Suburban Survival: The Only Guide You Will Need

When it comes to discussions of survival, particularly long-term survival, the topic centers around two environments: Urban environments, because they are viewed as particularly difficult and rural environments, because this is the ideal environment to survive it.

houses in the suburbs

At least, according to some. There is quite literally an in-between environment that gets very little in the way of discussion, and that is the suburbs.

Though the majority of the world’s population lives crammed into massive metropolitan areas, and the rest of us seem to filter throughout the less populated rural communities, there is a large swath that lives in the stereotypical suburbs outside larger cities.

If this is you, you should know that the suburbs present their own unique survival challenges, but also some unique advantages compared to rural and city life.

Today we are bringing you an especially tailored suburban survival guide that will help you make the most of your unique environment while avoiding the most serious obstacles.

Don’t Bug-Out if You Don’t Have To!

Some people who live in built up areas believe that bugging out is the best, perhaps only, response to certain calamitous events, be they natural disasters or man-made catastrophes of any kind.

Bugging out is definitely an option, but not the only option, and indeed is usually far riskier than staying put and hunkering down, especially if you are lucky enough to live in the suburbs and have not been directly affected, e.g. your house has been destroyed.

Think about it. Why risk a hazardous journey on foot or by vehicle through a ravaged landscape to an area that may not be any safer or better than the one you are leaving?

You can instead hunker down with a home field advantage, literally, in the form of known terrain, known people and ideally a storeroom or basement full of gear and supplies that can help you survive and sustain in place.

I see entirely too much talk going around that speaks of urban or suburban environments in absolutes, meaning if you don’t leave when the shit hits the fan, you’re going to die. This is just not true.

In fact, as we will learn in this guide, your suburban home could be a welcome redoubt in times of trouble. Set that bug-out bag down for just a minute and keep reading!

SHTF in the Suburbs

Suburban Survival Has Advantages and Disadvantages

You’ll be making a big mistake if you classify your survival environment with too broad of a brush. Safe or unsafe, good or bad, viable or nonviable. People love easy, binary, “black or white” answers, but life isn’t that simple.

All over the globe, creatures living in various environments can obtain what they need to survive if they adapt accordingly and if they live in harmony with the environment. The same goes for us, even in the middle of something harrowing like a survival scenario.

Urban areas present some pretty extreme challenges for survival, especially when it comes to long-term survival, but they nonetheless have some advantages.

Rural areas, long thought to be the “easy mode” of long-term survivorship, have their fair share of obstacles and pitfalls to be avoided. The same thing can be said of suburbia.

What matters is that you know what you have going for you and what you have against you, generally, because of the environment you are in and then adapting your plan, preparations and efforts accordingly. If you can do that, you can survive, no matter what you are facing.

Before we go any further, we must identify these advantages and disadvantages endemic to suburban areas so that we may contextualize the rest of our efforts.

Advantages of Suburban Environments

☑ House of Your Own = More Space

for most folks, whether you rent or buy, the biggest advantage of living in the suburbs is generally that you have your own home that is separate from the homes around it even if they aren’t that far apart.

Compared to a townhouse or apartment living, you’re provided better privacy, better control over access to your immediate surroundings and perimeter, and generally more storage space.

All of these things are advantages for a savvy prepper. Particularly when preparing for long-term, shelter in place survival the demand for storage is extremely high.

Ask anyone you know who has been at the prepping game for a while and they’ll be happy to tell you all about a total loss of closet space, converted basements, and even entire rooms turned into storage.

There is only so much you can acquire and still keep a space livable if you live in a small space!

More than this, your home generally affords you better control over maintaining your perimeter and controlling access.

☑ Generally Better Networking with Neighbors

Although the popular conception of prepping is that it is an entirely solo or family-only affair, with one skilled and motivated person taking on long odds and all comers in order to survive, the reality of survival is often far different. Individuals are vulnerable, groups are much less so.

This is because humans are inherently social and we get more work done more efficiently when working as a team.

Think about it under the circumstances: Will you be able to perform necessary tasks and chores like cooking, scouting, repairing, searching, guard duty and more all by yourself?

How effectively do you think you’ll be able to do all of those? Are you ever going to sleep?

When you go to sleep who is going to watch your back? What about if you get sick or injured? Who will take care of you, and who will take over your responsibilities while you’re out of action?

The answer is, of course, the other members of your family or survival group. Your posse, team, gang, whatever you want to call them.

Now it is possible to grow so big as a group that it is unwieldy and has intensive resource requirements, but generally speaking a small group consisting of a few families is easily achievable and ideal under the circumstances.

Suburbia is generally a high trust environment and ideal for cultivating these relationships among like-minded people.

☑ Usually Some Land to Utilize

If there is one thing you typically don’t have reliable access to when living in the city it is land of any quantity for any purpose. If you are lucky you’ll have a few planters outside your apartment stack so your dog can relieve himself.

Rural areas obviously have access to plenty of land that can be used for all kinds of things, but in the middle once again we have suburbia, with most homes in most mature neighborhoods having at least some room in the backyard that can be put to use for a variety of purposes.

The highest and best purpose under the circumstances is growing food or simple waste disposal. Gardens and latrines require significantly less room than you might be thinking in order to be effective and well worth your time to install and maintain.

This does wonders for long-term sustainment, and is one of the chief vulnerabilities of urban living in comparison.

Even if either of the above resources are out of the question or unsuitable in your yard for any number of reasons, your outdoor space is still perfect for cooking using any number of improvised means and other things.

Be glad you got it, even if you don’t like taking care of your yard!

☑ Lighter Population

One of the single biggest advantages of suburban living is it you just don’t have as many people to deal with. Cities are cities because they are so densely packed with people.

Quite literally, they are giant, concrete termite mounds, intricately crisscrossed by innumerable above and below ground chambers and passageways.

While having a few good, trusty people at your side during a survival situation is always a benefit, unknowns are just the opposite.

Unknown contacts represent the risk of loss, potential danger and innumerable other second and third order effects.

Desperate people do desperate things, like steal to survive, and mixed in among this mass of humanity will be some genuine predators eager to take advantage of the chaos and the attendant collapse of the rule of law to do what it is that they do best.

