Your Preparedness Plan For SHTF


When the poo hits the fan, most people will be running around in circles ‘like chickens with their heads cut off’.

One of the most important aspects to survival preparedness is something that many (even most preppers) do not adequately do…

…and that is to make a plan, and to have a backup plan for that plan.

Let me explain:

The most important thing to survival preparedness may be the planning itself. It’s something that many have not spent adequate time on. Know this though:

Any plan is better than no plan at all, and a plan that’s only in your mind is not as good as one that is written down.

When the SHTF (no matter the variety) there will be a high potential for stress, fear, panic, chaos, and ‘brain freeze’. Mistakes will be made and many will suffer from the ‘pucker factor’…

Referencing a preconceived set of plans and/or checklists will ensure better decision making and a superior chance of maneuvering through the ‘poop’.

Having said that, more often than not, your Plan A will turn into Plan B. Or even a Plan C.

It’s a good idea to include a ‘decision matrix’ in your plan. A decision matrix is one in which “if this happens, then do that”. The matrix accommodates the ability to adapt to varying circumstances.

While making preparedness plans, consider the ‘size’ or scope of the disaster you’re planning for. There are three primary considerations. Local, Regional, National (and/or Global).

When starting a plan, first consider the assumption (hypothesis, premise). Then work out a plan for it. After you’ve documented the plan, set it aside for awhile. Sleep on it. Later on come back to visit that plan and make adjustments with a fresh mindset.

Sometimes the assumption or premise to a given plan is only partially fulfilled when it actually occurs. Therefore you should have contingencies (what if’s) for a partial occurrence. We often consider the worst-case scenario, but many times the reality of occurrence is somewhere in-between.

None of us know what is going to happen. But we can make plans for what might happen. The majority of preparedness-minded people will do a decent job with thinking about ‘what if’ scenarios and the preps thereof, however most do not right down their plans (at least that’s what my instinct tells me).

When you put your thoughts and plans to paper, it makes a big difference. Try it sometime ;)

Lets hear your thoughts regarding ‘making a plan’… (plans – plural)


  1. I have found that by simply writing ‘it’ down or typing into a document on your computer really brings out the thought process more-so than just ‘thinking’ about it. You might consider keeping a binder with your plans, thoughts, checklists, etc…

    1. I agree Ken, writing it down seems to help me to remember. For some reason, after I write it down or see it in print, I can remember better. Whenever we went grocery shopping if there were only 2 or 3 things that I had to get, I would not bother to write it down. Yet when there for the life of me I might only remember one thing even though I knew I needed 3 things. So several years ago we put two white boards on the frig to write down things that we needed. Now I can have 5 or 6 things written on the board and yet once in the store I can picture the board in my head and remember it. So I agree, write everything down.

      Even when my daughter had a minor accident when she was 16, she didn’t know what to do, even though it had been drilled into her before she was allowed to drive alone.

      I think all stressful events seem to have this effect on people. It’s a good idea to have a plan written out for everything. Including car accidents for new drivers to keep in the glove compartment.

    2. That’s that visual memory kicking in. My visual is much stronger than my auditory memory.

  2. Making plan A and then Plan B is a great method of thinking through the “What if scenarios” but to be really successful you have to put those plans in action as best you can (drill) looking for mistakes. I have made various plans now let me describe three examples.
    1. Bugging out. – I made a forced march of 20 miles last summer with my bug out bag. Did I learn a lot!
    2. Living at my ranch out of touch. – Last summer I took time off for 30 days to live at the ranch and use only the preps I have stored at the ranch. Almost nothing was as I thought it would be.
    3. Living off the land.- Now I am in week 2 of 4 of living off the land eating only what I can hunt and gather. What I have learned so far is that hunting and then preparing the animal for cooking is the easy part. Chopping wood, keeping the fire going takes all your remaining time but I found that trying to start a fire to prepare every meal is much more time consuming.

    So I would say that making plan A or plan B must be based on a lot of first hand experience relative to what you are trying to do and where you want to go or want to live. A plan that is not put into action as best as you can before it is needed will present you with a lot of problems when it is actually needed.

