It can be hard to believe, but the modern world is pretty susceptible to disaster. While a total apocalypse or doomsday scenario is highly unlikely, various scenarios can cause a breakdown in societal infrastructure and access to supplies on a much smaller scale.
Preppers and survivalists will call these situations “SHTF” scenarios, and it’s crucial to understand what that means and how to prepare. That way, when bad stuff does go down, you know exactly what to do.
SHTF is an abbreviation or acronym that stands for “shit hits the fan.” However, the term refers to any bad situation that could interrupt modern life. A SHTF scenario could be a catastrophic event like Hurricane Katrina, a wildfire blazing through your community, cyber attacks, civil unrest or it could be the end of the world as we know it.
As a prepper, you need to get ready for when disaster strikes. Again, a worldwide apocalypse or end of the world scenerios (eotw) are highly unlikely, but the chances of a flood, tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster ripping through your community are pretty decent. Fortunately, by practicing preparedness now and planning ahead, you can be far ahead of the curve when it comes to recovery.
Regardless of the specific incident, the meaning of SHTF refers to the moment when you can’t necessarily rely on any kind of infrastructure to help out. For example, it can be hard for emergency crews to reach everyone after a hurricane, particularly those living outside of major urban centers. So, you have to be self-sufficient or have access to a bug out location to wait for things to recover.
Different Types of SHTF Events
Each type of SHTF event requires different planning and materials. For example, in some situations, you may be able to use your cell phone and connect with other people. In other instances, you might be all on your own. You should also prepare for SHTF events abroad, such as if you’re traveling to another country. Here are some notable situations where the proverbial shit may hit the fan.
- Natural Disasters – Earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, floods, and even intense winter storms can cause massive damage to infrastructure. The bigger the storm, the more likely you’ll be on your own for a while afterward.
- World War – It’s been over 80 years since the last world war, but that doesn’t mean another global conflict can’t happen. Wartime planning is much different than a natural disaster because it’s unlikely that you’ll see tons of carnage and destruction unless you live close to a battlefield.
- Grid Down – The US power grid is old and failing, so some parts of the country experience outages much more frequently than others. During a massive outage, panic can set in, creating more havoc than just a lack of power.
- Food Crisis – As the supply chain issues of 2021 have illustrated, we depend on a vast network of people to get food to our stores. A major disaster could break this chain entirely, leaving bare shelves and hungry stomachs.
- Global Warming/Climate Change – Climate change drives bigger storms and can lead to rising sea levels, which will create many secondary disasters (i.e., power outages and food scarcity).
- Economic Collapse – While the US has a stable economy, we’ve seen multiple recessions and one Great Depression. If that happens again, it’ll be much harder to buy supplies and essentials.
- Pandemic – Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to a close, but it illustrated how fragile modern infrastructure can be. A deadlier plague could disrupt the system entirely with a much longer recovery period.
Problems to Prepare for in SHTF Situations
As we mentioned, you have to prepare for each situation differently. However, many of these scenarios will have overlapping issues that you need to address. Here’s a quick overview of what to plan for when SHTF.
- Limited Communications – Even if cell phones are working, the towers may get flooded with calls and texts, limiting your communication methods. During a significant crisis or disaster, you might not be able to connect with anyone. You always want to have a way to contact the outside world.
- Sanitation Issues – During a natural disaster, it’s easy for your plumbing system to get backed up. If you can’t use your toilet, where will you go to the bathroom? You may also have to worry about garbage or sewage piling up because of a lack of sanitation services.
- Safety and Security – During a disaster, people can panic and become dangerous. You need to make sure that you can protect yourself and your family, no matter where you are.
- Health – If you can’t make it to a clinic or hospital, you need to plan what to do if you or someone close to you gets sick. Even a small cut could get infected and turn into a major problem.
- Food Scarcity – Having food stores is essential, but you need to ensure that your nutritional needs are met. Also, if you’re stuck somewhere else, you need to figure out how to get food.
- Power Outage – Outages happen all the time, even without a natural disaster as the cause. So, plan accordingly.
- TEOTWAWKI – You may need to prepare for a disaster that destroys existing institutions and norms of society.
How to Develop a Plan for SHTF
Planning ahead is the best way to avoid serious complications during a SHTF situation. Here are some ways to prepare and make a SHTF plan for you and your family for these potential disasters.
Make a checklist of all the essential supplies you need, such as a first aid kit, food stores, ammunition, and more. You should have a travel checklist as well so that you’re prepared wherever you go. Having a bug-out bag is another way to prepare since you can carry your supplies quickly and easily.
Develop Survival Techniques
When shit hits the fan, you can’t rely on infrastructure to come to your aid. So, you need to figure out how to do things yourself, such as:
- Fire-Starting – This skill comes in handy whether you’re out camping or surviving the end of the world.
- Food Catching – You’ll want to learn how to catch multiple types of food, including fish, wild game, berries, and more. You can also learn how to farm various crops if you have the space (and the right soil). You can also stockpile non-perishables.
- Shelter Building – Ideally, you can stay in your home until things get back to normal. However, if you wind up in the woods or elsewhere, you need to know how to protect yourself from the elements.
- Warmth – Fires can provide warmth, but you can’t always build a fire. Be sure to have other heat sources, such as warm clothing or hand warmers.
- First Aid – Cuts, scrapes, and upset stomachs will be common during these situations. You need to know how to dress wounds, prevent infection, and heal stomach bugs.
Plan an Escape Route
When shit hits the fan, you may need to get out of dodge quickly. Here are some points to consider when planning an escape route.
- Avoid Crowds – Not only can crowds slow your progress, but they can also be dangerous, especially during major disasters. Learning some self-defense can help you navigate crowd situations.
- Avoid Flooding – Know which areas are prone to flooding after a disaster so that you don’t get stuck en route.
- Avoid Tsunamis or Other Secondary Disasters – An earthquake can lead to a tsunami, along with burst water mains, downed power lines, and other secondary disasters. Be sure to know how to avoid them along the way.
Practice Your Skills and Route
Writing your plan down is only the first step. Next, you have to practice survival situations as often as possible. This way, during a SHTF situation, your instincts will kick in, and you’ll be able to follow your plan as efficiently as possible. Be sure to practice your new skills regularly so that you don’t forget how to do them when the time comes.
Bottom Line: Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard by SHTF
As you can see, SHTF situations can occur at any time. Even if you don’t live in a disaster-prone area, you never know when something bad can happen. Prepping is all about anticipating problems and developing solutions. With this knowledge, you can’t be caught off-guard.
How Close Are We to a SHTF Scenario?
Technically, these scenarios happen all the time. However, if you’re asking about a worldwide or catastrophic SHTF scenario, those are far less likely to occur. Those situations would include nuclear fallout or gargantuan disaster, such as a supervolcano eruption. Your planning will only go so far in those situations, as societal recovery will take years or decades. Even the best preparations can only last for about 10 years or so.