Prepping In The City And Small Towns: Some Tips For Urban Preparedness

I have to say that my background has always been rural. Urban prepping is a topic that I have chosen to explore because I know that there is a lot that can be learned and that many readers at least live in small towns where their neighbors are quite close.

Urban preppers struggle with the fact that they may have to move their preps fairly often

Urban preppers are often mobile. A lease is only good for so long sometimes. Renting means that you need to be able to move your preps reasonably if you have to move. Of course, this leads many to believe that they cannot prep due to lack of space. The truth is that you can do a lot with some basic items. This post is going to show some urban prepping techniques that help create more security and safety on every level.

Preps cannot take up a lot of space

Even a large house in town is not the same amount of space as having acres of potential space. The amount of space you have for preps is limited and also somewhat up to you. It is possible to give up daily personal space for prep storage. Generally speaking, the most space-efficient preps are what urban preppers should concentrate on since most are in apartments and not full sized homes.

Younger urban preppers may even be limited to a studio-sized space of 400 sq ft or a room that is under 200 sq ft and some additional shared space. You can still have a months worth of food and a bag of supplies if you have to bug out or bug in during an event. A 5-gallon bucket can hold a months worth of food, and if you are limited for space you can put a small piece of cloth over it and use it as an end table or nightstand!

Window Films

Making your windows shatter resistant is a big step towards better safety. You can apply these films to windows, and they can be removed later if necessary. Window films make it harder for vandals and thieves to break in. There are different thicknesses available with the thickest costing the most and offering the most protection.

Here is a link to the BDS post on The Best Window Security Film and Why it Matters. There is a good mix of different sizes and thicknesses of films in the post for your consideration.

Additional Locks

You can install additional locks if you are careful. You may need to remove them before leaving, but they will be handy while you are around. Locks are inexpensive and often easy to install.

Light it up

Entryways and hidden spots can be made safer with motion sensor lights. There are plenty of solar-powered lights out there that you can install. Battery power is also an option. I mention this because I know that if you are renting you are probably not going to be able to go adding hardwired lights in.

Prep Organization

What it comes down to is asking yourself what you need to get through a month or more. I think any urban prepper could probably find the space to put back a month worth of rations and supplies.

I have food buckets that are about 4 gallons that have a months worth of food in them so under the average kitchen sink you could easily have two months or more of food. You just have to know what you need. Food, warmth, medical supplies, water, all of those are the main concerns.

Always have a very good water filter and purifier

Urban water supplies may become very contaminated during an emergency so I recommend having a good water filter that gets rid of basically any nasty thing you can find in the water. I know that if I need water, I can just go to the creek but in the city, the water situation may be a lot more complicated, and that means you need to have some options. I would have more than one way to filter water too.

Check out our Water Supply page for a ton of filter reviews and info.

Fill the bathtub and some jugs with water if power or water outages seem likely.

Even if water sits in the tub for a day, you can filter it and drink it if needed or at least use it for flushing the toilet occasionally. Rain barrels are nice if you live in a town where you have space for that. You can filter rainwater.

I am always at a loss as to the best advice to five those that live in high rise apartment buildings and want to address their water needs. Running the tub, sink, and some jugs full of water makes sense, but that is only going to last so long. Here is a bag that I found that fits in your tub and holds up to 100 gallons of water. This keeps it clean and fresh so no filtering. If you got two bathrooms with tubs, you could have a lot of water on hand!

WaterBOB Bathtub Emergency Water Storage Container, Drinking Water Storage, Hurricane Survival, BPA-Free (100 Gallon)

During a long-term emergency, you would have to at least venture out for a water source. I recommend looking into where you could get water the fastest if it stops coming from the taps. It doesn’t have to be the cleanest if you got a good water filter and purifier. You can even pre-filter to get sediment out using cheesecloth or letting the water settle.

Strategic placement of defensive tools

I like to keep my husband’s old Dixie Youth Baseball bat by the door. It is a good first weapon in that it is formidable but not necessarily fatal. It is important to have some defensive items where you can reach them when living in a high-risk urban environment. I realize those with kids may find this very difficult but consider a cabinet that is well out of reach and still accessible.

Don’t tell everyone you are gone

It always amazes me how many people advertise the fact they are away from home online for thousands of people to see. Save those vacation shots for when you are back and reliving the memories. Showing everyone that you are partying 500 miles away and that you just got there is like advertising for someone to break into your house if they were ever going to. I do not mention where I am going and when I am returning on Facebook. Encourage your kids to save the pics for later too.

Keep the shades drawn when doing gun duties or if you have valuable items out

There is no point in advertising to the whole town that you have guns. Also, it can tempt thieves to know you have something that is guaranteed to have some value to someone. Keep the shades drawn when doing firearm related stuff. The same goes if you are counting any cash or even cleaning jewelry that looks valuable.

Get A Security Camera

There are so many inexpensive security cameras out there. The best of these cameras are the Nest ones that report back to you when there is movement and offers a lot of great support. There are many others that offer a high level of security. This is a way to keep tabs on things while you are away at work.

Consider at least a small dog

If you are allowed a small dog then consider it. The noise that a small dog makes can be a big deterrent to thieves. It can be difficult for people to judge the size of your dog too. Just be sure to get a breed that can stay happy living in town in a small space.

Food Storage

A closet or any small space can hold a lot of dried food if it is packed properly. Get some food grade buckets and lids and store foods in those. For added storage life, seal foods in mylar with moisture absorbers and then put in buckets. Storage totes can work well too but make sure they seal completely. Avoid setting very heavy totes on each other because you can break a lid and then not only do you have a ruined tote you also have made it possible for mice and vermin to find their way to your stash!

Keep your gas tank topped off

For some people, it can be helpful to just set up a rule that if their gas tank gets to a certain level then they pull into the next gas station or they have to top up first thing in the morning in the way to work or school. If you are in an urban area, I recommend never getting below 1/4- 1/2 of a tank. Something to consider when deciding what limits to set for yourself is how far a full tank will get you? Make sure you are accounting for a lot of stops and go driving so you don’t overestimate just how far a tank will get you.

This starts getting into your getting out of the city or bug out plan. If your tank holds 20 gallons and you only get 20 miles on average, then you only have a 400-mile range on a full tank, and that is if your vehicle is getting the average you expect. To be safe, I would add in an additional cushion and reduce what I expected to get in mpg by 20%. What if you get stuck in traffic? Also if you are using your heater or any accessories that require power, this is going to add to the overall fuel consumption. If you live in a city center and the nearest place you can get to in an emergency is 100 miles away then consider that when thinking about how low to let your tank get.

Remember it is not just SHTF scenarios in your area that can lead to gas disruptions. All it takes is a refinery explosion or a hurricane damaging a pipeline, and it may be more difficult to get gas, and the price can go up a lot. Don’t be one of those people burning through what little gas they have just to find more in an emergency!

Consider the possibility of civil unrest in your area and plan accordingly.

There are a lot of towns that the likelihood of civil unrest is very low, especially on a level that would affect a lot of people’s regular movements and activities.  If you live in Portland where there seem to be regular events of civil unrest and protests, it is far different than a town of 20,000 people and no recent events.

Even in areas where unrest is an occasional fact of life, there is a lot you can do to avoid it if you think ahead and act strategically. If neighborhoods have a reputation, then avoid them, if you hear of a protest or any large gathering than avoid it and the area around it.

Have a plan for getting home from school or work

Kids and adults need a plan in case something happens that prevents them from coming home. Blocked roads, civil unrest, and more could all be factors. It is nice that cell phones have GPS and maps in them, but you need to plan on that not being available. Make sure everyone old enough knows at least a few ways to get home beyond the main route.

Use evasive techniques to lose a person following you. If you are very fearful, then stick to very public areas or go in a store or somewhere and hang out for a while.

Mix up your routine if you suspect you are the subject of unwanted attention. If you notice that someone seems to be casing your place or watching you, then they may be trying to learn your routine. This is a practice used by a variety of criminals from mere robbers to rapists and stalkers.

Taking a picture of someone can cause them to realize you are on to them. You can act like you are taking it of something close to them. It is enough to spook some people. Cameras on phones have helped with the crime rate for some things because it is so easy to get caught on camera now.

Keep your ears and eyes on alert. Social media is not always reliable, but sometimes people do post news about gatherings or individuals update on how conditions are in their area.

If you know people around you a little bit, then some of those same people may post some reliable information about conditions if something comes up. You may even want to establish a relationship where you agree to message each other via text, social media,  or both if anything seems to be happening that the other should be aware of. Think of it as a modern day block watch.

Have a go bag for each person in your household

It can be hard during an emergency to put together bags that fully address each person’s needs. At the very least have an index card in each bag saying what should go in and then pack it up, so you don’t forget anything.

Having it packed at ready at all times is the best way to approach this but I understand if you can’t keep absolutely everything in each bag. Keep as much as possible packed up and then throw in the things that are last minute.

You could even have a list that has the contents that are packed up and then a note below saying “add this” and a list of what needs to be thrown in before you hit the road.

Do you have kids that are toddlers or younger? Consider the practicality of getting out of your part of town on foot.

If you have to get out on foot, it can be very challenging with very young kids that cannot walk as fast or as far as you. During a major situation, someone on foot with kids is a soft target to some. You need to consider this when it comes to deciding on getting out.

Backpacks and strollers can be helpful, especially the strollers with the big tires that will go over rubble. Backpacks that are made to carry a child can help at times, but you are going to wear out a lot faster if you are carrying that much weight.

I am not saying there are not some situations where taking off on foot is the best choice but you need to realize what you are getting into. This is one reason being prepared and sheltering in place in the best option if the situation is likely to be resolved soon.

 

Have some means of self-defense. There are a lot of things that offer good protection that is not guns.

I would not feel right with no firearm because I have lived with them since I was born and had my own since I was eight years old, but I would never just rely on them for all of my self-defense. In the city, you may not be allowed to have some firearms, or you may not be a gun person,  or perhaps you don’t want guns and young kids in the same house. To each their own! The truth is that there are so many inexpensive weapons out there that are less deadly, less expensive, and can be easily hidden.

For a list of some of the nonlethal yet effective weapons that I found, please read my post “Best Non-Lethal Weapons for the Prepared Individual.” This post will at the very least get you thinking about how best to defend your home in an urban area if push comes to shove.

Methods of securing your home during a major situation

  • Heavy furniture can be moved in front of windows and doors to offer barrier protection. This can also help slow down any bullets or hurled weapons
  • Use barbed wire to block entryways or windows where you want to prevent intrusion. You can also do this around any yard areas during a major situation. It could attract a bit of attention so don’t try this one unless it gets really bad.

These are just some basics for urban preppers. There is a lot more that you will think of because circumstances vary so much. Urban to some is a small town to others. The point is that prepping with a higher population density is challenging and can get more challenging the more people are crammed into a small area.

Be smart and safe out there dear readers and please share anything you have learned about prepping in the city!

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

 

  1. Good article. Thanks.

    While my wife and I are now living in suburbia, I spent thirty years in apartments in Madison, WI, Honolulu, Spanish Harlem in NYC, and Milwaukee.

    You idea of covering supplies with a cloth and using it as a table works really well.

    Long term supplies like cases of LDS canned beans, rice, cereal, or cases of freeze dried food can simply be stacked, and perhaps topped with a piece of plywood bigger than the stack before covering with a table cloth. A round piece of plywood is even nicer.

    Things which don’t stack as neatly can be put in a big box. U-Haul sells sturdy boxes in several sizes, some more heavy duty than others. A couple of them don’t cost much, and they make good tables.

    Using smaller boxes and stacking them makes moving easier.

    Flat topped chests make excellent end tables and coffee tables, and provide a lot of storage, either for preps or to free up other space for preps. We currently have five old wooden chests from China and Korea. They’re useful, attractive, and no one ever asks what we have in them.

    At one time I spent a decade in a building which was built in 1904,with hardwood paneled doors and lath and plaster walls.

    I got permission from the landlord to turn a closet into a security closet. I screwed a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to the inside to stiffen it and prevent the panels from being kicked out, installed two deadbolt locks about 18 inches above and below the doorknob, and installed pins in the hinge side of the door with corresponding holes in the frame, so someone couldn’t just pull out the hinge pins and pry the door open.

    In my experience, the most common problem in urban locations is the water getting cut off. Usually not for very long, but it is very reassuring to have plenty of water available at all times. I was caught in the classic ‘water cut off while in the shower’ once, and did have several jugs handy, so I was able to rinse off and get to work on time.

    Five gallon water fountain jugs are excellent for storage if you have a spot for them. Under the kitchen and bathroom sinks works.

  2. Extra blankets can be stored between mattress & box springs, juice bottles can be filled with water then stored in bottom of freezer for extra water when thawed. Sheets of plywood, cut to fit over windows, can be slid under beds. You have to store your luggage anyway, fill it with extra clothing & toiletries. Small items can be stored behind books on bookshelves. Biggest challenge is remembering where you put everything!

  3. Overall good article for apartment dwellers. In a few of my first floor windows I put up security bars. In front of the other windows we have plenty of rose bushes to slow intruders down. I also put up some good security cameras so i can see and record what’s going on. The IR lights on the camera’s are generally center focus for night vision. So I also purchased some additional IR Illuminators to brighten up some darkened areas. Now my security system lights up pathways to my yard and home 🙂

    You wrote “Use barbed wire to block entryways or windows where you want to prevent intrusion”. I thought about that once. City ordinance prohibits barbed wire to be used under any circumstance in residential zoned property. Some may use it when their is civil unrest going on. But you can possible face lawsuits when things get back to normal. Check city code.

    If a person bought or made foot riser’s for the bed frame, they could store a lot of goods under the bed. Where theirs a will, theirs a way.

  4. And replace the standard door hinge and hardware screws with 2.0 inch long screws. you will need to drill new pilot holes. Do this very early on a Sunday and do one screw at a time so the hardware will not slip. I used my cordless drill to drill the holes and drive the screws. Just be sure to vacuum up and wood chips. If you use the same head type of screw and metal screw no one may ever know what you did. Do this for any security devices that are mounted to the door frame as well. Most of them have just 1/2 inch long screws if that.

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