Surviving anywhere in the world requires a good amount of survival knowledge and a good set of skills. However, without proper planning, your odds of success are pretty slim. Making a SHTF plan is mandatory no matter where you find yourself and no matter how much time you have at your disposal.
In today’s modern world, we are somehow spoiled by all the commodities we are given since birth. Somehow, our survival sense is being suppressed, and this works against us, making us softer in time. Making an SHTF plan is not complicated, and you can build one for every possible scenario you can think of.
❌ The need for an SHTF Plan
A survival situation will occur due to factors that are out of our control or simply because we did something wrong at the worst possible moment. Even a car malfunction in the middle of nowhere during the winter season can unexpectedly turn into a survival situation.
The best part about having an SHTF plan is that no matter what you’ve prepared for, each SHTF plan you’ve made has common strategies that can be used under various circumstances. The survival pillars never change, and only the environment, resources available, and your knowledge will influence them.
Even more, an SHTF plan can help you get out of every difficult situation that you will encounter, and it doesn’t have to be a life-threatening one to put in motion such a plan. Let’s say your plan includes first-aid knowledge, and you’ve practice skills that should help yourself in a medical emergency. If anyone around you needs medical assistance and you actually know what to do in such a situation, you will be able to save the day.
And last but not least, a good SHTF plan will not only keep you safe but will also be useful to others. Just casually discussing with your neighbors about your SHTF plan will put things in perspective, and even those that see prepping as an “odd hobby” may start to wonder if, maybe, they are on the wrong side of the fence.
❌ Making an SHTF Plan
No matter how simple or complex an SHTF plan is, it should cover all the basic pillars of survival, such as shelter, water, food, first-aid, and defense. As you will see later in the article, once you prepared for one of these basic survival needs, you can use the same approach no matter what the future may throw at you.
❗️ Establishing prepping priorities
You can’t start making an SHTF plan if you have no idea what you should be preparing for. Everyone can buy water and food and store a few items that make their life easier during a blackout, but that doesn’t necessarily make them preppers, and we can’t call their preparation methods an actual SHTF plan.
I’ve written about the process of establishing prepping priorities in another article, and I always bring this topic up when discussing survival and emergency preparedness.
Each and every one of us has different needs, and what works for me might not work for you. Even more, the geographical region you live in plays a critical role in establishing priorities.
Suppose you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, then you have a good idea of what should be at the top of your list of worries. It will make no sense to prepare for a volcanic eruption if there’s no volcano in your region. If you live in a tornado alley, making preparation for such natural disasters should be your number one concern, and you should worry about tsunamis only if you go on holiday near the coastline.
There is rather complex thinking when establishing prepping priorities, but after reading and understanding the process itself, I can guarantee that it becomes pretty simple to identify the events you should be prepping for.
❗️ Establishing resources needs
Here we can group all the items that are necessary for your survival. We are talking here about the stuff you can buy and stockpile, and although it may seem like a shopping rush at first, trust me, is more than that.
When stockpiling for your SHTF plan, the budget is one of the major factors to consider, unless, of course, you have money to throw away. Even more, one should avoid buying everything in one shopping trip because such a task is nearly impossible.
Building a stockpile of anything takes time, and there’s a learning curve you need to master, involving storage, rotation, regular check-ups and updates according to the expiration date, usage, season, etc.
✔️ Shelter needs
Here, the selection and acquisition process should be pretty simple, and it depends on your plan of action. When building an SHTF plan, you will need to consider the possibility of bugging in and/or bugging out. Based on these principles, you will be able to plan for your shelter needs.
If you bug in, you probably already have a roof over your head, and there’s nothing to worry about, right? However, what happens if your home gets damaged, and it’s no longer safe to live inside? Will you sleep in the rain with your family? If that’s not an option, even having a tarp or two can save the day. However, having a tent that can accommodate all your family members moves things to another level.
Even for those that will decide to bug out, the alternative of a transportable shelter should be considered. You may have a fully equipped RV, or an SUV packed to the limit with everything needed for survival, but think about the unfortunate situation when you will be forced to abandon your vehicle.
