Escape from New York!
November 19, 2005 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Escaping the Big Apple if disaster struck. Suppose you live a quiet life in the Upper West Side filled with mathematical homework and reading Metafilter. Suppose this life was interrupted with CATASTROPHE! How would you escape the city on foot?

What sort of 'go bag' would you have set to go? What would you take with you? What would you leave behind? What would your primary and backup paths be?

You are allowed to speculate on different escape/hunker-down strategies for different disasters, but the 'go bag' must be a general and reasonably priced kit.
posted by onalark to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
how about a backpack with a small inflatable raft and oars?
posted by reverendX at 7:24 PM on November 19, 2005

I would consider jet packing it out assuming jet pack technology is relatively mature in this hypothetical scenario.
posted by moift at 7:32 PM on November 19, 2005

Backpack: Food, water, important papers, cash.

I'd hike up up up into the Bronx, until I was out of harm's way. Then I'd get on some sort of moving vehicle to LaGuardia Airport and get on a plane to anywhere.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:37 PM on November 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Steal something smallish from the 79th Street Boat Basin. If you follow the Hudson far enough it will lead you straight into the middle of nowhere, where presumably you will be relatively safe from whatever's got it in for the city. This works better if the tide is coming in when you decide to make a break for it.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:42 PM on November 19, 2005

What IshmaelGraves said. The boat basin was the first thing that popped into my mind. I guess the Hudson is the logical choice, since NY Bay is bound to be a mess of traffic no matter what's going on.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on November 19, 2005

Disregard boat plan if catastrophe is tsunami.
posted by smackfu at 7:50 PM on November 19, 2005

Best answer: If TV has tought me anything, and I'm sure it has, you have the following options when a catastrophe hits New York:
  1. Start a gang of thugs and stake out your territory
  2. Start off as a self-doubting teenager who is confronted by his own weaknesses and becomes a man
  3. Become a mutant and hunt the "normals"
  4. Become a tough, silent loner, meet a plucky yet cute girl that is kidnapped by thugs. Rescue her, fall in love and make sure the last thing you say is a clever one-liner
Extra credit: Use breakdancing to settle any disputes
posted by fatbobsmith at 8:01 PM on November 19, 2005 [4 favorites]

I think the biggest problem would be having to deal with the millions of other people who have a similiar need to escape the island, so I like how most of these answers are variants on "avoid the bridges". The boat is a neat idea.

Interesting, though -- if one planned their lives around disasters, it would be prudent to buy a small, inflatable raft and some bottled water.
posted by sleslie at 8:11 PM on November 19, 2005

If you want a serious (rather than whimsical) answer, and you are where I think you are, get thee to central campus before they close the gates. Urban Ivy League campuses have backup power, emergency provisions, and plans to take care of their own (especially at universities heavily populated by the children of the rich, the well-connected, and the sue-happy).
posted by availablelight at 8:41 PM on November 19, 2005

As for a go bag... it would need to have water and first aid supplies, maybe throw in a energy bar or 2, but not too much food. Try to keep it lite. Include maps of NYC and surrounding areas. Keep gloves and a hat in the winter. Also, create an electronic record of you and keep it in there (either CD or flash drive) Include things that you would need to rebuild your life, scan of birth certifiacte, important numbers like bank records and the such.

As for escape route, Unless you have a real boat I would forget the inflatable raft idea. The rivers around NYC are big f'ing rivers and you don't want to trying to paddle out of the way of a real ship(or boat) when they are trying to escape as well... I think the best choice would be a bicycle. It is small enough that you should be able to ride between stop cars because that is what they will be...

Anyhow my 2 cents... As for me, I live in DC. Depending on the disaster coming. I am either going outside to enjoy the purple sunrise or hitting the C & O canel trail with my bike.
posted by kashmir772 at 9:36 PM on November 19, 2005

I'd walk north, to The Bronx and beyond---if it was allowed at all. If something chemical or biological happens on the island, it probably won't be.
posted by amberglow at 10:12 PM on November 19, 2005

Survivalist types call it your Bug-Out Bag.

Mine contains some Power Bars, cash and passport, and clothes. Said survivalists pack guns of some kind, but I don't own any. Also, one of those silvery space blankets; keep meaning to pick one up...

Given this Manhattan scenario, I'd ride my bike up to and across the GW Bridge (more options once you get to Jersey, IMO). Trouble with any NYC evacuation of course would be the hoards of like-minded people in your way.

Note to self: Remember fatbobsmith's Extra Credit the next time disaster strikes. (Funniest thing I've heard all day!)
posted by Rash at 11:09 PM on November 19, 2005

The boat idea sounds promising but it won't be too useful during natural disaster as seen on movies like "The Day After Tomorrow".

I think having a semi-cheap anonymous mountain bike (maybe dark grey or flat black) with couple of spare parts stuffed in a small pouch mounted on the bike itself...(parts like extra chains, tire patch kit, etc...)
This should help you being mobile during major traffic jam through a disaster.

During disaster like that, I would be more worried about the other people than the disaster itself. So having anonymous looking bike will hoply make you not stand out too much while going through jamed up streets with a lot of people running away...

To be more practical, I would have a medium size backpack (large ones stand out too much) right by the bike at all times... (timing is critical when you try to get out away from where you are...)

The backpack should contain a bottled water, swiss army knife, map, one of those small plastic hand turn electric generator for cellphone/light/radio, extra batteries, duck tape, rope/wires, one of those plastic/foil blanket, sweater/blue jean, pocket radio, couple of 5/10/20 dollar bills ($100 worth maybe), a credit card that you never use, ball pen/paper, passport, small medical kit and dried food.

These things mentioned above should fit in a medium size backpack and can be stored almost forever... except for the swiss army knife, you can hand carry into a airplane if case arises. It is useful during small emergency-you will have back up money, id, medical kit.. Medium emergency-you will have a backup credit card and i.d.... during major emergency-those are good for outdoor survival for few days...

Important thing is to have it always some where in your home. Above things are cheap enough things to have it in your car.

I thought about mace, metal club or a small gun..... but it was too depressing to even think about if it comes down to really defending yourself. I will say take a look at some of those end of world movies and find some clue to what you may need... "Day After Tomorrow, MadMax II, War of Worlds, Dawn of Deads<--or similar"
posted by curiousleo at 11:14 PM on November 19, 2005

This doesn't directly address your question, but track down the first episode to James Burke's outstanding BBC miniseries about scientific progress, Connections. He essentially goes through the problems you'll face if a major disaster were to force you to abandon the city, which may give you some ideas on what to pack. It's a really neat show in general, though only the first and last episodes deal specifically with rapid scientific progress, its mindnumbing complexity, and its effects on today's society. The rest is more lighthearted "this is how the technology we have today came to be" scientific history.

Your first problem is escaping the city. Any second-rate disaster flick (or, say, real footage of hurricane evacuations) will teach you that vehicular travel is next to useless. A small boat is perhaps not the smartest choice unless you live near a river, and even then I don't know how survivable an inflatable raft would be, especially if you've never really used it before. Bikes are damned near unstoppable with a bit of mechanical knowledge, but they're heavy and so not easy to carry in a bag. Plus they're easily visible and valuable; two strikes in this time of chaos. Walking will get you where you need to go so long as you don't need to get there fast; this will obviously depend on the nature of the disaster.

Provisions. Best to assume food and shelter will be scarce. Shelter is easier than food, though mind the seasons and prevailing weather. Something that's easy to tear down (in case of thieves) and invisible (in case of attackers or zombies) helps. Warm clothing is a definite plus—a necessity if you're anywhere near cold weather climes. Heat is easy to deal with; cold less so. As for food, you can only pack so much rations, so in addition to MREs (please check your expiry date) you're going to need a way to get food after your supply has run out. Again, think of your surroundings. Near a lake? Fishing nets and/or rods (probably the nets, since they require less equipment). Skilled hunter? Use a knife—no ammo. It also doubles as defense.

