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Cities, viable or not for Survivalists

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posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 01:34 PM
In about five threads of late we have seen the subject of surviving in cities being raised, life has taught me that I believe most cities are simply not suited to long term survival, and in some cases even short term as well.
In this thread I would like to debate the pros and cons, and also ask people to post reports and sitreps from cities that have been affected by problems in recent years.

I would like to open the issue with an article from YT a lady survivalist from the desert area of the US, She was living in New York in 2003 when they had the power outages, here is the lessons she learned from even a short term outage.

part 1: general vibe & timing
Not to get too political or off-topic here, but I think it's relevant to mention -- if you weren't living in NYC when 9/11 happened you can't really have any idea of how pervasive the after effects were on daily life. Even years later.

So when the blackout happened in NYC just 2 years after 9/11 many people I saw were having emotional flashbacks (as was I). The scenario was similar:
no one knew what was going on, trains were down, driving was impossible, all electricity was down which meant emergency facilities (such as hospitals) were challenged, no one was prepared...
and you had thousands of people walking home... over bridges, through dirty subway tunnels... walking for literally hours to get to somewhere... just to know what was going on.

That alone made some people edgy and less able to act as they should. On the flip side I believe that this dynamic is largely responsible for people being so chill and willing to help each other during the blackout instead of looting or fighting. Most people just seemed to be relieved to learn it wasn't another attack, so by evening it was a block party atmosphere. Everyone buying popsicles and ice cream from the bodegas before it melted. Hanging out on stoops and at bars socializing. I don't remember seeing much police presence at all, except for a few officers parked at the foot of the bridge. Once I got to my neighborhood I relaxed more, as I think most people did. There seemed to be a lot of folks dumping their bags, changing clothes, then just hanging out.

I don't know if that would've been the case in another city or during another time. I mean, contrast that with the blackout of the 70s. In other words, YMMV with a future blackout.

I also think the fact that the blackout happened in summer made a big difference. It was hot and sticky, but still relatively comfortable walking weather -- clear sky, no rain, no snow, with long hours of daylight. There were concerns about how the heat and lack of a/c would affect the elderly and people of poor health, but otherwise the summer timing made things easier. I think the situation would have been much different if the blackout happened in the middle of winter, causing people to walk home in freezing temperatures, biting wind and possible ice in the dark... with the majority wearing only dress shoes and thin socks (office attire), many without adequate gloves, hats or scarves. I think there would have been much less partying and many more cases of injury and illness then.



part 2: getting home
I lived in Brooklyn at the time of the blackout, commuted daily via subway to my job in midtown Manhattan. That was about a 40 minute trip door to door. Walking meant about 2 hours down Manhattan, then crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge, then navigating the odd un-gridded streets up to the familiar neighborhoods, and another 1-2 hours home. And doing on that in throngs of people. I think it took 5-6 hours to get home, I'm not positive because I didn't have a watch and cell service was out (so no clock on the phone).

stress effects...
5-6 hours is a long effing walk when you're wearing dress clothes and carrying a heavy bag, even if you have flat rubber soled shoes. Add in the initial stress of WHAT THE FLIPPING HELL IS HAPPENING! OH NO, NOT AGAIN!, plus a sucky work environment as your command center (see below), and my body was pretty fried by the time I made it home. Something to keep in mind: the stress of an emergency situation will take a toll on your body, even if you have things under control and know you're not in danger. It'll amplify somewhat tiring activities to very tiring activities.

water and um, what happens when you drink water...
I bought a bottle or two for the walk, but I also had to keep in mind that there would be no place to pee along the route if I had to. I've since bought a pee funnel and made a belted potty bag to hold it along with other related items. But honestly, it still would've been difficult to find a place to whiz even standing up in that urban environment, particularly with all those people around. This may sound silly to worry about, but when you're faced with a situation where you need to be drinking a lot of water due to heat and exertion you also need to think about where you're going to get rid of that water. I found that at the time I had to take in less than I wanted or needed because of that issue.

my mistake...
While I had made some good planning post 9/11, one stupid thing I overlooked was knowing my walking route home. I thought it would be straightforward so I didn't really get into the detailed street-level mapping. I was like, "X bridge or Y bridge, cross Z neighborhood, yada yada". Well, thinking you know the neighborhoods because you know your way to/from various subway stations is not nearly the same thing as being able to navigate a totally different part of town by foot. The only times I actually entered and exited the bridges was either by subway (useless knowledge on foot unless you're actually walking on the tracks) or by cab (also useless unless you were the one driving or you were freakishly paying attention to everything the driver did).

So trying to figure out exactly what streets led to the bridge entrance by foot in Manhattan, then where the bridge dumped me out in Brooklyn and how that led to my neighborhood was confusing. I had lived in NYC for 9 years by the time of the blackout and still found myself completely disoriented getting off the bridge. If it weren't for the cops helping to direct people and my travel companion knowing the area I would've been pretty screwed. It would've taken me much longer to determine my location and navigate home if I had had to do it on my own. When you live in a city where the primary form of transportation is so passive (you're not choosing the street-level route or actively driving) your knowledge of certain aspects is limited. So lesson learned there.



part 3: safety
Due to the positive vibe mentioned above safety against theft, looting, and attacks weren't a big concern. I mean, no more so than any other day in the city. I was living in a large house/apartment with 2 other women in a warehouse district and once night fell we didn't do anything particular. Just locked the doors and windows as usual. I probably wouldn't have been inclined to go walking around by myself though.

One thing worth noting...
The somewhat friendly day hike home took on a completely different challenge at night. One of my roommates decided to hang out at the bars with some friends instead of coming straight home, or at least coming back to her own neighborhood. Because you know, during the day it just seemed like a fun party, right? What's the hurry? Yeah, she realized that wasn't the smartest idea when she tried to leave for the walk home after dark. With no street lights, few people out because everyone else had made it home and inside by then, of course no flashlight or emergency kit, as a small woman by herself. Well, she was pretty freaked by the thought of walking it alone. She ended up crashing at a friend's and coming home the next day.



part 4: emergency prep (and lack thereof)

lesson1: yay for go-kits...
I was working in a crappy office at a crappy job and NO ONE in the office, not the managers or executives was remotely prepared. I was the ONLY person in the whole office of about 50 people who had a flashlight or a radio (thanks to 9/11 lessons, see below). The bathrooms, halls and stairways were completely black and therefore hard to use (especially the bathroom). I shared what I had, we had the flashlight (a tiny penlight thing) working on a rotation system so people could find what they needed and use the toilet or stairs.

On a side note, one of my roommates was in the subway tunnels when the blackout happened. They had to walk through the dark, wet and filthy subway tunnel until they got to street level. She didn't have an emergency kit or even a flashlight and said neither did anyone else. Everyone was using their cell phones for light, keeping them open and on during the walk. So that's a helpful tip if you're stuck. But also a reminder to pack a light.

lesson 2: employers suck...
In addition to learning that preparing and go-bags were actually important (yay me!), I also learned that you can't rely on your employer to step up in an emergency. My advice would be not to count on a corporation or individual supervisors to have any plan for evacuation or protection, nor to provide any leadership. Be prepared to take care of yourself, get your own info, find your own escape route, make your own decision when to leave. This is particularly important if you're a temp or a freelancer, putting you in an unfamiliar environment with people who have nothing invested in your wellbeing.

The management was terrible. Not only were they totally unprepared as mentioned above, they had no plan for emergencies and had never bothered to show anyone the evacuation exit or do a drill. On top of that they just left early on without telling anyone, while the employees were still trying to find out what was happening, if we should leave, or it would be safer to stay in the building. In other words they took no responsibility for their staff, didn't notify anyone they were leaving (which would have let us know the office was closed for the day and we should leave), and left everyone to fend for themselves without a concern. I think it was a full hour before someone realized the execs had left the building and we learned that it was just a blackout.

