Saturday, March 26, 2022
Co-authored by wikiHow Staff
Last Updated: March 11, 2022
Posted by Ambassador T. Brikins
War is a dark part of our world history, and unfortunately, something we continue to face in the 21st century. Military conflict is extremely dangerous, so we're here to help you prepare for the worst and survive a war as a civilian. We've got advice on everything from how to survive an invasion and escape a war zone to how to find shelter and supplies, protect yourself, treat injuries or illnesses, and stay strong. Read on for a warzone survival strategy that can help you and your loved ones stay safe during a small-scale conflict, a country-wide civil war, or World War III.
Surviving an Invasion
Step 1. Move to an area far from the fighting if you can. Unfortunately, your home may become unsafe in the event of a war or invasion. If your area is no longer safe, do your best to relocate and find another place to live. Where you end up settling depends on the progress of the war. Stay updated on the fighting so you can know which areas are safer.
Try to find areas that aren’t near the main fighting. These could be rural areas or strategically unimportant towns.
There may be designated civilian safe zones set up. Travel to one of these if there is one nearby.
Rural areas may be safer because fighting is often focused around cities and population centers. However, remember that you’ll need wilderness survival skills to stay safe here. It may also be more difficult to receive aid, since relief organizations also focus on cities.
2. Gather information from trusted sources. Having information about what areas are free of active conflict, where you can get supplies or medical care, and how you can escape dangerous situations is crucial to your survival. Only believe information provided by trustworthy NGOs, journalists, or authorities in your region.
During an invasion, disinformation can be used as a tactic to frighten or otherwise destabilize the population. Be careful believing news you hear from unverified accounts on social media or by word-of-mouth.
3. Take advantage of opportunities to learn how to protect yourself. During or preceding an invasion, there may be paramilitary groups or army personnel in your area that can teach you basic survival and combat skills. These skills can mean the difference between life and death, and joining a training session is an opportunity for you to learn new skills.
If you aren’t looking to learn how to fight, these groups can also give you survival advice tailored to the region you live.
4. Identify escape routes from your country. If the invasion has or is likely to spread across the entire country, learn what neighboring countries are open to refugees. The vast majority of countries are obligated under international law to accept refugees who have a reasonable fear that they could be killed in their home country. Making your way to a country free from war can be safer than staying put.
The journey to a conflict-free country can be challenging. Ideally, your home country will provide transportation services to help you escape the invasion. Otherwise, you may have to drive, sail, or even walk to the border.
When escaping your country, bring passports or other identification documents. It may also be wise to take small valuables that you can keep hidden and exchange for cash or supplies if needed. Without ID, other countries may prevent you from entering.
Getting in touch with friends or family members who live outside of your home country can connect you to opportunities to escape your country.
Survive a War Step 2
1. Find a strong, brick building with a basement for shelter. These buildings types can withstand the most damage and remain standing. Look especially for a building with a basement. This provides added protection and a hiding place if you have to stay out of sight. Search your area for suitable buildings like these and move into one as soon as possible.
Try to find a building that you can seal up in case there is a chemical leak or attack. Look for windows still intact that you can close and block off with damp towels.
If there are multiple suitable buildings in your area, make a list of all of them and their locations. This will help if you have to flee your current shelter and find a new one quickly.
If there are no buildings like this, then find any structure that has a basement to protect you from the fighting.
2. Build an insulated shelter if you settle in a wooded area. If you flee the cities and hide in the woods, your biggest enemy will probably be the elements. Construct a suitable shelter as soon as you enter a new area to protect you from the cold, rain, and sun. Maintain this shelter by fixing any problems right away.
Locate the shelter in a spot that's easy to hide in, just in case hostile people pass through the area.
To make the job easier, try to build your shelter around a natural feature. A fallen tree, for example, could provide support for a larger structure.
3. Avoid confrontations as much as you can. While a war probably makes you think of fighting, in reality, civilians usually survive a war by avoiding fights as much as possible. Unless you’re in the armed forces, in most cases you’re much safer avoiding confrontations. Lay low and don’t start fights with people. Take care of your family, friends, and yourself, but try not to get involved in problems that don’t affect you.
