A guest post by Derrick James of SHTF blog and Prepper Press
If you read enough prepping material out there, and you’ll eventually come away with the conclusion that unless you’re living on a 75 acre cattle ranch out in the middle of Idaho somewhere, then you’re doing it wrong. Sure, perhaps that may be the ideal, but for most of us it just is not an option. We have families, jobs, lives in areas that are somewhat more urban and live there as a result. A sizeable portion of those in such circumstances live in apartments.
But how do you get both prepping and apartment living to mesh? Prepping seems to inherently entail having oodles of extra storage space for months’ worth of food, water, ammo, and so on. That is simply not feasible in an apartment setting where space is typically at a premium.
So how can somebody who lives in an apartment prep? What are the things they need to focus on prepping, and how can they do so without living in an environment that looks like a Hoarders episode?
You must prioritize what you store based on the realistic threats you are most likely to face. Following are 23 items I would consider as important priorities for any prepper living in an apartment.
Critical Items for Apartment Preppers to Store
1) A fire ladder – If you live right in the middle of the city in a high-rise apartment building, odds are that there is a fire escape right outside one of your windows. However, most apartments are not inside 80-story skyscrapers, and as such, rarely have their own fire escapes. That is where a fire ladder is key. They store incredibly easily (I kept one in my closet for years), and can easily be deployed, giving you a safe exit should a fire cut off your other avenues of escape.
2) A fire hood – A fire hood will give you the necessary oxygen you need to assist in your escape. Aside from limiting your smoke inhalation, they are often fire retardant as well. In an apartment fire situation, possession of a fire hood could very easily save your life and help you to save the lives of your family.
3) Fire extinguishers – You are noticing a pattern here, right? If you live in an apartment, fire needs to be one of the chief things that you prep for (as it is the most likely), and a fire extinguisher is one of those vital preps for this type of event. As the recent riots have taught us, Molotov cocktails and gasoline seem to be favorite weapons of destruction for the “peaceful protestors”. Possession of a few fire extinguishers could easily save both your life and your home.
4) Handheld HAM radio – A typical HAM base rig involves some rather large antennas mounted to the roof of your home or to a tower of some sort. That is simply not possible with apartment prepping. And really, I do not think it is necessary either. You can get some pretty good range with a simple handheld model without all the worry about gigantic antennas and the like. They take up a negligible amount of room as well.
5) Window mounted HAM radio antenna – Though handheld units are great, the antenna strength can easily be improved with a window mounted antenna. They are relatively easy to make, discrete, take up minimal space, and can drastically improve your range. You can also buy one pre-made, if you so desire.
6) A shotgun – a shotgun allows you to easily hit a home invader in low-light/high-stress situations. I personally believe that everybody should have one, but they have even more value in an apartment situation. Why? Typically, there is less risk of over-penetration compared to a rifle or handgun. Hitting somebody else’s kid on the other side of the wall is not something that you want to do in a self-defense situation.
7) Buttstock shotgun shell holder – Every shotgun should have one of these. Nobody needs to be fiddling around for extra rounds when they need them, and in the event of a firefight, you’re most likely going to be using more than the four rounds that are in your shotgun’s tube. A shell holder will typically place 4-6 extra rounds right at your fingertips.
8) Handguns – Perchance you need to escape your apartment in a discrete manner, a handgun is going to be able to be concealed much easier than a shotgun or rifle will be. They do not take up much space, they are incredibly convenient, and they can be strategically placed throughout your apartment in a concealed manner that will not arouse any suspicion.
9) Proper ammunition – If all you have is ball ammunition and 12 gauge slugs, you could be in a world of trouble when things return to normal. Typically, within the US a person is responsible for everything they hit behind their targets as well, even if they are placed in a self-defense scenario. Ball ammunition and slugs will easily go right through a man and continue through drywall to adjacent apartments. You need to find ammunition that will hit a body and stay in it.
10) Water bottles – Water is one of the things that you will truly be limited in stocking if you live in an apartment. In order to keep proper OPSEC, I believe that cases of water bottles should be the chief way that water is stored in an apartment dwelling. They are easy to tuck away, cheap, portable, barterable, and do not look as suspicious as a comparable amount of jug water.
11) Stocked pantry – Obviously, a stocked pantry is going to be one of the keys to apartment prepping. There is only going to be so much that you can do to raise your own food in an apartment post-disaster, and as a result, proper stocking is your best course of action. I recommend keeping your pantry and kitchen cabinets fully stocked at all times, and to potentially store extra – such as MREs or freeze-dried food – in a non-conspicuous box under your bed.
12) Portable solar panel – In order to continue to gather information via phone/radio/computer you are going to need power, and considering that apartment dwellers are particularly vulnerable in the case of a power outage, you need to have some way to harness electricity in such an event. I highly recommend possession of a portable solar panel. I personally use a portable solar panel and battery set to charge phones and other small electronic devices in the event of a power outage, and it works great.
13) Lanterns/candles – For obvious reasons. If the power goes out (one of the most probable outcomes for any apartment post-disaster), you are going to want a way to illuminate your home.
14) Batteries – A well-rounded and rotating stock of batteries is vital to keep electronics and other goods in working condition
15) Black out curtains – OPSEC needs to be at the forefront of your mind when you live in an apartment post-disaster. Proper light discipline is one of the key ways that you can do. You need to have black out curtains on every window at night to eliminate any light escaping from your apartment and advertising your position/goods.
16) A way to collect rainwater – Odds are in a disaster scenario you will lose power to your apartment. If remaining in your apartment is your only true option, then you need some form of way to collect water. I believe that a tarp is one of the best ways to do so. They are highly portable, take up next to no space, but can catch a large amount of rainwater. In a rainstorm, for each square foot of roof you have, you can typically catch X gallons of water per hour.
17) Night latch – I personally prefer a night latch that cannot be accessed from the outside of the door. Such a lock will be unobservable to the potential thief, and therefore, unpickable/undrillable. It will also drastically improve the strength of your door when it comes to forced entry. These really are not that difficult to install, and you can find them for around $20, making these a prep that is well worth the small investment.
18) Door bar – I think that every bedroom should have one of these. Let’s say that you’re a single woman living on her own. Perchance somebody (e.g. an ex-boyfriend/abusive ex-husband) should break into the apartment’s main door, then the possession of a door bar can provide an effective last barrier if it can be used to barricade a bedroom door real quick, granting one extra time to find a firearm/call the police/a well-armed friend/etc.
19) Window alarms – You can easily find these on Amazon for relatively cheap. Should somebody climb up the fire escape and attempt to shatter the glass to get into your apartment, these alarms will let out an incredibly shrill scream alerting you and everyone else around you to the break-in.
3 Bonus Tips for Apartment Preppers
Prepping, of course, is more than just buying things. Here are a few additional suggestions I think you may find helpful.
1) Firechat – If you live in an apartment you need to download Firechat to your phone. Firechat works perfectly in urban environments and will enable you to communicate when cell towers go down. Firechat is a mesh net system that utilizes Bluetooth to bounce your fully encrypted message from node to node (other phones and computers) around physical obstacles that would typically block cell service. It has been used extensively in Hong Kong by protestors to organize without giving away their identity to the Chinese government.
2) Off-site storage facilities – When it comes to storing a sizeable amount of preps, an off-site storage facility may be one of your best options to ensure that you have adequate supplies without compromising your apartment’s daily livability/OPSEC. The catch is going to be getting safe and ready access to those supplies should there be a disaster scenario unfolding. In such an event, concealed transport of your goods is going to be vital. You do not want to be seen walking up to your apartment with cases of water and bags of canned food. That gets peoples’ attention. I would recommend a nondescript rolling suitcase/duffel bag/backpack to get your supplies back up to your apartment without raising any eyebrows.
3) Have ‘same page’ neighbors – I am becoming more and more convinced of the importance of not going solo in any disaster. There is strength in numbers, as the recent riots have demonstrated. Those who have tried to protect their homes and businesses alone have often ended up beaten to the point of death. When facing a very large and vicious mob of people who are bigger than you as well as armed, you need to ensure that you have backup. By having same page neighbors with an “attack on one is an attack on all” mindset, you will stand a much better chance of making it through a TEOTWAWKI situation in one piece.
Obviously, there is a lot that goes into prepping for any environment, and this is most certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list, but instead a jumpstart to give you some good foundation stones to build off of. It can be easy to plan for a low-level SHTF event living in an apartment, but much harder to plan for a longer-term TEOTWAWKI event. However, if you truly would like to delve deeper into what it takes to defend an apartment (or any dwelling for that matter) during a post-disaster situation, I highly recommend Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart by Joe Nobody.
About the Author:
Derrick was a “prepper” well before Y2K, Katrina, and Covid-19. He founded SHTF Blog in 2007, when it was one of only a handful of prepper blogs. Derrick is also founded Prepper Press in 2011, a survival blog and publisher of prepper books and entertainment.
He is fortunate to work with a strong team of writers who know the prepping community equally well.
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