8+ Places To Avoid Like The Plague When SHTF

To begin today’s article with a word of wisdom from our sponsor, everything in life is location, location, location.

Joke aside, an interesting issue to be addressed when it comes to prepping is which places are to be avoided after SHTF. The short story goes something like this, I mean this is the preamble: it is very possible for a catastrophic event to take place at some point in one’s life, whether you like it or not; it may be a large scale disaster of sorts, like a nuke strike, or an EMP strike, solar-made or man-made, courtesy of your local-crazy-nuke-armed dictator, or whatever natural extinction-level event, or terrorist attack.

The possibilities are endless.

Now, provided you’ve survived the initial “shock-wave”, you should concentrate your efforts on staying alive for a little bit longer, because, after all, there’s no fun in prepping and stockpiling gear and food and what not, if you’re not going to benefit from your efforts, right? It’s not about “he who dies with the biggest stockpile wins”, the trick is to stay alive, or at least to die last.

Hence, today’s article, which is aimed at trying to help you with the noble endeavor of saving one’s skin in the aftermath of WW3 or whatever catastrophic scenario you could think of.

The Number One Lesson

First world countries, like (parts of) the US, are awesome places to live when everything works fine and dandy. I am not talking about South-Central LA, or diverse neighborhoods in Chicago or Memphis, where crime rates are through the roof, if you know what I mean. The point is that our modern day uber-high tech society comes with obvious benefits. The caveat to living in a first-world country is that when everything is starting to fall apart, people are generally clueless with regard to surviving in third world conditions, i.e. without running water, electricity and things of that nature.

And yes, in a large-scale disaster, it’s very probable that electricity will go first, which means nothing would work anymore, since everything today runs on electricity, including your computer used for reading this article.

Also, since most of the US population is concentrated in a relatively small number of densely populated urban areas, it goes without saying that big cities are to be avoided like the plague in the eventuality of a SHTF event. Incidentally, almost every big city only has enough supplies to last for three days tops, and I am especially talking about food. The concept is that the food-delivery chain is never going to stop, the trucks will keep on hauling, hence nobody bothers to stockpile food anymore.

Obviously, in a serious crisis, life in a big city will become hellish rather quickly, as essential supplies are going to disappear fast (think about what happened this Black Friday, then amplify that by a factor of, I don’t know, 10,000 and you’ll start to get what I am talking about), people will get desperate for food and water (yes, your water utility company uses electrically powered pumps to deliver water to your faucet), and rioting and looting will become the new normal.

Naturally, it makes little sense to prepare (as in stockpile) large amounts of gear, including food, in a densely populated urban area. Since you’ll be the only one in “the hood” having emergency supplies of water and food and what not, you’d basically have a big-red TARGET sign painted all over your property. And soon enough, you’ll have to share your goodies with your local and not so friendly mob of looters. And that will get you nowhere, in terms of survival. Most probably, you’ll end up shot anyway.

So, if you’re all about “doom and gloom”, considering relocating from the big-bad city would make for a great idea. . And do it now, while you still can, until it’s too late.

The general rule of thumb is that big cities are to be avoided like the plague in SHTF scenarios. The good news is that the US has over 3000 counties, but half of the population lives in 146 counties, which means there’s a lot of “people-free” real-estate available for your bug-out retreat, where you can safely store food, water, guns, gold, bitcoin or whatever. Check out this map of population density by county.

Joke aside, if you’re a city dweller, it would be a good idea to have a little shack in the woods, somewhere remote, in an area (scarcely)  populated by friendly conservative folks, who know how to hunt, and love God and guns.

The Infrastructure Issue

As cities are collapsing under their own weight, due to violence spiraling out of control courtesy of desperate and hungry mobs trying to loot to live another day, not to mention the potential for third-world diseases breaking out due to  failure of basic infrastructure (a lack of sanitation because garbage trucks will be missing in action, law enforcement/emergency services rendered useless and impotent, dead bodies piling up everywhere and all that nice stuff that happens when people go berserk), it would be problematic trying to escape to your bug-out location, even if you have a getaway plan.

