8 Most Likely SHTF Scenarios

November 07, 2019

We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness. – Petra Nemcova

No one knows what the next disaster or catastrophe will be and when it is likely to happen. A major earthquake could suddenly hit the country in the next 24 hours, or a devastating cyberattack could cripple our power grid in the next few days. There are a plethora of different catastrophic situations that can happen at any given time and without any warning.

The best that you can do is to make sure that you are fully prepared to ensure you and your family’s survival. But with so many possible dangerous situations that can occur, preparing for all of them seems like a daunting task.

In this article, we’ll cover the 8 most likely SHTF scenarios that most of us probably will face in our lifetime and discuss how you can prepare for them.

One Important Note About SHTF

When most people hear the phrase SHTF, the immediate imagery that comes to mind are apocalyptic scenarios, where chaos and disorder are rampant on the streets and everyone is fighting for survival.

Though that scenario could occur depending on the severity of the situation, the reality is that a more probable SHTF scenario will most likely be a personal or local event. For example, if you’re in a car wreck and your or a family member is severely injured, that could definitely constitute a tragic and life-altering event.  Or if a major earthquake hit your local area, then this would truly constitute a major SHTF scenario, especially if you are unprepared and don’t know what to do. The lack of preparation and knowledge on what to do in these situations increases the chances of you getting hurt badly, or not surviving at all.

The SHTF Scenarios that are More Likely To Occur In Our Lifetime

There are numerous situations or calamities that could lead to a SHTF scenario. Though no one really knows which scenario will play out, there are certain situations that are more likely to happen in our lifetime than others. If you’re someone who is starting out as a prepper, preparing yourself or your family from the possibility of an asteroid hitting the Earth or an end of the world scenario might not be a good start.

To help you properly prepare, here are 8 SHTF scenarios that are most likely to happen during our lifetime.

