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Avoiding Trouble During Uncertain Times

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: January 21, 2019
Avoiding Trouble During Uncertain Times

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There has been a lot of concern about civil unrest and what the next few years are going to bring to us. This has made me think about how so many of us get into situations that can be avoided with a little thought and preparedness.

Avoid large crowds if times are tense

I don’t expect everyone to live with the level of isolation I do. It is a choice that has allowed me to live the life I do. I used to see more music shows and things like that but to be honest, I cringe at the thought of being in a space that I cannot exit easily or have a good grasp of the situation. This girl is not going to be in any darkened movie theaters or huge amphitheaters. I am glad I got to see Pearl Jam during better times because that probably is not going to happen again.

If you plan on going to a larger shopping center, exercise some caution

Large shopping centers like malls and Wal-Marts are not where you want to be during tense times. Over time, there may reach a point where even smaller stores require being on guard more than you might like.

During times of strife, if looting becomes an issue, remember that during the beginning of a real SHTF scenario, people are at the point where they will take items that are luxuries they desire, not the necessities that will aid the survival of them or their families. If you find yourself in a store when looting starts, you are safer and better off in the long term if you are the person grabbing canned meat and not the latest phone, laptop, or television.

Limit unnecessary trips for supplies

Are you one of those folks that will drive to town for two things that you could do without? Well, you need to get over that for SHTF. At my house, we do a large grocery and household products shopping trip in town once per month with a smaller shopping trip during the second half of the month.

Items like toilet paper and paper towels that take up the whole grocery cart we order online and have delivered. This allows us to get a bigger return for the time we spend shopping in town.

Not making a ton of trips limits your exposure to distracted drivers and the chances of running into civil unrest. There is the added benefit of less wear and tear on your car and not spending as much on gas or diesel.

Plenty of people overspend on impulse buys if they do a lot of small trips to stores because it means you have more opportunities for temptation.

People will not be in their right mind during SHTF

When times are tense, people are not focused on what is going on around them as much. Those that are easily distracted and stressed are not going to be driving as well. People also tend to drink more and consume more illicit substances during hard times. On the other hand, some people cannot get the medicines or drugs they are used to and are thus in withdrawal and distracted by mental and physical symptoms.

Avoid protest areas or any parts of town where a popular or controversial political candidate is going to speak.

If I hear on the news that someone like Obama or Trump is going to give a speech in a nearby city, you can bet your bottom dollar that Matt and I will be nowhere near that area or town. It is very easy to plan our lives out so that we don’t have the need.

I understand why people protest, but the truth is that most protests don’t do any good if the powers that be want something to be a certain way. The potential for rioting is great, and when people are very emotional, it is very easy to provoke someone without even intending to. All someone in a protest has to do is point you out and say something, and the mob mentality may mean that some very negative attention is put on you. This can be very serious or even fatal if times are edging towards SHTF or a high stakes issue is at the root of the gathered crowd.

Being too curious can get you killed or seriously hurt very fast

Even just observing the action of gathering or protest can have terrible consequences. Civilians caught up in people running or pinpointed for looking a certain way are possibilities. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can be avoided in a lot of cases. I don’t care if you want to experience history in the making, stay home and stay safe with your family if at all possible.

Is it worth the fight?

There will be people that encourage you to join in causes or drag you into their struggles. You have to decide based on your own well being and that of your family. Will it accomplish anything worthwhile to get involved with a cause?

Violence is incredibly easy to start but hard to stop.

Think about how a lot of fist fights start. First, there is a lot of shouting and insults. Maybe there are some hand gestures. At this point, everyone could walk away but then one person shoves the other, and the violence starts.

Once in motion, it is hard to stop violence from escalating and during a SHTF scenario, it will be even harder because there is a good chance that law enforcement will not be there for you. People are less likely to stop if they think there will be little or no consequences for their actions.

By using violence, you are setting into motion a powerful chain of events that can go on a lot longer than you think.

Sometimes it is simply better to keep your mouth shut.

I have to bite my tongue a lot.

Since I have gotten more readers, people have treated me differently, and I have received attention and comments that are not always the most positive thing.

You cannot reason with everyone. There are always people that are not going to like you or will have a problem with what you stand for. On the other side of this, there are always going to be people that you don’t particularly care for or like their opinions. You may find them completely horrible but guess what?

