Suburban Survival: How to Survive and Thrive in the Burbs

When considering all of the challenges and planning that you’ll have to attend to when it comes to prepping it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking it is a black and white situation.

suburban houses

Most articles you see on the subject are oriented towards those who dwell in the cities, and subsequently how they are going to get out of said cities when SHTF, and those who live in rural or remote areas, and how to best sustain their way of life under the circumstances.

But as you are probably already guessing from the title alone, there is a huge sector of people that live somewhere in the middle, all too literally! I am talking about, of course, the suburbs.

Those orderly sometimes quaint and sometimes modern sprawls of residential homes that spring up outside of major cities and often serve as transition points between major metropolitan areas and the rural reaches.

Though sometimes lumped in with cities for our purposes, this is a mistake, as the suburbs present unique advantages and disadvantages for survivors across a variety of survival domains and situations.

Knowing how to best take advantage of suburban environment strengths while minimizing or avoiding the weaknesses of suburbia is paramount if you are one of the many millions who live there. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan your efforts accordingly.

Bugging In is Often Best

Preppers, like most people, are vulnerable to falling into a pattern of binary thinking: Right and wrong, good or bad, best or worst.

Everyone likes nice and tidy solutions to problems or answers to questions, but so much of the time real life just doesn’t work that way!

Much of the time, many things are on a sort of sliding scale of acceptability, including our solutions to problems. Factoring that into our own planning, sometimes a “B-” solution right now is better than an “A+” solution eventually.

One of the biggest shortcomings I see in my travels is the notion that if you live in an urban or suburban area you had better plan on bugging out as a matter of course, a default response, whereas the opposite is true if you live in a rural or remote area.

In actuality, bugging in, not bugging out, should be your first choice for dealing with any disaster or other crisis event if you are able. Yes, even when talking about built-up areas and suburban areas in particular.

Too many preppers also commit an error in thinking by consider the process of bugging out in a vacuum: You are in a dangerous place, or a place that has been badly affected by some disaster, natural or man-made.

It follows that you want to get away from that place to a place of safety, and so a bug out is necessary.

This is an entirely understandable deduction, but so often misguided and not coherent with reality.

When you bug out, you are risking life and limb going by foot or by vehicle into an even larger unknown situation while leaving behind at least some shelter, supplies and a support system consisting of other people (even if it is just your neighbors).

It is entirely possible that you might be leaping out of a figurative hot pan and into a boiling pot of oil!

How Will Disasters Affect Suburban Preppers?

Instead heading for the hills literally or figuratively when the SHTF, taking advantage of a place and terrain that you know with additional resources is a better call even if it is damaged and tumultuous.

Risking so many unknown variables on a gamble of finding safety and certainty elsewhere is it likely to be more dangerous than the initial event!

For that reason, if you are able, I recommend battening down the hatches and staying put in your suburban home when trouble strikes.

Now, seasoned peppers already know that making the call of whether or not you should stay put or go is highly contextual to what the threat is that you are facing. Preppers should not respond to every event the same way.

Different situations call for different prescriptions, and these prescriptions are modified based on where you live and what resources you have available.

Therefore the first step in making the most of a suburban survival retreat is understanding how various disasters and other crises affect suburban dwellers. Below is a list of some of the most common incidents and they’re likely impact on suburbia.

Gov’t. Crackdown / Martial Law

There are a lot worse places to be during a government implementation of martial law or a tyrannical takeover, namely in the city proper!

During any wide scale implementation of martial law, police and military forces will most likely be concerned with securing installations of high value to the continuation of government, namely industrial, commercial and political centers.

Chances are towns that consist of nothing but residential homes will not be prioritized, but you should expect controlled access in and out especially heading towards larger cities and likely checkpoints.


Societal Unrest

High up on the list of likely events that preppers concern themselves with today is that of widespread societal unrest.

Whether it is caused by economic or cultural issues matters not one iota, what matters is that formerly friendly neighbors may yet be turned against each other by the stressors. Once again, you definitely don’t want to be in the city, and you could do a lot worse than living in the suburbs.

You’ll be much better off in a small rural town or village of like-minded people, but if you can rally your neighbors and the rest of your neighborhood to mutual defense and aid you’ll be in a pretty good spot.


Heatwaves are seasonally troublesome, and can be nearly as troublesome to suburban areas as they are to urban hives.

The preparations are the same, namely taking care to avoid any physical exertion that is not absolutely necessary and having plenty of provision for hydration, electrolyte replacement and some ability to cool your living space or at least keep air moving.

That being said, if things get really bad you’ll be spared the worst that humanity has to offer being away from the nexus of chaos that the average city will turn into. Heat waves also commonly lead to…


Blackouts are typically just as troublesome for suburban areas as they are for cities, although critical infrastructure in a city is more likely to have backup power supplies to ensure continuity of operations.

Most residential homes in the suburbs have no such capability, but neither do they have a towering concrete canopy on all sides of them to block out what natural light you could take advantage of.

A well-equipped suburban home will be more than capable of sustaining its occupants during even a lengthy blackout, and if you are fortunate enough to have neighbors or even an entire neighborhood that is similarly prepared you’ll be in good shape indeed!


Tornadoes are one disaster that will usually treat suburbs pretty badly.

Large, heavy, reinforced buildings that make up many cities will weather the intense winds of a tornado pretty well except in the most dire of circumstances or in case of a direct hit.

Modern suburban homes are usually severely damaged or destroyed under the same circumstances, and people without basements or built-in tornado shelters usually suffer the worst.

If your suburban home lacks a basement you should strongly consider installing a tornado shelter or make plans for heading to the nearest designated tornado shelter in your area once a tornado watch has been declared.


