Last week, I touched on some of the ways that cities and towns are actually better than rural locations for survival situations, and today & tomorrow, I’m going to give you a more in-depth list of the top 10 lies and half-truths about urban survival.
It’s ironic to note that survival is the very reason why many cities were originally set up. They wanted to set up a common defense, build a marketplace for their goods, and have access to people with specialized skills.
What do I mean by urban? Well, by “urban” I mean a few thousand people to a few million people. Basically any community that shares water/sewer/electricity distribution. With that in mind, here are the top 10 lies about Urban Survival and why it may be better for you than a fully stocked rural retreat (in no particular order)
Lie #1. “I’ll be a sitting duck in my house!”: If you live on a street with several houses, you can rotate a watch without it being too much of a burden on any one family. This has been around for generations. Just to be clear, it doesn’t stop crime,it only changes the location where it happens.
If a crack head needs to steal a TV to support their habit, it’ll just get them to go a block or two away to break into a house and steal someone else’s stuff. Of course, many scale this up and have multiple roving people covering an entire neighborhood. In the country, there’s just too much space between houses to make this practical. Why? Because in an urban area, one person can watch several houses at one time.
Lie #2. “With all those people, everything’s going to run out right away”: True, but it’s just the first chapter of the story. Many people will abandon cities and others will die of shock, medical reasons, or violence, leaving a remnant of people who were prepared who can continue/rebuild the economy. Also, at some point, products like fuel will start being distributed again. If refiners have the choice of trucking fuel to one city or 10 towns, they’ll pick the one city. Their cost to deliver the fuel to only one location will be less AND they’ll probably be able to sell the fuel at a premium because of higher demand. The key here is to have enough supplies on hand to make it
through the worst part of a civil breakdown situation until resupply begins.
Half-truth #3. “Everyone in the city will turn on each other”: Partially true. I hear people talk about their organized plans to kill, loot, and steal from their neighbors way too often. Just yesterday a friend told me how he overheard a group of otherwise rational people talking about how they have their neighborhood mapped out and the houses prioritized according to which ones they’re going to attack first. This is no joke, and it’s why I cover operational security so much in the SurviveInPlace course. I think these people should and will be “taken care of” quickly if they ever start acting on their sick plans. They go against everything that America stands for and they disgust me.
There is another side to this story…one which has a lot more historical evidence. Think of barn raisings and the ability of a rural community to band together to get a big project done. Now think about how many more people there are in a city than in a rural area and how much easier it would be for any one person to get a group of people together to get a big project done when there are so many more people to ask. (stop laughing)
Really, stop laughing. The reality is that people don’t tend to help each other like this in urban areas anymore. But one of the “good” things about disasters and breakdowns in civil order is that while idiots are running amok, good people band together to help each other. It happened after the San Francisco earthquake, 9/11, numerous floods & tornadoes in the Midwest, and even after Katrina.
In fact, I’ve got a friend who has moved BACK to New Orleans because of what he saw after Katrina. He happened to have friends who lived in a neighborhood that was galvanized by the event, pulled together, and became like a small town community in the middle of all the chaos.
None of this was in place before Katrina to set this up,it just happened that good people decided to take control of the situation in front of them. They had armed checkpoints to get into their neighborhood, they took care of each other, and when things calmed down they realized that they had turned their neighborhood of strangers into a family
Lie #4. Only jacks-of-all trades will survive. people with specialized skills will have no use and quickly die: Famous
self-reliant author Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers) said that “specialization is for insects” but that’s not entirely true. A better view on life would be “Jack of all trades, master of ONE.” In other words, if you happen to be a surgeon, it’s really not worth your time to change your oil, build a deck, milk a cow, or dress & butcher a kill, but you should still know how.
No matter what you do, there are going to be tasks that you’re not efficient at. I recently read that the reason why people are so busy in survival situations is because they’re spending all of their time doing things they’re not efficient at. In a city, you don’t HAVE to do everything?even if you know how to do it all. There are a ready supply of skilled friends, acquaintances, and experts for hire who can do specialized tasks that you aren’t efficient at much quicker than you can.
The other benefit of specialization in urban areas is that it allows for highly skilled people like the surgeon that I
mentioned. In a rural area, the surgeon may only get a chance to practice his skill a few times a month. In an urban area, he’ll have the opportunity to hone his skills every day and all of his patients will benefit from his efficiency and expertise.
Half-truth #5. Sickness will spread like wildfire in cities after a disaster: True, but history shows us that much of the reasons why disease spreads so quickly in urban areas is not only due to population density, but also due to a lack of sun exposure due to spending all day indoors. This is something you have control over. Throughout history, the benefits of efficient distribution have outweighed the dangers of disease spread.
In fact, A HUGE advantage that urban areas have over rural areas is how much more efficient product and information distribution is. A kid on a bike can deliver a few hundred newspapers quickly in a city. Mail can be delivered on foot. Bike messengers can deliver packages and messages quickly. Food and produce can be
delivered QUICKLY by hand, foot, vehicle, cart, or animal to hundreds of customers without adding much cost to the final buyer.
One of the big problems that we have, both in stable and unstable times is urban sprawl. By urban sprawl, I’m specifically talking about subdivisions of 1000-3000 houses with absolutely no grocery, retail, or convenience stores except at the entrance from the main road. These are very inefficient setups because they require people to drive for small things like fresh produce, a snack, a missing ingredient for a favorite recipe, or a newspaper.
I have a very strong feeling that in a civil breakdown situation, as others abandon their homes in search of greener pastures, many houses in subdivisions like these will turn into markets?regardless of zoning. In other words, if you’ve got a main street through a subdivision that’s a couple miles long, I can see 5-10 of them being changed into convenience stores and, when the season is right, farmer’s markets.
Why do I say this? Because good people always have and always will figure out a way to improvise, adapt, and overcome?and this is a natural solution to a problem that we see in subdivisions in every city in America.
I’ll be back with the next 5 tomorrow, and on Friday, I’m going to talk about how Chicago is breaking down and tell you the reason why gangs of “bad people” won’t be a long term problem in most cities after civil breakdown.
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SurviveInPlace.com / UrbanSurvivalGuide.com.