Many people here and elsewhere invest a lot of time, money, and training in the pursuit of home defense in case the manure lagoon hits the 1 MW wind turbine. But what does this really mean? One needs to prepare for situations based on expected probability AND the negative consequence. What situations do you expect to encounter, how bad are they, and what are their odds? My professional life (computer security) requires me to think about scenarios and their probability. And I applied such an analysis to my own life. So this is what my worries are . . .

I am a Californian and I am prepared for an earthquake. There is about a 1 in 20 chance of their being a bad earthquake (Magnitude 6.5+) where I live in any given year, and a 1 in a 200 chance of something near-apocalyptic (Magnitude 8+).

I have 5 days worth of dedicated emergency “food” plus my normal pantry. My tool collection includes lots of flashlights, an always charged, battery operated Sawzall, a crowbar, and a six foot digging bar. A wrench is zip-tied to the gas meter.

I also maintain friendly relations with my neighbors, since I may need to dig them out or they may need to dig me out. Two have pools giving a foul tasting but usable water supply. Finally there is my gasoline siphon and my vehicle assortment, including a giant-dirt bike motorcycle with knobby tires, room for two, and lots of luggage space.

So I can dig out and stay put for a week or more. Or I can take me, my girlfriend, and our two cats a hundred miles regardless of the number of fallen overpasses, clogged roads, collapsed freeways, burning gas-stations, or landslides in the way.

And when I begin to focus on training (which I need to do), it will be first aid, broken bones, and crushing wounds, since the expected bad incidents are earthquakes and car crashes.

I also worry about daytime burglary because its unfortunately common. I keep the doors locked and windows latched, any possibly unattended windows have blocks to limit their travel, and I purchased a safe. My goal is simply to be a harder and less attractive target than other houses and to have additional protection for any irreplaceable or particularly valuable items.

Yet I have no worries about someone breaking in when I’m home, as I know the odds.

The small-town paper even reports shoplifting arrests at WalMart! Digging through the archives it seems that a “break-in when people are home” robbery occurs about once every two years or so. So with ~30,000 households, the odds are 1 in 60,000 in any given year that I will face a night-time intruder. I’m three hundred times more likely to have the San Andreas fault try to chuck me and the rest of California into the Pacific.

So I don’t need to sleep with a gun next to my bed: I’m far more likely to need a Stanley Fubar.

So this is what SHTF means to me, and how I’ve prepared. What does it mean to you?

20 Responses to Question of the Day: What does SHTF mean?

  1. In my town, SHTF means one of two things. First, flooding. We have the typical hurricane goods for that event. Second, and more serious, is that Mercedes Benz is late delivering its new models. There’s no way to prepare for that.

  2. Well, according to leading home defense authority Massad Ayoob, you guys are totally ignoring the growing ninja threat. Quoting the master from his TTAG interview on Feb. 1, 2011:

    “On the other hand, we have home invasion situations, the thing we had a little over a year ago in Florida where the gang of people dressed as ninjas, broke into a home, terrorized the place, killed one or two people – there are situations where the defending good guy is going to need more than the average amount of firepower.”

    Is the gun store open on Sunday? I need to run over there and pick up a few more AR-15s. And some tactical pens. And a bayonet for the 1911A1.

  3. I’m currently staying in Shreveport, wrapping up my father’s estate. Shreveport is located next to Bossier City, home of the largest B-52 SAC base in the Nation. Nukes? We got ’em. It’s the base where they shunted George W. off to on 9-11, before he insisted on heading back to D.C., and also the HQ for Global Strike Command.

    Think we’re not gonna be target #1 or 2 when/if WWIII kicks off? Think again.

    My daughter lives in Amarillo, Texas, centrally-located between two oceans. And as luck would have it, home to Pantex, the only facility in the country tasked with the dismantling nuclear weapons and reclaiming the fissionable material within. Did I mention Amarillo is also where they build the Ospreys and have the contract to build the new Marine One helicopters?

    For a time, I lived in Granbury, Texas, which is just a hop, skip and a glow down the road from the Commanche Peak nuclear power plant.

    Let’s just say having grown up in the “duck and cover” era, the thought of nuclear disaster crosses my mind, every now and then. Yet, that’s not the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.

    I’m far more concerned about a carjacking, mugging at a gas station, or just random crime. You see, we all play the odds. You can die from slipping on a bar of soap in the shower, and be just as dead as if you assume room temperature courtesy of some gang-banger air-conditioning your torso with a Glock. You can drive yourself crazy, thinking of all the ways you can potentially get in deep kimchee. Or, you can decide for yourself what’s prudent, and take the appropriate measures to be prepared.