Hurricanes might be thought of as an egalitarian disaster, in that they treat all areas, all environments and all regions pretty much the same.

Devastating winds, massive inundations of rain and storm surge and all of the second and third order effects that make search, rescue and rehabilitation so difficult or even impossible will affect the suburbs the same as any city or rural community.

Your only choice when dealing with a hurricane is to make the call to ride out the storm if it is not particularly powerful or you are facing a near miss, or evacuate early and well before it makes landfall.

It is possible, with enough notice, manpower and the right equipment, to give your suburban home some measure of flood protection using sandbags or other barriers but this must be started well in advance of the storm and will offer you no protection whatsoever from wind.


Suburban dwellers are likely to have an easy time of it during a blizzard so long as they are properly prepared.

Ample supplies of food, water, medicine and other provisions combined with backup capability for heating the house or just a dwelling space will keep occupants comparatively comfortable and cozy during the worst of the storm.

Many urban areas along with rural communities suffer terribly during blizzard conditions whereas suburban neighborhoods offer the right combination of mutual support and survivability.

Don’t get out and leave the shelter of your suburban home during a blizzard unless you have no other choice!


Your chances of surviving an earthquake in the suburbs are generally pretty good.

Although typical residential homes can be severely damaged or even destroyed by an earthquake, you won’t be facing that tumultuous rattling, cracking and rolling while in some high-rise building that is truly vulnerable to catastrophic collapse.

Additionally, should you or someone else be trapped beneath rubble or in a damaged home there will be at least some people around they can likely come to your aid.

Also, getting clear of falling debris and potentially collapsing buildings is pretty simple in the suburbs compared to the city.

flooded town street


Flooding is one of those disasters that can occur pretty much anywhere around the globe, and that obviously includes the suburbs.

If your neighborhood is in a flood-prone region, your only hope is to evacuate or do whatever is required to erect a water-tight dam around your property, usually impossible without the aid of heavy equipment.

On the other hand, suburbs are often priorities for state and federal aid in the aftermath of major flood events, so if you do decide to stick it out for whatever reason you can generally expect rescue to be along in a timely fashion.

The Good and Bad of Surviving in Suburbia

As I alluded to above, pretty much every environment on earth offers advantages to clever and knowledgeable preppers. Likewise, every environment has its share of challenges, obstacles and hazards that must be overcome in kind.

A capable prepper does not bemoan their current circumstances when it comes to the environment, but instead learns to thrive by adapting to it.

Most seasoned peppers already know the advantages and disadvantages attendant with rural living, and likewise or at least academically familiar with maximizing your chances in an urban area. We must do the same thing when living, or staying, in suburbia.

By understanding the advantages and disadvantages that the suburbs present you can adapt your prepping plan to it and maximize your chances of survival no matter what is occurring.

It is still likely going to be a challenge, but you can have a far easier time of it if you assess and plan properly!

The Good

Useable Land of Your Own

One of the single best advantages to living in suburbia is that you will most often have some land of your own to utilize for a variety of survival purposes.

A front yard, a back yard, or a surrounding acreage, any and all of them can be put to good use.

Most folks living inside a city proper don’t have a yard of any size that is worthwhile if they even have that, and should count themselves lucky to even have an above ground planter!

The land attached to your suburban home can be put to use for all kinds of crucial survival tasks, including the growing of food to supplement your stores, outdoor waste disposal and more.

The greater capability afforded by your land is a major asset when it comes to sustaining in place during a long-term survival situation.

Even if you are unable or unwilling to put your land to use and one of the ways listed above, it is still great to have an additional perimeter around your home proper, for outdoor cooking, and much more.

Less People

Invariably, the suburbs contain fewer people than the massive urban zones that they typically surround. It stands to reason that cities become cities in the first place because so many people live in and occupy them, but this is not an asset during a crisis.

You definitely want to have people that you know and trust by your side in the middle of any major event, but people like that will be in precious short supply within cities.

In fact, the vast majority of people that you see day to day while within a city are, functionally, strangers, strangers that will behave erratically or desperately in times of trouble.

Cities represent the apex of what might be described as “low trust” communal living.

Conversely, though you will still have faces you don’t recognize moving around in the suburbs during the same crisis, there will be a much higher proportion of people that you are at least familiar with, and that can go a long way towards easing stressors.

Better Relationships with Neighbors

I know more than a few preppers who think of survival as a “lone wolf” sort of affair, or one that is undertaken with only the closest of friends and family members. This notion is romantic, and understandable, but generally misguided.

People are social beings, and we work best when working together in groups to achieve an objective. A team of humans is formidable, but a lone human is so often vulnerable.

You’ll need people to help you complete work, to take care of you when you are sick or injured, to watch your back when you are sleeping or distracted and to help you accomplish the innumerable tasks that will crop up in the aftermath of a major disaster.

You only have one set of arms and legs, and you can only be in one place at a time. This is a long way of saying that you’re going to need plenty of help if you want to make it through a crisis.

This is where a suburb can offer you perhaps its single best advantage. It is highly likely that you are on good or at least decent terms with multiple neighbors around your home and probably throughout your neighborhood.

Even in neighborhoods where you don’t know everyone particularly well members of the neighborhood generally look out for each other.

This can serve as a workable ad hoc survival group in the aftermath, or the basis of a truly high-functioning mutual assistance group assembled prior to a disaster.

Farther Away from Urban Crises

Even though it is possible to survive and thrive in a city during a major calamity, particularly one that results from social upheaval, there is no disguising the fact that it is difficult: cities typically turn into the epicenter of chaos, bedlam and bloodshed in the aftermath.

