How to Prepare for SHTF by Stocking Up and Planning Ahead

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According to a report done by the World Meteorological Organization, every day for the past 50 years, there’s been a natural disaster. Many of these natural disasters cause massive property damage, injuries, and even death.

And while the numbers can be scary, are they scary enough to do something about? Will you create an emergency preparedness plan for when SHTF?

In this article, we’ll show you why having a survival plan is a must, how to prepare for SHTF scenarios, as well as give detailed explanations about the best kinds of preparedness plans.

What Classifies as a SHTF Scenario?

A sh*t hits the fan situation is one that goes from bad to worse. Think, summer thunderstorm turned tornado, or peaceful protest turned riot. For people in the North, a massive snowstorm that shuts down the city is an SHTF moment, and for people living near the coast, hurricanes and tsunamis are when stuff gets really rough.

But it’s not just natural disasters, either. More than ever, our country is divided. Over politics, COVID rules, etc., and it’s important to be prepared for civil unrest, too.

Obviously, sh*t can hit the fan in a variety of ways, and it’s almost impossible to be prepared for every single scenario. But, with a baseline emergency preparedness plan, you can make your way through most situations safely.

What is an Emergency Preparedness Plan?

An emergency preparedness plan is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a set of instructions on how to handle an emergency situation. Not just for yourself, but for your family and pets too.

So, let’s say there’s a major earthquake in Vancouver or California, or even further south in Mexico City. You’ve got to make sure everyone in your family is safe. Do you have supplies? Are you prepared for the possibility of aftershocks? What about tsunamis and earthquakes near the coast, who’s going to go check on Grandma? With a plan in place, it’ll be easy for everyone to know what to do without panicking.

Components of an Emergency Plan

 All good emergency plans have a few moving parts. First and foremost, you have to decide who will be involved. Will it consist of just your immediate family? Or will that circle expand to include family and friends living in your town? Neighbors?

Anyone you want to bring into your emergency plan should be notified and given a chance to voice their concerns. Perhaps your grandparents have a specific method of contact, or maybe your neighbors already have an emergency plan in place. All of these factors will go into how you plan your larger scheme.

Just know that the more people you bring into the mix, the more extensive the emergency plan will have to be.

Shelter Plan

It’s pretty much impossible to be 100% prepared for every emergency situation, including severe weather. One of the biggest issues during natural disasters is finding a safe place to wait out the storm. This might mean having supplies like water, blankets, tents, and medicine to stay safe if you have to leave your home and hunker down at a camp or emergency shelter.

Here are a couple of examples of shelters for various scenarios:

Tornadobasement or a closed-off room in the center of the house

Hurricane – a camp, friend’s house, or cabin out of the radius of the storm

Snow Storm – travel probably isn’t an option, so just stock up on essentials and stay home

Civil Unrest – If stuff gets hairy in your town, you might want to stay with a friend or family member until it settles down. Remote camping or hunting sites are also recommended

Earthquake – avoid any place with a dense population or tall buildings. A country house or remote area might seem safer, but if you get hurt, you’ll struggle to get the right medical attention fast enough. Also, avoid underground shelters.

Forest Fire – Away from the fire, obviously, but not so remote that if the fire spreads you’ll be trapped.

Nuclear Fallout – Bomb shelters are your best option, but basements work too.

Evacuation Plan

In a perfect world, you won’t have to leave your home during a crisis. But if the situation calls for it, you need to be prepared.

For whatever reason, there might just not be enough space or resources at that shelter or campsite to keep everyone safe and comfortable. In that case, it’s time to go.

We’re not going to sugarcoat anything. Evacuation plans are complicated and difficult, but they’re also important. The more organized you are during an evacuation, the better everyone’s chances for survival will be.

The first step is to arrange how you’ll contact everyone who is a part of your emergency plan. Either via phone, text, or in-person. You should set up a codeword that you can use so your family and friends immediately know it’s time to move.

Then, you should plan how you’ll evacuate. What vehicles will your take? Will you need more than one? Will you take backroads or the highway?

If possible, plan your route ahead of time, and come up with alternative modes of transportation. During a natural disaster, you don’t know if roads will be flooded or if trees will be down on the road, so it’s good to have a backup plan.

If you have children, decide who will pick them up from school or daycare. Will all the family members go, or just one? Pets, too. As sad as it may be, you might not be able to bring your goldfish along, but make arrangements so you can safely transport your cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.

Make sure you arrange who will gather the bug-out bag, and clarify at the moment so they know where it’s at.

Evacuation can be the most stressful part of executing an emergency plan, simply because it’s when everything’s happening. The weather might already be getting nasty or your home might be in danger from riots or vandals. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and follow the plan. If you put in the effort to create a clear, concise plan that accounts for multiple eventualities, then it reduces stress at the moment.

