6 Urban Survival Skills Most Commonly Overlooked

urban survival skills

Urban survival skills are one of the most talked about topics in preparedness but definitely the hardest concept to grasp.  There is the debate that proposes that urban survival is more challenging than suburban and rural survival.  Being that most preppers live in urban environments it is important to discuss the skills necessary to survive.

Being well trained in urban survival skills can be useful for many types of scenarios.  It doesn’t only apply to bugging out.  The truth of the matter is that bugging out isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

Some people fantasize and almost even romanticize about the possibility or threat of being forced to bug out.  But the truth is that bugging out could put you in more danger than just hunkering down and staying put.  This is especially true if you live in a hugely populated city like New York where millions of people will be attempting to evacuate as well.  A few years back I wrote a post to help you determine if and when you should bug out which you can read HERE.

Scenarios That Call for Urban Survival Skills

There are different types of scenarios where urban survival skills can be useful.  Essentially, there are less extreme scenarios like blackouts that may not necessarily require someone to bug out.  Still those skills would give such person an advantage.

Then there are more extreme scenarios like an EMP attack or economic collapse that could change the way of life for millions of people.  Those scenarios may require someone to bug out.  Urban survival skills could also be useful while trying to get home in such a scenario.

In either scenario, you will be facing potential dangers from others and from the elements.  Many websites talk about the same basic urban survival skills that should be obvious to most. In this post, we are going to talk about six that are commonly overlooked.

6 Urban Survival Skills Most Commonly Overlooked

1.  Situational Awareness Skills

Situational awareness is an important urban survival skill that should be exercised on a daily basis.  This goes hand in hand with self-defense skills.  By exercising situational awareness you can prevent yourself and others from getting into the situation where you need to defend yourself.  It puts an emphasis on avoidance.

Being situationally aware isn’t all about being paranoid on a daily basis.  Instead, it opens your eyes to the possibilities of what could go wrong.  Situational awareness isn’t all about being ready to defend yourself either.  It is also helpful in escaping dangerous situations.

For example, if there is a fire in a restaurant, having situational awareness gives you the advantage of knowing where all of the exits are located.  That way you don’t panic and have to look for those exits when SHTF.  Instead, you have already identified those exits before such an emergency occurs.

How to Practice Situational Awareness

There are a few ways that you can develop and practice situational awareness.  One way is that you can practice people watching.  This can help you develop a baseline for each environment.

For example, if you are at a restaurant, most people there are going to be relaxed as it is a casual environment.  So if you see someone pacing back and forth looking nervous then you know it isn’t consistent with the baseline.  This should alarm you and draw your attention.

2.  Self Defense Skills

It is a statistical fact that urban areas are more violent than suburban and rural environments.  There could be a few factors that attribute to this.  Regardless, having self-defense skills is an important urban survival skill.

These are needed not only to survive SHTF type scenarios but also on an everyday basis.  Of course, there is a big debate whether guns make a society safer or less safe.  Regardless of people’s feelings, data doesn’t lie.

Non-Lethal Self Defense Options

Even if you don’t believe in using a gun for self-defense, you still need the ability to defend yourself.  Not only should you value your own life but those of your family and friends.  This is especially true if you find yourself in a WROL (without rule of law) type of scenario.

There are some more hand to hand combat skills that you can learn to help you build those skills.  There are some really great options like Krav Maga and Wing Chun.  I have practiced Wing Chun myself.  It is a great way to defend yourself especially against bigger individuals.

But let’s say if your attacker is armed with some sort of weapon.  Immediately, that puts you at a disadvantage even if you have self-defense training.  So sometimes you will have to match the force of your attacker in order to survive.

How to Develop Self-Defense Skills

Some self-defense classes will also teach you how to use weapons including knives and tactical pens.  Ultimately, I do believe it is important to know how to use a gun in a self-defense scenario.  It is said that the only thing that beats a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  This why when you are in danger of losing your life you will immediately call the police.  These are the good guys with the guns.

When it comes to using a handgun in self-defense, I recommend getting some training beyond what is required for CCW.  There are a lot of tactical training courses throughout the United States.  NRA’s website also has a directory of trainers that are close to you which you can find by clicking HERE.

Why Target Practice Is Not Enough

Just going to the gun range to practice your accuracy isn’t sufficient.  At a gun range, you are shooting a sitting target.  In a self-defense situation, you are going to be facing aggressive, moving targets that will cause a lot of emotional stress.

