Any true survivalist needs to have that ultimate SHTF (shit hits the fan) plan to turn to if things really get out of hand. You might not want to think about it happening, but the truth is that such an out-of-control disaster is far more likely than you may expect.
It wouldn’t take all that much to throw the whole of modern society into disarray.
What is an SHTF Event?
As the name suggests, an SHTF event is any event where the shit really hits the fan and gets out of control. Different people might have their own standards for what constitutes such an extreme situation.
Typically, it is a situation that is beyond the capacity of regional, national, and international aid workers and governments to overcome. An SHTF disaster is an event or series of events that causes widespread harm that society at large is not able to deal with.
Examples of potential SHTF events include:
- Extremely large-scale natural disasters such as the eruption of a super volcano, an asteroid hitting earth, or the outbreak of a deadly worldwide virus.
- Large-scale man-made disasters such as the total collapse of national and global financial systems, the use of nuclear warfare, cyber attacks that shut down entire power grids or security systems.
- A series of smaller disasters which compound and unravel, eventually resulting in a dire SHTF situation. This can happen when one small scale disaster becomes the catalyst for another small-scale disaster, which in turn causes the next disaster and so on. This ultimately leads to widespread problems that become unmanageable and irreversible, and we end up with a full SHTF situation.
How Could an SHTF Situation Realistically Play Out?
There are so many different ways that an SHTF event could play out in reality, which make them very difficult to accurately predict and plan for. This is why it is essential for a good SHTF plan to include multiple scenarios and contingency plans, and should adequately prepare one for just about any eventuality.
It is likely that an SHTF situation would unfold in multiple phases on a timeline. The first initial phase would be the occurrence of the actual disaster event, where people just start to realise the magnitude of the situation, but where death and destruction is limited to a small percentage of the population directly affected.
This would be the shortest yet most critical phase for any survivalist, as it is the time where you need to act quickly and decide how you will respond to the situation. The primary decision here will be whether to shelter in place (hunker down) or escape to somewhere safer (bug out).
The initial phase is likely to only last a few days to a week at max. After that, the situation will evolve in waves lasting from weeks to months, as the situation devolves further and causes more widespread damage and loss of life.
You will need to adapt quickly to what is presented, as no amount of planning can cover all the various possibilities. Hopefully, with the right preparation and early decision-making, you will be well equipped to deal with whatever is thrown at you.
How to Create an SHTF Plan
There are a few things you need to keep in mind before and while actually formulating your ultimate SHTF plan. We can think of this as a sort of preliminary planning, i.e., “planning to plan”, or planning checklist.
1. Realize the Need for an SHTF Plan
Fortunately, if you have made it this far, you are probably part of the minority who understands the importance of being prepared for a massive SHTF event. This itself is a major first step towards being ready to survive any disaster.
Most people suffer from “normalcy bias”, which causes them to underestimate the very real possibility of a major disaster striking, simply because it does not fit their known reality. Even when a disaster does occur, the average person will go through an initial phase of disbelief and denial.
This places them in a state of paralysis, when in fact it should be the most important window of opportunity to act quickly.
Therefore, to have the clear conviction that you need to be prepared for a major disaster at a moment’s notice is itself the edge you need to make it through while millions of others may perish. So, make that decision today and stick to it, and from there you can begin laying the foundation of the ultimate SHTF survival plan.
2. Establish Triggers
Establishing triggers is an extremely important part of any good survival plan. The main difficulty of handling a survival situation is that we struggle to make rational decisions when we are directly under threat. Often, we are ruled by fear and emotion, and our well thought out plans go out the window when we are actually faced with a life and death situation.
In order to help eliminate this type of irrationality, you should come up with clearly defined trigger events in advance, and what the appropriate response is to each.
These are effectively lines in the sand which signal to you that if X, Y, or Z occurs, there are certain non-negotiable responses that you will take irrespective of how you might feel about it at the time.
Examples of trigger events could include:
- Emergency warnings from authorities to take shelter and not leave your home.
- A serious disaster that can cause large scale damage occurs within a predefined radius of your home.
- A bad situation that gets so out of control that it becomes beyond the capacity of authorities to manage.
For each trigger event, you will have determined a set of actions that need to be followed no matter what. Examples may include:
- Gather your family at home and secure the premises.
- Pack your things and prepare to evacuate.
- Conduct an emergency evacuation.
3. Create a PACE Plan
It is not enough to just have a single SHTF plan. An SHTF situation can happen and evolve in so many different ways, that you need to be prepared for various outcomes and adapt to changing circumstances. Therefore, while planning for an SHTF event, you should create what is known as a “PACE” plan.
PACE = Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency.
In other words, you should first create a primary plan to be calmly followed if everything remains somewhat under control. This would be the “ideal” response, and would usually involve staying at home and trying to continue with daily life as normal, while being vigilant and on guard for any trigger events that would require an alternate response.
