What to do After SHTF?

what to do after shtf


In Orlando, Florida there was a mass shooting in a night club that involved a person with a semi-automatic rifle.  The shooter was able to kill 49 people while wounding 53 others.  This was one of the deadliest shootings in “modern” U.S. history.  Those stuck in the club were left wondering what to do after SHTF.  Many people stood amazed in disbelief while others were paralyzed by fear.

What to do after SHTF is something that everyone needs to consider realistically.  I hear preppers say that they can’t wait for SHTF so that they can grab their bug out bags and head to woods.  Many people who say this live in a fantasy world.

It is important to consider what to do after SHTF now so that when it happens you can make quick logical decisions.  This is going to disappoint some preppers out there but not every situation is going to call for your to bug out.  In fact, your strategic plan should be built around bugging in.

In 1976 United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd developed a theory of decision cycle or in simple terms “human reaction.”  He gained an understanding of this cycle observing gun fights in warplanes where those who won quickly was partly because of the OODA loop.  The OODA loop is essentially a cycle that begins with observation, orientation, decision and finally action.

This theory can be applied not only to the military but also in our everyday decision making process.  In fact many institutions use the OODA Loop such as law enforcement, business and litigation.  If we practice the OODA Loop intentionally it can give us an advantage when considering what to do after SHTF.  It most definitely can save your life as well others.  So in order to determine what to do after SHTF we need to be cognizant of the OODA Loop.

What to do After SHTF


As I mentioned earlier, Boyd recognized that human reaction was really a cycle.  The beginning of that cycle begins with observing.  He noticed that the winner in dog fights were the planes who were able to see the enemy first.  This gave them the ability to maneuver into position and take the enemy down.

This was especially true with gunners who had the huge bubbles that they could sit in.  This would give them a full 360 degree view.  The gunner was able to see everything around.

This tells us that it is important to see the trouble before it gets to you.  The really great thing about the OODA Loop is that it is not meant to be a reactive action but pro-active.  If you could see the trouble first then it gives the jump so that you can take advantage.

This has a huge implication when we are considering what to do after SHTF because we should always be observing so that we can see the trouble before it happens.  Yes, we still apply the OODA Loop after SHTF as well.  It is a constant cycle.  It never ends.  However, the person that has a better awareness of this cycle will be able to not only survive but to thrive.

Observations come from many sources including:

  • Unfolding circumstances
  • Outside information
  • Unfolding interaction with the environment
  • Feedback from our decisions
  • Feedback from our actions

This is why it is important to practice situational awareness every day.  Through situational awareness we are able to observe and collect information.  For example, if we are going into a restaurant we should be aware of all exits, the demeanor of others and establish a baseline of what is expected.  If you are at a restaurant you are expecting people to be relaxed while having conversations with friends and family.  It would be outside the norm to see someone pacing back forth and constantly looking over his shoulder.  That would raise your suspicions because it is not consistent with the baseline.  With this observation you are able to take it into the next step which is Orient.

However, let’s say you didn’t notice this guy until after he began shooting his gun.  Then you would need to determine what to do after SHTF.  You can still quickly observe exits, his direction or intentions.  You could also observe if he has accomplices then you are to feed information from that observation into the next step of Orient.


The next stage of deciding what to do after SHTF is orienting.  We have established that you need to observe in order to orient.  Orientation is the most important step of the OODA loop.  It is the focal point because orientation shapes the way that we interact with the environment.  It shapes the way that we observe, decide and act.

Being able to orient is not only physical but it is mainly in your mind.  The brain works in 3 parts when it comes to orientation: denial, emotional filter and life experience.  Essentially when it comes to orientation you will need to decide not only what to do but why you are going to do.

In the first step of denial your brain will inherently try to tell you something is not really happening.  This is why you see people who are involved in tragic events always say, “I couldn’t believe that it was happening.”  Another common is saying is, “I felt like I was in a movie.”  In order to survive you need to get past the denial stage quickly.

Your brain will also try to emotionally filter situations.  Emotional filters will try to deny that is a situation is really happening because of something else.  For example, people will say “this can’t be happening because it is my birthday…” or something similar.  Typically people who get stuck in this phase have issues dealing with reality outside of what is normal to them.

However, if you have life experiences then you are able to process situations quickly so that you can make decisions.  If you have dealt with an identical situation before then you are able to make a decision faster because you have recognized it and are familiar with it.

This is why armed forces and law enforcement do live force on force training.  It is because it is the only thing that can simulate real life.  This training will produce fear and anxiety which will be experienced on the field.

This is why it is important for preppers to not only stock up on gear and supplies but to learn and develop skills.  This way you are able to quickly process a situation which will make it easier for you to make a decision.


When you are in a highly stressful situation where you are considering what to do after SHTF, your mind will continue to press for you to make a decision quickly.  This is because you have already observed and oriented.  You can’t take action until you are able to decide.  This is why we experience fight or flight mode when our adrenaline is rushing.

So when your mind is trying to decide it is weighing all of the possible options if you haven’t thought of it or practiced it before.  The more options that you have will cause you to take longer when deciding what to do.

For example, if you are caught in a shooting or robbery with 5 guns your mind will try to determine which pistol to use and why.  However, if you only had one gun then your mind isn’t going to run through any other options.  So the best way to decide is to remove excessive options.

This is why law enforcement has such a challenging responsibility.  They are given pepper spray, batons, stun guns and pistols.  In a stressful situation the officer has the weigh the appropriate options.  They have to determine what level of force to use quickly.  That decision is not always the easiest.

To help you decide you will need correct and repetitive training and practice.  The decision can be made almost automatically if you are able to quickly recognize a situation.


Act is the most obvious stage of the OODA Loop.  The most important part of the action is gathering information quickly for an AAR (After Action Report) that will be cycled back to the Observe stage.  For example, if you have ever been in a fight then you will recognize how your brain considers information after you punch someone.  The immediate thought that comes after your action is “should I punch this person again?”  Your mind automatically begins to observe what the result of the action produced so that you can cycle back through the loop again.

When it comes to determining what to do after SHTF it is important to recognize the OODA Loop especially the orientation stage as it is the most important.  You will want to cycle through the orientation stage as quickly as possible.  The best way to do this is through life experience which you can gain from practicing and training.

Altogether this would be my suggestion on what to do after SHTF.  If you have any suggestions then please leave a comment below.  Your feedback helps the community prepare the smart way now so that we can thrive later.


Photography by Strep72


what to do after shtf