15 Common Dynamics of SHTF Collapses

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Author of The ULTIMATE Survival Gear Handbook and  Street Survivalism

When it comes to how we see and prepare for SHTF, thinking in terms of real and probable rather than fictional and possible can make a big difference. Even though SHTF has many forms and levels and is in essence complex, random, diverse and unsystematic, some patterns and principles are common to the way things unfold when it hits the fan.

With Toby and Selco’s Seven Pillars of Urban Preparedness as inspiration, I came up with a different list of the 15 dynamics and realities of collapses.

#1 SHTF is nuanced and happens in stages

Thinking about SHTF as an ON/OFF, all-or-nothing endgame is a common mistake that can lead to severe misjudgments and failures in critical areas of preparedness. Part (or parts) of the system crash, freeze, fail, or become impaired. This is how SHTF happens in the real world. And when it does, people run for safety first, i.e., resort to more familiar behaviors, expecting things to “go back to normal soon.” 

By “normal behaviors,” I mean everything from hoarding stuff (toilet paper?) to rioting, looting, and crime, and yes, using cash – as these happen all the time, even when things are normal. But no one becomes a barterer, a peddler, a precious metals specialist in a week. Society adapts as time passes (and the situation requires). That’s why preppers who are also SHTF survivors (and thus talk from personal experience) insist that abandoning fantasies and caring for basics first is crucial. This is not a coincidence. It is how things happen in the real world. 


Recently I wrote about black markets and the role of cash in SHTFs, emphasizing these things take precedence except in a full-blown apocalypse – which no one can say if, when, or how will happen (because it never has?). Now, I don’t pretend to be the owner of the truth, but those insisting changes in society happen radically or abruptly should check this article about the fallout in Myanmar.

#2 Everything crawls until everything runs

Number two is a corollary to #1. SHTF happens in stair-steps, but most people failing to prepare and getting caught off-guard is evidence of the difficulty of the human brain to fully grasp the concept of exponential growth. It bears telling the analogy of the stadium being filled with water drops to illustrate this.

Let’s say we add one drop into a watertight baseball stadium. The deposited volume doubles every minute (i.e., one minute later, we add two more drops, then four in the next minute, eight in the next, then sixteen, and so on). How long would it take to fill the entire stadium? Sitting at the top row, we’d watch for 45 minutes as the water covered the field. Then at the 48-minute mark, 50% of the stadium would be filled. Yes, that’s only 3 minutes from practically empty to half full. At this point, we have just 60 seconds to get out: the water will be spilling before the clock hits 49 minutes.

This is an important dynamic to understand and keep in mind because it applies to most things. Another example: it took over 2 million years of human prehistory and history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and less than 250 years more to grow to almost 8 billion. 

#3 The system doesn’t vanish or change suddenly

Based on history, the Mad Max-like scenario some so feverishly advocate is not in our near future.  

The Roman Empire unraveled over 500 years. We may not be at the tipping point of our collapse or the last minute of the flooding stadium, as illustrated in #2 above. But time is relative, and those 60 seconds can last five, ten, fifteen years. Things are accelerating, but there’s no way to tell at which point in the curve we are.

That doesn’t mean things will be normal in that period. A lot has happened to people and places all over the Roman empire during those five-plus centuries: wars, plagues, invasions, droughts, shortages, all hell broke loose. Our civilization has already hit the iceberg, and the current order is crumbling. There will be shocks along the way, some small and some big. But SHTF is a process, not an event.

#4 History repeats, but always with a twist

That’s because nature works in cycles, and humans react to scarcity and abundance predictably and in the same ways. Also, we’re helpless in the face of the most significant and recurring events. But things are never the same. Technology improves, social rules change, humankind advances, the population grows. This (and lots more) adds a variability factor to the magnitude, gravity, and reach of outcomes.

What better proof than the COVID-19 pandemic just surpassing the 1918 Spanish Flu death toll in the US? It’ll probably do so everywhere else, too. Even if we don’t believe the official data (then or now), we’re not yet out of this new coronavirus situation. 

#5 SHTF is about scarcity

A shrink in resources invariably leads to changes in the individual’s standard of living or entire society (depending on the circumstances, depth, and reach of the disaster or collapse). Then it starts affecting life itself (i.e., people dying).

Essentially, when things really hit the fan, abundance vanishes, and pretty much everything reverts to the mean: food becomes replenishment, drinking becomes hydration, sleeping becomes rest, home becomes shelter, and so on. Surviving is accepting and adapting to that. 

#6 The consequences matter more than the type of event

I’ll admit to being guilty of debating probable causes of SHTF more often than I should, mainly when it comes to the economy and finance going bust. That’s from living in a third-world country, with all the crap that comes with it. 

It’s what I have to talk, warn, and give advice about. I still find it essential to be aware and thoughtful of the causes. But it’s for the consequences that we must prepare for: instability, corruption, bureaucracy, criminality, inflation, social unrest, divisiveness, wars, and all sorts of conflicts and disruptions that affect us directly.

