The Family SHTF Operations Manual, by Col. H.

SurvivalBlog provides a wealth of prep-related information. Many here cut and paste critical essays to store as Word documents for safekeeping and later access when crisis times call for it. I suggest going one step further. Build a structured notebook of your family’s prep information, with each topic index tabbed for easy access and available for all family-tribe members to consult when the need arrives. Let this notebook become your family’s SHTF collapse response manual, your SOP for surviving a collapse.

People panic and make fatal errors under crisis when they do not have enough information and do not know what to do. The most critical prep is: having a plan: knowing now what you will do when “it” happens. Prepping may be described as having a structured plan based on an adequate scope and depth of information.  Having a comprehensive plan… in writing… becomes your critical survival tool. That plan needs to be written out on old-fashioned paper and indexed by topic in a notebook that everyone on your team can access. 

If and when TSHTF it will be very helpful for you (and, especially, other family members if you happen to be away from home when TSHTF) to have ready access to that plan.  Your family will need immediate access to your written guide on just what to do to address the list of critical needs. Make this notebook your family-tribe’s operations manual for when TSHTF, where members can retrieve critical information on a range of topics… what to do on day one, then how to handle the unfolding crisis on a long-term basis. We have built such a manual for our household and the larger family-tribe living on our country lane.
We are blessed to live on an old extended family farmstead divided among four sibling homesteads, with cousins and nephews also living along our remote country lane. This is a rural side road with no cross roads, one access at each end, making it easily blocked and defended. We are six miles outside a small town of 2500, forty miles from a small city of 20,000, and ninety miles inland from a coastal city of 90,000.  Our neighbors are brothers, sisters, and cousins forming our extended family tribe.
Each homestead ranges from twelve to a hundred acres of land mixed between fields, gardens, mixed forests, and multiple water sources. Each home is a self-sufficient single family household. That strength multiplies when neighboring households unite as a tribe for survival. Our tribe is united in mutual support, preps, politics, ethics, skill sets, and trust. Within the extended family tribe is a wide range of skills from homesteading to agriculture to mechanical trades to health care. Within our family tribe we have discussed plans for mutual aid and defense.
We experienced a real-life rehearsal of our SHTF responses a decade ago when a huge ice storm collapsed the electric grid statewide for more than a week in the cold dead of a dark New England winter. This event suddenly presented our tribe, community, and the entire state a great training and learning experience. We brought to bear all our grid-down preps for heat, food, power, communications, water, and cooperation within the community.  Following that event, everyone in town not already on board with preps were immediately enlightened. Those who were prepped learned their weakness. Since then, our tribe has become more organized, aware, and ready. Our motto, semi-jokingly, is “we will be the last to die.”
Perhaps the most valuable prep item added to our household since then is the Notebook: our SOP manual on every aspect of surviving a collapse.  Its pages are index tabbed for chapters on water, food, heat, energy-power, health care, hygiene, home safety, sanitation, communications, defense, agriculture, foraging.  Each chapter details immediate primary actions, longer range plans, and backup contingencies. There are even blank pages to journal unfolding events, experiences, and lessons learned.

Water management, for instance, starts with a detailed list of known sources: current active wells, idle old original settlers’ homestead wells, brooks, natural springs, plus instructions on how to retrieve and manage that water. Water usage and recycling protocols are described along a continuum of rationed uses from drinking to cooking to hygiene to laundry to flushing toilets. Toilet protocols present choices and emphasize caution to avoid disease.  Flush toilet rules (yellow versus brown; you know the rhyme) are a starting point, but progress to assembling and using a composting toilet or outhouse setup. 

The notebook declares that the primary use of stored gasoline is to operate portable generators, whose primary role is to power domestic water pumps to fill water storage containers.  We recently added a propane generator as an alternative resource. Redundancy is important. This will be about the only time generators will run, briefly and occasionally to fill water storage containers. If generator use becomes a problem, water can be dipped by bucket from the top of shallow wells and springs. The guide also describes proper concentrations of bleach to clean containers and protect stored water.  Redundancy includes bleach, water purification tablets, iodine purification kits, and filter kits.

Preventing infections and disease is top priority. Hygiene must be emphasized in a now-compromised world, despite a stash of a range of antibiotics. Sanitation, hand-washing, and teeth-brushing become lifesaving rules.  Who wants to die of an abscessed tooth? Who wants the task of ripping out a loved-one’s molars?
Food management is a big chapter from short-range management of stored foods, to balanced rationing, to long-range agriculture planning.  Several plans are presented for food management in a grid-down world.  We may have wild game now, but that will quickly disappear once THSTF.  Hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering will be an immediate but perhaps a shorter term task, coupled with proper preservation of bounty. Agriculture is already established but will need to be seriously expanded when the balloon goes up, to take over long-term where food stores leave off short term.
Situation awareness and information become immediately critical.  If we awaken to no power grid, we must determine if it is a local, statewide, or nationwide event. We will turn to several avenues of communications, since no grid means no phone, Internet, or television.  A quick check of the news on the car’s satellite radio may, hopefully, tell us if TS really did HTF. If that source is not working, we may assume something large has occurred.  We then turn to shortwave and HAM radios powered by 12V solar backup power to obtain critical news to determine appropriate response. 

