Escape from New York

This guest post by K.C. and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

1345453_empire_state_building_4About two years ago, we moved our family to New Jersey so that my wife and I could pursue jobs based in New York City.  Our commute is about 23-25 miles each way and as a result, we use public transportation to bring us back and forth from work.

Since our move, we have experienced an earthquake, a “snowpocolypse” and two hurricanes; the most recent being super storm sandy, which wiped out key transportation and electrical grid infrastructure; some of which is still being repaired like Hoboken station.  Additionally, New York is the unfortunate target of terrorists, even as recent as this past October, a Bangladeshi man was charged with trying to blow up the Federal Reserve building in New York.

About a year ago, my wife and I took a long overdue “couples getaway” and as we were driving along the California cost, we were listing to the radio and one of the stories was about 9/11.  Our conversation turned to that fateful day and how would we have managed to get home if we were working in the city, remembering the pictures of thousands of New Yorkers walking out of the city across the myriad of bridges.

It’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island with restricted access dependent entirely on a system of tunnels, bridges and water taxis to access the city.  Couple this with the fact that there are about 66,000 people per square mile and you find yourself in a potentially difficult and dangerous situation should a disaster occur.

With this realization, we decided that we needed to assess the situation and determine an emergency plan with the objective of getting us off the island and to our home 23 miles away without access to personal vehicles.   Like any large, complex problem, we decided to break it down and create a critical path to make a plan.  We netted out 6 key questions to explore:

  • 1.    How will we find each other?
  • 2.    How will we communicate with one another and/or family?
  • 3.    What modes of transportation can we plan for?
  • 4.    What are the best exit point(s) off the island to get us to our home in North NJ?
  • 5.    How long will it take us to get home; best and worst scenarios and how will we navigate home?
  • 6.    What should our get home bags (GHB) contain and what are the legal restrictions we need to be mindful of?

Below, I will outline our conclusions, but I will be leaving out certain details for obvious reasons.  However, I hope that the questions and conclusions might help other folks that are in similar situations.  Also, it will be great to get your collective perspectives on the plan that might help us refine/upgrade, etc.

How will we find each other?

My wife and I work in different parts of the city.  I work in the Flat Iron district and my wife is up past Grand Central Terminal.  Total distance between us is around 1.5 miles so not too far.  However, a lot of times, either one of us are out and about meeting with clients all over the city and neither of us would know that we were out of the office should an emergency ensue.  As a result, we realized that we should predetermine meeting a meeting spot should a situation arise where we needed to evacuate the island.  As we started to evaluate a meeting spot, we realized that we needed more than one due to the fact that the spot needed to be predicated on when and where an event occurs. For example, what if we picked Times Square and that is exactly where an incident or emergency occurred?

As a result, we segmented Manhattan into two zones, North and South, with the rule that if an issue or event happen in one zone, we would meet in the “safe zone.”  If no actual event occurs in either of the zones, and we are facing a general evacuation, then we would meet in the north zone, assuming our exit points are still operational (more on that later).  Within these two zones, we have picked a spot to meet.  At first, our inclination was to meet at some popular tourist attraction.  After thinking about it, we realized that this was a bad idea and that we should identify two places close to the river but away from popular tourist attractions.  From this spot, we would assess our exit options off the island.

There is the reality that one of us might not be able to make the meeting point for a myriad of reasons.  The cold truth is that it could be a reality and that our highest priority is getting back to the kids.  With that in mind, we established a “waiting window” that if one of us didn’t show up within that window of time, the other would start navigating towards home alone with the hope that the other would make contact later and rendezvous along the route home, assuming we are able to.

How will we communicate with one another and/or family?

When the earthquake hit in August of 2011, it was impossible to make call with your cell phone.  Texts had a 50/50 chance of getting through.  The landlines seemed to work fine but if you were calling a cellphone from a landline, odds are you would get a busy signal.  Also, if there was a more dubious situation, a common tactic for police are to shut down cell service as a means of crippling signals that might be used for coordination and/or other outcomes.  Walkie-talkies are an option but with all the tall buildings, success for long-range contact will most likely be slim.

Our first objective is to establish contact with each other before obtaining contact with our family at home.  With communication being impaired on the island, we realized that we need to start heading to our predetermined meeting place, with an objective of initially cutting straight west over to the Hudson river bank as soon as possible, regardless of which meeting zone we pick, so that we would maximize the ability of either grabbing a cell phone signal from the NJ side of the river or getting a better signal for the walkie-talkie.

In terms of contacting our family, it is our assumption that we wouldn’t be able to get a line of communication until we got off the island and into New Jersey.  We determined that my wife’s sister, who lives between our home and Manhattan would make a great relay and would be our back up plan should we not be able to call home.  We do have a set of walkie-talkies at home but we highly doubt that they will be useful 23 miles out.  We have instructed our children’s care taker to monitor the walkie-talkie but set the expectation that it was possible that they wouldn’t hear from us until we got close enough for a clear signal.

The most conservative expectation we decided to set was that odds are that if the situation is really bad, you probably aren’t going to hear from us and that our care taker’s main objective is to contact the children’s grand parents (live just a few miles away) and bring them to our home ASAP so that she can get to her own family.  Also, we can’t expect a non-family person to prioritize our kid’s welfare so we wanted to make it crystal clear that she should get our kids taken care of ASAP.   We also set expectations about how long it could possibly take for us to make contact given a worse case scenario, both to help the family calm and to enable the grandparents with timelines should they need to make critical decisions.  More on timelines later.

What modes of transportation can we plan for?

There are three segments to the journey home we needed to plan transportation for:

  • 1.)  Getting to the meeting spot
  • 2.)  Travelling from the meeting spot to exit point off of Manhattan
  • 3.)  Travel from Exit point back to home

Next, we discussed what modes of transportation we might have access to (or could acquire in advance or at time of need) during our journey home, keeping in mind that we take public transportation back and forth to work (e.g. no car):

  • 1.)  Feet
  • 2.)  Folding Bikes
  • 3.)  Good Samaritan with car/Hitch Hike
  • 4.)  Limited Public Transportation
  • 5.)  Paying off a taxi driver
  • 6.)  Paying off a boater to ferry us across the river

Each one of these options is going to be dependent on the severity of the emergency.  For example, if the emergency is minor, the odds of leveraging taxis, boats and public transportation are high.  If the emergency is major, we will be stuck with feet, folding bike or possibly a Good Samaritan.  A Good Sam is very unlikely if you have spent any time in NYC.  Pregnant women and older folks are constantly knocked around on the subway just to take a seat from them.  It’s not very often you see a gentlemen here in NYC!  Anyway, like most folks, we hope for the best but plan for the worst.  With this in mind, we came to the following conclusions:

  • 1.)  Feet: We will be doing a LOT of walking and we need to take this into consideration with our GHB
  • 2.)  Folding Bikes: These mini folding bikes are very popular here in Manhattan.  Very common to see in someone’s office by or under their desk.  I found 3 folding bikes in Manhattan with small cargo racks for under $175.

We had three major concerns when it came to the folding bikes:

  • 1.)  Would the bikes make us a target in a major emergency?
  • 2.)  What if one of us didn’t have access to our bike (attending a meeting out of office) and had to proceed on foot? Could two of us fit on a tiny mini bike and would the benefit in speed make up for any gear we would have to leave behind (assuming both GHB’s couldn’t fit on a mini bike with two riders)
  • 3.)  My wife is a complete klutz and has no coordination…..

In the end, $300 spent on used folding bikes seemed like cheap insurance to us and provided alternate transportation for normal situations where maybe taxis or subways were undesirable.

You might be asking yourself why I am not more bullish on the subway option.  I was at first but that was before the post-Sandy transit experience.  People are losing their tempers, yelling, etc and this is over silly things like making room for a passenger to sit.  The thought of being stuck underground, packed like sardines with super aggressive New Yorkers in an emergency situation didn’t seem to be a smart move.  So regardless if there is a minor or major emergency, I am avoiding the subways.  Plus, for some reason, I prefer the options available above ground vs. below ground.

What are the best exit point(s) off the island to get us to our home in North NJ?

Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide.  There are 14 bridges and 5 tunnels accessible by car and in some cases foot (I don’t believe the tunnels allow for pedestrians under normal circumstances).  There are another 11 train tunnels and one train bridge.   For access directly to NJ, here are our options:

  • 1.    George Washington Bridge (GWB)
  • 2.    Lincoln Tunnel
  • 3.    Holland Tunnel
  • 4.    NY Water Taxi to Hoboken

The best option is the GWB followed by the Water Taxi.  The tunnels possess a unique danger; carbon monoxide poisoning.  Even though the underwater tunnels are vented, the fumes build up very quickly.  One day, I rode my motorcycle into the city and instead of taking the GWB, I took the Lincoln tunnel. What a mistake.  When I got to the other side, I felt like I had a hang over that would rival a 3 day bachelor party binge in Vegas.  Although these are options, they aren’t the best options in my opinion.  You would have to have a pretty good respirator to make it across without getting sick IMO.

If for some reasons our direct routes are inaccessible, we will be facing a very long and circuitous journey home.  If we head north, we will be on the wrong side of the Hudson River and the next bridge is very far away, being the Tappan Zee bridge.  If we go south, our options are to go through Brooklyn and find our way back from there.   My bias is to go north as populations are smaller and the chances of finding a cab and/or working public transportation will go up.  Also, outside of the direct routes, going north is the next most efficient route even though it takes us several miles north of our home.

How long will it take us to get home; best and worst scenarios and how will we navigate home?

Assuming we have to walk, there are three likely scenarios where we assume the water taxis will be over capacity:

  • 1.    We have to walk north up the island and then across to the GWB where we will have access to cabs and/or public transportation in Fort Lee, NJ. This is about 10 miles and will take between 3.5-5 hours to make it across assuming minor issues or delays.  Assuming traffic back home once we catch a ride, another 1-2 hours making it a conservative total of 7 hours
  • 2.    We have to walk north up the island, across the GWB and then all the way home.  Assuming only minor issues or delays, this could take anywhere from 10-20 hours conservatively.
  • 3.    We have to take an alternate northern or southern route through New York to alternative entry points into NJ where we had to walk home.   These routes could end up doubling our distance to 40 miles which would most likely take 1.5-2 days assuming we have to stop and sleep for a bit.  If we are able to get a ride or other transportation after leaving NYC, we estimate this would probably be anywhere from 10-20 hours but that is a wild guess as there are too many variables with this option.

The net/net here is that we believe that we could possibly not be heard from for 2 whole days or as little 7 hours.  Obviously, the time of day we evacuate will also have impacts into timing and also how we prepare our GHB.  You will probably notice that I didn’t account for the time it would take if we had our folding bikes.  We figured if we used walking as our primary transportation option, we would set a more realistic/conservative estimation for friends and family.  This way, if we are gone for one day after a very serious emergency, friends and family won’t necessarily give up hope.  But if day two goes by and we aren’t home, it is probably time to start making some assumptions and making decisions.

What should our get home bags (GHB) contain and what are the legal restrictions we need to be mindful of?

The topic of GHB’s have been discussed ad nauseam and we used these resources to build our bags.  We have built our bags around a 2-3 day walk, assuming 1-2 overnights with limited access to food and water. Good shoes, medical, etc are all accounted for in our bags.  What we ran into as an issue was in regards to options for protection.  New Jersey and New York have some of the strictest rules around defensive weapons.  Forget guns;  you can’t carry them anywhere; concealed or not.  In NJ, if you have a fire arm in your car and you can’t prove you are heading to a gunsmith or shooting range, you will be arrested.

Even BB guns, extendable batons and pepper sprays are illegal or require permits and would/could cause issues with authorities if found in the GHB.   There is also no reciprocity.  I may have a permit for my pepper spray in NY but it wouldn’t hold in NJ.  I also can’t license the same can of pepper spray in NJ and NY and transport it between states. You also have to assume that your bag can and most likely will be searched by transit police, NYC police or military depending on the location (e.g. Penn Station has military, police, etc). When I brought my GHB into the city, I put it inside my favorite suitcase just so I didn’t have to go through an inconvenience of a search, even though my bag has no items that would violate any law.  So what options do I have?  Here is what I have put together:

  • 1.    Big Flashlight: Heavy and useful for light.  Would zip tie on the bike for a head light, although we have head lamps in our GHB
  • 2.    Axe: You can buy them at the home depot. This is a gray areas that I will explain below.  Also allows me to chop wood, etc.
  • 3.    Tactical Gloves:  These will help my hands a little bit if I have to use physical force to defend myself and also serve to protect my hands for climbing, riding, etc.
  • 4.    Boots with steel toes: These are very well worn and have many hiking miles on them.  Good kick to the head, knee or groin will give me an option to run away or defend my wife.

