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Urban Escape and Evasion Techniques

When it comes to urban escape and evasion, there are several factors that can determine the success or the failure of our objective. Moving from an urban context to being off-grid requires a specific mindset paired with relevant skills.

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As a SHTF scenario is rapidly unfolding, we need to resort to a solid knowledge base in order to make our way out in a safe and undetected manner.

The topics related to constant movement, adaptability, operational flexibility, self-reliance, and endurance are the cornerstones of a winning mindset.

The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city

David Harvey

Although it seems like modern technology is able to detect and record every single movement we make, we can still count on the reliability of “old-school” skills and techniques.

Some of them are far from being outdated and are definitely alive and kicking.

Man-tracking, for example, plays an essential role when it comes to reading tracks left even on the toughest substrate.

The application of anti-tracking, on the opposite end of the spectrum, leads you to leaving the minimum indication or evidence of your travel.

Why Would You Need to Escape an Urban Environment?

You may need to escape from an urban context for several reasons:

  • a potentially dangerous situation (natural or manmade) has occurred or is unfolding
  • a public threat is imminent
  • an individual necessity dictated by specific reasons
  • a matter of you or your family personal security
  • and so on

This article will cover various aspects related to urban escape and evasion by applying the above-mentioned skills to move undetected.

The Importance of Risk Analysis

Escape and evasion should always be preceded by an accurate phase of evaluations and planning (when possible), specifically if you live in a city.

It goes without saying that risk analysis occupies a place of extreme importance in your escape plan.

The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.”

Goethe

People trust in two opposite systems in order to evaluate each single situation and, consequentially, to make decisions.

Intuition: fast, heavily influenced by previous experiences, emotional, and pretty much automatic

Analysis: pragmatical, effective, logic

Risk analysis may favor the second one, because it can lead to more valuable longterm results.

A detailed individual escape plan should include:

  • drills to work through in case of emergency evacuation
  • selection of the ideal routes to take
  • gear set up and maintenance – don’t forget a detailed, paper map of your area. Navigation devices, in fact, can fail, and/or you may run out of batteries.
  • halfway shelters or sites where you can recover
  • off-grid shelters

The above are in addition to the following information, which may need to be continuously updated. This is related to the specific area you are in.

  • escape routes (above, on, and under)
  • exfiltration methods
  • evacuation techniques

When to Escape

A SHTF event can catch you at any time for any reason.

By saying that, you must be able to complete an accurate risk analysis every time you cross through a relevant scenario (indoor or outdoor). By doing this you can establish:

  • the features of each context – exposure, vulnerability, materials, and so on
  • potential escape routes
  • potential hiding locations
  • presence of any useful objects, which could help you:
    • defend yourself
    • break down windows and doors
    • leave no trace of your transition

By evaluating the consequences of each single action above you can develop and formulate an escape plan.

Evaluation of the Scenario – How to Start From the Substrate

As mentioned above, when planning and putting into action an urban escape, you must consider three different levels related to the scenario. Above, on, and underground.

Important analysis should be consistent in regards to the reliability and exposure of all the surfaces you are traveling on.

Above the Ground

Making your way out by moving from one roof to another is not just risky, but also quite naive. At a minimum, you may be quickly noticed by other people. We don’t even need to get into the risk of injury from trying to make hasty movement via rooftops.

Additionally, the prevalence of drones and other electronic surveillance equipment makes it more of a likelihood you will be spotted. In order to move undetected, you need to move near or around buildings and other structures, taking advantage of their shadows or under thick and leafy trees. This goes for daytime and nighttime.

If drones are equipped with thermal cameras, you can use an emergency blanket made with Mylar to help disrupt the imaging.

On the ground

Making any transition from one area to another by remaining on the ground just makes sense. The presence of buildings, cars, etc., can offer you good concealment and more opportunities to stay hidden.

As a bonus, the urban terrain can turn out to be your best ally when it comes the necessity to leave no tracks, as we will soon discuss.

Under the Ground

Some cities, like New York or Las Vegas just to mention a few, have a web of underground tunnels. The problem is accessing these areas and then not getting lost.

Plus, some of these underground locations can be flooded and/or have other threats or concerns. So be sure to keep these things in mind before going underground.

By carefully scouting an area, you can gather intelligence on hostile or friendly elements related to people and the scenario itself. Scouting requires a 540-degree view, and it obviously includes the study of the substrate we are moving on.

Man-tracking and, specifically, urban tracking stand on one fundamental: any person who crosses a “space” will leave behind a systematic amount of evidence.

This evidence can be both macro both micro.

Inside a city, due to the tough nature of urban soils (asphalt, concrete, etc.), every detail counts when you are tracking another human being.

Even the smallest details, like discarded material (cigarette butts, food remnants), any lost items, bodily fluids, dog and cat droppings, and/or any sticky material or liquid you can step on (for example, paint on pedestrian zebra lines) can turn into indicators of your activity.

Besides that, some areas of soft soil like clay, sand, and wet ground can capture the details of the soul of a shoe (“Pattern” in Tracking). They are called Track Traps in man-tracking terminology.

You can easily run across into them in:

  • the sides of roads
  • public or private parks & gardens (where you can see also dew and spider webs)
  • flowerbeds and flowered spaces 
  • slopes to drainage
  • dirt-covered spaces
  • private access to properties
  • parking lots (where you can find oil or other liquids)

You can also find them on fresh asphalt or concrete. Tar can be the ideal surface for making Urban Track Traps.

By utilizing these elements, you have several good chances to detect footprints and to understand if anyone crossed the area before you or took advantage of a shelter you may want to utilize.

Aging tracks are one of the toughest things to analyze due to the massive contamination of the soil over longer periods of time.

Nonetheless, if man-tracking is applied with accuracy and consistency, even the finest detail can be relevant in understanding if we are traveling in a safe direction.

Applying a Tracker’s Mindset to Urban Escape

By developing a tracker’s mindset you will be able to take advantage of not only a sound situational awareness, but it will also provide you the ability to create a mental database connected to the places you see. This includes their structural features and possible exit points.

Furthermore, man-tracking can be successfully paired to profiling people. This can be useful to forecast their intentions and to understand if we can rely on them.

A tracker is always moved by persistence, acuteness, effectiveness, the ability to gather critical data, and cleverness. Having such a mindset is a great benefit in an urban escape.

Anti-Tracking Techniques: How to Move Undetected From an Urban Area to a Suburban Area

The large presence of hard soils can serve us as a great way to make our tracks disappear by confusing them with others’ footprints, tire tread, etc.

There is no doubt there are more chances to leave minimum tracks in a city than in just about any other outdoor setting. The urban soil is definitely our ally in this type of scenario.

By the way, remember to never walk on humid or wet substrates. Do not get into ponds or other wet scenarios. This greatly increases the visibility of your “tracks” and will take a bit of time to dissipate.

Keep yourself away from parks and gardens as well. If you cannot avoid it those situations, stepping on others’ footprints is a good option to resort to.

Be careful to clean the sole of your shoes in case you picked up any sticky material like mud, pet feces, chewing gum, and so on.

Do not  leave any evidence of your passage by discarding materials.

Wearing shoes with undefined patterns can be a great option, when feasible.

Pay extra attention to the position of security cameras and stay away from ATM and buildings with increased security. Use cash to pay for anything you may need.

By applying all the rules related to being a Gray Man while executing anti-tracking will help make you more difficult to:

  • to identify
  • to follow
  • to catch

Tools of the Trade

Man-tracking

Once you are closer to a potential halfway shelter or site, you may want to take some time and collect/analyze any information from people who may have accessed your site prior to your arrival.

Utilize a flashlight and certain angles of light can help you analyze soil to detect any potential traffic in poor light conditions (or at night).

Remember that in order to capture the largest amount of details from the tracks you are analyzing, you need to respect the golden rule of tracking, by keeping the track between you and the source of light.

Anti-tracking

Consider carrying extra socks to wear over your footwear. This can aid in concealing the details of what you are wearing.

In absence of socks, you can take advantage of discarded items to create a pair of anti-tracking coverings, if needed.

Combine creativity with common sense and you will be successful in your escape efforts.

An Urban Escape Story

Barry Prudom’s Manhunt (United Kingdom, 1982)

Back in 1982, Barry Prudom, (a former SAS), drug the UK into two weeks of fear.

After committing several homicides, he escaped into a forest where he was able to move like a ghost for several days. Besides the corpses he left behind, he literally vanished into thin air.

Eventually, the police called in Eddie McGee, a former Sergeant Major and Survival Instructor. By backtracking Prudom, McGee was able to work his way into the area Prudom was occupying.

Barry Prudom actually attempted to leave a false trail by applying some anti-tracking techniques, taking advantage of the predominance of urban soils.

Nevertheless, McGee correctly interpreted his Prudom’s actions and tracked him down to his real hiding place.

This story shows that both man-tracking and anti-tracking, no matter the surface, can be conducted successfully in a manhunt.

Conclusion

Escape and evasion in an urban scenario can be successfully achieved by the application of man-tracking and anti-tracking if combined with scouting, profiling, and by the effective employment of common sense.

The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

William jennings bryan

Sticking to these considerations will enable you to avoid less than safe routes, and to carefully select an improvised shelter you may want to use before making your way off-grid.

The lesson from all of this is that “ancient” skills can still be of essential importance in this day and age.

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