So, after a nuclear holocaust, the students at Gun Runner High school are all evacuated with all survival kits, and a large amount of chocolate milk. There is no food left, and no lighters from smokers left.

It’s empty of normal survival gear, like food, water, and heat, but people still want to see if there are any valuables in the place.

Gun Runner High’s built in an extremely rural town, so for a few decades no one passes by. Eventually the Gun Runners clan, the descendants of the original students, finally track the place down. They want to ransack it for anything it has, but since all conventional survival items are gone: Could you use items commonly found in school as survival gear in any way?

  • It has to be easy to craft in the post apocalypse

  • It’s common school supplies, like the kind of stuff you’d find at any school today.

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    $\begingroup$ Books. Knowledge is the first thing you need if you want to survive. Which kind of plants are edible, how to trap animals, how to clean water, etc., etc. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ Since it's been decades and they have flourished enough to have descendants, they probably don't need survival tools anymore. But old ruins can be a great source of recycled cultural artifacts - plastics and ceramics for containers, bricks for building material, desktop knicknacks and motivational posters for the shaman, trophies for the chief, etc. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 4:36
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    $\begingroup$ It is highly probable that each and every classroom has an emergency kit, featuring basic first aid supplies. Depending on procedure, they might not have evacuated with these, or even if they did, the classrooms that were vacant at the time the evac order came in would still have them. That's probably up there on the list of useful survival equipment found in a school. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 6:22
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    $\begingroup$ Is hitting the walls to get the tubes of heating and water included? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 9:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Alberto Yagos: A Ok! $\endgroup$
    – Jasper R.
    Commented Jun 16, 2018 at 15:14

7 Answers 7


Are you kidding me? High schools are loaded with stuff!

Shop class  tools of all kinds. The acetylene torches might not be useful anymore, but all the smaller tools (hammers!) are still useful, and if they had larger shops (like a welding class) then they'd have crowbars, sheet metal, bar stock, and the mind boggles over what else.

Cooking classKnives! Knives of all kinds! And frying pans!

Phys Ed Rope, football helmets, baseball bats... Need I say more!

And none of this considers the janitor's closets (chemicals, broom handles, more tools!), the facility maintenance shed (rakes, shovels), the kitchen (more knives!), and student lockers. Think about it! I'd hate to wonder what you could find in a bunch of student lockers!

A high school would only be second to a hardware store or Wal-Mart in the variety of stuff you could find to help with survival. Do you know how much cable is involved in the curtains on those stages? Miles of Cable!

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    $\begingroup$ Also, don't forget the lockers themselves. There's plenty of pretty pliable sheet metal there you could potentially use for armor plating or construction work. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ And you haven't even started on the chemical supplies yet $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Also, there could be walki-takies, ham radios, PA system, speakers, lawn mowers (small engines can power a lot of things), maybe a gun or two. $\endgroup$
    – ventsyv
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ There's a good chance most of the bleaches in the janitors closet. Have since decomposed $\endgroup$
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Ummdustry, your point is well taken, but it depends on how they (and all the other fluids) were originally sealed. My family once bought an old hospital to renovate. It hadn't been used in at least 15 years. It had holes in the roof big enough to stick your arm through. And yet we found unopened bottles of chemicals that had not evaporated an inch. Now, whether or not the chemicals were still good after all that time is another matter ... but they hadn't evaporated. We were impressed. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 21:37

First things that comes to mind are books and Encyclopedias, which would allow those still versed in the old art of reading to increase their theoretical knowledge, assuming that the tribe has not drifted toward a "pre-nuke past is bad" attitude.

Maybe the content of the available books will be too high level to be actually useful in the immediate (i.e. if I go back with my mind to the books I had at school, they gave info like "the lift of a wing can be calculated using this formula ..." but from there to design an airplane it's a different cup of tea) but still it may trigger further researches.

Another thing which could come useful are the desk frames: they will supply some good quality metal, which I assume is rare in post apocalyptic world, and can be turned into tools by the village blacksmith.

Lastly, stone blackboards can be useful as roofing material.

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    $\begingroup$ Slate blackboards are unlikely if the school was built after the 1960s or so. By then the blackboards were green. And now I think they just have dry erase whiteboards! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 20:52

I can see some flaw in the premises: A high school, especially one built in a rural area where you don't get to refurnish it frequently, will be likely filled with a trove of useful stuff. The city's very population will ransack it in a hurry to get everything they can long before the students' descendants return.

Also, I find it extremely unlikely that this rural area's population will completely leave this place. Why? One word: SAFE. Yes, this rural area is one heck of a lucky jackpot! Somehow it is shielded enough from the radioactivity-carrying winds so that a community can actually live in it for decades, enough to spawn descendants and see them grow into self-sufficient humans.

This also means that this rural community used to have a large hydroponic system for vegetables and a geothermal source available. Very convenient, yes, but also very necessary or nuclear winter would have killed everyone, animals included, by starvation.

Very convenient because the whole of the rural community was thought as an apocalypse shelter. Not unheard of, just prepping brought to a larger scale. I like it!