As you will see, each item is a multi-tasker which keeps the weight down in my GHB and/or gives me more space for other items.  Obviously, I have a pocket swiss army knife but you need to be careful what you carry.  Here is an excerpt of NYC law:

A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when:

  • (1) He possesses any firearm, electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or “Kung Fu star”; or
  • (2) He possesses any dagger, dangerous knife, dirk, razor, stiletto, imitation pistol, or any other dangerous or deadly instrument or weapon with intent to use the same unlawfully against another.

Whether a “knife” is a “dangerous” knife may be determined on the basis of three alternative considerations: one, its own characteristics which show that it is primarily intended for use as a weapon; second, a modification, which converts what would otherwise be a utensil into a weapon; and third, the circumstances of the possession which may reveal that the possessor considers it a weapon and not a utilitarian tool.

I guess my axe could fall into the camp of weapon if I consider it a weapon.  Maybe I will be removing that from my GHB….might be too risky.


Working in NYC can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.  But as I outlined above, it poses some unique challenges should an emergency arise that requires you to get home without transportation.  Hopefully my wife and I have planned sufficiently enough to get us home to our kids.

Our next topic for consideration is evaluating our situation should a bigger storm or something awful like an attack hits the island that requires people to flee NYC for long periods of time.  Being less than 30 miles from NYC with limited resources in the area (farms, etc) presents scenarios where we might want to get out of dodge…..

This contest will end on February 16 2013  – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first… Yes

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. worrisome says:

    Canes or walking sticks might add to your protection and not be considered a weapon in Bloomberg’s utopia? Just asking. I had occasion over the last year to have to use one because of some knee surgeries and they are handy when you are out walking and somebody’s untrained dog gets hostile. Just a thought. MD can tell you the name of some books to look at on the subject.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! When I was younger, I dabbled in cane fighting and escrima. As long as the cane isn’t a cane sword, I should be good!

  2. A well laid plan! An excellent article. The whole time I was thinking to myself, “Why not just move and get away from that city!”

    Then I had to remind myself that our bug out plan would probably terrify anyone from the city. Rappelling, icy rivers, dirt bikes, lions and bears.

    Good job!

  3. Looks like you have put a considerable amount of thought into your situation. I have a BIL that works in Manhattan and lives in New Jersey, but we haven’t spoken about his plans. Please keep us posted on any changes, and what you find works.

    • Can you Stash extra supplies, and back up weapons anywhere along your route? I agree a walking stick might be your best bet for backing off an attack. Getting some defense training specific to that stick is even better. Can you team with another couple of people with your plan? There might be more safety with 4 to 5 people.

      Drive your routes carefully. Looking for possible stash points, and places to rest.

      Your location scares the heck out of me. If you know someone who
      has a boat, could you pre arrange a pick up? Bridges are such dangerous choke points. I would seriously consider the alternates, like railroad tracks and even sewers.

      And even a Klutzoid wife can take self defense courses. She will feel a ton more confident, and it would double your chances of getting out of a real attack, having her at your back.

      Thanks for this eye opening article. We are already in one of the safest States in the nation, and we are allowed to carry an arsenal if needed, and I still rework our routes and get home plans. The best thing, is that you have a plan. You are ahead of 99% of the rest of them.

      • Thank you Mrs M for your inputs and insights.
        I have driven the routes a couple of times looking for places to stash items. There are probably some areas where I could. what I noticed was that you rarely get a moment alone to dig a hole without someone passing by. Here in NJ and NYC, we are programmed to call 911 if we see any suspicious activities. So I am worried about someone digging up my stuff and/or having to deal with police asking me what the heck I am doing. It is the city, hard to find seclusion.

        I don’t know anyone with a boat but maybe I should! Mooring a boat in NYC is a very expensive proposition; reserved for the top 1%. I’ll hang out on wall street and see if I can make some rich friends 😉 Seriously, great idea. I’ll comb my friends and see if I overlooked someone. Problem will be is that most boats are moored in the NJ side and my friends are in NYC during the day.

        • Any rentable lockers along your route? Then you wouldn’t have to dig.

        • The boat problen is interesting. Is there a storage facility near the shore to store an inflatable?

          • axelsteve says:

            You may be able to fill up a inflatable boat with co2 canisters that operate a pellet gun. We used to use them for the Mae West vest in my ab diving days. It may take several to do it ,though in a bug out situation it may be a viable plan.

          • There are some storage companies but rent is expensive. I am also a kittle concerned about how swift the current is. But I’ll consider it.

  4. Notsomuch says:

    Having once lived very close to and worked in Los Angeles the questions one must themselves is “Is it worth it?” and ” What are my options?”. Good luck in the days ahead.

    • Notsomuch, Of course it’s worth it. It has got to be soooo safe with no guns, no knives or other evil items allowed. It has got to feel as safe as a school or theater, huh? We live where we live and not all of us can move. If we could, NYC would probably be somewhere in Montana. I can’t imagine liking NYC, but thank God I don’t have to.

      • Aunt B
        To your point, we had that shooting at the empire state building a few months back. Problem was that the cops shot more people than the shooter!

  5. momengineer says:

    I have a trip planned to NYC in the summer with my daughter (its a group trip)…I have already been worrying about how to get out if something happened (my biggest fear is another terrorist attack, since we are about “due” for another one). Had NO IDEA pepper spray was outlawed…holy crap, what in the world *can* you use to defend yourself???

    • You can have pepper spray but you have to buy it in new york with a permit. The permit isn’t hard to get. However, most of the folks in NYC during the day don’t live in NYC and commute elsewhere.

