Plan and prep: A beginner’s guide to urban survival
By Zoey Sky // Apr 28, 2022

If you're a prepper living in the city, you need to have an emergency preparedness plan before SHTF so you can bug in or bug out as needed. If you're not sure where to start, learn about the six principles of survival and prepare a bug-out bag. (h/t to


Wilderness survival skills like fire starting, hunting, building a shelter and water purification techniques are all valuable skills, but you need to adapt if you want to survive in the city when SHTF.

When planning for an urban disaster scenario, you should also focus on situational awareness, personal protection, planning and preparation.

Urban survival know-how is divided into two different scenarios:

  • Small scale or personal events like a robbery, mugging, carjacking or home invasion.
  • Large-scale urban survival events like civil unrest, economic collapse or natural disasters.

6 Principles of urban survival

Urban survival depends on the application and use of six principles. Learn about these principles to prepare before SHTF in an urban setting.


Planning is essential to your success as a prepper. Without a plan, you have no direction, no defined objectives and no documentation of your progress.

Your goal is to get supplies, train and prepare for most urban survival situations.

First, figure out which tools you need for your survival stockpile or bug-out bags. Next, draft an emergency preparedness plan so your family can figure out what to do and where to go when SHTF.

Have a minimum of four operational plans: a natural disaster plan, a bug out plan, a fire plan and a home invasion or robbery plan.


In a survival situation, preparation could mean the difference between living and dying. When disaster strikes in an urban setting, you might lose access to food, water, electricity, transportation and security.

Before SHTF, stock up on food so you can survive a long-term disaster at home. And before things are bad enough to require evacuation, you should also prepare bug-out bags and secure a safe bug-out location.

Training and practice

If you successfully learn prepping skills like navigation or self-defense, take time to train and practice so you can use your skills efficiently when you need them.

Invest in important courses about situational awareness, personal protection techniques, firearms training, first aid and physical fitness.


Protection is one of the key elements of surviving when SHTF in an urban survival event.

Always protect yourself first. If you are injured or killed, then you can't protect your family.


Make sure your smartphone is always charged so you can communicate with your family after disaster strikes. If the communication lines and the internet go down, plan on where and when to meet if you get separated.

Safe haven

If you think you need to bug out after SHTF, find and prepare a safe haven. This will be your bug-out location if it becomes too dangerous to stay at home.

You should have two main safe havens:

  • The first is a room within a facility or your home that is set up to function as a safe place for anyone to avoid any threat.
  • The second is an outside location that you can access to gain protection from a threat that you can't deal with at home, like a large-scale natural disaster that devastates your neighborhood.

3 Things you need in an urban survival scenario

When SHTF, you should prepare a get-home bag (GHB) and a bug-in and bug-out plan.

Get-home bag

If you're still at work when disaster strikes, you will need a GHB with tools that will help you safely reach your family at home.

A GHB should contain things that are going to get you out of the building like a pry bar.

Here are other items that you need in your GHB:

  • Basic first aid kit
  • Breathing mask
  • Cash
  • Comfortable pair of shoes
  • Food
  • Flashlight
  • Multitool
  • Mylar blanket
  • Poncho
  • Radio
  • Water

Some items overlap, but a GHB is not a bug-out bag. Keep your GHB in your car or at work so you can get your gear when SHTF.

A bug-in plan

Once you're safe at home, you might need to bug in. But before SHTF, you need to prepare a bug-in plan.

Your plan should include instructions on what to do if you lose power or water for several days or weeks. Stock up on essentials like food and water for the whole family.

A bug-out plan

If you're at home when SHTF and it's too dangerous to stay, it's time to bug out.

Make sure you have a bug-out plan and that the whole family knows what to do if it's time to evacuate. Try to hide caches along the path to your bug-out location so you can replenish your supplies as needed. (Related: Prepping tips: Scavenging in the city when SHTF.)

Before SHTF, learn how to use a firearm so you can protect your family from looters. Find safe routes and alternate routes to your safe haven.

Prepare your bug-out vehicle if you plan on driving to your bug-out location.

Finalize an emergency preparedness plan for bugging in and bugging out so you can survive when SHTF is in the city.

Watch the video below to know about the top 15 forever foods for your survival stockpile.

This video is from the SHTFPrepping101 channel on

More related stories:

5 Common edible plants for urban foraging (plus foraging tips).

Prepping tips: 16 Alternative containers for your bug-out gear.

5 Tips to manage the mental stress of prepping.

Sources include:

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