SHTF situations can occur anytime and anywhere. Having a SHTF plan gives you the best chance of survival and recovery after a disaster like a hurricane, pandemic, or social unrest. Whether you’re new to SHTF planning or an experienced prepper, knowing common SHTF scenarios and how to prepare will help you survive any eventuality.
Before learning how to prepare for a SHTF, you need to understand the types of SHTF situations that could occur in your area. Each region of the country is susceptible to specific disaster types, and understanding these potential scenarios is key to creating an effective plan to survive a SHTF emergency.
Hurricanes: Southeastern U.S., Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico
Hurricanes are among the most common SHTF scenarios in the southeastern U.S., Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico regions. Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans caused massive damage and loss of life.
For example, Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas in 2017, caused an estimated $125 billion in damage and resulted in 68 deaths in Texas. According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 resulted in 1,833 fatalities and caused $108 billion in damage.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
The best way to prepare for a hurricane is to listen to the radio or TV for the National Weather Service’s hurricane warnings. The following tips can help keep your family safe when disaster strikes:
Create an Emergency Plan
- Develop a detailed evacuation plan, including designated meeting points or a bug out location.
- Pack a bug out bag which includes 72 hours' worth of water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, extra clothing, a flashlight, batteries, a multi-tool, a portable radio, personal hygiene items, a map, cash, important documents, a whistle, a poncho, a fire starter, and any necessary medications. You can also purchase a pre-prepared bug out bag like the Ultimate 3-Day Emergency Survival Backpack.
- Establish communication methods with family members and friends, such as a check-in protocol at a designated location or through a specific emergency contact.
- Identify local shelters and familiarize yourself with evacuation routes.
Gather Essential Survival Supplies
- Stock up on non-perishable food items, such as canned goods, energy bars, and bottled water.
- Acquire a first aid kit, medications, and personal hygiene products.
- Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Purchase a sufficient supply of fuel for generators or vehicles.
Secure Your Home
- Use storm shutters or plywood to secure windows and reinforce doors.
- Clear your surroundings of potential projectiles, such as loose branches and patio furniture.
- Install a backup generator to ensure power availability during outages.
- Review insurance policies to ensure adequate coverage of your property after a hurricane. Many policies offer windstorm coverage, which pays for damage due to high winds.
Stay Informed and Educated
- Monitor weather updates and alerts during hurricane season.
- Educate yourself on hurricane safety procedures and learn basic first aid skills.
- Keep important documents, like identification and insurance papers, in a waterproof container.
Tornados: Great Plains Region of the U.S.
Tornados are a devastating natural disaster commonly occurring in the Great Plains region, particularly in spring and summer. These powerful storms can reach wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, leaving behind a trail of destruction.
On 24th March 2023, a deadly tornado outbreak and strong thunderstorms swept across Mississippi and Alabama, leaving at least 26 people dead in Mississippi. One long-track twister left a trail of destruction for over 90 miles. In May of 2013, a tornado outbreak occurred in Moore, Oklahoma, resulting in 24 deaths and caused billions in damage.
The tornado was rated EF5, the highest on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with winds estimated to have reached 210 miles per hour. In 2011 a catastrophic EF5 tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people and causing almost $3 billion in damage.
Preparing for a Tornado
To prepare for a SHTF tornado, you must first understand the tornado risks in your area. Ensure you know the difference between a tornado watch and a warning; a watch means weather conditions could produce a tornado, while a warning means a tornado has been identified by radar or a weather spotter. This helps you understand the threat you’re facing and what actions to take immediately.
Create a Tornado Plan
- Identify a safe area in your home, such as a basement or an interior room on the lowest level. If you hear sirens, it is time to gather your family and head to this room.
- Practice tornado drills with your family to ensure everyone knows what to do.
Assemble Emergency Supplies
- Have a well-stocked emergency kit with water, non-perishable food, medications, and first aid supplies.
