10 Urban Survival Skills to Develop Before SHTF: Without Using These Skills, Your Survival Won’t Just be Less Likely, It May be Impossible

Disaster preparedness and survival can basically be divided into two separate categories: rural and urban.  Let’s focus on the latter of those two.  Urban survival will arguably be more difficult than rural, and thus, the urban survival skills that you develop and apply will be a little different than the ones you would for rural areas.

Urban areas have many disadvantages when it comes to survival. Most notably, you lack access to natural resources, the area is very densely populated and crowded, and finding yourself in the middle of or close to rioting will be likely one disaster hits.  But through it all, you can and will survive. Honestly, it all comes down to the specific skills that you adopt. It is those skills that we are going to talk about in this article.

Here are the top urban survival skills you need to have:

Move Fast and Bug Out Before It’s Too Late

One of the pitfalls to urban survival is the fact that roads and routes are going to become clogged with dense traffic, if not closed down completely by the authorities.  In other words, bugging out may be impossible if you do so when it’s too late, or after the disaster has started.

This is why, if you do decide to bug out, you need to do so BEFORE the disaster strikes if possible. Granted, you may not be able to predict the disaster incoming, but regardless you should still move as fast as possible. But for certain disasters, such as hurricanes, you should be able to predict them ahead of time based on the warning signs and take action accordingly.

To bug out, you’ll need three possible routes to take to evacuate, a bug out vehicle loaded with supplies, and a bug out location.  Take note that bugging out is not always the safest thing to do. It leaves you vulnerable on the road and means you will be abandoning your home, property, possessions, and survival stockpile.

But at the same time, death may be certain if you opt to stay. Or, you may be forced to evacuate by the authorities.  Regardless, there are some instances where bugging out will simply be the only thing you can do to survive. And if you do decide to bug out, you better be ready to go with a bug out bag and bug out vehicle, and you better hit the open roads before they get clogged up and/or shut down.

Blend In

Your survival in urban areas won’t be so dependent on your defensive skills so much as it will be on your ability to blend in with the crowds.  You need to become what is called a ‘grey man’ or ‘grey woman,’depending on your gender. The ‘grey man/grey woman’ is not someone who necessarily wears the color grey, but rather someone who can blend in with a crowd and not attract suspicion.

In other words, you can walk into a crowd and then walk out of it, and nobody should be able to recall that you were there.

To become a grey man/grey woman, you will need to do the following things:

  • Wear clothes that are similar to the rest of the crowd
  • Avoid camo or tactical gear
  • Always move in the direction of the crowd and NEVER against it
  • Never make eye contact with anybody, but don’t keep your head low either (it attracts the suspicion of law enforcement)
  • Conceal any weapons and valuables you have on you
  • Do not wear a backpack, and if you do have a backpack, keep it over both shoulders and do not open it
  • Exit the crowd at the nearest available opportunity

Practice Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is something that you can easily practice in your everyday life. To put it simply, it means that you are aware of your environment. Situational awareness is one of the most important urban survival skills that you can possibly have.

To practice and develop your situational awareness skills, try practicing the following the next time you walk into a restaurant:

  • Don’t daydream or become lost in thought
  • Don’t check your phone
  • Listen to the crowd around you, to the normal sounds of the environment, and to people talking
  • Now look for any unusual sounds that stand out, such as running or shouting
  • When you hear a door swing, look up to see who walked in or left
  • Notice any smells in the air
  • Check outside the windows for any unusual activity out there

Situational awareness is not hard, it just requires practice to develop.

Get Ready For Poor Sanitation Standards

Something that many people don’t think about when preparing for disaster is how bad sanitation standards are going to get.  The urban landscape as we already know it isn’t exactly the cleanest environment, to begin with. But it’s not going to get any better during a disaster, and on the contrary, it’s only going to get worst.

For one thing, the trash will no longer get picked up. If there’s no more running water, people will no longer be able to use toilets. Mosquitoes and flies will become an ominous presence, the air will become rancid, and diseases and infections will spread like crazy. You’ll also have to deal with things such as asbestos, concrete dust, smoke, and broken glass.

