Electronics After the SHTF?

There are many ways our consumer electronics could be rendered useless during a SHTF situation. EMP scenarios are popular among preppers, but rain or carelessness will break them just as easily. Let’s assume your equipment survives the disaster and you weren’t careless. How will your tech work properly without reliable electricity or the necessary infrastructure to support them? Let’s review what’s required to operate the devices most of us own and explore a couple dangers from using those devices during a survival situation.

Author’s Note: I considered including electronics with my previous blog titled, Entertainment after SHTF, but decided to dedicate an entire article on the practical application of using our electronics during a survival situation.

Power & Batteries

The most obvious requirement for electronics is… electricity. Depending on the disaster, access to electricity could be cut off and generators may be the go-to plan for a lot of people. However, most generators available on the market require fuel to operate, which might be impossible to find. Even a solar/wind generator with battery bank may not provide enough reliable power.

A lot of electronics are compatible with standard batteries found at most supermarkets. That’s great, but you’ll eventually run out of them and that device will turn into a fancy brick. If you stockpile a “lifetime supply” of batteries and store them in idyllic conditions, those unused batteries can lose their charge or go bad some other way (like leaking).

And if the batteries leak inside a device 😱

Most portable devices have built in rechargeable batteries and a lot of people keep a battery backup for emergencies, but the charge will eventually run out. I probably own one of the best portable solar battery backups you can get on the market, but I won’t rely on it as a regular power source. The battery backup I use while camping, has folding solar panels and stores enough power to charge my phone twice.

I’ve set the battery backup in direct sunlight for an entire day and the charge only increases by 1-2 bars, out of 5[1]. That’s mathematically unsustainable if your phone is on all day, or if your family rations its electronic use and needs to top-off multiple devices.

Rechargeable batteries will eventually die too. Usually, they’ll die a slow and silent death by not holding a charge, but they can go out with a bang if they overheat while charging[2].

Supporting Infrastructure

I think a lot of our devices will power on after a cataclysmic national or global disaster, but probably won’t function properly. I base this prediction on the fact that most modern devices depend on multiple layers of infrastructure to function as expected, all of which is maintained and controlled by greedy corporations. During a SHTF or survival situation, the services we rely on will be cut off if there’s no incentive (money) to keep that infrastructure operational. Here are a few examples.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phones require the following to function:

  1. The device must turn on and be able to send/receive signals.
  2. Cellular towers must be operational and within range[3].
  3. The cellular service provider you subscribe to must be operational to allow access to the network or internet. 
  4. The service or destination website you’re trying to access must be functioning.
  5. You need access to electricity or have some way to recharge the phone’s battery, otherwise you won’t be able to use it in the future.

TV and Radio

The complications related to TV and radio are similar, but not as numerous.

  1. The TV/radio must have access to electricity.
  2. The device must be undamaged and able to receive analog/digital signals via antenna.
  3. Broadcast stations must be operational and in range[4].

Cable/Satellite TV and Home Internet

Cable/Satellite TV and internet services probably won’t work for a couple reasons.

  1. In addition to powering your TV, computer, or other tech, cable/satellite and internet require external devices (cable box/router) to access the service. That’s yet another thing you’ll need to power, which may not be sustainable for small-scale solar and wind generators.
  2. Access to the internet and TV channels requires verifiable service subscriptions. Depending on the company’s service gateway program, you may be forced to stare at an “outage alert” message if the provider’s central office isn’t operating.

Warning about Nationalization

It’s possible the government will nationalize services and allow “free” access to cable/satellite TV and internet[5]. Of course, this depends on the type of disaster and/or the availability of power and related infrastructure. A government could nationalize entertainment services and provide “welfare entertainment” to keep the sheeple happy.

If this were to happen, you should expect extreme censorship related to the type of shows and websites you can view. Obviously, all your viewing and browsing history will be saved and subject to review. The ruling government will probably use that data to determine your loyalty to the state. If a user attempts to access restricted content too often, the government may penalize the household by withholding services… or conduct a gestapo-style nighttime arrest and assign the offender to reeducation camps.

Such oppression happens in China and other totalitarian nations, but thanks to 9/11 and the Patriot Act, even the USA isn’t immune[6].

Warning about Electronic Emissions

Smart devices (especially phones) can be tracked, and probably will be the method of choice to find fugitives or people hiding from internal or external attackers. All modern smartphones and most tablets have GPS built in. The government reports that GPS location services are accurate to within 16 feet[7]. However, a TV documentary I viewed recently claims the accuracy is as good as 3 feet[8]!

If a domestic or foreign entity wants to track and capture a “fugitive” or unregistered (newly-conquered) citizen, all they have to do is ping your phone’s GPS. Even if you turn the GPS off, they can broadcast a manufacturer backdoor code to remotely reactivate it without you knowing.

GPS is the easiest way to track a phone, but the cellular towers can help someone track you too. Our phones constantly ping the nearest tower(s) to ensure the user has the best signal. If someone wanted to get your approximate location, they can do a reverse ping between towers and triangulate your location. It’s not as accurate, but it’s enough to send a search party and find you.

Phones may be the easiest method of tracking someone, but other electronics can broadcast your location too. Smart TVs transmit and receive Wi-Fi signals at all times, even when turned “off”. The Wi-Fi signal can alert anyone within range that someone with power is nearby. This probably won’t be a problem in a city because the signal range will be limited by surrounding structures, and your neighbors will likely be in the same situation as you. However, it’s a dead giveaway in rural areas where a Wi-Fi signal can be detected as far as 300-400 feet.

Specialized equipment exists to locate a broadcasting Wi-Fi signal, but the signal can be tracked down with something as basic as a smartphone[9].

***

No one knows if our tech will work during a survival situation. An EMP can fry our tech, a massive natural disaster (or attack) could destroy the infrastructure needed to use our devices. If a survivalist is fortunate enough to have power and functioning tech, it’s wise to consider the inherent risks before by using those devices…

Is the convenience worth the risk?


[1] Solar Chargers: I bought a simple solar recharger for AA, AAA, C, D -type batteries around 2005 and it still works great, Although, it takes at least 2-3 days to charge AA batteries.

[2] Battery Explosion: I’m not a scientist, so I won’t pretend to completely understand the cause, but the most common reason why rechargeable batteries explode is because of old age. Exploding phones with lithium-ion batteries were all over the news in the early-2010s. According to the expert the news station interviewed, rechargeable battery explosions happen when the internal electrolytes overheat or come into contact with their oppositely charged electrolyte. Charging and depleting the batteries will eventually wear down an internal protective barrier separating the positive and negative electrolytes. Depending on charge, once that barrier is breached, you’ll hear a POP-fizz as the energy is discharged all at once in a jet of flames that can reach temperatures over 1,000°F… in your pocket!

If you like Sci-Fi (like me), that sounds like a matter-antimatter explosion.

[3] Damaged Cellular Towers: There will be low signal if the nearest tower doesn’t have power or is damaged, and your phone has to use a distant tower. There won’t be any signal at all if the entire network is damaged or doesn’t have power. All those damaged or unpowered towers probably won’t be repaired quickly, or at all, during a cataclysmic disaster.

[4] Signal Range: Signal strength and range depends on line-of-sight from the source to the device. The signal can be hindered or degraded by structures or landmarks (mountains, hills, forests). The signal will degrade as it travels through the air itself, so the average maximum range for broadcast signals are:

  • TV & FM radio: 40-60 miles
  • AM radio: 80-100 miles.
  • Satellites may not work, so I’m not counting them in this list.

[5] The Real Owner and Inventor of Services:  It’s well known that our government (DARPA) invented the internet, but it also fronted the bills to create most of the services we enjoy today. The companies you pay to access cable/satellite TV and the internet do not own the technology those services use. The government leases the infrastructure to companies, which in turn charge us for services our taxpayer dollars already paid for.

That’s fucked up 😠

[6] 9/11-Patriot Act Searches: I had a college professor whose home was raided while at work. She came home to a NSA letter posted on her door and all her belongings rifled through. She was flagged for funding terrorism because she gave her children monetary gifts from her retirement or savings accounts yearly. These gifts were the maximum allowed without having to file on income taxes.

Needless to say, she was pissed and our class learned about the dangers of government surveillance.

[7]  GPS.GOV. (2022, March 3). GPS Accuracy. Retrieved from GPS.GOV: https://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/performance/accuracy/#:~:text=GPS%20satellites%20broadcast%20their%20signals,4.9%20m%20(16%20ft.)

[8] 3-16 Feet: GPS has a reliability variance of 3 to 16 feet. To put that in perspective, it’s the difference between someone sitting next to you or standing at the opposite end of the bar. It’d take a blind or nearsighted person to miss you!

[9] Wi-Fi Tracking via Cellphone: To track Wi-Fi using a smartphone, walk toward the estimated signal location and adjust direction based on how the signal gets stronger or weaker.

Entertainment after SHTF

How have you planned for entertainment after the SHTF? It stands to reason that survivors will spend most of the day working to ensure they can survive, but what we do afterward is just as important. Most normal people need something fun or distracting to take their minds off work and the situation they’re in. Without entertainment, morale will drop and you could lose hope, or possibly the will to live.

A major hurricane can easily deprive an entire region or state of internet, cable, and electricity. If civilization collapses and we permanently lose our modern luxuries, families will have to go low-tech to have fun.

Music

Music can lift your spirits in any situation, and listening to it can be as easy as turning on a battery-operated or crank radio. But what if there aren’t any active broadcasts within range? If a civilization-ending disaster were to occur, it may very well be “The Day the Music Died” on the airwaves[1].

Don’t despair, you can still make your own music.

It doesn’t take much skill to strum the strings of a guitar or blow into a harmonica. However, sheet music may be necessary if you’re stuck with a more complicated instrument or want to play specific songs. If you don’t have sheet music, you’ll have to rely on your memory or make it up as you go.

What if you don’t have musical instruments?

You can make music with all sorts of stuff. I once had a hard-covered music book with printed piano keys on the back cover. My 2nd grade music teacher used those keys to show my class that we can create music by tapping those keys with a finger or pencil. If you can make musical sounds from a (new-ish) hard-cover book, you can make: 

  • Maracas – Put some beans/rocks inside a resealable container and shake it.
  • Drums – Flip a pot upside-down and bang on it with a wooden spoon or stick. Striking different parts of the drum will produce a variety of sounds. Use a plastic container to get a deeper hollow boom.
  • Cymbals or bell – A steel lid from a pot looks a lot like a drummer’s cymbals. It can sound like a church or dinner bell too. 
  • Tambourine – String together some pop-tabs and shake to make a slight jangle. 
  • Base-tapping – “Tapping” was all the rage when I was in middle school. I found it annoying at the time, but you can reproduce a drummer’s base and a snare drum (from a marching band). It was done by “tapping” the flat edge of a pen or pencil onto a desk and banging the base of your palm onto the same surface.

I won’t lie to you. These home-made “instruments” will not sound like the originals we’re familiar with, but will produce the same musical notes. If the S really HTF, you’ll have plenty of time to practice and who knows, maybe you can earn food or drinks at a local drinking establishment.

Music may not be an ideal form of entertainment for everyone. It can be an annoying racket if you’re terrible at playing, or are tone-deaf.

I personally think that one man’s music, is a noisy beacon for looters and raiders.

Read a Book

Reading is a great way to pass the time by delving into a fantasy world… one that isn’t as terrible as this one. Most people read silently, which is great if you’re trying to hide from the rest of humanity.

The only drawback to reading is that it requires light. Natural light is present during the hours you’re probably working. Which means you’ll need to use a lamp or flashlight to read at night (which causes eyestrain).

Write

Writing could be another way to pass the time and it provides multiple benefits to the writer. While it can’t truly replace live communication, writing a daily or weekly journal helps satisfy the human need for communication if you’re alone in a bunker. Your journals could teach future historians what life was like during and after the fall of civilization.

If you have an active imagination, you could write stories to keep kids and other adults entertained. This leads me to the next activity…

Tell a Story

Weekly story night could be a new family or community event. Write stories one day and read them aloud the next, or make it up on the fly. Different members of the family/community can take turns making up stories to tell around the campfire or fireplace.

You can use musical instruments to make story night even livelier. The ratta-tap of a drum can bring forth visions of soldiers on a battlefield, or blowing into a harmonica at the right moment can be terrifying in a scary story.

But do you really want to tell horror stories, if you’re living in one?

Physical Activities

Playing sports may be the last thing you want to do if you’ve been laboring in the field all day. You may not be interested, but it’s a great way to keep your children occupied and wear them out while you’re trying to relax. Here’s a few activities your family can play.

Kick Ball

Humanity has been playing sports similar to soccer or “fútbol” for thousands of years and on every continent, including Antarctica (in recent times). The rules follow the same basic format with little variations over the centuries.

I can see how soccer or other kick-the-ball games will be popular after the SHTF. You don’t need any extra equipment to play. All you need is an inflatable ball and your feet, and maybe a landmark to serve as a goal.

Play Catch

If you have a baseball or football (American), you can play catch. All that’s required is a ball and at least 2 people. You can toss the ball to each other and chat about your day.

Hacky Sack

You and your kids can kick, toss, and bat around a hacky sack. If you’re crafty and have sewing tools, you can make a hacky sack in 3 steps.

  1. Cut out the toe-part of a sock (3 inches should be enough).
  2. Fill it with small beans (navy or smaller).
  3. Sew it shut.

Play with Pets

Playing with a pet is not only fun, but the activity helps build a stronger bond between you and the animal.

  • Toss a ball or stick and watch your dog fetch it.
  • Grab a toy or stick and play tug of war.
  • Dangle a string or roll a ball to tease/play with a cat.
  • Whistle or play peekaboo with a parrot.

Even if you’re too tired to play, simply petting the creature can make the worries of the world seem to melt away.

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby[2]

Sex is another form of entertainment, which is as old as time itself. If you do it right, it’s a pleasurable experience for all parties involved. However, unless you regularly participate in “Sexual Olympics”, sex isn’t a long-lasting form of entertainment. According to several online sources, the average duration ranges anywhere from 5-20 minutes. So…

What’s the plan for the rest of the day?

Brutal Entertainment

Our methods of entertainment could devolve into something resembling ancient Roman gladiatorial battles. It’s possible that criminals or undesirables will be forced to entertain us by fighting in a “Thunderdome”[3]. While I don’t personally approve of this form of entertainment, it may be wise for a survivalist to conform to the “norms” of the community and be a spectator.

***

Preppers are good at preparing for the physical aspects of survival, but tend to neglect mental and emotional needs. Entertainment is important because it takes your mind off the everyday struggles and allows your mental battery to recharge. If civilization were to collapse and our modern conveniences were to stop working, families will have to go low-tech and play with board games, cards, dice, puzzles, or balls.

Even bunker-preppers need something fun to do after the hatch is sealed.


[1] Nod to: Don McLean’s, The Day the Music Died.

[2] Nod to: Salt-N-Pepa’s, Let’s Talk About Sex.

[3] Thunderdome: “Thunderdome” is a reference to the gladiatorial arena seen in the movie: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

Alternative SHTF Scenarios

I’ve noticed that many members of the various “prepper” groups seem to have a narrow vision regarding how civilization may end, and some won’t consider or prep for other possible situations. A lot of survivalists have read apocalyptic books or watched similarly-themed movies and sold their souls to those scenarios. I personally think it’s a good idea to be flexible with your preps because we really don’t know what disaster we may face in the future.

The movie stars of the apocalypse genre tend to be: 

  • EMP Attack
  • World War III a/k/a Nuclear War
  • Biological or Chemical Warfare

But, how else might civilization end?

This article will cover some of the less popular methods which could end the world. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of possible world-ending disasters, and I’m not going to delve too deeply into some of these theoretical scenarios. Almost all of these disasters will cause social unrest and global conflict. Others may cause instant death for some or all life on the planet, and there probably isn’t any prepping you can do to survive it (except maybe build a self-sufficient space colony). 

I should also mention that reader discretion is advised. These scenarios favor a western (USA) point of view, and some may find the two religious parts offensive[1]

Act of God

Let’s rip the Band-Aid off and start this list with Act of God.

God decides to kill or rapture all of his worthy believers and at least 1 billion people die all at the same time. The same God who “works in mysterious ways” forgot or decided not to explain why he did this, so nobody really knows why all these people died/disappeared for no reason at all.

Planes start falling out of the sky because, by some miracle, both pilots were true believers and worshiped the correct way. We lose a large percentage of firefighters and fires rage out of control across the globe. The economy suffers as workplaces start finding out that workers are gone. Some businesses close entirely because the owner disappeared. 

There are different reactions to the loss of 1 billion people:

  • 1/4 Wonders why it happened and want to avoid it at all cost. Is it a new plague? Is it a massive international conspiracy? Aliens?!
  • 1/4 Are of a different faith and have their own apocalyptic theories.
  • 1/8 Don’t care.
  • 1/8 Are uppity Bible-thumpers who got the insult of an eternity, because all their hypocrisies were laid out to the open. 
  • 1/8 Jokingly think Thanos snapped his fingers.
  • 1/8 Where are all the gays? Oh my GOD! He really did make them that way.

Other God or Goddess Attacks

A forgotten Goddess picks a random day to exact their revenge and knocks a planet-killing asteroid into the path of our planet. All temples and religious text related to this Goddess had blueprints and instructions on how to build a communications device to commune with the entity and appease her. Unfortunately, the 3 major religions ruined our chances of survival.

  • The followers of Judaism wiped out most of the Goddess’s followers during an invasion 3,000 years ago.
  • Then Christians came and persecuted the rest into extinction or conversion, and burned the last religious texts.
  • And then radical Muslims blew up the only known temple belonging to this angry Goddess[2]

Coincidently, the goddess is worshipped in India, the land of a million gods and goddesses. She happens to be one of the goddesses who protects a city block. There’s even a small temple dedicated to her, which has instructions on how to build the all-important transmitter.

BUT, Earth is destroyed before the Indians can tell others of this.

Now that I’ve got that awkwardness out of the way… let’s see how else the world as we know it could end.

Invasion

The two bad guys of the modern world (Russia and China) formalize a military alliance. They can clearly see the general incompetence of our government has taken its toll on our country and decide now’s the time to take out their strongest opponent. 

Despite multiple party changes and supposedly tighter security measures, the US Government has allowed a foreign army to grow inside the country. This army has been stockpiling supplies and ammo for two decades. Finally, the long-awaited signal is received and the 5th column is mobilized.

The attack is multipronged. The “Sleeper” or “Manchurian” Army attacks key military targets, while hackers from around the world attack our electronic and eCommerce industries. They also attack our civil infrastructure to wreak general havoc. The country is completely unprepared as the devastating strike cripples our country from within.

While the enemy saboteurs rape our economy and public infrastructure, their navies send large battlefleets to blockade Taiwan in a mock-invasion. This is only a ploy to distract our military, and it works because state of the art troop ships are allowed to sneak armies onto the American west and gulf coasts… unopposed. The defense of our country is completely dependent on National Guard units and civil militias.

Who knows what the outcome of such a war will be, but you should expect anything. Heck, the USA may launch nukes to maintain its territorial sovereignty… maybe on its own soil. 

Hostile Takeover

Similar to the practice in business, a foreign government may call-in all the debts and bonds their nation owns and force our country to default. Faced with economic collapse, the government may be forced to cede control of material resources, digital assets, or even territory. 

If our government refuses to pay, the national economy will collapse because it’s been proven that our nation can’t be trusted to honor or pay its debt. The hostile country may launch cyber or military attacks to compel us to pay, which may start a world war.

In the end, we’ll have to rely on ourselves to survive. 

This could already be happening. For the past 7 months (to this publication), China has been selling its US government debt. Such action could be a preliminary measure to a much more dramatic selloff. Or, it could be proof China is preparing for war against us.

Global Famine (Plausible/Fact-based)

Russia and China have been preparing for a future global famine for years. They’ve been hoarding chemical fertilizer and stopped selling it to other nations. For example, India once purchased most of their fertilizer from China, but now they’re experiencing a shortage and are faced with the possibility they may not be able to feed the more than 1 billion people in their country.  

We only have ONE major fertilizer plant, which caught on fire a few months ago. We have a few smaller producers, but that won’t meet the demand. 

Now, Russia is invading Ukraine, the “breadbasket of Europe”. With the knowledge of the fertilizer shortage, one has to wonder if the reason why Russia attacked. Most claim it was to stop Ukraine from joining NATO, but I keep myself updated on global politics and don’t remember hearing about any imminent entries into NATO before the Russian invasion.

Could that rhetoric be a cover to hide the real reason for the invasion… to acquire the most fertile lands in Europe? Back during the Cold War, Ukraine provided over 25% of the Soviet Union’s food production. Maybe Russia is trying to ensure it can feed its people in a future famine.

If food shortage or famine were to occur, we would be caught completely off guard. Only a few people in the USA have experienced true famine. That’s something poor nations have to deal with, “it can’t happen here”.

If global famine were to occur, it’ll be up us to provide our own food. We will have to grow our own food, or live off our own stockpiles and hope things normalize. 

Economic Collapse

We may already be experiencing the beginning of such a collapse. The news media is abuzz with supply-chain shortages and inflation is spiraling out of control.

Covid-19 forced everything to pause and the economy hasn’t been able to recover from the consequences of that shut down. The workforce either died or decided it didn’t want to work anymore. To make up for the worker shortage, major companies started offering outrageous wages for unskilled laborers. These companies gave people who didn’t earn an advance degree $25 per hour, plus sign-on bonuses.

And don’t think there won’t be consequences to that! 

Gas prices were recently out of control and nobody seems to know why. Despite the fact they’ve been making record profits, the major oil companies tell us to believe them when they say they have “no control over the price of gas”. These same companies ARE NOT increasing production to help alleviate the pain at the pump either. They’ve been laying off employees, despite benefiting from governmental policies intended to promote job growth. 

That’s some trust-worthy behavior… 

Regardless of the industry, companies have to make money and woo investors. Those higher wages and fuel costs can’t affect the bottom line or it will spook investors. That means consumers have got to pay more to make up for the deficiencies. We’re already seeing higher prices in some products and the prices are only going to get higher. To make costs seem normal, companies are trying to trick us by using “shrinkflation”. 

Neo-Civil War 🔪 🗡 

Our country is split on ideals and morals, which somehow coincides with which party you vote for. Both parties have somehow convinced their followers they care about certain social issues, and most of us have swallowed that load of bull… hook, line, and sinker.

  • The Elephant Party panders to the moral or religious values of certain people, while the other claims to care about social reform. 
  • The Elephant Party claims to support independent and self-sufficient people, while claiming the other party wants to take freedoms away. 
  • The Jackass Party seems to tax and regulate everything, while the other party has historically been good for business. The fact the Elephants benefit from previous taxes imposed by the Jackasses is just an added bonus they’re working to repeal, but never get around to doing so. 
  • The Jackass Party appeals to those tired of endless mass-shootings and police brutality, while the followers of the Elephant Party are depicted as backwards or out of touch with the rest of the world. 
  • And Independents who agree with both sides on the major issues get demonized as racist or classist by Liberals, and branded as immoral or anti-business by Conservatives. 

A new civil war will pit us against each other. Old grudges will fuel a bloodlust of murders before local authorities can establish control. Communities will become isolated and those who don’t fit in will be ostracized, exiled, or killed. 

We will have to rely on ourselves for survival and we could be drafted to fight in a civil war we never wanted. Whoever controls the nuclear codes may decide to use them against our own people to stay in power. 

We are our own worst enemy.

Devastation to Orbital Infrastructure 🛰 

Something destroys all satellites and the resulting orbital debris makes it impossible to re-establish space-based services such as: GPS, internet, telecommunications, TV & radio broadcast, Spy Satellites, etc… This will affect society in different ways.

Individual

The first thing people will notice is the internet and GPS suddenly stopped working. Maps don’t exist anymore, so drivers will start getting lost when traveling to new destinations. Streaming services can’t function without the internet and people will have to find other sources of entertainment. Credit cards won’t work because POS terminals can’t verify the availability and transfer of funds.

Economic

The loss of internet and long-range communications means people can’t work and offices give their employees the day off. Eventually, the economy will collapse because almost every aspect of business is completely dependent on the internet.

Society

Access to centralized or global news sources is cut off and disinformation is allowed to spread unchecked. As we saw in 2020, the lack of entertainment/work will cause all those idle hands to take their frustrations to the streets. Our civilization is already polarized and such a disaster could easily push us into a Neo-Civil War.

Natural Cosmic Event ☄️

An extinction-level event could come from space. An asteroid or comet could strike our planet and cause a new ice age. Crops won’t grow and the population will have to rely on greenhouses and UV or “grow” lamps to grow food. 

Those with alternative and renewable sources of electricity may be capable of surviving such an ice age. A possible government response to such global cooling is to give companies the freedom to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to PROMOTE global warming. 

After all, it’s terraforming. 

The possibility exists that our planet could be completely destroyed by a space object or event.

  • A massive interstellar asteroid moving at relativistic speeds could strike Earth and bust it like a bullet does fruit.
  • An in-conveniently directed gamma-ray burst could fry the planet to a crisp.
  • A black hole could enter the system and devour our planet or fling it out of orbit.
  • Hell, a Giant Space Fish could eat our biologically rich planet as a tasty snack before swimming off to the next star system.

Alien Invasion

There’s a vast universe out there. It’s ridiculous and a bit arrogant to think humanity is the only intelligent life in the entire universe. Should an alien civilization make “first contact” with us, we should look at human history to predict the outcome. Almost every time an advanced civilization encounters a lesser one, we’ve either exterminated or subjugated them.

Do these situations sound familiar? 

  • “Cowboys & Indians” (Native Americans)
  • Afro-Slavery 
  • Homo sapiens vs Neanderthals (theoretically)

Don’t believe all those Sci-Fi movies that show how lowly humans manage to repel the alien invasion, despite being ignorant to the sciences that drove the aliens to our planet. Any civilization capable of interstellar travel has a technological edge over us and an alien invasion would probably end with our extermination. 

Natural Disasters (Terrestrial)

Regardless of the natural disaster, history has proven we cannot rely on our own government to help us. 

It will be up to us to ensure our survival. 

Super Volcano 🌋 

Scientists have been telling us the super volcano under Yellowstone is overdue for a major eruption. If it were to blow, the dust ejected into the atmosphere will create a new ice age and cause famine. 

Earthquake 🌎 

A devastating earthquake could happen along a fault-line. The resulting devastation could destroy entire cities and ruin infrastructure. Entire industries will be affected and the supply chain may not be able to recover. 

Polar Reversal 🧲 

According to the latest science, the poles shift on average once every 300,000 years. We are long overdue for a polar flip because the last one happened about 700,000 years ago. 

Some scientists have reported that Earth’s EM field has been weakening over the past few years and think a flip may be eminent. Unfortunately, these flips don’t happen overnight. The EM field, which protects the planet from solar radiation can last decades or centuries[3]

With so much polar fluctuations, it stands to reason our entire navigation system may need to be updated to compensate for the chaos. Compasses will be useless because polar “North” or “South” could appear at multiple locations at the same time. 

Navigation Satellites may be affected as well. If not by the confusing polarities, then by the diminished protection from cosmic rays. The EM field protects those satellites in orbit as well and systems will begin to fail as the EM field weakens. 

Speaking of diminished protections…

With the EM Field being drastically weakened, it’s possible that going outside could be a hazard to your health. Partying on the beach could be a thing of the past. If this were to happen, a single day with “the guns out because the sun’s out” could cause cancer. Meaning, our health system will have to focus on treating various skin cancers.

Finding a date with perfect skin will be hard too.

People will be forced to move underground as they seek protection from the sun’s harmful rays. This won’t be practical for most people and those who aren’t prepared, will turn to the government for help. That government won’t be able to help everyone and people will start turning on each other for protection. 

Unda tha Sea 🌊

We know more about space than we do of what happens below the ocean’s surface.

Let that sink in.

We know more about objects that are billions of miles away, lightyears away, than what happens here on this planet. For all we know, there’s an advanced oceanic civilization below the depths and we won’t know it until they make contact or send their squid and octopus troops to attack!

Octopussy… ROFL!

The British recently announced that octopi are sentient creatures, and they’re masters of disguise. They’re so good at hiding, divers can swim right past without knowing. An oceanic empire employing the natural talents of octopi could easily disguise or camouflage their cities against land-based observation. 

Or, an underwater civilization could mirror the actions of most fish and sea animals. Their version of a city could be a fleet of migratory vessels. IF our sonar were to detect these “cities”, we’d assume they’re a pod of whales or a school of large fish. 

You know what…There MUST be a reason why North Korea keeps launching missiles into the ocean. Maybe they’re fighting a war against the Crustaceans and we don’t know about the war because of a massive international government conspiracy.

I just thought of this, but our government could be hiding vast underwater cities for our civilization’s elite. It’s possible, we’ve had the technology for half a century

Anyone remember SeaQuest DSV? Same concept.

Slow Flooding

The polar ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising as a result. We’re already seeing how this is flooding historic cities like Venice. As more coastal cities are inundated with water, populations will migrate to dryer lands. 

Larger nations can handle an exodus of large people. Look at how Poland is handling the over 5 million refugees. However, there are limits to how much a society can absorb. Such a migration caused by flooding of coastal cities will cause strain on infrastructure and grate on the tolerance of local communities. 

There will be a point when local communities say no more and start turning people away. Those refugees will have to move on to less developed or desirable lands. If they survive, they’ll have to live in tent-cities or shanty towns. They may even become completely dependent on the government for support. Crime will be rampant in these new ghettos.

Or they’ll ignore the wishes of locals and invade. We already see something like this in the form of homelessness. That’s probably what such an exodus will look like. 

There’s millions of acres of government land for people to evacuate to, but most of that land is undeveloped or completely uninhabitable. I expect the government to claim “Eminent Domain” on desirable private properties to support refugees before they develop government lands.

Civil unrest will ensue regardless of whether flood refugees remain homeless, move to shanty-towns, or the government takes control and reallocates lands. 

***

I don’t have a crystal ball telling me what will happen in the future, so I’m prepping as best I can for what I know I can prepare for. I admit to having a few personal favorites of what I think are more likely to cause a SHTF situation. I think an EMP attack is very likely, but also think it could be used as a “Pearl Harbor” to a third world war.

Of the other possible civilization-ending disasters, I believe that famine (all by itself) is the next likely situation we may face. We already see the signs of how climate change is making the breadbaskets of the world less reliable, or how we’ve been unable to export/distribute vital food resources, and there’s already supply shortages on certain foods.

One last thing. Survivalism is a serious subject for most preppers or people in our societal group. You can probably tell I had some fun with a few of these ideas. I did this because, all work and no play make Survivalist-Sam a dull-boy.


[1] Religion: It is not my goal to bash anyone’s individual beliefs. I believe in myself and things which can be proven. If you want to believe stories which, have been told and retold over thousands of years, which may have originated from someone tripping on hallucinogenic compounds… That’s your prerogative and I’ll thank you for keeping your hurt feelings to yourself.

Pray for me if you’d like, but use your inside voice.

[2] Other Gods: I’m an equal-opportunity kind of person, and don’t discriminate against religions or superstations. All of the activities listed as being done by the 3 major religions are historically accurate.

[3] Buis, A. (2021, August 3). Flip Flop: Why Variations in Earth’s Magnetic Field Aren’t Causing Today’s Climate Change. Retrieved from NASA: Global Climate Change: https://climate.nasa.gov/ask-nasa-climate/3104/flip-flop-why-variations-in-earths-magnetic-field-arent-causing-todays-climate-change/

Traveling when the SHTF

An apocalyptic disaster can happen at any time, even when traveling. It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling for business or pleasure, you CANNOT assume you can shelter in place and rely on the hotel’s services indefinitely. You must find a way to get home as soon as possible, because tourists are the first people locals will evict when a major disaster happens.

Think about it.

You don’t have family living at the tourist trap of a town you’re visiting and nobody is obligated to look after you. To the locals, you’re an unemployed stranger who’s consuming precious resources. You must begin the journey home before those locals start saying: “It’s them or us.”

Before Leaving

You probably don’t have your bugout bag with you, so the first thing you need to do is make one by shopping at a sports or department store. The electronic cash registers probably won’t work and you’ll need to pay in cash, or use a 5-finger discount[1]. If you must rely on the “discount”, be cognizant of the location to which you apply it because shopping in such a manner is dangerous. It could be less dangerous at a big box store in a major city, since the minimum-wage employees probably won’t care enough about the business to stop you. 

Regardless of how you shop, your focus at the store should be: 

  1. Water filter
  2. A large knife (guns won’t be accessible)
  3. Backpack (if you don’t already have one)
  4. Bicycle with spare tire and pump
  5. Small tent (poncho or thermal blanket work as make-shift tents too) 
  6. Camping food and snacks
  7. 2-way radios and batteries
  8. Fitness clothes (especially if you’re on a business trip)
  9. Anything light and easy to grab

Returning to your hotel may be a good idea so you can grab useful items such as: medications, clothes, soap, shampoo, a towel, and necessary travel documents. Most major hotels have backup power generators and it’s possible you can get more information about the disaster from broadcast news or radio.

