Plans Without Preps

Picture of Selco


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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I got asked a great question recently, and thought I would answer it with an article. A reader asks:

„I read your posts for years, I did not find myself survivalist all that time, I have read it because what you wrote about war times and similar… My question is simple, can you give couple of simple advice’s what to do in case of SHTF, without going into „prep for years“ or „build your group for years and store pile of ammo“ advices,  what if SHTF tommorrow and I do not have anything like that“?

At the first it looks like simple question, something that any of us who are into prepping should answer easily, but again we are talking about man who is not into prepping at all.

So what to do?

Whole books are written about this answer, but let’s try to be short and just stick to the basics here.

What Is Going On?

You see that something is happening outside, something big, let’s say you notice that there is an emergency broadcasting on TV, and you see a huge number of law enforcement outside, and other that that you know nothing more.

Now, at this moment, you need to make some important decisions, and you’ll have to make it based on what you know, so clearly the more information you can get, the better you can make decisions.

Two important points here you need to understand are:

1.No matter what is the real reason for your particular SHTF event, there is some common  elements of every SHTF event no matter if it’s terrorist dirty bomb attack, solar EMP or Romulans attacking with spaceships.

Panic, disorder, rumors, looting, chaos. So just do not expect to collect all the info. you want in that moment.

Do not wait to find out what is really happening, or let’s say do not wait to find out why things (shit) are happening. At this moment forget the ‘why’ and act.

2. Collect info. based on your small circle of options. That means (continuing from point A) that you do not need (most probably) to find out why there is looting in street next to you, why there is police force in big number, why there is no TV signal, and why there is big black smoke visible from your office few kilometers away in the city.

What you need to know is how to avoid (and what way to take) looting mob, what kind of force police is using there and what way to travel to avoid that big black smoke.

Do not get me wrong, to know why things are happening is great, but to wait too long to find out is usually bad and it is often way better to solve things in small steps.

What Actually To Do?

Go back to the basics again.  Simply try to stay away from the trouble.

We said that you are not prepper, and you are in the city.

Assess your situation and act.

Your „luck“ probably in that moment is that people will probably look more how to take (steal) LCD TVs or laptops than things for shelter or defense.

Get yourself organized into simple categories, we typically have SEVEN Survival Priorities:

  1. Fire
  2. Shelter
  3. Water
  4. Food
  5. Communication
  6. Medical
  7. Defense

Try to cover each priority as much as you can.

Again, do not spend too much time in covering each one at the expense of finding yourself in a worse situation.

As you are not prepper, and you might find yourself in the middle of working day in the office when SHTF, look around yourself and see what you can use to cover each of the priorities.

For fire you can have only a lighter maybe, and, for now, you have that priority covered, for water you going to put several bottles of water in your bag.

For shelter you gonna steal a few more jackets, or emergency blanket or trash bags.

For food you’re going to take energy bars from the vending machine, for communications you’re going to take cellphone with you (and hope there is still a signal/network), for medical you are going to „borrow“ the first aid kit from the hallway in your office building, and for defense you will take a couple of knives from the kitchen or simply smash some chair and take a chair leg as an improvised baton.

So all priorities are covered.

Yes it looks poor, but you covered sections with what you got. Improvising and adapting is key here…

Where To Go?

Bug Out or Bug In?

Simply go away from the trouble, that’s it.

We are talking here about city, so huge possibility is that you are going to go outside of the city. More people means more problems.

But first thing to keep in mind is not to run from the city, it is to escape the trouble (think in small circles-steps). Rory Miller says it nicely ‘Don’t run away from danger, run towards safety’.

If that means that you need to hunker down in office building, or in rolled over school bus or wherever in the middle of the city for two days in order to safely leave the city then you are going to do that.

First and immediate task is to stay out of (and avoid) trouble in your goal to leave the city.

Maybe you going to have to spend week hiding somewhere in city, waiting for right moment to leave it. You do not know.

Point is to avoid trouble and adapt your plans accordingly to that.


Best advice for you is anticipate that there are simply no rules, but some common things for every situations are there, so:

-Stick to your plan up until to the moment when it is more dangerous to follow the plan, then improvise, adapt and modify your plan. Be ready that your plan can fall apart right at the beginning (example: if you plan to leave the city through several pre planned points and streets, and there is danger on the way, you might choose to ‘bend’ your plan and use a longer way instead)

-Violence. Avoid violence, simply like that. Violence means chance to get yourself killed, or injured. Killed means your survival story is ended, and injured means much more trouble than in normal times, remember small cut can kill you in SHTF world.

-Violence, again. When there is no other way then to use violence you have to use it in a quick and effective way, without hesitation, without rules. You’ll think about what you did later, if you have to.

