SHTF – What Is It And How To Prepare?

Jeremy Bowyer
Written By Jeremy Bowyer

Jeremy Bower is a generational survivalist and expert outdoorsman.

There are not many things in your control during a survival situation, but one thing you can be sure of is that surviving will be hard work. Of course, there are many different things you can do to prepare yourself for the chaos that lies ahead of you.

What Does SHTF Mean?

SHTF, simply put, means when Shit Hits The Fan. It can have a lot of different meanings when it comes to survival, but that’s what the acronym stands for.

In today’s world, it’s not difficult to imagine things turning sour with how many political and natural disasters we face every year. Even predictable events like flooding and hurricanes are getting worse, turning vast areas of the world into disaster areas.

Many of the threats you could face when shit hits the fan are predictable, but others aren’t. That’s why I wanted to give you some of the things you can prepare to survive when things turn a little desperate.

What Is SHTF Survival?

SHTF Survival is a prepper or survivalist way of saying that during any sort of long-term survival or an emergency, things will get a lot worse, fast! How bad things will get, we don’t know, but we do know that a lot of people don’t know the first thing about facing dangers during a major crisis.

How Likely Is It?

It all depends on where you live. Locations prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis are much more likely to have a “shit hits the fan” crisis. Similarly, countries with much political unrest are more likely to experience SHTF survival situations in war zones and unsafe territories.

What Are The Most Common Scenarios?

No Law Enforcement


In an extreme crisis, it’s more than likely that both law enforcement and emergency responders will be scarce or almost impossible to find. We can see this would be a likelihood by looking at small-scale disasters and how law enforcement tends to look after their own families first. If and when things go wrong, it will be more than likely that you will need to defend yourself without waiting for the law to intervene.

Many preppers predict criminals and other bad guys will try to impersonate law enforcement and military personnel during an SHTF crisis. This will allow them to prey on the innocent, helping them to gain easy access to places that they could potentially loot.

Another thing that law enforcement does during any sort of disaster situation is to seize all civilian guns and firearms. An example of this was Hurricane Katrina. The local law enforcement, as well as the National Guard, took over 1,000 firearms legally owned by citizens. It’s a very high possibility that if SHTF, they will come for your guns first.

Personal Safety Not Guaranteed

Personal safety and protests

When things turn for the worst, there will be people who mean to harm others for their own gain. This is an inevitability and is something you need to prepare for and learn to handle on your own. People that aren’t prepared for when SHTF will have no idea what to do to survive if the safety net of society is removed. People become unpredictable and desperate during these kinds of scenarios.

Even when things are relatively calm, there’s a portion of the population who tend to go a little wild. There are the people who go nuts and start destroying property when their sports team loses and the gangs who terrorize bigger cities. The total collapse of society could make a living in an urban environment nearly impossible for the rest of us.

So what can you do? There are a few things you can do now that could end up saving your life during an extreme situation:

  • Develop an awareness of the situation – Being entirely naive about what could happen will leave you in the most dangerous position. Begin learning how to defuse hazardous scenarios now so that when shit does hit the fan, your safety won’t be threatened. 
  • Protecting yourself from criminals – One of the scariest things about survival situations is how other people act around you. The mob mentality takes over, leading people to form groups and gangs of criminals who will go to any lengths for survival. Prepare yourself with self-defense skills and other ways you can get out of potential trouble.
  • Surviving shooters – This is an all too real SHTF scenario that we have to deal with in our everyday lives, let alone when a more significant crisis happens. Learning what can save your life if there are active shooters will help you to be as prepared as possible.

Sanitation Problems

Sanitation and trash

A part of SHTF survival that few people talk about is the sanitation issue that will almost certainly arise. If the mobs and criminals don’t get you first, then the hygiene and sanitation risks could become more of a problem. Put a plan to deal with your garbage and sewage before they can become any threat.

Something else you may want to stock up on as part of your survival kit is sanitation supplies. It’s not a very pleasant thing to prepare for, but having unsanitary living conditions could lead to a lot of nasty diseases being spread. Disease outbreaks will likely be rampant in SHTF scenarios, so do your research and know how to cope with them as best you can.

Trying To Stay Positive

SHTF situations typically mean that all hope is lost, and it’s tough to maintain a positive mental attitude during this time. If you start working on it now, you could make it through a survival scenario much more successfully than if you succumb to doom and gloom.

There will also be different physical effects your body may have to go through during a crisis. Lack of sleep and dehydration are both real possibilities. One of the greatest survival skills you can use in most situations is to train both your body and your mind to survive. Motivate yourself to get fit and be prepared before it’s too late.

What Should I Do Immediately After SHTF?

People protesting

The first thing you should do when SHTF is to stay as calm as possible. The next thing to do would be to move away from any immediate danger. The danger could be random bombs, car pile-ups, or even a school shooter. The priority is to find somewhere safe, even if it is only temporary.

How Do You Survive Urban Areas?

Urban preparedness

There are specific skills you should learn if you want to survive an urban SHTF crisis. These skills include surviving an attack, cooking without a stove or oven, growing your food, and preparing a survival pack.

What Is The Most Likely Disaster Scenario?

Two disaster scenarios are much more likely to happen than most. The first is for the economy to collapse, meaning people will need to become self-sufficient and work out long-term food storage solutions. The second is nuclear war, as so many countries arm themselves with weapons to do much damage.

Final Words

Knowledge will be your ultimate tool in an extreme or survival situation and could determine whether you survive. Your ability to prepare and predict what could happen during this kind of situation is an essential step to being ready for when the shit hits the fan.

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