If hostile troops enter your area, it’s best to hide or avoid interacting with them at all costs. Make it clear you aren’t a threat.
Don’t try to steal from people or hurt anyone except in self-defense. This will lead to confrontations as desperate people try to defend themselves.
Avoiding fights may also mean fleeing an unsafe area. Always be ready for this possibility to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
4. Learn to use weapons to defend yourself or hunt. While you should try to avoid violence, always be prepared for its possibility. This is much easier if you already have weapons in your home and know how to use them. If not, then gather any weapons you may find and learn to use them. Keep them close at hand in your shelter in case you have to use them.
If you have a gun, ammunition might be scarce in a survival situation. Shooting for practice may also draw attention to you. Learn to use the gun as well as you can without firing if you've never used it before.
Don't neglect other potential weapons like bows, axes, bats, or knives. These can all help you fight off attackers.
Train other members of your family or group to use the weapons as well. Your group is at a disadvantage if only one member knows how to fight.
5. Defend yourself if you have to. While you want to avoid violence, in some situations, fighting may be unavoidable. Some people try to hurt or exploit others during crises. If someone tries to hurt you or your loved ones, or steal supplies that you need to survive, fight back when you can. Try to drive off the people who are trying to hurt you.
Having some weapons at hand will help in this situation. Keep all weapons in a safe place, away from children, and grab them quickly if you need them.
If you do have to defend yourself or your family, having a good personal relationship with your community is a big help. The community could unite to defend itself from bandits or other people who want to cause harm.
1. Hoard all of your resources and valuable items as soon as war starts. There is often little advanced warning about a war breaking out, so you may not have the opportunity to stock up on supplies. Work quickly as soon as you get the news. Take all of your valuables, money, food, and water and store them safely. Hide valuables so even if your home is searched, they won’t be stolen. If you're able to, go out and get as many supplies as you can. Don’t delay or everything could be gone by the time you need it.
Especially store your canned or wrapped food and bottled water. Save these resources for emergencies, in the event that clean water and fresh food become scarce.
Look for medicine and hygiene products as well. These are important for maintaining your health in stressful situations.
Remember to store all of your important documents as well. Hold onto birth certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security cards, and any other documents that prove your identification.
Withdraw money from the bank to have cash on hand. You may not have access to your bank electronically.
2. Locate a clean water source. Water is the most important resource for humans, and clean water may become scarce in wartime. Bottled water sources will only last so long. As soon as the war starts, find all of the potential water sources in your area. Do the same for every new area you move into.
Nearby lakes and streams are potential water sources, but you may have to purify the water before drinking it.
If you live near the ocean, do not drink saltwater. It's difficult to resist, but saltwater will cause serious illness.
If you do find a clean water source, use that and try to preserve your bottled water for emergencies.
If no other water sources are near you, collect rainwater for drinking and bathing. Leave out buckets and tubs to catch the rain when it falls. Remember to purify all rainwater before you drink it.
3. Gather canned and nonperishable food items. Your regular supply of food may be interrupted, so nonperishable items are essential. Once you get news that war has broken out, gather as many canned and nonperishable items as you can. Get them from the store or any other source you come across. This ensures you’ll have a steady supply if food starts running out.
After the war has been going on, canned items may be available in abandoned grocery stores. Whenever you find an unopened can, take it. You don’t know when you’ll come across more food.
Try to avoid foods with high salt content that will make you thirsty. These will make you drink more water than you would normally.
Ideally, you should have 3 days’ worth of nonperishable food in your home at all times in case of natural disasters or other emergencies. If you have a stockpile already, you can avoid the rush to the food store that will occur once the war starts.
4. Learn to hunt and fish for extra sources of meat. If food becomes unreliable, you’ll be at an advantage if you know how to hunt and fish. Work on your tracking and hunting skills to find other sources of meat. Practice fishing for a steady supply of nutritious fish. Both skills can help you get through times of food shortage.