-Things are (probably, or might not be) not what they look like. Police might not be police, law is not law anymore, stealing is not stealing, honor is not honor. Survival changes things.

-Prioritize things. Systemic collapse, especially first period of it, means lot of chaos, that means lot of distractions in your planned action. Always have in your mind what is your priority in the given moment. Getting from point A to point B might look easy today, but when SHTF you may find events problems and obstacles on that way that can fill one lifetime of average peaceful citizen.

Do not find yourself pulled in situations, like say going to the destroyed pharmacy seemed like a good chance to refill your medical kit, but also its a good chance to meet couple of high junkies inside who will stab you. Choose wisely what „distraction“ you will take as a good ‘chance’.


As you can conclude, for non prepper advice would be develop some plan and act. Also that does not mean that plan is to run like an idiot and get yourself killed.

Sometimes what you need is just will to survive, and based on that you will adapt and build your plan.

Have you ever had to deal with a serious situation with no time to prepare for it? Please share your stories and ‘lessons learnt’ in the comments below.

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22 Responses

  1. You are so right! I recall I was in NYC helping my sister move a very heavy marble table into her apartment. The legs and table top were in heavy soft fabric bags. I had my pickup where we picked up the table, a little Chevy S-10. She refused to have anyone deliver because of experiences with breakage, etc.. We picked up the very heavy table and parked in front of a Bakery to pick up Bagels. She went in and I was standing nearby looking in a storefront window in uptown Manhatten. A guy comes walking by and looks in the pickup bed and sees the logo on the bags and realizes this is an expensive furniture piece, well known place in NYC, and he reaches in and grabs the heavy Marble leg?????????? and proceeds to walk down the street with it. At first it seemed so surreal?????????? Why would anyone take a marble leg from a table???????? Yet it was a one of a kind and I chased after him and didn’t yell so he wouldn’t take flight. But, when I jumped in front of him he dropped the marble and pulled out a handgun. I could tell he was a substance abuser…smelled of alcohol strongly and had some needle marks on closer inspection.

    The smart thing would have been to just throw up my hands and play submissive.

    However, I was younger then and really saw red when he pulled out that gun, I can’t explain what happened to me. It was like a dream really. I had had some personal defense training and Karate, but I’m no female Expendables type. Long story short, the next thing I knew he was inside the store via the window and I had a nasty gash in my leg.
    There were a few people there that had me down on the ground. They thought I was the aggressor. The fired gun was lying on the sidewalk. The investigation that happened was stressful. However there were witnesses and I was completely cleared of this. The thief was well-known to NYPD….

    It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to think and yet I felt like I had all the time in the world. The emotions at the time were something I haven’t felt since that time and frankly, I was surprised by them and surprised by my actions.

    1. Outstanding, Kathleen!! 😀 There need be more women like you. Hell, there need be more PEOPLE like you! 🙂

      Be proud. Thank God. Go forward boldly.

  2. Kathleen,

    If there were more women like you in this world it would be a much better place. I even doubt 90% of all the gay, metro-sexual, hip, effeminate, transgendered, pussified men in this country would have even tried anything close to what you did. But, and I stress this, you were very lucky.

    1. @George; Good thoughts on EDC. Even non-preppers (which is a cognitive dissonance issue for me) should have EDC that is meaningful. I dress for my local environment so I don’t stand out, which for me is jeans, pull over shirt or polo (with pocket, important), boots and baseball cap. I am retired but have errands to run. I carry a lighter ($2, don’t smoke) and a firesteel ($8) with a P-38 ($1). I also carry a Coghlan dynamo flashlight ($5), a Swiss army knife ($25) and a CRKT M16T Tanto. My weapon is a G19 with 2 spare mags and I carry a clip-light ($4) on my cap. Two forms of light, two ways to make a fire, two knives and an adequate weapon that I am very well trained on. Anyone can make those preps. I also keep various loadouts in my vehicle. One “grab bag” back pack (with prescription meds) and a bit more industrial “get home bag” along with IFAK and other serious but not so mobile preps as well. Not being a prepper is nonsense. If you have car and/or homeowners insurance YOU ARE A PREPPER, you are just parsing the degree to which you prep! Having basic EDC items on your person and a vehicle package that has 3 days of food, water, shelter, and other reasonable items go a long way to making even “simple emergencies” more endurable. Imagine being stuck on an Interstate, miles from an exit in a 20 hour traffic jam??? How much easier would that be with food and water and other survival comforts. A simple kit would make 90% of almost anything so much easier to endure and could be the difference in life or death/serious injury. Be Well.

  3. Thanks for this article. Very helpful to understand necessary mindset. Especially in the conclusion summarizing the changes in basic values. This kind of shifting is not something people in everyday life are likely to consider.

  4. This article, and others you’ve written, are relevant even to preppers. Think about it-when SHTF we could be anywhere. At work, miles from our preps, or running errands. I think the most important thing is to realize that matters have changed, and change the mind accordingly. We must detect the change in situation and act accordingly, running towards safety. The mind is our greatest piece of equipment!

  5. Prioritizing action plans according to probable scenarios should be done ahead of time. That’s why people keep a backpack or duffle bag in their trunk or under the office desk or wherever (the “get home” bag).
    Basic fire escape safety includes that when you enter a building you should take note of it’s emergency fire exit locations.
    We should know better than to stop over train tracks (esp if between other cars), and if you live in California, you don’t wait for traffic lights under a fwy overpass. (You’re trapped under that fwy overpass if an EQ hits).
    Key point is always being ‘situationally aware’; keep risks in mind, and escape paths in the back of your mind as you go about your daily business.
    As for collecting survival things on the fly – like during an actual emergency, it would depend on what’s unfolding around you, but in a city, I can’t imagine thinking about supplies when things are breaking into chaos with people running/or a cop presence heavy on the streets, unless an unmistakable opportunity presents itself. If escape is necessary, then THAT should be the priority; stopping to collect things will delay getting to safety and impede your progress once you obtain whatever it is (possibly making you more of a target as well).

  6. I always appreciate articles like this that assume the audience is totally unprepared. Because even those of us who do prepare are unaware of how unprepared we are, until we are actually tested.

  7. Another good article, with good solid realistic advice. The improvised way of securing the necessities “on the fly” was great, as well as the advice on judging “opportunities” and ‘choices”. Outstanding.

    My solution is to always have SOME preps with me. I commute to work on a motorcycle, and carry a backpack with survival stuff in it EVERY DAY. Food, shelter, small cooking kit, water filter, ponchos, medical kit, fire making tools, steel water bottle, paracord, etc…even a small lithium battery to jump-start the motorcycle or a car, and to power my phone. On the bike I have some emergency parts and tools for it, and weapons. No matter where I am, I have some things to get me going in an emergency. When I’m not on the bike, the basic survival backpack goes with me anyway, in my other vehicles. I don’t go more than 5 miles from home without it. So basically, I would say “make and keep an escape bag with you at all times. There is no excuse for “not being prepared at all”. None.”

    Sure, some freak circumstance may separate you from your bag… but the odds of that are small. The odds of you “getting stranded with nothing” are much greater than that, if you start off with nothing and insist on staying that way.

    Make a bag, Keep it with you. Stop worrying about scenarios you can largely take steps to prevent.

    Welcome to prepping.

  8. My 2c:

    – Don’t panic
    – Don’t panic
    – Don’t panic, but then keep in mind:

    Usually, SHTF does not come from one second to another. It has a prequel and signs you need to decode.
    Even Selco said that there were signs before SHTF for him personally. Strange things in the media e.g. “everything is candy dandy”. Keep an eye on obviuos things that are not mentioned in the media, like, let’s say the possibility of an influx of very bad people with nothing to lose and uncontrolled boders, a.k.a the government that ceased to exist without anyone noticing it in the first place.. The small stange things that tell you that you’ll become part of things that will be written in history books.

    Keep a little bit of salt with you. It makes meals better and wounds less stinky.

    -Things are (probably, or might not be) not what they look like. Police might not be police, law is not law anymore, stealing is not stealing, honor is not honor.

    Problem is more like YOU have to face the fact that masks have fallen and that good / bad just don’t exist. Which in turn means you will realize that the world was a fake before SHTF anyway. But it felt comfortable. After SHTF you will discover humans how they really are and act.

    Law, good, bad , government, property, safety, money, contracts, morality….they are all really complex concepts (illusions in fact) that won’t stand gound as soon as SHTF. They just vanish.

  9. People are dangerous animals and only on the “civilized” side because they think they cant get away with things. in SHTF they will gladly kill a toddler for sport or personal gain. Hell even in a Greed mob, they will happily trample a baby to save $100 on a TV set they dont need.

    Do not trust people, assume others are dangerous to you and want to murder you for sport. avoid them if at all possible in SHTF and be as invisible as you possibly can be.

    to me that means dressing as a homeless bum. I have my city bug out “suit” that is torn up jacket, dirty clothing, etc.. so I can put on my day pack, put the coat over it all and then get out. I blend in as a nobody that has nothing, hell I have tested it by walking through the WORST neighborhoods where white people are killed for sport without a problem. Simply act stark raving mad if someone talks to you, and it cements the whole thing. Get your face and everything else dirty as well. Making yourself stink also helps.

  10. My favorite ‘ Sudden SHTF ‘ is a winter storm massive car pile up.
    You may be stocked up to the hilt in your vehicle. You are very much aware of the possible dangers of the situation. You have master control of your vehicle and many years experience in driving in such weather.
    Some retard flies by like it is a beautiful calm summer’s day. He passes other cars like they were parked and kicking up snow & slush onto the other cars windshields (including yours). Visibility becomes zero. You know wisely to let off the gas until window gets cleared. Those in front panic and slam on the brakes and start spinning like tops. Your slower speed allows you to avoid the spinning cars as they crash into each other or into the snow banks. Your window clears as you see Mr. Jack-Off lose control and heads-on with an incoming snowplow, a massive explosion sending large and small car parts everywhere. A wheel hits your windshield and cracks it into a spider web of death. You immediately ease your car into road shoulder. You know you have all the supplies you need to survive for a week in your car. But wisdom tells you to evacuate the vehicle and head towards the tree line of the highway. The snow is deep and hard to travel to uphill side of ditch, but it will provide you a good buffer from the out of control 2 ton bullets. You will be almost safe from a 50 tons of raging 18 wheeler crashing towards you as the snow filled ditch, rise of land and the tree line will reduce the distance it can plow through before stopping. As you reaching towards the tree line, you can hear the crashing and banging of vehicle after vehicle smashing together. But you do not look back as you have a very important mission to complete first. Some people see you and follow. But most just stay in their cars or worst, get out and access the damages to their car or just stand there looking stunned.
    From your advantage point, you see the mayhem and continuing pile-up unfolding. You also notice that most people are in indoors clothes only and starting to freeze. Meanwhile you are dressed for the Arctic (you rather have the car windows down than freeze you ass off in a SHTF). You see you vehicle get hit hard and you would of died in it. You know this will take hours before help arrives and many with you will die. You organize them to help build a shelter and collect firewood. You and 3 others have survival experience and reward the helpers with temporary usage of our outer winter coats to warm up. The whiners get to freeze until they get with the program and join in with the efforts. You are a smoker, so a lighter (or two) are always with you. The pocket multi-tool and bandaids come in real handy.
    After shelter built and a roaring fire going, then it is a supply run to car(s). The pile-up stretches for miles in both directions. The blue and red lights flashing at the ends means they will be a while to reach the core. You see many injured and dead and dying, but you must focus on saving your group and anyone else who can follow on their own. This is hard emotionally, but this is reality of the situation. Survival mode in full motion. You have people depending on you and were wise enough to follow you out of danger’s way. You & re-con members return with supplies and 7 others. Together you warm up and have a good feeding. Once our needs met, we put together a rescue team to see who we can help down there.
    We managed to save another 13 people before first responders arrived. Your quick thinking and skills saved yourself and 31 other lives.
    Having a huge supply of preps is super fantastic. But, by having good survival skills and some very basic items, can mean the difference of life or death in SHTF situation.

  11. I did a bit of family prep and then took Selco advice to start getting reliable connections. I got trained at our County Department of Emergency Management for area Community Emergency Response Team with 9 training sessions. It’s a volunteer pool of people here but is not organized to do much locally yet. But I got to make a couple of connections. Particularly one guy who got to see how I am and we made a connection. And hes slowly introducing me to others.
    I got my amateur radio license and two Po Feng radios so am able to communicate both on and off grid. So I am making progress. And I realized I need to get long term food crops here and there. I have focused too much on fruit trees and bushes and need to get root crops scattered around: several types potatoes, turnips, beets, yacon (no one knows what it is so is less likely to get taken), bean bushes interplanted with other bushes, and am figuring out more. Winter squash, eating-type pumpkins, onions, garlic are important because they can be stored easily for long time. Select certain beans like mung to have to make green sprouts. And ammo sales. Creek Stewart top 200 Survival Hacks is what I need next.

    Selco, what crops are you growing?

    1. Thanks Brian!
      At my BOL mostly there are potatoes, beans, peppers,corn, tomatoes.. plums and apples are there also for “drying” and alcohol. Experimenting with different types of tobacco, climate on the place is not so good for some quality sorts, but for “trade sort” can do the job.

      1. If you have sunny spot then I suggest a wood box frame with old windows to cover them and try yams or sweet potatoes. Tobacco takes out much of the soils fertility so best wishes on that crop. Without a good source of animal manure it is hard to get good crops. For your climate I suggest mangels as a root crop for cattle feed, and beets for greens and roots to eat. I started Seaberry bushes for a vitamin C source and 10 different varieties of apples for juice and cider. Both at home and our BOL. I joined a fruit club which owns a good fruit press so we can get all our fruit made into cider and juice. Just some ideas for readers.

  12. “Water; Shelter; Fire; Food; Communication; Medical; Defense”
    I rearranged the list for my needs. I don’t have a colon, so water is my number one priority. I know the list isn’t “locked”, and the main concern is covering each item.
    Thank you for your experience. The pain and horror you survived in the past is helping a lot of people now and in the future.


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