Is Urban Survival Possible?

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There is a mantra within the hallowed halls of prepper knowledge, lore and opinion that goes something like this. The only way to survive TEOTWAWKI is to find a hidden retreat far away from any city of significant size and live there as self-sustainably as possible year round. This idea of the survival retreat has been around for years and it is actually a lifestyle I aspire to for myself and my family. I dream of a fortified home in the woods, streams rolling through my mountain location, solar arrays, livestock in fences, wild game aplenty and wood burning stove goodness all around me. There is one major problem with this mantra though and that is the prospect of moving everything we have and living in a cabin in the woods is nearly impossible for the large majority of us.

If you accept the argument that the hinter boonies are your best chance of survival, then the flip-side of the mantra and conventional wisdom is that everyone living in or near the cities will die. It can give you the idea that you are doomed unless you are living in Northern Idaho, chopping wood for your stove and tending to your garden every day of your life. Is that the only choice we have? Does ultimate survival come down to either living in a small handful of states or you are screwed – no matter what? Is Urban Survival an oxymoron? If you aren’t one of the lucky ones who lives 2 hours away from the nearest Walmart are you doomed to die a horrible death? The real question for the majority of preppers is this; is Urban Survival possible?

The problem with surviving in urban environments

I will readily concede that you have problems living in urban environments that will make survival tougher. Larger cities have a higher population of people living in closer confines. This makes any available resources like food and fuel deplete much faster in times of crisis just because there is greater demand for these resources. Sheer numbers overwhelm the system more quickly and the panic associated with a larger mass of people spreads faster, it is more chaotic and violent. It would be like a swarm of locusts.

Urban survival skills are different, but can save your life just the same.

Urban environments are a larger risk for terrorist attacks because of the higher concentration of people and media attention. If you blow up a few buildings in New York you will cause a much bigger stir (and kill more people most likely) than blowing up the same number of buildings in Steamboat Springs CO. It is the same with virus or disease in that it spreads much faster in higher concentrations of people. Larger cities pose a larger risk to a numerically higher number of lives so risk to your life is higher.

Additionally, urban environments for the most part have limited natural resources unless you consider buildings, parking lots and concrete or asphalt natural resources. Sure, there are trees in cities, even New York has Central Park, but can you imagine how long it would take for Central Park to have every single one of its trees chopped down if some catastrophe happened and people needed wood fires to keep their families alive? Some major cities are built along rivers, but the water is usually so polluted you wouldn’t want to bathe in it much less try to eat anything that lived in there. Along with that lack of natural resources, there is not an abundance of good soil for growing food, at least not in quantities sufficient to support the populations of those cities.

I am not saying that you have a better chance for survival in cities, but I think we should be looking for options in every prepping scenario.

Are there any advantages to urban environments?

Yes, there are definite problems with urban survival chances, but do cities offer any advantages at all? I think you could find some benefits if you know what you are looking for. For starters, cities offer much more secure buildings than rural environments. Large concrete buildings are much better at stopping bullets than the walls of any suburban home. I think cities would offer you a greater supply of materials to use in a worst case scenario as well. If things got so bad you had to outfit your vehicle, Ala Mad Max, all of those spikes and metal would be much easier to find in cities.

There are places to grow food in cities.

Scrap metal, fencing, chains, wires and building materials as well as spare auto parts (batteries and tires) would be much easier scavenged in a city. Try building a fence out of trees or a coconut battery… Yes, this is a worst case scenario but I wanted to at least discuss some of the potential upsides as opposed to simply saying if you live in the cities you will die. Cities offer a lot of advantages in the form of security and observation simply because you have tall, semi-hardened structures. You can position look outs on 4 buildings a few blocks apart and using simple FRS radios, command a huge area.

What do you need for urban survival?

So now we have discussed some of the drawbacks and possible resources you could take advantage of, what is really needed for urban survival? The simple fact is that you need the same things for survival in the cities as you do in the suburbs. The difference is finding some opportunities you might be able to use to your advantage if you find yourself stuck in the city after a disaster.


Food is a constant survival need and I recommend stocking up as much food that you normally eat as possible and augment that with some amounts of long-term storable food like freeze-dried food or MRE’s. What will you do when your food supplies are gone? You will need to do what the people in the burbs are doing and that is bust up some ground and get your food growing as soon as possible. As a backup I recommend having a supply of Heirloom seeds with which to do this, but starting now will give you the best chance of long-term urban survival. That is assuming your city wasn’t nuked of course.


