This is a basic guide going over the most important aspects of what to do when SHTF. Consider this a great starting point, but not the end-all-be-all of surviving a collapse.
There are some general guidelines that every person must have, regardless of the collapse. Then, some are specifically tailored for different scenarios. The most likely scenarios are listed in their own category farther down the page for easier viewing if you are specifically concerned about just one event.
General Guidelines of What to do When SHTF
First off, defense. Make sure you always have some type of weapon to defend yourself with, preferably some firearms. This requirement also means you need to have a stockpile of ammo to use with the firearms. Make sure you have plenty of rounds of the caliber of your choosing. I recommend at least one pistol, one shotgun, and one long-range rifle. This is to ensure you can defend yourself, but also hunt if needed. Likewise, it would be wise to have some form of cleaning equipment for your guns.
Food and water. This is self-explanatory. Stockpile food and water to make sure you have some, at least in the beginning. But always have a plan for when you run out. Your stockpile might not last forever. Or you may have to share it with others, depending on the circumstances. Hell, you may get robbed. Just don’t rely on it fully.
Medicine and equipment. This is often overlooked. You are more likely to die from an easily fixed illness than any other scenario in most types of collapses. Make sure you have antibiotics. Or take it a step further and learn how to make natural variants of them. Also, keep some painkillers on hand, under the condition you may get injured and need them or for trade. Acquire some alcohol to clean any infections you get, or you’ll be plowing through your stash of antibiotics and painkillers quickly. Finally, have a set of basic medical equipment (can be found in any emergency medical kit) so you can treat the most common forms of illness.
Filtration. If you run out of water, be prepared to not be able to find a reliably fresh source after. Buy a filtration system, or again, learn how to make one.
Fire. Get some cheap matchboxes. The more the better. Also, learn how to make a fire in any environment! Matchboxes are a pain to work with in severe wind if you don’t know what you are doing.
Tools. Basic knives and tools necessary to fix any of your SHTF equipment. You need things to skin animals if you are going to hunt. Similarly, you need tools to fix your car if you are attempting to bug out. Use common sense in determining what you may need here.
Sanitation. What happens if garbage and sewer services are no longer around? You’re going to need a way to sanitize necessary items and deal with waste. Have some soap, toilet paper, and bleach on standby. I guarantee you will regret it if you have to improvise for any of these.
Light. I recommend solar lights, not the battery powered kind. Solar may go out on you more often, so get a few more of them. But with solar, you won’t have to deal with batteries. Another good option is candles, however they eventually diminish, so choose based on your own preferences.
Comm and Intel
Communication. Ham radios work wonders if every other comm line fails. You don’t need a super expensive one. Hell, I have a friend that made one in this basement. As long as it works and is reliable, it will keep you in touch with whoever you need to contact. It’s better to stay in touch with the family/team so you can coordinate what to do when SHTF.
Intelligence. Acquire intel on the current situation. Figure out if it is just your area, or if it is happening all over. Adjust your tactics accordingly. If the event is just in your area, consider bugging out until the situation improves. Otherwise, it may be wise to hunker down (unless you’re in a big city).
What to do When SHTF in Specific Scenarios
The above general guidelines apply to all the below. The scenarios below include extra scenario-specific things to consider.
When a financial collapse occurs, it is unlikely you will be able to withdrawal money from the bank. Prices may skyrocket. It will be a good idea to have some types of trading items and liquid cash on hand. Keep cash in a safe location (an actual safe) in your house, so you will at least have a baseline to work with if needed. Also, try to have goods that can easily be traded. Things like gold would be great options here. Other things are luxuries. If you are the only one with water, people will be more willing to trade the things you need to make sure they don’t die of dehydration.
Be very careful of who you trade with. If word gets around that you have stockpiles of all the necessary items, and the situation worsens, you will quickly become a target. For this reason, it would be good to have a way to transport items (such as a truck or trailer) and a bug out location away from others. Financial collapses will hit cities the hardest, as you would expect looting and riots. It is essential in the case of a financial collapse to have a bugout location that is sufficiently far from large population centers.
This situation would be the end result of a financial collapse. The above recommendations of what to do when SHTF definitely still apply here, but with some caveats.
Be careful of law enforcement. In the case of anarchy, LEOs may seem like friends. However, they may just be using you to get the stockpile you have. There is no guarantee that others wouldn’t disguise themselves as law enforcement to do just that. Monitor all those wearing a badge in an anarchy scenario.
As mentioned above, weapons. In the case of anarchy, it would be a good idea to have other weapons handy. Bats, knives, etc. Anything that you can use to fight back when you can’t use your firearm.
Ensure you have a safe location. This is paramount. It doesn’t matter if you have all the above to survive. If you are surrounded by areas that will have looters or raiders, you won’t win forever. Find a safe location that you can secure by blocking or concealing an entrance.
Try to have support. In an anarchy scenario, it will be incredibly hard to survive on your own. This is one of those scenarios that would be much easier if you have support of kin. Whether it’s family, friends, etc, doesn’t matter. Just have some backup. A group of raiders are less likely to attack another group, as they know they will lose some people. A lone wolf would be an easy target.
Follow the same recommendations for liquid cash as above.
Have easily moveable food and water. It is one thing to have a stockpile to board up your house and stay there for a year. It is a whole different beast to move it because of a flood or hurricane. You won’t have much luck lugging a year’s worth of canned goods around. Find MREs or other easily transportable items to take with you for rapid escape. And sometimes what to do when SHTF is to relocate.
A great asset here would be community support. Be a leader and unite your community in the face of the disaster. It is a lot easier moving food, water, and medicine when you have a community of people backing you. But neighbors suck, so don’t hope too much for this one unless you have previously made connections.
Don’t let anyone know about your stockpile of food and water. In a famine/drought scenario, it would make you a susceptible target.
Learn to grow food, hunt, trap, and fish. This is how you will survive a famine. It doesn’t matter how long your stockpile goes for if you are unable to stay at that location or something happens to it. Consider an alternative of making/finding it yourself. Make sure you have trapping supplies handy. Preferably not the giant, annoying kinds, but the small easy-to-use ones to catch small prey. Also included in your survival kit for this scenario should be small seeds and easily reproduced food.
As you can see from this article, preparation is key. Trying to find all of these essentials post-scenario would be practically impossible. When making a preparation kit, consider the scenarios you are most worried about and plan accordingly. You absolutely could prepare for each of these scenarios, however it would be expensive and may take some time. Regardless, make sure you know what to do when SHTF, before it is too late.
This doesn’t need to be done overnight, but the sooner you are prepared, the better.