Urban Survival in 2021: The Best Urban Prepping Guide

To survive in the urban environment, you will need to learn and use and a whole new set of skills and tools than you might ordinarily consider in other survival situations.  Urban survival techniques and objectives are completely different from the survival skills you would use in the wilderness.

Urban Survival Guide

We cover all you need to know about urban survival in this article. Further information can be found in the following articles:

The Urban Reality

SHTF Survival Blog

Most TV shows focus on wilderness survival.  These shows range from participants with plenty of supplies task to reach an extraction point in a defined time period, to those naked with only one survival tool on a mission to survive a predetermined amount of time.

In most cases, these competitions clearly illustrate the outstanding skills, pit falls, and difficulties of the participants in their respective survival environments. I must admit, most do an exceptional job of surviving their ordeal.

In reality, these shows represent an aspect of survival that most of you will never encounter.  Thus, as much as you may learn from watching these programs, the skills seen on the show will be of very little value in your most common environment, an urban setting.

Wilderness survival skills such a primitive fire starting, hunting, building a shelter, and water purification techniques are all valuable skills to know but are virtually useless in the urban survival environment.

Situational awareness, personal protection, planning, and preparation are far more important aspects of preventing and surviving an untoward urban event.  Urban survival know-how is divided into two very different scenarios of the urban environment.  One is the individual, small scale or personal adverse events, such as robbery, mugging, carjacking, or home invasion.  The other is the large scale urban survival events such as natural disasters, civil unrest, and economic collapse.

The likelihood you could find yourself in any one of these urban survival situations is very real and, in most cases, it will happen to each of you more than once in your lifetime.  Thus, it is essential to be prepared to prevent yourself from being a victim of circumstance.

Urban survival is dependent upon the application and use of six distinctive principles:

  • Planning,
  • Preparation,
  • Training,
  • Protection,
  • Communication and
  • Safe Haven

With this knowledge, you can prepare yourself for any untoward event that may occur in the urban environment.


doomsday preppers

Planning is essential to the success of any project. Without a plan, you have no direction, no defined objectives, and no documentation of your progress.

Setting goals and objectives are imperative.  It is the key to a successful outcome.  In this case, the goal is to be supplied, trained, and prepared for any form of urban survival situation. 

Your urban survival plan should consist of the following key elements Preparation, Training, Security, Protection, and Safe Haven.  Within each of the major sections, there are vital objectives that need to be accomplished to improve the success of survival.

There are two general sets of plans you will need to develop to meet your individual and unique circumstances. First is the plan to set in place all the tools you will need to prepare for your ability to survive an urban emergency.

The second step of planning is a group of smaller plans that are developed to assure that everyone in your family is educated on the procedures to follow during an untoward event. You should have at a minimum four operational plans: a natural disaster plan, a get out of town plan, a fire plan, and a home invasion/robbery plan.

Each of these plans has distinct elements that make them independent of each other.  However, they all involved one common important element… everyone is on the same page. This means everyone will have a much better chance of surviving any one of these unexpected events.


Preparation is the key to success in all aspects of your life.  In a survival situation, it could mean the difference between living and dying. This is one of the hardest aspects of getting ready for an urban survival event.

We are so accustomed to having everything from food, water, electricity, transportation, security, and many more things right at our fingertips.  It is so easy to put off getting prepared.  However, in an urban survival event, many of these essential items may not be available for extended periods of time. It is so easy to say it will not happen here or to us. 

The truth is disasters can strike anytime, anywhere, unannounced.  So being prepared is key.  Trying to prepare at the last minute, is a receipt for failure.  So having enough food on hand, propane to cook and heat if there is no electricity; water stored in tubs or rain barrels, personal protection tools and personal protection resources such as ammo, stored fuel for emergency evacuations or back-up generators. 

All are critical.

Training and Practice

Doomsday Survival

There are several areas of training that you should seriously consider as part of your urban survival plan. The training programs I highly recommend are courses on situational awareness, personal protection techniques such as martial arts and firearms training, obtaining a license to carry a weapon, first aid, and physical fitness.

Training in each of these areas adds depth to your preparedness and ability to manage numerous aspects of situations that may occur during an urban survival event.  I cannot stress how important training is to your ability to survive.

