What To Do If Your City Is Suddenly A War Zone – Now your city is overrun with military troops and brain-snatching alien baddies, what in the world are you going to do to survive?! Other than brain-eating aliens from Zeti Reticuli, the threat of major war is more real than many of us realize, and the odds of your home city being turned into a bombed-out battleground are greater than you might care to know.
Sadly this is especially true for anyone not living in the North American continent. Historically the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have kept any foreign invader away from the shores of Mexico, the US and Canada, since the rest of the world simply lacks the transport capability or naval firepower to successfully land troops in the US or its friends Mexico and Canada.
Europe’s history however is lousy with war, and while Asia has seen its fair share of conflicts, they don’t even come close to the way that Europeans turned war into a hobby over the last few centuries. With so many monarchs crammed together into one relatively small geographic area, it was inevitable that Europe’s favorite national pastime would be trying to kill their neighbors.
It was practically a matter of custom- in China it is custom to offer small snacks before the main meal at dinner time, and in Europe it was customary to declare war and carryout one minor genocide before the second course arrived. Luckily war is on the decline around the world. While many smaller-scale conflicts still plague our troubled world, wars between major powers has not happened since the end of World War II.
Even at our most paranoid, the height of the Cold War, neither the US nor the Soviet Union had actually ever drawn up plans to invade each other- instead each side had multiple plans to defend against a provocation by the other side. Kind of ironic to look back on the entire cold war and realize that neither the Soviets nor the Americans ever had a single strategic plan to pre-emptively invade the other side, but at least it did make for great movies, novels, and comic books. What about today though?
Well, sadly if you live in the Middle East then a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is looking increasingly likely. Currently Saudi Arabia can count on US support in such a conflict, and this probably more than anything has deterred Iran from attacking its neighbor. With a new presidential election looming though and American opinion of Saudi Arabia at a very low point due to the murder of American resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi royal family, current relations between the two nations might be about to take a dramatic turn.
If US taxpayers decided they no longer wanted to defend Saudi Arabia and all its wealth by footing the bill themselves, then Iran could have a strategic window into taking military action against the kingdom. Given that Iranian forces are much larger and capable than Saudi Arabia’s own, the war would not fare well.
Another potential flash point is in Southeast Asia, where China’s aggressive expansionism and illegal seizure of oil and natural gas fields in the South China sea is threatening conflict. Already, and against international law, the Chinese have set up oil platforms in waters rightfully belonging to Vietnam, and the Chinese coast guard routinely bullies out other nation’s fishing fleets from fish-rich waters by ramming their boats or spraying them with water cannons.
The disputed Senkaku islands, which are claimed by both Japan and China, also threaten conflict between the two nations. Sadly the possibility for another major conflict exists even in what we like to consider the civilized parts of the world. Revolutionary fervor in many second and third world nations also threaten to create new civil wars which spill over into their neighbor’s territory.
While a major war the likes of World War II is extremely unlikely, you today could very well find yourself caught in a war zone- what would you do then and how would you survive? The first step for surviving if your city has been turned into a war zone is to take inventory of the conflict. Is it a long-distance conflict between major powers that’s mostly limited to air strikes,or has it become a full-blown ground-action campaign?
In an air war there’s likely little need to vacate your city, as military action will be limited to air strikes which thanks to modern technology limit how much damage they inflict on the civilian population. While you should always try to flee to a less populated area, the reality is that most people would fare poorly outside of where they work and live.
For one, maintaining employment is already going to be difficult even in a limited war,and you’re going to want to keep yourself employed so you can provide for yourself and your family. In an air campaign each side will primarily be trying to strike at the other side’s industrial and military targets, so we recommend that you stay away from military installations, power plants, harbors, airports, and big data centers.
These will all be prime targets for air strikes, as they will weaken a nation’s ability to fight a war either by destroying its military forces or harming its economy. In the past you had to worry about massive air raids that indiscriminately targeted civilian population centers and legal military targets alike, but thanks to the proliferation of smart weapons you largely don’t have to worry about this anymore in a limited air war.
Though of course different powers vary in their use of smart weapons- Russia famously uses very few smart weapons and as one Russian missile officer said, “We have state-of-the-art missiles, but no way of guaranteeing they hit what we want them to hit”. If the war has turned into a full-blown ground action campaign then that means that the war is going to involve massive movements of troops and the seizing and holding of territory.