They have as much right to their opinion as you do. The difference is how you react to others having different opinions that may not make any logical sense. I may rant to my very understanding husband, but I definitely don’t go on Facebook and let loose with how I really feel.

Pick your battles wisely. Take a deep breathe and give yourself some thinking time. Rash decisions can lead to dire consequences.

Rethink your bartering philosophy

A lot of people think that they are going to be part of this incredibly vibrant barter economy during hard times or SHTF. The truth is that when there is violence and civil unrest going on you want to avoid bartering as long as you can. Preppers would do well to plan for enough supplies to stay at home and shelter in place for a month or more if possible.

You don’t want to feel like you need to go towards the trouble just to get an item that you should have a good supply of anyway. Bartering during SHTF is not going to be fun.

Think about how it would be if you had to go to a sketchy drug deal and you will have a better idea of the danger and uncertainty of bartering for even the most basic items.

Start thinking about what you have and what you need now and add to it as you can. Even those that are hardcore preppers and think about it all the time often find areas they can improve in or holes in their preps when they review. None of us are perfect preppers that have it absolutely all together, we are all merely at different stages and vary in abilities.

During a recent interview, I was asked if we had other homesteads we barter with, and the answer is no. I do not have anyone around me that I can have that type of relationship with. Either those around me don’t produce enough, or I simply don’t know them.  I didn’t go to public school around here, so I don’t know a lot of people close to my age either.

Plan alternative routes to and from work and school

In most cases, there is more than one way to get to, and from the places, you frequent daily. Having an alternative route planned and knowing the area is useful for many situations and natural disasters. Sure the alternative route may take longer under normal circumstances, but during an emergency, it may actually be faster. Even if the alternative route takes 2-3 times as long to get you to your destination, it is better than getting hurt or risking your life.

Think about the risk that people take when they pass you on the highway. Matt and I see people race by us to save a few seconds, but in the end, they don’t save any time at all because the same stoplight catches them and they are right there with everyone else, waiting for that light to change. They risked a ticket, the safety of themselves and everyone on the road, and gained nothing. Everyone loses in this case.

Don’t prod the bear. Remember past differences and those that may have a problem with you or a family member.

During times of unrest, people can be tense. If you have people that have a problem with you or a family member or you have had trouble with someone’s behavior in the past, you need to be aware and try to avoid them and definitely do not do anything to intentionally antagonize them. I am not saying let people abuse you or your family in any way but do what you can to avoid potential interactions that could be escalated.

Remember that some wounds and slights fester over time and while they seem forgotten, even 20 years down the road, they can come up again, especially if someone is very stressed.

Blood debts can go on for generations.

Some people never forget.

Remember, don’t get on the bus! NEVER!

During the beginning of a SHTF scenario, people will be vulnerable to persuasion and scared.  Consider that for some; this will be the only time in their lives where they have experienced true hardship, hunger, or even major pain. A pretty darn bad day during good times is nothing compared to a good or average day during a major situation.

It is important not to let this cause you to make decisions that could completely change your life in an instant. Regardless of your opinion on the true nature of FEMA camps, they are there. During times of crisis, people may be offered what seems like a blessing. Food, shelter, warmth, someone looking out for you, medical care, etc., are powerful motivators.

NEVER go with the group to a really big camp or shelter if at all possible. Stay in control of your destiny and that of your family as much as you can! It may be harder at first or even for a good while afterward but in the long term, think about what is best not what gives you short term comfort and satisfaction.

Even if the intention of FEMA is initially good, conditions can deteriorate quickly. If you are boxed in with a bunch of other people and cannot get out, then you are imprisoned. It is a slippery slope friend.

Hurricane Katrina and the Superdome Disaster

Sure the Superdome was never meant to be a home for a lot of people like a FEMA camp but it is an example in modern times of the horrors that can occur when a lot of people are thrown together with limited facilities, food, water, and law enforcement that ignored pleas for help because that is what they felt they had to do.

  • Drug and alcohol use was rampant. The Seattle Times reported those taking shelter complained of crack vials all over the bathrooms
  • Rape and sexual assault were frequent, and plenty of incidents were either not reported, or when they were reported, it was too late to get any evidence
  • There was more than a few suicides. One man jumped 50 feet off a balcony because he thought his situation was so hopeless.
  • Bathroom facilities were not adequate, so there were feces and urine all over the place. Hygiene quickly deteriorated, and people got sick
  • The Superdome was patrolled by an outstanding 500 National Guard, but they mostly patrolled the outside of the Superdome, keeping that inside from leaving. That’s right; you could not leave even if you wanted to. They were literally being held captive by armed troops.
  • Some people did get airlifted out due to major medical problems and chronic conditions. Others had to stay.

