The Reasons Why 90% Will Die After SHTF

January 31, 2021


Location, Location, Location

Lack of Basics

Medical Dependent

Lack of Community


“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.”

-Alfred Henry Lewis


Catastrophic events that can damage our delicate infrastructure can occur at any time.  With the events that played out in 2020, it is becoming increasingly clear that we will face more challenges soon.  But while many of us were able to endure the events last year, the scars we carry will remind us that nothing is guaranteed, and our lives can be flipped upside down at a moment’s notice.  Whether another out of control pathogen, an economic collapse or a cascading series of natural disasters that result in the collapse of the infrastructure, breaking the systems we rely upon, the scenarios that could lead to an actual SHTF situation are numerous.  While many people prep, most don’t have a bunker or fallout shelter they can lock themselves in like a time capsule and pop out in twenty years when things are better.  Even a beginner prepper should have enough to get them through about 90 days of the most common natural disasters.  

But in an actual prolonged SHTF situation, even the most well-prepared will die.  Maybe they will not perish at the same rate as everyone else. Still, even a catastrophic extreme event such as an EMP that may have very low initial mortality numbers will have exponentially high death tolls when things truly fall apart.  A recent study indicated that the actual numbers of casualties in the aftermath of such a nationwide event could range between two-thirds of the population to as high as ninety percent of the people within the first year.  In this video, we will take a sober look at why so many will die as a cautionary tale to inform our prepping.  Will you be part of the ninety percent who will perish or part of the ten percent who will survive?

Location, Location, Location

Your place in proximity to the occurrence is a determinant of your initial rate of survival.  With nearly 80% of individuals living in either a suburban or urban environment, many are dependent on the grid for survival.  Those who live in the country like to say that those in the city are certainly going to perish.  Bugging out of the city may indeed be your best response; however, living in a city is not a death sentence.  Urban dwelling simply carries with it more competition for resources and a greater possibility of crowd chaos.  

If you live in the country, you may consider yourself isolated and with a good line of sight over an acre in every direction.  Because of your isolation, you are likely already in some ways a prepper because you aren’t going to simply pop over to the market when you need a cup of sugar.  The country prepper has some clear advantages; however, large swaths of people could move through the country prepper’s area or land to find resources or go to where resources are rumored to be in a real SHTF situation.  They may even try to take your resources and could overwhelm you with their numbers.  

So, when it comes to location, there are no guarantees of safety.  Your first true consideration concerning location is how close you are to the epicenter and impacted area.  The second is whether your location is tenable.  That is, when the disaster hits, is the place you are at where you are going to stay, and is it defensible and stocked?  Many people don’t realize that if an EMP were to hit in the afternoon when you are off shopping or at work, you could be 5, 10, even 20 or more miles from home.  Without a vehicle, would you be able to travel the distance back home?  Traveling 20 miles on foot would take the average person at least 6 hours without stopping.  Could you travel that distance?  The average American walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day or 1.5 to 2 miles, which is over an entire day.  It is also nowhere near the 20 miles or more you may be away from home.  Maybe you could traverse the distance, but millions would not be able to make it back to their homes.  As those people get hungry, require specific medications, or just become desperate, they will seek to take what they need from whatever is around them.

Many will die in an SHTF situation simply because they are too far from home when the disaster strikes.  You can put the odds in your favor by prepping your body for the rigors you could face.  You can set the odds in your favor by having an everyday carry bag with a few essentials to ensure you can get home.  You can put the odds in your favor by having a survival cache in place along your route.  You can set the odds of survival in your favor by knowing more than one route of escape and more than one route home.

Lack of Basics

If the location doesn’t immediately account for the death toll, people who lack the basics they need to survive will succumb to their fate within the first week.  According to one recent study, in the last 12 months, roughly 20% of Americans — or about 52 million people — say they spent money preparing or spent money on survival materials.  Many new people are beginning to prep, which is also great, but the odds of survival don’t go up by merely spending a few dollars on survival products or extra food.  Most Americans still believe that an emergency plan means setting aside money for an emergency.  That might work in some situations, but if the dollar becomes worthless, so does their plan.  

In an extended grid-down situation, the reality is that the majority of the population lacks the basics of food, water, shelter, security, and fire.  Also, most lack the necessary skills to obtain these things.  It is much harder to fish than it is to swipe a debit card at the grocery store.  I have a good fishing pole and tackle, for instance, but I have come up empty-handed the last several times I have gone fishing.  We can only store up so much food in modern houses and apartments that lack cellars and good pantries, and the majority of Americans do not have enough food in their cabinets to last more than two weeks.  In many ways, we have moved away from the self-sufficiency and efficiencies of our ancestors and have moved towards dependence on systems that could fail us one day.

So, what happens when the majority of people run out of food and water?  Remember what Alfred Henry Lewis wrote, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.”  We see that statement ring true throughout history.  While government agencies, NGOs, private businesses, even neighborhood networks will open up a little to share and provide relief to many, there is only so much in reserve that they have.  Most will be desperately fighting over what little they can provide, but it will not be enough to sustain the masses of people for long enough.  If the municipal water systems fail, how much bottled water would it take to provide the same level of fresh drinkable water to a thirsty population?  If boil orders were in effect, how many people would really know without the announcement?  Absent natural gas and electricity, how many people could boil their water?  Fires attract attention, so how much water could you boil without someone looking to take a share of it for their own?  Water is just the simplest of examples.

The majority of people cannot obtain their food from their environment nor have enough food stored to sustain them.  How close to their ninth skipped meal will they be before they cross their moral lines and loot the store shelves?  How long before they pick all the fruit from your trees?  How long before they show up at your doorstep looking for a handout or a hand up?  With a just-in-time delivery system that brings food from farm to table in razor-thin inventories, a little push in the wrong direction would leave crops rotting in the fields and delivery trucks stalled and robbed on freeways.  Nine meals are about 72 hours.  That’s when desperation begins to set in for some.  Like a sharp line on a graph, desperation skyrockets from there as systems fall apart and people lose hope that they will recover or that others will step in to save them.  Just as the toilet paper panic of 2020 and the global rice crisis of 2008 should have taught us, it only takes a little fear before the herd tramples over everything and everyone in its path to clear out and horde everything it can grab.

If that is the first 72 hours after a national disaster, imagine what it would look like after the first seven weeks.  Those who lacked food and water at the 72-hour mark are frail and suffering from the effects of starvation.  Everyone’s a little different, but most people can only go without food for between one and two months.  Most people can only survive without water for about three days, and if that water isn’t clean, there are a host of things that can make them sick enough to die without proper medical attention.  After seven weeks with no return to civility and with no restoration of supply lines in the future, desperation will turn to lawlessness for many and will result in death for even more.  Even communities with adequate supplies, decent foraging resources, and good water resources will have to defend themselves from being overrun by hordes of people trying to survive.  

Do you think you will be a lone wolf and survive on your own in your well-protected and well-stocked fortress?  It is likely that after seven weeks of increasing lawlessness and with no sight of the future being any brighter, you will be challenged if not overrun.  The desperate will far outnumber you.  I will discuss that more later, but now, to make sure that you have what you need to put the odds in your favor for being part of the 10% who survive, do these things.  First, make sure your food, water, fire, shelter supplies are enough to sustain you at least 90 days and preferably much longer.  Second, make sure that at least some large percentage of those supplies are mobile.  Learning how to purify water in the wild, and it will all be wild after 90 days, is essential to your survival.  Knowing how to scavenge and forage is critical even if you have a fixed and secure home base of operation.  Do you have a mobile shelter?  If you’re forced out of your home base of operation, even a tarp or tent could get you through a rainy night.  

