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9 Urban Survival Skills That Could Save Your Life

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I recently wrote about 20 skills you can trade after the SHTF, but this time I want to focus on urban survival skills. If you live in the city, these skills could literally save your life during the next major disaster. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, and the skills aren’t in any particular order.

1. Water Procurement and Purification – Of course, this is also an invaluable wilderness survival skill. But in the city, the water is more likely to be contaminated. Make sure you know several ways to purify it. And depending on where you live, water may be harder to find than it is in the wilderness. Even if you live near a stream or a lake, getting to and from it could be dangerous due to thousands of thirsty people with the same idea. To get around this, you could harvest rain water or even dig your own well.

2. Security and Awareness – After the next disaster police will be stretched to the limit so you can expect crime to skyrocket, especially if the city is running low on food. There are many ways to make your home secure and deter burglars, but you also need to practice general awareness skills. Be on alert at all times. Take note of the people around you (such as someone watching/following you), look for things out of the ordinary (like a suspicious vehicle parked near your home), listen for unusual sounds (shouting, running, other noises), notice smells in the air (smoke, gasoline, etc.), know your exits in case you have to escape. Achieving a heightened level of awareness takes practice. It may be paranoid, but paranoia could save your life.

3. Self-Defense and Combat – Even with great home security and awareness, you still might find yourself face to face with a mugger, or worse. While it’s a good idea to have a gun for self-defense, there’s always the chance you’ll get caught off guard. This is when you’ll need some hand-to-hand combat skills. On TV everything looks so simple, but there is much more strategy to fighting than you might realize. Even professional fighters never stop learning. Take a class in mixed martial arts or Krav Maga. There is much more strategy to it than you might realize. With the right skills, even a small person can take down a large attacker.

4. Weapons Training and Safety – If you have a firearm, you need to know how to handle it safely, how to clean it, and how to shoot it. Hopefully you’ll never have to use one in self-defense, but you have to be ready for the possibility, and that means practice. It is easier to miss an attacker than you think. If someone is charging toward you, you’ll only have a couple seconds to raise your gun and fire. Keep that in mind at the gun range. The more experience you have, the better. If you like knives, you may also want to learn about knife fighting. Personally, I don’t consider this a necessity, but there are rare occasions where it could be useful.

5. First Aid and Medical – You probably have a first aid kit, but do you actually know what to do with all that stuff? Remember, hospitals could be overrun during the next disaster, which means the life of a friend or family member could be in your hands. And if you’re the one who has been hurt, you could at least give instructions to others (assuming you’re still conscious). So take a class in first aid and make sure your medical supplies don’t go to waste.

6. Handyman Skills – Knowing how to fix things around the house could be crucial after the SHTF. Keep in mind that there are several types of disasters that could damage your home. If that happens, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills could mean the difference between having a place to stay and a place you’re forced to leave. Additionally, you may be able to use these skills to build alliances with neighbors. Check out The Family Handyman.


7. Equipment Repair – Unfortunately, most young people don’t know how to fix things. This is the result of a society where it’s so easy to charge replacement items to the credit card and have them on the doorstep in a matter of days. But there may come a time when people can’t get replacements and have to fix the things they have: generators, radios, flashlights, camp stoves, filtration systems, appliances, etc. Find and organize all your repair manuals, and learn how to fix your survival gear because you may not be able to order replacements.

8. Vehicle Repair – As with the last point, less and less people know to to fix them. Get plenty of spare parts for your main vehicle and learn how to install them. Here’s a great article to get you started. Also, you may want to learn how to hotwire a car in case you find yourself stranded somewhere and need to start an abandoned vehicle.

9. Haggling and Negotiating – After an economic collapse, mini flea markets will spring up all over the place. Day to day life may go on, but many people won’t be able to afford new things. They’ll have to buy used items and possibly barter their own items. If you find yourself in that situation, knowing how to haggle could get you the things you need to survive. But like any other skill, it takes practice.

Like this post?

Check out these similar articles:

7 Urban Survival Mistakes That Could Get You Killed
6 Street Smart Skills You Need In An Urban Disaster
20 Skills You Can Trade After The End Of The World

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  • hippygirl

    the haggling is really important…it’s best to learn that NOW and know when to walk away from a deal exchange :) Having a good network in place before hand will also be very important with that!

