So you’re going out to do a site visit or out for a whole day’s exploring, what should you consider in terms of safety? It’s easy to be complacent and let derelict buildings become normal, remember that Urban Exploration can be dangerous and take precautions.
It’s not always realistic to do all of these on every explore but my top 10 tips are:
- Wear Gloves
You never know what you’re going to find on a site visit, especially in the hospitals and asylums, and whatever location you’re in you definitely want to avoid cuts and scrapes which could bring the risk of tetanus or other diseases.
- Carry a Torch
Light can be a problem, I personally roll with a Maglite and a head torch to make sure I can get light even when I need both hands free and as a bonus a good-sized Maglite doubles as a weapon should you encounter any dangerous animals or other unexpected miscreants.
- Wear a Dust Mask
It’s not the most comfortable thing and they do get hot but wearing a dust mask will make you safer in the short term and healthier in the long term. Many abandon buildings have damp, murky air which can cause nausea and may carry diseases but the biggest worry is asbestos. Asbestos is most dangerous as a fine dust and you really need a P3 certified mask to make sure you’re filtering out asbestos and any other airborne particulates. Disposable masks are fine and can be picked up for £3-5, I’m not sure about their lifespan but they’re probably good for a coupe of visits.
- Don’t Explore Alone
It’s much safer to explore an unknown environment in pairs or in a group, that way you always know that someone’s got your back and (God forbid) if anything does happen you know you’ve got a friend to rely on to get you out or call for help (friends also help with map reading). It’s always useful to tell people where you’re going and what time you expect to return – especially if you do end up going alone but if you can, find an experienced urbexer to go out with you for the first few times until you feel confident on your own.
- Wear Heavy Clothing
As I mentioned before, we need to avoid cuts and scrapes so shorts are a bad idea, denim tends to be quite hardy so jeans are a good choice. I also tend to use wellington boots as the rubber will protect your feet and it gives you the confidence to step through puddles and other unknown substances, you can’t beat a decent pair of wellies.
- Tread Carefully
I’ve been in quite a few places where the floorboards are rotten and it’s easy to fall through, there’s not a great deal you can do about this except for being careful – don’t just go barreling into a room without thinking about your own safety. Light helps to see what’s going on and if you’ve got something long with you (e.g. a tripod or trekking pole) you can probe the floor in front of you for stability.
- Think About Using a Safety Helmet
I must admit, it’s not something I’ve done myself but I have been to places where I thought it’d be handy and I’ve deliberately not gone into places that I think would be too dangerous without one. Like I said – it’s not an essential if you’re careful but if you need one, get one.
- Be Like The Ninja
You should approach all site visits with stealth in mind, this will help not only avoid detection but will also keep you safe – always keep contact to a minimum. Don’t touch things unnecessarily, especially structural components, support pillars or anything that might be propping up the roof and certainly don’t lean or put weight on anything unless you’re sure it’s structurally sound. Whatever you do, don’t take anything away with you – you have no idea what has been living on/in it and you could end up taking some nasty surprise home with you.
- Avoid Climbing
Some of the least structurally sound components of a derelict or abandoned building are staircases, ladders and the roof. Don’t climb unless you’re 100% sure it’s safe and you have real rock climbing skills and equipment (a fake plastic rock-face in a youth centre doesn’t count).
- If You’re Not Sure – TURN BACK
This sounds obvious but it’s easy to get carried away, especially if you’ve made a long journey to get to a site. If you get the feeling that you shouldn’t be doing something - don’t do it! Evolution has handed us a brilliant instinct but it’s something we can choose to ignore and that’s often at out peril, don’t do anything you think could get you injured or could risk your health – it’s not worth it.
I hope those tips help, remember as always that I’m not condoning any unsafe, illegal or immoral activities and my advice is just that – advice. I offer no guarantees that my advice is even worth following and anyone that listens to a single word I have to say does so at their own risk – in short, I’ve spent many decades of my life avoiding responsibility so I’m not about to take any now!