#7 Life goes on 

Humankind advances through hardship but thrives in routine. We crave normalcy and peace, and over the long term, pursue them. Contrary to what many think, life goes on even during SHTF. And things tend to return to normal after the immediate threats cease or get contained. 

At least some level of normal, considering the circumstances. For example, in occupied France, the bistros and cafés continued serving and entertaining the population and even the invaders (the Nazi army). It was hard, as is always the case anywhere there’s war, poverty, tyranny – but that doesn’t mean the world has ended. 

#8 SHTF pileup

Disasters and collapses add instability, volatility, and fragility to the system, which can compound and cause further disruptions. Sometimes, unfavorable cycles on various fronts (nature and civilization) can also converge and generate a perfect storm.

It’s crucial to consider that and try to prepare as best we can for multiple disasters happening at once or in sequence, on various levels, collective and individual – even if psychologically and mentally. And if the signs are any indication, we’re entering such a period of simultaneous challenges.

#9 Snowball effect

Daisy based her excellent article on the 10 most likely ways to die when SHTF on the principle of large-scale die-off caused by a major disaster, like an EMP or other. This theory is controversial and the object of endless discussions. Some say it’s an exaggeration. But in my opinion, that’s leaving a critical factor out of the equation.

Consider the following: according to WPR and the CDC, before COVID-19, the mortality rate in the US was well below 1% (2.850.000 per year, or about 8.100 per day). If the mortality rate increases to just 5%, this alone would spark other SHTFs, potentially more serious and harmful than the first.

That five-fold jump in mortality would result in more than 16 million dead per year or 44.000 per day. That’s 5% we’re talking about, not 20 or 30. If there’s even a protocol to deal with something like that, I’m not aware. It would be catastrophic on many levels over a shorter period (say, a few months).

Early in the CV19 pandemic, some cities had trouble burying the dead, and the death rate was still below 1%. Sure, other factors were playing. But the point is, things can snowball: consequences and implications are too complex and potentially far-reaching. Think about the effects on the system.

#10 SHTF is a situation, but it’s also a place 

Things are hitting the fan somewhere right now. Not in the overblowing media but the physical world: the Texas border, third-world prisons, gang-ruled Haiti, in Taliban-raided Afghanistan, in the crackhouse just a few blocks from an affluent neighborhood, under the bridges of many big cities worldwide, in volcano-hit islands. 

There are thousands of places where people are bugging out, suffering, or dying of all causes at this very moment. If you’re not in any SHTF, consider yourself lucky. Be grateful, too: being able to prepare is a luxury. 

#11 Choosing one way or another has a price

Being unprepared and wrong has a price. However, so does being prepared and wrong. Though some benefits exist regardless of what happens, the investment in terms of time, finance, and emotion to be prepared could be applied elsewhere or used for other finalities (career, a business, relationships, etc.) rather than some far-out collapse.

Since so much in SHTF is unknown and open, and resources are limited even when things are normal, survival and preparedness are essentially trade-offs. We must read the signals, weigh the options, consider the probabilities, make an option, and face the consequences. That’s why striving for balance is so important.

#12 SHTF is dirty, smelly, ugly

This is undoubtedly one of the most striking characteristics of SHTF: how bad some places and situations can be. Most people have no idea, and they don’t want to know about this. Those who fantasize about being in SHTF should think twice. Abject misery and despair have a distinct smell of excrement, sewage, death, rotting material, pollution, trash, burned stuff, and all kinds of dirt imaginable. And insects. The movies don’t show these things. But bad smells and insects infest everything and everywhere, and it can be maddening. 

During my street survival training, I get to visit some really awful places and witness horrible things. The folks eventually going out with me invariably get shocked, sometimes even sickened, when they see decadence up and close for the first time. Even ones used to dealing with the nasties – it’s hard not to get affected. 

For instance, drug consumption hotspots are so smelly and nasty that someone really must have to be on crack just to stand being there. It’s hell on earth, and I can’t think of another way to describe these and other places like third-world prisons, trash deposits, and many others. Early on, being in these places would make me question why I do this. It never becomes “normal.” We just adapt. But seeing these realities changes our life and the way we see things.

#13 The Grid is fragile

It’s baffling how this escapes so many. Most people I know are in constant marvel with modern civilization. They look around, pointing and saying, “Are you crazy? Too big to fail! There’s no way this can go away! Nothing has ever happened!“. 

We have someone to take our trash, slaughter, process our food, treat our sick, purify our water, treat our sewage, protect us from wrongdoers and evil people (and keep them locked), control the traffic, and defend our rights. 

Peeking behind the curtains is a red pill moment. What keeps The Grid up and running is not something small, but it’s fragile. The natural state of things is not an insipid, artificially controlled environment. On the positive side, it makes us feel more grateful, humble, and also more responsible.  

#14 The frog in the boiling water

That’s you and me and everyone around us. There’s no other way around it. We’re the suckers who get squeezed and pay the bill whenever something happens, anywhere and everywhere. It’s always our freedom, rights, money, and privacy that gets attacked, threatened, stolen.  