Speaking of which, you'll have to think about this one. One guy with a shotgun and a temper will ruin your whole post-apocalyptic life. As stated before, though, guns need ammunition. Plus what applies in the real world applies in zombieland as well; guns can easily be taken off your person and used against you, and if you can't handle a firearm you've no business being around one. If you're not the fighting type, think camoflage and hibernation tools; you need the ability to go underground for days at a time if neccessary.

I could go on, but I honestly pulled all of that out of my ass. My only expertise on the subject is watching a couple of soul-scarring nuclear apocalypse flicks (if you're ever in the mood to cower under your sheets for a week, try watching Threads. I hear Testament is quite good too.) I think the key to stocking a bug-out bag is think about what you need to survive—food, water, shelter, perhaps currency—and then think about what tools you'll need to secure long-term supplies of those things. How useful is a tank of gas going to be if an EMP knocks out the electronics in all the cars? (Assume you're not Tom Cruise and don't know the inner workings of a Dodge Caravan's engine.)
posted by chrominance at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2005

Instead of movies I'd look at the recent evacuation fiasco in New Orleans for tips. Boats, bicycles or feet and head for high ground, preferably where you know people. Spend some time backpacking and you'll figure out the go bag thing easily enough. For example, you'd be crazy to depend on bottled water when carrying water purification tablets or a filter is lighter and will produce an ongoing supply. You can make hot meals in your Nalgene bottle when you're done drinking out of it. Cotton kills. You aren't going to get very far on Powerbars alone: multi-vitamins, dehrdrated fruit, pasta or cornmeal will do you better. A fishing hook is more portable than a gun (admittedly not as useful in gang wars). Cheap space blankets are totally useless. All important stuff should be in a drybag if you're going boating etc. etc.

If I grabbed my entire camping and field gear box o goodies I could survive pretty much indefinetely, barring major injury.
posted by fshgrl at 11:57 PM on November 19, 2005

On the morning of 9/11, I was getting laid off from my job, 30 minutes away from downtown as the crow flies. My neighbor, at the time, was just getting set up for the morning at his office at the Empire State. Being a relatively connected person, he saw the first news reports, seemingly understood what it meant, and after getting to the ground floor, literally ran to Grand Central Station (cabs were unavailable for any realistic route). He hit the last running train (standing room only) and made it back to home safely out of harm's way.

During the blackout, however, he still had the same job, and was forced to sleep overnight on the street, as none of the hotels had air conditioning or windows that would open (at least none with vacancies).

During the one of the many subway scares, I walked north to 125th street (from the WFC...took me quite a while) and got on Metro North there, and made it out of the city.

If the city is in crisis, I figure you've got two real options: Head for Jersey or head for the Bronx. Each route requires walking over a bridge, so you're beholden to the "lock-down" nature of the crisis. In these conditions, a bike or a scooter is really going to make the trip easier (I'm assuming you have one or both, living where you live).
posted by thanotopsis at 12:14 AM on November 20, 2005

If the city is in crisis, I figure you've got two real options: Head for Jersey or head for the Bronx.

If you know the crisis is limited to NYC, you could also take a bridge or tunnel to Brooklyn or Queens and start walking towards Montauk.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:24 AM on November 20, 2005

A bike is a great option for most cases, I think. If you can act early on in a crisis, you can head for one of the less used bridges to the Bronx (I haven't used the GW in a decade--it's a nightmare at the best of times). The 3rd Ave bridge or one of it's siblings are small and short.

If it's winter and there's snow a bike won't work--unless you have studded tires for it. If there's mass panic with people clogging the streets it won't work either--someone will take it from you.

I don't live in NYC, but if I did, I'd work these things out. You're smart.

