SHTF Planning: How to Prepare for Every Disaster

SHTF Planning

The world is a crazy place and it’s only getting crazier. Every day, it seems like there’s a new disaster to worry about. Whether it’s a hurricane, a tornado, a wildfire, or a pandemic, it’s highly important to be prepared for anything. That’s why your number one priority right now should be SHTF planning.

A SHTF plan is a plan for how to survive when the SHTF, which stands for “shit hits the fan”. It’s a plan for what to do when everything goes wrong, and you’re left to fend for yourself.

There are a lot of different ways to plan for an SHTF scenario. Some people stockpile supplies, others learn self-sufficiency skills, and still others just hope for the best. No matter what your approach is, having a plan will keep you alive.

If you don’t have a plan, now is the time to make one. If you wait until a disaster strikes, it will be too late. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started on your SHTF planning today.

A part of this article is summarized in the following video:

1. Prepare for Any Type of Disaster

There are a lot of different disasters that you could potentially face, so it’s important to plan for as many as possible. Here are some of the most common types of disasters to plan for:

  1. Natural disasters: This could include anything from hurricanes and tornadoes, to earthquakes and wildfires. Weather-related disasters are on the rise in the last 50 years, according to World Meteorological Organization.
  2. Terrorist attacks: While hopefully rare, a terrorist attack can be a major shock to any community.
  3. Civil unrest: When society undergoes extreme changes, and your city faces riots and looting, thorough preparation is a must. According to UNESCO, social transformations are taking place all the time, which sometimes creates disorder and dangerous instability.
  4. Criminal activity: If you’re the victim of a crime wave, it can have a major impact on your physical and emotional well-being.
  5. War: In war, millions of people can find themselves torn from their homes.

Your SHTF plan will depend a lot on the type of disaster you are facing. For instance, natural disasters can often end within a day. Other disasters, such as war, do not have a clear length, which might force you to leave your region for a long period of time, maybe even forever. Assessing the severity of the disaster is a key to your planning, and it will be discussed next.

2. Make an Assessment of the Potential Disaster

A significant step in preparing for any disaster is to assess the situation. This means taking a look at the potential risks and hazards that could affect you and your family. For example, if you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes, you will want to make sure you have a plan in place for when a hurricane strikes.

There are five key things to keep in mind when assessing the situation:

What Could Happen?

Think about the various risks and hazards that could affect your area. This could include natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, man-made disasters like a fire or chemical spill, or even something as simple as a power outage.

What Are the Chances of It Happening?

Not all risks are created equal. Some risks are more likely to occur than others. For example, if you live in California, the chances of an earthquake happening are much higher than if you live in Kansas.

What Are the Consequences?

Even if the chances of a disaster happening are low, the consequences can be severe. For example, a small fire in your home could easily turn into an inferno, causing extensive damage to your property and putting your family at risk.

What Can You Do to Reduce the Chances of It Happening?

There are often steps you can take to reduce the chances of a disaster occurring. For example, if you live in an area that is prone to floods, you can buy flood insurance or build a flood wall.

What Can You Do to Reduce the Consequences?

Even if you can’t prevent a disaster from happening, you can often reduce the consequences. For example, if you have a fire in your home, having working smoke detectors can help give you and your family time to escape.

3. Create a Communications Plan

Creating a communications plan is one of the most important things you can do to be prepared for any emergency. Here are the fundamental guidelines:

Designate a Point of Contact

In any emergency situation, having a designated point of contact (POC) is crucial. This person will be responsible for coordinating communication between all members of your group.

Decide on a Communication Method

There are many different communication methods available, so it’s important to decide which one will work best for your group. Some options include email, text messaging, instant messaging, social media, or good old-fashioned phone calls. Additionally, there are quite a few ways to contact each other when the grid is down, and I list them all in my article on off grid communication.

Develop a Schedule

It’s important to have a schedule for communication in order to keep everyone on the same page. This schedule should include when and how often you will communicate. Everyone should have a copy of this schedule on them, at all times.

Test Your Plan

Once you have a communication plan in place, it’s important to test it to make sure it works. This can be done by simulating an emergency situation and seeing how well your plan holds up. Learn from your mistakes and make adjustments, until everything works smoothly.

4. Have a Bug Out Bag Within Your Reach

A “bug out bag” is a portable kit that contains everything you need to survive in case of an emergency or disaster.

