TEOTWAWKI versus Short-Term Disasters

Tell anyone that you are Prepping, and they will ask: “What are you prepping for?” There are two common answers to that question. Some preppers emphasize readiness for short-term and fairly common disasters. Other preppers, often called survivalists, emphasize the long-term and less common type of disaster.

Short-term disaster prepping envisions a disaster, such as a hurricane, major snowstorm, earthquake, or tsunami, which passes after a few days or weeks. When the short-term disaster is over, things return more or less to normal. The recovery time from a short-term disaster is brief, and the long-lasting effects are mild, or non-existent.

The short-term type of disaster happens one or more times every year somewhere in the U.S. So it is easier to anticipate what the effects will be, and how to prepare. You need supplies to last you a few days or weeks, then your life will, in all likelihood, quickly return to normal.

Long-term disaster preparedness is more difficult. This type of prepping envisions a scenario often called: TEOTWAWKI — which stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. This scenario is not the end of the world literally, but instead a drastic and lasting change for the worse with wide-ranging and severe effects on society as a whole. The world, as we know it, changes substantially and for a long time. This type of event has been rare in human history, and so it is difficult to anticipate what the effects will be, and how to prepare.

Some examples from human history:

The black death (black plague) in Europe in the 1300′s is one example of TEOTWAWKI. Society was substantially changed, for the worse, for at least a generation. Survival became suddenly much more difficult. It is possible that as many as 100 million persons died. Society recovered, but only very slowly. And the plague recurred again, from time to time, with less severity, for several generations.

The little ice age was another such TEOTWAWKI event. From the mid 1500′s to the mid 1800′s, the world experienced a substantial increase in cooling, especially in northern latitudes (e.g. England). Crops failed; people starved or froze. Winters were much harsher; summers were colder. The growing season for crops was much less reliable. This TEOTWAWKI event lasted about 300 years.

Recovery from a TEOTWAWKI event is possible. So the term is something of a rhetorical exaggeration. It is not the end of the world, nor is it necessarily the permanent end of the world as we know it. Rather, it is a severe long-term disaster, or a short-term disaster with long-term severe effects, that takes a generation or more from which to recover.

But I would add a third consideration to the above two possibilities. Events such as the Great Depression, World War I, and World War II are examples of what we might call medium-term disasters. These disasters last for at least several years, and their after-effects last for at least several more years. A medium-term disaster is not the end of the world as we know it, but it is a substantial change in the world as we know it, for a number of years.

What types of medium disasters might affect this generation? The most likely possibilities, in my opinion, include: severe economic problems (very high unemployment, rampant inflation, etc.), food shortages, another world war, or widespread civil unrest.

As for long-term disasters, all the possibilities are much less likely than the medium or short term disasters: global nuclear war, nuclear winter, complete world monetary collapse, and … I’m not sure what else. Some people think that global warming could become so severe as to devastate the planet, but I think that global warming is a real but relatively limited phenomenon.

At Prep Blog, we emphasize the more common types of disasters, but we also cover a full range of topics, from natural disasters, to man-made problems, to TEOTWAWKI type scenarios. Some types of preparations are geared more towards short-term problems, and others are useful over a longer period of time:

food storage — useful for short-term disasters
gardening — useful for medium and long-term disasters
batteries — short-term
solar panel — medium and long-term
first aid kit — short to medium-term
first aid training — always useful
stored valuables — short or medium-term
self-sufficiency — always useful, especially long-term

– Thoreau

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