If it looks like a hardcore nationwide grid collapse such as a Carrington flare event or enemy-led total grid takedown, the first order of food preps is to rescue what is in the chest freezer. We keep this packed with extra ice to sustain frozen food for at least 2-3 days during our frequent weather-related power outages. This can be supplemented with an hour per day of generator use, if needed. But if it is confirmed to be long term grid down scenario, meats will be thawed, ground, and cooked-dried into hamburger rocks on day one.  This will add lots of protein to canned or dried foods already in place. 

If communications reveal a long term grid collapse, longer range agriculture plans must be implemented.  Diesel fuel stores will be dedicated primarily to homestead tractors for garden needs and firewood gathering.  Existing gardens may need extensive expansion: digging, plowing, soil enhancement.  Family tribe cooperation will be critical to expand and disperse multiple gardens to assure surviving crop failures, pests, deer invasion (venison!), and even theft defense.  Cooperation will aid in planting, tending, harvesting, storage, nutritional balance, protection, and mutual aid.  Sharing skills, equipment, and workload will be important.
Gasoline was to be dedicated solely to generator use, until we added the propane generator to our preps. This allows us to shift gasoline use to chainsaws to cut up as much firewood as possible to add to existing stores for long term heat in our frigid New England winters. Safety in this work becomes critical to prevent injuries that cannot be treated as effectively as in the “normal” world. The manual reminds family members work safety rules that cannot be compromised.
Health care needs are supported by existing skill sets within the family tribe: EMTs, nurses, physical therapist, and experienced grandmothers. This is supported by stored medical supplies.  Bandages, surgical kits, a range of medications, splints, crutches, braces, TENS units, reference manuals, and medical knowledge all become survival essentials. The notebook lists the stored antibiotics, dosages, what ones for what types of problems, and their precautions. A wide range of leftover, renewed, or otherwise acquired meds becomes a treasure. 
Power, lighting, and heating instructions list a range of choices in each area of concern. Various cooking fuels are available from wood to propane to kerosene to others fuels using a variety of equipment. Again, redundancy rules. Wood is most available long-term, with perishable fossil fuels carefully dedicated to powering chainsaws, tractors, generators, and rototillers. 

Lighting has a similar range of options from 12 volt LEDs to lanterns to candles. Several solar panels with charge controllers and multiple deep cycle batteries will power LED’s and recharge batteries for flashlights, lanterns, and walkie-talkies. They also power Ham radios and scanner.  Our manual provides extensive how-to instructions to manage solar panel setups and properly operate their intended devices. All family members need to know how to handle these tools.
Area defense is discussed in the manual. Few in the family tribe have military training, but there is enough to offer basic skills. All have extensive skills in various shooting sports and possess equipment typical of a well-prepped rural lifestyle.  All the adults are trained, experienced, and well-armed at a civilian level.  Tribe members from pre-teens on up will need to be brought up to speed on all weapons available to the group.  The more experienced members will update the less experienced ones with .22 weapons to ease them into heavier firearms. Weapons, ammo, reloading, maintenance, and redundancy are adequate within the tribe.

Decisions will be made on defense based on information gathered from communications on what is going on locally, statewide, and nationally regarding security and rule of law.  The road we all live on is easily defended and access controlled, but structured plans for defense may need to be dedicated if TS has severely HTF. The extended family tribe has enough members to rotate and equip lookouts. The manual contains essays gathered on these topics as they pertain to our AO, for consideration by tribe members.
The final section provides a detailed list of prep stores including foods, medical supplies, energy sources, heat sources, hygiene supplies, weapons and ammo, winter clothing, repair and construction materials, radios, batteries, disposable eating utensils, water preps, camping supplies, soaps, seeds, toilet supplies, paper products, canning and food prep supplies, tools, playing cards and games, kids’ treats and diversions, record-keeping materials, maps, reference manuals, good books, copy of US Constitution and Bill of Rights, Bible, as well as trade-barter items.
This is all written out in the notebook to provide information in a readily accessible and organized manner.  Frightened family tribe members can regain comfort, coordination, and direction from consulting the manual.  We supplement this with a small library of additional references such as the Boy Scout Manual, Back-To-Basics, and a variety of other manuals taken from the internet to strengthen the tribe’s survival SOP.
The act of writing this manual becomes a prep tactic as family members collaborate, discuss, and decide how things should be done as the manual is built. Everyone in the tribe should be aware of what is in the manual as it is written, reviewed, and updated over time. The manual is an education tool before a collapse and a survival manual after it happens. It is easy to share when new tribe members are brought into the fold.