Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Long Term Urban Survival: Feasible or Not
All preppers and survivalists have different plans for survival and they cover whole ranges of bugging in, bugging out, bug out bags, bug out vehicles, and bug out locations. There are some though who are planning to bug in and remain in a city during a time of crisis or disaster and it is perhaps one of the most controversial options a person can choose. This is because many people question whether or not it is even possible to survive for a long period of time in an urban environment.
So first we need to start out with our basic list of survival necessities for a longer term situation. This includes water, food, heat, sanitation, and safety. Not only do all these factors need to be included but they also have to be considered over the long term.
The first thing to consider is water. In a major disaster situation there is a good chance that utilities will go at some point. In areas where water comes from a water tower there will be be pressure in the system, because it runs on gravity, until the water tower begins to run low on water. This will give a person a little bit of time to collect water out of the regular water system. However with who knows how many people using this system, the water will not last long and that is an important thing to remember.
So the first thing to do in the event of a major disaster is to try and get as much water into where you are living. This can be done by filling up containers, sinks and bathtubs. Anything that can hold water should be used to hold water. This however is only going to last long, and when water goes you're going to have to find a different source for water.
In an urban situation, after the water systems shut down, there are very few actual sources in a concrete jungle. The main sources of water at that point will either be from scavenged supplies, such as water bottles, or from rainwater. Since most supplies will likely be picked up by panicked shoppers in the beginning of the disaster, and followed closely behind by looters. As a result you can't rely on scavenged supplies. Therefore having some way to procure rainwater is an absolute must in an urban situation.
The next thing to considered is food. Stocking food supplies is of course the easiest and best way to be prepared ahead of time for a disaster. However in urban environments, space is usually at a premium and that means that a person's living space is also likely to be at a premium. This means a person will have limited space to stock up food ahead of time. Therefore a plan to obtain food is a necessity for urban survival.
Again it is not the best idea to rely on regular shopping suppliers for your food or supplies. If trucks were to stop running grocery stores only have enough food to last three days. In the fast paced, oil powered world that we run in, this only makes sense. It allows a store to stock only what in needs while limiting the amount of waste and spoilage. In a survival situation though, when there may not be an resupplying, it means that supplies and food will go quick.
This means a plan for food has to involve other sources. In a large scale urban disaster, there is a fair chance that many people will try and flee the city to try and find a place that they feel is safer, or has more food. This does mean however that many people will live things behind and empty apartments and houses could be a good place to scavenge for extra food and supplies. You can also create your own food source in the city through potted plants. In the city this will be not enough to sustain you alone, but it can act as supplemental food while you search for other sources.
Another resource that could be looked into is animals. There are some animals that live in the city such as birds and rodents. These could be hunted as food source. It has also been shown that while human activity will deter animal activity in the same area, that once the human activity is gone, it doesn't take very long for animals to move back in. The animals that could start coming back into a city can provide another source of food for hunting. Also, while it may not be the most appealing idea to many, there will be many former fuzzy friends left behind who could make a good meal for the opportunistic hunter.
With food and water taken care of, you need to consider heating. In more southern areas this is less of a concern. The further north you live, the more of a concern this is for you. In this case extra blankets are a great first start. This is something that can provide a challenge however. Many people's first thought will go to fire. Fire however can create a bit of a challenge. First there has to be a place to put the fire to prevent it from lighting whatever building you're in on fire, and then you have to figure how to have proper ventilation. To large a fire and not enough ventilation and you'll smoke yourself out of wherever your staying.
In these cases any kind of built in passive solar heating is a great thing to have. Any form of solar heater is another great option. From there looking into small stoves that will fit into a smaller space is the way to go. If an exhaust pipe can be run to the outside, this solves your problem of ventilation as well. Remember you may not have the ability to put some of these things in before disaster happens so if you have to do some makeshift construction, be prepared for that as well.
The next thing to consider is sanitation. This comes close in hand with water. You will need clean water, and if it isn't clean to start with you will need a way to make it clean. This can simply be done through boiling or through chemical methods. Having clean water will be a great first start to sanitation. You still have to have enough water though for cleaning purposes. Think about how much water you go through in a day and then how much that is going to translate into a survival situation. It will be used for everything from cooking and bathing, to going to the bathroom.
Bring up bathrooms, that is actually something that may still work in a survival situation. Like water towers, a flush toilet works with gravity. You flush the handle which releases water from the tank into the toilet bowl, which then goes down the drain. Easy enough. Once power stops working, the real problem is getting water into the tank. In this case you simply would have to manually fill the tank.
However when you flush a toilet it takes three gallons of water to flush a toilet. This means you will have to have a considerable reserve of water to be doing this, as well as a reliable way to continue to stock up on water. However you don't have to use perfectly clean water for this either. Rather use water that is known as grey water. This would be the water that has already been used to wash dishes or people. It will still work to flush a toilet if not for drinking.
Other things to consider for sanitation is cleaning supplies such a soap and dish soap. High proof alcohols can also be stocked as a possible method for sterilizing things. Anything and everything you can stock up on for keeping clean is a must. This is because people tend to be messy and dirty. Without proper sanitation infections and diseases can start very quickly, and those are a lot harder to get rid of than a little bit of dirt.
The final factor to consider is safety. In an urban disaster scenario, many people will leave the city. Not all of them though, and not all of those that leave will go right away. You have to be prepared for looters, roving gangs, and even just other survivors hunting for more supplies. In this case having good locks on your doors and windows will go a long way. If you live on a ground floor, consider boarding up windows to keep people from just breaking through them. Other ways to shore up defenses should also be considered.
You should also consider having different ways to defend yourself. This can go anywhere from self defense lessons and pepper spray to having actual weapons such as guns, knives and bats in your home. If you are going to have weapons in your home, make sure they are in a safe place to keep them out of the wrong hands. Also make sure that you know how to use your weapon. It is useless if you can't stop anyone with it, or worse if someone can take it away from you. Also in the case of guns, know how far your bullets will penetrate. Even a small caliber can go a long way through drywall.
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So is long term urban survival possible? I would say yes. Is it easy. Certainly not. It would require quite a bit of pre-stored materials, scavenging, and finding ways to adapt the environment around you to provide you with the things you need. However for some people in the right situation, that will be the way to go. More likely however urban survival may be something done for a shorter period of time, such as a few weeks, until a person can find a safe time to leave the city. While urban environments provide more amenities and supplies in the beginning, those will quickly be gone, and other more sustainable supplies and necessities will likely be found in rural areas.