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Monday, January 24, 2022

Places to avoid during/after a major SHTF event

Should the day arrive that we experience a major, prolonged grid-down event, you may find yourself having to take extreme measures to ensure your safety. Be it executing your bug in plans, getting yourself out of danger by bugging out, or implementing your security plans, you may have to go to extreme measures to protect yourself.

Part of protecting yourself should include avoiding areas that could be incredibly dangerous both during and after an apocalyptic type event. The initial chaos and the subsequent lingering danger at certain locations and areas means that you should bypass them altogether.

Some of this might seem counter-intuitive, but trust me, there is a reason why I believe you need to avoid these places, both during and after the SHTF. To me, the risk of going to these places significantly outweighs any reward that you might hope to find.

In a post apocalyptic setting, I believe that these areas could still be considered dangerous. And even if they are no longer dangerous, I believe they will not have any resources you might hope to find. For more on scavenging in a post grid-down scenario, please click here.

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So which areas are these? Let’s jump in and get started!

Grocery stores

I’m sure most everyone is familiar with the rampaging mobs we have seen at Black Friday sales. From surging hordes to gun shots, if this is what people will do to save $75 on a TV, imagine what they will do in a major SHTF scenario when their lives are at stake and they are not prepared?

Grocery stores rely on delicate system of keeping just a day or two worth of inventory on hand. Because of this system, stores simply cannot order larger inventories to meet the immediate demand. The vast majority of unprepared people will rush grocery stores in an effort to stock up on vital supplies. When these supplies run out, and I promise you it will happen faster than what you think, it is easy to imagine how the panicked hordes of shoppers will act.

On several different occasions I have witnessed runs on grocery stores in my area. Usually before the arrival of a major snow storm, I have watched places like Wal-Mart and local supermarkets get picked clean by mobs of people.

Several years ago when I was working the night shift, I responded to a call about suspicious activity at the local Wal-Mart. For 2 days the local weather forecast had predicted a major snow storm. And for past several hours, the Wal-Mart had been jammed with shoppers. At about 3 AM, the store was empty…of both shoppers and merchandise. Just as the snow began to fall, the night manager called 911 to report some weird noises in the back warehouse area. I was dispatched to investigate.

It turned out to be a raccoon seeking shelter from the beginning storm. But what caught my attention was that not only were the store shelves picked clean, but all of the inventory in the back rooms were gone. It had all been sold. The manager said they didn’t even bother restocking the shelves as they were emptied, but instead just wheeled the remaining grocery inventory out on carts. Shoppers were taking it directly off of the carts.

The manager also said it would be at least a day or two before they got more groceries in. And it could be longer depended upon the road conditions. She said that for the most part, things had not been too chaotic, and that most last minute shoppers had been understanding when they couldn’t find what they are looking for. But this was before a snow storm with advanced warning. What happens when it is a long-term SHTF scenario with no warning?

Post grid-down, I would continue to avoid grocery stores. These would seem like the places to scavenge after TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). But after watching all inventory disappear at that Wal-Mart before a major snow storm, I truly believe that there would be nothing left to scavenge at a grocery store post grid-down. And even if there were, chances are that any remaining survivors will be targeting the same grocery stores desperate to find food and water. Desperate people will do desperate things. Better to avoid this situation altogether.

Worth a Discussion

A lot of folks talk about locating food distribution centers after SHTF. These centers are where all of the grocery stores get their inventory. So it seems like a no brainer to go there post collapse. But I believe a lot of other folks will be thinking the same thing. And my guess is, they will NOT be accommodating to others who arrive after they do.

Should the government impose marshal law and try to remain solvent as the world collapses into chaos, chances are they could very well requisition these centers. And if so, don’t expect a warm reception should you go walking up to the main gate.

I’m not saying you should not even scout these out from a distance. Just be prepared that you won’t be the only one doing so. I believe that these areas could be even more dangerous post-collapse than grocery stores. This is why having a food/water stockpile and the ability to garden now are so important.

What are your thoughts on distribution centers after SHTF? Let us know in the comments section below.

Pharmacies/drug stores

According to the Mayo Clinic about 70% of Americans are on some type of prescription drug, and over 50% have more than one prescription medication. While some of these medications are not vital to the patients’ survivability, many are. When it comes to emergency preparedness, how many of these folks plan ahead when it comes to their medicine?

The vast majority of people do not stockpile their medications. This is not necessarily their fault, as pharmacies only refill limited amounts of medications. This forces people to return frequently to refill their meds. So in a major SHTF situation, you will see huge amounts of people making a run on drug stores to refill vital medications. And much like grocery stores, pharmacies only have a limited supply in stock. So it is easy to connect the dots and see the potential problems and chaos at drug stores during a major disaster.

In addition, many of these prescription medicines are used to treat mental illness and other psychological disorders. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of Americans taking antidepressants rose by 64%. By 2016, about 40 million Americans were taking psychiatric drugs. The side effects of suddenly stopping many of these medication can cause all kinds of physical and mental issues.

Stress and anxiety about not being able to get the life saving drugs that they need will cause tempers to flare. Add to that how many people will not have the right medicines they need to think and act rationally, and this is a recipe for conflict and violence. Now think about the fact that many drug dependent people will be looking to loot drug stores in an effort to sustain their addiction, and will easily resort to violence. I believe drug stores represent a major threat to those who try to visit during times of incredible turmoil.

I know for many, life saving drugs are a necessity, especially for people like the elderly. But if you can take steps now to reduce your dependence on medications, then by all means do it. Start by making active changes to your lifestyle to decrease your need for medicines. Things like blood pressure issues, hypertension, diabetes, etc can be reduced or even cut out the need for medicine altogether by making changes to your lifestyle and diet.

In addition, seek out homeopathic alternatives if possible. Educate yourself on other home remedies that might be available should we experience a major calamity and your medicine runs out.  Consult your doctor about other ways to treat your condition should the supply to pharmacies be compromised and/or interrupted.

Gas stations

Much like grocery store and pharmacies, gas stations have a limited supply of fuel. They will most likely run out relatively quickly as people rush to fill up their tanks before or during a major disaster. We have watched this happen many times in cities about to be hit by a disaster. An impending huge hurricane is a prime example.

And as mentioned before, the stress and anxiety of trying to flee a impending emergency coupled with the long waits for fuel (and limited supply at stations) could be a powder keg for emotions to boil over. Better to avoid these areas to begin with.

In addition, how much valuable time are you wasting by stopping to fill up your tank? I never let my gas tank get below half full. This is something you should get into a habit of. Keep your gas tank full, and fill up at half a tank!

If you are headed to a bug out location, do you know how many gas stations there are along they way? Are they far enough out that they may not be overwhelmed with people fleeing the disaster? Map out the stations along your bug out routes, and make note about the conditions around them. A gas station a few miles off the beaten path hundreds of miles from the disaster focal point may still be untouched by the crisis, and worth the short drive to refill your tanks.

Post collapse, I expect most gas stations’ underground tanks to be bone dry. These stations are not on my list of places to scavenge. But it may not be a bad idea to have a hand pump or other means to extract fuel should you find yourself scavenging for gasoline after the grid has been down for a substantial amount of time.


If there is a reoccurring theme in this article, it is that so many places we rely on only have a limited supply of what we need. Banks are no different. Should the grid do down, credit cards and other means of payment that rely on the grid to function will be useless. Cash will be king. At least for the first few days of the crisis. 

During that time, I expect a major run on banks and ATMs as people try to get cash to pay for the items they desperately need.  And this is assuming that banks will be able to dispense cash. I have seen multiple banks that simply close down and lock their doors when the power is out.

In a long-term grid down scenario, cash will quickly become worthless once people figure out that the power is not coming back anytime soon. But for the first few days, (or if the disaster is more localized or regional, and help may arrive in a few days) having some cash already on hand is a very wise decision.

Not only do I keep some cash on me as a part of my EDC, I am slowly building up a cash reserve. I keep the denominations at $20 and under, as many stores may not be able to make change for larger bills.

In a post collapse world, banks really wouldn’t offer much in the way of scavengable supplies. Maybe some cleaning supplies or a hand tool or two? Possibly a vending machine? Honestly, I’d look for areas that offer more in the way of vital supplies and gear when it comes to scavenging post collapse.

Major urban areas

We have seen the riots that have effected major cities across the world. Most of these riots were not based upon panic, or survival situations. But imagine if they had been? Urban centers have large amounts of people, the vast majority of which are not prepared for a major disaster. At least not for more than a few days. And as the saying goes, we are only about 9 missed meals away from anarchy.

During and immediately after a huge, grid-down crisis, people will represent one of the biggest threats you will face. Law enforcement and other first responders may be overwhelmed, and no longer able to respond to calls for assistance. The competition for dwindling supplies and resources will grow exponentially as the days and weeks pass. Society can and will break down much faster than you anticipate. So if you can get out of major urban areas quickly and safely, you should do so.

For those trying to escape, you will most likely be one of thousands with the same idea. Roads will quickly become jammed, and escape routes bogged down. What happens if roads and bridges are damaged, making your escape near impossible? I would certainly have bug out plans in place now, and multiple routes in your plans. This is assuming you have a bug out location. Simply bugging out into the unknown is one of the last things you want to do.

If you are unable to bug out, you should shelter in place, and try to remain hidden and undetected. The longer you can remain “invisible” and unnoticed, the better your chances of survival. For more on bugging in plans, please click here.

Post collapse, I would avoid major cities and large metropolitan areas. I believe these areas will most likely be devoid of any resources you might need, and could still pose significant danger to you and your prep group/family.

I hope and pray that the a major, grid-down scenario never arrives. But I do believe in being prepared should that happen. And I know which places I will steer clear of if that day ever comes.

What other areas would you steer clear of in a major SHTF scenario? Tell us in the comments section below.

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