  1.  Job Loss Or Financial Hardship – One of the most likely situations that can lead to a challenging moment in our life but is rarely discussed are job loss or financial hardships. If you are the breadwinner of your family, providing the food and paying the bills, or if you’re someone who is deep in debt, a simple job loss could already be devastating on your part, especially if you are not prepared for it. Imagine your bills, monthly rent, and debts are already overdue in a couple of days when you are suddenly fired from your job. You see that the severance pay you received will not be enough to cover all of your obligations, including the money you’ll need for other expenses like food and water, gas/transportation, and other basic needs. If you think getting laid off is not possible, considering the low unemployment rate that the U.S. currently has, you might want to think again.
    1. The possibility of being unemployed is high due to the advancement in technology and cheap labor abroad. Millions of Americans lost their jobs between 2004 and 2009 because of these two aspects. The problem is that economists believe that this trend will continue unless there are actions taken to lessen the impact of this trend.
    2. One advancement in technology that experts are saying will take over certain jobs is artificial Intelligence. In 2013, two Oxford academics came out with a study that estimated 47% of U.S. jobs will be at risk from automation by mid-2030. That sentiment still hasn’t changed as an AI expert and venture capitalist echoed a similar statement early this year during an interview. But instead of just the U.S., Kai Fu Lee said that 40% of the world’s jobs are at risk.
      1. Some of the jobs that are in danger of being taken over by AI include data entry jobs, receptionists, proofreaders, market research analysts, and computer support specialists just to name a few.
      2. Even seemingly safe jobs like being a lawyer, a journalist, or chef are not safe from AI, as there are companies already experimenting on algorithms that can perform these tasks. Automated driving is actually being tested on the road and will likely replace regular human drivers soon which will impact the taxi and truck driving industry.
    3. It is also important to note that, though unemployment is still low, the number of involuntary part-time workers has increased. This means there are more people now who have seen their hours and income reduced. You might not lose your job, but having your income lessened is still a great impact.
    4. This is why it is important that you are always prepared. As companies look to lower their costs and expenditures, they’ll continue to turn to technology, cheap labor, or reducing full-time employees to part-timers to achieve that goal. Preparing yourself for this event will ensure you won’t have to suffer any financial hardships should this happen to you.
  2. Regional Disaster – Another situation that can cause a collapse is a regional disaster. Certain states in the U.S. are prone to certain natural calamities and these calamities usually leave chaos and destruction in its path. The U.S. actually experiences numerous major disasters in a year and they are rather costly. The country actually led the world in natural disaster damages in 2018, led by the California Camp Fire of 2018 with $16.5 billion in damages, Hurricane Michael that ravaged the Florida Panhandle and cost the country $16 billion, and Hurricane Florence, which devastated Florence and cost the country $14 billion in damages. If a natural disaster is destructive enough, it could bring a state to its knees and cause a total collapse of society. One such destructive situation that is causing anxiety for a lot of people is the “Big One,” an earthquake that is primed and predicted by many scientists to hit Southern California. I recently uploaded a video about how to prepare for an earthquake and I briefly discussed what the Big One is and how destructive it could be. 
    1. The state that is most prone to natural disasters is California. The state has already experienced 305 disasters since 1953 and the number of disasters hitting the state is continuing to get worse. It is followed by the state of Texas, which experienced 263 major disasters since 1953. Rounding out the top 5 are Oklahoma at third with 178 major disasters, Washington at 4th with 147 major disasters, and Florida at 5th with 132 major disasters.
    2. This is why you need to prepare for natural disasters. Our country experiences several major disasters in a year and preparing for them is a must to ensure you and your family’s survival. This is especially true if you live in states that are prone to disasters.
  3. Economic Collapse – Economic collapse is another situation that could cause a SHTF scenario. Now, this situation is different from job loss or financial hardship since this one is something that is felt on a national level and not just on a personal or local. If the collapse is severe, it can even be felt globally, like the Great Recession of 2007. But it is important to remember that what happened in the Great Recession is not yet categorized as an economic collapse, but an economic crisis. Yes, millions lost their jobs, their homes and wealth for the majority of the country’s population has decreased. But basic services were still provided during this time. During an actual economic collapse, the country would cease to function properly, resulting in panic and chaos.
    1. There are already numerous signs that the country could enter into a recession in the next 2 years and the chances of the looming recession plunging the U.S. into an economic collapse depends on several different factors.
      1. One of those factors is global debt since debt was one of the main factors that almost brought the world economy to its knees. The world’s debt has already reached $184 trillion early this year and that figure is already surpassed the 2007 debt that impacted the world’s economies. The U.S. government has a debt of almost $23 trillion, which is a record high and the largest in the world. In the short-term, debt is good since it gives the country the needed cash to spend on projects and programs. But in the long-term, the risks are severe, especially if debtors start demanding higher interest rates on debt payments.
      2. Another factor is the financial tools that the country still has at its disposal. The government has used several financial tools and policies at their disposal to try and alleviate the effects of the recession. Though it helped keep the country from going into a collapse, those same tools are not available anymore in case another financial crisis arises. Interest rates are still lower, so cutting them further might not be a good idea anymore. Bailing out banks again might not be possible this time because of limited funding and how unpopular it was before.
      3. Other factors that could cause an economic collapse in the country include natural disasters, terrorist attacks, cyberattacks, and civil unrest. The Federal Reserve is also concerned about climate change since extreme weather is causing a number of companies to declare bankruptcy. Damages from extreme weather are costing the country billions.
    2. The U.S. has yet to experience an actual economic collapse, but it did experience something that is close to it, during the 1929 – 1939 Great Depression and the 2007 – 2009 Great Recession. These two economic crises brought the country to the brink of an economic collapse, but quick action and response from the government prevented that from happening.
    3. This is why it’s always important that you prepare yourself and your family, not only from possible disasters or calamities but also from a financial disaster like an economic collapse. Being prepared will not only ensure your survival but also you and your family’s financial well-being.
  4. Cyberattack – As governments and corporations become more dependent on technology and the internet, their vulnerability to a cyber attack increases. This is another situation that can cause a true SHTF scenario in our country. Our country is actually engaged in cyber warfare with Iran right now. U.S. officials had said that they conducted a cyberattack on the Iranian intelligence system last June and the country is still recovering from it. But Iran is not the only threat, as China and Russia are actually the leading countries when it comes to cyber warfare. And the threat of an attack is what’s keeping a director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from having a good night’s sleep. 
    1. Cyberattacks are already happening in the country. Just last month, several cities in the state of Texas experienced a ransomware attack that encrypted data into their computer systems, crippling some of their functions. Public libraries in affected cities had to revert to going old school and check out books by writing in a notebook. Police also had to revert back to writing traffic tickets by hand.
    2. The most recent cyberattack that the country experienced came from the China-sponsored hacking group ATP10. The group targeted individuals from the utilities sector with a spear-phishing email between August 21 and 29. It was the same type of attack that the group initiated in the sector early this year. Though the attack was unsuccessful, Proofpoint researchers noted that the group has modified their attack in an attempt to make it more successful. The group is said to conduct long-term targeted campaigns and the country’s utilities sector seems to be their target this time.
    3. Cyberattacks are not a matter of likelihood since it is already happening. This makes preparing for their impact even more important.
  5. Pandemic – Diseases have always been part of the human experience, but when a disease becomes harder to treat and spreads fast, it becomes a pandemic. And this is another situation that is likely to cause a SHTF scenario within our lifetime. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) has warned that the risks of a severe global pandemic is real and governments should increase their efforts to better prepare and deal with this catastrophe. They said that the world is at a greater risk today due to “insecurity and extreme weather” since diseases thrive in chaos and disorder. Unless governments from around the world increase their efforts, the next pandemic will not only kill millions of people but can also cause economies to collapse and/or destabilize national security.  
    1. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not fully prepared to deal with the next pandemic and there are several reasons for it. Chief among the reasons is the country’s over-reliance on antibiotics. The country has a huge problem of overuse or misuse of antibiotics, not only in the health sector, but also in the agriculture sector. The problem with this is that diseases are known to evolve rapidly, thus developing resistance to antibiotics.  And since their evolution is faster than the development of new antibiotics, the next pandemic is now just a question of when not if. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also mentioned that weak public health infrastructure, increased risk of pathogens spilling over from animals to humans, and the spread of infectious diseases through global travel also increase the vulnerability of the country to pandemics.
    2. Though there is greater attention being shown to counter diseases like ebola due to the recent outbreak, the government should actually focus on diseases that are caused by RNA viruses like the flu, SARS, common colds just to name a few. Not only do these airborne viruses spread faster, but they’re also more contagious during the incubation period (when symptoms are not yet showing). This sentiment was echoed by the World Health Organization when they said that the next pandemic will likely be caused by an airborne virus.
    3. Since pandemics is a question of when not if, preparing for them is important. As the famous saying goes, prevention is always better than the cure. So don’t wait for a pandemic to start spreading in your area before you do something about it, start preparing now so when it happens, your chances of survival are high.
  6. War – War is another likely situation that can cause a SHTF scenario. The world is always involved in some form of conflict or war. If you read or listen to the news, you can see that there is some conflict happening in certain parts of the world at any given time. Our country is not immune to war since we’ve fought in quite a number of them. And as I mentioned earlier, we are actually involved in cyber warfare with Iran. Though the majority of analysts are saying that it won’t escalate into a full-scale war, there are some who won’t rule out the possibility of a war happening. Should the U.S. find itself in another war, especially if it’s a major one, expect there to be challenging times ahead.
    1. Though there is always war or conflict happening in other parts of the world, we are actually living in one of the most peaceful times in history. The world has yet to see a major war that involves powerful nations raging against each other since World War 2 started in 1939. But is the peaceful time that we are living in going to continue or is it just part of a cycle that will inevitably turn to war? A 2018 report from Phys.org mentioned a study by a University of Colorado professor who calculated the probability of another major war happening. The study mentioned that the peaceful period is not rare, considering there are similar periods throughout human history. The study also noted that these peaceful periods are usually preceded by long periods of conflict. And the long peaceful interval is usually followed by large wars. This means that the likelihood of another major war happening sometime soon is high. 
      1. There are several critical tension points where the next major war could start. The first tension point is the conflict of Russia and Europe. Last October, Russia seized three Ukraine naval ships in the Azov Sea, after taking control of the majority of the area. This latest action, combined with Russia’s previous advances in Ukraine has sparked tensions in the region. Calls for the west to respond against Russia also intensified, further increasing the tension.
      2. Another tension point where world war 3 could break out is the South China Sea dispute. China has been expanding its military presence in the South China Sea, claiming the entire area as part of their sovereign territory. This caused tension between China and its neighboring countries, as well as the U.S., who has allies in the region and a military presence. The U.S. also called China’s actions as a violation of international rules and neither side doesn’t seem to be backing down.
      3. The Middle East is another place where world war 3 could break out. The recent attack on Saudi’s oil infrastructures was being blamed on Iran, who is already mired in tensions against the U.S. and UK. Should things escalate further, a major war is not out of the question.
    2. Though we are still living in peaceful times, this peaceful period is actually hanging on a delicate balance that could tip over any minute. 
  7. Climate Change – Earlier, we talked about how extreme natural disasters could cause a SHTF moment. These extreme natural disasters, though, are just the effects of an even greater threat, which is climate change. Climate change is basically a change in the usual weather in an area. The planet’s climate is always changing, but the climate change that is happening now is moving in a new direction not seen in geologic records for thousands of years due to an increase in CO2 emissions caused by humans. Certain activities that we do on a daily basis are causing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to get trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. This results in the planet becoming warmer, which also has an effect on the weather and environment. The problem is that these effects are also impacting us negatively.
    1. Climate change is affecting our environment and its effects are already visible. Glaciers are shrinking, permafrosts are starting to thaw, and sea levels are rising, just to name a few. The weather is also becoming more extreme. We’re now experiencing stronger and more frequent hurricanes. Wildfires are also more frequent and intense. Drought and rainy seasons are also longer. To be direct: these changes are impacting us negatively. Just take a look at the recent category 5 hurricane that devastated the Bahamas, or the record-breaking heatwave that certain parts of the world recently experienced, particularly Europe. And these are just in 2019. Last year, the U.S. experienced 5 major natural disasters, which were attributed to climate change.
    2. According to NASA Global Climate Change, it may already be too late to stop global warming. Even if the world population finally agree to completely stop emitting greenhouse gases, the actions and lack of inaction has already set in motion for the planet to continue to become warmer in the next several decades, or even centuries. The Earth cannot immediately respond to the changes that are made.  As a result, global temperatures will continue to rise, unless we find a way to extract the excess CO2 we have added to our earth’s atmosphere.
  8. Critical Power Failure (Problem with Infrastructure) – The last situation that can cause a SHTF scenario in our lifetime is a critical power failure. The U.S. consumes a large amount of energy on a daily basis and this dependent on energy makes us vulnerable to a critical power failure. Homeland Security stated that even a temporary power failure can already interrupt communications, the economy, and the security system. Now, imagine if that power failure is prolonged or permanent? Our current way of living will drastically change. Almost everything in our world today relies on power, transportation, banking system, manufacturing, defense, and many more. Without power, our society is likely to collapse. 
    1. One of the major power outages that the U.S. experienced was in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated numerous states, causing damage and a massive power outage. New York was hit the hardest with areas even experiencing a power outage for 2 weeks. The likelihood of critical power failure happening today is high, especially since we are now experiencing strong weather disturbances due to the effects of climate change. But extreme weather or natural disasters aren’t the only threats to a critical power outage as cyberattacks are also becoming an issue. The utilities sector is already ramping up their defense against cyberattacks, but the National Infrastructure Advisory Council said in a report that the sector, and the country itself, is not actually ready for a catastrophic power failure. There would need to be a national approach when it comes to preparing and dealing with a critical power outage and an understanding of how “cascading failures” across various infrastructures will affect restoration efforts.
    2. Should the U.S. experience a critical power failure, its effects will be devastating. It will disrupt communications, water, and transportation and could cause retails stores, banks, gas stations, grocery stores, and other important services to close down. Most medical devices will be useless and food will spoil. Access to the internet will also be unavailable since it relies on power to function. But aside from disrupting basic services and functions, a critical power failure is also devastating for the country’s military. Numerous essential defense installations will cease to function should the power go out. These defense installations rely on commercial power grids for their source of power and if a failure were to happen, our country would be defenseless. It doesn’t help that countries like China, Russia, and Iran are targeting the U.S. power grid for their cyber attacks, making the country even more vulnerable.


It is important that we are always prepared for any disaster. But it is also important that we are aware of which situation that we need to prepare for. Knowing the likelihood of a catastrophic situation happening will greatly help us in making the right preparations and focus our time and resources.

If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button and share this on social media. Feel free to post any suggestions or additional tips and information you have on the comment section. 

As always, be safe out there.

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