Communication Plan

You must stay in constant contact with the members of your emergency preparedness plan. Have their phone numbers, write down their home and work addresses, and let them know of any potential emergency threats or developing situations.

It might be helpful to have a group chat so every member in your party can be aware of situations without having to individually contact everyone.

Don’t abuse this necessity, because if you post too much about “maybe we should leave,” or “potential threats”, it desensitizes people to actual SHTF scenarios. Like the boy who cried wolf.

As we mentioned earlier, develop a codeword to alert your party members when stuff really is going down.

One aspect of a communication plan that most people don’t consider is phone service. In the middle of a hurricane or tornado, phone lines might be down, leaving you without a way to contact your party. Satellite phones are the best way to avoid this problem, but they’re quite expensive, especially if you have multiple people who need one.

Just make sure that if you know stuff is getting bad outside, you contact your party as soon as possible. You never know when your phone service or Internet will go out.

Survival/Emergency Preparedness Kit

We could write a whole article detailing what goes into preparing a bug-out bag or emergency backpack. For the sake of brevity, here’s a list of some of the most important items to include in your bug-out bag.

Medical Supplies

  • Gauze and bandages
  • Non-Steroidal, Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen
  • Surgical needles and thread
  • Forceps (for removing bullets)
  • Antiseptic wipes and antibiotic ointment
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide for infection prevention and treatment
  • Burn ointments like Neosporin or Bactine
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, lotion, etc. 
  • Extra prescription medications you might need

Survival Tools

  • Multi-tool and hunting knife
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Lighter fluid, matches, or magnesium fire starter
  • Paracord
  • LifeStaw or water purification kit
  • Compass and map of the local area
  • Flares and flare gun
  • Tarp or dropcloth
  • Hammock or small sleeping bag
  • Firearm and ammo (optional)
  • Watch
  • Battery pack for charging electronics


  • Protein bars
  • Vitamins
  • MRE’s or camping meals
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Other non-perishable food items
  • Utensils
  • Camping cup for meals and boiling water

It’s important that you regularly check your bug-out bag to make sure you aren’t leaving out a necessary item. And if you plan on using any of the tools or equipment in your bug-out bag, you should always remember to put that item back. You don’t want to be up crap creek without your LifeStraw.

Additional Things To Consider When Making a Plan

Now, stuff rarely goes as planned, especially if disaster strikes. But, as we mentioned, it’s practically impossible to prepare for every eventuality.

That’s why your SHTF plan should be flexible, and in some cases, rather general.

For example, say you live in California, in the hills outside of Lodi (cue the CCR song), and you’re worried about wildfires.

Reasonably, you might plan to take your family to a relative’s house in San Andreas, a city that’s unlikely to be engulfed in flames from a wildfire.

However, in the event of an earthquake, you can’t resort to your wildfire plan. Why? Because San Andreas is closer to the Fault line, probably the origin of the earthquake. Instead, you’d want to hunker down in a safe area away from a lot of buildings. You even might want to travel East, away from the fault.

As you can see, your emergency preparedness plan has to be able to adapt to fit the scenario. One of the best ways to do this is with a static plan, and a dynamic plan.

A static plan is an overarching list of things you need to do in an emergency, whether that’s a fire, earthquake, or alien invasion. A static plan should include:

  • Who you have to contact
  • Where will the bug-out bag be, and who will grab it
  • Do you have a bug-out vehicle?
  • Who’s driving the vehicle?
  • The procedure for taking care of pets and picking up children from school
  • What to do if you, your spouse, or you’re both at work

These are the kind of things that won’t usually change depending on the type of emergency—they’re static.

The dynamic plan/plans will go into much more detail about specific scenarios. You might create a handful of different dynamic plans that get tacked onto the static plan should the situation arise.

No matter the situation, the dynamic should include:

  • Evacuation plan
  • Central meeting place for all parties involved
  • Next steps after everyone is safe
  • Any extra supplies that aren’t in the bug-out bag

Creating multiple dynamic plans will help you stay calm in an SHTF scenario. Stress is greatly amplified in dangerous or potentially dangerous situations, so finding ways to stay calm will help you get to safety faster.

How To Prepare For SHTF Scenarios: Why Make a Plan?

An emergency preparedness plan might not seem like one of your top priorities, but trust us, you’re going to wish you had made one. In 2021, nearly 1 in 3 Americans were impacted by a weather disaster, and that number will only continue to grow.

You might be the only one you have to look out for, and that’s fine. Make your bug-out bag and write a simple where-when-how plan.

But if you have a family, your top priority should always be to keep them safe and making an emergency preparedness plan is part of that.