  • Andy Cupples


  • Rene

    Haggle – Schmaggle – Pfft!
    Now days – everyone seems to think every thing have is worth big bucks! Even the used crap the second hand places have for sale ( with the former owners, garage sale stickers still on the bottom of the item that didn’t sell ) is priced for more than the item is worth…. I have yet to find anything I want at a garage – yard or estate sale. The pre-sale vultures always decent at dawn looking to cherry pick – especially if there happens to be the words “old tools” or “antiques ” in ad. Showing up to an estate sale site at 5:00 am that begins at 8:30 am and finding over 200 people have already lined up to get in first – with their numbers already in hand shows the greediness of people. When you see the Antique Dealers with their U-Haul 10 ton trucks, 18 foot trailers, and Motor-lodges who got there a day in advance – well, that let’s you know you haven’t got in snow balls chance in Hell of landing anything good. Especially when you watch the dealers instructing crews of what they are after and to grab everything and sort later! WTF!

    Auctions are a bust – because all of the really good stuff has been cherry picked by Vendors who have side deals with the Auction houses and Auctioneers. And they haul and shuffle crap from one auction to another until it sells. It’s a gimmick. Anything really worth having at all, the Auction company has shills in place to bid up the prices so that they get their fatter commissions.

    Antique stores too, have long been picked over and nothing worth having is left. Far too much Antique stuff is being copied in China and finds it’s way to auctions and stores. The dealers feel a sucker is born every minute, and if you point out to them it is a copy or fake – they feign ignorance!
    The whole thing is one giant ass scam job.
    Big Flea markets in the USA are nearly a thing of the past now…and are loaded with cheap crap from China. Flea markets have become more of a traveling Carnival than vendors looking to sell! In the last 20 years, I have lost all interest in them.
    Motorcycle and antique car part Flea markets can be fruitful for some – if you’ve a butt load of money to spend. “How much for the 33 Ford Model B truck grille shell?” Two large? $200? No! Two thousand!?!?! Ah come on – WTF!?!?!?”

    Going to an automotive junk yard is a joke too. Everything now is too pricey or they put it on eBay to get top dollar. So good luck finding a salvageable 1967-76 Chevy pickup truck that just needs an engine!
    Farmers too know what an old farm truck is now worth and they want a fortune for them – even if it has been sitting in the back of barn covered in chicken poop, feathers,and the interior is full of mouse crap -plus it hasn’t run in 25 years – pay up sucker! “Oh, and that ole 47 Ford one and half ton out in the back field that’s got like 1000 bullet holes in it, with no windows, interior, wheels or tires, and just a rusted solid hulk of an engine block in it – yeah that thing – what would you have to have for it if I pull it out of there? A THOUSAND DOLLARS!?!?!? Forget it! ”

    Used guns are a joke. Just try finding an oldie but a goody for a bargain these days! HA!
    Even just a non firing Piece O’ Crap wall hanger is outrageously priced.
    New firearms are getting to the point where they are nearly out of the feasibility of anyone buying them. Not too much longer with the current fascist socialist Muslim in the the OVAL OFFICE, and via Executive Decree ( illegal by the way ) NO ONE will be able to buy, sell, or trade a gun or ammo in the USA. And that will include a 1950’s Hopalong Cassidy cap pistol too!
    There is rumbling on Capital Hill, that Prepping-Hoarding should be made illegal! But it OK if the US government buys Billions of rounds of ammo to stock pile and tries to buy out entire production runs of freeze dried foods – but don’t you try it!

    Try finding an old weather worn farm house out in the giggly-weeds on several acres of land, with a good source of water, a usable barn, that’s within driving distance of any town for a reasonable and affordable price! NO WAY JOSE! Developers long ago snatched them up, and built luxury estates on the land and called them fancy-ass names like Buck Creek Estates, Eagles Nest Condo’s, Quail’s Run Gated Community, The Riven-dell Equestrian Acres, The Four Oaks Country Club, and all of the stuffed shirt bullshit names they come up with to cater to the millionaire.
    If any land has water running through or adjacent to it with rocks, boulders, ravines, big trees, marshes, cattails, song birds, and wildlife – you will NEVER GET YOUR FILTHY PAWS on IT! That’s reserved for the MILLIONAIRE FAMILIES! – you low life scum sucking wannabe nobody!

    Yup, nowadays you have to be a real grublette, a trash pile digger, a dumpster diver, a trash day picker, and also / wink-wink / poke your nose into those old idle commercial buildings and properties for sale that have weeds up your chest that haven’t sold for years…. to see what you might find that you can re-purpose or sell. NO TRESPASSING SIGN!?!?!? WHAT NO TRESPASSING SIGN!?!?!?! Go at dawn! / wink-wink! / Don’t go alone! Have back up and a watch person with a walkie-talkie! Don’t get ambushed. Might want to pack heat! Take the license plate off of your vehicle and stash it under the seat – in case you need to make a fast get away. Put duct tape over the dash VIN number too. Keep your vehicle within sight at all times and aimed to go straight out – no backing up or turning around. Just jump in and go! / wink-wink! /

    Haggle – Pfft!