The Odyssey Home

Don’t sleep on it. Start the trek… NOW.

The longer you wait, the more dangerous the journey will be. You need to get on the road before other people realize things are going to get worse. Once it becomes apparent that things aren’t going to get better, people tend to be less hospitable or outright hostile to strangers.

Technology has forced maps into extinction, so you’ll need a good sense of direction to get home. Get your bearings and go to the nearest interstate or highway. These roadways have signs specifically designed to guide drivers to the next major city. If you have a general understanding of geography, you can use them as a breadcrumb trail home.

The last thing to do is survive the journey as best you can. During your journey, you’ll probably encounter: street gangs, escaped prisoners, dangerous wildlife, extreme weather, other desperate people, and maybe an army. You may be able to avoid most of the human-related problems if you start travelling right after the disaster happens. Just keep in mind that the more days into your journey, the more dangerous cities and towns will become.

It’s going to be hard to assess the risks you should take or avoid, but always be prepared to defend yourself. You may also want to consider traveling with a group because there’s strength in numbers. However, that strength can also make you a target if the predators of our society see a herd of people moving through their territory.

Use your gut instinct when assessing what risks to take. If you get a bad feeling about someone, don’t travel with them.

Traveling Overseas

Traveling overseas is the exception to my advice regarding getting home at all cost, as soon as possible. If you’re across an ocean when disaster strikes, the only way home is by air or sea and it’s going to be next to impossible to book passage.

Air

Obviously, computer systems will be down and online bookings won’t work. What’s less obvious, is that on-site booking at the airport won’t work either and there isn’t a non-digital backup system. Airlines won’t allow planes to fly without a functional system to verify who you are and that airfare has been paid, meaning airports will be crammed with panicked travelers.

It will take weeks for a system to be worked out… if at all.

Sea

Cruise liners will experience similar problems. Passengers who are already on the ship or who have printed boarding passes will probably be allowed on board, but cruise ships don’t have a system for taking on new passengers at the dock[2].

Thanks to terrorism, you can’t gain access to most ports to ask cargo ships if they’ll take you across. Even if you manage to get within yelling-distance of a ship, cargo ships aren’t equipped to transport human cargo and they’ll deny you passage.

What can you do?

If you’re overseas when the SHTF, you can try getting home. Just be aware that your chances at getting home are going to be slim to none. You’re best chance at survival may involve hooking up with someone and starting/joining a family. It’s going to suck having to abandon all your preps and make an entirely new life in a country you don’t know much about.

You’re a survivalist, so deal with it and survive as best you can.

***

Hurricanes, fires, floods, and avalanches befall tourists all the time and there are emergency plans and resources available to deal with those disasters. However, a civilization-ending disaster will be much worse because there’ll be a cascade of failures on a systemic level. If such a disaster were to occur while you’re traveling, remember that sheltering in place is a death sentence.

You must go home, even if it means walking there.


[1] Crime/Violence Disclaimer: I do not condone violence or breaking any laws, nor does the author support vigilante justice. The intention of this article is to educate readers on how to improve personal survivability during a theoretical disaster, and does not promote or entice anyone to steal, loot, or commit any other crime in any ordinary circumstance.

[2] Human Cargo: There once was a time when you could book passage the same day or at the ship itself, but that ended in the 1900s.

Air Conditioning after the SHTF

Our modern society lets us maintain our homes and workplaces at comfortable temperatures at all times. There are adults living today, who’ve never had to live without air conditioning for longer than a few hours. We take this modern marvel for granted now, but what if civilization were to collapse?

Humans have lived in harsh climates since the dawn of time, so there’s a good chance you’ll learn to adjust and survive too. But that doesn’t mean you have to sweat and wallow in misery. This article will provide some pointers and ideas on how to heat and cool a home with no air-conditioning or electricity.

Cooling the Home

There are a lot of things you can do to cool your home after the SHTF, but I’d like to make a couple observations first.

  • Some of these ideas may not be practical in some oppressively hot and humid climates (like mine).
  • Some of these ideas aren’t possible if you live in a multi-family structure.

Open the windows and close the curtains. Open windows and doors to allow a breeze to blow through your home. Closing the curtains will help to deflect solar heat back out of the home.

If you have white or light-colored curtains, consider dampening them. The home will cool even more as the water evaporates out of the curtains. But, don’t dampen them if you aren’t going to open the windows, because that’ll only cause mold and mildew to develop on the curtains and in the home. 

Consider using double curtains. For double-layering curtains, some people think it’s best to use a white/light external curtain and a dark one facing the interior. Light-colored external curtains will reflect light back out of the home and the dark interior curtains will absorb all remaining solar energy to help ensure the room stays cool.

Double-layering should help cool the home regardless of the windows being opened or closed.

Let the night air in. Opening windows and interior doors at night helps cool the home, even in oppressively hot and humid climates. It may not seem like it to our spoiled senses, but the night air in such humid regions lower by an average of 10-15 degrees below the day’s peak temperature. This is especially helpful in dry or arid climates, which the temperatures at night can drop 30-40 degrees below the daytime temperatures.

The key is trapping and preserving this cold air for as long as possible throughout the day, by using other methods to keep the house cool.

Live on the 1st floor. Hot air rises and if there isn’t a way to vent the heat, it may become necessary to avoid the second floor of the home. Yes, the upper floors of a building usually benefit from stronger breezes than the first floor, but that may not be enough to keep it cool for comfortable habitation. If this happens, your family may have to learn how to live on the first floor (and/or basement) and only use the upper levels during colder months.

Keep in mind the upper floors of your home still have benefits in this situation. The extra storage is an obvious benefit, but less obvious is the additional insulating properties vacant floors provide to lower levels.

Have you ever walked past a large parking garage in a major city and felt nice and cool air exiting the structure? The owners aren’t air-conditioning the garage, but the building is benefitting from a sort of natural air-conditioner. Each floor is shaded and cooling air. As the cool air flows down, it gets cooler and cooler to the point it feels like a crisp 70 degrees at ground level. Don’t expect that sort of cooling ability from a 2 or 3-story home, but the general principle is the same when it comes to insulation and keeping lower floors cool.

Close off hot rooms. Some rooms of a home get more direct sunlight than others, or there may be something else making it hotter than the rest of the home. It may be necessary to sacrifice these rooms by closing them off to the rest of the house. Simply close the interior door during the day and commit to use the room only at night. If the room in question was an office before the SHTF, maybe you should turn it into a bedroom so it’s only in use when it’s cooler.

Adjust the ceiling fan. This will only work if you have access to electricity or a solar/wind/other generator. We tend to forget about it but, most ceiling fans have a small switch on the side of the unit that changes the direction the blades spin. If the fan is rotating in a counterclockwise direction, it’ll push air down and create a cool breeze. Alternately, a clockwise direction is best for winter to bring the hot air back down.

Use a rechargeable fan. This will only work if you have some way of charging the battery, but a battery-operated fan will help you feel cooler. I have a few of these and they’re great while camping. They can last about 4-6 hours on a single charge if used at the lowest setting.

Paint the roof. If you have white or light-colored paint, painting the roof can help reduce the amount of solar heat the home absorbs. That means the house can stay cooler longer throughout the day.

Add awnings. Adding awnings to your windows and doors will help keep direct sunlight out, while still allowing a breeze to come in. Awnings help keep the rain out as well, so you don’t have to close the windows during a heavy shower.

An awning doesn’t have to be a rigid structure. You can make a simple one by using a towel, pillow case, or sheet (preferably something you don’t care about). Simply nail one end over the top of the window, and use a rope or string to tie the other end to a tree, pole, or another building. It doesn’t have to look pretty if it works.

Shade the home. I just thought of this. If you have a small house, it may be possible to build a shade to cover part or all of your home. Theoretically, this can reduce the amount of solar radiation the home is exposed to, and could potentially keep it about 10-15 degrees cooler than it would be in direct sunlight. The primary problems with this idea involve finding enough material to build the shade, and then tying the shade to something taller than your home (like a tree).

When I first thought of this, I envisioned camouflage netting as the perfect material for shading a home. Camo netting comes in huge sizes and is porous, making it less likely to blow and flap in high winds (which means it’s more stable when tied off to trees). Camo netting also makes your home harder to find from areal searches. But your home needs to be small enough to benefit from this cover.

Build a primitive AC. You can try making a primitive air-conditioner, like the Water Bottle AC I encountered (description below).

Water Bottle AC

I saw a weird contraption that uses large water bottles and a piece of thin plywood to keep a home cool[1]. Here some basic instructions on how to build one using 32 oz water bottles: 

  1. Measure a window and cut a thin rectangular cardboard so it fits snugly into the part of the window that opens. For a 24×36” window, that’s maybe 22×16 inches.
  2. Measure and create a grid on the plywood of about 3×3 inch squares. Depending on the size of the window, you can fit 30-35 bottles onto the board.
  3. Drill holes large enough for the bottles to fit snugly. Uncap a bottle and eyeball the drill bit to be slightly larger than the bottle opening. 
  4. Cut the bottles in half. 
  5. Unscrew the bottlecaps and cut off the top of each cap. Don’t worry about cutting too much off, because you probably won’t be able to tighten them all the way (during step 6).
  6. Slip bottles into each hole and use the caps to fasten or adhere the bottles to the plywood.
  7. Place the plywood-bottle AC unit over a window and cool air should start flowing into the room.
  8. Optional: If you live in a region plagued with mosquitos, staple screen mesh over the semi-flat side of the plywood.

Dehumidify a Room or Home

If you live in an area with high humidity, it may be in your best interest to, at least try, keeping the humidity out and prevent mold from developing inside your home. This will have an added benefit of making you feel a little cooler too. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do without electricity, but the following methods may help.

Ventilate the room/home. Open doors and windows to allow a cross-breeze to move the moist air out of the house.

Hang dry clothes inside the home. Hanging dry towels and sheets inside a damp room or house will absorb moisture out of the air. The caveat, is that you must remember to take them outside to air-dry afterward. To do this, use a set of towels one day, then switch them with a fresh set the next day while they dry. 

Use calcium chloride (CaCl). I’m reluctant to mention this because I can’t think of how you’ll find it, but a container of calcium chloride should dehumidify a home as well. If you can find some, pour the calcium chloride into a sock and tie it shut, and then hang it in the room with excess moisture. You’ll probably need multiple socks.

Use salt. Similar to CaCl, salt can help dehumidify a room. Pour a large amount of granular salt onto a plate and place it in a damp room, stir the salt to prevent clumping and expose more surface area to the humid air. This will require several plates to have any noticeable effect, but it may work in a closet.

Another reason why I don’t like this dehumidifying method is because you’re potentially wasting something that can be used with food. The only thing I can think of to alleviate the waste is to try consuming the salt used for dehumidifying, before using containerized salt in food preparation.

Also, don’t tell anyone what you did or you’ll gross them out.

