5 Possible SHTF Situations in 2021

Wow – 2020 was a dumpster fire, no? Extreme wildfires in Australia and the West Coast, stock market highs and lows, COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matters protests, murder hornets, and even the death of Eddie Van Halen!

If you’re like me, you’re now we’re left wondering, what’s the most likely SHTF situation to happen in 2021?

I would say the mess of 2020 only means 2021 can be better. But if you recall, at the end of 2019 everyone was thinking 2020 could only get better… and here we are, 2020 almost behind us, looking ahead at what the next 12 months could bring. Pain? Suffering? Mayhem? Destruction?

Hold on. Let’s back up for a second…

What is a SHTF Situation?

The acronym SHTF stands for “sh*t hits the fan.” It’s used when referring to a situation that goes from bad to worse. It can refer to catastrophic scenarios, like when the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina caused the levees to burst, or it can allude to a personal disaster, such as job loss after an extensive and costly illness.

Individual responses to these situations are as varied as the type of SHTF situations that can arise. Reactions depend on where the person lives and how well he or she has prepared for the situation. 

For example, a nurse during a pandemic will react differently than a banker because of the skillsets the nurse has and the difference in experience. An economic SHTF situation, however, might be better handled by a banker than a nurse for the same reasons. 

different shtf situationsdifferent shtf situationsWhat will 2021 bring?

Common SHTF Situations that Happen Every Year

We lack the crystal ball needed to predict exactly what might happen in 2021. Further, there is an infinite number of SHTF scenarios and you won’t be able to prepare for every single eventuality. For example, it’s hard to prepare in advance for a meteorite collision in any efficient manner. However, as preppers, we know there are practical things we can do in the event of financial hardship or natural disasters before these situations arise.

Let’s first look at the most common SHTF scenarios that happen year after year. 

Financial Hardship

We are not talking about surviving an economic collapse here (more on that in a bit). We’re talking about the financial hardship that can happen to anyone at any time. The company you work for might suddenly declare bankruptcy, leaving you without gainful employment. You may get fired or laid off. Accident or illness could leave you unable to work. These events happen to thousands upon thousands of workers in all sectors of the economy every. single. year. It may have happened to you at one point or another already.

Even if you are employed, the economic situation in your area could make it so that you are unable to make ends meet, no matter how many hours a week you work. A sharp rise in inflation can cause you to get behind in house payments. An expensive medical procedure can wipe out your savings. Any of these situations can result in a financial pinch that – if you aren’t prepared for it – can become an SHTF scenario.

Natural Disasters

Worldwide, natural disasters kill approximately 90,000 people each year and have serious consequences for another 160 million. The type and severity of a natural disaster in your area depends on your location. Obviously, those that live near Mount Saint Helen have a higher likelihood of experiencing a volcanic SHTF scenario than those that live in New Jersey.

Wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts caused $18 billion in losses in the United States in 2018. Thirty percent of insured losses were caused by tropical cyclones and $14.1 billion worth of damages were caused by severe thunderstorms. Winter storms and floods totaled another $4.2 billion of losses in the same year.

Hurricane KatrinaHurricane KatrinaNatural disasters are more common than not.

Not only do natural disasters cause physical damage to an area, but they can also spawn a situation of financial hardship. If your home is destroyed in a wildfire, then you are affected both physically and economically. Being displaced in a hurricane means you aren’t able to work. 

If you are injured in an earthquake, your finances will take a hit too. Tornadoes and floods can destroy homes, businesses, and other effects. Not having enough provisions stocked away and finding out there is no way to get to the store in a blizzard can be a serious oversight on your part, leading to an SHTF scenario. 

Long Term Power Outages

I’m not talking about an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) nuclear attack here, though an EMP could occur as a result of a coronal mass ejection (CME), lightning strike, or powerline surges. Those are not common; however, there are ways to protect your home against one.

I’m talking about situations where you experience long-term power outages that are a result of storms and earthquakes that damage the powerlines in an area, sometimes causing power outages that last several weeks or months. Damage to power lines caused by animal interference or an automobile accident may cause power outages of a shorter duration. 

