As preppers, we tend to look at a total collapse scenario as a Mad Max or Walking dead type scenario. The truth is, there are far too many variables to say what it would be. So, what would a long term SHTF really look like?
I have heard it said that the more extreme the scenario, the less likely it is to happen. While this may be true, that doesn’t make it impossible. Throughout your life, you have probably witnessed or heard about things you never thought would happen. 911, Pearl Harbor, and Nagasaki come to mind for me.
As preppers, we should not only be concerned about these major disaster scenarios, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture.
I see it as getting back to the way our grandparents lived when the safety and well-being of your family was something that you personally took care of. It’s not about living in fear, it’s about living with a sense of security.
We prepare for the likely, as well as the unlikely because it seems the more unlikely a disaster scenario is, the higher the stakes are. Because of this, we need to be realistic about how the events might unfold, and how we may need to react.
Let’s dug deep into some things that would cause a long term SHTF event, how things might unfold, and some of the variables we need to consider. While our survival is never guaranteed, preparedness is about learning and increasing our odds.
The 3 Major Variables
In any disaster scenario, there are 3 major variables that will change how things unfold. Their variables are other people, the government(s), and yourself. Regardless of the disaster scenario, these will factor into how well, or not so well things go for you.
Other People: It’s probably no surprise to hear that other people will play a big role in how your situation goes. People have proven time and time again that when things get bad, they will do whatever it takes to survive.
Government: Whether we are talking about our government, or other countries governments stepping in, there will be some sort of government to deal with. The people in control will do whatever it takes to maintain power, and who knows what that looks like.
Yourself: The decisions we make, the skills we learn, and how prepared we are, will all play a role in how everything plays out. This is why being honest with yourself about your abilities and skills is so important.
Operational security is crucial to everything we do now as well as in an SHTF scenario. Everything we do today, and everyone we tell, could have consequences down the line. People love to gossip, so be careful about who you tell about your preparedness plans. The odds are, some people know more about you than you think.
After the S has hit the fan, operational security will play an even bigger role. The consequences of this situation could literally become life or death. People will become desperate, and desperate people will make different choices than they do today.
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Like it or not, your neighbors will be there in an SHTF event. How long they are is another story. Your neighbors probably know more about you than you think. Or they have preconceived notions, which can be even more dangerous.
Our neighbors are literally right next door, or right down the street. We should expect a visit from them, and we should think about how we are going to handle that. This is why getting to know your neighbors is so important. We need to figure out who might be helpful, and who might be a problem.
Dogs are great for giving you a little early warning and deterring intruders. A loud dog can also bring unwanted attention. If you are trying to remain quiet and maintain a low profile, dogs that bark at everything are going to ruin that.
I think the benefits of having a dog outweigh the risks, especially if they are trained. We have a large dog that tends to bark at everything but is a very good deterrent.
Kids Being Kids
Children don’t intentionally set out to ruin our day (most of the time), it’s just what they do. We can talk to them until we are blue in the face, and they still don’t understand the consequences of their actions.
Children live in a different world than us. Their job is to learn and play, our job is to teach and protect. When children are out with their friend, they could talk about things you don’t want them to talk about.
In a SHTF situation where everyone is hungry and thirsty, we need to blend in. If everyone else is losing weight, and we look nice and healthy, we become a target.
This doesn’t mean we need to starve ourselves, but having some clothes that are a size too big might be a good idea. Being the grey man is a huge part of survival. The more we fit in, the less we stand out.
Sight, Sound, and Smell
These days when your neighbor smells you barbecuing steaks it just makes them hungry, could you imagine how it would be if they were starving? You could leave your porch light on all night, and they wouldn’t give it a second thought…unless they didn’t have power.
In any sort of disaster scenario, when people don’t have something, and you do, you become a target. Generators give off a lot of noise and cooking can give off smells. Candlelight coming from your window will travel a long way when no one has power.
Relying On Plan A
We all try to have the best plans we can. These could be for bugging out, bugging in or how to handle different people. when something goes exactly according to plan, it’s more the exception than the rule.
We can’t be so married to our plans that we can’t pivot and change. Even the smallest things can derail our preparedness planning. That’s why they say always have a plan B…and C.
Lack Of Critical Thinking
As they say “hindsight is 20/20”. Regardless of how prepared we are, we are bound to make some questionable decisions along the way. There are also some decisions that just don’t have a “right” answer.
Our job is to have the skills and knowledge to make the best possible decision when these times arise. This is why situational awareness and operational security are so important. The greatest battle won is the battle never fought.
