft that stops penetration but gives nothing for an enemy to grab onto:


    4) Apartment manager might look askance at an obvious pike but in SHFT one can be improvised from a strong mop handle and a SOG Spirit or Cold Steel Bushmaster.

    The SOG Spirit screws onto a common mop handle:
    However, the backward pointed wings at the back should be ground down to make the spear head an oval — nothing to catch or grab onto

    The Bushmaster is more sturdy but will need a screw to secure it to a shaft:

    1. The humble spear, the master of melee Weapons

      Nearly Always a good choice, except for Situations like this, Indoors, very limited space in all dimensions …

      I would prefer a cutlass or other short Sword, entrenching tool or a short mace/hammer(Carpenters hammer?).

      1. All the apartments I lived in when younger had cinderblock walls — maybe due to the fire code. In those cases, one is defending a blocked doorway against a breakin — hence my preference for a boarding pike. Same goes for hallways. But I noted having a Kabar as backup if someone gets past the point. Which they shouldn’t. (Grease the point and rotate it strongly if someone tries to grasp it. ) Also, I was thinking of a shaft of 5 feet versus 8 feet.

        1. A door in a hallway, okay especially as a team but in an appartment with walls, furniture etc in the way, i stand by my choice and would also prefer to´ve on to replace the Spear if necessary

  3. Re water, a Sawyer water filter with bleach to kill viruses would be a good backup.

    Re storage cans, I like the tough Scepter NATO 5 gallon water can used by the military but REI and other sporting stores have cheaper models.

  4. Thank you for the comments and ideas in response to Part 1! A few of you raised questions about the ease of penetrating drywall with bullets or feet and the possibility of living in an RV or cabin. Living in an apartment is my only VIABLE option for the moment. I do have other and better places to go IF I can bug out in time. The comments about drywall are absolutely correct. People (both criminal and innocent) are often hit by bullets that pass through building materials, even in neighborhoods of single-family homes. There are ways to create bullet stops to create safe spaces indoors in which to hide, and for SHTF those are on the table. It’s an apartment, or an RV, or a house; it’s not a castle. History shows that castles sometimes work against defenders, not just against besiegers.—JFJ

  5. I repeat what J.F.J. says: Battery lights are safer simply because of the decreased risk of fire associated with candles and oil lamps. However, oil lamps produce heat which will help in winter bug-ins when no electricity is available; in addition, one can heat small canned foods over paraffin lamps, as long as one uses extreme caution. Be sure to have fire extinguishers not only in different places in the apartment, but also with your cache of fuel.

    Fire will kill you with carbon monoxide or smoke quicker than flame. I am VERY CAREFUL with open flame in our home.

    Maybe I missed advice to install a carbon monoxide detector. No matter. It will save your life, buy it and install it that day.

    Carry on in grace

  6. Good article. Thanks. Note that in some scenarios there actually are advantages to living in an apartment. Think Argentina and currency collapse, or Venezuela today (or America tomorrow?). The government and utilities still exist, but violent crime has skyrocketed. The only way to stay safe in your home is to have it guarded 24/7. In an apartment building the entries can be controlled with armed guards with the guard cost split amongst the tenants. This concept was actually covered pretty well in a book called “A Failure of Civility” by Mike Garand. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print and priced at $180 for a used copy. But the key concept of teaming up with your apartment neighbors is simple enough.

    Taking it a step farther, If I was holed up in an apartment in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, that thin drywall would be turned to my advantage. I would cut spidey holes to observe visitors in the hallways and to allow tactical movement between apartments. This would definitely violate the lease! And as always, night vision is a game changer.

    For water, the downspouts can be tapped to capture rainwater. There is a scene in the movie “28 Days Later” where the apartment dwellers have their own solution. I will leave it to interested readers to watch the movie themselves. True fact, the opening scene in The Walking Dead begins with a scene that is straight out of 28 Days Later which was released 3 years earlier, Hmmmm?

    Another advantage of apartment buildings? If the roof is flat, raised beds can be set up for gardening that are unobservable from street level. Solar can be set up to recharge LED lights, radios, and NV.