    Do not get discouraged, be well

    1. In my younger days we (3) would go out in the deep woods with a teepee to live in. Living off the land the old way. we set up every year in the same location. The last year Fire wood was hard to find. we had used up all the ez stuff in prior years and had to spend 3/4 of the day getting wood to burn at night to keep warm and cook. So it limited time to hunt and gather food. Then it happened the dead tree we were going to cut up that day turned out to be wet and rotted. We found another dead one but it was to “green”. Then the Blizzard HIT! we managed to get back to camp with some scraps of wood that only filled the teepee with smoke. So basically no heat and the wind was so strong we were waiting for the teepee to collapse on us. A sleepless night. The next morning it was cold,no fire, the snow was deep, big drifts.The Jeep wouldn’t start. Survival was now for real.

  3. Although I never got a job from my training in programming Cobol, I did takeaway flowcharting. I highly suggest it, the if-true/not-true logic decision making process charted out is something that is your guide in times of need for rapid decision-making. This is used by NASA (as documented in “Failure is not an Option” by Gene Kranza, Apollo missions), and the military, business, ad infinitum.

    1. @Thox
      Some of us are pre-programmed for analysis work. For those of us who are analytical, planning and forecasting come somewhat naturally. I will wager that you fit the mold. I know I do. Flowcharting, structured programming (with conditionals) really do train the mind — not just for guaranteed outcomes but for troubleshooting/debugging.
      (I learned Fortran first… Then assembler, then Pascal, then COBOL. Does that make me multilingual? ;-) LOL)

      1. @ L
        Ok here is the test, do you remember C++ and RPG, ugh I hated RPG :-)
        Like yourself an Thox Spuddy I did programing back in the day.

        ‘I’m a progtamer, I’m a perugramer, I’m a porgramer, I write code” HAHAHA I still have that tee-shirt :-)


        1. @NRP (Don’t know why my name is coming up “L” these days…hmm)
          I never coded in C++ but it’s similar to Pascal. RPG was gone by the time I was finishing my comp sci degree. COBOL was taken just in case I worked in accounting or govt old-school. My intro to languages was Fortran IV and that’s where/how I learned the structure. Was logical for me.

          Yes, I did coding professionally but not for long. Soon after that, went into analysis.

          Here’s my way-back machine: Keypunch machines! Had to keep track of those fricking punched cards myself! Oh, and mainframes — with the 12-inch elevated flooring and ice-cold control rooms. ;-) And I (like MANY others) remember the ‘internet’ before Al Gore invented it…

        2. I was doing quite well taking a night course in Cobol while there were many jobs available. Towards the end of my last semester I went to put the finishing touches on my final program and found that it had been deleted by the daytime instructor. I did reproduce it through printouts I saved, but then Control Data coincidentally closed up shop and laid off 6,000 programmers in the Twin Cities and some of them showed up at that night course. Everybody knowing that, my first job offer was about 40% of what I was making as a cabinetmaker. End of my programming career before it ever started.

          About Al Gore, it grieves to right the record, but Al did not claim to have invented the internet. The record shows that Al singularly played a major role in congress that made the development of the internet from a nerdy network to what it became in the late 80’s and early 90’s possible. He was misquoted when he in typical hyperbole stated that he “created” the internet. The way I look at Al Gore is as a pompous, delusional science fiction enthusiast. It took that kind of a mind in a congressman to have envisioned the potential of an internet.

          From Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf:
          “No one person or even small group of persons exclusively “invented” the Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among people in government and the university community. But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore’s contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.”
          “As a Senator in the 1980s Gore urged government agencies to consolidate what at the time were several dozen different and unconnected networks into an “Interagency Network.” Working in a bi-partisan manner with officials in Ronald Reagan and George Bush’s administrations, Gore secured the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in 1991. This “Gore Act” supported the National Research and Education Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.”