Limit “wet” activities. Don’t do anything in the home which may cause additional humidity, such as: 

  1. Shower without a vent or open window.
  2. Cook soups or recipes requiring boiling liquids. Baking, however, may dehydrate a room… but will make the house hotter than hell. 
  3. Don’t moisten your curtains or dry anything inside the home. Contrary to the advice I previously gave about cooling your home, if you’re facing oppressive humidity or mold, moistening your curtains may be the last thing you want to do.

Heating the Home

Thanks to global warming, or the natural heat cycle of the planet, or whatever you believe… we don’t have to worry about heating our homes as much as we did over a hundred years ago. Hell, here in Southeast Texas, we only experience a few days of real winter.

All joking aside, regardless of how few days of “winter” an area experiences, not being able to keep warm during extremely cold weather can be just as deadly as heat exhaustion. This was most apparent when the winter storm of February 2021 caught us off guard. So, how do you keep warm?

Start a fire[2]. Use the fireplace if your home has one. Grab fallen wood from a nearby woods or scavenge wood from around the neighborhood. You’ll be amazed at what you can find. Most pallets can be burned safely because the wood isn’t normally treated. If you can’t find any wood, you may be forced to burn whatever non-toxic trash you can find to survive the cold.

But what if your home doesn’t have a fireplace?

Absorb solar heat. Keep the windows closed and open the curtains to absorb as much solar radiation as possible during the day. Then close the curtains at night to trap that heat and insulate the window. If direct sunlight shines into a room, consider laying a dark blanket there to absorb even more heat.

Bundle up. Wearing warm clothes and jackets at all times will help keep you warm. You can even use a blanket as a make-shift cape for additional heat retention[3]. Below are a couple examples of the best blankets for staying warm:

  1. Wool blanket: Wool is the best natural cloth for heat retention and will keep you warm even when it’s wet.
  2. Thermal blanket: One of the best synthetic blankets available is a “Space Blanket”[4]. These blankets are made of thin, heat-reflective, plastic sheeting, and helps to retain heat when wet or dry[5].

Move to the second floor. All heat generated from cooking or absorbed from the sun will rise into the upper part of your home. You should use that trapped heat to stay warm by living in the second floor. If your home doesn’t have an upper level, and you don’t have enough materials to keep a fire going, you should consider using the attic, even if it’s just for sleeping.

Build a terracotta heater. Currently, the most popular alternative source of heating is the “terracotta heater”. This ingenious device only requires: a candle, a quarter, and an upside-down clay pot.

The theory behind terracotta heaters depends on the candle’s heat being trapped by the upside-down clay pot, which absorbs and radiates the heat into a room. Most videos call for you to cover the hole at the “bottom” of the pot with a quarter, or some non-flammable object.

Most of the instructions I’ve seen claim these heaters can warm an entire room. However, I’ve tested it and learned this type of heater doesn’t work as well as these videos would lead us to believe. Here’s why:

  1. Some instructions position the candles fully inside the pot, which doesn’t allow enough oxygen to reach them and the flame is suffocated.
  2. Even if the design allows for air to enter from below the flames, blocking the hole at the “top” also suffocates the candles and they burn out.
  3. Just one of these heaters will not noticeably heat an average-sized room.

I don’t mean to bash the concept, but I must ensure you don’t expect a miracle from these emergency terracotta heaters. I’ve built a functional clay-pot heater and used it in a well-insulated, 91-square-foot tiny house. The clay pot got extremely warm and became too hot to handle, but I had to sit right next to it for any warmth to be felt.

But in a survival situation, a terracotta heater is better than nothing.

***

These primitive air conditioning methods should help make life more comfortable after the SHTF. They can be used individually, but a wise survivalist will use a combination of these ideas to maximize your ability to remain comfortable.


[1] Water Bottle AC Source: I don’t have permission to provide an exact source for the first Water Bottle AC I encountered, but I found the below source. The article calls it a “Bangladeshi air cooler”, and it’s close enough to be used for a visual reference.

DiStasio, C. (2016, August 01). This amazing Bangladeshi air cooler is made from plastic bottles and uses no electricity. Retrieved from Inhabitat: https://inhabitat.com/this-amazing-bangladeshi-air-cooler-is-made-from-plastic-bottles-and-uses-no-electricity/

[2] Fire Safety: Fire is a serious tool and should be handled responsibly. Never leave a fire unattended, even if it’s contained in a seeming innocuous vessel (candle, lamp, etc.). Always take precautions when using any form of fire, or when handling or storing any type of flammable substance. Always have fire extinguishing equipment or substances available in case a fire gets out of control.

This disclaimer provides a few general fire safety guidelines, which do not encompass all safety precautions related to using fire.

[3] Necked Cape: I’ve used various blankets as capes and they’ve helped keep me warm… while walking around a cold house in my underwear.

[4] Space Blanket: These may be called by different names, such as: emergency blankets, “foil” blankets, reflective blankets, first aid blankets etc.

[5] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Space blanket. Retrieved from Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_blanket

Hygiene after the SHTF

I’ve seen hundreds of articles about how to survive the apocalypse by using specialized skills, and/or living off a hoard of food. However, one of the most important skills most people learn during childhood doesn’t get the attention it deserves… Hygiene!

How will you stay healthy to use those skills and enjoy all that preserved food if you can’t practice basic hygiene? Keep in mind that going to the grocery store for more soap and toothpaste probably won’t be possible. That means you’ll need to be creative when it comes to your hygiene needs[1].

You’ll find alternative methods for maintaining good hygiene after the SHTF in this article. If these methods don’t appeal to your tastes, do some research and find what works best for you. However, I think the substitutions and methods listed in this article are more practical in a survival situation.

Dental

There are many things you can do to maintain good oral health. You can conserve the supply of toothpaste or replace it entirely.

If you absolutely must have toothpaste and need to make it last as long as possible, you’ve got to stop using so much toothpaste. According to most dental experts and manufacturers, adults only need a pea-sized “dollop” of toothpaste[2],[3].

That’s a blob of about half a centimeter or a quarter of an inch!

If you have a healthy mouth, it may be a good idea to further stretch your supply of dental products by alternating your brushing and “washing”. You can double the life of your toothpaste and mouthwash if you don’t use both products every time you clean your teeth. Some dentists claim that rinsing the mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing, wastes the benefits of fluoride in toothpaste.

To do this, brush your teeth at night and spit out the foam. Allow the teeth to absorb the leftover fluoride as you sleep. And then rinse your mouth out with mouthwash in the morning, after breakfast.

But what if you run out of toothpaste?

Humans have been cleaning their teeth long before modern toothpaste was invented. Most ancient cultures used devices or solutions to get food particles out of their teeth, but I must warn you that none are going to be as minty-fresh as the manufactured paste most of us are addicted to. Be aware that some of these alternatives may cause irritation, and it may be necessary to temporarily switch substitutions.

Below are 3 lists of oral-care substitutions which may help ensure your teeth stay healthy[4],[5].

Teeth Scrapers

  1. Toothbrush (by itself, or with “paste”)
  2. Floss
  3. Toothpicks
  4. Spun Thread or “Sewing String” (substitute for both floss and toothbrush)
  5. Frayed Twig as a substitute toothbrush

Toothpaste

It’s easy to make a basic toothpaste by combining: 2/3 cup of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, and enough water to turn it into a paste. You can add peppermint essential oil to freshen your breath as well. Making and storing toothpaste may not be possible for some people. The following can be used individually:

  1. Baking Soda
  2. Chewing Sesame or Flax Seeds (then brush)
  3. Charcoal[6],[7]

Survival Mouthwashes

There are a few mouthwashes you can use as well. The theory behind these mouthwashes is to pull food particles out of your teeth and/or make bacteria residing in your mouth inert.

  1. Coconut Oil
  2. Salt & Water
  3. Hydrogen Peroxide (diluted in water)
  4. Essential Oil & Water (mix in salt for extra abrasiveness)

It’s probably a good idea to switch over to alternate dental hygiene methods when you realize civilization has collapsed, long before supply forces you to make the switch. Doing so gives you an opportunity to experiment with new methods, and it maintains that supply so you can switch back to a tried-and-true product if you suffer any side effects. If you don’t notice any side effects, you can save the minty toothpaste for when you’re going to be intimate. Or, if the new hygiene practices are working, and dates aren’t a possibility, you can trade that leftover toothpaste with someone desperate.

Soap

I wanted to be a nurse in my early 20s, before deciding it wasn’t the best profession for me. The most memorable lesson I have from nursing school was watching classmate after classmate fail the sanitary exam regarding soap and water. According to medical standards of the early 2000s, soap isn’t technically needed to make your hands sanitary between patients. Friction is what kills germs and bacteria, and you only need to rub your hands under running water. Washing with soap creates suds which generate more friction and trap the dead microbes, making it easier to rinse them off.

I did what I had to and pass the exam, but never trusted friction ALONE to maintain cleanliness.

After the SHTF, washing with soap and water will be even more important than it is today because it’s a valuable tool to ward off infectious illnesses. It may be an essential item to stock, but storage space isn’t infinite and you’ll eventually need to make your own.

There’s only one way to make soap and that’s by using lye[8], oil, and water. Making soap requires a lot of time and can be dangerous if you don’t know how to handle lye. You’ll also need some practice to perfect your recipe.

Below is a basic description on how to make soap in a survival situation, without refined materials.

  1. Make lye by collecting white, powdery wood ash in a bucket or container with holes on the bottom. Make certain there’s a water-tight container beneath the ash bucket.
  2. Leach lye out by pouring water over the ashes and allow the mixture to drain into a container below. Leaching may take an entire day, but doesn’t require much attention. The captured lye-water should be light brown.
  3. Boil the lye-water down for several hours until it’s incredibly thick. If you have 1 gallon of lye-water, the refined lye will be about 1 cup.
  4. In a separate pot, melt or warm about 1 cup of leftover meat fat or cooking oil (or both).
  5. Add the warm lye into the oil/fat and mix while boiling for about 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat and stir for a full minute, every 10-15 minutes. Do this repeatedly until the soap is golden-brown and has a thick consistency (this can take hours).
  7. Optional: Now’s the time to add any extra ingredients, such as: herbs, essential oils, coffee grains, or salt.
  8. Pour mixture into a mold and cover with a towel.
  9. Allow to cure for at least 1 week.
  10. Remove from mold and cut soap into bars. Consider using cupcake molds or something similar to eliminate this last step.

That’s the basic soapmaking process. I loathe providing specific recipes because there’s no telling what materials you’ll have after the SHTF. Search the web if you need detailed or specific recipes.

I’d like to mention a couple alternatives to soap:

Sand

People in desert cultures have used sand to clean themselves for millennia. Even in modern times, sand baths are common in poverty-stricken desert communities, because water is too precious to waste on bathing. This may sound gross to westerners, but the abrasiveness of sand does work to absorb or scrape off body oils and dead skin.

The primary problem with a sand scrub is it can’t effectively kill and remove microbes. That means your hands may not be sanitary for cooking or first aid. Another problem with sand baths is it takes much longer to cleanse an entire body, than it does with a soapy bath or shower.