Whether it results from a total collapse of public utilities, scarce or non-existent supplies or just a surge of criminal and desperate activity in the aftermath of the event, you’ll have to be good and stay on your toes if you want to survive in such an environment.

It is better to not have to go through that at all if you have any choice. This makes the suburbs a highly attractive alternative to the cities for that reason alone.

Don’t get me wrong, suburbs can still suffer the predations of the desperate and the criminal alike, as we will learn, but you will often be far better off taking your chances in the suburbs then in the middle of the city.

The Bad

Difficult to Control Access to Neighborhood

Suburban living is generally comfortable and preferable for most people compared to dwelling in the city, but during any crisis, especially one where the rule of law is struggling or absent entirely, controlling access to your neighborhood can prove to be difficult compared to an urban area.

If one lives in a multi-story apartment, condo or other structure in a city, restricting access can be as simple as locking down strategic doorways, stairwells and elevators and posting a few guards.

Doing the same thing in a typical suburban neighborhood will prove to be quite challenging, even if one does have a patrol or guards posted.

Most folks will prefer to shelter inside their own homes, meaning that the responsibility for keeping watch and looking for infiltrators is distributed and coordination can be difficult or impossible.

Meaningful protection in suburban neighborhoods is usually done of the close variety instead of perimeter or checkpoint control.

Easy to Access by Most Means

Piggybacking on the previous entry, most suburban areas and the land immediately surrounding them is easy to access, situated as they are for the mass construction of residential homes and the easy movement of traffic two, through and out of them.

Geographically, one would describe most suburban zones as highly “porous” to both vehicular and foot traffic.

Natural barriers like forests, hills and other potential obstructions or natural lines of demarcation are usually thinned out or removed entirely in the bargain, further complicating the job of people who would keep trespassers and potential bad guys out of the neighborhood at large.

Most rural areas are easy enough to checkpoint along a handful of major routes with discrete centuries posted along likely points of ingress off-road.

The typical grid-like layout of a city and dense, compact nature of their typical construction also makes them easy to close off or checkpoint compared to the suburbs.

You’ll need plenty of manpower and lots of coordination if you hope to close off your larger neighborhood area during a crisis.

Common Target for Looting and Thievery

Looting and stealing go hand in hand with major disasters. It is sad, but true, and a factor that you must plan for.

Whether someone is driven into the pits of desperation from lack or are of a criminal mindset and taking advantage of the situation for their own gain, both of these people know that the suburbs are likely to be flush with supplies when cities and other areas run out.

This means that living in the suburbs is akin to sitting on top of a loot box for the wrong kind of people, and you must be prepared to meet and repel these people if you want to keep what you have.

This is not to say you’ll be unduly challenged because of the terrain, but compared to rural living where there are just not that many people, and less people that go around unknown, or cities where you can just fade into the background as one of a faceless multitude, the suburbs definitely have a bullseye on them when it comes to looters.

“Pit Stop” Problem

The suburbs have long been seen as something of a pit stop for people who are moving permanently or temporarily away from cities, and this problem will be exacerbated tenfold in the aftermath of a disaster as urban denizens desperately try to flee the problems that are percolating in their home.

Compared to smaller, rural villages which might be tucked well away from cities both by distance and access routes, the suburbs are quite literally difficult to miss whenever one is leaving a city.

This means that you should expect and be prepared to deal with a massive initial amount of traffic in the immediate aftermath of any event that should befall your neighboring metropolitan area.

That is not to say these people will have ill intentions or could pose a problem for you, but as described above any unknown contact is cause to double your caution under the circumstances. You will likely have a busy week immediately following the event even if you get off scot-free in your neighborhood.

Often just as Dependent on Utility Grid as Cities

The biggest shortcoming of cities when considering them in the context of a truly destructive disaster is their near total dependence upon public utilities. Water is delivered via public works, and waste is extracted by sewers or hauled off by garbage collection.

It is thought that those living outside of the city have an advantage, at least when it comes to something other than electricity, but the truth is that the suburbs are pretty much identical to cities when it comes to dependency upon utilities.

This is something that simply must be planned for, and although it is possible to rig up one’s home with off-grid utilities far easier than you could while living inside the city proper, this has other considerations that must be carefully considered before committing. That will be discussed later.

Often Deprioritized by Gov’t. in times of Major Crisis

As has often been said, hope is not a strategy, and hoping for government rescue or intervention in the aftermath of a disaster is something that most preppers do not plan around.

That being said, given enough time the gears of governance do turn, and eventually aid will arrive in the form of supplies and manpower.

However, if dealing with a true cataclysm at the regional or national level, government agencies at the state and federal levels will be working with decidedly finite resources, and under the circumstances will enter a sort of “triage mode,” applying assistance and help where it will do the most good to ensure its own continuity or help the most affected victims.

Broadly, this is rarely the suburbs outside of the cities.

That means that you could be well and truly on your own if a crisis is bad enough. There will be no cavalry coming, and you shouldn’t expect it!

Suburban Survival Necessities

The items that are required to survive in the suburbs are largely the same as the ones required to survive in any other environment, man-made or natural. At least they are if we are talking about strict survival necessities, the things required to support human life.

Things like oxygen, water and food are universal, but looking at the bigger picture problem we will also require special tools and supplies to help us make the most of and support living in a suburban environment.

To help in this regard, we have assembled a comprehensive list of survival supplies, provisions and tools that will be necessary for prolonged survival when bugging-in in the suburbs, wherever they happen to be.

The fundamentals like food and water are on this list along with more specialized stuff like sanitation supplies, weapons and communications gear.

Our list of suburban survival necessities is broken up into nine categories, listed below with more details immediately following.

Keep reading, and you can use the following section as a checklist for assembling your own survival stash and also for ensuring that all of your particular considerations are accounted for if you are a suburban dweller.

  • Shelter Supplies
  • Water
  • Food
  • Tools and Lighting
  • Defensive Weapons
  • Communications Gear
  • Hygiene Supplies
  • Medical Gear
  • Sanitation Supplies

Shelter Supplies

  • Includes sleeping bags, blankets, tents, seasonally appropriate cold weather clothing, heating appliances and a fuel supply for the same.

It might sound strange to consider that you need shelter supplies when you plan on bugging in and surviving inside your very own cozy home: If you weren’t bugging out into the middle of the wilderness, what need have you for tents and sleeping bags?

Consider the issue in the greater context of survival: your modern residential home only provides you meaningful protection from the elements thanks to modern climate control systems and whatever insulated value its walls afford.

When electricity and gas supplies are knocked out, that means no more heating, no more cooling, and particularly in colder environments that can be a death sentence.

This situation will be made even worse if your home is damaged in any way, allowing wind and moisture to seep in.

But if you have on hand the supplies you need to create warmer and better insulated microclimates inside an existing room of your home, particularly one that you are able to heat through the use of a fireplace or some other liquid-fueled heating device you’ll go a long way towards beating that ever hungry cold.

Even without another source of heat, simply pitching a tent on a raised surface like a bed and then crawling inside properly dressed with plenty of blankets will keep you toasty warm even when it is blisteringly cold outside.

Dealing with scorching hot weather is another matter, as any modern air conditioning system is highly dependent upon electricity.

In this regard, your home can provide shade at the very least and with a careful eye for detail and prevailing sunlight you can open doors and windows for cross ventilation and hang up moistened blankets or towels to provide a swamp cooler effect.


  • Bottled water supply consisting of 2 liters to 1 gallon of drinking water per adult, per day. Off-the-shelf commercially bottled water is acceptable but you should also consider the use of water storage containers that you can fill and treat yourself. A portable or countertop water filtration system will allow you to safely treat naturally sourced water for consumption.

Water is a critically important consumable in a survival situation, and doubly so if you rely upon public water works for drinking water in your home.

You can only go a few days at most without anything to drink before you perish from dehydration, and you’ll be in bad shape well before that time.

Now, most places have plenty of water to be had in one form or another, but much of it is no good for drinking and can even make you gravely ill or even kill you if you consume it.

Even if you are lucky enough to live in suburbs that rely on well water for supply, they are anything but guaranteed if you are dealing with a bad enough disaster.

Public water supplies and even your well water can become contaminated in the aftermath of an event, or shut down entirely due to a loss of crucial infrastructure or just the loss of electricity. When you are already dealing with the shock of such an event, you want a ready supply of drinking water on hand to handle the hydration needs of yourself and your family.

A couple of leaders of water per adult, per day is the bare minimum you should strive for when stocking up, and if you live in a hotter region or are going to be exerting yourself that supply should be closer to a gallon per adult, per day.

Most preppers will instinctively lean towards stockpiling mass quantities of bottled water purchased at the grocery for this purpose.

Smaller water bottles are convenient for carry and travel, whereas your larger gallon size jugs or larger represent a better buy for filling water bottles and canteens.

Smart preppers will also look into larger water storage containers that they may purchase and then fill (and treat) themselves to provide well-rounded water storage.

Now, you must plan on the event going on so long that you’ll be forced to source water from elsewhere, be it a man-made reservoir of some kind or a natural source like a lake or river. This means mass storage and treatment must be an option for you.

One of the best suburban means of storing large quantities of water in an emergency is a bathtub basin bag that you can fill up when trouble is brewing or immediately after or fill up later after collecting water from somewhere else.

Another excellent gadget that all preppers should have is a high efficiency water filtration system, be it a countertop model or a portable field model.

Natural water sources and contaminated man-made sources of water are often full of nasty bacterial pathogens that can make you severely ill, something which might be an inconvenience and normal times but can be a showstopper, and even fatal, when the SHTF.

Running any of your sourced water through this filtration system will remove these bacteria, and make the water much safer to drink, although the removal of chemicals and heavy metals requires more sophisticated water filters.

If you don’t have many natural water features around your suburban neighborhood, don’t despair, as good options for collecting emergency drinking water include pools that are in reasonably good condition, hot tubs, fountains and even ponds.

Home (pressure) canned and dehydrated long term pantry meals and sides.
Home (pressure) canned and dehydrated long term pantry meals and sides.


  • Your food supply should consist of shelf-stable, long-lasting food that is ready to eat as is or with minimal preparation. Aim for a calorie supply of between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per adult per day. Some hearty snacks like trail mix, beef jerky, granola bars and similar items make for useful rations when away from home.

Most preppers are disproportionately focused on food as a prep. Though this might be due to the “emotional fixation” on food that many of us have, you can make a great case for stashing more food than is strictly necessary according to statistical calorie consumption rates.

While it is true that you can go for quite a long time without any food before you starve to death, once again the mental and physical debilitation that you’ll be suffering from before that point can reduce you to near uselessness.

Simply stated, food is fuel for a hard-working body, and you’re going to have plenty of hard work to do during a survival situation. You can make your life easy if you choose a variety of foods that are ready to eat as is, or ready to eat with minimal preparation.

Remember, you likely will not have access to electricity or gas supplies as normal under the circumstances, and any electricity or other liquid fuel that you have will be sharply limited and should be rationed.

various instant foods rice chicken breast nuts lentils
various instant foods: rice, chicken breast nuts, lentils

Aside from staples for meals you should also have on hand portable, ready to eat and calorie dense snacks that you can take with you whenever you are leaving the home or elsewhere in the neighborhood on a work detail. Beef jerky, trail mix and similar foods are ideal for the purpose.

