SHTF Plan: How to Create Your Survival and Emergency Plans

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It’s always smart to prepare ahead for a SHTF situation. Disaster situations are hard on everyone. But you’ll give yourself an edge if you’ve already prepared for such a situation. And it’s never too late to start planning. So, here’s a guide on how to design a SHTF plan.

If you are skilled with filtration, building shelters, medical care, starting a fire, and a few others, you’ll have the upper hand in a SHTF situation. Additionally, you’ll need to communicate actively with your loved ones, assess the situation, secure your home, and have enough supply to support yourself and your family.  

There are several aspects you need to keep under consideration if you want to have a well-designed SHTF plan. I’ve talked about almost all of them in this article or at least touched the essentials. So, keep on reading to know more about how to prepare for a SHTF situation. 

What Are the Potential SHTF Situations?

Let’s clarify what you might experience to deem it as an SHTF scenario. What you’re going to prepare your household for is entirely up to you. It isn’t possible to be ready for everything, as no situation will ever be identical. 

But it’s important to foresee and evaluate the options and resources you’ll have then. You’ll also need to be aware of your situation to minimize risk and maximize resource utilization. So here are a few examples of potential SHTF situations. 

  • Power Outage: If the grid goes down, mass panic follows. They fear that a disaster will come right after a power outage. An electromagnetic pulse or a local scale natural disaster could cause the power to go down. 

As most societies are highly dependent on electricity, not having it might make them feel like doom is impending. 

  • War or Nuclear Attacks: It isn’t unlikely that one of these situations will not occur in your lifetime. Cyber attacks or nuclear war are not a common occurrence, but it’s difficult to know for sure how the tide will turn in the future. We’re not living in a politically stable world. 

A situation like this could cause mass unrest and lead to a secondary SHTF situation. It won’t take more than a few seconds for a mob to form when people are scared and angry. Plus, it will also become a dangerous situation for you to be in. 

  • Natural Disasters: Natural disasters will always be a concern to one out of five individuals most of the time. If Mother Nature decides to strike, we will hardly have anything to do about it. But what we can do is prepare and survive. It is also precisely why we should prepare for another outcome like the disasters of 2018. 

In 2018, the United States was subjected to The Camp Fire in California, the massive Earthquake in Alaska, Hurricane Florence, and Hurricane Michael. These events stole away many valuable lives. Natural disasters are one of the most likely SHTF situations to occur.

  • Economic Downfall: National debt could continue to climb and lead a country to financial downfall. In situations like these, it’s not unnatural to start worrying. A quick look at history will tell us how so many great nations collapsed because of their economy. It would be foolish to believe that we won’t meet the same fate. 

In 2015, Greece went through an economic crisis where the store shelves were empty, and people were hungry. To this day, they still feel the effects of it. 

Apart from these situations, there could be several other SHTF scenarios. It could also be personal to you. Being unemployed might make you feel like you’re about to lose it. If your family functions on your income and you lose it, it will undoubtedly be devastating. You’ll need to prepare for the worst because the unpredictable can happen at any time. 

Designing a SHTF Plan 

In this section, I’ll explain how to design a SHTF plan. You don’t have to make the plan identical to these steps. Just use this as a base for your plant and go with whatever you feel comfortable with and suits your situation. 

  • Start Planning Now: It’s never too late to start planning now, even if there’s no emergency. You can start learning the skills I’ve mentioned earlier. Besides, you could also pick your bug out bag, make a plan for filtering water, stocking up supplies and tools. 

If you have children or the elderly in your family, you can start by creating plans for them as well. 

  • Assess How Things Are Stacking Up: Try to find out what’s happening around you. You’ll want to start by assessing the situation and gather as much information as possible. Check with everyone else in your neighbourhood and compare your situation. You’ll also want to see if you have lost power or a fire has broken. 

The best way to collect information is by using ham radios. 

  • Build a Shelter or Secure Your Home: The next important step is building a shelter or securing your perimeter. I’ve already mentioned previously how you can accomplish that. Most importantly, you’ll have to decide if you want to bug out or stay home. 

If you have children, staying at home is the better option. Even if you don’t have children, bugging in is easier and more comfortable. In either case, you’ll need to establish security and create a plan to keep your location safe. 