        3. @Thox
          I think you are much more generous and forgiving than the majority of scientifically minded people. Referring to Gore’s pompous actions and through the use of his own words, Gore’s own arrogance and narcissistic personality just couldn’t resist himself. He grossly over-estimated (and over-stated) his “importance” in many areas, among them, the creation of the Internet.

          Gore said, “..I took the initiative in creating the Internet..” — It is as clear as can be. He didn’t mis-speak or mis-remember any less than many politicians do.

          Anything Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf say is coming from the Progressive camp and no, their objectives are not altruistic or 100% reliable (although Cerf was around early on w/ Arapanet, followed by Kahn w/ TCP/IP).

      2. At first I considered the idea of incorporating a conditional flowchart box for “gut feeling” as being ludicrous, but maybe not? What do you think?

        1. incorporating a conditional flowchart box for “gut feeling” as being ludicrous, but maybe not?

          Why not? Aren’t “gut feelings” attributed to biochemical reactions (responses)? Aren’t some “gut feelings” reflexive?

          Program Gut Feeling;

          If ___
          then ___
          or ___
          Else ___
          Or ___ And __
          Do ___
          While ___
          Or ___

        2. This really would be an excellent and useful project, a handbook using flowcharting for preparedness.
          Flowchart #1 – FOOD STORAGE – conditions: # of people / length of time
          Flowchart #2 = BUG OUT OR IN – conditions: type of threat / proximity
          and so forth.

        3. @Thox, my reply on flowcharting (below) was meant for you, not Slingshot – sorry about that.
          (Also have a reply to the Al Gore issue but it’s got a link that is pending for now.)

        4. Flow Charts For Survival Dummies.

          Why Not. Some jobs have repair books that use flowcharts for troubleshooting.

        5. @Slingshot, that’s pretty much how I set up my “matrix” that lists many disasters/events/conditions. Mine isn’t a flowchart, per se, but has categories to analyze each factor: cause of damage, area affected (local, regional, etc), scope of damage, effect, strategy.

  4. That is exactly (from what I have observed) is that most people when confronted with the possible scenario of when TSHTF, will say, “I’ll just take what you already have.” Simple solution!

    1. @ ChiefPontiac
      My response — “I also have a stockpile of Body Bags”— That usually halts that conversation.

  5. Well, I’m planning on thinking about writing it down more next year. I will probably wait till I am 70 before actually putting pen to paper. Anything more aggressive is for the young.

  6. Making a plan and a checklist is the way to go and I can not stress it enough for the Newbies. Storage and acquiring gear should be followed by
    gear usage and accessibility. How many times/often you will use the gear will determine where you place it in storage. Emergency placement, should be a major factor. Military Foot lockers and Ammo cans are good containers because they are rugged and can be transported easily. Plastic tubs will do but have stacking problems. Remember to itemize list what is in the container and identify it on the outside. I use orange tape to identify the must “Get To First” Containers.

  7. Reminds me of the saying, and everyone has heard this, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. How true.
    Personally I’m not wanting to write a novel on every scenario of what may or may not happen, but to have the basics± covered is well advised. No different than in my line of work, the same goes true for finances, food storage, evacuation plan, retirement, etc. Remembering that most times the simplest plan is very often the best plan. KISS is 95% of the time the “smart” way to go, well at least for dummies like me anyways HAHAHAHA.

  8. Great topic, Ken! I worked on one of these a bunch last month. I wanted something for my wife to be able to quickly flip through for pretty much any situation that I could think of: bug out, bug in, emp, grid down, blah blah blah. She doesn’t obsess over this stuff like I do and I wanted her to have some sort of resource in case the molemen got me.

  9. Great article.
    You know, last night I was reading the book Prepper Natural Medicine thinking ‘I don’t even know what I have in the categorized/labeled 5 BOBs in the room connected to the garage’.
    So, on this beautiful 60’s degrees day, I am gonna rectify that.

    A plan isn’t complete without BOBs.

    Not GHBs, but BOBs. There is a difference. Short term vs. long term.

  10. Ken’s idea on a decision matrix is excellent. Begin with the most probable scenario/condition, such as: Natural disaster, Man-made disaster, Government-made disaster, and Personal disaster. (These are my 4 main areas of concern.)

