When the SHTF, it is going to get messy…very, very messy. The domino effect sparked by either a natural or man-made disaster will be at least as dangerous and life-threatening as the originating event in almost every case.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey clearly illustrated that we should not be preparing for just one specific disaster, but how to survive a series of doomsday kicks to the teeth in the days, weeks, and even months, that follow the initial disaster.
Vital pieces of infrastructure broke down almost immediately after both hurricanes – leaving the survivors of the initial disaster even more vulnerable – turning hundreds into victims or part of a death toll statistical chart.
During Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina, few lives were lost due to the actual high and powerful winds. It was the flooding, lack of shelter, power, medication, food, and water that caused the bulk of the traffic deaths.
While both historic hurricanes caused property damage to both residential and commercial properties, the bulk of the destruction and economic impact stemmed from the flooding which followed and the massive amount of time it took for the flood waters to recede so the lengthy rebuilding process could begin.
What Problems Will I Face After A SHTF Primary Crisis?
Before you and your loved ones begin or venture further on your SHTF preparedness plan, pause for more than a few moments for a reality check.
Make a list of both national impact doomsday disaster scenarios that have a low to medium probability of happening and another list of regional disasters that have a high probability of actually occurring.
This list will likely have just a handful of doomsday scenarios, but each will be significant on a national or international level.
Dividing up the possible SHTF threats in different categories will help you to focus on the specifics of each potential threat and the likely secondary disasters they will trigger – and ultimately how not being prepared to immediately deal with them will likely cost you their very lives.
The cascading series of events after the SHTF can kill as quickly as a hurricane, tornado, power grid failure, or even a nuclear attack. Making it through the initial disaster is the first, and not the last, step on the journey to survival.
Every prepper must have a contingency plan for their backup plan to be truly positioned to survive not just an SHTF situation, but all that will come next.
- Power Grid Down – EMP attack, cyber attack, or solar flares
- Nuclear attack or incident
- Mega earthquake
- World War 3
- Chemical or biological attack
- Economic Collapse
- Regional power outage due to inclement weather
- Drought – Extreme heat wave
- Wild fires
- Extreme Winter Weather
Now, start pondering or discussing the spectrum of problems which can, will, and have, happened after each of the high-probability scenarios has actually taken place. It will not take long to realize you will have to multiply the obstacle and threats you will be facing tenfold…at least.
The domino effects of most disasters will be the same – but occur on a varying scale depending upon the location, size, and severity of the SHTF scenario.
Preparing for the aftermath of the biggest, nastiest, and most deadly doomsday disasters will greatly enhance your ability to survive any of the potential apocalyptic scenarios or natural disasters on the above lists.
The federal government could declare martial law when any of the disasters on the list occurs – it has and probably will again. Martial Law was declared for days after the Boston Marathon bombing.
The law gives the government the right to suspend our constitutional rights and hands over local law enforcement control to the United States Military.
The federal government can declare martial law in cases of massive civil disobedience, when a state of war has been declared, during natural disasters, and during man-made disasters like nuclear war and cyber attacks.
When Martial Law is declared the federal government has the authority to take over the energy system, the civil transportation system, hospitals and the health system and pharmacies, as well as food and water resources.
- If a pandemic occurs, the government can make vaccinations mandatory for all citizens.
- If caught with guns and ammunition after an order to turn in all weapons and related equipment has been issued, you could be sent to prison without a fair, speedy, or public trial.
- Curfews can be ordered and strictly enforced by means deemed necessary by the federal government.
- Food can be both confiscated and rationed when Martial Law is declared after a natural or man-made disaster.
- Forced evacuations and relocations can also become ordered – at gunpoint if deemed necessary by authorities.
Downed Power Grid Domino Effects
When any one the disasters on either the nationwide or regional list happens, the power grid will fail. The only questions are how long will it be down and how far-reaching is the impact.
It will take only hours during a mega disaster, or days during a localized disaster, for gasoline tanks at stations to run dry and grocery store shelves to empty.
Why the power grid goes down will greatly impact how bad things will become in America and the true and long-reaching impact of the disaster. An EMP attack on the power grid or a solar flare could forever change life as we know it.
A cyber attack will not destroy all sensitive electronics in our homes, hospitals, government agencies and the military, but it could easily spark a spiraling economic collapse an leave the nation vulnerable to foreign enemies.
