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Killer Urban Survival Tips

NOTE: This article has been updated with more urban tips for your survival.
Since most prepping advice is focused on wilderness survival (due to the large amount of people living in the countryside who are interested), city dwellers are a little left out when it comes to no-fluff urban advice.

This is exactly why I wrote this article… to give you some of the best urban survival tips out there. The list isn’t by far exhaustive but it should give you some fantastic ideas on what to do when SHTF if you’re trapped in a town or a city.

Note: I’ve done my best to only include tips that are relevant to urban scenarios that are not always mentioned in general/rural survival articles.

Rent a place close to where you work

When something happens, you’re either going to bug in or out. If you’re renting, why not move as close to work as possible, preferably minutes away (by foot)? You’ll not only be able to get home quickly but you’ll also save money on gas because you won’t be driving that much.

Keep in mind that public transportation could stop working, could be overcrowded, or, in case of social unrest, could become unsafe for you to use.

Know all the routes to get out of your city…

…or any city you happen to be in when SHTF. The main ones are probably going to be jammed with everyone trying to evacuate. Find out what the secondary routes are because you might have to use them. Better yet, do drills with your family and take a different one every time just to familiarize yourself with them.

worm farming

At the first sign of a blackout or power outage, start hoarding water.

A lot of preppers scare us with empty shelves when SHTF. But let’s consider the fact of a power outage or an extended blackout. Most sheeple will expect things to get back to normal in a few hours, leaving you with the option of stockpiling as much food and water as you can.

Besides the bottled water you can get at the supermarket, make sure you fill up your bath tub, sink and every bucket in the house with water. Do it even if you think the blackout will not last for more than a day, it’s good practice.

Do NOT engage in battle

Things escalate a lot quicker in a city due to the large amount of people, panic and confusion. Since you probably have a lot less food, water, guns and ammo than rural preppers, you can’t really afford to deplete them by fighting for some nonsense reason. Plus, you might wake up outnumbered and put your life in danger.

The only time you should fight back is when someone’s entered in your apartment with you inside (and even then, if you can, a much better alternative is to run away).

Be creative when it comes to finding food and water

The city’s bodies of water are going to be full of food and water…. and you might have to use those resource.

You’re gonna have to filter that water, those ducks need to be killed, plucked and cooked, possibly without any electricity.

If this is something you do not want to do, your only option is to scavenge places no one else will look. Think abandoned restaurants, gyms, drug stores, vending machines and so on. Pay extra attention in case anyone else might be after the same resource. Never gamble with your life for a bottle of water.

Use abandoned train tracks to bug out

Cities have plenty of railroads going in and out and most of them are probably not going to be that crowded anyway. You should have detailed maps of showing you where each of them leads to.

Always keep your doors and windows locked

30% burglaries happen because of doors and windows that are left open, and are just too tempting for thieves. Now imagine in a WROL (without the rule of law) situation. Make a habit of always locking them even if you’ll only be gone for a few minutes.

Rent Storage Space

This will allow you to stockpile more food and water stockpile for dark days.

Never sleep with the air conditioner on

In case of a fire, it will only allow smoke to propagate faster and decrease your chances of survival.

Don’t disturb your burglar!

If you come home only to find your place getting ransacked, don’t be a hero. Hide, run and call the police. If this is a post-SHTF situation, get a gun and, possibly, some help before going in there. The best thing to do, probably, is to let him or them leave and make sure you improve your home protection as soon as possible.

Be smart when installing a peephole

Make sure to install the peephole close to the side of the door that has the door knob. This way, you’ll be able to hide your body behind the wall and become less of a target in case the other guy has a gun.

Avoid crowded places

If you can, try to avoid malls and other crowded places. You never know when a terrorist decides to kill as many as he can. Do your shopping right after the mall opens or right before it closes. Better yet, do your shopping somewhere else.

Always park your car in a spot that’s well lit

This will make it less likely for someone to try to break in.

Use the shadows of trees and poles while crossing the street.

This is somewhat the opposite of the previous tip. If you don’t want to be seen or noticed, particularly when you need to cross a street, shadow is your friend.

