Taking the subway versus driving to get groceries. Paying $300 per month in parking fees vs. free parking. Sitting in gridlock for an hour versus coasting for ten minutes to get to work. Daily life for someone living in a city differs drastically from that of someone living in the suburbs or rural areas of the country.
According to the U.S. Census in 2018, 80% of America’s population lives in urban settings. Understanding the differences they will face compared to those living in suburban or rural settings isn’t only practical--it’s critical. Especially when it comes to emergency and disaster planning. Accessing services and resources during times of chaos is going to look pretty different and likely be more difficult based on the setting where you live.
That’s why today, I’m sharing four ways to prepare and deal with disasters in urban settings before, during, and after they’ve hit. This is important information for not only those who live in cities, but also for those that may be visiting one. Because let’s be real--getting lost in the woods or stranded in the suburbs is one thing. Urban preparedness is a whole other ballgame.
Read on to discover some potentially life-saving information...
#1: Practice situational awareness
Urban environments have a lot going on. Whether commuting on a city bus or sitting in a crowded restaurant, it’s easy to experience sensory overload and lose a sense of focus and awareness. When a disaster strikes, things will be a lot less organized and a lot more chaotic. In these circumstances, practicing situational awareness will be key.
Situational awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend information in your surroundings. Developing and strengthening this ability is extremely valuable when it comes to surviving a high-risk situation or emergency.
Desperate times create desperate people. Those who haven’t prepared ahead of time may become a threat, especially when law enforcement is already overwhelmed and managing a crisis. Therefore, knowing who’s around you and what’s happening around you at all times is critical. Examples of practicing situational awareness include…
- Understanding when you are entering dangerous territories and areas.
- Being aware of whether or not you’re being followed.
- Avoiding crowds and locations where looters may be present, such as grocery stores.
- Not letting others know what you own or have access to when it comes to resources. People who are obviously prepared will become clear targets for the desperately unprepared.
- Altering your daily patterns to keep observers off guard.
#2: Check for gas leaks
Despite prior planning and retrofitting, a city’s infrastructure is always at risk for damage or destruction when disaster hits. For example, a major threat to public safety after an earthquake strikes an urban area is gas leaks. If and when a disaster strikes your area, one of the first things you should do after making sure you and others aren’t injured is to check for gas leaks. According to the Seismic Safety Commission…
- If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building.
- Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve if you can.
- If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
You should also keep in mind that the risk of gas leaks can lead to additional problems, such as power outages. After the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco in 1989, there was a 48-hour power outage in the downtown area. The power was shut off in order to perform building-by-building gas leak surveys prior to energizing the local power grid. Preparing for a loss of power will come hand in hand with disruptions to gas lines, so be sure to take additional steps to survive without power.
#3: Prepare for a lack of water
When disaster strikes, your access to water may be affected if the power goes out or your local sewage and water lines are damaged. For example, as many of us know, California is due for a major earthquake. According to seismologist Lucy Jones, when that happens, the state will grapple with disruptions to the water supply.
However, losing access to water in a city is a whole lot worse than doing so in a suburban or rural environment. You won’t typically have easy access to rivers, streams, and other natural water resources.
Access to water and methods for purifying it are essential for both hydration and sanitation purposes. Planning ahead and brainstorming how you’ll maintain access to water are essential for survival. If you live in a city, consider doing the following to prepare for a potential loss of water…
- Store several gallons of clean bottled drinking water at home and at work.
- Source water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
- Stock up on water collection containers to collect rainwater.
- Scavenge for additional stores of water in the hot water tanks of surrounding damaged buildings.
- If you know you’re likely to lose access to water but haven’t yet, fill bottles and even your bathtub up with water. You can always purify it later using germicidal tablets.
#4: Stock up on supplies
When it comes to stocking up on preparedness supplies, there are three categories to consider: your go-bag, get-home, and bug-in supplies. Read on to discover the difference between each one, and what they should each include.
Your go-bag supplies: An easily transportable go-bag is even more critical in cities where you may not be able to use a car for evacuation due to traffic and blocked streets. But packing a go-bag for urban environments is going to differ from other settings where wilderness survival may be the focus. If you live in a city, an urban go-bag should include the following items:
- An on-the-go water purifier.
- A thermal blanket.
- A supply of lightweight, nonperishable food.
- A few multi-tools such as a screwdriver, scissors, pliers, and can opener.
- A pry bar to pry open locked doors, vending machines, and more if you go scavenging for food and supplies.
- A protective mask to guard yourself from airborne debris and smoke.
- An emergency hand-crank radio to stay informed on the developing disaster and recovery.
- A map to navigate your evacuation route, in case your data and service go down and you can’t use your phone.
- A power bank for your phone and solar-powered phone charger.
- A first aid kit.
- Defense items to protect yourself and your family, such as pepper spray, gun and ammo, or knife.
Your get-home supplies: Let’s say you’re at work or school when disaster strikes. Public transportation comes to a standstill, and traffic is a nightmare, so you need to make it home on foot. For example, think about all the office workers on 9/11 in New York City who had to escape to safety on foot and walk for dozens of city blocks to get home. This is why a get-home bag is also critical. This bag will be designed to help you survive an emergency long enough to travel from your current location to your home or to another suitable location you intend to bug out from. In it, make sure you have items such as…
- A window punch to escape from damaged vehicles or buildings.
- A first aid kit.
- A change of shoes, in case you’ve worn heels to work.
- A supply of cash.
- A small, portable radio and flashlight.
- A bottle of water and a supply of nonperishable snacks.
- A thermal blanket.
- A map and a list of important numbers, in case you lose your cellphone or reception doesn’t work.
Your bug-in supplies: On the other hand, if you’re at home when disaster strikes and evacuating is more dangerous than staying put, the best thing to do is avoid what’s happening outside and bug in. To do this, you’ll need…
- Nonperishable food. If space is limited in your home, get creative and use your boxed or canned food supplies as furniture, such as a coffee table or nightstand.
- Additional locks that can be installed on your doors for safety from looters.
- Alternative lighting sources such as candles, flashlights, and solar lamps.
- Water filter or purifier.
- Defense items to protect yourself and your family
Remember, it’s up to you to research and prepare for disasters and how your specific location and environment could be affected. Take all of the advice I’ve shared today into account when planning for the future, and you and your family members will be more likely to come out on the other side of a disaster.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply