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Land Navigation: Finding Your Way in an Urban Environment SHTF Style

An urban environment is the most challenging of all places, because of the amount of people you’ll have to deal with and the number of confusing (and dangerous) situations that will arise when the SHTF.

ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, this is Part 3 for you in our land navigation series that touches on a subject that most do not consider.  In an urban environment, why would you need a map, right?  I mean, it’s the city…you just have to find the street, right?  Well, it is true that you need to know the streets and avenues, but it is an incomplete picture.  Urban Land Navigation poses different challenges in a survival situation than if you are in open terrain (rural).

6 Considerations to Keep in Mind When Navigation in an Urban Area

In an urban environment you need a map of the immediate vicinity of your home and your usual areas of travel on a daily basis.  The urban environment requires you to study various aspects of your home and home-range to figure out some things pertaining to exit/exfiltration.  Let’s list a few of them.

  1. Periodic points where you can take shelter
  2. Total distance you need to traverse to be free of the city/town
  3. Potential sources of food, water, and medical supplies you may need in your movement
  4. Physical danger locations: Is there a large dam near your house?  Unsafe bridges that may need to be crossed?  Large, swiftly-moving river with sewage/toxic chemicals, etc., that you may have to ford?
  5. Social “Hotspots”: Will you be traversing an area that passes through the “territory” of delinquent gangs (Crips, Bloods, etc.) that may place you at risk?
  6. Authorities: Remembering the “Good Guys” can turn bad at any given moment, where are the police stations, FEMA and DHS HQ’s, and National Guard outposts located regarding your departure path?

Now keep in mind, you’ll need a good map and it would also be a good idea to laminate it to protect it.  Then cut yourself a good, sturdy sheet of clear plastic sheeting to use as an overlay.  Dry erase is nice for a presentation, but what you want here is the old-fashioned “grease” pencils, like these. These are water resistant and can be used on glass metal and plastic. I highly recommend getting different colors of black and red pencils.  That is enough, as you don’t need to confuse yourself.  Use a binder clip to keep your overlay and your map together…your map shouldn’t be more than a square foot or so.  You’re attempting an exfil, not conducting a geological survey.  You also don’t want someone to find your map if you lose it and then know where you’re going.

This is a key point: You want to perform a route reconnaissance of how you want to leave the city.

Believe you me, you do want to leave the city ASAP!  The morning may have started out as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but it’s about to become John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York.”  Take your route from two scenarios: with a vehicle or on foot.  What might take you a few hours in a vehicle might take you several days on foot.  The “Bug-Out Bag” needs to be stocked up, and you need to know where everything is, and everything that is in the bag.

You don’t have time to “what if’ things, and dig for your handy compass-and-signal-whistle-flashlight.  You’ll have to move.  Other things that may help you are maps of subway systems that you can supplement with your main map.  Subways have places where you can potentially find sources for water, electricity, and field expedient tools that you may require.  Tie in the subway route with your planned evasion route.

Know where things are.  Know how many drugstores are in between you and your “finish line” for your route.  Know where there are any abandoned buildings, or sites under construction.  Know where there are buildings along the route that were previously classified (and placarded) as Fallout shelters.  Just because they removed the familiar black and yellow Civil Defense signs does not mean they aren’t still good to protect from fallout.

On your escape, you must keep this in mind: Always be ready for the original disaster to “morph” into multiple threats and/or a worse threat or threats.

An example would be an EMP.  Bad enough that you’re now back in the 1800’s in a millisecond.  Now you find that about ten miles away, a flash of light reveals itself, and here comes the mushroom cloud!  Your Casio G-Shock is not the only thing that may go dead if you do not take immediate action!

An urban environment is the most challenging of all places, because of the amount of people you’ll have to deal with and the number of confusing (and dangerous) situations that will arise when the SHTF.  Your land navigation fundamentals that we covered before still apply!  You will have to readily gauge the distance you travel and direction.  If you’re on foot, the challenges and dangers will be increased significantly.  The more you plot out where things are – potential grocery stores, drug stores, and places you can duck into and hole up in for a while – the better it will be for you.

Study all of the maps you can, and study the businesses that are in the area.  See what supplies and tools you will be able to scrounge when the SHTF.  It also can help you in terms of safety.  If you have to pass by a branch of the Dow Chemical Company, it might help to know what kinds of caustic or toxic chemicals are stored that might be ruptured in an attack and give you a “bad hair day” in addition to the attack.  All of this involves proper planning and coordination beforehand, but you have the time now.  Take advantage of this in your urban or suburban home, and lay out a good route for you and your family to take advantage of to get out of Dodge if need be.  Keep up the good work!




Check out the first two parts of this navigation series:

Part 1: Finding Your Way: The Pace Count

Part 2: Using the Stars to Navigate

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on August 16th, 2016