When urban streets become the battleground, civilian survival demands not just preparation, but keen vigilance and a resilient mindset.

War changes everything, especially when it encroaches upon your doorstep in an urban setting. For civilians caught in the crossfire, survival hinges on preparedness, resourcefulness, and a clear understanding of the landscape.

This is a survival guide for non-combatants to help you navigate the chaos and enhance your chances of staying safe and to thrive as best as possible when war hits the city streets of where you live. This intel will be updated and added to periodically over time.

War as a Civilian in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative

Urban Warfare

When war erupts in an urban area, the cityscape quickly devolves into chaos and destruction. Streets that once bustled with daily life become battlegrounds littered with debris and hazards.

Essential services like electricity, water, and healthcare are often disrupted or completely unavailable, leaving civilians to fend for themselves in dire conditions. Buildings may be damaged or destroyed, creating an ever-present danger of collapse.

The constant threat of gunfire, shelling, and airstrikes turns every journey outside into a perilous endeavor, forcing people to remain hidden in whatever shelters they can find.

For civilians, this state of upheaval brings not only physical dangers but also profound psychological stress. The uncertainty and fear can be overwhelming, as families are torn apart and normal routines are obliterated. Access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, and medical supplies becomes a daily struggle, often requiring great risk to obtain.

The lack of reliable communication compounds these challenges, making it difficult to stay informed or connected with loved ones. In this environment, survival hinges on adaptability, community support, and the ability to make quick, informed decisions amidst the chaos.

Urban Survival During War as a Civilian in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative Tradecraft

Situational Awareness: Your First Line of Defense

In any conflict, awareness is crucial. Keep an ear to the ground for the latest updates. Reliable information sources can be scarce, so verify what you hear. Use multiple channels like local news, social media, and official announcements.

Understand the layout of your city – know the locations of safe zones, hospitals, and evacuation routes. Situational awareness also means understanding the patterns of conflict within your immediate vicinity.

Learn to identify the sounds of different types of gunfire and explosions to better judge the proximity and severity of danger. Pay attention to the behaviors and movements of both combatants and other civilians – these can provide crucial clues about safe routes and potential threats.

Establish a routine for checking the security of your surroundings at different times of the day, and always have an escape plan. Practice low-visibility movements and find cover that offers protection from both view and shrapnel.

Staying alert and informed can significantly enhance your ability to make quick, life-saving decisions in the heat of the moment.

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Stockpiling Essentials: More Than Just Food and Water

Preparation isn’t just about hoarding supplies; it’s about smart stockpiling. Focus on the essentials. Beyond food, water, and medical supplies, consider stockpiling items that can serve multiple purposes in an emergency.

Hygiene products like soap, toothpaste, and sanitary wipes are essential for maintaining health and preventing disease. Fuel sources, such as portable gas stoves or solar-powered chargers, can be critical when utilities are down.

Don’t overlook the importance of items for warmth and protection, like blankets, tarps, and duct tape, which can be used for repairs or makeshift shelters.

Additionally, think about barter goods – items like batteries, lighters, and alcohol can be invaluable for trading with others when conventional currency loses its value. Having a well-rounded stockpile can provide not just comfort, but also leverage in unpredictable situations.

  • Water: Aim for at least one gallon per person per day. Don’t just rely on bottled water; consider purification tablets and portable filters.
  • Food: Non-perishable items like canned goods, dry pasta, and rice. Don’t forget manual can openers.
  • Medical Supplies: First aid kits, prescription medications, and basic over-the-counter drugs. Bandages, antiseptics, and painkillers are must-haves.
  • Tools: Flashlights with extra batteries, a multi-tool, and a hand-crank radio.
  • Weapons: Firearms with ample ammunition, knives, tactical batons and any improvised weapons

Urban Survival Guide - Food and Shelter During War as a Civilian in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative Tradecraft

Shelter: Stay or Go?

Deciding whether to stay put or evacuate is critical. If your home is secure and stocked, it might be safer to stay indoors. However, have a go-bag ready with essentials. When weighing the decision to stay or go, it’s also crucial to evaluate the structural integrity and defensibility of your shelter.

Assess your home’s ability to withstand potential attacks or natural disasters that may accompany wartime conditions, such as fires or floods. Reinforce windows and doors to protect against intrusions and shrapnel, and create a safe room in the most secure part of your home, stocked with essential supplies and communication tools.

If evacuation becomes necessary, ensure you have multiple planned routes and backup locations, considering both vehicular and on-foot travel. Coordinate with neighbors for potential group evacuations, as traveling in numbers can offer greater security (but also an easier target).

