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TEOTWAWKI Defined & What You Can Do To Prepare

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: March 23, 2020
TEOTWAWKI Defined & What You Can Do To Prepare

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Sometimes abbreviations and terms that are common to seasoned preppers are confusing to others. For example, if you start reading some more advanced articles there are no explanations to the abbreviations and terms. Sure you can look it up on Google but by that point, people can be confused and frustrated enough to just give up.

In this post we are going to define and explore TEOTWAWKI which stands for “THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT”.

This phrase and abbreviation brings up a lot of different situations depending on who is reading it.

TEOTWAWKI means the end of the societal framework, comforts, and safety net that we are used to. For example a catastrophic event may make it impossible to have reliable electricity, water, and the foods we like to eat daily.

TEOTWAWKI for one person may seem like nothing to another person.

Have you ever met someone that panics if everything doesn’t go exactly how they want it? Well, to them it may seem like the end of the world if something fairly common yet unpleasant happens. For example, a winter storm that leads to them not being able to make an event they looked forward to or just having to stay at home and survive on what they have in the kitchen, may seem like TEOTWAWKI. We live in a very pampered society in many ways.

Perspective from different backgrounds shows how people are shaped into expecting a certain level of comfort, respect, and treatment.

Unless you are truly homeless on the streets, in the developed world, you probably have a much higher standard of living than the vast majority of people on the planet. I am not saying that some don’t have to face terrible living conditions, I am merely pointing out that from others point of view, a lot of us have it pretty good in the USA. When you have a lot to lose, it can seem like TEOTWAWKI even if you fall on slightly hard times or face a set back.

Methods For Dealing With TEOTWAWKI

Having a good mindset during any stressful situation is going to be to your benefit.

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I cannot help but include this video of the REM song “The End Of The World As We Know It”. If you listened to rock in the 1990s then you probably got tired of hearing it on the radio. The message is that a disaster has happened but the person singing is getting through it.


Consider what type of person you really are and prepare for that person, not someone else. That goes for other members of your family and group. You may love them but they have positives and negatives just like everyone else.

Sometimes it is hard to be honest with ourselves about who we are and the personalities of those we love. For example someone may be very good at cooking but drive you nuts when it comes to picking up after themselves. It is important to highlight strengths and use them to the advantage of your group. If you know someone is bad at something or resistant to it and has been for a long time, you might try to encourage them to give it another go but you also might consider if it is a battle worth fighting or if time would be better spent assigning tasks and preparing for each person based on who they really are, not what everyone or just you wishes they are.

Keep it in perspective

Is it really TEOTWAWKI or are you being dramatic because you are upset? Are you just having a personal crisis that may be horrible but is something that is common for people to have to face throughout life?

Some things I consider a TEOTWAWKI situation

  • Famine due to crop failure
  • Long term electrical grid down situation
  • War within the USA
  • Nuclear incidents that force the relocation of many people
  • Massive wildfires
  • Pandemics
  • Government breakdown that leads to the safety net so many rely on suddenly not being there
  • Severe or terminal illness of myself or a loved one
  • A sudden shift in weather patterns that leads to crop loss or areas becoming inhospitable to live in. Lack of rainfall in an agriculture reason for many years in a row would be an example.
  • Lack of access to basic medical care for an extended period of time
  • Major flooding leading to other problems
  • Volcanic eruptions causing a high number of fatalities and a year or more without a growing season
  • Major earthquakes causing massive damage to infrastructure and loss of life

TEOTWAWKI means a lot of the things we enjoy daily will no longer be available and we may not have any good idea of when they will return or if they will ever be available again.

Here are some examples of things that are taken for granted in society today that would be limited or not at all available during a TEOTWAWKI situation.

The food and beverage we want to eat always being available.

During a long emergency like TEOTWAWKI, you will not be able to get your favorite bag of chips or call up a local restaurant or national chain and have food delivered in 30 minutes. People talk about addiction all the time but they rarely discuss how addicted people can get to food, especially foods that are salty, sugary, and high in fat or protein.