Living in the suburbs has a major advantage here, as most people will be able to grow produce in a garden somewhere on their property.

Fruits, vegetables, herbs and other beneficial plants can be grown in pretty much every biome, and many plans can be grown in containers indoors with a little bit of planning.

This is one prep that will definitely benefit you if it is well underway before disaster strikes. Don’t discount this idea, as even a small hobby sized garden can produce a meaningful supply of food for a small family or group.

Believe it or not, you’ll even have the opportunity to raise some livestock if you want to on your suburban retreat.

Backyard chickens are an excellent source of nutritious eggs and can also be harvested for their meat. You can do the same thing with rabbits, although this is likely to be a harrowing experience if one has kids.

Though you might only have a modestly sized front and back yard attached to your suburban home you should not underestimate the boost that it can give to your survival food supply if you know how to take advantage of it!

Tools and Lighting

  • Flashlights, lanterns and headlamps should be your reliable lighting tools for all occasions. Keeping battery sizes limited to just one or two will ease logistics, while liquid-fueled lanterns and candles are also worth considering if circumstances permit adequate safety in use. Suburban preppers should also have on hand a variety of manually operated tools for conducting repairs to their home and constructing improvised devices and structures.

With precious few exceptions, the occurrence of any disaster worth the name is going to plunge you into darkness.

Fragile electrical grids are likely to go down hard for the duration, and it is easy to forget just how dark the world can be without the thousands and thousands of shining, electric lights that dot urban and suburban cityscapes. You could be facing months on end with no power.

In the dark, you are vulnerable, prone to accident and victimization. Getting work done can be made impossible considering that humans have exceedingly poor night vision.

The obvious solution is a personal lighting tool like a flashlight or a headlamp if you need to go hands-free. Electric lanterns work wonderfully for lighting up a wide area safely.

Old fashioned alternatives like traditional candles and liquid-fueled lanterns are worth considering, but you must keep in mind the risk of accidental fire, particularly if you have children or pets.

a toolbox
a toolbox

If you are going with battery powered lighting tools you’ll have two major considerations, ones that use disposable cells or ones that rely on rechargeable cells.

If using disposable cells try to limit sizes to just one or two in order to ease your logistical burden. A hodgepodge of battery sizes is a nightmare to keep track of and rotate.

If you are going with rechargeable cells you’ll be free from the need to purchase and stockpile expensive disposables but then you’ll be committed to acquiring an off-grid solution for recharging them.

This might require a specialized charger or just a USB cable connected to an appropriate AC adapter.

At any rate, a portable solar charger can be used to readily fill a power bank that can then be used to recharge said batteries, although you’ll be held captive to sunlight hours if you want to make use of this method.

Defensive Weapons

  • When considering firearms, handguns and long guns have their place in a suburban home defender’s arsenal, but one should not neglect a reliable melee weapon, and alternative weapons such as pepper spray. If relying upon firearms, make sure you have a reasonable stash of ammunition for them.

It is nice to think that people could put aside their differences and act rationally to help each other or at least coexist when dealing with the unthinkable, but history has proven time and time again that the worst of human nature will be on display, at least partially, in the aftermath of a major catastrophe.

Plainly stated, desperate people will act desperately to get the things that they need, or think they need, and criminals will invariably act independently or in concert to take advantage of the chaos and confusion in order to acquire ill-gotten goods.

Even more grimly, some disasters themselves are nothing but societal unrest or human conflict on a massive scale with an accompanying level of violence.

You must be prepared to defend yourself, and the best way to defend yourself from another hostile human is by having a gun and knowing how to use it.

Guns are not the answer to every problem, but they are the right answer when you want to maintain a safe distance and reduce a threat with decisive certainty.

We will talk more about the specific considerations for selecting and arming yourself with a firearm and the subsection just below.

Considering Firearms for Suburban Survival

It is usually easy to get into a circular argument when discussing firearms in a survival context.

This is one of the most contentious topics to be found in the survival sector, and everyone seems to come up with a reasonable sounding and seemingly impenetrable argument for why their firearm of choice is the best or the ideal for survival.

I will tell you right up front that a thorough, nuanced and worthwhile discussion of the pros and cons of various firearms is an entire guide unto itself, and generally outside the scope of this article, but it is worth discussing what various types of firearms can do for you in broad strokes.

Handguns for many people in all walks of life are the primary weapon, being convenient, easy to carry and generally adequate for the task of personal defense.

Handguns are also quite agile and easy to handle in cramped, confined conditions, be that inside a small space or among a crowd of people.

Although definitely lethal, handguns lack power compared to long guns and their effectiveness is further hampered by being quite difficult to shoot well under stress outside of very close range.

Handguns will likely remain weapons of choice for many considering they can easily attach the gun to their body in a holster and continue to work hands-free.

Long guns, on the other hand, are generally the opposite.

Any long gun, be it rifle or shotgun, brings drastically greater power to the table and is much easier to shoot well compared to a handgun in all conditions. They also have a greater effective range than a handgun by and large, rifles in particular.

However, long guns are not easily hidden on your body, and though you can go hands-free by slinging a long gun it will be quite visible for anyone who cares to cast a glance your way.

Do not write off this greatly raised profile in the public eye just because you are in the middle of a survival situation. Even among people that you know and that nominally trust you, such as people in your neighborhood, this is generally unsettling.

A tight-knit group of survivors who have discussed the problems attendant with survival before and are planning to work together to solve them will likely feel differently.

When it comes to how many guns you should have for survival purposes, I generally advocate having a primary weapon plus a spare (in case something should happen to render the primary useless) and then a secondary weapon for special purposes.

