Urban survival skills are about knowing what to expect when SHTF happens in a city, what skills you need, and what to do in the first 24 hours and beyond.
If the power grid in your city went offline, what would you do? Probably not reach for the fridge – at least not for too long.
In an urban situation, there are so many things to take account of and deal with when your life is on the line.
Do you know what to prioritize?
Thankfully, it really isn’t as overwhelming as it seems. By identifying the essentials you’ll be able to tackle the the vast majority of the unknown.
In this article, we cover the basic requirements you need so (hopefully) you won’t have to worry about what to do when the SHTF.
What To Expect
In an urban environment, there will be many first responders and emergency personnel to lend a hand. You won’t have to do it alone, and many strangers may be by your side to form a temporary survival group.
Cell towers will be overloaded and useless for calls, texting, and internet. The streets will be chaos, don’t risk them unless you have no choice.
If you’re at home and out of danger, barricade the entrance and bunker down. Keep the lights off and stay away from windows.
If you must escape
These are general guidelines and must be taken with a grain of salt. There are a million variables and every situation has unique aspects that will direct your actual decisions. If the city is full of riots or a dirty bomb has went off, your situation will be different than if a hurricane has hit.
Generally speaking however this is what you can expect in a large scale emergency in an urban environment, such as the one that occurred on 9/11.
In either case, your goal is to a. get to emergency responders that can safely take care of your injuries or get you out of harms way, or b. get the hell out of dodge as quickly and as far as possible. You should give it all you have to get to safety before night falls.
1. In the first hour you (or your group) will be on your own. Do not expect any help, first responders are still deploying and things will be too hectic to depend on getting help. This is why you read these articles. This is your D-Day, it’s time to practice what you know.
2. The lucky ones who are on the outskirts or near areas where emergency personnel deploy should be relatively safe after three hours. Even on foot with chaos all around you could make it a good couple of miles away from ground zero.
3. The first 12 hours will still be chaos, but there will be a method to the madness where emergency responders have set up. They will be pockets of sanity amid the disaster.
4. The first 24 hours will see things calming down and shifting gears to locate victims as quickly as possible. Priority will be given to the most injured and uninjured will be left to fend for themselves and given some direction as to where to go for additional help.
5. Unless you are trapped in a building or under rubble, within 72 hours things will have calmed down enough to almost seem like nothing has happened. Cell towers may still be damaged or overloaded and seeking emergency help such as at a hospital will still be about impossible, but you should be able to locate friends and family or find a vehicle that can take you far enough away without much trouble.
Identifying The Must Have Items
Focus on the must-haves for survival and know what to prioritize, then everything you need to beat the odds in an urban survival situation are pretty obvious.
When everything goes wrong you are definitely not going to be needing that Xbox or makeup kit. Instead, you have to catalog your possessions and make fast decisions on what is required for your survival and what isn’t.
Sometimes it’s easier to take into account what personal items you need to be able to survive compared to what items you don’t need. When taking stock of what you own and what goes and what stays, start with the basics and work your way out.
Everyone needs clothing, and depending on your environment, your choices in the closet could vary. But it’s safe to say, regardless of your surroundings, that your party dress or your set of bow ties will never be useful.
Instead, focus on gathering rugged clothing that can take wear and tear. For example, jeans make an excellent pair of heavy duty pants to protect your legs. But be careful, when selecting your wardrobe there’s a fine line between just enough and too much.
Dress in layers too, this way you can add or subtract to maintain body heat.
Outside of your wearable items, do you own anything else that could be important to survival? Make a mental note of the items that you have that could potentially be useful or valuable.
Bar soap, hand sanitizer, baby formula….
While your home entertainment sound system needs to be scrapped, a small portable emergency radio is worth keeping. Even something as simple as a small notebook and a pencil might be a useful form of communication and could be difficult to find elsewhere.
Weapons are obviously desirable. But even if you don’t own a handgun, other items are better than nothing when in a pinch. Have a steak knife? Grab that. A letter opener? Eeh.. better than nothing.
When breaking down what you need, you’ll have to compromise on items if you don’t have the best alternative. This is why it’s important to prepare now.
Know The Three Necessities
If you can find reliable sources for food, water and shelter, then it’s safe to say you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of survivors. Finding these three essentials in a survival situation is always difficult, but thankfully an urban setting is fairly abundant in all three.
Hopefully you could bring a few bottles. Searching storefronts and homes may be dangerous, but they often have some source of water. Ideally, packaged water is the best because its clean. However, you need to be able to improvise.
Water from open sources, such as spigots, faucets or even rivers could be usable but it’s imperative you know the water is safe. For example, they could be contaminated with asbestos dust if a building has been destroyed nearby.
Thankfully, purification is relatively easy but does require a filter or some way to purify it. Your best bet is a small and simple water filter such as the Lifestraw.
Another option is iodine. If you have a tincture with 2% iodine and 47% alcohol, you will be able to effectively clean non-chemically contaminated water. Eight drops are the general baseline per gallon of water.
However, if those items are not available, boiling the water is an option but can be near impossible to find what you need (pot, wood, lighter or matches) in your situation.
This is much more a long term worry. You will be fine not to eat for a week, or even two. You may feel like death the first day or three but you will soon adjust. In a city, you are likely to be found before starvation unless you’re trapped in a building.
If you’re in a true long term SHTF situation, and you do not have the advantage of a stockpile of food, there are other options out there for you. Again, searching for food may be dangerous as hostiles are more than likely doing the same thing, but it isn’t an option.
After a couple of days, nearly any fresh food source will either be depleted or gone bad. Prioritize boxed and canned goods (but beware the weight of canned foods) and food items that have a lengthy shelf life.
You still have to eat smart, or at least smart enough. Know the caloric ratios, food with a small weight to high caloric ratio is desirable. You want to be consuming the highest amount of calories per bite to stay healthy under dangerous situations.
Additionally, fats and proteins are must-haves. Both those attributes will fill you up faster as well as give you more energy than what carbohydrates could accomplish.
Some example foods that hold these important traits: jerky, beans, nuts, peanut butter and fish to name a few.
Again, for a short term emergency your own home or a storefront may be good enough shelter. If you have to bug out, you can likely find enough abandoned buildings to sleep in for a day or two until you can rescued.
If it’s a long term situation, your home will still be the best first option for a shelter, but if you have to leave you need a plan to escape and know the route to take.
If for some reason you’ve decided to stay instead of escaping the city, abandoned buildings will be your best shelters.
Staying below the radar is important to maintaining your location. If people discover where you live and that you may have useful items for survival, then it probably won’t be too long until you have some really awful house guests.
You need a place that will keep you warm, dry, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It should be rain and windproof, but if you’re going to have a fire you need some ventilation. You may never find a spot that fits all those attributes, but the more criteria it fits the better it will be for you.
Identify areas where others are least likely to look for you and try and develop a shelter there. Additionally, just because you think your safe doesn’t always mean you are. Hide your important items in or right outside your shelter so at a glance it doesn’t seem valuable to anyone.
Also, when traveling to and fro, make sure you aren’t being watched or followed. Develop alternative routes to and from your shelter and take a different one every time, no exceptions.
Become A Medic
When things go wrong and you or a family member becomes injured, can you perform basic first aid?
You don’t have to have a PhD to be useful when someone is hurt. Understanding simply how to clean and bind a wound may be all it takes to save someone’s life.
Cleaning A Wound
Immediately flush the wound as soon as you can. Infections can be deadly, and without properly clearing the wound of potential bacteria or pathogens, things could go from bad to worse.
Using antiseptics or hard chemicals are not suitable and could make things worse. However, milder solutions such as a saline solution of salt water works well. Additionally, diluted, mild soap in warm water works too, then flush with sterile water.
Carefully cleaning the wound does not always mean the chance of infection is gone. Check back to make sure there is no odd coloring around the wound and, depending on the situation, re-cleaning the wound later may help.
Puncture wounds will need more advanced medical care asap, including shots. You could have internal bleeding and not even know.
Wrapping A Wound
Binding a wound looks entirely different depending on where it is located on the body. Extremities are usually easier to wrap, but nearly any wound on the body can be properly covered.
If proper bandages are not available to you, strips off shirts or pants can work just as well. Do not bind a bandage too tightly, that may constrict circulation as well as excessively impede movement.
Once you’ve wrapped a wound, check back on it often and change the bandage multiple times a day. It is also important that the wound gets fresh air for a couple of minutes as well.
Bandages can be used to support sprains or even broke bones. Having a supply of bandages or makeshift bandages, such as a t-shirt, on hand at all times is important to remember.
When in a survival situation, taking into consideration these basics will get you off to a good start. Having the proper mindset and identifying the necessities you need, hopefully stored in advance, is crucial.
Your first priority should be to either hunker down or bug out, so think about the variables and make the call quickly.
Most all urban survival situations will resolve themselves in 2-3 days, but if you find yourself in a long term SHTF situation, having a clear game plan of developing secure sources of food and water is a top priority for survival. Shelter, too, cannot be overlooked and must be addressed.
Finally, being able to take care of yourself or others if injured is just as vital a skill to know.
You may never know when something might go wrong, but knowing these key elements to urban survival will put you a cut ahead of everyone else.