You don’t need to look very far back in history to find horrifying examples of the carnage inflicted upon civilian populations when cities are overtaken by war.
When war physically reaches the doorsteps of civilians, it is typically the civilian populations that suffer more than anybody.
Since cities are the very worst environments on Earth to fight in, it is definitely in your best interest most of the time (if you are living in a city ravaged by conflict) to get out while the getting is good.
Unfortunately it is not a simple thing. War is complex and the motivations of those persecuting it are equally complex.
Allegiances shift, rules and codes of conduct get bent or broken and tragedies happen due to fear, hatred, exhaustion and good, old-fashioned human error.
Learning to read and understand these variables will be essential if you want to get out of a city under threat of war in one piece.
If your plan is to simply grab your backpack, hop in the car and take off for the border you will probably be rudely surprised, if you live that long.
Survival is always a thinking man’s game, and at no time is this truer than when it is time to get out of dodge while the getting is good.
If you are playing checkers while everyone else is playing chess, you will likely be facing a negative outcome.
In today’s article, we will offer you some insightful and hard-earned advice for making it out of a war-torn city alive.
Table of Contents
War at Home
Aleppo, Syria. Novi Sad, Serbia. Chongqing, China. In recent years and decades past, these are just a few of the many cities who saw their civilians suffer unutterably when war reached out and swallowed them.
It is easy when conflict is far away to think that war is just a grand scale game of maneuver at one level or another for militaries, and that civilians predominately just putter away behind the lines trying to live their lives as they always have or contribute to the war effort in some productive capacity.
Unfortunately that is just not true. Throughout time and history, civilians will see the devil come to collect his due when war quite literally comes home.
Cities are, after all, strategic targets: they are typically situated along major routes of transit be they overland or water. They host major airports, and large industrial installations.
And, of course, they contain within their warrens of streets and buildings enormous masses of people who can contribute in various ways to the prosecution of war.
Sometimes, the people may even be, sadly, the target of the military action, often witnessed in civil wars and wars of ideological difference.
But no matter why a city is finding itself smack in the middle of armed conflict on a major scale, civilians that are able to get out and get away are generally advised to do so. In all but the most low intensity conflicts things will progressively get worse for people inside a city.
First swarms of troops and armored vehicles will lock down the city and set up checkpoints. Rolling firefights will see bullets and explosive munitions used profligately.
As things grind on larger vehicles and contingents of troops will be brought to bear, and in support of the combatants on the ground airstrikes and artillery will level buildings and devastate entire neighborhoods.
It is also far from out of the question that, in the gravest extreme, strategic weapons will be deployed, among them chemical, biological and nuclear doomsday weapons.
Aside from direct threats to life and limb resulting from bullets and bombs, civilians will have much else to fear, including a lack of essential resources like medical care, food and clean water.
Disease and sickness always accompany war wherever it goes, and hot on its heels will come starvation. Cities are entirely dependent on shockingly fragile mechanisms of commerce to supply them.
Vast armies of workers and intricate utility infrastructures must be in perfect order, and manned for things like electricity, clean water and sewage service to function.
Remove one or any of them, and cities can quickly turn into charnel repositories of carnage.
Get Out Alive
Getting out of a war-torn city alive is dependent upon many factors. There are so many variables, so many permutations and ways that you might find a war on the near horizon that collating all possible scenarios would be nothing short of a doorstopper book.
A better approach, especially for those who don’t have all the time in the world to dedicate to the subject, is to focus on principles.
No matter where you live, no matter what kind of war you are facing and why it is being fought and by whom, there are certain factors that are universally applicable.
Determining, evaluating and then acting upon those factors at the instance is what will likely make the difference between success and life, or failure and death when the time comes to get the heck out of there.
And very likely you should get out if at all possible. Civilians tend to die in droves if they stay inside a war-torn city, especially as the war drags on and the conflict grows nastier and nastier.
Civilians could be shot in a case of mistaken identity, blown up as collateral damage, deliberately targeted for reprisal or as an outlet for vented rage by belligerents.
