The decision to prep has never been so obvious. Someone will turn on the television and in about 5 minutes of watching see 50 reasons they should’ve started yesterday. However, if you live in an apartment, this can be a daunting task. According to RentCafe, the average size of a new apartment in 2018 was only 941 square feet. Some may be larger and some may be smaller but on average the size is down 5% from ten years ago. As a prepper, you can never have enough space for storage. Storage is the most obvious obstacle for apartment preppers. This can be a daunting task to overcome if you think about storage in a typical sense. Nothing about apartment prepping is typical so before planning anything throw out typical.
First Things First
There are actually a few things you can look for when picking an apartment that can make your prepping situation a lot more ideal. If you can move to a new unit in your building without breaking the lease or if you are in the market for a new apartment look for these amenities:
Above Ground Floor Apartment
I know, it will be a pain in the rear to carry groceries and goods up a flight of stairs but in the long run, floor two and up is the way to go for a few reasons. Apartments above ground level will fare much better during a flood than those on the ground level. Units on the first floor can also be harder to secure than those higher in the building. However, for emergency escape reasons, I would limit my choices to floors two through five
Apartment With A Patio
Patios can be an amazing resource. Someone can use these small outdoor spaces for growing vegetables and fruit in pots. This is also an amazing area for rain collection and communication antennas. In the direst of situations, patios work really well for elevated defensive positions. Whether or not you have a patio, exterior units are much safer for bugging in because of their access to exterior escape routes.
Buildings that offer garages are also a big plus and should go to the top of your list if you are shopping for a new place. If your current building has garages, inquire about the cost of adding one to your lease. Other than the obvious storage of your vehicle, these spaces are amazing storage areas for dry goods and items that do not require climate control.
Storage Tricks For Small Spaces
Unless you want to use MRE boxes as a couch and stacked ammo cans as your new TV stand, there will be limited space to work with. Start by examining your entire apartment looking for areas that contain space you may not be using. For example, inside couches, under couches, above kitchen cabinets, the floor space in closets, under beds and in between mattresses. Depending on your lease limitations, you may also suspend racks and shelves in the ceiling of rooms which contain a ton of unused space. Extra storage is also the number one reason to look for buildings that offer garages. If your building doesn’t, you can also look into leasing a unit that has an extra bedroom.
When you are considering your space also look for items that are no longer used or wasting space. Sell these items to buy more preps or invest in additional storage options. Apps like LetGo and the Facebook marketplace are great avenues for getting rid of unused items. Once you have your storage areas identified and have pared down your junk, the next focus should be how items are being stored. Pack clothes and blankets with a vacuum seal so they are as thin as possible. Your biggest goal when dealing with store-bought items is stripping them down to their smallest packaged form. A good example of this would be, pulling out the cardboard core or toilet paper rolls so it can be stored flat. When using boxes or totes you need to use the same type and style as much as possible to ensure that your crated items can stack as neatly as possible.
In the most ideal temperatures and scenarios, you will only be able to survive three to five days without hydrating. That is why water is the most important prep whether you are in an apartment, a tent or a two thousand square foot house. Water sold in bottles and plastic jugs is great because it’s inexpensive and can store in the package for long periods of time. I would recommend storing at least two weeks worth in this manner and then have other planned sources for longer periods. When an event ramps up quickly with no warning, your bathtub is a great place to store fresh water.
The average bathtub is around 110 gallons which means your tub could provide you with adequate drinking water for one person for a staggering 220 days. There are a lot of products on the market that will line your tub and before you fill it or you can clean it really well prior to filling it up. An often overlooked item for water is your hot water heater. You need to know if your unit has its own or if there is a community hot water source. If your building has hot water heaters for every apartment, this is another 40 to 50 gallons of clean water you may have for use. Finally, If you can rent a unit that has a patio or balcony you can use this area for water collection.
There are literally hundreds of ways you can food prep. The lack of private outdoor space in an apartment definitely limits your options. Most of the time, if you live in a single family home you can grow a full-sized garden and raise small animals, chickens goats, etc. Outside of rare cases, this is impossible in an apartment. This means that most of your food will be from a store and will need its own storage place. With this in mind, the food with the smallest packaged size will be best. Canned goods are great because they last a long time and can stack neatly just about anywhere. As discussed above, vacuum sealing is also a great option because vacuum sealing typically creates a thinner packaging.