Always stay updated on the conflict’s progress to make informed decisions about when it might be safer to leave or to dig in and fortify your current position.

  • Clothing: Sturdy, weather-appropriate attire and comfortable footwear.
  • Documents: Copies of important documents like IDs, passports, and medical records.
  • Money: Cash in small denominations, as electronic payment systems might be down.

War as a Family in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative

Self-Defense: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

In an urban warzone, threats can come from both combatants and opportunistic criminals. While firearms might be the first thought, they’re not the only option. Consider less-lethal alternatives.

In addition to physical tools, self-defense also involves adopting a mindset geared towards security and vigilance. Train yourself and family members in basic self-defense techniques, emphasizing situational awareness and de-escalation tactics to avoid confrontation whenever possible.

Establish a communication plan with coded messages for discreet alerts and instructions in case of an imminent threat. Utilize the architecture of your home to your advantage – identify and practice using escape routes and safe hiding spots.

Learn how to use improvised weapons from everyday items, such as kitchen knives or heavy tools, and always prioritize escape over confrontation.

Self-defense is as much about mental preparation and strategic planning as it is about physical capability, ensuring you can protect your loved ones under any circumstances.

  • Pepper Spray: Effective at close range and easy to use.
  • Personal Alarms: Loud noises can deter attackers and draw attention.
  • Basic Self-Defense Skills: Learn simple techniques to fend off attackers.

Urban Survival During War as a Civilian in Ukraine | RDCTD Tradecraft

Communication: Staying Connected in the Chaos

Keeping lines of communication open can be a lifesaver. Have a plan for staying in touch with family and friends. In times of war, redundancy in communication is key.

Alongside mobile phones and two-way radios, consider investing in satellite phones, which can operate independently of local infrastructure. Establish a prearranged schedule for check-ins with family and friends to ensure everyone remains accounted for and aware of each other’s status.

Utilize encrypted messaging apps for sensitive information, but be aware of the limitations and risks of digital communication. Create a network of trusted contacts within your community to share vital information about safe zones, available resources, and emerging threats. Written communication methods, such as leaving coded messages at predetermined locations, can also be a fallback if electronic methods fail.

By diversifying your communication strategies, you enhance your ability to stay informed and connected amid the turmoil.

  • Mobile Phones: Keep them charged, and have extra batteries or portable chargers.
  • Two-Way Radios: Useful when cell networks are down.
  • Pre-arranged Meeting Points: Establish safe locations where you can regroup if separated.


Health and Hygiene: Staying Healthy When Services Collapse

Sanitation can quickly become a major issue. Basic hygiene practices are essential. In addition to basic hygiene practices, prioritize maintaining a clean living environment to prevent the spread of disease.

Dispose of waste properly by designating a specific area far from your shelter for garbage and human waste, and use heavy-duty trash bags and lime or bleach to manage odors and bacteria. Set up a handwashing station with a water container, soap, and a catch basin to ensure proper sanitation after using the restroom or handling waste.

If clean water is scarce, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces with a bleach solution or disinfectant wipes to reduce the risk of infection. Keep a supply of insect repellent and mosquito nets to protect against vector-borne diseases, which can become more prevalent in unsanitary conditions.

By maintaining strict hygiene protocols, you can significantly reduce the risk of illness and maintain better overall health.

  • Hand Sanitizers and Disinfectants: Use them frequently.
  • Waste Disposal: Have a plan for managing waste if utilities are disrupted. Heavy-duty trash bags and a designated disposal area are crucial.
  • Personal Hygiene Items: Stock up on toilet paper, sanitary products, and soap.

Survival Guide During War as a Civilian in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative

Mental Resilience: The Often Overlooked Aspect of Survival

War is as much a mental battle as a physical one. Maintaining your mental health is critical. Mental resilience is also fostered through maintaining social connections and a sense of community.

Engage with your neighbors to create a support network where you can share resources, information, and emotional support. Regularly practice mindfulness techniques or meditation to help manage stress and anxiety.

Establish small, attainable goals each day to maintain a sense of purpose and control. Engage in light physical activity, such as stretching or walking, to boost your mood and physical well-being. If possible, find small ways to preserve normalcy and comfort, like playing games, reading, or listening to music.

These practices can provide a much-needed mental break from the constant stress and help you stay focused and calm in critical situations.

  • Routine: Try to maintain a sense of normalcy with a daily routine.
  • Stay Connected: Regular contact with loved ones provides emotional support.
  • Stay Informed, But Balanced: Know what’s happening, but don’t get overwhelmed by constant news updates.