The alternate plan would be your next move should things become too dangerous and out of control. This may be to conduct a planned evacuation to a known place of safety.
The contingency plan would be a backup to the alternate plan, where you may need to perform an emergency evacuation because the situation has rapidly deteriorated. You may not have the time to pack everything and secure your home as well as you would have liked, and perhaps your primary evacuation route or safe shelter is no longer viable.
You will have to plan backups for all of these in a contingency plan.
Finally, you need to define a final emergency plan in case all of your other plans fail. Perhaps it is no longer possible to evacuate even though the area has become unsafe. You need to have a plan of what you would do in such a scenario. An example could be to secure your home as best as possible and live off your emergency supplies until you able to make an escape.
In all stages of the PACE plan, you need to constantly monitor the situation at hand and be ready to adapt or move to a different phase at a moment’s notice.
Ideal 5-Step SHTF Plan
Once you are clear on the preliminary checklist, it is time to formulate your actual SHTF plan. Don’t forget that during this stage, you will need to come up with multiple contingency plans that can be adapted to a variety of possible disaster situations.
For this reason, an SHTF plan should be more general in nature than survival plans for specific disasters (e.g., an earthquake, tsunami, drought, etc.).
As such, we will be going over a general 5-step response to any SHTF situation. Such a plan gives you a framework to handle the situation, but is sufficiently flexible to be adapted to any disaster situation. Throughout the planning and execution process, you must have clearly defined trigger events and keep the principles of PACE planning intact.
Step 1: Contact Your Loved Ones
The very first thing you should do when SHTF is to have a reliable way to contact or meet up with your loved ones. You or other members of your family may be out or away when the disaster occurs, and so you need to establish a way to connect as soon as possible.
It is probable that your cell phone doesn’t work after a serious SHTF event occurs, which means you need to pre-plan a safe meeting point with your family.
This may simply be your home, but you should also have a second and even third meeting point in case your primary location is not safe, and everyone has to immediately evacuate.
The disaster may well be at the national or international scale, but it is still helpful to establish an out-of-state person that you can all contact to reconnect in case the situation is only affecting your specific region.
Step 2: Evaluate the Situation
Hopefully you will have been able to quickly meet or at least communicate with your family. The next step is to work together to evaluate the situation at hand.
You will need to collect as much reliable information as possible on the current state of things. This can be received via emergency radio broadcasts, social media, calling friends and family, visually assessing things yourself, and so on.
The type of information you are looking for will vary depending on the situation but could include things like:
- Are emergency evacuations occurring or are people being ordered to shelter in place?
- Are water levels rising or subsiding in the case of a flood or tsunami?
- Is there looting or civil unrest?
- Are military forces involved?
- Are communication lines functioning?
- How many deaths have occurred?
Step 3: Decide Whether to Shelter in Place or Evacuate
Next, based on your best assessment of the situation, you must make the crucial decision of whether take shelter at home (hunker down) or evacuate to safety (bug out).
You may envision yourself roughing it in the wild during a full-blown SHTF disaster, but in reality, it often makes much more sense to stay put. As a true survivalist, you would have already prepped your home with emergency supplies to last a few months.
The property should be secure and well-known to you, so what better place to hunker down during a disaster situation.
There of course exceptions to this. For example, you may live in a dense urban area that is more likely to be affected by riots and violence. Perhaps the SHTF event has been caused by a natural disaster and your home is in the immediate vicinity. In these situations, you will probably decide that it makes most sense evacuate.
Grab your pre-loaded bug out bags along with whatever other useful items you have time to safely pack and evacuate as quickly and calmly as possible. The longer you delay, the lower your chances of making it to safety before the situation worsens further and the majority of the population also begins to panic and flee around you.
Step 4: Secure Shelter
If you are staying put in your home, you will already have an established shelter. You will just need to do a final securing of the premises and make sure you are all prepared for spending weeks or even months hiding indoors.
If you have opted to evacuate, securing shelter will be a more challenging task, but the first thing you need to take care of. Planning is key here, and you should have already mapped out possible options for a safe shelter and even practiced setting it up.
Step 5: Adapt to the Situation at Hand
Hopefully at this stage you would have successfully connected with your family, properly assessed the situation, and established a safe shelter with emergency supplies to last you the next few weeks.
From this point, you will have to put all your survival skills and rational decision-making to the test by simply flowing and adapting to the situation that you are presented with.
By definition, an SHTF event is something which is completely unprecedented and beyond the scope of what you can adequately predict and plan for. You can be well prepared to give yourself that edge when it comes to surviving the initial onslaught, but ultimately it will now come down to your instincts and ability to adapt and survive whatever you are faced with as the situation unfolds.