You’ll still have plenty of unknown contacts around if you live in the suburbs, but you won’t be facing a sea of unknown and scared faces on all sides of you right at the beginning.

☑ Likely to be Further from Epicenter of Urban Crises

There are no two ways about it. Urban areas are disproportionately likely to be targeted by terrorist attack, military action and all sorts of other unfortunate occurrences.

Natural disasters can have major consequences for urban areas even if they do not strike them directly, and the loss of power or other utilities can quickly result in a cascade of occurrences that lead to full-blown civil pandemonium.

You definitely don’t want to live through that if you have any other choice, but happily, such things rarely affect suburban areas as badly as they do urban ones.

This is not to say that bad things don’t happen to suburbia, as they absolutely do, but the typical chaos and second order effects that occur in the immediate aftermath of such happenings are usually far less severe and far easier to ameliorate if you are prepared.

All things being equal, you will rarely be better off in the city than out of the city proper when trouble starts brewing.

Disadvantages of Suburban Survival

❌ High Traffic when Cities Empty Out

Unfortunately living in suburbia is not an island and it sure as hell isn’t a secured and fortified enclave. Suburbs, by nature, sprout up outside of cities and generally serve as serviceable communities for people who work inside cities but don’t want to live there.

As a direct consequence of this, suburbs are within easy reach of cities, whether one is driving or walking.

Compared to an out of the way, sleepy rural hamlet, suburbs might as well be a pit stop for those on the way out of a city.

When the masses of humanity start to flee cities, either to get relief from whatever is happening in the city or to try their luck elsewhere, you’ll have a veritable tidal wave of unknowns coming through your neck of the woods, and quite possibly through your neighborhood.

Maybe they’re just passing through. Maybe they’re looking for handouts. Maybe they are done asking for handouts, if you take my drift.

You’ll have to be ready to deal with this when the time comes if you are going to make a go of it in the suburbs.

❌ High Yield Target for Thieves and Looters

As alluded to above, you won’t just have the desperate and the dispossessed to deal with in the aftermath of a major disaster or some other catastrophe.

The criminal element, including the organized criminal underworld will likely have a field day during the chaos, and the longer that the rule of law is degraded or occupied elsewhere the more and more likely it will be but they will step in to take advantage of the lapse.

Most criminal scumbags know what kind of people live in the suburbs, and they know what can be found there.

Whether they are looking for valuable or desirable loot, or just looking for even more supplies that they can plunder and take back to their people or resell for a tremendous profit, you’ll need to be prepared for wolves at the border.

Don’t worry, suburbs can still afford you a substantial defense against just this occurrence if you take advantage of it early enough. We will talk more about that later in the article, and in detail.

❌ Lower Priority for Authorities

Counting on rescue or resupply from state and government agencies is never a strategy for success, but nonetheless during crises which affect a relatively limited area they are generally dependable after a time.

However, when things start going bad far and wide, government agencies at all levels will have to triage their manpower, resources and efforts.

This means that areas with a less dense population or of less commercial, industrial or strategic importance will rank lower on the totem pole when it comes to need. Generally, if you live in the suburbs this will include you.

Sure, you had better believe that state agencies of all kinds and FEMA at the federal level will come streaming into a suburban area that is hit by a natural disaster and a relatively timely fashion.

But, you won’t be able to say the same thing if half the country or even the entire nation seems to be falling apart.

❌ Porous Geography

Compared to the strict delineation of transit lanes in most urban areas and the relatively few marked, major pathways in rural zones suburbs tend to be quite porous when it comes to movement.

They are usually centrally located along major travel routes going to and from major cities and are often laid out in an efficient, economic way to provide easy ingress and egress for residents.

Much of the time greater geographic features in the area such as hills, trees and so forth are removed or altered to provide more space for building or better views.

All of these factors work against you when it comes to securing the perimeter of where you live. Whether it is at the neighborhood or the community level, it is extremely difficult to meaningfully lock down suburban areas against unauthorized ingress and egress.

This might sound like the last thing you are worried about doing, but after we have all seen what can happen to major metropolitan areas when law enforcement is told to take a hike for political expediency you might be entirely responsible for your own security one day in the near future.

This means it will be very difficult to cordon off where you actually live without letting people get too close for comfort.

It isn’t a matter of dropping a couple of trees or parking heavy equipment across one or two ways into town and stationing lookouts sporadically in the fields and trees with radios.

You’ll need a large, fine “net” to do that and chances are you just won’t have the manpower if you live in suburbia.

❌ Generally Just as Dependent on Utilities

Compared to rural properties, suburban areas trend towards being just as dependent upon utilities as urban zones. Much of the time your water will be public and your waste disposal will be done via sewer instead of septic tank.

Electricity is, as always, the one major utility that pretty much everyone is dependent on but compared to rural living setting up a suburban home for true off-grid self-sufficiency has many more challenges. It’s not impossible, though.

We will talk about that particular element in depth later on in this guide.

❌ Sprawling Neighborhoods Difficult to Secure

Lastly, when push comes to shove you might find responding to intrusions in the neighborhood challenging without the benefit of excellent coordination.

Let’s face it, even among tight-knit neighbors or survival groups most folks are going to want to stay in their own homes.

If someone intrudes in any given home, how will the alarm go out and how will people respond without making a bad situation worse?

Yes, posting a guard or patrol is definitely an option, but when it comes to securing a block of habitation it is far easier to lock down elevators and stairs in a high-rise apartment or condo or do the same with a small, dense row of homes in a city.

Rural areas, as mentioned previously, might seem like they provide many ways to get to people, but terrain restrictions along with a few choice placements of guards and centuries will go a long way towards ameliorating that threat.

Doing the same thing in a suburban area is decidedly more difficult, though not impossible.

Dealing with Disasters in Suburbia

As I have already mentioned previously, context is everything when it comes to the business of survival and general disaster preparedness.

The terrain where you are surviving counts for a lot, and suburban areas are just a different type of built up terrain.

Understanding how various, common disasters will impact suburban areas and how the occupants of those areas will react in the aftermath is essential for grounding your own plans in reality.

Consider the breakdown on the following common disasters and how they will affect your survival plans, if at all, because you live in the suburbs.

Hurricane

Hurricanes are one of those disasters that are so massive, so total that it really doesn’t matter where you are.