Electrical outages due to natural disasters, inability to pay your bill, and insufficient personnel to run power facilities due to a pandemic are quite likely unless you have a backup power source. Those that live in Maine, South Carolina, Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, and West Virginia have more occurrences of power outages than most states. So your likelihood of experiencing some sort of power disruption is higher in those states generally. 

Other SHTF Senarios

Home invasions, nuclear meltdowns, hostage situations, and assaults are other examples of SHTF scenarios that may be more likely in some areas and under certain conditions than in others. How you prepare and the severity of the situation often depends on the likelihood of that particular situation affecting you. 

5 Possible SHTF Situations in 2021

What follows are what I consider to be possible SHTF situations we could face in 2021. As stated, we have no crystal ball that lets us look into the future. My 5 predictions are a mix of building off what happened in 2020 and gut feelings.

Neither of those are scientific in any way, of course. In fact, as with most predictions, my predictions probably won’t materialize… but they could. Anything could.

These predictions are also not the “common” SHTF situations previously listed. Those happen every year and will certainly happen to some of us in 2021.

What I’m talking about here are more abnormal and extreme SHTF situations. The events that could impact far more people in far worse ways. “Abnormal” by its very name means “less common,” so keep that in mind when you read this. If they push you to advance your preps, focus first on the most common types of crisis. Prepping for those will build the foundation to prepare for the less common situations.

#1 – Coronavirus Pandemic 2.0

the coronavirus mutates and becomes far more deadly. This would be quite the SHTF situation to kick off in Fall 2021, no? It’s unlikely, but entirely possible. Look at the 1918 influenza pandemic. It’s widely cited as killing off a whopping 3% of the world’s population. Unlike COVID, it had a high mortality rate in healthy people.

A mutation of the COVID-19 virus that had the death rate of the 1918 pandemic would cripple the nation and world in ways today’s generations could not even begin to imagine.

shtf situation pandemicshtf situation pandemicWe all knew pandemics happen and will happen again, but 2020 really struck that fact home.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused layers of SHTF scenarios throughout the world in 2020. The pervasive character of this respiratory virus killed thousands. More than 200 countries and territories were affected.

Not only could a more deadly version of the virus cause the illness or death of you or a loved one, but being that sick would prevent you from working which may trigger financial hardship. A large-scale pandemic might cause the collapse of governmental organizations and possibly the social norms we operate under. Great civilizations throughout history have tumbled because of pandemics. How prepared are you? Did you learn from 2020’s COVID-19 situation?

#2 – Great Depression 2.0

The economic repercussions of stay-at-home orders have left many people unemployed, under employed, or working in businesses that may not survive. How those repercussions play out in the longer term is yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain, it will be rough.

Wall Street has become increasingly disconnected from Main Street. In other words, the stock market hits all time highs while more and more people experience financial hardship on a personal level. This is a trend that is projected to continue. Four in 10 Americans would face financial hardship within a month of losing their jobs.

great depression malnutritiongreat depression malnutritionMalnourition was rampant during the Great Depression.

How far can the disconnect between stock prices and the “on the ground” financial health of this country go? Are stocks overvalued? Will they crash, sending another blow to the economy as a whole?

And if so, what kind of stimulus package can the federal government afford to lift up a decline in personal spending? It would have to be borrowed money, and America’s debt is already $27 trillion and counting.

Although the U.S. continuously pays off portions of its debt, the total amount it owes has increased each year since 2001. That’s because the federal government runs consistent budget deficits, meaning it spends more than it earns. During economic crises, these deficits can become incredibly large.


That pattern is entirely unsustainable. How much more can we borrow before the knees buckle and the back breaks?

An SHTF financial crisis could mushroom into something well beyond our control. Think Great Depression 2.0. Do you know how to survive an economic collapse? You might need to. We all might.

#3 – Political Violence in the U.S.

The political divide between the left and right was already wide in 2019. It became a chasm in 2020. There were people protesting government mask mandates, others protesting police brutality, public statues being knocked down, and claims of election fraud.

