The Realities of the S Part of SHTF

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By GrizzlyetteAdams

In the preparedness community, the acronym SHTF means, to put it politely, when the Stuff Hits The Fan. It is generally understood to mean chaotic times or extreme hardship caused by severe disasters or apocalyptic events.

For the past couple of decades, high profile mega-disasters have been hot topics for discussion in many internet forums and other social media. Movies and books about a post-apocalyptic world have presented many possibilities that are uncomfortably close to the truth of what it would be like to deal with intense hard times because of things such as pandemics, protracted war, or widespread economic failure.

Most people are not prepared for SHTF scenarios.

Time and time again, historical events have revealed how fragile the fabric of human society is and how easy it is to tear it apart. Today, we are facing a fresh kind of hell that the world has never seen before. The gears of our highly computerized and industrialized society are so tightly linked that a series of bumps in the beltway can destroy our way of life. Unchecked interruptions in the normal flow of things could quickly evolve into the dreaded scenario that is often referred to as TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It).

Most of us know people who are not well prepared for ordinary disasters, much less extraordinary and widespread catastrophic events capable of producing a severe SHTF situation.

Although 60 percent of Americans believe that preparing for disasters is very important to them, only 17 percent claim to be prepared for an emergency. The Department of Homeland Security revealed this disturbing statistic in a survey that was reported on the disaster preparedness website,

SHTF will bring out the worst in people, and some will be especially dangerous.

Some of us are more or less prepared to deal with the 17 percenters, but unfortunately, there are other kinds of people who are far more dangerous. Prepare to meet them when the SHTF:

Gangs: These experienced predators are highly skilled in getting what they want and will be even more dangerous if they are driven to survive on a basic level for food, water, and medical care. History shows that chaotic times often generate widespread syndicated-style crime. When the SHTF, expect newly formed gangs that will be just as motivated as preexisting gangs.

Preppers, survivalists, existing militia, and snipers: These groups may be formidable adversaries when their supplies run low. They may be more dangerous than criminal gangs because they have a broader skillset than most gang members.

Common thieves: Those who have made their living by stealing from others have honed their techniques to be as efficient as possible. Experienced thieves are experts in searching out and plundering their targets without being detected. If these individuals are motivated by stealing to survive, they will be a force to reckon with. Prepare to stay ahead of them in the game.

Walmartians: Many who are heavily dependent on Walmart and other big box stores may have difficulty surviving without running to a store every few days. When their pantries are bare, expect them to be wild-eyed and desperate. We are all familiar with this group; they are in almost every family and community.

Parents: Unprepared parents will probably be among the most desperately motivated people you may ever encounter. Normal parental instincts kick in when their children’s safety and well-being are threatened. Sometimes this can involve extraordinary strength and drive. There have been news reports of superhuman feats by desperate parents, including mothers who lifted extremely heavy objects such as automobiles to free their trapped children. Imagine how dedicated some parents will be to ensure the survival of their children in the face of disasters…

Seemingly helpless people: One of the oldest criminal tricks in the book is to use women, children, and the elderly as “bait” to lure unsuspecting soft-hearted victims. Seemingly helpless people have been successfully used as decoys and accomplices to gain access to a targeted home or group.

What will you do if you meet some of these people when the SHTF?

Here are a few tips to use a springboard for generating your own ideas and creative solutions that may work in your situation:

Countermeasures against Walmartians, gangs, preppers, survivalists, militia, and thieves: You may be less of a target if it looks like you have already been robbed or don’t have anything they want. If you must be in the public eye when food is scarce, it might be a good thing if you looked just as malnourished as everyone else. Creative prep items: oversized clothing and perhaps realistic theatrical cosmetics. A very light touch of soot or dirt under the eyes and under the cheekbones can help give the appearance of being ill or deprived.

Even if you look as deprived as everyone else, keep in mind that human trafficking will ramp up to unprecedented levels during lawless times, so you should also take measures to be less of a target as possible. I

Countermeasures against snipers: The occurrence of sniper warfare has led to the evolution of counter-sniper tactics. You can learn about them here.

Countermeasures against desperate parents and seemingly helpless ones:  A friend of mine, TMT Tactical, shared some helpful thoughts on this tricky situation:

You have to ask yourself some simple questions:

(1) How did this “helpless person” survive long enough to find their way to your doorstep or property? That is your first red flag. The truly helpless do not usually survive for any length of time during the survival phase in a SHTF event. Certainly not long enough to walk to your doorstep (especially in a rural area).

(2) What condition is this person in? That is your second red flag. Are they injured and decrepit from a difficult journey or simply dirty and underfed? A loner is not likely to be in very good shape and may have cuts, bruises, and serious injuries. The “bait” may be underfed and dirty but not seriously injured enough to slow down their captors.

(3) What supplies or equipment is this person carrying? That is your third red flag. A lack of supplies or equipment could be an indicator they are being taken care of by some other force (group) or they may have stashed their stuff before showing up at your doorstep.

I realize that I must harden my home…and my heart. I cannot jeopardize the safety of my household. In a widespread austere situation, there will never be “just one” helpless person. Even if a stranger was truly in need, I know that I could not take care of all the helpless ones that may cross my path without compromising my responsibility to my family.

Another consideration: strangers can bring calamity to your household through diseases or dangerous mental illnesses that may not be obvious at first glance. The combination of no available medicines and no doctors can be a recipe for disaster for your family. By the time you realize something is horribly wrong, it may be too late. Is this the gamble you are willing to risk?

Because of these principles, I have resolved to never open my door to a stranger and endanger my household during extremely hazardous times. But if possible, I would like to find a way to sneak ahead of those who seem to be truly helpless and leave a “care package” along the roadway in such a way that it appears to have been accidentally lost and not deliberately planted.

What do you think?

Can you think of creative ways to reduce confrontations with members of lawless groups during a prolonged and widespread SHTF event?

Of course, I have heard more than a few people say they would respond to any of these threats with bullets. Self-defense is certainly in order but realistically, even the most well-armed can be outnumbered or may eventually run out of ammo during a lengthy event. What then? Now is a good time to brainstorm, explore ideas, and plan ahead.

About GrizzlyetteAdams

My brother called me Grizzly Adams like it was a bad thing. I took it as a compliment and fashioned my cyber name after Mr. Adams who dropped out of society in 1852 and made the wilderness his home. I pretty much did the same thing over twenty years ago and discovered what Mark Twain said is true, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

I watched a few popular prepper’s myths bite the dust and also learned not to depend entirely upon stored supplies; instead, I celebrate them with a view to how temporary they are. Skills and knowledge are far more enduring and are among the best back up plans we can ever have.

Most of all, I also discovered that the so-called Hard Times can be the best of times.

I love to share with my readers the things I have learned in the way of being a prepared and experienced survivalist, bush crafter, herbalist, hunter/gatherer, primitive organic gardener (no store-bought stuff!), plus a bunch of other things related and unrelated. I am also an unapologetic thriftyista; I know that being frugal can buy us the freedom to enjoy the things we love most.

There are several books inside of me that are threatening to spring out soon (watch for announcements on my Twitter page:

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  • Other people will always be the greatest threat, whether they are armed and dangerous, or simply ill and stupid.
    I used to think that the best way to survive was to hide out in the boonies alone and live off the land, but I’ve come to realize that a lone wolf is a soft target for the simple reason that you have to sleep sometime. No matter how many guns and other preps you have, if you are alone you will be outnumbered.
    OT just a bit, but one aspect of survival that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the psychological aspect. If you are alone, your family and friends dead, dealing with the inevitable destruction, chaos and atrocities you have witnessed, the stress, fear and depression will kill you just as surely as any water-borne pathogen or bullet.
    If you are part of a group, hopefully you won’t all go to pieces at the same time, and you can offer support and encouragement for those who do.

  • I think more than 17% are prepared. I think many “preppers” don’t reply that they are prepared because of “showing their hand”. Just my humble opinion.

  • Most people aren’t preppers (as much as I hate that word) – they are hobbyists collecting Tactical guns and gear, fake playing war. I know guys that build guns and barely have enough ammo to zero in the weapon they just spent $3 grand building. subsequently, they are out of shape both physically and mentally living in a form of escapism Preparing for a zombie invasion vs. an shortage of food, because killing zombies is more fun than learning how to farm corps or fix a car in extreme circumstances.

    Most people don’t understand sustainability, engineering, agriculture or have a real life trade to bring to the table to ensure their group creates a survivable platform. Every “crew” is overloaded with random vets, EMTs, cops or tactical enthusiasts.

    If you want to build a solid crew, start to understand the structure of an ODA, B team and it’s partners withIn an SFG and it’s attachments. Weapons, sniper, comms, medical, engineering and support (logistics, psychological operations, tradesmen, etc.) everyone has a role and not everyone needs to be a door kicker.

