bugging out with elderly

Bugging Out With Limited Mobility: Elderly or Disabled

bugging out with elderly

It’s fairly easy to find advice for bugging out with ‘people in good health,’ but what if you, or someone you love, are not in reasonable health? How can you ensure all your family members – not just the healthy ones – are prepared to bug out?

This concern was recently raised by Kimberly, a reader of this site, who emailed me asking how she and her husband could adapt their bug out plan as they age to ensure their deteriorating health doesn’t limit their evacuation options.

Kimberly’s already on the right track – considering potential problems before they happen is fundamental to preparedness. The best tools against survival challenges are knowledge and proper planning. Thinking about plausible future scenarios and how they could potentially impact her bug out plan puts Kimberly ahead of the game.

Let’s take her the rest of the way by examining ways we can modify our bug out plan to accommodate someone with limited mobility, whether they are elderly or disabled.

Keep in mind that this post can apply to any less-abled person in your crew, not strictly people with age-related mobility issues. The following suggestions can be used to accommodate a disaster plan for an elderly relative, an injured or sick person, an infant, or an otherwise disabled person.

bugging out with old people

Let’s look at two possible scenarios:

  1. Bugging Out With Limited Mobility Family Members
  2. Making Your Own Plan If You Have Limited Mobility

Bugging Out With Limited Mobility Family Members

The first step is to realistically evaluate their ability to move over long distances.

Make sure you’re aware of exactly how much movement they’re capable of – can they walk for a full day, half a day, two hours, or less? Some people, specifically infants and people in wheelchairs, will need your help to be mobile, while others could improve their speed with the help of aids such as walking sticks.

If current limitations could be overcome through improved fitness or lifestyle changes (e.g. better eating, quitting smoking), encourage your family member to start making those changes now.

bugging out with elderly

Based on the results of your assessment, the next step is to choose the best option for your situation:

1. For people with highly limited or no mobility: Shelter in place (bug in instead of bugging out)

Your first consideration will be where to shelter – will you stay in the person’s home or move them to another location?

Wherever you choose, make sure you consider the following:

  • If you will be assisting them, consider using their home as your bug out location
  • Write a list of all the items you will need in case of emergency (e.g. food, dry goods, tools, water) and make sure there are adequate stockpiles at your shelter location
  • Thoroughly assess the location for possible threats – is it in a flood plain, tornado corridor, or earthquake fault zone? Understanding the type of emergency situations you could potentially be facing will help you better prepare.
  • If you don’t live with the person or may be out of the house when disaster strikes, consider what obstacles may interfere with your ability to reach the shelter – are there roads between you and them that may be blocked, impassible, or clogged with traffic?
  • Ensure the location can accommodate everyone in your bug out team with sleeping areas and sufficient stores of food, water, and hygiene items.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In

2. For people with a medium level of mobility: Shelter in place or limit your bug out

Even if you are planning to bug out with a person of moderate mobility abilities, the best option may still be to shelter in place. If you live in an area with rough terrain or frequent bad weather, consider sheltering in place and follow the guidelines above.

Limited bug out

If you believe there’s a reasonable expectation that your limited mobility member will be able to walk for half a day or more, you can plan a limited bug out that will accommodate their needs.

If it’s possible to use a car to cover some ground, plan to drive as far as possible and walk from there. When incorporating a car into your survival plan, be sure to consider the following:

  • Make sure you have the right vehicle to bug out in as well as a specific vehicular bug out kit packed in addition to your personal backpacks
  • Include alternative locations in your bug out plan in the event you can’t get to your car or travel in the direction you had originally planned

Packing for a limited mobility person can be challenging as they may only be able to carry a light BOB, or more realistically, none at all. If you’ll be traveling with a group, distribute gear needed for your limited mobility member amongst other members so as not to burden one person, maximizing your group’s ability to travel.