Even newbie preppers know to anticipate a power failure after a disaster, but the domino effect of a downed power grid will cause emergency care at hospitals, by the police, firefighters, and garnering needed prescription medication and treatments to be impacted on an indefinite basis as well.
- Health Emergencies – Disease will spread quickly, especially if the mounting number of dead bodies and human waste are not disposed of properly – which is extremely unlikely after a massive regional or nationwide disaster. The very young, the elderly, and infirm will be effected substantially by the lack of power to regulate temperature inside their homes and to power essential medical devices, like oxygen tanks, that are necessary to keep them alive.
- Civil Unrest – Desperate people and criminals will swarm on the weak, taking everything of value – including their live and dignity in the process. In the case of a doomsday disaster that effects the entire country, inmates at prison and jail cells, and patients in mental health wards, will ultimately find themselves wandering around in society once again. The inmates and patients who were taking prescription pills to control mental health issues will be off their meds as they wander the streets in the midst of the SHTF scenario, and will likely become a danger to both themselves and others.
- Financial Collapse – The power grid, utility industrial systems, economy, and technology that far too many folks rely upon during their daily lives are deeply intertwined. When one goes down, the others are sure to fail quickly soon after. The death toll from the emergency scenarios which are triggered by the SHTF disaster are likely to increase the death toll tremendously in the hours, days, weeks, and yes…even months, after the end of the world as we know it scenario materialized. The dollar will become worthless as hyper-inflation emerges. Survivors who have a service or goods to sell in order to make a living will revert back to a barter system to be compensated for their efforts. Precious gems and metals will become the currency in the post-apocalyptic society.
- Emergency Services – Looting, rioting, and violent crimes will go unchecked within days after a national downed power grid down disaster. Even if the grid failure is only regional, it will take time for the state or federal government to mobilize first responders from outside the affected area and send them, and the fuel, food, and water they will need, into the disaster zone. The Americans living without power will also be forced to survive without EMS services, police officers, firefighters. A single fire can grow and consume an entire neighborhood in hours when fire trucks cannot roll to the scene to put out the blaze. If the power grid collapse was sparked by an EMP or solar flare and not a cyber attack, all of the planes flying in the sky would likely fall as their guidance systems failed. Fires at the crash scene flamed by jet fuel, would destroy a business district and homes rapidly. Folks trying to stay warm will cause an exceptionally high number of house fires.
- Potable Water – Without electricity water treatment plants will no longer be able to process. Water will not flow from any faucets or well which rely upon electricity for power. Manual or solar-powered well pumps will be the only ones still functional – making clean water another valuable form of currency after a power grid down disaster – or any long-term disaster which knocks out the power for even a short amount of time.
- Destruction of Modern Society – The type of apocalyptic event will have a drastic impact on not only the domino effect but the society survivors are left with months after the dust has settled. If the doomsday disaster was sparked by an EMP attack of X-class solar flare, the originating incident and the trigger events could have a nearly permanent impact. All sensitive electronics, including those in vehicles, hospital equipment, airplanes, and in all major industries will likely be fried beyond repair – just like the transformers that once powered our electrical grid. The federal government does not have a stockpile of the necessary grid repair parts stored in a Faraday cages in a warehouse somewhere – although they should. If the power grid is repaired and electricity restored, it will probably take three or five years to accomplish – providing that the folks with the knowledge and skills to do so survived the apocalypse. There will be no “picking up where we left off” before the lights went out.
Tornado, Flood, Wild Fires, Hurricane, and Tsunami Disasters
Approximately 85 percent of the American population lives in or around the 40 major cities in the United States. The survivors from metropolitan areas will converge upon the suburbs seeking safety and resources and then will venture to rural areas seeking more of the same.
Being the ultimate prepper will NOT protect you from flooding, fire, hurricanes, or tornadoes that can level most survival retreats, kill crops, and deplete your water supply. The material you choose to build your home out of will greatly increase your ability to withstand a natural disaster or trigger effect, but may not protect your crops, hay pastures, and stocked pond, and livestock from the same set of circumstances.
