Selco’s SHTF Survival Lessons – Part 5 – ‘S’ to ‘W’

Reading time: 6,815 words, 16 pages, 16 to 27 minutes.

If you haven’t read the first two introductory pages in Part 1, I recommend you do so. Among the things I wrote was that Selco is the most credible source for prepping and survival advice that I have ever read. He survived the Balkan war of the 90s and one year in a besieged city with no electricity, water, sewage, food distribution, medical system, police, etc. I arranged Selco’s lessons in alphabetical order to make it easier to search and review because he provides an abundance of experience.

If you haven’t read them, here is Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.


































SANITATION. Selco writes, “Sanitary conditions were bad or non existant and of course this contributed to illnesses, for example diarrhea was always an issue.” Human waste contamination is a serious disease threat.

No running water or functioning toilets requires improvisation. [Gerold comment:] For an SHTF portable toilet, I have a couple of 5 gal plastic buckets with lids (previously hydraulic fluid containers) plus lots of garbage bags, kitty litter for odor control (ash or lime works, too) and a spare toilet seat. Have a dump, cover it with kitty litter/ash/lime to reduce the smell, replace cover and put the bucket outside until needed again.

The emphasis is on ‘dump’ as urine should be disposed of otherwise. Consider jars with lids or the toilet as long as it drains without water to flush.  

Long term, disposal will be problematic. Lack of sanitation causes disease such as cholera, especially in crowded cities.

SCAVENGING. You might think that abandoned police stations or army barracks are ‘safe’ places to find weapons but so would everyone else, so they’ll be cleaned out by the time you get there or used by gangs as a home base.

Immediately after SHTF, people will loot useless things like washing machines, TV’s or tires before they realize that without electricity and gas there’s no need for them.

After SHTF, we need to think long-term. Store shelves may be empty, but the shelving might be useful. There’ll be no point smashing parking meters for useless coins, but don’t overlook the overhead solar panels that powered them.

SCOUTING. Selco writes, “usually we had one of us outside in the street, close to house, watching, scouting on any signs of trouble or any signs of anything or anybody, sometimes even looking for some information.”

SHELTER in an SHTF should be unobtrusive, low profile and no different than the rest of the neighborhood. It’s ok to improve our shelter’s security as long as it doesn’t look like it from the outside. If one or more houses in the neighborhood are looted, we must make ours look looted, but don’t be the first or last as that also makes it stand out.

If there’s enough time before SHTF, plant trees or shrubs that can hide an escape route, or be obstacles for invaders or used for observing the neighborhood, also, have reinforcing material ready to use such as steel plates, plywood, sandbags, etc. Set up a rainwater collection from the roof and use to water plants now and filtered for drinking when the SHTF.

Protect windows and opening with sandbags, bags of dirt or any material with plywood over it, but not so it will be evident from the street. Two pieces of plywood with cushions between them will stop small caliber bullets and shrapnel.

It will be instinctive to hide in the basement, but without an escape, we could be trapped, burned or killed. People learned to shelter in upper floors of apartment blocks and moved through destroyed suites to other locations. Familiarity with them helps in the dark, and lack of familiarity hinders attackers. Scavengers stick to easily accessible lower floors. Add primitive traps, but remember where they are. Cover openings (black garbage bags) so light at night doesn’t give us away. Spread garbage and debris around, so it looks already scavenged. A proper shelter does not need to look good. And remember, the smell of burning wood reveals our location unless there are other fires.

We must be prepared to abandon our shelter if our lives depend on it. Psychologically, it will be difficult to leave a shelter we’ve worked hard to make, but it’s better to be homeless than dead. It’s also better to be sneaky and alive than a fallen hero.

An alternative shelter is ‘Plan B.’ Never rely on only one shelter. Keep an eye open now or plan something with friends/relatives before SHTF for alternate shelters in case we have to bug out.

Use ‘layers’ to choose a shelter for defense that buys us time. The first layer is choosing a shelter no one else will want so we don’t have to fight for it and risk getting injured or killed. In an SHTF situation, people will avoid danger and look for an easy place so a sign that says ‘mines’ or ‘sniper’ or has a lousy stench or anything horrible will help to keep people away. The second layer is an alarm or warning if someone approaches to give us time to decide whether to fight, create a distraction or run away. Make sure we know all the possible exits. The last layer is booby traps. We need to decide if we want to kill, maim or scare intruders away and this will change over time.

