When we talk about the items that should be carried for an emergency, there are a couple of items that are universal, no matter where you find yourself. Urban environments have some unique challenges that can be mitigated by carrying the right items.
I’m torn between the two most important items for such an environment. They are a good quality folding knife and a flashlight. The knife has too many obvious uses to list. And the uses of a flashlight are rather obvious as well. But in the urban environment, it takes on even more importance.
By nature, urban areas are dense with large structures that rely on artificial light. These buildings can be cavernous and are not designed in such a way as to take advantage of natural light. If the power goes out, you may as well be underground. Having a light can make all the difference. And there are many types to choose from.
Even something as simple as one of the small keychain LED lights can light up a stairwell for emergency egress. Having a light on hand that allows you to find your way out of a building without bumping into everything between you and the door is so obvious it almost doesn’t need pointing out. But, to me, it’s so important that it bears mention here.
Due to the density of people in urban areas, security needs to be a high priority. And with the proliferation of shootings, it should be high on everyone’s list of priorities. There are a few items that can be easily carried to aid in security, be it civil unrest or an active shooter situation. Being able to secure a door to keep people out could be a life saver. Just like being able to get through a locked door could be. We cover entry tools in another article. Here, we’ll talk about ways to secure them.
Plastic tie wraps are cheap, light and easy to carry. The larger variety, the type used to secure AC duct work together, are nearly impossible for the average person to break. These can be used to secure double doors together, like on many store entries. They can also be used to secure the door closers on the inside.
This is the device with a hinged arm on the top of most doors that pulls it closed. By securing the arm together with tie wraps, the door would be rendered inoperable. It may not last very long, depending on how dedicated the person or persons trying to get through it are, but it will buy time.
Another item that can do a little better job is a short piece of chain. Even something as thin as the old double link dog chain people used to use to keep their pets in the yard can render a door impassable to someone without a saw or a pair of bolt cutters. Add a small cheap padlock to it and you now have a way to secure something, be it a door or an object. Plus, the chain, with the lock secured to one end, can serve as an impromptu weapon.
The last item in security is a simple wooden wedge. If you work in a building with security and carrying a chain in would be a no go, then a solid wood wedge is a good alternative. Driven under the bottom of a door it can prevent it from being opened. Or, if the case arises where you need to keep a door open, it can fill that roll as well. With any or all of the above items, you can affect your security. Simple, lightweight, yet powerful tools.
A couple of hand tools would be a good addition to an urban kit as well. I like to have one of the multi-head screwdrivers. These are cheap and pack a number of tools in one small package. In addition, a pair of channel locks or vise grips are a great addition. Being able to manipulate a nut and bolt or to use the vise grip to grab a piece of metal so it can be worked back and forth to break it, could save a life.
A center punch for breaking glass is another tool that should be every urban kit. Being able to escape through a window or glass door without cutting yourself to pieces has obvious benefits. A good pair of heavy-duty leather gloves should go along with this. Protecting your hands from injury is critical, so don’t overlook them.
But our hands aren’t the only thing we need to protect. Consider also adding a pair of clear safety glasses to the kit. An eye injury can be a game ender. A three-dollar pair of glasses can prevent that from happening. They take up nearly no space and weigh next to nothing. A pair of knee and elbow pads are also a good idea. You may find yourself having to crawl out of a structure through debris that would otherwise ruin your joints. Bring along some protection.
A good particulate mask is another must-have. One of the N-95 style masks will prevent you from breathing in dust and debris and serve as a potentially life saving filter in the event of an Anthrax style attack. Being able to protect your lungs is just as important as your eyes or ears. So, toss a mask into your bag.
Another valuable tool to have is a map. Just because you live or work, or both, in a city doesn’t mean you know every street, alley and potential escape route. Having a quality map that can show you various routes of egress from the chaos that can be a large city can mean the difference between getting out and being trapped. And being able to get out of a city may be the most important thing you can do.
In the article on entry tools, I mentioned a four-way water key. I’m mentioning it here again because of its importance. Having one of these cheap, simple tools, gives you nearly unlimited access to water in the urban environment. At least as long as the water still flows. By the time the water has stopped, you should be long gone from the urban death trap.
Cities are constantly growing, expanding. They seem to perpetually push their borders outward, consuming smaller urban areas in a seemingly unceasing appetite for growth. This brings another handy item to mind. Heavy equipment is nearly omnipresent in most large municipalities. Having keys to the equipment can be very helpful to the urban survivor. A set of keys that fits almost all manufacturers of construction equipment can be had from Amazon. Prices range between less than thirty dollars to over two hundred, depending on the number keys included.
These could be very handy. Imagine a city erupting into chaos and being able to ride out of the insanity on a large earth mover. There’s nearly nothing that could stop it and it will go nearly anywhere. Or maybe you encounter a road blocked by equipment. Having the keys to simply hop in and move it to clear the way so you can continue on your way can make the difference between getting out and being stuck.
The urban environment poses just as many challenges to the survivor as any wilderness area. Just like in the wild, there are plenty of resources available if you know where to look. The urban survivor will focus on scavenging as opposed to gathering and hunting. The biggest drawback to the urban terrain is the number of people. All these people will be competing for the same resources and that makes security the most important challenge one will face in a built-up urban area. But with a little planning, and the proper tools, you can increase your odds of surviving and getting out of the city.