Decision Making in Survival Situations

Survival Decision MakingWe all usually keep forgetting that when SHTF things will be different in many ways.

We talk about lack of food, clean water, coffee, or simply lack of hygiene. And we say that people gonna die because of that and because of lots of violence. Based on my experience, all above is correct, but we also usually forget one simple fact: pressure!

Guy from my street worked before SHTF as a computer technician. Those years here were time when computers were started to be widely used in big companies. He was something like famous in that field, so he had good life, nice home, car, family and everything else.

When SHTF he just like great number of other folks was simply lost. While chaos was spreading through the city he stayed home watching through the window how people sporadically run across the street to avoid sniper fire and shelling.

He monitored how telephone lines went out, electricity and water too. Later he was trying to „catch“ some news over his radio that he used before for football (soccer) games broadcasts. His son later told us that they ate a lot of some old jam because they had eaten everything else.

And then one day he simply was forced to go out, they delayed that moment as much as they could, but when you watch your kid and wife go hungry it is very hard to just do nothing. You see those who are close to you slowly get worse and worse.

They found him some 300 meters from his house, some guys told him that they worked for government, and they are trying to restore peace.

They told him to show them his home and then shot him. When they came into his house first guy knock out the kid with rifle butt. Then they looked for gold. Then they played with wife. Anyway they kill her too, kid survived. I spoke with kid and we did not talk too much about details, it is rare people want to speak about any details from this time. Too much bad memories.

His story was not the only story like that in that time. Now you may think that they died because he was stupid, he was not prepared, he did not have weapon etc. All of that is correct actually.

But I like to think that they died because he made decisions under pressure, huge pressure. And it was wrong decision.

He waited for too long to choose correct moment to go out and find useful stuff like food, weapon or simply to connect with other folks.

And then one day situation caught him, and he was forced to make decision, to act under the pressure. As I said he was not only man who died that way, lots of other folks died in similar way.

Point is that we preppers and survivalist often forget that in survival situation we also have to make decisions under pressure. You might be great shooter, but are you ready to see loved ones suffering and making life or death decisions? It is harder than most people think.

Lesson here is to not be arrogant because you are a survivalist or prepper. Because you are that you escape first and you are not the bravest person who impresses whole neighborhood by getting shot first. You are also not overly careful and hide out until you run out of preps and have no choice but to go out.

We can be prepared.

What gives your mental side advantage is this:

  • You understand how the world has changed and that you have to forget about old rules. I speak in detail about this in my course and here on blog.
  • You keep don’t let emotions decide what you do. You plan and dont put yourself in situation with only one way out.
  • You expect the worst, forget about Hollywood action movie heroes and use all skills you practiced today and know already.

I have seen other folks doing mistakes under pressure. I have seen man who got shot during a trade, because he wanted to get stuff from the other guy so hard, food again. His family at home was waiting for that badly, and he simply forgot common sense. This is what makes desperate people weak (and often dangerous too, because their actions are controlled by their chaotic emotions).

Guys realized he was desperate, get him to follow them, ambush and shoot him, take his stuff. They didnt finish him. He survived, point is that he was under the pressure to get the job done as soon as he can, so he simply forget common sense. Don’t be that guy.

Im faced with critical decisions every day working in emergency services. If you have more questions or want to share how you deal with high pressure situations, write in forum or comments below.

26 responses to “Decision Making in Survival Situations”

  1. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Hesitation and indecision. Anticipating what might happen and playing ‘what if’ scenarios is a big part of why I come to read your blog Selco. Thank you for your insights and observations from your experience with Bad Times – I’m sure recalling these memories is not always pleasant.

    • Selco says:

      It is cool to be cautious, but to hesitate too much time, and to wait to events unfold on its own can be fatal mistake.

  2. TimeHasCome says:

    Great piece Selco , I try and be prepared but my concern is my unprepared neighbors. Your year in hell has given me some insights on how low things can go.

