Urban Survival in Apartment

Picture of Selco


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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As my plans include bugging out in case of SHTF to my BOL (bug out location), most of the time and effort is spent on preparing that part, but being prepper in apartment is an interesting topic too.

Some of us do not have other options, so they are planning to be where they are when SHTF-in apartment, and survive.

Other good reason to talk about apartment prepping is simply because all of our plans may vanish (plans to bug out to our BOL) so we could be simply forced to stay where we are when the system collapses.

So do not put everything in planning that you will leave when SHTF, maybe you will not be able to do so, or you are forced to spent some time where you are.

Manage Information

So here are few thoughts:

Know a lot about others, let others know only what you want to share about you.

Living in an apartment building usually means that you are going to meet your neighbors and you can’t avoid that. So be kind of curious about folks who live around you. It is very good thing to know what kind of people they are, what they do, their views and hobbies, their worries.

Of course that does not mean that you become something like the spy or stalker of your neighbourhood, just use your time and find out whatever you can about them when you talk to them or you see them doing stuff.

For example, I know exactly who will leave my neighbourhood if SHTF, who has some weekend house close to our building, or who does not have place to go to. I know what cars they are driving, time of the day when they are at home or at job (or picking their kids from school), some of their medical conditions, or political views, who likes to hunt during hunting season (and have hunting rifle at home most probably) etc.

As I said this is not about spying, it is about enough time and observing, paying attention and small chats.

It is true, in terms of security you need to keep your mouth shut, especially about your preparations.

But it does not mean you have to be the grumpy guy from the neighbourhood who hates people.

Be an ordinary guy, that also helps you to collect information in an easy way. Another good point is that you need to be ordinary guy because you do not want to attract attention. Being different is always a bad thing.

There is no point in looking completely different because you are prepper. Just keep that difference to yourself.


Of course you need to have food and water stored in your apartment too, no matter if you are planning to bug out as soon as first signs of collapse show up or not.

There are great suggestions everywhere how you can store goods in small spaces, like to put them inside beds, or even doors, containers for water inside tubs etc.

Of course you need to keep it secret too, so there is no sense if some of the neighbours come to your door to ask you something and they can see behind your back that your apartment looks like storage for doomsday.

When it comes to energy there are lot of suggestions about solar panels for apartment prepping and similar, I also like solar energy, but keep in mind that having 4-5 solar panels at your BOL and in your apartment is not the same, not only in terms of easy settings.

For example in my neighbourhood, there are maybe 5-6 apartments with visible solar panels, out of total maybe 300 apartments.

Point is that they just attract attention, when SHTF those solar panels will look very interesting for whole bunch of people who want to recharge their stuff.

If you planning to have solar panels try to have small ones, portable, for charging batteries, and check how you can use them without being so visible from everywhere, I rely heavily on a lot of rechargeable batteries and small solar charger.


Depending on the climate that you live in, you absolutely need to have alternative source of heating. When SHTF everything is much worse if you are forced to go through everything while you are freezing.

My apartment building has old central system for heating with wood, probably never used, or at least not used for 20 years now. Folks use modern heaters these days. But the old system still works, I checked it and it is a way to get rid of smoke.

If you have something similar, then it makes sense to have some kind of small wood stove stored somewhere so you can use it if you need it.

Store some wood too, or in worst case you can use furniture, doors, frames, books floor etc. In best case scenario use parks for collecting fuel.

Think outside box, if your apartment building does not have chimney system (i guess most modern buildings do not have it) have some metal pieces and lead smoke through your balcony, window or hole in the wall that you made.

Sounds dirty and stupid maybe but people used it a lot during the war in apartments, and do not forget that a longer metal exhaust that leads the smoke out means you can keep the stove closer and stay warm.

There are two problems here, poisoning which you can avoid by building a proper system, and of course investing some money in CO detector.

Other problem is smoke coming out from your apartment, people mentioning it a lot, as a possible invitation for trouble.

Actually in real SHTF there will be lot of smoke (and smell) in cities anyway, but if you see that it could be problem try to use fire by night, or „hide“ the exhaust little bit, so it does not look obvious from where the smoke is coming, try to disperse it a little bit so it does not look too „controlled“ and more like regular burning apartment.

These are just some thoughts on this that I think matter. How do you plan to prepare if you can not get out of your apartment or house and you live in urban environment? Share in comments below or community forum.

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9 Responses

  1. “Other problem is smoke coming out from your apartment, people mentioning it a lot, as a possible invitation for trouble. ”

    A “rocket stove” may be a viable low-smoke alternative, at least for cooking. These stoves use a combination of a super-insulated combustion chamber and controlled air draft, to more efficiently combust wood. After a short warm-up, a properly constructed “rocket stove” will give off almost no smoke. Google “rocket stove” for plenty of info.

  2. Thank you Selco. My wife and I installed several glass block wall units in our home when we built it. Glass block vary in size, but are often 6″ x 6″ x 4″ thick of various types of glass. They are grouted into place, much like masonry block or brick. In an emergency, I figured one of these blocks can be broken out for a stove pipe to fit through to the outside.

    Unlike windows, these glass blocks are not operable (they cannot be opened and closed). They are much stronger, yet allow light to go through and light up the interior. It makes sense to place these panels high on the wall, where the light can shine on the ceiling, spreading their illumination. They also allow you to conceal yourself and possessions much better than windows.

    Sola skylight tubes are another option for lighting up your interior with out electricity. Very similar to a range hood vent, they instead funnel light into the interior of your house. These are small enough to be installed after your residence is already built. By now, I imagine most / all of us have seen the water filled soda bottle for DIY skylights – this too may be useful in your outbuildings / work shops for task lighting.

    Thanks again Selco.


  3. I GET the need for heat in the colder months. (I live in the north Georgia mountains) While it is an important component of survival, it is down there on the list compared to sanitation. I’m surprised Selco didn’t give that any oxygen in this article……
    The reason Sanitation trumps heat? DISEASE. Especially in condensed, over-populated living accommodations like apartments. You could wrap up in a comfy blanket or simply dress warmly. Not ideal, but you can survive that way in a worst case for your warmth and heat needs….
    What happens to all of the human waste that is generated in these apartments? No running water, no functioning toilets, WHERE does that waste go? Especially in the upper floors of apartment buildings? How long before people are emptying waste buckets right over their balconies or out their windows into the alleys? Or dumping it in leaky dumpsters and alley garbage cans? Perhaps waiting til nighttime, and discreetly pouring it down sewer access holes in the streets? How long before those fill up and begin to overflow?
    The disease that follows in densely populated cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, DC metro etc, is going to be both swift AND catastrophic. If you do not have a way or destination to get out of a populated city during a SHTF scenario, FIND A WAY. DEVISE a way. If the disease does not get you, then desperate neighbors, gangs, overly aggressive military and/or police, starvation and thirst will get you in it’s stead.
    If you are serious about your family’s survival, then do what you KNOW in your heart what must be done. Once a SHTF scenario descends, it is too late for apologies to your loved ones for the oversight. Your family will be trapped, and at the complete mercy of all of these entities and forces that you have NO control over. Elderly relatives and hot looking women (Wives, daughters, etc) will be in the greatest danger. In a collapse in the rule of law, horny, moral-less men will REMEMBER where those hotties live…. Military, escaped prison inmates and otherwise…… If you plan on staying, be sure you are badass enough to fight off any and all comers continuously day after day.

  4. As the name implies I don’t live in the city, and I don’t live in an apartment. Of Corse I don’t have a high paying job that affords me all those nifty bug out toys. I’m the guy with the shotgun, riffle and a four wheel drive. Some people say oh I want to live like that….It’s hard work each and every day to live in the mountains . Unless your rich, but I’m not wealthy. If I lived in an apartment I’d have cable TV and never worry about the damn bears getting into the garbage. I can think of lots of good reasons to live in a big city, commute to work or anywhere for that matter. Convenience is another, nothings easy out here.
    What about putting your preps in someplace like a storage facility. When I’m in town I see these big facilities with good fencing metal roll up doors, seems like some kind of compound. I think if I was a city dweller in a SHTF…I’d hold up in one of those places. Good post Selco.

  5. “Know a lot about others, let others know only what you want to share about you.”
    This is not for survival times, that should be everyday rule. Talk less, listen more.

  6. Most people in this country are far-removed from any knowledge or practical use of fire. If we have a grid-down situation these people will use fire the way people have used it for years. They used fire for heat, light and cooking. Take a guess how well it’s going to work out for people that have no experience with fire. They are going to burn their house down. This is OK because it removes stupid and reckless people from the gene pool.

    The problem is when they burn their house they also burn all the other peoples house that is part of the same building. And post SHTF grid-down times it’s unlikely the fire department will come save you, your stuff and your food.

    Apartments are SHTF fire death traps waiting to happen. If you think we may have any kind of grid-down event and you are a serious prepper why the hell are you living in a death trap?

    Better to live in a mobile home then an apartment.

  7. Mobile homes are notorious fire death traps for the residents who are forced to live in one. Have seen far too many of them go up so quickly that I do believe you can indeed exit a large apartment building via fire escape, stairs or out of windows rappelling down, much better than trying to exit a burning mobile home.
    Yes, apartment buildings are death traps in most regards, but most of the people living in them are stuck there.
    Get out now if you can and move to a better location if at all financially possible, better to commute to work than burn to a crisp when the mobs are razing the building.

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