They will be preyed upon by thugs, starved, beaten, burned or even subjected to deliberate persecution or pogroms.
The idea is to get out and get away. Get away and then keep going. The more distance you can put between yourself and the actual fighting the better. The longer you remain or delay the greater the chance of injury or death.
Practical Advice for Escaping a War-Torn City
The following factors in various categories for your consideration are not presented in any kind of hard order.
Depending on your timetable, where you live, the environment, the participants in the war and all kinds of other variables, they may take on greater or lesser significance to your efforts at escaping.
There is definitely a bit of art that goes along with the science, if you want to call it that.
You’ll need to gather information about the situation, and accurate information at that, in order to inform your decisions will be very great when the time comes to escape from the city.
Acting on bad information, or information that has since grown stale and is no longer accurate, could see you and your loved ones killed out of hand.
But, as is always the case in attempting to gather or ascertain that information, you may expose yourself to more risk.
The trick is in balancing what information you can gather safely enough that is the most relevant to informing your decision.
This is far easier said than done, since most people will, thankfully, not have very much call to practice these sorts of activities for real.
Now, on to the list.
Is City Under, Nominally Under or Out of Control?
This factor more than many will determine how much information you can get, its veracity and how quickly you can get it in order to make a good decision on when and where to go when the time comes to flee.
If the country’s national and local government are still more or less under control of the city and attempting to take care of the civilians, you are more than likely able to rely on what information they are telling you concerning safe places and safe routes, though not always.
But as governments start to lose their grip, either from panic, abdication or casualties this will give way towards the rumor mill filling in more and more of your perception.
Things could be a lot worse than they seem, or they could be better. It will be hard to say without clapping eyes on something yourself.
Lastly, when things go completely out of control, either through prolonged fighting or mounting damage, with the government packing it in and heading for the hills this will mean that the citizens are left to their fate. This is when chaos will likely reign.
But you may be dealing with a new “government” in the form of occupiers who quickly brought the city to heel as they chased out the existing government.
That will certainly be a change of pace for you, but depending on who is lording over the city it might not necessarily affect your plans for escape.
It will, though, definitely mean you are dealing with people who are “the others”: they might not be anything like you and yours, including your previous government, at all and you’ll have to plan accordingly.
Avoid Conflict Sites
In many wars combatants will oftentimes get locked in the battle over a particular area: a certain area of the city, a particular district, major thoroughfares suitable for moving massive amounts of men and material, etc.
The conflict might settle into a sort of tempo, with fights happening only during the daytime, predominately at night, round-the-clock or even seemingly randomly.
It is imperative you avoid moving and traveling during times when battle is at its sharpest, and always steer clear of areas or routes that are sharply contested.
Even during lulls or down time, when neither side is interested in fighting, you could be mistaken for a combatant of one side or the other, and targeted out of hand just for being there.
Similarly, you definitely want to get as far away from serious strategic targets like armories, police stations and other installations of importance and do so as fast as you can.
The chances that these places will be targeted either for destruction or for capture are disproportionately high compared to other buildings.
The entire situation will be dangerous enough without you wandering through a place that is likely to center you in someone’s crosshairs.
Leaving Earlier is Better
This is another general rule of thumb that will rarely let you down. When conflict is in the region and especially when it draws close to the city you want to leave as soon as humanly possible.
Ideally, if you are able, you want to get out and head in the opposite direction of approaching belligerents well before the first shots are even fired in defense of the city.
But even after the conflict has kicked off properly “in your backyard” you’re almost always better off getting away earlier before things progress.
Plainly stated as the war drags on you will have less options and anyone who gains control of the city will cement that control even further; that means more checkpoints, fewer routes that are not watched or otherwise monitored and tempers that grow increasingly short.
All of the above will decrease your chances of successfully escaping and getting away alive.
It is hard to calculate, but you might be better off taking a greater short-term risk to get out quick and get away clean versus waiting for better opportunities that might never arrive, trapping you in a city being bombed to rubble or systemically purged.
