In 2011 President’s Day, all the satellite channels on my cable went out. Annoying. About an hour later all power in the house went out! This is about how it would play out if a big CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) were to hit the earth.
Prepared for SHTF or TEOTWAWKI?
First the satellites and then some time delay later (depending on CME speed) the power goes down. Since I hadn’t followed my usual practice of daily checking on the Sun, I didn’t know and it was too late to find out. Then I noticed the cell phones still worked, my Blackberry allowed me internet access (NOT a Carrington Event). Turns out a line fuse had blown and about 40 houses were without power for 20 minutes or so. Not even much of a SHTF event but for a few minutes, a whole lot of things I wish I had already done went through my mind.
Differences between SHTF and TEOTWAWKI
We often use SHTF and TEOTWAWKI almost interchangeably but they are not the same thing. For the first week or two, they may be almost identical. Law enforcement may still be in place well into the TEOTWAWKI event. In many scenarios we won’t know if it is TEOTWAWKI for weeks or months. This causes difficulty in preparations. Get it wrong and you could be in trouble.
My SHTF moment may be your TEOTWAWKI event. When Hurricane Ike hit Houston, I shared food, firearms and ammo with neighbors. It was a SHTF and not even a ‘Black Swan‘ event. The problem with this, of course, is that now my neighbors know I’m prepared. If you lived on Bolivar Peninsula near Galveston, Texas, Hurricane Ike was a TEOTWAWKI event. This Cat II hurricane had a storm surge like a Cat IV storm and in parts of Bolivar not even the foundations are left.
The point of this is that not only is one man’s SHTF another man’s TEOTWAWKI, one event can morph into the other. How you prepare for one event effects how you deal with the other type event. If you have only prepared for TEOTWAWKI and that plan is basically taking your fully tricked out assault rifle and scrounging what you need from your neighbor’s deserted homes, then you may find yourself in real trouble when the SHTF but it isn’t TEOTWAWKI. SHTF and even ‘Black Swan’ events happen to all of us to varying degrees with surprising regularity although we often don’t recognize it. If you worked for Bernie Madoff and his ponzi scheme, the SHTF big time when your job, your investments and your savings all went away at the same time! Everything changed overnight.
I think the most likely TEOTWAWKI event will be some type of pandemic that will start slowly and grow in isolated locations until some critical mass is reached. You may have a different “favorite” TEOTWAWKI event but this one serves for discussion. At the point critical mass is reached everything shuts down, martial law is declared and the TEOTWAWKI spiral begins.
Plan For The Mostly Likely Events
What does this mean for us? I would argue that most of our preparations should be for SHTF events. A TEOTWAWKI pandemic and a normal flu outbreak will be identical on the local level for the first days to weeks. So my first preparations will be to survive a one-week ‘shelter in place’ – grid up and utilities working. My next step is to survive a 2-week, shelter in place, grid down scenario followed by a possible 4-week bug out stint. I am ready and flexible if things change but I feel that this is the most likely scenario and what I base my planning around.
The moral is to prepare for the most likely events first since they are the ones that will surely happen. I KNOW Houston will get hit by another hurricane. If I’m ready for Ike, then I’m set for a different 2 to 4 week grid down Black Swan. If I stretch my preparations to 3 months then I’m ready for a massive commerce interruption and so on. Baby steps will carry you far if you are consistently improving. Giant steps can lead to major, perhaps catastrophic mistakes in planning and execution. Take care of the smaller, high probability events and the low probability events and Black Swans can be successfully handled.