The transport infrastructure will get gridlocked instantly, as hundreds of thousands of people will try to escape the city in the same time, hence major highways will be something like Tetris meets Frogger, if you know what I mean. Also, a large-scale EMP strike would render most of the cars useless, hence hundreds of thousands of people will find themselves stuck across the countryside, in/near airports etc. And yes, they’ll try to get home by any means necessary, even if “home” would make for yet another nightmarish sight. So, any major airport, city or harbor is potentially “verboten area”, as in you should steer clear (at least 15 miles, if not more) from such spots.

Generally speaking, avoid all transportation nodes and all urban areas, that if you’re prepping for that big SHTF moment. Military bases are included in the list, since they  make for obvious targets for terrorist/nuclear attacks.

If you’re trying to get out of the big bad city following a SHTF event, I’d reckon you already have an escape plan. Just in case, stay away from chocking points, which are the logical consequence of thousands of people trying to bug-out in the same time. Obviously, I am talking about causeways, tunnels, bridges, you know the drill. Also, when you’re putting together your getaway plan, steer away from obvious choking points, alright?

Hospitals and prisons are also to be avoided like the plague.

In a crisis, like an EMP strike, it’s very probable that prisoners will receive an instant pardon, due to a lack of electricity , which would render locks and alarms useless. Also, officers will most probably flee to take care of their own families. It’s the human thing to do, and this would result in desperate and dangerous escapees roaming around. You don’t want that near your property now, do you?

On the other hand, hospitals would attract huge crowds of people looking for help, and yes, in a SHTF situation, you don’t want huge crowds of desperate people near you, especially sick (as in contagious) people. Basically, any kind of place that is prone to attract crowds of people in a catastrophic scenario is to be avoided, including FEMA camps (people may try to get in to grab food, water etc), gun and hardware stores (for obvious reasons, think along the lines of Black Friday in Zombie Apocalypse), you see where this is going, right?

Bottom Line

Stay away from major cities, transport-infrastructure, military bases, FEMA camps, prisons, hospitals, choke-points and major stores. Keep in mind that the biggest threat to you in a SHTF scenario is, unfortunately, other people. I think it was Sartre who said: Hell is the others. It’s a sad but true assessment.

I hope the article helped. If you have other ideas, questions or comments, you know what to do.

Written by

Chris Black is a born and bred survivalist. He used to work as a contractor for an intelligence service but now he is retired and living off the grid, as humanly possible. An internet addict and a gun enthusiast, a libertarian with a soft spot for the bill of rights and the Constitution, a free market idealist, he doesn't seem very well adjusted for the modern world. You can send Chris a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • We have already seen a smaller version of this when Katrina hit New Orleans. One televised picture showed the orange-suited inmates of the prison gathered together on an overpass. They were turned loose into the population. Shortly afterwards, a friend who worked with the Oklahoma City sheriff’s department called and said they were very concerned about this because there was no vetting at the collection centers and they feared many criminals would gravitate to Oklahoma. I call authorities in my Texas and was told this was correct. They said the Red Cross,, who was in charge of the centers,, would not allow anyone to determine whether any of the refugees were actually prisoners or had criminal records.. Many criminals wound up permanently in Texas places like Houston, where the crime rate soared. Right now, many Texas cities have significantly higher crime rates than before Katrina. The influx of illegal aliens has not helped.

    • Your name says it all, “musings”. That is exactly what you are doing. Crime in Houston did not see a surge after Katrina. We have always had immigrants, legal and illegal, here and the crime has not increased. Most crime done here are done by native-born citizens. You “called authorities in your Texas”? Damn, I didn’t know anyone owned Texas and I’ve been living here over 60 years. Prove your statements with documented facts not fantasies or musings.

  • It is always important not to be in front of the fan when SHTF.

  • What’s to learn from this?

    • “Kill or be Killed, will be the only rule of law left after SHTF………………………………………………Obey it!