Equally important, is practice. Once you have received training in any of the areas mentioned above, you must practice the skills to remain competent.  Conducting drills is essential to making sure everyone is familiar with the established plans.  You need have practice drills of your in home plans, such as your fire, home invasion, and get home plans.  I cannot emphasize how important practice is; it is the true key to competency and can save your life.


Protection is one of the key elements of surviving an adverse urban survival event, whether it is a large scale disaster or an isolated, personal event.  There are three distinct areas where protection is essential you, your family, followed by your home or dwelling, and then your travel needs.

It is easy to forget, but you must protect yourself first. If you are injured or killed, then you lose the ability to protect your family.  Robberies, carjackings, home invasions all occur when you least expect it.  That is how they are planned.  The bad guys in these scenarios’ are looking for people that are not paying attention, distracted, and unprepared making them easy targets.

So maintaining a strong sense of situational awareness and being prepared to protect yourself is critical to prevention and survival.  The vast majority of natural disaster-related urban survival events is followed immediately by chaos, then in many cases by civil unrest such as looting. During the first two stages of an unexpected horrific urban event, it is exceedingly important that you morph into your protection mode of operation.

Doomsday Preppers

In the latter situation, you will need to immediately increase your situational awareness skills, be prepared to use your first aid training, and anticipate and be prepared to use your personal protection skills to survive.  In both the small and large scale urban environment scenarios mentioned above, it is essential you have ready access to your personal protection tools. No matter where you are you must be able to access them and be ready to use if needed.

If the event means you must move to a new location then you must be prepared to protect yourself while making the transition.  This is one area many people forget about. In many cases, when an untoward event occurs you may need to move to a new location.  During this transition to a new location, you want to make sure you can protect yourself.


Knowing where everyone is and that they are safe is always one of the first concerns of family members. How many times have you heard in news reports that people within a disaster zone or home fire are trying to determine where the other members of the family are located.  It is very common. 

Today we are very fortunate we have cell phones.  Mobile devices that enable us to communicate from almost where ever we may be.  It is evident cell phones play a vital role in helping you communicate and improve your ability to find others and seek help.

Safe Haven

Doomsday Preppers

Your safe haven is kind of like your exit on an airplane, the closest one may be behind you.  A safe haven is any location that provides a safe place for you and your family.  There are two main safe-havens.

The first is a room within a facility or your home that is set up to function as a safe place for anyone to go in when there is a need to protect yourself from any threat.  The second is any location you have access to that will enable you to gain protection from the outside world. 

A safe room can be as extensive as a room with steel-reinforced walls and a door that contains a large supply of water and food, multiple personal protection tools, and several communication devices or it could be as simple as a closet.  In general, the safe haven in your house should at a minimum consist of the following elements.

A room with a solid core door, enhanced hinges, a locking doorknob, a personal protection tool, a communications device, water, survival flashlight, and a small supply of snacks.

The first is located in your house.  You may have more than one safe room in your house depending on its layout.  For example, if you live in the three-story house, you may wish to have a safe room on each floor, at least one on the top and bottom floors.  Naturally, family and friends can be located throughout the house.  Should an event such as a home invasion take place then you want the people on the top and bottom floors to be able to seek a safe haven in those areas without having to transverse the main floor.

A safe haven can be your office, grandma’s house, your sister’s house, or a friend’s house.  Should a large-scale event happen such as a severe thunderstorm, ice storm, snowstorm, tornado or flood you may not be able to get to your home. So the nearest safe haven may be one of these locations.

Thus, as part of your preparation and planning, you should have keys to all these locations on your key chain.  In addition, this should be part of your natural disaster plan, so that your family will know where you will most likely be if any one of these types of events should occur.

Wrap Up

Check out this excellent video that puts everything together:

In summary, urban survival is considerably different than wilderness survival and requires another whole set of skills and understanding. You will need to think differently and act accordingly. Because the obstacles and challenges will be totally different than if you are in the wilderness.

However, the fundamental result is the same, survival.  Start the process of preparing, training, and practicing now. Don’t put it off.  It will be necessary for your survival in the urban environment.

Photos by:
Dave Hogg

Written by Dan C

Dan is a life long experienced and avid firearm enthusiast, hunter and outdoorsman. For ten years, Dan functioned as the team leader of a critical care medical team that conducted world-wide medical evacuations. He participated in over 300 medical missions worldwide at times in very remote and hostile environments, including Haiti, Nicaragua, the Middle East, Russia, and South America. Read his full interview here. Read more of Dan's articles.