With Biden now President and rumors of Trump creating his own media empire, the two sides will continue to clash.

burning vanburning vanCould America’s worst enemy in 2021 be itself?

Political violence is not new, of course. We see it happening all over the world, and it has happened on American soil before.

I’m not talking about another Civil War. Contrary to what many people might say, I think this country is stronger than that. Today’s dynamics aren’t the same as what they were in 1861. The divisions are less state based and more urban versus rural. We have red and blue states, of course, but within each red state are blue urban centers and within each blue state are red rural areas.

Regardless, I do not see the political divisiveness abating anytime soon. Will political violence be limited to more riots, or will one of those riots be the spark that ignites the inferno?

#4 – Record Wildfires in the West

In 2019, 134,013 acres were burned in the U.S. as a result of 2,314 wildfires. In 2020, there was a massive jump to 1,020,326 acres burned from 3,033 wildfires (source). We were fortunate in 2019 that it was a very wet year, but that was not the norm, and not the trend.

Some people blame it on climate change. Others blame it on poor forest management. Regardless of where the blame is placed, both sides agree it’s happening – more and more.

wildfire public domainwildfire public domain(Credit: Kari Greer, USDA . Public domain.)

If we were to experience a severe drought in 2021, wildfires in the west could set records again. The smoke could pollute the air across the country. Evacuation orders would spread far and wide. Local economies would be crushed.

Electrical utilities and negligence are big sources of wildfires, but there is another, less discussed threat that always exists – arson. Take extremely dry conditions and few people intent on wreaking havoc and wildfires could mysteriously start popping up all over the place – all at once.

Out of the realm of possibilities? I think not. In fact, arson by enemy forces was a serious fear during WWII. This is, after all, how Smokey the Bear came into being. Now imagine a sleeper cell of some type using wildfires as a terrorist strategy. Fires upon fires.

#5 – Mayhem in the Middle East

War in the Middle East is an SHTF situation so common it could have been mentioned early in this article, but I’m talking about something more intense than skirmish. What could make 2021 different for the Middle East?

Iran, mainly. Iran’s nuclear capacity is increasing and so is the worry about it from countries like the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. This is reflected by the assassinations of Iran’s top nuclear scientist. Iran could seek revenge for that assassination and of their Revolutionary Guards Commander.

syrian opposition suppliessyrian opposition suppliesU.S. Airmen load pallets of supplies onto a C-17 aircraft at an undisclosed location in support of Syrian opposition forces.

Israel has shown little hesitation in asserting its military might in the region, and assassinations of high-level Iranians could continue until Iran has no choice but to respond. Such a response would be a green light for Israel for all out war.

Iranian counter attacks should not be discounted. Their skill at delivering strategic strikes was demonstrated in the 2019 Abqaiq-Khurais attack in Saudi Arabia. Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attack, but everyone knows that isn’t how it happened. Indications are the drones were launched from southern Iran. No surprise there.

Iran could strike oil production facilities again and attempt to close the Straight of Hormuz, as they often threaten to do. The U.S. and its allies could keep it open, but at what cost? More countries would be drawn into the conflict. Hamas could strike Israel. Iraq could unwind. Oil prices would skyrocket. Russia would smile.

Will We Face a SHTF Situation in 2021?

Those are my guesses at the top 5 extreme SHTF situations we could face in 2021. Their likelihood is lower than the more common challenges that arise every year; and when prepping, those are what you should focus on first. Get your food and water secured, home defenses in place, and build a financial safety net. All of these preps will help in any SHTF situation, common or extreme.

In order to get a general idea of whether or not you will face an SHTF situation, you need to consider the likelihood of an event in your area. Those that live in Nebraska probably won’t need to worry much about hurricane damage, however, tornados are potential problems. 

Your preparedness will also determine whether a tragedy becomes an SHTF situation or not. For example, having multiple sources of income, six months’ of savings, low or no debt, and a stockpile of food could avert a financial crisis in the event of a major illness, job loss, or recession. 

So do your research, take precautions, and get your sh*t together! You’ll have a better chance of weathering any SHTF situation that comes your way.

What are YOUR predictions?


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