Maybe there's a boating club or something. A place where people store canoes, kayaks and such. A canoe with a small outboard could work. But I wouldn't bet my life on it.
posted by recurve at 3:49 AM on November 20, 2005

I suggested bike in the earlier post... I still think it would work well in most situation...(give up the bicycle if some one bigger or with gun forces you to... you will still have the emergency bag... )

Try to have the bag as same color as your top jacket or something to be less visible...

But I had another extra idea after reading above answers..., get a black rollerblade and try to stick in to that bag if possible.. if not put it in same dark color sac and hang it on your emer.bag. This would give you a second chance after your bike is taken...

Most times, all you have to do is get out of ground zero during the kaos... (maybe for about an hour or two...) so.. think of the bike and rollerblade as an disposable transporter that would give better chance of surviving...

Another is to keep your body fit. execercise... run.. etc... etc... This not only will enable you to survive better... it is also great for you in your normal every day life anyways...
posted by curiousleo at 4:04 AM on November 20, 2005

Rather than take bottled water, I'd take a decent water filter. Something like Mountain Safety Research's Miniworks EX, which I've used as my water source in inhospitable foreign lands, should give you about 2 months of water with one filter core and is field maintainable. It's compact and fits on a 1L wide-mouth Nalgene bottle, which it fills in about a minute. Include some chlorine drops or iodine pills for the really suspect water sources and you'll be good to go. This whole setup won't cost more than about $100.
posted by msbrauer at 5:08 AM on November 20, 2005

Cotton kills.

What does this mean?
posted by languagehat at 6:26 AM on November 20, 2005

If you want a serious (rather than whimsical) answer, and you are where I think you are, get thee to central campus before they close the gates. Urban Ivy League campuses have backup power, emergency provisions, and plans to take care of their own (especially at universities heavily populated by the children of the rich, the well-connected, and the sue-happy).
posted by availablelight at 8:41 PM PST on November 19 [!]

Oh my god no, I wouldn't count on Columbia for anything organized of that nature.

If it's something you actually have to flee from (eg, radiation), then I'd say a folding kayak is your answer. There are lots of places you can learn to kayak in New York waterways these days. Otherwise, I'd say your best bet is hunkering down in the city.
posted by footnote at 7:02 AM on November 20, 2005

languagehat - it's worse than useless when wet.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:04 AM on November 20, 2005

languagehat writes "Cotton kills.

"What does this mean?"

When cotton gets wet it sucks all the heat out of your body. You want wool or some fancy scmancy synthetic if there is any chance your bug out will take place in inclement weather.

Does ice form in the river's around NYC? If it does it'll complicate water transport by small boat.
posted by Mitheral at 7:07 AM on November 20, 2005

Kind of depends on the disaster, doesn't it?

If the problem is nuclear in nature, I'd want to head against the direction of the wind, provided you survive the blast. That generally means Jersey (oh the irony... heading to New Jersey to escape from nuclear fallout!). I grew up in Jersey, so I can make these jokes.

Here's my basic survival kit:

Health Personal Safety
  • 9mm handgun, manufacturer of your choice. Cartridge preferences aside, the 9mm is easily the most ubiquitous size, thus if you were to need extra ammunition at some point, you'd be most likely to find spare 9mm than my second choice, the .357. For general-use, the .357 is going to be a lot more useful (hunting, protection, etc.), but I'd rather have a loaded 9mm than an unloaded .357
  • ...OR... a shotgun with 00 shells. The problem with a shotgun is that you will be very, very visibly armed. If the situation is such that this kind of thing doesn't matter (say, end-of-the-world apocolypse), a shotgun is a hundred times better than a handgun. It's easier to hit your target, you can substitute and endless array of round choices, the cartridge is plentiful, and two chambers of 00 will absolutely destroy anything you point it at (think not just "bad guys" but also: locks, doors, big animals, etc.). Again, this is only if you don't mind being seen as "the guy with the shotgun."
Other gear
  • Heavy-duty garbage bags (don't take up much space, but have a million uses: rain protection, make-shift shelter, extra storage, separate dirty things from clean things in the same pack, etc.)
  • Bungee cord
  • A couple of carabiners
  • An axe
  • A good all-in-one tool
  • A fold-up mirror
  • A really good flashlight that doesn't need batteries
  • Binoculars
  • A Sleeping bag
  • A good backpack to hold it all