  • Stock Your Supplies: After you’ve secured your area, you’ll want to make an inventory check. You’ll want to assess the situation and calculate how long your supplies will last. I recommend keeping the most basic requirements of you and your family in a generally accessible area. 

Then you’ll want to decide what you’re going to do once your supply expires. If going out to stock supplies is dangerous, you’ll want to plan it carefully and have active communication while you’re at it. 

  • Plan What You Have to Do Next and Keep it Flexible: This is one of the most important steps if not the essential one. You’ll have to keep your plan very flexible because a situation can take a twist at any time without warning. 

You’ll want to be ready if an event changes rapidly and make alterations on the fly if required. 

Besides, you’ll want to keep books on survival and other skills. It’s also an excellent idea to read books on edible and medicinal plants in the wild. The best thing you can do is start prepping now and not wait for a disaster to strike. Most importantly, remember not to panic or cause it. 

What Should You Consider if You Need to Bug Out?

Bugging out means leaving your home when you’re facing a SHTF situation. You’ll need to know when you should leave your home. Additionally, you’ll also have to assess if it’s safe to leave the house or remain. If you have to find shelter somewhere else, you’ll need to have a careful plan. 

It’s imperative to be aware of your situation if you bug out. The chances are that if you’re bugging out, other people are too. You’ll find the highways to be flooded, the store shelves to be empty, and everything to be in chaos. Besides, you’ll have to consider planning for several alternative routes because you won’t be successful in using the regular roads. 

It isn’t always practical or possible, but you’ll be significantly benefited if you had a bug-out vehicle. You can navigate your way to safety with lesser issues, and your family will be safer as well. 

You’ll also have to consider where you’ll go, how much supply you have and how long you will last with it. If you’re a threat to your family, it is best if you considered bugging out. It’s ideal to have a second property set up for such scenarios. 

Additionally, you’ll have to consider your family members if it’s not just you. You’ll also have to think about your pets if you own any and elderly members. 

Your best bet is to have a bunker. Also, remember not to tell everyone where your bug out location is. It is best if you find a place where you can have some organic growth. You also have to consider keeping an available heat source too. 

What Should You Take with You While Bugging Out?

You can’t always carry everything in your bug out bag. You will need to bring a limited but essential supply. If you have a plan and list prepared for your bug out bag, it’ll be easier for you and save you more time. Besides, it’ll also help you remember everything you need to take in your bag because you might get only a moment’s notice. 

Here are the things you need to put in your bug out bag. It’s best to have a 72-hour supply because it takes approximately that long on average for the state and federal governments to respond. You can’t always rely on the state for your survival, so you need to look out for yourself first. 

Water Supply and Filtration System

In an emergency, the first thing you should secure is a water supply. Having fresh and safe drinking water is a vital element of survival. You’ll also need a water filtration system that can make the water drinkable. 

Besides that, you’ll need a sturdy water bottle to carry water on the go and protect it against contamination. An average person can’t go longer than three days without water. So, it could be fatal if you get stranded without proper hydration.  


An average person can go on for weeks before they need food. But you’ll need at least a three-day supply to help you get through the first vital moments of an emergency. As you won’t have enough room in your bug out bag, you’ll need to pack small packaged rations. 

I recommend keeping high-calorie foods like protein bars and nuts. You could also stay freeze-dried options. It’s best if you carry enough to sustain you for more than three days. Besides, I also recommend keeping a fishing kit if you get stranded near a water body. 

First Aid 

Undoubtedly, first aid is essential for any disaster situation. The following items will make your first-aid kit well-stocked for emergencies.

  1. Antibacterial wipes, 
  2. Painkillers, 
  3. Gauze pads
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Medical gloves
  6. Sling
  7. Instrument kit
  8. Bandages and Band-Aid
  9. Antibiotic ointment
  10. Antiseptic wipes
  11. Tourniquet and 
  12. First-aid instructions 

If you’re not within the comfort of your home, you’ll be susceptible to several injuries and infections. These items will make sure that your wounds don’t get worse. It will also ensure emergency medical attendance. 


