Cities are notoriously the worst places to be when a disaster breaks out. The high population density means that you are susceptible to injuries from falling buildings. There are numerous hygiene risks from trash and sewage. Oh, and let’s not forget the mass chaos which ensues in the form of looting and rioting!
Like most survivalists and preppers, I plan on getting out of dodge if a major disaster strikes. But, I also know that bugging out isn’t always the best solution. Even if I do decide to evacuate with my family, I still have to get out – which is where the urban survival skills come into play.
Skill 1: Scavenging
If you saw the newest Star Wars movie, then you might remember how it starts with Rey scavenging for supplies which she sells to ensure her survival. I know it is just a movie, but scavenging is something that happens in the aftermath of a lot of disasters, be it economic collapse or a hurricane.
Here is where I should note that mob scavenging – aka looting – is something that almost always happens right after a major disaster.
Do not join in with looting after a disaster!
Hopefully you have prepared and have enough supplies to get you through (at least) the first 30 days. Ride out this time as peacefully as possible. Looters have a violent mob mentality and will fight you for anything you find.
At the initial stages of looting, the looters won’t even be going after useful items. They usually grab up TVs, stereo equipment, expensive shoes… All things which are worthless for helping you get through an urban survival situation!
After the initial chaos has died down, then you can go start scavenging for supplies you need. For example, you might scavenge:
- Spare parts for fixing machinery
- Scrap newspaper to use for making paper logs
- Plywood for reinforcing your windows
As Urban Survival Site talks about in their article about how to scavenge, you’ll have to know where to look for items. This is a SKILL!
Think of how homeless or terribly poor people survive everyday life. They know how to spot a “rich” trashcan instead of wasting time on trashcans which have no useful items.
On our Urban Survival Gear Checklist, we’ve included tools that you need for scavenging such as a crowbar and heavy-duty gloves. Make sure you look at the checklist!
Skill 2: Lock Picking
In a post-SHTF world, you might just go knocking down doors to gain entrance. However, there will probably be many situations where you want to leave the door intact.
For example: Let’s say that your family is fleeing to a secure location but can’t get out of the city before nightfall. You could find an abandoned building, pick its lock, secure the premises, and stay there for the night.
If you bang down the door, you’ll be inviting anyone to come on it!
I’ve played around with lock picking kits before, though admittedly this is a survival skill I really need to work on! I can barely get a pin tumbler lock picked and those are considered to be the easiest type. It is a pretty fun hobby though, so you might actually enjoy practicing this urban survival skill.
I’d recommend going online and looking at the types of locks and techniques used to pick each of them. YouTube has a lot of videos on this topic.
Skill 3: Repurposing Everyday Items
I truly believe that the most important skill needed for survival is creativity. Yes, creativity! When you are creative, you are able to think outside of the box to find solutions to problems.
Creativity is about looking at what you have around you and doing your best with it.
Consider what the world will look like after a disaster in the city. There will be many items around you, like abandoned cars, piles of trash, rubble of buildings… All of these things can be utilized for your survival.
Want to see how? See these posts:
- How to make a rocket stove
- Survival uses for plastic shopping bags
- DIY weapons for urban survival
- How to make an emergency heater out of everyday items
Skill 4: Gray Man Tactic
Gray man refers to the survival skill of being able to blend in with the crowds during an emergency. The goal is to prevent yourself from becoming a target.
For example, a gray man wouldn’t go into the streets carrying his Bug Out Bag loaded with gear on his back.
He (or she) would put his Bug Out Bag into the same crappy plastic shopping bags that everyone else is carrying to make it seem like he also had to grab random stuff and flee like the unprepared masses.
In addition to looking like the masses, blending in also means you will act like the masses.
If everyone is running in one direction, then you better run too. If everyone is freaking out, you better pretend like you are freaked out too. It’s Tactical has a great article on Gray Man Strategies you should check out.
Skill 5: Situational Awareness Skills
Situational awareness is something that we should practice every day, and not just in disaster situations. In short, it means being aware of what is around you at all times.
If you are texting on your cell phone while walking down the street, then you aren’t being aware.
If you can’t immediately identify where the exits of a room are, then you aren’t being aware.
If you can’t describe the people in your immediate vicinity, then you aren’t being aware.
Situational awareness does NOT mean that you walk around constantly scoping the environment, paranoid, and with a racing heart. This is referred to as your “baseline.”
You should be CALM but ALERT so you can avoid dangers (like that mugger who is tailing you) and make decisions quickly (like to get away from the mugger by turning on a busier street).
The military, law enforcement, and even forestry loggers all practice situational awareness training. There are a lot of drills you can do to improve your situational awareness. The Geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor has a great guide about the how to hone your situational awareness.
Skill 6: Self-Defense Skills
When talking about self-defense, we usually refer to the ability to beat the crap out of someone who is trying to attack you.
Really, self-defense should be about avoiding the fight in the first place!
I talk about this in my post about Survival Tricks Learned from the Homeless. Most people react badly to aggression. Someone makes a threat or attack you. It is normal to respond with aggression.
But you don’t always have to respond with aggression.
If you stand down or simply walk away, your ego may not feel so great – but you will have won the fight by not fighting in the first place.
I’m not saying that you should act meek when faced with a real threat. Stand up for yourself when you must! But don’t let your emotional response put you in a greater danger. Most fights can be avoided. For the ones that can’t, start taking a self-defense class and learn some maneuvers.
Don’t forget to practice these urban survival skills!
I admittedly prefer practicing wilderness survival skills. Practicing those skills means I get to go out into nature and unplug. Some of the urban survival skills don’t seem nearly as fun.
However, with a bit of creativity, you’ll find that you can actually enjoy practicing your urban survival skills. For example, I’ve made a game into scoping out what dumpsters would be best for scavenging specific supplies. Gross, but useful.