Urban Survival Guide

When we think of something like urban survival all sorts of scenarios come to mind from meteor strikes to the zombie apocalypse.

zombie apocalypse survival


Quell your imagination for a second and think seriously about this very real survival scenario. In truth, the most common scenario would be a state of emergency triggered from a natural disaster, outbreak of infectious disease or a conflict between nations. Regardless of the scenario, there are some very basic, primal needs that need to be addressed in order to survive. The most obvious of those being the need for shelter, potable water, food and an exit plan.

In this guide, we’ll give you the knowledge necessary to endure an urban survival style scenario.

Viral outbreak

There are a number of diseases in the world today that if unleashed in an urban setting would be catastrophic to the structure of that society.

A lonely hero wearing gas mask city destroyed on the background

Are you prepared?

With the outbreak of any infectious disease there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration. When we look at the outbreak of any disease there are bound to be some who are immune to the disease, but with no way of knowing whether you are among those who occupy this minority it’s important to limit your level of exposure to the pathogen.

The kinds of protections you are likely to employ depend heavily on the way this pathogen is spread from person to person.

Survival Gear

Is this pathogen airborne or is it spread by the exchange of body fluids? Can it be absorbed through the skin or does it come from ingesting substances infected with the virus? Pay close attention to the method of contraction and take the appropriate precautions necessary to avoid contracting the disease. Wear a protective mask and minimize the amount of skin you have exposed when stepping outside of the safe area. Minimize your physical contact with those that may be infected or have traveled to infected areas.

Store food


If you suddenly find yourself in the infected area observe any government quarantine procedures that may be in place. Often the best defense against this type of survival scenario is preparation. In the event of an epidemic the first thing to breakdown is infrastructure. You can expect food shortages as businesses close and people scramble for provisions.

If at all possible you want to insure that you have a food storage stocked with provisions such as canned and nonperishables as well as bottled water. There is no guarantee that your water source will be unaffected or for how long you will have to wait for government assistance. Governments are often slow to mobilize depending on the nature of the disaster, so being prepared can often make the difference in sustainment and desperation.

For your own personal protection you want to seal your dwelling to the best of your ability and be wary of outsiders. Also, you want to know the routes in and out of your city if you need to escape.

Conflicts between Nations

War is one of those inevitabilities in our world, as history has shown.

Some regions find themselves embroiled in conflicts more often than others, but the fact of the matter is that no nation is immune. In the event of national conflict where the danger is external it’s often difficult to know what to do. In the case of conflicts between nations, personal protection moves to the forefront as a paramount priority for an individual’s survival.

Explosion Of Nuclear Bomb

When war comes to your front door you can either take cover or get out of the way.

Many governments have plans for these instances and it’s important to be aware of any nationwide procedures that exist for war on home soil. Be aware of your local shelters and whether or not they are equipped to handle this sort of scenario. If you find yourself in a region that doesn’t have such resources, however, it comes down to personal preparation. You want to have your own, well protected stores, preferably in an underground storage area. For personal defense you want some type of fire arm and a clearly defined escape route for when the fighting gets too close. Remember the best offense is a solid defense.

The Urban Survival Guide

As you can see, when disaster strikes, preparation is often you surest way to survive.

It’s true that knowing government assistance methods and procedures is important, but you must be aware of the dangers that come along with the scenarios that trigger urban survival. The most pressing being that you may be caught unawares of only partially prepared. In these scenarios it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and have some knowledge of how to find food, clean water and shelter. In the following sections we’ll break down how to obtain the basic needs for survival in terms of how much can be improvised and how much is dependent on prep.

1. Find a Shelter

When it comes to securing shelter in an urban survival scenario the challenges can be unique.

Often it’s about working with what you have. If your home survived the disaster, simply fortify what you have. Board your windows and reinforce the locks on your doors. You want all potential entrances to be secured and monitored. If your home didn’t survive the disaster than there are a few places you can go too. Local camp grounds, parks, event centers, churches and missions are all viable first choices when looking for shelter.

Also there are often abandoned factories or other large structures that can serve as emergency temporary shelter. Be advised that you are unlikely to be the only one who had this idea so be wary and bring protection.

2. Get Water

Like most survival scenarios water should be your primary concern in urban survival. The human body is approximately 60% water and we can only survive 3 days without this life giving substance. The problem with finding drinkable water in an urban survival setting is the likelihood of water contamination.

Depending on the scale of the disaster the water from your tap may in fact not be potable. When operating in an urban survival scenario you should operate under the assumption that you primary water source, being your tap is likely compromised. From there the question becomes what to do about it. In this case water purification is an important part of obtaining drinkable water. It’s likely that you will be able to maintain a constant flow of water from taps in the city in most scenarios and you need only to make them potable.

Boiling and filtering your water is the most common method of making your tap water drinkable. If you can’t boil for whatever reason you can use chemical purification to make your water safe to drink. Iodine, chlorine dioxide and bleach are common chemicals used in the purification of water. Be advised that the use of chemicals for water purification is a short term solution to your water purification dilemma. It buys you a good bit of time to come up with an alternative water source, but should not be a long term solution to your clean water needs. Chlorine dioxide tablets and an inexpensive way to purify water and are the better choice for chemical purification.

If you choose to use iodine the ratio for proper purification is about 1 capful to 1 quart of water and if you choose bleach the ratio is 2 drops per quart or 8 drops per gallon. Another method for purifying your water is the method of distillation which is essentially the evaporation and collection of condensation. This method is even more effective than simple boiling to creating safe drinking water.

Whatever you choose you can be sure that maintaining a constant supply of potable water will be high on your priority list during the duration of your urban survival ordeal.

3. Gather Food

When it comes to having food in an Urban Survival scenario there is no substitute for preplanning. In the event of a disaster the first thing to break down is commerce. Businesses close or their inventories are cleaned out in the mad grab for provisions or by looting. Whatever the circumstances you can be sure that going to the grocery store or supermarket will quickly cease to be an option in a survival scenario.

As people become desperate and looting becomes a serious issue you can be sure that whatever stores you do have are going to be threatened. With stores down and governments slow to mobilize having a personal food store is a necessity to insure your survival in the event of an emergency.

Your storage area should be either well concealed or well defended. Stock your storage with canned food, nonperishables and bottled water. Anything with a long shelf life is a good choice for stocking your emergency provisions. Foods like canned tuna, freeze-dried goods like ramen and raisins are good additions to any emergency stock. Be sure to avoid canned fruits as the have the shortest shelf-lives of most canned goods.

4. Escape

When it comes to escaping a disaster zone preplanning is again your best bet.

Know all the routes in and out of your city and when attempting to leave the city it’s often best to avoid doing so in a car. The roads heading out of your area will likely be in gridlock or unpassable in a survival scenario. Just grab the essentials and use a bicycle to navigate your way out of the city. It’s lightweight if you have to carry it over obstacles and doesn’t require any fuel.

Make sure you take enough provisions for the trip and know where you’re going.


Survival in an urban setting is a unique challenge with its own set of challenges and solutions. Knowledge of how to find food, purify water and prepare for the different circumstances that can trigger such a scenario can often mean the difference between life and death in the event of a disaster in an urban area.

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