Avoiding conflict is always the best strategy. The next stage is defensive layers to give us time to decide what options to choose. This flexibility is better than just building a fortress and stockpiling it. Selco writes, “the adage ‘live too fight another day’ should be far more prominent in your mind as a strategy than the ‘over my dead body’ or you’ll get my stuff when you pry it ‘from my cold, dead fingers’ which is often touted as a ‘solution’ by folks with little experience in the realities of violence. “

SHOES, quickly damaged by rubble and rain were in high demand. [Gerold comment:] I stocked up on footwear and silicone spray to waterproof footwear, and Dubbin for leather.

SHOOTING. Selco writes, “Smart self defense was that we just avoided all the time situations where we had to use weapon. And when we found ourselves in events when we had to use it, it was used with deadly force, not to demonstrate something, rather to kill. If you miss it sends message too but when you shoot you shoot to kill.”

SHTF can go by different names like ‘collapse’ or ‘breakdown,’ etc. Unfortunately, the best time to bug-out is before we know it’s time to bug-out. Hindsight is 20/20. Selco knew it was SHTF when he could NOT bug-out, and he saw good people doing bad things. Good people become bad, and bad people become worse. 

After three months, Selco says rumors started about deaths from starvation, cold and disease (mostly from contaminated water.) At that point, money was worth nothing. Desperate mothers prostituted themselves for a can of food for their kids. Selco writes, “whatever man says today in normal times about how he will react, that gonna be tested when SHTF.”

After SHTF? There may or may not be an ‘after’ depending on the nature of the SHTF. In Selco’s case, the SHTF was a war that led to complete breakdown. After the war, it was a slow return to normal, but it was never the same because people had changed. Selco writes, “we lost a lot of ‘ourselves’ in that SHTF … But somehow you are numb and think, ‘What was all this about and what I am supposed to do now?’ There are some skills and experiences you cannot gain without paying for them.”

SIGNS OF SHTF? Selco lists five signs that indicate SHTF. However, there is no universal indication, and every situation is different.

  1. Increased violence – However, it’s difficult obtaining useful information. The mass media cannot be trusted; governments always tell us “don’t panic” and ‘doom & gloom’ websites and articles always report doom and gloom. People in the medical field like hospital ER’s or firefighters or the police are a good source of real street news, but it’s difficult to cultivate relationships unless we already know them.
  • Group behavior – more people banding together in troubled times.
  • Empty streets – people go out less in troubled times.
  • New leadership – Selco writes, “In times of fear people look for leader to hold on to. When things get tough those leaders will turn to be gang leaders.”
  • Trust in authorities fails – when we see the police looting or firefighters and ambulances fail to show up.

Selco describes some of the similarities between the West and his own country before the SHTF. Increasing partisanship is one such sign. He writes, “I have lived in the system and country where we believed that we are all equal. Different nationalities, different religions etc. Melted all together to make one ‘big and prosperous’ nation, to be great and equal… united. And then leverage of world forces simply changed, and suddenly we are being taught that differences between us are more important than similarities… When SHTF there is going to be lot of surprised people, a lot of shock.”

Selco says we’ll know the SHTF when “‘people went home’, i mean people from police force, emergency services and similar are just abandoning their jobs and go home to protect their families. Simply you ll see that life is becoming very cheap.”

He says that the time to “go into full survival mode is not when SHTF, but when folks realize that Shit Is really hitting the fan.”  If we haven’t bugged out before then it’ll likely be too late, but don’t beat yourself up because only hindsight is 20/20. Just make sure you’re as prepared as you can be. Selco saw all the signs and “failed to run (and) ended up right in the middle of SHTF.”

Remember, the ‘bad guys’ will know and accept SHTF (without law or punishment) a lot faster than ‘good’ people who will be slow to realize and accept and will hope things get better or the government will take care of them. Many otherwise ‘good’ people will die in the early days because the bad guys will adjust faster.

In Selco’s area, they say that when the Gypsies (survivalists extraordinaire) are leaving, then it’s time to go or hunker down.