Oil

Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians once bathed using oil. They slathered oil onto their bodies and scraped it off to remove dead skin and dirt.

Roman gladiators sold their oil scrapings to fans because it was thought it enhanced sexual vigor in men and was an aphrodisiac to women. Who knows, if you’re young and sexy maybe you can sell such scrapings. If not, then I’d probably reuse the oil as a fire accelerant or an ingredient in… soap.

Soap wins in the end! (Just kidding.)

Feminine

If your family includes females at or around menstruating age, you should be prepared if/when they have a period. Women have been going through menstrual cycles since the dawn of time, so this isn’t a new problem. We’ve coped with periods long before tampons existed and will continue to do so after the SHTF.

Tampon substitutions may include:

  1. Washable cloths, rags, or clean clothes you don’t care if they stain (like socks).
  2. Unused or sterilized sponges.
  3. Toilet paper or paper towels.
  4. Gauze bandages[9].
  5. You can also learn to live with it and use nothing.

Even if your family doesn’t need them, it’s a good idea to stock a couple boxes of tampons to trade with desperate people.

***

I’ll close this article by quoting a phrase my father repeated throughout my childhood: “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Good hygiene is immensely important during a survival situation because it helps stave off illness. And, if you’re single, maintaining good hygiene may help attract an intimate survivalist partner.


[1] Medical Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a doctor, dentist, or any kind of medical professional. The information presented is for educational and informational purposes only, does not constitute any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this blog, website or in any linked materials.

This article is part of a series about survivalism and being prepared for anything, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore established medical practices or avoid potentially expensive treatments. Always survive to use your skills another day by using the medical services currently available.

[2] Harris Dental. (2013, January 28). How Much Toothpaste Should You Be Using? Retrieved from Harris Dental: https://www.harrisdental.com/blog/how-much-toothpaste-should-you-be-using

[3] Arm & Hammer. (n.d.). How Much Toothpaste Should You Use? Retrieved from Arm & Hammer: https://www.armandhammer.com/articles/how-much-toothpaste-to-use

[4] Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care. (n.d.). Find out 6 easy ways to keep your teeth clean in a natural way. Retrieved from Gold Coast Holistic Dental Care: https://gcholisticdentalcare.com.au/top-6-to-naturally-clean-teeth.html

[5] Smilepoint Dental Care. (n.d.). What can I use instead of toothpaste? Retrieved from Smilepoint Dental Care: https://www.smilepointdentalcare.com/what-can-i-use-instead-of-toothpaste/

[6] Charcoal: Extra caution must be used when using this method of oral hygiene. I reluctantly list charcoal as a toothpaste substitute because it requires skill to safely produce. The lye in ash, which may be present in charcoal, can harm your teeth and gums.

[7] CBC Life. (2019, June 19). Surviving in the wild: How to transform campfire charcoal into a teeth-cleaning powder should you need to. Retrieved from CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/life/video/surviving-in-the-wild-how-to-transform-campfire-charcoal-into-a-teeth-cleaning-powder-should-you-need-to-1.5181928

[8] Lying Lye-less Recipes: There are lye-less recipes available online, but they’re lying or misleading you. Most of these recipes call for a “soap base”, which is basically soap that’s been through the dangerous lye reaction. Soap bases may be concentrated allowing for other ingredients (fragrance or dyes) to be added.

[9] Gauze Tampon: I personally don’t like the idea of using a wound-care product you may need later for something that’s not life-threatening.

Survival Pet Bathroom?

I’d like to end my recent focus on pet survivalism by mentioning another problem you may face if civilization were to end… waste. How are you going to take care of the natural urge to expel liquid or solid waste? This is easy in today’s world. All we have to do is let the dog poo and pee in the back yard, or take it out for a walk.

Depending on the civilization-ending disaster, your pet’s bathroom habits may not change. Even if cat litter runs out, your cat can easily use something else like sawdust, fine wood shavings, or dried sand. Cats can be retrained to poo and pee outside, but they won’t do it on-demand like dogs.

What if there’s a chemical or nuclear attack?

If such an attack were to happen, your pet can’t go outside because they’ll track in deadly chemicals or fallout. That means you’ll need to retrain your pet to poop and pee inside the house or bunker. This is easy for cats because they can use a litter box, but will be very hard on dogs who’ve been trained to never potty in the house.

You’ll have to train the animal to use the bathroom only at one approved location and guide it there repeatedly. You also need to keep an eye on your pet until you’re certain it’s comfortable with the new habit. If it can’t follow its training and the urge gets too great, the pet’s natural instinct is to find someplace discreet to hide the mess and avoid getting in trouble.

Please keep in mind this retraining will involve a lot of trial and error. Your pet is unlearning old habits while trying to learn new ones, and will benefit from positive or negative reinforcement. I’m sure your pet will do its best to learn new habits, so don’t be too harsh with the negative reinforcements during this transition period. Afterall, humans created the mess they’re in.

What about my dog?

I live and work in the heart of a major city and regular dog-walks aren’t always possible. My dog has used puppy pads his entire life and won’t need to be retrained. However, I fear the day we run out of those convenient puppy pads. I guess he can use leftover newspapers, but the paper won’t be delivered after the SHTF, so what happens when that runs out?

Maybe we’ll dedicate 2-3 towels for him to use and rewash them daily?

***

Think of how your pet will do its “business” if civilization were to end. Depending on the situation, it may not be “business as usual”, and you’ll need to help them adapt to the new situation.

Useful Survival Pets?

This is the third installment dedicated to pets in survival situations. People have thanked me for my previous articles related to prepping for our pets’ food and healthcare, but I’m sure this one will be more controversial and less popular. I’d like to go over which pet species will be the best and most useful companion after the fall of civilization? The most obvious winner could be “man’s best friend” (dogs), but the utility of other animals may surprise you.

I’ll start by stating that all animals can serve a basic function when it comes to emotional support and general entertainment. However, some creatures tend to be more useful than others beyond emotional attachment. If a civilization-ending disaster occurs, it’s important to recognize the value your pet can offer to the survival of your family and objectively determine if it serves as an asset or more of a liability. The information provided is based on the average or typical behavior exhibited by certain animals, and many readers will probably think their pet is the exception[1].

The purpose of this article is to remind readers that hard decisions may be necessary to ensure your family’s survival. Living as a survivor or struggling as a victim starts with being able to objectively assess the usefulness of objects, living or otherwise. When it comes to pets, that means deciding to keep, release, or make a hard decision. Reading this will hopefully make you more aware of your pets’ abilities.

Fish

Unless you have a self-sustaining fish farm, fish may be the most useless pets after the fall of civilization. All fish need oxygen, but infusing the water with it may be impossible without power. You may be able to use a solar water pump and create a “waterfall” to get the same effect, but even that may not be enough to supply their needs.

If there’s adequate oxygen, how are you going to feed your fish? Most require special food you probably can’t acquire anymore. Once you run out of fish food, those fish may best be used as food for other pets or as plant fertilizer.

Don’t wait for your fish to die before serving them as food for other pets either. There’s no telling exactly how or when the fish died. For all you know, the fish could have been killed by a bacterial infection brought on by a weakened immune system or contaminated water. Feeding it to another pet may be too great of a health risk, which means the safest thing to do with a dead fish is bury it in your garden or compost pile.

If you can keep your freshwater fish alive, the waste they produce can be used to provide nutrients in your garden. Simply clean the tank as you normally do, but pour the waste-water into your garden instead of down the drain. Don’t do this with saltwater because it will kill plants and ruin the soil for years to come.

What if you’re child has a pet fish?

Lack of power will probably cause the fish to die sooner than expected. When it happens, the best thing you can do is hold a burial in your garden. Doing so will keep your kid happy, and the fish will be reused as fertilizer. Maybe you can soften the loss by telling the kid a story about how the Native Americans once used fish to nourish plants, and/or explain it as part of the circle of life.

Reptiles

Most reptiles live in tanks their entire lives, and won’t be useful in a survival situation. You won’t be able to such a pet and it may be necessary to release it into the wild. Hopefully, it will adapt and hunt for its food.

If you have young children, tell them the lizard or snake ran away and is having a good time hunting in the wild. You can even make a token effort to look for it. Once the search is over, make sure the kids understand that your property has other reptiles which may look like your former snake, but those are wild and deadly. 

Rodents

Hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, squirrels, and rabbits are all rodents used as pets. They can technically eat anything, so food may not be an issue. But if you have a mating pair, they can create more mouths to feed. This in itself is problematic because some rodent species will eat their own babies if there isn’t enough food to go around.

Another problem with rodents is they tend to be small and fast. It’s easy for a pet mouse to get loose and lost somewhere in the house. They can die from pesticides intended for bad rodents from outside, or escape and become yet another wild pest. Should this happen and you have kids, you’ll need to tell your kids something similar to the reptile story:

“Mousey is having a grand time foraging in another neighborhood. Our property has other mice that look like Mousey, but you can’t play with them because they’re wild and carry diseases.”

Some rodents can be useful… as food. North Americans once hunted and trapped rabbits and squirrels, and South Americans eat guinea pigs as a delicacy. If you have multiple rabbits or guinea pigs and the space and know-how to start a “rabbit” farm, then you’ll have a ready source of protein for years. The hard part is convincing your family to look at Fluffy as dinner, and not their best friend.

Birds

Most birds are entertaining and pleasant to look at, and some larger parrots can pop open a beer for you. But let’s face it, most birds are a luxury and will be a constant drain on your resources. More power to you if you can afford to feed a pet bird, but consider what others will think if they figure out you own a living luxury item. 

If your neighbors are suffering from starvation, such a symbol of wealth and abundance may cause resentment. Even if you’re barely making ends meet, the simple fact you own a bird will cause your neighbors to think you’re sitting on a mountain of food. They may attack or steal your supplies thinking they’re justified doing so because, obviously, you have more than enough and you’re a vile person for holding out on them. 

Luxury birds may be worse than useless, but chickens are useful “pets”. Hens can lay eggs for your breakfast, and to replenish your chicken population. And when they get too old to produce eggs, you can eat them. 

Chickens are low maintenance because they eat almost anything from table scraps to spiders. They only require access to water and a safe place to roost. However, chickens will attract thieves and you’ll need to address that problem appropriately[2].

I’d like to finish the bird-section by mentioning falcons, owls, and other wild birds. They aren’t commonly used as pets, but these wild avians offer passive benefits by naturally reducing snake and rodent populations.

Cats

I personally love cats, but they don’t provide many immediate benefits to your family in a survival situation. They don’t follow orders or commands unless they feel like it. They won’t go on a walk with you, and they aren’t great guard dogs either.

Think of why we have sayings like: “Herding cats” and “Scaredy cat”.

While cats may not be immediately useful, they do offer a lot of passive benefits. Cats have been known to hunt and kill pests like mice and other rodents. Such rodents eat food crops, are infested with fleas, and may harbor diseases. Some larger rats are dangerous to small children and love eating the fingers of babies and toddlers.

The problem is how we use or treat cats. The usefulness of a cat is wasted if you’re just going to keep it as a house pet. It can’t kill pests if it’s trapped in the house, but it will start hunting on its own if you let it out. After some practice, a cat can acquire much of its food through hunting and may not be as dependent on you for its daily survival[3],[4].