How we store our supplies, and where we store them is very important. Moisture and temperature can wreak havoc on your supplies. The last thing you want is to think you have something, only to find out it’s spoiled or rusted.
Pests and animals can also wreak havoc on your supplies. If there is a way for them to get into your food supply, you can bet they will find it.
These days we protect our valuables from thieves, and these thieves just want our TV or our car. In any sort of SHTF event, food and water will be more valuable than a useless TV. These thieves will walk right past the TV and head for the pantry.
Today we have a fairly good idea about who might be a thief and who might not. In an SHTF or disaster scenario, people become desperate, and at that point, everyone could become a thief. People will do whatever it takes to survive.
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Mismanagement Of Supplies
Most of us have food and water stored for a certain amount of time, a week, a month, a year and so on. There are quite a few things that could change this time frame quite a bit. Eating it too quickly, spoilage and unexpected house guests to name a few.
It’s important that we stay on top of our inventory and rotation, as well as our rationing. You never know when something small could turn into something larger, and you don’t want to run out of food or batteries before you expected to.
What Would Cause a Long Term Event?
As I stated earlier, the odds of a large scale (countrywide) disaster scenario are far less likely than a small scale disaster or personal doomsday, but this doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Just 3 years ago I would have said that the odds of an EMP were very low. Because of countries like Iran and North Korea, I can’t say that today.
It’s also important to note that a long term SHTF event could be caused by a combination of events. For example: if an EMP only took out the power grid on the west coast, it could mean devastating consequences for the economy.
Possible SHTF Timeline
In this article, we go over an SHTF timeline scenario. It’s hard to say exactly how things would unfold, but I think we all have a pretty good idea. This is a great topic to debate with family and friends to see what everyone thinks, and where everyone stands.
Day 1: People will be in shock and unwilling to contemplate the thought that no one is coming to help. Grocery stores would be ransacked and emptied within hours, and criminals would be taking advantage of the chaos.
3 Days: I think that around 3 days to a week is when reality set in for people. This is when the food runs out, and the realization that things are not going back to normal anytime soon sets in. The first couple of weeks will be the most dangerous in any disaster scenario, regardless how long it lasts.
3 Weeks: Around 3 weeks to a month is when the “die off” begins in full force. I’ve seen numbers that say 90% of the population would die if the power grid went down, and I completely agree with that. As preppers, I think that if we can make it through this stage were doing pretty good, but we’re still not out of the woods.
3 Months: Somewhere in the 1 to a 3-month window, the cleanup and rebuilding begin. This is when everyone who still around understands the gravity of the situation, and understands what needs to be done for the future. Anyone who survives this long is either very prepared or very lucky.
Rebuilding: It’s fairly easy to think about what might happen in the first few months of an SHTF scenario, but after that things get a little more complicated. What happens to the government? The way our government works today may change, but they will still be around.
While most criminals would be dead at this point, there would still be some around. The ones that are still around have survived because they are far more dangerous than the street thugs stealing tvs and ransacking stores. These people could build militias or large groups, and even try to implement their own style of government.
My whole point is that even though the worst would be over, these would be dangerous times to live in. There could be a civil war, other countries offering “humanitarian aid”, and a number of other variables that could come into play.
If you happen to make it past the first few months, well congratulations! You either really have it going on, or you are really lucky…probably a combination of both. After the major chaos, and when things begin to settle down, the basics begin to become the priority again.
While first aid, security, and sanitation are all important aspects of preparedness, you are not going to get very far without food, water, and shelter. Not every situation involves treating a wound, but you do need to eat and drink every day.
Food: Regardless of how much food you have stored, yours is bound to run out. This is why gardening, hunting, and foraging are so important. Eventually, there would be farmers markets and the like, but it could be some time before grocery stores would come back into play.
Water: As with food storage, your water storage will eventually be depleted. If you happen to live in the long term stages of a disaster, you probably have the water situation figured out. Depending on your location and the situation, you may or may not have running water at this point. This is why figuring out solutions is so important right now.
Shelter: With a die-off of 90%, there would probably be plenty of empty houses around, but if the banks are still around, that could be a risky proposition. If this long-term SHTF event is an economic collapse or depression type event, owing money to the bank or renting could lead to eviction. This is why getting out of debt, and paying off your home is so important, although easier said than done for most of us.
These are just a few thought we had on what a long term SHTF event would look like, but if you have anything to add, leave a comment below.