(I can't remember why my radio wasn't helpful at the time. If the local stations had also been affected by the blackout, I couldn't get reception in the building, or news hadn't yet been announced.)

lesson 3: know the emergency stairs...
The emergency exit stairs were very confusing and for some reason totally black (way to go with the backup lights, guys). There was no clear indication of the door that led to the street level. We opened the wrong door out onto a dead end balcony twice, and finally learned that we had to go some totally unintuitive route that seemed like you were either backtracking or getting trapped outside on a midlevel floor. If that had been an actual emergency, like a fire, we would've all been royally screwed.

lesson 4: bad company means a bad experience...
Once I got walking and was nearing home the experience was pretty easy going, but the first few hours were really miserable. I was stuck in an office surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, who I didn't really like to begin with, who weren't prepared, and frankly were totally socially awkward in a crisis situation. Like making offhand remarks such as "gee, I bet a lot of people are dying right now in the hospitals without the power", but in a casual heartless tone like they were talking the weather and didn't care. No one was offering comfort or support even on a generic friendly level. No one seemed to know what to do. No one seemed to be grouping together. It really sucked and added to the stress. It made me realize that having decent company makes an emergency or unknown situation more manageable than being by yourself or with poor company.

EDIT: re: food... we had a gas stove so cooking was unaffected by the blackout. The only thing I had to worry about was spoilage from the fridge being out. I have a gas stove in my current apt. too and I have to say I've been grateful for it -- the electricity goes out here pretty frequently.


. Post subject: Re: Is there a member here who...
Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:09 am

part 5: go-bag
I was also the only person in the office who had any kind of emergency bag. After 9/11 the Red Cross had several public service announcements encouraging people to make emergency kits to keep at work and in their car (for B&T commuters). I had put one together based on some of their suggestions along with additions of my own.

I kept it in my day bag (messenger bag) at all times since living & working in NYC meant I was away from home for up to 10hrs a day, sometimes more. And the crappy office meant there were no drawers or cabinets at the work stations to store personal items. One thing the Red Cross had suggested was to keep a pair of comfortable sneakers or walking shoes in your office desk drawer should you have to evacuate, since many women wear heels or shoes unsuited for long walks. Unfortunately I couldn't do that, but I'd suggest that people keep a pair in their desk or in their car. Plus a pair of snow boots in the winter.

My kit was in a small zippered makeup bag (about 8" x 2" x 3") and contained the following (from memory, so I might be missing something):
- dust mask
- goggles
- bandana
- battery powered radio
- flashlight on a string
- glow stick
- battery blinky
- whistle
- protein bar
- note pad and pen
- subway map (served as a crude street map for all 5 boroughs and let me plan alternate routes if one of the lines went down)
- $40 in small bills
- 1-2 days worth of critical meds
- 1 or 2 tampons (coz really, no one needs that added stress)
(many of the items were in ziplocks to keep them dry and/or dust free)

The point of the kit was to provide you with a day's supplies, just to get you out of the emergency area and home. Which is what it did. I pretty much had what I needed except a bottle of water (there was no real practical way to always keep that on hand).

Author is YT from the US and a contributor to Zombie Squad forums

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 01:43 PM
Yts report part 2
comfort items...
We tend to think just in terms of basics and purely practical items for survival kits, but 9/11 taught me that an item of comfort is just as important. Particularly after the initial shock or danger has passed and you're just sitting with the aftermath.

I had adequate food in the house during 9/11, but once the initial chaos passed and we realized we couldn't do anything the first impulse my house guest and I had was to go get some comfort food. Anything with fat, salt, or sugar. We walked to the corner bodega and loaded up on mac n cheese and cookies and such. There was a poor selection offered (I was surprised they were even open) and I wished I had a better option or a better stash at home.

It's not that comfort food remedies the situation, but when you've just witnessed such an unfathomable horror any little thing helps, particularly something that you associate with safety or normalcy. I mean, there's a reason they put those little brownies in MREs, right?

From that I experience I've decided to try to keep some comfort food at home, as well as add in some kind of small comfort item to my go-bag. Whether that's a bag of cookies or a loofa or a toy to pass the time or a favorite shirt. As much as I dislike that he smokes, I recently told my bf he should consider keeping a stash of cigarettes in his bag. I mean, if the SHTF one of the first things a smoker is going to want is a cigarette and why add nicotine withdrawal to the stress of ZAW?

I also think this is particularly important for children (the comfort item, not the cigs). Throw in a stuffed animal or toy that will help calm them and/or keep them occupied. That little bit of extra weight isn't significant to make a difference to the pack, but can do a lot to give you a break.

For the record, I'm a fairly independent and self-reliant person, at times to a fault. I'm more of a grab-my-own-bootstraps kind of person than a where's-my-mommy kinda person. But several times I have found that having some kind of comfort item made a difference in stressful situations. I think even Rambo would have appreciated a pudding cup.


My experience has been that cell phones are totally useless in an emergency/crisis situation, unless you're using it for the light. The communication towers are knocked out and haven't yet been rerouted, or everyone is trying to call at the same time and jamming the lines, or there's no service in your location. Don't rely on your cell phone to reach friends or family. Don't rely on cell phones to communicate critical information during a crisis. Have that information planned out ahead of time, make sure everyone knows the plan, set designated meet ups if necessary. Personally, I think it's a bad idea to use a cell phone as your only phone line.

During 9/11 nearly everyone was without cell service. The explosion and collapse of the twin towers knocked out most of the communication antennas and caused complications with signals. And the first thing people did was panic and try to reach friends and family by cell phone. The few that did have service couldn't get through due to the enormous volume of calls attempted at the same time.

Another problem: everyone had all their phone numbers only in the cell phone directory. Worse, with the phone book, auto dial, and voice dial features few people needed to bother to remember numbers. And with that handy little digital assistant (laptop, PDA, cell) few people needed to have the numbers written somewhere. This meant that if the battery went dead or the device was lost or damaged, they didn't have the important numbers accessible. (This is something I'm still working on now, since I tend to be lazy and keep that info digitally).

I was one of the few people who had a landline as well as a cell. The landlines were working pretty well, the problem was just one of high call volume. My phone became the hub for my roommates and their friends, it was the only way they could reach family at the time of 9/11 to let them know they were safe or learn about other family members. I was also one of the few people who had both a home computer and DSL, so my desk was also the hub for alternate communication.

If this doesn't sound like it's that important, you need to put it into context:

Scenario 1:
You've just learned thousands of people have died from a suspected terrorist attack (or worse, you witnessed it). You have no idea what's actually happened. There's a lot of organized chaos going on. You're struggling with a mind numbing horror that you still can't comprehend. You've possibly seen some truly gruesome things. You're freaked and tired and hungry and dirty. You have no idea if the danger has passed. Many communication avenues are down. There are thousands of missing people flyers everywhere (some parts of the city were covered with them). You don't know if your local friends or family are safe or dead. And this is all happening in the place you live, your home. Oh, and if you're like me you also have family in the other site of attack, D.C.

Scenario 2:
You live far from the sites of the attacks, you've watched these events on the news, you have no idea what's really happening at the site or nearby areas, you have no way to reach your family or friends living in the city. All you know is something unspeakably bad has just happened in the place where people you love live. And you have no way to reach them.

I don't know of anyone who didn't make reaching friends and family a priority. I don't care how hardcore you think you are, it's going to be important to you.

which leads to the next two items....


other communications...
When the towers fell it not only disrupted cell phone service, it disrupted radio and TV broadcast as well. I remember it was a big effort for public radio to get back on the air. We didn't have cable (antenna TV reception only) and we only had I think 2, max 3 TV stations for many many months after 9/11. Some people had internet disruption because DSL lines were damaged. I can't remember if email service was being used by many people on 9/11 to get in touch. Part of the problem was that it took the better part of the day for anyone to get home and have the opportunity to use email. And a number of people didn't have a home computer to allow them access.