NGOs? (Non-Government Organizations)
One of the best options for civilians who are about to become refugees may be helpful NGOs operating in and around the city.
NGO, an acronym meaning non-government organizations, can be established in conflict zones for all kinds of reasons, and found performing tasks from assessment to reporting, rendering civilian aid and assistance, or even providing security and everything in between.
Generally speaking, and exempting NGOs who are there specifically in support of offensive or defensive objectives for either side, the reliable presence of NGOs often indicate that belligerents are more or less playing by the rules, and with a certain amount of respect for the rules of warfare, since these organizations are often loathe to put their people directly in harm’s way otherwise.
If you’re able to make contact with any NGOs that are there specifically for civilian support and aid, you might get an easy ride out of the city, and be on your way with little fuss or danger.
You might though potentially be moved into a refugee camp in the area. Despite the horror stories you sometimes hear about these installations, they’re oftentimes the best chance for civilians to stay alive after fleeing a city facing major violence.
Even if you cannot employ their help to get out of the city directly, they’re usually good sources of up-to-date information on the greater situation, information that you can use in your own planning to make informed decisions about how, when and where you will escape, as well as what you might be up against.
Information about the major players is always valuable in these situations.
Route and Transit Considerations
Assess Routes for Viability
In general when the time comes to escape a war-torn city you want to take the largest and fastest route that is going in the direction that you need to go.
Smaller roads and paths are going to be slower, and they are going to clog faster. They are also much easier to block, be it from damage, accident or the setting of deliberate obstacles and barricades.
You don’t always have to jump on a major highway or freeway when fleeing a city, but they are usually the best choice if they are accessible and headed in the right direction.
No matter which way you go and what route you take, you can rest assured that they will all be completely jam-packed with people, and gridlock will be increasingly likely once the “starting gun” goes off, and people start running for the hills.
You must be prepared for this, either by jumping off for a detour before you get completely immobilized or even striking out on foot with what you can carry.
If your plan is to leave on foot from the get-go, especially if going cross-country, understand what effects weather and season will have on the viability of these routes. Failing to account for this will likely see you get in big trouble.
Are Any Routes Restricted?
Prior to embarking on your travels, you may learn that certain routes are restricted, either by your own government and military, non-government actors or enemy combatants.
This can happen for a whole host of reasons but, generally, you just need to know which routes are specific no-gos.
You may discover a certain highway or stretch of highway that has been taken over and is being guarded by military forces, forces that in their tense and excited state may light up any vehicles they see that are not wearing the livery or camouflage of their compatriots.
Another route could simply be full with critical traffic heading counter to the road’s normal flow of traffic.
Many cities border rivers or rivers split them in half. Invariably there will be bridges spanning these rivers and bridges of all kinds are among the most popular choke points targeted and secured by militaries since they are so vital for easy transit.
If a bridge or tunnel is being secured by any military that is something you definitely need to know.
It does not mean you will not be able to escape via that route, but it will certainly factor into your planning since it means you will have to deal with a checkpoint of some sort. More on that in a bit.
A rat trail is a colloquial term for any discrete and often elicit pathway used to move goods and people in and out of a place without anyone noticing.
Rat trails can take many forms, and, in typical settings, are just backcountry paths, hunting trails or even old logging or mining roads but they might be purpose made, discreet roads, tunnels or footpaths made for trafficking in gray – or black market material.
Chances are if you are a good guy or gal who lives in a city, you won’t even know where these routes are, but if you cultivate the right friends and acquaintances you might learn where one or two are, and hang on to that factoid for a rainy day.
This is a secret that could save your life when the time comes to flee a city besieged by war.
Keep that information under your hat, keep it secret and shut up about it, not only because you don’t want a mass of panicked humanity descending on this priceless opportunity for you to escape, but also because snitches get stitches.
In normal, peaceful times if you should come across what you think might be a good rat trail during your rambles and travels, make a note of it.
Follow the path and see where it goes. Keep check on it periodically to see if it remains viable. This could be your ace in the hole when the time comes to flee.
