“It’s the end of the world as we know it” – at least that’s what the popular 1980s band REM reported in one of their biggest hits of the same name. TEOTWAWKI is a much talked about and much prepared for scenario. When you hear the term survivalist or prepper, do you picture camo-clad wild men creeping around in the far back woods?
It may surprise you to learn that prepping is catching on in urban areas across the country. You never know when a catastrophe may leave you on your own without government services for an extended amount of time. Living in an urban environment makes you more susceptible to this disruption, since higher population density puts more strain on the services.
When you start on the pathway to being prepared, you are taking responsibility for your own future. The best place to start your preparations is to put together supplies for the first three days of a disruption. With a disruption in an urban area, it could easily be three days before services are restored, and this is the standard amount of time most experts advise preparing for.
The 72-Hour Kit
A 72-hour kit consists of everything a person will need to stay safe, warm, and fed for three days. You need supplies for each person you plan on being in your household. (Always get extras if you can afford it.)
You need three days of food. The easiest food to put in your 72-hour kit is the military meals ready to eat (MREs for short). These meals are made for soldiers in the field, and they contain a lot of nutrition in each package. A person can easily survive on one or two packs eaten over the course of a day. If you don’t want to use MREs, you can go to the local camping store and get some backpacking food. It stores well and takes up little space.
Water may also be an issue, and you need to plan accordingly. Drinking water can be bought at the grocery store in gallon jugs, but many times this proves unsatisfactory for storage, since the plastic in those jugs breaks down over time and they will begin to leak. Using cleaned-out bleach bottles works much better for storing water. Plan on at least a gallon of water per person per day; this should take care of drinking and personal hygiene.
Each person should have a flashlight with extra batteries. A shake light or chemical light stick is also a good idea. Other forms of lighting are oil lamps, kerosene lanterns, or candles. Always be extra careful with an open flame in these situations because there will be no fire department to come put out any accidental fires. Include one or two good fire extinguishers if you don’t already own them.
Do not neglect a good first aid kit and a wind up radio. Hopefully, you will never need the first aid kit, and the radio will let you keep up on any news or warnings.
There are a plethora of pre-made 72-hour kits available online. If you decide to go this route, you will need to study what is offered in each kit, and pick the one that best suits your idea of what is needed for three days.
Prepping Beyond the Basics
If you are sitting in your chair reading this and thinking to yourself, “Great, now what do I do if something lasts longer than three days?” then congratulations, you are starting to think like a prepper. The 72-hour kit is a starting point. It is like car insurance; everyone should have it. Going beyond is what the prepping lifestyle is all about.
Determining what your needs are will be an individual choice. The 72-hour kit is a very basic microcosm of what will be needed for an extended period of self-reliance. Other factors to consider will include your housing. An apartment dweller will have to be much more selective in the preps they assemble than the suburbanite who has more room for storage.
You also need to determine what exactly you want to prepare for. People on hurricane coasts and in earthquake zones are already aware of certain basic preparations they need to make as a matter of course. If you don’t live in those areas, what do you need to prepare for?
- Economic Collapse
- Civil Unrest
- Nuclear War
- EMP Attack
- Terrorist Attack
- Natural Disaster
The list goes on and on; only you can determine what you think is an actual threat and are willing to spend time and money preparing for. No matter what you prepare for, the basics stay the same, only the quantities and priorities will change.
The preppers’ library is the heart and soul of your preparations. The more information you can stuff between your ears, the better your chances if you have to use that information. You should own at least one book on wilderness survival, just for basic knowledge. I have not seen a better collection offered than the ones from Solutions from Science . Written for both for the homesteader and the prepper who is ready for anything when it happens, there are a number of books you can buy and avail yourself of a vast array of information all in one place.
The Internet is always an excellent resource as well. While you most likely won’t be able to leaf through it during an emergency, you can pick up all sorts of useful information by reading blogs and participating in forums. Forums are a great place to get answers to questions that you may be afraid, for obvious reasons, to ask locally.
In a disaster, you need at least a gallon of potable water per person per day, preferably more. That gets to be a lot of water really quick in a survival situation, and storing that much water can be a hassle. If you decide you need more than the 72 hours worth, consider storing collapsible water storage containers, which are available at most camping supply stores.
There are also products like the WaterBOB that fit in your bathtub. It is a plastic bladder you fill during the beginning of your emergency, giving you up to 100 gallons of potable water at your disposal.
If you live in a house, your hot water heater will have several gallons of water stored in it. Some homeowners have even surreptitiously drilled their own back yard wells.
Stocking up on food is easy if you put away the food you already eat. Canned goods store well and can be rotated by using the oldest first. A good system is to date each can with a sharpie marker when you put them away. When shopping, adopt the “one for me and one for a friend” attitude, and you will start to build up a reserve of food.
Beans and rice are cheap to buy in bulk, and when eaten together provide a complete protein option. These can be bought at your local supermarket in bags or by the sealed five-gallon bucket from a prepper supply website.
Freeze dried food in #10 cans is a prepper staple. It is amazing the variety available today. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, butter powder, and much more can be purchased online. Most firms will sell you one can, but they also have cases all the way up to a complete one-year supply of food.
To be even more self-sufficient, you can get a dehydrator. Then buy in bulk and dry your own storage food. A vacuum sealer makes packaging a snap.
If you have room, you can grow much of your own food, even in the city. Apartment dwellers will be limited to window and balcony gardens, or they may want to get into hydroponics. Check out Instructables  for loads of urban survival projects.
Homeowners have more leeway when it comes to growing food. You can get a lot of food from a small garden if you use the right techniques. There is an interesting movement afoot in some cities called “Urban Farming.” While not claiming to be preppers, they are taking responsibility for most of their own food supply by producing it themselves. Dog Island Farm  is a nice blog dedicated to producing their own food. Another is Havenscourt Homestead . They offer information about what animals can be raised inside the city limits.
Health and Sanitation
You should buy the largest and most complete first aid kit you can afford. You may also want to lay in some extra supplies, like any prescription medicines you require. If your doctor will not give you an extended prescription, now is the time to research what you can use in an emergency instead.
A five-gallon bucket lined with a trash bag will make a decent toilet once you don’t have water for flushing. You can pour in bleach to keep down the smell. Don’t forget toilet paper! Get rolls and rolls of the stuff; you really don’t want to run out. Stock up on anything you use and don’t want to run out of.
Keep yourself clean—wash using a little soap and water and a washcloth. It will help you to feel better about yourself in a stressful situation.
Putting together enough supplies to last through any foreseen emergency is insurance for your family’s well being, but what do you do with it all? If you are like most Americans, you have stuff coming out of your ears already. It is time to prioritize and use your imagination.
Rubbermaid containers are a prepper’s best friend. Fill several with supplies and slide them under your bed. Other simple storage spaces include attics, basements, crawl spaces, and the area above a hung ceiling. You can use cases of dehydrated food with a cloth over them in place of your coffee table.
More elaborate measures can be taken within your interior walls. You can remove the sheetrock between a set of studs and build 3 ½” deep shelving from floor to ceiling. This is best done in your pantry where these shelves are perfect for storing canned goods and other useful supplies .
Keeping yourself and your loved ones safe during an emergency should be your highest priority. Failing to plan for security could mean all your other preps are wasted if someone can come in and steal or drive you away from them.
Where preppers get the bum rap from the media is the fact that many who call themselves preppers think only about a bunch of guns and ammo. Then they dress up in camo and spend their weekends running around in the woods “training” for who knows what. They will neglect the basic necessities, relying on their weapons to try and take what they need. The only thing they are really prepping for is to become criminals.
While firearms are not a bad thing, you need to remember they also are not the only thing. If your city allows, you should be armed with a firearm. A pump shotgun is a good choice for an urban environment. A handgun is very useful for being armed when you don’t want to draw attention to the fact you are carrying a firearm. Please learn to use them well and practice often so you will be a responsible owner.
The key to urban security is in keeping a low profile. Only select people should have any kind of idea you have preps stored away. The only people to tell are the ones you wouldn’t mind showing up on your doorstep in an emergency.
Some urban preppers have taken the step of forming groups. These groups consist of like-minded people who plan on banding together for mutual assistance and defense in troubled times. People reach out on survival forums. Always be certain to meet in a neutral place and don’t give up too much information until you are certain they are safe and can be trusted.
The radio from the 72-hour kit will keep you informed of any civil disturbances in your area. Avoid these areas like the plague! If you are in the middle of it, stay indoors and away from the windows. Have your fire extinguishers out and handy, and keep your firearms loaded. Keep the doors locked and wait it out.
If You Have to Bug Out
Survivalist Ragnar Benson, author of many books on the subject, points out that you should “never become a refugee.” A refugee is a person who is forced from their home and has nowhere to go. If you have to leave your home, have a plan. Know where you are going to go if leaving is necessary.
This is where friends and relatives come in handy; they should be talked to as part of your preparations. If you have a group, there will most likely be a central location you have agreed upon.
Some people buy land in a rural area near their city and expect to go there. The idea has merits, but what if some other person or group of people gets there first? How will you evict them from your land?
One of the most workable ideas may be to rent a large storage unit and keep many of your supplies there. People have been known to live in them in these hard economic times, so turning one into your survival shelter will be a piece of cake.
Remember: a refugee is someone with nowhere to go. If you collect the information you need, learn how to use it, and make adequate preparations, you should be able to handle most anything that is thrown at you. You should never have to become a refugee.