Every place, from rural communities to the largest cities, gets treated more or less equally by a hurricane and that is to say anywhere from “inundated” to “devastated” depending upon its strength.

If the hurricane is particularly powerful, evacuation is your only hope, but a weaker hurricane or a glancing hit can be prepared for and rode out in the suburbs the same as any place else.

tornado

Tornado

Tornadoes are another ferociously powerful type of storm, and are capable of generating the fastest sustained winds of any weather event on earth.

Suburbs probably fare worse than cities in a way but better than most rural communities from a direct hit or near strike of a tornado.

Most urban areas have at least some heavy, hardened buildings that can withstand typical tornadoes and several designated tornado shelters that you might be able to make use of if you’re nearby.

The average residential home in a suburb will be severely damaged or destroyed outright by a tornado, necessitating the installation of a tornado shelter on the property.

Earthquake

Compared to anywhere else, you might be better off in the suburbs should a powerful earthquake occur.

You are unlikely to be in a building so tall that collapse is a genuine possibility and will have at least some people around that can provide assistance if you become trapped in your home or get injured.

On the other hand, you won’t be caught up in the mass of screaming humanity that is a proper city in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake.

You still need to act quickly to protect yourself from an earthquake by getting undercover and then getting out as soon as the shaking stops but your chances are good in the suburbs.

Flood

Flooding is another universal disaster that can occur pretty much anywhere it can rain. If your neighborhood in the suburbs is prone to flooding, you must be prepared to evacuate or to enact a foolproof flood defense plan with sandbags or aqua dams. Easier said than done.

Suburban areas are high priority targets for rescue and relief efforts in the aftermath of flooding, however, so you have that going for you.

You can also take heart from the fact that the swirling, brown flood waters surrounding you will be somewhat less contaminated with sewage, chemicals and corpses than they would be if you were in the city proper.

Heatwave

Heat waves are always problematic and can be particularly problematic in the suburbs.

Only slightly less likely to experience a brownout or blackout than a city, most residential homes in the suburbs are not equipped with backup power systems or other climate control measures in case of emergency.

This means you’ll need to be doubly prepared for dealing with the consequences of a heat wave should one occur, and redouble your efforts yet again if you have anyone in your family who is particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Blizzard

Compared to urban dwellers, if you take the time to prepare you can have an advantage during a blizzard if you live in the suburbs.

Most city folks are completely dependent upon the infrastructure of society in their day-to-day life, whereas you likely have more room to prepare and fortify against the destructive effects of a blizzard.

A backup, whole-house heating system, plenty of food and no travel plans is the prescription here. As long as you can wait it out you can generally be assured that the snow and ice will stop and the roads will be clear before long.

burning tires in riot aftermath
burning tires in riot aftermath

Societal Collapse and Unrest

One of the most topical and certainly one of the scariest disasters that can befall any of us is the threat posed by societal unrest or outright societal collapse.

Inflicted by cultural or political issues or a completely collapsed economy, this is a man instigated disaster that can set neighbor against neighbor.

Generally speaking, you are far better off in the suburbs than you would be in the city, but not as good as you’d be if you were out in a rural community of tight-knit folk.

Protecting a neighborhood against intrusion from outsiders is extremely difficult or impossible without a coordinated, unified and like-minded group of people.

If you don’t have a neighborhood watch or prepper group in your neighborhood put together by the time an event like this occurs, there could be trouble.

Martial Law

Living in the suburbs is a double-edged sword during martial law.

On one hand, chances are government forces will be more interested in securing high value industrial, commercial, transit and government hubs or installations rather than massive “farms” of residential homes.

However, they may well become interested in those homes for any number of reasons, including seizure of supplies or property.

It is highly likely that your main thoroughfares leading to and away from cities that connect to your suburban area will be checkpointed.

Examining the Suburban Survival Paradigms

Contrary to the assertions of some, there is no special suburban survival method.

In fact, everything you need to survive in a suburban area is identical to the things you need to survive anywhere else, including rural and urban environments.

Your body has all of the exact same requirements, and survival is only a matter of obtaining them. It is only the challenges in obtaining a given survival necessity in an environment that must be adapted to.

And that regard, it is useful to review the fundamentals of survival, both what you will require in terms of provisions and supplies as well as gear and other more esoteric things like communications and self-defense.

Below is a checklist of sorts that you can use to compare against your own survival stash or take to begin building your stash if you don’t have one.

We will be talking about all of those challenges and obstacles that you’ll need to overcome in a suburban environment in the following sections for each one on the list.

Suburban Survival Necessities

food stockpile canned food ramen noodles bottled water
A small food stockpile: canned food, canned Ragu, ramen noodles, bottled water, packs of salt, and more.

Food

Shelf stable, ready to eat food, or food with minimal preparation required to make it edible. You’ll want to aim for about 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day per adult. Children don’t need quite as much.

Good options in this category include anything that comes in a can or pouch as well as specialty dehydrated camping or survival meals that only require some boiling water.

A well-rounded food supply will have staples for varied meals as well as portable, ready to eat food for snacks and energy on the go things like jerky, trail mix, granola and so forth.

You can stretch your food supply by rationing, but your mental state and energy levels will suffer.

Water

You cannot count on the civil water supply remaining safe to drink from. Bottled or jugged water in any form is the safe standby here.

A bare minimum of 2 liters per person per day is what you should strive for when building your supply, but in hot climates you’d be wise to shoot for one gallon per person per day.

Remember that food prep and hygiene requirements also require water!

Lighting

The first utility casualty of any disaster worth the name is usually power.

Though suburbia will not typically be as dark as the interior of a city or a rural area, you’ll still have plenty of cause for personal lighting solutions.

Flashlights, headlamps and lanterns are your go-tos. Electric versions require an equally large supply of batteries to operate, but are much safer, especially for indoor use.

You might consider liquid fueled lanterns for inexpensive and reliable area lighting, however.

Medical Supplies

Medical supplies are a must for every single prepper.

You won’t be able to count on first responders or higher level medical care when things are really bad and you or someone you love needs an intervention to save their life.

