I am sharing experience and ideas about surviving in an urban environment in the event of short-term or major, long-term emergency situation. We’re currently talking about getting home, whether from work or campus, since home is where our supplies are most likely stored.
Get Home Bag
On the subject of equipment and supplies, you’ve probably heard the term “Get Home Bag” (GHB). A lot of the discussion you can find regarding GHBs deals with handling a multi-day trek through the wilderness. Most of the time, the recommended content focuses on things like starting fires, building shelter, finding water, et cetera. Most of that shouldn’t be necessary for an urban trek of any more than (hopefully) a few miles. Below is my recommendations for urban GHB items you should have with you whenever you go out.
Always have spare keys with you. Getting home safely doesn’t make any difference, if you can’t get in once you’re there. You should always carry a complete set of spare keys necessary to get into your apartment (outside door, deadbolts, et cetera). Use something like a belt with hidden pockets, your wallet, or wear a spare set around your neck on a dog tag chain. But always have them on you. Don’t depend on hiding a spare set near your apartment, since there are very few nooks or crannies that will stay undisturbed for very long in most urban environments.
This carry bag can be a backpack, briefcase, or even a small waist bag. If you don’t normally carry a backpack, you can get an inexpensive packable one. You can even just use a shopping bag, although you should try to keep your hands free if possible. You can also put all of your GHB items into smaller organizer bags that you can transfer between different backpacks or briefcases.
The majority of fire-related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, so a mask is important. For some reason (at least in the movies) disasters always result in fires. If you spend time in any building taller than two stories, I highly recommend having one of these on you at all times.
Emergency Cash Stash
Depending on the type of event, stores may still be open and, if the electricity is down, will probably only accept cash. If you’ve prepared correctly, there shouldn’t be anything you need. Still, it’s always nice to be able to pad your stocks or to handle any gaps, like that knife/hatchet/crowbar you weren’t allowed to bring into the office with you.
Get a paper map that covers the area between your work or school and apartment. If available, get a laminated one like the StreetWise series, since that will survive getting wet. If you have to detour around a rioting mob, you may end up having to take a route you’re not familiar with.
Even if you know your route home, you may end up having to make a detour or running from danger, and you may end up someplace you aren’t familiar with or where you can’t see any landmarks and need a compass. Being able to orient your map could speed up your trip home.
First Aid Kit (FAK)
A first aid kit is important in any emergency. Depending on the nature of the disaster, how long you waited to head home, and your route, you may encounter looting mobs, fires, car crashes, rubble, and other obstacles you don’t normally have to deal with, all of which significantly increases your risk of injury. Since even minor disasters tend to overwhelm most urban emergency services, you should always have the ability to treat injuries yourself. You don’t need a full-blown FAK; it just needs to have enough supplies to handle any serious injuries that might prevent you from getting home or that might turn into a long-term problem without immediate care. You can buy a good pre-built kit, or you can roll your own. I’d recommend including the following:
- Tourniquet/pressure dressing/elastic bandage
- Skin closure strips
- Pain relief medications (Advil/Tylenol/etc.)
- Burn dressing
- Irrigation syringe– For flushing out a wound with clean water prior to bandaging.
- Wound prep pads
- Small EMT Shears
- Triangular Bandage– Also doubles as a bandana.
- Clean water (see below)With this kit you should be able to handle most serious cuts, scrapes, punctures, burns or sprains you might encounter. Remember, the goal is enable you to address potential injuries well enough to allow you to get home and to minimize the risk of long-term complications, not to provide medical care for everyone you meet along the way.
Carrying a knife can be tricky. I’ve been in places where just making a chopping motion with your hand will bring security a-running. Then, there are other places, where a Bowie knife strapped to your leg doesn’t raise any eyebrows. You need to do some research for your city/state as well as the various offices, buildings, campus, et cetera that you frequent to see what’s allowed and what’s not. For the most part, I’ve found that a simple Swiss Army Knife (SAK) is okay in most places. The Hiker model is the one I’ve carried for years. However, you should do some research to figure out what would work best for you. If you can get away with carrying it, you should also consider a locking folding knife. You can find a decent locking folder starting at around $4, and the features and prices go up from there. I’ve found that, in some places, security will hold items for you while you’re inside the building and return them to you when you leave. Note that unless you’re well-trained in knife fighting, the knife is meant as a tool and not a weapon. Even if you’re trained, trying to fight someone using a Swiss Army Knife will probably do more damage to you than your opponent.