Keep an apartment dog

A dog can alert you of a burglar trying to break in or worse, one who is already moving around inside your apartment. It may also scare off the burglar.

Carry Handkerchief or a Bandana

Always carry a handkerchief with you when going out, you might need to protect yourself from smoke or tear gas.

Don’t let your walkie-talkies and guns show

If you do, it’s only a matter of time before someone is going to want them. This goes double for your gun. In fact, you shouldn’t even allow the tip of the gun to show from under your shirt as it will be easy to guess that you have a firearm.

Check your apartment for hidden cameras and bugs

If you know critical things that might interest other people, it won’t hurt to periodically check your apartment for microphones and cameras. Check under tables, beds, inside flower pots, couch cushions – basically everywhere.

Also, keep in mind that your smartphone and even your smart TV can send audio and video footage. If you need to talk in private, do it in person, preferably away from your smartphone.

Consider your workplace as a bug-out location

Could you bug-in at work? If you’re working downtown, that’s probably the worst place to bug in. But if your office is a more suitable location for bugging it, you might want to discreetly stockpile some stuff in your desk… just in case.

In fact, every friend’s or relative’s house can be a BOL in case of a personal emergency.

Scavenging Freight Trains

Well, if you live near the tracks or near the train station, you probably see a lot of trains passing by every day. Some of those freight trains may have valuable food inside that may save your family’s life when store shelves will be empty.

Have an Everyday Carry Kit (EDC)

Having an EDC doesn’t mean you have to carry a backpack with you every day. EDC refers to everything you have in your pockets, purse or laptop bag that could save your life in an urban critical event. Besides cash (which you might trade in a riot to save your life), you should at least have a folding knife that might help you fend off an attacker or escape if you get tied up with rope or duct tape. A bic lighter, a bottle of water, a flashlight, multitool, and even a small portable radio will fit nicely in a laptop bag or purse.

Your car’s bug-out bag is mandatory

The stuff you pack in your car should help you in a variety of scenarios. Consider some extra fuel, a chainsaw (to help you cut fallen trees), food, water, blankets, flashlights, shovels and so on.

Have one, if not several bug out locations.

No, you don’t need 3 or 4 cabins in the woods, all filled to the brim with supplies. If you have one, that’s more than enough but don’t let the definition of a BOL fool you. Any place that can keep you safe in an emergency can be considered a bug out location: a friend’s house, that of a relative in a different state, a piece of land where you have a small tool shed and abandoned places around town that you know are uninhabited (though you’ll have to be weary post-SHTF because that might not be the case anymore).

Mark your urban locations on a map, plus all the various routes to get there.

Never stay in hotel rooms above 2nd floor.

In case of a fire, it’s going to be tough for you to evacuate.

Have at least one alternative survival weapon ready to protect you

We mentioned folding knives as part of your everyday carry kit but, if you’re a lady, you surely have extra room in your purse for things such as pepper spray, a taser or a stun gun that don’t really fit comfortably in one’s pockets.

Do your due diligence before moving into a new neighborhood.

There are good neighborhoods and then there are bad neighborhoods. You might have to pay a little extra to live in a better neighborhood. At least you’ll decrease your chances of being attacked in the middle of the night as you get home. Just keep in mind that, just because you move into a “good neighborhood”, this doesn’t mean nothing will ever happen.

Go solar.

There are ways to harvest free small amounts energy even if you live in a tiny apartment which might turn out to be life savers in a long-term power outage.

There are other gadgets that work with solar energy such as those garden lights a lot of people have. It doesn’t hurt to have one even if you don’t have a garden. You just charge it on your balcony during the day and use it during the night.

Make sure your kids all have get home bags

When disaster strikes, chances are they won’t be at home. Make sure they all have some emergency items stuffed in their school backpacks… just in case.

Have a second way of getting out of the apartment.

Fire escape ladders are particularly useful if you’re living above ground floor. Plus, you need to make sure the ladder is near the window and that nothing prevents it from being quickly open (such as furniture).

Have means to overcome obstacles as you’re bugging out.

Be prepared for obstacles when you bug out. The first thing that comes to mind are fallen trees. They can be everywhere after a hurricane or tornado. A chainsaw or an ax will do the job but a big hammer may also prove useful in some scenarios.

Have means of entertaining yourself during a power outage.

Pack some form of entertainment such as board games, books, or a Kindle and solar charger.

Cities provide you with lots of things you can burn to keep warm

No need to freak out about freezing to death. If you’re stuck outside, you can find plenty of newspapers, cardboards, junk mail and wood chips, to burn and keep yourself warm. Use a paper log maker to compress paper and make it burn longer, keeping you warm for a longer time. (Useful tip: shred the paper first, it will compress better.)

Looters are going to be hard to distinguish from regular folks.

Rule of thumb: trust no one. Some of these looters may be decent people who’re only doing this because they have mouths to feed. So do you, so be extremely suspicious of anyone approaching you for whatever reason.

Expect to abandon your car.

If you need to escape a riot and you have your car nearby, it might be safer to abandon it and go on foot. Better to deal with a broken windshield than with a broken leg.

Know how to protect from tear gas.

To minimize the effects of tear gas, wrap a bandanna soaked in vinegar or lemon juice around your mouth. In times of social unrest, tear gas almost always used by law enforcement to disperse angry mobs.

Avoid public transportation.

This is particularly useful during riots because you might wake up with a few gang members on the seat next to you at the next stop. However, if the situation requires that you bug out ASAP and a bus is the fastest way to do that, you should probably take it.

Don’t make a fashion statement.

Camouflage, urban camo and black hoodies are all no-nos. You don’t want to be mistaken for a prepper. Jeans and a t-shirt are a good start but if you really want to blend it, think about ways of becoming a gray man.

Distinguish rubber bullets from real ones.

If the weapon has a container that looks more like a bag than a regular magazine, that weapon is using rubber bullets.

Don’t drive like a maniac.

Keep a clear head when driving, don’t drive erratically. If you heard gunshots or reports of them from the media, drive slowly and stay alert. In a riot situation, drive slowly so as not to attract attention, and increase speed gradually as you get farther away.

Keep away from windows.

If bugging in is what you decided, you must keep away from windows at all times. Resist the temptation to see what’s happening; turn on the radio or the TV instead.

Don’t let your baby give you away.

When bugging in with your baby, move him to the most soundproof room of the apartment to avoid him making any noise that could attract unwanted visitors.

Don’t forget your mindset exercises.

Things like visualizations, improving your self-confidence and putting yourself in adverse situations are often overlooked. Let’s face it: you won’t know how you will react when society breaks loose so, unless you’re willing to fly to a war-zone to find out, your only choices are to, 1, see everything with your mind’s eye and  2, to do drills and practice.

Training your mind is of particular importance to urban scenarios where there are more people. This means more looters, more guns, more dangers and events happening with lightning speed.

Move out of the city.

This is probably the hardest thing to do but if you’re really concerned about TEOTWAWKI, permanently moving somewhere in the mountains is your safest bet.

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About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.

6 comments

  1. good post. I am glad more preppers are putting up articles about us city preppers. I am not here by choice but by circumstances I can no longer control and I will have to stay here for the long term. I am learning lots of good ideas. thanks.

    • Glad to have you on board, Maggi. There will be lots of urban articles coming.

    • Maggi,

      Join the club, I too suddenly found myself stuck in the city without other options available. I’m hoping that between me and my little dog we can make the best of the situation together. Hang in there, we’ll make it!!!!

  2. It is good to have all of these ideas in mind. I live in the suburbs but travel a lot during work days, luckily it is all instate. You will never be able to honestly know where you will be should an event occur. It is best to have possibilities available to you for most situations.

  3. Don’t disturb your burglar!

    In a SHTF just let them come outside and then drop them, that way you avoid further damage to the property AND get your stuff back, along with whatever they have also.
    If needed move the bodies out of sight of those who may be distressed by seeing them, when it comes to where to put them, be sure they won’t cause any type of contamination to your resources, and just leave them. Bodies break down quickly in most environments, any animals attracted by them can be taken for food.

    Harsh I know, but also pragmatic

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