The SHTF ‘Security Timeline’


It is very important to know and understand that there WILL be a security timeline following SHTF collapse. The resulting predictable human behavior can be used to your advantage into the subsequent hours, days and weeks to come.

Here’s how:

The post-SHTF security timeline can be split into five segments of time.

1. The Event
2. Search and Rescue
3. Awareness and Realization
4. Desperation
5. Restructuring

Each part of the timeline (the x-axis) has a corresponding security risk magnitude (the y-axis) which begins low, then builds to a high as time progresses, and then tapers off afterwards.

Knowing when the security risks are lowest and highest will enable you to implement your own preemptive and proactive strategies.

For example, you may choose to ‘top off supplies’, resupply, reposition or bug-out when security risks are lower. Likewise, you may (wisely) choose to hunker down, ‘lay low’, heighten your awareness and defensive positioning while the security risks are higher.

Lets look at the five security timeline segments individually:


The Event

This is the SHTF event or trigger which begins the security timeline. It is the shortest segment, but it is the time of initial disaster or collapse.

The initial event itself could last seconds, minutes, hours, or longer. During this time period, many people may not know what exactly has happened or how they might become impacted over time (unless they’re at ground zero, so to speak).

Unless you’re directly impacted at ‘ground zero’, the security risks during this time are low. Realization and impact hasn’t set it in yet for most…


Search and Rescue

Immediately following disaster, collapse, or even SHTF, most people instinctively reach out to one another. Many (but not all) people will help those in need, rescue those who need rescuing, and offer what services that they can. People who ordinarily do not communicate much with their neighbors or ‘strangers’ will reach out during this time.

In many situations, the search-and-rescue period may last at least ‘days’ and could progress into a week.

As each day ticks by, the overall security risk drifts higher and the risk curve begins to steepen.

Security risks will grow rapidly in cities and very population dense regions.


Awareness and Realization

At some point in time people will begin to become aware of the reality and circumstances facing them. This realization generally won’t set in for most people until after their conditions have worsened and supplies are running short. This is the “Oh $hit” phase, “We might be in big trouble…”. This is the time when more widespread crime will begin.

As overall SHTF awareness sets in, people will pull back from helping others. They will become more concerned about themselves, their own supplies, and will be reluctant to give up what’s theirs. This segment of time may last for another week, maybe two. Security risks will have ramped up dramatically throughout this period of time.

In the cities and very population-dense regions, it will become quite obvious and apparent during this time as to the dangers enveloping the area.



After several weeks of surviving without renewed supplies and services, many people will have run out of food, and even water. Desperate people do desperate things that they never would have thought about doing before.

This is the timeline segment with the highest security risk. Very dangerous indeed.

Most stores will have been looted by now or will be in the final stages of looting (nothing left). Supplies will be mostly gone and unavailable. People will not be willingly giving up or sharing their own supplies anymore, as they will be highly concerned about their own immediate and long term survival.

This desperate period of time could be considerably long, depending of course on the specifics and severity of the SHTF collapse. If long enough, many people will begin to lose their lives in a number of different ways from dehydration, malnutrition, to violence, or infection and disease.

Most of the long term survivors will be those those who have adequately stored ahead supplies, those who have planned ahead for re-supply and/or sustainability, and those who are geographically ‘sound’ (as in – away from the cities) with adequate security and protection.



It is natural for humans to form hierarchies, to organize, to structure themselves within groups. It’s natural because over the long run we need the skills of others to more efficiently survive.

During this timeline segment, the security risks will be generally falling due to the fact that major die-off will have already occurred and threats from desperation will have subsided.

Those who have survived will be (generally) self sufficient groups or will have joined forces to protect their own communities.



What can we do with this knowledge?

It is very clear to me that you need to recognize the severity of a given disaster as soon as possible. If the disaster is estimated to be severe in it’s impact and long-term longevity, you may only have one week or less (depending on your location) to make any serious moves or adjustments. After that, you will be facing high risk while out in public or while attempting to mobilize or resupply.

Quickly gathering information about the disaster and its magnitude is paramount to successfully staying ahead of the unprepared sheeple. The sooner you understand the scope of the disaster, the sooner you will know what’s going on and make better decisions accordingly.

Once the severity is known, and ‘if’ it appears bad enough such that you need to implement your SHTF (plan), then you will likely have a few days before realization and desperation sets in by the masses of sheeple.

