On this site, we have a lot of articles about skills. Basic skills, rare skills, survival skills, bushcraft skills, first aid skills, street fighting skills…you get the idea. But since most of you live in cities and will probably be in one during the next major disaster, the type of skills you’ll want to focus on first is urban survival skills.
I could have included dozens of skills in this list, but I narrowed it down to eleven. Keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive, and they aren’t listed in any particular order. Now on to the list.
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1. Water Collection and Purification
If the city is mostly abandoned, you can go from house to house searching for freshwater in toilet tanks, water heaters, backyard hoses, and other places.
If you can’t find water in those places, you can look for pools, ditches, or anywhere else there might be standing water. However, you’ll need to know how to purify it. Fortunately, there are many ways to purify water.
However, you’ll have to be very careful while doing all of this as there will be other people looking for water too. Even if you live right next to a lake or river, walking to and from it every day could be very dangerous. To get around this, learn how to harvest rainwater or dig your own well.
2. Foraging and Scavenging
If you’re trying to survive in an urban area and running low on supplies, there could be a scenario where you need to forage and scavenge. For example, if someone in your group has an infection and is at risk of dying, you might need to break into an abandoned pharmacy to get some antibiotics. Obviously, it’s a moral gray area, but if someone’s life is on the line, you might have no choice.
There are many places you can search for supplies including obvious places like grocery and department stores, but there are also less obvious places you’ll want to check out such as dumpsters, churches, self-storage facilities, and so forth. (Here’s a list of 20 places to scavenge for supplies.)
3. Blending In / Moving With Stealth
In an urban disaster, you do NOT want to draw attention to yourself. The more attention you draw, the more likely you are to be robbed and/or killed.
4. Situational Awareness
During disasters, police are usually stretched to the limit. Criminals know this and are likely to take advantage of the situation, which means crime will skyrocket. And if the city is running low on food, even ordinarily good people will turn to crime in order to feed their families.
So in addition to blending in, you also need to practice situational awareness, a skill that enables you to be alert at all times. Here are some things you’ll need to do…
Notice the people around you (such as someone watching or following you), look for anything out of the ordinary (like a suspicious vehicle near your home), listen for unusual sounds (loud footfalls, people shouting, etc), and pay attention to the smells in the air (smoke, gasoline, etc), and look for exits and escape routes in case you need to make a quick getaway.
5. Home Security / Self-Defense
Even with great home security, you still might find yourself face to face with a burglar. And even if you have a gun for self-defense, there’s still the chance that you’ll be caught off guard. This is when you’ll need some fighting skills.
On TV everything looks so easy, but there is a lot more strategy to fighting than you might realize. Even professional fighters never stop learning. Take a class in mixed martial arts or Krav Maga. With these skills, even a small person can take down a big attacker.
6. Escaping Dangerous People / Riots
Escaping dangerous people and situations is a whole other type of skill. For example, would you know what to do if someone attempted to steal your car while you were in it? Here’s a guide on how to survive a carjacking.
During an urban disaster, there are liable to hordes of people rioting in the streets. In case that happens, you’ll need to know what to do if you’re caught in a riot while driving, and you’ll need to know what to do if you’re caught in a riot while on foot.
7. Weapons Training and Safety
If you own a firearm, make sure you know the rules of firearm safety, how to clean your firearm, and how to shoot it properly. With any luck, you won’t have to use it, but you must be ready for that possibility, and that means lots of practice.
It is far easier to miss an attacker than you think. Even if you go to the range every week, hitting a stationary target is nothing like hitting a moving target. Remember, if someone is charging toward you, you’ll only have a few seconds to raise your gun and fire. Keep that in mind next time you’re at the gun range. The more experience you have, the better.
If you like knives, you might want to learn about knife fighting. I don’t consider it a necessity, but there are some scenarios where knife-fighting skills could be useful.
8. First Aid and Medical
As a prepper, you probably already have a first aid kit, but do you know how to use all the stuff in your kit? Keep in mind that hospitals will be overrun during an urban disaster, so the lives of your friends and family members could be in your hands.
So make sure you know how to use things like tourniquets and QuikClot. Don’t be reading instructions while someone is bleeding out right next to you!
If you’re the one who gets hurt, you can at least give first aid instructions to others (if you’re still conscious). Consider taking a class in first aid skills so your medical supplies don’t go to waste.
9. Handyman Skills
Knowing how to fix things will be a critical skill after the SHTF. If your home is damaged, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills could be the difference between staying in your home or being forced to leave. Another good reason to have handyman skills is so you can help out your neighbors and get help from them in return.
Unfortunately, most young people don’t know how to fix anything. Why? Because our society has made it so easy to replace things. If something breaks, just find it on Amazon, click Buy Now, and it will be on your doorstep in two days.
But there will come a time when you can’t get replacements and you’ll have to fix things you have: flashlights, camp stoves, radios, generators, appliances, and so forth.
Organize all of your repair manuals and learn how to fix your survival gear while you still can. If you don’t have any handyman skills at all, check out The Family Handyman which is a great place to start.
10. Vehicle Repair
As with everything else in our world, fewer and fewer people know how to fix vehicles, myself included. I can fix a lot of things, but I never got into cars and trucks and can only do basic things like changing the oil or replacing spark plugs and air filters. Most people my age can’t even do that.
I can’t emphasize this enough: During a disaster, you must have a reliable vehicle. You never know when you’ll need to quickly escape an increasingly dangerous area. So get plenty of spare parts for your vehicle and learn how to install them. Here’s a great article that will help you get started.
Also, you might want to learn how to hotwire a car. I know, just like with scavenging, it sounds unethical. But if you’re stranded somewhere and need to hit the road fast, you may have no choice but to steal an abandoned vehicle.
11. Bartering and Haggling
There are many other skills I could have included on this list (finding shelter, dealing with waste, radio communication, etc.), but if you plan on staying in the city come hell or high water, these are the skills you should focus on first.
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