SHTF Plans & Survival: Make an SHTF Plan For Any Situation

January 24, 2023 8 min read

shtf plans

 

Amongst some prepper communities, there is an enormous elephant in the room, a topic too scary and uncomfortable to think about: a full-blown, catastrophic “sh•t hits the fan,” or SHTF, type of event. So instead of addressing and prepping for the issue, it’s easier to focus on preparedness for other short-term emergencies.


However, SHTF survival is too important to not talk about. SHTF plans that address long-term SHTF events are vital to have prepared ahead of time—because if the time comes and you’re not prepared, it will be too late. 


Keep reading to learn about the vital components of a high-quality SHTF plan so that your SHTF survival skills are ready when you need them.   

  

Common Catalysts of an SHTF Scenario

 

emergency for shtf plans

 

Preparing for every possible SHTF scenario under the sun is impossible. However, a couple of SHTF scenarios are somewhat more realistic than others. Therefore, any homestead, survivalist, or prepper focused on self-reliance and survival should consider the following four possible SHTF scenarios.
 

  1. An EMP attack, or an EMP resulting from a nuclear detonation.
  2. Warfare within the United States due to an invading army.
  3. Nationwide civil unrest or civil war due to political and economic strife. 
  4. A massive natural disaster causing immense damage in a particular area.

Regardless of the catalyst of an SHTF scenario, the fallout or aftermath of any SHTF events are similar.

  • Long-term power outages due to inadequate EMP protection
  • Catastrophic disruptions in the municipal water source, sanitation, and sewage. 
  • Economic collapse.
  • Supply-chain issues and food shortages
  • Complete communication breakdown and inaccessible internet.
  • Breakdown of law and order, along with emergency medical services.
  • Risks associated with mental and physical health due to the stressors of survival.

Regardless of the SHTF catalyst and the impending aftermath, the first step in any SHTF survival plan is deciding between bugging out or bugging in.   

 

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The Decision to Bug Out vs. Bug In in Your SHTF Plan

 

decision to bug out as shtf survival plan

 

Bugging out vs. deciding to bug in is an ongoing discussion within the prepper community. One is not definitely better than the other; it all depends. 


For most people, the decision is based on how they’ve been prepping and their survival style. 

But ultimately, it comes down to the specific SHTF scenario, because everything can change overnight, regardless of how you’ve prepped.  

Reasons to Bug Out

In your SHTF plans, you may need to evacuate or bug out. In most cases, people will choose to bug in because their home is where they feel safest and have the most resources. However, if you have taken the time to build a stockpile of supplies at a bug-out location, evacuating may be the better choice.  Here are some reasons your SHTF plan may include bugging out:
 

  1. Your home is being threatened. Even if you plan to stay home during an emergency, you may need to bug out because it is being threatened by a massive natural disaster, like a wildfire or hurricane, or rioting mobs during civil unrest. In these scenarios, hunkering down may put you and your family at more risk.

  2. Throughout an SHTF scenario, things change, and resources run out. When the resources you prepped in your home run out, there may come a time when you need to leave. In this scenario, you will likely have a bug-out location in mind where additional resources can be found to prolong your survival.  

Reasons to Hunker Down

 

Hunker Down as part of the SHFT plan

 

Depending on the SHTF scenario, hunkering down at home may be the best option for you and your family. There are five reasons you might choose to bug in instead of bug out:

  • Your home base has more supplies. Unless you have been developing a bug-out location elsewhere, your home will have all your supplies, like survival food and emergency equipment.
     
  • You can provide a higher level of security at home. If you have committed to transforming your home into a bug-in location, chances are you’ve invested in security measures; for example, security cameras and self-defense equipment. In this scenario, you may be safer at home than on the go.
      
  • You have local knowledge of your surrounding environment. Over the years, we have become intimately connected to our properties and surrounding neighborhoods. We know where everything is located in the home, how many stop signs or traffic lights are before the highway, and who our neighbors are. 

  • Your family and friends will know where to find you. This is especially critical if your family is separated when SHTF. For example, all hell may break loose while your kids are at school and you’re at work. In this scenario, the decision to bug in will reunite the family faster.

  • You are closer to your community. One of the first places preppers look to build community and connect with other preppers is their neighborhood. Over time, it’s possible to develop a trusting relationship with other local preppers who may be able to help out during an SHTF event. If you bug out, you may be separating yourself from your support system.

  • Regardless of these reasons, not everyone will choose to hunker down. Many preppers prefer to use a bug-out location as their haven during an SHTF planning.    

    Bug-Out Location Factors for SHTF Survival

    Even if you decide to outfit your home as a survival shelter during an SHTF scenario, you may eventually need to bug-out. In this scenario, you will be glad to have developed a safe bug-out location (BOL) to continue surviving with your family. 


    As you begin to formulate a bug-out location, it will be essential to consider the following factors:
     

    • Your BOL should be more than just a location; there should be a shelter ready for you in that location. It could be the family cabin in the mountains, a tiny home, or even a year-round canvas tent—anything to shelter you from the elements.

    • Your BOL should be relatively isolated but not too far away. Ideally, you will be able to reach your BOL with one tank of gas, or within a couple days if you need to travel there on foot.
       
    • Ideally, the BOL will be located in a sustainable area. For example, there should be natural resources nearby, like fresh water, fish and game, fuelwood, and space for gardening.