- Food Shortages – How will you feed your family or mutual assistance group and the livestock after your hay pastures and gardens are flooded? If forced to evacuate due to a flood, how will you get both your loved ones and your preps to safety? Walking through flood water is extremely dangerous not only due to the quickly flowing water but also because of the injurie and bacterial infections you can become afflicted with due to the debris and waste you are surrounded by while trying to wade or swim to higher ground. You can put your beloved dog in the BOV with you, but will your herds and flock fit as well? Investing in a livestock trailer to house at least some of your herd and flock should be a top priority in the prepping budget. Not having a bugout plan because you live on a sustainable piece of ground where you THOUGHT riding out the apocalypse was possible, will substantially decrease your chances of survival. If you evacuate without your livestock they will not be there when/if you ever get back -the animals will either be dead or stolen.
- Price Gouging – Price-gouging after even a regional disaster almost always occurs, even though it is illegal. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, photos of cases of water selling for almost $100. Baby formula and toilet paper were also relabeled with price tags reflecting at least triple their typical value.
- Gas Leaks – Earthquakes can cause gas line breaks and leaks which can be as deadly as the natural disaster and spark raging fires and explosions – destroying whole neighborhoods and business districts. If you smell or hear leaking gas, go outside and shut off the gas, and notify the gas company when you can.
- Downed Power Lines – Live power lines flying in the air after a tornado or earthquake, floating on debris after a flood, or sparking from poles during wildfires claim the lives of survival of natural disasters ever year.
- Water Shortage – Clean drinking water will again be a problem in the aftermath of any of these natural disasters. Flooded water treatment plants and reservoirs, and a lack of electricity if the power goes out temporarily – which is highly probable, will leave victims of the disasters with only the drinking water they have stockpiled and can carry with the while attempting to evacuate.
- Aftermath Injuries – Emergency medical care will not be available immediately, or in the days to a week after a natural disaster for anyone stuck inside the disaster zone. Emergencies services will be working on a skeleton crew, if at all. Even small injuries could wind up killing you. Making sure your Tetanus booster shot is up-to-date is a simple task that can save your life. The Tdap or Td vaccination also immunizes both adults and children against diphtheria and pertussis – whooping cough. These contagious viruses are airborne and can become deadly when left untreated. Sustaining a minor injury while evacuating or any time during the doomsday disaster, could prove painfully deadly. One small cut on a piece of rusty old fencing or contracting MRSA or a similar bacteria while trudging through unsanitary conditions, can cause an infection you will not be able to garner treatment for – one that merely getting your Tetanus booster shot in date, would have prevented. Have a written list of medications anyone in your family or group are prescribed to take on a regular basis with you when evacuating – if possible, take along any pill bottles as well. During a local or regional disaster, when society has not completely collapsed, FEMA staffers MAY be able to deliver prescription medications and medical personnel to designated shelters to offer resupply and emergency aid.
- Civil Unrest – Looting will happen, the only unknown factors involve how quickly the thievery, beatings, and possibly sexual assault, and murders will occur. Multiple murders happened for weeks after Hurricane Katrina. The well-armed folks in Texas were ready to defend what was theirs after Hurricane Harvey, but that did not completely prevent looting from happening – or vile people from pretending to work for the government and issuing fake evacuation orders to trick citizens out of them homes to make them easier to rob.
If a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack – or a conventional war reaches American soil, the loss of life will be tremendous. A nuclear attack can cause third-degree burns on human skin up to five miles away from the detonation site. People 20 miles away from the blast zone could still sustain heat burns to their skin. The intense wind from a nuclear detonation shock wave will not peak until it hits 600 MPH – leveling anything or anyone in its path instantly.
When the United States dropped nuclear bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, between 64,000 and 135,000 died – but not instantly. The bulks of the Japanese people who died perished from radiation sickness, thermal burns, and injuries caused by debris and building collapses.
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- Economic Collapse – A complete and possibly impossible to recover from, financial meltdown will happen after a nuclear attack. Depending upon the targeting of the nuclear attack, major industries could be leveled mere moments after the attack. The EMP (electromagnetic pulse) created by the bomb would quite probably leave no facet of our economic system untouched. Data retrieval and the flow of communications now heavily relieved upon to conduct business – even on a small level, would be corrupted or destroyed completely.
- Emergency Medical Care – Approximately 90 percent of the medical care providers in Hiroshima were injured or killed after the bomb was dropped on the major metropolitan area. Reaching an area outside of the ground zero attack area in time to save your life will not likely be a reality. Get potassium iodide pills to protect you and your loved ones from radiation poisoning for protection during the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Potassium iodide can be harmful to pregnant women and nursing mothers. Americans up to 30 miles away from bomb detonations could suffer radiation poisonings – all hospitals left in operation will quickly become overwhelmed with patients and run short of necessary medications. Deaths caused by radiation exposure will likely occur for years after the initial attack. Approximately 32 million Americans may be in need of immediate medical care of some type – there are about 50,000 doctors in the United States – at least there are today, before a bomb hits.
