For many, the concept of urban survival draws much from images of post-disaster and apocalyptic scenarios where civil order is gone and food, water, healthy air are not available. Perhaps the most extreme picture of such a situation would be the one depicted in Mad Max movies where it is clear the survivors have to contend with a life that no longer includes the rule of law as we know it and amenities such as running water and electricity are all a thing of the past.
Urban survival has become a term applied to the systematic preparation undertaken by individuals, families or groups in anticipation of a wide range of catastrophic phenomena. This systematic preparation can include the construction of shelters, the storing of food, water and health supplies and even the collection of weapons as protection against possible anarchy.
Types of Disasters and Catastrophes
There are different types of disasters or catastrophes that urban survivalists prepare for. Some of these are manmade and some are caused by nature. One of the manmade catastrophes would be nuclear war; the malicious introduction of deadly virus into the air; radioactive contamination of land, water and air. Another manmade catastrophe would be the worldwide collapse of economies due to hyperinflation. Some foresee that this will lead to the cessation of manufacturing, trade and even agriculture.
The world caught a taste of the scope of disaster brought on by a Chinese coronavirus. Although not known for sure, evidence points to an intentional release of the virus in China designed to bring world economies to a standstill. As a result of the virus, countries closed their borders, quarantined their citizens, and caused widespread economic crisis.
Natural disasters that urban survivalists prepare for include avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and tsunamis. Survivalists also have a long list of meteorological disasters (blizzards, hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, heat waves, tornadoes, etc.) and space disasters (impact events, gamma ray bursts, solar flares).
Coping with Post-Disaster Conditions
Survivalists seem to agree that people in urban areas are vulnerable in post-disaster conditions. Their approach to making survival possible in devastated cities shows what is urban survival in its most thorough form.
Most survivalists will give lists of what individuals and families must prepare in terms of food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, safety and communications. A whole new lexicon has evolved among survivalists with acronyms such as BOB (bug out bag), BOL (bug out location), BOV (bug out vehicle). Some of the instructions given out by so-called experts are very detailed and carefully studied. A serious look at survivalist manuals will show strategies that leave nothing to chance. For example, one survival food list includes a strongly worded reminder that a supply of water purification tablets should be a priority.
The manuals written by survivalists can usually be downloaded free. They will provide advice on how to make homes relatively protected and what to put inside gears and kits that you carry with you wherever you go. Others will feature knives and other tools together with advice on which ones are the most practical and efficient.
Perhaps the idea of being armed is a rather disturbing aspect that further shows the nuances of what is urban survival. Many survivalists will say that when a really big disaster comes and when it adversely affects large populations for long periods of time, lawlessness and disorder will be prevalent; people will try to loot those who are known to have food and medicine and violence will erupt. Families therefore need to arm themselves to ensure their safety. Of all the images that urban survival calls to mind this is probably the most frightening.
The Community of Urban Survivalists
Urban survivalists have established a strong community of believers who have numerous websites and who conduct trainings, publish books and air videos. They form groups and associations; they issue newsletters and bulletins; they provide no-nonsense reviews of products that survivalists would purchase.
Many survivalists lead ordinary jobs and maintain jobs. Some keep silent about their overwhelming concerns about survival and will only speak freely in forums or when in the company of fellow survivalists. Others consider it an advocacy to spread the bad news about possible disasters so that others too may be prepared. While many may not subscribe to all of the ideas survivalists espouse, the fact remains that in the last ten years a good number of unexpected disasters have destroyed many metropolitan centers. This being the case perhaps their cry for preparedness should not be totally ignored.