Ensure you pack items that will make camp as comfortable as possible for them.  The more comfortable the person is, the better able they will be to recover and travel further the next day. Consider packing a larger bed roll than you would typically bring or perhaps a lightweight folding stool or backpacking hammock for rest breaks.

bug out route

For people with fair mobility: Bug out with some adjustments

A person with fair mobility should be able to travel a decent distance, albeit at a slower pace or with more frequent rest stops than a healthier person.  However, consideration should still be made for easing the impact of hard travel.

A bug out vehicle would still be great in this scenario if that option is available to you. If not, and your group must carry their gear, be sure to limit the amount carried by someone with only fair mobility to ensure the burden won’t impact their ability to travel.

While it is always important to be supportive and focus on the abilities – not disabilities – of your bug out team, try and keep expectations realistic.

People, especially those with little backpacking or survival experience, can sometimes become overly enthusiastic of their own abilities.  It may be a long journey and everyone will need to keep their strength up.

Despite the confidence some of your members may have in their endurance abilities, make sure to use your best judgement and plan to enforce periodic breaks if need be.

Making Your Own Plan If You Have Limited Mobility

Now let’s take a look at the opposite scenario: you are now the individual with the physical limitation that a bug out plan must be accommodated to.

If you have family members or friends to rely on, share the tips above with them to ensure you’re all prepared should you need to bug out. However, if you don’t have the good fortune of having someone close by you can depend on, you will need to build your own disaster plan to accommodate your needs.

Your first step in developing a functional plan is to perform a realistic assessment of your own abilities. If you are on your own or bugging out with another person of limited mobility, the best option will most often be to shelter in place, also known as bugging in.

The following are ways you can prepare your home or chosen shelter to accommodate your physical limitations in case of disaster:

  • Ensure your home is adequately stocked with supplies you will need in case of emergency such as food, water, tools, medications, etc.
  • Secure a means to communicate with the outside world should cell phones and landlines become unusable, such as a HAM radio
  • Learn basic survival skills and practice them as much as possible to maximize your odds of thriving without support
  • Do whatever you can to increase your ability to be self-sufficient, such as growing a garden or learning new skills
  • If possible, dig a well to ensure access to a reliable water supply (keep in mind you will need a manual pump or electric backup for this option)
  • Bugging out in a vehicle should be considered only as a last resort; if your car fails and your physical limitations prevent you from traveling by foot, you could be stranded without help
  • If you are considering bugging out in a vehicle, make sure you have a vehicle BOB packed and anything you may need to help you travel by foot once you reach your destination (cane, wheelchair, walker, crutches, etc.)

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In


The best offence is always a strong defence; using these tips to modify your bug out plan to accommodate for current or future limitations will make you that much more prepared when disaster strikes.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this article was inspired by a real-life problem faced by one of our readers. If you have any questions keeping you up at night about survival, preparedness planning, survival skills, or the best gear to choose, please drop me a line at info@thebugoutbagguide.com. You never know, it just might save your life!

Your Thoughts?

Have you been planning on supporting a limited mobility person in your bug out plan?  Are you planning to overcome any limitations you have yourself?

Let us know how in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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urban survival tips

5 Essential Urban Survival Tips To Keep You Alive

urban survival tips

As a part of developing The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit (TUUSK) with the team at Ready To Go Survival, our conversation turned to urban survival planning and strategy.

We talked about our experiences with the various snowstorms, hurricanes, blackouts, and terrorist threats that we had been through and compared notes.

In this guide, I am going to share the Top 5 Urban Survival Tips that came out of our brainstorming session. If you are not one of the 80.7% of people who live in an urban environment feel free to share these with anyone you care about who does.

Top 5 Urban Survival Tips

Urban Survival Tip #1 – Move fast before exit routes are clogged or closed

There is a clear first mover advantage when evacuating a highly populated area.  Once everyone around you gets the same idea, getting through the exits – bridges, tunnels, highways, or train routes will become hopelessly clogged.  To ensure a speedy exit:

  • Make sure your bug out bag is packed, accessible, and ready to go.
  • Make sure everyone you are bugging out with is on the same page for when to initiate your bug out plan and where to meet
  • When in doubt MOVE!  Don’t wait for everyone around you to agree, get going.  Be a survivor, not a statistic.

urban survival tips

Urban Survival Tip #2 – Be prepared for environmental hazards

The modern urban landscape if full of dangers that become exposed in any type of disaster.  Damaged buildings put all manner of dangerous debris in the air from asbestos and concrete dust to broken glass and toxic smoke.

We need to be sure that our bug out bag has the proper protective gear to keep us moving through such hazards, you never know what you will need to scramble over or through to get to safety.

Sturdy shoes, and well-made pants and a long sleeve shirt should be your default bug out clothing even in summer to protect you from jagged or burning debris.  Additionally, consider having environmental protection gear to protect the rest of your body:

  • Eye protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory/Lung protection
  • Hand protection

Urban Survival Tip #3 – Be a Grey Man or Woman

The idea of being a “Grey Man” (or Woman) is based around being fully prepared but inconspicuous as to not draw unwanted attention to yourself. This serves two purposes:

  1. Being a Grey Man will help you blend in with a crowd if people are being singled out or if you are trying to evade a pursuer
  2. Being a Grey Man will make you seem like a regular person instead of a target of opportunity for aggressive people who are less prepared than you

There are many ways to be a Grey Man and a lot of them just come down to common sense and not advertising your presence:

  • Wear normal looking clothes, not camo or other tactical looking gear
  • Remove any military style logos – The TUUSK bag comes with a velcro patch of the RTGS logo that can be removed at a moment’s notice to slip into the crowd
  • Do not open your bug out bag in a public area where others can see that it is loaded with food, water, and survival gear that they may need.
  • Avoid staring or unnecessary eye contact
  • Conceal any obvious survival gear on your person

Urban Survival Tip #4 – It’s better to look like a threat than a target

In an urban scenario, you are inherently more likely to encounter other people.  Some of these people may be aggressive, desperate, or seeking to take advantage of others in the chaos.  It is best to deter such advances before they even start by making yourself look like more trouble than it is worth to bother you.

  • Travel in a group if you can, single people are far juicier targets than two or more people who are obviously together
  • Have a self-defense item ready to deploy if you are approached; this can be pepper spray, a firearm, knife, or another weapon. Showing you are armed and ready to defend yourself shows that you are not a target of opportunity
  • Be aware of your surroundings – If you are being followed or possibly entering a dangerous area keep your eyes open and change course immediately
  • Keep in mind the Grey Man tips above to keep off the radar of inquisitive people
urban survival tips
Image Credit: Satguru on Flickr

Urban Survival Tip #5 – Follow your instincts, not the mob

When a disaster hits, 99% of people are completely unprepared. You are reading this article, so you are obviously of a mindset of preparing for the worst BEFORE it happens. Stick to your bug out plan and improvise when necessary.

If a mob of people is heading one way, it doesn’t mean that is the best way for you.  You don’t need to go in the opposite direction as everyone else but look for the safest way for YOU to reach your destination.

Follow your instincts when faced with a hard choice, not just the path of least resistance.

Putting These Tips Into Action

Partnering these 5 tips with a well thought out bug out bag will vastly improve your odds of making it through the next urban disaster alive.

For more urban survival tips based on my real world experiences check out my article here: 10 Preparedness Lessons From Living In NYC.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these tips came out of the TUUSK project that I partnered with Ready To Go Survival (RTGS) on. The team at RTGS has been hard at work sourcing gear and getting The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit ready to launch out into the world.

If you are interested in getting your own TUUSK and free Lifestraw before they are made available to the general public check it out here.

urban survival tips

Good luck prepping and remember, Chance Favors The Well Prepared.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have an urban survival tip to share?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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upside down fire

How To Build An Upside Down Fire

upside down fire

This past weekend The Bug Out Bag Guide Family hosted a barbecue for some close friends.  One of the highlights of this was testing out an alternative fire building method in our back patio firepit.  Instead of building a standard teepee or log cabin we decided to try building what is called an “upside down fire”.  We got some great, hassle-free results from this that we wanted to share with you.  As I always say, it is always good to add new techniques to your survival skills.  At the end of this article you will know how to build an upside down fire on your own!

Why build an upside down fire?

Over many years of camping I have built hundreds of fires.  These were mostly of the teepee and log cabin variety, with some lean-to fires mixed in as the situation required.  These fire building methods have served me well and I have enjoyed many a meal and evening sitting around their warm glow.

I was excited to learn about a new method of fire building and try it out for myself.  What I learned from my test run, is that there are several advantages that an upside down fire brings to the table.

Upside Down Fire
Here is one I built at home

An upside down fire is self feeding

An upside down fire is built in a layered fashion starting with tinder at the top and increasing in size all the way to large logs at its base.  One of the biggest advantages of using this fire building method is that as a layer burns it progressively ignites the larger layer below it.  The tinder lights the kindling, which ignites the fuel wood, which in turn lights the logs.  In other words, once an upside down fire is lit it will burn by itself for hours.  There is no need to baby sit it and keep adding wood over time!  You can light your upside down fire and then focus on other tasks like setting up camp, preparing food, or just relaxing with your fellow campers.

While traditional fires (teepee and log cabin) do progressively ignite successive layers (if properly built!) they tend to do this over a shorter period of time and require that a fire tender monitors the burn rate and add more fuel and eventually place logs onto the fire.  The genius of an upside down fire is that it frees you from this chore!

Being self feeding makes an upside down fire an excellent choice if you want to keep a heat source burning through a long, cold night.  As it is self feeding you will be able to build it before bed, light it, and then keep warm without having to climb out of your sleeping bag or shelter.

Upside Down Fire
Here is that same fire after 10 minutes

An upsidedown fire generates lots of coals

As an upside down fire burns it creates a large supply of coals from the logs integrated into the base of the design.  These logs are lit as the flame consumes the fuel wood and transfers heat down to this base layer.  These coals are excellent for most cooking purposes.  With a good bed of coal you can:

  • cook foil packets
  • heat up a dutch oven
  • barbecue meat, fish, or vegetables
  • and much, much more…

With a traditional fire you would need to set up your teepee or log cabin and as they got burning need to continually feed it larger and larger logs to get a nice bed of coals going.  The upside down fire does this automatically with the same amount of wood but far less active management.  Set it up, go get your food ready and then come back to a nice bed of cooking coals!

Upside Down Fire
…And again after 40 minutes

Where can I use an upside down fire?

An upside down fire can be used pretty much anywhere you would build a traditional fire.  It can be a great option for many applications:

  • Survival cooking
  • Camping
  • Bonfire
  • Barbecue
  • Wood Stove
  • In home fireplace
  • Rubbish disposal

Can I build an upside down fire in a fireplace?

Yes!  People often build them in fireplaces or woodstoves for the same reasons why they are used outdoors.  Wood stove enthusiasts actually favor the upside down fire building method as it tends to heat up the chimney pipe faster than a traditional fire and by doing so increases the stove’s efficiency.

Upside Down Fire
…And finally, the same fire after an hour burning without my intervention!

How to make an upside down fire

Here is a step by step guide for building your own upside down fire.  Follow the written instructions and refer to the pictures if you run into any trouble.

Step 1: Clear your fire pit

You are going to lay your base layer of logs down in the next step so you will want your pit clear of debris and as level as possible so the fire you build will not topple over as you build it up.

How to build an upside down fire
Clear your fire pit out

Step 2: Lay down the base logs

You are going to build your base layer first.  This means use the largest logs you intend to burn and lay them down parallel to each other.  Have the logs all touching each other so there are no gaps between them and it is best if the tops of them are relatively level with each other so you will have a nice sturdy base to build the rest of your fire upon.