Not only because the 1% screws us at the top, but because we’re the big numbers, the masses. And only those who work and produce something can bear the brunt of whatever bad happens to society and civilization. 

Make no mistake: whenever the brown stuff hits the fan, it will fall on us. It’s no reason to revolt but to acknowledge that, ultimately, we’re responsible for ourselves. 

#15 People can make things worse

Just have a look around and see what’s happening. Selco himself will tell you that the most dangerous thing about the SHTF is other people.


Sometimes, the mechanics, brutality, and harshness of SHTF end up in the background of personal narratives and emotional accounts. Being more knowledgeable and cognizant of some general aspects of collapses may allow flexibility, creativity, improvisation, adaptation, resiliency, and other broad and effective strategies.

Or, simply provide material for reflection and debate, really. 

Either way, even those who haven’t been through collapse can still learn from history, from others’ experiences, from human behavior, from the facts. Just be sure to see the world for what it is and not from what you think. Because it will go its own way, and reality will assert itself all the same.

What are your thoughts about the dynamics of an SHTF scenario? Are there any you want to add? Does this match up with your personal expectations? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. 

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

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  • Great article Fabian!

    I like your “steps” idea, and the reference to Rome. Some steps are small and shallow ones. Others are big and deep. And that can be at either a nation (re: Rome or America) or at a personal level. For some, the lockdowns was a minor adjustment to the work from home paradigm. For others, the lockdowns are devastating.

    #6. I always try to think through what are not just the primary impacts of an event, but what are the secondary or third order effects. Those are the things that are not obvious, but can still have a significant effect or impact.

    #7, Life goes on. When the lockdowns first went into effect, I was standing atop the hill over looking the main road.
    It was quiet.
    Like, not a car to be heard of in a hour or more. That only happens a few times a year: Thanksgiving day, Christmas day, and New Years day.
    This quiet lasted for weeks.
    I had a very real, this is it, moment.
    And then I had to go and tend to the livestock.
    SHTF or no, somethings have to be done regardless.

    #8, 9 I think can go together. Due to Biden’s “My patience is wearing thin,” mandates, thousands of people are getting fired from their jobs. In some places, these are health care workers. A health care firm in NY fired 1,400 people. They may not be all primary health care givers, but even the people who transport patients, clean rooms, data entry, are still needed for day to day operations.

    #12, SHTF dirty and smelly. Yep. Turn off the water and things get real interesting real quick.

    #15, Yes! Look at NY governor Hochul and her mandates. I posted in another article, wife’s NG unit received a memo asking for volunteers to drive school buses. If something absolutely needs to be messed up, leave it to the government to do it.

  • There is no “One size fits all”, in SHTF.
    Although it is possible for “SHTF” to be a slow moving process, it does not have to be.
    We have changed what SHTF means, so now it fits scenarios that seem slow moving.

    The original definition was, NO government, an every person for themselves scenario.
    Nowadays every little disruption to normal life, is deemed a SHTF scenario.

    If we go back to the original definition; the very state of not having an active government at any level (local, state or federal), changes things overnight.
    As soon as there is no Police, Fire or Medical response and never again will be, things will change drastically and quickly. The same would go for mo Federal agencies, Border patrol, Military, etc.

    Now how quickly we get to that point is another matter. It could be a slow boil economic collapse or a
    Real Pandemic. Or it could be an EMP war or CME, that occurs overnight. Even a Civil war scenario would probably have a slow part in leading up to it, but once it actually starts, thing will go sideways fast.
    So we must make a distinction as to what is the lead up and what actually is the Trigger point for a SHTF event.

    The “fall of the Roman empire”, by todays standards would be a series of SHTF events taking place over 500 years, not one event. So it really has no application here. One could say the US has suffered a series of SHTF events from it’s Founding, with numerous wars, economic collapses, etc., similar to the history of the early Roman empire.

    The Author makes some good points, based upon his experience. But there was a government still in place. It was not a truly an, “every person for themselves scenario”.
    We can learn from some of these experiences. However any SHTF scenario that you might face, is likely to be wildly different and may occur with little or no warning.

    • I dont know about everyone else, but I have never seen an original or official definition of what a SHTF is.
      It could be anything from socio-economic collapse, war, pandemic, super volcano eruption, significant in size asteroid strike, alien invasion of the not of this earth kind, and more.
      Then there are the personal kinds of SHTF, like getting news you have colon cancer. Due to the lockdowns, lost your job, went through all your preps and your savings, maxed out your credit cards and still have food insecurity.

      As of late, seems to me the government is the SHTF.

      CMEs, they take on average about 3 days to reach Earth. The Carrington Event of 1859 took about 18 hours, only due to a previous CME cleared the way. So, not over night, as if that is the only time one would occur. We have more than a few agencies monitoring space weather, universities, and observatories too. So do a number of other countries.

      • JarHead, absolutely right re.: personal SHTF and all. That´s how it is. Half the Haitians trying to reach U.S. traveling from Chile are dying right now (I´m interviewing someone with relatives doing just that), while others are pool partying in Las Vegas or a paradisiac beach somewhere.

        And this same dynamic applies to a CME, it would also not affect the entire world equally. This would cause all sorts of crisis steming from migration, wars, etc. But that´s another story.

        My point is, though planetary-scale SHTFs are a possiblity, we can´t live our lives preparing for them, because it´s impossible. This is what governments do in those far-away CO mountains and elseqhere, trying to preserve the survival of life on eath in case of major major apocalypse happens.

        There´s a much greater probability of an economic crash affecting directly our lifestyle with all kinds of disruptions and the consequences from it (social unrest in all forms) to prepare for. It´s not yet climaxing, not yet totally visible or understadable either, but we´re literally going through it right now. That I know and can tell, because that´s what I´ve been through.

    • Thanks for the points, Mic.

      But, once again I feel compelled to point out the SHTF you talk about has never happened. I´m repeating myself but there has been literally thousands of viruses, plagues, wars, genocides, volcanoes, CMEs, earthquakes, wildfires, crop failures, economic collapses, falling empires, you name it.

      And here we are, almost 8 billion (and growing), at the pinnacle of civilization. How does that fit in your SHTF view?

      There has always been a government somewhere. It hasn´t been everyone for himself everywhere, ever. So that SHTF is basicaly fiction, a fantasy. We can speculate and fantasise about the end of times all you want, but there´s a clear distinction and my focus is elsewhere. Sorry but I can´t prepare much less give advice on how to prepp for a big meteor or a nuclear war, because it hasn´t happened. But I do my best for all the other kinds of SHTF that happen all the time.

      I keep insisting that we must look into history and I know this gets repetitive, but really It´s not “based upon my experience”, it´s based in history and reality.

      How do you recognize the moment crap hits the fan? Was it when the Titanic hit the iceberg, or the next 2-1/2 hours it took for to sink, during which 1.500 panicked, got desperate, injured, and died?

      According to your definitions of SHTF, when was the “iceberg moment of our current SHTF? 1971? 1987? 9/11? 2008? March 2020? Or hasn´t it yet hit it?

      What was Rome´s SHTF? We may not have yet seen the worse of it but how come the same logic doesn´t apply to our situation? And isn´t exaclty that what I said in the article?

      The Stoics say “things are always worse in our minds than in reality” (Seneca), whatever the situation is. It´s true. Come to think of it, should have been #16 in the article (lol).

      • If we look to History, then the Dark Ages would be the previous version of SHTF. However no two of anything are totally alike.
        During that time, we have a loss of knowledge, or science. We have multiple wars, displacing people and unstable governments. We have Raiders (Vikings and others), raiding, and taking slaves, conquering and controlling large swaths of land. We have Starvation, Famine and Plagues. This is the poster child for SHTF.
        Lots worse than the mild version you survived. or of the fall of Rome itself.

        You cited Rome. Ok lets go there.
        Rome did not have nuclear weapons(war, nuclear fallout) or nuclear power plants( meltdowns, radiation), a power grid, World wide banking and credit operations or World wide Corporate operations( requiring the internet and other types of modern communication to control and run their businesses).
        Or Life saving medicines (that so many people rely on) that are made overseas and shipped in. Let alone the instant or as needed, supply chain economic model, that most stores and pharmacies rely upon.
        Just to name a few of the points of our modern society. Any disruptions of such operation will result in a world wide crash, not just a local one. It would also be a problem almost immediately.

        Never have such large numbers of the population lived in cities that are unsustainable, without goods flowing in from hundred or thousands of miles away. So once the infrastructure goes that supports the transportation or sale( banking and credit system) of such goods, there will be gigantic problems. Just the sewer, water and power infrastructures needed to keep those people healthy and alive is staggering. When that happens there will be a mass exodus and die off, the likes of which was never seen during the Roman times or since.

        Most of those people in the past could do the basic survival stuff, like making a fire, gathering wild edibles, etc. Today many people (unless it is in a grocery store) they would not know where to find wild edibles. I have known people who’s version of starting a camp fire is to soak the wood in gasoline first, then light it with a lighter (when no gas, or no lighter was available, they could not make a camp fire, (they could not get matches to work to start a fire)). We are dealing with people with very different skillsets.
        Rome had none of these problems. Comparing the two is like comparing Apples and Asparagus. one is a fruit and one is a Fern.

        So what Rome did have in common, was with the Assyria, Persia, Phoenicia, Egyptian or a thousand other empires that crumbled and fell.
        Some fell quickly, some did not. But back then the average person had basic living skills(many were farmers or herders), today they do not.
        Here is another difference: According to the U.S. Census Bureau. Women, a record-breaking 52% of them are unmarried or separated as of 2021.
        Most of them do not have primitive survival skills or even the skills their mothers and grandmothers had; like cooking from scratch, sewing clothing, etc.
        So again, you are comparing things that are not the same.

        It is not even the Fall of a civilization or empire or what lead up to it, that is the problem, it is the aftermath. Just like in the Dark Ages.
        When society is so disrupted by Wars, that the farmers can’t farm, homes and fields are burned to the ground(by wars), then the starvation sets in. Then with malnutrition and other problems, Plagues start to spread. Death and destruction are commonplace.
        That is the real SHTF and yes if history repeats itself, then SHTF will be like the very worst of the Dark Ages and probably even a lot worse.

        • Thank you Mic for bringing up every point you made! Today’s society cannot possibly be compared to any other! A whole other world. Add to the modern lifestyle of today, that an individual can SAY they’ll do this, that, and the other in a SHTF scenario, it’s a whole new ball game when it actually happens and they do quite the opposite!! This society doesn’t begin to know what mental toughness is!! Much less, survival mind set!

  • Mr. Omar, was not Brazil’s economic problems brought on by the election of a hard left President named Lula?

    Our economic security seemed solid under The Orange Man, but seems to have slipped under Joe Stalin Bi-dumb.

    O.K. trolls, your turn

    • President Lula said back in 2008 the crash and crisis would be just a “small ripple” in Brazil. Turned out it wasn´t, of course. And the 16 year leftist cleptocracy made it much worse, destroyed everything.

      Thing is, it takes time for the effect of policies (good or bad) to take place. A country´s economy is like a huge ship, inputs in the rudder aren´t felt immediately. And it takes much longer to fix these things and go back to the rails than to destroy them, unfortunatelly (that should have been #17 in the list lol).

  • The main takeaway is that no one is mentally prepared. You may think you are, you may know you are, but no one really is. I’ve lived in post-USSR economic collapse as a child, but that would be peanuts to the worst case scenario.

    I think the conclusion I can draw here is that we should keep in mind that we will be challenged, and we must keep a productive and rational attitude. Mindset, mindset, mindset. It’s very valuable to read articles like these to drive the point home. Thank you!

    • “… we will be challenged, and we must keep a productive and rational attitude.”

      My apologies for quoting you but that´s exactly my opinion. In a nutshell, that´s what prepping is all about.

      Thanks @Canadian.

      • Agreed-very nice, in a nutshell summary!

        Mindset can make or break a person. It can also be catching. Just look at what a mob mentality can do and it’s not good.
        I just read another good article on Daisey’s aggregate headline site about those who lived thru the Great Depression. So many truths there. Make the most of what one has and being willing and able to do with much less.
        Life goes on indeed and 1st Marine-some things just have to get done for sure 🙂 It is good to read some positive views for a change.

  • As you say, the dynamics are variable, and depend on what are the major things that fail. But there are a few things that history shows are to be expected. Whatever people are short of, there will be fierce competition to get it. The winners in the competition will do well, the losers not so well. Keeping what you already had will count as doing well. People who have essential skills, essential tools, and/or crop-producing land will do better than those that have none of those things. Repairing skills come in high demand because people aren’t able to afford, and in some cases even produce, new things, so they need old ones repaired.

    • Dolly, you’re right on all accounts. Thanks for the comment.

      And absolutely: there’s always a competition, we just don’t become too aware if resources are plentiful. Once scarcity sets in, it’s off to the races. The more scarce, the fierce it gets.

      It’s like that in nature, too. The same dynamic. The difference is, we’re humans so yes we’re conscious, we can forecast trends and imagine events, so we can prepare to some extent and improve our odds.

      That’s our gift (some will say it’s a curse and indeed it can be, but I propose we look at it more Stoically to live happier lol).

      Stay well.

  • Excellent observations and advice which dovetail into what we already believe and practice. Your example in #2 is just perfect. I have a favorite quote from a guy named Jeff Olson, former overseas contractor and now blacksmith extraordinaire:

    “The social fabric will only hold up for so long before it begins to break down. When it does break down, it will come apart at 200 miles per hour.”

    All the best to you and yours.

    • Thanks Jud, that’s correct and I agree because I’ve seen it happening firsthand. And masses have that dynamic, sometimes it’s like a stampede.

      There’s another example of #2 I like much which is a short exchange between two characters from a Hemingway’s novel (can’t recall their names or the book’s but this stuck):

      “How did you go bankrupt?”
      “Two ways: slowly, then abruptly”

      If we watch carefully, that’s the dynamic with most things man-made, even weddings lol. Nature on the other hand has a different way.

      Stay well.

  • I’m guessing there will never be an “official” definition of a personal SHTF, and especially in cases where governments are shamelessly guilty.

    The article below was reprinted just today about some over 200,000 deaths and up to 5,000,000 injuries from the Fauci ouchie (Covid-19 jab). Even if avoiding that jab means finding another kind or place of work, or another place to live, the jab risk that has already ruined so many peoples’ lives IS AVOIDABLE with a little medical research (highly suppressed) and perhaps some major personal disruption. Such cases would be classic and highly immediate examples of a personal SHTF.



  • Fabian *Applause* seriously this is your finest article so far!

    Thank you for writing it. Good information, good actionable ideas and so on.

    Others already covered what I would have commented on and this bunch of comments excellent in expanding on the article.

    I’ve tried to explain from history the staircase system failure SHTF vs the Waterfall SHTF and that Taxes and Government will always like fleas stick around so plan to be paying taxes.