    A lot of the folks roaming around will be looking to stretch their feet in the sense of combat because that’s what they envision a SHTF scenario to look like.

    Who will survive: farmers and folks with land who are familiar with getting dirty to provide a meal or fix what they depend on for living. These folks and their .306 rifles will last longer than the ex-army vet who spent 3 years as mail clerk and his buddies who work security at the mall or the guy who is a self proclaimed EMT for passing a CLS class 8 years ago.

    Humans are animals. Don’t count out the mom or dad who will die for their cause to get their children fed – these folks can go far with an old wheel barrel gun they took from their grandparents and the burning desire to keep their kids alive then some 25 year old dipshit that shoots an AR on a static range for fun lol.

    Always happy to continue the conversation. I’m not anti vet or first responder either, I spent 8 years as an active duty marine and army soldier and a year supporting a defense contractor in a logistics capacity. I’m NOT anyone special but I understand the reality of these scenarios and I myself don’t even consider myself prepared for the worst., sadly. I’d give myself and my family maybe 30-45 days at max ans that’s factoring in some white space…

    • Well said, JR.
      I have gone out of my way to learn skill sets outside of the Rambowannabe.
      And if I dont know them, I try to augment with people who do know those skill sets.

  • It would be an error to assume criminal gangs to be less skillfull than the second group listed above, since wayback they have been sending members into the military to acquire skills to teach other members.

    Back in the nineties a drug cartel hired advisors to help them form the best and well equipped money could buy convoy to transport their product. The kicker was that on their first run they were ambushed by a more sophisticated equipped competitor.

    Since then as our overseas military has found out even the most “high-tech” equipped army can be had by a “low-tech” 4th ( now going on 5th) Generation group flying a single drone from a small boat.

    What doesn’t change is the concept that “those who adapt faster in war, win.”.

    Heterarchy vs. Hierarchy
    The older New York Mafia was a top-down structure with street crews of about eleven members who could be identified.
    The Mafiya that followed had free-agents, say three, that could come together for a job and then disband. Much more fluid and adaptable.

    If someone is knocking on your front door then it’s too late since they’re past your mailbox and there are two more coming through your back window.
    (If not, you have been cased-out and will be visited later that night. Not a hard and fast rule: Professional burglars go for the easlier unoccupied and unprotected houses. It’s the crazies who break into occupied homes at night.)

    • Recommended reading
      William S. Lind’s article “The View from Olympus: The Houthis Teach a 4GW Lesson” on ‘’.

  • Well . . . this is a sticky-wicket problem to be sure. God-forbid that all my preps fall out and I have nothing and no one. If that happens, then I will hope someone will be kind enough to help me. Hopefully, I will still have enough of my mind left to use it with the least amount of compromise to my conscience — even if I have to labor for my supper. No doubt slavery will be back in style in SHTF.

    • Dear Madame

      Would it be forward of me to infer a remote insinuation that on the road to h-e-double hocky-sticks there shalt be an easter basket waiting on the roadside for each traveler to that domain, at least a bowl of poo layered with I.E.D.s like rabbit nuggts in the early morning dew of some commoner’s dung pile, if so then I will adamantly refuse to tranverse this path.
      Say it isn’t so.

      We screwed.

      Sorry, I got bored waiting for a Selco article to show up.

      • John03,
        Who has the munitions laying around for an IED?
        Iraq, Afghanistan, sure.
        Out in the midlands of the USA? I think a tank trap, or road block is more likely.
        Off the top of my head, I can think of 2 back-hoes, half a dozen tractors with front loaders, and two earth movers.

      • Well, Dear John 03. that went completely over my head — as in I think you missed my point. It’s easy to imagine ourselves in a superior position because we’ve done our level best to prepare. My point is that life is full of contingencies where we are put into a doubting position perhaps through no fault of our own — what we could not foresee with a preppers circumspection. I mean the S really hitting the fan on an individual level — what to do with your life when nothing went as planned. Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

        My hope is that we can keep kindness alive as a virtue because we would be grateful for some ourselves, if we end up in a needier place than we ever anticipated. To keep the best of human virtues so that they serve as foundations for when we survive long enough to rebuild a proper civilization. We need to be open to how we serve as Old Iron has alluded. I’m old too. I’ve made my peace with dying. That’s the privilege of the older set.

        I’ve seen two ways people get old. You either get better understanding of how the world really works or your misery get worse because you can’t see past the end of your nose.

  • there’s a whole set of wildcards not even mentioned – if the S in the SHTF is severe enough – the command structure of any military, national guard and law enforcement units could be broken and units left to fend & survive on their own >>> wildcards

  • In an archival t.v. episode of “The Bowery Boys” Huntz Hall is asked by an Army recruiter if he was confronted by a submarine what would he do?

    HH: “I shoot it with a torpedo.”
    Recruiter: “Where did you get the torpedo!?”.
    HH: “The same place you got the submarine.”.

    So, Gzette, rhetorically or just for fun, if someone did knock on your front door, why didn’t the sniper (from the above article’s “Counter Sniper” section) on, or in your roof take them out at the mailbox (the territorial perimeter marker to your property) ?
    Why wait till it may be too late?
    How or why did they get past your neighbor’s land?

    Of course this is all imaginary and is about par to the “Dungeons & Dragons” comments posted on some threads, still as a soft mental exercise for wannabe (insert name here) it may have some merit.
    (I realize we can’t all be Rambos. I was gonna say another name but it would have sounded a little bit sacrilegious.
    Just kidding.)


    • Years ago wasn’t there a SHTF card game where each card, or combination of cards, presented you with a different scenario and then you had to imagine how you would react to that situation?

      Not a bad idea for a game to start you thinking.

  • At 21 I lived alone in the woods, without supplies, for ten months. Today at 72 I know I don’t have the strength or stamina to do that alone again. It took thinking, planning, trial and error, all day, every day, just to survive.
    I hope if SHTF during this lifetime I can bug in rather than bug out.
    I live simple. I plan a garden for every year. I buy extra gardening supplies at estate and moving sales. I can, dry, grow or forrage a good portion of my food each year. I keep chickens, ducks, and rabbits for protein and feathers and fur.
    I bought large water containers. Now I’m saving for gutters. I’m also slowly refurbishing a treadle sewing machine. Mostly cleaning and oiling the machine but repairing the drawers also. I’m refinishing old furniture here rather than buying new. I have rocking chairs I’ve used on a porch for the last 25 years. This year they are getting fresh glue in the joints and exterior paint instead or restraining. The wood is fine … Just getting loose.
    The home is off grid solar. Plenty of panels producing abundant power so saving up to add another 100 ah of battery storage. That will give me power for a woodshop and lights and and couple of 110v plugins in two sheds. I also have three generators. One used 1400w was a gift. I purchased a used 9k battery started generator at a moving sale. I have an older welder generator that I recently rebuilt and wonder of wonders great grandma got it working again. That gives me three welders also. The welder generator, a wire fed one and an oxy/acetylene set. I also have a gifted plastics welder.
    Somehow if you keep doing you end up with a lot from a very tiny income.

  • Thank you all for your input, I especially appreciate the time you took to share your views and many valid points.

    Miss Kitty,

    We think much alike on all the things you brought out, and I also agree that the psychological aspect of survival needs a closer look. I have been researching this topic for some time and am currently talking with several war and disaster veterans to explore a few points that I will be covering in a future article.


    You are right; survey statistics are never 100% accurate. But a good survey taken from a broad spectrum of the population will usually uncover a general look at the big picture: the vast majority of people are woefully unprepared. Oy!


    You hit the nail on a lot of things. Thank you for bringing them out.

    The “hobbyists collecting tactical guns and gear, fake playing war” make me cringe partly because they have given the rest of us a bad name. And partly because during a SHTF situation, there will be some who will be itching to bring to life their fantasies of what they have long dreamed what post-disaster life will be like… I suspect that some of them may even be a lot like monkeys with loaded guns.


    Thank you for the reading recommendation.

    You are so right, some organized gangs have been sending key members into the military to gain skills and to share them with other members. This has been in the news for some time how some better-organized gangs are even holding drills and practice sessions so that other members can commit what they learned into muscle memory.

    They are more than just hoodlums with guns; they are efficient killing machines. And what they lack in survival skills, they will take by force from others. But, severe and prolonged SHTF events may have an equalizing effect, especially when ammo becomes scarce. Serious survivalists and others who are proficient in alternative defense methods will probably rise above those who are depending on guns and ammo to get what they want.

    I would like to add 100% to what you said: “It’s the crazies who break into occupied homes at night.” and “If someone is knocking on your front door then it’s too late since they’re past your mailbox and there are two more coming through your back window.” Home invasions will be the norm when the SHTF. We can expect crazy new normals, and we would do well to prepare for them.

