Urban Survival Preparedness

Unused ferris wheel in Pripyat near Chernobyl
Photo by Timm Suess

Some may be under the impression that survival skills are only needed if you become lost or stranded in the wilderness. People living in urban environments may not believe they need to know where to find water, how to fish, forage for edibles or know how to start a fire. They may not believe it until a natural or man made disaster strikes and turns their city, town or community into a wasteland in a matter of minutes.

Regardless of the situation, the fundamentals remain the same for survival. You will need shelter, a water source, energy source, and food. Just because you have the fundamentals today does not mean you will have them tomorrow. You must have the knowledge, certain skill sets and mental fortitude to find life’s essentials in any situation, and that includes urban environments.

Urban Preparedness

Contrary to what you might have seen on certain reality shows or have read on the Internet it is not likely you will awaken one day with just “the clothes on your back” and then are expected to survive the situation. Not many would under these circumstances, but humans have the ability to reason and plan so you do not find yourself in a situation with just the clothes on your back. You can look ahead and prepare yourself, and it is never too late to begin.

You are not planning for the end of the world or “doomsday,” because what is there to plan for if the world ends. Essentially, you are preparing for the effects of a disaster and not so much the disaster itself, even though the disaster itself will be devastating the aftermath can be just as traumatic. The days after without electricity, gas for cooking and heating, disrupted water supply, civil unrest and the inability to travel are what you need to prepare for.

You are planning for a series of events, some of which may be insignificant and others can disrupt your life for weeks or even longer. You have to assume that any crisis will cripple the power grids, damage the infrastructure, and disrupt utility services.

Start with the basics. You have to realize that you probably will not be able to store enough food and water for a prolonged period so you have to know how to obtain more if the situation requires it. Stockpile between 14 and 21 days of supplies as a minimum.

It is assumed you would have the normal items found in most homes, such as cooking and eating utensils, personal hygiene items, and clothing and blankets so these types of items will be left off the list. For links to many of the following, check out our Zombie Bug Out Bag.

  • Water for two weeks and if you plan to use dehydrated foods you will need additional water for reconstitution of the foods so add an additional gallon per day for each person, and up to three gallons per day per person if you are planning for extended periods
  • Foods that can be eaten from the package or can.  If using only canned goods each person will need one can of vegetables, one of fruit and one can of protein daily. Storage may become a problem with canned foods because of the sheer number of cans needed daily if you are stockpiling for extended periods, so consider supplemental food sources as well, such as dehydrated foods and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)
  • Medical supplies
  • One gallon of unopened, unscented household bleach for emergency water purification
  • Coffee filters/activated charcoal/sand/cheesecloth for water filtration
  • Matches, lighters and alternative fire staring tools such as magnesium sticks and Ferro rods
  • Shovel for digging portable latrines, and for clean up from the disaster
  • Dusk masks, work gloves, eye protection and sturdy shoes for clean up
  • Consider using orange/red garbage bags that can also be used for signaling rescue personnel
  • Tarps, rolls of plastic, duct tape and possibly plywood sheets for emergency repairs to your home
  • Alternative shelters such as tents that can be set up on your property if your home is damaged
  • Personal protection
  • Firearms for hunting and gear for fishing
  • Communication devices other than cell phones or landlines, devices can include Walkie-Talkies or Citizens Band (CB) radios or even ham radios
  • Flashlights and oil or propane fueled lanterns
  • Water purification tablets
  • Rain gear for each person
  • Backpack for each individual
  • Portable charcoal grill and/or camp stoves/gas grills
  • Mylar/thermal emergency blankets for each member
  • Firewood/charcoal/one pound propane bottles for camp stoves and heaters
  • Optional items if space allows include portable chemical toilets or waste bags designed for waste, portable solar or fuel powered generators

For short periods, one gallon of water per day per individual is adequate for hydration, oral care and personal hygiene, but is not enough for cooking or laundry needs.