    For me, that includes motion-detector lighting, animals that hear better than I do (and react more quickly when someone’s making noise outside), and a reasonable number of weapons around the house. When I go out, it’s either with a tactical flashlight, tactical knife, and a concealed firearm, or just the light and the knife if the situation precludes me carrying.

    Is my plan foolproof? Nope. Largely because fools are so ingenious. But luck favors the prepared. And as any Boy Scout will tell you, being prepared is the name of the game.

      • happened under FDR. not likely, but the government cannot borrow forever. hyperinflation isn’t likely either, but its certianly not impossable. if you look at any time in history, can you find a time when realestate went down if value as much as our has in the last 3 years? its worse than the great depression.

        http://www.zillow.com/blog/home-value-declines-surpass-those-of-great-depression/2011/01/11/

        this is a long way from shaken out and could become quite desperate. Who knows what could happen, not me and probably not you either. so don’t roll your Eyes at me young man. (as I tell My 3 teenage kis who know everthing.)

        • Miforest, I have $25,000 to your $10,000 that 365 days from the wagers inception, there is no federal program to remove, without regard of the property owners consent, the precious metal known as “gold”, of U.S. residents.

          The funds to be held in escrow by a mutually agreed upon party.

        • here is a Wikipedia link to FDR’s executive order
          to control ” gold hoarding” .

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_Order_6102

          you should read this , and contemplate How transfers of gold between private citizens could be seen as attempted evasoion of money laundering laws, or a way of violating the new 1099 reporting requirements for payments of $600 or more between businesses.

          If you still feel strongly about it I’ll take the bet ,you send the check to ralph . as soon as he confirms that it has cleared, I will send my check. Ralph, let me know when it clears
          ( wink wink pardner)

  4. I fear no NINJA, because if those sneaky lil bastards invade my home they will learn the true meaning of SHTF (i.e. pieces of their internal organs and other body parts hitting my walls and floor and ceiling). Then I’ll get a big clean up bill from the MERRY MAIDS cleaning service.

  5. I think were all ignoring the real SHTF threat….Zombies…just kidding. But in any kind of disaster like the inevitable doom quake that will eventually get California it is wise to be prepared for every eventuality. Being armed would be a good way to keep others from taking away supplies you need for survival. And while I believe in any kind of disaster most people would band together and try to help out I also know there are plenty of bad apples out there and they only have to get to you once.

  6. In regard to the pinhead in the lead photo above, shtfplan.com, and similar ideas, some needful reading may be found in The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard J. Hofstader, originally published in Harper’s in Nov. 1964. We’ve had this thinking throughout American history.

    http://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/0014706

  7. any disruption of the normal operations of society could cause problems in a localized area that would leave you “on your own” for a few days to a couple of weeks. a major outage to computer communications , power outage Rodney king type riots. I think any of those could be considered SHTF for individuals in those areas.
    It’s intresting how the ralleying cry of the left when I was a kid was “question Authority” now the ralleying cry of the left is ” we need unquestionable authority”

  8. A quick note to Magoo on (“there are situations where the defending good guy is going to need more than the average amount of firepower.”) The vast majority of us have more than enough firepower( but it’s nice of you to fear for our safety), so you can now sleep more comfortably knowing that we are more than capable of handling any NINJA attack. You should really be more concerned about all the helpless gun grabbers and how they will fare when the NINJA’S invade their homes.

  9. I view a SHTF event as one that involves an infrastruture collapse.

    By definition, is at least regional in nature, more likely national. Anything much smaller than that and the unaffected areas can begin flowing in rescue workers and supplies from an intact external infrastructure around the disaster area. Hurricane Katrina doesn’t even reach that criteria, though Haiti did.

    The biggest threat for the U.S. of a SHTF event that meets my definition is an event that cripples the US electrical grid. Severe solar storms or a terrestrial EMP event are the most dangerous version of those, because the surge will blow out every bit of modern electrical equipment, including vehicles, communications devices, and water treatment. It would be a return to the dark ages, literally taking a matter of seconds. I don’t know of any way to plan for that eventuality in the urban or suburban areas here in the east. Starvation and diseases will get most of us. Violence will take out more. Maybe out west the population density will be low enough for people to forage without the same level of disease and marauding.

    Other big events–hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes–I’ve been around and through. I have faith in people pulling together in my community. As for Goblins, I don’t consider that SHTF, even if it impacts me profoundly.

    Your milage and definitions may vary.

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