Simply put, urban survival will be quite a bit different from survival in a remote wilderness area or even a sparsely-populated suburban area. Let’s game some options, remembering that these options are general. These actions aren’t specific to the type of breakdown of society (external by an attack from a foreign nation, or internal from economic collapse, for examples).
So, we have our collapse. Let us “X” out a nuclear war/nuclear terrorist attack, as we can deal with all the other scenarios in variables without radiation to contend with. Let’s identify the largest challenges faced for that high-rise apartment resident in Manhattan, or the family in the brownstone on the South side of Chicago. First, let’s game the scenario:
After “The Day,” the city was almost completely without power. You and your wife and two children were not able to leave town. All mass transit was halted or discontinued. It has been three days, and your family has been listening to static on the radio for the most part, with “campy” pre-recorded disaster broadcasts that have not been helpful or informative. One of your neighbors left this morning after saying goodbye: he and his family had a boat, and they were heading out of the harbor, hoping to use one of the major rivers to make an escape.
They didn’t have room to take you or yours, but you wanted to stay put and not follow your neighbor’s idea: that there were plenty of boats whose owners were not going to use them…probably dead following the rioting and civil breakdown. You’re beginning to think you should have listened to him. Now you can hear angry voices outside, and you go to the window. A mob has gathered at the top of your street! They’re armed with rifles, bats, axes, machetes…and there are about 500 of them. As you watch, they’re making a move toward the first house on the opposite side of the street. Your house is less than half a block away. There are no more cops, no more laws, no more order, and no help will be coming…on The Day After Doomsday.
Sounds pretty bleak, huh? That’s because it is unless you keep a cool head about you and stay in focus. Here are your primary tasks, and in this order:
- Defense: without a clear plan and the means to execute that plan, you’re going to have problems.
- Secure Domicile: in itself a part of the defense, as if you live in an easily-entered structure, you’re going to need to fortify it and have a security system and a guard/lookout schedule.
- Food and Water: always critical. We touched on some of this in the last segment with water. You should have at least a one-year supply for each member of your family of nonperishable food.
- Medical supplies and equipment: This entails the ability to perform first aid, to perform long-term supportive measures, and both short and long-term definitive care for special needs members of the family.
- Cohesion: your family needs to function akin to a well-oiled machine, as best it can. Faith will be a key element: in God, in one another, and in what you are doing. The inner discipline for each family member and for the group as a whole are key to enabling success for you and ensuring your survival.
Now let’s talk about what you’ll be facing, keeping in mind we already did not specify what type of disaster caused the end of it all. A nuclear war will have radiation and probably foreign invaders at some point. An asteroid impact will have traumatic weather catastrophes and cataclysmic effects all over. What we are focusing on here is a city that is (for all intents and purposes) physically “intact” but is no longer functioning…its infrastructure is crippled, the social order is defunct, and chaos is the word for the day. What are you facing? Here are some of the challenges:
- Complete lack of food outside of your supplies: akin to a swarm of locusts, people will descend upon the grocery stores, convenience stores, dollar and discount stores, and big box stores…until the stores are no more…looting everything and anything they can grab. Happened in New Orleans, I’m here to tell you…and it’ll happen again. Dogs, cats, birds, and anything else that crawls, walks, flies, or runs…will be eaten. All of this within the first week to two weeks.
- Cannibalism: when the disaster strikes, there will be a lot of people who will actively hunt other humans for food. For those smiling naysayers, you may wish to read about the Donner Party, the Andes aircraft crash, and numerous other accounts of such things. You can take it to the bank that it will happen again…and the “Drive By” also becomes the “Drive Thru.”
- Disease: it is a well-known fact that dead bodies, poor sanitary conditions, and lack of clean running water and working sewers will all contribute to diseases. Typhus, E. coli, and plague will all return…diseases that are not a threat will quickly become out of control after the SHTF.
- Bad Guys: Lots and lots of bad guys (and gals, not to leave you out of the loop!) doing really bad things and trying to do more bad…to you and yours. We’re going to do a piece just on this, so I’m not going to burn out all my fire at once. Suffice to say there will be gangs and small packs of “opportunistic entrepreneurs” out roaming the streets of your town…and they’re not looking to sell you on “Amway.” They’ll take what they can…including your life.
So, what to do? Well, here’s the first step to defeating all these factors:
Have a plan, and work that plan until it takes effect, and get out of town!
You’ll need to train, game out the scenarios, and work on your preps if you must hunker down. The best thing to do is get out of the city or town. In a high-rise apartment building, you’re going to be very limited in what you can take out of there effectively if the vehicles are not working and the electricity is out. It’s hard to carry hundreds of pounds of gear and supplies down a dark staircase fifty stories and then escape a city in ruins or turmoil. The odds are against it. The key is to have a place…a safe place with supplies that you can reach…and when the time is right, get out of that city.
It will be important to form teams, within your own family, and potentially including others who live near you of a like mind. Here’s a rule to follow:
No “free rides,” any allies outside of the family must have their own supplies and be self-sustaining to be a legitimate ally.
You must trust them implicitly: A real trust, not the BS handshaking of men and the hugging of women once a week at a card party or barbeque. No, a real trust based on knowing them well, and for as long a time as possible. You don’t want to undertake an endeavor, and then end up at the rendezvous point, and having them kill you and take your supplies. Gasp! Ohh! Perish the thought, right?
Wrong: Know that human nature means in a disaster a “switch” can be flipped at any time and those you thought were your allies are now attackers.
You’re going to have to get together with your family and the other family or two who are on your “team” and figure a way to exfiltrate out of the city with as many supplies as you can carry. Most of the gangs will be looking for easy pickings, therefore if you present a unified defensive posture…everyone knowing their functions and carrying their weapons and moving as a unit…this will dissuade them. Wolves usually prey on the young, the weak, the old, and the sick first. Men are no different. They would prefer a bunch of fatsos sitting around in their living room with their supplies than a group of families that has their “S” together and can defend themselves.
This is not to give you false bravado. There are skills you need, happy family, to be able to make it through. I hope one of your family members is a veteran. If not, seek one out and pick up some training.
“Thank you for your service,” is the BS line that everyone uses on you when they haven’t served…it makes them feel good when they say it to you…as if they have checked the “patriotic block” on a form.
You’ll really thank a vet if you’re trained by one. How about this for an idea? If there’s not one in your family or on your “team,” then find one…and pay the veteran to train you. I can see the frowns now. Nobody likes to open that wallet. I guess you’ll have to weigh what is more valuable to you and determine where your priorities lie.
Thank the veteran with more than lip service in this instance, and learn valuable skills that you could have picked up if you had served. You will need some combat skills, such as how to work as a fire team, how to clear a room, and communication between members, be that vocally or with hand-and-arm signals. In the end, it will be up to you, and you will only receive in proportion to what you extend of yourself.
You’ll need to practice and drill getting out of your locale. You’ll also be wise to equip your team (your family and another family working with you) with Motorola’s and stick them in Faraday cages until it’s time to move out. There is still time to game and implement this thing; however, the more quickly you move on it the smoother you can make it for yourself and others. The time to be prepared is yesterday, and the disaster can come tomorrow. Let us know your thoughts and any suggestions you have, and stay in that good fight! JJ out!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.