How to build an upside down fire
Lay down your base logs

Step 3: Thicker Fuel Layer

You are going to use large fuel wood for this layer, larger than your thumb.  Remember, this layer has to be large enough to generate enough coals and heat to ignite the logs below it.  Lay this wood in the opposite direction to the logs below it and allow space between each piece for air to flow.  Feel free to build 1-3 layers of this sized wood if you have enough and if you have organized your wood build each layer upwards out of slightly smaller thickness pieces.  Each layer should be laid down crosswise (perpendicular) on top of the layer below, similar to the method used when building a log cabin.

How to build an upside down fire
Add on your fuel wood

Step 4: Smaller Fuel Layer

You are going to repeat the process used in step 3 here but using smaller fuel wood, preferably smaller than your thumb in thickness.  Once again build 1-3 layers of small fuel wood up with each being perpendicular to the last layer and slightly smaller thickness.  You should have a small tower of wood now with the thickness of pieces used getting gradually smaller as you get nearer to the top.

How to build an upside down fire
And now your smaller fuel wood

Step 5: Kindling

Now you are going to start adding on the smaller wood that you have, kindling that is thinner than your pinky.  Add 3-5 layers of this if you have enough to do so.  By the time you get to the top layer the wood should be of the smallest thickness you have, no bigger than a twig.  Stick to the same method of laying each layer down crosswise across the layer below it to allow proper air flow.

How to build an upside down fire
Get your kindling on there next
How to build an upside down fire
And the small twigs on top

Step 6: Tinder

Choosing and adding your tinder is a crucial last step.  You need something that is small enough to be ignited with your match, lighter, or firestarter but that will burn long and hot enough to get your kindling to start burning.  Place this tinder on top of your kindling.  Here are some suggestions for kindling that have worked well for me in the past:

How to build an upside down fire
Finally place your tinder at the very top

Step 7: Light And Enjoy!

Shelter your match and tinder from any wind (If you are lighting your fire with an EverStryke Match, you don’t need to worry about this) and get that fire started.  Depending on what tinder you chose you may need to blow gently to get the tinder going.  As the fire burns each layer that you built should ignite the next one down all the way to your base layer of logs.  In my testing an upside down fire built as I have described should burn for well over an hour and result in a large layer of coals all ready to cook your meal.  Enjoy!

How to build an upside down fire
Your upside down fire is ready to light and enjoy!

Everstryke Banner wide

Your Turn!

So, now you know how you build your own upside down fire.  I encourage you to give it a try next time you are camping or setting up a backyard bonfire.  It is a great tool to add to any fire building arsenal and I think you will be impressed with the results.

Your Thoughts?

Have you built an upside down fire before?  Did you give our step-by-step instructions a try?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below what you thought about this fire building method or if you have any tips or tricks to getting it to work better!  Thanks!

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Bug out plan

My First Bug Out Plan Wasn’t Very Good (And How To Make Yours Better!)

First Bug Out Plan

In this article I am going to share the first bug out plan that I made with some family members.  To be honest, it wasn’t great and if you have seen my current article on How To Make A Bug Out Plan you can tell that I have learned a lot since then.  What was once a simple family conversation on how we would meet up and evacuate has turned into a 14 page template that ANYONE can use to create their own Bug Out Plan, which is available for free download here:

First Bug Out Plan

In addition to taking a look at what we came up with to evacuate I am going to show you the good points and bad points of the plan so that you can learn from my experience and go back and improve your own bug out plan.

Lets dive into the circumstances that inspired us to make our first bug out plan and what we came up with.

My First Bug Out Plan: Get Out Of Dodge

I recently shared with you some of the preparedness lessons that I learned during my time living in New York City (article here).  These lessons were as diverse as the events that inspired them and I truly hope that you were able to apply some of the tips I provided to improve your own preparedness.

At the time, there were 5 of us, My Aunt B (mentioned in the previous article as surviving the 9/11 attacks), 2 cousins, my future wife, and myself who worked or lived in NYC.  We were spread all over the city, downtown, midtown, and uptown.  We were fortunate that one of us drove in daily and we agreed that her location was the best meeting point.  Her office at Columbia University was set as the rally point and we agreed to a simple strategy that she would drive us out to our destination of Aunt B’s house.  It was a simple bug out plan, the first that I had been exposed to.  Let’s take a closer look to see good and bad points:


We took action to make a plan

The fact that we made a plan in the first place is a huge positive.  We had been caught with our pants down in earlier cases, having to scramble and figure things out individually.  Making a plan is the first step towards improving your odds for survival.  If you haven’t read our article on this, take a moment to understand what you can do for yourself here.