A good first aid kit will include supplies for treating small injuries and major trauma:

  • rolled gauze
  • hemostatic gauze
  • compression bandages
  • ace wrap
  • band-aids
  • wound wash
  • antiseptic
  • pads
  • tourniquets
  • OTC and any required prescription medications
  • antibiotics

Shelter Gear

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to bug-in centric preparation is to assume they won’t have any need for shelter gear considering they have a home to hunker down in.

Regardless, Mother Nature doesn’t care and a loss of power or other fuels required for heating and bad weather along with damage to your home can still see you facing a very real risk of exposure.

A variety of blankets, sleeping bags and tents can help you create a suitable and livable microclimate inside your home even with no power.

One should also consider alternative heating solutions such as a fireplace or wood stove which will require wood, or a propane space heater rated for indoor use.

hygiene stockpiles: toothpaste_tampons_dishwasher_detergent paper napkins deodorant sticks
hygiene stockpiles: toothpaste, tampons, dishwasher detergent paper, napkins deodorant sticks, and more

Hygiene Items

A survival scenario is no time to throw in the towel on taking care of your body.

You can probably squeak through a few days without too much in the way of consequences when disaster strikes, but long-term living in the aftermath will mandate proper care of your body.

Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and soap are pretty much all you need for the basics.

Expand on this fundamental core with baby wipes, body and foot powder and any specialized hygiene items that are required, be they for feminine or baby care.

Sanitation Kit

If you think you’ll be able to count on flushing the toilet to get rid of waste and your suburban retreat, think again.

Hopefully you will remain able to, but if you cannot you must have a backup plan. a sanitation kit provides for the evacuation of human and household waste, and will consist of:

  • heavy duty 55 gallon can liners or extra large trash bags,
  • sawdust,
  • kitty litter or other absorbent media,
  • a camping toilet or 5 gallon painters bucket with sealing lid,
  • standard sodium hypochlorite bleach,
  • quick lime,
  • and hand sanitizer.

Communications

Communications are positively critical in any survival situation but particularly a suburban one where you need to coordinate with neighbors or other people in your family or survival group as well as stay abreast of the overall situation by tuning into government broadcasts.

Smartphones and other devices might continue to function, but you must be able to power them with backup batteries and power banks.

A solar charger can keep you online when all other sources fail. Also consider quality walkie talkies or a family radio service set.

A mandatory inclusion in this category is a crank operated NOAA weather and emergency radio.

Weapons

And last but certainly not least, you must be prepared to defend yourself from your fellow man.

Firearms are the single best weapon of our era, and it is in your best interest to acquire some and learn how to use them well.

If guns are out of the question, difficult to obtain or otherwise unsuitable in your situation, you’ll need to rely on alternates.

Melee weapons, both improvised and purpose designed, have a place in the prepper arsenal and every prepper should have a large canister of pepper spray or bear spray to provide a strong disincentive for people who might be preparing for trouble when you aren’t justified in using more force.

In the next sections we will further dissect how these survival necessities will be affected by your suburban location, both the good and the bad!

Suburban Food Supply

Food Goals:

  • 2,000 – 2,500 Calories per adult, per day
  • Choose shelf-stable, long-life foods.
  • Ready to eat or minimal prep
  • Keep portable snacks for quick energy

Your food supply is a fundamental prep, one that is universally useful no matter where you live and what you are facing.

Food is fuel for a working body, and much of the time in a survival scenario you’re not just going to be lounging around waiting for things to get back to normal.

There will be plenty to do to come out the other side, and much of it will be hard work! It follows that you’ll need plenty of calories so you can keep working at a high level.

Shelf stable, ready to eat food, or food with minimal preparation required to make it edible. You’ll want to aim for about 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day per adult. Children don’t need quite as much.

Good options in this category include anything that comes in a can or pouch, as well as specialty dehydrated camping or survival meals that only require some boiling water.

A well-rounded food supply will have staples for varied meals as well as portable, ready to eat food for snacks and energy on the go things like jerky, trail mix, granola and so forth.

You can stretch your food supply by rationing, but your mental state and energy levels will suffer.

The ideal suburban food plan will consist of stashed staples named above, food that is ready to eat out of the can or package with little to no preparation, and also a provision for providing more of your own food by growing or raising it.

The average backyard can support a garden that will provide a meaningful amount of food for a modest family and you even have livestock opportunities with small, easy to care for animals like chickens and rabbits.

Even if you are greatly limited on the amount of space in your yard or inclement weather take heart because several varieties of vegetable and many herbs are easily grown indoors in containers.

Spinach is one of the very best for beginning gardeners and provides tons of nutrition and a great return on investment for very little effort. Tomatoes, peppers and all sorts of herbs are also ideal for growing in containers.

The point is you should take maximum advantage of what land you have for provisioning your family or contributing to your survival. You definitely don’t want to put all of your faith in a small garden, but it will be a welcome supplement to what food you stash.

Your Water Supply

Water Goals:

  • Minimum 2 liters per adult per day.
  • 1 Gallon per adult per day in hot climates.
  • Use bottle / jug water or store your own in special containers.
  • You also need extra water for cooking and washing!

As far as consumables go, water is second only to air in importance, and you can only go a couple of days at most without any water before you are incapacitated or dead from dehydration and you’ll be in bad shape long before that.

Naturally, you must make sure your water plan is airtight, if you can pardon the pun.

You cannot count on the civil water supply remaining safe to drink from. Bottled or jugged water in any form is the safe standby here.

A bare minimum of 2 liters per person per day is what you should strive for when building your supply, but in hot climates you’d be wise to shoot for one gallon per person per day.

Remember that food prep and hygiene requirements also require water!

As mentioned above, bottled water should be your front line standby.

Easy to store, almost totally reliable and absolutely clean for our purposes when you need drinking water right away it is hard to beat this stuff.

A combination of smaller bottles and larger jugs is probably the right fit for most suburbanites, but you can also invest in water storage containers that you fill yourself if you want to save money and be more economical.

Now, living in the suburbs you are likely on public water instead of well water, and this is a problem because there are so, so many ways that public water can become compromised in a disaster.

The infrastructure needed to collect, treat and deliver it is incredibly fragile and if any component fails the rest will be right behind it.

If you are on well water this could be considered a bonus, but you must make sure that you can continually run your pump in the aftermath of the event and that is not always easy.

Assuming your water is functional and safe at the beginning of the event, you be wise to fill up as many buckets as you can while the filling is good.