    After you list the SHTF categories, then work on specific disasters under those categories. Try to stay organized while setting up your plan and do write things down — it will help you identify the “S” when it hits the fan.

    Once you identify the “S” you can think through whether or not you stay, flee, evacuate, get-out-of-Dodge.

    Identify the scenarios that will involve you/your loved ones. Then identify how you should/might/must react. It all boils down to a response to an event (basic stimulus-response action) so try to identify the scenarios well and determine your course of action.

    Excellent article, Ken. This entire topic on SHTF planning would make a great series (hint! hint!).

  11. I have several plans for different scenarios. Whether a plague, forest fire, Yellowstone super volcano, economic, or long term grid-down situation, I have room for adjustments to each situation, depending on the severity.

    It is good practice to play these things out in your mind, even better to live a few days without modern conveniences and the food you bought to find what food is abundant in the wild in your area. When you live it, you don’t need pen and paper to write it down when it is ingrained.

    If you have plans for bug out places, visit them often, and get to know the area well and routes to get there. I picked areas I have been familiar with for many decades, know the land and what it produces. I got to know the hazards and the benefits. These are part of my plans.

  12. Getting a plan down is great if it pertains to situations that you can control or have some notion of what will happen.

    Unfortunately, when trying to get your head around a plan about the economy (your economy) you may be running in circles. In a short while, the Fed may raise rates by a whooping .25% or they may not – this crap has been going on now for 8 years. Savers have been crushed, properties and equities have been a roller coaster, earnings have been challenged….. the plan may have been to unplug from the economy but at every turn you are a slave – register your vehicle, your handgun, your drone, your health care plan, your property, your marriage, your CO2 and methane emissions (well not quite yet) but you get the drift.

    1. @ Homebody
      HAHAHA, you got me laughing pretty good there, I can just see the .gov coming to my home to measure my “CO2 and methane emissions” LOL. I can just picture it now ROFLMAO. Even better yea, Register my handgun??? Ohhhh my.

      1. Lol,I heard about barbeque grills, but methane output, fart police. Lol !!! After eating baked beans the fart police show up, turn around hands against the wall. Sir he’s opening fire on us. Don’t shoot we’re in enclosed area it might explode. Oh nooo!!! Lol tears lol

  13. I wonder of the CO2 police will put pipes at the back end of each of my horses, cows and llamas? HAHAHA that is a funny thought! And I am sure my wood burning hot tub and wood furnace will be measured out here in BFE?

    We keep binders for plan A and Plan B….we made binders for inventories of supplies, and binders for information collection such as Faraday cages, resource protection, security etc.

    One of our most important goals was to establish a PAPER library that covers most (goal is all) research needs if ever the Web went down….I believe we are there. It has taken years, but in pretty good shape today. We also established a secondary library on a small scale for emergency usage and have stored it in a fire resistant box in a conex on the back of the barnyard. Never know about a house fire, even though the home is made of steel. better safe than sorry!

    Keep planning folks! Never stop.

  14. I work within a hospital that was computerized upon my arrival. As time goes on, there is an increasing reliance on the computer. On a day-to-day basis, this is OK though i have a binder within my locker with information I need to access should the computers go down. I still operate on pen and paper an awful lot compared to my younger coworkers and this saves our collective bacon more times than not.

    Minimum legal standard: If it is not written down, it did not happen.

    People say: “Oh things like that never happen” Last week we had a power outage that lasted 3 hours before power was restored. Computers were wonky for 24 hrs after that. Kinda blew record keeping all to H#ll.

    I call it my Hurricane Binder and it has been made and used in all the facilities I worked at in the aftermath of wildfires, earthquakes and major storms or large healthcare facilities where the grid goes down. I am not a Supervisor. I am older than most of my supervisors. I am an old staff that knows how to keep the place up and running/ livable for the patients when things go wrong. I’m old enough where I’ve seen a lot of things go wrong.

    I am considered rude by many of my supervisors but the only thing that saves me from losing my job is when things go wrong and there is no contingency plan outside of my binder and myself. The scary thing is how frequently that binder gets pulled out and used.