Caffeinated energy drinks and sodas will not just come in a cheap and readily available can. If you want something like this then you better design a system to make and bottle your own or plan on doing without it.

Alcohol seems to almost always be available in some form during a lot of TEOTWAWKI situations but it is not going to be what you are used to drinking and the quality may be a lot different. During the beginning of a situation, it may not be available at all.

Transportation will be limited and not as fast

Everyone is used to going where they want at top speed.

Well, if a real crisis happens, fuel will be harder to get and possibly not be available at all. It may take longer to get places even if there is some fuel as well. It may be dangerous to travel in some areas or the roads may be so damaged that travel is slower.

Alternative transportation that doesn’t take gas or diesel will become more common, especially in areas that are very car dependent at the moment.

Water may be trickier to get and it will need to be filtered or treated before consuming.

Water from the tap in cities is often filtered with charcoal to remove chlorine and even fluoride. This is achieved by just placing a filter on the tap or installing another inexpensive system. During a TEOTWAWKI situation, the water may stop flowing from the tap or what comes out may be contaminated.

Every drop you consume will have to be filtered and that takes time. You will at least have to fill a water bag and have a filter that is attached at the bottom so that water is gravity fed through the filter and in to your waiting glass.

No internet, social media, or electronic books

So many people get all their information online. E-books have made it possible for people to have vast collections of books without the bulk. In an increasingly mobile society, a lot of people don’t drag books along with them. I have an e-reader but I haven’t used it in a long time because frankly I am online enough writing and working and e-readers are just too close toa computer. I rarely buy e-books.

I can buy a used paper copy of a book for much less than the e-book version in many cases. When I am done with a hard copy of a book I can give it away to a friend or to the local library. Some used book stores are even charities. My point is that a hard copy is usable all the time and it is something you own and can share with others. E-books are great for research but it is possible you won’t be able to keep an e-reader going for the long term or you may break it.

Constant access to the online world is something that I battle with. It can be hard to disconnect when you work and socialize online. I live on a farm outside of town and most of my friends are scattered across the US and around the world due to the nature of what I do. Writing has made me friends with people that I would never have known otherwise. I like to talk to other prepper writers and I would miss that social connection with people I actually have something in common with besides my husband.

During a TEOTWAWKI situation, we are all going to have to get used to living in a world that suddenly seems smaller and more lonely. Perhaps this will cause some to make friends closer to home but as divided as people are, I doubt it is that simple. Families are simply not used to working together and having to provide each other with entertainment and conversation.

Long term isolation from friends and family that you are used to seeing in real life and not just online. Any entertainment venues you are used to going to will not be a realistic option any longer.

Driving 10-20 miles to see friends and family or have dinner on the weekends may seem super easy now but during a TEOTWAWKI situation, 10 miles might as well be on the moon. Roads could be hard to navigate and fuel may be scarce. It might be too dangerous to travel that far from home and leave your home unguarded.

If you like to go out and see live music sometimes, you might have to settle for staying at home and listening to an Mp3 player loaded with your favorite songs or go without music entirely if you didn’t prepare for your entertainment needs during a long emergency.

The companionship of others at your local coffee shop or brew pub will become a distant memory of life before.

Medical care will be limited or non-existent

While it is easy to complain about the legitimate issues with the health care system in the United States, there is at least some comfort in knowing that if you really need to see a medical professional, there is one available that is required to see you regardless of ability to pay.

During a major situation there is not going to be instant care and what you do get may not be at all up to the level you need. During a TEOTWAWKI situation you and your family will need to be ready to provide your own medical care. To do this well you will need to learn some medical skills and put together a kit that contains some major medical supplies and medications. Anyone that is on prescription medications should put back as much as they can or find alternatives to treat their condition.