      • "Big Jim" says:

        KC, have you thought about carrying wasp spray ? It’s wicked and shoots a jetstream about 15 or 20 feet ! With the spray ,a good walking stick or cane ,and a leatherman type tool w/ a sharp blade and you got a plan going on ! Good luck KC with your situation …

  6. Great plan and well thought out.
    Throw a can of wasp spray in the bag. Great weapon. Never know when you might run into some “wasps”. 🙂

  7. I have a cheap and light addition to add to your get home bags. Knee high nylon stockings. They go under your socks, and help tremendously to avoid blisters and other rubbing wounds for long walks because the socks then rub against the nylon instead of your feet. You can get several pairs for a buck or two, and each keep one set in your GHB.

    • Michele, that is a great idea. Even with a well worn in set of boots, that long of walk would be tough on the feet. Much better than the duel sock system I was thinking of. Thank you.

  8. Certainly better thought out than some of what I saw on Doomsday Preppers!

    Good idea of making plans with the child care person & grandparents!!!

    Extreme Situation — Forget Times Square. Don’t even think about the tunnels, no oxygen once the air handlers shut off, never mind the carbon monoxide, crashed and/or burning vehicles, and the likelihood that they’ll get closed down. Subways could be a huge problem, depending on the situation. Cars and buses could be at a standstill. Folding bikes a good idea, but forget the major avenues; maybe well west side or east side. If bridges to Brooklyn open for walkers, okay, but then you’d have to figure out how to get to Jersey. I can’t imagine walkers or even bikers would be allowed on the Verranzano. Watch out for attempted bikenapping on the ride. Don’t waste time trying to talk on cell phone; try to send texts but who knows when they will go thru. Suggest immediately sending texts; don’t wait! Walkie-talkies will work if you’re on west side past all the buildings, but 36 miles distance will likely be a problem; is that the distance as the crow flies? Possibly get reception if you’re both standing on the same avenue. Give them a test one of these days.

    Maybe pay off a water taxi driver, but that’s gonna be hard to find; same with a small boat. No, please don’t run out and stuff inflatable rafts in your GHB; the currents and tides could wipe you out big time. But peruse that very carefully. Never mind that SWAT teams could be out & about near docks, UN, bridges, tunnels. I agree that north might be your best option. The bugger is the ferry to Staten Island is south.

    To keep from getting into legal trouble, you may be limited to blade and cork puller on swiss army type combo. Little cans of hairspray or anti-cling can be nasty. I often have one of those trial sizes that fit right in my hand. Maybe a piece of re-bar taped up and clamped under water bottle if it’ll fit on your bike. When taping, stop about an inch from the end and wrap it with a separate piece of tape so you can pull it off quickly. Careful, re-bar is very very very sharp when swiped.

    Keep planning. Look at all available maps. Spend a weekend day or two just poking around Manhattan, maybe even on bikes (usually safer before noon on Sat or Sun). Come up with several scenarios.

    I’ve spend a lot of time on Manhattan, and I’d really hate to get stuck there during an emergency especially with that many millions of people milling around.

    • Manhattan is not my first choice for a disaster retreat either, but I did live there for a couple years in the mid-1980s, and most of it would be OK short term, so long as you have an indoor refuge. I lived on 108th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam (upper West Side, west of the top of Central Park), and while it wasn’t a high end area, it would have been fine in most situations.

      An apartment 2-6 floors up would be reasonably safe from street violence, and be accessible without elevators working. While you might get unlucky, the chances are overwhelming that any violence directed at buildings would be directed at some other building. The thing would be to stay indoors, away from crowds.

      If I were in a hotel, I’d stay there. Don’t check out. If things are that bad, people due to check in won’t be. Minimize time on the lobby floor. Get some of the famous $5/can soft drinks and water, whatever food would keep a day or two if the power goes out, and watch the news until the power does go kaput. Maybe order a $45 steak from room service: you should get a serrated steak knife with it. At this point saving money isn’t the issue: this is the reason you have saved money. Use your credit card as much as possible so you can conserve cash.

      If you are in your own office, you can have at least some water and food stashed under the desk. If you are in someone else’s building, you may still be allowed to stay, and probably should: Indoors is usually better than on the street among a lot of panicked or angry people, especially if you are from out of town and can’t walk home.

    • I saw that show as well. I got a few good laughs but some of it was good. Thank you for all the tips and insights. Very helpful . The distances I estimated were assuming we would be walking on roads vs. as the crow flies. As for defense, a Maglite, tactical gloves, steel toe boots and from the suggestions here, wasp spray are going into the mix.

      thank you

  9. KC, I really like your description of the thought process. Even though few of us live or work in Manhattan, your process is adaptable to most people’s situation.

    On 9-11 I had two nephews living in Manhattan, one of them married. The other had started college at NYU the week before, only several blocks from WTC.

    The student holed up at school. I couldn’t get a call through to the married nephew, but email worked fine. While a few years earlier he had worked in WTC, South tower, above the impact, he no longer did. He and his wife knew many people still working in the district, and a number of them walked north to their apartment just off Central Park West, and stayed there overnight.

    I made two points to him, though I don’t know if he acted on them: 1) The authorities will lie in order to minimize panic and rioting, and 2) Their guests were likely covered with toxic dust from the collapse of the buildings, so they should make them strip, bag their clothes, shower, and wear borrowed clothes.

    Toxic dust: the most obvious was asbestos used to fireproof the structural members of the buildings, but other toxics include contents of electrical transformers, and burning electrical insulation, batteries, and other unknown substances.

    The authorities initially claimed that the WTC buildings had been built after asbestos was banned. Whether they lied or not, they were incorrect. The ban had occurred during construction, and there was plenty of asbestos used on the lower floors. Asbestos aside, it was obvious that plenty of other toxics were present.

    The authorities were so concerned (and understandably so) about violence associated with millions of panicked people fighting to get off the island through very few exit points, that they minimized the danger from the dust.

    In retrospect, that may have been a good decision: if panicked flight had occurred, hundreds, and possibly thousands of deaths and injuries might have occurred. Think of soccer riots, then extrapolate to millions of people. The authorities are trying to balance immediate deaths and injuries against the possibility of long term health effects.

    My point is that we cannot trust authorities when they tell us there is no danger from X. We have to balance the dangers of flight with the dangers of sheltering in place. For Manhattanites on 9-11, getting out of the financial district was essential. Getting off the island entirely, much less so, at least so far as safety went.