If you are trained and practiced with handguns, having your primary defensive handgun and a duplicate for insurance is ideal, but you might rely upon a shotgun or rifle for hardcore home defense.

If you live on a large parcel or in a suburban neighborhood that is mostly open and flat the rifle or shotgun might be your primary weapon instead, with the handgun being worn when going out and moving about.

As always, whatever the case, your gun might be a bigger danger to you and your loved ones if you aren’t trained in proper, safe gun handling. Make sure you get training and then practice regularly so you’ll be effective and safe when the time comes!

Alternate and Supplementary Defensive Weapons

In the meantime, if guns are an untenable prospect, unavailable or outright illegal in the area where you live you’ll need some other method to defend yourself.

Close combat weapons in the form of clubs, knives, spears, swords and other old fashioned but undoubtedly effective implements are still a viable option.

Preppers will be wise to consider ranged less-lethal tools like aerosol OC in the form of pepper spray or the commonly available bear spray version.

This is one of the best possible deterrents you can use against an attacker that will rarely leave lasting injury but is still undoubtedly effective.

Whatever weapon you are armed with, you must be willing and able to protect your family, yourself and your community from people who would take from you, and perhaps kill you to get what you have.

I cannot impress upon you enough that nobody, no one, no soldier or police officer, will be coming to save you in time when you are directly threatened. If you want to survive, it is up to you.

This begs another question, of how you will deal with someone who is truly destitute and desperate for supplies that you have but you are keeping to ensure that you and yours have enough to keep on living.

It would not do to have division in the ranks during such a situation, but you must also consider that someone who is truly desperate will be willing to maim or kill in order to provide for their own survival needs.

Whatever kind of weapon you choose to rely on, it is not a good luck charm: the weapon must be up to the task, but that is nothing compared to the person who wields it. Get training from a vetted instructor and then practice regularly.

Baofeng UV 5R5 HAM radio
a Baofeng UV 5R5 HAM radio

Communications Gear

  • Keep a smartphone handy along with multiple chargers for it, a power bank or backup battery to extend up-time, and a portable solar charging system for the ultimate in off-grid power assurance. Cell phones might be non-operational during the event, however, you can keep in touch with your family or group by utilizing handheld radios or walkie talkies, and stay tuned in to developing situation reports using an emergency, crank powered weather radio.

Maintaining communications with your loved ones, fellow members of your survival group or neighborhood watch and authorities who are trying to get a handle on the developing situation is imperative during any crisis.

Even people who are prepping alone still have need of redundant communications capability in order to stay abreast of developments regarding the weather, relief efforts or the overall situation.

You have multiple options when it comes to communications gear suitable for suburban survival use. Believe it or not, first and foremost among them is still your cell phone or smartphone.

As intricate and seemingly delicate as cellular networks are, they are more robust than you think and assuming that the entire local network is not physically damaged or power goes out across a wide area it is likely that they will continue to function, if in a reduced capacity.

However, calls take up quite a lot of bandwidth and there is only so much that a local tower can handle.

This will usually lead to out-of-service or “network busy” messages when trying to place a phone call during the opening phases of a crisis.

Circumvent this problem by trying to send a text or email instead, or you might be able to make use of towers that are farther away by utilizing an improved antenna with your cell phone.

Other than modern cell phones, your next best option is a personal radio of some kind, either GMRS or FRS type.

Handheld walkie-talkies or fixed sets installed in your home or vehicle can provide quite a bit of range and a completely self-contained communications network so long as they are powered.

However, utilizing a radio to best effect requires some training in its use, so you and anyone else was planning to make use of it within your group will need to practice with it.

It is also worth mentioning that except in the case of encrypted transmissions anyone with a radio who is on the same channel can listen in to what is being said, so keep that in mind.

The last and one of the most important elements in a robust emergency communications plan is an emergency radio, particularly an NOAA weather radio.

These small radios, typically crank powered, are able to tune into various emergency channels to pick up broadcasts made by government agencies.

These broadcasts invariably concern the present crisis and are a great way to stay abreast of a changing situation or developments regarding hazards and relief efforts.

Also pertinent to prepping efforts, they usually include a USB charging port or two and a modest flashlight, ensuring you maintain at least some capability so long as you can keep turning that dynamo to charge its internal power supply.

hygiene-items-on-pantry-shelveshampoo shower gel mouthwash toothpaste etc
hygiene items on pantry shelves: shampoo, shower gel, mouthwash, toothpaste, moisturizing cream, lip balm, deodorant sticks

Hygiene Supplies

  • You’ll make use of many of your typical personal care and hygiene items during a long-term survival situation. Soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, body powder, and hand salve or just about all you’ll need. Females may need feminine care items and babies will require all of their usual accoutrement in the form of diapers, powder and creams.

One of the worst mistakes that a prepper can make is forgoing proper personal care and other hygiene concerns during a survival situation.

It is easy to understand why some people might feel that way, considering all of the major problems you’ll be dealing with under the circumstances, but over the long term poor personal hygiene is just as likely to waylay you as any other hazard.

First and foremost, if you don’t clean your body, including your mouth, bacteria is going to continually multiply on or in it.

The presence of dirt, dead skin cells and germs is a nasty cocktail that will eventually lead to ailments like rashes and ulcers that could turn serious, and there will always be the lurking risk of infection should you sustain some other injury.

Furthermore, when you start putting multiple, nasty and unclean people in close proximity to each other it never fails that disease will run through the group like fire through a field of wheat.

Dysentery is an infamous and devastating disease that usually arises from poor hygiene conditions, and can prove fatal when you are already enduring other survival challenges.