Lack Of Sanitation and Hygiene

During a TEOTWAWKI situation, it will be harder to keep clean. You can do better by preparing now.

Hopefully you are considering how to keep you and and your family clean during an emergency. It is easy to concentrate on the basic needs of food, water, and shelter, and not consider how much work it will be to maintain a basic level of hygiene so one is not susceptible to infections and illness. Without indoor plumbing and hot water on demand, it can be easy for people to forget to take extra steps to stay clean enough to be healthy. Soap and the ability to heat up some water can make all the difference but you will have to take the time and set aside the money to put back some items like soap, wet wipes, feminine hygiene items, and more.

You will be forced to see and do some very difficult and heartbreaking things

War is hell. This is an expression I have heard from soldiers all my life. War is not the only time when someone may be forced to make some very difficult decisions or see some awful things that they can do nothing about. Although it sounds awful to say, there is a point when bad becomes the norm and people find ways to deal. Not always, but often. If people did not have this ability then soldiers would not be able to get through what they do.

Many people have led a blessed life in more ways than they realize. A lot of those reading this have experienced some trauma and pain that is beyond the norm but I bet a lot have never even seen an animal butchered let alone someone lose their life for a petty reason.

During a TEOTWAWKI situation you may be forced to make decisions about who lives and who dies or turn people away that come to you for help because you simply cannot stretch your resources that far.

Some people will not be able to bring themselves to turn others away and sadly, that could be what determines if they survive or not. This is tough stuff to think about and there is no easy answer.

What you can do

I am not a big fan of writing something on a tough subject and not including some solutions or at least some ways to make a situation better. Here is a brief list of what you can do to get through a TEOTWAWKI situation.

Samantha Biggers can be reached at

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6 Responses to “TEOTWAWKI Defined & What You Can Do To Prepare”

  1. When teotwawki happens, it will be a real test of character for people. You will learn the truth about yourself and about others.
    Only the strong survive, the weak perish. Nature will cull the useless ones, and keep only the fittest, the most cunning and those willing to do practically almost anything to survive

  2. You’re going to be in a deep hurt if you aren’t prepared to deal with dead bodies. I’m not talking just a few, either.

    Yes, there will be dead people from ACCIDENTS. There will be accidents caused by not knowing how to use tools; or someone doing unusual work they haven’t had any prior experience with such as: using chainsaws, axes, or other felling tools; there may be a lack of familiarity with rudimentary hand-tool replacements for when the electricity is missing and the batteries have run down; there may be accidents from overworking and tiredness from new and unfamiliar, but necessary, activities; there may be accidental drownings in unfamiliar waters: crossing creeks or rivers, climbing into water reservoirs, etc.; there may be heat stroke from overexertion; people may start getting illnesses for which the common medicine cures are no longer available; they could die from the inability to reach medical facilities in time; there could be stuff falling on people: trees, leaners, or branches for those venturing into the wilds; people could fall down embankments due to: unbalanced backpacks, unfamiliar terrain or territory or by the necessity of having to explore/search for food and water; there could be illnesses from getting caught in storms and/or suffering from hypothermia; loss of good thinking/common sense due to malnutrition/stress/lack of rest; and probably a hundred other things that are not on the tip of my tongue.

    There will be deaths from starvation (eventually) and will likely be the provider for the family as he/she sacrifices for their offspring.

    Old people won’t be able to keep up and will die. Those who formerly took care of the aged will be scratching for their own survival…including doctors and nurses if they haven’t been preparing all along.

    Strong people will die defending what they’ve managed to cache.

    Criminals will kill. Not only those bad people on the loose right now, but most Prisons will be opened when there is no more food available for them…thus more ‘bad’ people will be on the loose and these will contribute to the existing problems…possibly forming gangs. Anyway, expect MORE ruthless behaviors to be prevalent to decrease your survival chances. Another element that I hesitate to mention is law enforcement and ex-military who, when faced with ‘you or me’ survival will likely choose themselves. In other words, a worst-case scenario for when law and order are degraded/eliminated. There are NOT enough law enforcement officials on the streets now when times are good…it’ll only get worse when times get bad. Think ahead, form your own trusted inner circle of friends to (potentially) defend your lives. Your government will be your biggest enemy…read on.