A simple wood or charcoal fire is the quickest source of energy and you can build a fire virtually anywhere outside your home if you have a portable charcoal grill. Even if you do not have a fireplace in your home, have an emergency stockpile of wood. Propane camp stoves and heaters are ideal for the short-term but once the fuel source is depleted, you will not have the means to resupply.

Urban Water Sources

You cannot know how long the crisis will extend in most cases, so regardless of your water supply you should attempt to gather more. Sources include private and public swimming pools, backyard hot tubs, public water features, ponds, lake and streams, which may be found in many public parks.

Any surface water source must be filtered and purified before it is considered safe to consume. Use coffee filters, sand, charcoal or even cloth to filter water.

Purification of Water by Boiling

The length of time water must boil for purification depends on your elevation. At higher elevations, water boils at a lower temperature because of a reduction in the air pressure. Lower water temperatures means the water has to boil longer to destroy the waterborne contaminates. Rapid boil for three minutes if there is any doubt in your mind as to your elevation. At sea level, water only needs to rapid boil for one minute. Boiling water for longer than is recommended does nothing to increase its purity. Over boiling will reduce water volume due to evaporation, which can be problematic if you have a limited water source.

Using Bleach for Water Purification

sodium hypochlorite bleach

Make sure the bleach contains between 5.25 and 6.0 percent of sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) as an active ingredient. Do not use bleach that has any additives (thickening agents) that reduces splashing or adds fragrance. You will need an eye/medicine dropper for proper measurements. The ratio is eight drops per one gallon of water or two drops per quart/liter of water. Once added mix well and wait 30 minutes. Filtration, boiling or other purification methods will not remove poisons/toxins from the water.

Food Sources

Many cities and communities have public parks that have ponds and lakes. These waterways may be a source of fish and are a gathering place for waterfowl. All fresh water fish are edible as well as any type of bird or fowl found in the United States. The only bird in the world found to be toxic to humans is the Pitohui Bird species found only in New Guinea.

You need to know all applicable laws concerning the use of, carry laws and transportation of firearms in your community. If possible, it is recommended you hike to the outskirts of your community to hunt for food with a firearm in an emergency. Capturing ducks or geese or fishing in an urban setting should be considered if the situation is dire.

Remember the crisis will not last forever and you may be called to task to answer for your actions during the disaster.

Abandoned backyard or even community gardens may also be a source of food during a crisis and while it is not recommend that you raid gardens when people are still living in their homes, some may have evacuated because of the crisis. In an emergency, you should consider and weigh all options carefully.


Do not venture into commercials areas during any crisis. Looters and other criminal elements will be active in these areas. Stay inside your home, and do not allow anyone other than law enforcement personal inside your home unless directed to by the authorities.

However, do not barricade yourself inside your home to the point you cannot escape if there is a fire or possibly an intruder inside. You need to be able to exit your home quickly.

Being self-sufficient during any crisis is important because it means you do not have to travel about looking for supplies. Roadways and streets will be clogged with people attempting to flee, which will create a disaster of another sort. Sheltering in place is always recommended unless there is an immediate danger. You do not want to flee one crisis only to find yourself in another.

After the initial shock of the crisis wears off, people will begin to evaluate their situations and some may find they are ill prepared and once they become desperate they will be a threat to you and others. Aside from the crisis and the effects of it, the biggest threat you face in an urban environment is other humans.

Civil unrest is always a possibility in the days after a crisis. People will turn to their local authorities for help and when help is not available, some may turn against the local government. Demonstrations can turn into riots quickly and they must be avoided. Once anger is vented at city hall, the malcontents may focus on private businesses and other citizens.

Personal protection regardless of your position on firearms can save your life in a crisis or they can act as a deterrent to crime. Showing an intruder or violent demonstrator you are armed may cause them to move on to an easier target without the situation escalating. You have to face reality during a crisis, and that is people will be desperate and will act in ways you cannot predict. Friends, neighbors and strangers that are parents without food or water for their children will turn to violence in the name of providing for their family.

