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The 6 Types of People Who Will Die First When SHTF

We all like to believe that we’d fare well if a disaster hit. At least, those of us who think about disaster preparedness believe that they’d survive (the rest aren’t even willing to admit that a disaster could impact them!).

A lot has already been written and debated about the people who will die first when SHTF.  Most fixate on people like the physically weak, disabled, elderly, and yuppies.

But I don’t want to focus on those standard weaknesses here.

I firmly believe that anyone – regardless of health or physical ability – can survive a disaster with the right amount of planning.

For some — like preppers with disabilities or with small children — it will take a lot more planning and prepping.  But it can be done.

Unfortunately, many preppers will die.  They will die NOT because they stockpiled the wrong items or bought a BOL in the wrong location.

They will die because of personality weaknesses. 

Take a look at these personality types and see if you fall into any.  If so, it is time to stop focusing on gear and emergency kits and instead work on building mental toughness!


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1. The Indecisive

It is well-agreed upon that the key to surviving disaster is to Get Out of Dodge ASAP.  The longer you wait to leave, the slimmer your chances are of survival. That’s why we pack Bug Out Bags (see here for a bug out bag checklist) and run emergency drills.

Yet, the decision to leave isn’t an easy one.  No one wants to feel like they are overreacting.  Emotions can get the better of us and we make bad decisions in the face of danger.

If you are the indecisive type, then you better make a checklist of conditions for when you stay/leave.  That way you will be able to take action right away instead of waiting too long to flee.

2. The Sentimental

Harry Randall Truman

This one absolutely breaks my heart, because I can relate.  I love my home and community.  It would be hard for me to leave, even if I knew that a disaster was approaching.  However, I also know that it is important to put sentimentality aside so we can make rational decisions in the face of disaster.

Overcoming sentimentality is probably a lot harder than we want to believe.  Consider what’s talked about in the NBC article Storm Psychology: Why Do Some People Stay Behind?   They talk about how, even with an evacuation order in place, many people choose to stay in the wake of hurricane Katrina.   Even those with the means to leave simply didn’t have the heart to leave.

I’m also reminded of the case of Harry Randall Truman, the 83 year old man who died in the Mount Saint Helen’s blast because he refused to leave his home. Before dying of asphyxiation from the blast, he told reporters:

“I’m going to stay right here because, I’ll tell you why, my home and my (expletive) life’s here…My wife and I, we both vowed years and years ago that we’d never leave Spirit Lake. We loved it. It’s part of me, and I’m part of that (expletive) mountain.”

I understand Truman: His wife and daughter were both deceased.  He probably felt like he had nothing left worth living for other than his home… Truman didn’t have any other family (that I’m aware of), so his decision to stay instead of flee didn’t really affect others.  At 83, he was probably near the end of his life anyway and maybe didn’t want to start over from scratch.

However, I do have people in my life that rely on me and care about me.  I (hopefully) have a lot of life ahead of me to live. I owe it to them — and myself — to put aside my sentimental attachments to my home and GO before it is too late.

3. The Macho

The prepping and survival community is filled with machoism.  Now, don’t confuse macho with the healthy personality trait of self-reliance and wanting to protect your family.

Machoism is overly aggressive, assertive, and prideful.  It is EGO and it will get in the way of survival!

  • Macho preppers are the ones who flaunt the lone wolf mentality. They believe that they can do everything themselves and won’t take help when it is necessary.
  • Macho preppers show off, which in turn draws attention to themselves and could make them a target.
  • Macho preppers are the ones whose idea of prepping is, “I have a gun. I’ll take what I want!” (And will likely get killed in the process)

If you don’t believe that machoism is rabid in the prepping world, just consider how many preppers talk about “standing their ground” if someone attacks their home.   In a lot of cases you’ll be severely outnumbered.  Macho people would rather give up their lives than their supplies!

Recommended Reading: Home Security

Or consider this remark to this post about hiding guns: “If it is time to hide ‘em, it is time to use ‘em.”

No successful revolution was ever waged by one person gunning down officers at the door.  The people who survived (and won) were the ones who hid, laid low, and waited for the right moment to come out of the shadows.

4. The Uncreative

The ultimate survival skill is not knowing how to start a fire, or how to purify water, or even how to treat wounds.

The key to survival is creativity.

Creative people are the ones who will look at an abandoned soda can and realize that it can be turned into a stove, and that the tab can be used as a fishing hook.

They are the ones who will turn a crayon into a candle, or use a plastic bottle to make rope.

You might think that you can’t learn creativity.  True – some people are naturally more creative than others.  However, there are some exercises you can do to encourage creativity.

I know they seem cheesy, but they really do help!

5. The Panicky

In a disaster, approximately 10% of people panic while 80% of people freeze (which is basically a severe form of panic). Only 10% of people actually respond and take action.

The ability to stay calm during a disaster is key to survival.  By default, preppers are going to be less likely to panic than the general public because they have accepted that there are risks and likely have a disaster plan in place.

Yet, don’t assume that you are superhuman and won’t panic during a SHTF disaster.  Staying calm is a skill which must be developed.  I recommend trying these exercises which build mental toughness.  

6. The Fantasy-World Planners

I first heard this term used by The Organic Prepper in her article about How to Die When SHTF.  “Fantasy planners” are the preppers who believe that they can live off the land, hunt, farm, and forage their way through the apocalypse.

This sort of fantasy planning ignores realities (such as that you have never actually done any of these things, that you are out of shape, and that you can’t predict everything).

The solution? Perform real-life drills.

For example, try going camping with just the items in your Bug Out Bag.  If you can’t survive 3 days like that, you aren’t going to be able to survive a lifetime in SHTF conditions! But you will gain knowledge about how to better prepare so you can survive.

What other types of people do you think will get killed first when SHTF? What personality traits will keep you alive? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. I couldn’t agree more to what you said in this article. I think preparedness is an essential skill everyone must have because it will actually help you predict things and even prevent worse things to happen. I love this post keep this up!

  2. I agree with most of this but it’s hard to try survive in the woods with just a bugout bag at the moment because of poaching laws. Can’t just go and shoot a deer out of season for “practice”.

    • You should have three days worth of food in your bug out bag, Bill. It may take you longer than that just to get out of the area in a real bad situation. Since you need to rotate the food in it to make sure it’s fresh, just use the trip to eat it up before you have to replace it. Granted: It might be lean, but dealing with functioning on a low calorie diet for three days will be awesome mental practice.
      Practicing hunting in your bug out location is a great idea, though. Just make it a photo-safari. See how close you can get to what kind of animals before you snap the picture. It will give a purpose to the camping trip, let you learn the lay of the land, and learn what animals live in your haven and where they are. You can even bring extra cans of your favorite food which you only allow yourself to eat if you bag a “kill” that day. I could go on for an hour about the benefits of a “dry run” bugout with a camera, but I’m sure you can think of them. You don’t even look like a prepper; just a eco-friendly dude with a camera.

    • I’m sure fish and other small animals are allowed to be killed for food. You could shoot a racoon or opossum instead, but not sure if they’re good eating or not. Never tried, don’t want to. Wild hogs are an option, too.

  3. Then you have the I know everything people they have a college degree and are smarter then everyone I know this because I have two step sons that fit that mold you can’t show them are tell them anything they tell me all the time we’ll figure it out they don’t understand when shtf event takes place you should all ready have figured it out trying to get up to speed during emergency well by then it’s usually to late ha but what do I know I am just the bat shit crazy step dad and the sad thing is my two daughters are the same way I tried to lead them into prepping slowly by giving them completely stocked Bugout bags to no avail there all computer geek’s and love the city I will miss them when the shtf but you can only do so much so many out there live in a bubble and you just can’t help them

    • I agree with you. I have a 17 year old grandson who knows all there is to know about everything. He told his dad when he turns 18 he’s “outta here”. When asked what he’ll use for money (he does work a few hours each week), where he’ll go, how he’ll afford an apartment, food, transportation (no driver’s license or vehicle), he says he”ll “figure it out”. I simply cannot being that smart many decades ago at 17, 18 or even 25. I do suspect when the SHTF he’ll come crawling back to the safety, security and groceries daddy and mommy have willingly provided for free.