    KC’s post is about those in situations which do require evacuating immediately from the island, but for intermediate situations it would be useful to have chatted with friends who live nearby. Pre-arranged refuges, even if not well stocked for emergencies (like my nephew’s apartment), can be life savers. Reciprocal rights, as in “We can shelter at your apartment on 86th street, you can shelter at our place in New Jersey” spread the risks and also create a support network. Even if they don’t feel the need to make any meaningful preps, having a plan and a place to shelter, even temporarily, can save lives. If you have really close friends, you might exchange door keys.

    In the event of a dirty bomb, from what I have read over the last few years, the priority is not getting off the island. It is getting indoors, out of your possibly contaminated clothes, and showered. Everything else, including contacting your family, is a distant second. Even sheltering in an automobile or a city bus is better than being outside. Several dust masks in your briefcases at all times can save lives.

    If the situation warrants, walk out immediately. A different situation might militate in favor of sheltering on the island a day or three, then walking out.

    • Tom, really good points. My post was about immediate evacuation. There are obviously situations like you suggested where I will need to find some refuge here in the city. Being relatively new, we don’t know anyone who lives in the city but I am sure we can find someone. Also, if there is a pandemic, we need to weigh the options of staying vs. going since in that situation, you are dealing with 3-6 months. Odds are, however, we wouldn’t be caught too off guard and would be at home.

  10. Get a couple of good ballistic pens, one of those in the eye or the neck will back some one off real quick and give you time to get away . Plus I would get a couple of good respirators anyway, remember all the dust from 9-11 you may have a real need for one. You may also want to look into Ham radio , a small handheld set will allow you to communicate to your sig other and also somone out of new york who could relay a message for you. That is one of the areas I lack in and am going to get a basic handheld and my license to get started.

  11. Hunker-Down says:

    Tremendous plan.

    Can you legally carry a can of wasp spray? A shot in the eyes will disable an attacker. In our area an action like that prior to TSHTF would land us in jail but the rules need to be changed when survival is at stake. It may help you keep your bike.

    Can your flashlight double as a club? No? Get a longer one.

    Does the DW have feet conditioned to walk for 2 days? How are the 2 of you going to react to blisters?

    There may be several delays in finding an opportunity to get closer to home, I would add a day to the wait time for the relatives.

    I’m glad to be living in the sticks. Our issues are not as complicated as yours.

    • HD. I am pretty sure I can get away with the wasp spray. Great idea. My flashlight is the heaviest thing I have in my GHB, being that of the big maglite.

      As for walking, NYC commuters tend to walk more than most folks. Both my wife and I are used to walking a lot. Regardless, I have items to address blisters in my GHB and there were some great suggestions above.

      You are probably right on the wait time. Probably best to double it.

      Thank you for your input
      KC: Formerly from the sticks.

  12. A good thick, dense bar of soap in a heavy sock makes a decent flail. A belt with a heavy buckle does also. Think Rodeo champion type buckle. Don’t know if its covered in the weapons laws there but a paracord sling might help. With some practice they can be quite deadly and might be overlooked in an bag search if disguised as a carry strap on something innocuous like a thermos or water bottle.—jeffrey

    • Pineslayer says:

      tommy2rs, substitute a can of pop in that sock. Remember Sean Penn’s movie? I can’t remember the name of it.

      • The unforgettable original “Bad Boys”. The Kurgen didn’t see it coming.

      • Tried that one time, can split open, soda every where and the flail went useless. Like whapping them with a wet noodle, The soap doesn’t fail like that. Golf balls work well also.

        • Tactical G-Ma says:

          A roll of quarters too. But I think those sort of things are illegal so carry them seperately when going thru chk pts.

          • Way back in the ’60’s riots, my dad handed me a round chunk of lead about 1-1/2″ wide x about 10″ long. The routine with that is to whack down on a collarbone. A skinny trial size can of hairspray is at least easier to explain to a nice officer, if of course he were even to ask before telling you to please be on your way. Much depends on the emergency situation as a whole.

    • I like the soap idea as it has a dual purpose for protection and hygiene!

  13. Wouldn’t it be easier to plan to “bug out” of the city permanently?

    • Novice,

      You would have to drag me kicking and screaming into that place…

      • Manhattan has a lot of jobs, many of which are not all that easy to duplicate elsewhere. If you like museums of various types (we do) it is hard to beat. It’s compactness makes it a much more livable…and escapable…city than either Chicago or LA. If working in Manhattan can generate enough income, that income can provide more/better preparation options than would be possible working somewhere else.

        The politics are lousy, so is the cost of housing and parking, but it has 1/4 the murder rate of Chicago. Most of the crime is concentrated in areas which are not frequented by tourists or business execs. I know that people love to hate New York, but it really is a wonderful city.

      • Mother Earth says:

        I agree MD, visited there once and got claustrophobic. Way to many people and tall buildings, you can hardly see the sky without breaking your neck. Those of you who live there have to be brave people. The taxi ride alone almost did me in!

      • Alittle2late says:

        I don’t think anyone would get me there still breathing.

        • New York City is the only place you could get maced and robbed at gunpoint,in the same. I was lost and trying to find the street. I was supposed to be delivering on so I asked a lady on the sidewalk for directions and she sprayed me with mace. Hours later,with purple dye all over my face,I found the address I was supposed to be at and walked to the back of my Trailer to open the doors,and I was met by a dude with a pistol who took my wallet and wedding band. Yep New York City is a wonderful place. My second and final delivery was just as eventful and is my 31 year old daughters earliest memory. That’s another story for another day hint: it involves a freshly removed roof on a NYC cab and a driver that didnt speak a single word of English.

        • Been there twice, my first impression was it was filthy, grungy buildings and trash everywhere. Second impression was it was the worst anthill I was ever in, worse even than LA. Pizza was fantastic but not good enough to justify putting up with NYC. Only reason I’d ever go back to that hellhole would be to kick the UN out of the US.

          • Guiliani really cleaned the place up and didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense. It’s been going downhill little by little under his “ban Big Gulps and baby bottles in hospitals” lordship.

            In Manhattan, most of the New Yorkers are regular people, more so since 9/11. They just get impatient with idiots who don’t pay attention. Simple rule like most major cities is to stay away from areas where you shouldn’t be. I’m actually safer in Manhattan than I am in my small south Jersey city.