21 thoughts on “Urban Survival in 2021: The Best Urban Prepping Guide”

  1. Thanks for the Urban Heads-up. While the deep city dwellers might find less use for specific wilderness survival skills, much of the outdoor stuff applies directly to the city, just with different players and scales.

    Trapping with snares and fishing might seem out of place in the city, but snares can be both offense and defensive, and you can fish for birds, bats and rats with the same skills and equipment as their aquatic counterparts.

    Just add some psychology and a common language to make situational awareness transition from brush to brick. And keep in mind that pets might make prey of you.

    In the end, the urban skillset, IMHO, is for a much harsher, meaner, and deadlier climate compared to the woods. That’s perhaps why many of us living in striking distance of the great outdoors would rather take our chances with nature than with man.

    Of course after a few weeks, it might be hard to tell the difference.

    Carry on!

  2. I agree with the majority of what you stated in this, I particularly like the breakdown focusing on the basics and not dwelling too deep into the weeds. details can be left to articles and books focused on that subject, or even better classes and training.

    Back to the point, I think the major issue I would respectfully disagree with is probably more in the phrasing rather than actual meaning so it is likely a moot point. Regardless stating that wilderness survival skills are “virtually useless” I think is a hardy mistake. I won’t dwell on it because the point was already made in the first comment, but I will add that survival is in the thought process and will to survive rather then the skills. A little ingenuity and the willpower to put one foot in front of the other will carry you through your disaster.

  3. Thank you for this article. I enjoy reading this website and anxiously wait for the next. This is a great topic for many of us who live in a big city and with many tips and tricks about wilderness survival I don’t think there’s enough about urban survival. I work hard to take care of my family, Im not loaded with lots of money like many so if shit hits the fan I don’t have a second home in the sticks to just run off to, so needless to say I will be trapped in a chaotic city (for now). I do my best to protect my family and try to prepare for any and all worse case scenario and would love to see more in depth articles on this subject. Thank you guys for what you do

    • Same here , my region of the country is not the most hospitable land , even if I did get out . Make sure you get a few street maps of your city , common sense but easily over looked with all the other things you have to worry about . That way , as you move around you can get around better as well as mark out areas that you find " bad" .

  4. Good article , your defense weapon type should reflect the close quarters of city fighting , dont get something that cant get dirty . People criticize the AK , but it was designed for urban , close in fighting . The Mini 30 is based on the M1A/M14 , but scaled down , its very small and simple , same cartridge as an AK and Ruger fixed the issues they had with the earlier models . The new ones are reliable and more than accurate for building to building . Shotguns , pistols are also good choices . I would be very careful about trying to move around , the criminal element in any city is already well aware of the best places to hide or attack . That makes them even more dangerous , these guys will have a field day if law enforcement is no longer available .

  5. In cities like Topeka, Kansas or Wichita, Kansas the residential areas resemble suburbia more than the inner city and our inner city areas aren't that large. What ideas would help in a societal collapse to make it through to whatever passes for a recovery for someone like me living in a Great Plains city?

    • Topeka rests upon the bluffs overlooking the Kansas River and partially straddles it on its floodplain. Wichita lies between the ridges that rest on each side of the Arkansas River at the southern end of its great bend straddling its floodplain and climbing up the two low ridges on either side (there's a reason Hillside is called Hillside and Ridge Road, Ridge Road.) Both cities are spread out over multiple sections and even townships though one is only around 130K and the other is a bit over 300K in population. I live in the smaller of the two now and have friends living in the larger. I just want some ideas to pass on to those in either place who will listen as to how to get by when things go sour.

  6. In an urban environment, following a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flooding etc, wilderness skills such as fire starting and water purification would actually be very important if water and electricity were cut off. A large number of casualties occur as a result of contaminated water during urban disasters. If a major disaster occurred during winter in colder regions, people would need to know how to build fires to cook, purify water, and for warmth. The recent polar vortex, which saw freezing temperatures, snow and ice storms, knocked out power for tens of thousands and left many in the cold. People died from freezing or attempting to heat their homes with camp stoves etc. If your home is damaged or inaccessible, knowing how to build a shelter and fire could save your life in a city.

  7. You've touched on a subject that many of us will have to deal with. Many people live in urban areas where the "exits" out of town will be clogged with traffic when shtf. We saw that here in CO during the Waldo Canyon fire. People were waiting in long lines to get gas when people in the pass west of town were told to evacuate their homes. They were blocking those who had a full tank & just wanted to get out of the small communities up the pass on Hwy 24. (Keep your cars topped with fuel at all times) Thinking about having to stay put within an urban area is a valid scenario & many people don't know what to do. Many people, as we've learned this past year with all of the bad weather in the upper Midwest and northeast ran to grocery stores and emptied the shelves, standing in very long lines waiting to check out. They weren't prepared for the horrendous impending storms that slammed into their communities. Common sense seems to be lacking when it comes to being prepared for any situation that an urban dweller will, or could face. Thank you for sharing "food for thought". I hope others will read this article and start preparing themselves for "urban survival."

  8. @Dan C.; Great post. Planning and preparation are certainly key. I would have to say while the skill set for urban survival is "somewhat" different, the attitude for survival is the same. Your spidey senses need to be on full alert. I would somewhat disagree about the fire making and water purification. For at least a few days you wouldn't need to necessarily be concerned about water safety, but after 3–5 days of no power, you would have to be concerned about water quality. Bad water, doesn't necessarily taste bad, so how would you know…..the screaming, greenwater $#!+s? Not the best way to approach that I think. As far as communication, having enough "deer camp" radios (GMRS, FRS, even CB) for the family (and batteries) stored in ammo cans would ensure that there is some capability as they don't need repeaters to work and would be safe from any external electrical aberrations, while an extended power outage of more than a few days would render all but satellite phones inoperable. For your safe haven, people need to make sure that if it is a PUBLIC facility, that their "personal protection" equipment doesn't get them put in jail. How bad would it suck to be put in jail, separated from your family and unable to protect them AND stuck in jail while the world goes to hell in a hand basket during the Zombie Apocalypse. They are zombie bait and so are you. I think the biggest "urban survival" issue is KNOWING WHEN TO LEAVE. Most people, unfortunately, will stay until they realize "it's too late". That will be horrible. PLEASE LISTEN. If the power went off in the United States and the rest of the world for JUST 6-8 WEEKS, somewhere between 65%-85% of the population of this country will die. READ THAT AGAIN……. Without air you die in 7 minutes. Without water you die in 3-10 days, depending on conditions. Assuming you have those, IT TAKES APPROXIMATELY 6 WEEKS for a nominally healthy person to starve to death, maybe a couple of more. If there is no electricity, there will be no fuel, no computers, no phones, no medical facilities, no heat, no A/C, no transportation, no government, NO FOOD!!!! There is no infrastructure in place, no infrastructure in that period of time could be put in place, to move food from the countryside to the cities, in anywhere near the volume necessary, to prevent this from happening to the majority of people. Is this where you want to be, fighting for your life and the lives of your family? If you wake up one morning, and all the power is off nationwide (or worse yet, worldwide) and you don't do what you have to do THEN, THAT DAY, THAT HOUR, to escape and survive, YOU WON'T! This is why I say move to the country, waaaayyyyy away from "the city", get 5 acres and homestead. Grow a garden, raise rabbits, goats and chickens, lead a more prepared, pastoral life. It soothes your soul. Again, a well written article Dan C. Be well.

  9. Thanks TripodXL, Good points…… it is very hard to be prepared for every senario… it is alos difficult to be prepared for long periods of nothing…. but the possibility that could happen is real and thus you need to make some preparations……

    Be safe my friend…

  10. throw in covid 19! this and toilet paper took americans by surprise. 99% of preppers in the US missed this one (viruses) too.
    having lived in a sh!t hole like memphis, you are 100% on urban vs wilderness mindset and tactics. wilderness is more predictable. yes, weather, animals, insects, food, water and shelter play a big role in survival, but its nothing compared to humans that are desperate and in survival mode. religion, genocide, hate, racism, power, greed, etc,… its all in the history books.
    if people don't start getting them covid gov and unemployment checks… the city is the last place id wanna be! the human mind is the greatest weapon on the earth.

    people are funny animals!


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