Alternate Routes and Egress
Your escape methodology is not limited to on-foot or by car, truck or SUV. You might take a boat, a raft or even a canoe down a river or out to sea.
Aside from the obvious risks of being completely exposed out on the water, you can generally depend on the fact that waterways will not be as tightly controlled or patrolled compared to roads, highways and bridges.
There is always the chance you could be accosted from the shore or from the air, but that is an assessment you will have to make under the circumstances.
Trains are another option assuming they are still running, though the strictly predictable nature of their travel means they are disproportionately likely to be blockaded or to encounter checkpoints.
If you know how to fly or can call in a favor with someone who can you might take an airplane or helicopter out of the city, arriving at your destination in no time.
This must be done with the greatest caution, however, since airports and airstrips are among the first facilities to be shut down, taken over or targeted by governments and military forces.
Also, keep in mind that any modern military force with air power will seek to dominate the air as their opening move in controlling the battlespace.
Compared to any ground vehicle aircraft stick out like a neon sign and there are very, very few of them moving around compared to the aforementioned ground traffic, especially civilian vehicles.
This means that they are disproportionately likely to be targeted for destruction in a case of mistaken identity because of an overabundance of caution or just for kicks.
All manner of high-caliber rapid-fire guns will make short work of any civilian aircraft that operates at low altitude, and this is not even taking into account all manner of specialized missiles and artillery designed for swatting airplanes and helicopters out of the sky.
It goes without saying that your chances of surviving being targeted by such ordinance are essentially zero.
Beyond these alternative conveyances, there are other means of moving about on foot that are likely to escape notice, especially during the opening days of conflict in and around the city.
Underground maintenance tunnels, sewers, subways or potentially even mine shafts can provide hidden and relatively secure ways to move around compared to traveling above ground in any capacity.
Keep them in mind, and if it is possible to discreetly scout them before embarking you should do so. Don’t forget that these routes are also more likely to be seized by criminal enterprises that will still have work to do in the city.
Fuel / Energy Concerns
When you consider how much idling you will have to do, in all likelihood, if you are escaping by vehicle you need to make sure you have enough fuel to permit your vehicle from running empty and being abandoned on the side of the road with all of your stuff in it.
Do you have additional gas cans to carry it? Is fuel even available at local stations? You had better believe the shadow of war will have an effect on all kinds of commerce, the buying and selling of gasoline and diesel not the least among them.
But let us say in the course of your planning you know you will have to stop to refuel somewhere along the way. Where will you stop? What guarantee do you have of getting that fuel?
What guarantee do you have of getting it even in a timely fashion? Chances are you and thousands of other people have the exact same plan and you need to be planning for that!
If you’re planning to escape on foot it is time to get very serious about your personal fitness assessment and the fitness assessment of your family and anyone else that will be traveling in your group with you.
Any group can only go as fast as its slowest member can travel, and travel as long as the weakest member can go. That is a fact. If you are not leaving anyone behind that must factor into your plans.
This means that route planning on foot is extraordinarily important since terrain that a young and fit man could handle will prove to be a severe test for any older child, and virtually impossible to traverse for the sick, infirm or elderly.
If your primary and alternate routes prove to be blocked or too dangerous, and your contingency route is impossible for certain members of your group, what will you do then?
Do you turn around and head home or start making some very grim decisions?
Dealing with Checkpoints
Checkpoints are a fixture of cities that are under military control, and traffic that is going in or coming out will be subject to stops, search and potentially seizure or even summary execution.
Moving through or otherwise avoiding checkpoints is where things get dicey.
They will always slow you down, and could potentially be one of the gravest threats that you face during your escape.
Who is Running the Checkpoints?
Don’t assume that just because there is a war on that one side or the other will be the ones running the checkpoints. The chances are definitely good, but what is most important is that you know who you’re dealing with.
Failure to know who you’ll be running into, and what will generally be expected of you could result in your death or detainment.
Broadly speaking any checkpoint will be manned by people with guns and often armored vehicles if you are dealing with a proper military.
