What Would a Long Term SHTF Event REALLY Look LikeAs preppers we tend to look at a total collapse scenario as a Mad Max or Walking dead type scenario. The truth is, there are far too many variables to say what it would be. So, what would a long term SHTF really look like?

I have heard it said that the more extreme the scenario, the less likely it is to happen. While this may be true, that doesn’t make it impossible. Throughout your life, you have probably witnessed or heard about things you never thought would happen. 911, Pearl Harbor and Nagasaki come to mind for me.

As preppers we prepare for the likely, as well as the unlikely, because it seems the more unlikely a disaster scenario is, the higher the stakes are. Because of this we need to be realistic about how the events might unfold, and how we may need to react.

SPP235 What Would a Long Term SHTF Event REALLY Look Like


This week in the show Lisa and I dug deep into some things that would cause a long term SHTF event, how things might unfold, and some of the variables we need to consider. While our survival is never guaranteed, preparedness is about learning and increasing our odds.

The 3 Major Variables

In any disaster scenario there are 3 variables that will change how things unfold. There variables are other people, the government(s), and yourself. Regardless of the disaster scenario, these will factor into how well, or not so well things go for you.

Other People: It’s probably no surprise to hear that other people will play a big role in how your situation goes. People have proven time and time again that when things get bad, they will do whatever it takes to survive.

Government: Whether we are talking about our government, or other countries governments stepping in, there will be some sort of government to deal with. The people in control will do whatever it takes to maintain power, and who knows what that looks like.

Yourself: The decisions we make, the skills we learn, and how prepared we are, will all play a role in how everything plays out. This is why being honest with yourself about your abilities and skills is so important.

What Would Cause a Long Term Event?

As I stated earlier, the odds of a large scale (country wide) disaster scenario are far less likely than a small scale disaster or personal doomsday, but this doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Just 3 years ago I would have said that the odds of an EMP were very low. Because of countries like Iran and North Korea, I can’t say that today.

In this article I wrote a while ago about possible disaster scenarios, I went over some events that could be both short term, and long term. Events such as an economic collapse, and EMP and war could be long term events.

It’s also important to note that a long term SHTF event could be cause by a combination of events. For example: if an EMP only took out the power grid on the west coast, it could mean devastating consequences for the economy.

Possible SHTF Timeline

In the show Lisa and I went over a SHTF timeline scenario. It’s hard to say exactly how things would unfold, but I think we all have a pretty good idea. This is a great topic to debate with family and friends to see what everyone thinks, and where everyone stands.

Day 1: People will be in shock and unwilling to contemplate the thought that no one is coming to help. Grocery stores would be ransacked and emptied within hours, and criminals would be taking advantage of the chaos.

3 Days: I think that around 3 days to a week is when reality set in for people. This is when the food runs out, and the realization that things are not going back to normal anytime soon sets in. The first couple of weeks will be the most dangerous in any disaster scenario, regardless how long it lasts.

3 Weeks: Around 3 weeks to a month is when the “die off” begins in full force. Iv’e seen numbers that say 90% of the population would die if the power grid went down, and I completely agree with that. As preppers, I think that if we can make it through this stage were doing pretty good, but we’re still not out of the woods.

3 Months: Somewhere in the 1 to 3 month window, the cleanup and rebuilding begins. This is when everyone who is still around understands the gravity of the situation, and understands what needs to be done for the future. Anyone who survives this long is either very prepared, or very lucky.

Rebuilding: It’s fairly easy to think about what might happen in the first few months of a SHTF scenario, but after that things get a little more complicated. What happens to government? The way our government works today may change, but they will still be around.

While most criminals would be dead at this point, there would still be some around. The ones that are still around have survived because they are far more dangerous than the street thugs stealing TV’s and ransacking stores. These people could build militias or large groups, and even try to implement their own style of government.

My whole point is that even though the worst would be over, these would be dangerous times to live in. There could be civil war, other countries offering “humanitarian aid”, and a number of other variables that could come into play.

The Basics

If you happen to make it past the first few months, well congratulations! You either really have it going on, or you are really lucky…probably a combination of both. After the major chaos, and when things begin to settle down, the basics begin to become the priority again.

While first aid, security, and sanitation are all important aspects of preparedness, your not going to get very far without food, water and shelter. Not every situation involves treating a wound, but you do need to eat and drink everyday.

Food: Regardless of how much food you have stored, yours is bound to run out. This is why gardening, hunting and foraging are so important. Eventually there would be farmers markets and the like, but it could be some time before grocery stores would come back into play.

Water: As with food storage, your water storage will eventually be depleted. If you happen to live into the long term stages of a disaster, you probably have the water situation figured out. Depending on your location and the situation, you may or may not have running water at this point. This is why figuring out solutions is so important rigth now.

Shelter: With a die off of 90%, there would probably be plenty of empty houses around, but if the banks are still around, that could be a risky proposition. If this long term SHTF event is an economic collapse or depression type event, owing money to the bank or renting could lead to eviction. This is why getting out of debt, and paying off your home is so important, although easier said than done for most of us.

These are just a few thought we had on what a long term SHTF event would look like, but if you have anything to add, leave a comment below.


Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

    4 replies to "What Would a Long Term SHTF Event REALLY Look Like?"

    • Mic Roland

      Dale and Lisa,

      Really enjoyed your podcast as the topic of “what would a long term shtf look like?” is one I’ve mulled over for a long time. As you said, things would not go Mad Max as quickly as popular culture tends to think. Of course, that sells better.

      Personally, I think the timeline would be longer that most people think. For example, while it may be true that the average house has only 3 days worth of food on hand, if there was a sudden crisis (EMP, for example), I don’t think they would keep eating at the same rate. Once the reality set in, most people would start to scale back to stretch their resources. Three days of food might last them six. Even then, people don’t “starve” the day after their last meal. That takes a while too. Many sheeple will tend to just quietly starve rather than maraud.

      Then, too, I think you touched on another important feature. A lot of people will be helpful and kind. We saw a lot of that in the hurricane aftermaths. Neighbor helping neighbor. People with more will be prone to helping neighbors with less. The Black Friday scenario is always in a crowd of strangers.

      That 90% die-off figure was said to be at the 1 year mark. Oh yeah, in a big grid-down world, some people would die off w/o their oxygen machine, or AC in Arizona, as you say. Most folks will adapt. They won’t like it, or be comfortable, but they’ll adapt. Move south, move north, move out of the city, etc.

      As you said, there are a lot of variables. I wrote a four-part (so far) fiction series about just that sort of topic — a long-term grid-down situation, to explore lots of those variables from one small town’s perspective. The story reflects my belief that the “world as we know it” might crumble away, but most people won’t become ravening wolves (or punk-style villains, ala Mad Max). They’ll try to adapt.

      For Lisa, check out the older sci-fi movie Colossus: The Forbin Project. 1970. Here’s a synopsis review:
      Being 1970, it’s not a CGI film, like Terminator, but you could watch it as the beginning of the “singularity” that would become Skynet.

      Again, thanks for the great podcast.

      — Mic

    • tuesdayissoylentgreenday

      If something this big happens… China , Russia and Mexico will be here to divvy up the country.

    • Rich

      Dale, you referenced “a mind for survival” and “Brian” tried to search it. Is this a Podcast?

      • Dale

        Yeah Rich. Just go to Mind4Survival.com or search Mind4Survival on iTunes (with the number 4, not the word)

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