In a grid-down scenario rooftop gardens may be necessary for urban survival.


Urban survival requires many of the same resources as survival in the country.

Food co-ops are a great idea, but you will have to rely on yourself for food in a survival situation. Roof gardens would be one way to grow vegetables. Could this feed a whole building? I don’t know but it is an option you have in the city that could allow for food production within the safety of your higher vantage point. Another option that the city affords is a high number of homes in a relatively small area. Each of these homes may have food or supplies after a collapse (assuming of course nobody is living in there) that could be available for scavenging. Scavenging is a polarizing subject I understand, but would be a possibility in a worst case scenario.


Rainwater collection might be a little harder in the city as most buildings have flat roofs that house equipment, but if you have a flat surface that collects water that can be diverted into tanks, it should work the same as anywhere else. Another aspect of city living is that almost every building has water sprinkler systems and these can hold many thousands of gallons of water that should be safe for drinking or can be filtered with a good gravity filter. The trick would be to find the main drain valve which is commonly found in a stairwell on the same floor as the fire sprinkler heads that it supplies. The water may be draining outside so don’t turn that knob unless you know where the water will be coming out. Optionally, some buildings have water tanks right on the roof.

Fire hydrants also are a good source for water and if you find a low hydrant (lower elevation) you may be able to get millions of gallons from that source alone.


This to me seems to be one of the benefits of urban environments that of course is weighed against the risks. There should be an abundance of shelter options for you but safety will be an issue here. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, many people will leave, many could die. There should be available shelter that you can find. I would try to get up as high as possible and work on fortifying my entryway so that I could really make it difficult for anyone to get in. I would look for warehouses with heavy metal doors before shops with glass windows, but you may have to look at several places before you find a suitable location.

It aint pretty, but it could keep you alive.

It aint pretty, but it could keep you alive.

Shelter in this regard is primarily going to be focused with keeping you out of the elements initially. For something more permanent, I would be looking to live with a larger group of people for common defense and shared work duties. Could these be the people currently living in your building? Could you control access to your building now or after some fairly simple fortifications?


Safety of the people in your group will be extremely important and this will rely on having observation at all times, a good communication system and a plan to deter threats. Solar panels situated on the roof of buildings could keep your power supply from being noticed (unless there is someone in a higher building) from the ground and reduce the risk of theft.

Solar panels mounted to the roof will reduce risk of detection or theft.

Solar panels mounted to the roof will reduce risk of detection or theft.

Access control to stairwells could prevent attackers from sneaking up unannounced. Barricades could be easily constructed from old furniture or equipment, even sections of fence. The height of the buildings will give you vantage points and could allow you to funnel any traffic into one location that could be manned by a couple of people with radio access to a spotter on the roof.

Would all of this be possible? It would depend on the disaster, where you are, what you have with you and a lot of other things. Would urban survival be more difficult? Maybe, but I don’t think it is hopeless. Unless there was some serious issue driving you out of the city, it may be safer to stay while everyone leaves and tries to survive on the road or in the woods.

I don’t think cities will be completely devoid of people in a SHTF event. I think some will find a way to survive as humans have for a long time.

What do you think?


  1. LWJ

    March 4, 2015 at 7:15 am

    I think it will be easier for people to thrive in an environment that they are familiar with, then trying to evacuate to a Bol that they are not. The bigger cities have as many resources as the hinterlands if not more if your willing to look and think outside the box. Security will be the biggest challenge to overcome since many of the big population centers restrict firearms ownership for the general population. Not being able to legally own a handgun or a semi auto rifle would put a big crink in my plans.

    • Pat Henry

      March 4, 2015 at 8:09 am

      Thanks for the comments LWJ.

    • Brad Milburn

      March 4, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Good points.

    • RDPaul

      March 4, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      Of course next to no one is familiar with the environment of a grid down city. Lots of country folk are familiar with a grid down country environment.

      • LWJ

        March 4, 2015 at 9:41 pm

        Yes until the department of transportation is unable to plow roads. Quite a few country folk still rely on those unseen services to get from point A to B. I know my in laws were shut down due to seven inches of snow.

        • Bolofia

          March 6, 2015 at 5:32 pm

          I guess that depends on your definition of ‘country folk.’ I have rancher friends who live in remote areas that can only be reached by 2-track dirt roads. Run-off from storms, washouts and landslides are merely inconveniences to them.

