Will People Really Flee the Cities When the SHTF

Flee the city
It depends; keep in mind no one really knows what will happen. You can speculate based on previous events, but what event in history can you use as a template for future occurrences. The Dust Bowl in the 1930’s in the United States caused the greatest migration of people in American history. The ecological disaster affected 100 million acres of farmland.

Families by the tens of thousands fled the devastated areas only to find the economic conditions in the places they fled too were actually worse in many cases. People fled one disaster only to find themselves in another.

Those affected migrated toward more heavily populated areas, where economic conditions were poor because of the great depression and a mass influx of people strained what little resources the communities had, thus smaller crises played out across the country. One crisis will invariably cause another to occur.

You should evacuate if a hurricane or flooding is predicated or some other natural disaster. You know you have to leave but also know you can come back in a few days or weeks.

This article assumes a doomsday scenario has played out and evacuations would not be caused by seasonal natural disasters.

Where Would You Go

Unless you left well in advance of the crisis trying to flee may be as dangerous as staying. Some, if not many will wait too long thus, cannot evacuate even if they wanted too.

You have plans to evacuate and it all sounds good in theory, and practicing evacuation may even feel like an adventure, but when zero hour arrives, people tend to reconsider their options and start rationalizing why staying is the better option.

You cannot survive out of your bug-out-bag for long. Once out of the populated areas you are essentially on your own. You have limited supplies, typically 72-hours worth, and then what. In most doomsday scenarios, people would be on foot.

If the calamity does not affect the fuel supply, electrical grid or destroy the local infrastructure then no one would really have a reason to flee. However, you will have to flee from a chemical or nuclear attack, but other than a nuclear attack you may be able to migrate back home after a short period. Assume you will be on foot if you have to leave.

In the event of a biological attack, large areas would be immediately be quarantined by the government and people would be forced to stay to prevent the spread of the biological contaminates. If you did leave, it would be unlikely that you would receive medical treatment.

In the event of a nuclear attack, there would be a large number of fatalities immediately following the attack and as the days and weeks passed, more and more would succumb to the effects of radiation poisoning. It is assumed there would not be any warnings prior to the attack, so fleeing ahead of time would not be possible.

Thinking You Can Live Off the Land

Some people will be able to live of the land of course, but many of those fleeing large metropolitan areas will not have the tools, and not many will likely have the skills. Thinking you can walk 70 to 100 miles to a safe location, and being able to do so are two different things. Just getting clear of the city is more than some will be able to accomplish.

You may have small children and elderly family members to help and look after along the way. What is more likely to happen is many fleeing the devastation will settle on the outskirts of the affected cities. Tent cities will likely pop up in the suburbs after disaster strikes.

New On Top Of the Old

Small communities will start up, because people realize there is safety in numbers and collective minds can get things done. Remember, depending on the crisis there may be mass casualties, so there will be less competition for resources. People can find supplies close to the devastated areas, and in fact, these areas will have the highest concentration of needed items in the short term.

New communities will emerge close to the devastated ones. Technology will fail but that does not mean that people have lost their skills and knowledge. People will gather to take advantage of the skills of others. Doctors may not have an operating room but they are still trained, as are engineers, physicist and other experts.
The knowledge is there so people will immediately begin devising alternatives to those things that have been destroyed; this takes a community effort though. It takes society coming back together, not scattered to the four winds.

Bug Out

Those that think they can head out into the great unknown with their bug-out-bags may find they have depleted their supplies of food and water before they are even out of the city limits. It may take you several days just to get clear of the devastation if you are on foot. There will be no such thing as walking in a straight line on level ground. You will have to backtrack, climb over and work your way around obstacles and find other routes because many will be blocked.

Those That Do Find Their Way to a Wilderness Setting

Heavily wooded areas would be ideal in the short-term because they would offer protection and natural resources but at some point you have to develop a sustainable food source. Hunting, fishing and trapping are ideal for a short period but you will need more.

You need fertile soil and sunlight. It is not feasible to begin clearing acres of woodlands to plant your crops, so you have to move to open areas to grow your food. Farmland will be in great demand as things progress, because people will need to be fed. Your single-family garden will have to blossom into one that at some point may have to feed a community.

Some may believe they do not need acres or even an acre for their crops. Maybe not but you will need a much larger space than you may realize. Keep in mind you will not have pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers in the days after.

You will have to plant large volumes of vegetables to yield enough for daily use and preservation, because many of your plants will be consumed by insects and animals and stunted because of weeds and from a lack of fertilizer. Remember you are now in a wilderness environment, and not in your own backyard. The rules have changed and you need to consider all things.

Once in the wilds you may have limited contact with others and thus you will lack information. One of the reason people will not necessarily flee the cities is because instinctively people group together to benefit from other peoples’ skills and knowledge.

You may think right now you would love to get away from people, and be alone in the wilds, but vacationing in the woods for a few days, and surviving in them after a crisis are two very different scenarios. It can be done, but it requires careful planning, and certain skill sets that only come from actually doing the work. You also need materials, tools and equipment. You cannot till up two acres of ground by dragging a forked stick behind you. You need tools and equipment.

Those that have planned it out usually have a bunker or some type of protected shelter somewhere miles from large cities. The bunkers and shelters would be well supplied with all tools and materials needed, so you would not have to venture back into the cities for anything.

If you had a large enough stockpile of food, you would have the time to develop food sources, but if you just show up with a bug-out-bag and a handful of seeds, survival will be uncertain to say the least.

This article does not necessarily answer the question of whether people will flee from large metropolitan areas, but rather asks you if leaving is the wise move.
People will evacuate because they simply have no other recourse. People will not be prepared to leave and survive on their own, and they will become a casualty of the crisis. When people panic, they usually make the wrong choices.

The Internet is full of information and different perspectives on what you should do. Each situation is different. You may have the skill sets better suited for surviving in a wilderness environment than someone else, so your decision may be different from theirs. The main thing is you must make decisions based on facts, and on what you know you can accomplish.

If you have never walked with a 40 or 50-pound pack on your back then you probably will not be able to get very far. People in this situation will essentially set up camp wherever they find themselves after they realize they cannot go on. This would be just a few miles from town if even that far.

Remember you are not proficient in any skill unless you have practiced that skill. Reading a few articles and watching some videos online is not practice. You have to know that you can survive. Grabbing a bag and running out the door can lead you into another disaster that may be far worse than the one you are fleeing.


The vision of millions of so-called refugees fleeing cities may not happen in this country. It happens in other countries because of warfare, famine and other disasters, but that is other countries.

An attack large enough on the United States that would force people to flee in theory would also cause mass casualties and this may mean no one is left to flee. Additionally, an attack of this magnitude would leave many people physically incapable of leaving.

People in other cities may fear an attack and some will evacuate but the majority quite possibly will assume there would be a counter attack thus preventing their city from being attacked.

There could be an attack of such magnitude that all cities in this country would be affected simultaneously but if that were to occur, there may not be a place in which to flee. It is more reasonable to assume that a few cities would be attacked before a counter attack could be launched. Any mass exodus would probably be localized and for short periods until systems where put into place to help, those displaced.

A super volcano or a 10.0 magnitude earthquake will cause the same results. There will be many deaths but the destruction will be localized, so other cities will likely remain populated.