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Not often spoken of, I think in the survivalist or prepper circle, is how to avoid becoming a refugee post SHTF. We talk a lot about prepping, we talk a lot about bugging out or bugging in, but we never really talk about the situation where we do find ourselves shut off from our gear and are in a situation where our preps don’t help us much.  For instance, what if you are in NYC or on Long Island and there is some emergency and the tunnels and bridges are shut down for an undetermined amount of time.  You’re stuck on one of the islands maybe without anywhere to go.  Almost immediately you are a trapped refugee.

I should also preface this with some of your decisions as a refugee may or may not be the most ethical decisions based on you need to survive.

I should probably also define SHTF.  SHTF does not have to be an invasion by a foreign power, earthquake, hurricane, etc.  It could be something as simple as losing your job and being forced out of your home.  For the purposes of this post, however, feel free to apply whatever situation you might think you would most likely put you in a situation where you might actually be a refugee.  Let’s also assume you are in a highly populated area like the suburbs of a major city or the major city itself.

Apply your situation, and you find yourself homeless with little cash.  Communications systems are up and down, and there is still law enforcement and security of some sort.  Assume you have your EDC on you, and a backpack with minimal supplies.  Where would you go?  What would you do?  Would you live on the street?  Enter a shelter?  Find an abandon building?

First, let me tell you what will happen if you enter a shelter.  Chances are you will be searched upon entering, no weapons, knives, food, multi-tools, etc.  Nada.  How do I know this?  Remember my friend who was in the shelter, and that kit I made him?  Well, they confiscated half the stuff out of the kit.  Including the multi-tool and the ER Bar that I had in the kit.  You will have to cache many of your supplies and hope they are there the next day when you return for them.  Try doing that in the city, and feel good about it.  Second, should you choose to live on the street during a SHTF in the city, you better be good at urban evasion tactics, and I am not just talking about from authorities.  I am talking other refugees, existing homeless, gangs, etc.

To that end, if the bridges and tunnels to NYC are shut down, chances are it is going to be a while before any fresh medical supplies, bottled water (because no one from the city drinks from the tap), food (as the public knows it), etc. makes its way into the city and properly distributed.  And properly distributed during a SHTF is clearly government distribution and rationed supplies.  Now, if food and supplies can come in, then they will clearly be evacuating those out of the city to wherever they set up camp.  That’s a lot additional refugees and locusts that will be filling in the suburbs.  I hope some or many are prepared for that.  What to do when the locusts evacuate the city into the suburbs will be another post altogether.

Not to mention there will be a mass exodus to try to get out of the city.  Everyone with a country home in NY State, PA, or elsewhere will be trying to get out of the city.  Those that have family outside the city will be trying to get outside the city.  There will be refugees floating around everywhere.  And when they find out they cannot get off the island of Manhattan, they are going to get angry.   Those that have completely adapted to the urban lifestyle will have very few resources in their apartment.  They will run out of food and water quickly.  Then comes desperate measure.

If they keep the bridges and tunnels open, good luck getting over or through them at any speed.  People will be walking, biking, running, in their car, etc.  Think of the stories about how hard it was to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina.  The roads were packed going about two MPH for miles and miles.  By the time anyone gets from one side of the tunnel or bridge walking or going so slowly it takes hours, there are going to be a lot of angry people.  If you are going into NJ and you are walking, to get as far as the Meadowlands you have to go over at least one more bridge over a river.  Assuming the NJ State police do not have these roads blocked off, you may be able to make it to your destination.  If it six hours to go six miles it might take a lot longer than that if you try to get to your destination.

If you get stuck in the city (any city) it is likely you will also be deprived of the basic necessity of sleep, since you will be on a heightened state of alert most of the time.  Some of the things you might encounter would be yelling, screaming, sirens, megaphones talking as they are driving down the road, people crying, localized riots and civil unrest.  Along with your sleep deprivation will be your diminished decision making capacity that follows it.

99% of the people in a city or the suburbs are not going to be prepared for any emergency.  Most people aren’t going to get 10 miles.  They are going to get hungry, tired, angry, or worse hostile towards other refugees around them.

The truth is, I am not even sure I would make it.  There are a lot of variables, and I am constantly trying to prep and prepare for the uncertain.

So, with all those thoughts, (because that is what they really were, a collection of what if thoughts) if any SHTF occurs, what will you do about it?  How will you handle it?  What will your level of preparation be?

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We’re a group of suburban preppers in the Northeast and live in the NYC suburbs that write The Suburban Survival Blog to talk about preparedness and self-reliance out there to help others prepare for what could be an uncertain future due to economic, weather, and other reasons.