Introduction To Urban Escape
“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city” ~David Harvey
When it comes to urban escape, there are several factors that can determine the success or the failure of our task. Moving from an urban setting to off-grid requires a specific mindset paired with mastered skills. As a SHTF scene is frantic, we need to use all of our knowledge to make our way out in a safe and undetected manner.
Constant movement, adaptability, operational flexibility, self reliance, and endurance are the cornerstones of a winning mindset.
Although the presence of cutting edge technology, which is able to detect and record each movement we make, we can still count on the solid effectiveness of some ancient skills. Some of them are still alive and kicking.
Mantracking, for example, plays an essential role when it comes to reading tracks left even on the toughest substrate. The application of anti-tracking, on the opposite end, helps you leave the minimum – even zero – trace of your passage.
You may need to escape from an urban area for several reasons:
- A matter of personal – or your family’s – security
- A potentially dangerous situation
- A public threat
This article covers the aspects related to the individual escape, by applying the above mentioned skills to move undetected, and to reach a safe place off-grid.
The Importance Of Risk Analysis
“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” ~Goethe
An urban escape should always be preceded by evaluations and planning, especially if you live in a city. It goes without saying that risk analysis is extremely important when developing your escape plan.
People trust two opposing systems to evaluate each situation and to make decisions.
- Intuition: fast, heavily influenced by previous experiences, emotional, and pretty much automatic.
- Analysis: pragmatic, effective, and logical.
Risk analysis may favor the second option, because it can lead to better long-term results.
A detailed escape plan should include:
- Gear set up and maintenance, don’t forget a detailed, paper map of the city. Navigation devices can fail and/or run out of power.
- Drills to be prepared in case of emergency evacuation.
- Selection of the best routes to take.
- Halfway shelters to recover.
- Off-grid shelters
Along with the following public information for your area you should prepare:
- Escape routes (above, under and throughout)
- Evacuation programs
- Exfiltration methods
SHTF events can catch you off guard. You must be able to do a quick and accurate risk analysis in your mind every time you cross a threshold establishing:
- The features of each situation (exposure, vulnerability, materials etc.)
- Potential places to hide
- Potential escape routes
Presence of any useful objects which could really help you:
- To leave no trace of your transition
- To break down windows and doors
- To defend yourself
Evaluation Of The Scenario – How To Start From The Substrate
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, when planning and putting into action an urban escape, you must consider three different aspects related to the scenario. Above, on and under the ground.
It’s important that you analyze the reliability and exposure of all the surfaces you are stepping on.
Above the ground
Making your way out by moving from one roof to another is not just highly risky, but also quite naive. You may be quickly noticed by other people.
Additionally, the presence of drones, can spot you very easily. In order to move undetected, you need to move near to buildings, taking advantage of their shade or under thick and leafy trees. This applies to daytime and nighttime.
If drones are equipped with thermal cameras, you can use an emergency blanket made of Mylar to stop the reflection infrared light. Or you can wear IR absorbing clothes.
On the ground
Moving from one area to another by remaining on the ground is a wise choice. The presence of buildings, cars, etc. can help you remain hidden and undetected.
As a plus, urban soil can turn be your best ally when it comes to leaving no tracks, as we will cover below.
Under the ground
Some cities, like New York or Las Vegas, have an underground web of tunnels. The problem is to get into them and not getting lost.
Some of these underground paths can also be flooded, or host bad people, plus colonies of rats. Know what you’re up against before entering a manhole.
By carefully scouting an area, we can gather intelligence on hostile and friendly elements related to people and the scenario itself. Scouting requires a 540 degree view, that includes studying the substrate below you.
Man-tracking, and specifically urban tracking, stands on the fundamental premise that any person who traverses a space will always leave behind some amount of evidence. This evidence can be both macro and micro.
In a city, due to the tough nature of urban substrate (asphalt, concrete, tar etc.), every detail counts when you are tracking another person. Even the smallest details like cigarette butts, food scraps, lost items, body fluids, dog and cat droppings, and/or any sticky material or liquid that can be stepped on ( for example, paint on pedestrian zebra lines) can become precious indicators of passage.
On top of that, some areas of soft soil, sand, and wet ground can capture the details of the design of a shoe (called a “pattern” in tracking). They are called Track Traps in man-tracking terminology.