I wouldn’t rule out freeze-dried foods, but because of their typically bulky packaging, I would transfer these items to a more storage-friendly option. You may not have the garden space that a prepper in a single-family home has, but you can still grow. We can grow many herbs and spices on window seals. There are also a lot of fruits and vegetables you can grow in pots with little required space. Experiment now! Camping stoves are great for food preparation in times with no electricity or gas service. Propane grills are also a great option, but must only be used outdoors and can create an OPSEC issue.
In an apartment, security can also be a difficult box to check when reviewing your plan. You could be potentially sharing a wall with the enemy depending on what shit has hit your fan. Your lease is more than likely going to prohibit any structural changes that will make your unit more secure.
First things first, find a wireless security system that has entry sensors and an audible alarm. It is imperative that the system is wireless so you do not have to run wires in the walls and across rooms. The entry sensors are your first line of defense. If an unwanted guest will enter you want to know ASAP. Hopefully, you could find a unit above ground level and do not have to worry as much about windows. I would still highly recommend putting sensors on every potential point of entry. They are usually very inexpensive and a must-have. Most systems have a plethora of add-ons to choose from and you can purchase what makes the most sense for your situation. One of the big advantages apartments have is that typically they only have one entry/exit door. This allows you to focus all of your resources on defending that point. There are a lot of products on the market that will secure your door with no permanent modifications needed. Look into doorknob braces. They are very inexpensive and effective.
You may also consider asking your building manager what modifications you can make to your locks and mechanisms without violating your lease. An often overlooked item for preppers in apartments, townhomes, and condos is downrange wall penetration. Your neighbors could be friends, foes or oblivious. You do not want your stray rounds penetrating the walls of your apartment and striking anyone or anything you did not intend on shooting. Your building manager will tell you what separates each unit, and once you know this, you can select the rounds to use at home. The downside of one entry and exit point is limited emergency egress options. Make sure you have plans to escape if the front door is not safe or unusable. Also, if you take my advice and lease a space above the ground floor, it is imperative you have a safety ladder to climb down. This is the main reason I do not recommend going above the fifth floor.
Power Outages And Alternate Supplies
A major concern for all apartment dwellers should be their power source and alternatives. Unlike in a single family home, in an apartment, if something happens to the electricity in one unit, it can affect the entire floor. In the worst of scenarios, they could shut the entire building down. Hardline generators are out of the question which means you will have to rely on portable generators. You should never use generators indoors under any circumstances, this is another reason I strongly recommend patio units. However, even with a patio, most generators will pose the same two issues.
First, and most important is fuel. Where will you store fuel for your generator? If you have a garage, you could store it here, but then you will more than likely be carrying it back and forth which could be out of the question. The other is the sound that generators produce during operation. You can now buy much quieter units, but at a high price tag and they still require fuel. The only option would be a solar-powered generator. They are becoming more and more common and the prices are coming down rapidly as the technology becomes more prevalent.
A unique aspect of apartment living is the sense of community found in most complexes. This can be a huge asset in your prepping because without asking anything out of the ordinary you can usually find a lot about your neighbors if you pay attention. What newspapers do they receive? Do they have any statement type bumper stickers on their vehicles? Have you seen them carrying gun cases in and out of their homes? Anything interesting on their patio you can identify as an asset or liability during a SHTF situation? The list literally goes on and on and you can find out a lot of very interesting things without being a total creep.
On that same note though, they may be looking at you in the same ways so OPSEC is critical. If your complex or building hosts any community functions, you need to strongly consider attending a few. Any time you can spend with your neighbors prior to a situation will be critical in determining who’s who. If you can find other like-minded individuals in your building or even on your floor, you may even reduce the stresses of prepping in an apartment by assigning responsibilities to different people. Whether you take advantage to group prep opportunities or remain a lone wolf, knowing who surrounds you is imperative.
When prepping for a SHTF situation, there is no one size fits all option. Even two people living in the same apartment building and the same size unit will have different wants and needs. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t fall victim to the “can’t attitude”. There is always a way and considering what’s at stake, if you stop and think about your particular situation logically you will always find a way.
To learn more about growing food indoors and in smaller spaces, click here and if you’d like to read more about other survival/prepper based practices you can do in your apartment home look over our homesteading article here!
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Apartment Prepping: Urban Survival