SKILLS are more important than things. No doubt this will upset materialistic preppers. Selco writes, “I have kind of survival philosophy where my goal is to be ready to survive with as least things as possible, and it is like everything else based on my experienced SHTF. By developing and learning skills and techniques I am trying to be less depended on physical things. In reality that does not mean that when SHTF I will immediately bug out to the wilderness with knife only, no, I too have preps and things, stashes and plans, weapons, meds etc. It means when times come I am READY to leave all of that, EVERYTHING – all my possessions, and move away in split second if that means I will save my life.

Selco writes, “I think good example is to have a big supply of food, but still know how to work in small garden. Great fortune was if somebody knew how to fix things, guns, locks, shoes, people…”  [He]“adopted over the time the philosophy that ‘less is more.’ In reality, ‘more skills – less items’ is the key to survival.”

He says although we can never be a master at everything, “Go into every pillar of survival and start from the basics … pick up something where you are gonna be really good.”  Once we’ve learned the basics, expand into other areas. Some of Selco’s suggestions are water (finding, purifying, storing,) communications, and orienteering with map and compass. Turn it into a hobby and then pick another that we like. Selco’s Seven Pillars of Preparedness are 1) Fire, 2) Water, 3) Shelter, 4) Food, 5) Signaling/Communication, 6) Medical/Hygiene, and 7) Defense

SLEEP is a luxury we won’t have because of constant fighting, scrounging, hiding and the need to be on alert all the time. Be aware that lack of sleep will affect judgment that can lead to getting killed or injured. Selco writes, “Your perception of danger situation gets twisted in weird ways, and you react different, sometimes you want to be hero without reasons, or sometimes you become coward – again without reason.”

Lack of sleep can produce auditory and visual hallucinations. This is why it’s important to have company for support, to double-check decisions and be on alert when we take a much-needed nap.

There’s not much we can do about sleep deprivation. Being healthy and in good shape helps, drugs or alcohol can be a short-term solution, but create problems long-term. Selco’s best advice is short naps with eyes covered and ears plugged (good prep items.)

[Gerold comment:] I trained myself to take 20-minute ‘cat naps’ using an alarm clock and propping up my upper body at a 45-degree angle. I no longer need the alarm. Sleeping at 45 degrees, I now wake after 20 minutes.

SMELLS. Be prepared for the stench of unburied dead bodies, unwashed live ones, broken sewers, rotting garbage and human waste.

SNIPERS. A ‘Honeypot’ is where a sniper wounds, but doesn’t kill his victim who screams for help. Whoever tries to help the victim is then shot when they expose themselves. Snipers will then finish off the victims before sunset.

If we snipe, we must shoot judiciously. With the second shot, we risk giving away our location. And remember, the first one to move reveals their location.

SNOW. Don’t eat it; it might make you sick.


STRANGERS and ‘outsiders’ are at high risk. We might blend in and get along with everyone now, but after SHTF if we’re even slightly different than everyone else, we’ll be attacked for being ‘guilty’ because we’re different. Desperate people become irrational and dangerous and do desperate things.

STRENGTH in people was sometimes surprising. Some people who appeared strong before SHTF fell apart and some weak people became stronger. Having people rely on us can be a source of strength.

STRESS is constant. Selco writes, “Fighting for survival is an all day, every day task. You are constantly hunting, scavenging, gathering, finding information, looking and checking things. All while the most stressed you have ever been and under constant threat, all while being hungry and thirsty. There is no ‘day off’, or ‘break’ … It is hard time, and day is full of “acquiring” things and finishing jobs.”

“In SHTF almost everything is a threat to you. Yes, easy to understand threats like sniper, gangs, angry neighbors etc, but the lack of food, complete lack of hygiene, level of contamination, risk of illness and injury, being found, being informed on, being tricked, getting captured and many, many, more make up a larger amount of threats than most ever think of… Then imagine the worst person you have ever known, someone you would not trust to help you in any situation. Now imagine everyone around you is like that person. Then imagine everything you climb on, through or over can hurt you, and that everything you touch has the potential to make you ill.”

In an SHTF situation, we either learn to deal with pressure quickly or we die. Everyone copes with the stress and tension in different ways. Selco writes, “it is simply about switching off some of your functions and pushing on and on, until you get again into the position of normal… It is one of the most valuable lessons of surviving the SHTF, because if you do not do that when SHTF you will fail to operate properly and that will get you dead.”

