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After an apocalyptic event (worldwide weaponized plague knocks out 90% of the population, say), what city in the U.S. would make a good sanctuary for survivors and the new capital for the remnant government? I'm thinking proximity to natural resources, plenty of hospitals/research facilities for finding a cure, possible nearby space for farming or biodomes, and defensible, if possible, to keep out undesirables (relatively easy to monitor entry and exit points, set up checkpoints, patrols, maybe some kind of electric fencing).

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MichaelK, Secespitus, L.Dutch, Ash, Frostfyre Oct 11 '17 at 11:56

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Forget the US, your characters should flee to Switzerland. Only country I know of the has nuclear shelters in every home, and enough shelters in the mountains for all their population and some extra people as well. $\endgroup$ – shieldedtulip Oct 10 '17 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ "proximity to natural resources" - most of it will not be useful anyway, as your industry is ruined. Proximity to water is something all cities have. Mines etc are something you probably will not be able to use anyway. "plenty of hospitals/research facilities for finding a cure" - this one makes sense. "possible nearby space for farming" - almost all cities in the world have that. "relatively easy to monitor entry and exit points" - and that is something no city really has, mainly because walled cities are gone ages ago. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 10 '17 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ Just pointing out that in Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz the monastery is somewhere in the New Mexico desert west of Albuquerque (ironically near Los Alamos) and the new empire is centered on Texarkana. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Oct 11 '17 at 0:02
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    $\begingroup$ Voting to close for 1) failing the "Write a book" test (too broad) and 2) being entirely opinion-based. There are way too many "It depends on...". factors involved here. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 11 '17 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ @shieldedtulip while there is some truth to it it's not entirely fact. Almost no home actually has nuclear shelters, but every home is required to either have their own air-raid-shelter or pay for space in a public one. There are nuclear shelters en masse but they are command shelters maintained and used by the military / civil defense of Switzerland. These shelters have enough space to also provide room for civilians but usually these sections are separated from each other. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 11 '18 at 16:40
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Perhaps the best option for a post-apocalyptic sanctuary will be well away from the most obvious cities. A weaponized plague (dirty bomb sort of thing) will almost certainly be focused on Western Europe, Russia, Eastern Asia and the US. In the US, this means major centres like DC and NYC, Chicago and LA will be prime targets. Major US cities will be targeted and probably struck multiple times and will most likely be uninhabitable for quite a long while afterward. With a 90% reduction in population, the remaining 10% will not be able to keep the infrastructure intact or functioning. Power systems will fail, utility systems will fail or be destroyed in the attack and in subsequent weeks to months. Clean up will be nearly impossible. Keep in mind: DC can barely clear a half inch of snow from the streets without becoming totally paralysed. How well do you think the region would do with an entirely wrecked infrastructure?

This leaves Alaska and Hawaii as two remaining possibilities.

Alaska is isolated and Anchorage would be relatively easily defended (undesirables from the lower 48 are unlikely to try the long trek north). Farming may not be so easy, but in a post-apocalyptic world, fishing should be able to provide adequate nutrition. Plus Alaska has plenty of oil. It's not so robust in the medical research arena, though. Alaska will be an unlikely target for plague weapons, and normal wind patterns should keep all the nasty bugs down south.

Hawaii is perfectly isolated and also represents an unlikely primary target of attack. Prevailing winds will keep it safe from all the discharged weapons unleashed on the continent; its distance from Asia will keep it relatively secure from such weapons used in China, Japan and Korea. Hawaii is relatively easily defensible: again, the survivors from the mainland will not be able to swim to this sanctuary. Hawaii is more amenable to agriculture, and fishing is also a viable resource. There is a medical research presence in the islands.

Hopefully they will simply turn away the carpet bagger "remnant government" as the troublemakers they are. Restore the rightful monarchy and join forces with Alaska. Together, they should do pretty well as a sanctuary for future civilisation!

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This question is so broad that you could write a book about it. I know because I've read a books about it.

And the short answer is: any city as long as you don't need water, food, or resources to live.

The long answer is: there is no such city.
You need water (all cities have mechanical pumps to pull water from water supply), you need food (all cities are asphalt jungle and if you don't eat dandelion you have nothing to eat), you need resources (and although it may seem that there are plenty of them in the city they would be salvage). Also the environment of city would be destabilised by the sewage, wild animals running free (the ecosystem of the city is not prepared for feral dogs) and things would fall apart without proper maintenance.

In the open you can start easily, excavate the well or settle near a river or a brook. Materials and resources could be available on the site (ever heard about the wood?) and growing own food is a matter of either seeding it in spring or hoarding and replanting in greenhouse or field.

You have Maslow pyramid of need and without food, sleep and shelter you cannot push your research.

Also your R&D facility would need easy to maintain self sufficient power source. So any that don't have it's own wind/sun/geothermal generators it's useless.

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Yellowstone National Park.

Isolated, lots of natural resources, plenty of water, not likely to be a military target.

And certainly not the area you would expect survivors to flock to.

Very few roads in.

Probably not an area that would harbor a plague (few inhabitants).

I can assure you, the very LAST place you would want to be, is where all of the victims would flock to - the hospitals and medical centers. There would be so many dead bodies lying around, the plague would be the least of your health worries. If you survived, you probably have immunity to it, but probably not to all of the other diseases that would surround ANY medical facility.

And forget about any hope of resurrecting the glory of the United States of America. You will be too busy just trying to survive. There will be absolutely nothing left to be patriotic about. It will be the first nations people that are the most prone to survive in such a land, and they CERTAINLY will not want anything to do with resurrecting America.

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While it is probably not the answer you are looking for, because you asked a shopping question and I'm not going to give a shopping answer. I'd say:

Relatively small city or big town, with destroyed airport

Really, if this is about weapon-plague that went pandemic, then you can expect that all cities with airports will be infected in the first waves. Even if your plague is not contagious when victim is dead, you do not have manpower to clear the dead from the streets and apartments, and soon you will have regular plagues there. So you need a small city that simply could not be infected.

Also, you need it small if you want to ever have hope to set up a fence and really patrol your perimeter.

Last but not least, you need a big supply chain for big cities. Dedicated drivers, good roads, villages nearby. To avoid that need, your place needs to be small. Towns appear "because there is only so much fields you can have before you need something else"1, so land to have crops is something that will be there.

You need armed men who knows what to do

To set up quarantine, you can't just give guns to citizens. You need trained personel. So towns and cities with military bases are your friends. Military may be the reason why airports got destroyed, too, if local commander thinks fast enough.

You need electricity

And without industry, you probably will have to go with hydroelectric dam. Natural gas turbines may be a way to go, too.

Research facilities

This, sadly, conflicts with small, no airport etc. CDC headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia. Associated research facilities are in 26 cities, but only big ones. Medical schools and universities strong in biology are something that gives hope.


So what you need is:

  • a town / small city that:
  • has no airport (or small traffic airport and someone smart enough to blow it anyway)
  • has a military base nearby
  • campus
  • hydroelectric or natural gas electricity

Knowing that, you can take a map of any continent / country / area you need and then just pick one. It's a plague, luck is more important anyway. Conditions above merely increase chances from next to nonexistent to slim but believable.


1 I recall reading this in one of Pratchett books, but when I look on a map or read urbanization history, it looks true enough.

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None of the above, not straight away, any large population centre will be a hotzone of famine, plague and violence during the apocalypse, what's left is probably not going to be habitable for a while after that.

In the long term ironically the worst hit cities in the early days and weeks are probably going to be the best long-term investments. Cities with large highly built up cores are going to be the worst places to be during the collapse of civilisation, but the wide expanses of concrete buildings will form fire breaks against both actual fires and also the encroachment of returning vegetation. Several factors to consider when picking a particular setting are the availability of arable land in proximity, water supply and geographic security; for example Portland, which has been described as the perfect post-apocalypse location, has good farmland on three sides, and a gravity fed water supply but Mt Hood is within 50 miles of downtown so geography is not really on your side. Boise is slightly more secure but the farmland is less productive, Manhattan is solid bedrock but you can't farm it, D.C. will largely flood, ditto New Orleans, Miami etc... It's all a balancing act, one thing you may or may not need to put into the equation is what I'll call "industrial legacy" this is about both equipment/facilities that can be reactivated but also about toxic materials that may be left behind, taking that alone there are places, like Love Canal or even Pittsburgh, that are immediately off the table as too dangerous.

My personal pick would be Sacramento, good water especially once the L.A. Water Scheme Pumps shut down, good farming in the central valley and the inland delta, and while earthquakes are a risk you can build to accommodate them more easily than with a volcano.

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