- Health Emergencies – Millions of Americans who survive the nuclear attack would be left with potentially severely weakened immune systems – leaving them far more susceptible to illness and possibly sparking pandemics of epic proportion. Proper disposal of human waste, eating contaminated food, and drinking tainted water will lead to yet more long-term medical emergencies and increase the death toll in the days, weeks, and months after the nuclear attack.
- Food and Water Shortages – The ground will become covered in radioactive dust. The nuclear, chemical, or biological agents used in the attack can destroy all water reservoirs and farms. Depending upon the way the wind is blowing and the possibility of acid rain, only food and water at least 25 to 30 miles away from the attack zone could be safe for consumption.
- Power Outage – A nuclear attack would also take out the electrical grid. All of the power grid down aftermath scenarios laid out above will occur on either a regional, multi-regional, or national level – depending upon the scope and location of the bomb(s) dropped. The EMP caused by the nuclear bomb would likely destroy our telecommunications networks, sensitive medical equipment, information processing systems and equipment. A spike in electrical voltage caused by the electromagnetic pulse created by the nuclear blast would damage microprocessors along the grid at an alarming rate. An EMP of this type could damage or destroy electrical transformers thousands of miles away – potentially reaching into Canada and Mexico as well.
- Violent Marauders – Clashes between suburban and rural residents and the marauding hordes will cause even more destruction and death. Battles for power over urban neighborhoods and for control of invaded areas will bring about a type of civil unrest never before experienced in America. Can your group withstand a repeated attack by a heavily armed group of 50 marauders? What if they have a tank, rocket-propelled grenades, or a machine gun? Looting of armories and law enforcement stashes will surely take place after a SHTF disaster. Theft, murder, and sexual assault – or preventing such atrocities, will become a part of daily life after a doomsday disaster. Even good and decent people you knew before the SHTF can, and will, resort to theft or become violent when they and their children are starving or literally dying for a drink of water.
- Fires – Blazes caused by a nuclear bomb explosion will rage for up to two miles around the blast zone. Businesses, homes, and farms will be completely destroyed because first responders in the area – the ones left alive, will not be able to respond quickly enough to squash all of the raging fires.
- Livestock Protection – Do you have gas masks for your livestock? How will you keep the herds and flocks alive during a drought, after a raging wildfire caused by untrained people lighting fires to keep warm when there is no fire department to respond to the emergency?
Drought, Heat Wave, and Severe Winter Weather Disasters
While these types of disasters are typically thought of in regional terms, they can also happen on a multi-state or national level. Americans who live in regions plagued on an annual basis by severe weather issues prepare for them on a routine basis – but foresight has not protected communities from related financial loss, deaths, and the destruction of both public and private property.
- Food Shortages – Any time a storm is predicted to roll into a city or county, there is a mad rush by the unprepared to get to the supermarket and grab all the items we preppers already have stockpiled. Grocery store shelves empty quickly, price gouging has been known to occur, and loss of life by panicked people who wait too long to rush out for milk, bread, and other staples, happens on a regular basis as well. When the weather disaster is more severe or lasts longer than predicted, or for folks unable to buy what they need, food shortages cause many people to go hungry until the government steps in to help.
- Water Shortages – The drought which plagued California and surrounding areas for several years caused massive water shortages and orders by the government to reduce consumption – which many ignored and others were fined when they ignored the mandate. Crops withered on the vine, livestock died, and prices went up for produce, beef, and poultry across the United States as a result.
- Medical Emergencies – First responders become overly taxed during both heat waves and winter storms. When the power goes out, as it often does, fuel becomes scarce – leaving police cruisers, EMS trucks, and fire engines unable to respond to every call. Hospital generators keep the doors to the medical centers opening – at least until they run dry, but even then, the facilities are operating far from maximum capacity.
- Power Outages – The power outages caused by the overwhelmed grid during heat waves and downed lines during winter storms leave anyone in the affected area without the ability to cool or heat their homes. Not only do medical emergencies occur because of the inoperable heating and cooling systems in homes, house fires increase as people become desperate to stay warm and life-giving home medical equipment fails to work, causing severe illness or death. Food spoils quickly when the power goes out during warm weather months, leaving even those who rushed to the grocery store in time to grab what they needed, without the ability to keep it from spoiling. When the power is out, you will have no access to your credit or debit cards or ATM machines.