Finally, and this isn’t one you hear a lot from many preppers about, but you will hear it here, set aside about 10% of your supplies for those who you love and trust who will come to you in desperation.  Community is an often overlooked aspect of surviving.  It is gut-wrenching and personally demoralizing to turn the starving or dying away.  It can weaken your resolve and make enemies of friends.  Having an extra bug out bag or some extra supplies set aside for friends and family, you can’t take in, but you can help out pay dividends for you when you are deeper into the SHTF period.  What if it turns out that their place or their best friend’s place is more secure than yours or has a well or solar panels?  Then it comes down to just planning how to take what you have to the new location, despite that purely self-serving purpose.  Helping others, even in our desperate times, is the right thing to do.  It sustains your spirit.  It replenishes you.  Don’t be mad that they are at your doorstep and they called you crazy before.  They will remember your kindness, even as you send them on their way.  In a future video, we will discuss building a simple kit you can give to others in need that will also serve you in the event you had to bug out.

Medical Dependent

Like a herd has its weakest at the back, most likely to succumb to predators, people are similar.  The medically dependent, those in need of elder care, and neonatal individuals are at an extremely high risk of succumbing within the first days, weeks, and months.  If you require insulin, for instance, when the supply dries up, and you are limited to just what you have on hand or can store up, the shelf life of that supply ranges from 14 to about 56 days.  What then?  Those in critical condition in hospitals or assisted living facilities will not get their needs met as supplies dwindle, and staff are forced to look after their own first.

Anyone on medications that require a titering off or that have severe withdrawals or are required for life will all be with the first to go.  Pharmacies will be looted, and manufacturers will stop producing new supplies.  Some may make it through with an understanding of herbal medicines, but some require prescription level doses of medications that truckloads of herbs simply cannot provide.

Beyond medication, though, if you can’t set your bone or stitch your wound or treat cuts that may become infected, you are at a high risk of succumbing, at some point, to the aftermath of the disaster.  Others can help you, sure, but at what cost to you?  This is where the community you are a part of is a significant factor.

Lack of Community

In the days, weeks, and months after a disaster, even more will die from a lack of community.  Many fantasize about being a warlord in a dystopic, post-catastrophe world where might makes right.  While these are entertaining thoughts, perhaps, they aren’t very realistic.  Lone wolf survivalists who live by the sword will die by the sword, as they say.  It’s a community that keeps you alive.  A network of family members or a network of neighbors and friends is essential for sharing resources, protection, and companionship.

Without the sharing of resources, protection, and companionship, it is just a matter of time before the individual runs into a more potent force in opposition defending what they have or seeking to take yours.  Any rebuilding or restructuring also comes about as a result of a community.  While you could go it alone, your chances of survival are significantly reduced.  You’ll find it harder to hold onto what you have.  You will compete for resources with other groups.  You will be forced to hideout, and the solitary life may drive you crazy.  Communities create rules and laws, agree upon norms, share resources, disagree, and typically move with consensus.  Though a herd has its weakest at the back, more evolved animal communities like a wolf pack put their vulnerable in the middle.  In this way, community members are protecting the weak and fragile safely in the center.  Your post-disaster community can be a key to your survival. 

To prevent this from happening, build a community of at least a few people before any major disasters strike.  There are many like-minded individuals out there.  You will find many discussion groups online.  There may even be a group already established through a church or club.  Involving yourself now, even at a cursory level, can provide you with essential allies when a major, national or global disaster strikes.  We are stronger together.


The estimates of ninety percent of the population dying in the first year following a significant grid down disaster are probably accurate when considering location, lack of basics, medical dependence, and a person’s lack of community.  As you develop your preps, keep these things in mind.  Strengthen your weakest areas.  If you are out of shape, you need to prep your body to be as reliable as your supplies.  If you are alone in your prepping, you need to start working towards finding like-minded people.  Start building your mutual assistance group now.  

As always, please stay safe out there.

4.3 4 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
just another prepper
just another prepper
1 year ago

The keyword here is…. ADAPT

2 years ago

“What do you have to trade?” should be the first question you ask those friends and community members that come to your door. It doesn’t matter if the item isn’t of worth to you (would be better that it was), but they need to get used to the idea of barter. If you give handouts, they’ll tell two friends who will tell two friends, etc and you’ll quickly become the one at someone else’s door.

2 years ago

I agree, between having the resouces and anarchy. It will be a challenge to say the least. Your will and mind set, had better be strong.

Related Posts

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x