  4. You’re probably right on the money, but depending on how much of the SHTF happens, conceivably we’ll all die, it’s jus some will die before others. Water will be contaminated and so will the air. You can have ten years worth of food and water stashed away, but what will you do for air?

    • Not much you can do if the situation is not survivable. We prepare for the most likely scenarios and hope for the best.

  5. I was talking to a lady who said her 17 year old son (avid prepper) ran drills for the family. She said “We are prepared for the zombie apocalypse.” I just looked at her and said “Zombies don’t exist.” Her mouth dropped open. I asked her about fresh water. She said her son was going to head for the local lake. I said ” It only exists because of the dam.” Double drop jaw. I had a similar conversation with my grandson who was going to live off the land. I told him to run the numbers. All of the locals in the area would have the same idea. That is 10,000 people trying to live off of roughly 50 square miles. Can’t be done sustainably. Agriculture was what enabled cities in the first place.

  6. The peace love and happinees, ill let everyone in hippies will die quick, thier letting a coyote into a henhouse and dont even know it. The “ill set up a trade market” people will die soon after as well and for the same reason. Will we need trade? Sure but not off the flip. 6-8 months maybe a year later absolutely but your gonna just draw attention to yourself and get yourself killed doing it too soon. I also disagree slightly With yours as well as most “experts” thoughts on the lone wolf prepper. I spent 21 years in the Army, 19 of which i was a Ranger, I also grew up on the land that i will be bugging to, I HAVE lived and can once again live on my own and make a sustaining life on my own, thats not my plan at all i have a group of chosen friend’s and collegues that im gonna partner up with but if they arent able to make it then i can do it on my own and so could most preppers no matter what their plan is if they absolutely had to. That needs to be parcticed as well.

  7. Primal Surviver, I believe being in a group will be the safest and If possible could you please do an article on safety practices for women preppers on how to stay safe and secure to avoid kidnapping, rape, etc, situations a woman may face.

  8. DISASTER SURVIVAL IS HIGHLY CORRELATED WITH DEGREE of SELF-RELIANCE LIFE-SUPPORT YOU HAD ATTAINED & MASTERED OVER SOME YEARS BEFORE SAID DISASTER – to the extent we now thrive healthy on less than 5% pension at ages 85 & 69!
    Examples follow, many of which are homemade: hose-reel pump – water finding, saving & purifying, also water from the air – solar stills – alternative toilets like ground hole – ¼ acre edible jungle, extraordinary plants including medicinal – alternative laundry, trivial chemical-free washing up – fish dam – no ironing – solar etc hot water, bathing & cooking, Hawaiian BBQ & many stove types including my small smokeless one-stick HELIXTOVE, wick stove uses cheap diesel instead of kerosene – cheap home warming like solar-heated glass veranda – my free teen transport like dog pulling bike up hills, amazing best new budget Chinese electric 50km-range micro folding scooter, Prize homemade 25year old 1WD dual trike both solar charged at home & needing no rego, licence or insurance here on highways, human-hauled kids school bus – air crash investigations put us off flying – Methane digesters – salt water batteries, thermo electric generator works on stove when no wind, sun or hydro energy available – many 12volt appliances including our blackout kit – Hindi oil lamp – natural coolers like waterbag & country dam, what doesn’t need preserving, homemade most efficient 12 volt 2.3 watt fridge & bed warmer – best home & land design formula, cheap room space savers, eco villages & sick homes, total radiation disaster – cheap quickies for home & business – tree-less envelope, floor filing cabinet – Youngsters job bidding – Fashionomics showing non-stitch clothes with little cutting – making wines, jams, preserving fruit, champagne etc without yeast or sugar & no heat apart for some jams; yoghurt; solar food dryers, vacuum food preservers, companion planting chart – mower conversion into grass & brush cutter, scythe, spine-saving bent-handle spork, Stock & wildlife conservation, humanure officially now considered safe, multi-use food trees, organic warning, restoring timber forest with straight tall food trees – extreme winters – Farmlett Permaculture ideal, as a Pensioner, backups, living in tents, Our Good Life – WORLD VAST PLASTIC POLLUTION, recycle, reuse, restore – Our Nuclear Disaster Survival – unusual alternative energy samples – – –

  9. Good & timely article. Thank you for sharing it.

    Those might be the first prepper types to die. #6 fantasy world sounds very familiar.

    I would add the types who mentally-model TEOLAWKI based on what happens during a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake, or for that matter, based on a Hollywood-type disaster movie. Namely, they plan on evacuating at the height of a crisis situation (already not a great idea) to their cabin in the mountains (where there is no arable ground to cultivate), as if they can just wait it out, and then life will be back to normal once the clean-up crews are finished. They sort of assume the economy starts functioning again promptly, like it does after a LOCAL disaster. No sense of 2nd & 3rd order effects either.

    I suspect the very first people to die, even before any of the others already mentioned, are the ones who have psychological not to mention physical dependencies on fragile systems. They believe whatever the talking head on tv says, learned everything they know from public school & college, trust the government & think of it as a force for good, trust their doctors a little too much, and eagerly swallow any pill they’re prescribed.

  10. Our church promotes healthy living. Some drink reverse osmosis water, and they usually run it through a distillation system too. I drink tap water and sometimes spring bottled water (like in a strange city). If the water is not 100% without germs when they rinse their food or have to drink some lake water (or whatever), they will get sick and die. Or if they come to my house for a week… The tap water and the bottled water contain all sorts of (I don’t know what to call them) and I think it ups my chance of survival against one that uses 100% pure water. One guy at church wanted to sell us a reverse osmosis system and analysed our water to show us his system was better than tap water. When he showed us the result, he was stunned when we said we wanted all that, for the immune system. Then I told him my theory (above) and he wasn’t happy.

  11. Every one of you some how in some way sound just like one of the types of people on this list. You just don’t realize it. Although anyone can live off the land depending on the situation as many did before us and many will after we’re all gone. Yes we are all gonna die doesn’t matter what kind of prepper or person you label yourself you are gonna die. Why do you think the events happen. SHTF when all of the Dino’s were killed off. Again with the ice age and once again with Noah’s arc. Just because you think you know how to survive and label others because if his or her plans and saying “you seem like a macho type well you won’t make it long guy” the guy might put live you, you might not even make out of your house. What if if happens when you’re home sleep in your bed, you won’t even have time to react. How can you grab a gun, bug out bag and spring in to action if you’re dead? What if god himself says well time to start over and sends a meteor the size of the U.S towards earth. What’s your plan then. What about a global nuclear fall out? Do you have radiation protection? What if the god says the human race is just useless there’s no hope and blows up the whole entire planet? Are you prepped for those events? Some of you have under ground bunkers! What about flooding?

    • Timothy – that is one way to look at things but around here we like to take sensible, rational and practical steps to increase our chances. Of course if a cataclysmic event were to happen it would all be for nothing but many other scenarios are more likely and certainly survivable with the right preps and mindset.

    • I have also mentioned these various types of disasters. Its best to plan for anything. Priority is Shelter, water , food, weapons, and I say hygiene/ medicine because you can easily kick the bucket because of bacteria during a disaster. So stock up on all of those supplies as much as you can. You’ll have to play it by ear. Already have a plan. If its a flood have a plan. EMP have a plan. Disease outbreak, have a plan. Earthquake, have a plan. Bug out bag or no bug out bag have a plan and a meeting spot, because you could be at work and your kids could be at school when it happens. You wont wont know. #planningisthekey #keeppreppingdontstop

  12. 71 independent days of wilderness survival – foraging, trapping, making weapons to kill food, constructing shelters including snow caves – tended to make this person a bit more self-reliant and incredibly distrustful of persons who cannot do what he did, so why would I team with the people who would cut my throat as a “savage” because they could not BEAR to kill those poor animals and eat them: my family have been trappers and hunters and fishers and foragers for generations and the events you write of would be and end to “life as you know it” and your “civilization” of city-dwellers would come to an end. Think on this – what are you going to do when your careful hoard of bullets run out? Club Bambi and Thumper to death with your useless gun? Edged weapons are just as effective and if you don’t know how to make fire with only wood and to knap flint and obsidian – you best had start learning. Matches run out too.

    • ^ Trapping is better than traditional gun hunting if everything collapses, IMO. For the exact same reason. Less time and energy than lying around in a stand for hours. Unless you’re in a big group, you will have too much to do for that to be feasible.

  13. Surviving a TEOLAWKI event will be unlikely for most of us. A short term SHTF could be survived. My preps are geared to that, enough food for a few months and way to get water and some light. Then seeds and supplies for longer term shortages. I live in a rural area and my neighbor has two 30 x 100 ft green houses. Most of the US east of the Mississippi is within a three day walk of over a million people. We just have to hope they have better places to go.

    • Preparing for the more likely scenarios (weather event, short term grid down etc)is what we recommend and is achievable for most people.

  14. I just started prepping a couple years ago, and yes i have some guns and can use them, and yes i have some stored food and seeds and can garden and hunt as i have already done this all of my life. i also have means of filtering water which is plentiful in my area. i live in a very small town in a rural part of a southeastern state. After imagining many situations unfolding, and have to face the facts that there is no such thing as an army of one, i have contacted some like minded friends and we have decided if SHTF to form a small community that can share resources, gaurd duty or policing our area ect. there will be a total of around 100 of us, and all are known and trustworthy. Second, if situations evolve that make our community un sustainable, smaller groups of 15-20 will split off in a “Bug out” to the forrests type last ditch effort. hey it worked for many Jews in the black forrest against hitler so maybe it would give some us some time. The real truth is we are all going to die sometime, and our group are Christians who dont want to die but dont fear death. The main thing is to never give up and never lose hope. To us Jesus is hope. I encourage you to hope in Jesus as well. God,guns, bible and baby clinging! Shorty

  15. Bryan O You have some big talk there!! All you people that swear you are going to the land to live. But those nasty old hippies will die? In the 60’s those “nasty Hippies” are the only ones so far that have actually done just that. Oh and by the way Mr Military. You act like no one else has the same or better training than you. I suggest you think real hard about all your macho stuff because it will get you killed fast.

  16. Daddio7 All I can say is I’d rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Surviving a TEOLAWKI event will be unlikely for most of us but not impossible.

  17. I like all the ones that are going to live by hunting. Gee only several million people have said the same thing. I guess when you wipe out all the hunt-able animals you are screwed.

  18. Reverse osmosis water is very very BAD for u. It has all of the minerals and trace elements removed from it. Its Ok for short term, 6 months, but you will get sick in the long term.

    • You need to read them BEFORE the SHTF *anyway*, if you try to start learning this stuff afterwards you are going to be seriously behind. Sure, a print option for reference would be nice, but it gets expensive, too.

  19. Have Any of you ever watched the history channel survival show “alone”? All of the experts quit!!! All of the bush craft, military trained survival experts quit! It’s about luck and a strong psychology of never quitting, understanding your goals and objectives and making strides toward said achievments. I noticed that early on, one must achieve as much as possible while able to, situations only become more difficult.

  20. So reading everyone’s input… everyone has a different way to plan their survival during a SHTF. Which is not a bad thing, everyone will not prep and plan the same that’s just how it is. There’s also the fact that remains that we don’t know what kind of disaster we are planning for. If its a major flood there’s only so many options of survival. That to me is the most difficult to plan out. Expecially if you dont want to seek public shelter. Thats a NO NO. So dont bank on that. If there’s a EMP you might want to seek shelter under ground… start building a Bunker or exc. fully stored for when green means GO. Disease outbreak you may have to board up your homes tightly or again seek underground shelter also fully stored with your needs. You need to plan for various scenarios. You may not be able to grab your bug out bag and have a dwelling get away to get to. You might have to armor up your home where you live and fight where your at. That doesn’t mean you wont survive… it just means if your prepared to do so no one will F*** with you. A alternate shelter outside the city may help too for those who have one, simply because the more people in your city and in your neighborhood, the more bacteria sickness and disease will spread due to water shortage, lack of hygeine and trash. So plan for various scenarios. Keep your prepping lists updated and keep prepping, PRAY, continue to educate yourselves and network with other preppers (only when its the right time and when its safe).

  21. What about an article on what types of people to avoid? Those that could even get you killed; or, those who will sap your strength and/or your supplies.

  22. I see the top three SHTF scenarios as Jihad, Big meteor strike, mega plague, I’m already a coupe hundred km, out of the city giving me a head start ,We will bug out ,and bug out fast, I own a Toyota LandCruiser series 80 one of the most overengineered vehices ever made fully fuelled it has a range of 600 km, with jerry cans 1000km, head for the desert, its hard not to find the desert in Australia, take food, water, water purification, Defensive weapons tools, my own spinach seeds i have developed over the last 15 years just about grow any where in any climate, my wife is a skilled Hunter gatherer who has her indigenous skills, I can live on very little food, ( I lived on 400 calories 6 days a week for 6 months) Australia has artesian water in about a third of the desert areas, ( I have drunk it before)I also have good problem solving skills, Running with my mother as a child avoiding the police and child welfare, ( my mother refused to send us to school) and we took to the road, even outsmarted a killer/ rapist on the road, we have a great love for each other, We are prepared to do anything to suvive as long as we can,

  23. You are the folks who have the best chance to survive. My husband is, and I am just this side of, being senior citizens, and we are not in good health. In the emergency we would just hunker down in our home (I do have the food, water, etc stored), and wait things out as long as we could. Leaving our town? Where would we go? My husband was in the military so has some survival type skills, but still …. we would be best off staying put. With our country in such a weakened state, we could be further invaded by enemies.
    So, for all you who would survive, things could be very very bad. But remember as time would go on, work on rebuilding whatever is left. It would take years and years, and several generations, but that is the only way to finally win.

  24. You did not mention those that have to stay behind to support the community. Those are the ones that are hopefully prepared as much as they can be. Because we can’t go home until the community is safe

  25. I think a lot of people are not prepared for the reality of bugging out. If you don’t go early enough you will face mobs and riots as well as looters and thieves.
    Timing is everything in a bug out situation.
    I will hunker down if possible. I’m only gonna leave if death is the outcome of staying.
    I don’t have a bol or an escape route. I’m in a safe place with trustworthy neighbors and we have loose plans to defend our location.
    Plans can change and probably will. But for now, I’m better prepared to survive in place. Going on the road will be my last resort.

  26. An Emp event can only happen two ways: 1) someone sets off an air-burst nuclear warhead, or 2) a massive solar flare goes off. The odds on #1 happening are possibly 1,000,000,000,000- 1. I’m looking for a bookie who’ll cover a bet on it happening. I’m not sure if anyone will survive #2.
    I’m glad that you mentioned the prepper who’s afraid of zombies. Plus the MACHO one.
    We should think like the Mormons do. They assemble a one year emergency food supply. In case of a flood;tornado, or a six month job lay off.

  27. I decided to move from an area in eastern NC which would become very unsafe very quickly when things get bad. I am now in the Smokey Mountains in a house at the top of the mountain with a river at the bottom. There’s only 3 other homes on the mountain and the people who live in them are very elderly so I don’t see any of them as potential threats. Guess I’ve already Bugged Out. Have tons of preps and will now be teaching myself how to use the Sun Oven, water filters and some other things. I also will diligently work on creative skills. But I am a 66 yr old woman and am alone. It won’t be easy since some things require more strength than I have but I intend to give it my best shot.

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