Where’s the best place to live to avoid a natural disaster? What state offers survivalists the best chances in the aftermath of an Electromagnetic Pulse Attack? Find out by reading our Top 10 Survival States breakdown, and see all 50 states ranked in order of most survivable.
How to read the Survival States Index: The scale for the Survival States Index stretches from 10 to 50, with 10 being the best score, and 50 the worst. The brief summaries of conditions in the survival states do not explain in exhaustive detail all the criteria used to judge the states. The summaries simply review the more critical findings.
The 10 Best and 10 Worst Survival States: #10
10th Best Survival State: Montana
Survival Score: 16.2
With its low population density, unobtrusive gun laws, low crime rates and inexpensive farmland, Montana leads off our top 10 survival states. Montana, perhaps because of its cold climate, comes in somewhat further back in the pack in farm output. That makes sustainable living in Big Sky Country a bit more difficult, but not impossible by any means.
10th Worst Survival State: Nevada
Survival Score: 30.9
Nevada is the nation’s leading state for violent crime, and spends a lot of money to control its rowdy population. Unemployment is the highest in the country, creating a tinderbox for social unrest. What little farmland there is in the Silver State is inexpensive, but output is low in the desert climate. On the bright side for Nevada, gun laws are lenient, and the population is sparse outside the few large cities.
9th Best Survival State: Wyoming
Survival Score: 15.3
Exceptionally low farmland prices, lenient gun laws, low crime rates and low unemployment make Wyoming our 9th best survival state. The Cowboy State is also sparse, with the second lowest population density in the nation. Neighbors won’t be knocking down your door in Wyoming. But farmland in Wyoming isn’t fantastic, and keeping the population peaceful comes at a high cost for such a low crime state in terms of dollars spent per capita on law enforcement.
9th Worst Survival State: Alaska
Survival Score: 31.2
Some survivalists are surely looking at Alaska’s low ranking on our list and wondering what gives. Alaska has great gun laws, and the nation’s lowest population density, but it’s also a haven for violent crime, with mostly unproductive land. There are areas where farming is possible, but the state has varied climates, most of which are hostile. Threats of blizzards and extreme cold also combine to make Alaska a difficult place to survive. Inuit peoples have lived off the land in Alaska for untold generations, so it can be done. But The Last Frontier is so remote that in a disaster situation nothing like a normal life would be possible.
8th-Best Survival State: Vermont
Survival Score: 15.2
Although it is known as a stronghold of liberal sentiment, Vermont has relatively free gun laws, low crime, low unemployment, high homeownership, and safer-than-average exposure to natural disasters. The Green Mountain State is not for the poor, though—farmland is expensive there.
8th-Worst Survival State: Maryland
Survival Score: 31.5
Maryland is the first of our 10 worst survival states that lies on the Eastern Seaboard, but not the last. In fact, 7 of our 10 worst survival states border the Atlantic, while only one of our 10 best does. Maryland has a high crime rate and a very dense population. And the Free State is no friend to gun owners. Buying farmland for a subsistence farm will cost you quite a bit in Maryland too. Unemployment, though, is relatively low, and the state is not plagued by natural disasters.
7th-Best Survival State: Nebraska
Survival Score: 15.2
Nebraska tied Vermont’s survival score of 15.2 by being home to free gun laws, low unemployment, productive land, and a sparse and peaceful population. Unfortunately, Nebraska is prone to some disasters, like flooding and tornadoes. Build your bunker on high ground in the Cornhusker State.
7th-Worst Survival State: Connecticut
Survival Score: 32.5
With a dense population, living on expensive land that doesn’t produce very much, Connecticut is not a survivalist destination. The Constitution State is also heavy on gun control and (ironically) light on the Constitution. Unemployment is high, and it takes a boatload of money to keep the population under control. One positive note for Connecticut is the state’s low rate of property crime.
6th-Best Survival State: Utah
Survival Score: 13.8
Utah scores well in nearly every category we measured, with special recognition given to the state’s protection of the Second Amendment, and low incidence of natural disaster. Farmland is available at low cost in Utah, though it’s not very productive. Violent crime is low in the Beehive State, though property crime rates are higher than average. Utah has a low population density and high rates of homeownership.
6th-Worst Survival State: Florida
Survival Score: 33.9
Although Florida has freer gun laws than most states, its attraction as a survival state is limited by having some of the worst natural disasters of any state in the country. Buffeted by hurricanes and tornadoes, Florida makes life hard on the unprepared. Crime is also high in Florida, and in a state with such a dense population and high unemployment, an eruption of popular discontent could paralyze authorities. Farmland is productive in the Sunshine State, but not cheap.
5th-Best Survival State: Maine
Survival Score: 13.7
Maine is the only state on the Atlantic that made it to our top 10. Ocean access has its benefits and drawbacks when it comes to disaster situations. Access to the ocean could be a boon for survivalists looking for fish as a food source, or for easy transport via the water. But easy transport is also an invitation to intruders. The Pine Tree State has the lowest rate of violent crime in the nation and a very low incidence of natural disaster. Gun laws are free, unemployment is about average, farmland is inexpensive though not very productive. And the population is peaceful.