            • NYC is a lot cleaner and safer than it used to be. For all of its faults, it is a really cool place to work with history all around you. As for me, it provides the best income for my family . From a crime perspective, I actually feel safer in New York than Seattle.

  14. You talk about use of walkie-talkies as a communication option, but doubt the range capabilities. VHF/UHF walkie-talkies (Hams refer to them as HT’s) in the ameature radio band would provide excelent coverage, especailly through repeaters. With the use of IRLP and ECHOLINK nodes, coverage can be worldwide. A visit to the or webpages will allow you to quickly find the many nodes in the area of interest. In the case of this article, there are over 50 IRLP nodes (repeaters) within a 50 mile radius. Here in the Virginia beach area I can access many local repeaters whcih extends my range to cover the entire tidewater area and connect to pretty much any state or country, all from a simple and inexpensive HT. For a few hundred $$ you could set up your own IRLP node.

  15. Swabbie Robbie says:

    Being an island, a boat is a very good way to get off of it. I would consider an inflatable kayak – either a 2 person or two singles. They don’t have to be big and fit into a pack. Here is one example:

    If you could stash them at work, it would be a good to go when you are, provided you don’t tell others what they are and where they are so they get taken by some other desperate co-worker.

    • While I wouldn’t totally nix an inflatable raft, I’d be very careful in considering when to use it depending on what type of emergency situation is going on. Pandemics, dirty bombs, multiple terrorist attacks are real bad possibilities. SWAT and Fed teams will be in the sensitive areas (remember, the UN and Wall Street are there too). There will be police boats patrolling the waters and the docks. Cameras abound near tunnels and bridges. Sniper teams will be positioned. I’ve seen some of those Fed teams in NYC; I would NOT consider pee-ing them off in any way.

      Less nasty scenarios — Hey, get outa my way, I gotta inflate my inflatable kayak, please.

  16. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Good article. This gives anyone working in metropolitan areas but living elsewhere how a well thought out plan is necessary. There must plan a, b, c, and contingency after contingency. I was living in Southampton 99- 07. The 9-11 event, the anthrax scare, the massive electrical grid shutdown, forest fires, a long overdue risk of a hurricane, and DH’s failing health sent us running.

    About a month after 9-11 we had to drive to KY. The security was horrendous and we went across Staten Island then the Goethals Bridge.

    When you consider the population of the NYC area, it is safer than one might imagine. When the towers fell, and people had to walk out of the city, it was still quite orderly partly because of shock and partly because of disaster preparedness. I am sure the same was true during and immediately following Sandy.

    We made good money there but honestly, we live better on less in AL and have a whole lot more peace of mind. Good luck to you and I hope you never have to put your plans to use.

    Another weapon is hairspray or Lysol spray and a bic.

  17. MountainSurvivor says:

    I sympathize with your situation but that’s why I wouldn’t ever go near a big city. There’s nowhere to go, people can be too uncaring and quick to the violence, it’d be too hard to make your way around afterward, diseases, you know the deal. You can do a lot better for yourself and family with cheap land out in the country, small monthly payments, pay it off asap and get out of there. If you’re looking for houses to live in, lots of nice ones in Arkansas, out in the country and near town.

    • My skill set for work only have a couple of markets where I can find a good job; NYC being one of the best. Once we have a big chunk of the mortgage and kids college paid off, I might find alternative work in NJ.

  18. You could also try to escape for freedom………….like most other people that lived in communist states .

  19. Pineslayer says:

    KC, nice plan. You are indeed much braver than I. I stay hidden in the mountains, been this way my whole life. So I am a chicken-shit or anti-social? How are your swimming skills?

  20. SurvivorDan says:

    Great stuff. I have a daughter working in MYC and living in Brooklyn. She has a nine mile walk to get home. We decided against the bike as she is young and fit and has already tested the 9 mile walk (with her large boyfriend along) .We too were concerned that it would make her (a petite female) a target when folks are freaking out.
    Her GetHomeBag at work has a large flashlight and a pry bar in it that can double as exigent circumstances weapons. I gave her pepper spray but she is afraid of being caught with it. NYC restrictions even on less than lethal devices are just jack*ss stupid.
    Anyway a lot of thought in your plan. Overall very good. Hope you never have to use it.
    Thanks for the post.

  21. axelsteve says:

    I do not do well in crowds so living there is not in my plans.I see that you have well thought out plans if something happens.That is what survival is about,surviving where you happen to live at.Not everyone can live in the sticks.

  22. Have a sole insert made for your boots. Have it made to match the piece of fabric they put in the bottom of the shoe. Have the outside sharpened and a area ground so that you could break it apart with a hammer or brick to make a knife blade. Also have two holes drilled in each section so you can use the screws that you have in your GHB to attach it to your walking stick that you have slit and drilled to recieve the blades. You could have the walking stick scored so it will brake off for a knife handle or sword or both. Between you and your wife you should be able to have 8 blades that are hidden under the shoe insert that is a orthotic for your foot problems.

  23. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Everyone should understand that the infrastructure of the 5 boroughs of NYC is awesome. Because of the number of tourists, they work hard to make it safe. I would not fear people too much during the 1st 48 hrs of an event because of shock. Don’t linger if you need to leave. As evident from other events, lock down is eminent but will gradually be lifted. But because there are more people per sq mile, there are more crazy people per square mile. Of all the places I have traveled I faced danger, was burgled, or was robbed in Anchorage, Alaska, Naples, Italy, and Nashville, Tennessee. And although was not accosted, Memphis, Tennessee scared the daylights out of me. And being able escape Manhattan via water is impossible.

    • TGM: it is awesome and even though NYC is a target it is a relatively safe place. I am sad to see that so many folks are afraid to even visit NYC. They are missing out. I won’t cower in fear to potential issues; it’s just not the way to live your life IMO.

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        Every place I have been has had something special but I have a list of about 40 things I really love about NYC. That being said, it is a target and it is cram packed with people, traffic, and buildings. I am not comfortable living in a city or even burb environment anymore. But it is safe to visit but just like a person going into the wilderness needs a certain education, the same is true in any large city. Know before you go and have a great experience.