    PS: If you have a relative within a Nursing home or Hospital and that facility gets evacuated, turn your phone on/recharge your cell or turn on your answering machine at home. I will be calling next of kin, family in order to explain where your loved one is located, contact phone numbers and visiting hours. I will need an update on medications and allergies. Delivery of medical records can be incomplete.

    1. No computer banking or bill paying here.
      We write a few checks when inconvenient to use cash and get paper statements/monthly bills still.

    2. you got that..

      “Minimum legal standard: If it is not written down, it did not happen”

      another similar one, very old

      “A verbal contract is not worth the paper it is written on”..”but sometimes you do have to make do with a handshake…just make certain to size the person up”

      1. A verbal contract is in itself a legally binding contract and in most cases legally valid. Have witnesses.

  15. WOW…I thought I was redirected to “Nerds -r-US ” blog when I read the first hand full of…
    I use the “kiss” methodology, most plans never last past first contact.
    I do write down my inventories and info for the wife, but I travel continuously, so I maintain an inventory of supplies on hand.And I keep local maps of where I Am, and routes home…
    But, maybe I need to learn something new…

    1. …yes it looks like comments were going ‘off the rails’ there for a bit ;)

      I totally agree with you that implementing most plans always seems to make an early unplanned move… which is why a very good preparedness quality (skill) is to ‘adapt’. Adapt and overcome.

      1. …well, my Al Gore comment was definitely off the rails. May it not see sunset. I’ll behave from here on in.

      2. @ Ken
        Sorry Ken, Thox and Lynn made me do it :-(
        Will try to behave……

      3. @Ken,
        Sorry, Ken.
        NRP and Thox made me do it.
        Put us in timeout…we deserve it.

        1. 5 minutes in the corner for each of you! …and don’t look at eachother and no talking! ;)

      4. @ Thox Spuddy & Lynn
        Did y-all happen to notice the common denominator in this is Ken??? Hummmmm

        1. The guy with the little horns coming out of his head?
          Oh boy, now we’ve done it. I’ve got a feeling we’re either going to get a trip to the woodshed or will be staying after class writing on the blackboard “I will not go off-topic” one hundred times, or both!

  16. Good topic Ken,
    Im getting to the point I need a list to go into the next room, lol.
    But that is one of the reasons I have plans. I also run them to see what I have overlooked. And have had to ( Adapt and Overcome) while working thru try outs. It’s one thing to adjust plans, after a try out. It will be another, if need to put your plan in place and it fails.
    One of the things I had to improve on, skills and knowledge.
    Just having what’s needed and a general idea. Often became confusing and frustrating.
    So implementation of plans, always bring out the problems.
    Most will bug in , and I will also to point. Depending on the escalation of the situation.
    Plan B for bugging out as several scenarios.
    All of this is in a small note book, several copies in several locations.
    I have worked on this for many years. So I have ran through these many times, and I still find flaws!

  17. My moto is Improvise Adapt and Overcome…I have seen what happens when plan A doesn’t work.. In my world, I devour like minded people’s thoughts and ideas from the few great blogs such as this one, along with people I meet… if I had A written plan I’d need a lot of paper, and a big eraser… seems I learn something new or read of an new idea every time I get on here…
    I plan for what I can, water, security, and a direction to home, as for the rest, what will happen I can’t control, so ..Improvise Adapt and Survive.

    Great subject…

  18. I think I’ll fall back on my CPR training. “Look, Listen, Feel” will come first.

    1. Assess the situation. Observe (Look)

    2. Get an idea of what is going on around me from those nearby; or at least, what they think is going on. (Listen)

    3. Weigh the above two and attempt to come up with how I’m going to react, what I’ll do next. (Feel)

    Each and every situation that could arise, while similar in many ways, quite possibly will call for different reactions. No different than say if one’s house was on fire versus a burglar breaking in. Both a threat, completely different steps needed to be taken.