5th-Worst Survival State: New York
Survival Score: 34.3
New York has the lowest rate of homeownership in the country and spends more than any other state on law enforcement to keep its population under control. These statistics represent the massive effect of New York City on the state. That’s a warning to residents in New Jersey and Connecticut who live adjacent to NYC. They must also deal with the aftermath of any catastrophe that hits it. The Empire State also scores poorly for high unemployment, a dense population, restrictive gun laws, and a high rate of violent crime. The one bright spot among our components is New York’s very low rate of property crime.
4th-Best Survival State: Iowa
Survival Score: 13.4
Iowa’s crop yields are legendary, but that good soil comes at a price. The only factor holding back Iowa is its very costly farmland. If you have the money, the Hawkeye State is a superb survival destination. Free gun laws, low unemployment, low crime, low population density. You name it, Iowa performs well in all our categories, except farmland prices.
4th-Worst Survival State: New Jersey
Survival Score: 35.4
New Jersey has the nation’s densest population. If a disaster strikes, you’ll be pitted against hordes of other people looking for the same resources as you. Farmland is very expensive, and not all that productive. The Garden State boasts high unemployment and terrible gun laws. Violent crime is average, and property crime is actually quite low. New Jersey spends a fortune on keeping the peace. Without a well-funded justice system, this state could be a nightmare.
3th Best Survival State: North Dakota
Survival Score: 11.1
North Dakota has the lowest property crime rate in the nation, and one of the lowest violent crime rates. Gun laws are limited, and North Dakota’s unemployment rate is America’s lowest. The people are peaceable, and sparse. Tornados are a threat, especially in the east, but you are relatively safe from other natural disasters in the Peace Garden State. Farmland is inexpensive in North Dakota, and boasts better than average productivity.
3th Worst Survival State: Massachusetts
Survival Score: 36.1
On a positive note for Massachusetts, it didn’t come in last in any single category we measured. Unfortunately the state came in close to last in most of them. Massachusetts is home to a very dense population with expensive, yet unproductive, farmland. Property crime is relatively low, but violent crime is quite high. Gun laws are oppressive. The Bay State is forced to spend a fortune on keeping the peace and is buffeted by the occasional hurricane from the south, and Nor’easters and cold winters from the north. Even the hardy Mayflower pilgrims couldn’t survive in Massachusetts without help from the Native Americans.
2nd Best Survival State: Idaho
Survival Score: 10.3
Continuing what has become a “West is best” theme for our Top 10 Survival States, Idaho comes in at #2 on our list. Idaho is largely immune to destructive disasters, though watch out for the cold. The Gem State was the first state in our ranking to place better than average in every category. Rates for both violent and property crime are very low, and law enforcement budgets are small. The population of Idaho is spread out, and most own their own homes. Gun rights are protected. Farmland prices are reasonable and productivity slightly better than average. Unemployment is right around average. In all, Idaho gives the survivalist little to complain about.
2nd Worst Survival State: California
Survival Score: 36.8
Our second-worst survival state is California. Without scoring last in any category, California maintained an overall level of mediocrity that pushed it down near the bottom of the list. Starting with the positive, California has the nation’s most productive farmland. But that productivity comes with a big caveat. Nearly 40% of California’s cropland is irrigated. The irrigation systems are powered by electric pumps, which in disaster situations such as an EMP attack will not be able to keep your corner of the Mojave watered. Gun laws in California are the worst in the country. Arming yourself before any civil unrest would be nearly impossible in The Golden State. Natural disasters are another threat in California. Earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, and more threaten citizens of California, making it an unattractive place to live. Dense populations, expensive land, low homeownership, and high crime rates round out California’s poor survival state résumé.
Best Survival State: South Dakota
Survival Score: 9.0
The Richardcyoung.com pick for best survival state is South Dakota. With free gun laws, low crime, low unemployment, inexpensive farmland, decent crop yields, low incidence of natural disaster, a sparse population, and inexpensive law enforcement needs, South Dakota easily topped the list. The hallmark of South Dakota’s prime placement is the state’s employment opportunities. Unemployment is extremely low. South Dakotans are invested in their state’s success because they have jobs and lives to protect. And people in the Mount Rushmore State are sparse—its largest city, Sioux Falls, has a population of only 156,600.
Worst Survival State: Rhode Island
Survival Score: 37.4
It is unfortunate to see our home state fall last in our ranking. Rhode Island has moderate violent and property crime rates, and gun laws are about average, but our category rankings fall off quickly after those three bright spots. Rhode Island has the nation’s second-worst unemployment, second-worst farmland productivity, and densest population. Farmland prices are the third-highest in the nation. Rhode Island spends a large amount of money on crime prevention, but the return is minimal. It is prone to the same natural disasters and winter storms we detailed when discussing Massachusetts’s poor showing. The Ocean State is beautiful, but its survivability is low.
Complete Ranking of States: 2012