Let’s talk about surviving in an urban environment. In my younger days, one of my first jobs was in a mid-sized city in the Midwest. Being young, I wanted to enjoy all of the virtues and vices that the city had to offer. So, I got an apartment that was close to the city center. I had camping gear, and I always made sure to have a decent stock of food, water and medical supplies. However, with the knowledge and experience I’ve picked up in the ensuing decades, I look back and realize how unprepared I really was to survive an even moderate disaster.
The Goal of This Article
The goal of this article is to share some of what I’ve learned over the years in order to help folks who want to be prepared to survive for a few weeks or months and are, for whatever reason, living in an urban environment. For the purpose of this discussion, I consider “urban” living to mean you are living and working within 20 miles of a city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. It’s critical to understand that urban environments are not a good option for long-term survival. Between the population densities (average is around 4000 people/sq. mi.), criminals/gangs, and lack of sustainable resources, you can probably plan on surviving on your own resources for a few weeks or months at most. After that, you’d better hope things either go back to normal or have a “Phase 2” plan to get to a better survival location.
Since many folks who live in urban areas tend to be younger and not have a lot of disposable income, I’ve tried to provide the least expensive recommendations that could still meet requirements. I’ve provided online links for ordering where I could. But keep in mind you may be able to find many items (or equivalents) less expensive in your local Walmart, dollar store, second-hand shop, or even on eBay. Since living spaces in most urban areas tend to be smaller multi-story apartments, I’ve also tried to minimize storage requirements. These conditions could also apply to college students living on or near a campus.
The first thing you need to do in any disaster scenario is figure out exactly what is happening [P1]. Don’t spend your entire day with your face buried in social media on your cell phone. Pay attention to what’s happening locally, nationally, and globally. If all of a sudden people around you start dropping like flies and you know the CDC recently published an alert regarding an extremely virulent and deadly form of flu that includes your city, you’ll be a lot better prepared to react appropriately than most people. If the power in your office building goes out and you notice that cars and phones have also died, you’ll know that it was probably an EMP or CME event and not just a local power outage.
Read multiple sources of news to find out what’s happening in your area and think about how it can impact you. Learn to separate opinions from facts, and don’t just rely on the mainstream media for all of your information. Gathering and correctly interpreting information is critical, because knowing the scope and potential duration of the event can allow you to make the right decisions regarding what actions you should take. Once you’ve made a decision, act on it. Avoid the “herd” mentality. A lot of urban people will have the attitude of “we should wait for someone in authority to tell us what to do.”
A scanner radio can make a huge difference in amount and accuracy of the information you can collect [P1]. With cell service or a standard AM/FM radio you can get some basic “for sheeple consumption” information. But being able to listen in to the emergency services, Ham operators, marine radio, et cetera will provide you with a much more accurate and up-to-date picture of what’s really going on. At the low end ($25), you can get a Baofeng UV-5R. The next level up would be something like a Uniden BC75XLT or BC125AT. Understand that you won’t be able to listen in on trunked radio channels (which are what most urban police departments use these days) on these lower-end radios.
If you want to listen in on those, you’ll need something like the Uniden BCD325P2, which is a lot more expensive ($360). Whatever you end up with, get an ear piece so you can listen to it without broadcasting the fact. Also, learn to program and use it and have the ability to power and recharge it. I also highly recommend RadioReference.com as a resource to identify what channels would be relevant in your area. If the Internet is still up, you can listen in on emergency service radio broadcasts using an online service, like Broadcastify, which has apps available for cell phones.
People tend to spend anywhere from 8 to 16 hours away from their residence every weekday. So, the odds of a disaster occurring while you’re not home are pretty high. For most urban dwellers, your apartment is the only space that you have significant control over and will most likely be the base for most of your preparations. If a major disaster occurs, one of your first objectives should be to get home as quickly and as safely as possible.
Clothing and Footwear at Work or Campus
To begin, you should store a decent set of season-appropriate, comfortable, and non-descript clothing and footwear at your workplace or campus [P1]. While your suit and tie might get you that promotion at work, being able to change into a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, and hiking boots during an emergency might allow you to get home safe and alive. You’re also a lot less likely to get assaulted walking by a crowd of looters if you’re dressed casually. Avoid “tactical” or military-looking gear, since that will probably make you more of a target in an urban environment.
Get Out of Building
The next thing you may need to worry about is how to get out of the building you’re in. If you’re above ground level and need to get down to a street exit, do not take the elevators. Even if power’s not out at the time, there’s no guarantee that it won’t go out when you’re somewhere between floors. Learn where the stairs and elevator shafts are in your building, and use the stairs whenever possible. Also learn where any emergency equipment is located in your building. These can be designated as such, like firefighting/medical equipment, or they can be potential sources for improvised equipment like supply, maintenance or security rooms. Learn where all of the exits are, including loading docks and fire exits, since your primary exit may be blocked.
Without a Motorized Vehicle
Once you’re out you’ll need to get home without a motorized vehicle. You should assume that public transportation won’t be available and that the roads will be impassable to vehicles. Fewer people in the city drive (or even own) cars, but bicycles are very common. If you rely on a bicycle, make sure you always have a basic repair kit with you and the knowledge to use it in case something breaks and you need to fix it in a hurry.
Regardless of what your usual mode of transport is, you should also plan on having to walk home. I highly recommend that you practice walking home from your work or campus several times throughout the year, under varying conditions. Learn multiple routes. Find what’s along the way, such as potential hiding places, choke points, dangerous areas, and possible detours. I’d also recommend avoiding any underground routes, like subway tunnels, since they can collapse or flood, and your options will be very limited if you need to flee from any threats.
- 2 – Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 2, by J.M.
- 3 – Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 3, by J.M.
- 4 – Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 4, by J.M.
- 5 – Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 5, by J.M.
- 6 – Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 6, by J.M.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part one 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:
- 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.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- 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,
- 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),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- 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,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- 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,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (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.