Although you should have had your preparedness supplies well stocked before the SHTF, you may choose to utilize the first few days to ‘top off’ your tanks, so to speak. Get extra of whatever you can. Start thinking about your security, etc.

Plan ahead for the end of the realization segment and beginning of the desperation segment – the time when people will be out to get (by force – to steal) what they desperately need. This is when your life will be in the greatest danger and you must be laying low. Out of sight – out of mind. Beware of looters.

A well thought out and preplanned diversification of food storage and other supplies will pay off big time during this period. Plan to ‘fit in’ with the desperate, should you be confronted. Be the ‘gray man’ – blending in where you must. OPSEC.

Hopefully the notion of a security timeline will encourage you to think about what could happen if the S truly hits the fan one day, and to plan ahead accordingly. Let’s hope for the best and plan for the worst!

I sourced the notion of a security timeline from the following book:
Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart


  1. Good article but leaves unanswered one critical question. How will I know when the event is serious enough to warrant going from one SHTF level of concern to the next level. If I run to the grocery store to top off every time I think there may be a cris coming up, that may cause problems.

    There needs to be parameters or a checklist developed to go to my personal DEFCON level 3 or 2. Normally I am at what I will call DEFCON level 4 or (normal.) The recent Ebola cases in the US have increased my level to DEFCON 3 where I have started to stock up on food supplies increasing normal 72 hour kits to around 14 days of non perishables, plus taking another inventory of what I have on hand for emergencies.

    If the situation worsens and I have to go up a level to DEFCON 2, that’s when I believe I need to “top off” quickly with a prepared list of items to purchase. Along with that process emergency plans will be activated in preparation for DEFCON 1 or collapse.

    There is always a possibility of going through the phases very quickly or jumping from a 4 to a 2 depending on the situation. The recent Ebola issues have alerted me to the need to relook at my plans, be realistic, and rethink trigger issues that will cause me to react and implement my family emergency plan.

    My only fear is that I might develop chicken little syndrome. I am not a super prepper nor do I have a group I am affiliated with. I prepare as I see fit and with what I can afford. I can probably last about a month without assistance, after that I do not know. I will be hunkering down at home because both my wife and I have limited mobility issues and won’t be hiking through the countryside. My hope is that the S— does not hit the fan although I do have some very bad vibes about Ebola. Not sure if I made much spence with this post. Just brainstorming on what will require me to jump to the next level now that I have moved up a notch.

    1. Like the rest of us, discernment is everything. Reinforcing you own self-awareness (gut) with as much solid information as possible. Pay attention to the MSM to see what propaganda they are spewing and visit the internet sites that by now I am sure you have a feel for what is hype and what is solid.

      One must always perform their own due diligence and analysis.

    2. IMHO
      Is all just second nature, lots of extra food, lots of extra fuel, and all manner of supplies for whatever.

      We live on an island in the middle of the ocean and i live 40 minutes from the main town, we can have a tsunami ANY time, shit happens, but after going to get fuel one time when we had one of those warnings a few years ago and then talking to a friend from Japan who said his family is STILL living in temporary housing after their tsunami, I said never again, so now i keep enough stuff to stay put for a rather extended period. And depending on the garden or hunting even more.

      One thing for sure, dont be running to the store last minute for anything, that is the last thing you want to be doing if something is occurring or has occurred, thats the time to make sure you are all home, and start checking things.

      1. I am with you. I don’t believe in ” topping off ” if I think I need it I have it. The only things I don’t have in redundancy would be fresh veggies,milk eggs ect and I have all of them in dehydrated form. If you think the balloon went up lock the doors and hunker down. Leaving to top off could cause you to lose all that you have stored if someone knew you had it or cause you to become stranded away from the supplies you already have.

        1. The stranded away is the thing that really hit me,

          We have always had a pretty good pantry etc, just second nature, but that one incident where even though i was already up at 4:00am and saw the warning on the NOAA site and thought hey im going to fill my empty fuel drums, was almost a disaster,

          Got to the fuel depot i use, and was 14th in line at 5:00am
          Within 15 minutes the line was blocking traffic 1/2 mile away, a normally 40 min drive +/- to get home took me 2-1/2 hours, people were nuts, passing by a small store a few miles from our house people were lined up out the door and a few people were fighting on the street in front of the store, crazy,

          Never again, now its lock the gates, fill all the extra water containers and take stock of what i may have to pressure can to preserve it rather than lose it.