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:14 AM on November 20, 2005 [2 favorites]

I'd roll out the front door with a discrete black suitcase containing:
Inflatable canoe or kayak
Folding bike or bolt cutters
Camoflage Tarp
Sleeping bag
Water filtration device
Windup radio

On my person I would have:

I think if a true disaster struck, you might not be able to bike out of the city, because so many people will be walking, even through the tunnels. I'd rather cross the river myself, and then steal a bike. Go as far as possible, and sleep under the tarp to (hopefully) avoid detection until I'm out of the affected area.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 7:16 AM on November 20, 2005

Best answer: Yes, cotton kills. Cotton socks, in particular, kill, because you trash your feet, then you can't walk, which means your escape options drop dramatically.

In the end, the best way out of Manhattan is by foot. If the disaster is such that all the bridges are useless, you're going from escaping Manhattan to surviving in Manhattan -- a different equation. A bike would be nice, but it's easier to keep a go bag for foot at home and at work. However, if you don't overpack the bag, you can just get on the bike with the go bag, then abandon the bike when you need to.

This is "survive for a day or two" problem, not "survive for a week". A little food is good, but you won't need it. You could, if it's not blazingly hot, survive without water. Both, however, are good to have -- esp. water. Shelter in a 24 hour escape isn't mandatory, unless the weather is awful -- you'll feel like crap, but you can just keep going for 24 hours to get to safety if you have two. Multi-day escapes demand places where you can safely sleep.

What I'd have in my jump bag. First, the bag -- it would have a camelback, empty, in it, and either a water filter or water purfication tabs. It would be a frame pack that fitted me, so that a thiry pound load would be trivial, and I could, if need be, carry much more.

Add a bottle for the filter or tabs, to purify the water in. With tabs, every half hour, you stop, grab a bottle full of unclean water, drop the tabs in and walk for half an hour. A purifying filter is easier and gives you "cleaner" water, but takes more time stopped, which might be an issue. With tabs, a prefilter (even a peice of cloth) will make the water much more palatable.

The important thing -- you need to stay warm. Socks, two, gloves, hat, vest (fleece) and oversuit, wind and rain proof. A multitool with a sharp knife, and a basic first aid case. A whistle, in case you need to call for help and you can't yell. Finally, I'd carry a couple of firestarters, just in case, but they're much less likely to be useful in the city.

Finally -- shoes. Good, solid hiking shoes that you *know* you can hike miles in without trashing your feet. This means you test them, once you have them, you put them in the jump bag. If the bad thing happens, you grab the bag and go. The first moment you have two safe minutes to stop, you change into the good shoes. If you are going out into the wilderness, boots are the better answer, but in Manhattan, the vast majority of the land is paved or groomed, the extra weight of boots aren't worth the extra support.

Food -- for pure survivial, nothing beats jello. It will taste like crap, because you won't be able to boil and then set, but it has carbs and protein, and lasts just about forever dry. Furthermore, if you are sick, it is one of the more digestible things out there. Power bars et. al. work, just remember that they don't last forever, and need to be rotated out. (Ditto anything in your first aid kit, and water purification tabs.)

Packets of Gatorade work as well, but you really should carry another bottle for mixing them in -- don't mess up your main store of water in the camelback.

Ideally, you have five minutes before you have to move. If so, you put on the good socks and the hikers, and fill the camelback with water. If there's safe, perishable food about, you eat for the rest of the five minutes, then grab whatever you can hold, walk, and eat it. If there's safe, nonperishable food, throw some into the pack first.

The rules of long haul escape. NEVER miss a chance to get more food, more water, more gas (if in a car) or more sleep. You may not get another chance for a long time. So, if you pass by a water truck that's handing out water, grab some if you can, even if the pack is full. If you have food and water, you have energy, if you have energy, you move faster, and you think better. You can deal without for a day, but if you don't have to, don't.

For this siutation -- you need somewhere to go. One friend of mine (who hiked out on 9/11 and during the big power outage) lives in Brooklyn, that was the answer. Ideally, you have a place to go on both sides of the river. You can just hike across and hope, but known that you can go to the corner of Foo and Bar and find a floor to sleep on. Make sure that place is settled before something goes wrong.

Lastly -- in that bag? Maps. You may think you know -- but you may be forced to go outside the areas you know. A map and compass means you can run randomly for a couple of hours, stop, get your bearings, and find the shortest route to where you are going. You might not even need a compass -- there's enough detail on the maps for you to figure out directions by walking a block, but they're cheap, easy, and work in the fog.
posted by eriko at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2005 [9 favorites]

Ooh, damn, forgot about the maps and compass on my list. Yes, you'll definately want those.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:41 AM on November 20, 2005

I can't claim a great familiarity with the city's geography, but I'd recommend that you read The Stand, by Stephen King. He presents that exact situation, trying to get out of the city when the world is thrown into complete chaos after the Superflu epidemic.

As for what I would bring? Good walking shoes, as light a bag as I could get away with. In the bag, I'd have a refillable zippo-type lighter, map, some means of water purification, MREs, a small pot/saucepan, bedroll, raincoat, some rope, a knife. Basically whatever you would bring to go camping, only less of it. And some means of self-defense, just in case.

Having just gone through Wilma, I can say that most people really don't know what to do with themselves without basic, basic things like power, city water, grocery stores, gas stations. Even if its only temporary, people act like it's the end of the world.
posted by SassHat at 8:10 AM on November 20, 2005

I don't know how survivable an inflatable raft would be

I would never recommend an inflatable raft -- not one of the type you can stash in your apartment. A Zodiac type would be an excellent choice, though. You will definitely need something with an engine, because you just plain can't paddle a raft upstream on the Hudson -- especially by yourself.

No, the scenario I'm imagining -- assuming you have your go-bag and just need to get out of the city -- is that you run down to the boat basin find a small, powered dinghy to steal. In reality, if the shit is hitting the fan, you won't be the only one there. You would probably even be able to cadge a ride with someone who's already commandeered a boat, especially if you have something they might want. A good reason to carry cash, extra food, first aid/meds, maps, etc.
posted by Miko at 8:51 AM on November 20, 2005

Dammit, forgot the lighter, too. The nice thing about a Zippo is that you can use pretty much any combustable fluid (naturally, I wouldn't suggest lighting cigarettes with gasoline-powered Zippos). The biggest problem with a Zippo is that the fuel evaporates over time. You may be better off with a couple of cheap generic BICs.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:02 AM on November 20, 2005

Zodiac does make inflatables that when deflated are small enough to carry. Sort of. But you wouldn't want to be trying to carry an outboard at the same time.

I say the best transportation option would be to buy or steal a motorcycle, just to get a few hundred miles out of the city as quickly as possible.

If this happens in November, then hunting and fishing in that area, with that many people trying to do the same, will not give you much chance of surviving to see the spring. You'd need to either travel a really long way, or depend on the resources of someone who's prepared for the winter. So the most important thing is having a destination in mind.
posted by sfenders at 11:47 AM on November 20, 2005

Well, on a cruising sailboat, of which I assume there would have to be quite a few around any big coastal city, you can actually stow enough food to last for years, and at least a few of them probably do have enough to last for weeks. Most likely, those ones would be long gone by the time you got there.
posted by sfenders at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2005

If I've learned nothing from 9/11, watching FEMA in action this year, the NYC blackout, and last weekend's fantastic/abysmal "Category 7" miniseries--and I sort of have learned nothing, actually-- there's still this:

The most-needed quality in an emergency is mobility, so actually the single best thing you can have in this case is NYPD-issued press tags. Even weeks after 9/11, the idiot (god bless 'em) National Guardsmen wouldn't let me cross into lower Manhattan to go home with just my driver's license, but press tags sailed on through. (And what if I'd been going the other way, and the police or army had closed off a border?)