If you’re stuck in the wild or lost your home to a natural disaster, you’ll need cover immediately. So, if you’re leaving home, it’s better to keep some supplies that will shelter you. 

You should keep a tent, space blanket, or sleeping bag with you in your bug out bag. It’s not practical to pack a traditional tent, but you can get a small waterproof tent inside your bag. Also, I recommend keeping a rope and a fire-starting kit in your bag as well. 

In an emergency, you’ll need heat from the fire and also use it for cooking your food. You might also need it to signal for help. A bug out bag should have matches and fire starters that even work when wet. 

Extra Clothing 

It’s better to prepare for adverse weather and pack extra but lightweight clothes. You should keep the following with you. 

  1. Cold weather gloves
  2. Waterproof jacket 
  3. Extra pairs of clothing 
  4. Headgear 

The cold weather gloves will help you grip objects firmly and protect your hands from splinters. It will keep you warm at low temperatures and reduces the risk of infections besides keeping your hands clean. 

Additionally, a waterproof jacket will protect you from harsh weather and keep your clothes underneath the jacket damp. A headgear will keep your head warm. You can buy the ones that can hold heat. You can also keep hand warmers because they’re effortless to carry and will temporarily relieve from freezing weather. 

  • Lighting 

To navigate through an area after sundown or before sunrise, you’ll need good lighting. The following gears are essential in a bug out bag to provide you with a light source. 

  1. Flashlights 
  2. Chemical grade light sticks 
  3. Headlamp 

I recommend keeping extra batteries for your flashlight. Chem lights can give you light up to 12 hours and have a long shelf life. It’s excellent for signalling and keeping away the strays. 

Multipurpose Tools

You won’t know how essential multipurpose tools are unless the situation demands it. No big out bag is complete without these tools. 

  1. Ax
  2. Multi-tool (mini pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, carabiner, wire snips, etc.) 
  3. Mini shovel 
  4. Duct tape 
  5. Paracord 
  6. Folding saw 
  7. Crowbar 

All these tools are invaluable if you’re building a shelter or using some of these for self-defence. These tools are very durable, and you won’t need a lot of space to store them in your bag. 

Besides all these items, you can carry an extra charger, goggles, whistles, sewing kits, and things to defend yourself. It is also an excellent idea to bring copies of essential documents, emergency cash, prescription drugs, and a small mirror. 

Your bug out bag should be of durable fabric with padded hip straps. Additionally, there should be several pockets and compartments with expanded storage and airtight construction. If you’re living in an area affected by chemical warfare, you’ll want to consider military-grade masks.  

What Should You Do if You Have to Stay Home?

Staying home during emergencies is the best option at times. If you’ve assessed the situation and decided to stay home, you’ll have to do a few things to guarantee your and your family’s safety. It’s more comfortable to stay home because it’s familiar and can reduce stress in such a stressful situation. 

From water, food to basic tools there are plenty of things that you should stock up on if you are planning to stay home during a SHTF situation. So, let’s take a look at them. 

  • Water Supply: Having a water supply if you’re bugging in is more convenient than when you have to bug out. You can build a minimum of two weeks’ worth of water supply. An average person needs one gallon of water per day. So, you can store water accordingly, keeping your family members in mind. 

You can store water long-term in several ways. You can use store-bought water bottles, 5-gallon buckets, rainwater cisterns, and pools. 

  • Stocking Food: Like your water supply, you’ll also need a food supply that will sustain you for two weeks. This supply should be what your family usually eats. For a six-month supply, you’ll need food products that have up to 25 to 30 years of shelf life. This could be freeze-dried food or seeds that grow sprouts.

An adult needs 2,000-2,500 calories of food per day. For thirty days, you’ll need to store 60,000 calories for women and 75,000 calories for men. Also, you can get camp stoves, a portable solar water heater, or a portable solar oven for cooking the food. 

  • Security: If you’re bugging in, you’ll need to secure your house or defend your home if the disaster persists. And we can all agree that an average household doesn’t have a good defense. 

Firstly, you’ll have to make sure that your home doesn’t look like a target as you’ll less likely be bothered by people if it seems like that. Use a “Beware” Dog sign even if you don’t own one, motion detectors, security lights, and fences. 

