You might think you know your local area, but do you know all of the survival secrets that it might contain? Read on to find out more.
How Do I Get To Know My Local Area?
Start by getting a really good map of your local area. The best maps to use for this in England, Scotland and Wales are Ordnance Survey Explorer maps. These are at a scale of 1:25,000, which means 1km on the ground is 4cm on the map. For Northern Ireland, the Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland produces Discoverer maps at a scale of 1:50,000 and there are also Activity Maps at 1:25,000 scale for selected locations.
I strongly recommend buying a paper map of your local area, any areas you sped a lot of time in, and anywhere you plan to bug out to. Electronic maps are great, but might not be available after a disaster. Paper Ordnance Survey maps show a lot of useful features, are great for navigation, and easy to store. You could even keep one in your bug out bag.
Spend time exploring your local area. Use your map to identify locations of interest, and then find those areas on the ground. Work out how to easily get these from home, and plan various routes.
1. Find Water Sources In Your Local Area
The ability to find water in your local area may be vital for survival after a disaster. Ordnance Survey Explorer maps are great for finding potential water sources. The maps show water in a blue colour, and include rivers, streams and ponds even down to very small streams.
In a disaster scenario where the water supply fails, it will be very important to be able to obtain water from other sources. The best location to find clean water is from a flowing stream as near to the source as possible. Further downstream, the water is still likely to be reasonably clean but there is the possibility of contamination upstream. Ponds and other stagnant water sources are not as good. Water that is not flowing does not stay as clean.
Don’t just rely on your map. Find several water sources on your map and then visit them to see if the water is there and might be suitable for drinking. The map may show streams that dry up in summer, or are contaminated or dirty.
Any water you obtain should be purified using an appropriate technique before drinking.
2. Local Area Foraging Locations
You’ve found some local water sources, but what about food? Hopefully you will have a well stocked food store, but having the ability to supplement that with foraged food will make your food store last longer.
There are many foods that grow wild in the UK that you can forage. Fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables can all be found throughout the UK. Even in winter, there are some edible plants growing. The countryside is the best place to forage for food, but there is a surprising amount in urban areas too. You just need to know where to look.
The best places to look for food are usually woodland areas, and hedgerows. Start by looking on your map to identify areas with these features. Then spend time exploring your local area. Every time you are out, no matter what season, keep a look out for fruit trees and bushes and edible plants. Make a note of areas that you find these so that you can easily find them again when you need them.
3. Bug Out Locations
In most disaster scenarios, I would recommend sheltering at home. However, there are some cases where finding a safe location to bug out to would be safer. Identifying these locations now, before any disaster happens, will give you a much better chance of survival. Here are some examples of scenarios where bugging out may be the safer alternative.
In the event of a nuclear explosion, unless you are in the immediate blast zone, the biggest danger is radioactive fallout. A typical UK house provides virtually no protection from nuclear fallout. The best place to shelter from fallout would be somewhere deep underground, such as a deep underground railway tunnel. If you don’t have anywhere like that near where you live, then the basement of a large building with many floors above would be a good place to shelter. If that is not available, then the centre of a large, multi-storey building in a room with no external walls or windows is the next best option.
A disaster that makes your home unsafe or impossible to live in will mean you have to bug out. For example, if your home is underwater because of floods, you will have to go elsewhere. Identify a number of bug out locations that you would be able to quickly and easily reach, that won’t be affected by the same disaster. For example, find a bug out location on an area of higher ground in case of floods.
Your Ordnance Survey map will come in handy again here, as it will help you identify areas that might be suitable. You can also use your map to plan routes to and from your bug out locations.
4. Escape Routes and Return Routes
During a disaster scenario, main roads might be heavily congested or inaccessible. Being able to move around easily is very important. Plan several different routes to your home from places that you might need to get home from. For example, these places might include work or your children’s school. You need to have at least two alternative routes in case one is not safe to use.
Also plan several routes away from your home to potential bug out locations. Again, make sure that you have several alternative routes in case one isn’t usable.
Use your Ordnance Survey map to identify potential routes, and then test them on the ground as much as possible. In normal day to day life, you will have to stick to public rights of way. Remember however that in a disaster scenario you may be able to have additional routes that wouldn’t normally be accessible, for example across private land.
5. Places To Scavenge After The Apocalypse
The fifth item on this list of things to find out about your local area is locations that you might find supplies or tools. After a major disaster, where society has collapsed, there may be many abandoned building that still have useful items.
Explore your local area, and think about which buildings might be abandoned in an apocalyptic scenario. Consider what useful items they might contain. For example, you might be able to find food in a school, a gym or at a marina. Tools might be found in car garages or workshops. Walk around any industrial areas near your home and note down any buildings that might be of interest.
Abandoned supermarkets and shops selling food are likely to be the first places to be stripped bare after a disaster. Don’t rely on the obvious places to be able to scavenge what you need after the apocalypse. If you can find less obvious places, it is more likely that you will find what you need.