This is by no means a complete guide to urbex safety, just a few helpful tips and reminders. Abandoned buildings are inherently dangerous, so remember, your safety is never guaranteed. However, with common sense and a little bit of prior knowledge, you can significantly reduce the risks. I personally think that the pros of urbex outweigh the risks and dangers.
Know The Risks
One of the main reasons abandoned buildings are off limits is due to safety (and lawsuit) concerns. Abandoned buildings can host many dangers, so always do your research and find out what challenges you will be facing in your local exploration spots. Here I will go over some of the more common dangers you may encounter.
Collapses: The floors and roofs of abandoned buildings have been exposed to baking heat, freezing cold, pouring rain, and heavy snow, which can make them brittle and ready for collapse. Usually you should stay off wood floors, as wood decays fast and is likely to break under your feet. Stay away from concrete floors that appear to be sagging (if you NEED to cross a sagging floor stay as close to the wall as possible). Fire can suck the moisture out of concrete and make it even more brittle, so watch out for areas where you can see fire damage. When going up stairs, always have both hands on the railings and make sure to keep your weight off any one area (stairs are common places for collapse). Because the roof is always exposed to the elements, it can often be the most dangerous place in terms of collapse. Common sense is the most important thing you can have: if it doesn’t look right, don’t walk on it!
The wood floors of the Lynda Lee Dress Factory may look stable, but wood is susceptible to rot and decay, especially when unmaintained.
Chemicals: Asbestos, led paint, and black mold, all which can become airborne if disturbed, are common in abandoned buildings. Abandoned factories can have a whole host of other harmful industrial chemicals. Most chemical issues can be avoided by wearing a respirator that is rated for ultra-fine particles like asbestos. However, sometimes abandoned buildings with deep tunnel systems, abandoned mines, and other deep, enclosed spaces, can have low oxygen or buildups of poisonous or flammable gasses. A respirator will not help you with low oxygen, so stay away from these kinds of places and always leave if you feel dizzy or lightheaded. Doing a little research can help you find out what chemicals are present in your local urbex sites.
A floor covered with asbestos in the Wyman-Gordon Power Plant
Misc: Although not widespread, deaths from electrocution are not unheard of in abandoned buildings. Don’t ever step on fallen wires or touch electronics on the walls. Rusty metal and broken glass are much less lethal but still present dangers in urbex spots, so always wear sturdy clothing and watch your step. Squatters are usually not violent towards explorers as long as they are treated with respect, but drug users and manufacturers are almost always hostile. If you see any signs that drugs are being made in your urbex spot (wires leading inside, noises, lights, guard dogs) hide your camera and get out fast. Carrying expensive gear into a remote area like an abandoned building also carries risks, as someone who wants to take your stuff wont be bothered by police/witnesses when they are alone with you in an abandoned building.