Most of you reading this are urban or city dwellers. Stay with me for a minute while I set the stage. Roughly 80% of the U.S. population is urban. What exactly does urban mean though? According to Wikipedia: “An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to the areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.”
This confused me a little until I thought about it. I was expecting urban to mean the city, but here’s what Wikipedia had to say about that: “A metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as a metro area or metro, is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industry, infrastructure, and housing. A metropolitan area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, cities, exurbs, counties, districts, and even states. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions. Metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas, as well as satellite cities, towns and intervening rural areas that are socio-economically tied to the urban core, typically measured by commuting patterns. “
I live on the outskirts of a small town in Maine, so I live in a rural area: “In general, a rural area is a geographic area that is located outside cities and towns. The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the word “rural” as encompassing “…all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area. Whatever is not urban is considered rural.” Typical rural areas have a low population density and small settlements. Agricultural areas are commonly rural, though so are others such as forests. Different countries have varying definitions of “rural” for statistical and administrative purposes.”
Still with me so far? – More from Wikipedia “In the United States, there are two categories of urban area. The term urbanized area denotes an urban area of 50,000 or more people. Urban areas under 50,000 people are called urban clusters. Urbanized areas were first delineated in the United States in the 1950 census, while urban clusters were added in the 2000 census. There are 1,371 urban areas and urban clusters with more than 10,000 people.”
Alright, alright already. What does all of this actually mean? Well, statistically speaking if you’re reading this there’s a good chance that you live in an urban or metro area,but what’s more important is how does this affect you? Lets talk about some of the things that might happen during a breakdown of social services or a power outage.
What Will Happen In An Urban Area When TSHTF?
The first thing we all know is that if there’s a disaster of some kind and food deliveries can’t make it into town the citizens have mere days before the shelves are cleared out. A few years ago a water leak in Weston, Massachusetts caused 2 million citizens a lot of concern. People were lined up for blocks to get bottled water. They had electricity and running water – they simply had to boil it – and there were still fist fights because people just weren’t prepared to spend a couple of days without clean water! Imagine this same scenario, but on a much grander scale. All of NYC for example, or maybe LA, or even a couple of states. What kind of chaos do you think would ensue if a large city wasn’t able to feed its population or provide them with water?
Most people think that if something like this happened the government would take care of them in some way. A friend of mine has a wife who works with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and I asked him what she thought would happen if we lost electricity in the entire state of Maine. I wondered what kind of plan was in place for such an event. He went home and asked her and she told him, “We don’t have a plan for anything of that magnitude.” Her statement scared me. Here in Maine we’re a pretty rugged bunch. Many of us live in the country, we have wood stoves, are prepared for power outages from blizzards, etc, but I have a feeling that the more prepared among us wouldn’t last more than two weeks without starting to get desperate and many living in and around the cities up here much less than that.
There have been several large scale ice storms here in Maine over the years and during one of the last storms people were literally threatening line crews with guns to come over to their houses and get the power turned back on! After just a week without electricity people had reached the stage where they couldn’t stand to be without it.
In Ted Koppel’s “Light’s Out” he discusses what may happen if cyber terrorists knock out the grid leaving areas the size of states or even larger without electricity for weeks or even months or years at a time. He paints a grim picture many of you are familiar with: the power goes out and people switch to batteries and candles for light until they too run out. Their cell phones soon die and with no way to recharge them people who are used to communicating solely by smartphone are no longer plugged into the ‘net. Food and water are soon gone from the supermarkets and city dwellers used to ordering out or grabbing something to eat on the way home are suddenly hungry. Refrigeration goes and within a few days food is rotting in freezers and refrigerators. A few people have generators, but this kind of electricity is dependent on gasoline and many gas stations don’t have generators to operate their pumps. People dependent on drugs that require refrigeration or ventilators to stay alive start to die. Commuters are trapped in elevators, tunnels, and as soon as they can’t fill up their vehicles there are vehicles running out of gas and leaving their cars or trucks wherever they stop.
Let me help put this in perspective. Have you ever hosted a cookout or family meal for some friends and family? My wife and I love to host parties here at my house a few times a year. The first time we had a cookout she went out she bought a ton of food. She also had some of the wives bring items like potato salad, chips, etc. I stood at my grill flipping burgers, hotdogs, chicken, and kielbasa thinking there was no way that twenty or so adults and twenty plus kids were ever going to eat that much food. Within an hour it was almost all gone. That was just one party with a relatively small group of people.
Now imagine this on a large scale. Try to imagine thousands of people milling around waiting for food to be air dropped or doled out by the government. Or millions of hungry people scouring the city looking for food. Would you stand a chance in that dog-eat-dog environment? Are you elderly? A pacifist? Not physically fit enough to walk a few blocks? Physically disabled without someone to care for you? If so you’d better have something to bring to the table because it’s going to get very ugly out there.
Don’t Be A Refugee
Honey, it don’t make no difference to me baby
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)
The last thing I’d want for my family is to be dependent on the government for the basic necessities of life. Can you imagine what a refugee camp would look like made up of your neighbors? Can you imagine what it would look like if the government was able to make a food delivery and sent a convoy of military vehicles into the middle of your city to dole out bags of rice, bottled water, and MRE’s to those lucky enough to be at the front of the line? What if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to get food? Would you be able to live long without it? What if you did get food? Are you strong enough to protect it from others who are just as desperate and want to take it from you? Don’t think it would happen here in the United States? Don’t forget the Weston, Mass. example above where there was fighting over bottled water that flew off the shelves when people already had water. Again, they just needed to boil it.
According to some, cities would be the origin of the “golden horde.” Once people figure out they won’t be able to survive there they’ll head out into the country like a swarm of locusts, consuming as they go. Whether or not that’s true is hard to predict and I suspect depends on the nature of the SHTF event. If there’s a panic situation such as a fast moving pandemic and people are leaving ill prepared then this might be a viable scenario. A long term power outage like the one Ted Koppel predicts could also trigger such a migration.
Many people operate under the delusion that they’d bug-out to the woods and live off the land for until it all blows over. With 80% of the people living in urban areas how many do you think have actual wilderness survival skills? I’m pretty good in the woods. I spend a lot of time there and I’ve done my share of camping, backwoods camping, hiking, mountaineering, survival training, etc, and I don’t think I could last more than a few weeks – maybe a month, (comfortably) – without a source of food out there. I’m guessing that people with no wilderness survival skills would last a lot less than that. If they take off into the woods on a mass bug-out chances are you’ve got a few days until things get really uncomfortable.
So How Do I Survive?
There are multiple strategies you can and should leverage in order to survive. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
1. If you’re a city dweller living in a small apartment your best bet is to have a bug-out location in mind. A relative or friend’s place outside the city would be ideal. It should be easy to get to and you need to have a plan in place on how to get there and when to leave. Don’t wait for the riots and people walking the streets with guns before deciding to bug-out. Instead, when you see trouble start to brew take a few days “vacation” from work and head out of the city to your bug-out location. You might think you can’t do this due to your work or life situation; however, if this is something you are truly committed to you can make it happen.
2. Put together a bug-out bag or Urban Survival Bag for you and your family members. Test the gear and your ability to use it by going on a camping trip with only what you have in the bag. I’ll say it again: Test your gear!
3. Form a survival group. There is power in numbers. Find other like minded individuals and form a plan on where to meet, what to do, when to leave, and whatever else you think needs to be planned out.
4. Stock up on food, water, and weapons. Check out the Church of Latter Day Saints food calculator to give yourself a head start. It’s a basic looking calculator that gives an eye opening answer. Learn how to hunt, grow food and purify water.
5. Get yourself physically fit. You might have to walk out of the metro or urban area you’re in. Are you ready for that? Do an honest self assessment and if you find yourself lacking get to work!
6. Stock up on first aid supplies, batteries and candles, flashlights, lanterns and lamp oil or kerosene lamps and fuel for short term events.
7. Take a comprehensive first aid class. Get a book called, “Where There Is No Doctor,” and read it. It’s good.
8. Don’t be an armchair prepper. Really get out there and start preparing if you’re serious. Have you ever watched a cat when it was stalking a mouse or some other prey? It’s got laser like focus and intensity. That’s how you have to be when you do this if you want to get up to speed quickly.
9. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. This is the time you need to be sharp and focused. If you lose your edge you could lose your life.
10. Educate yourself. Read blogs like this one, read books, listen to podcasts, watch Youtube videos. There are literally a million ways to learn how to prep. Jump on Google and find the best way to prep given your circumstances.
11. Find alternative ways to create electricity, heat your home, and obtain food.
12. All your preps will run out eventually. Some sooner rather than later. Be prepared for it.
13. Expect the unexpected. Any plan sounds great until it hits the fan. Be flexible because when “the event” goes down you won’t be ready for it. Be ready to improvise.
City Living SHTF Exercise
I know that many of you like living in the city. A few years ago I worked in New York City as a consultant from time to time and heard people talk about how much they loved it. What I also saw was a bunch of people living on top of each other with no survival skills other than those fit for the concrete jungle. The next time you’re in the middle of downtown, City Dweller, I want you to pause for a few minutes and run yourself through the following scenario:
At noon time look around and imagine that suddenly the power goes out. Everywhere. Your cell phones will probably work for a little while, but most of the major news outlets are down. Traffic has come to a halt because there’s no lights to govern the million cars in the congested downtown area. Where are you? Heading out for lunch? On a train or subway? An elevator? Still in the office? Who’s with you? What’s around you? Could you get home if you had to given the current circumstances? Can you get something to eat or drink? Do you have cash on you? Are you wearing comfortable walking shoes or those $200 dress shoes that look sharp, but hurt like hell after walking a mile or two? Do you have family somewhere you need to meet up with? Do you have a plan set up with them to meet you somewhere in case communications are down? Are you worried about crime in your area? Guess what… the cops are going to be too busy to help out with a small time mugging. Are you alert to everything going on around you?
Ok, really run it through your mind as a mental exercise. Think of all the things that you could do to get home, or get out of town, or meet up with your family members. Look at the people around you and imagine how they’d be acting.
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