In other words, don't count on the usual things to be available, whether it's a mild blackout or a city-wide disaster. Have alternate methods of obtaining information and for reaching friends and family. Make sure everyone knows how to use email and knows to *check it* in an emergency should electricity be available. Make sure a phone tree or similar system is set up to notify people of your status and learn news of others (you'll want to get info as well as give it). Make sure everyone has a written list of numbers, not just a digital file. That will not only help you should you be too anxious or injured to remember them, it will allow someone assisting you to reach your important people should you be unconscious or seriously injured.

contact plan...
One thing that no one in my group of friends had thought about was a contact plan in case of an emergency or evacuation. During the blackout many of my friends' early thoughts where "how are the people I care about faring? do they need help?" Followed by the realization that there was no way to reach them and no plan for meeting up. (Cell phones are useless in that situation, see above.)

One of my friends had stopped by my office on his way home, knowing that I had some health issues that could make the long walk home problematic. Unfortunately I had already left by that point and the walk to check on me added about 20 blocks to his trip. I think we would've enjoyed the blackout more if we had all agreed to meet up in a specific location to check in, possibly heading to the same house afterward. (Of course there would need to be several check in spots, depending on location and circumstance.)

This has made me think a lot about how to handle a crisis or evac situation in my current city of Tucson. Not only would I want to know that close friends were safe, but most also have useful skills and resources making them beneficial to team up with. In addition, it would be helpful to have safe houses to retreat to for different circumstances. For example, if the west side floods people there know they can go to a designated house on the east side. If the electricity goes out for an extended period, people know which friends have gas stoves or generators. If evacuation is needed we'd know each other's plans/routes and can meet at a designated spot outside the city. If someone faced a particular challenge (such as mobilization issues or caring for several children) there'd be a plan to check in on them.

Aside from the practical issues of group resources, having some kind of contact/meet up plan would just make the not-life-threatening/just-inconvenient situations a lot more fun. Ok, you lost electricity for 2 days. Why sit at home by yourself when you can all gather together at a friend's house. BBQ and grownup slumber party.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 01:53 PM
The Pensylvania Amish, the Quakers, the Pensylvania Dutch, the Amish people who live right off the lands, planting and farming their own food, riding horses, digging wells, powering off of windmills, and hardly using anything electric should be the most surviving people of all. To that OL' RED NECK COUNTRY TOOOOON " A COUNTRY BOY WILL SURVIVE"!

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 01:55 PM
In most cities, in fact all that I know of, you are totally reliant on imported electricty, food, fuel and water, all of which can stop coming at any time beacuse of various reasons. Now imagine a city suddenly with gas, electricty, running water, sewage removal, fuel deliveries, food deliveries suddenly stopping. No heat, no light, no food, no refrigeration, no petrol, probably little or no law and order, healthcare service will stop within 48 hours, after 72 hours sewage will be backing up, all the food in the fridges and freezers will be going off, the cops will either be exhausted and witdrawing to the police stations or if they have familes they will be going home. Streetlights go out, no power in the houses and apartments, rubbish will go uncollected and vermin both human and animal will start to venture out looking for easy pickings. City dwellors who now decide to get out of Dodge face possibly having to walk up to twenty miles through unfamiliar and now dangerous areas in order to leave the city. They may have young children and elderly relatives to try and get out of the city, they are vulnerable to every scumbag and socialist lurking in the shadows.
Now think of the fire risks with possibly up to 9 million people trying to cook, heat and light their darkened homes with candles, fires in fire places boarded up since the 1950s, etc etc, You know there is going to be lots of fires stasrted both acidentally and deliberately, and no fire fighters will come, plus the hydrants will be dry because they rely on electrically powered pumps. Cities are Necropolis's in waiting.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 02:05 PM
Wow, that's a lot of great advice.

I don't want to sound big-headed, but I had thought of most of it, the relevant things for me and my city at least.

I'm glad I have the foresight to know what to do.

Thankfully, I don't have to worry too much about the work environment, I work for a security contractor. I sit in a secure room with a generator for back-up, torches, first-aid kits, fire extinguishers...
If anything happens while I'm at work, I'm probably already in the best place.

As for home, I'm getting my kits together now. I'm planning two, one for departure (including contact info for all family and friends, map, torch, medical, money, compass, knife, small shovel...) and then another, larger bag, to be buried in a location near my chosen thinking spot. That's where I'll go to work out exactly what has happened, what to do next etc.

