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?
This is a difficult scenario.
I did not know that when entering a shelter, they take your food. What is the rationale there? If I have 72 hours of food and water, why would they take it? I think I would try to hide my knife and/or multitool on my person and see how much they search. Are they going to go into my underwear to search for my “tool”? 😉 I guess the need for cache supplies (garbage bag, zip lock, etc) go up.
Yep, if the SHTF and I have my GHB, but am blocked from getting home, I would be seriously screwed. If I did not have my GHB, and just my EDC tin (thanks for the tips by the way on the contents), then I would be in worse shape. I could survive 2–3 days, maybe a little longer depending upon the weather (it is colder than hell in south Texas this week). I guess it would then be improvising shelter and trying to scrounge for food/water. No doubt I could find a container and have purification tablets in my EDC. Shelter would be the next priority followed by food. Having a GHB would provide both. I think I would try to blend in with the homeless and hid what I had. Then, if I can work my way home, I would. Walking 30 miles home from work in two days is doable. The dog and cats would be upset in the house, but alive.
Anyway…thanks for posting this. It makes us think about urban survival situation and how we would react.
Jim, I think they take the food because there are so many other people in the shelter. i.e. you have something someone else will clearly want, and they do not want to create an issue by you having something that is clearly a need. I can see violence starting over a pack of crackers.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to my time in NYC when I worked there. I lived only seven miles from the Lincoln Tunnel, and then it is another mile or so into the city, and my office was probably a half mile from the tunnel itself, so let’s call it 10 miles, two rivers, etc. My GHB was fine in theory, but I was not prepared assuming I had to walk or get across two rivers that would have been a real challenge if the bridges were closed or they were not there anymore…
Oh, and you’re welcome on the tips. That list is by no means complete I am sure, so feel free to make your own suggestions as well. 🙂
I think Suburban is refering to city run homeless shelters, not Red Cross, FEMA, or local emergency shelters when there like a huricane or earthquake.
Exactly what I was referring to… 🙂
Another great feature of shelters during an “event” is that you are usually under armed guard and not allowed to leave.
I’m just happy that I hate the city and avoid it like the plague! I don’t know how people commute to NYC daily without losing their minds and souls! (Perhaps they have???)
So, I’m not going to be stuck in NYC, but I’ll be in the burbs trying to anticipate the flood of humanity leaving the city. I’ve already decided I’m not bugging out and joining the masses on the roads unless the area is somehow uninhabitable and I’m forced to do so.
Not a good situation, I know, but in my mind I’m better off home than not. I think. 🙂
If you drive into the city every day, that could make you crazy, but if you get on a bus or train, you read, work, or sleep. Not so bad. I did it for several years. It is getting off the island that would be the issue…
It would be a bad situation indeed, being stuck in the city when SHTF. Can’t really consider a shelter, because most shelters would separate the family, not many will take everyone. We’d still attempt to leave, even it it’s on foot, with a tent and the BOB, and try not to attract attention. Good article, tough to think about but necessary to plan.
You’re right. If you live in an urban center if you’re not one of the first out you’re toast! 🙁
Being on LI it’s almost as bad. To get off the island you have to pass through the city one way or another. Not a thought I like.
I’d rather plan than go to a shelter;
You know, Suburban Survivalist, I am always evaluating my Bug Out plans. They are always changing. Every time I speak to someone with a different perspective, they get modified a little bit.