Survivalists are often depicted in the media as conservative militia members who expect the Biblical apocalypse. However, a more even-minded approach for disaster preparedness is happening in the cities, where people are preparing for disasters by packing essentials and making escape plans.
Sociologist Anna Maria Bounds of Queens College City of New York studied a group of these urban survivalists, who call themselves the NYC Preppers. This group not only trains others to survive emergencies, but also teaches preparedness for events like terrorist attacks, hurricanes and even a widespread disease outbreak.
New York isn't a stranger to disasters: both Sept. 11 and Hurricane Sandy left the city in a state of chaos. Instead of building bunkers in the case of such disasters, NYC Preppers are more practical: they recommend keeping a "bug-out" bag, a backpack stuffed with survival gear, food and other essentials, on hand at all times. They also suggest that everyone in urban areas plan routes out of the city in the event of an emergency.
So what should urban dwellers prepare for? With Hurricane Sandy, power outages throughout the city were common. Obviously, you should first pack flashlights and batteries or oil lamps and matches. It's also a good idea to check and see if your stove is gas or electric and stock up on non-perishable food, such as canned and powdered items (don't forget the can opener). The important thing is to think about what services are interrupted when there is a power outage.
The NYC Preppers also recommend keeping your car filled with gas and making sure medical prescriptions are always filled. Fill your "bug-out" bag with things like water filters, extra food and face masks. Compasses are also highly recommended. And, of course, no disaster preparedness bag should leave out the duct tape, which, as everyone knows, is handy for just about everything.
Finally, people in the cities should have an escape route planned. Those living in tall buildings need to know how to use emergency exits and how to get around their area by walking. The most important thing is self-sufficiency, which is sometimes a challenge for city dwellers.
"What you have to understand about New Yorkers is we're used to convenience and we're used to immediate gratification," says Bounds. "So to get our arms around the idea that we may have to be roughing it? Roughing it, for us, is not having takeout."
Do you need to see how prepared you are in the event of a disaster? You can download National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers app and test your knowledge and skills. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices.