Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Real-World Urban Survival Skills

Ferfal, I received your book and it has helped me learn a great deal on urban survival. The thing that keeps bothering are knowing the skills for an economic collapse, especially since I live in the US. I been read your posts, and from them, I keep hearing that you won't be needing wilderness survival skills. What would you say, what skills would be necessary in a city? I know awareness and self-defense is necessary; I got a bit of awareness in me because I got robbed when I was coming back from school. Since then, I've been looking over shoulder and carry a knife with me wherever I go.


Hello Jesus, 
I did cover some of these in my book, "The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse". As you notice, buidling a shelter in the jungle and making a cooking container with a length of bamboo are great skills but they tend to be less useful in an urban, modern world society where there are other challenges which arent precisley improvising cheap, widely available items. 
Regarding Urban survival skills, I believe they have to be actually useful. They have to improve your daily life, being needed on regular basis or at least in likely emergency scenarios. Second, they should interconnect with one another and have as much benefits as possible.

Fitness and Nutrition: Staying healthy and fit has the obvious benefit of keeping you both aliv, healthy and capable of physical activity. Staying the obvious are we? Well, take a look around the fitness level during the next gun show or survival seminar. Fitness can be combined with some group sport (making friends, networking) ,some martial art (learning self-defense too, maybe meeting like-minded people) or outdoors activities like camping and backpacking.

Business/Sales/Marketing: If you are able to make money, you’re ahead of the game of urban survival. Sure, it will do you no good if someone is trying to stab you to death one night when commuting back from work, but making money is not just obviously needed to make a living, it also allows you to position yourself better in life, live in better/safer places buy supplies, pay for classes and move around with more freedom if needed.  When the economy goes to hell, someone that knows how to keep making money has an invaluable skillset. Good salesmen, guys that are good and keeping sales up are valuable to any company. Any skill or profession that is in demand and gets you a steady income, from welding(income+DIY combo skill points)  to nurse school (income+medical combo skill points) , can be the most important skill you could possibly have.

Finances & Budgeting: Everything from handling your income, savings, investments and expenses. Making the most of what you have is even more crucial when you have very little.

Second Language: It quickly becomes added value to whatever profession you have and in many cases it places you ahead of those that lack it, sealing the deal for many employers. Knowing a second language that is popular in your country gives you an edge on the street too.

Haggling & Negotiating: Haggling isn’t just about buying trinkets from a street vendor in Cairo. Haggling is the art of politely bringing the price up or down to your benefit. When buying furniture, appliances or cars on the second hand market, when talking about the price of a house or discussing a work contract or raise, the skill put to use is the same and the more you practice it the better you get at it. Being a good negotiator can save you hundreds of thousands in your lifetime.

First aid: Know what to do if someone is choking or having a heart attack. Take a first aid class, check with the red cross website or nearby hospital to find one close to you. Once you have the basics you can add to that more advanced knowledge. There’s classes and information online on treating gun shot wounds, stab wounds and such. As a parent you soon have a good idea of the illnesses your kids are likely to catch and you prepare for them accordingly.  

Security & Self Defense: Armed o unarmed. Personal and home security. Security is about knowledge, habits and acquired skills. Regarding armed self-defense, don’t assume you already know how to use a handgun because your uncle’s neighbor that was in the Army taught you how to shoot a few soda cans one Sunday afternoon. Take an actual class from a good instructor. Try adding martial arts, some knowledge on how to use a stick and blade. 

Awareness: Awareness isn’t just about keeping an eye on those around you. Its about keeping a constant yellow level of alert. Listening (shouting? Quick footsteps towards you?) and smelling(gunpowder? Smoke? Teargas?) your surroundings. Get used to identifying a second exit in whatever room or structure you walk into. The first one if the one you gained access through. 

Understand the Grid: Have an understanding of your area, your city. Where does water come from? Where does it go? If it rains a lot, what parts get flooded and why? Is there an underground river somewhere? Know where the power terminals and transformers are in your neighborhood. Watch the city/power/sewer workers and try to understand what they are doing, maybe even stop by and say thanks for their hard work and ask about what they are working on. Know which are the main arteries in and out of your city and which alternative routes you could take. What are the bad parts of down to be avoided and where trouble usually brews during protests and civil unrest. You probably know where the police station is, but what about the patrol routes? Do you see a patrol car or officer on foot on certain streets, certain days at a certain time? What about sewers? Where do they start and end. Peek if you can when a worker goes down for repairs and try to learn in what direction it stretches. Manhole covers are usually a good indication of that. 

Backpacking: While backpacking isn’t in itself training for urban survival, it does go along well with fitness and an understanding of essential gear and techniques, things such as cooking with basics, staying warm and hydrated and map reading and navigation. 

Defensive Driving: It’s not just about avoiding carjacking and kidnappers (even if that can still happen to you) but it’s also about learning to use your vehicle during emergencies related to drunk drivers and road rage which are far too common.

DIY: A basic understanding of how to fix and build things around the house can be very handy and it can save you a good amount of money as well. Its safe to say that 1/3 of the appliances I’ve managed to fix on my own had nothing more than a broken cable that needed replacing or some other simple obvious malfunction that was quickly noticeable after disassembling the appliance or machine.  If I end up having to call an expert, I make sure to stick around and ask plenty of questions so as to know how to do it on my own next time. 

Electronics/HAM Radio: With basic understanding of electronics you can fix most gadgets. Radio communication skills can be important during large scale disasters. Ham radio is also a hobby that may allow you to meet like-minded people.

Improvising and Coping: Improvising is closely linked to DIY, but it extends beyond that. Its about improvising in life in general. Knowing that if there’s no water you can flush a toilet with a bucket, that a few soda bottles full of ice and some plastic tarp can turn your freezer into an old school “ice box” during blackouts. Its about being “creative” with your cooking recipes if the budget doesn’t allow for much. I just got used to turning leftovers into something else for another meal, we still do that often. Stews are particularly good for that.
Then there’s coping, which I believe a lot of people will have problems with. A couple days ago I was reading in a survival forum a post someone made asking how to deal with lack of supplies during an extended SHTF scenario. A lot of people had plenty of suggestions. No one suggested what truly ends up happening: You learn to do without. At the end of the day, most of the stuff people worry so much about is not essential. Food, water, shelter and clothing. Pretty much everything else a person can do without. If it comes down to that, those are the ones that keep you alive. Other than medicines when needed, everything else falls into the “nice to have” category in a pure survival situation.
These are just a few, if you have other suggestions post them on the comments below!



Anonymous said...

Great Post! In some areas we are doing well and others need to be tightened up. Thank you!

It has been my observation, that many survival lists put sewing and knitting/crochet as an after thought. You were very correct in mentioning clothing. Not having the appropriate clothing for the weather, or not having the proper footwear, could be tragic.

Purchasing extra sensible footwear would be prudent.

Knowing how to repair clothes and household linens is essential. This skill has been lost on our increasingly de-skilled society. The British government during WW2 thought it essential, and distributed a number of pamphlets that that gave step by step instruction the proper method of mending clothes and household linens.

Being able to make and mend that includes the examples you mentioned, not only saves money, but helps with coping. Once the person has climbed the learning curve of a new skill, the skill can have positive side benefits. It will give great satisfaction of a job well done, decrease stress,and may improve the quality of our life and health.

Thank you again for your list.

SidVic said...

Gun ownership. Even in countries where restricted i would have a discreet house gun. I think that ferfal will disagree, but training in gun use can be accomplished in an afternoon. I also think it prudent to a % of savings in physical gold.

Anonymous said...

BRILLIANT post as usual, Ferfal. I also LOVED your post about the BBC series and book "Wartime Farm". If you have not already, start growing a bit of fresh veggies. Start with the easy stuff in a SMALL area, and go from there. No area to grow stuff? Master the 'art' of growing sprouts. They are a great source of vitamins and will keep you healthy when other fresh veggies are not available.

Keep up the GREAT work Ferfal, and thanks for the 'food' for thought. :-)

Don Williams said...

This is a big subject. I'll make a few suggestions just as a start:
1) Re local knowledge for an urban area, I would add the following for
the USA:

a) Local Hazards: Railroads (may carry nuclear fuel or Hazmat materials),
chemical refineries (poisonous gases -- check online for the "Wind Rose" for
your area --shows directions where winds blow from at different times of the year),
also upwind nuclear powerplants. I live in a quiet suburb that at first glance
is quite safe. But i was surprised to discover several years ago that an obscure
railroad track --located about half a mile away along a river -- was carrying
nuclear materials at night from a nuclear reactor in another state about 50 miles
to the south.

b) Location of local food warehouses (where food is trucked to local supermarkets)

c) Local government emergency plans (evacuation routes, assembly points
(usually school houses near major intersections), plans to house refugees in YOUR home,etc.

d) Location of local hospitals (in normal times, we call 911 and wait for paramedics/ambulance.
In chaos, they are tied up elsewhere and if your friend has a gunshot wound in her stomach,
there is little time to look up addresses in a phone book and find them on a map. Even
Assuming you can find the map, that is. You might also note the name, address and phone
number of a local paramedic. Put emergency info in a known place/drawer.

Don Williams said...

2) Know the local power structure -- who the rich are, who the major lawyers are
(check the reference Martindall and Hubbells--the Consumer Guide to Law Firms),
and the allegiances of the local politicans. To appeal to a power figure for help,
you don't need to be his friend -- you just need to be a friend of one of his relatives
or friends. Certainly it is better than being a complete stranger.

3) Know how your city earns its money -- a lot of local companies are selling to local
consumers but there always has to be some conduit for money to come in from outside.
That conduit is important because every dollar coming down it gets magnified 4 or
5 times as it is passed around. But if the dollars coming in stop, the crowbar works
the other way -- laid off employees stop buying and local businesses who sell to
them start hurting.