    Nuff said.

  • Rene

    Do you actually think anyone will act civilized or with any social graces after all law and order is out the window, and society has collapsed and nothing is available to buy? Do you actually think you could Haggle or Barter for some commodity you are in dire need of? No way!
    When SHFT, everyone will be out for themselves and they will go after anything they want and try to take in any manner they can come up with -even if means killing you to get it. Just take a look at the refugee camps in the world that have been zones of rape, murder, savage beatings and thievery – while supposedly being watched over by the UN or some military. Do you think it could never happen in the USA? If so, then you are a moron.

    American’s are greedy, selfish, hedonistic, sociopaths. Even those who profess to be such wonderful and charitable Christians are no better than rest of the society at large. They are just better lairs and deceivers, that’s all! ( and the very first to become viciously incensed when you call on them on it too ) The very first places to be burned to the ground will be churches and banks.

    Nope when all hell breaks loose, and society unravels as it will, expect the very worse out your fellow American’s. And it will happen so fast your mind won’t be able to deal with it, like within weeks!!! Haggling and Bartering for something will only get you killed. And keeping what you do have if others are aware of it, will become the greatest battle you face – day and night.

    Unless you have only previously stocked up on all things minimally essential to keeping your asses alive – you’re going to be screwed if you dare go out there and try to haggle with someone.
    Stocking up to maximum effectiveness keeps you alive and in place, as you watch others butcher each other over a can of * Dinki Di Dog Food. ( from *Mad Max – Road Warrior )

    The name of the game is going to be this – OUTWIT [out connive – like being as sly as a fox in the hen house ] – OUTLAST [ stay low and out of sight because you are well supplied and have your head on right ] – OUTPLAY [ not being found or caught or having your redoubt discovered or breached] – OUTGUT [ to withstand everything in silence with sheer Guile, Determination and Ferocity with no surrender ] – OUTVENOM [ you are more lethal than they are and they know it ]

    No where in any of this will be OUT-HAGGLE or OUT-BARTER !

  • Caverdog

    I suspect you will see a return to civilized behavior in the most basic forms (especially in the “Bartertowns”). Right now we rely on police (and the occasional jerk) to maintain civility and rudeness has to be pretty egregious before we will step in to correct it. SHTF = people will need to protect themselves and people in groups are more powerful than any supposed badass. If you are dangerous enough in a group when there is nothing to protect anyone (including the asshole) those that you aren’t facing will know that next time you want something you may be facing them. It’s easier to resolve you now as a group because you’re a risk to everyone. That’s how society got together in the first place. That’s why nice people band together and people in small groups (<100 where everyone can know everyone) are nicer. Also, if you are always aggressive your odds of wining are not 1:1, and you're at risk at each confrontation. A good explanation is the psyche model "Hawk vs Dove". That's when barter skills will be useful is to make the best deal without facing the ire of the whole group.

  • Caverdog

    Wow, your life’s really rough. It must be the Muslim in the Oval Office’s fault. Except, didn’t he get in trouble for siding with his pastor early on? It’s also funny that people want to get “top dollar” for items they own instead of giving them to you. Anyone who thinks what they have is worth more than it is get’s to keep it. I’m an IT person and I see plenty of people that have old crap computers that want $500 for it, but I find some nice Core 2 Duo laptops for cheap and I’ve gotten some off-lease stuff that’s i5 with good graphics for $240. I’ve looked for a ’76 K5 Blazer (I miss my old ’78) and they do want a premium but there are some for less than others and there aren’t that many of them now. How many ’33 whatevers are left? That makes the ones that are still around more valuable. Raiding “empty” buildings is still theft, and the SHTF hasn’t happened yet so maybe just get a jobey type job and pay money for things (before you enjoy the SHTF from inside a prison). You’re complaining about legitimate competition for old crap while the last two real Republican front runners (Romney from last election and Trump from this one) and all of their friends are both outsourcing jobs to other countries as much as they can. If the middle class had some jobs available, maybe the S wouldn’t HTF so quickly. Just Sayin’.

  • alanz11

    You’re right… if we’re talking about a post-apocalyptic scenario. Not every disaster means the end of the world. Most disasters are less severe and temporary, and in situations like that people often work together very well. I’m sorry you have such a low opinion of humanity.