We made a specific rally point

My cousin worked at Columbia University, an institution that takes up several city blocks and has many buildings within.  If we had just agreed to meet at the university it could have led to confusion and wasting time to find each other.  Making a highly specific rally point, such as her office in building “X” will save time and reduce potential confusion.

Mode of transportation

Although public transport such as the commuter trains would probably be faster, these have been stopped on more than one occasion due to manmade events, blackouts, hurricanes, and freezing temperatures.  Relying on this could have left us stranded.  So, we chose the most flexible option as our primary go-to.  With a car we would have had to deal with traffic but would still be together and mobile and could always get out and walk.  It is best to choose the most flexible mode of transportation as your primary option.


We knew where we were going to head to once on the move.  This gave us a goal to keep morale up and also allowed us to tell other family members where they could find us.

First Bug Out Plan

Room For Improvement

We never tested or practiced the plan

Once we agreed to the plan we left it at that, never doing a test run.  If we had to initiate it things may have gone smoothly, thankfully we never had to find out.  However had we carried out a test run we could have found out points of failure and made improvements.

No secondary communication method

If we needed to initiate the plan while we were all in our offices we could call each other on our respective landline phones.  However, if we were in meetings or out to lunch it would be necessary to rely on cell phones.  Anyone who has been in a disaster situation (or even in a huge crowd) can tell you that cell reception can quickly become spotty.  Having a secondary communication method can be a life saving addition to a bug out plan.  This could mean walkie-talkies or having a designated spot where you can leave each other messages or notes.

No backup rally point

While we did a great job of picking a specific rally point, we stopped there.  If for some reason that became inaccessible we would have been lost.  It is best practice to designate at least one secondary rally point away from the primary one.  You never know where it will be safe to meet.  Separate your rally points to ensure your bug out team can get to an alternate if the primary is not available.

No designated secondary destination

Although we were fortunate enough to have multiple extended family member’s homes in the metro NY area to go to if there was a problem reaching our primary destination (Aunt B’s house), we never designated a secondary (or tertiary) location specifically.  This once again could have led to confusion when our other family members were trying to find us.

Stash bug out bags at rally point or workplaces

While I did have a rudimentary BOB at home at this point if a disaster occurred during working hours we all would have been left to survive with just what we had with us.  Storing a get home bag or even BOB at my workplace or at our primary rally point would have made me much better prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

The Aftermath

So, where did I go from here?  Luckily we never needed to execute the plan and I have since moved far from New York City.  I have however continued to grow my preparedness knowledge and planning skills.  As I mentioned at the top of the article I have written an in depth article and created a free template for anyone (including YOU!) to download and fill out to build a Bug Out Plan for their own family, check it out here.  Good luck with your preparedness planning and always remember, chance favors the well prepared.

Your Thoughts?

What did you think of my first bug out plan?  Do you see any other areas I could have improved?  What do you include in your own bug out plan?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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Urban Prepping

10 Preparedness Tips From Living In NYC

bug out bag

There are many places we can look to learn the skills and knowledge we need to help ourselves and our loved ones survive.  Often times one of the best teachers is the world around us.  I experienced this over the 7 years that I lived in New York City.  Living there provided many practical and at times terrifying lessons in urban survival and disaster planning that I hold on to today.  This was caused by the pervasive impact of the 2001 attacks as well as multiple events that occurred while I was living there afterwards.  In this article I am going to share with you some of the life changing events that I experienced and show how to apply the lessons learned to your own preparedness journey.