  • At the moment, I live in an area which, at first glance, looks reasonably safe during a SHTF situation. But on closer inspection, it’s a rotten location. Why? I’m almost dead-center between Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida. Both would attract nuclear strikes like feces draws flies. Both have populations of over 1/2 million people now. Both have high violent crime rates, with Mobile nearly rivalling NYC. Both cities are about one days’ walk from my home.
    So, I bought some land in a western state, far out from population centers. I’m now working to get there, with the plan of taking everything I need to get set up quickly once there. This plan was thought out well in advance, so I won’t have any rude surprises once there.. And, I’ll be much safer there from starving, crazed hordes.

    • We already know who you are, “Kevin;” we know where you are, where you are going and what you will have there, if we let you get that far. Thanks for confirming all that here, and keep posting!

  • Agreed! Even if you can bugout, if you don’t have a place to go that is YOUR place, you’re chances are small. I spelled out my reasons in “Bug Out Now” on Kindle.

    • You might want to read “Lucifer’s Hammer” to discover what might happen to “your “ place in a SHTF situation.

  • Valid comments, no reason why you won’t post this.

    I wrote this before I read this article, I figured:
    1 Any large population center
    2 the area like 50+ miles around nuke plants “jic”
    3 Anything resembling a fema camps
    4 area’s or people that remind me of the movie “deliverance” or where I hear banjo music.
    5 be vary wary of unpopulated looking small towns, I’m more afraid of things I can not see..
    6 the direction from your hearing long winded screams.

    Now after reading..
    airport, harbor, prisons, hospitals, military area’s these are almost 1oo% associated with huge population area;s.

    Bodies piling up?? very doubtfull here in tha states but seeing some I belive is possible.

    • You left out #7 Anywhere near the fan.

  • hmmmm, must have been the adblocker

  • having your ” little shack ” in a remote area is not going to help much. The people in that area are not going to welcome you with open arms unless they know you well. I don’t care if you own the property or not as in a situation as is being described those rights are going out the door. Those remote areas will become tribal FAST. I know. I live in one and already know how the people feel about these weekenders and absentee landlords .

    • Ditto your thoughts. I live in a western rural community of about 7,000 people. The only value that weekenders and tourists bring is to the fast food joints and gas stations, where they take a leak before jumping back in their cars to continue the journey. The so-called “recreationists” that invade our area tear up the country side, cut rancher’s fences, and act like they are God’s gift to Macho Man. Bottom line – in a SHTF world, the only folks that would be welcomed are the ones already living here. Count on it.

      • My BIL is a very, very long stretch of water away. If I’m in the US for a work assignment when SHTF, I won’t get home. I spent 2.2K on a property near potable water, for somewhere to be if I need it. I’ve introduced myself to the locals and buy locally when I camp briefly on my spot (in and out by motorcycle). I pay property taxes. And I’m a working medic. I figure with that combination I could get back in to the area, if I had to. But I also know there are no guarantees.

  • The only people from a city that will be allowed into a rural area are Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, Veterinarians, Clinical Engineers, Lab Techs, Chemists, Pharmacists and other specialists like Electrical Engineers, Mechanics, and Machinists. No philosophers, social services workers, or lawyers need apply.

  • I have to laugh when I read or hear people talking about bugging out when the shtf. — Bug out to where??? — If everyone is bugging out to somewhere else, then all everyone is doing is exchanging places. — So, unless you live smack dab in the center of a heavily populated hive of zombies – like NYC, etc – it’s actually best to ride it out at the place “you know” rather than somewhere else you don’t know. — Oh – so you have a remote hideout. Uh, when and how are you going to get there??? — I’ll let you in on a little secret; zombies live all around you right now – in large numbers – regardless of where you live. – They simply are docile and for the most part harmless – as long as society keeps them well fed and entertained. If all that comes to a screeching halt, those exact same creatures will instantly become unhinged and their greatest personal asset is their extremely keen ability to instantly hone in on those that “have” what they “want”. And they instantly recognize anyone with a “purpose”. So, bugging out to your “hideout” is tantamount to leaving a trail of bread crumbs to where they will find the bread. — The best prepping is making your home your hideout. If you need to move to a place that better meets that purpose, then do it as soon as you can – instead of waiting for the s to htf. . The best scenario is living among like-minded people in a close-knit community, but that takes money and lots of it to gather such people like you in one place prior to the shtf. The next best thing is a neighborhood of people that have lived there most or all of their lives. If you can establish yourself as “one of them”, before it all goes to hell, then you have a very good chance of survival as the community will naturally ban together for everyone’s welfare and protection. — Good luck.