- Include essential items like flashlights, batteries, an NOAA weather radio, and a whistle for signaling.
- Consider keeping a multi-use knife nearby in case you need to cut through debris, break through glass, or open food containers. A rescue knife with a serrated blade is an excellent option in a SHTF incident. It’ll let you cut through wood, plastic, and tough fabrics in an emergency.
Secure Your Home Before the Storm
- Reinforce your home’s structural integrity, especially the roof, windows, and doors. This can mean dead-bold locks, impact-resistant windows, or a designated storm shelter.
- Trim trees and remove dead branches to minimize the risk of falling debris.
- Consider installing storm shutters or reinforced garage doors.
Stay Alert and Informed
- Stay tuned to local weather forecasts and warnings using NOAA Weather Radio or turning into a local TV station broadcast.
- Have a reliable weather alert system or a smartphone app like Storm Shield to receive tornado warnings.
- Sign up for emergency alerts and notifications from local authorities.
Develop Survival Skills
- Learn how to administer basic first aid and perform CPR.
- Know how to shut off utilities like gas, water, and electricity in an emergency.
- Teach family members how to use fire extinguishers.
Earthquakes: California, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest
Earthquakes are a major concern for California, Alaska, and Pacific Northwest residents. California has been hit by some of the deadliest earthquakes in U.S. history, with the 1994 Northridge earthquake being one of the most recently destructive. This earthquake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale, causing over $20 billion in damage, and claimed the lives of 57 people.
In 2018, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Alaska, causing widespread damage and power outages. The quake occurred near Anchorage, the state’s largest city, and was felt throughout the region.
How to Prepare for an Earthquake
Earthquakes can strike suddenly and cause widespread devastation. Being prepared is crucial for minimizing risks and ensuring your safety. To protect your family during an earthquake:
Assess the Risk
- Research and understand the earthquake risks in your area.
- Identify fault lines or seismic zones near your location.
- Consult local authorities or geological surveys for information on historical earthquakes.
Create an Emergency Plan
- Establish a family emergency communication plan. Discuss and decide on alternative communication methods that can be used if traditional means are unavailable. This can include text messaging, social media platforms, or internet-based messaging apps.
- Identify safe spots in each room, such as under sturdy furniture or against interior walls, and practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” drills.
- Identify escape routes from your home and neighborhood.
- Designate safe meeting places outside your home, such as open spaces in community parks or a street corner away from potential hazards.
- Determine an out-of-area contact person to coordinate communication. Ensure all family members have the contact information for the designated primary point of contact.
Build an Emergency Kit
- Prepare a well-stocked earthquake kit with essential supplies. Include food, water, medications, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio. You should also have sturdy shoes, gloves, and a whistle for potential search and rescue situations.
Secure Your Home
- Secure heavy furniture, appliances, and objects that could fall or topple during an earthquake.
- Know how to shut off utilities, including gas, electricity, and water, in case of leaks or damages.
- Anchor tall bookcases, water heaters, and cabinets to the wall.
- Install latches on cabinets to prevent contents from spilling out.
- Stay updated on earthquake preparedness and safety measures through local authorities and reputable sources, such as the American Red Cross.
- Sign up for earthquake alerts and notifications from relevant organizations.
- Familiarize yourself with the location of nearby evacuation centers or community resources.
Pandemics are global SHTF scenarios that can cause widespread illness and death. The COVID-19 pandemic began in late 2019 and has devastated the world, resulting in over 687 million cases and 6.8 million deaths as of May 2023. The pandemic has caused widespread disruption to daily life, with lockdowns, school and business closures, and travel restrictions being implemented in many countries.
Preparing for a Global Pandemic
Preparing for a global pandemic means staying informed on developing situations around the world. As demonstrated by Covid-19, pandemics often begin thousands of miles away but can easily travel to your location.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide information on potential pandemics, including official guidelines and recommendations for prevention, symptoms, testing, and treatment.
