Aside from the overwhelming crush of people who become increasingly desperate once their bellies are empty for a few days, being trapped in a city after the SHTF is definitely not ideal. If you're like most Americans however, you've probably got no choice but to live in a relatively urban environment, for work, family or convenience. Surviving once a disaster strikes is possible, but there's a few key mistakes to avoid if you want to up your chances of long-term success.
Never, ever brag about your preps It feels good to brag right? Perhaps you've just got your new solar panels installed, or discovered an awesome deal on bulk groceries and now your cache of supplies is brimming. The hard work you've been putting in for months finally seems to be paying off, and you can't wait to tell everyone about your success. Just be very careful. I recommend only ever discussing your preps with your personal survival group (you do have a right to brag), because they're the only people you should trust. Plus your colleagues, or the randoms you only half-know in the bar aren't going to appreciate the work you put in anyway, all they're going to remember is ‘Oh yeah, Bob's got like a year's worth of food stocked up in his basement’ and turn up on your doorstep once they get a little hungry. Hungry people quickly become desperate people, so don't give anyone any incentives to come knocking on your door once the SHTF.
Make a plan and get organized Stockpiling supplies are only going to get you so far, the next step is to put some thought into what you're going to ‘do’ once the SHTF. Sit down, and consider the types of disaster you're most likely going to face. Perhaps there's a flood risk, you're on a fault-line or your area is prone to hurricanes and summer storms. Next, make a reaction plan with your family so everyone knows what to do if a disaster strikes. How are you going to get in touch? Where do you rally if your home is inaccessible? Speed is going to be one of your biggest assets, especially if an evacuation is necessary. The faster you can get in your car and on the road the higher the chance you'll make it through the crush of people which will quickly jam expressways and make escape impossible.
Don't do anything illegal In a real disaster once darkness falls the streets are quickly going to descend into chaos. Those with ill-intent are going to be out looting everything they can, but don't take this as an invitation to join. With the right planning you'll already have everything you need, and you won't need to steal it. But what about grabbing ‘my fair share?’ The insurance company will cover it anyway, right? Ultimately, someone, somewhere is going to have to foot the bill, and it's usually the small business owner. In addition to being just plain wrong, you're also putting yourself at grave danger by joining a riot. Perhaps you're caught red-handed by an angry storekeeper, get trapped in the building, or walk out with an armful of goodies right into the path of another looter who decides they're willing to take what you've got by force. Your best bet, is to stay above the law, even once the SHTF.
Shooting looters on sight is not legal In line with the previous point, putting up a ‘Looters will be shot on sight’ sign may seem like a good idea, and were a common sight in New Orleans as they grappled with the aftermath of the disaster. There's a few reasons why this may not be a smart idea. Despite advertising you've got a healthy supply of ammunitions and firearms, it indicates there's something worth protecting inside. Are you going to be able to mount a 24 hour surveillance around your home to combat those who decide they want to see what you have anyway, despite your signs? Plus, once you open fire, there's a much higher chance the looters will be armed accordingly (they were expecting to get shot at remember), and may have come with a force large enough to overpower your defenses anyway. Finally, this sign can be interpreted to imply premeditation and can be used against you once law and order is returned, which could see you facing murder charges if you do happen to shoot and kill someone who is walking onto your property. There is no law that allows you to shoot anyone on sight. Self defense requires you to have a genuine fear for your life, so wait until they start shooting first before you put your long-term freedom at risk.
Don't be too stubborn to leave Of course, staying in one place after a disaster is usually your best option. Being on the road once the SHTF is a risky endeavor, but there are certain situations where leaving your home just makes sense. Even if you've lived in your home for decades, if there's a wildfire en route or a hurricane threatening to level your home, leave; and leave quickly. Bugging out is your only remaining option once there's a chance your entire home could be destroyed. If the situation isn't quite this bad yet, you're going to have to decide on the fly when it makes sense to bug out. Think about how bad it's going to get, the preparations you've made, and make an educated guess if bugging out makes sense. Personally, I've got a list of a few key triggers that would cause me and my family to up and leave at a moment's notice, triggers we've all agreed on, so we can quickly evacuate should the need arise.
Always filter your water It's a given these days, but drinking straight from the tap is something we all take for granted. In a disaster however, the water supply is probably going to be the first major utility to go down, and it will quickly become contaminated. If you're facing a SHTF scenario, filter every single drop of water you plan to drink, along with all the water you are cooking with. Water pipes are easily damaged which can bring contaminants right into your home, and in a crisis your local water purification center probably isn't going to have the staff or resources to do a proper job. Better to be fully self reliant and purify it all yourself, just to be on the safe side. If you get sick, your chances of survival will drop dramatically. Of course, you can't eliminate every risk that comes with surviving a SHTF situation, but avoid these seven mistakes and you'll be well on your way to keeping you and your family safe in the aftermath of a disaster.