  3. Centurion_Cornelius says:

    Thanks for these insights, Selco.

    Indecision, Indecisive, waiting=usually ends very badly.

    My good friend is a professional gambler; he’s done Vegas, poker, dice, the whole deal. Let’s call him “Paul.” Looking at him, he is cool as a cucumber; never ruffled. But, Paul is CONSTANTLY reviewing, assessing, calculating everything he views and hears. He reminds me of a mallard duck swimming on a tranquil pond=all serene topside, but underneath, those paddle-feet and going like crazy!

    Paul has told me: “To win you have to calculate every variable, know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, know what they have done in the past, plan, what are your goals, have contingent Plans A, B and C. Then, you move.”

    Reminds me of a great warrior’s motto: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Geo. S. Patton, Jr.

    Think, plan, act.

  4. Johnny Bailey says:

    As JR alluded to above, the work input needed to survive a societal and economic collapse starts WAY beforehand. And surprisingly, a vast majority of this work is NOT done merely with physical stockpiling or by emptying your pockets for survival items…..
    The work is done IN BETWEEN YOUR EARS! Pre-think EVERYTHING! Look at your home, your block, your neighborhood, and your town or city. Now evaluate your circumstance, and your vulnerabilities. No, “One size fits all” solution exists for the masses, as socio-economics, geography, population density, resource availability, infrastructure, and a plethora of different factors will influence your individual choices and decisions concerning preparation.
    Nobody is going to catch every little factor and create mitigation for same. It’s darn near impossible. But, constantly run scenarios through your head tailored to your specific situation. Scenarios for everything!
    For an example, let’s start with water. Pre-think for water for the 1st 7 days of collapse. Mitigate for that. Next, water for 2 weeks to a month, including rationing scenarios, and lay in the solution and game plan. Next, water for 1 to 6 months in case said emergency becomes protracted. Lay in your preps and solutions for THAT. And so on….
    Many new folks simply become mentally overwhelmed with all the possibilities and probabilities that could befall them…. Thus, they decide to put it off, or simply ignore the unpleasant aspect of it and hope it never happens. But, full preparation IS DO-ABLE! IF, you simply take one bite at a time! One issue at a time! One factor at a time. The key is small bites…..
    Home defense is another example. Pre-think the hell out of it! And mitigate for it. As many different scenarios as you possibly can. Night time, daylight, snow, rain, fog, blisering hot conditions, family response plans, training for family members to respond and handle firearms, appropriate firearms and ammo for the job, points of entry, weak spots, attacks by 2 or 3 individuals, attacks by 3 to 12 people, attacks by much larger groups and mobs, etc.
    This isn’t HARD! It simply requires time and effort, like ALL things, AND, it requires that you START!!. My gut and my eyes tell me that time is running short in America today. And time to lay in mitigating preparation is ALSO running short. Additionally, PRICES for prep-related items are going through the roof on many items, and rising by the month due to the dollar’s waning buying power.
    For the folks reading these posts and still on the fence about moving forward with preps, you have NO more time to waste. It’s time to begin making decisions. Fail here, and your FAMILY members will pay for this oversight.
    I don’t like any of this either…. That’s the truth. It can be depressing to many , it is a constant mental and emotional assault of thinking negatively in order to manufacture a positive outcome. This can wear on many peope, as It commands greater and greater amounts of already-dwindling personal treasure, resources, energy and time. In short, it sucks. But the stakes are simply TOO HIGH to avoid. I’ll not have my family suffer due to MY negligence, laziness, unwillingness to embrace reality, oversights, or unwillingness to cut the budget in order to re-direct resources toward mitigating what is to come. The handwriting is all over the wall as to what is coming……. And one of our biggest collective enemies in all of this is the clock hanging on the wall……. It waits for no one…..