In the beginning…

Growing up in the suburbs, New York City (or simply “The City” as we called it) was an entrancing place that children were taken to on field trips and whispered about by older siblings who managed to sneak down for a concert or night out.  It held great mystery and allure, there always seemed to be so much going on there.  It was common that a fair percentage of kids from my home town would end up there after (or instead of) college to pursue opportunities and adventure.  I myself took this path at the ripe age of 22, moving with a girlfriend (now wife) into a shoebox of an apartment as we both landed jobs in the financial sector.  I lived there for 7 years, from 2003-2010 and although I have since moved on a large part of me remains there and I loved the overwhelming majority of the experience.

The day of days

Anyone who is old enough to read these words will remember where they were on September 11, 2001.  I was as far away from the epicenter as I could have been, just 3 days into a 3 month exchange program in Australia.  I remember walking into the lounge room after a night out and seeing everyone glued to the TV.  It was early in the event and the newscasters were still calling it an accidental plane crash.  Then the other plane hit.  It flashed in my mind that I had an Aunt working in the WTC.  The distance from home could not have seemed greater as I ran to the phone and frantically dialed home.  My mother was in a panic and had not heard from her sister.  We spoke briefly as to not tie up the phone line.  We reassured each other that we were both OK and she promised to call as soon as she heard more news.  Hours later I got a phone call that my Aunt B had safely been evacuated from Tower 7, which later collapsed.  One small bright spot in an unspeakable day.  Growing up in the area I know many families that were not so fortunate.

prepping tips
The sunset from my NYC apartment

Lessons From Modern Day NYC

It has been over a decade since that terrible day and New Yorkers have done what they can to grow past the events of 2001.  Not moved on, but perhaps grown scar tissue over the wound.  People go about their lives without living in fear and accept changes such as seeing more police and national guardsman in public locations.  Perhaps more subtle are the new physical changes that have cropped up.  For an example, we can look at the iconic skyscrapers that give New York City its distinctive skyline.  Most skyscraper office buildings have a large glass atrium on the ground floor.  This will nowadays be invariably surrounded by a picket line of heavy concrete barriers to prevent a truck ramming in with bad news in the payload.  Great pains have been taken to disguise measures such as this by planting trees or flowers in the barricades and most people would walk by them without even noticing.  This is the epitome of modern day NYC.  Be safe but keep living your life.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Learn from and grow from any negative experience after grieving is over
  2. When possible make your preparing a part of every day life to make it less overbearing
  3. Live your life to the fullest

A Deadly False Alarm

At one point during my tenure in NYC I was working in midtown Manhattan right around the corner from Grand Central Terminal.  This train station is one of the busiest commuter and subway stations in the world and its beautiful architecture and design make it a popular tourist destination (Personal note: if you ever visit NYC, stop by Grand Central.  It is one of my favorite places there).  All these things also made it a widely acknowledged soft target for terrorism.

One warm summer evening in July 2007 I was leaving work and in the elevator with several colleagues.  We experienced a shudder and a brief power outage.  When the lights came back on seconds later the elevator had stopped.  To break the tension, I made a remark “Well, I have lived a good life”.  Nervous laughter escaped and the elevator started moving again, taking us to the ground floor.

What we were met with was chaos.  We could see people out in the street literally screaming and running northwards past the front of the building.  I have burned into my memory a woman in a business suit and high heels running past me with tears streaming down her face saying over and over, “Not again.  Not again.”

We had no idea what was going in. We looked out the front door to see what they were running from and saw a large black cloud erupting front the middle of the street about 2 blocks away.  We joined the crowd moving northwards, calling our loved ones around Manhattan telling them we had just seen an explosion and they needed to move NOW.  This actually took convincing as more than one person said, “No one here is freaking out and we haven’t heard anything about it on the news”.

When I eventually arrived home I flipped on the TV and began to pack supplies.  After a few minutes I learned that the explosion had been caused by an underground steam pipe from 1924 that had burst.  Although it had not been ruled out, terrorism was seen as unlikely.  It ended up a couple people did die and many were injured regardless of the cause (see here for more info on the event).