    • It’s best to have a BOL in a geographic area you are familiar with. You do not want to head into an unknown area in the middle of an SHTF event. Instead, you should be as familiar with your BOL as you are with your home and local neighborhood.

    • In an SHTF scenario, you may find out that people want your supplies. That’s why your BOL should be defensible. Developing an alarm system, using cameras, or choosing high ground and using natural barriers can help keep your BOL out of harm's way.

    Survival Priorities During an SHTF Situation

    Whether you bug out or stay at home during a full-blown SHTF survival scenario, your priorities are the same. Understanding the survival priorities is essential for crafting your SHTF plans ahead of time. The survival priorities are also critical for decision-making throughout the entirety of any SHTF survival situation.  

    The Survival Rule of Three

     

    survival rule of three for SHFT plan

     

    The survival rule of three outlines what the core four survival priorities should be for any survival situation. The rule of three states that a person can survive…
     

    • for three minutes without breathable air due to unconsciousness, smoke, or drowning in cold water.

    • for three hours when exposed to harsh weather like freezing temperatures or extreme heat.

    • for three days without drinkable water.

    •  for three weeks without food.

    By following the survival rule of three, it becomes evident that any SHTF plan should incorporate detailed guidelines for obtaining and preserving the core four survival priorities at whatever cost:
         

    1. A safe environment with breathable air.
    2. Shelter to protect from the elements.
    3. Potable fresh water.
    4. Food that provides at least the minimum subsistence for survival.

    Breathable Air

    Depending on the scenario, accessing breathable air can look like many different things; for example, evacuating from a smokey wildfire, a flooded home, or the fallout zone of a chemical weapon.


    If evacuation is your primary preventative measure, we recommend devising plans for urgent and planned evacuations. Urgent evacuation only affords you minutes, perhaps seconds, to get out. Planned evacuation leaves you more time to pack and gather supplies. Regardless, it’s good to have backup plans ready just in case your evacuation doesn’t go to plan.


    For smokey, poisoned, or otherwise unbreathable air, incorporating gas masks and face coverings into your SHTF plans could be life-saving, enabling you to survive the first three minutes and move on to the next priorities. 

    Survival Shelter

     

    survival shelter as SHFT plan

     

    Your survival shelter will vary based on the particular SHTF survival plan you are following. It could be a tent you pitched in the woods, a bushcraft survival shelter, your basement, or a family cabin in the countryside. 


    The shelter itself doesn’t particularly matter. What matters is how well the shelter protects you from the elements. Your shelter needs to insulate you from the cold, shelter you from rain, provide shade, and protect you from wild animals and insects. 

    Safe, Potable Drinking Water 

    After you have accessed breathable air and have a safe shelter for the time being, then it will be time to prioritize water and food, respectively. 


    Having enough water for a long-term SHTF scenario is a significant hurdle. One gallon per day is the recommended minimum quantity of water for a single person to stay hydrated and bathed. If you are a family of four and are planning to survive an indefinite amount of time, the water you might need increases exponentially.


    Therefore, prepping water ahead of time is critical—but so is having the means to access more water whenever necessary and treating the water so that it’s safe to drink. Besides the water you prep at home or your bug-out location, we recommend having three other strategies for collecting and treating water, such as rainwater collection, chemical treatments (like bleach), and commercial water filters.

    Emergency Food

    The last survival priority your SHTF plan needs to consider is emergency food, and a lot of it, especially if the outcomes of the SHTF event are particularly severe. It could be an unknown amount of time before you have access to your grocery store again—perhaps never. 


    We make three categories when we think about emergency food for SHTF survival.

    • Short-term food storage. Your short-term foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and cheese. This category includes anything in your refrigerator that will spoil within a few weeks if you don’t eat it. It would be nice to have a fridge full of food at the onset of an SHTF event, but ultimately, this food runs out quickly. You may be unable to restock on fresh foods for an indefinite period, so your SHTF plan should incorporate ways to grow fresh food or hunt and trap wild game.

    •  Medium-term food storage. Food items included in the medium-term category are bulk, dried, raw, frozen, and processed foods. For example, typical medium-term foods are rice, beans, wheat, oats, drink mixes, pickled vegetables, and canned fruit and soup. Depending on the specific item and how it's stored, these foods typically last anywhere from a couple of months to many years. A rationing and rotation procedure should be included in your SHTF plans so you can eat the food before it spoils, as well as plans for preserving more food as you grow, trap, hunt, or forage for it.

    •  Long-term food storage. This category includes dehydrated and freeze-dried survival emergency food. This type of food fits within the long-term category because it is designed to stay fresh for over 25 years. This type of food is the best for survival scenarios because it lasts a long time and remains nutritious. Think of this type of survival food as food insurance—over time, you invest in collecting more and higher-quality insurance so that if the worst-case scenario arises, you and your family are covered.   

        

    Final Thoughts: SHTF Plans for the Worst-Case Scenario

    Just because it’s uncomfortable to think and talk about the worst-case scenario does not mean we should avoid it. In fact, it’s the opposite; as self-reliant preppers, homesteaders, and survivalists, we owe it to our family and friends, who may rely on us for help, to be prepared with high-quality SHTF plans—just in case.

    We hope you enjoyed this blog article. For more, visit our Practical Prepper blog. You will be able to find helpful articles about survival checklists and the typical MRE shelf life.