You can easily run across them:
- Public or private parks & gardens (where you can see also dew and spider webs)
- Parking lots (where you can find oil)
- Flowerbeds and flowered spaces
- Private access to to properties
- Dirt covered spaces
- Drainage slopes
- Side of the road
Fresh asphalt, concrete, or tar can be the ideal surfaces for making Urban Track Traps. In this case, you have several good opportunities to detect footprints ,and to understand if anyone crossed the area before you, or took advantage of a shelter you may want to access.
Aging tracks are one of the toughest tasks to accomplish due to contamination of the soil. Nonetheless, if man-tracking is applied with accuracy and consistency, even the smallest detail can be relevant in understanding if we are going in a safe direction.
Applying A Tracker’s Mindset To Urban Escape
By developing a tracker’s mindset you will gain situational awareness and it will provide you the opportunity to create a mental database connected for the places we see, their structural features and possible exit points.
Furthermore, man-tracking can be successfully paired to profiling people. This happens to be useful to forecast their intentions and to understand if we can rely on them.
A tracker is always moved by persistence, acuteness, effectiveness, ability of gathering critical data, and cleverness. Having such a mindset is a remarkable aid in an urban escape.
Attaining the mind of a tracker will take time and perseverance.
Anti-Tracking techniques: how to move undetected from an urban area to a suburban area
The presence of hard soils can serve us as the perfect way to make our tracks disappear by confusing them with other’s footprints and tire treads.
There are more chances to leave minimal tracks in a city than any other outdoor area. Urban soil is definitely our ally to remain undetected.
Keep in mind to never walk on humid or wet substrates. Do not go into ponds, not even accidentally. Otherwise, your footprints will be pretty visible for some period of time.
Keep away from parks and gardens. If you can’t avoid it, stepping on other’s footprints is a good option to resort to.
Be careful to clean the sole of your shoes in case you picked up any material like mud, dog feces, chewing gum and so on.
Do not leave any evidence of your passage relating to discharged materials. Wearing shoes with an undefined pattern, like moccasins, or changing shoes is a good strategy.
Pay extra attention to the position of security cameras. Stay awayfrom ATM and hyper-controlled buildings. Make payments only with cash.
By applying all the rules related to being a Grayman, while engaging in anti-tracking, will turn you into a person who’s hard to identify, follow and catch.
Tools of the trade to include in your gear
Once closer to a potential shelter you may want to study the size of footprints you spot to have an idea of the size of the people who were there before you.
Having a multi-color flashlight could come in handy when you need to study a portion of soil to detect any potential passage in poor light conditions, or at night. See what colors work best by switching among blue (especially good for blood stains), red, green, and white. A UV light works even better in dark interior spaces.
Remember, that in order to gain the largest amount of details from tracks you need to respect the golden rule of tracking: keep the track between you and the source of light.
By keeping socks to wear over your footwear, and shoe covers will help you to move like a ghost. In absence, you can take advantage of plastic and rubber to create a pair of anti-tracking shoes, using some paracord.
Combine creativity with common sense and you will be successful in your escape.
An urban escape story: Barry Prudom’s Manhunt (United Kingdom, 1982)
Back in 1982, Barry Prudom, (a former SAS), dragged the United Kindgom into two weeks of fear. After committing several homicides, he escaped into a forest where he was able to move like a ghost for several days. Besides corpses, he literally vanished into thin air.
Eventually the police called in Eddie McGee, a former Sergeant Major and Survival Instructor. By backtracking Prudom, McGee was able to leave the back-wood setting to reach the new location of the fugitive. Barry Prudom actually attempted to leave a false trail by applying some anti-tracking techniques, taking advantage of the predominance of urban soils. Nonetheless, McGee correctly interpreted his thoughts and tracked him down to his real hiding place.
This story proves that both man-tracking and anti-tracking, no matter on which surfaces can be conducted successfully in a manhunt.
“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~ William Jennings Bryan
Evasion techniques in an urban scenario can be successfully achieved by the application of man-tracking and anti-tracking, if combined with scouting, profiling and by using common sense.
Sticking to these principles will help you avoid unsafe routes, and to carefully select an improvised shelter, before making your way off-grid.
At the end of the day, ancient skills can still be essential in the modern world.
Kyt Lyn Walken
- Certified Wildlife Conservation Ranger at Conservation Ranger Operations Worldwide
- Official Representative & Instructor at Hull’s Tracking School
- Directora de Rastreo Humano por Dynamic Tracking (Spain)
- The way of Tracking – European Mantracking School