The first 2 months after SHTF: A Timeline of What to Expect

June 30, 2020

In a study released in 2018, a group of scientists detailed scenarios in which there was a high probability that multiple natural disasters could occur at the same time with recent changes in weather patterns.  In the article, they explained a probable sequence of events in which regions and countries could find themselves facing as many as 6 natural disasters happening all at once.  In this scenario, the end result would be thousands of lives lost at a cost of billions of dollars in damage.  Should a big enough event like this transpire with multiple disasters occurring at the same time, a grid down, SHTF scenario would unfold before us in real time in which communities and individuals would be forced to fend for themselves.

What would you do in a situation like this if no help was coming to your community and you were forced to take care of yourself and your family for an extended period of time?  In this video, we’ll take a look at what you can expect in the days, weeks, and months after a catastrophic event in which you are left to take care of yourself and the basic steps you should take now to prepare.

What can happen when the grid goes down

A true grid-down, SHTF scenario is different from just a regular power outage since the situation will be longer and more severe. This is why most 3 days to 2 weeks contingency plans outlined for the general population that governments and corporations have will be useless, showing how ill-prepared our country is for this kind of situation.  Here’s what you can expect to really happen:

  1. Supply trucks will stop running and stores will close The first thing that you can expect during an actual grid-down scenario is that delivery trucks that provide important supplies in cities will stop.  The reason for this is that many of the grocery and drug stores rely on a just-in-time delivery system, which is a complex system that is designed to lessen their overhead cost by keeping inventories lean enough just to cover the daily demand.  What makes this system work is its reliance on a delicate balance of systems from the creation of the item up to the time that it will be delivered to the stores.  At the center of these systems are computers that make sure each process is being completed smoothly and without problems. The system, though, is vulnerable to disruption.  When a grid-down scenario happens, its reliance on computers will cause the system to stop working, cutting off important supplies coming to the city or region. With supply trucks unable to make deliveries, stores and restaurants will be forced to close down since they won’t have any supplies.  The lack of power will also make it impossible for stores to refrigerate food and medicine to keep them from spoiling.  During this time, you can also expect looting to be rampant since there will be a lot of people who didn’t prepare for this disaster.  Stores closing down won’t stop people from breaking in to get whatever supplies they can get their hands on.
  2. Running water will stop Another thing that you can expect during a grid-down scenario is that running water will stop working.  Pump stations rely on power to function and without electricity, they won’t be able to supply water throughout the city.  Backup generators or emergency power resources won’t be enough to power pump stations, so you won’t have any access to clean water during a grid-down scenario.  Imagine tomorrow that you woke up and turned on your sink and nothing came out.  Then imagine in this situation that local stores have been emptied out because people suddenly realized that they need supplies to survive.  Most people are not prepared for an event like this and wouldn’t know what to do next.When pump stations stop functioning, the entire sewage system could also fail. This is significant since an untreated sewage system could cause other water sources to be contaminated.  One such example was in August 2018, when a sewer station in Olean City, New York dumped 45,000 gallons of untreated sewage at the Allegheny River due to a power outage.  It took at least 24 hours for the river to dilute the sewage.  This could be a big problem during a grid-down scenario since the river could have been a water source for people needing a water supply but is rendered unusable due to contamination.
  3. Money, debit, and credit cards will be worthless The financial system is another casualty when the grid goes down. Without electricity, credit and debit cards will be useless, as stores, restaurants, and gas stations will be unable to process the transaction. It’s also important to remember that ATM machines might not work, so you won’t be able to use your cards even for withdrawing money. This shows the importance of having cash on hand since this is what all the stores will accept during a collapse in the first few days or maybe weeks. However, relying on cash alone will not be a good idea in the long run.  If the collapse lasts longer, money will soon be worthless.  The reason for this is that money is really just a piece of paper and it only has value as long as people attach value to it.  In a prolonged SHTF scenario in which individuals realize the grid may not come back up for a long period of time, money will become worthless. When this happens, bartering becomes the method of transacting with stores or other people.  You can trade any excess items that you have for supplies that you might need.  For example, if you have excess toilet paper (which will be in-demand during a collapse), you can use it to barter for a sack of rice or a gallon of water.  As in all economies, supply and demand will come into play in a very real way.
  4. Infrastructure, internet, and cell phones will be down Water treatment stations and stores are not the only ones that will be affected by a grid-down scenario.  Almost everything in our modern world relies on electricity, which means most of the services we enjoy today will be gone.  Traditional means of communication via cell phones or the internet will be gone.  Traditional communication (sending snail mail) will not be available as well since the Post Office will also be closed in a grid-down scenario. Other than communications and internet towers, you can also expect transportation facilities to be unavailable.  Certain public transportation relies on electricity and with the power out, they won’t be functioning.  Other modes of public transportation like buses and taxis will also be unavailable during this situation since the people working in these jobs will be more worried about themselves and their family’s basic survival than actually showing up for work, especially if they’re not being paid.  Besides, roads will likely be unpassable depending on the severity of the disaster, making it hard for vehicles to actually move around.  You can also expect schools and offices to be closed.  The life we’ve grown accustomed to will be gone. Any form of vehicle that runs on gasoline will be useless at this point.  But vehicles aren’t the only ones affected when the gas runs out.  Gas-powered generators will also be useless at this point, which means establishments that were relying on generators to power their facilities like hospitals, would soon be without electricity.  This could be problematic since hospitals have numerous pieces of life-saving medical equipment that relies on electricity to work.
  5. Your personal security will be up to you Another important thing that you can expect to happen when the grid goes down is that law and order will be gone.  As mentioned earlier, looting in the first several days will be a reality since there will be many people who aren’t prepared for the collapse.  But looting is just the beginning, as some people will take advantage of the chaos and lawlessness and try to take control of the city or neighborhood. It’s not uncommon for armed gangs or groups to try and impose their authority during the chaos and with law enforcement thinned out due because of the situation, they won’t be able to provide protection and assistance to everyone.  This will leave most people to fend for themselves, which is why security should be one of the primary things that you’ll need to prepare for.

So far we’ve discussed the problems you can expect after a major disaster in which help may not be coming.  Let’s now turn our attention to a timeline you can expect after a disaster.

What you can expect in the first 2 – 3 days

A power outage won’t cause panic to people within the first 48 hours since this is not unusual.  We’ve seen our fair share of this lately here in California with the power outages.  Hospitals, though, will likely be affected, especially those without generators. Not only do they have life-saving equipment that needs power, but surgeons will also have a hard time performing surgery without any electricity.

Other people who don’t have any supplies stocked up might also start going to grocery stores or supermarkets to stock up on supplies.  By the third-day people will start to panic, especially if there is already news that the power won’t be back anytime soon. As more people go to supermarkets and grocery stores to stock up on supplies, problems will ensue.  By this time, most stores will already be out of stock of all of the necessary items.  Without power, credit and debit cards won’t be functioning so people will inevitably start to line up any functioning ATM machines they may be able to find to withdraw as much cash as they can to pay for the items that they will need.  Gas stations will also be experiencing long lines by this time as other people will start to fill up their vehicles.

What to expect after 1 week

After 1 week of no power, grocery stores, supermarkets, and drug stores will already be out of stock of nearly all their inventory, at least things people will need since no supplies have been delivered in this time frame.  Gas stations will also be out of fuel and there will be numerous cars left stranded on the road.  Cash will also be useless by this time since people will start to realize they really don’t hold any value.  Stores that still have some supplies (those with heavy security that prevent looting) won’t accept cash as payment anymore. This is where bartering will start and you’ll be required to trade what you need for another in-demand item.  One note about stores: the smaller, family-owned and operated stores may still be open for business.  Larger corporate stores may have already been picked clean by this point as no one will be in charge of them any longer.

Clean water is likely unavailable since water treatment facilities need electricity for their equipment to work.  Those with generators would have run out of gasoline to power it, so there won’t be any more facilities that are working at this time.  This goes the same for hospitals, which will also be swamped with injured or sick people that need treatment. Without power and supplies, the doctors and nurses who are still there won’t be able to do much, except for basic first aid and medical assistance.

By this point, you’ll start to see people’s primal nature emerge as those who didn’t prepare and didn’t get enough supplies during the early parts of the outage will literally do anything, even kill for supplies in order to survive.  Armed groups or gangs will also begin to rise to try and take over the city or neighborhood and raid houses looking for supplies or anything that they feel like taking.  Law enforcement will be unavailable here since they’re just everyday people like yourself and they’ll likely stay home to protect their family.  Hospitals will already be useless at this point since the staff will have no incentive to stay either.

During this time, OPSEC and working with neighbors will be critical for your survival.  If you prepared ahead of time, it will come in handy during this situation and will allow you and your family to manage.

What you can expect after 2 weeks

Bugging out is the best option here, but not everyone will have an opportunity to leave or get out due to certain circumstances.  If you are not able to leave, you better have a long-term bug-in plan in place.

By this time, you have likely already seen that it is every man for himself.  If no help or relief came within the first week, then it is likely that there won’t be any help coming for quite some time.  Expecting help from the government at this point is a pipe dream, especially in a total collapse since they’ll be stretched thin, assuming they’re still functioning.  Politicians will probably make sure that they and their families are safe and secure first before they even think about saving other people…it’s just human nature.  So you are on your own here, only the supplies you prepared, the plans that you made, and the community that you established are what will keep you and your family alive and safe.

You can also expect other groups or communities to start forming, which you might need to keep an eye on to see if they’re hostile or if they can be a good trading partner. You’ll also need to start thinking about what you’re going to do for long term supplies since the ones you prepared will not last you forever.  Plans to implement gardens and crops on a large scale will be very important along with working with hunters in your area.  Don’t be surprised to see debris, garbage, and even dead bodies scattered about.  With no public service available to clean things up, all of these things are going to be a common sight when you or a member of your group goes on a surveillance trip.

