Survival Advice that Won’t Work for a City Dweller

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

There is a lot of advise about preparing for disasters that may not be helpful to city folks, especially an apartment dweller, if taken at face value.  To make them work, you’d have to rethink the advice and modify it for your needs.

1.  Bury a cache of emergency items in a secret location

This is bad idea, possibly even dangerous within an urban area.   You never know when there are hidden pipes or gas lines that you can inadvertently puncture and cause an accident.  Also, even areas that seem isolated are private property.  When we moved in to the apartment, there was a heavily wooded area right behind our unit.  The area was covered with trees and looked very private.  I’ve even seen the occasional backpacker  set up a tent for the night.  A couple of years later, the bulldozers moved in an completely cleared the area.  Now an office building is going up.  If anyone even thought of hiding anything back there, it would be dug up and missing by now.

Workaround:  Store your emergency supplies in an accessible storage facility or with a trusted family member or friend.

2.  If you need water you can easily collect water from decorative ponds and water features, and just boil it.

In many cities and suburbs, especially in desirable subdivisions, you see a lot of man-made waterways as part of the landscaping.  They may appear to be good sources of drinking water, but this is not the case.  These water features are usually built as a way to divert runoff and prevent flooding.  The result is a melting pot of metals, chemicals, pesticides, bacteria and viruses, other waste products and are likely full of pollutants that even boiling would not remove.

Workaround:  Store plenty of drinking water for emergencies – at least one gallon per person per day.  Invest in a good water filter and maintain it.  Water filters vary widely in what metals, chemicals, bacteria they remove – check the fine print in your water filter to find out.

3.  Store gasoline in your garage for emergencies.

Storing gasoline is prohibited by most leases if you live in an apartment.  Even if you own a home, it can can be dangerous if not done properly.

Workaround:  Always keep your cars’ gas tanks above a quarter full, or even half full.  This way you never have to worry about running out at an inconvenient time.  If you are able to store gas, make sure it is kept in EPA compliant containers and use a stabilizer such as Sta-bil.  Do not store your emergency supplies or near a gasoline storage container, as fumes may ruin your storage.

4.  Get your neighbors involved with your emergency preparedness plans.

Having an emergency preparedness group is admirable and can be beneficial for your plans.  However, depending on your neighborhood, this may not be advisable.  If you live in an apartment, many residents are short-term; in my building several units are corporate owned, and used for clients visiting from out of town.  And some of the building occupants are not really what you’d call neighborly. 

Your neighborhood may also border on an undesirable area, and you don’t want word getting out that you have a lot of supplies and gear stored up.

Workaround:   Be careful whom you trust and use your best judgement when sharing your preparedness plans.  If you are not able to establish a community within your neighborhood, reach out to others such as friends and family who are like-minded.

5.  If you don’t store food, you can always hunt and fish.

Hunting and fishing would be severely limited in an urban area.  Houston has the bayou and some nature preserves, but these would not have enough wildlife to to support all the residents if they were to hunt and fish.

Workaround:   You really need that food storage plan!  Make sure you have enough food stored up to cover at least a month’s worth of food for your family and go from there.

What survival advice do you think won’t work for you?  Please share!

© Apartment Prepper 2015

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  1. I have found sharing prepping ideas to be dangerous as people have said they will break in and take my preps rather than do it themselves! Also, as my county is agenda 21, apartment dwellers are monitored for “hoarding food”.
    I am thinking a small scale indoor aquaponics system disguised as pet fish and house plants is the best way to go . .

    1. Hi Karen, I think its a great idea, to try out aquaponics. I have the tiny setup right now just to get some experience but will move to a balcony one once I get better at it. Thanks for the comment.

    2. Hoarding food? and i thought that US are land of free people.jokes aside; that sucks big time.What are the rules for “hoarding food”? one month of food in storage? more? less? How do they monitor how much food do you use or store? im sorry if im a bit nosy, but im from Europe and thats something i havent heard yet.As prepper im concerned by that as much as all of you.Hydroponics or aquaponics works great fo vegetables, you could always try to raise hamsters(i know they are too cute to be food) or rats(they arents as bad as many are saying, i’ve eaten few during survival courses) and not drawing too much attention to your “hoobies” 😉 . Stay safe and good luck.

  2. I found about the same, Karen. I tried to discuss prepping with my close friends and their response was, “Oh, I’ll just come to your house.” Sure enough, when Hurricane Sandy hit, one friend didn’t own a key to her own house (she always used her garage door and now the opener didn’t work) and another friend didn’t own a flashlight and tumbled down her stairs. Fortunately, I was only without power for 10 hours and was able to and gladly helped them out. I just don’t understand people who have the means to at least get a flashlight and store some food. Several years later, my one friend has a key (she had to hire a locksmith) but can’t find it. My other friend bought one flashlight. I mean, really?

    1. Hi CMR, Unfortunately, most people glaze over when faced with the subject of being prepared. They still believe someone will always be there to bail them out. Good thing you were able to help your friends. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Bernie,

    Your blog is great. Just wanted to note that there is an alternative to burying a cache: urban caching. Things like false fixtures, empty pipes, etc. Got that idea from Neil Strauss’ “Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life”.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. In my book, PULSE (aftermath of an EMP) Sarah Weaver lives in a smallish apartment building. Sanitation and water become problems very quickly, as well as fire caused by someone else’s misguided attempt to stay warm. As an apartment prepper, do you see yourselves as staying in place?

    1. Hi LR, I’d stay in place only for short term disasters; if the grid went down and infrastructure collapsed, staying in the city would become unbearable quickly.

  5. I work in property management (affordable and low-income housing) in an urban area. I would be shocked if any one of the residents had even thought of prepping. If SHTF, the community (highrise and town-homes) would be an absolute disaster (murder, fighting, fires, etc). If I lived in such an environment, I think my threshold for bugging-in would be drastically reduced to very short-term emergency (power outage, elevator down, snow). However, for any real SHTF, it would be bad and survival would depend on getting out quickly. As resources dwindled, urban and low income areas would be war zones. If it is sometimes bad now, it would be hell then.

    1. Hi Michael, I agree with you there. When living in an apartment in an urban area, I recommend having enough supplies to last through short term emergencies- such as hurricanes where the power can be out for a few days, and possibly no truck deliveries due to flooding. However in a grid down long term disaster, things can go south very quickly.

  6. All great ideas and noted suggestions. As with ” If you don’t store food, you can always hunt and fish” … hunting and fishing will be hard to do in any area .. at least here in NJ. You have to remember, there will be a whole lot of people doing the same thing to survive. At least that’s how I see it. We are not very rural here in Jersey.

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