luxuriant plants with tomatoes grown in a pot on the terrace of a House
Have you ever heard anyone utter some variation of one of these comments?
“I’m going to start prepping as soon as I can move.”
“I can’t prepare because I live in a tiny apartment.”
“Well, once we are able to get moved to our farm in two years I’ll start prepping hardcore.”
“I’m saving the money for moving instead of using it for preps.”
“There’s no point in prepping here because if the SHTF I’ll be dead.”
Maybe you didn’t overhear someone else saying it. Maybe you said it yourself. One of the most common excuses that people use for prepper procrastination is the unsuitability of where they currently live.
This is the kind of thinking that will get people killed.
While your current situation may be less than ideal, you have to remember that very few locations are actually perfect for prepping. Nearly anywhere you live will be subject to some type of extreme weather, be it crippling cold, blazing heat, drought, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Chemical spills can taint water supplies anywhere. Riots and civil unrest can occur outside of the big city.
The point is, to borrow an old saying, you just have to bloom where you’re planted.
There are many things you can do to create a viable preparedness plan wherever you happen to live. Apartment dwellers at the top of a city high rise, folks in the middle of the desert, those in a beachfront condo, and people in HOA-ruled suburban lots all have to examine their situations, figure out their pros and cons, and work towards resolving what they can. With some pre-planning, there is a lot you can overcome if you have the right mindset. I suspect there are just as many (and probably far more) preppers living in the ‘burbs than there are living in perfect rural locations, with a lake, 10 acres of cultivated farmland, and an off-grid house.
Stop waiting until you move to the perfect location. Make preparations for the situation you have, not the situation you want.
Moving isn’t always an option.
One of the most ridiculous quasi-solutions you will hear is this one: “Oh, you should just move.”
Preparedness forums are rife with this off the cuff advice from people who haven’t thought it through. And if you’re one of the people giving that so-called advice, you need to consider how completely impractical this is.
There is no “just” when it relates to packing up everything you own; abandoning job, family, and friends; and relocating like money is no object.
“Just” picking up and moving isn’t that easy. People have obligations and ties that some Joe-Blow on the internet shouting out advice can’t even begin to understand. Some in the prepping community have a complete disconnect with the realities of everyday people. There are reasons like:
- Not enough money to leave
- A good job (increasingly hard to come by these days)
- Family members in the area that you don’t want to abandon
- No work opportunities where you want to go
- Custody orders that require you to remain in a certain area
- A spouse who is not on board
- A house that won’t sell or with an upside-down mortgage
The list goes on and on. There are as many reasons to remain in one place as there are people living in cities. While we could sit here and logically refute each and every reason a person has chosen to remain, it is only philosophical. It still doesn’t address the practical reasons that people have for staying put. Sometimes people who are interested in preparedness are alienated when it seems that everything is black and white or like their personal decisions are somehow less valid than the decisions of some random person on the internet.
So, if you are interested in getting prepared but feel your current situation is hopeless, ignore the naysayers and forum curmudgeons. Take your current situation, warts and all, and work with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your plans for a better location sometime in the future if such a move is warranted. But it means that you shouldn’t put off important preparedness steps until after that move is made.
Assess Your Situation
You don’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are. The first and most vital step is an honest assessment of your current situation. The situation that you have right now, this very minute, not the one you will have in a month or in a year. Assess your needs regarding the following:
- Long-term sustainability
Once you know exactly where you are with these things, you can begin to look for solutions that will work for you, today. Dig in and make a plan
for the survival of your family.
Survival in a Population Dense Area
A little note to those who say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m in midtown Manhattan. I’ll die anyway.”
No, you won’t. You won’t be that lucky. You will be absolutely thoroughly miserable, breathing foul unhealthy air. You’ll be thirsty enough to drink unsanitary water, which will cause bowel issues to worsen problem #1. You’ll be hungry, but not hungry enough that you die of starvation. You will be at the mercy of thugs better armed than you. You won’t die, not right away, and neither will your children. You will live like I just described, and it will be horrible. Look at the residents of Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. They didn’t die but they were absolutely miserable, they were terrified, they were eating from dumpsters, and much of it could have been avoided with some basic preparedness.
Before I relocated to the boondocks, I lived in a very metropolitan area. I was lucky: I had 1/10th of an acre. I did everything I could come up with to make my little house as sustainable as possible should the poop hit the oscillating device before I could get out. A disaster in the city IS survivable.
I planted every inch of the backyard (and some of the front) and grew enough food that the home-canned and frozen produce lasted until Christmas. I stockpiled groceries. I had plywood cut and pre-drilled to cover each window of the house. I had printed official looking quarantine signs to hang on the door of my house as a deterrent should the city fall into civil unrest. I put together a little outdoor fireplace in the backyard behind my fence. I got a big dog. I collected rainwater from downspouts at each corner of the house. I purchased an antique oil heater in good working order, and stockpiled heating oil. I had enough seeds to plant for the next 4 years. I located nearby sources of water, wood, and nuts. I got a wagon for hauling stuff if the transportation system was down.
In short, I did everything possible to make the best of a potentially terrible location. It wasn’t perfect, but we were determined to resolve as many of the concerns as possible.
The major challenges that you face in an SHTF situation are the same no matter where you are. Of course, the issues will vary from one situation to another – these lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive. This is a starting point to get your wheels turning, so that you can figure out how you and your family can best survive, exactly where you’re planted right now.
Water preparedness should be at the very top of your list. You can only survive for 3 days without water (and you’ll be weak and suffering way before that). A water preparedness plan is essential for survival, even in a short-term scenario. Here are a few ways you can prep for a water emergency, no matter where you live:
- Store a month supply of drinking water (plan on a gallon per day, per person and pet)
- Acquire a non-electric water filtration system (with spare filters)
- Scope out local water sources that are within walking distance
- Stock up on buckets and be prepared to transport them with a sled, wagon, or wheelbarrow (this depends on the season and climate).