- Civil Unrest – Looting happens quickly during many natural disasters. When the power goes out or evacuation is strongly urged, both homes and businesses become extremely vulnerable to looters – who know all too well the local police department is not going to arrive either promptly or at all.
- Economic Impact – Stores and restaurants that lost their stock due to a power outage or storm damage are sometimes forced to shutter permanently or temporarily – and lay off workers depending upon the job to feed their families.
Massive Unemployment – Where the survivors will work, what kinds of jobs and services they will be able to offer, and how they will be paid for their efforts could forever be changed. America will be transported back to an 1800s style existence overnight and we will once again have an economy based upon barter and precious metals and gems.
- Hyper-Inflation – The economic collapse, unlike the mega disaster not enough Americans are preparing for, will not necessarily happen overnight – it could be a slow and painful ordeal for non-preppers. If hyper-inflation occurs due to a steep fiscal downturn or because of a growing panic over a natural disaster or panic over potential war, even a simple can of generic vegetables could boast a $50 price tag. Folks who have not stockpiled essential items will no longer be able to be able to afford them. Many will die or become desperate and turn to violence and looting to have their basic needs met.
- Bank Closures – A run on the banks will be inevitable. Many will lock their doors to try to remain solvent. A declaration of Martial Law will likely occur to reduce the ability of citizens to even travel to their local bank and try to save their remaining dollars.
- Civil Unrest – Rioting in the streets will become extremely violent as every unprepared Americans becomes desperate for money to buy what they can before the price of goods goes up…again. The value of the dollar will likely fluctuate on an hourly basis.
- Essential Services – The inability to pay our utility bills due to the hyper-inflation will cause shut-off notices to begin appearing in your mailbox. It may take only a few weeks until you no longer have electricity, gas, and water services. Police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel are a dedicated lot, but how long will they be willing to risk their lives – and the lives of their families by their absence from the home, when the government can no longer afford to issue their paychecks? Trash collections will eventually cease as well, sparking a public health crisis that will probably cause many deaths or perhaps even a pandemic.
- Medical Shortages – The cost of medicines will increase quickly as well. Only those with very deep pockets will likely be able to afford medical care or prescriptions necessary to keep them healthy – or alive.
- Deliveries of Goods – Fuel prices will skyrocket. The goods that are left in circulation with a vastly inflated price tag, will likely not even be able to reach your town. Deliveries of food and medicine that can actually still reach their intended destination during the early stages of an economic collapse, will be highly guarded to prevent the trucks from being hijacked on the road or the items stolen when trying to unload at a store.
- Confiscation and Rationing – Expect the federal government to use Martial Law to confiscate what it deems necessary for the “public good.” A rationing system will likely be used to distribute food and water – the handouts will probably be handed out at FEMA camps where the populace is ultimately corralled into as the economic collapse hits its peak.
- National Security – A nation that cannot feed itself also cannot pay its bills and becomes vulnerable to enemies. If China decides to call in its markers, the financial impact of the collapse will become even more far-reaching and devastating. The health and wellness of the military will be of extreme importance to the federal government – and the needs of our soldiers taken into high account when the food and medicine rationing percentages are being determined.
- Bartering– When the rebuilding stage begins after a financial collapse, it will be based on tangible goods and not a dollar without any real value. Stockpiling gold, silver, precious gems, seeds, shoes, and other necessary items might just make you a millionaire if you survive the economic collapse or any of the other nationwide disasters on the list.
The final outcome of a SHTF disaster will not be known until after all of the triggers have ended and the survivors begin come to terms with new normal and start rebuilding their communities – and hopefully the country.
We should all think of SHTF doomsday disasters and the domino effects that will occur as being part of the same evil charm bracelet. The initiating incident, the fires, civil unrest, power outages, related natural disaster, economic collapse, food supply shortage, medical shortages, water shortages, and disease are all linked together and dangling close together nearby – just waiting for their turn to become the center of your attention.
If you think because you have mad survival skills and live on a fully stocked prepper retreat with a clan of like-minded and equally (mostly) trained folks that you are untouchable, you too will become nothing more than another disaster statistic…eventually.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.