Imagine receiving a notification with news alerting you of a citywide lockdown or a shelter-in-place order. Wherever you are at that very moment is where you must remain until whatever is happening outside your door is declared safe. It’s something we don’t want to think about, but it has happened before, and it will happen again.
In addition to hazardous weather conditions bringing entire cities to a standstill, social unrest, terrorism, or health pandemics can lead to a government lockdown of city blocks or entire cities.
While this type of lockdown seems scary for many, it is especially intensified for the 83% of Americans who live in urban settings. In urban environments, there are additional challenges, mainly because of the large number of other people who will also be looking for the food, water, and tools necessary to survive. The U.S. Cities Factsheet from The University of Michigan makes this fear understandable, citing:
- The average population density of the U.S. is 90 people per square mile.
- The average population density of metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) is 283 people per square mile; in New York City, the population density is 27,012 people per square mile.
- Guttenberg, New Jersey, has the greatest density of housing units (24,195) per square mile.
Should metropolitan areas experience a disaster and subsequent lockdown, residents will be battling over supplies, as well as trying to protect themselves from those trying to take advantage of the situation (i.e., looters or rioters).
Here are some different examples of times when urban dwellers were forced to wait out an emergency.
- Boston Marathon bombing: After two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, police officers shut down the entire city of Boston. This lockdown was both to protect against a second bombing, as well as help officers locate the bomber. In addition to telling residents to shelter in place, the government shut down all public transit systems, schools and authorities asked businesses to close, and vehicle traffic was banned. This shelter in place order affected 625,000 people, who received emergency texts and robocalls telling them to stay home while the manhunt continued.
- Brussels shooting: After the attack in Paris in 2015, the European capital of Brussels entered a lockdown due to the terrorist alert level and the number of people being connected to the Paris attacks found hiding in Brussels. This lockdown lasted several days. One citizen at the time was quoted by Time Magazine saying, “As for most the city’s 1.2 million inhabitants, it’s not the army in the street or the threat of gunfire and explosions that’s really overshadowing my life — it’s the complete shutdown of public services, which is making normal life impossible.”
- C. winter weather: In 2010, a massive blizzard crippled D.C., shutting down everything from airports to the federal government. It is still referred to as Snowmageddon. According to The Farmers’ Almanac, “The result of all this was a complete shutdown of the nation’s capital: flights were canceled; schools were closed; and the federal government sent workers home, where they were stuck for several days because the region was ill-equipped to deal with so much snow.”
These events are inherently different, but they all show the importance of urban prepping because there may come a time when you are forced to stay in the city. If you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands (or millions), bugging out may not even be a possibility. In these cases, it is critical to know how to lay low and wait out an emergency.
Use these following tips to help you prepare for survival in an urban environment.
How to make space
One of the major differences between those practicing preparedness in the cities versus those in rural settings is space (or lack thereof). Many urban dwellers do not have an abundance of extra space. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to make use of every bit of space you do have available.
- Look for multipurpose items. Since you don’t have a lot of extra space, avoid purchasing multiple items when you could purchase one that does several jobs, such as a 4-in-1 radio, bleach, or WD-40.
- Buy furniture with extra storage. Purchase furniture that can also store survival essentials, such as storage ottomans or using storage chests for coffee tables.
- Take full advantage of storage spaces. Use every bit of your closet. For example, if your coats don’t reach the bottom of the closet, use the bottom half of your closet for storage. Add in shelving if it helps you store more survival essentials.
- Use every bit of extra space. Don’t skip on emergency supplies because of lack of space. Instead, get creative with the space you do have, such as underneath beds and dressers or on top of refrigerators.
In an emergency, water is a priority. However, in a city, there is a big possibility the public water will be shut off or fail and bottled water will fly off the shelves. Having access to clean water is essential for hydration and sanitation. Here are some suggestions for urban prepping H2O.
- Store clean bottled drinking water at home.
- Source water from undamaged water heaters or toilet tanks or by melting ice cubes.
- Stock up on water collection containers to collect rainwater.
- Fill bottles, pitchers, and your bathtub up with water. Purify it using germicidal tablets.
- Invest in an Alexapure Pro Water Filtration
How to store food
Choose emergency food wisely. Rather than stocking up on a bunch of space-consuming canned nonperishable foods, opt for dry food that takes up less space and lasts longer. For example, My Patriot sells multiple cases of Ready Hour dry foods that contain multiple pouches. These pouches are much smaller than bulky cans, and they can be taken out of the case and stored individually.
How to get power
When a city loses power, it is a scary situation. Prepare in advance for power outages by stocking up on batteries, flashlights, and lanterns. Generally, it is wise to invest in a generator. However, generators may not work in urban settings. Not only are they not safe for indoor use, but they are also loud and draw attention. Instead, invest in solar-powered gear, such as solar-powered lighting, solar-powered chargers, and solar-powered ovens.
How to stay safe
Unfortunately, safety becomes a major concern during emergencies in urban settings. During blackouts, crime rises. During civil unrest, looting and violence occur. Therefore, it is necessary to have the tools to protect yourself and your loved ones if the danger outdoors moves closer to home.
- Store defensive items, such as pepper spray, gun and ammo, or knife.
- Invest in communication tools, such as an emergency hand-crank radio to stay informed.
- Keep your phone charged or buy a power bank for your cell phone to call for emergency assistance.
- Have extra locks on hand for additional protection against forced entries.
- Secure your windows (board up if necessary).
- Have supplies to protect against hazardous materials or chemicals, such as duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal windows and doors.
- Keep a stocked first aid kit.
Don’t fear. Prepare, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply