Urban Exploration, often shortened to Urbex, can be dangerous and there are risks involved, like most fun things in life. These risks can be managed, and as with many things, the risks are reduced when common sense is applied. It’s essential to be aware of the potential risks and dangers, and take precautions to explore safely. Perhaps “How do I Urban Explore safely?” is a more suitable question.
The Dangers of Urban Exploration
The main dangers of Urban Exploration come from the fact that abandoned buildings are, in their nature, not likely to be structurally sound. Taking simple precautions such as looking out for damaged floorboards, and making calculated decisions on whether or not an area of a site is safe to explore, make Urban Exploring safer. You may be able to climb up onto something, or down into something- but think about whether you can get back afterwards before making the climb. Having a safe exit point is important, and as a rule I always plan to exit the way I came in if possible.
Other things to watch out for are hazardous materials (asbestos) and sharp objects/surfaces. You might not know whether an abandoned building is laden with asbestos, so consider taking a suitable face mask along just in case (these also help when you come across particularly unpleasant smells). Avoid wires as there’s a chance they could still be live. Avoid barbed wire (and other sharp things), and look out for anti-climb paint.
Another potential danger in Urban Exploring is coming across undesirables using the location for more illicit purposes (drug dens, hideouts) or others who generally don’t want you there. We’ve never come across this ourselves, but the horror stories are out there, and it’s definitely something you should have in the back of your mind.
Probably (hopefully?) less of an issue in the UK, but site security can also pose a potential risk when exploring, particularly if they have dogs. The best advice here is to avoid sites with active dog patrols (I certainly do), and if a security guy is threatening to let a German Shepherd off a lead if you try to run, it’s probably time to give yourself up amicably.
How to Urban Explore Safely
Taking precautions such as never exploring alone, exploring in the day time or with a good torch, and telling someone where you’re going lessen the risks associated with all of the above dangers. Following the Urbex mantra of “take only photos, leave only footsteps” gives you less chance of angering security and/or the police- see Is Urban Exploring Legal? for more on that. Also, be prepared to drive excitedly to a location only to find a pile of rubble, or an impenetrable fence, or security waiting for you. Not all explores are successful.
Books, such as Access all Areas are a greatly more detailed resource if you want to find out more- see our favourite Urbex books here.
Last Updated on 25 October 2023 by Michael