When to Evacuate During a Disaster

When to Evacuate During a Disaster
Photo credit: Stuart Axe

Leaving your home during a disaster may be one of the hardest decisions you make during the crisis. However, not leaving could mean the difference between surviving and not. You have to know when to leave, and what to do once the decision has been made. In many cases, the local authorities may issue a mandatory evacuation order based on conditions that you may not be aware of, such as rising flood waters, tidal surges, and high winds. You, of course, do not have to leave even when an order is issued, but not leaving means that emergency personnel cannot reach you – and you will likely be trapped in your home or community for days, or even weeks.


People seem to convince themselves that they can weather the storm and then find out they cannot, and then attempt to evacuate and find out it’s too late. Always consider leaving as a real possibility, and not just a vague notion if things get too rough. You have to plan for it, along with planning to stay in your home.

Where you will go must be decided before you have to leave. You must know where all emergency shelters are located in your area, and how to get there in the dark as well as in the daytime. Know the routes designated for evacuation out of your area, and map out alternatives in case one, or even all, are not passable. You also have to prepare for the possibility that emergency shelters may not be in operation because they were damaged by the storm.

You cannot assume the shelters will have emergency supplies, so it is important that you bring your own. The best way is to have backpacks (bug out bags) for every family member. The packs will be in addition to any supplies for the home. It is important that each backpack have the emergency essentials for the person carrying it to survive. Family members can be separated, and if one person is responsible for carrying water and other food, and they become separated – everyone suffers.

Supplies For Each Pack Include:

  • Food for 72 hours, such as protein bars, trail mix, MREs, beef jerky…
  • Water for three days – at least 2 quarts/liters daily – just for drinking (1.5 gallons for 72 hours)
  • Rain gear such as a poncho
  • Thermal blanket
  • First aid supplies, with any prescription medications
  • Multi-tool along with a fixed bladed knife
  • 50 ft of nylon rope
  • One waterproof lightweight tarp for emergency shelter (or a 1 person tent depending on the size/contents of your pack)
  • Matches, lighters, and alternative fire starting tools
  • Communication devices
  • Extra socks (it is assumed a person would be wearing clothing appropriate for the season, so avoid over packing)
  • Collapsible walking stick (can be used as protection)
  • Compass with maps of the area, state, and county
  • Personal hygience items
  • Hat, gloves (work or cold weather), bandana, sunglasses, lip balm, hand sanitizer
  • Insect repellent
  • Cash, change, and personal ID (make sure this is on their person at all times)
  • A sleeping bag can be optional if space allows

The packs should stay packed, and be placed in your vehicle when the storm nears. Make sure your vehicle is backed into the driveway, and is fueled up. That way, once the decision is made, all you have to do is get everyone in, and go. You have to remember that if the shelters are closed you will have to travel beyond the storm’s reach, and possibly use your vehicle as shelter if rooms at motels/hotels are unavailable.

When to Leave

You have to be informed, and leave before the highways are clogged, or become damaged. Once an order is given leave immediately, or leave before the order is given based on conditions in your area.

You can go to a relative’s or friend’s home that is out of the storm’s path, or find an area to set up a temporary camp. National or state parks are an option during an emergency, if of course they are not affected by the disaster. There may be utilities available – such as water and electricity – at certain parks. Know the locations of parks in your state or area that can be used. Check ahead of time about using the parks during an emergency, and inquire about “check in” procedures after hours. Some parks may have restricted access, so know before you attempt to use one.

Carry all paperwork pertaining to your home such as insurance and lease agreements. You will need the paperwork to apply for disaster relief, file insurance claims, and you may even need it to prove you live in the community because of a curfew, or if access is restricted to help prevent looting.

Once out of the disaster area, you have to keep in mind that local retail stores and service stations may be short of supplies and fuel, due to the exodus of people fleeing the disaster. You have to be prepared to survive on your own for a few days.

You always have to consider that vehicles may break down, or that roads are impassable. You may have to travel on foot to escape some disasters.

The disaster may be such that your entire city, town, or community becomes a hostile area because of airborne contaminates from a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack, and bugging-out is the only way to save your life. If this is the case, your vehicle may be more of a hindrance when traveling, because of the clogged roadways, bridges, and tunnels. If on foot, you can maneuver around obstacles, and even cross water where you could not otherwise in a vehicle.

