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Urban Disaster Survival: Be Prepared, But Don’t Look Prepared

Crowds and Urban Disaster Blog

Updated November 2019

While in a best-case scenario you may find yourself already at home with plenty of supplies as a disaster strikes, and the situation may allow you to “shelter in place” and stay away from less secure environments, this may not always be the case.  In a severe emergency, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to evacuate to get home or to leave your home if it is unsafe.  In many evacuation scenarios, you may not find yourself in the relative isolation and security of your car.  This will potentially put you out in public with whatever emergency supplies you have.  So think about this…  

While it’s important to have the right supplies to keep you and your family secure for three days or more in a disaster situation, it can also important not to “advertise” your level of preparedness to others. Especially in an urban environment in which you may be among many strangers, most of whom will NOT be prepared with their own supplies (this is just a reality), it is important to keep a low profile.  In a less than secure environment, don’t “advertise” what you have by what you use to carry it.

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Your selection of a backpack or bag that has a design and color that will not readily signal what is inside may help you avoid becoming a victim of those who, out of desperation, may be willing to try to take your supplies from you.  If you have to travel by foot in a desperate situation, a bag with clear “Emergency” colors, lettering or design, may scream, “I’ve got what you don’t!”

While disasters can bring out the good in most people, a small minority will do whatever it takes to meet their own immediate needs. If it is clear that you have what they need, you may become a target of violence that could deprive you of needed supplies, or worse, leave you injured or dead.

Nearly 15 years ago a terrible situation unfolded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Superdome in New Orleans. With nowhere near the number of supplies necessary to sustain 30,000 stranded during the storm, acts of violence erupted over coveted supplies.

Red survival kit

Here is an example of a “Survival Kit” pack that might prove problematic in an “unfriendly” urban post-disaster environment. While high-visibility backpacks and bags have their place and very practical application in emergencies, if you are in a high density urban/suburban environment you are safer to stay with backpacks and bags that don’t have a specific “emergency” look.  You will want to avoid bright emergency colors like red, orange, yellow, or green. You will also want to avoid using a military-style backpack that may signal that you are well prepared. You will especially want to avoid showing your supplies by dangling knives, flashlights, and other supplies on the outside as you might naturally do in a wilderness survival situation.

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Think “stealth.” Stick to black, navy blue, or other colors that don’t draw attention.  At Lifesecure, we have always offered such options in our emergency preparedness product line.  Recently we sold a large amount of our SecurEvac Stealth-200 24-Hour Urban/Suburban Evacuation Kit (50200) to a well known national company. They plan to provide these kits to their employees who work in urban areas and who, in a disaster, might have to try to get home without the aid of their usual modes of transportation. They wisely chose a kit that will not tend to draw attention to itself. This kit is packed in a small black bag with only a small logo that helps in initial identification but which will not draw attention in use.

To stay secure in an emergency situation you may need to think about others and their reactions as much as you do about your own preparedness and plans.  Think carefully about the potential situations you may face.  If you are likely to have to evacuate on foot in an environment that may not be safe, chose to carry your supplies in a way that will keep you in a low profile.  This may go a long way to helping you be secure in an unsure world.

David Scott
David co-founded LifeSecure in 2005, just a few months before Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that one can go hungry and thirsty in America and even die before help arrives. For over a decade David has focused on developing and discovering superior emergency and disaster survival solutions - kits and supplies. He has trained community groups in emergency preparedness, helped non-profit organizations prepare emergency kits for needy individuals, conducted community emergency response exercises, and developed emergency plans for non-profit organizations. David makes an ongoing study of how best to prepare for and respond to various natural and man-made disasters, and his mission has been to help others “live Life SECURE” every day by preparing for what may come someday.