A bathtub basin bag is a great option that can provide you a substantial quantity of water to fall back on.

In any case, be prepared to scavenge water from any nearby supplies, be it a lake or pond, snow for melting or even something like a pool that has been kept in good repair.

Now, any water that you scavenge from any source must be assumed to be contaminated in one form or another.

This means you’ll need access to a water filtration and treatment system the same as you would if you were heading off into the wilderness.

Considering that you aren’t going to be packing it with you, a large countertop model with multistage capability is a great idea for the suburban prepper. Berkey makes a great one.

Suburban survival introduction!

Lighting Solutions in the ‘Burbs

Lighting Goals:

  • Flashlights and headlamps are go-tos.
  • Lanterns are good for area lighting.
  • Try to consolidate battery sizes.
  • Liquid-fuel lanterns and candles are affordable, but must be used with caution.
  • Consider a portable solar charger for electric lights.

With disaster comes darkness, and I’m not speaking figuratively.

An incredibly intricate, aging and increasingly fragile power grid means that any disaster worth the name be it natural or man-made in origin is probably going to cut the power to an area for quite a while. A major catastrophe might mean months without any power.

And because danger accompanies darkness hand in hand, you must be prepared with a selection of personal lighting tools, and I’m talking about stuff far better than that dinky flashlight built into your smartphone.

Though suburbia will not typically be as dark as the interior of a city or a rural area you’ll still have plenty of cause for personal lighting solutions.

Flashlights, headlamps and lanterns are your go-tos. Electric versions require an equally large supply of batteries to operate, but are much safer, especially for indoor use.

You might consider liquid fueled lanterns for inexpensive and reliable area lighting, however.

Flashlights are now as always the all-purpose choice and useful anytime and anywhere it is dark with the only disadvantage being you must hold them to operate them and aim them effectively.

Headlamps provide able close range hands-free light for work or for navigation, though they typically do not have the reach of flashlights.

Lastly lanterns provide all around area lighting they can be handily set somewhere or hung up. All have a place in your arsenal.

Now, when considering these illumination tools the most obvious choices run on batteries. Batteries are convenient, reliable and capable of providing impressive output with modern lights.

If you were going to go all in on battery powered lighting options, do yourself a favor and streamline your models so that they rely on only one or two types of battery.

Smaller cells for your handhelds and headlamps, and larger cells for your lanterns are acceptable.

Ultimately, you might choose to go off grid and battery Independent by going with rechargeable models.

This might sound counterintuitive at first considering I just spent some time blabbering about the fragility and likely loss of the power grid in a survival scenario, but bear with me.

The advent of affordable, portable and highly effective solar chargers means that anytime you have a clear view of the open, daytime sky you can harvest sunlight for conversion into electricity.

This is an excellent option for all preppers but particularly suburban preppers who won’t have to compete so much with high-rise buildings for sunlight.

Finally, you have old fashioned alternatives, particularly for area lighting, in the form of liquid-fueled lanterns and candles.

These low-tech options are usually affordable and energy efficient, but they are huge fire hazards and great care must be taken when placing them, especially around children.

A moment’s inattention or a minor accident could turn into a raging house fire, making a bad situation geometrically worse.

Medical Supplies are Mandatory, as Always

Medical:

  • First-Aid Kit
    • Band-aids
    • Burn cream
    • Ace wrap
    • Antibio. Ointment
    • Basic meds
  • Trauma Kit
    • Tourniquet
    • Gauze pads
    • Rolled gauze
    • Hemostatic agent/gauze
    • Chest seal
    • Splint
    • Painkillers
    • Antibiotics, wide-spec.

Medical supplies are a must for every single prepper.

You won’t be able to count on first responders or higher level medical care when things are really bad and you or someone you love needs an intervention to save their life.

A good first aid kit will include supplies for treating small injuries and major trauma.

Rolled gauze, hemostatic gauze, compression bandages, ace wrap, band-aids, wound wash, antiseptic, pads, tourniquets and a battery of over-the-counter and any required prescription medications as well as wide spectrum antibiotics are required.

Every prepper must be prepared to become their own first responder, and this includes preppers living in the middle of suburbia. It doesn’t matter how close the nearest clinic or hospital is.

When seconds count and lives are on the line, help is only minutes away, and could be hours or days away if the situation is bad enough.

You’ll need first-aid and basic trauma training to go along with your medical kit supplies listed above, and ideally you will have a duplicate set for home use as well as for keeping in your vehicle.

Don’t eschew basic boo-boo supplies for trauma gear alone, as even minor injuries can easily become infected, fester and then go septic under the circumstances.

Also, one of the most essential inclusions for any well-rounded first aid kit is sadly one of the most overlooked: Antibiotics.

It is only antibiotics that have managed to turn what used to be normally life-threatening common infections into trivial inconveniences.

You’ll should obtain a couple types of wide spectrum, high-efficiency antibiotics for your kit through your family doctor. This route assumes, of course, that they are understanding of your intentions and willing to write you a prescription for these purposes.

Neglect the acquisition of medical skills and supplies at your own peril!

Even in a Home You Still Need Shelter Gear

Shelter Goals:

  • Blankets.
  • Sleeping bags.
  • Tents.
  • Seasonal clothing.
  • Fuel / wood for fireplace, stove, heater, etc.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to bug-in centric preparation is to assume they won’t have any need for shelter gear considering they have a home to hunker down in.

Regardless, Mother Nature doesn’t care and a loss of power or other fuels required for heating and bad weather along with damage to your home can still see you facing a very real risk of exposure.

A variety of blankets, sleeping bags and tents can help you create a suitable and livable microclimate inside your home even with no power.

One should also consider alternative heating solutions such as a fireplace or wood stove which will require wood, or a propane space heater rated for indoor use.

Don’t think that just because you are inside a home of your own, whether or not you own it, you don’t have any need for the typical shelter gear associated with prepping.

That stuff isn’t just for bugging out or camping trips you know!

Considering what we’ve said about the vulnerability of the average home for the loss of utilities, potentially including natural gas and other fuels along with electricity, you must be prepared to stay warm. This counts doubly if your home is damaged by the event.

Let’s face it, most homes, even modern ones made with supposed top of the line insulation, get hot when you want them cool and get cold when you want them hot.