  • As far as I understand, prisons when the power dies are under lockdown. All electronic locks snap in place and cannot be opened till the power is back. Poorman makes an excellent point, that locals will stuck fast, and as an outsider, you stand little chance of becoming one of them. Having school-age kids helps, of course But, read Wolf and Iron, by Gordon R. Dickson. Every prepper should read this at least once to get a firm grasp of the psychology of strangers post SHFT. Aside from that, it’s just plain good reading.

  • I’ve seen the turmoil that happens when the power grids go down while traveling to Costa Rica in 2017. We landed literally when the power went out across the Costa Rica – Panama Piwer Grid and we were stuck at airport for 3-4 hours. They didn’t have a backup system so they had to manually conduct the processes to allow us in country. The internet was down and many people went to Hotels to charge their phones. The house we rented had power but it did make me wonder why it happened over the course of a couple days.!!

  • Our world is experiencing major changes right now. When, not if, SHTF happens, my choice is to bug in until the situation can be properly assessed. After determining the true nature of the crisis, I can bug out easily to my secondary location. BUT, my situation is different than most. My secondary location can be walked to within a day.. it has trees, creeks, and hills for cover, to make sure everything is safe.. it is far enough from town that most people won’t make it out that far for a few days.

    I am not near any military targets. The closest big city is about 75 miles away. Some, not all, of the people are already self-sufficient in my area. I have been prepping on the down low for a while, so hopefully, no one will suspect that I am prepared to ride out the storm in the early days.

    My fear is that kinfolk will be the biggest problem that I have to face. I can’t easily say no to immediate family members, but they have extended family that they cannot say no to also. When one or two relatives come knocking, that’s one thing.. when 10 to 15 + people follow them, that is when things will get real ugly.

    I would welcome thoughts on how you would contend with extended family requesting asylum.

    • This is just my approach to your issue. You can take it for what it’s worth.
      If the first one or two come knocking and you agree to allow them in, it has to be on YOUR terms, not theirs. One of those conditions has to be that they cannot invite other family members to join your location. If they can’t agree to those terms, show them the door immediately. You know the character and history of your family members. Do not allow anyone in that has a drug addiction. They will lie to your face, then rob you blind to feed their addiction.

      For those that you do let stay, their welcome expires when the food they brought runs out. You saved and prepped for a reason. They contributed nothing.

      • Amen to those suggestions. With ONE exception, no one that I trust and that knows about my sacrifice and preps has suggested that they will be bringing anything of value to survival. This childlike assumption that if they can only get to (my) safety that they will be safe/fed/cared for seems to be universal. Unfortunately, it is a false hope.

  • A. Few years back my spouse and I left the city and moved to our bugout property. We bought most of the supplies (lumber,nails,screws,etc from the small hardware,and did some grocery shopping at the local market store. Next,we found a church and have been brought in to the “family” of God. We have a few neighbors who are also of the same mind set. Thank goodness we have been accepted into this anal community.

  • Hey guys, ladies, I have to commend you all for the contributions you have made by sharing your great ideas. My first time here, I am a beginner part time baby step prepper for last six months. I learned quite few things just by reading all of your comments. I also have to say, I am impressed that (unlike most sensitive topics on other channels, youtube etc) these posts on this page have been so productive and civil. I need to come more often to this Survivopedia. See you later. Francais!