Also, one should not discount the impact on morale that being unclean can have on a group. Frankly, horrid, nasty breath and wretched BO is going to put nerves on edge, nerves that are already frayed to the breaking point.

If you and everyone else in your group are driving one another crazy from the stench, it is going to be hard to work together in a meaningful way.

It is true that you are going to get dirty and nasty during most survival situations, that is just the way it is, but you should make allowances for getting clean again.

Your usual care items of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and foot or body powder will go a long way towards keeping odor and germs at bay and keeping you feeling good.

Medical Gear

  • A comprehensive medical kit will consist of supplies for treating lesser injuries and for serious trauma. In the former category, adhesive bandages, sports wrap, antibiotic ointment, burn and bite creams and basic over the counter medications should cover it. For serious trauma, you’ll need a selection of rolled gauze and gauze pads, tourniquets, blood clotting agents, splints, serious painkillers and wide spectrum antibiotics.

Disaster and injury go hand in hand, sadly. Even more sadly, during a proper crisis access to higher level, skilled medical care is going to be significantly more difficult, slower or even absent entirely.

Prepper wisdom tells us that we must be prepared to become our own doctors, nurses and paramedics, as when you or someone you care about gets injured or wounded help will be hours away, at best.

Is a scary thing to think about, but any event that results in a lot of chaos or mass casualties is going to push our modern medical infrastructure to the brink, either from internal disarray or from sheer workload.

It will be up to you to intervene in a timely fashion, either taking care of the problem entirely or stabilizing it until such time as higher level care can be attained.

To do this, you’ll need medical training first and foremost. If anyone in your family is an EMT, paramedic, nurse or doctor they will be quite literally priceless under the circumstances.

But lacking even this high level of education in medicine something as simple as first-aid or first responder course along with basic CPR and trauma intervention training can be absolutely life-saving.

You should definitely seek out this training yourself, but the training is only half the battle. Having quality medical supplies is the other half.

You’ll need a first aid kit capable of treating basic injuries like minor burns, small cuts and punctures, bug bites, sunburn and various illnesses and you’ll also need a proper trauma kit capable of taking care of major lacerations, broken bones and sprains, penetrating injuries and infection.

Sanitation Supplies

  • Your sanitation supplies for a suburban environment should include heavy duty trash bags, extra large, thick can liners, absorbent media like sawdust, kitty litter or clay pellets, bleach and hand sanitizer. These items will allow you to efficiently and safely remove typical household and human waste from your living environment until such time as waste disposal services are restored.

One of the most chronically overlooked elements of survival, and suburban survival in particular, is the need for proper sanitation during a long-term survival scenario. This is one of those things that no one wants to consider, but it must be done if you want to avoid a genuine nightmare.

The average American family household generates many pounds of waste per day, in the form of common household garbage and both liquid and solid human waste.

Unfortunately, trash services will probably be down for the count early on and stay that way for some time, and you cannot count on the sewer or septic systems continuing to function.

As harrowing as this is to consider, you need not panic. Dealing with sanitation concerns is quite simple so long as you know what to do and have the right supplies on hand.

First things first, unless you know for certain that your sewer or septic system is damaged or otherwise out of action, your toilet might just be rendered unusable from a lack of water supply.

It is possible to manually fill up the tank and bowl of your toilet with a bucket of water before flushing waste away normally. Note that you don’t want to be using your drinking water for this purpose, ever, as water is far too precious under the circumstances.

However, we must plan on toilets being out of action completely for one reason or another. This is where a purpose bought or improvised indoor toilet will save the day.

Using nothing more complicated than a large, 5 gallon painter’s bucket or similar container you can create or buy a seat or chair that attaches to the bucket or rests over top that can allow a person to sit and use the bathroom normally into the bucket.

By lining the bucket with a heavy-duty trash bag and some absorbent media in the bottom you can keep odor to a minimum while safely and surely disposing of waste.

Pro-Tip: Always scatter more absorbent media over the resulting waste whenever someone uses this emergency toilet, and make sure you remove, tie off and then dispose of the bag outside the home before it gets too full.

Efficiency is a virtue for preppers, but you should never risk a spill under the circumstances, and for that reason you want a jumbo supply of bags and absorbent media for the purpose.

If this is not an option, or you have a large yard that you can make use of you can consider an outdoor latrine.

Digging a hole or trench as an outdoor toilet can work well for long-term disposal of human waste so long as privacy is provided and care is taken to periodically treat the latrine with quicklime or ash.

Great caution must be used in locating the latrine in order to ensure that rain or overflow does not result in runoff entering above ground water or contacting the home.

Storing Your Survival Stash

One of the best perks of bugging-in in the suburbs is that you will generally have much more space in and immediately around your home for stashing your survival supplies.

For you beginning preppers, this might be something of a head scratching statement, but I know that the veterans in the audience are nodding along sagely.

Being prepared for a long-term survival situation invariably entails acquiring a metric ton of supplies, gear and all the other things you’ll need to endure in place whatever might have happened.

It might not seem like it when you just have a small 3-day survival kit, but once you start getting into weeks’ or months’ long reserves you’ll quickly run out of storage space even in a larger home.

With every cabinet, pantry, shelf, nook, cranny and hiding spot throughout your home occupied by something, you’ll need to come up with alternate places to store your precious supplies.

Luckily, most suburban preppers can make use of far more space than the typical city dweller. We have four such places below for you to consider.


The attic of most homes is often unused for storage unless one is stashing Halloween or Christmas decorations up there. Sometimes subject to extreme temperature swings depending on the season, the attic might not seem like an ideal place to store your survival gear.

