Basic Principles for Urban Survival

Basic Principles for Urban Survival


When looking at survival skills, the first thing everyone thinks about is getting lost in the woods and needing to stay alive until help arrives. While this is true, urban areas are continuing to grow and the need-to-know urban survival skills are important.

Knowing how to get through natural disasters and man-made incidents in the dense urban environment is crucial.  Rural or remote skills do transition over into the urban setting but urban survival skills have some unique skill sets of their own.  This includes preparing for an incident by taking classes to learn the skills to survive, so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. These classes not only give you the basics you need but can help build confidence, improve your everyday skills, and allow you to meet new people.   

There are skills some of us have and use every day and some you might say “I have never considered doing that in the city.” These topics or skills will be broken down more as we go but the basics include procuring food and water, situational awareness, navigation, and personal safety including finding or making a shelter and dealing with injuries.  These skills are crucial for your survival!   

Situational awareness is a skill that we use every day, without even knowing it.  When driving we keep an eye on our surroundings and that is situational awareness, BUT, do you use situational awareness when walking around or when out at the mall shopping?  

Situational awareness is a skill I never thought I would teach but people do not seem to know what is going on around them.  Next time you are in a store take the time to look for the exits, fire extinguishers, who is near you, or just try to read people. 

Reading people is a big part of situational awareness and more so in the urban setting where there could be large crowds. In a way you will be profiling people to determine who could be helpful and who could be a threat. 

This can make the difference of making it out of an incident, whether it is a fire or an active shooter situation. Looking, remembering, and knowing how to read a person or group before a situation arises will help you be better prepared to survive. 

Being situationally aware, like so many other skills, is more of a state of mind.

When there is an incident, food and water might be difficult to find and this makes it essential to have foraging skills.  It will be important to have a form of purification for your food and water source because drinking water from a stream, pond, or lake can carry diseases or parasites like giardia and improperly prepared food can transfer parasites or cause illness.  Many commercial filters are available but simply boiling the water will make it potable and cooking food helps too. 

We live in a prepackaged fast-food world and learning how to forage, scavenge, and cook meals is an essential skill that can be used on a weekend camping trip or in a time of emergency. 

Knowing what plants are edible and where to find them, and what to avoid will help you be successful. Another important part of foraging for food is knowing what areas to avoid. This is important because some edibles will absorb chemicals from their surroundings and turn an otherwise safe food source against you. This brings us to the next step, and that is food prep. 

Do you have the skills to start a fire so that you can safely and deliciously prepare your foraged foods? There are many ways to start a fire, but keeping matches readily available would be the easiest. Some alternate fire-starting methods include bow drills, ferro rods, and steel. These skills can be learned very easily in classes, and YouTube is a great resource for how-to videos. 

First aid is valuable, and includes the basics of stopping the bleed, how to bandage small wounds, signs and symptoms of illnesses that include environmental issues like hypothermia and heat related illness. Many times it is the most basic skill that saves someone, not the more advanced ones.

As a paramedic, the most advanced skills would not save someone if we did not do the basics first. Having a first aid kit with you even on a simple day hike can make a difference, and having the right tools in that first aid kit make all the difference in the world. 

A uniquely urban skill is dealing with and surviving riots or large protest. This again starts with situational awareness and reading the crowd. Never move against the crowd in these situations. Move with them or on an angle through them. Once you get to a safe area you can make your way out of the area. Do not start shouting or yelling to draw attention, keep quiet and moving. If approached, it is safer and easier to comply with what the individual or crowd is demanding. 

Property can be replaced, but your life cannot be.   

Navigation is important in everyday life! We use landmarks and personal knowledge of the area that we live in to find our way to the places we frequent.  This, however, can be an issue if all of a sudden, the mode of transportation is interrupted by a natural disaster or any kind of incident including fires, law enforcement activity, and/or weather-related problems such as flooding. 

Knowing how to find your way home from work using alternate routes or by alternate means of transportation including walking is a great first step.  This includes the use of situational awareness for standing water in the road and the saying “turn around, don’t drown.” Remember, navigating does not always mean a map and compass, however, those skills are also useful if the need to evacuate the area arises. 

The final skill that can be important and has a unique twist in the urban environment is shelter building. This is looking for a building or shelter for the purpose if survival. In the urban setting, this is probably not building a shelter out of fallen trees, but instead abandoned cars, buildings, or even dumpsters. The use of an abandoned building presents some issues. The first is how structurally sound the building is, and the second is can you protect yourself from others in the space, as others will want to take shelter there as well?  

This last skill is more of a lifestyle, and I call it Urban Homesteading. This means simply growing some of your own food in vertical gardens, canning and preserving food that you can purchase locally like vegetables, jelly making, and even dehydrating meat into jerky. Safe food handling practices need to be followed, and many places offer canning classes. This is a great skill to learn! It is not just for emergencies, but for everyday life. Eating healthy is a bonus. 

Learning these skills and other survival skills, will not only help you in a time of need or emergency, but it will also offer you the chance to think outside of the box and try something new. Taking a class to learn these skills helps you meet new people, improve on skills you might already have, and most importantly improves self-esteem. These skills transfer to many different settings from walking in the park, to taking the weekend camping trip for vacation. So, learn new skills and TRAIN LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT, because someday, it might.

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