    If you are prepping alone, or with only immediate family, EXPECT your friends, neighbors, coworkers, distant relatives to arrive at your door if they’ve had any inkling you’ve been prepping…and with today’s technology, that’ll be nearly impossible to keep secret. Do you think your neighbor hasn’t noticed the UPS truck arriving frequently at your door? Do you think the UPS driver doesn’t know that ORM-D labels means you may have a stash of ammo? Do you think all your credit card purchases won’t be noted by agencies of the US government and that they won’t know exactly what you’ve been purchasing over the past several years? Think again. Government entities will likely be combing their databases and (perhaps) sending someone out to relieve you of your ‘excesses’ if/when the balloon goes up.

    There are lots of other reasons for dead bodies…pestilence from diseases left untreated, illnesses from handling dead bodies, poor sanitation problems, more food-borne illnesses, botulism, giardiasis, rabies, infectious diseases, and a host of other problems arising from untreated human waste, bad water, trash build-up, etc., etc.

    How will you deal with your ‘local’ dead body buildup? What preparations can you make now for the eventuality of a loved one’s death? What will you do with dead animal carcasses? Lots of waste buildup presents a whole new industry that could take time away from your survival/hunting/food-growing plans. Do you have the ability/space to bury the dead? Do you have enough shovels, bleach, latex gloves, medical supplies, masks, body bags, specialty treatment/medical knowledge, etc., available within your ‘survival team’?

    Do you live in a city? Do you live in the suburbs? Do you live in rural America? Do you live in the wilderness? Each living situation will present its own set of problems. You’ll need to find solutions.

    Remember: All prepping is helpful. Most prepping is necessary. Some prepping is essential to survival. Just because you haven’t thought about it till now doesn’t mean it won’t become critical in the event of TEOTWAKI. Consider what skills you currently possess and which critical skills may be needed and do some research for ‘simple’ solutions to those ever-changing real-life situations a TEOTWAKI event will likely bring to your doorstep and start thinking and acting SOON.

  3. “Teach your children the importance of not overreacting to small inconveniences”
    I had to LOL at this one! My kids were raised ‘if you are not dead or dying, deal with it, don’t bother me”! I’ve raised the grands the same. I come from a family of RN’s, and we all laugh about how we dismissed the kids’ little booboos. Of course, that has to be age related for the kiddo, and obviously, if one has no medical background, you should seek medical attention if you feel it is necessary.
    Might I also add that even if your kids aren’t in scouts/FFA, etc, that you have them take an age appropriate first aid class?

  4. Teotwawki will be a nightmare when it happens. I was in the Philippines in 1985 during the Pres. Marcos / Aquino revolution and things went to hell over night. Our “civilization” is extremely fragile and only a week or so without basic services such as electricity, water and now cell service will create havoc on a scale never scene. Plan to hunker down, admit you are in a WROL situation and accept the only person you can depend on is yourself.

  5. very good article. The only concern I have is the issue on how to defend ones adobe and family from marauding “zombies” those meant to steal your stash and most like at all cost including hurting you and your family. active defense is a must in a WROL situation, a prelude to TEOTWAWKI, prior to which includes securing your perimeter, creating a bug out location that well secured if not impregnatable, with water supply and sustainable agriculture (if feasible). Preparation is a full time and long term endeavor, I appreciate the part on having the mindset and conditioning and training our kids on such, this will come a long way, perhaps they will live in prep mode long after we’re all gone. Thanks and regards from preppers from the Philippines

  6. Good article, but you better have a plan, when the unprepared come in waves….. ( The Bunker.. Twilight Zone episode. )

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