  5. oldfatguy says:

    Is it better when leaving home to openly carry a weapon and appear to be a hard target, or conceal the weapon to gain the element of surprise if things go south? I can see advantages to both, but there seem to be disadvantages, too…

    • Chuck B. says:

      I think I would be more likely to conceal a handgun if alone or maybe two people, and carry rifles openly in a group. Alone, the rifle itself may make you a target but an armed group would be much more discouraging to assailants. Also, the rifle is much more of a burden to carry in the hands; but on a sling over your shoulder it’s useless. A handgun can be deployed from concealment in a couple of seconds, and far less awkwardly.
      Chuck B.

    • Selco says:

      Depends from the level of SHTF. Sometimes with openly carry weapon you just attract attention. If level of SHTF is serious, yes of course.

  6. saeta says:

    Excellent piece, pretty much sums it up that when the SHTF all civility goes out the window, especially for those caught off guard/unprepared. Preparedness goes a long way especially in forming bonds with your neighbors, friends and family in that everyone is on the same page when the moment of truth comes along. Your mind has to be able to cope with the sudden impact of a situation where all the decisions can have a life or death outcome. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst…thanks for all the great info Selco.

  7. plowboy says:

    Lots of good replies to a good article, but let’s talk about the unthinkable for a moment. If you are prepping now and having to deal with a reluctant spouse and family {for the moment forget neighbors and freinds} then what are you going to do with those “cherished family members” when teotwawki hits? Let’s say your spouse and 18 year old haven’t done one thing or very little to prepare: Are you going to drag them kicking and screaming into teotwawki or do the only sensible thing and slip away, leaving them to their fate, and take care of yourself? If you have infants or small children then naturally we have to go the distance for them, but for the “back stabbers”, as I call them, in my family,they are every bit the enemy as much as ISIS is. In fact, they are worse than ISIS, because they are inside my perimeter, so to speak. Remember, they were the same ones who kept licking the red off of our lolipops when things were good. Do you think they will do anything but complain and betray us when the chips are down? Everyone talks about mental toughness for the coming hard times, but the same old marital /family problems that are giving us migraines and gray hair today will follow us into the woods tomorrow unless we “divorce” those thoughts now. And by divorce, Im not suggesting any legal action, rather, just play along with their stupidity until the time comes and then walk off and leave them, without a hint of goodbye, to thier own devices. Trash is trash and trash draws flies, so get out of the garbage dump of nonprepping family members. Just don’t let them know you have done it. Clint Eastwood said in the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, “Sometimes you gotta get mean, just plain ‘ole maddog mean”. Yep, it was just a movie, but movie or not it is an excellent mentality, in fact, the only mentality that will carry us through teotwawki. For those family members of mine that are above the age of eight years old, I didn’t abandon them, they abandoned themselves through ther own slothfulness, and orchestrated their on deaths by not giving a damn when there was time left to give a damn. Hard, but true, compromise kills, always has, always will. Stay your course without deviation and detours ladies and gentlemen. And when you leave, apply the GOLDEN RULE, DON’T SAY GOODBYE, AND DON’T LOOK BACK! thanks

  8. Beowulf says:

    Beowulf knows other old “Wulf” who says, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Other old “Wulf” also say, “Stay flexible and recognize problems early and change planned work when needed…” Beowulf say that Johnny Bailey must also know other old “Wulf” too.

  9. GRA says:

    This article provides one of the best points I’ve ever seen made; regularly re-assess your situation and your common sense along with it, then use your commonsense first. BRILLIANT !!!

  10. Thank You says:

    Selco, many thanks for your posts. I really enjoy reading them and preparing myself mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally for the bad storm coming. Please keep up the great work!

  11. KOS says:

    @plowboy I have the same issues with family, they just want to play house, actually my immediate just spent like 15 grand on a wedding. Enough to supply them with MRE for years…

    I suggest you sit down with a piece of paper, write Asset on one half and Liability on the other. Jot the names down of people you think will be useful allys and won;t lose there shit, and then have a good sit/think about what would be best for YOU in the long run.