They are marvels of poor design to say the least.

This is because the interior spaces are inefficient from stem to stern. Particularly when dealing with cold, trying to heat up an oversized room typical of modern American homes is going to be difficult and gobble up fuel.

Be prepared for this eventuality by having what you need to create a microclimate inside a given room. This is just a smaller space that is easier to heat up to a comfortable temperature.

This can be as simple as extra blankets and warm clothing laying up on your bed or a couch or as intricate as an actual tent that you pitch in the living room.

Aside from clothing that is seasonally appropriate, make sure you have a provision for warming up your home, most especially if you live in a cold climate or a place known for harsh winters.

Plenty of wood for a fireplace or wood stove that is well seasoned is a mandatory prep and you might also consider an indoor rated and safe space heater that runs on propane with several cylinders in reserve.

When it comes to dealing with hot weather, a modern home will at least provide you plenty of shade, but you can help keep the internal temperature livable by blocking up windows with foam or shades and ensuring adequate ventilation.

Aside from that, all you can do to beat the heat is manage your activity levels and avoid working in the hottest part of the day.

Hygiene is Imperative for Health (and Sanity!)

Hygiene Items:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Baby care items
  • Feminine Care items
  • Baby Wipes
  • Body/Foot Powder

A survival scenario is no time to throw in the towel on taking care of your body.

You can probably squeak through a few days without too much in the way of consequences when disaster strikes, but long-term living in the aftermath will mandate proper care of your body.

Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and soap are pretty much all you need for the basics.

Expand on this fundamental core with baby wipes, body and foot powder and any specialized hygiene items that are required, be they for feminine or baby care.

It is always struck me as a little funny that hygiene seems to be one of those facets of life that is disregarded entirely, thrown right out the window, when talk of preparing for a long-term survival situation is brought up.

It almost seems to be a relief to some people that they can stop worrying about bathing and brushing their teeth!

All jokes aside, hygiene serves an important and two-pronged survival purpose.

First (and less important if you want to know the truth of it) is that keeping yourself clean cuts down on nasty BO, something that is bound to drive the people in your immediate vicinity nuts.

Plus staying clean and regularly taking care of yourself is good for your own morale, and since survival is mostly a mental game this should not be underestimated.

Second, and far more important on a practical level, is that keeping clean eliminates or reduces the bacteria that can lead to nasty skin conditions and infections as well as be transmitted to other people, possibly getting them sick.

When a group of people are living out on the nasty edge, serious ailments like dysentery are always close behind.

You don’t need to get too crazy with your hygiene supplies, just have on hand more of those things that you typically use as part of your bathroom routine, within reason. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss is all useful to have for obvious reasons as is deodorant.

Soap, be it liquid or in bar form can take care of basic hygiene tasks like the washing of hands and bath time, even if done while strictly rationing water.

Great additions to your hygiene kit include hand sanitizer, for times when you need to wash your hands sans soap and water along with body and foot powder to help keep moisture at bay.

You needn’t worry with luxuries like shampoo, conditioner and the like although some people just won’t be happy without them.

Also, don’t forget in this category to provide for special necessities like items for controlling or managing menstruation in females and baby care items like diapers, pads and so forth.

Speaking of babies, a prepper’s best friend is often a large quantity of baby wipes.

Baby wipes are certainly useful for their intended purpose, but also work wonders for impromptu sponge baths using no water whatsoever.

When you are in a rush and pressed for supplies you can do a lot worse than scrubbing the problem areas of your body with a baby wipe.

Efficient Elimination of Waste

Sanitation Supplies:

  • 55 Gal. Can Liners
  • Heavy Duty Trash Bags
  • Kitty Litter, Sawdust, other absorbent media
  • Camping toilet
  • Bleach
  • Quicklime
  • Hand sanitizer

Okay, this is the big one that people rarely like talking about but it must be done. Proper sanitation through waste control is absolutely imperative in a survival situation but rarely will this be more pressing then in a suburban environment.

Your average adult generates several pounds of liquid and solid waste per day, and if you are unfortunate enough to be heading into a long-term bug-in situation in the suburbs without benefit of flushing toilets things, as they say, are about to get real.

However, you needn’t panic if you know what to do and have just some basic supplies for the purpose.

First things first, let us assess if the toilet is still a workable option…

Assuming that your sewer or septic system has not been disrupted or destroyed and the toilet is just not getting water, you can still flush it normally if you fill up the bowl and the tank with scavenged water.

A little bit of inconvenience and a trip with a bucket from a convenient nearby source could be all that is required to keep your toilet operating normally, definitely a luxury under the circumstances!

If your toilet is a definite no-go, you’ll have two options. First, you can dig an outdoor toilet or latrine in the form of a cat hole or a trench.

This is definitely not going to make neighbors happy, but everyone might have to resort to this method and by paying attention to covering up the leavings with soil and quicklime the worst of the odor can be controlled.

Note that any outdoor latrine must be placed with careful attention paid to groundwater sources and the risk of runoff when it rains. You definitely don’t want that heading towards your house or getting into any nearby above ground water sources.

Alternately, you can utilize an indoor or outdoor camping toilet or even an improvised version of the same.

Camping toilets function very much like normal ones except they don’t flush and waste is collected in a container (usually in a bag) for later disposal.

If this isn’t workable, you can create an improvised toilet using a modified shower stool or a 5-gallon painter’s bucket with a purpose made seat attached to it.

Inside the bucket, place a heavy duty plastic bag with some kitty litter, sawdust, shredded newspaper or other absorbent media at the bottom.

Simply do your business, cover up the leavings with a little more media and then shut the lid or put the top on the bucket to control odor.

Make sure you remove the bag for disposal before it gets too full, trust me, and replace it with a fresh one. With a little bit of regular cleaning and disinfection this can be an entirely comfortable and convenient option.

Communications

Comms Equipment

  • Phone and charger
  • Power bank
  • Solar charger
  • Walkie Talkies
  • GMRS/FRS radio set
  • NOAA Emergency Radio

Communications are absolutely critical when dealing with any crisis situation.

They obviously provide much needed capability for keeping in touch with your family members or other members of your survival group, and potentially life-saving instructions or aid from first responders and authorities.

You might think that you don’t have much need in the way of communications if you are a solo prepper, but this is a trap.