Always plan for your shelter needs, not by looking at your current setup, but by assuming things will not go as initially planned. Even improvising a shelter for available materials is better than having to face the elements with the clothes you’ve packed.
Recommended reading: Planning A Shelter In The Wild
✔️ Water needs
This is a topic that has been discussed over and over again in survival literature, and it’s one of the basics of survival. It’s constantly pushed forward when survival becomes a hot topic and for a good reason. You can survive more than a few days without water, and you need to include it in your SHTF plan.
From my point of view, we can divide this topic into two major parts: establishing how much water you and your family needs and procuring water when your supplies run low.
As you’ve probably learned by now, a human needs at least a gallon of water per day. How things develop, the environment, physical actions, the weather, and so on, can actually double that quantity. Even more, some of that water will be used for other chores such as cooking, bathing, first aid, and even your pets will need some.
If you establish how much water you need to stockpile, you will soon realize that water is heavy and bulky, and you need storage space, and most importantly, carrying it can become a burden. Here is where figuring out and learning how to obtain potable water will help you.
There are ready to drink natural water sources, and there are sources you literally have to dig for to obtain the needed water. There are methods to collect water, and pretty much every environment (except the driest desserts) can offer a good amount of water. I advise you to check our website to learn more about finding water and other tips that will help you quench your thirst. The information you will find will greatly help you when drawing your SHTF plan.
We can’t close this chapter without mentioning the need to filter water and make it potable, no matter how clean and crisp it looks. Bacteria and viruses are invisible to the naked eye, and to be on the safe side, you will need to purify the water you manage to obtain out in the wilderness. Water filters, purification tablets, UV sterilization pens, and solar stills are available on the market, and these will save the day. Do thorough research and figure out what you should purchase.
✔️ Food needs
As a nation that is used to eat “all the time,” food is a major concern for us, even in peace times. During a survival scenario, when the stress level is high, food not only will become a survival necessity, but also a comfort item for some.
Calculating the food requirements for your family should be the first step when building your SHTF plan. Men have different needs than females, and kids and children have their own needs as well. It’s all about the calorie intake and the rate at which you burn those calories.
I recommend reading this article to establish how much food and water you need.
When making an SHTF plan and covering the food needs, you should start small and build on top of it. Start with three weeks and build on from there. Not only will it help you save your budget, but you will also learn to diversify your stockpile and take advantage of every opportunity (bulk sales, canning, or preserving your own food, etc.).
Keep in mind to store only what you need and what your family eats. When planning food storage, needs come first, and wants to come in second. Sure, you may pack some comfort foods and drinks, but those should be an added bonus and not a priority.
I also recommend dividing or organizing your food stockpile based on your plan of action (bug in or bug out) since it will make things easier in the future. For bugging out scenario, you should pack foods that last long, are nutritious, and don’t require cooking, or at least, not extensive cooking. There are even compact foods available on the market designed for such scenarios, like MREs.
When you start to stockpile food for your SHTF plan, you will also realize that such chore is more than buying and storing the food. You also have to make sure the food is kept safe, and it’s still edible after a few months. A survival pantry requires quite some work, and there are many enemies that you need to take care of (pests, humidity, temperature, etc.).
✔️ First-aid needs
Every serious SHTF plan needs to cover the first-aid and medicine needs, and you should be prepared and able to use the resources you’ve stockpiled. On the market, there are various survival kits that are designed for various scenarios. You can find anything from portable mini first-aid kits to more complex ones, such as those used by EMT personnel.
I personally recommend building your own first-aid kit because it can be tailored based on your personal needs, and you will avoid buying unnecessary stuff, or to put it simply, the stuff you don’t know how to use. Accomplishing this will not be possible without having some first aid training or, at least, the curiosity to read about medical aid and figuring out how it all works.
When it comes to first-aid, there are two types of preppers, those that rely only on what can be found on the market and those that are more of the “curious” kind and also rely on what Mother Nature has to offer.