    Again thanks. Tomorrow I shall start my fall planting of potatoes in leaf mulch. Some Maine small Farmers have found that the compost effect of the leaves gives the potatoes a nice head start in the spring by warming the soil and such. Thus avoiding the main Colorado potato Beatle issues.

    That and my permaculture friends taught me to mix my garlic and potatoes together, worked really well this last year.

    Food it’s THAT Important.

    • Michal, thanks for your kind words and I’m happy that you liked it, really. I try my best to share what I’ve learned in conjunction with what I’ve experienced to help others as I can.

      When this CV19 broke out in 2020 it became clear to me that the world would take a hit and the standard of living would drop, perhaps dramatically, everywhere. And though admittedly the conditions have improved a lot for the last 20-30 years even here in my country, this is what living in 3rd world is about.

      Good to know you’re well into your preppings, keep up it’s the best thing one can do to improve the conditions, because as we’re seeing, things are fragile and wacky.

      Once again thanks for reading and commenting, stay well.

  • “Selco himself will tell you that the most dangerous thing about the SHTF is other people”

    pastor says the same thing – the hardest part of the ministry is the congregation.

    • Ant7, everyone knows more or less instinctively because we’re humans – but when you see firsthand what people are capable of, it’s a water crossing moment, right?

      On the other hand, that’s a special moment because that’s also when we see firsthand how good people can be, too. It comes together.

      Stay well.

      • “when you see firsthand what people are capable of, it’s a water crossing moment, right?”

        august ’86, 4th deck, aft IC. hit me all at once – all the questions, all the wondering, all the bewiderment, resolved. almost passed out.

  • “happens in stages”

    yeah, but the stages can happen one after the other rapid-fire. in the u.s. everything is so thin and so jit that the “stages” may be indistinguishable.

    • Yep, if we take #1 and #2 together that’s the dynamic. But this is the last part of the curve, the final acceleration. Natural disasters can hit with full force at once, but in man-made disasters, significant events always start slow then ramp up, then endgame.

  • Yea, great. But, there was never a pandemic so…..fail. Only a media pandemic by the usual suspects and there cronies.

  • For context, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, killed between 1% and 5% of the world’s population.
    Covid has a mortality rate of
    about .25%, here are two studies.
    This study put the mortality rate at 1/500 Americans have died from Covid.
    The US population is:
    The current population of the United States of America is
    333,447,797 as
    of Wednesday, October 6, 2021, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nation’s…. which makes a current death toll
    666 895.594.

    These figures are a little different

    0.2% of Americans have died from COVID-19, data shows
    The percentage of Americans who have died due to COVID-19 is based on Census population data and coronavirus statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

    Author: Travis Pittman
    Published: 12:13 AM EDT September 16, 2021
    Updated: 12:13 AM EDT September 16, 2021
    A comparison of the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University and 2020 Census data shows approximately 1-in-500 Americans — about 0.2% of the U.S. population — have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. But there remain a couple of unknowns in tabulating the results.

    The Census Bureau said as of April 1, 2020, there were 331.4 million people in the U.S. As of Wednesday evening, JHU reported 666,579 deaths from COVID-19.



    To compare covid to the Spanish Flu, at one percent fatality rate in the current US population, this death toll would be 3,334,477.97. At five percent, that number would be 16,672,389.85.

    • Exactly M.K. Outré, that’s why #4. Population changes, the system gets more complex, countries are more integrated, and so on.

      Any SHTF happening today would have different consequences because of that. The dynamics are essentially the same, but certainly the results are different.

  • how is your mental attidude? do you have a healthy one? are you an optimistic or are you a pessimistic person? that is an important aspect in many aspect so human life, not just when the excrement hits the rotating oscillator.
    another big factor is people.do you have a large group of people to help you or a small family group. both have good and bad points to them. i believe Selco #15, said something about the people with you. people can and will turn on you in a second if they feel they are not getting what they deserve or want.

    fortunately i live in south florida, so unless there is a tsunami we have an abundance of food resources and not many people would want to live in the everglades.

    • I lived for a time. back around 1990, in the Miami area (mainly Homestead) and went through the huricane that swept that area it was always like living in a third world on the edge of an opulent society that was just out of reach. Even before the storm, nightly looting was common and you could hear small arms fire almost any night. Working on the roof of a local church, I dug out several expended .45 acp bullets. If you walked down the street, you could pick up loose change in the form of hundreds of fired shell cases littering the roadway. When I left there, I brought with me some 50,000 rounds of spent brass cases that I had picked up in my spare time, and sold for scrap when I got home. Yeah, It’s the people, for sure.

  • Good article.

    Yes probably decline slowly till it is fast. Then it will feel sudden but will have been happening for a while.
    But don’t forget the “roaring 20s” preceeded the great depression. The Great Depression flowed into WWII and rationing. The 1940s and the Dust Bowl years were more localized but stretch out the suffering in those areas affected. Those years of suffering and extreme poverty carried down into another generation or two. Homes and land were lost to Banks, taxes, and often just abandoned because they weren’t survivable places for a long time.