Practicing good personal hygiene and being ready for the poor sanitation is easily one of the very best urban survival skills that you can have.  As part of your stockpile, include eye protection, hearing protection, hand protection, and respiratory protection. Having a medical mask with sterile gloves is a must.

You’ll also need to stock up on things such as hand soap, baking soda, hand sanitizer, and toothpaste. Make it a habit to use hand sanitizer or warm water with soap regularly.  Dispose of human waste in black garbage bags, and then bury those bags at least four feet into the ground and at least two hundred feet away from where you are living and any natural water sources.

Learn How To Repurpose Everyday Items

One of the most important urban survival skills of all time is resourcefulness. Your house is filled with items that can easily be used for survival-related purposes. You just have to use your head!

This is why you should invest some of your time into learning how to take everyday items and repurpose them for survival purposes.

Learning about these DIY tips, hacks, and projects will most certainly be to your benefit in a disaster SHTF scenario. You cannot afford to let anything go to waste.

Have An Emergency Fund

You would be wise to have an emergency fund of cash in your house at all times. This way, when disaster strikes, you can quickly go to the grocery or sporting goods stores and begin buying more things you need before they become looted.

At a minimum, you would want to have at least $100 in emergency cash in your house, but having $1,000 or $2,000 would be even better.

Beef Up Your House

As was discussed earlier, bugging out is usually more dangerous than bugging in. The only two exceptions are if you are forced to bug out or if you are certain that death is extremely likely if you stay.  Otherwise, you will need to bug in so you don’t abandon your stockpile and risk yourselves out on the open road.

And part of bugging in will mean making your house.  Guess what: the average American house is extremely easy to break into and not easy to defend.  Fortunately, you can change that.

You change that by replacing your glass windows with acrylic glass and your wooden outside doors with metal doors with heavy duty hinges. You can also invest in sandbags that you can set up after the disaster at your doors and windows, as well as in fencing and barbed wire to construct a perimeter around your house.

These aren’t radical defensive measures. Once the stores are all looted, the raiders and marauders will turn to the suburban homes next. And if they have any reason to suspect that your home contains valuable items, any reason at all, THEY WILL ATTACK.

Finding Water

One of your biggest challenge with urban survival will be finding water. You don’t have access to natural sources such as lakes and streams, and the only natural water that you really do have access to is rainwater (and you don’t get to choose when it rains).

Therefore, you will need to do two things: stockpile plenty of water, and know where you can find more.

In a major city, the best places to find water to drink will be the following:

  • Fountains
  • Ponds
  • Pools
  • Water Dispensers In Offices
  • Grocery Stores and Restaurants (if they haven’t been looted yet)

You will also need to know how to disinfect the water when you find it to make it safe to drink. Do you really want to drink the water directly from a fountain or a pond?  The easiest way to disinfect water will be to boil it for at least fifteen minutes. You can also use bleach. Eight drops of bleach and leaving it alone for thirty minutes will make one gallon of water safe to drink.

Also, remember to fill up every sink and bathtub in your house with water right after the disaster, since it may quit flowing.

Escape A Riot

No one wants to find themselves in the middle of a riot, but if you do, you better know how to escape.  Escaping a riot will cause you to put your grey man/grey woman skills and your situational awareness skills to the ultimate test.

You need to be fully aware of what is happening around you and blend in with the crowd if you want to make your escape. You’ll need to move with the flow of the crowd rather than against it, avoid eye contact, and try to keep yourself down. Law enforcement officers and the rioters/protestors around you will be an equal threat.

Move with the flow of the crowd and at an angle until you find an opportunity to escape. DO NOT run in a riot unless if the crowd is running to, and keep any weapons and valuables hidden.

Develop Your Medical Skills

Finally, another of the most important urban survival skills to have will be to develop your medical skills.  After any disaster, you will no longer have access to doctors or nurses or health professionals. Instead, you’re on your own.

Stock up on medicines and first aid items and take classes on how to treat basic wounds such as burns, open wounds, cuts, sprains, and broken bones. Having first aid guides on hand will also be very wise.


To conclude, these are the top urban survival skills that you will need to develop. Without using these skills, your survival won’t just be less likely, it may be impossible.

But by using these skills, you can take comfort in knowing that you will be far, far more likely to survive than the vast majority of people who are struggling to make it around you.

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