- If you have a house instead of an apartment, set up a water catchment system
- Stock up on water purification supplies (bleach, pool shock, tablets)
- Figure out a system for catching gray water to be reused for flushing, washing, etc.
Figure out how you will go to the bathroom in the event that the public sewer system goes down. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York, it was reported that people were defecating and urinating in the hallways of apartment buildings once the sewer system stopped working. Lack of sanitation is not only unpleasant, but it spreads disease. Figure out ahead of time if any of these suggestions will work in your situation, and then stock up on the required supplies:
- Get a porta potty – there are camping ones that will hold several days worth of sewage. (Caveat: You have to have a safe place to empty this should the disaster persist.)
- Make a human litter box using 5 gallon buckets lined with heavy duty trash bags (get the kind designed for contractors). Scoop in a small amount of kitty litter each time you use it. Don’t let it get too heavy to carry outside – you don’t want the bag to rip and spill several days worth of human waste in your home.
- Stock up on water for flushing if you have a septic system
- Learn how to shut off the main valve so that city sewage cannot back up into your house or apartment
- If you have enough outdoor space, keep on hand the supplies to build an outhouse. (Don’t forget the lime!)
- Keep these extra personal sanitation supplies on hand: baby wipes, antibacterial wipes (for cleaning food preparation areas), white vinegar, bleach, hand sanitizer, extra toilet paper.
Not only should you stock up on food, but you need to consider how you’ll cook it. Most preppers have a food supply, but in a down grid situation, food that takes 4 hours to cook will use a prohibitive amount of fuel. If you’re new at this, you might not yet have a food supply. Here are some considerations:
- Have a minimum of 1 month of food for each family member and pet. (Here’s how to build one immediately, and this book will help you learn how to build one over a period of time.)
- Figure out some alternative cooking methods for indoors: a fondue pot, a woodstove or fireplace, or a gas kitchen stove
- If you have outdoor space, look at cooking methods like a barbecue (beware of tantalizing smells and hungry neighbors), an outdoor fireplace or firepit, a rocket stove, or a sun oven
- Be sure to keep abundant fuel for your chosen cooking method.
- Stock up on foods that don’t require cooking or heating.
If you live in a place with cold winters, a secondary heat source should be a priority. Of course if you rent or live in a high-rise condo, installing a woodstove is unlikely to be a viable solution. The cold can kill, so this is a necessary part of your preparedness plan. Consider some of these options for a secondary heat source:
- Use your wood stove or fireplace (if you’re lucky, your house is already equipped with your secondary source!)
- Acquire a personal heating unit. Look for one of the following: an oil heater, kerosene heater, or propane heater (We have this propane heater)
If you absolutely can’t get ahold of a secondary heating system, prepare with non-tech ideas like:
- Arctic sleeping bags
- Winter clothes and accessories
- Covers for windows
- Segregating one room to heat
- Setting up a tent in the warmest room to combine body heat
In a disaster situation, the risk of potentially violent civil unrest always goes up. Used a two-fold approach: try to avoid conflict by keeping a low profile, but be ready to deal with it if it can’t be avoided.
- Have firearms and know how to use them. (Here’s why I believe you MUST be armed.)
- Secure heavy doors with reinforced frames.plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, keeping lights off or low, thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard, hardening access points, a big dog, an alarm system, and visual deterrents such as warning signs and quarantine signs.
- Cut plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, making them difficult to breach.
- Keep the lights off or low.
- Nurture some thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard.
- Harden the access points to your home.
- A dog can serve as both a warning system and a deterrent
- Install an alarm system
- Use visual deterrents such as warning signs or quarantine signs.
- Create a safe room to which vulnerable family members can retreat. (You can do this, even in an apartment or rental home.)
Don’t underestimate the value of light in a dark world. Most city dwellers don’t consider exactly how dark the night can be without streetlights and lights from houses. Emotionally, having a bit of light can help soothe frazzled children (or adults) and help the night seem a little less scary. Use caution that your light cannot be seen from the outside. Like moths to a flame, people will be drawn to the only brightly lit house on the street. Keep some of the following sources on hand.
- Solar garden lights
- Kerosene or oil lamps (and extra fuel)
- Flashlights (and extra batteries)
- Battery operated LED lights,
- Solar camping lanterns
- Glow sticks for children
Increase Your Personal Sustainability
Of course, all of the above are solutions for a short-term situation. There’s always the possibility that a crisis could persist for a longer period of time. You should include in your plans as many ways as possible to be personally sustainable. This might include some of the following strategies:
- Set up a permanent water catchment system at your home.
- Grow food on every possible space available: balconies, windowsills, courtyards, backyards, front yards, flower beds.
- Consider raising some micro livestock: rabbits and chickens take up very little space and can be raised in most backyards. If your city has an ordinance against backyard chickens, rabbits are quiet and multiply…well…like rabbits.
- Learn to make things from scratch and practice your sustainable skills rather than relying on storebought goods.
This website and this one both have great solutions for preparing in apartments and small spaces. Here is an excellent series about how to homestead when you rent.
Make a Plan
So, if you’re reading this and you’ve been putting off preparedness due to your location, what’s your plan?
If you’ve been feeling disheartened by all the folks grimly telling you that your home is a death trap, what can you do over the weekend to improve your chances, right where you are?
And if you are fortunate enough to be in an ideal location, please share your ideas about overcoming some of these difficulties in a less than perfect place on the map. As a community, we can all help one another solve problems that could otherwise seem insurmountable.