You can do the following to boost your survival chances in this type of SHTF situation:
Practice Good Hygiene
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are unavailable.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Maintain Social Distancing
- Follow guidelines regarding physical distancing, such as maintaining a minimum distance of 3-6 feet from others.
- Avoid crowded places and non-essential gatherings.
- Limit close contact with individuals showing symptoms or exposed to the virus.
Stock Up On Essential Supplies
- Maintain a stock of non-perishable food items, like an 84-serving Emergency Food Supply kit and medications, that can last several weeks.
- Ensure you have an adequate supply of personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies.
Develop a Medical Plan
- Keep contact information for healthcare providers readily available.
- Explore telemedicine options for non-emergency medical consultations.
Care for Your Mental Health
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep.
- Stay connected with loved ones through virtual devices or phone calls.
- Seek support from mental health professionals if needed.
Follow Travel Guidelines
- Stay updated on travel advisories and restrictions.
- Consider postponing non-essential travel, especially to high-risk areas.
- If traveling is necessary, take necessary precautions and follow health protocols.
Economic Collapse: Global
Economic collapse is a type of SHTF scenario that can have far-reaching consequences. The Great Depression began in 1929 and was one of the worst economic collapses in U.S. history, causing widespread poverty and unemployment.
More recently, the 2008 global financial crisis caused a recession that affected many countries worldwide, leading to widespread job losses and economic hardship.
Preparing for a Global Economic Collapse
Preparing for a global economic collapse means taking proactive steps that can help mitigate its impact on your finances and well-being. Prepare yourself for the potential challenges of a financial crisis with the following tips:
- Develop a plan to pay off high-interest debt, such as credit card balances or personal loans.
- Build an emergency fund to cover essential expenses for several months by allocating around 20% of your monthly income to this fund.
- Spread your financial resources across different asset classes like stocks, bonds, real estate, and precious metals, and consider low-risk options like index funds or bonds to minimize exposure to market volatility and potential losses.
Develop Multiple Income Streams
- Explore opportunities for additional sources of income, such as freelance work. These can provide a financial buffer if your primary employer is affected by the collapse.
- Upskill or reskill to enhance employability.
Budget and Cut Expenses
- Create a detailed budget and identify areas where expenses can be reduced.
- Prioritize essential expenses and cut back on discretionary spending.
- Find ways to save on utilities, at the grocery store, and other regular expenses. To save on utilities, explore energy-efficient options, reduce consumption, and consider switching providers. For groceries, plan meals, use coupons, shop sales, and buy in bulk.
Protect Assets and Investments
- Review insurance coverage and ensure it adequately protects assets.
- Stay informed about market trends and seek professional advice from a certified financial advisor if necessary.
- Learn practical skills like gardening, foraging, and food preservation in case the dollar collapses.
- Stock up on essential supplies, including non-perishable food, water, and essential medications.
- Explore sustainable living practices like harvesting rainwater, solar power, growing food, and composting.
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): Global
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation that can disrupt and damage electrical and electronic devices. An EMP could be caused by a nuclear explosion or a solar storm, also called a geomagnetic storm.
An EMP attack might incapacitate the entire electrical grid, leading to widespread power outages and damage to electronic devices. The effects of an EMP could be long-term, with a significant impact on critical infrastructure and communication systems.
Preparing for an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Event
Preparing for an EMP event means educating yourself about the nature and potential impacts of an EMP situation. You can take action before an EMP event to minimize damage to critical electronic components and prepare your family for the fallout.
Harden Critical Electronics
- Consider protecting critical electronics by placing them inside Faraday cages or metal containers that can block electromagnetic radiation.
- Consult with experts now to assess the vulnerability of specific devices and develop appropriate shielding measures so you are prepared for the worst.
Store Essential Supplies
- Stock up on non-perishable food, water, medications, and essential supplies that can sustain you and your family for an extended period. A 120-serving Emergency Food Supply can keep you fed and healthy during a SHTF event.