  • The athletic department would have baseball bats and football armor, and everybody knows that those make the best post-apocalyptic armament.
  • The science lab would contain modest amounts of refined raw materials. Everybody knows that you need sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter for gunpowder, and they might remember that saltpeter can be found in dung heaps, but who could tell clearly how saltpeter looks?
  • I wonder what the student's lockers contain. They might have numbers locks, which can be opened with much patientce.
    • Did any of them hold strong liquor? Against the rules, of course.
    • For that matter, what are the odds that one or two hold a handgun?
  • $\begingroup$ If it is anything like my high school was, there are probably dozens of packs of cigarettes hidden in the lockers. They could be used as barter goods, or the nicotine could be extracted to be used as an insecticide. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ Salt-petre looks like salt. This is not a massive leap. $\endgroup$
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ salt-petre burn with a distintive blue flame, that is useful to recognize it. THAT can be learned from a chemistry book... $\endgroup$
    – Onoper
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 10:51

keep in mind that these are in no particular order, and the list is rather disorganized

  • Art class would have chalk, pastels, paint, paper and pencils. These could be useful for marking territory, making things look better, or some sort of body mark to differentiate clan members
  • Construction class would have tools, wood, screws and nails, and old projects

  • Assuming it's in America, it's going to have flags in every classroom (from what I've heard) which could provide a lot of cloth

  • If it had a cafeteria, there might be utensils, bowls and plates, etc. There might also be nonperishable food such as Twinkies or honey
  • Gym storage rooms could hold baseball bats, armour (think of the DC Guards in Fallout 4), projectiles, materials such as rubber and plastic, rope (actual rope, skipping rope), and gymnastics mats that could work as beds or shelter fortifications. Some schools have little scooters that could be used to transport goods, too
  • The theatre could have costumes and extra clothing. There could also be makeup and set pieces for fortification. There could also be prop weapons, which could be used to scare enemies off or modified to actually pose a threat
  • Gym locker rooms could have old clothing and shoes. It could also contain paper and writing utensils, books, a shower system that could be repaired, and secure places for storage
  • A science class could have chemicals in storage along with guides on how to use them. This opens up a ton of possibilities
  • Classrooms in general will have chairs and tables. These can be used for their original purpose, but can also work as fortification and shelter
  • Lockers! They could contain anything salvageable technology to previously useless trash to things such as alcohol and cigarettes
  • Coffee could be found in the teacher's lounge, but it might be a touch expired. Hey, coffee is coffee, amiright? (disclaimer: i don't drink coffee, i have no idea)
  • As mentioned earlier, tons of books and knowledge can be found in classrooms, lockers, and the library
  • The library might also have some cushions
  • Teacher's lounge could contain, aside from coffee, comfortable chairs, pillows, blankets, and other luxury items
  • Water bottles! They might be empty, but they could come in handy
  • The janitor's closet could have things such as bleach, mouse traps, and rat poison
  • School nurse could have old bandages that were thrown away, and nobody thought to bring them. Keep in mind that these are bandages, not bandaids, and while it might be gross and a little risky, it's better than nothing. The nurse could also have a cot
  • Wires, pipes, cords, lightbulbs, etc. There might be a backup generator somewhere too
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you say the nurse could have old bandages? I'm sure there would be sterile, unused bandages too. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnLocke the asker mentioned that all normal survival gear was gone, but i doubt anybody would grab old bandages from the trash when there are brand new ones $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ The OP said "normal survival gear, like food, water, and heat". It might be pretty easy for a frantic survivor to miss a couple bandages while trying to ransack the school and leave before anyone else can get there. If it's either leave now and lose what else you might have missed or make sure you got everything with the chance that someone else shows up and kills/injures you and takes your loot, the survivor would be better off just grabbing the essentials, especially if they aren't hurt and don't need the bandages (yet). $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnLocke i understand that, but this is following the letter of the question. they said that no normal survival gear was left, so i am left to assume that that means all unused bandages are gone $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 18:32

The other answers are all great! Here are some additional items that might be found:

Theater/Theater class: Various costumes, usable as disguises or able to be salvaged for the cloth they contain. If the tribe has an encounter with superstitious people, a well-planned scare with grotesque costumes from the Halloween closet could be just the thing to keep them away. Also, costumes could serve as status symbols or just help with the general political theater - Freemasons are famous for doing this with the funny hats and robes and medals and whatnot. Why does the Chief wear wizard's robes? Well he just does, that's how we know he is the chief and whatnot.

Music class: Plenty of instruments, probably out of tune but quite possibly fixable. Use them for social purposes within the clan, or send clan members out to other towns as traveling minstrels to earn money and gather knowledge. Unsalvageable instruments can be broken down for materials (brass and wood, mostly).

What, no one in the clan knows how to play the tuba? Sounds like that's a quest a-brewing. Send a bright young aspiring musician out on a dangerous journey to seek out the legendary Brass Band Master who is rumored to be living somewhere beyond the Green Mountain Pass in a cave next to the Lake of Mineral Valley. Bonus points if his name is not Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Lockers: In addition to ransacking the contents as described by others, disassemble the lockers themselves to obtain sheet metal to use for armor plating or construction material.

Vehicles: There are probably vehicles on the campus. School buses are useful for transporting large quantities of clan members at the same time and can be lived in as well. There may also be private vehicles on campus, and perhaps even delivery trucks.

Electrical: Miles of wire, transformers, fuses, gauges, lighting. Remove the floodlights from the football field for an astonishingly powerful blinding weapon.

Records: High schools tend to produce a large quantity of written documents pertaining to student performance and behavior. Schools are increasingly becoming digital, but a rural school could be behind the times and, in any event, paper records are almost impossible to eliminate completely. These could be helpful for establishing, enforcing, or challenging a social order - "See, my grandfather did get A's in Political Science, History, and Geography! I am the best person to be Chief!".


Your people are going to have kids, and they're going to want to educate them... and the place to find everything that is needed to do this is a school. Think textbooks, paper, pencils, a library, etc.

The rest of the survival oriented supplies will have been looted anyway.


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