Learn how to properly skin, bleed, and dress an animal so the meat doesn’t go bad before you can eat it.
You don’t have to be in a rural area to hunt. There are plenty of animals in city settings. Try setting up traps to catch small animals.
5. Stockpile hygiene products if you find them. While hygiene may not be high on your list in a survival situation, it is more important than you may think. Practicing good hygiene can prevent illness and infection, and also help you feel better. When you're gathering supplies, always include as many hygiene products as you can carry. Also look for more if you're scrounging or searching for supplies.
Important hygiene products to have are toilet paper, hand sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrush, soap or liquid soap, feminine products, and disinfectant.
Less critical but important products include combs or brushes, razors, shaving cream, and deodorant. These won't necessarily save your life, but keeping up a good appearance can help you feel much better in stressful situations.
6. Determine which plants in your area are edible. Almost all areas have local plants that may be edible. Knowing which ones you can eat could save your life in a desperate situation. Study your local area and find these edible plants. Then gather them regularly for a steady supply of food.
If you don’t know what a plant is or if it’s edible, smell it first. If the smell is terrible, it’s a good bet that it’s not edible. Then hold the plant on your skin for 15 minutes and see if you feel any itching or burning. If not, place the plant on your lips for 15 minutes. Then take a small bite of the plant. If you don’t feel any burning or stomach pains after 15 minutes, then the plant is probably safe to eat.
If possible, you could also start a garden on your property for extra produce. Try to keep this hidden, though. If food is short, people will almost certainly try to steal your produce.
7. Avoid wasting anything. All resources are precious in wartime, so preserve everything you can. Reuse old rags to make clothes. Use food scraps to make stock. Catch rainwater. Don’t let anything go to waste.
8. Loot supplies if you have no other choice. Unfortunately, people sometimes have to do desperate things to survive. If you come across supplies or stores that no one is watching or look abandoned, then take everything you need. This might be ethically wrong, but you and your family have to survive.
If you live in a populated area, you may come across many abandoned stores. Don't hesitate to search them for supplies and take what you need.
If you're on the move, stop and check any buildings you come across. You never know what the previous residents left behind.
Don’t try to steal food or supplies that people are guarding. You could end up injured or killed for this.
Avoiding Injuries and Sickness
1. Learn basic first-aid to treat minor injuries. Injuries are unfortunately inevitable, and they can range from minor to serious. Develop at least a basic knowledge of first aid to treat the injuries you or a partner may encounter. When searching for supplies, take any first aid gear you may find and build a basic first aid kit.
Wash all wounds with clean water only. Never use dirty or unfiltered water.
Keep all wounds covered with clean bandages. If possible, replace the bandage with a clean one regularly.
Learning CPR can also save someone’s life in an emergency situation.
2. Stay away from any weapons and ordnance you come across. Unexploded mines, bombs, and other ordnance are a major cause of civilian injuries and death in war. If you’re near a fighting zone, there may be dangerous materials strewn out everywhere. Don’t touch anything. At best, you could give yourself a cut. At worst, this could be an unexploded weapon that could seriously injure you.
3. Keep yourself clean to avoid infections. While it may be difficult, washing yourself regularly is an important way to stay healthy. Take quick showers if running water is still available. If not, then use one of your water capture methods to gather enough water to clean yourself.
Try catching some rainwater in a bucket. Then dip a towel in that bucket and rub some soap on it. Run the towel around your body, then rinse with the rainwater.
Try not to waste your bottled water on bathing. You can use unfiltered water for bathing unless you have open wounds. In this case, purify the water.
4. Purify any water you drink that isn’t from a sealed bottle. A waterborne illness can be life-threatening in a survival situation. If need to use any unbottled water for drinking, always purify it first. The most common method is boiling the water for 1 minute to kill any pathogens. Then filter out larger objects by pouring the water through a fine net or cloth.
It isn’t always obvious if a water source is contaminated. Boil all water from streams and rivers anyway, just as a precaution.
If you’re desperate, you may be tempted to drink unclean water to quench your thirst. Do not, under any circumstances, drink dirty water without purifying it. You could contract a disease or parasite that may be fatal.