I would NEVER condone it and it's ILLEGAL and BAD but boy do I sure know a lot of people who made themselves fake city-issued press credentials in October 2001 in case anything happened again.

And of course it goes in the ziploc bag with the $500 in cash and the emergency pack of cigarettes. Never forget: crisis + nicotine withdrawal = a very bad time.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:58 PM on November 20, 2005

Surprised no one mentioned this: NYC Office of Emergency Management Official Go Bag Checklist.
posted by werty at 3:42 PM on November 20, 2005

I'm surprised a radio was only mentioned twice! After securing my safety, the first thing I would want is to know what's going on.
posted by a_green_man at 12:39 AM on November 21, 2005

Good advice on the cotton and stuff.

I just saw, in last week's Time Magazine, (Nov. 21 issue, page 80) the Lifestraw, which is "...a beefed-up drinking straw....uses seven types of filters to make 185 gal of water clean enough to drink....can create safe drinking water for victims of hurricanes, earthquakes or other disasters..."

They're around 3USD, according to the blurb.

Other comments...

-If the disaster is nuclear, there's a good chance that an EMP is going to wipe out ignitions on boats, cars, etc.

-An assortment of batteries would be a good idea in addition to a hand-cranked radio.

-550 Cord. You can find this at most Army/Navy stores, and 100 ft. of it is relatively compact. You can use this and a pair of ponchos snapped together to make a decent tent in a pinch. Two military-grade rubberized ponchos, wrapped and rolled correctly, are about the size of a can of chili, each.

-Multi-tool. Gerber makes all sorts of variations. A bit more versatile than a swiss-army knife, in my opinion.

-Band-Aids, gauze and pads. Aspirin. Neosporin.
posted by TeamBilly at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2005

If you are going to be walking/biking up the West Side Highway to the Bronx, may I recommend a waypoint?

My old high school, Horace Mann, is located just off the West Side Highway at 246th Street, just after you've crossed the Spuyten Dyvil bridge into the Riverdale section of the Bronx. It's 13.7 miles north of Grand Central, definitely walkable even with a backpack. Therefore, it's a good place to stop your trek north for a few hours or overnight.

The school is usually open (in some capacity) seven days a week either for school-related activities or sports; in an emergency, it may be open as an offical or unofficial shelter or staging area, especially as the headmaster lives right across the street. Many of the students who attend are from Manhattan, and under post-9/11 school rules, they will not be allowed to go back into Manhattan during an evacuation--which means there would very likely be people around, who would be getting food, shelter, and rides north to Westchester from the ~15% of students who live up there.

(On 9/11, that was, in fact, exactly what happened; my Manhattan-living cousins, along with many many other stranded students, were evacuated north to Westchester by a fleet of super-determined Westchester-based SUV-driving Horace Mann moms.)

Horace Mann is also within two blocks of the very last stop of the 1/9 subway train that goes up the West Side. If the subways are still running in a disaster, take the 1/9 to the end of the line, then walk up the hill, and there's the school.

When I lived in NYC for two years post-9/11, hiking to Horace Mann school on foot was my disaster plan of choice. Because when your world is crashing around you, going back to high school seems like the logical solution, right? :-)
posted by Asparagirl at 12:16 PM on November 21, 2005

Several people have mentioned the Bronx, and others have talked about the escape via water. I just thought I would be explicit and point out that the shortest distance over water to the mainland is across the Harlem River to the Bronx. If the bridges and tunnels don't work, and you have to get out via water, this is probably the way to go, with or without a boat/kayak/raft thing. The distance is even swimmable if you're in shape and the water temperature permits.
posted by lockedroomguy at 1:27 PM on November 26, 2005

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