    Just dont trust everyone 100% aside from mom and dad if they aren’t assholes, people will betray you for all kinds of things… a pat on the head, bread… saving their own asses wtv… maybe even just because you have more hair or someone they like likes you not them…

    I also suggest you stop talking about it with people you know 100% are not gonna prep or work against you by labeling you crazy so they fit in the current crowd and you don’t. There gonna visit you if SHTF.

  12. KOS says:

    A good read as always Selco. Stress is a killer.

  13. Tim Gray says:

    Thanks Selco for reminding us that being prepared is not only having things and food, but knowledge A little bit of education and understanding would have had this man and his family live longer.

  14. Jon says:

    “do the only sensible thing and slip away, leaving them to their fate, and take care of yourself?”

    If you feel this way about you spouse and 18 kid, than you have some serious family issues. Sound like you all need a good family counselor or a good divorce attorney. Choose one and move on now for the good of everyone, but do not be a chicken shit when the SHTF!

  15. Jon says:

    “do the only sensible thing and slip away, leaving them to their fate, and take care of yourself?”

    If you feel this way about your spouse and 18 kid, than you have some serious family issues. Sound like you all need a good family counselor or a good divorce attorney. Choose one and move on now for the good of everyone, but do not be a chicken sh@! when the SHTF

  16. WatchNPray says:

    Thanks for this and all posts, Selco. I read them all multiple times but don’t have much to add.

    Early on in reading your story, I came to the conslusion that you survived through a ton of gut instinct and some luck as well; there are many of your stories that could have turned out differently and never been told. This post’s topic once again brings this to the forefront. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be 100% fatal, and while instinct and situational awareness can help prevent this, it is not 100% possible to recognize a bad situation about to happen. In some situations one could do everything right and still end up the big loser. So while I continue to learn all I can, and pray for guidance beyond my own eyes, I recognize (as everyone should) that SHTF is a very, very deadly thing to play with and there’s just no way to get around that basic fact.

  17. KOS says:

    @jon *slow clap* more family criticism from the arm chair shrink. Does it tickle your dink fishing like that troll? Im sure someone will fix that chip on your shoulder for you.

  18. Jon says:


    Your still an idiot. If plowboy is that unhappy than he needs to move on now, not when his family might really need him. He owes it to them and himself.

  19. Mark says:

    What I miss from this article is, what was that particular wrong decision?

    He was walking up some folks and started asking around or something? Or told his story to random people? Or…?
    As without knowing this, he might have been doing everything fine, but still got killed as looked well fed and was alone, right?

    BTW any “tricks” to hide well fed-ness? I mean. A “surviving type prepper” should look much healthier, “fresher” so to speak, in a better shape&condition than those who were surprised, right?
    Like today entering a ghetto in expensive cloths 🙂
    What can one do to cover that?


    • Selco says:

      yea, actually all good points, but he simply failed to recognize what is happening outside, he was without goods, and then one day he simply was forced to go out and obtain things, in wrong moment, without correct info.

      • Weddell says:

        It is a desperate situation no matter what. I don’t understand how things would have been any different if he had left his house earlier. Say he went out one week sooner. There are the same guys standing on the same street corner waiting for him. What would he have done differently?

        • Selco says:

          Maybe he could choose some option before he was forced to do only one option at the end. I think point is to recognize moment when you still have several options.

  20. Dave Z says:

    The computer guy’s story strikes me as a downside of the ‘pure’ bug-in/hunker down approach… stores can’t last forever, and by the time we emerge, we’re behind on the learning curve. Don’t know where to go, who to approach or avoid, or how the new rules run.

    My guess is, it would pay to be getting out and about from the beginning (blending in, with all due attention to dangers). It involves considerable risk, but I’m guessing it would pay for itself by reducing the risk of that moment when we finally MUST emerge, ignorant and under pressure.

    For full on collapse, there won’t be any end-of-crisis.

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