I'm hoping that whenever I need to enact my escape plan there'll be a little warning. I have a team of friends in mind, but I wouldn't even consider discussing this with them until I was sure it is necessary. And possibilities of communication should the SHTF will suddenly be very limited.

So my plan is to be prepared for whatever I can think of within reason.
Communicate my ideas to friends and family only when I absolutely have to.
Plan a route out and a place to meet to share with them.
Make it to the thinking spot and plan the next move as a team.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 02:10 PM
The cities I've lived in were rife with drug addicts, mental patients and where where the stae prison system would dump the newly released criminals.

All of the problems that a giant city service grid being disconnected from it's source would create aside I think being surrounded by addicts, metal paients, infirmed and diseased, career criminals and the typical ignorant to reality urban dependent would be far from ideal.

Depending on how long a situation should last if in a few months time the masses of the city successfully cannibalize one another or are rounded up for whatever purpose by what remains of government forces (people will be easier to round up in the cities) I suppose the empty city might be a decent spot to scavange for certain things as cities have always been and always will be full of @#!%.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 02:21 PM
thats a good deal of good advice, i hadn't thought of the need of a small get me home kit, it's defiantly something to consider.

big cities are probably a less than ideal place to be in any emergency, but how bad it is, i think, largely depends on the nature of the emergency. if it's some sort of plague then a city is probably the worst place to be but if it's an invasion or a government crackdown type thing a city isn't to bad a place to start out with, safety in numbers and all.

like someone above touches on, a country person is set up to be quite self sufficient in the short to medium term by comparison to a city person.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 02:53 PM
I don't think that during any major situation would a major city or town be ideal for surviving for an extended time.

Like you said, when you were in NY and they had that major black out so many people were not prepared.
Life went on NY though.

If you had 2 brain cells to rub together you would learn from what happened and made preparations to make life bearable.
The electric going off was a major issue but did everybody run to the hills ???

When the power went down, what did you do NR with in the first 8 hours ??? then in the first 24 hrs ???

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 03:03 PM

Originally posted by colec156
I don't think that during any major situation would a major city or town be ideal for surviving for an extended time.

Like you said, when you were in NY and they had that major black out so many people were not prepared.
Life went on NY though.

If you had 2 brain cells to rub together you would learn from what happened and made preparations to make life bearable.
The electric going off was a major issue but did everybody run to the hills ???

When the power went down, what did you do NR with in the first 8 hours ??? then in the first 24 hrs ???

You misread the post, I was not in NY it was YT a lady survivalist who now lives in the arizona desert after her experiences with the big apple

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 03:06 PM

Originally posted by colec156
I don't think that during any major situation would a major city or town be ideal for surviving for an extended time.

Like you said, when you were in NY and they had that major black out so many people were not prepared.
Life went on NY though.

If you had 2 brain cells to rub together you would learn from what happened and made preparations to make life bearable.
The electric going off was a major issue but did everybody run to the hills ???

When the power went down, what did you do NR with in the first 8 hours ??? then in the first 24 hrs ???

The closest I came to anything within New york was an associate who was in New jersey on 911, he took one look as the towers fell, then watched the TV footage for a few hours then got his wife and kids from work/ school loaded up the car and left for Poughkeepsie the same day.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 03:19 PM
reply to post by Northern Raider

My apologies NR for misreading your thread.

I can fully understand for your friend leaving NJ for a safer place in such a hurry.

Sometimes it takes a major event to even think about your own mortality and make positive actions to give you a better chance of survival.

BTW NR, I do like your BOV.

posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 03:29 PM
Whenever I go somewhere new I always like to take time out to explore on foot so I know how to get around. Always out of idle curiosity rather than preparation. When I first moved to London I spent the first 9 months using nothing but the mass-transit system. It annoyed me I didn't know where anything was. Since then I've built up quite a good knowledge of getting around without the need of the underground. It's no substitute for getting out the way but it's a start.

Hopefully I'll be able to soon swap this 9million population for 90,000. The ratios won't be too different but at least the numbers will be.

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