Multitools are just so incredibly useful in an urban environment. You can find decent ones for not much money, but you may run into the same issues as you do with a knife, since most of them have knife blades. One exception is the SOG PowerLock Traveler, which doesn’t have a knife blade. (But, it does cost a lot more.)
I’m mixed on the idea of recommending a pry bar. It can help you open doors, cabinets, et cetera, but in order to be really effective it needs to be large (and hence, heavy). You can find quality smaller ones for around $10, or you can get an inexpensive regular one at your local hardware or home store. There’s also an entire class of tools known as “demolition tools” that incorporate a wide range of other features along with a pry bar. Analyze possible issues and obstacles to getting out of your daytime building and on your route home to determine if you need one. Keep in mind that some places will consider it a weapon.
Protects you from smoke, dust, and many biological transfers. Get one of the N95 fold-flat ones with an exhalation valve. If you’re worried about germs floating around in the air and you want to look slightly less paranoid, carry some of the anti-viral face masks.
You may have to climb, move rubble, or pick things up, so you’ll need to protect your hands with gloves. You can go with either basic leather work gloves or the mechanic/tactical type. You should also carry a pair of nitrile gloves, in case you have to deal with a biological disaster, like an epidemic.
Goggles provide protection for your eyes from smoke, dust, bodily fluids, et cetera and can also be useful in the rain or snow (especially if you wear glasses). Get a pair with indirect venting. I put my gloves and filter mask inside the goggles and wra rubber band around them.
Small Convex Mirror
This mirror is useful for checking around corners for any potential threats before exposing yourself or for checking if you’re being followed. You can find a side-view mirror stick-on type for a few dollars at almost any store that has an auto parts section.
Since you never know when you may need to operate at night in a city without power, a flashlight to read your map and check those dark corners could be critical. I recommend one that uses AAA batteries (small size), offers a low and high mode, and produces at least 120 lumens. You can find them for anywhere from $15 to hundreds of dollars. Don’t forget to include some spare batteries, and to check it once a month.
I’m a huge fan of headlamps, since they let you throw light wherever you’re looking without having to use your hands. This can be especially useful if you need both hands to dress a wound on yourself in the dark. Get one that has specs similar to your flashlight (batteries, modes, and lumens). The Olight model I pointed to also has a red light mode to help preserve your night vision.
For repairs, carry some paracord and 10’ or so of 1” Gorilla Tape rolled up on a small dowel or in a flat pack. You can do emergency repairs to your bag, shoes, et cetera that might make a difference in getting home safely.
Food & Water
This may not be necessary for a short trip, but a few snack bars might be useful if your blood sugar starts getting low. Also, clean water can be used for washing out wounds or clearing debris out of your eyes or mouth. A full metal water bottle with a paracord lanyard or large carabiner attached also makes a pretty effective swinging club in an emergency.
If you wear glasses or contacts, include a spare set of eyewear in your bag in case you lose or break your primary pair. Get your current prescription from your optometrist and order an inexpensive backup pair from Walmart or an online site, like ZenniOptical.
Your poncho doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something to keep you dry in case it rains during your journey home. You can stock one of those inexpensive plastic disposable ones, since it only needs to survive for one trip. However, a decent one can be useful for many other situations and will last a lot longer.
I’ve saved the best (and most difficult) for last. The various business, school, city, county, state, and federal rules and regulations regarding firearms and other self-defense weapons can be complex and incredibly restrictive. But, if there’s any way for you legally and safely to carry a concealed handgun, I’d highly recommend doing so. Cities can be dangerous even in the best of times. If people think the rules are about to go out of the window due to a disaster, things will probably quickly turn into a free-for-all. If you can’t carry a firearm, try to at least carry a decent pepper spray device and several reloads. A stun gun could also be a viable option, but it requires close contact to be effective. An expandable baton could be a good choice, since you can use one if you can swing a club. Whatever you end up with, make sure you get some training and practice using it.
All of this will fit into a fairly small bag. This whole kit can be put together gradually over a period of weeks or months for around $200, not including the handgun/weapon. Make sure you practice using and are comfortable with everything in your GHB.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some skills necessary to survive the trek home.
- 1 – Surviving in an Urban Environment- Part 1, 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 two 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.