Getting ahead of everyone else can solve some of the congestion problem, but once again this means you have to be informed, and can make a decision based on information you gather instead of relying on the authorities to tell you when to leave.

For more information:
Creating an emergency plan
Zombie bug out bag essentials

Survival Fishing: From Finding Bait to Making Fishing Tackle in the Wild

Fishing is one of the quickest ways to obtain food in the wild, and all fresh water fish are edible. Fish can be found in rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds.

While the average person can survive up to three weeks without food, you must have nourishment for energy in a survival situation. Lack of energy may mean you cannot perform the necessary tasks needed for survival – such as hiking out of your predicament, or constructing a shelter and finding a reliable source of water. After three days without adequate nourishment, you will begin to feel the effects, which will be physical as well as psychological.

Fish can be caught using your hands, speared, netted, and caught using the traditional baited hook and line. Once you realize your are lost or stranded, you should inventory your supplies for the means in which to fish. In some circumstances you may not have any more than what you are carrying in your pockets, or may happen to have in your vehicle, on a motorcycle, or even on a bicycle.

Using a baited hook and line is the simplest method and is likely to yield the best results. Contrary to what some may believe, successful fishing does not require expensive rods, reels, and watercraft. Fish are attracted to bait – which can be virtually anything – and once they swallow the bait, the hook is what secures the fish to the line. Hooks can be made from pieces of bone, broken buttons, wire, wood and even glass in some cases.

Gorge hook
A “gorge hook,” which can be made from bone, wire, buttons, glass or wood.

The hook depicted is made from a one inch piece of wood. The sizes of the hook are dependent upon the fish size, and if unsure of what size, start with a one to two inch piece. Sharpen both ends so that bait can be secured. The idea is to get the fish to swallow or gorge on the entire hook, and from there it is simply a matter of pulling the fish in.

Button hook
You can make a hook out of a broken button.

Another way to make a hook is to break a large button and sharpen the ends leaving the holes intact so you can attach line. The ends can be scraped on a rough rock or use the file blade on a multi-tool. The end must be shaped so that bait can be secured.

Can tabs
Break apart the tabs from tops of beverage cans using pliers, knives, or rocks to form a hook.
Fishing hooks
Hooks made from bone, wood, and wire.

You can make a hook from a paperclip, vehicle wiring, and even shards of glass. Make multiple hooks, because it is likely you will lose some, and so you can have several lines in the water at the same time as well.

Once you have the hooks made it is time to find some fishing line. Any type of cordage can be used including shoelaces and strips of clothing twisted into string. Plastic grocery or garbage bags that you may have in your vehicle, or scraps you find on the ground can be cut into thin strips and twisted together to form line. You can use electrical wiring from vehicles and bicycles as well. Certain fibrous plants such as dogbane can also be used for fishing line.


Dogbane can be found virtually anywhere in a wilderness environment and the dried stalks can be peeled apart into fibrous strands that can be twisted or braided together to make a strong line.

Paracord can be used as fishing line if you remove the braided outer sleeve and unravel the seven inner strands.

Bobbers can be pieces of Styrofoam and even empty capped water bottles. Wrap the line around the neck of the bottle leaving plenty of line to reach into deep pools. The bottle will float on top of the water and it is recommended that you attach some type of weight to the line such as a pebble or other weighted object.

Fishing Bait

Fish are attracted to many things and sometimes it is simply something to grab their attention. They will test the “food” and many times end up swallowing the hook. You can use food scraps, fuzzy seedpods, worms, crickets, and grubs for bait. In some cases, you can use brightly colored pieces of cloth or even Styrofoam as bait if nothing else is available. Live bait is ideal and you should always attempt to find some for best results.