A MUST-READ: Wilderness First Aid Basics
No matter how you see things, keep in mind that you will end up low on supplies, and you will need to improvise to make it out alive. There are various medicinal plants that can be used to treat minor, but also serious health issues. Even so, start learning about those plants that can be found in your geographical area, because it will do you no good if you learn about a miracle medicinal plant if you can only find it in Europe.
✔️ Security/Defense needs
This topic is quite complex, and we could write an entire book on the subject. However, you must consider the following aspects when building an SHTF plan: you need both offensive and defensive items to keep everyone safe.
As a defensive item, a baseball bat can prove quite useful, but as an offensive item, it won’t beat a handgun. It all really depends on the situation you find yourself in, and it’s almost impossible to assume that things will go one way or the other during a disaster. This is because the human factor is the most unpredictable one, and it can affect your SHTF plan in ways you simply cannot guess.
Now when it comes to both offensive and defensive items, it’s all a matter of preference and knowledge. As said earlier, what works for me might not work for you and yours.
Even so, the main point we should stress is the need to learn and train how to use properly the items you’ve picked and used them as effectively as possible. Emptying a magazine in a panic mode without hitting the target will just put you in danger, and you wish you’d had that baseball bat in reach when the aggressor comes closer.
Consider also the action plan when making an SHTF plan that makes firearms indispensable since this can change your course of action. If you hunker down, you can build an entire armory and make it inaccessible to others. However, if you take on the road, carrying ammo becomes a problem, and there’s also the aspect of concealment that needs to be addressed. There’s no way you can make it far if you have a vehicle packed with guns or if the vehicle itself looks like something out of a Mad Max movie.
No matter what you chose as defensive or, offensive items make sure you train using those items and train hard. Your shooting drills should not rely on the standard, standing upright position, and it should also include shooting stances that are uncomfortable. The same goes for hand to hand combat, and you should know how to keep your adversary at a safe distance, but also how to incapacitate him without tiring yourself or exposing your vital areas.
✔️ Additional needs
Here the list can be complete with needs based on the number of your family members, their special needs, and many other things, that as I’ve said, are specific for each of us.
If you have a baby, you need to cover all the basics need to make your life easier, regardless if you hunker down or travel. Everything from food to clothes, diapers, and favorite toys need to be addressed.
If you have an elderly in your family, and you plan to travel over long distances, the journey should be comfortable for them to avoid any other problems. If you ditch, the car, a pair of mountain walking sticks may be necessary even though you’re not actually planning to climb a mountain.
And since we mentioned the car, how about fuel needs? An SHTF plan that includes traveling over long distances should make you think about fuel, but also tools and parts that will keep your vehicle in good working condition.
Once you make your own SHTF plan, you will notice that besides the basic needs listed here, there will also others that need to be addressed. Maybe you have pets, and in such a case, you need to address their needs as well. Maybe your family members have seasonal allergies, some have car sick and so on. These needs will pop up once you start drafting your own SHTF plan.
🔥 Establishing a plan of action
When a disaster occurs, you basically have two options, you either stay at home and try to keep the fort standing, or you take your chances on the road and put as much distance between you and the threat.
🗺️ Bugging in
Unfortunately, this is the only option for some, and their SHTF plan requires them to bug in and ride the storm. The problem with bugging in is that there’s no guarantee that your home will not be damaged or that you won’t be forced to evacuate at some point.
An SHTF plan that concentrates around the bugging in the scenario will dictate the number of resources you need to stockpile. Planning for a month is quite different than planning for six, and you may end up discovering that you don’t have enough storage space to store all the needed supplies.
If you live in a densely populated area, you might want to concentrate on your defense measures and figure out ways to keep your property and supplies safe from others. If you live in a remote area, defensive measures should not become your main concern, but rather how to stockpile enough resources to get you through the winter.
The problem with bugging in is that no matter how well-prepared you are, you may still have to evacuate. It is mandatory to consider this possibility and plan for such a scenario. You wouldn’t be able to bug out to safety if this option didn’t even cross your mind.