There are many different opinions on what should go in a bug out bag, but there are some essential items that everyone should include:

  • Water: You should have at least one gallon of water per person, per day.
  • Food: Non-perishable food items that will last for at least three days.
  • First aid kit: Get a first aid kit that covers common injuries and maladies. Consult my article on how to select the best first aid kit.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries: Go for lithium batteries, these last longer in any weather. There are impressively strong and affordable flashlights that can serve you well in an emergency, see the list in my article on camping flashlights.
  • Radio: A battery-operated or hand-cranked radio is a necessity, as you will need to be able to stay informed in case of an emergency. American Red Cross Emergency Radio is an excellent choice, as it can also charge you phone and function as a beacon and a flashlight.
  • Clothing and bedding: Extra clothes and blankets will be necessary in case of bad weather or if you have to evacuate your home.
  • Tools: A basic tool kit should include a knife, a multitool (see the linked article for suggestions), a book of matches, and a whistle.
  • Firearm and ammunition: If you are comfortable with guns, consider keeping a firearm and ammunition in your bug out bag.
  • Cash: In an emergency, ATMs may not be working and credit card companies may not be able to process transactions. It’s always good to have some cash on hand.

For detailed explanations on these and additional survival items, please see my post What Should Be in a Survival Backpack.

Remember, the goal of a bug out bag is to provide you with everything you need to survive in case of an emergency. If you need to stay away for several days, consider investing in a bigger survival kit – see the linked article for recommendations.

5. Decide on Leaving or Staying

When it comes to SHTF planning, you need to decide whether to stay or go. This decision can be difficult, and it really depends on the situation. If you have a family, you need to consider their safety. If you have a business, you need to consider the impact of the disaster on your ability to continue operating. If you’re in a high-risk area, you may need to evacuate. But, if you’re in a low-risk area, you may be able to weather the storm.

There are a few things you need to consider when making this decision. First, you need to assess the risk. Is this a disaster that could potentially harm you or your family? If the answer is yes, then you need to decide whether you can evacuate or not. If you can’t evacuate, then you need to make a plan to protect yourself and your family. Perhaps you might even decide to disappear off the grid.

Second, you need to consider the impact of the disaster. Will it disrupt your life? Will it damage your property? Will it make it difficult for you to continue living in your current situation? If the answer is yes, then you should consider a permanent or temporary relocation. For instance, if there is a credible nuclear threat, you will need to leave for the safest country in case of nuclear war.

Third, you need to consider the resources you have available. Do you have a place to go to? Do you have the supplies you need? Do you have the money to evacuate? If the answer is no, then you must decide whether you can tough it out or not.

Lastly, you need to consider your personal preferences. Do you want to stay and fight, or do you want to go and start over? Not everyone has the strength for a continuous struggle. On the other hand, many of us are attached to our homes, neighborhoods, and countries. This is an extremely tough choice to make for your group, but it must be done nonetheless.

6. Locate or Make a Shelter

A large part of being prepared for any disaster is having a secure shelter. This could be a bug out location that you have prepared in advance, or simply a safe place to get through the ordeal. In either case, there are some key things to keep in mind when it comes to securing your shelter.

  1. You need to ensure that your shelter is strong enough to withstand the elements. If you are in an area that is prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes, you need to make sure your shelter can withstand these forces. This requires having a sturdy foundation and walls, as well as a strong roof.
  2. Your shelter has to be well-insulated. This will help to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It will also help to keep out any unwanted pests.
  3. You need to make sure your shelter has plenty of ventilation. This is essential for two reasons: it will help to prevent any build-up of carbon dioxide, and also will help to circulate air and keep the shelter from feeling stuffy.
  4. Your shelter must have a good water supply. This means having a way to purify water, as well as an option to store enough water for everyone in your shelter. There are many proven methods to purify water, you can see them all in the linked article.
  5. Make sure that your shelter can be defended against intruders. This could mean having a security system, or simply installing a sturdy door and locks.

By keeping these things in mind, you can be confident that your shelter will be secure and comfortable no matter what disaster strikes.

There is also an option of building a survival shelter from natural materials, as demonstrated in this video from Cyprien Outdoor Adventures:

7. Store Your Supplies

There are several easily accessible places where you can store your supplies for a SHTF scenario.

  1. Your home: This is probably the most obvious option, and it can work well if you have a basement or other storage area that is out of the way and not too visible. Just make sure that your supplies are well organized so that you can find everything you need quickly in an emergency.
  2. Rented storage unit: This can be a good option if you don’t have a lot of space at home or if you want to keep your supplies more hidden from view. Just make sure that the storage unit is climate controlled so that your supplies don’t get damaged by extreme temperatures.
  3. Friend or family member’s home: This is a good option if you trust the person and they have enough space to store your things. Just make sure that they know where everything is so that they can access it in an emergency.
  4. Your car: This can be a good option if you don’t have a lot of space at home or if you travel often and want to have your supplies with you at all times. Just make sure that your car is always parked in a safe place and that the contents are well-organized so that you can find everything quickly in an emergency situation.
  5. The bug out bag: This is probably the best option for those who want to be prepared for any situation, as it allows you to easily grab your bag and go if necessary. Just make sure that your bag is packed with all the essentials, such as food, water, clothing, shelter, first aid, etc., so that you’re prepared for anything.