  24. Too many good ideas posted by everyone for me to add anything. But, I did pickup some good info I hadn’t thought about. Wasp spray, never thought about it. Will have to get a couple of cans for my bag. Sorry you are stuck in NYC and NJ, sure isn’t my cup of tea. But you have put a lot of good thought into the plan. Good luck.

  25. Good planning. I would think that your best bet would be to get out of NYC as quickly as possible taking advantage of the super version of normalcy bias that New Yorkers have. “ain’t nuthin gonna happen to us, nuthin” First sign of trouble get across the bridge before other realize whats going on.

    I personally don’t see the charms of New York, spent my first 25 years there and it was more than enough, but there is the possibility that in an long decline situation it would be a good place to be as areas of the country struggle internally for assets. The amount of wealth and power there is unbelievable – think the Hunger Games….or Mystery Babylon. Alas!

    • You are right about the attitude that “it won’t happen to me.” When Sandy was coming, I got weird looks from neighbors when I asked if they had a couple weeks worth of food.

  26. Great great post.
    1) + 1 to the idea of wasp spray. heavy stream and long distance
    2) When I tested my get home plan, i netted at best 2.5 mph over 10 hours on mixed terrain and i am in great shape.
    3) I found a Gerber Machete to be very valuable and i believe it similarly would be for defense.

    Overall for defense, a GHB could be passed off as camping equiptment so I think you would liklely be ok with that kind of stuff.

    Overall, I am glad I am int eh midwest 🙂

  27. Grandpappy says:

    Some thoughts on wasp spray vs. pepper spray.

    Could a small spray paint can with a trigger handle blind an attacker? How about a small fire extinguisher?

    A non lethal spray device should be quick to employ and quick to stop an assault.

    This might help with any spray can application. Now if someone can figure a quick draw system…

    • Methinks spray paint cans are a great big No-No in the Big Apple. Think grafitti as the reason.

      I’m laughing at Cuomo’s wanting to ban more stuff. Just about everything is already illegal in NY; one notch worse than NJ.

    • Hunker-Down says:


      In jurisdictions where pepper spray and/or taser guns are illegal I would resist their intentions of keeping me defenseless by carrying at least one can of wasp spray and a cigarette lighter. Those 2 tools give us the option of a chemical weapon and a blowtorch to be used for self defense.

      • Grandpappy says:

        Any ideas on a can gun trigger handle with autofire lighter? Kind of awkward to fumble with a bic and spray can when a velociraptor/zombie/terminator/predator jumps from ambush.

        If I didn’t get the shakes and drop the lighter, point the can in the wrong direction, or stroke out…Maybe the odor of me excretizing vigorously might drive off a goblin.

        Meanwhile, I will cogitate on a gadget that can be legally carried anywhere, deployed quickly, blinds/incapacitates an attacker, and has a high pressure long range discharge.

        Something a shaky old Grandpappy can use

        • Hunker-Down says:

          Gee, I hope that would drive off a goblin, cause it’s exactly what I would do :-).

    • Well, wasp/pepper spray and mace can have a range of 5-10 feet or more. Last spray paint can i used probably had a range of about 6 inches. I would much rather simply carry a rock to throw

      I like Hunker-Down’s suggestion of wasp spray (which is conveniently flamable) and a lighter. I think I will do some testing with that but it will be more just for my ammusement. In a get home plan, any encounter will have a goal of getting away quickly. Use wasp spray and keep moving. Not trying to fight to the death.

      Of course as a reminder that this only applies to cities where you can’t have pepper spray/mace because wasp spray is illegal to use for defence (a felony according to a quick google) and not as effective as pepper spray.

      • >>this only applies to cities where you can’t have pepper spray/mace<<

        It's worse than that for anyone on a trip involving an airline flight: You can't travel with mace/pepper spray, not in carry on and not in checked luggage.

        I always wear an LED Lenser T7 flashlight on my belt along with a Swiss Army Knife. When flying, the knife goes into checked luggage, but I keep the flashlight with me. It's a lousy weapon, but totally legal, and a lot better than nothing if you don't kid around with it. It could be useful on an airplane if I'm ever so unlucky as to share one with hijackers.

        One could find a spray merchant at the destination, but that would usually be a big nuisance for the tiny chance of needing it, and then you'd just have to throw it away on the way to the airport to go home. At some point you just play the odds and be careful.

  28. Grandpappy says:

    Any ideas for improvised foam sprayers? Have to deploy quickly, give a reasonable range, be useable at close quarters.

  29. carry wasp spray (stream type, not normal spray) instead of Pepper spray
    I am also a fan of walking sticks, I use my Quarter staff for just such a purpose, and it is a solid Chinese Oak quarter staff.

    • And there IS a cane and umbrella shop in mid-town Manhattan within walking distance from Rockefeller Center. Can’t remember the name, but it’s easily googleable and they do have a website from which to order. Great selection!

  30. A permit for pepper spray? Egad. My suggestion for getting out of New York would be to move to another state entirely. That being said, I suspect it’s not the suggestion you’re looking for, and without any of those restrictions here I haven’t really thought about protection without real defensive devices.
    However, on the communications side of things, if you and the spouse both got your amateur radio license (even just a technician license) and did a little research, you should have a clear shot for communications around and out of “the Island”. There are close to 50 actual repeaters registered on Manhattan, and certainly one or more of these would still be functional, short of a nuclear strike, which would of course change everything. A quick search turns up this list as a starting point:
    Good Luck

  31. Don’t forget your high rise escape pack, a parachute! If you’re in NY and work above the 12th floor, it’s a good idea. A better one would be found new work elsewhere. I know, easier said than done, but I left SF after the ’89 Quake. I would have died on the collapsed freeway, because I drove it everyday at 5 pm, had I not been at the game. I’d rather jump with the chute, than be crushed or burnt, but that’s just me.

    How about a smoke hood? Can you get out if caught in a bldg. fire?

    No affl. just an example of what’s out there. Sometimes we have to think outside the box to survive, but isn’t that why we are all here?

    How about a SPOT Messenger to enhance your text capabilities? Your off island sister could track you both on-line with the touch of a button. 1 way texts could be sent even if service is spotty or down via satellite and if trapped somewhere, hit the HELP button.