Even if you aren’t exchanging information with someone receiving information about the event and the bigger picture is critical for informing your own decisions.

So naturally we will need some tools to communicate, and most of them are of the electronic variety.

Although much maligned and often disregarded out of the gate as unreliable, your smartphone or other cellular device might well still function during a crisis.

Although incredibly intricate, many of these networks are fairly distributed, and can withstand anything except a targeted takedown or truly cataclysmic disaster…

That unless, of course, it is an unlucky day, and an important central component it’s knocked out. It is more likely that local networks will be clogged with traffic than knocked off line.

You should try to place calls, but don’t forget about email and text. Text in particular is much easier to blurt out because it does not depend on a sustained connection to function.

One should also keep in mind that improving the reception of your phone through the use of an antenna or other device can help you get calls and text out in a pinch.

Other than cell phones, traditional radios are your best bet although they require more skill and understanding of theory to get the most out of them.

Handheld walkie talkies work beautifully as a self-contained communications network over short distances. Larger sets installed in your home or in a vehicle can provide even greater range and capability.

Keep in mind that anyone else with a radio that is on your channel can listen in to your conversation, and you can listen to theirs in turn.

Lastly, make sure you acquire an NOAA weather emergency radio in order to pick up vital government broadcasts about natural disasters, impending threats and other emergencies.

Most of these radios are small, with tall antennas to improve reception and often feature a built-in hand cranked dynamo so that you can always supply them with electricity as long as you have a little bit of muscle power to spare.

Most modern examples also feature amenities such as flashlights and a couple of USB charging ports for recharging your personal devices, albeit slowly.

These are great additions to any suburban survival kit.

Defending What is Yours

Weapons

  • Firearms
    • Handguns
    • Long Guns, e.g. rifle, shotgun
  • Melee Weapons
    • Clubs
    • Spears
    • Machetes
    • Axes
    • Knives
  • Other
    • Pepper Spray

It is a facet of survival that most decent people don’t want to talk about, let alone face, but it is just as important as anything else.

In the wake of a major event, particularly one that has resulted from societal issues unrest and crime will be on the rise. The stage will be set for violence, and possibly violence on a massive scale.

Firearms are the single best weapon of our era, and it is in your best interest to acquire some and learn how to use them well.

If guns are out of the question, difficult to obtain or otherwise unsuitable in your situation you’ll need to rely on other tools of self-defense.

Melee weapons, both improvised and purpose designed, have a place in the prepper arsenal and every prepper should have a large canister of pepper spray or bear spray to provide a strong disincentive for people who might be causing trouble when you aren’t justified in using more force.

You must be prepared to defend yourself, your family, your property and your community if need be.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone after the past couple of years here that no one will be coming to save you. If you want to survive and if you want to keep what you have worked for you’ll have to protect it.

The threat could take the form of the deranged and desperate who were not as smart or as fortunate as you when it comes to preparation. These people will do anything to get access to life-saving supplies.

A threat could also come from the malcontents and other criminal scumbags that cling to our societies like ticks on a dog.

They may want what you have or they might just be out looking for the malignant joy violence, revenge on societal enemies, or something else.

Notes on Weapon Selection

Your first and best weapon for doing this is going to be a firearm of some kind.

Only firearms afford the range, repeatability and pinpoint accuracy necessary for lethal defensive force against multiple attackers with any kind of margin for safety.

A thorough discussion of the pros and cons of various firearms is outside the scope of this article, but in short handguns are an excellent choice for staying armed around the clock while remaining unencumbered and keeping your hands free.

They work great and are agile in close quarters, fast into action and powerful enough for most purposes but they require quite a bit of skill to shoot accurately, especially under stress.

Long guns, rifles and shotguns, have far greater power and effectiveness than any handgun but effectively cannot be concealed and require two hands to operate if you leave your house with a long gun, even one that is slung, you’ll definitely be raising your profile and not in a good way.

Depending on your living arrangements and relationship with your neighbors this might be acceptable under the circumstances or it might not be.

By far the biggest advantage that long guns bring to the table is power, range and comparative ease of use compared to handguns.

You can make a great case for having one or more of each type, and though many preppers focus on building huge arsenals of firearms this is not necessary unless it is purpose driven.

Having enough guns to arm the capable members of your family or survival group if you are responsible for such is a good idea, but remind yourself that a big collection will do you no good in a pinch because you only have two arms!

Having a spare is one thing, but having 50 that you have no hope of meaningfully employing is a hobby!

But there is room for other weapons besides firearms, and firearms are not the first choice for some people.

The consideration might be legal, ethical or something else, but regardless those who do not have or choose to forgo firearms need other options.

Improvised or purpose-designed melee weapons in the form of clubs, knives, spears, axes and the like are as effective today as they were countless millennia ago when first devised.

Easily outclassed by firearms today, they are nonetheless incredibly dangerous at close range and are likely to give attackers pause.

Other options that all preppers should make use of include pepper spray, which was one of the very best less lethal options for dissuading attackers before things get too bad.

An extra large, law enforcement sized canister of pepper spray or the bear spray equivalent can saturate an area with a ferociously painful fog that will debilitate assailants significantly, hopefully convincing them to give up the fight or putting them in a serious disadvantage if they continue.

Remember, your objective is only to drive people away or to shut down a confrontation before it turns into a full-blown, proper fight.

Having options somewhere between yelling and gunfire is a great thing. Whatever weapons you choose, whatever you plan to depend on, make sure you get training with it.

At best, an untrained user is relying half on luck and at worst is as much a danger to themselves and their loved ones as they are to the bad guys. Training, with any weapon, makes all the difference.

Clever Places to Stash Your Survival Stockpile

One of the biggest advantages inclusive to suburban prepping, as mentioned above, is generally the amount of space you will have for storing provisions, gear and other survival supplies.

Compared to apartment or condo living, even a small home affords you a lot of usable storage space.

This is a great thing, but one of the grim jokes that always goes hand in hand with prepping is that you’ll always have one more thing to buy.

stockpiled items canned chicken breast emergency blanket toe warmers and more
Stockpiled items: canned chicken breast, emergency blanket, toe warmers, pinto beans, yellow popcorn, compass, poncho, dried milk, peanut butter, canned brown bread, honey, chicken bouillon

Once you have been at the prepping lifestyle for any length of time you’ll quickly discover you’ll be sitting on top of a mountain of gear, food and all the other stuff we buy in abundance.

