As we seek to Be Prepared, we must consider the range of possibilities that may occur. Our location–population density, available wood, water, food production potential, transportation challenges, necessity of clothing and bedding for warmth–will affect how we prepare. But the basic factors of survival–shelter, water, clothing, food, fire, sanitation, security, transportation, communication–will be needed anywhere.
Most of us live inside city limits, and travel on paved roads in automobiles. Our nation is one of the most urbanized societies in the world, considering the low population density we enjoy (about 6-7 acres per person, nation-wide). But around the world, the overall trend is for people to move toward city living. So, we cannot address preparedness without considering:
This applies to EVERYONE. Even those who live in the wilderness. Chances are, we travel to a city to shop, if not for employment. Is our church in town? Do we drive on roads that take us through towns? If so, we need to be prepared for urban survival.
Most of us are skilled at urban survival as long as we have enough money, the power is on, the gas pumps work, the phones work, the credit cards function, the internet is up, the supply trucks keep rolling, and the emergency services are dependable. We are comfortable–too comfortable.
However, if the electric power goes out for a few days (which is very, very rare in the larger cities), there is a major crisis–especially in winter!
Electric heat, including water heaters, is out. Many people move into their cars to keep warm–while the fuel lasts. Plumbing freezes and breaks.
Many cities have strict regulations on wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, and few urbanites have a meaningful amount of firewood on hand. Many have never built a fire, and lack common sense about fire safety.
L.E.D. headlamps, with a supply of batteries; hurricane lanterns, with a supply of K1 Kerosene, or #2 fuel oil; floating lamp wicks that can be placed in a dish of cooking oil; candle-lanterns; the “bug,” a primitive candle-lantern, quickly fabricated from a tin can and wire–all are good to keep on hand.
Camp stove–propane, or white gas. Extra fuel.
Charcoal burner. Extra charcoal.
Rocket stove–sootier, but burns twigs and rubble very efficiently.
Water and Hygiene
If the water and sewer systems are disrupted, suddenly the toilets do not flush; the sink is dry; the washing machine doesn’t work; and we can’t bathe normally. Worse yet, some areas are dependent on electric pumps to remove sewage. When these pumps quit (often when the backup generators run out of fuel), sewage spills over into the lower-level houses, rendering them uninhabitable.
Water in the city is usually polluted. Tap-water is a health hazard, right now; but when standard supply systems are shut down, it will be worse. River water in the city is notorious. Rainwater may be full of car exhaust and other toxins. Therefore, we will probably want to filter it. If nothing else, put some charcoal (NOT briquettes, but food-grade charcoal, or home-made) in the water, to absorb some of these poisons. Allow dirt to settle, and pour off the upper part. Then boil, or expose to sunlight in a clear container, for at least two hours.
We can make a sand/charcoal filter in a bucket, or we may wish to purchase a carbon/ceramic filter. Avoid the small, hand-pumped filters. Gravity- and siphon-types will save tremendous time and energy!
The other option that we must not forget, is distillation. Obviously, distilling water takes a huge amount of energy, and when the electricity is out, we would need to use a stove-top distiller that can operate on various heat sources–most likely, a rocket stove.
If there is rain, catch it! Rainwater collection may be most universally-available water source. Rain gutters could be a lifesaver. Be sure to have plenty of buckets, barrels, clean garbage cans, or other containers, to catch water in. If we don’t have gutters, roof valleys will funnel large amounts of water into a single container. Tarpaulins or plastic sheeting can be tied up to create a funnel-shaped roof that will empty into a bucket.
Due to the undependability of rain, be prepared with enough stored water to last through the longest dry-spell you normally have during the year. Any extra water will be an excellent commodity in trade, or give the luxury of a slightly more generous ration.
How much water? 1 gallon per day for drinking and cooking, and at least 2 gallons for washing, per person in the home.
For an average household of 3, this is 9 gallons per day. If it is common to have 90 days with no rain in the summer, that is 810 gallons. A 1,000-gallon tank might be good. Otherwise, about 1 pallet (4 x 4 x 4 feet each) of bottled water for each person. Buckets or plastic barrels also work. Save the empty containers to refill. Keep funnels handy.
Hand-washing, bathing, laundry, all compete for precious water. Showers and tub-baths are out. But the toilet is the worst culprit. Be sure to quit using it immediately. For a water-outage of a few days, it may be possible to simply store up the human waste in buckets with lids, set outside the living area. But soon, it will be necessary to find a place to bury the contents.
Toilet paper may be in short supply. Newspaper is next. One valuable item may be the bidet bottle, which facilitates washing instead of wiping. Otherwise, it may be necessary to use (and wash) rags, consuming precious water.
It is probable that, within a week or two of non-functioning water and sewer, lack of sanitation will begin to reap a grim harvest in any sizeable city.
If the supply trucks are stopped, expect the store to be nearly empty of edibles before the sun goes down. Expect instant panic in the cities. Be prepared, avoid the temptation to join the melee at the grocery story.
Within a couple weeks of no food supply, it is likely that pets will disappear, and vegetation will be under pressure. Historically, people begin dying in quantity after about 4 weeks without food. (Siege warfare.)
Refrigeration quits when power quits. Food rots. Rotten food kills.
City air is always more-or-less polluted, but when smoke, raw sewage and decaying corpses are added in, it can be deadly.
We cannot have a complete discussion of urban survival without a mention of the biggest problem of all–security. When police are overwhelmed and phones are out, crime goes wild. Desperate people will organize for defense and for plunder. Both guards and gangs are obstacles to travel. Expect to be on guard constantly, 24 hours a day. Expect surprise attacks from heavily armed gangs. Kidnaping for ransom becomes common. Understand God’s law, and obey. Matthew 24:43; Exodus 22:2. Holy angels will work with you. Psalm 34:7. Failure to do one’s duty will leave the survivors with deep regrets.
Eschew government shelters. Once in, leaving is often not allowed. And when the lights are out, and the bathroom becomes a barnyard, the word “dungeon” comes to mind. My grandfather worked in one.
“Erelong there will be such strife and confusion in the cities, that those who wish to leave them will not be able. We must be preparing for these issues.” General Conference Bulletin, April 6, 1903.
Living On the Bullseye
Could it really happen? It will happen. It has already happened many, many times.
“O that God’s people had a sense of the impending destruction of thousands of cities, now almost given to idolatry!” “The powers of the enemy are mustering for battle. Stern conflicts are before us. Press together, my brethren and sisters, press together. Bind up with Christ.” Review and Herald, September 10, 1903.
“The Lord has been working with my mind and soul… reviewing scenes…. The wrath of God will come upon all cities, upon dwellings, upon large building, so suddenly that they who have the slightest intimation have no safety in dallying at all.” –E. G. White, Ms. 233, 1902.
God’s people must separate from the wicked cities. Otherwise we will partake in their sins, and be destroyed with them. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Revelation 18:1-4.
I am reminded of those who, just before Hurricane Katrina, were forewarned of God in dreams, and made their escape before the roads were clogged and closed. Pray for it!
So if you live in or near the city, keep your fuel tanks full, your bug-out-bags packed, and have multiple safer destinations pre-arranged. Pray for God’s forewarning, and be prepared for instant action, even if there is no visible sign of danger! Don’t try to save stuff at the expense of life. Remember Lot’s wife. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.