Live bait cricket

Live bait grubs

You can use any shiny object as a fishing lure, such as discarded eating spoons, bottle tops, and even pieces of colored glass. Even though the environment you find yourself lost or stranded in looks remote, it is likely that humans have been there, and in many cases will have left debris behind. Carefully look your area over for anything that can be used as line, hooks, and other fishing tackle. In some cases you may find discarded line, hooks, and even poles near large bodies of water left there by some other anglers, or those that may have been lost as well.

Spear Fishing

Fishing spears can be made with a few simple tools and in some cases no tools at all, except for what you find in your environment.

Fishing spear
A fishing spear.

Sharpen the end of a sapling using a sharp sliver of stone or knife, and then split the end into prongs using a stone shard and a heavier rock for hammering. A single sharpened end will not always penetrate, which means the fish can get away. You will need multiple sharpened prongs for penetration and securing the catch.

In most cases, you will need to be directly over the fish to plunge the spear versus trying to launch it from any distance. The spear will not be heavy enough, or be balanced properly to throw it at the fish. You want to keep the spear in your hands so you do not lose it or the fish, so you are essentially stabbing down into the water as you stand over the fish.

Hand Fishing

It is recommended that you only hand fish if no other means are available. To catch fish by hand you have to find a relatively deep pool near the bank where fish would gather to hide from predators, or to escape the hot sun. You may also find snakes and snapping turtles nearby as well, so use caution when trying to fish by hand. Reach under the banks to find the fish, and in some cases to secure the fish you may have to place your thumb in their mouths and grab the gills with your other fingers, otherwise they may slip away.

Netting Fish

Fish will gather in deeper pools if the weather is warm, and in shallow areas if it is cold. You can wade into the pools and wait for the silt to settle from the movement, and wait for fish to begin gathering again. You can lay your net along the bottom while you hold on to the handle and lift the netting up as fish swim over it.

Sapling net
A sapling net.

Fish netting made from a supple sapling and string. Ensure the sapling is long enough so you have a handle after bending the end into a hoop. You can use pieces of clothing instead of string to capture the fish. Once the fish is in the netting or clothing work fast to get it to the bank – otherwise the fish will slip from the net. You can essentially “fling” the fish from the netting onto the shore or riverbank.

As stated earlier, all fresh water fish are safe to eat, but they must be thoroughly cooked to destroy any harmful bacteria and parasites that may be present.

Also, don’t feel that you can’t prepare for survival fishing in advance. There are several small kits available that can be placed in a bug out bag, hiking backpack, or automobile as a precautionary measure.

Avoid Becoming A Zombie By Getting In Zombie Ass-Kicking Shape

Great news!  Six months after the zombie apocalypse starts, you’ll be in the best shape of your life!

As it turns out, running for your life is great exercise!  And since all the restaurants will be abandoned, you won’t be eating pizza three times a week anymore.

Worse news is, of course, that most people will be dead or will be zombies.

The better news is that you won’t be a zombie, because you’re fit and lean already, and you’re very capable of pulling yourself up over a fence, or climbing a tree, or outrunning even the quickest of the undead.

You are able to do that all, right?

I’m not saying you need to be able to run 10 miles, or bench 400 pounds, but the reality of the matter is this: some very basic fitness requirements are really, really useful – especially if, you know, there’s an apocalypse going on.

Now, before you click over to Amazon to buy that new exercise program you saw on TV where they run up the walls like they’re in the Matrix, there’s something you should know.

Most of maintaining a healthy weight is eating a proper diet.

Experts have estimated that up to 80% of weight loss is attributed to what you eat.  That means that as little as 20% is a result of exercise.

If that’s true, it makes sense to focus on the bigger number, right?

And you don’t have to clean footprints off your walls!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“I’ve tried diets before, and they didn’t work.”

Or, “I’ve tried diets before and it was too much work – cutting up vegetables to put in little bags, and eating 8 times a day doesn’t work for me.”

Maybe even, “I can’t or don’t have time to cook the meals the diet recommends.”

What all of these are really saying is this: “Dieting is too hard!”

And you’re right, in those instances, dieting is too hard.

But, what if dieting could be easy?

