The Suburban Survivalist

Attention suburbia! We've all heard of the Urban Survivalist. The gun-collecting, camp-supply hoarding, defenders against the zombie apocalypse survivalist. That guy who stores food, fortifies his house, and waits in the darkness for the big one to hit. Are you that guy or do you have faith the government will come to your aid?

No? Then you’re like me! We the in-betweeners. We don’t live in poverty but certainly not a 1%er. We’re the paycheck-to-paycheck, PTA-going, little league coaches who spend more time worrying about moving up than survival. We are the American Middle Class. If that definition fits you, then ask yourself this:

When the “big one” hits, will you be a survivor or dependent on others?

If you’re like me, Emergency Management (EM) doesn't think of us when planning for large-scale disasters. And that’s fine because we don’t need help. I don’t have advocates worrying about me. I am the one doing the helping rather than needing the help.

I’m a Suburban Survivalist.

In a disaster, EM planners and first responders will primarily be concerned with vulnerable populations: hospitals, nursing facilities, low-income areas, and schools. If I do need help, it will come, but I may need to be patient.

Suburban Survivalists believe that people should prepare to be self-sufficient for 72-hours following a major event. It will take that long for situational awareness, resources to gather, and help to arrive.

Suburban Survivalists Unite!

In 2009, a large thunderstorm came over the mountain range near my house causing the dry riverbed to quickly fill over the banks. The water quickly filled up homes and cut the area off to any assistance. The sheriff’s department couldn't come to my aid. Red Cross didn't set up relief stations. I learned that day that I wasn't the only suburban survivalist in my neighborhood.

So what is a Suburban Survivalist? Someone who depends on their family first, their neighbors second, and the government third. We’re on our own people, so dig in for the big one! Here’s how you can become one.

Never stop preparing for the worst!

Survivalists might tick to a different clock, but if a disaster strikes, they will be ready. So start with the basics: Water, Food, and Shelter.

Wine vs. water

Food is important, but water is critical. And, although wine does contain water, it’s not a source of hydration. The average person needs between 9 and 13 cups of water per day, so if you have the water, drink it. If all you have is wine, host a party now, and replace it with water!

It’s recommended not to ration water unless you need to. As a suburban survivalist, we should never need to ration our water. Instead, try to store it, or make it.

A suburban survivalist will do this:

  • Buy water and store it in your shed, garage, etc. Move your small collection of $7 red wine if you need to make space
  • Remember to rotate store bought bottles, if they’re in plastic.
  • Buy a water filter system used for camping as a backup.

Think of clever ways to save water. For example, if you have a pool, this water is chlorinated and generally filtered. Although this should not be a primary drinking source, it might do in a pinch. But remember, when the power goes out, so does the pool filter, so it might become contaminated quickly.

Beware of poopy water.

In a flood, the water in your faucets may as well be coming out of your toilet. It could become contaminated by floodwater, or, worse, contaminated by sewage. Either way, don’t drink it.

Turn off the main water valve as soon as you can. Your house will have water stored in the pipes already. If you can keep this water separate from contaminated ground water, it will be safe to drink.

Forget the water from refrigerator door. If the power is out, you won’t be able to get to it. Unless you have a generator to power your house. And don’t forget, your hot water heater typically holds 60 gallons of water. This should allow a family of four to use one gallon of water per person for a week.

Cheese and crackers?

I learned in college that I could live off Top Ramen for four years, so stocking up for 96 hours is simple and cheap. Keep in mind that waiting for “shopping day” may not be smart. Suburban survivalists stock up.

Assuming that power is out, cheese and crackers might not be a good option, in combination. Although, crackers might be smart. Stock up on non-perishable, non-salty foods that your family will like to eat. Why non-salty? Because salty foods make you thirsty.

Canned foods store well and are generally pre-cooked. Make sure that you mix up your diet with proteins, carbs, and, yes, fat. You’ll have time to get back to the gym after the disaster, so eat the fat!

You will have iPhone withdrawals

Don’t depend on your phone. Everyone in your suburban neighborhood will be calling 911, so the phone lines will likely be tied up. Cell phone towers will run without hard-lined power for about 72 hours, unless they’ve been damaged by the flood. In that case, you likely won’t get a signal at all. But, if you do, don’t mad-dial 911. It’s likely that the lines will be overwhelmed with panic. And a suburban survivalist doesn’t panic!

Remember, your iPhone battery will die in 10 hours, so use it sparingly. In a flood, your power will be out, so you’ll get one charge. Prepare like this:

  • Leave your phone charging during a storm.
  • Have a backup charging battery for emergency — preferably one that uses batteries or a solar charger.
  • Don’t call 911 unless you have an actual emergency — allow for other people to call who actually need help.

Wean yourself off the television, too. The withdrawals are painful to watch during the emergency.

Time to move! Nothing ever goes as planned. Suburban Survivalists adapt to failed plans quickly, because they plan for the unexpected.

Family plan

Have an escape plan, an evacuation plan, and a communication plan. And practice it.

Evacuation plan

Make sure that you have a plan when it comes time to evacuate. Stay away from the highways, if possible. They will be packed with panicked non-Suburban Survivalists, so that might not be your option. Since it’s likely that you have a Suburban anyways, try unconventional means of evacuation: back roads, mountain passes, etc. But don’t improvise unless you absolutely need to. Plan your route and plan your process, and practice it.

Make sure that you know of an evacuation point for your family just in case you’re not together with disaster strikes. And a back up evacuation point, in case the first is unavailable.

Suburban Survivalists always have a half-tank of gas in your car and have your go-bag readily available.

Time to “go-bag”

More importantly, pack a go bag and have it accessible. A go bag will have clothes, batteries, a radio, food, water, and matches ready for a quick escape.

Don’t forget your pets!

Remember, flooding isn't the only threat out there. Long power outages, food shortages, gas shortages, and terrorist threats are all possibilities. Although, the most common terror activity in the suburbs is a teenagers with a driver’s permit. But, prepare for the unexpected.


Fido needs rescuing too. He has a special diet and needs water. Make sure that you plan accordingly.


When the power goes out, scented candles have limited burn times and can cause migraines. Having flight lights and battery-powered lanterns is a great idea, but make sure you have spare batteries.

And, when the big one hits, take the batteries out of all of your unneeded devices: remote controls, toys, and automatic wine-bottle opener.


A good suburban survivalist always has insurance. Remember, zombie apocalypses aren't covered by homeowners insurance… Neither is a flood.

Brought to you by Scipio Securitas — Improving Homeland Security Awareness!

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