    • Alex

      Thank you for your kind message, Francais!

      Welcome to our page!

      Alex, from Survivopedia 🙂

  • Ok so would you say a town that most people left and legally cannot go back is a good place to go?

  • My husband and I prepped in a big city. Left the city last year and moved to a small rural town in a sparsely populated county. 75 miles away. We live on the edge of town with a spring fed stream behind us. It’s a steep trek though. Has anyone dug a well and put in a hand pump? We have city water but feel the need for a back up. Just wondering how expensive it would be to do.

    • A lot depends on how low the water table will be in your location! Check some of the videos on making water wells and making clean water. They will help a lot with informing your self.
      A friend on mine lives behind a stream, most the time it has some water. However on his back yard property, the soil is only about 6 to 8 inches and most the time there is water under it. After that there is hard rock. If you find your self in that situation, your going to have to be able to chop a hole into the rock to form a pit for water collection. Then the purification stages. Charcoal, sand, de-bee ( possibly coffee filters ) for a straining layer for water purification.
      You can use a hole with pole and bucket and lever system for water collection or other platform and handy hand pump. They come in small in house size to bigger out side types. Better to work on this sooner than later. There is also hard and soft water, My Grand mother and uncle had both types water. wells, about 100 to 150 feet apart from each. Being or having a water witch may help you there. The good water was the best tasting! Other was more mineral tasting. So you may need to try a few wells.

      • Thanks for the info! It rains quite a bit up here so collecting water in buckets is a good option unless the rain was contaminated by nuclear fallout. I always like to have all my bases covered just in case. Water is THE most important prep to have.

  • Most people in large urban centers are already Zombies, They have no plan in case of any type of disaster or crisis. Most have no useful skills. Geez, most can’t change a tire if they have a flat! Those attempting to Bug out are delusional, where are they going to go? They will be sitting in their cars in gridlock until they are out of fuel I prefer not to be a victim, decide to Live in a small rural area with year long fresh water sources. Stockpile alcohol, cigarettes and ammo. I don’t drink much and don’t smoke, these items are for trading. In a real crisis, financial meltdown, war, large natural disaster police and fire personnel will be looking out for their families and not helping you. Many Large cities do not have a reliable water source (L.A. Phoenix), ETC…) lasting six months will be the hardest, starvation, disease, violence will wipe out at least 70% in the first six months. Just my opinion

  • Most of us can’t leave where we live because of commitments, either to jobs or family. I live on the outskirts of L.A., which is clean and only has native rats, not garbage rats. I have two grown kids who live in big disgraced, liberal run cities but they have jobs and own houses. I can’t make myself crazy with worry. I lived through the L.A. riots, earthquakes, and society does rebound and move on. I have also lived through mass migrations that have changed a city where I could cruise the lights into one so packed that it may take 15 minutes to get down the same stretch of lights. So… maybe the over-crowding will kill L.A. But, we humans adapt to everything, that is our very nature. This is why robots won’t replace us, since real humans will always more quickly adapt. Machines follow programming. Generally, there is no way to predict what is best for everyone.

  • Excellent comments here…. as a consumer of post-apocalyptic fiction I have digested almost every scenario except the one I consider my possible go-to…
    I have been sailing for many years (not so much anymore…) how abut a sailboat?… mobile, self contained, vulnerable surely but no more than other options…
    Has anyone else considered this? Any comments appreciated!…

    • Self-contained, mobile shelter like a sailboat or RV means you have solved a couple of the basic survival puzzles from the start. They can lead to some zero-sum thinking, though. There is no long-term solo survival scenario for humans- we don’t operate like that. You would be able to travel more easily than by road, but are totally vulnerable like any other passing stranger. Best bet is to sail to a place you consider a safe harbor, and form a collective for self defense. You will need friends and neighbors!