What if someone were to bring all your meals right to your door every week, and they were good for you, tasted great, and were affordable?

That would be easy, right?

No going shopping to buy food.  No cooking.  No cutting up celery sticks.  No dirty dishes.

You would never have to think about what’s for dinner.

And as busy as you already are, having one less thing to think about is pretty nice.

Restaurant-quality meals, delivered to your door, for about $20 per day – that’s what Diet-to-Go offers.

You’re probably thinking this all sounds too good to be true.  This must just be another fad diet that lets you lose 10 pounds the first week, but then you plateau – and eventually gain it all back (with interest) when you give up.

Well, you’re right – you will plateau, but there’s a big difference between Diet-to-go and a fad diet.

With Diet-to-Go you’re not tricking your body into temporary weight loss, or dehydrating yourself to lose water weight.

Meals are nutritionally balanced, and properly portioned.  You’re actually eating healthy for a change.  So when you plateau, you’ll be able to stick with it and not give up, because you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself to begin with.

There’s no long-term commitments – you can cancel anytime.  And there’s a 100% satisfaction guarantee if you’re not absolutely thrilled by the food.

There are 3 menu plans to choose from: traditional, vegetarian, and low-carb.  And you can substitute out any meals you don’t like, or can’t eat if you are allergic to something.

Shipping is available only to the US contiguous 48 states due to restrictions and transit times, and local fresh pickup locations are available in VA, DC, MD, PA, NJ & CA.

If you’re interested in becoming a new you, avoiding health problems, and avoiding becoming a zombie, I recommend you get Diet-to-Go today!

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15% Off Any Meal Plan

How to Signal for Help in the Wilderness

signal-for-helpAlthough there’s a slim chance that anyone will mount a broad search for survivors when the zombie apocalypse happens, you might as well know what to do should it actually occur.

Running around flailing your arms is not the right way to try and get attention.  Most likely you’ll lose focus, and you’ll get yourself eaten doing that.

There’s a key concept I want you to remember running through all of the following techniques: contrast.  Humans pick up on what’s different, what sticks out.  That’s what you want to provide, so you can make it easier on them to rescue you.

That’s not always the most obvious idea when tension is high.


Smoke signals

Probably the oldest way to signal distress is through smoke and/or fire.  It provides something to see, as well as something to smell, and always seems to capture the attention of anyone near.  I’m not sure if zombies are attracted to fire, but if they aren’t this is probably your best bet  to signal for help.  The caveat is, of course, that if you are in an area with lots of fires burning out of control, this method becomes useless to you.

Need help starting a fire?


At night, a light source, such as a flashlight, is very easy to pick up against the darkness.  During the day, you can use a reflective surface like a mirror, foil, a shiny rock, a piece of metal – in short, whatever is available that will reflect the sun’s rays.  Just make sure not to blind your rescuer while trying to get their attention.  The best part about these is that they make no noise to attract zombies.


Many survival packs come with whistles.  They can be used to signal anyone around, and serve a dual function to scare off animals like bears.  Unfortunately a whistle will probably attract zombies, too.  Of course, if you were to set a trap, and then lure them to it like the pied piper of the undead… Hmm…


There are two types of flares.  The type you see at night that produce a bright light so you can avoid something, and another type that produces a colored smoke that can be easily seen during the day.  Pretty handy to have around.


The universal help signal is a large X.  If you were holing up in a Wal-Mart, for instance, it might be a good idea to make an X on the roof in your spare time.  Or at least in the parking lot.  Just remember the contrast – if the asphalt is black, try to make a white X to stand out, and vice versa.


I don’t necessarily mean a formal flag here.  Anything that you can hang, or waive around will be much more effective at catching eyeballs.  Waiving a pole with some sort of colorful banner will be much more effective than waiving your arms.  Same thing if you hang a few makeshift flags up.  You have both the color and the movement of the flag to get someone’s attention.


Assuming you have batteries, and assuming at least one other person does to, your technology can still help you.  This could be a cellphone, or a ham radio – whatever you have.  It’s always worth a shot.


Photo credit: bossco