    Finally, this is not just academic for me. I currently live in an apartment myself.

  7. Good advice in the article and in the comments.
    1. Everyone needs a quality Water Filtration System now days. SurvivalBlog advertisers sell good ones.

    2. ‘Ready to Eat’ survival food is available to buy too. >Heat food with a can of Sterno. Sterno cans are made of metal and seal tight. Containers of Propane can be used for >cooking; they store more safely than liquid fuels. [Some stoves can use gasoline as a fuel. BUT, leave the gasoline in your car until needed.]
    …….. Needed heat can be provided by Sterno or a small can of propane. (The little 1lb cans; Not the big tank. If need be, a tent can be set up for sleeping, to help stay warm in the living room.)

    3. Don Williams has the right advice about needing a least one gun. A 12 gauge might be too much recoil for most people. A .410 or 20 gauge would be easier to shoot. … I’m partial to Lever Action rifles. It would make a good defensive weapon, in locations, where it’s difficult to own an AR or AK or a Handgun. A used .30-30 would cost less, than most other calibers. [Regular readers of SurvivialBlog already own good weapons. This comment is for people worrying, and have NO gun.]

    4. Maybe, just buy some long-burning candles for light. The burning candle can be placed in a stain steel bowl, for safety. They’ll provide plenty of light. The last thing anyone needs is to attract attention during an emergency. (cover the windows to hide the light.)

    5. Anyone ‘trapped’ in a city, should live in the safest area possible. Read through Survivalblogs ‘Resources’ headings. Personal Safety is discussed.
    Many people have observed: During emergencies many people return to feral morality.

    In the news >today.
    “Murder, Burglary Soars in New York City During Coronavirus Lockdown”

    “Over the last 28 days, in the middle of the lockdown, murders in New York City have jumped more than 55 percent compared to this same time last year, when there were no lockdown orders in place.

    Between April 13 to April 19, murders increased 100 percent compared to the same week last year. From year-to-date, murders are up by 5.7 percent.

    Likewise, grand larceny auto — a crime that no longer warrants bail in New York — has increased more than 53 percent compared to last year. Specifically, there have been 500 charges for auto theft in the last 28 days. During that same time in 2019, there were 326 charges for auto theft.

    Over the last week, grand larceny auto crimes across the city have jumped 50.5 percent and they are up more than 62 percent overall since the year before — the largest spike in crime year-to-date for any major category.

    The lockdown has also not stopped the rise of burglary in New York City — another crime that in many cases allows the suspect to be released from jail without ever paying bail.

    Burglaries are up by 25 percent in the last 28 days and up by more than 36 percent in the last week. From January 1 to April 19, burglaries are up 27.1 percent compared to this same time last year.
    [From Breitbart April 26, 2020]

    There’s information available, about the number of crimes that go unreported. The crime increase has occurred, when people are actually staying home >more.

    6. Everyone needs at least >one gun. NOT all emergencies are ‘End of the World’ events either. People just need to take care of themselves for a while. With the Wuhan Flu, it’s turned into many weeks. … Other emergencies, it might NOT be possible to safely leave the house for weeks. People might have to live without electricity and city water for a while. One gun is better than NO gun.

    Good article about Apartment Living, as it applies to most everyone; even the people living in a city house. SurvivalBlog is worth reading, for people just getting into ‘prepping’ for emergencies. Food Water Shelter >Communications~Radios and many other subjects are covered here.
    {How to pass time is also important, during a lock-down. A good choice would be: Buy the entire collection James Wesley Rawles books to read. The books contain excellent ideas within the story lines.}

  8. If one is holed up like in the present pandemic, it would be good to have at least a portable radio using rechargeable batteries . A police scanner would be even better — although many urban areas have gone to P25 which requires the more expensive Uniden 436 versus the basic Uniden 125.

    LED flashlights, batteries, cell phones ,electronics etc can be charged with a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery —which can be charged before hand with booster cables off a car battery and with a solar cell over a long term.

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