Our family had an indoor/outdoor cat, and I know the greatest reward a cat can give you is:

  1. Love and affection by day.
  2. Peace of mind at night.
  3. And the occasional gift at the door to “enjoy”.

Dogs

Dogs will almost certainly be the most valuable pet in a survival situation. They are loyal, follow commands, serve as security, and can be trained to help around the house and farm. Dogs of any breed or age can help us psychologically cope with tragedy as well.

However, what many people deem valuable dog traits in today’s world, will be more of a handicap after the SHTF. Popular “toy dogs” are bred to be cute accessories and aren’t as helpful as larger breeds. Toy dogs aren’t completely useless, because most still have superior senses of hearing and smell. Those senses can be used for foraging, and make them great living alarms[5]. Just keep in mind that small dogs, inherently, aren’t physically capable of defending your family. They’ll try their best, but the little ankle-biters can’t do much damage compared to larger dogs.

Larger dog breeds are the best companions to have in a survival situation, simply because they can do more than smaller dogs. Large dogs are great defenders of property and do so by: sounding an alarm to warn you if a stranger is approaching, as well as intercepting and/or attacking intruders. They can herd livestock and help you hunt or retrieve prey. Some can be trained to pull small carts or wagons, sometimes without any supervision.

The overall utility of dogs over other animals cannot be overstated. They are loyal, follow orders, and will put their life on the line to defend their family. Dogs will be one of the most valuable members of your family after the SHTF, but they require training and practice. Which means you must use them as the valuable workers you need them to be… and not as mere toys.

My Pets?

What kind of pets do I own and how do I rate their usefulness? I have a parrot and a small dog, and already know they won’t be as useful as other pets. Here’s how I assessed their utility.

Parrot

He’ll make a good 1-time meal, but I need to keep a happy home and won’t mention that again. The bird’s immediate utility is limited to entertainment and keeping my boyfriend happy. We could use his droppings as fertilizer for a garden, and his feathers can be made into beautiful ornaments, fans, or feather dusters… if we can find someone interested in such crafts.

We can keep the parrot alive for years because he’ll eat pretty much anything us humans can. However, he can get loud sometimes and I fear he’ll be discovered by hungry neighbors, who may end up resenting us for wasting perfectly good human food on a bird.

Dog

I’m not going to lie. Our small dog is spoiled rotten, but will be more useful than the bird. He has a great sense of smell. If there’s a chicken wing in a bush, that dog will find it. But I don’t think we can reliably use that skill in a survival situation. It’s possible he can be trained to forage for certain plants, but training takes time, and most of that time should be used working on defenses and growing food. Plus, I’m pretty sure he’ll try to eat what he finds before we get a chance to harvest it.

His hearing is impeccable, and I’m sure he’ll be a great guard dog. He’ll have no problem alerting us of intruders, but won’t be able to intercept or attack. I fear that he may be too good at sounding an alarm, and will be the death of us should we need to hide and keep quiet.

Which pet species will be the best and most useful companion after the fall of civilization? All animals serve a basic emotional support function, but some creatures tend to be more useful than others. If disaster strikes, you may be forced to objectively assess the usefulness of your pets and decide if you should keep, release, or make a difficult decision.

Some people will deem such an evaluation as monstrous and may shun you for not sharing the same values they hold. It’s not wrong. They simply aren’t as mentally prepared as you are, or they haven’t fully transitioned to the new normal. I fear most of those people will refuse to evaluate the usefulness of their pets before the damage to the family stockpile is already done.

Always remember that hard decisions may be necessary to ensure your family’s survival.


[1] Unique Exceptions: I could retire if I earned money every time someone told me how my point of view or subject is wrong because of their unique situation.

  • I’ve got a neighbor who can walk his cat like a dog. It’s an amazing sight to watch, but not typical behavior.
  • If your pet is the top performer of your household… that’s great, but it’s not normal.
  • If you’ve been able to train an army of piranhas to jump out of water and walk on land to eat intruders… that’s great too, but definitely not typical.

[2] Violence Disclaimer: I must remind readers that I do not condone violence, law breaking, or vigilante justice.

[3] Biggers, S. (2019, July 1). The Importance Of Cats For Prepping and SHTF: Here come the survival kitties! Retrieved from Backdoor Survival: https://www.backdoorsurvival.com/the-importance-of-cats-for-prepping-and-shtf-here-come-the-survival-kitties/

[4] Sung, W. P. (2019, May 23). Why Do Cats Bring Gifts to Their Owners? Retrieved from PetMD: https://www.petmd.com/news/view/why-do-cats-bring-gifts-their-owners-38127

[5] Dogs for Foraging & Living Alarms: No dog will naturally know how to forage for specific plants unless you train them, which will take time.

Some dogs may not be great at alerting you to intruders either. Depending on breed, the sense of smell or sound may not be as advanced as other dogs and it may not detect an intruder until it’s too late. Some breeds aren’t biologically capable of producing a bark loud enough to be heard at long range (which is important if you’re working in a field).

Survival Dog Food 🐕 

We love our fur-babies, but they often slip our minds when making plans or stockpiling food and supplies. Just like humans, our pets have the same basic needs for: food, water, and shelter. Most “Preppers” have water and shelter already, but what about petfood?

Before moving forward, I’d like to warn readers this article is heavily focused on dogs. Many families have other types of pets, but more families can relate to owning a dog than other pet species. The information in this article may be interchangeable if you own a cat.

What can you do to prepare? 

It’s best to continue feeding your dog the same food it’s accustomed to. Buy a surplus of dogfood and use or rotate your stockpile as supplies age. Dry dog food has a long shelf-life, and stays fresh even after you open the bag. According to a few articles I’ve seen online, the average shelf-life of unopened dry dog food is 1 to 1.5-years, and maybe longer under pristine conditions[1].

The same articles claim dogfood will stay fresh about 1-2 months after you open the bag[2]. I think it takes my dog the same amount of time to go through a bag of food. We’ve got another bag of food at our vacation retreat, but I’ve got no clue how old that bag is. He eats it just like the kibble at home, so it must be fine.

My dog has never complained about his kibble being stale…

What about when it gets desperate?

You’re running out of dog food, but pet stores were looted a long time ago. You know there’s no interest in resupplying or reopening stores based on living luxury items (pets), especially when people may be desperate enough to eat dog food! What can you do?

Can you make dog food and/or switch your pet’s diet to something else?

Making Dog Food

You can make “dog food” yourself, but it won’t look like the old kibble you used to feed your dog. It’ll look more like human food and the dog may not know the difference. 

I looked at the list of ingredients from my dog’s bag of food[3], and the first 11 items seem normal enough. They are: Chicken, Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Yellow Peas, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Egg Product, Chicken Fat, Soybean Oil, Brown Rice, Dried Beet Pulp.

The rest of the ingredients are vitamins and additives to enhance flavor or extend the shelf-life. With this in mind, it probably won’t be too difficult to make something your dog can eat from scraps and common pantry items.

To me, the ingredient list roughly translates to:

  1. Meat
  2. Chicken Meal (Ground Bones & Skin or Scraps)[4]
  3. Puréed Vegetables
  4. Egg
  5. Animal Fat and/or Oil
  6. Rice (Most people don’t have access to barley)
  7. A finely ground multivitamin

I don’t like providing recipes in my articles because there’s no way to know what ingredients you’ll have after the SHTF. Specific recipes can be found online, but be prepared to adapt the recipe to fit what supplies you have access to.

Changing the Diet[5]

Dogs evolved to be carnivores and scavengers, so it’s theoretically possible to transition them from kibble to meat-based scraps. Be aware that transitioning to a new diet will require a lot of patience and care.

Switching your dog’s diet can be as simple as 3 steps:

  1. Gradually introduce food scraps or homemade dog food to the kibble. This has the added benefit of extending your supply of dog food.
  2. If the dog doesn’t have a negative reaction, gradually increase the scraps being substituted per serving.
  3. Continue the process until only a small percentage of food is kibble.

A few things to keep in mind regarding changing a dog’s diet:

  1. Don’t replace kibble with meat-scraps overnight. Transitioning from kibble to a different diet “cold-turkey” could make your dog sick, and may cause unnecessary food waste if the dog can’t handle the sudden transition.
  2. If your dog gets sick during the transition, it may be because the process is moving too fast for it to handle[6]. You may need to reduce the ratio of new food per serving. Find a happy medium and maintain that ratio for a week before moving forward with the replacement process.
  3. You don’t want to waste supplies, so continue using a small amount of kibble with each serving until the manufactured food completely runs out.
  4. You may be tempted to start converting your pet’s diet immediately after the SHTF, if only to extend your dog’s food supply. This may not be a good idea if you have several hundred pounds of dog food stockpiled. After all, you’ll be supplementing your dog’s food with your own. Also consider that you don’t know how long your dog will live. If it dies suddenly, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of pet food you can’t consume.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your dog can’t successfully switch over to a new form of food without getting sick. Some of the nutrients are getting absorbed into their system, but it may not be enough and you need to be prepared for the possibility your dog may not survive. On the flip-side, don’t be hard on your dog either. It’s not the dog’s fault the world has gone to shit.

DO NOT Ration Pet Food 

You must feed your dog the same amount of food, at the same time of day. You can brag about how smart “Fido” is to your neighbors all you want, but he is not capable of rational thought[7] and won’t understand why you aren’t feeding him enough.

Rationing dog food will force the pet into survival mode and it will compete with you for food. The behavior of a starving dog will change quickly. First, it will scavenge for scraps or other food to make up for the deficiency. When that doesn’t work, the dog will seek targets of opportunity and attack weaker family members to get their food. There’s nothing scarier than seeing a loving pet, suddenly bare its fangs against a vulnerable child eating or playing on the floor. 

***

It can be difficult to prioritize what to stockpile in preparation for an emergency or disaster. It’s easy to focus on human needs over our silent partners, so don’t panic if you haven’t done much to ensure your pets are taken care of if the SHTF. Just remember that you can take steps to address this issue if disaster strikes.


[1] Spinney, K. (2019). Dog food does go bad, but there are ways to help keep it fresh longer. Retrieved from Fansided: https://dogoday.com/2019/02/12/dog-food-goes-bad-keep-fresh-longer/

[2] Cammack, N. R. (n.d.). Pandemic: Considerations for Pet Food Bulk Buying and Shelf Life. Retrieved from NorthPoint Pets & Company: https://northpointpets.com/npp-journal/pandemic-considerations-for-pet-food-bulk-buying-and-shelf-life/

[3] Full Ingredients List: Hill’s Science Diet for dogs with sensitive stomachs:  

Chicken, Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Yellow Peas, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Egg Product, Chicken Fat, Soybean Oil, Brown Rice, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Lactic Acid, Pork Liver Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.

[4] Nestlé Purina PetCare. (n.d.). What Is Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Retrieved from Purina: https://www.purina.com/articles/dog/nutrition/what-is-chicken-meal-in-dog-food

[5] Medical Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a doctor or any kind of medical professional. The information presented is for educational and informational purposes only, does not constitute any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

[6] Sick Dog: Transitioning food too quickly may cause illness. However, the dog could have eaten something it wasn’t supposed to like: grass, a small toy, dirt, etc. It can’t hurt to scale back the transition process to be certain the new diet isn’t the cause.