    Values – the flowchart ideas above are great – what I intend to do with what I’ve got at the time. Rather like a chemistry setup where the substances are filtered, refined, mixed, distilled…..

    Bottom line – like the old adage goes – “know thyself”. No matter what… do what will work, what I am capable of, for those people and things of value to me first and foremost.

  19. We only have a basic plan written down. Mainly for my wife when I am out travelling. We go with the K.I.S.S. system.

    In my opinion you have to be fluid. Like Heartless said above “Look, Listen, Feel” then react.

    Plans are great but you can never plan for everything. You must be fluid and like I always say….

    Adapt and Overcome.

  20. We have several plans one is a code if something is wrong. Others is to meet at different locations depending on what happened. While of course bugging in is wanted bugging out when necessary will happen and then we will meet there. BOBs are ready to go and she knows what her and the kids need to take.

  21. Risk Driven Disaster Mitigation (RDDM)
    RDDM is a disaster planning framework in which potential disaster risks are organized in order of likelihood and severity. Planning goals are derived from the assigned value per risk, per disaster incident and are matrixed through the continuing disaster events (in order of severity). Planning for events are designed to incorporate the needs and requirements of preceding events as well where the solution for any disaster mitigation may cover several disaster risks, thereby reducing the need for several mitigation techniques for similar disaster requirements. For example; should the power be lost in a residential area for a medium to long term time frame disaster planners are required to devise a way to pump water from existing water sources to serve the local population. If the power outage was caused heavy storm activity and power was merely unable to reach the pump house, portable generators may suffice for short term utilization. However should the power outage be of a national or widespread variety such as critical infrastructure failure due to EMP, portable generators my not be serviceable. RDDM matrixed support planning would advise water pump technologies that would either a.) Be immune to EMP type disasters, or b.) Provide for a manual means of operation (human, animal or renewable power sources) as well as conventional powered generators. Any disaster mitigation plan, policy, or product should be viable in any identified disaster where possible.

  22. ” Everyone has a plan `till they get punched in the mouth ” – Mike Tyson

  23. I agree with Ken about seeing ideas/plans written down.It sure helps me when I take it from thoughts to print.Some times ideas are fleeting.That’s why i carry a small 3×5 pad with me all the time.I will have an idea then get distracted by something else.Then 15 minutes later for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.So I write it down immediately now(old age I guess.)
    I keep binders with operational plans on just about everything.I have laminated instruction cards and keep them with tools and equipment. I have laminated cards with our plans(condensed) in our vehicles glove boxes.That way the wife and I are on the same page in an emergency away from home.
    One of the most important lists I keep written down is phone numbers.None of us memorize numbers anymore.Lose your phone/phones and try to recoup all those contacts with the proper names.No fun.
    Some of the old cliches sure have merit.Plan your work.Work your plan.Failing to plan is planning to fail.Just don’t fall into Paralysis by Analysis.All plan no execution.I have that with clients all the time.Cannot make decisions even on simple problems.
    As others have said stay flexible and fluid to any given situation.Adjust your plans accordingly.But have some type of plan to go on.
    To NRP: I suspect that Our Tax paying Dollars have gone to a study already to compute our methane output for FUTURE TAX PURPOSES.Lets see, old white guy of German/Irish descent.Eats potatoes and sauerkraut divided by two dogs,cat and Wife.Carry the 2 divide by 6.Taxes just increased by 8.3345 %.please remit.

  24. Skills, skills and more skills. Give a man a fish he eats today. Teach him to fish and he’ll eat the rest of his life. Takes resources ($$$) to prep. It takes time and committed effort to master skills. But skills last for a lifetime (s). Absolutely write down a list of priorities, sometimes I write stuff on my list that I can accomplish easily just to give a boost to my motivation. Learn the skills first ((fire starting in any weather, water purification, emergency shelter, primitive hunting, food preservation etc)) and then you can more effectively leverage your prepping dollars for maximum return. A couple of excellent websites for skillset pointers are:
    Both are on Facebook also. is pretty heavy on the doom and gloom reasons for prepping, but there are some links to valuable resources and info on their page. YMMV.

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