What to expect after 1 month

One month after the grid-down scenario, things will only get worse from here. The city or region will already be depleted of any supply or resources left.  People who weren’t prepared and weren’t able to scrounge up any supplies will start to feel the effects of starvation.  The remaining survivors will be the people who were prepared, those who were able to establish a group or community, and then those that were not prepared which will turn into marauders.

If help or relief still doesn’t come after 1 month, you’ll need to start thinking of long-term survival.  And this is not only 6 months to a year type of survival, it’s the kind of survival where you have to accept that this is what reality will be and you and your group will need to start thinking about producing food and clean water or moving to a location where you can do it.

After 2 months of the grid-down scenario

It’s safe to assume that by this point, things will not likely go back to the way they were anytime soon.  Any long-term survival plans that you and your group have should be implemented soon.  You also need to start asking questions about the possibility of moving to a location where it is more conducive for long-term survivability, especially if you live in a city or urban setting in which supplies will be limited.

This is where having a mutual assistance group will really come into play since long-term survival in a collapse is not possible if you and your family are on your own. If you were able to establish your own community, great.  If not, see if you can find one that you can trust and join now before a grid down scenario occurs.  Being part of a group will make it easier to survive in the long-term since each member can pool their skills and knowledge together to make the dire situation livable and manageable for everyone involved.  A group of like-minded people that you can also trust can also help in protecting and keeping the security around your area in case other hostile groups try to take over or steal what you all have stored.

How you can prepare

When doing these types of videos detailing the potential for massive catastrophes to happen, I never like to end the discussion without providing at least a basic framework to help people start the discussion as to what to do next.  Many in the prepping community have spent years preparing and for those that are new or just beginning, here’s a basic outline that hopefully will serve as a springboard to get you started on your journey to preparing.

  • Prepare long-term food storage The first thing you need to do is to prepare for a long-term food storage.  Earlier I established the importance of having enough supply of food since you can’t expect to be able to buy any sort of food in a grid-down scenario.  You also don’t know how long the situation will last, so having enough food that can feed you and your family for months will be critical.
      1. While going into the details regarding building a long-term food storage setup is outside the scope of this video, there’s a large amount of information online that details everything you would need to know to start planning.
      2. You also need to consider stocking up on heirloom seeds so you’ll have the option to start planting gardens if the situation will be longer than expected.
  • Prepare long-term water storage The second thing you need to prepare for is stocking water for the long-term.  Like food, water supply will be scarce in a grid-down scenario and you can’t expect water facilities to continue to provide clean water to your faucets.  You’ll need to have an option to stock water in the long-term so you won’t have to worry about it during a collapse.  I’ve created a playlist on my channel detailing options for long-term water storage I highly recommend you review.
  • Have enough supply of water filtration and purification options It is also important that you have the capacity to purify or filter water since there will come a time that you’ll need to find a water source or start gathering rainwater.  Boiling water is the best way to purify them, but if gas is scarce and electricity is not available, having a purification or filtration option is handy.
      1. A water filter can remove bacteria and protozoa from the water while a purification tablet can remove both, as well as viruses.
  • Prepare medical supplies – You’ll also need to prepare your own medical supplies since medicines will be another item that will be unavailable in a grid-down scenario. You also can’t rely on hospitals to have enough supplies available for everyone who will need them.
      1. Make sure you have a basic first aid kit to immediately help treat injuries or wounds. You’ll also need ample stock of medicines that can treat flu, coughs, common colds, stomach ache, and pain medication.
  • Learn self-defense – Self-defense is another important preparation that you need to make in order to survive a grid-down scenario. As I mentioned earlier, people will do anything to survive during a collapse. They are willing to steal, to harm, or even kill to get what they need. Learning how to protect yourself and your family will be an important part of your preparation.  Having lethal and non-lethal options will be important.
  • Build a community The last thing you need to prepare for is to build a community. In a prolonged grid-down scenario, having a community or group of like-minded people will be critical in surviving a collapse. You can pool all of your knowledge and skill sets together and help one another make the dire situation manageable and livable for everyone.



A grid-down scenario can happen anytime and without warning.  It’s best that you know what to expect when this happens so you won’t have to face the situation blind. Knowing what can possibly come will also help you prepare properly for this scenario.

If you found this blog informative and helpful, please feel free to like and share it with your friends, family, and community. If you have any comments or anything you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

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Kelsey Barnes
Kelsey Barnes
1 year ago

This is wonderful Very informative and helpful.

2 years ago

As you are talking about banks and grocery stores down due to loss of power, the next words are “Lines at gas stations will be long as people will be needing to refuel their cars” The gas station is more reliant on electricity than a grocery store is. The only gas you will get is what is SUCKED out of the tank. And I hope like hell the individual knows and understands STATIC electricity, or there will be one hell of a big hole in the ground. Some of what you say is good. Some of what you say needs… Read more »

3 years ago

Great information. Do you have any information on where community groups are or contact information?

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