    If we combine the political climate with poverty and hardship then add in extreme summers or winters we could easily see a repeat of the same or worse. Folks are softer, further removed from living on the land, and when Uncle Sugar can’t feed or support them folks will be desperate.

    Then what? Marauding bands? Men walking the roads again with push carts? Hungry eyed women and children? Folks freezing to death or starving if they aren’t robbed violently?

    Yes we still seem like normal life goes on day to day. But what about the growing numbers on WIC, and SNAP? Look at the long lines at food pantries and churches. My nearest town Food Pantry was closed for last week. They ran out of food.

    The long lines dealing with Social Security are invisible. Business is all done on the phone. My neighbor was widowed a year ago. She still hasn’t collected the $255 death benefit and is fighting to get his retirement Social Security benefits. She’s 62.

    My husband died in September. I called to get things rolling on getting my husband’s social security survivors benefits and the $255 death benefit. I did a preliminary interview. The next two weeks are booked solid so they said they will call me to set an interview appointment by phone. So I have no way to meet current income needs or winter heat needs. I use 2 tons of pellets per winter.
    Not whining. It’s just how it is. That means my supplemental insurance will laps along with car insurance ect. I’m working on some ideas but I’ve been so tied down caretaking and dealing with hospice I wasn’t ready.

    I’m blessed. I have a roof over my head and food to last a while. My concern is winter heat. We will be having 20° nights next week. I have enough pellets from last winter to last a little while. Blessed with that. My neighbor was out of wood. Friends found a pick up of scrappy wood and her son will use my old ax to chop and split it for her. I have her living in a dumpy old mobile home free of rent on my property. Shes raising 3 little grandchildren. I’m alone in an 800 sq ft one bedroom one bath mobile home. I’ve survived it before here. But at 74 its harder.

    When the electric is cut off if we can’t pay I’ll have to resort to hooking up the manual winch in the well. It will be work but we will have water. I have critters_rabbits, chickens, and ducks to also water and feed.

    I cooked and heated water on my BBQ with a daily armful of sticks I gathered 19 years ago for two winters. I had no heat. No running water. No vehicle. I wore layers of clothing, walked 4 miles a day gathering sticks. At 55 I survived and thrived. Praying to do as well this time. At least at least I know I survived it all before. I finally got a little car fixed up and found a job. If SHTF as badly as some predict it may be for a long time.

    I believe everyone will see things differently this winter. I was just hoping to have the taxes up to date and heat for the winter.

    Having gone through hard times before makes it less scarry this time.

  • Whatever “It” is will be different for everyone in one way or another. Being in the cities will just plain suck all around.

    Having several plans along with the gear and supplies means no need to panic. A plan to bug in. A plan for people to gather here. A plan for a full vehicle based bug out. A plan to bug out on bicycle or foot. A plan to start moving supplies to the bug out location once X, Y or Z happens.

    Even though I’m decently prepared and have a good location to go to, that doesn’t mean that I wont end up on foot with what little I can take with me. So I plan for that as well.

    One backpack with what I need to survive long term, aside from large stores of food is the base of everything else for portability.

    There are actually several packs. Some have specific gear in them for specific situations or times of the year. With temps that range from -40 in the winter to 100 in the summer there is a need for all extremes to be met.

    The next level is a hard cart so I can haul more things with me, and maybe have room for someone to sit. That’s a 4 wheel cart with about a 1000 pound capacity.

    There’s a bicycle with front and rear panier bags and a trailer. It wont hold as much as the hand cart but it will allow for quicker travel. The hand cart could be pulled by the bike. There are several bikes and multiple bike trailers I’ve been able to find over the years.

    There’s a BOV if there is fuel available. There’s also an enclosed bug out trailer and a couple of other trailers.

    Long term storage food and things I’d want to take with me when I bugged out are kept in uniform totes for the most part. Some aren’t but they could quickly be loaded into waiting totes.

    Organization means that grabbing the most important things in little time is planned for. With more time comes the ability to load up more.

    On top of it all is a positive outlook that I will find a way to survive. That and knowing I’ve done as much as I can give me a sense of optimism, but realism, and a sense of calm. I don’t have to panic, just start getting prepared to bug out if needed. Trailers go in garage stalls and loading begins. The enclosed trailer is moved right beside the house and hooked to the plow truck – V plows provide good front protection.

  • I would be interested to know what would be the consequences of some events :

    1. The US and/or the EU default on their debt ( more and more rumors of it recently. Ie Amstrong economics.. What happens to the $, Euro and to their respective stock markets? What happens to the gold and the commodity complex?

    2. Everyone has heard about Evergrande and the Chinese property sector. What will be the chain of events if President Xi continues to be serious about his strategy?

    Tks & Regards.

    • Philip, those are good and very pertinent questions.

      It’s hard to say exactly what would happen if the holder of world currency (USD) defaults. Though US has defaulted on its debt before, more than once in fact, this time the context is different mostly because of the level of debt and also because the entire world is drowning in debt.