That means that attempting to run or otherwise bust through the checkpoint is likely to result in your vehicle and everyone inside it being riddled with bullets, or scattered across a square 50 meter patch in a bunch of little pieces.
Trust me, the guys manning those tanks don’t get to light off the main guns very often and will relish the opportunity.
If you know you are coming up on checkpoints that are manned and organized by Western powers you can be reasonably sure that you will be treated equitably so long as you behave.
This is not to say you will be allowed through or that your goods will not be confiscated, but you probably will not be shot on sight.
However, as you go farther and farther down on the list of civilized world militaries and start to deal with dodgy powers or groups you will face increasing likelihood that you will be subjected to abuse, detainment or other mistreatment.
Any checkpoints that are run by criminals or paramilitary forces are also to be avoided at all costs.
In any kind of civil or ideological conflict allegiance will become a very big deal.
Expect that you’ll be asked to demonstrate or show proof of allegiance in order to pass, and if you cannot do that or the person running the checkpoints simply thinks you are “one of them” things are probably going to take a bad turn.
Detainment is then the very best you can expect. Also you should not count on saying you are neutral, because that is something the “other side” would definitely say…
Feeling this out is a very delicate thing and is not easy, especially if you’re not part of that world. Nonetheless, you should anticipate it and be prepared to do the best you can. Probably most important do not get caught in a lie at a checkpoint!
Cost of Passage and Bribes
If you want to escape from a city affected by war, it is going to cost you. No, it might literally cost you, as in cash money, or valuable goods.
It is common at checkpoints throughout the world in and near conflict zones for a toll to be paid, typically to the checkpoint commander whoever they are.
Whether or not this toll is for administrative fees, stamps, inspection fees and other typically made up bureaucratic racketeering or just an outright shakedown is really just a matter of perspective.
One thing you should definitely not do is lose your temper, blow up in indignation and start making a scene.
That is a surefire way to cut short your escape and instead end up in a cage or, if you piss off the wrong person, up against a wall or on your knees in a ditch.
Instead, understand this as just the cost of doing business. Be prepared for it, if not with cash then with items that have universal value the world over.
Precious metals for jewelry might be adequate substitutes, as could an expensive watch like a Rolex, although the proliferation of fakes might make this of questionable utility these days.
On the inside you can feel about this however you want, but on the outside try to take it as gracefully as possible.
The soldiers or fighters manning a checkpoint are likely not well paid, are probably sleep-deprived, stressed out, finally getting to do the thing they’ve trained a significant portion of their lives to do, and now they have the authority and the power to make your life difficult or even end it.
They have the guns. They make the calls. That is all you need to know. If you can pay up to move on then do it, just try to pay as little as possible since there may be another checkpoint down the road.
Wasta (pronounced like “wah-stuh”, not “way-stah”) is a term that is broadly unknown to westerners, except those who have spent a significant amount of time in the Middle East. Wasta loosely correlates in our culture to personal clout, the kind that says “I know a guy”.
In the Middle East, it functions very much as a sort of social currency and lubricant, and a currency that cannot be replaced with any other.
It is a combination of societal and family standing, prestige, nepotism and connections that can open doors and paths for you when nothing else can.
Wasta is the problem-solving “pull” you have in any given situation gained by having someone with you who can act as a go-between.
While the word, concept and the level at which it operates in society is endemic to the Middle East, similar concepts are not unknown in other cultures. Most of us are familiar with having doors open for us when in the company of certain people.
When somebody tries to get an “in” by dropping the “I know so-and-so” line in casual conversation, that is more or less wasta in action. If you fail to make progress or gain access to a place on account of not knowing the right people- you didn’t have wasta!
You should absolutely try to cultivate friends in high places: in governments, in militaries and in NGOs. Make friends with the mayor, with judges, with high-powered businessmen and with lawyers.
Even prominent regional families that can vouch for you or are highly respected are better than nothing.
If there is any way at all to meet up with them prior to your departure, or join their entourage and “baggage train” as they leave the city you should do this, as this will only increase your chances of getting away clean.