[7] Rational Thought: Social media constantly provides us with examples showing that some humans don’t possess the ability to think rationally.

Dealing with Squatters

You survived the immediate effects when the Shit Hit The Fan (SHTF), and bugged out. By preparedness, skill, fortune, or a combination of everything, you manage to survive the trip to your new home… only to find it infested with squatters.

What should you do?

What used to be called “squatters-rights” won’t exist after the SHTF. These trespassers have put their grubby paws all over your gear and are mooching off your family’s supplies.

What you do to remove these trespassers depends on the situation. Some people may want to remain as “moral” as possible by evicting the trespassers. However, sticking to your morals shouldn’t come at the expense of your life, and you need to be prepared to exterminate the infestation.

The rural community has a lot of good and decent people, but I know from experience that it has a lot of trash too[1]. Keeping this in mind, I’ve listed a few ways that may help you overcome this situation.

With Family

If your family bugs out and finds someone squatting at your new home, here’s a possible solution:

  1. Tell the family to take key positions and cover the property.
  2. Walk up with proof of ownership (utility/tax bill, deed, keys, etc.).
  3. Announce your presence while approaching… fully armed and ready for anything[2].
  4. Introduce yourself as the owner and warn the squatters of the snipers covering the property.
  5. Show proof of ownership and ask the squatters to leave.
  6. Allow the squatters no more than 5 minutes to vacate[3]. This gives them enough time to collect personal items before leaving, but also reduces the chance they’ll try stealing things or attack.
  7. Make it very clear they’re not welcome and should never return. You may want to remind them of the crime they committed and the fact that you could have killed them, and they shouldn’t squander this second chance.

If Alone

  1. Go to a vantage point that oversees the property.
  2. Spy on the squatters to verify how many there are and plan your next step.
  3. Remain at your vantage point and announce your presence to the squatters. Let them know you’re the owner and demand they disarm. Be prepared to kill if they don’t immediately comply, or if they do anything suspicious.
  4. Attach your proof of ownership to a rock and toss it toward them.
  5. Once they review the proof, tell them they have 5 minutes to leave or you’ll start shooting.

A couple things to remember regardless of being alone or with a team:

You could try ambushing the squatters, but the risk of discovery is high. Even if you spring a perfect ambush, the squatters may panic and draw weapons, forcing you to kill them. If you end up killing the squatters, you’ll need to dispose of the bodies and defend your actions should anyone come to investigate.

Whatever you do, don’t let the squatters convince you to let them stay. These people broke into your home and stole, not just your belongings, but the whole house too. They’re not to be trusted and if you’re dumb enough to give in to their pleas, you’ll wake up to a knife slitting your throat.

Neighborly Plan

What if the squatters are well armed and look a bit too dangerous to confront? What if your family still hasn’t come to terms with the new reality and you know they aren’t prepared to shoot anyone? Or, what if the family dog barks at everything it sees and blows your cover?

I know, that’s a lot of “what ifs.”

If you happen to be friends with your neighbors, or have always been friendly to them, you could ask for their assistance in reclaiming your property. If you’re friends, they’ll gladly help you. They may even feel a bit guilty for not noticing and taking action to prevent this from happening.

But what if you aren’t exactly friends, but have always been a good neighbor? They may not be as eager to help you, but I think they’ll come to your aid regardless. For starters, most people living in the country have deep-rooted morals, and helping a neighbor in need is just something you do. After all, they’d expect you to do the same thing for them if the roles were reversed. Another reason why they’ll come to your aid is because it’s in their best interest to keep undesirables as far away from their home as possible.

Anyone who breaks and enters a home to steal resources is undesirable, but it takes real scum to steal the whole house!

What if you don’t know your neighbors or they aren’t willing to stick their necks out for your family? You may need to offer a portion of the supplies you recover in exchange for their assistance, or commit to remove the squatters yourself[4].

Personally, I think asking your neighbors for assistance is the safest plan, but you may find yourself in a situation that makes it impossible to get their assistance. If that’s the case, you should fall back on the other plans I’ve described.

A Few Words of Caution

Revenge

If you evicted the squatters and told them to move on, you must keep a constant vigil. They know where you live, how your property is set up, and how many people you have. It’ll be easy for them to return 1 or 2 days later and retake your home for themselves. It’s in their best interest to prevent you and your family from trying to retake your property again, which means they’ll probably kill you.

This is especially true if you’re alone, or didn’t have neighborly support when you confronted them.

Gossip

The squatters will tell their sad tale to anyone they see. They’ll describe your home and how “cruel” your family is. As they tell and retell the story, it will become even more exaggerated. People will eventually start believing that your family is selfish and is sitting on a mountain of food. They’ll come asking for hand-outs, and may think they’re serving justice if they attack your uncharitable family.

Heavy-Handed

It may seem like it’s in your best interest to eliminate the problem entirely, but this may have consequences too.

  1. Foremost, is the inconvenient fact that you’ll need to dispose of the bodies. Doing so will take time and energy away from moving in and setting up your own defenses.
  2. If your neighbors come to investigate, you’ll need to defend your actions.
  3. If an entire family is killed in the process, it may be seen as excessive. Technically, you did the right thing to reclaim your property and your neighbors won’t do anything against you. However, as things get progressively worse, those neighbors may start seeing you as a monster and may not come to your aid in the future.

Remember that your actions may have far-reaching consequences for your family later on.

Inside a Neighborhood

What if the neighborhood collectively decided it needed to loot your home and take everything of value? And then gave your home to some stranger to boot!

If you had to pass through security, chances are the authorities already know your home was looted and they allowed new tenants to move in. If the neighborhood leaders are halfway decent people, they would have recorded an inventory of supplies taken into the public record with the intention of returning the confiscated supplies, with interest, at some future date.

With this in mind, the leaders should have a plan for welcoming homeowners back into the community. The leadership should publicly announce your family’s return and apologize for looting your home. Once the current occupants are moved out of your home, the least they can do is return a portion of your supplies from the local food bank… regardless of how scarce food and survival equipment may be.

All of this needs to happen on the same day, or the next morning if the family arrived at night.

What if the neighborhood refuses to return your property?

I can think of a couple reasons why the neighborhood leadership may not want to return your home. One is legitimate and the other because of pettiness or greed. Both are shitty situations to be in and I’ll describe the possible scenarios which may challenge a family.

Legitimate Cause

The only legitimate reason for not returning your property is if it’s located at a strategic location or it’s essential to the community’s survival.

Maybe your home on the hill is in the center of the neighborhood, making it the perfect warehouse to store the food and supplied they stole from other abandoned buildings. Moving all that inventory to another location will require too much time and energy, and there’s a chance some of the supplies may get “lost” during the move. Once the move is complete, who knows if the owner of that building will return. They’d have to go through the process all over again.

It’s a terrible situation to be in, but it makes sense for the neighborhood to temporarily keep your home.

Illegitimate Reason

But what if that bitch of a neighbor, Karen[5], somehow worms her way into ruling the neighborhood? She’s always given your family grief over planting two apple trees in your yard. Now that society collapsed, she can’t believe her luck to be living next to such a valuable food source, and the disaster eliminated that bothersome family in the process. She can’t wait to pop open your house to see what other treasures it may hold.

Karen convinced the neighborhood to claim “eminent domain” over your home and physically rubbed her hands with delight as she watched her cronies inventory food, water, and other useful equipment. The trees can’t be relocated, so she moved one of her supporters into your home to maintain control over that resource.

But dammit! Your family’s inconvenient return threatens to undo all her hard work and planning. Karen doesn’t feel like she needs to return your property and wants to keep it… for the community.

What can you do?!

Whether the neighborhood claimed your home because of its strategic location, or someone’s pettiness and greed. The neighborhood leadership has all the power in this situation and your options are limited. If they truly need your home, they’re going to keep it. I envision a couple things may happen and I’ll use the previous scenarios as an example.

A New Hope

If the community offers to move your family into someone else’s home, you should provisionally accept the offer. Your home may not be strategically important forever, which means your family may be able to reclaim it later.

The Empress Strikes Back

A shrewd dictatorial leader will disarm your family upon entry, under the guise of a security procedure while they verify your identity and claim to the home. This will keep the family from killing Karen when she announces that you aren’t allowed to move back into your home. She’ll publicly claim to cherish you as a beloved neighbor, but the decision is ultimately out of her hands. They did an emergency review of the community’s supplies and there simply isn’t enough to support another family. Your family must leave and go somewhere else. Maybe things will improve and they can let you move back.

If this happens, you’ll have no choice but to move on.

Return of the Famil-i

People like Karen always make enemies, and your situation may be the last straw. The community should be appalled by Karen’s decision to deny a family their rightful home and banish them to certain death. Such an injustice could spark an uprising to remove her and her allies from power. If the community has a daily newsletter, the headline story may look like this:

Karen and several members of the neighborhood committee suffered various accidents overnight[6]. Nobody knows how or why this happened, but one local preacher suggests it was punishment from God for the sin of pride and not showing charity to thy neighbor. In other news, the new interim government reconsidered the decision to exile our neighbors, and would like to extend a warm welcome as they move back into their home.

If an uprising doesn’t spontaneously occur overnight, try moving into an abandoned building near the neighborhood and “squat” there until a regime-change happens. Maybe the new leadership will be more welcoming and reverse the decision.

***

Squatters are a nuisance in today’s society and will be a bigger problem if the SHTF. If you find yourself plagued by such locusts, evaluate the situation and evict or exterminate them. But do so in a way that ensures your safety and doesn’t cause you to be a pariah to the community.

It will be hard to hold desperate people at gunpoint and tell them to take a hike, but it’s not your problem what happens to them. You made the investments necessary to be prepared and these criminals shouldn’t benefit off that hard work.


[1] Trash: I have first-hand, second-hand, and gossip-pel experience of this sort of people. They’re usually drug addicts, people who’ve been in and out of jail, or ignorant “bumkins” who think it’s okay to do whatever you want because Officer John-Paul’s my cousin and will smooth everything out with the law.

Humanity may award a Nobel Prize for removing that part of the gene-pool.

[2] Ready for Anything: If these people were desperate enough to break into your home, they may be desperate enough to attack you to keep the property.

[3] 5-Minutes: 5 minutes may seem harsh, but these moochers have been stealing your valuable resources. They may have already lowered your chances of survival. Who cares if they leave some of their belongings, consider it rent.

[4] Unneighborly Neighbors: If your neighbors refuse to help you reclaim your property, you should probably keep them at arms-length. Anyone who allows such a crime to happen next to their home should not be trusted.

[5] Karen: Our society has turned this name into a pejorative term for entitled or demanding women. I once knew a loving and caring woman named, Karen, and feel a little guilty for using the term in this article. However, it is a common and relatable term which best describes the loathsome neighbor I’m envisioning.

I apologize in advance to anyone who may be so named.

[6] Accident: Remember readers! I do not condone or advise the use of violence or breaking any just law, nor do I of vigilante justice.