When you are under that type of pressure, you automatically go into fight or flight mode.  Most will choose the flight mode.  Then most of the others who choose to fight are not properly trained to effectively defend themselves.  In fact, most people choose flight not because they are cowards (at least not all of them) but because they lack the confidence that comes from training.

3.  Escape & Evasion Skills

You may be forced into a situation where you are completely outnumbered.  In such a scenario you are at a disadvantage.  As the saying goes “there is strength in numbers.”

Escape and evasion is about being stealth and covering your tracks.  It also incorporates counter tracking your opponents as well.  This gives you predictability of where to expect an attack coming from.

You most likely won’t be able to take on a whole group of people by yourself.  There is the possibility that you can take them out individually if you are that much of a badass.  However, that isn’t advised.  You definitely want to take the necessary steps to live to see another day.

Black Scout Survival has some really great videos about about urban survival skills.  Some of his best videos gets into depth about escape and evasion.  It is something that he practiced frequently while serving in the military.

4.  Navigational Skills

Navigational abilities is a must have when it comes to urban survival skills.  Of course, it comes in handy in suburban and rural survival but navigating in an urban environment is different.

In an urban survival situation you have a lot more options when it comes to navigating.  In urban settings there are many more roads and navigational options.  There are typically many different routes that you can take to get to a certain location.

The Importance of Knowing Your Surroundings

Being able to effectively navigate means that you have to be familiar with the area.  This not only includes roads but also utilizing train tracks, subways or underground tunnels could give you an advantage.  The more time that you spend trying to look at maps takes away from the time that could be used for escaping.

It is even more important when you are traveling.  Typically before I go on business trips I will buy a map of the city that I am visiting.  I will then identify potential escape routes and choke points to avoid while trying to evacuate.

You could download and print maps online but honestly it will take forever.  However, if you have a foldable map of the city then you can easily place them in your survival bag.  Of course, you could use electronic navigation systems but will be useless in extreme scenarios like an EMP attack.

5.  Leadership Skills

The ability to lead isn’t just exclusive to your job.  Whether you realize it or not, everyone is a leader even outside of work.  If you have a family or survival group there has to be leadership otherwise everything will fall into chaos.

If you have ever been a part of a group where everyone wanted to make decisions then you probably noticed that nothing ever got done.  The reason being is that either no one wanted to take charge or nobody in the group was influential enough to lead.

That is the downside of democracy.  Everyone wants to be heard and vote on everything.  But when it comes to survival, you don’t have time to sit around to vote and deliberate.  Things must get done quickly because lives are on the line.

Ultimately, leadership is being able to effectively influence a group of people.  You can’t influence others without them respecting you.  Building respect is done through communicating correctly, maintaining integrity and getting things done.  To help you develop your leadership skills I recommend reading books by John C. Maxwell including Developing the Leader Within You.  You can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

6.  Emergency Radio Communication Skills

Knowing how to operate emergency radios is important for communicating with not only family and friends but also the authorities.  We live in a world, especially in urban environments, where we are totally reliant on our cellphones.

However, if an emergency happens where all cellphone towers are down then you will be down the creek without a paddle.  You won’t be able to properly communicate or gather information about the emergency that you are involved in.

How Emergency Radios Are Helpful in Disasters

For example, a few years back, here in Florida we were hit by a hurricane that knocked out power for almost two weeks.  It also knocked out the cellphone towers.  Luckily, I had a HAM radio to get information from radio stations.  I could’ve also used it to communicate with others.

Instead our neighborhood incorporated using walkie-talkies.  With these we were able to setup night watch shifts for security.  We took turns watching out while our other neighbors slept.  We were also able to communicate with others who needed food and supplies.

Another example that shows how knowing how to use emergency radios as one of the most important urban survival skills was when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  Thousands of people’s lives were saved by the helpfulness of HAM radio operators.  The operators were able to communicate with people that were stranded by the floods and relay that information to rescue teams.

How to Develop Emergency Radio Skills

To get training for operating HAM radios I would recommend joining local HAM operator clubs.  They typically will provide helpful training.  These clubs will event assist you with getting certification to operate HAM radios.


Altogether these would be the six urban survival skills that are most commonly overlooked.  If you have any additional suggestions or feedback then please a comment below.  Your feedback helps the community to prepare the smart way now so that we can thrive later.

urban survival skills