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Surviving Disasters

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This article covers various disasters that can happen to your city and a few tips for surving them rather than simply abandoning your city. As well as the triggered event disasters (i.e. tornado, metor, big lizard etc), I have also included other common catastrophic events; bankruptcy, nuclear fall-out and drought.

The following sections can be found in this article:

  • Meteor Strike
  • Earthquake
  • UFO Attack
  • Big Lizard
  • Tornado
  • Zombie Attack
  • Drought
  • Bankruptcy
  • Nuclear Radiation
  • Meteor Strike

    Unlocking the Meteor Strike disaster

    Have 200 tourists arrive on flights at the Municipal Airport in a day. This requires an airport (obviously) in a town which has high commercial demand or some medium wealth or better tourism.

    Surviving the Meteor Strike disaster

    The meteor strike will cause a large number of fires to break out in your city and can destroy city buildings. Adding more fire trucks to an existing station will allow trucks to put out individual fires faster, but sadly they won't put more fires out at once!

    Did you know that meteor strikes can sometimes leave patches of radioactivity in your city?

    You can reduce fire spreading by bulldozing buildings which are not yet on fire, but which are next to ones that are. If your fire trucks are stuck in heavy traffic try bulldozing the ends of roads that filter into the roads they are stuck on (this is a better tactic than upgrading road density unless you are still using dirt roads).

    For more information:

  • Fire: Overview
  • Achievements
  • Earthquake

    Unlocking the Earthquake disaster

    Mine 100 tons of coal or raw ore in your city. This requires at least one working mine of either type in a city which has some of either resource present, after which time it will take approximately 4 days worth of mining to unlock this disaster.

    Surviving the Earthquake disaster

    Earthquakes will turn affected buildings instantly into rubble. In that respect the earthquake is a 'quick' disaster and cleaning up is relatively easy, bulldoze the rubble and replace any lost city buildings. The biggest problem is that it can be very costly and can ruin your city economy if it destroys expensive specialization buildings which were earning money for your city.

    For more information:

  • Mining
  • Achievements
  • UFO Attack

    Unlocking the UFO Attack disaster

    Ship any resource to a Space Center Great Work to gain access to the UFO Encounter Disaster. This is usually a time consuming disaster to unlock as it requires a large number of prerequisites and a great deal of money! This is covered in detail in the Great Works article.

    Surviving the UFO Attack disaster

    The UFO will glide around the city in a fairly unpredictable way, periodically stopping over buildings to abduct (or possibly kill?) the Sims inside.

    The UFO, although like most disasters is more likely to spawn in the central 1km square of your city, will go just about anywhere, so can easily disrupt works at important city buildings like water or power.

    Since you don't really control your Sims there isn't much to be done after a UFO attack other than to wait for the affected buildings to repopulate and keeping your fingers crossed that it doesn't happen again!

    For more information:

  • Great Works
  • Achievements
  • Big Lizard

    Unlocking the Big Lizard disaster

    Burn 100 tons of garbage in an incinerator at the Garbage Dump to gain access to the Big Lizard disaster. Place a garbage dump in your city, then edit it to add an incinerator. Once your trucks have delivered some garbage to the dump, the incinerator will start burning it, with one incinerator it'll take approximately 3 days.

    Surviving the Big Lizard disaster

    The Big Lizard is a big nuisance! In spite of the fact it looks like a bad Spore creation, it does deal some pretty serious damage to your city. Like most disasters it will tend to spawn in the more central areas of your city by popping out of the ground. It will then stomp across your city, smashing all buildings to rubble as it goes, in search of your city's garbage dump where it'll gorge itself on trash before diving back into the ground.

    Unlike the Earthquake and Meteor which damage buildings in a fairly limited area, the Big Lizard can cause a trail of destruction across most of your city so replacing damaged city buildings can easily bankrupt the city, especially if it trashes mines or factories which are your source of income. Bulldoze all the rubble and replace as much as you can, starting with the buildings which are most vital to your economy!

    Whilst all disasters can take out a nuclear power station, causing a catastrophic meltdown, you can reduce the chances of a Big Lizard stomping on yours by putting it not only at the edge of your city, but on a different side of your city from your garbage dump. Put them next to each other and there's a good chance the Lizard will take down your reactors in search of a snack with catastrophic consequences.

    For more information:

  • Achievements
  • Garbage & Recycling
  • Tornado

    Unlocking the Tornado disaster

    Have 24 wind turbinees at Wind Power Plants in your city to gain access to the Tornado disaster. Fortunately a wind power plant will allow exactly 24 turbines and since they don't cost a huge amount, this is relatively easy disaster to unlock.

    Surviving the Tornado disaster

    The tornado will turn buildings into rubble. The affected area is relatively small but the tornado can move unpredictably. It is possibly the least traumatic of the disasters as it is less likely than others to do widespread damage to city buildings. Bulldoze the rubble and re-purchase any lost city buildings.

    For more information:

  • Achievements
  • Power
  • Zombie Attack

    Unlocking the Zombie Attack disaster

    Add a Diagnostic Lab to a Hospital and have 15 Sims die in a day to gain access to the Zombie Attack disaster.

    This has a number of prerequistes, namely a Department of Safety and Department of Education to unlock the Hospital and University. The University will need to be upgraded and edited to add a School of Medicine. Next you will need to complete the associated research project in order to unlock the Diagnostic lab. Once unlocked edit your hospital to add the Diagnostic lab.

    Getting 15 Sims to die in a single day isn't always as straightforward as it sounds. Shutting down your healthcare system is a good start, but since Sims only die from injuries, not from sickness, it can be a bit tricky to get 15 deaths if your population isn't very high. The problem is that injuries are much more likely to occur in low tech workplaces and low wealth residential neighborhoods, two things you probably have a lot less of since adding a university! If this applies to you then unlock the diagnostic lab in one town, start another with a low tech, low weath economy to unlock the disaster!

    Surviving the Zombie Attack disaster

    Zombie attacks can be extremely variable. I have seen zombie attacks take out just a few residential shacks, conversely I have also seen them absolutely devastate a city with abandoned buildings in the hundreds. You can easily lose half your city population to zombies which brings with it worker shortages, city services not functioning properly, specialization working poorly etc.

    Typically with fewer Sims paying taxes the first thing you'll notice (apart from the empty buildings) is your economy suffers because you're paying for more city services than your reduced population needs. Prevent financial collapse by turning off additional services until you are in balance. Bulldoze all the abandoned properties (this can take a while) and your city will soon start to regenerate (remember to renable your services once your population begins to climb again).

    For more information:

  • Achievements
  • Healthcare
  • Healthcare: Pollution & Germs
  • Education
  • Drought

    Water is a finite resource in SimCity, so it is entirely possible to pump so much of the groundwater that there is no longer enough to keep the water flowing in your city.

    The basic trick to setting up a renewable water system involves using the advanced filtration pumps on a water pumping station that is located right next to sewage treatment plants. The sewage treatment plant will put dirty water into the ground, the water pump will pump that water and clean it creating an endless cycle.

    For more information:

  • Water
  • When water runs dry...

    But what happens if you run out of water because you didn't setup your sustainable water system in time? Drought is a serious problem because ALL city buildings without water will cease to function, including (most irritatingly) water pumping stations!

    When you can no longer buy water from a neighbor because all connected cities in your region have run dry then it's time for drastic action. Shut down ALL city services, put the tax rates up to the max and wait for your city to empty. You'll need to bulldoze and de-zone all zoned buildings, however you can leave city buildings (turned off) along with your road network if you wish. Leave the game to run on fast and over time your natural ground water will replenish. Water will return faster in cities that have coastal areas or rivers.

    Rain, rivers and sea will replenish ground water over time once you stop pumping it out of the ground

    Once there is sufficient ground water for a water tower, put the taxes back to normal and restart your city, zoning a small areas at a time, you need just enough population to provide workers and money for a sewage treatment plant and a water pumping station (don't forget to put them next to each other this time!).

    As your city grows you can increase your sewage treatment and water pumping. As a general rule I find that 1.5 sewage tanks is needed to support each 1 water pump. Because you are going to use this city to provide water for your neighbors, you will need to invest heavily to provide a lot more water than you need (as soon as you have excess you can have neighboring cities start buying sewage and water processing).

    How quickly you can bring other cities back 'online' so they can be actively played will depend entirely on how much you can expand your water processing without over-taxing the supply. Keep an eye on it, if areas start to run dry (i.e. they're no longer mid to dark blue on the water data map), turn off water pumps and add more sewage treatment. If you are playing a multiplayer region then abandoning it is probably going to be less frustrating, because others will need to wait around whilst this process works it's magic. Of course if it's your own region, you can only play one city at a time anyway!

    Once you have enough water to supply a neighboring city, they can also set up their own recycled water system by taking on their own sewage processing. Between that and reduced demand for local water, their drought should be over and they can also start pumping their own water, allowing you to help another neighbor. Rinse and repeat for all affected cities. It is VERY important to remember that the amount of water (or power or sewage processing) you can sell to neighbors is divided by the number of connected neighbors you have. If you have 4, then you can only sell a quarter of your spare water capacity to individual neighbors!

    For more information:

  • Water
  • Sewage
  • Bankruptcy

    SimCity defines bankruptcy as when your city is out of cash ($0) and your hourly expenses are greater than your tax and specialization income. If you have maxed out your borrowing, turned off a lot of services and your specialization is losing money, or simply not making enough the future for your city tends to look pretty bleak.

    Rather than giving up you can try taking an aggressive and destructive approach. Don't just turn off a few buildings here and there trying to balance your books, turn off everything, including water and power. Your Sims will complain a great deal, they will also start to move out, but whilst your city slowly empties, you will start making money.

    Restart your city by turning off all your city buildings. Increasing taxes will raise money and encourage Sims to move out so you can make a fresh start at fixing your city's financial problems.

    This will give you plenty of time to assess your economic setup, look at what was and was not working and ways you could make changes. If your city produced lots of water and power, perhaps you were losing out by not selling it to your neighbors? Is creating a high tech industrial city sufficiently important that it is worth the expensive investment in education? Is your specialization failing due to traffic problems, perhaps delivery trucks were stuck in traffic or tourists weren't getting to your casinos? Did your RCI zoning reflect demand in the region or was it poorly balanced for local needs? If you're surrounded by residential and industrial towns perhaps making a cultural commercial center is a better solution.

    The great benefit of starting a city over is that the population will grow much faster the second time around, as soon as you have working water and power, Sims should start returning in droves!

    For more information:

  • Government: Treasury & Budget
  • Nuclear Radiation

    Causes of radiation

    A lack of educated workers at a nuclear power station will lead to a meltdown. A safe level will require the nearby residential buildings that supply workers to the plant to be educated. It doesn't matter what types of schools you have in your city so long as the homes near to the plant are all fully educated (i.e. bright green on the education data map). Failure to supply educated workers at all will result in a meltdown occuring within about 2 game days - you should receive a 'nuclear power station staffed by idiots' warning before it goes critical. That is your last chance to shut it down!

    It is rare, but occasionally your city can be hit with meteors that leave pockets of radiation behind. Fortunately these areas are small and tend to have fairly weak levels of radiation.

    If your plant gets too many workers who are not educated, or is hit by a disaster, you will get a reactor explosion, a nuclear meltdown which will spew out tons of highly toxic radiation for more than 1km in every direction.

    I recommend putting nuclear power stations in the CORNER of your city in order to minimize the area affected if you have a meltdown (see illustration). On the left, the power plant is in the center and the fallout radius has rendered nearly the whole city uninhabitable. Putting it in the corner, however, affects a much smaller area.

    Effects of radiation

    The effects of radiation are awful for your Sims. They will become sick in large numbers (expect between 1-5% of your population to be sick all the time) which reduces industrial productivity across the city. They will immediately abandon houses located on radioactive land making zoning even more complicated.

    Getting rid of radioactivity

    Unless you happen to have the DLC complete with radiation scrubbers there is only one thing that will remove radioactive pollution from your city and that is time; lots and lots and lots of time. Adding parks and trees may make the land more valuable and nicer to look at but it will NOT (I repeat NOT) reduce radioactivity.

    According to Maxis the amount of time required for radiation to return to normal starts at 34 game years for the lighest band of radiation, and increases by a factor of 2x for each successively darker band. Which means the worst affected zones right in the center of where a nuclear meltdown occurred will stay radioactive for more than 500 game years.

    Surviving a Nuclear disaster

    How well you can continue to play your city after a nuclear event will depend a great deal on how much of your city is radioactive.

    As I mentioned above, where you put your plant will affect how much of your city is damaged. If your plant was towards the edge, or a corner, then it is possible to continue to play the city, albeit with a reduced land area and considerable challenges to your healthcare system. Contrary to all sense and expectation Sims are relatively content to work, shop and visit radioactive areas, however they will get sick in record numbers. Even if you leave radioactive areas empty, you will still get fluctuations of radioactive fallout across the city which causes sickness to rise. Having multiple hospitals with diagnostic centers will help keep the situation under some degree of control, but there's no question, playing a radioactive city does pose more difficulty and problems than normal. Put it this way, I don't recommend it as an ideal circumstance to try and get achievements like 'Best Mayor Ever' or 'Quid Pro Quo'!

    For more information:

  • Achievements
  • Power
  • Education
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