The more people you know that have a good opinion of you, the more likely you are to benefit from wasta which can get you clear of a conflict zone.
Consider a Coyote
Coyotes always crop up like weeds in and around conflict zones, eager to sell their dubious services to the desperate and wayward trying to get out of the line of fire.
Despite the negative connotation, you should not discount the option of locating and hiring a coyote to get you and yours out of the city, especially if things have settled into a total embargo or siege mentality with very little traffic coming in or getting out.
Coyotes, whatever their regional name might be in various parts of the world, specialize in getting people into or out of guarded and contested areas.
Part guide and part human smuggler, a good coyote will not only know the best routes in and out, but will have also assessed patrol times, located observation points, and will have perhaps even cultivated contacts in opposition forces that are looking to keep people in the city, and prevent them from crossing lines or borders.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that coyotes are all good or honorable people. Some of them are absolute scumbags that do not offer anything in the way of valuable service.
Instead, they fleece their “clients” for all they’re worth before abandoning them to their fate or, worse, they turn them over to authorities for a reward on the back end.
If you have little experience dealing with underworld characters, try to turn to a trusted friend who does have the experience, and can make a legitimate recommendation and introduction.
Maintain Low / No Threat Profile
This might be a bitter pill for American preppers, but it is one that you had better choke down all the same.
If you are fleeing an area experiencing active conflict between two major forces you absolutely, positively cannot look anything like a combatant under any conditions.
This is a surefire way to get your ass shot or blown up. You want to look like exactly what you are: a harmless, helpless civilian who is just trying to get out of town with his family and his life intact.
You start jocking up with web gear, long guns, tactical boots and other accoutrement that screams shooter, operator, three-percenter, prepper or any other B.S. you’re going to have a whole lot of bullets being inscribed with your name.
You don’t even want to be carrying a military-style backpack; everything about your demeanor and your appearance down to your shoes or boots must say civilian, and nothing else.
And don’t kid yourself about “business tactical” wear, either: Don’t wear your Merrells, don’t wear your 5.11 stuff nor any similar accoutrement.
That will immediately identify you to anyone on either side as somebody who is there to “do stuff” but is trying (unsuccessfully) to keep a low profile, and under the circumstances is still very likely to get you shot.
This applies to your vehicle too. Do you drive an aggressive-looking, lifted truck or SUV bedecked with lights and external cargo hardpoints? That kind of looks like a contractor vehicle, now that you mention it…
Maybe some pilot in an attack plane or gunship orbiting overhead is looking to dump ordinance before returning to base and mistakes you for a technical on the enemy team, vaporizing you and your family.
Perhaps it just makes you stand out for extra attention in the line of cars trying to get through the checkpoint.
Now, I am not saying you should not go armed. Just understand that being spotted carrying a weapon is about the worst thing that can happen to you in a warzone, and if weapons are turned up during a search or a frisk, you could be fast-tracking to problems.
I implore you: think this through. Now is not the time to play dress-up or show everyone how seriously patriotic you are or anything else unless you are planning on fighting.
Now is the time to survive, and if you want to do that you need to look as little like a gunhand or a potential threat as possible- your clothing, your equipment and your vehicle.
Be Wary of Other Refugees
It is a terrible thing to consider but you have no way to know what kind of stress other people are under, and how desperate they might become.
If you are walking or rolling out of town and appear well-equipped with food, water, fuel or just a running vehicle, that can make you a target for your fellow man, meaning the fellow citizens (or rather denizens) of your hometown.
You’ll see lots of folks in trouble, and an awful lot of people down on their luck and suffering. This will be a time when the broken-bird play will be deployed by muggers and highwaymen to terrible effect.
That woman with a child that you stop to help could just be bait that sees you and yours fleeced of absolutely everything you have and left on the side of the road to fend for yourselves. Feels bad…
I am not saying you should not attempt to help people in need. That is for you to decide. What I am advocating is that you have a long and serious talk with the person in the mirror, a real heart-to-heart, if you will.
