What Is Urban Survival?

Urban survival refers to survival techniques used in an urban environment after a disaster. It is a kind of survivalism centered around learning skills, stockpiling resources, and planning in advance for critical emergencies in and around urban environments.

If you are swept up in a catastrophic event, every second will count. In this article, I’ll discuss possible scenarios, their unique challenges, and how you can learn to protect yourself.

Why Is Urban Survival Important?

We live in uncertain times. 

  • A global pandemic is still ravaging the planet, with nearly 200,000 deaths in the United States alone (as of publishing). The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak has dealt a serious civil and economic blow to many countries already, and experts believe it could be with us for another two years at least.
  • Tensions between China and Taiwan threaten to pull us all into a third World War. The small nation of Taiwan struggles for its independence as it’s caught between two of the world’s biggest superpowers, China and the United States. Neither giant seems willing to back down from a fight, and it’s unlikely that their respective webs of allies could avoid being drawn into a conflict. 
  • Unpredictable weather patterns are creating dangerous storms that are occurring on a regular basis. The 2020 hurricane season is only rivaled on the record by the season of 2005. 2005 gave birth to hurricane Katrina. The category 5 storm reaped $125 billion in damages as it tore across the east coast, devastating New Orleans and leaving many of its citizens to fend for themselves.

Whether it’s caused by severe weather, a plague, or war, a large-scale disaster has terrible consequences for the unprepared trapped in its wake. Any situation that goes on for more than a few days will leave people desperate and scared. And scared people are capable of scary things.

What Are Some Urban Survival Skills?

Basic survival skills are focused on securing resources like food, clean water, and shelter. There’s a whole world of techniques beyond those and no shortage of great videos like this one to get you familiar with more of them:

Urban Survival Skills

Of all the things you can learn, here are the top five I feel are the most useful for keeping you safe no matter where or who you are:

Finding or Purifying Water

Easily the most basic skill is how to secure water and then make it drinkable. After a serious catastrophe, it isn’t likely that your tap will still be running, and even if it is, it might not be clean. 

Many cities are built near bodies of water. Water will be easy to find there, but it certainly won’t be safe. Further, inland water can be more scarce. You may have to rely on a rainwater collection system on the roof of your home or apartment building. Luckily those can be as simple as a trashcan and a mesh window screen.

You can’t afford to drink tainted water and get violently sick when there is no real chance of getting a doctor. Any water you find will need to be purified. Filtering and boiling water will be enough for most sources. It’s possible to purify saltwater, but it takes a bit more effort as it needs to be desalinated.

Fire Starting

For many, no power will mean no way to prepare food, boil water, or even keep warm. That makes learning how to start a fire a truly essential skill. Thankfully you can purchase a Bayite Fero Rod on Amazon.com. This simple all-purpose fire starter can ignite in any weather conditions, even wet, and takes all the difficulty out of this must-have skill


If you haven’t built up a stockpile of food and water ahead of time, you will need to learn to scavenge. In the early days of a disaster, normal shopping areas like grocery stores and supermarkets may descend into chaos and looting as people panic. The danger of violence and rioting will be very real here, and you may want to avoid the crowds.

Unfortunately, if you don’t brave the human tide, you might find that these common places will be picked clean. Scavenging involves knowing where to look for food and other valuable supplies, whether you search through homes, vehicles, or even dumpsters to find the things you need.


If you’re injured during a time as bad as this, you can’t count on an ambulance, doctors, or hospitals to be ready or able to help you. Ideally, you won’t ever be injured at all, but that’s not something you can count on. Always keep a fully stocked first-aid kit in your home or your car. Make sure that you are familiar with all the items inside.

Blending In

A concept also referred to as becoming a gray man. If you have used the skills listed above, you will be better off than many other people trapped in the same situation. While that can be a very good thing for you and your family, it can also make you a target of theft and violence if people suspect you have resources they can use to survive.

Do your best to blend into the crowd by not carrying anything others might want. Keep food and water in your shelter, and don’t mention anything to suggest you have them. You’ll want to remain as unassuming and forgettable as possible, so you don’t attract unwanted attention.

How Can I Prepare With Urban Survival?

You can never be too prepared. 

  • Books: Books like Street Survival Skills can be invaluable tools. Written by a man who experienced the economic collapse of Argentina first hand, this book is filled with tactics and techniques that were successful in the real world, and it illustrates how things like this can happen because they already have. Check out this article for a comprehensive list.
  • Go-bags: The government already recommends emergency go-bags as a practical part of your preparation for emergencies like natural disasters. For everything you need to know about bug out bags, check out this article.
  • Weapons and tools: Normal individuals don’t have a desire to go out and hurt people for fun or pleasure. However, there are the crazies out there who prey on folks. It’s in those instances you need to be prepared. Many cities take gun control very seriously, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it was difficult or impossible for you to have one in an urban environment. However, you need to make the ultimate decision as to what tools you need to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The Off Grid Tools Survival Axe is a perfect representation of such an item. This compact multi-tool (as crazy as it may look) crams a lot into a small package with useful things ranging from a hammerhead to an emergency seatbelt cutter. It doesn’t hurt that the sharp wood-cutting axe head makes for an intimidating sight to would-be attackers.


Urban Survival includes a set of skills you hope you will never need to use, but having them could be the difference between life and death in an emergency. While I hope you never find yourself in such a situation, I strongly encourage you to learn what you can and be prepared. Just in case you find yourself in this sort of predicament.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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