4) Know how your employer earns its money and the trend in its current fortunes.
Check the stock price trend for the past two years. Is it healthy? Is your employer
about to be destroyed by a competitor? From an investors' viewpoint, is it a good business?
Are layoffs likely in the coming year?

5) In a number of US urban areas, you can go online, find the website for your local
county/city government and register to have your cell phone receive alerts from the
local emergency center. (You can also arrange to receive alerts of major emergencies
occurring in New York City or Washington DC by registering with their emergency centers.)

Don Williams said...

6) Buy a Radio Shack Public Alert handheld weather radio (with SAME). It will turn itself on
automatically, sound a loud alarm and broadcast an emergency warning received for the
local area (the SAME codes for which you can program). Be sure to get the power adapter
so you can have it monitoring continuously at home. A good feature is that you can take it
with you if you need to travel downtown or evacuate.

7) Buy a small AM/FM radio w/ spare batteries and charger as well. During the Cold War,
there were about 35 special, high power radio stations (Primary Entry Points) set up
around the USA that were designed to survive a major nuclear attack and carry
government directives/information in the aftermath.
They have their own backup diesel generators and large fuel tanks as well as hardened
buildings in survivable locations. They are not obsolete -- the US government in
fact is adding more of them.
If nothing else is transmitting, they will be and their range is out to 200 miles or more.
Know the frequency of the closest PEP -- although other radio stations are supposed
to also pick up and rebroadcast its transmissions.


8) A smartphone connected to the Internet will let you pull up Google Maps,
which has two useful features:

a) If you zoom to a road map of your local area and click on the "Traffic" menu
option, the map will show which roads are clear, which are slow moving, and
which are badly jammed.

b) The "Directions" option lets your specify a start and destination address and
will then display the route on the map with detailed directions. You can click on
the initial route and drag part of it to an alternate road (to bypass traffic jams) and
Google will then display the new route and update the directions.

9) The old AT&T/Bell copper based land lines were designed to be extremely
robust and were a good backup to a cell phone. I don't know how robust the
new digital fiber optic telephone lines are. Many of the old public pay phones
have largely disappeared so it would be worthwhile to find the locations of ones
still in operation in your area. (Especially since NSA can't tie them to you, heh heh.)

Don Williams said...

PS I forgot to mention --the reason why you want to track the health of your local economy is to get out ahead of any severe drop in housing prices.

For example, housing prices in the Washington DC suburbs increased rapidly during the Reagan defense spending boom of the 1980s --but then fell about 25-30% from their highs when major defense spending cuts were imposed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I knew a middle-aged guy whose house was underwater -- i.e., worth $50,000 less than what he owed on it -- and he had to come up with the shortage out of his personal savings in order to move to a better job. (Not only does personal bankruptcy carry a financial stigma, but it would also have ruined his career since he would have lost the security clearance necessary for his work.)

Spencer said...

I was very happy to see DIY on the list. Few things have saved me more money than the ability to repair my own car. The knowledge is easily acquired, too. I've learned how to repair and replace practically everything on my own vehicle through Chiltons manuals, car forums, and Youtube. This, coupled with about $200 in hand tools that have easily paid for themselves 15 or 20 times over, and I have a skill that sends everyone I know running to me whenever they have car trouble.

You can also learn a great deal of patience from working on things, and you learn that things very rarely ever go the way you planned, which forces you to carefully think through the problem, do your research, and become a keen improviser. Business as usual or end of the world, you can't go wrong with learning to fix things yourself.

Thanks for the great post.

Don Williams said...

1) Re trying to evacuate from a city, if you don't have a helicopter handy then consider the River. Almost every city has a large river running through it --to supply water. A boat on the river allows a quick getaway while avoiding the hordes. A power boat is obviously best but even a canoe will let you cover 15 miles or so at night if you head downstream and get a speed boost from the current.

2) Re my earlier suggestions about various radios, look also at FRS radios to hooking up with family or friends.

3) And get automobile chargers for all the radios plus one for AA/AAA batteries. I referring to the kind that you plug into the cigarette lighter and which draws current off the automobile main battery. Use the chargers when the car is running and the main battery is being recharged by the alternator/fan belt.

Valentin said...

One DIY suggestion is having a simple barrel for a cistern to collect water. Another suggestion which is both good for city folk and people in the country is long term food storage which can include pickling and fermenting various types of food.

Pompompom said...

International mobility!

Financial: open a bank account in a friendly foreign country and put some money there. Possibly start a small business on behalf of it. Learn to transfer money quickly, via internet. Way more difficult for your own government to steal your assets.

Physical: take vacations in another country (you like vacations do you?). Consider a simple trailer in a remote campground. Easy, fun and cheap. Should you have to go, you know where, and people there know you.
Reconcile with a cousin far away. Bring him a nice present today and once a year, or even better help him or his son. Exchange a deal: if the SHTF in one place, the other place is a safe harbor.

Information: learn to select the news, hot alerts or slow changes.
What was true yesterday may not be anymore. The beacon of Liberty tends to move to other places, be aware and ready to reconsider your thoughts.