For more unexpected places to store your supplies, please see my article on safest places to hide your survival items.

8. Estimate the Shelf Life of Your Supplies

In addition to storing your supplies, you need to estimate how long your supplies will last. This can be a difficult task, as there are several factors to consider. However, by taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure that your supplies will last as long as you need them.

One of the first things to consider is the type of disaster you are preparing for. If you are preparing for a short-term disaster, such as a power outage, then your supplies will likely not need to last very long. However, if you are preparing for a longer-term disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane, then you have to make sure your supplies will last for an extended period of time.

Another factor to consider is how many people you are planning for. If you are only planning for yourself, then you will not need nearly as much food and water as if you were planning for a family of four. Additionally, if you have young children or elderly family members, they may have special needs that require more food or water than average.

Finally, it is important to consider the shelf life of your supplies. Non-perishable items such as canned goods and dried foods can be stored for years, while perishable items such as fresh fruits and vegetables will only last a few days without refrigeration. I strongly recommend you check the most popular brands of survival food on Amazon. A lot of them can last for many years, while remaining delicious and nutritious.

9. Plan an Evacuation Route

When SHTF, you can’t simply walk out of the house and drive away. A solid evacuation plan is necessary. Here are some things to keep in mind when making your evacuation plan:

  1. Know your area: Familiarize yourself with the layout of your home, workplace, and community. This will help you know the best routes to take if you need to evacuate.
  2. Have a designated meeting place: In the event that you get separated from your family or friends, have a designated meeting place where everyone can regroup.
  3. Have multiple evacuation routes: Plan out several different ways to evacuate your home or workplace, in case one route is blocked or inaccessible.
  4. Practice your plan regularly: Make sure everyone in your household knows the evacuation plan and practices it regularly, so that everyone is familiar with the steps they need to take in an emergency situation.

10. Keep Your Evacuation Vehicle Ready

Remember that a quick evacuation may require a vehicle. Keep your car in a constant ready-to-go mode:

  1. Check the oil level and add more if necessary.
  2. Make sure there is enough coolant in the radiator.
  3. Check the tire pressure and inflate if needed. Keep an air compressor and a spare tire in the trunk.
  4. Inspect the brakes and make sure they are in good condition.
  5. Fill up the gas tank so you don’t run out of fuel midway through your evacuation. Also read how long can you store gasoline.
  6. Top up your windshield washer fluid. You don’t want to be caught out in heavy rain with no way of clearing your windscreen.
  7. Verify that all lights (headlights, taillights, blinkers) are working properly.
  8. Check the battery. A healthy battery is key to starting your car on a hot day or after sitting in cold weather for a while. If your battery is more than 3 years old or shows signs of corrosion, it may be time for a replacement. The car battery should also be charged at all times. If the battery is dead, your car simply won’t start at the moment of evacuation. I recommend packing a battery charger, in case there is no other car to jump-start yours. Amazon offers several reliable, high-quality car battery chargers and jump starters, which you can check by clicking here.

Your car should also have an emergency car kit with jumper cables, tire repair tools, traction rope, etc. I highly recommend getting HAIPHAIK Emergency Roadside Kit from Amazon. This multipurpose yet affordable kit has everything you need to deal with a car emergency, and then some. The kit includes a tool box, advanced jumper, gloves, flashlight, whistle, and even a multitool survival shovel. The kit has over 2,500 positive reviews, which you can read here.


11. Be Prepared for Self-Defense

There are a lot of different ways that you can approach self-defense when SHTF. You can have a plan for each different type of disaster, or you can have a general plan that will work for most situations. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning for self-defense:

  1. Know your surroundings: This is especially important if you live in an urban area. Be aware of potential danger spots, escape routes, and places where you can find help.
  2. Have a plan: Don’t just rely on your instincts to get you through a dangerous situation. Think about what you would do in different scenarios and practice if possible.
  3. Be prepared: Have the right tools for the job. If you can’t defend yourself with your fists, you may need a weapon. Choose something that you are comfortable using and that will give you the best chance of survival.
  4. Be smart: Don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger. If you can avoid a confrontation, do so. Only use force as a last resort.
  5. Be safe: Once the danger has passed, make sure to get to a safe place and get help if needed.

