Survival Tactical

Urban Survival Skills: Ultimate Guide to The Skills You Need to Learn

When the SHTF, you want to have a plan to get to your family, keep everyone safe, and either hunker down or bug out to another location.

Living in a city has its advantages. The cushy 9-to-5 in an office block, Starbucks on every corner, and Carl’s Jr for a meal on the way home to your smart-enabled residence – what a comfortable life we lead. The reality is that our feeling of safety is nothing but a thin veneer.

If anything riots and social unrest can show us, it’s that things can turn on a dime. Our once orderly and respectful society can end up at each other’s throats fighting for resources when things get scarce.

Learning some urban survival skills and tactics is vital for anyone living in a city. When the SHTF, you want to have a plan to get to your family, keep everyone safe, and either hunker down or bug out to another location.

The only way to improve your survival in an urban situation – is to prepare. While everyone’s level of preparedness may be different, there is a basic standard that everyone needs to do to mitigate the risk of things going wrong.

You need a specific set of survival skills and the right tools to make sure that you get your family through the event, safe and sound.

Get Home

Let’s look at the situation of an EMP detonating in the skies over America. For those that don’t know, an electromagnetic pulse weapon creates physical damage, and you might not hear any explosion.

However, instantly, the whole country loses electricity and communications as the EMP takes out all electrical grids and communications networks. The EMP leaves you with no power, no phones, and you’re running out of time.

The first thing you need to do is get home to your family.

However, if you’re driving a modern car home from the office, you’re out of luck. The EMP took out your electrical system, and the car won’t start. In this case, you need a go-bag in your vehicle, with the essential gear to make it home to your family.

Don’t confuse a go-bag with a bugout bag – there’s a significant difference between the two. You stash your go-bag in your trunk for these such emergencies, and it should have the following inside.

  • Spare cash for trading
  • Your Everyday Carry (EDC) knife
  • Maps of the city and your surrounding area
  • Compass
  • EDC flashlight
  • Personal medical kit
  • Ham radio
  • Snack bars
  • Water
  • Crowbar

Start making your way home. If it’s the early hours after the EMP attack, some people might still have older model cars on the road. Try to get a lift if you can. If you’re on a busy side of town, dead cars will be blocking the streets – you’ll have to walk.

Bunker-Down – Or Bug-Out?

It shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to get home. Upon your arrival, make sure all family members are present.

If you have to get Ricky from his friend’s house, now is the time to do it. It takes a while for SHTF, but the first 6 to 12-hours are your golden window to either decide to bunker down or bugout to another predetermined location.

If you have a location outside of the city, now is the time to leave as fast as possible. On your way home, you should keep an eye out for a shopping cart or have one at your home already.

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Gather all your gear and the food you need to take with you on your trip. Everyone in your family should have a bugout bag ready to go. Fill other rucksacks or bags with food supplies and gear and place them in your shopping cart. Cover the shopping cart with a tarp and hit the road to your bugout location.

Your bug out bag should have tactical functionality, but it should not look like a tactical pack. You’re trying to avoid looking like you are a trained person. This cover gives you a survival edge if approached by others.

Here’s what you need in your bugout bag

  • Water – keep it in the cart
  • Food – Bring as much as you can carry
  • Windproof lighters or BIC lighters
  • Lightweight Long-Sleeve Shirt
  • Convertible Pants
  • Underwear
  • Wool Hiking Socks
  • Medium Fleece
  • Work Gloves
  • Poncho
  • Personal medical kit
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • EDC knife
  • Multi-tool
  • LED headlamp
  • Ham radio
  • Compass and maps
  • Cash and jewelry to trade
  • Emergency whistle
  • Black garbage bags
  • H95 respirator masks
  • Fishing kit sunglasses

When walking to your bug out location, don’t walk on the main roads. There will be more people on the main roads, and you’re trying to avoid contact with others as much as possible. In the first 24-hours after the EMP, you’ll be able to walk during the day.

However, as the situation progresses into the second day, it’s better to stop and rest or sleep during the day and move at night to avoid detection. If you see someone coming to you during the night, leave the cart and flee to cover. If they leave you alone, let them go. However, you might have to defend your cart using your weapon.

Physical Fitness Preparation

It’s essential to remain physically fit for a potential SHTF situation. That means everyone in the family needs to be involved in some form of physical activity throughout the year. Whether its sports, martial arts or just running around the block, they weren’t kidding when they said the words “survival of the fittest.”

If the SHTF and you’re all out of shape, it affects how long you can walk without resting. If you have to stop every 30-minutes for a breather and can’t walk more than a few miles a day, you’re a sitting duck on the way to your bugout location.

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Make sure everyone in the family maintains their health and a decent BMI. Nutrition and exercise are critical components to living a healthy lifestyle that keeps you all prepared and ready to go in the event of an emergency.

We recommend enrolling yourself and your kids in a martial arts academy. Learning how to fight and use people’s body weight against them is beneficial in a hand-to-hand combat situation. The person that has the better training will end up winning – make sure it’s you and not the other guy.

Firearms and Weapons Training

Many people are against the use, handling, and storage of firearms – until they suddenly find a need for them. Your second amendment right gives you’re the right to bear arms, and it’s in an SHTF situation that you find out what that really means in your life.

According to studies, there are three guns per capita in the United States. That means that every household has around 3-guns. That’s an incredibly high rate of gun ownership and the most of any country in the world.

Can you imagine being at home in this EMP scenario? You stay behind and bunker down in your house. In the distance, you hear automatic rifle fire and screaming, and a few hours later, you hear it again – and it’s getting closer.

If you don’t have a firearm in the house, that’s a terrifying situation indeed. A gun can help you keep the bad guys at bay, causing them to move on to another softer target. If you don’t have one, how will you defend your family?

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With so many guns out there, you can bet there are plenty of people on your block with weapons. What happens when they run out of food, and they smell food cooking in your home?

Firearms are your last line of defense, so make sure you have them in your home and know how to use them. It’s no good having a gun or rifle that you never shoot. In a crisis, you’ll forget to unlock the safety, or you won’t draw in time; maybe the chamber stoves a casing, and you have to rerack the rifle.

Training helps you overcome these issues when they occur in real life. When problems arise, you need to know to handle the weapons and navigate the situation – all without thinking about it. Your response needs to be natural and without thinking – and the only way you can achieve this is through repetitive training.

Make sure you spend at least a few hours at the range with your weapons every month/. We recommend taking a tactical weapons course to learn QCB (Close Quarters Combat) tactics and strategies; they come in handy in our urban survival scenario.

A firearm is only as capable as the trained hands that wield it – make sure tour train as often as possible.

Situational Awareness

Your situational awareness is by far the most important skill to focuses on training in preparation for a SHTF situation. Think of this skill as your “Spidey sense,” it gives you the ability to read the situation, staying alert to all the activity around you.

The choices you make during your trip to the bugout location will rely heavily on your situational awareness, especially in pressure decision-making processes.

People with high situational awareness will be driving home in the car, looking at what other people do behind the wheel. They pay attention to all their surroundings, and they can’t tell in the moments before an accident happens, how to react.

In contrast, people with low situational awareness are easily distracted, and easy victims for predators. Practicing your situational awareness using the car method describes above is a great way to drive defensively, and home your skills for an eventually SHTF situation.

You can also take tactical courses that teach your situational awareness, and what to look out for when in a scenario or entering a new environment. However, practice makes perfect, and like with any other skill, you’ll need to train id you want to keep your secret “Spidey sense” on high alert.

Getting Free of a Riot

When law and order go out of the window due to government collapse at a federal and local level, riots and looting will start to breakout. While you’re on the road to your bugout location, you might find yourself crossing an urban area when a full-scale riot breaks out. Here’s what you need to do in that situation.

Keep your family as close to you as possible and move with the crowd. As naturally as possible, start making your way to the edge of the crowd, slowly, but efficiently. Avoid eye contact with anyone, but keep your peripheral vision on high alert, and your hand ready to move to your firearm if you’re carrying.

City Riots
City Riots

You must never draw your firearm unless you intend to use it. If you have to draw down on members of the crowd attacking you or your family – you have to play for keeps. Don’t hesitate, and don’t lead with a warning shot, neutralize the threat, and move away as quickly as possible.

Rendezvous with Others

It’s common for people to perp together. You might have friends that decided you should all go in on a cabin in the woods for such an emergency. The woods are an excellent bugout location. The idea is to get as remote as you can, but make it possible to reach the site on foot with a maximum of three to four days travel – the closer, the better.

There is strength in number during an SHTF situation like an EMP strike. If four families are making their way to a bugout, then that four extra sets of ears, eyes – and weapons you can use in a defensive situation.

Have a predetermined rendezvous point just outside of your neighborhood where you can all meet. Make sure you have clear instructions on how long to wait and the cut-off time for anyone straggling behind.

Every hour counts in an urban survival situation, and you can’t afford to wait for anyone longer than necessary or put everyone else at risk.


When the SHTF and governments collapse, the rule of law no longer applies, and your town or city will descend into chaos. At this stage, all bets are off, and you must do what you can to survive. There are plenty of places to find supplies in urban areas if you’re running out on the way to your bugout location.

Some of the locations you can look to scavenge for supplies include the following.

  • Other people’s empty houses (be careful, and announce yourself before entering)
  • Apartment buildings (See rule above and avoid getting shot)
  • Offices and corporate buildings
  • Gymnasiums
  • Restaurants and take-aways
  • Grocery stores and bodegas
  • Department and Dollar stores
  • Gas stations
  • Shopping malls
  • Vending machines
  • Drug stores

When you’re in an urban survival situation, any unattended property is fair game. However, make sure that you’re not looting for the sake of looting – only go after essential supplies. Avoid gangs of people that are already looting stores in your area.

It’s important to realize that there will be plenty of other people out on the streets doing the same thing. When scavenging, make sure you have a firearm ready to protect yourself.

People can be allies in an SHTF situation – but you need to consider everyone a threat to your safety, even if they are civil with you – never let down your situational awareness.

Finding Shelter

If your bugout location is days away from your home on foot, you’ll have to find shelter along your travel route. If you are traveling on the road with your cart, a tarp is all you need for adequate housing at night. Make sure you avoid making a fire, as that’s a dead giveaway of your position.

Look for structures nearby that you can use as a temporary shelter and follow the same rules as scavenging. Some of the unoccupied buildings you can use for accommodation include the following.

  • Unoccupied houses and apartments
  • Offices and corporate buildings
  • Stores and shopping malls
  • Schools
  • Abandoned vehicles with tinted windows

One of the most useful tools to have in your bugout bag – is a crowbar. This tool can help you get into houses and other buildings without any hassles. However, make sure you announce yourself before entering any building.

If there is someone there, they could be defending their property, and you won’t hear them until they rack the shotgun and take your head off. By announcing yourself, the person knows your intentions and will answer back and tell you to leave.

Urban Survival Tips for Staying Put in Your Home

In some cases, you might not find yourself in a position to leave home. A family member could be incapacitated, or you have no secondary bugout location planned. In this case, you need to stockpile as much as you can to make it through the crisis.

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Critical items to stockpile at your home for emergencies include dry foods and convenience foods – stuff that you don’t have to cook. People will smell you frying bacon from a mile away, ad they’ll come looking if they are hungry. There’s also the chance you don’t have any power or fire to cook with either

Make sure you have plenty of water and non-perishable food. Make sure your ammo is dry, and you sleep in shifts.

Jake is an explorer, he loves all types of outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing & hiking. Jake has been a full-time writer & blogger for many years now and he's here to share his passions with the BeActiveOutdoors readers. Contact

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