However, so long as your attic is in good repair and functioning properly, meaning it is ably ventilated, it will work just fine for storing your more durable and long-lasting gear.

Attics also have the advantage of being out of reach of flood waters in case of natural disaster or just a busted pipe in your home.


The basement is another natural choice for storing survival supplies, whether or not it is unfinished.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a basement is that they tend to be far more temperature stable than an attic space, and run on the cool side meaning that they will be even better for storing food or other perishable items.

You must take care to ensure that a basement is not infested with mold or other pests, and it must be pointed out that basements are extremely vulnerable to flooding, even minor flooding, so you are advised to store your supplies up off the ground on shelving or racks.


You should not be too quick to store most of your survival supplies outside your home, mostly because they are generally less secure.

Even though the average home is easy enough to break into, comparable to a properly constructed and locked shed, breaking into a shed is usually seen as a lower-risk option among thieves.

That being said, if your shed is in good repair, insulated and pest-proof there is no reason why you can’t keep more durable items out there.


A garage is somewhat like a shed in regards to storage conditions considering that most garages are not climate controlled and are typically more vulnerable to pests infiltrating than the rest of the house proper.

That being said, most garages have ample extra storage space particularly if you install wall or ceiling racks.

Keeping most of your survival supplies up and out of reach, perhaps even out of sight, in plastic or rubberized storage containers is just the ticket for maximizing preparation while maintaining the most space in your home proper.

Disaster Proofing the Suburban Home

One of the most pressing questions for suburban preppers is whether or not they should attempt to make their home independent of public utilities, namely electricity and water though sometimes propane or natural gas, too.

Certainly, the technology, affordability and infrastructure required for doing so has never been better and so it is attractive.

Considered at the surface level, it makes perfect sense to do so with very little drawbacks. Anything that you can do to make yourself less dependent upon society and what society provides its citizens is a good thing.

Imagine how much nicer it would be to have enough electricity to run critical appliances, turn on lights or perhaps supply power to the entire house just as you always have should there be a widespread blackout.

What a comfort it will be to have clean, fresh drinkable water for the taking, regardless of the public water status!

However, this does not occur in a vacuum and this type of readiness comes at a noticeable “status” cost.

First and foremost, you generally don’t want to be the only house that is lit up when the lights are out and all other houses.

Running, noisy generators attract attention from the desperate and the criminal alike in the aftermath of major disasters, and these are high profile targets for theft.

This is not to say that you should not rely on a generator, water tankage and other utilities, but you might want to consider that it is painting a bullseye on you during a long-term survival situation.

For short-term survival scenarios, ones lasting perhaps for a weekend to a week at the most, it likely will not matter that much but the longer that the situation drags on the more and more visible you will become to the wrong kind of people.

If you are going to make your suburban home off-grid capable, consider doing so in the least obtrusive and lowest profile way possible.

Water tanking can be installed underground or beneath the home, or perhaps you can make use of a backup well system.

On-demand power can be provided quietly through the use of a whole-house deep cycle battery bank system that creates virtually no noise in use, although concealing the light and other electronics activity is up to you.

In general, aside from your family and those who are members of your immediate survival group, keeping your business decidedly your business is a good idea when it comes to “big ticket” preps like these, particularly when you live in the suburbs.

Organizing for Survival Success: The Suburban Advantage

In the end, one of the single greatest advantages that suburban areas can provide to the clever prepper is the people around you.

Your friends and neighbors can serve as a ready-made core of a survival group or a proper mutual assistance group that can band together in times of trouble for the aid of everyone.

Unfortunately, making use of this resource can prove to be quite challenging.

Different lifeways, demographics, personal beliefs and social pressures might mean that you could have a group of ready, willing and able participants in the cause, or reluctant backbiters who will snicker about your efforts and belittle you when you aren’t around.

You might have a mixture of people that lie at both poles and more that fall somewhere in between.

However, having even one or two people that you can trust and trust you at your back when a crisis breaks out is priceless, so initial failures or resistance should not stop your efforts to organize for survival at the neighborhood level.

The best advice I can give you about creating a suburban survival group is to start where you are strong, meaning your family members, friends and neighbors who already like you and generally think like you do.

Start by creating a culture of helping each other before turning to outside sources. Once people learn they can rely on you, and rely on each other, to take care of problems everything else should fall into place more easily.

After that, the sky is the limit. You should start by creating a sort of registry or call log among each other so that everyone in the group knows how to contact the others and potentially even family members in times of trouble. Then start putting your heads together when preparing.

Make use of the skills, supplies and specializations that each member can bring to the table. A member with a large gun collection who is willing to share in times of crisis might set up a range day to help everyone get trained up on the guns they may have to rely on.

An avid gardener can start sharing a bountiful harvest and the preserved fruits thereof with other members to help pad their own food stockpiles. A fireman, EMT or paramedic in the group can ably handle basic instruction in a variety of life-saving techniques. And so on and so forth.

With a little bit of luck, hopefully other people a ring or two out on the social network will begin to get interested and learn by osmosis.

One or two additional interested family members could turn into five, then ten, and before you know it you could have a few dozen people in your neighborhood all staying prepared for mutual aid and common good. That’s the goal!

You Can Survive in the Suburbs!

Surviving suburbia is not just a matter of bugging out at the first sign of trouble, and many prepping experts have given suburban dwellers the short end of the stick by not teaching and advocating for the unique advantages that suburban terrain can offer to clever survivors.

It is entirely possible to survive easily in the suburbs with correct preparation and planning put into place.

If you live in the suburbs, take advantage of this guide to better direct your efforts and pretty soon you can turn your suburban neighborhood into a legitimate survival retreat when things get dicey.

suburban survival Pinterest image

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