  • Interesting discussion on surviving a local or national disaster. We used to live in N. Illinois, but have relocated to the Northwoods, not for bugging out, but by a family inheritance. Life is relatively primitive compared to most of the U.S.. I will agree with those who stated that moving to an area with established long-term residents in small communities is hard to get the people to accept you into their “clan”. We have been here 9 years and have met some nice people and made friends as well. It takes time and a personal effort to establish the relationships. Being nice and understanding the culture and the people will go farther than acting like a big-city know it all and looking down on people. In our case, the people here have be in an economic crisis before when big business mine owners “bugged” out in the 60’s with all the cash and leaving thousands of the populace unemployed. As I said, understand where you are and how the people look at outsiders. As for me, I have been in the US Army and learned some basic survival skills. The problem I have is finding a concise list of affordable survival necessities, should the often mentioned catastrophes occur. We don’t have a problem with a place to “bug out” to. There are thousands of acres of natural forest to set up camp in and lots of natural streams. Being found? Unless Tonto is the scout, it could take weeks or months to find people. Even the authorities (sheriffs deputies/stat polezi) have trouble locating lost people. And they have the maps and GPS. I just need a list of equipment, clothing and food supplies that I can get to a location. At 67, I can’t carry my 70# rucksack anymore. I do have a rifle for survival and protection. Good luck and find a location early and establish friendships wherever you go.

  • When i started prepping I intended we wud bug out to our property 3 hours drive away. Having read the comments here I realize that was a pipe dream. Also i had to give up in the separation and now all I have is a small one bedroom apartment shared with one other person and small dogs. We stockpiled, starting with her 72 hour kit and we increased to 5 days then a week then 2 weeks and we are on our way to 30 days and upward. Bucket toilets. Small fuelled stove, variety of flashlights and lanterns with AA, AAA, & D batteries. 7 channel NOAA re.ceiver with a smaller backup in an empty bags.
    She uses a walker so any exploration is up to me, alone.

  • Gary Beckman you will just have to compile your own list for your own family and situation. I have been working at this for years before the divorce and 3 years since the physical separation and personal financial disaster. Just think of the essential items you use everyday, 24/7, 365-1/4, & make your own list. You can glean other things by getting on email listings like daisy Luther and other peppers and survivalist.
    I got to laugh when people think they are going to have internet, cellphones, medical care, atms and banks, laundromats and convenience stores

  • On a trip through rural Europe you can see thousands of nearly identical little villages, all very much alike. space for 600-1,200 people seems to be the size necessary for self-sufficiency, where everyone contributes some essential element of a stable society. To start with, that revolves around what you can contribute, beyond having sufficient food and supplies to not be an instant burden. What can you DO? Since you want to prep, get ready to live in the new world that follows after the SHTF. Can you grow food? Do medicine without the support of the modern medical machine? Can you build, weave, plumb, blacksmith, hunt, repair, work for your living? At the very least, be ready for a confrontation where you are required to answer to “What do you have to offer that will make this community work better?”
    The answer that works best there has to do with who you are and what you know, more than on the contents of your stash. With that in mind, pick up some specialized knowledge, collect books on the old ways, learn primitive medicine or farming, Remember that anything you HAVE can be taken away,

  • As a retired law enforcement officer I have seen both the best and the worst of man’s treatment of his fellow man. My comment about bugging out, bugging in or any variant in between is this: If there ever is a genuinely cataclysmic disaster of some sort nation wide on a large scale where civil society dissolves, it won’t make any difference what you own. As was mentioned in one of the posts earlier, those rules go out the window fast and first. Survival of the fittest and nothing more will determine your fate. DO NOT underestimate a human being that is desperate to survive. Under that circumstance, we are all capable of unimaginable atrocity. If you do happen to reach a place you have prepared to go to, it will have to be relatively close to where you already live because you aren’t likely to be able to travel some distance to get there by car. If you get there, every waking moment you have at some point will be dedicated to defending that space with weapons. You will have to do that every day until civil society is restored, you die from disease or physical ailment of some sort or succumb simply to the perils of living in an existence few in this land of plenty have the power to comprehend.

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