A comprehensive bug-in guide can be found here:
🗺️ Bugging out
To bug out successfully, you need a place to go to, the means to get there, and the resources needed to complete the journey. There are long-distance journeys out that may take days, and there are short-distance journeys that may be completed in less than a day.
You can imagine that the bugging outdistance plays an important role when building your SHTF plan and how it can change your planning without warning. Everything must be taken into account, from fuel needs to alternative means of transportation in case your main vehicle breaks down.
I also recommend making a few testing drills since such drills will help you figure out if your bug out plan is feasible or not. Try to get out of town using your BOV during a holiday or social event that increases the traffic in your area. This will help you create a time-table (estimate how much it takes you to get from point A to point B), but it will also help you figure out alternative routes to improve your escape time.
If your plan includes traveling by foot, try to organize a camping journey and figure out what distance you can cover while carrying your bug out bag. You may find out you are not fit enough to carry your bag for more than 10 miles.
The topic of bugging out was covered extensively by our website, and we provided enough information on how to do it properly. Just type bug out in the search bar, and you will find many resources.
🧭 Establishing a safe time-frame
A safe time frame can be described as the time needed to put things in motion and/or to plan your next steps. Let’s say the time you need to bug out, meaning how much time you need to grab everything and get out the door.
A bugging out safe time-frame should be no longer than 30 minutes. Any minute above that will affect your overall schedule, and you may end up stuck in traffic, trapped with others. You may also fail to cover all the established meeting points (SHTF can occur when your family members are not at home). If you established a schedule, you should do everything possible to meet your deadlines.
On the other hand, a bugging in a safe time-frame can be longer, and it all depends on your SHTF plan and the event itself. If things get rough, you may need to keep a low profile, and it may take up to a week or a month until you can make your presence noticeable. You can imagine how keeping a low profile for a month can affect your behavior and how simple chores need to be approached differently.
If you manage to bug out and reach your safe heave, the time-frame deemed safe can last from days to weeks. Returning home to early can put you in danger while doing so too late may cost you the integrity of your home and/or possessions.
Every SHTF plan you build should take these safe time-frames into account, and they can be adjusted based on your needs as well as other factors such as geographical region, social status, population density, know-how, etc.
🏠 Rebuilding or starting over
No matter if you like it or now, an SHTF plan needs to include rebuilding or starting over the plan. You may be one of the lucky ones, and perhaps you won’t have to worry about such ordeals, but what happens if a wildfire destroys everything you own?
Rebuilding or repairing requires you to have the means to do so, and I’ve often discussed the necessity of having a disaster tool kit and other items to make this job easier. Natural disasters in general, leave an incredible amount of debris, and there’s an extensive process of cleaning and sanitation needed following such disaster.
If a tree fell down and you need to cut its branches and segment it in smaller pieces, you won’t be able to do so without proper tools. Your neighbors may not be able to lend you some, because they may need them just as much as you do.
Think about making all the necessary preparation for the rebuilding or repairing process that may be needed. Keep your tools in good shape and, most importantly, keep them in reach.
The starting over process is a more complex one, and you have to be certain you covered everything insurance wise. Keep your documents safe and take them with you if you have to bug out. Take pictures of your house, both inside and outside, since this simple action may help you figure out what times were destroyed or are missing.
This process is strictly correlated with your financial planning, and you need to make sure you have some extra money set aside for the dark times. Government aid may come too late or might be insufficient. You need to make sure you can make it on your own and not be a burden for your family and friends. When building an SHTF plan, make sure to get some help from people that deal with this sort of stuff. Read about others that went through similar ordeals and prepare from time
An SHTF plan may seem complex, but in order to figure out if that’s actually the case, you first need to start and make one. You can’t make a proper SHTF plan overnight, and you need to draw the basics first, as listed in this article. There will be many revisions needed, but I guarantee that you will end up with an SHTF plan that will save you a lot of trouble when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan.
Useful resources to check out: