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Get Out Alive: A Guide for Urban Survival by Derek Smith

When it comes to urban survival, there is no one size fits all solution. You must prepare in various ways when it comes to surviving an emergency or crisis situation. Each situation may require a different and possibly unique set of skills to deal with the crisis. Because of this, it’s important for you to plan and be prepared for each emergency to ensure the survival of yourself and your family.

Of course, this is an easy statement for me to make as this is easier said than done. You have to find the time to train in various scenarios and you have to be able to develop strategies and tactics that will help you to cope with these varied extreme situations.

Your most basic strategy is to try to keep calm. This will be hard, but you have to do it. Be alert and keep your wits about you. Let’s look at some other areas that will help you get out alive.

Basically, when I am advising on urban survival I talk about two main sections: honing your street skills and being prepared for danger in your home.

1. Street Skills

Let’s begin with your street skills. The type of skills I recommend here are the skills that will be helpful in extreme survival situations such as cases where you may lose your home or at least be surviving in the streets and cannot get to your home immediately.

First, you must have the mindset that you can and will survive. If you give up, you are most likely done. When I taught at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Academy located in Washington DC, I always emphasized to my agent trainees that they could survive even if shot or stabbed. Many of them grew up on images of people getting shot on TV and being knocked on their ass and not being able to get up. You can get up and you can survive. So, do what you need to develop that survival mindset.

During a crisis situation in an urban environment, your first duty should be to follow the golden rule of three:

  1. Find food
  2. Find water
  3. Find shelter

These 3 items, above all else, are essential to your survival in time of crises. The next two are:

  1. Getting first aid
  2. Getting rescued

The strategy and thought process behind this is that you need to learn lifesaving skills well before you need them. If a crisis strikes tomorrow, do you have the skills you need to survive? Have you learned them already?

First, try to acquire a better knowledge of your environment and your area. Be aware of such things as any gang territories you need to avoid for instance.

Second, sound self-defense skills are always beneficial. It may likely come down to your having to fight your way out of some situations, even if you have a weapon. You cannot just start shooting and stabbing people, if you can even bring yourself to do it… it ain’t easy!

Moreover, you need to gain knowledge about the benefits of various articles used in your day-to-day life. You’ll never know what may come in handy during apparently inescapable situations! In my Special Agent Combative course I have a section on improvised weapons for instance. Almost anything can be used as a weapon. But I am not just talking about weapons. You could have to syphon gas from a car as an example. Do you know how to?

2. Home Preparedness

So, I spoke briefly about surviving in the streets. There is much more to be said, just check out some of the other articles offered by FightFast for other ideas.

You need to learn how to protect yourself in your home. And, you need to involve your family in the planning process. In doing so, they’ll understand the importance of each of their roles during an emergency situation when the strategies you develop are implemented. Let look at a few home security tactics.

3· Home Security

You should think about different types of situations you can find yourself in during a crisis. These are called Threat Vectors. You must imagine every way you can be attacked in your home. Once you do this you focus on the attackers, who they may be and how they might actually attack you in your home.Once this is done, you check your home for vulnerabilities to each imagined threat. A vulnerability is a weakness that exists in your defenses against the threats. This is where the attacker could take advantage.

For example, in my home, I have cameras placed at the front, rear, and sides of my home. That may sound extreme to you, but a few years back thieves broke into every car on my block including mine. I bought the cameras along with upgrading my alarm system. I can now see anyone approaching my home. Once I was alerted that my front door alarm went off while I was at work. I could see via my cell phone that there was a man at my door. Thankfully it turned out to be the mailman, who wears civilian clothes. But at least I knew what was happening. My system also has sensors at every door and window as well as glass break systems to warn me if someone breaks a window to get in.

So according to the threat vectors and vulnerabilities of your home, you should find ways to secure your home. You should also make sure you have adequate transportation available should you have to “bug out” and the transportation should be well stocked with any necessary supplies. I talked about a “bug out” bag in another article.

Some possibilities you may have to prepare for include:

  • Nuclear disaster: a simple fallout shelter outside your home or in the basement should be properly built.
  • Biological warfare: Bio-filters, duct tapes, basic drugs, and first aid should be stocked up.
  • Chemical: Chemical filters, duct tapes, steel plates, plastic should be stored for use.
  • Even flood situations.

You also need to keep certain weapons handy for use in case of home invasions. You need to invest in firearms. I used to have many, but I have boiled it down to three, a shotgun, a high-powered rifle, and an automatic handgun. I used to also have a revolver and may get another as they don’t malfunction like automatics do. One other thing I plan to do is study the use of bows and arrows. This could come in handy if I have to hunt for food and either run out of bullets or need to be quiet.

You should also have sprinkler and security systems and know how to properly maintain and use them. Additionally, you should have, know how to use and inspect fire extinguishers on a regular basis.

Protecting Your Family

I mentioned earlier that you need to involve your family in planning for your, and their, protection. A good planning process and regular drills prove to be beneficiary in this regard.

All members of the family should be well versed with basic self-defense and firearm safety skills. None of you have to become black belts if you don’t want to, but you should learn some basic skills, from a reality-based system, and become proficient with those skills, meaning practice them on occasion.

Food Storage

Make sure that you have an adequate food supply. Store foods that have a longer shelf life such as freeze-dried food.

Water Storage

My wife says I have a water fetish because I keep cases of bottled water. You can stock portable water in plastic drums or canisters. If you have the budget for it, you can have a 1,000-gallon capacity stainless steel tank installed. If nothing else, keep cases of water around like I do.