- Include manual can openers, battery-powered flashlights, and alternative communication devices to cell phones that do not rely on electrical infrastructure.
- Learn how to grow and preserve your own food and invest in a basic first aid kit.
- Explore alternative power sources that are less susceptible to EMP effects, such as solar panels, generators, or wind turbines.
Establish a Communication Plan
- Identify alternative communication methods that do not rely on electronic infrastructure, such as two-way or ham radios.
- Establish a communication protocol with family members, neighbors, or a community network to share information and coordinate in case of an EMP event.
Secure Backup Power Sources
- Install backup power systems, such as solar panels with battery storage or generators, to provide electricity during an outage.
- Ensure you have sufficient fuel reserves and maintenance supplies for backup power systems.
- Regularly back up critical digital data and store it offline.
- Implement cybersecurity measures to protect electronic devices and networks from potential threats and attacks, including using strong passwords and firewalls and controlling data access.
Drought: Arid and Semi-Arid Regions
Droughts are common in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the western United States. They can last for years and have devastating effects on agriculture and the economy, such as during the historic drought in California that started in 2012 and lasted for several years.
During this time, the state experienced record-breaking temperatures and a severe lack of precipitation, leading to water rationing, wildfires, and widespread agricultural losses.
Preparing for Droughts
Preparing for a drought can help mitigate its impact on the water supply. Implementing the following strategies can minimize water scarcity risks and maintain a sustainable living environment.
- Implement water-saving measures, such as fixing leaks and installing low-flow fixtures.
- Collect and reuse rainwater and household grey water for non-potable uses like watering plants or cleaning.
- Use water-efficient appliances and practices, such as efficient irrigation systems and shorter showers.
- Practice water-saving habits like turning off faucets while brushing teeth and running full loads in dishwashers and washing machines.
Landscape and Gardening
- Choose drought-resistant plants like succulents, cacti, sage, and lantana, and native species for landscaping.
- Implement efficient irrigation methods like drip irrigation and mulching.
- Group plants with similar water needs together to minimize water usage.
Home Water Storage
- Consider installing water storage systems, such as rainwater harvesting tanks or underground cisterns.
- Store an emergency supply of drinking water in case of severe water shortages. In general, you need at least one gallon of water per person per day for emergency water storage. This includes both drinking and sanitation needs. You should store a minimum of a three-day supply of water for each person in your household.
- Use water-saving devices like greywater recycling systems for non-potable uses.
Wildfires: Forested Regions with Dry Conditions
Wildfires are a central concern in forested regions with dry conditions, such as the western United States, especially California. Wildfires burn millions of acres of land yearly, destroy homes and infrastructure, and cause countless fatalities and injuries.
The 2020 California wildfire season was among the most destructive and deadly in the state’s history, with over 4 million acres burned and at least 33 fatalities.
How to Prepare for Wildfires
Create a Defensible Space
- Clear vegetation, debris, and flammable materials from around your home.
- Maintain a buffer zone of at least 30 to 100 feet around structures.
- Trim tree branches near the ground and away from structures.
Develop an Emergency Plan
- Create an evacuation plan for your family and pets, including multiple escape routes.
- Establish communication methods and designate meeting points.
- Pack an emergency bug out kit with essential supplies. Our Premium 72 Hour Bug Out Bag has twelve 4-ounce water pouches, nine 400-calorie food bars, and hygiene, communication, and shelter supplies. Also, pack important documents, medications, and clothing in your bag.
Prepare Water Sources and Firefighting Tools
- Maintain an accessible water source, such as a swimming pool or well. Learn how to purify water using tablets from your bug out bag or boiling it to kill bacteria or parasites.
- Keep hoses long enough to reach all areas of your property.
- Have fire extinguishers and other firefighting tools readily available.
Maintain Insurance Coverage
- Review your homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure it adequately covers wildfire damage.
- Document your property with photographs and keep important documents in a secure location.
Infrastructure Failure in Urban, Coastal, and Aging Areas
Infrastructure failures can occur in large urban areas, coastal areas, and areas with aging infrastructure. These failures can be caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, human error, or negligence.
They can lead to widespread power outages, water shortages, and other disruptions lasting days or weeks. The 2003 Northeast blackout, for example, was caused by a power grid failure that affected over 50 million people in the northeastern United States and Canada.
Another tragic infrastructure failure caused by human error occurred when the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapsed, resulting in 13 fatalities and 145 injuries. The bridge gave way, reportedly due to inadequate gusset plate thickness, sending hundreds of people plunging into the river below.
Preparing for Infrastructure Failure
Ensuring survival during an infrastructure failure means being ready to handle whatever comes your way. These SHTF situations occur suddenly without warning; however, by identifying potential vulnerabilities in your locality, you can better prepare for the unexpected by doing the following:
Create an Emergency Plan
- Assess the situation and develop an emergency plan for your household or organization.
- Establish communication protocols and emergency contact lists.
- Identify alternative routes or modes of transportation in case of infrastructure disruptions.
Stock Up On Essential Supplies:
- Maintain a stock of essential supplies, including food, water, medications, and hygiene products.
- Have backup power sources like generators or solar panels if feasible.
- Consider storing extra batteries, flashlights, and portable chargers for communication devices.
Learn Basic Emergency Skills
- Learn basic first aid and CPR techniques.
- Have a well-stocked first aid kid, like the Bug Out First Aid Kit, which has bandages, tape, gauze pads, finger splints, and antiseptic towelettes.
- Learn how to shut off gas, water, and electricity.
- Develop skills in emergency communication and navigation without traditional infrastructure.
- Learn practical skills like gardening, food preservation, and basic home repairs.
- Explore alternative water sources and water conservation techniques. Keep a Water Filtration Bottle on hand for easy access to clean water.
- Consider backup heating or cooking methods, such as wood-burning or portable gas stoves.
Nuclear War: Global
Nuclear war is a catastrophic SHTF scenario that could lead to the destruction of entire cities and countries. The Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union created the fear of a nuclear holocaust that could wipe out humanity. Today, the threat of nuclear war remains a concern, with several countries possessing nuclear weapons and tensions between them.
Preparing for a Global Nuclear War
Preparing for a global nuclear war is a challenging and grave scenario. While it is impossible to fully prepare for the devastating impacts of such an event, there are some steps you can take:
- Develop an emergency plan for your family or organization. This can include where to go for the first 24 hours or how to communicate if there is a nuclear explosion.
- Identify safe areas or shelters within your vicinity, such as a brick or concrete structure, including underground garages, parking, or a subway.
Educate Yourself on Nuclear Threats
- Stay informed about geopolitical tensions and nuclear weapon capabilities.
- Educate yourself on the effects of nuclear explosions, fallout, and radiation. For example, nuclear explosions can cause damage by fire, a blast wave, a bright flash, or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
- Understand the guidance provided by government agencies regarding nuclear emergencies.
Stock Up On Emergency Supplies
- Prepare an emergency kit with essential supplies, including food, water, medications, first aid supplies, and radiation protection gear.
- Include flashlights, batteries, portable radios, and spare clothing—for example, a ReadyWise Multi-Functional Survival Flashlight.
Create a Shelter or Safe Space
- Identify the most secure area of your home or building to serve as a shelter during a nuclear attack. This is typically the innermost room or structure surrounded by concrete or brick.
- Reinforce the shelter with materials that can provide additional protection against radiation, such as thick walls, concrete, or lead-lined shielding.
- Seal windows, doors, and vents to minimize the entry of radioactive particles.
- Have a collection of guns and ammo on-hand for self-defense or hunting food if necessary.
Learn About Radiation Protection
- Familiarize yourself with the principles of radiation protection and decontamination.
- Obtain and store potassium iodide (KI) tablets if recommended by local authorities for protection against radioactive iodine.
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