    About the Easter basket analogy you brought up in your answer to Debbers: Speaking for myself only, this idea is not in my everyday plans mostly because I live in a remote wilderness area. It is not likely that a helpless person would show up in my area unless they are a resident of my sparse community who knows me and where I live.

    Either way, the “if possible” and “I would like to find a way…” mindset to help someone truly in need does not mean that I would throw caution to the wind to traverse my heavily wooded area to leave a care package for everyone.

    I presented what I may be inclined to do in my own unique situation on a case by case basis, but everyone’s mileage varies, and all that.

    You mentioned a SHTF card game that brought out different scenarios and how players would react to that situation. And also how it was not a bad idea for a game to start your thinking…

    Bingo! That was exactly one of the objects of my article: to get some folks to thinking and as a springboard for brainstorming ideas to be better prepared for some of the S part of SHTF.


    You may face a mixed bag If all your preps “fall out and you have nothing and no one, and hope that someone will be kind enough to help you…” Hopefully, you will, but you would also be highly vulnerable to the groups of people I brought out in the article. We should all prepare for that possibility as well. First-person accounts often reveal that slavery and human trafficking are generally pure hell for the victims. I hope that you do all that you can to not be caught in that nightmare.

    Illini Warrior,

    Yes, there are many more wildcards that were not covered in this article. It would take a series of articles or a short book to cover them all. I think that the National Guard and law enforcement folks could also fall into a few of the same categories as militia or gangs. I am willing to bet that during a prolonged event, those who are mostly dependent on guns would not be as formidable as they once were if their ammo runs out…


    I suspect that we are kindred spirits in many, many ways. I especially embraced how we can do a lot from a tiny income. Keep on keeping on, sister-mine!

  • The reality is, Hollywood SHTF doesn’t happen much in North America. Real SHTF is widespread homelessness and poverty, migrants, and climate change happen slo-mo and collapse individual lives one-by-one.

    Prepping in the survivalist sense will make a utility outage or localized natural disaster more bearable. However, those encountering poverty and dispossession are living on the streets, not in the hills.

    Keeping your real community safe and government reps accountable, and learning sound financial management, are underrated critical survival skills.

    Clinging to the hope big government abuse will disappear in some economic collapse, is dangerous. Like voting, if prepping made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.

    Survivalist prepping is that extreme personal injury insurance policy you really, really shouldn’t want to have to cash in.

  • I believe what many people miss is that…

    Every “entity” we speak of are made of people.
    Very few people want to die.
    Hunger and lack of perceived hope will cause erratic behavior.
    Most people are resilient towards misery.
    Very few people are self-aware of their real capabilities (delusional).
    Most people are awful.
    Most people have an incredible ability to adapt but only when sufficiently motivated.
    Few people will endure real hardship without guaranteed reciprocity or compensation.
    Most humans are awful at calculating risk and even more are incapable of implementing risk mitigation.
    Most people start taking unlikely chances as their preferred policy of inaction appears to have a low rate of return.

    If you think of these things you can understand and anticipate how they will behave. The difficult part can be acquiring sufficient data to come to a noteworthy solution.

  • I think the S in HTF is going to be a lot like combat: Long periods of boredom, with brief periods of intense chaos, terror, and horrific violence.
    Likely more so in the urban areas then the rural areas as people will have to go out to find resources to maintain survival.
    Some of Selco’s readings convey that. Somewhat secure in the area he had with family and friends he could count on. But the dread of having to go out and trade or barter for food or water.
    Kinda like going out on patrol, as you leave the security of base.

  • Being prepared is never enough the best layed plans of mice and men comes to mind.I can be alone but I like having others around so in the begining I will try to hide out then come out.I will be the old man that lives just off the edge of the new village the one peaple come to for help what ever that my be and this way I can hear the peaple but not be in the middle of the noise.This maens I get to be the first for the invaders to take out or the first to sound the alarm or the first to start the battle or the first to leave for the woods. I don’t want to run away but as I get older I become the old man in the chair shooting at the atackers with by that time probely blackpowder arms so that the village my escape.The bottom line is that we plane for it but what it is will drive home to each of us it will be the strong that survive in body and or mind.It may take years before each group forms villagages with other groups places along rivers will be first gas and oil will give way to animals and waterways but enough rambaling.

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