Additionally, you can try to make your property as unseen as possible. Inside your home, you should be prepared with your firearm license if you have one and keep a few traps at hand. Keep a “safe room” in your home that’s easy to defend if things go south. 

  • Tools and Power Preservation: If you’re bugging in, make sure you have some tools at hand. You can use the same tools that I’ve mentioned in the bug out section. These are a shovel, ax, pry bar, or Silcock keys. If you’re having a scarcity of power in your area, you’ll also have to be smart about your consumption. 

You can use solar panels, a solar power generator, or a small portable solar charger. It’s a good idea to minimize power consumption because electricity also attracts unwanted attention. 

  • Communication and Entertainment: It may seem trivial to you to think about entertainment while the world is on the brink of ending. But if you’re stuck in your room with nothing to do, you might feel like you’re going insane. The idea is to keep active and not be bored. 

You can keep books, video games, puzzles, board games, and toys. If you can use electricity, you can also watch movies. For communication, you might need walkie-talkies. Also, HAM radios are worth considering, but you’ll need a license to use them. 

Even if your house is the ultimate sanctuary for coping with a SHTF situation, you should always be prepared for bugging out. Use the instructions I’ve mentioned above and keep a bug-out bag ready-to-go. 

Skills You Should Know for Designing a SHTF plan

According to the Survival Summit, the following skills are necessary and fundamental to design a good SHTF plan. 

  • Starting a Fire: It’s essential to know how to create a fire when there’s an emergency. It’s advantageous if you’re stranded in the wild. You’ll need fire to be safe, cook, and smoke meat. Besides, you’ll also need it to boil water and make it safe for drinking. 

You’ll find many affordable fire starters on the market, such as a lighter, a Ferro rod with a striker, and many others. But I also recommend learning how to start a fire like the primitive way: with sticks. 

  • Finding a Food Source and Storing Food: Learning about and identifying edible plants, growing a garden, hunting, and using snares could benefit you in uncountable ways. As these methods take a lot of time to learn, you’ll have to practice them very often to master them.

If you’ve moved to your bug out location, your food supply is bound to expire at some point. In those times, these skills will benefit you the most. If you’re bugging in, you’ll need to store your rations and divide them carefully among your family members to make sure it lasts you a long time. 

  • Filtration and Water Procurement: You’ll need an adequate supply of water if you’re bugging in or out. I’ve already talked about what you should do when you bug in. But for bugging out, you’ll need a few types of equipment for water filtration. 

If you are on a budget, you can choose affordable alternatives. I recommend getting one that filters viruses and bacteria. If you’re using water from an active stream, you should always filter it. Make sure not to use murky water directly with you because it might lessen your filter’s life. 

Besides, I also recommend learning how to filter water organically, using rocks and sand. You could also use purification tablets to filter your water. Again, try to keep your water containers free of contamination. You want to avoid directly touching the water and the container’s mouths. 

  • First-Aid and Medical Skills: Aside from having a well-stocked first aid, you’ll need to learn a few medical skills in case any of your family members suffer from a bad injury. You’ll also want to educate yourself on medical plants and herbs if none of the medication is working. 
  • Setting Up a Shelter: The most affordable method for providing shelter is building it the primitive way. Not everyone can afford expensive tents, so this skill is something that will be very handy for you if you’re looking for cheaper alternatives. 

I recommend learning how to survive in the wild despite having the luxury of a modern lifestyle. Plus, it’s best if you also tricked up your gear. There are tons of videos on the Internet that you can check out for learning these skills. You could also take some survival classes from the top experts in the country.

It’s not mandatory to learn these skills, but because life is so unpredictable, you should prepare for the worst. You’ll rarely ever be in a situation and think, “I saw that coming.” So it’s better to believe that you’ll see everything coming should life throw a curveball at you. 


No matter what others say being prepared for the worst is always a great idea. Surviving on our own is not as easy as we’ve become accustomed to modern-day life. But if you’re forced to overcome a SHTF situation, following this guide will certainly give you an edge. 

I hope that you have a general idea about what you have to do in an emergency and how to design a SHTF plan. Hope this article was of help to you. Have a wonderful day. 


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

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