During a failure of civility, the roads may be blocked and driving away from the area of turmoil in your own vehicle may not be a viable option. You may be able to thread your way through derelict cars on a motorcycle, but are you willing to take on a manned barricade on a bike? Probably not, right? Besides, the majority of people don’t have a chopper (to ride to work or to town), so let’s remove that option from this setting. The roads are blocked to civilian traffic, and if the event has taken public transportation down too, you’re riding a bike or walking on the streets. And if you understood just how easy it is to kick someone off a bicycle – you’re walking, pal.
If you’re nervous walking the city streets at night now, imagine how scary it would be to plod through those same streets – in the dark and during a crisis. It’s likely that the inhibitions of many people will be reduced, and you’ll be even more of a target than before, especially if you are alone. The best thing you can do in this setting is to get off the ”X” and find a place to hole up for the night – but where?
Seek Traditional Shelter
It’s not likely to happen, but you may just find a clerk at a hotel or some other lodging establishment that will open the door for you (literally and figuratively). If you can get them to come to the probably locked door to listen to your story about a reservation, even if you didn’t have one, and if you can flash some cash so that people on the street don’t see it – then the clerk might let you in. Yes, it’s a long shot, but it’s worth a try.
Pros: You could be in a locked building and inside your own locked room.
Cons: The clerk probably won’t open the door for you in the first place.
Find A City Park Or Greenspace
Take a page from the “homeless playbook” by sheltering in a secluded corner of a park or some other greenspace in the city. Make certain that no one is following you, and move quietly into an overgrown area. You don’t dare put up a tent, since you can’t see anyone coming at you from inside the average tent. And don’t light a fire either. This will give away your position. Just crawl into your sleeping bag and get a little rest. Better yet, wear enough outerwear like thick coats and insulated pants, so that you can simply lie down on a sleeping pad or pile of leaves in your clothing, while still wearing any backpack or gear you might carry. This way, you ready to run at a moment’s notice. Sleep with your boots on too.
Pros: You can escape in many different directions and the price is right.
Cons: You’re exposed to the elements and anyone else who had the same idea. You may also be far away from the protection of any peacekeeping force (read here: you’re on your own out there in the weeds and woods).
Creep Into A Crawlspace
Plenty of homes and businesses have dark, spider-infested crawlspaces underneath them. When these aren’t locked (or you can defeat the lock), you’ll have access to a place that is out of the weather and off the beaten path for most people. Like the park, make certain that no one sees you enter the crawlspace area. If the door or panel swings inward, you can actually lean up against it to rest or sleep. This way, if anyone tries to enter, they’ll wake you by pushing on the door. You can also consider piling up some trash bags around the entry to conceal it, especially if you had to break the lock and the damage is obvious.
Pros: You’re protected from the weather and few people would go under there.
Cons: There may be only one way in/out.
Haunt A House
Abandoned houses are creepy, that’s for sure. And that creepiness may keep many people out of there.
You can scope out abandoned homes and trailers as possible sites for a night of shelter. Keep a look out for areas that are easy to fortify or are out of the way. For example, you may be able to seek shelter in an attic. Pull down the ladder, cut off the string that you used to pull it down, and head on up there. Find a way to secure the trap door further, and it would be very hard for anyone to follow you up there without making any noise. Outbuildings, such as sheds, cellars and basements could also provide a place to stay.
Pros: You’ll be sheltered from the weather and you may be able to barricade yourself in there.
Cons: You could end up trapped in the dwelling or attic, if some “bad guys” show up there too. The rightful occupant could also show up at any time, and then you look like a bad guy for being in their home.
Commandeer A Building
An old warehouse or industrial building may give you a roof over your head and plenty of ways in and out, but you’d be likely to have company in there. An office inside the larger building will give you more coverage from the elements, but it could also leave you cornered.
Pros: If the roof and walls are relatively intact, you’re out of the weather.
Cons: It will be cold and drafty in there, and you’re not likely to be alone.
Dive Into A Dumpster
Not all dumpsters are created equal. So before you leap headfirst into one of them, let’s consider the business that uses it. Jumping into the dumpster behind the glass cutting shop – not such a good idea! Burrowing into the dumpster full of sweet scented packing material behind the Bath & Body Works, now that’s a plan!
Pros: If the dumpster has a lid, you can get out of the weather by hiding inside of it.
Cons: If the dumpster contains food or food waste, you’ll probably have rats and roaches for bedfellows, but that’s not your greatest threat. If the brave and noble trash men are still working during the civil unrest event, you could be awakened by getting turned upside down as the truck dumps the contents of your hiding place into the trash truck (or a compactor!).
Shelter In A Vehicle
This one’s not so bad. Find an unlocked car in a parking lot, service station or junk yard. Climb in, lock the doors, and get some shut eye. Vehicles offer you a wind-proof, rain-proof shelter and a little bit of security. Try to pick one in an “out of the way” spot. And if possible, pick one that doesn’t look like it would have anything valuable inside it (urban camouflage). You’ll just need a lot of insulation to make it a warm shelter in colder weather. All that metal tends to suck the heat right out of the air in the vehicle cabin. A trailer could also serve as a vehicular “home away from home.”
Pros: If you didn’t have to break glass to get into it, the vehicle can effectively protect you from wind and rain – and you can lock it for a little security.
Cons: As a shelter, vehicles are cramped and cold.
Sometimes, you just have to be open to the possibilities. You might find a wooden crate or a large cardboard appliance box that could make a reasonable shelter for just one night. Or maybe you can curl up inside a giant trash bag for protection from the elements. You may find a spot underground, like a service tunnel. Or you could happen upon some totally unexpected type of shelter that we can’t even predict in an article like this.
The punch line to this cosmic joke is simple. Determine which weather conditions you are trying to block, and find a way to defeat their hazardous impact. If it’s wet, get some plastic or metal involved to block the rain. If it’s cold, find a heat source or a place you can insulate. If it’s scary out there, find a place where the bad guys won’t go. Shelter can mean many different things in different situations, but it all really boils down to threat identification and finding ways to defeat those threats.