    A tightly rolled up magazine secured w/ 2 thick rubber bands makes a nice baton! Hit em w/ the blunt end in the eyes, nose or throat and it deflects knife attacks well.

    Polymer knives are cheap, under $10. Wear a tie, well tuck one up inside and who’ll know it’s there?

    Good luck!!!

    • This is virtually impossible in NYC. For starters most of the windows in the offices, unless it is an older building like Rockefeller Center don’t open. Second, the canyons of New York channel high winds even in relatively small breezes these would smash you against the walls of buildings or hang you up on ledges / terraces most likely injuring or killing you.

      • Both my wife and My buildings have windows that open. I was also at 5 other buildings on biz calls and all had windows that open?

  32. Pineslayer says:

    Hey KC, thanks for putting yourself out there and for taking everyone’s “ideas”. Hope you can quietly find some like minded people to evac with. Power in numbers.

    • Been looking for folks but most look at you like you are wearing s tin foil hat if you bring up any topic of preparedness. If colleagues in my office looked into my GHB they would probably report me to management as a nut even though nothing illegal in it.

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        For years I kept a GHB in my trunk without knowing it was a ghb! A Folgers coffee can, sand, lighter, matches, and candle in it. Water and metal cup in case of snow. Ski pants and jkt, gortex parka, boots, gloves, neoprene ski mask, wicking socks, headband ear warmer, foot and hand warmers, garbage bags, TP, a machete, a leatherman, walkie talkie then later cell phone, chocolate bars, protein bars, a book, a flashlight, shovel, duct tape, flares, pillow and blanket, first aid kit, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant, soap, shampoo. Sometimes life throws you curves. And I have had to use it at least 6 times.

        Now I am a bit more sophisticated and customize our GHB’s. Things like nitroglycerin, insulin, dextrose, tylenol, glucagun and epipen along with my tomcat, and toilet tissue are now standard accessories. Ain’t getting old grand?

  33. Great article and awesome comments. The DH and I had a plan for where to go if something happened in our big city but it focused on still being able to travel by vehicle. Recently, we have discussed getting home from work in situations where vehicles are unavailable and have both considered bicycles an option. I have somewhere I could keep one at work but the DH would need a folding one in his car. We have a long way to go but are learning so much from this site. Thanks MD and everyone!

  34. Encourager says:

    Thanks for the great article, K.C. You have thought out your Get Home plans very carefully. After reading everyone’s comments, I am going to get our walking sticks out of the camper and put them in our car. If we were in the nearest city, it would be a 22-25 mile walk home through the country, once we are out of town. Need to look at maps to find the best direct dirt roads to take.

  35. Very good post KC- Although I now live in MN, growing up in NYC along side the ridiculous gun and knife laws has made me sort of like MacGyer when it comes to improvised weapons. Among some of the things I carried back in the day include: 4 D cell Maglite, boxcutter, steel capped boots, 3/8″ link chain with padlock, claw hammer, crowbar, cleaver, sock full of D batteries, can of roach fogger, and one of my homemade favorites a baseball cap with fishing sinkers sewn inside the headband. They are also countless hide able knives you can purchase on Canal Street. Whether these will be inconspicuous enough to negate LEO attention will depend on your occupation I’m sure (I did construction). However if you need more ideas here a good link-

    Good luck-

  36. I grew up in the Bronx and commuted most of my adult life from the western suburbs of No. NJ or northern suburbs of upper Westchester, Putnam, counties, NY or Fairfield County, CT.

    I would say your plans are unrealistic. First, there is no southern egress from NYC for all practical purposes. It would mean first traversing tunnel or bridge east to Brooklyn, ( a problem of a added sort all together) then making for the south-east to the Verezanno bridge to Staten Island with the eventual aim of Elizabeth, NJ putting you at least 40 miles below your home in the most dense population in the US.
    As to the northern route, your best bet would be to hug the Hudson River and travel north, but bear in mind you will be traveling through the most crime ridden areas of Manhattan, where predator gangs will be roving about seeking those to devour. You could hope to find a boat / boater but that would put too much to chance. You could make a make shift float but the Hudson is wide at that point and the current is very strong. Your best bet would be to have enough supplies to last you until the event is over and remain in place in your office. Actually, your best bet is to get a job in NJ or the northern suburbs and hunker down there.

    One aspect to keep in mind is that during 9/11 the egress and access points were closed. Even the rivers were patrolled by military and police denying access.

    Essentially, if you live or work in NYC and disaster strikes you are virtually screwed. This is coming from one who has considered and devised plans from the early 1960’s. Get outta the city, any city will be a killing zone.

    • ROD
      Thank you very much for your feedback and constructive criticism. I appreciate your intent very much. NYC has changed a bit from the 60’s bit some things are the same. To your point, all the bridges and tunnels could be closed which is why my last resort is to go north. To your point, going south is a bad idea for me and will be my last resort. Again, thank you for your input, time and thoughts. I very much appreciate your comment.

  37. Thanks everyone. I am very impressed with the feedback. After digesting the comments, I have come to the conclusion to get a small storage locker on the island. This makes sense for many reasons. First, it is a great meeting point. If we have to shelter in for a bit, we can do it there. I can also store items like bikes, food and our GHB’s. There is a risk that we can’t get to it or get inside but the benefits are many.

  38. Grandpappy says:

    K.C., thanks for the information. This discussion has been very helpful.

    How did Sandy and the winter storms affect your planning/thinking/travel/homelife?

    • We were very well prepared for Sandy ( water, fire wood, food, shelter, etc). Only thing I didn’t have was a generator which I now have. Seriously thinking about an integrated whole house generator hooked up to our gas line but that will cost between $10-15K! We also cut down and trimmed trees that caused damage to our house. The only thing we don’t have is a bug out location. If something significant happened, we are too close to the city not to be hot with lots of refugees. Also happy I didn’t buy a NJ shore house

  39. Dobie Gillis says:

    I would think finding a place to put a motorcycle would be another excellent idea. For instance, a storage facility. Then, even if you take 3 hours to meet in a zone. The meeting place could be a few blocks from the facility. Then, you have the means to get out. Even a small bike (nothing less than a 250cc could take you both 30 miles in an hour. Plus if you had to make any detours or get around stalled cars, you could do so with ease.

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