You must decide ahead of time what you are willing to ignore and what you cannot ignore for the sake of your own family who is counting on you to see them through this.
If you want to stop and attempt to help every stray that crosses your path, God bless you.
But all the same you should be prepared for those who would prey on the naïveté of the Good Samaritan.
Buildings mean safety and danger when cities become battlegrounds. Safety, because it is almost always safer to be indoors vs. outdoors when conflict brews up.
Danger, because buildings are disproportionately likely to be damaged by major ordinance, and left on the verge of collapse.
There is a non-zero chance that due to traffic and other factors you might not be able to make it all the way out of the city on your initial attempt.
The urge to get in off the street when things start getting hairy or when you need to rest will be strong and is generally a good idea. But you must take care and use extra caution when entering any unknown building.
As mentioned above, the building could be left in a dangerous state of disrepair.
It could be booby-trapped by soldiers or combatants, and surprising them or inadvertently compromising their position will earn you a hail of gunfire for your carelessness.
You must use all your senses and pay attention to details that may tip you off that a given building is inhabited before you bet the farm on entering.
There’s one other strategy you should keep in mind. If you’re forced to leave a city on foot, if it is possible and you can do so with a fair degree of confidence you can move with greater safety by moving through buildings instead of on the street.
Moving building to building to building, no matter how you have to get through them, will keep you out of view, and shield you from gunfire and shrapnel to a degree.
It might be slow going, but if you have the time and are fairly confident that you will not blunder into a bad situation it is worth considering.
When in Doubt, Drone it Out
With the current state of drone technology today, it is almost inconceivable that somebody would not want to make use them for safety and security.
Especially when you’re trying to escape through a chaotic and largely unknown situation, the capability that a drone affords you is priceless.
They are so light and compact, not to mention affordable these days, that you should definitely obtain one and become proficient in flying it.
Probably a drone’s most useful feature for someone who is trying to escape a city is its ability to fly straight up.
This will let you see much farther and with greater clarity than you could, down at street level, and will easily let you check if major roads or thoroughfares are bristling with traffic, civilian or military, and determine if they are badly damaged or otherwise passable.
A drone can let you scout ahead a short distance, checking an intersection or peering into a building. A drone can even deliver written messages when you don’t want to chance moving.
Be warned, though, that drones operating close to ground level do attract a lot of attention, and will certainly attract gunfire, especially if they are hovering, or if the shooter is armed with a shotgun.
Due to the weaponization of commercial drones in various Middle East conflicts, you can expect most militaries to try and shoot the things down on sight.
So long as you’re not trying to use a drone in a particularly discreet or covert capacity you should be okay. Send it up, see what you need to, bring it down and stow it. Done.
Of course drones are power-hungry devices, and your access to electricity is probably going to be sharply limited after you start your escape. That is okay.
Even the rudimentary aerial reconnaissance capability that a drone can afford you for just a couple of days’ worth of short flights makes it more than worth it.
You should not underestimate the sheer amount of supplies you will need for your escape. It is going to be more arduous, and take longer than you are probably expecting. You will need food, and you will definitely need plenty of water.
Food should be compact, extremely calorie dense and ready to eat. Think of a classic survival ration: it does not have to be particularly palatable, it just needs to fill your belly, and keep you alive.
Water is problematic for people who plan to escape on foot because water is so heavy. It is still heavy for those who plan to escape by vehicle and it also takes up a lot of room in cargo.
Nonetheless, you must carry a substantial supply if you intend to escape a war-torn city.
The typical prepper-centric answer to making use of found water supplies is always an emergency filter of some kind.
This is an imperfect answer for escaping from an urban environment at war, because cities are drastically more likely than remote, natural environments to have water sources contaminated by chemicals and heavy metals that will not be removed by your water filter.
That puddle or spillway you are drinking from could be hideously contaminated, and even a few gulps could see you incapacitated or even killed.
Even the best filters will be quickly burned up by such heavily tainted water, and filtration might not make any difference in the end.
It is definitely worth your while to get acquainted with and make a note of what self-contained water sources you might be able to draw from on any given route out of the city.
