In the developed world of the 21st century, it can be all too easy to forget how quickly the comforts and systems we’re used to can go out the window: All it takes is a bad storm or a major power outage. You may be well-versed in the 1,2,3's of wilderness survival, but the idea of having to apply some similar tools and techniques as an urban prepper may be a new one. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of urban survival and what it takes to be an urban prepper.
There are plenty of scenarios that might disrupt the normal and predictable routines of everyday city life. While our imaginations might gravitate toward visions of disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks—or the odd zombie apocalypse—extreme weather events are a more likely situation. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, severe thunderstorms, blizzards: The atmosphere can wreak real mayhem, and in the wake of one of its outbursts you may find yourself stranded in a devastated neighborhood, marooned by floodwaters, or simply contending with a widespread, long-lasting power outage or a contaminated public water supply. Similar calamities can also occur via earthquake, tsunami, wildfire, and any number of other natural disasters. Because many such natural disasters are difficult to predict, and because one kind or another can strike just about anywhere, preparing in advance is the first step in reducing your vulnerability. You might have only a few days’ advance warning about a hurricane making landfall, and if you wait until then to stockpile provisions you might be facing long lines at the grocery store and gas stations—not to mention picked-over shelves. In this hyper-connected day and age, abrupt emergencies might also arise from a cyberattack (or, less dramatically, a system malfunction) that disrupts, for instance, a region’s transportation or power grid.
The Urban Prepper
A person might decide to become an urban prepper for any number of reasons, and there’s no question some have more dire outlooks than others. But being prepared for the unexpected—wherever you live—is sound, rational, and potentially lifesaving. Imagine an unforeseen catastrophe occurs: a tornado detours through your subdivision, an unexpected shift in winds means you need to quickly evacuate ahead of a blaze. In such situations, you may not have the time or the ability to assemble what you need to stay safe and comfortable for some unknown length of time—however long it takes for things to get back to "normal." And you shouldn’t assume rescue workers will quickly come knocking at your door (or tracking down your stranded vehicle): Depending on the circumstances, they may have their hands full, and transportation corridors may be blocked. Self-reliance and forethought are called for. If you’ve readied yourself for a disaster—even if, of course, you didn’t know what form it might take—you’ll hopefully have emergency supplies at hand and a preplanned emergency protocol to follow. You may never have to use the urban survival gear you acquire or the urban survival skills you cultivate—hopefully you won’t! But urban prepping gives you the peace-of-mind of knowing you’ve got a game plan—and some practical tools—if disasterdoes strike.
A basic emergency kit, as theFederal Emergency Management Agency notes, should provide the supplies you need to get by for at least 72 hours, and ideally longer. We’re talking at least a three-day share of non-perishable food and water (a gallon per person per day), with larger reserves all the better.Here at Mountain House, we offer a selection of kits and buckets, including ourthree-,five-, and14-day “Just in Case” emergency food supplies ideal for an emergency kit. (Don’t forget: Our products have the industry's longest shelf life, which is backed by our 30 yearTaste Guarantee!) You’ll also want items such as a first-aid kit, a battery-operated or (better yet) hand-crank radio, multiple flashlights, backup batteries, a cell phone with a charging system (or two), a whistle, and materials such as plastic sheeting for making an emergency shelter. It’s also a good idea to include blankets and warm clothing, copies of critical documents, some cash money or traveler’s checks, and household chlorine bleach (which can be used to disinfect both wounds and water). If you use prescription medication or you wear glasses or contact lenses, keep backups of these in your emergency kit as well. And don’t forget Fido and Whiskers! If you have pets, they need their own emergency kits, too (including their own stockpiles of water).
Urban Survival Training: Practice Makes Perfect
It’s one thing to have assembled the urban survival equipment necessary for a comprehensive emergency kit. But that’s not all that urban survival demands: You also want to define a plan of action and make sure that everyone in your household’s familiar with it. This means mapping out an evacuation route in your house, ensuring everyone knows how (and when) to shut off utilities, and practicing putting these kinds of measures to use through emergency drills. Occasionally running the family through a simulated disaster response might seem like overkill, but if anactual disaster occurs, you'll be thankful for the game plan you established—and that were able to refine through trial-and-error—in calmer moments. The same idea applies to workplaces, schools, and anywhere else you or a family member spends a lot of time: Familiarize yourself with that location’s particular emergency-response protocol, and make sure everybody in the family has the contact info for every pertinent location.
Bug-Out & Get-Home Bags
There’s plenty of lingo connected to modern-day urban prepping, and some of it refers to variations on the standard emergency kit. You may have heard about “bug-out bags,” for instance, also known as “72-hour bags” among several other monikers. Bug-out bags are meant to include items to sustain you while you evacuate from a disaster zone to a safe retreat (a “bug-out location”). Given such havens might be in the backcountry, bug-out bags typically include many of the same items an experienced wilderness traveler carries, such as fire-starting and water-purifying materials, in addition to tools for “living off the land," such as fishhooks. (Some Mountain House freeze-dried meals would come in handy, too!) And then there’s the urban “get-home bag,” a survival kit specifically designed to help you return home if an emergency or disaster catches you away—say, at work. Many people, after all, spend most of their waking hours on the road, at an office, or in a classroom. A get-home bag’ll typically be smaller and lighter than a bug-out bag—weight’s at a premium, after all, when you’re trying to get yourself home as quickly as you can—and might include items such as tennis shoes (for comfortably walking or running blocks or miles of city streets, not to mention hopping fences and other obstacles) and a detailed city map. Once home, you might determine you’re secure enough to hunker down there (what some call a “bug-in” scenario); or, if conditions are dicey, you might reach for that bug-out bag of yours and light for safer territory. Both kinds of survival kits are meant to be catered to your personal situation. A bug-out bag will look differently depending on the sort of place you live: The tools and supplies for bugging-out in a swamp forest, for instance, won’t be exactly the same as those a desert dweller would depend upon. And a get-home bag will reflect the specifics of your workplace (or wherever you spend most of your time outside the house), including—naturally—how far from home it is.
It's all too easy to go overboard when it comes to urban prepping, both in terms of scaring yourself silly with apocalyptic visions and in terms of amassing too much equipment (or impractical stuff for downright outlandish scenarios). But remember: Readying yourself for emergencies of even the most mundane sort is actually an exercise in building confidence, in feeling calmer and more secure in your day-to-day life. Life's unpredictable, but some simple preparations and straightforward provisioning can go a long way to helping you sleep a bit more soundly!