        2. That is good practical (first-hand) advice. If you’re all set, then stay home… don’t risk it.

        3. yup, Ken, Kulafarmer..
          I agree. Try to prepare on a regular basis, and best not to be out and about in nasty situations. I would say we are not nearly as prepared as many, but not too bad either. In most dodgy situations we are good to hunker down. Including massive biggest of the year storms. Someone’s arm would have to be needing re attaching, before we would venture out. Have noticed though, a good many of the population seems to feel “excitement” and “personal challenge” in these situations, and go out for stupid stuff.

  2. Im not at all fond of this timeline because it is misleading and confusing, at the same time. For one, this timeline is only pertinent to a specific event at a marked moment in time. This timeline has no bearing on any slow or encroaching situations that grow into a conglomerate of difficulties.
    Many people can pinpoint an event of disaster but few can analyze and determine how to measure a slow erosion or destructive force that may or may not become a catalyst for extreme difficulty.

    Another problem with this timeline is that it is blending and measuring resource-based activities (search and rescue, reorganization) with emotional reactions (awareness, desperation). These are very different parameters and cannot be measured as equal entities. During any single hazardous or disasterous event, human emotions are present and fluctuate, no matter what the activity is. So by having a timeline that theoretically measures when emotional reactions occur is ludicrous and makes this timeline poorly conceived.

    Having worked for FEMA in disaster assistance for years, I can say that the category of ‘desperation’ is one that occurs right after an initial disasterous or catastrophic event. That emotional response remains off and on throughout the event, too. If people want to examine the human response to a disaster event, check the Kubler-Ross stages of grief to learn the most commonly accepted behavior for loss and grief.

    1. I get what you’re saying, and entirely agree that it’s a complicated scenario with many “what if’s”, which cannot practically be defined or predicted in just one way.

      Having said that, in general, it is my opinion that this timeline process (the ‘time’ itself will vary) will be somewhat accurate for a collapse event, although the time itself will be different for different people. For example, the unprepared will become desperate quicker (do doubt).

      My intent of the article is to point out the risk levels to one’s personal security throughout a (general) collapse event. One’s security risks will increase throughout the awareness period as more and more people begin to realize the magnitude of the situation (and/or begin to run out of their meager supplies) – and it (security risk) will peak during the desperation phase (desperate people do desperate things).

      If one understands this, they may realize that IF they are not well prepared while collapse is underway, then they better do their best to get what they need EARLY (security risks increase as time goes on) and/or bug-out to a safer location EARLY if they need to do so (before it gets too dangerous out there).

      As you implied though – human emotional reactions vary widely and are not necessarily predictable at all times or under various “what if” scenarios. Some (perhaps many or most?) will simply do nothing and expect that the government will save them. As the collapse event progresses, they will simply be part of the die-off (assuming a true collapse event). Others on the other hand will lash out, loot and steal, because it’s either in their nature to begin with or because they’ve become desperate.

      For the prepared, if one understands that their security risks WILL increase as more people become desperate, then it benefits them to consider these risks while they plan their own survival.

    2. I can see the time frame for a slow encroachment of Ebola screwing the time line. In slow build up of this disaster I can see going from drawn out event to desperation over riding the search/rescue awareness phase.

      I now see the press releases by the Lords of the Media with their hordes of desk bound central office PHD experts contrasting with the actual interviews of the health experts who are witnessing Ebola first hand.

      The current Ebola outbreak may die down somewhat. The next one will not be so quiet.
      A financial expert has done a risk assessment out to 2030 based on actual reports from those on the frontline of the action. There is no stopping this. Its ongoing. Ebola crops up – dies down and then crops up again, each time much worse than the previous outbreak. This is not HIV/AIDS. Ebola will come to developed countries and they will not be able to handle the affects. Because of the normalcy syndrome the sheeple will not recognize the danger until the desperation level comes in.

      Other sudden scenarios mirror your graph.

  3. During these “interesting times” we should take a moment to review our “security timelines”.

    This article is 6 years old but probably more relevant today than ever.

    Personally I think we’re in the event and/or search and rescue phase. It’s interesting to watch as the masses start to become aware.

    Many of us are topping off our supplies and getting ready to hunker down while the herd is still trying to grasp what is going on.

  4. Grits,

    Just got back from running the perimeter in my side x side. Stopped by the range, popped off six rounds from the 25 yard line. The little Ruger Wrangler, once again, proved it is minute of forehead accurate at that distance.

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