          • LWJ

            March 7, 2015 at 12:17 am

            Yup because at some point those roads get graded. When that stops those roads over time will be less feasible to use. Go off into the ditch and your Chevy will sink like a Rock into the mud. Snow drifts will stop you dead in your tracks. It does not take much to be considered a Ranch these days either. Rural areas still rely on a lot of modern technology to keep on going. Then again I guess we can listen to some Hank and tell ourselves how a Country boy can survive…until he breaks his 4 wheel drive. The best example of people who lived off the grid were the Mountain men. But guess what most of those guys could only do it for a few years before they went back to civilization because it was not a long term sustainable lifestyle.

        • RDPaul

          March 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm

          I am dependant on plows to drive my car…but if those roads were closed folks around me have snow machin, skis, sleds, and snow shoes. And quite frankly unless I needed to go to the Hospital I have no “need” to leave my house for the entire winter. I am not sure all my neighbors have enough for a winter but many do.

      • DrEvil007

        March 5, 2015 at 6:00 pm

        My sister lives in NYC and she loses power at least three or four times a year often for several days. The infrastructure is shot.

        • RDPaul

          March 7, 2015 at 1:50 pm

          No disrespect but your comment proves my point. A power outage is not grid down, it’s a power outage. There are LOTS of utilities in cities that run on AC, few fail with the loss of residential AC as they have backups and generators…when all that is exhausted that’s a grid down, no water, no heat, no ventalation, no elevators, no electronic key card access, etc. And not just for as building or a block but for an entire city.

  2. NRP

    March 4, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Pat, it’s an interesting scenario you bring up. Let’s assume
    you’re talking a typical city such as NY-NY; with an estimated population of
    8.4 million people and a land area of a little over 469 Sq-Miles. Now let’s
    assume, for discussion sake, that 90% are toast after the initial SHTF. That
    still leaves 1800ish people per Sq-Mile or a population of around 844,000 people
    fighting for whatever that might be left. Now let’s assume that you’re talking
    long term survival of growing food, heat, water, sanitation, security and so on
    with no infrastructure to supply them from the outside world. Sorry but it
    starts to look more and more in the negative as we go along. Not that living in
    the mountains of the Wild Wild West would be any more secure for the city goers.

    I would agree for the short term, stay put for a while until
    things settle down, and your travels can be more secure out of the debacle. But
    it seems to me that you better have a heck of a plan before you “bug-out” and
    try to homestead on someone else’s place. If and When the SHTF, you can bet
    that that place you plan on “crashing” on uninvited will probably already be
    taken and very well protected.

    And for sake of argument, let’s say there is not a 90% loss
    in the initial SHTF. That now leaves around 18,000 bodies per Sq-mile. Try to
    protect yourself with no firearms, no police, and no help from outside. I believe
    the sheer numbers themselves would be self-destructing. Give 8.4 million people
    no food/water/power/safety for a week and they will turn on each other in a heartbeat.
    I personally don’t believe they would have 1/1000 of a chance to get to the
    point of rebuilding. Cities would become abandoned/dead and life would eventually
    begin again from the outlying areas that could survive the onslaught from the
    masses exiting the cities. Just take a good look at the 1965, 1977, or the 2003
    electrical blackouts in NY and see what happened in just a few hours, all alone
    a SHTF.

    I believe you have tried to give some positive outlook on
    survival in the “cities” but I would personally not be quite so optimistic,

    On a side note, please leave Steamboat Springs alone, it’s a
    wonderful place. 🙂


    • Pat Henry

      March 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Thanks for the comments NRP and no need to apologize to me ever! To me, the articles are all about generating conversations. I don’t believe I have all of the answers and this article is no exception. I do believe surviving in a city would be more difficult, I just don’t believe it is impossible for all people in all situations.

      Thanks for keeping the dialog going.

      • LWJ

        March 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm

        Pat why do you think that trying to make it the boonies would be any easier though?

        • Pat Henry

          March 5, 2015 at 8:26 am

          Are you saying city people trying to live in the woods after SHTF? I don’t think that would be easier,for anyone.

          The point of this article was from the standpoint of all the conventional wisdom says to move to the redoubt or else you are screwed. I think some people could survive in the cities.

          • LWJ

            March 5, 2015 at 8:37 am

            No I am saying even a lot of rural folk will suffer when a lot of the basic services they rely on, no longer exist. All locations be they rural or urban will have challenges specific to them.

