Not everyone can choose to bug out in the woods. Abandoned buildings can be a great spot for city dwellers if you know your stuff. Here’s what to do.
1. Scout Ahead
Before you take your family into unfamiliar surroundings, take the time to scout out potential locations yourself (or with a fellow prepper). Move quietly, stay alert, and avoid looters at all costs. You probably won’t be the only person interested in finding shelter. If another group has “claimed” a location, move on. It’s not worth the trouble and injuries to fight over it, especially since the noise can attract other groups looking to mop up afterwards.
2. Choose the Right Abandoned Building
Take some time to evaluate your options. Here are some things to focus on:
Location: It’s better if you can find a spot with a good view of your surroundings. An abandoned building with a large parking lot, or one on the outskirts of town, lets you see people coming toward your property well in advance.
Structural condition: Obviously, an abandoned building isn’t going to feel like a luxury hotel, but it should have pillars, roofing and walls in solid condition. Be especially careful when checking out buildings that have been marked as condemned.
Size: Ideally, you want a one-story building with only a few entry points to defend.
Type of building: Certain buildings are probably going to be looted frequently, so it may be best to steer clear. Gun shops, liquor stores, supermarkets, police stations and gas stations are going to be on everyone’s target list when hunting for supplies.
3. Perform a Thorough Sweep
Check carefully for dangerous animals, broken/weak floorboards, exposed nails and other hazards. Stay alert in case someone is hiding in the building. Pick one room or area that is going to be your “camp.”
4. Set Up a Perimeter
Now turn your abandoned building into a fortress. Start by locking all doors and windows. If you have the supplies for it, board up most of the windows while leaving enough space to see everything outside clearly. Create an early warning system for all possible entry points using tripwires and empty tin cans, glass jars or bells.
5. Stock Up
Once your building is adequately defended, you’re ready to replenish your supplies. Check water lines for water that you can purify, including water from any toilets. Gather any food supplies you find, such as candy bars, in one central location you can defend.
6. Keep Guard
Your “castle” needs defending every night. If possible, have one person keep guard over the fire and another keeping tabs on the perimeter. This helps you keep your family safe.
7. Check for a Wood-Burning Stove
Lighting an open fire inside an abandoned building is dangerous because of the carbon monoxide fumes. Wood-burning stoves make things easier since they already vent outside. If you have to build a fire to stay warm at night, do it near an open window or door and use a metal container such as a wheelbarrow or cooking pot.
Finally, create an emergency escape route. It’s hard to imagine leaving your refuge behind after all this work, but you should be prepared to bug out in case of attack, military sweeps, flooding and other hazards.