How Likely is a SHTF Scenario or Situation?

What is an SHTF Scenario?

The acronym SHTF stands for “sh*t hits the fan.” It’s often used in expressions that refer to a situation that goes from bad to worse. It can refer to catastrophic scenarios, like when the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina caused the dams to burst, or it can allude to a personal disaster, such as job loss after an extensive and costly illness.<!– –>

by Jolina Flower, an Expat Prepper living in Mexico

Individual responses to an SHTF scenario are as varied as the type of SHTF situations that can arise. Reactions depend on where the person lives, how well he or she has prepared for a situation such as the one occurring, and what type of person is affected. 

For example, a nurse during a pandemic SHTF situation will most likely react differently than a bank teller because of the set of skills the nurse has and the experience difference. An economic SHTF situation, however, might be better handled by a bank teller than a nurse for the very same reasons. <!– –>

different shtf scenariosdifferent shtf scenarios

Examples of SHTF Scenarios

There is an infinite number of SHTF scenarios and you won’t be able to prepare for every single eventuality. For example, it’s hard to prepare in advance for a meteorite collision in any efficient manner. However, there are practical things you can do in the event of financial hardship or a hurricane before these situations arise. Let’s take a look at the most common scenarios. 

Financial Hardship

Financial hardship can happen to anyone at any time. The company you work for might suddenly declare bankruptcy, leaving you without gainful employment. You may get fired or laid off. Accident or illness may mean that you are unable to work. 

Even if you are still employed, the economic situation in your area could make it so that you are unable to make ends meet, no matter how many hours a week you work. A sharp rise in inflation can cause you to get behind in house payments. An expensive medical procedure can wipe out your savings. Any of these situations can result in a financial pinch that if you aren’t prepared for can become an SHTF scenario.<!– –>

Natural Disasters

Not only do natural disasters cause physical damage to an area, but they can also spawn a situation of financial hardship. If your home is destroyed in a wildfire, then you are affected both physically and economically. Being displaced in a hurricane means you aren’t able to work. 

If you are injured in an earthquake, your finances will take a hit too. Tornadoes and floods can destroy homes, businesses, and other effects. Not having enough provisions stocked away and finding out there is no way to get to the store in a blizzard, can be a serious oversight on your part, leading to an SHTF scenario. 


pandemic situationpandemic situation

A pandemic has the potential to be an SHTF scenario on many levels. First, the actual virus can cause the illness or death of you or a loved one. Being sick can prevent you from working which may trigger financial hardship. A large-scale pandemic might cause the collapse of governmental organizations and possibly the society you live in. Great civilizations throughout history have tumbled because of a pandemic. How prepared are you?

EMP/Long Term Power Outages

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is an electrical pulse that is disruptive or damaging to electronic equipment. An EMP could occur as a result of a Coronal mass ejection (CME), lightning strike, power-line surges, or a man-made weapon. Depending on the source, the result could be a localized outage or one that encompasses a vast area. 

Other situations might occur where you experience long term power outages that are not as a result of an electromagnetic pulse. Storms and earthquakes might damage the power lines in an area, sometimes causing power outages that last several weeks or months. Damage to power lines caused by animal interference or an automobile accident may cause power outages of a shorter duration. 

Relying heavily on the grid for your electricity isn’t advisable since it can easily become an SHTF situation. What are your power alternatives?

Other SHTF Scenarios

Home invasion, nuclear meltdown, hostage situation, and assault are other examples of SHTF scenarios that may be more likely in some areas and under certain conditions than in others. How you prepare and the severity of the situation often depends on the likelihood of that particular situation affecting you. 

Likelihood of a SHTF Scenario

Likelihood of Financial Harship

financial hardship moneyfinancial hardship money

Financial hardship refers to a scenario where you can not keep up with your bills and the amount you need to cover basic necessities is more than what you earn due to something outside of your control. Anyone can find themselves in this situation. Death of a spouse, divorce, job loss, illness, countrywide recession, natural disasters, or even a pandemic situation can destroy your livelihood, your savings, and your health. 

An SHTF financial crisis situation can mushroom into something that is completely beyond your control if you aren’t proactive about it. One survey revealed that just 40% of US citizens have emergency savings that they can use in a financial hardship situation. Four in 10 Americans would face financial hardship within a month of losing their jobs. 

Likelihood of Natural Disasters

Worldwide, natural disasters kill approximately 90,000 people each year and have serious consequences for another 160 million. The type and severity of a natural disaster in your area depend on your location. Obviously, those that live near Mount Saint Helen have a higher likelihood of experiencing a volcanic SHTF scenario than those that live in New Jersey. Wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts caused $18 billion in losses in the United States in 2018.

30% of insured losses were caused by tropical cyclones and $14.1 billion worth of damages were caused by severe thunderstorms. Winter storms and floods totaled another $4.2 billion of losses in the same year. 

Likelihood of a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic caused layers of SHTF scenarios throughout the world in 2020. The pervasive character of this respiratory virus killed thousands. As a result, at least twenty percent of those that contracted the virus died as a result. More than 200 countries and territories were affected. The economic repercussions of stay-at-home orders have yet to be determined.

Likelihood of Electrical Outages

Electrical outages due to natural disasters, inability to pay your bill and insufficient personnel to run power facilities due to a pandemic are quite likely unless you have a backup power source. Those that live in Maine, South Carolina, Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, and West Virginia have more occurrences of power outages than most states. So your likelihood of experiencing some sort of power disruption is higher in those states generally. 

Likelihood of Other Events

The likelihood of you personally experiencing other SHTF situations mentioned is greater when you are in an area that has the potential to be dangerous. For example, if you live near Three Mile Island, a nuclear meltdown might be a concern. If your neighborhood is often targeted by thieves, then home invasion is a concern. Being aware of your surroundings and taking appropriate actions can reduce the chances of you being personally affected.

Will YOU Face a SHTF Situation?

In order to get a general idea of whether or not you will face an SHTF situation, you need to consider the likelihood of an event in your area. For instance, those that live in Nebraska probably won’t need to worry much about hurricane damage, however, tornados are potential SHTF scenarios. 

Your preparedness will also determine whether a situation becomes an SHTF scenario or not. For example, having multiple sources of income, six months of savings, low or no debt, and a food stockpile could avert a financial crisis in the event of a major illness, job loss, or country-wide recession. 

So do your research, take precautions, and get your sh*t together and you’ll have a better chance of weathering any SHTF situation that comes your way. 

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