            One thing that kills me is when people plan to head to the boonies because of the abundance of resources they think exist. How prepared are most people field gut an antelope in 80 degree weather? Then get the meat back to their Bol without it spoiling? If you can’t be efficient with what you have, your screwed.

    • Poorman

      March 4, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      Hate to say it but the people that plan on bugging out to the mountains,valleys ect are not going to make it. I live in a mountain community and trust me if you think you are going to come up here and hunt our wildlife,fish our streams and lakes,drink our water you are sadly mistaken. first off the people leaving the city will have no idea how to hunt and fish enough to survive. We who live here everyday and know where the fish and game are come up empty at times so the flatlanders will starve. all they will accomplish tramping around the woods is to scare the game and make it harder for the rest of us. Second I doubt they have ever been in the dark. I know you think you have but in lack of ambient light up here you can see aprox 1-2 feet. I have had power out in the winter in a snow storm and not been able to see the end of my porch from the front door. We really do have wildlife up here such as bears and mountain lions and trust me as the game gets scarce you will become the hunted.You can believe we WILL turn you back with whatever force is necessary to preserve what we consider our property and provisions so do yourself a favor and stay in the city where you have a chance of help getting to you.

    • DrEvil007

      March 5, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      NY is not a “typical city;” it is the largest (population> city in the nation.

      • NRP

        March 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

        I just used NYNY for an example, you can cut/paste any city in there you want, I believe the results will be the same. Millions dead, millions fighting each other for a scrap of Spam, millions trying to overtake the folks in rural areas. Personally I feel a city is a city (population over 20K in my book) I have lived in a few “cities” (San Diego, Cincinnati, Portland) and will never (yea I know never say “never”) live in one again.
        Typical or not I believe there is no way “most” will survive the SHTF when living in a “city”.
        I hope like hell I’m wrong, but that’s my input.

        • Matt

          July 11, 2016 at 12:21 pm

          There are many cities in which the population is much more spread out. Taking Iowa and Wyoming for example, both places I have resided in the past, both have cities that are spread out with far less population to occupy the space. Heck when I was growing up in Wyoming in Casper and Riverton both fairly decent sized by Wyoming standards are tiny in comparison to LA or NY. So chances of survival in urban settings under a million in population would have a far better chance due to the space and wild life availability as well as a decent portion of the residents already understanding how to fend for themselves. Now if SHTF regardless of where you are located everyone who is not prepared is likely to die. It does not matter if you live in the mountains or in the cities, crap happens and it will still kill a good portion of people in both environments.

  3. Bobcat-Prepper

    March 4, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    There seems to be no common rule separating city vs. town by population. The usuage varies by country and state, and some US states have no dividing line for call one population a “town” or a “city”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town

    So it is hard to make a blanket statement that “Living in Town X is safe, but living in City Y is not”. But I paraphrase Rawles when I say over 500 people in a settlement is just looking for trouble when SHTF – too many mouths to feed, too much organization needed to keep processes efficient, too much incentive for desperate people to take advantage of folks they don’t know.

    • NRP

      March 4, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Good analogy Bobcat, makes me wonder what “thing” I live in 🙂
      If 500 in a settlement is looking for trouble can you imagine the problems with 5000, 50,000, or 5 million?

    • Matt

      July 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      Depending on your group, and the leadership capabilities in it, I believe that larger groups of 500+ can work. The human race has been doing it for thousands of years, SHTF will definitely stir up the pot and make it difficult again but humanity has done it time and again. If you try to put together a group of that size on the fly you are more likely to fail several times, but if you have a group already together with a clear command structure and organization they can be a force to be reckoned with. It all depends on how you work it, and how soon you get started.

  4. Brad Milburn

    March 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    A lot of issues are not addressed in this article. It mainly revolves around security. What about sanitation. Backup of all sanitation will be the number one threat to anyone left in an urban area. Can you imagine trying to fortify a skyrise with none of the toilets working? No two ways about it; except for short term situations or situations where the infrastructure is still in place and working, people are better off evacuating the urban area.

    • Pat Henry

      March 5, 2015 at 9:30 am

      Thanks for the comments Brad and you are right. I didn’t address every issue, but I think sanitation is an issue wherever you live. It needs to be addressed.

      I also don’t believe that the toilets everywhere are going to back up. That simply doesn’t happen and is one of the reasons back-flow preventers were designed. Even if no building had them, why would all of the sewer systems backup anywhere if the amount of poop going in were greatly decreased?

      Cities also have sewer systems which you don’t have as often in the rural area so I don’t know that it would be as horrific as fountains of poop in every building. I may be wrong though.

    • Matt

      July 11, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Working in a large corporate building myself, and having served in the military at a variety of posts I can tell you that the likely hood of a backup of all sewage is far from a reality. A vast majority of sewage systems in cities utilize rain water to help flush the system, and gravity helps a great deal as well. But as Pat mentioned regardless of where you are sanitation is going to be an ongoing issue. Knowing proper methods and having a back up plan is always recommended. If you fear the sewage system utilize your urine and feces to use as fertilizer for your crops. It will allow you to recycle water from your urine into your plants, and the feces from humans is actually far better for plants than most fertilizers.

  5. Brad Milburn

    March 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Good article though. There are always different view points that have valid views and are good to think about.

  6. BobW

    March 4, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    I think we can all agree that NYC is not likely to be very survivable in the initial collapse. I’m also reasonably sure that Gary, IN will look like the Thunderdome. But what about after?

    Industrial complexes can combine elevated structures and some open space to create some opportunity. I’d question and “high tech” locations. Might be a lot of resources to loot like solar, but just too much glass and open sided structures.

    What about national guard or reserve armories? All have fences, most build out of concrete and steel.

    I think the biggest challenge is surviving the initial die-off.

    • LWJ

      March 4, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      I would stay far away from an armory, it is to high profile.

    • Pat Henry

      March 5, 2015 at 8:32 am

      I think the National Guard would have been there long before anyone else. It may be the case that for some reason they are all dead or died without removing anything from the armory. It depends on the disaster.

      • LWJ

        March 5, 2015 at 11:32 am

        It would still be an assembly point for troops trying to return to their unit, or any other personal to use as a staging base. I would stay far away from military instalations.

        • BobW

          March 5, 2015 at 5:03 pm

          Yes and no. Remember, there are more than 5,000 guard and reserve installations around the country. Not all of them are going to be ground-zero for rebuilding whatever someone tries to rebuild. A lot of them are out in the suburbs of smaller communities. Google them in your area.

          The idea wasn’t so much considering invading one and taking it from them, but if the mil isn’t there, its a strong position to consider.

          I think there is some value to the idea of not abandoning the more urban areas. There is no value in relocating from your current squat to an abandoned office in the financial district of NYC, Chicago, LA, etc. But moving from your very nice, but terribly indefensible suburban plywood home to a nearby industrial location might prove viable.

          • LWJ

            March 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm

            No need to Google them, I know where the ones are in my area. Trust me you would not want to go there, I am very familier with them and trying to sneak on to the home of the 90th Missile Wing, with a bunchy of jumpy Airmen and Guardsman manning the perimeter is a good way to get killed quickly. I don’t feel the military is going to be that generous in a true end of the world situation to the Civs, who are going to flock to the gates begging for help.

  7. bensmagginolia

    March 4, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    good article. I live in an apartment in a rather large city but my immediate neighborhood has lots of single homes too. there are 2 retention ponds within a mile of me and a large quarry pit another mile further so I can get to and purify water. I would rather stay where I feel safe – even temporarily – and take my chances until things calm down a bit. if lots of people leave, that will be good for me because I can see a lot from my high rise and see what goes on in the area close by. it may not be the best idea, but it will have to work for me. I don’t plan to leave nor do I have a place to go to. I will be on my own and have to depend on myself and maybe a few friends and neighbors in my building. I have gotten a few neighbors on board recently and will continue working with them. it the best I can ask for – for now.

    • Pat Henry

      March 5, 2015 at 8:33 am

      Thank you very much!

      And congratulations on building out your own local group. I think more of us need to work on that.

      • bensmagginolia

        March 6, 2015 at 10:46 pm

        being retired makes it harder because so many my age have just given up or expect fema to come to their rescue. my main breakthroughs have been talking to others about hurricanes here in florida. some are too stupid to be afraid – including lots of younger people who are new to this area.

    • BobW

      March 5, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Time to talk with the maintenance man, and find out how the fire suppression system gets and stores water. Might keep you indoors getting water. Don’t forget to come up with a cheesy reason why you are interested.

      • bensmagginolia

        March 6, 2015 at 5:32 pm

        good idea. I will work on that. the maintenance people here think im just a crazy old woman anyway so asking shouldn’t be to uncomfortable.

        • NRP

          March 6, 2015 at 10:38 pm

          NEVER underestimate the power of a “crazy old woman”

          • bensmagginolia

            March 6, 2015 at 10:44 pm

            it has definitely gotten me where I am today!!!! thanks.

            • NRP

              March 6, 2015 at 10:47 pm

              HAHAHA, I love this lady already 🙂

              • bensmagginolia

                March 6, 2015 at 10:50 pm

                I wish I could find some people younger to hook up with but there don’t seem to be any in my immediate neighborhood. even though, I think us old “grits” will take care of ourselves.

              • NRP

                March 6, 2015 at 10:55 pm

                Ohhhh Ms. Magginolia, I will guarantee ya us old-farts have nada to worry about when the SHTF.

              • bensmagginolia

                March 6, 2015 at 10:59 pm

                soooo true!!! im gonna be like my grandma and live to be 92 and stay a tough little old irish woman.

              • NRP

                March 6, 2015 at 11:03 pm

                HAHAHA I have to laugh, My mother turned 92 this last Jan. And still going strong.

              • bensmagginolia

                March 7, 2015 at 7:04 pm

                glad you still have your mom with you. mine would have been 94 this year

  8. RDPaul

    March 4, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Couple of problems I see with the article. Certainly all things are possible and particularly with enough effort and $$$ ahead of time urban survival is POSSIBLE.

    That being said, since security is an issue, if you are going to survive in the city you are going to need to have people to provide serious 24-7 security. People means mouths and mouths mean food. The minimum space need to grow food for one person for a year is about 435 sq feet. Even if you are talking a super developed hydroponics system, that can operate without grid power, how many buildings have roofs that can accommodate the space to grow food for a lot of people? And if you are not talking about the roofs then will you have enough light between buildings and don’t you loose all the security that being in those strong buildings offers?

    Also, what about the risk of fire. Those sky rise buildings can burn, and if they start burning its a lot more difficult to stop a fire jumping from building to building than in a forest fire situation.

    Water catchment on the roof is a possibility, but if you are competing for space with roof top gardens there may not be space. Also, will the gardens get enough water from rain, or will it need to be augmented by irrigation?

    Also, especially in big cities, the distance between the roof and the ground level may pose both a physical and safety issue, as much as it could be a security enhancer.

    • Pat Henry

      March 5, 2015 at 8:39 am

      Thanks for the comments RDPaul.

      You are absolutely correct that security will require people. It is the same regardless of where you are in a grid down scenario for the highest majority of us living in the U.S.

      The high proximity of super tall buildings you seem to be mentioning are only in the major cities in relatively small areas. Cities span hundreds of square miles while the downtown area (where are the skyscrapers are) is usually only a small portion of that total area. If you are trying to build a garden in a high-rise in Manhattan, you probably would be at a disadvantage.

      Fire is a distinct possibility, but concrete and steel don’t crumble like a stick-built house so even with that risk, I think it is less likely you would have some fire that jumps building to building in the city than you would in the burbs with trees and higher combustible buildings.

      You bring up great points though and I appreciate you adding to the dialog.


    • Bobcat-Prepper

      March 5, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I grew a plot of corn coplanted with beans last summer as an experiment – I wanted to know what was the minimum area needed to provide one person’s calories for a year. It turns out you need about 3000 square feet per person for corn+beans, the most calorie-dense combination I could find. Now if you account for the need for a varied diet, crop loss due to weather or disease and possibly a desire to grow extra to trade, and your size requirements balloon beyond the space available on your average rooftop, unless you are the only person in this skyscraper.

      The task of carrying enough soil up those flights of stairs to grow those plants sounds truly Herculean, and a security risk to boot after SHTF.

      Better to get out of the city now, before the rush.

  9. Elizabeth

    March 4, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    This conversation made me think about the math of it all if everyone ran off to the woods. I really don’t think that’s the best idea.

    Anyway, I’m known in my trusted circle at work for asking the occasional out of the
    blue question, mostly because it’s fun and it gets people thinking
    about other things and makes them laugh. I do it when people are getting
    so serious that I can see their creativity shutting down.

    But there are times the oddball questions give me insight.

