3 Ways To Determine If An Emergency Is A SHTF Or Just An Inconvenience

Mark Wilcox
4 min readApr 14, 2022


Scared young adult male holding onto a teddy bear in bed

You can’t join an outdoor survival or bushcraft group without someone asking what would you do in an SHTF (Stuff Has Hit The Fan, except you don’t say Stuff)situation.

This usually involves people talking about running into the woods to a secret location with their Bug-Out-Bag and enough firepower to make Rambo envious.

I always wonder what did these people do during the lockdowns?

I have contemplated the ultimate SHTF scenarios for 30 years. It started when I was 10 years and realized the dangers of global thermonuclear war.

But the reality is that SHTF doesn’t have to be global.

It can be localized.

For example, talk to someone who went through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Or survived Fukushima.

Heck, talk to my neighbors about the Texas Freeze of 2021.

But the one that always gets me is my buddy T. and his brother Sherman (I can’t remember his real name off the top of my head. So I’ll just go with Sherman).

Sherman lived in a city in Kansas along a river. The river had never flooded the city in the entire time the city had existed.

Except for one night, every dam downstream all of the way to the Gulf Of Mexico had been closed due to heavy rains.

And as a result, the water backed up and flooded the entire town. It even destroyed a local gasoline refinery which polluted everything.

Sherman lost his home and everything in it. I remember he stayed with his brother for a week and how thankful he was when I gave him a Visa gift card telling him to use it how he saw fit.

Even if it was on a case of beer.

When he asked me why I gave him the card, I said I knew it would be a long time before official help would get to him, and I imagined a few dollars would let him get anything that could help.

Anyway, here are 3 ways to determine if it is an SHTF situation or not.

Mass Loss of Life Is Possible

The first thing to consider is if mass loss of life is possible.

If mass loss of life is possible if you don’t take proper action, then it is a possible SHTF situation.

While popular culture focuses on global disasters like nuclear war, a natural disaster is more likely.

Spring in Texas is when we get our violent thunderstorms, including large hail and tornadoes.

I keep a Bug-out-Bag (actually a laundry basket full of stuff) ready to go on days when I know we have a potential for severe weather.

It contains food (including dog food), water for the dog, drinks, a flashlight, some blankets, a radio (Internet and phones could go down, a radio always will work), and a whistle in case we are stuck under debris.

Extensive Property Damage

Next, if there is a potential for people to lose their homes (and secondarily businesses), then you are facing an SHTF situation.

Thanks to modern building codes, this is the greatest risk of most natural disasters in the US.

This is why I keep tarps on hand in my Bug-out-Laundry Basket.

Extended Loss Of Power

The final reason I can take from the 2021 freeze.

The ice storm by itself did not pose much risk from loss of life or property damage.

But what happened was that a series of events caused the state to lose power for extended periods of time.

Because of the extreme cold weather, pipes burst all over the state flooding homes (I had three friends have their houses flooded) and even some people froze to death.

As you can see, even if you are not worrying about a global apocalypse, it is possible that something could happen that only affects your city yet results in an SHTF scenario that you must be prepared for.

If you want to learn more then check out my guide about learning essential survival skills here.

About Mark:

I once backpacked 100 miles in 90 days. After 25 years in IT, I wanted more adventure in my life. I want to inspire you to add more adventure too.

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Mark Wilcox

I once backpacked 100 miles in 90 days. After 25 years in IT, I wanted more adventure in my life. I want to inspire you to add more adventure too.