If you live in an important city then you can expect to start seeing friendly troops building fortifications around your city, and it will definitely be turning into ground zero very, very soon. Most nations however abide by the Geneva Conventions, and will not actively target population centers-but the best way to defeat a superior invader is by fighting them inside the cities, which is why the Taliban and the Iraqi insurgency famously pulled NATO troops into urban conflicts that sadly created many civilian casualties.
In this case it’s probably best to get out of town and start heading for the hills, or at least to less important and lower population towns and cities. Ideally you’ll want to flee and apply for asylum in another nation, granted the right to stay there permanently or temporarily until the conflict at home is over and it’s safe for you to return. Given today’s political climate around the world though, if you become an asylum seeker you might end up getting kicked back to your war-torn nation.
If you’re unable to leave your city, then it’s time to shelter in place and try to make as best a life for yourself as you can. Incredibly despite the ferocity of the fighting in Syria and Libya, many residents stayed in their bombed out homes, and Europeans on both sides famously carried on living their lives despite their cities being turned into bombed out ruins.
If indeed your city becomes a war-torn bombed-out ruin- or if perhaps you just happen to live in Chicago- you’ll want to focus on ensuring your safety and survival. First, you’ll want to secure food and water, in that order of importance. Many modern cities have their water pumped in from far outside of the city borders, and if you live in a city like Los Angeles in the US then your water source is hundreds of miles away.
Electricity is almost certainly going to be gone, so all the water pumps that work to bring you water from so far away are no longer going to be working. This means you shouldn’t be relying on public services for your drinking water. Take a cue from medieval peasants and start setting out rainwater barrels to catch falling rain- though of course with the increased acidity of rain thanks to pollution, you’ll very quickly be wanting to find a filter to run that water through.
Luckily though finding something like a Brita filter in a modern city is pretty easy, and if you absolutely need to get your water from a natural source and have no filter, you canal ways use a plastic bag with a hole in the bottom and alternating layers of sand and rocks above the hole. The rocks and sand will filter out larger contaminants, though you’ll then want to boil the water to get rid of biological contaminants that might make you sick.
For food you can probably get by raiding large supermarkets, though only for so long. Again, modern cities don’t produce their own food and instead have it shipped in- so if you can prepare beforehand then you absolutely should. This is also why if you have the option to leave, you should do that as well, and move to where the food and water is.
Once supplies run out though, well with sanitation in a dismal state then we’ve got good news,because rats are going to be breeding like crazy and they make a handy source of protein. Many survivors in Syria’s bombed-out cities have dined on rat, as well as feral dogs and cats. Right now Fido is your best friend, but give it six months without proper food and water and Fido is going to start looking like dinner.
Make sure you cook your food thoroughly though because feral animals and rodents in areas with poor sanitation tend to be lousy with parasites and nasty bugs. Odds are pretty good that you’ll eventually start seeing international relief from agencies such as the International Red Cross or the UN.
These agencies will typically set up food and supplies distribution centers as well as field hospitals, and are clearly designated so they are not accidentally attacked by either warring side. They will also typically establish themselves at major avenues of travel, and this means areas where major highways intersect, airports, and sea ports.
These safe places can be a good place to get much-needed medical treatment, food, and other supplies- as well as to apply for asylum somewhere safe. UN centers are also guarded by UN troops, though their rules of engagement may be very frustrating so don’t rely on them totally for protection. For instance, during the conflict in Somalia in the late 1990s, UN troops were forbidden from engaging marauding war bands unless they were shot at directly, and had to stand by and watch as the war bands killed civilians or stole their food.
If you can at all help it, you’ll want to flee your city rather than stay behind and risk your life. Most powers today respect the Geneva Conventions and won’t purposefully target civilians, but in the midst of war you can never be too sure. If possible flee to a refugee camp established by agencies such as the UN, where they do have the jurisdiction to defend refugees with lethal force, and at all costs make sure that you stay away from any military forces- friendly or otherwise.
Being around them will just make you a target, or you might inadvertently end up in the way of an incoming air strike. No matter where you are though, the most important thing is to not lose hope, as heroes such as those who work for the international red cross will likely get to you eventually, these brave men and women have responded to some of the worst fighting in the world, and setup treatment centers and food distribution hubs even amidst terrible fighting.
And if you run into a Zeti Reticuli alien, remember that the only way to resist their mind control and protect your yummy brain is to wear a tin-foil hat. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. How would you survive in a war zone or in Chicago? Have you ever had to survive in one as a civilian? Let us know in the comments.