    To a person, when I asked what they’d do if the wonderful metaphor of
    zombie apocalypse happened, said they’d run off into the wilderness
    somehow. All fun aside, I believe only a few could actually do it and
    live for a long time. It helped me to decide that if something that
    incredibly bad were to happen, the wilderness is on my list of last

    Here’s why (do understand I spent zero time fact-checking numbers, all I did
    was a simple search and took all of 10 minutes to put the numbers

    US Population: ~320 Million

    Square miles: ~3.8 Million

    If the event were THAT BAD and 95% of the population perished, we’d have
    ~16 Million souls alive or ~4.2 people per square mile after the initial
    event. 4.2 people per square mile would be untenable in a true
    hunter-gatherer existence.

    Assuming people would not disperse evenly, there would be some consequences due to that as well leading to a natural second-wave die-off. Conflicts
    would arise, famine would break out, people would die of things like a
    blister leading to gangrene, and any number of things that can be
    thought of so let’s make the assumption that of the first wave of
    survivors, 80% make it through the second wave (I know that’s
    optimistic, but humor me), making 10-11,000 tribes of about 300 people
    each, needing territory roughly equal to the size of New Mexico each.
    (think NO agriculture for a while).

    I think the smart ones would get out temporarily, survive, and then I
    think would watch for an opportunity to re-take the cities either
    forcibly or by forging alliances with another tribe because if you and
    your allies could hold a territory that rich in resources as well as
    protect an outer agrarian perimeter, you’d have a significant survival

    The trick would be to live through long enough to get there.

    The cities would be an incredible survival advantage.

    Again, the trick would be to live long enough to get there.

    • BobW

      March 5, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      Help us understand what you are getting at here.

      300 people (a lot to C2…too many lawyers) need the land mass of NM to survive? Hyperbole?

      Not sharpshooting here, but trying to understand where you are going with this.

      As for groups of 300 people, barring a massive, rapid die-off, I can’t see groups that size surviving without raiding. Too many mouths. It seems to me that groups that exceed 30 people will struggle to meet basic needs even if everyone works (good luck).

      IMO, in a grid-down situation, without compounding ‘armageddon’ event, people will break down into smaller groups, only massing where circumstances support higher body counts. To me, this would be like large industrial farms taken over by people, or a large ranch owner bringing people on to support maintaining everything by hand.

    • Pat Henry

      March 6, 2015 at 8:50 am

      I hate math!

      But, are you really saying that 300 people couldn’t survive (assuming they had skills and tools, etc.) in a space less than the size of NM? What about examples of colonial towns like Williamsburg. They were only about 320 acres and had more than 300 people.

      I know they had access to some shipping and trade and knew how to survive better than we do now, but I don’t think people need as much land as one square mile each to live. Again I suck at math. A square mile is a pretty big stretch for a homestead, don’t you think?


    • NRP

      March 6, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Sure wish you-all would quit picking on New Mexico, I LOVE it here, and yes we have agriculture here, I have a Garden… hehehehe

  10. Bolofia

    March 6, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I am a new reader to your site and want to thank you for the many thought provoking articles you, your contributors and responders have written. I’ve spent several days going through the articles and, although I may not agree with every point made, the important thing is that the comments represent a wide array of views about how people look at, or would deal with, the various issues.

    My very compressed response is this:
    I’ve spent a virtual life time hiking, hunting and exploring the remote and wilderness areas of my home state and I’m fortunate to live in an area with low population, low density, trustworthy and law-abiding neighbors, and quick access to the back country. Having said that, I believe that my town would be quickly overrun by the ‘Golden Horde’ in the event of a real SHTF scenario. Our police department is staffed for the typical ‘Mayberry’ type of community where crime is not a major issue and motorists are normally just passing through. In a SHTF situation, the county Sheriff’s Department and state Highway Patrol would be focused on larger issues in population centers some 70 miles away. In other words, our town would be written up as ‘collateral damage’ in a historical footnote. That is, assuming anyone was left to write the history.

    I can understand why city dwellers would need to evacuate, and that is why outlying metro-suburban communities would be swamped within hours of a SHTF. The more distant and smaller communities, like mine, would be the next target. The Horde would strip our gas stations within a matter of hours, our two grocery stores would run out of food within a day – and there would be no more deliveries.

    Given that scenario, I believe our community would quickly recognize its obligation to look after the needs of its residents first. The first wave of the Horde will be increasingly desperate refugees. The second wave will be marauders. Thanks, but no thanks.

    • Pat Henry

      March 7, 2015 at 12:06 pm


      Thank you very much for reading, your compliments on our site and for your comments! The comment section is definitely where the dialog happens and as you can see from this post, we have what I think is the most reasoned and intellectual conversations of any prepper blog out there.

      You bring up some good topics which have been covered in other articles but of course bear revisiting. This article deals with those trying to scratch out an existence in the city, but what about those people who travel in search of a better chance of survival. How does this pit one man against another in a survival situation? Does either have the moral high-ground?


      • Bolofia

        March 7, 2015 at 3:49 pm

        An excellent question for which there are no “easy” or comfortable answers and I imagine that a lot of people struggle with this. It is appropriate to make a distinction between a regional, temporary STHF and a cataclysmic TEOTWAWKI, where all safety nets have permanently disappeared.

        We are commanded in 1st Timothy 5:8 to provide for and protect our own families. The verse does not contain the clause “except when in a survival situation.”

        As with most people, our family has practiced charity – both in good
        times and when things were tough. On more than one occasion our charity has gone to the absolute limits of our economic capacity. We did so simply to meet the need of someone who was unable at the time to resolve the situation by themselves. Government/social
        intervention might have been available, but the need to help was urgent. I must add however, that in those situations my family’s survival was never at stake.

        Someone else’s failure to provide and protect (through timely and effective preparation) does not convey to them any moral high ground, whether through an outstretched hand or at the point of a gun aimed at me. Granted, it does not diminish the fact that
        they are victims of circumstance.

        You must thoroughly and deeply evaluate these questions: Can I save everyone, or only a few? If I have to make a choice between my wife and son and a stranger, am I willing to sacrifice my family?

        At the end of the day, the question of someone else’s moral
        high ground becomes irrelevant. Is my family still safe and secure, and have I done something that diminished their chance for survival?

  11. Adam

    March 8, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I live about 20 miles west of Cleveland Ohio. We often use NYC as the archetypal city, but most of us live in the grey area between that and summit of the Rockies. I consider the diversity of talent and experience in my area to be advantageous. I have retired electrical linemen, a couple mechanics, and a good handful of vets. I have a few factories and machine shops nearby as well as a few farms and orchards within about 3 miles. Not to mention I have the largest body of fresh water on the planet nearby with rivers just up the road. My area’s shade of grey on the city-country spectrum is pretty agreeable. Admittedly I would not want to be in Houston or Atlanta 72 to 96 hours after the grid grinds to a halt, but a smaller city 15 or 20 miles away might not be too bad. A lot of refugees might actually contribute manpower. I don’t believe that people will automatically have the cannibal marauder switch flip the second the lights go out, depending on the season. Just some thoughts from where I sit.

    • Pat Henry

      March 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

      Thanks Adam,

      Yes, I think generalizations work generally, but individuals will still surprise you.


  12. Anthony

    March 14, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Those that are prepared will take from those that aren’t. First to die and lose their stuff will be the anti gun activists.

  13. Lagoon

    April 3, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Strangely enough my plan is in fact survival in the city. I live in a city populated with around 40,000 people but I have been lucky with having 4 of my best friends in the sane apartment complex. I work in a 5 story building that is a 2 minute walk and has enough food and water to last a good year for 6 people (I’ve calculated based on calorie consumption). Security wise it is the perfect location as a massive load of cublicles will be thrown down the stairwells to block off access to one stairwell. The other is going to be.. Well let’s say the army did us all some good. We are all avid preppers and I have enough ammo and guns to last me until I am 40 (also calculated based upon my time at the range). City dwelling I feel is on the upside because most people will be heading out of town or attempting to be hoodlums but within 6 months I feel only a select few groups of people will be left. The building I refers to early is the highest point within a mile and a half radius so we own that section. Security is my utmost concern and although I realize I am blessed with my prime location and availability of trusted friends whom I know will not be desf weight, city living has a major set of advantages for some. In will agree that unless you are prepared for both short and long term survival, no matter where you go you will be dead right quick. As said before go with what is familiar to you. I prefer country living but I feel it is safer to stay within the city until around 5 years have passed in a shtf situation. Less chaos and less people. To each his own really but a pros and con list needs to be set up for each individual situation. As an example in martial law, we will be one of the first people out of the city. To hell if I am being confined by my brothers in boots if I don’t care to be. But economic collapse 5 years in the city is what we are aiming for. To each his own really but the best thing we have done versus others that buy massive amounts of shit on amazon is training and planning. You can have all the seeds and ammo in the world but if you don’t know a thing about gardening or don’t even know how to reload a mag all you are is dead.

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