      I can say what happens every time a country defaults on its debt: all the collaterals (real estate, bonds, etc.) get devalued, which is the bubble deflating basically, then ratings are downgraded (last time US got downgraded after 2008 the govt. applied I guess $15 billion fines to rating agencies as vengeance, then there’s a big crisis and everything goes crazy.

      Then it takes years, sometimes decades, to recover. Russia defaulted in 1998 and took 12 yrs to return to intl. market. It was the same with Brazil, Argentina, and many others. Greece defaulted recently and is still suffering from it, because after a default the govt. has little money to run (no one lends money)

      These are some of the consequences but there are more, lots more. It’s hard to predict because the whole system is so interconnected and everyone is so deep into debt that trying to forecast the largesse of the mess and the cascading effects is impossible. All I can say, based on what I’ve lived when this happened here, is: it’s a real SHTF, with lots of pain, suffering, and huge sacrifices to recover.

      Sorry for sounding so gloomy, I hope there’s another way out of this but either way, let’s prepare and march on. Stay well.

      • Tks for your answer.

        You wrote ” let’s prepare”..
        Ok, how to prepare in case of default on the us and European debt?


        • Thanks Philip.

          This article https://www.theorganicprepper.com/cash-will-be-king-shtf/ has some tips. Stay liquid, have some paper money in case of account freezings and bank closures/crashes.

          Have something outside the system if you will (PMs and crypto) just in case, and all the usual preppings (food, energy, water, etc.) in place. If nothing happens you’re still OK because nothing goes to waste.

          When this happened before, we (developing countries) could always run to the USD or other stronger and stable currencies like EUR, CHF or other. This is what’s happening in Lebanon, Myanmar, Argentina right now.

          If the US and EU defaults, this dynamic might be differ some, but it will certainly crash the entire world and heavily shake the economic, financial and monetary systems. This may bring down all currencies but of course some will fare better (or less worse) than others, and IMHO the USD, EUR, the Japanese Yen, etc. are likely to hold some strength and even rally for a short period after because as I said people run for those when things are crashing around them.

          After some time these might crash because all these countries (yes even Switzerland) are too deep into debt, and this will be defining. Look for countries with lower debt-to-GDP ratio and total nominal debt as those should come out better from the crash after a while.

          Whatever happens, there will be a period of turmoil (that’s why cash and survival provisions), until things settle and the system reboots. And the standard of living will drop dramatically everywhere.

          Those are my personal strategies to weather an economic storm, but there are others. When everything is uncertain, I believe it’s best to DIVERSIFY.

          Hope this helps.

        • Severe inflation is the most likely default of USD. We think of it as “prices are RISING,” but really value of dollar in any form is collapsing. Have food, tp, clothes, supplies, full gas tank, etc.–and gold and silver. The best form is “junk silver” because people understand it faster.

  • I would be interested to know what would be the consequences of some events :

    1. The US and/or the EU default on their debt ( more and more rumors of it recently. Ie Amstrong economics.. What happens to the $, Euro and to their respective stock markets? What happens to the gold and the commodity complex?

    2. Everyone has heard about Evergrande and the Chinese property sector. What will be the chain of events if President Xi continues to be serious about his strategy?

    Tks & Regards.

    • Thanks Fina, also for always being supportive. I’m a big ZH reader and fan, but will be glad if it helps T.O.P., this is really a special community.

  • Seems to me many don’t see where we are right now.
    Everyone comments about prices going up. Things being difficult to find, scarcity, long waits for orders, etc
    In the collapse of ever other country I read about that’s where it starts.
    The weakening of the links in our chain of life are happening as we speak. Look at the prices of used cars!?! New can’t be purchased. Everyone thinking it’s a temporary situation. What if it’s not?
    Everyone I’ve read in a collapse situation said it just kept getting worse. Isn’t that what’s happening here?
    Prices just kept going up. Isn’t that what’s happening here?
    We looked for used stuff because new just wasn’t available. Isn’t that what’s happening here?
    The collapse is happening around us. Many say they can’t wait for it to be over. I fear and tell them I think it’s just starting.

  • “Other people are the greatest danger in the whole situation.”
    You got that right. And maybe not only the people you thought were dangerous.
    This crazy idea that we can just let an entire generation of kids come up through the education system without soaking their minds, being and intellect in the Word of God and then expect that they won’t cheat us into a depression and then kill everybody that gets in their way, is about to bite this nation big time.

  • We are in a war. Covid and the injections are all pre-planned bioweaponry and our own gubmint has fallen to the enemy and using psychological warfare on us. We are in a SHTF scenario and even people who are wide awake and not getting the bioweapon needle won’t necessarily survive it. Good luck all.

  • Good points.Would add medical supplies,pet supplies,tradeables,and SITUATIONSL AWARENESS.homemade covert weapons.Have stash spots and multitasker items,be creative.How did indigenous people survive??Lowtechmagazine is very useful.Pemican.Watch videos now on how to spot deception,reading body language,foraging,medicinal plants such as trees!!

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