Things like lakes or ponds that are well-off major thoroughfares or indoor swimming pools at schools and gyms are likely your best bet.
Another item you absolutely must have is a comprehensive first-aid bag. You also need to know how to use it.
The variety of injuries that are waiting for you inside a city under siege are mind-boggling, everything from burns to lacerations, gunshot wounds to broken bones.
You will inhale choking smoke laced with all kinds of chemicals and get sliced open on broken glass, twisted metal and sharpened re-bar. You can twist an ankle on buckled concrete or bash your head during a car accident.
All this and more await the unwary or the unlucky. Suffice to say there will be no first-responders at this time. You are your first and only responder if you need a medical intervention.
Also include a basic shelter and survival kit. You do not know where and when you will be able to sleep. It might be inside your vehicle, it might be inside a building or even out in the open.
You need a way to keep the wind and rain off of you and keep your body temperature stable without the use of a fire. Fires, indeed any light source, attract hatred when you are in or near a conflict zone.
Escaping a city caught in the deadly grip of war is one of the most dangerous and harrowing things any citizen will ever attempt. But attempt it you must, since staying put is an option that should only ever be a last resort.
You will always need a little bit of luck, but if you know how to assess the situation, determine the most important factors and then act accordingly, you can definitely improve your chances of getting away and moving on to greener pastures, far from the thunder of guns and the rumble of artillery.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.
4 thoughts on “Practical Advice for Escaping a War-Torn City”
Interesting article, quite a long read for what is obviously a more complicated endeavor than one might think. I can definitely see the advantages to having a location to move too picked out and relocated to in haste. You can have supplies in place so that even if you must walk, crawl and evade detection moving like a ninja or a small critter through mud and brush and any path available with only your clothes and a small pack or shoulder bag you’ll reach a safe location with food and other essentials.
Prior familiarity and knowledge of everything between home and your destination would certainly be of value.
Good, comprehensive article.
One thing that I didnt see is a preferred transportation, other than, not a military style vehicle. I have two vehicles, one an older (16 years old) luxury car and a slightly newer sports car (I am currently alone). My instinct is that the older car splattered with mud and kick in a few panels might be preferred, low key. And the old Lexus has a much better capacity, range, and comfort for sleeping. And I suspect the sports car might be coveted by gate keepers. But the sports car with a top speed of over 150mph could exit an area, on a clear road, faster than any military vehicle.
Also I wonder if carrying surplus MREs might identify you with one side or the other. There was no mention of this.
Being a combat veteran you have a certain perspective on people.
1. It is you and your family everyone else is a potential threat to your life.
2. Never assume anything about people! Take away the veneer of civilization like this pandemic and the crazy comes out. Yesterday watched a woman having a spirited argument with a city fire hydrant.
3. There is no place to run if the crazy erupts in any country. Seen it in Africa, Middle East all the fun spots on the planet with no work and massive small arms weapons floating about for mayhem.
4. Your family will not understand violence. My wife still talks in wonder about the time I was going to kill a crazy who was harassing our school children in a field outing in a park. My wife’s panic calls just as I pulled into the parking lot for a lunch break with them. The suit, tie as I steamed past her and the other moms with a drawn 1911 .45 colt in my hand. Long day for me but she asked me if I would have killed him? Yes! You were so cold and menacing to him. I nodded but did not elaborate my wife would never understand my combat experience coldly applied violence to a human being.
5. This article is fairly accurate but any contact with crazy your plan goes out the window. New York City is a death trap 3 to 7 days food is the maximum sustainability before crazy comes out to play. Six weeks without food water etc. in any city and 75% of the crazies are dead. One year later 92 % are dead in any country.
6. I watched the black neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York burned down on the east side during martin Luther rage when he was killed by the gunman. Three days later the ruins were smoldering cars shot apart, no food, no water, no cops, no fireman, and dead bodies in the street.
In closing you a never fully prepared but having been trained for violence in any military. You have a better chance of surviving/ thriving in a (sh*&&T) storm along with your family.