You need to properly plan for alternative secure shelters and hold regular mock drills for evacuation. This will help you and your family to get out at a moment’s notice during emergencies. I have a two-story home, so I keep a couple of flexible ladders my family can use to escape from an upstairs window if we need to.

Getting Rescued

Start setting up signals as soon as your immediate survival needs are met. The basic idea behind this is to draw attention of your rescuers to your position. Use a mirror, flashlight, red flags, branches of trees and fire to attract attention. Don’t depend on others for help. Instead, keep a look out for non-profit organizations employed in rescuing people, like the Red Cross or FEMA, or even the national guard.

If you think crises or emergency situation cannot happen to you, just keep in mind the Louisiana flooding situations and all the weather-related disasters that have been occurring lately. These often result in looting and other situations of which you may have to survive. And during these turbulent times, who knows what’s in store for us in the immediate future.

No doubt urban survival is a ceaseless struggle to stay alive. Don’t be surprised if your wits are constantly put to the test. This can prove to be extremely unsettling and difficult. So, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for any emergencies.

You don’t want to be caught off guard without the right survival knowledge and equipment when something happens. Knowing the best tips and tricks to surviving a disaster can be the difference between life and death, and we here at Fight Fast are here to help.

Click Here For More Lessons From Derek Smith

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25 thoughts on “Get Out Alive: A Guide for Urban Survival by Derek Smith”

  1. I honestly recommend even in urban survival a go bag stocked for wilderness survival, because if you prepare for living in the woods you’ll be ready for living in an urban environment without proper shelter, food, or water. Instead of making a bag with the bias that the store is down the road and the water tank is downstairs.

  2. Being a combat veteran and being in law enforcement for the past thirty years even I found something new to think about just in this short article. Thank you for teaching an old dog new tricks.

  3. You should change this line: >> Infamous combat vet shares secrets with you! <<

    "Infamous" applies to very bad famous people: Hitler, Stalin, Ted Bundy, etc. (Vile people who became famous by doing horrible things.) Better to say "famous," or "Highly acclaimed" or "well known" or "highly respected"…something like that.

  4. How long can I store 5 gallons of water in the blue plastic jugs before dumping and replacing the water? It is kept in a cool dark storage.

  5. What about the elderly who live in apartments. I’m on the third floor of my apartment building and I am handicapped. Give me some idea’s to help myself in an urban crisis.

  6. Good presentation. Knives are part everyday life on a ranch. I am too old for knife fighting. Must depend on firearms, which I have an abundance in my walk in gun vault.
    Still buying Double barrel and single shot 12 gauge shotguns. Need to arm employees for predator control. History tells us that they will abuse firearms.

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for the reminders, easy to forget in the day to day whirl that things can change quickly and for the worse.
    There is value in reminding those who might otherwise forget this reality.


  8. While I know most of this article, it is a good reminder every once in a while to read it again. Thanks

  9. Like to order fight fast self defense CDs an there’s a bunch of very interesting stuff you have brought up in this article

  10. Most of these things you covered sbould be “common sense “, but you would be suprised where ” ANY SENSE ” goes when the ” Fecal material hits the Air Circulator”. Good things to keep in mind and practice with your family. Keep up the good work . Stay Safe!

  11. Great thought provoking article; how many times has it been said “it can’t happen to me”, or “that disaster if for them way over there”, and so think it could Never happen to me here”. Remember the “Unsinkable Titanic” ?????????? We all know what a tragic disaster that was. Need i say more ???????

  12. Yes..if a lot more people would prepare for the worst..and prep just a little the crisis would be more sastainable.lookout for you and yours first and foremost,but if possible get your Neighbourhood involved (safety in numbers)for instance..we have a very good hood and think we are ready.. with the ability to lock down a four block area and hold in place..(depending on the Situation)we have the ability to bug out in a small but well armed convoy to a second location and even a third..have food,water and shelter for 30 days for everyone.hope it never happens..In closing all I can say is get together bring it up at a card game slowly but Shirley your plans can come together and be prepared be safe and help where you can

  13. Thank you for your blog Derek! I am an 81 year old guy with a very active lifestyle so I am not totally helpless. However, I surely cannot outrun trouble or troublesome persons anymore or be a trained self-defense type. I wish I could, but wishes don’t feed the bulldog. I do have some guns and good self-defense knives. I would definitely put up a fight in an attack, especially if a family member or friend was in danger. I could at least act tough and get in the way long enough to give them 15 or 20 seconds in order to flee the scene. I said all that to ask this – do you know of any instruction course or manual(in addition to those noted in your blog) that is designed specifically for us seasoned citizens? I would appreciate your input! Thanks again for your blog; I will be adding a shotgun soon.

  14. Good article. For water, most people have a 40 gallon hot water tank in the house. It is good drinking water in an emergency.

  15. Very informative and direct. Loved the blog. Will be listening to more. Thank you so much for all the free information. This is just awesome.

  16. This is indeed a good package on safety. As a member of the Emergency First Aid Team (EFAT), I sure will recommend this to my team.
    Good job, thanks.

  17. Enjoyed the article, have a question about placing markers for rescue organizations. Wouldn’t such actions draw the desperate and vile sorts to you and place you/me in more danger?

  18. Shouldn’t water be first on the list, rather than second? You’ll die far faster from dehydration than starvation.
    Other than that, good food for thought.