Several weapons can be carried for the purpose of self-defense:

  1. A good old-fashioned knife can be a great self-defense weapon. They are easy to carry, can be used for other purposes (like opening boxes or cutting food), and can be very effective if you know how to use them correctly. However, they can also be very dangerous if used incorrectly, so be sure to get some training before carrying one around! I strongly recommend that you check my article on best survival knives for recommendations on what kinds of knives you should carry.
  2. Pepper spray is another popular self-defense weapon, and for good reason. It’s non-lethal, easy to use, and can be very helpful in deterring an attacker. On the other hand, it can also be used against you if you’re not careful, so be sure to keep it out of reach of children and only use it in an emergency. Amazon has a great selection of the safest yet most effective pepper sprays.
  3. A stun gun is a great option for self-defense. They are non-lethal and easy to carry. Like with any other type of self-defense weapon, get some training before carrying a stun gun.
  4. A baton or other blunt weapon can also be an option for self-defense. You can improvise such a weapon from many items you find lying around in your house, such as a baseball bat, a fire poker, or a heavy enough tool (hammer, shovel, tire iron, etc.)
  5. Gun or rifle. This is a deadly weapon, and it should be carried only by someone with sufficient experience. Guns can also be used for hunting, in case you’re stranded in the wild and in need of food.

Finally, remember that the best self-defense weapon is the one you have on you at the moment of need. Whether it’s a knife, pepper spray, stun gun, or baton, be sure to carry it with you at all times and know how to use it correctly.

12. Learn Necessary Survival Skills

When it comes to SHTF planning, learning a few basic survival skills should definitely be included. You can rely on them if your designated shelter has been destroyed along with the supplies.

  1. First aid: Knowing how to properly administer first aid is crucial in any emergency. From minor cuts and scrapes to more serious injuries, being able to provide medical assistance could mean the difference between life and death.
  2. Fire starting: Being able to build a fire is another essential survival skill. Whether you need it for warmth, cooking, or signaling for help, being able to start a fire can make all the difference in a tough situation. You should also know how to start fire without lighter or matches – see the linked article for 9 different ways it can be done.
  3. Shelter building: If you find yourself stranded outdoors in a bad weather, knowing how to build an adequate shelter could save your life. A warm, dry shelter will protect you from the elements and help you stay alive until help arrives. I explain in a separate article how to quickly make a shelter.
  4. Water purification: In an emergency situation, clean water may not be readily available. Learning how to purify water using simple methods like boiling or filtering can ensure that you have access to safe drinking water when SHTF. Again, please see my article on best ways to purify water.
  5. Food procurement: When disaster strikes, groceries stores may not be open or accessible. Knowing how to procure food from other sources like hunting, fishing, or foraging can mean the difference between starvation and staying fed until help arrives.

For additional information, please check out my article dedicated to basic survival skills.

13. Plan Your Next Steps Carefully

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to post-disaster planning, but probably the most important one is what you and your family will do in the immediate aftermath of the event. This is a time when things will be chaotic and you may not have access to all the resources you need, so it’s crucial to have a plan in place.

One of the first steps to take is to assess the situation and determine if all of you are safe. If you’re in an area that has been affected by a natural disaster, you may need to evacuate to a safe location. If you’re in an urban area, you may need to find shelter from the violence or looting that could occur. Once you’ve assessed the situation and concluded that you and your family are safe, you can start planning what you need to do next.

If you have access to resources, then perhaps it’s time to rebuild. This will require different actions depending on the disaster and the damage it caused. On the other hand, if you don’t have any access to sufficient resources, you may need to start thinking about how you’re going to survive. This means scavenging for food and water, establishing a base or a shelter, taking care of self-defense, and so forth. In other words, this might not look different from the SHTF planning we discussed earlier.

Final Words and Further Reading

So there you have it, a full SHTF plan that will keep you alive should a widescale emergency strike your area. Always remember to stay calm and focused as you execute every step of your plan. As the saying goes, cooler heads prevail.

I strongly recommend to do some additional reading that will upgrade your survival knowledge. Should you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment while your supplies are running out, you need to know how to survive in the wilderness with nothing. See the linked article for lifesaving information on finding food, water and shelter, signaling for help, and surviving in the wild against all odds.

Since a lot of disasters take place in urban areas, you need to learn about urban survival. In this article I explain how you can stay alive and safe, even when the social order completely breaks down.

And finally, prepping and SHTF planning does not have to be an expensive endeavor. For the most affordable survival supplies, see my article about low cost prepping.

Stay safe, my friends!

Alex Rejba

Alex is a seasoned survivalist, with a passion to all things related to prepping, hiking and living off the grid.

Recent Posts