In any survival scenario, and every scenario is a survival scenario on some level, one of the key factors to success is defining and recognizing the risks. Once you are made aware of the risks, you can focus on risk avoidance, assessment, management, and resolution. The Urban Landscape has more risks to deal with than any naturally occurring environment. The variable that skews this perception is our level of familiarity with that environment. We learn from an early age to stick our fingers in outlets or walk blindly across a busy street. In contrast, the numbers of our species are few who know how to prevent hypothermia without a thermostat or lighter. Fewer still are the number of folks who can accurately identify f the relatively few harmful plant species in their environment and the treatment for accidental exposure to them.
We'll start with recognizing some of the more common hazards on the Urban landscape. Once these are identified, we can explore methods of avoidance, risk assessment, and management.
In an Urban Survival scenario the first and most common risk will be human beings. Human beings, as a collective species are very adaptable. They rely on their intellect, opposable thumbs, and varied diet for success. However, on an individual level they have become so specialized, that if we were to categorize them on perceptions and behaviors, they would warrant further division in to separate sub-species. The most specialized sub-species and the one that presents the highest degree of risk to your personal safety is "Homo sapien urbanis". This particular breed of human has been cultivated in an overpopulated state where competition, aggression, a fast pace, and a genuine disregard for the well-being of others have been cultivated for generations. These attributes have been honed in a culture of fierce competition for a perceived limit on time, opportunities, and materials. In this environment, Homo sapien urbanis have evolved in to the veloci-raptor of the umbrella species. Field marks include quick, darting eyes, a pace faster than the surrounding landscape, and short bursts of activity and communication done in rapid succession. Behaviors include an efficient and interrogative style of exchanges designed to profile any new member of its species for weakness or possible value. While meat is the preferred diet of this sub-species, it will consume anything that is quick and easy to procure. It has an expectation of immediate gratification, and has refined its awareness and cunning to satiate this expectation. It's ability to plan and set long rage goals focus nearly exclusively on self and offspring. The reptilian portion of this sub-species' brain is highly developed. As a result of its high stress and fast paced life, this apex species has become overwhelmingly dependent upon the urban infrastructure. In a survival situation where that infrastructure begins to fail, this highly specialized predator will be quick to attack any perceived asset or keeper of said asset. Homo sapien urbanis projects intense predatory energy where ever it goes and is easily detected upon the landscape. While its peripheral vision is poor, it's capable of detecting the faintest hint of weakness and is quick to notice movement.
Contamination of water is the second most imposing threat in an urban survival situation. The collapse of supporting infrastructure means pumps will stop and pressure will diminish in many of the water and sewer lines. Depending on the specific disaster, raw sewage or air may be all that comes out of the faucets in our homes and businesses. Life sustaining water will become a priceless commodity. Urban environments have no available ground water supply due to pavement, concrete and vast networks of underground electrical, transportation, and service networks. If the disaster is in the form of a viral or bacterial epidemic, or if the devastation creates a situation where bodies are left decomposing for long periods of time, finding potable standing water may be nearly impossible. Run off water from city roof tops and other sources will also be contaminated due to pollutants that have accumulated for decades on roofs and the droppings and chemicals the water will make contact with.
Death by dehydration is only a few days away. The symptoms of this condition are a lack of judgment, apathy, and combativeness. Add to this the stress of a system in collapse and millions of people in a small area vying for a limited water supply and the results are predictable.
A third risk to survival in an urban environment is starvation and disease. Malnutrition, combined with stress lowers the bodies immune system. In an overpopulated environment without adequate sanitation or plumbing, disease and malnutrition go hand in hand. Many models exist regarding this relationship in countries where western ideas of societal structure have been applied and have floundered due to lack of infrastructure or a rich enough environment to support the existing populations. These examples can be found in Africa, South America, and in some areas in The United States.
The first threat, people, may seem the toughest. Luckily we happen to be people, so we blend in and are well versed in their behaviors, body language cues, and motivations. The issue is failure to predict behaviors, being unaware during potential risky situations, and lack of avoidance strategies. Folks should focus on bounty, health, and balance all the way up until the point of system failure. After that, it’s time to bring out the warrior mind. Keep this part of your psyche available as an advisor. As a tracker, or even a wildlife program aficionado, we know what happens when large amounts of biomass (crowds) accumulate. They attract predators. Thus, the avoidance procedures are easy; avoid crowds and be cautious around larders. Furthermore, hide and disguise your own larders of food and water. This may also mean masking you good health. Inevitably you will have to choose between the environment you are most familiar with and moving to an uncertain rural area with fewer support systems. You will also be entering the territorial range of an entrenched local population of Homo sapien ruralis. Not only do they have a more developed sense of awareness about their landscape, they tend to rely on community bonds more than the predatory reptilian packs of Homo sapien urbanis. Some pre-scouting before these decisions become necessary is heavily advised.
Fresh water procurement and storage are essential to survival. Ownership of water, as discussed before, can attract predators. Hiding caches of potable water should be done early and often. Remember that water weighs roughly 9lbs. per gallon. Plastic containers outgas and degrade over time and are not recommended. Glass and metal containers, in that order are preferred. Cisterns, if feasible are a good idea. Water filtration straws and a means to boil water, such as a hobo stove, or other device that doesn’t rely on power supplied by an infrastructure that may not be there is also advisable. If you are under-prepared or your stash of water is compromised, raid the water storage tanks behind most toilets as fast as you can before the masses realize they are out. You have about a six to eight hour window before folks will come out of their initial “shock behaviors” of looting, or fumbling through the rubble and they begin to realize what you are up to. Again, in most cases, shelter and fire are easier to come by in a city reduced to rubble. Water will be the new commodity and, as a survival necessity, it will be worth killing for.
If you’ve seen our recent youtube videos, you already know how malnourished we are as a species and the resulting chronic diseases. In a collapse of infrastructure this is particularly devastating to the concentrated populations of people who rely on shelves of food at grocery stores. Avoid these areas at all costs. A years worth of dried goods and canned food is a wise investment. It doesn’t have to be done all at once either. One shouldn’t ignore the wild foods either. While toxins accumulate in all mammals in city environments, we are the apex species. As such, toxins accumulate in their highest concentrations in us. That rock dove (pigeon) may seem too dirty to eat now with a belly full of calories, but go without for a week and that banded birdy will seem like a turkey dinner with an anklet.
This should start your wheels turning. Out here we believe it’s too late for most of you. But those who start walking around their 9-5 routine with the idea of shelter, water, fire, food, escape routes, and networking may make it out. If not, you might see other people through whatever disaster might befall you. Just remember that the most common tragedy is living in fear of something that may never come. This is often done at the expense of missing out on the excitement and joy of this amazing and temporal existence. How do you live a joy filled life where preparation is the byproduct of living fully? Well, that’s the question. If I answer it, than I take it away from you, if I don’t answer it, than I’m being selfish. Truth is, we each have to come to that one on our own. Until then, be the hero of your own journey, not the victim of someone else’s.