Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dystopian Survival: Special Gear, Skills, and Tactics for Modern Life

By Timothy Gamble

Although the term "urban" is most often used to specifically mean big cities, in truth most people live in urban areas. By this, I mean most of us live in and interact with "civilization." Few people today truly live in remote wilderness areas completely cut off from civilization. We are around other people, businesses, cars, roads, trains, stores, homes, apartments, power plants, power lines, and other aspects of civilization. We are all urban dwellers, including folks living in small towns or even out in the "boondocks." Because of this, our ideas of "survival" need to go beyond just wilderness survival, and include urban survival, even if you don't live in a mega-city.

So, what does urban survival look like? The following is a list, in no particular order, of some of the gear and skills that are useful for us urbanites, along with how they might be used for urban survival (their "tactical use"). Some of the gear listed should be part of your urban everyday carry (edc), while other gear should be part of your home survival gear, bug-out bag, or get-home bag. 

1) USB Key (also called a memory stick or flash drive). I consider this almost a must have in today's digital world, especially if you, like me, don't fully trust online cloud storage. It allows you to carry files between home, work, and school, as well as back-up copies of important documents and information you don't want to lose. You can even keep a photo log of expensive household items for insurance purposes in case of fire or theft.

I have a Gorilla Drive on my keychain (and a back-up in my bug-out bag that I regularly update). I keep a copies of my important personal papers and pictures on it (encrypted with this free and easy method), lists of family & friends, along with their contact and other information, maps & driving directions to assorted destinations I may need, music files (you gotta have some fun), and various videos and .pdf files relating to survival and prepping.

I've also installed the PortableApps Platform which allows me to carry mobile versions of various applications such as Firefox, Open Office, VLC media player,  and a .pdf reader, among others. Since it is on my keychain, it goes wherever I go.

2) Window Breaker / Seat Belt cutter. You should have one of these within easy reach in each of your vehicles. I have a Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops knife in the driver's door pocket of my vehicle, which has both a window breaker and seat belt cutter on it. Other folks may prefer a vehicle escape tool. Either way, a vehicle accident is one disaster many of us will face at some point, and we may need to extricate ourselves or someone else.
 
3) Water Key (aka Sillcock Key).  Water Keys will allow you emergency access to those recessed, knobless water spigots on the sides of commercial buildings, and at many parks and golf courses. Water is key (pun intended) in any survival situation, wilderness or urban, so keep one of these in your bug-out bag, and another in your vehicle or get-home bag.   

4) Personal Water Filter. Again, water is key, and it needs to be clean. A personal water filter is something you should have in you bug-out bag and in your get-home bag or car kit. There are many different ones available to choose from, so pick one that suits your needs and lifestyle.. A larger water filter for the home is also a must, of course.

5) Electrical Key (aka control panel key). Electrical keys look similar to water keys, except they open up most electrical cabinets and control panels, gas & water meters and shut-off systems,  train/bus/subway windows & doors, elevator control panels, and so forth. There are many different ones available, but the 11-in-1 key is the most versatile that I have found. A good item for your bug-out bag and get home bag.

6) Local Maps. You need to know your way around, and out of, your city. Remember, GPS and Google Maps might not be available in a disaster. Not just road maps, but also maps of rail lines and greenways in your city, would be useful, too. If you ever have to bug-out on foot, abandoned train tracks is your best option, instead of trying to hike along congested and dangerous roadways. 

7) Local Knowledge.  Okay, this isn't really a piece of gear, but you need to really know the city in which you live. Its more than just knowing the roads. You need to know where the bad neighborhoods and high crime areas of your city are, and how to avoid them. You also need to know people. Do you know an honest mechanic? A good and dependable plumber? A babysitter you can trust with your kids? Do you know your neighbors? Do you know your local elected officials? Do you know what their plans are for your city? Do you follow the local news, or maybe listen to a local talk radio show? Get to really know you city and its people. Build a network of people you trust, and who have reason to trust you.

8) General Tools.  Tools are wonderful inventions that allow us to do more than we could with just our hands. Everyone needs tools, even city folks. Here are some recommendations: 

A good pocket knife is something most folks should carry (mine is a Swiss Army Knife, but pick whatever best suits your life and needs.). A multitool is a great addition to anyone's EDC and I highly recommend getting one (I always carry my Leatherman on my belt). A multi-bit screwdriver is also quite handy, so carry one in your bag, briefcase, or EDC kit.  Make sure you have a precision screwdriver that fits the screws on your eyeglasses, sunglasses, and electronic gadgets. I've also found that a good pair of scissors is very useful to have on hand. Carry one in your briefcase or bag. 

Of course, you should a good tool kit at home, even if you live in a small apartment. For what to include, please see my article Basic Starter Tool Kit.

9) Handcuff Key. Check your local laws, but surprisingly these are legal most places. It's not just good cops that have access to handcuffs, but lots of people, good and bad. Having access to handcuff keys might come in handy some day.  It is, of course, illegal to hide them from law enforcement for the purpose of escape, so if you ever get legitimately arrested, immediately let the officer know you have one on you.

Consider keeping a universal handcuff key in your bug-out bag or even an EDC kit. You can also get "hidden" keys in survival bracelets, zipper pulls, and so on. Again, check the laws in your area.

10) Lock Picks. If you know how to use them, lock picks could come in quite handy at times. If you don't know how to use them, they won't do you any good, so learn. 

11) Useful Shoes. Not just shoes, but useful shoes. Shoes you can walk in, run in, climb in, and will protect your feet. So, not high heels, sandals, clogs, or flip flops. Not even wingtips. Sure, you may need these type shoes for work or fun, but you should always have a pair of more practical shoes with you for when you need them. Perhaps keep them in your car? Or a spare pair at work? I'm lucky enough to not have to dress up for work, so my everyday shoes are hiking shoes, which are a great compromise between athletic shoes and boots. Of course, I also have work boots at home for when I need them.

12) Other Items. There are, of course, lots of other items I could name that would come in handy in our urban environment, including a smart phone & a spare charger, power bar, cash & coins (there are still lots of uses for quarters), earloop face masks, an individual first aid kit, hand sanitizer and/or wet wipes, and so on....

13)  Modern Urban (Dystopian) Survival Skills.  I refer to modern urban survival as dystopian survival (see my article for more complete explaination). Dystopian survival starts with awareness of potential problems and developing self-reliance. Building on the foundation of awareness and self-reliance, there are many other useful skills for surviving dystopia, including:
  • Situational Awareness & OODA Loop 
  • Operational Security/Privacy Protection 
  • Dealing with an Intrusive Government 
  • Dealing with busybody neighbors, landlords, etc. 
  • Being the Gray Man (fitting in and going unnoticed) 
  • Making yourself an unappealing target for bad guys (know how to not look like a victim
  • Life Mobility (the ability to pull up roots and move yourself and your family away from threats and towards opportunities)
  • Personal Mobility (your ability to walk, run, climb, dodge, and keep your balance)
  • Money Management & Personal Finance Skills 
  • Computer and Technology Skills (using technology to your benefit, while knowing and protecting yourself from the risks)
  • Self-Defense and Home-Defense Skills (more than just guns & ammo) 
  • Knowing what to do in an active shooter situation 
  • Knowing what to do if you get caught in a civil unrest or riot situation 
  • Health & Fitness 
  • Stealth and Alternative Medicine (you do not want to be dependent on the government/public healthcare system)
  • First Aid (including dealing with gunshot wounds and other severe trauma) 
  • Employability in an era of High Tech and Artificial Intelligence
This list is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg of needed skills. If you have suggestions for other needed skills, just put them in the comments section below.

13) Cash!!!  Never underestimate to usefulness of money. Seriously, everyone should have a small stash of cash hidden at home for emergencies, as well a an emergency fund stashed at your local bank or credit union. The amounts will depend on your particular circumstances and concerns, of course, but I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars cash at home, and at least six months of living expenses in a savings account.

14) Home Security.  Take commonsense precautions to secure your home and vehicle. Find ways to make it more difficult for bad guys to break in. Keep doors
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and windows locked. Make use of steering wheel bars and door alarms. Have working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers to protect your family and home from fire. Install a steel security door. Consider a security system or a doorbell with camera and monitor. Consider owning a handgun or home defense shotgun (legally and safely, of course, and get well-trained!). The Shooter's Bible Guide to Home Defense may provide more information.


15) Personal Security.  Be smart when out in public. Pay attention to your surroundings. Be wary of people who look out-of-place, are loitering, seem to be paying close attention to you, or who act nervous. Shop in groups. Let people know where you are going and when to expect you back (VERY important). Keep your phone fully charged. Use well-light and highly visible parking spaces. Before getting out of a car or walking out of a building, look out a window first to identify possible dangers. Don't get so involved with your smart phone that you ignore your surroundings. Always be alert.

This article just scratches the surface of urban survival, but hopefully it has given you some ideas and some food for thought. Again, I urge you to check out my other articles on urban survival mentioned at the top of this article.

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