With closets, shelving and every other nook and cranny in your home in short supply, you might need to get creative when it comes to storing your stash. Consider the following options:

Basement

Basement storage is an excellent option for many preps. whether your basement is finished or unfinished, assuming it is in a suitable state of repair and not infested by mold or pests, you can keep pretty much everything down there including your food.

Basements as a rule get very little light and are significantly cooler than other parts of the house making them perfect for long-term storage.

However, take care to store your items up off of the ground on shelving or racks in case of flooding, and you don’t need to experience a flood event to lose everything in your basement.

Burst pipes, overflowing tubs and faulty water heaters are leading causes of basement flooding.

Garage

The garage is another great location for storing your preps, although it is somewhat more vulnerable to infiltration by pests, particularly insects.

Installing wall or overhead racks and stashing your supplies in heavy duty tubs is more than adequate to protect them from all but the most determined pests.

Keep in mind that your garage will experience significant temperature extremes according to the outside weather, and insulation only goes so far to control the interior temp.

As long as you aren’t keeping anything truly temperature sensitive in the garage, make use of it for your survival stash.

Attic

The attic is very much like the garage when it comes to storing possessions.

It is an otherwise unused space but one that is vulnerable to temperature extremes and one with the added hazard that you must take care to ensure neither yourself nor your things plunge through the insulation to burst through the ceiling of a room below.

Assuming your attic is in good repair and operating properly, specifically with plenty of ventilation, there is much you can keep up there and out of the way until you need it, and it will also have significant protection from flooding.

Shed

Storage outside the home for critical survival supplies bothers some people, but if you have a properly built shed that is proof against pests and water with a sturdy locking door there is no reason you can’t keep something back there.

It is worth mentioning, however, that anything stored outside your home is generally more vulnerable to theft than something inside the home.

Actually, vulnerable is not the right word but sheds are often more attractive targets for thieves because they represent a lower risk approach and entrance.

Definitely don’t store anything like valuables or guns in your shed, but everything else is just fine.

Survival at the Neighborhood Level

One of the best attributes you’ll have going for you living in the suburbs is ironically one of the most difficult to take advantage of. It is the people around you, your immediate neighbors and the rest of your neighborhood.

It is an easy thing to budget and then purchase the supplies, gear and everything else you’ll need before squirreling it away inside your home, but, it is another thing entirely to organize, motivate and unify people to a common purpose, particularly the purposes of personal readiness and self-defense for mutual benefit.

Depending on where you live, how long you’ve lived there and the demographics of your neighborhood the efficacy of organizing your neighborhood for mutual assistance will be more or less challenging, and can border on the impossible.

You might not even be able to set up a call registry for checking on each other and the event of a common natural disaster.

The reasons why are complicated. In my experience, most people prefer to live in ignorance, and anything that is even construed as prepping has a very negative connotation with some folks, particularly those on the left side of the political spectrum and folks who consider themselves urbanites.

Only “the crazies” and people on the “fringes” of society try to prepare for disasters or societal collapse.

After all, the government will always be there to help us and is completely benevolent. Right? Right.

So you’ll likely need to start small. If you have any friends in the neighborhood that you are already close with, begin there.

At the very least try to be on good terms with your neighbors and develop a culture of helping each other out for things great and small.

Telling people to depend on each other is one thing, acting like it is another.

If you have any success, your core group of neighborhood preppers will hopefully affect other contacts in their network and around the neighborhood via osmosis if nothing else.

Knowing that you have people to depend on and who bring different skills, tools and other resources to the table in times of trouble is priceless.

How you go about implementing your plan will depend on the specifics of your neighborhood geography, your regional area and other living arrangements.

You need enough motivated and capable people to form a substantial defense force in times of societal collapse or unrest, or organized search and rescue parties in case of natural disaster.

If I can give you two pieces of advice on the matter it would be to approach such topics in a light-hearted and fun way to keep it approachable, and also to keep your plans easy to remember, simple and adaptable.

Nobody is going to memorize multiple 72 point plans for every variation of every possible event.

Should You Make Your Suburban Home Off-Grid Capable?

One of the most common questions that I get regarding the topic of suburban preparation is whether or not you should attempt to make your home off-grid capable, specifically through the installation of solar panels, generators, water storage and the like.

If one is considering strictly the practical benefits, the answer is of course.

Maintaining electricity, water and any other supplies including liquid fuel that are needed for full operation of your home, appliances and other equipment is priceless, especially considering most suburbs are pretty vulnerable to having these utilities knocked offline during all sorts of events.

However, one must consider the second and third order effects of doing so.

As the saying goes, you don’t want to be the only house in a dark neighborhood with the lights on.

This generally attracts attention that you do not want, and if you don’t believe me, ask anybody who has a portable or whole house generator running to power the refrigerator in the aftermath of a tornado or some other natural disaster.

It never fails that thieving scumbags will be lurking around in the aftermath waiting for their opportunity to snatch it. It is despicable, and appalling, but that’s just the way it is.

For short duration crises, it probably won’t matter very much, but for any long-term survival situation, particularly one where the rule of law is shaky at best, utilizing these resources in a population dense area is probably going to attract too much negative attention, in my opinion, and you’ll be hard-pressed to defend it.

However, folks who must have access to electricity at all times for necessary medical equipment or for the refrigeration of life saving drugs probably have no choice.

That being said, quieter options are available, including whole house deep-cycle battery banks that can supply power on demand and do so nearly silently.

Something like this that is only running your refrigerator or even a backup refrigerator elsewhere in your home is a discreet way to maintain capability without immediately giving up the fact that you have such capability.

You Can Survive in the Burbs!

Much of survival lore is focused on urban, rural and wilderness endeavors with precious little attention paid to those living in the suburbs.

With tens of millions of Americans occupying suburban habitation, the topic deserves special consideration when it comes to prepping.

It is entirely possible to survive and thrive in the suburbs when disaster strikes if you know how to take advantage of the inherent perks such places afford preppers while minimizing the drawbacks.

suburban survival Pinterest image

last update: 04/26/2022


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