Urban Survival - Things To Avoid

Urban survival can be very different than wilderness survival. It is an entirely different environment with a lot more people. There is much more crime, and chances are you will not know many people. Because of the multitude of buildings and other structures, observation of any distance is often difficult. 

An important aspect of moving through an urban environment is situational awareness. You must develop the ability to always know what is going on around you without making it obvious. You must learn to trust your instincts as it is better to be safe than sorry. By being aware of your surroundings you can often avoid a dangerous situation before it occurs.

Although there are a lot of things that you should do when traveling through an urban area, there are many things that you should not. I thought I would therefore address some things that you should avoid. Of course, this list is not all inclusive, but will provide you with some of the basic things to avoid.


Remove expensive jewelry such as nice or expensive watches, rings, gold chains or other jewelry, etc. If you are wearing these things, take them off and put them in your pocket. Don’t wear expensive clothes. In a disaster situation people will begin looting and robbing. Don’t give people an excuse to target you.


Always try to look and act like you belong where you are. Try to fit in with both appearance and actions. This would include clothes, things you may be carrying, even a back pack. Avoid wearing bright colors, as they draw attention to you. If you were the guy in the orange shirt in the above photo you would stand out like a sore thumb. The more you fit in the less you will stand out. Again, this is often called Gray Man and you should endeavor to be one.


Although not always possible, endeavor to avoid violence whenever possible. No matter how bad you think you are, you never know how bad the other person is. A fight usually results in injuries on both sides, and in a survival situation you have enough to deal with without getting hurt. Whenever possible, try to de-escalate a possible violent situation. As always, you want to remain low key and fighting always draws a crowd. If you must fight, be brutal and move on quickly.


Try not to put yourself in a position where others can trap you. This would include places such as alleys, underpasses, underground parking lots, or even bridges. When possible, try to find alternate routes so that you are not in a position to be overwhelmed by those looking for a victim.


In an extended emergency situation, this could make you stand out in a crowd. If the situation has lasted awhile, and most people are starting to look a little unkempt, you might want to do the same thing. Don’t comb your hair and let your hands and face become a little soiled. You want to fit in with other people so if they are unkempt, you should be as well.


Whenever possible, try to move in a deliberate and normal manner. Moving quickly or running will always draw attention to you. Fast movements will always be noticed by those around you, and your goal is not to be noticed.


Eye contact with people might cause them to confront you, or at least, will allow them to remember you. You want to move along without being confronted or remembered so at all costs refrain from looking directly into the eyes of others.


People seem to argue about this all the time. I hear, “If I look tactical or military, then nobody will mess with me.” That may be so, although I personally disagree. The whole idea is not standing out or drawing attention to you. If you are in an urban area where most of the people wear camouflage clothing or look tactical, such as near a military base, then by all means you want to fit in. Just make sure it doesn’t make you stand out. Be the Gray Man as always.


Noise will always draw attention to you. Always try to remain calm and avoid yelling, arguing, or other actions that will make unwanted noise. This would include talking loud into a cell phone. Control your emotions and, as always, don’t stand out.


Your weapons are your ace in the hole, so avoid letting people see or know what you have. The most frequent violation of this rule deals with knives. I have often stood in a line at a coffee shop, or other place, and can count the knives clipped to the pocket of men’s pants. Someone could accidentally (on purpose) bump into you and have your knife before you know it. In an urban survival situation, if this is how you normally carry your knife, either put it in your pocket, or in your pants waistband so the clip is behind your belt. Obviously, the same rule applies to concealed weapons. Keep them concealed. Again, don’t let people know what you have for defense.


A flashlight will not only draw attention to you but will reveal your location. When it gets dark in a city, there is usually enough ambient light to allow you to find your way around. You should allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness, as your normal night vision will usually allow you to see fairly well. Obviously, there will be times that you might have to use your flashlight, but keep in mind that its use will ruin your natural night vision and you will have to readjust to the darkness when you are done. If you must use your flashlight, try using a red lens over the light and keep the light on low. This will help preserve your night vision and is less obvious than bright white light. Moving without a flashlight, and staying in the shadows whenever possible, allows you to remain unnoticeable to most.


Avoid using your cell phone, especially when near other people. When using your phone, especially when texting, you are not aware of your surroundings, as you should be. It also lets people know you have a functional phone. If you must use it, try to find a location where you are out of sight of other people. Position yourself so you can still observe what is going on around you. Don’t use the speaker phone and make your call or text short.


In order to be alert and aware of what is going on around you, hearing is an important sense for perceiving external stimuli. If you wear ear buds or headphones, you are eliminating this important sense. When in a survival situation, you need to use all the senses you have. Don’t limit them.


As I indicated at the beginning of this article, these suggestions are not all inclusive. But they are major things to avoid. 

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Copyright © 2019 by John D. McCann