That was it, a steam pipe bursting and it had sent everyone in the area into a panicked frenzy.  Part of this was lack of information and the location (right next to Grand Central).  But the other part was the scars of 9/11 that people still bore.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Although it was a steam explosion, the next time it may be an intentional event.  I did the right thing by trusting my instincts to move away immediately.
  2. Reaching loved ones was difficult as the cell phone services were immediately jammed with EVERYONE trying to do the same thing – Have alternate means of communication.
  3. Once they were reached they required a conversation to get them going – Have a code word to cut through this.  Discuss this with whoever you need to and gain an understanding of when I call/email/text XXX it means GO!
  4. When I got home I wasted time packing a bug out bag – Have one ready at all times.  Or, if I had a get home bag ready at my office I could have gone back up and grabbed that.

urban prepping

A Threat From Afar

One beautiful August Sunday afternoon in 2004 I was barbecuing at a friend’s place, relaxing and generally having a great day.  We were watching the game and it was interrupted by a news flash.

It was reported that a laptop had been found in Pakistan that included detailed plans to attack several financial institutions in our fair city. One of the buildings specifically listed was the Citigroup Center.  I had been working for Citigroup for a couple of years at this point and frequently worked out of this exact building.

I was frozen in my tracks.  Why would someone that I had never met want to kill me because I worked in a particular building?  To this day it makes no sense to me.

The response from the national, state, and local government was overwhelming.  Laura Bush actually came to the Citigroup Center to have lunch to show support.

I showed up to my office building on Monday not knowing what to expect.  I knew some people were planning on not showing up to the office until more information came out.  When I arrived what I was met with was, as I said, overwhelming:

  • A line of police cruisers literally around the block
  • Armed National Guardsmen on the corners
  • Bomb sniffing dogs circling the building
  • Newly installed airport style metal detectors and x-ray machines that had to be passed through to get in the front door

The show of force helped inspire confidence in my fellow employees.  People could come to work knowing that others were working around the clock to keep them as safe a possible.  I never really got used to having to get my bag x-rayed and emptying my pockets before getting to my desk but it did help others reduce the spectre of violence from their everyday lives.  Once this was overcome people were compelled to outwardly show resolve and return normalcy to their everyday lives.

Lessons Learned

  1. Violence really can come from any place any where.  There is not much to do about this really other than prepare as best you can, keep your eyes peeled and most importantly keep on living your life.
  2. The people that would carry out these terrible acts against us cannot be reasoned with.  Or, if they can, their frame of reference is so alien to my own that constructive dialogue is impossible.
  3. We cannot live in fear.  Do everything you can to return a sense of normalcy to yourself and those around you.  Lead by example if you can.  Love or hate the Bush Presidency, I respect Laura’s attempt to show strength through her own example.

How Did I Take Action?

These events were a big a wake up call to me and my family members who either lived or worked in NYC.  We ended up putting together my first rudimentary bug out plan to be ready for whatever may come next.  To be honest, it wasn’t a very good plan but basic enough to work.  Thankfully we never needed it.  I will be going over this first bug out plan in another article in the near future, so keep an eye out for it for it!   I will highlight good points and areas for improvement in this original plan as well as show you how you can use my mistakes improve your own plan.

urban survival
A beautiful Autumn day in Central Park, life carries on

What to take away from it all?

There are some serious points and dark times discussed here.  However, I think it is important to say that in the 7 years that I lived in NYC, these never overwhelmed the amazing experiences and fantastic people that I met along the way.

This is what I think should be the big takeaway.  Although we are all a little more wary than we used to be and some things have changed we can NEVER allow this to run our lives.

By all means prepare yourself as best as possible and learn what skills you can to help you survive and protect your loved ones.  As I continue my own life’s journey I will certainly continue to do so.  But, I will also live, love, and learn a far greater amount of the time.  No matter what happens I will focus on the positives in my life such as my family and the friends I have made and adventures we have had rather than the dark moments.

Your Thoughts?

Have you had an experience that has taught you an important preparedness lesson?  Please share it with us in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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