Overcoming Fear in The Battlefield - Urban Warzone in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative Tradecraft

Enemy Combatants: Dealing With Dangerous Interactions

Encountering enemy combatants in an urban warzone is a high-stakes scenario that demands caution, quick thinking, and a strategic approach. Civilians often find themselves in precarious positions, needing to navigate interactions with armed forces to ensure their safety and the safety of their loved ones.


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* Dealing with enemy combatants requires a delicate balance of visibility and invisibility, compliance and caution, and always prioritizing the safety of yourself and those around you. In these perilous interactions, the principles of tradecraft – awareness, adaptability, and strategic planning – are your best tools for navigating the dangers.

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Navigating the Streets: Moving Strategically

In an urban warzone, traversing the streets is fraught with peril. The landscape is unpredictable, with dangers lurking around every corner, from snipers and landmines to falling debris and sudden skirmishes. Here’s how to move through the streets safely and effectively.

     Plan Your Routes

Before heading out, plan your route meticulously. Avoid known conflict zones, military installations, and major thoroughfares, which are often targeted. Use maps to identify back alleys, side streets, and alternate routes that might be less trafficked by combatants. If possible, travel during times of relative calm, such as early morning or late at night, when military activity might be lower. Always have a primary route and at least one backup route in case your original path becomes unsafe.

     Travel Light and Fast

When you need to navigate the streets, travel light to maintain speed and agility. Carry only essential items in a small, inconspicuous backpack. Avoid wearing anything that might draw attention, such as bright colors or military-style clothing. Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions and to blend in with the local population.

     Move with Caution

Maintain a low profile as you move. Stick close to walls and use the urban terrain to your advantage, taking cover behind vehicles, buildings, and other obstacles. Avoid open spaces where you could be exposed to gunfire or surveillance. When crossing streets or intersections, move quickly and purposefully, but avoid running, as this can draw attention. Use the “leapfrog” method when moving in groups: one person advances while the others cover, then they switch roles.

     Stay Alert

Situational awareness is crucial when navigating the streets. Constantly scan your surroundings for threats and potential cover. Listen for sounds of gunfire, explosions, or approaching vehicles. If you see or hear something suspicious, pause and reassess your situation. Use reflective surfaces like windows and mirrors to check around corners without exposing yourself. Trust your instincts – if something feels off, it probably is.

     Avoid Checkpoints and Patrols

Checkpoints and patrols are hotspots for danger. If you must pass through a checkpoint, have your identification and any necessary documents ready, and follow all instructions without argument. Be prepared to explain your presence and destination clearly and calmly. When possible, find routes that bypass these areas entirely.

     Team Up When Possible

Traveling in pairs or small groups can provide safety in numbers. Ensure everyone in your group knows the planned route and emergency procedures. Establish a communication plan with discreet signals or phrases to indicate danger or the need to change course. Assign roles within the group, such as a lead navigator and a lookout, to enhance situational awareness and coordination.

     Know When to Retreat

Sometimes the safest course of action is to retreat and seek shelter rather than continue forward. If you encounter unexpected danger, don’t hesitate to backtrack to a safer location and reassess your plans. Remember, the goal is to survive, not to reach your destination at all costs.

* Navigating the streets in an urban warzone requires a blend of careful planning, quick thinking, and adaptability. By following these strategies, you can increase your chances of moving safely through a hostile environment and reaching your destination unscathed.

Urban Survival Guide During War as a Civilian in Ukraine | RDCTD Covert Operative

Community: Strength in Numbers

In urban survival scenarios, there’s strength in numbers. Build a network with your neighbors. Building a resilient community involves more than just pooling resources; it’s about creating a structured support system that leverages the diverse skills and strengths of its members.

Establish roles within the group based on individual skills – such as medical care, security, cooking, and communication – to ensure that all critical needs are met efficiently. Organize regular meetings to discuss the current situation, plan strategies, and share information.

Develop a system for mutual aid where members can assist each other with tasks like child care, elder care, and maintenance of living spaces. Create a shared inventory of resources to prevent duplication and ensure equitable distribution.

By fostering a cooperative and organized community, you enhance everyone’s chances of survival and build a stronger, more resilient network to withstand the challenges of urban warfare.

  • Shared Resources: Pooling resources can make them stretch further.
  • Collective Defense: There’s safety in numbers when defending against threats.
  • Information Sharing: Stay updated through community networks.

Urban survival during wartime is daunting, but with the right preparation and mindset, you can enhance your chances of staying safe. Remember, it’s not just about having the right gear, but also about mastering the tradecraft of survival – staying aware, adapting to changing situations, and leaning on your community. Stay prepared, stay smart, and stay safe.

[INTEL : CIA ‘Urban Survival’ Concept]

[OPTICS : Ukraine]