Urban Preparedness Tips

Urban Preparedness Tips

We had a comment on our last post that mentioned a bug out bag in the middle of a parking lot and had not really thought of urban areas. Since most of us live in cities and towns, we probably should cover this as well.

Preparing for disasters when you live in a city is a little complicated. You are not going to be able to throw a noisy generator on your deck to run your refrigerator, and probably will not be able to start a fire right outside for warmth or cooking. While it is manageable, it is different for those of us who live in the city versus those who live in the country.

Urban preparedness has more to do with “trust less, prep more” than anything else. Worry about what you have and how you are going to protect it. That's the key.

Here are some other tips when it comes to urban preparedness:

Survival strategies in an urban environment

Be Vigilant!

In general, before something occurs, there are always some tell-tale signs and information reaching the masses. This is the type of information you need to discover and gather before it's too late. Having a police scanner and learning how to use it brings a major advantage to an urban prepper. This tool is even more valuable if evacuation is your main choice for survival. A police scanner will tell you where the disaster has occurred, if it’s spreading, and what measures are being put in place to address social implications (evacuations, riots, etc.).

Another method to listen to the outside world is by HAM radio, and in certain cases, it may be more useful than a police scanner. HAM operators will report from the scene or its vicinity without filtering information. You will know exactly what is going on and you will get much more accurate details.

Learn to jump-start a car

If you need to bug out and leave the city behind, you may encounter roadblocks or other obstacles that may force you to abandon your vehicle of choice. Knowing how to jump-start a car in such cases is a vital skill. Running or walking is not a good option in an urban environment unless you know all the safest routes, and you are well-trained for such physical activity.

Breaking into a car and jumpstarting it, may, in fact, be your only option to acquire a new bug-out vehicle to get out of the city. However, before using this tactic as your last resort, there are a few things to consider.

First, make sure your vehicle is well-maintained and has a full gas tank. Second, learn how to deal with simple problems and have a basic understanding of general car maintenance.  And third, if you are not sure about stealing someone’s car, always have a secondary method of transportation. A good bicycle is an ideal option for an urban setting.

Keep your bug-out bag close

City dwellers know that time is of the essence during “quiet” days, when competing in the rat race. You need to make sure you’re not late for appointments, chores, and everything else. Imagine how critical time becomes for an urban prepper when a disaster strikes. You will be under constant pressure, and the last thing you want to do is to search for your survival bag and other gear.

All the stuff that would make evacuation easier should always be in reach. Some urban preppers have two bug-out bags, one in their car and one at home. The logic behind this is that you may not be able to reach your home and the next best thing you can do is either go to the established meeting point or go to retrieve your loved ones. Having a spare bug-out bag will increase your chances of making it out without having to improvise every step of the way.

Build an emergency plan for your family

Having a family emergency plan is mandatory regardless if you decide to bug-out or hunker down. The plan should cover as many aspects as possible of the disaster(s) you are planning for, and every family member should have a role in it. Here is what a basic emergency plan should cover depending on the choices you have:

Bugging out

  • Have a bug-out-bag ready and in reach
  • Make arrangements to turn utilities off before leaving the house
  • Learn every possible escape route and inform your family about them
  • Keep a BOV well-maintained and ready to go
  • Establish meeting points for each escape route
  • Have communication means for everyone
  • Assure protection for every family member
  • Plan for a bug out location or a safe retreat

Bugging in

  • Secure water at the last minute before municipal utilities stop working. (For example, fill your bathtub and any available container with tap water.)
  • Cut off utilities that may pose a problem (especially the gas line).
  • Tune in and listen to what is going on outside your fort. The sudden development of the crisis may force you to evacuate.
  • Have enough supplies to last for at least 3 months and plan for a solution afterward.
  • Implement any means you have for heating and generating electricity
  • Have a complete first-aid kit designed for various types of emergencies
  • Make sure your home is protected against forced entries
  • If you live in an apartment with a flat roof, find out if your water is supplied via a gravity-fed tank.
  • If your rooftop is flat, can you easily access it? Are you allowed to have container gardens or to collect rainwater for your plants? (You'll potentially need it for yourself – after you run it through a filter system.)
  • Of course, thorough emergency plans cover much more than this. But each plan should be made based on factors such as location, family members count, resources, knowledge, and skills. As urban preppers, you should at least have what is listed above to have a fighting chance.

Learn to make your own food

Many people who live in cities have neither the time, space, or will to cook for themselves; so ordering food or going out to eat is the main course of action. However, if you plan to survive for times when the foodservice industry will be dead, you need to learn how to cook. I am not talking here about taking a gourmet cooking class. Far from that! I am just suggesting you should know how to cook a meal with the resources you have in your pantry and how to turn food scraps into a tasty meal.

Also, you could produce some food to supplement your needs by trying container gardening. Many urban dwellers are doing it nowadays as a relaxing hobby. For you, it can become an activity that provides nourishment during a time of need, but also a project to keep you sane when SHTF.

Think of it like this; if you manage to outlast most of your fellow peers, the lack of food will become a serious problem as time goes by. Your main choices would be to grow your own or scavenge for it.

Consider obtaining a supply of food that needs minimal preparation and is designed to have an extended life. We have an excellent selection at Camping Survival, and because the food is dehydrated you can fit a lot of it into a relatively small space – such as under a bed.

Discover the city and know its advantages

Many urban dwellers do not know their city as well as they should, even though it should be common sense if you think about it. Look up from your phone, observe what is around you. Try to navigate without your phone and use a paper map. What you observe about the world around your neighborhood could very well save your life someday.

If you live in the city and if you are serious about emergency preparedness, you should give yourself time to explore the city and find your way around it. Learn the major roads and intersections, the back alleys, and how to get from point A to point B without using the main roads.

Knowing your environment is critical for every survival situation. You don’t want to get lost in the city or be unable to reach your family in case of a disaster.

Think about your water needs

Storing water becomes a big problem for urban preppers due to its bulky and heavy nature. You have limited space, and you need to make the best use of it. Filling your apartment with water containers may not be ideal.

The first thing you must do when disaster strikes is to fill your bathtub or any available container in your home with tap water. By doing so, you will not use your stored water supplies, and you will have a good start before you have to face dehydration or any other problem.

Have containers that can be set out on a balcony to catch rainwater and make sure you have a means to purify it.

Powering your home can be a dangerous process

Cooking and heating will be two of the major problems for any urban prepper if utilities are shut down. You will have to struggle and improvise since gathering firewood and cooking over a campfire is not really an option for you.

Some urban preppers will go with slow and low burning fuel sources. However, you will run out of fuel eventually, and you will either have to scavenge for fuel or find other ways for cooking and heating.  As an urban prepper, you need to find ways to be able to cook and heat your home without attracting unnecessary attention.

If you have adequate daylight a solar cooker is definitely a good option. If you have a patio or balcony you can have a small tabletop grill or a small rocket stove. Be very careful of cooking with fuels in an enclosed room as many people die every winter trying to keep themselves warm or cooking with fuels that need adequate ventilation.

A solar generator could also be an option, as it allows you to plug in items like a hot plate, crockpot, electric skillet or even a coffee pot.

Self-defense options

Obviously, firearms are your best source of protection. However many cities have very restrictive laws in place that can make owning a firearm difficult. If your city does allow ownership, make sure you make training a regular part of your routine.

Other options include learning a martial art, obtaining a taser or carrying mace or pepper spray. Again, these may be regulated by your city so make sure you know the laws.


  • Linda Gusch

    Thank.you for your.invalaluable information!!

  • Brian

    The most important thing you missed was a knife. Purchase multiple knifes for protection and general use. Carry a pocket knife at all times. In the bugout bag, place a defensive knife that you can use for self-defense and learn how to hold and use it as such. If used properly, it is more valuable than a firearm

  • Daniel Ferro

    I have enjoyed your articles that I’ve read what would you suggest are the best items for your bug-out bag?

  • Rich

    No offense, but what you show under "know how to jump start a car is not jump starting, it is hot wiring. Jump starting is when you use jumper cables to hook up one vehicle’s battery that is capable of being started and/or running to another vehicle’s battery that doesn’t have a sufficient voltage level in it’s battery to start the car on its own.

  • Robin

    I like the ideas for urban dwellers. Unfortunately, we don’t have a fireplace and we have radiators. A stand alone generator would be ideal if we lost electricity…but the price is out of reach. A lot of the other suggestions, we’ve taken.

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