5. Eat as healthy as you can. This isn’t always possible and you have to survive on whatever food you can find. But if at all possible, keep your health up with nutritious food. A steady supply of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids will help keep your immune system up and fight off sickness.
Try to keep your meals as balanced as possible. Include fresh vegetables, fruits, and proteins if they are available.
Find nutrient-dense foods like leafy vegetables, fish, potatoes, and nuts. Foods like these pack as many nutrients as possible into your meals.
If you can’t find fresh food, try to find dietary supplements to boost your nutrient intake. These may be available from abandoned stores and homes.
Maintaining Your Composure
1. Keep up personal relationships with family and neighbors. These personal relationships will help you get through the crisis. Having family members around helps to ease your stress. Protecting them also gives you a purpose, which can drive you to push yourself harder in stressful situations. A network of neighbors can also share food and resources, so treat the people around you kindly. These relationships may save your life.
If you move to a new area, introduce yourself to locals. You don’t have to become best friends with them, but don’t remain a stranger. You may have to rely on these people for help if fighting reaches your area.
2. Build a positive mental attitude. In any survival situation, maintaining your composure and ability to think logically is key. Letting despair and grief take over your mind will make logical thinking much harder. This will be especially difficult in wartime, but it’s extremely important to keep a positive mindset. Do all you can to think positively.
Developing and refining emergency plans can help you stay positive. It ensures that you’ll always have a procedure in place if something goes wrong.
Take steps to reduce anxiety and keep your head clear in stressful situations.
Building and maintaining personal relationships can help you keep your composure.
What if I lost all of my family and friends?
It would be hard to survive without them (since you're probably young and have close ties to them), but staying self-sufficient is important. By protecting yourself and restoring your sanity, it will be easier to plan what you should do after the war.
How long does a war usually take, and if it takes a long time, how much food will we need?
There is no timeline for the duration of a war. They can last a few months to several years, such as both World Wars and the current conflict in Syria. Following news reports will give a person some info into the situation. As the political situation deteriorates, begin preparing, if you haven't done so already. Stock non-perishable foods, as they will not be affected (so long as the container/packaging remains intact). The more you are able to have on hand, the better.
How will I survive if I'm homeless?
You may want to try and find other people to stay with so they can keep you safe (and vice versa) until the war is over.
I wear glasses. Is there any way to plan ahead in case I break them?
Get spare glasses now!
I live in a capitol city, but I know a rural place that's five hours away by car. Should I pack the essentials and walk, even though the weather is hot?
I would, yes. Even if it's hot outside and you don't have transportation, you should leave if you think your life will be in danger at home. However, be sure that you pack enough essentials for several days, especially water.
How can I make some weapons with just sticks and a Swiss army knife?
The Swiss army knife itself is a pretty good weapon, but you could also sharpen the ends of the sticks into points and use them as spears.
I'm worried about a USA war with North Korea. If North Korea wins, how do I survive?
I heavily doubt North Korea will defeat the USA, unless they have China or Russia on their side, but if they do win, and invade the USA, moving to Canada or Mexico might be your best option. If you are worried about nuclear war, there only way to survive nuclear war is avoiding it. Go to a country far from the nukes, such as somewhere in Africa or South America.
I'm Chinese. Will my home country do anything during WW3 and if so, what should I do?
Hopefully there will not be any more world wars. China is a large country that has acted peacefully in the past. It is possible that China may help to prevent future wars. If for some reason there is a world war, follow the steps in this article and try your best to survive.
Where can I find weapons during a war? Is a desert a good place to set up camp?
The desert, being isolated, is a good place as long as you have a source of clean water and experience in a dry climate. If you are in the desert, it will be quite difficult to source weapons; although it may be unethical, theft or raiding abandoned houses might be your best bet.
How will I survive if I get called to war?
Although it’s unlikely someone will walk up to your door and ask you to stand in the front lines, if this does happen keep a close eye out for snipers hiding in bushes and, once you hear gunshots, run for cover.
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