Source: Seattle Times “Trapped In The Superdome: refuge becomes a hellhole.”

Consider that all these terrible things happened during a time when things were not as volatile and tense as they are now in the USA.

If a disaster like Katrina can lead to this level of human rights violations, what do you think it could be like at a FEMA camp during SHTF?

Katrina was bad, but it wasn’t SHTF for a whole country.

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].


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19 Responses to “Avoiding Trouble During Uncertain Times”

  1. bartering in a shtf or teotwawki situation is a fantasy. when no one is enforcing the laws any more, society reverts to the default setting: might is right. about 10% of any group will be young, healthy, well-armed males who will form gangs and will take whatever they need or want; the rest of us will only survive by giving them what they want without resistance. some bartering may be possible between members of the 90% if they keep it under the radar, but that’s about it. go to, click on “the economy and politics” and read “are you prepared for a worst case breakdown in society?”. you will think he’s being too pessimistic in this and his other articles, but anyone who has actually been in a survival situation (combat, famine, societal breakdown) will tell you he’s right on the mark. realistic expectations are just as important, if not more so, than skills and supplies.

  2. Samantha, No offense intended. I studied engineering in school and had no time for such goofiness in school and took my career to serious to ever put it at risk. I am very jealous with what you have achieved. I have had a similar dream since spending summers on an Aunt’s farm and having the “Boxcar kids” book series read to me but low the best I have been able to achieve is a house in the burbs, a wife that won’t leave it and 3 grown kids in different states. I have a family that doesn’t believe in prepping but my prepper supplies are substantial, but have no illusion about being able to defend it from the golden hord from the city. At some point I will have to make the run to the family cabin 8 hr away and take what I can. Not how I would have planned it but I guess it could have been worse. My hope is that so much is relative and 30 years back I started hearing stories about how the Government couldn’t keep borrowing money. They have always found ways to keep it going. There are a number of SHTF indicators but the world keeps trucking past all of the previously identified show stoppers. Not to say that it will never happen but I’m in my 60’s and fear I have missed the earth shattering SHTF event which means I will have to live my life out in the middle of the mess we have. Any thing I can do to help people see the things they can do to change the world I will get involved in but it doesn’t mean I stop prepping. I have gotten to where I enjoy homemade whole wheat bread.
    Thanks for what you do.

  3. The ‘smart’ and awake person would be wise, if caught in an all out looting situation, to focus on useful items, like medical supplies, personal hygiene items, and food items that the masses won’t be looking at (think seltzer water and other fluids-not soda pop, baking supplies, etc.). This is not to say that one ‘should’ loot, but if caught up in such a situation (think, you are at Wallyworld, and something happens, everyone around you is going crazy, grabbing electronics and other ‘stupid’ stuff—you are going for the camping gear, the food stuff no one else is bothering to even look at). I don’t think that’s bad advice at all. I don’t ‘expect’ to be in such a situation, but if I did end up there, I know my goals would be WAY different than 99.9% of the crazed ppl!
    We do our best to stay out of the big cities, by choice, but do go periodically, and always with good situational awareness.
    We don’t do the malls, and avoid most large gatherings. Exception being several yearly sporting events we attend. OPSEC is a big thing, and we are as prepared as we can be away from home. This is a choice, as we choose to enjoy life in addition to being prepared. The venues we attend are ones we have been to multiple times, we know the ‘lay out of the land’ so to speak. These events ‘could’ be a target, but less likely than some other sports. The crowds are a lot more spread out.
    Aside from those several events, we are happy homebodies. We prepare, but we also enjoy life. Everyone has their own personal comfort point as far as participating in society. OPSEC should always be a priority when in social situations.

  4. I didn’t stop reading when she suggested stealing/looting. Otherwise, good advice, but if your moral compass is compromised, you’ve not prepped long enough, consistently enough, thought enough, cared enough, etc. to stoop to that kind of activity. Sorry, just being honest.

    I would rather die than steal, and I certainly wouldn’t put my family in a position of stealing to survive. This article should have been aimed at preppers, not those with compromised consciences…besides, what the heck are you doing in a situation where people are looting???

    My suggestion: Follow the good advice presented here, but don’t compromise your moral high ground in order to survive…it isn’t worth it, for your soul’s sake. Face facts. We’ll all die someday…but as for me and my house, it won’t be over a canned ham and the ‘possibility’ of adding another few days (or weeks) to my life. “He who would save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will gain it.”–Jesus talking

  5. I didn’t interpret anything in the referenced article to indicate cowardice. But a healthy degree of wariness and caution. I have dealt with individuals / groups who we had to place in field custody. A highly unpredictable and dangerous situation which can easily escalate & degenerate.
    Despite all outward appearances people / things can go sideways suddenly. You just never know what’s going on inside someone’s head. Having “hope” and being an activist is laudable but foolish if it renders you and any family’s self interests to the whims or mercy of others, whose allegiance to the greater good is uncertain.

  6. Nothing said here could be argued with, except the base premise. Your argument is based on the premise that we are on the door step of SHTF. Is it possible that we are an hour early, or a day early or a week early or a year early????etc… It appears that you have already dug your bunker and given up? I participative in a number of grassroots efforts that have seen the very high levels of tensions you discuss and have also seen the police in stand down mode. What this looks like is when things get close to violent they move into the meeting and surround the non-protestors and tell them it is time for them to leave. When they ask why because the meeting the protestors came to disrupt it not over. They are told “BECAUSE IT IS NOT SAFE FOR YOU HERE”. But nothing is done to the protestors.
    Are we to throw up our hand and run to our bunkers or should we try to unit our neighbors and help our elected officials get more than 5% of the good hard working people out of their recliners to vote and get involved. The line forward is an individual decision and is probably a result of many prior decisions but for me, unless there is no possibility for civil change then the only next option is the civil war and that is a very messy option and no mater how deep your bunker and large your stores you will get dragged into it.
    I choose to live with hope. Hope we can gain some control of our government, our immigration, our refugees, our drug problem, etc… I do believe in prepping and I agree that as things begin to fall apart please do not attract attention to your self by trying to get a gallon of milk, but until then refuse to be controlled by the terrorist. If you refuse to go out you have already surrendered to THEM. I like to remember that the mass shooter at CO movie theater drove by 3 theaters that did not have a “NO Firearms” sign on the door. Don’t be stupid but don’t be a coward either.

    • Contrary to popular belief, I do not live in a bunker. I live in a cabin in the hills of Caroline, like the Flat & Scruggs song but with a vineyard, forest, cats, dogs, sheep, chickens, and geese. I choose not to go out in society a lot because I find that it doesn’t have a lot to offer me. I am 35 and it is incredibly hard to have conversations with people my age in general. I spent my 20s and 30s building a house, farm, vineyard, etc. thus all the time people my age spent socializing in bars and partying, I was not there for and now I have even less in common with my age group. I have found I have a more productive life by staying at home and working like crazy. Increasingly, people automatically make judgment calls and difference of opinion is not tolerated Since I started writing about prepping it is amazing how many people call me various names, make faces when I talk, etc. I am far from a coward but I will defend my area not get caught up in a crowd. I went to a college where people were constantly going to protests and they often got arrested and little change happened. A lot of people refuse to take someone seriously if they are screaming and yelling even if it is for a good cause. When the name calling starts, you lose a lot of people. When grassroots efforts are well organized and thought out and people look at both sides of an issue they can do great things but all too often it is not the case. None of us know when SHTF will happen. Hopefully, it never will but there are signs that the division this country is facing is steering us towards civil unrest. I hope your grassroots efforts are well organized because it sounds like you want what is best for those around you. Thanks for reading!

  7. Good article. Gerald, if you’re in the store and everyone else is looting and you don’t, you will have a big target on your back! Anything that makes you stand out will make you a target. Just scream and yell and take a few cans of meat. Then get the hell out of there! If you’ve never been in a riot type of situation then take a moment before you get on your high horse.

  8. Trust will become a commodity you cannot afford. Therefore the need to barter will be a perilous situation. Our family has discussed this situation, and feel if forced to acquired something such as a medicine, we should show sufficient firepower and strategically place ourselves so that we can some control, though we undetstand in these circumstances chaos can happen very quickly.

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