SURVIVAL GROUP – Ideally, we want to form a group before the SHTF, but that’s easier said than done. One way to determine someone’s survival skills is to go camping with them – simple camping with tents, starting wood fires, catching and cleaning fish, keeping warm and dry in the rain, not getting lost during the day, navigating in the dark, etc.

Finding like-minded people before the SHTF won’t be easy. Skills can be learned, but common sense, personality, and trust, or lack thereof don’t change. Selco writes we could suggest that potential candidates read and study books by people who survived the Holocaust or the Russian Gulags or the Andes plane crash, etc. It won’t be the real thing, but it could help prepare potential group members psychologically. One reader’s example is Anna Eisenmenger’s 94-page “Blockade – The Diary of an Austrian Middle-Class Woman 1914-1924,” available for free on “Diary of an Austrian woman who lived through World War I and the interwar years in Vienna… Eisenmenger talked about a range of topics, including asset protection, bartering, civil unrest, food shortages, health issues, urban versus rural when SHTF, and going to extremes to save one’s family.” Another reader wrote, “below is the link on to the page where Mrs. Eisenmenger’s diary can either be read (page top) or downloaded (page right). I opted for the .pdf version, which worked fine in my Acrobat Reader. If the link gets stripped, go to, enter “Blockade The Diary” in the search engine (not that “WayBackMachine” box) and the link to the page to read/download it should appear near the top of the search results. Hope this helps. I found the diary insightful and sobering. Hard to believe it was published in 1932 as it reads like a modern manuscript…”  [Link]

[Gerold comment:] Selco comes from Eastern Europe where kinship ties are stronger. People in Western Europe or whose ancestors and culture originated there have weaker family and group ties. Consequently, Selco’s insistence on forming a large survival group must be taken with a grain of salt. A small group of family or friends might be just as effective and it would avoid the problems inherent in a large group like slackers or someone selling us out or killing us for our food. The larger the group, the more likely that will happen. On the other hand, a larger group is better able to withstand attack by a large gang without needing to evacuate. See ‘Lone Wolf’ in Part 3.

SURVIVAL MYTHS. Most of the stuff we read on survival blogs is written by people who have never been in a SHTF situation. Such information could get us killed. An example of such a myth is that God (or right, truth, good, etc.) is on my side – in an SHTF, there is no good will or fairness. There is no epic fight of good vs evil. There’s only dead or alive and the sooner we discard social conventions, the better our chances of survival.

Selco writes, “I can not get rid of the feeling, that majority of people see SHTF as a big fun, shooting while drinking beer, with additional testing of all of their cool gear.

I see that in blogs, comments, forums, documentaries, movies… I had more then one participants of my course who told me ‘this is not fun, it is hard, and not so pleasant’…

I had people who have been preppers for 30 years and never considered the fact that when SHTF it is going to be smelly all around you.

Reality TV shows and ‘survival’ shows are dangerous because they give people bad ideas. TV is about entertainment, not practical information. Selco writes, “…that people are gonna die because they learned something the wrong way from those survival shows… Some things cannot be “played” before you experienced it in reality.”  As one reader commented, “You can always be prepared, but you can never be ready”.

SURVIVOR TYPES – Selco outlines two of the survivor types:

a) Chameleons – practice deception and sometimes need to look stronger than they really are and at times weaker depending on the situation. Mostly, they blend into the background. In SHTF, we need to hide our feelings and body language until we figure out what’s going on in any situation.

b) Slaves & servants – Selco described one young mother (mentioned previously) who survived in a gang of 30 cutthroats by being their servant/prostitute/gang member and this is in a country where prostitution was rare. In return she obtained food and protection. We mustn’t judge because people will do what’s necessary to survive.

SURVIVORS. The majority of people are not prepared mentally or physically for SHTF. Most end up dead. Some will join a gang for protection and they’re the dangerous ones because they’ll be former friends, neighbors or acquaintances and they may betray us.

Preppers/survivalists will have a better chance, but not all of them are genuine. Some are gun nuts or gear heads or simply buying peace of mind. And, some are delusional braggarts. Read some of the comments on articles posted at  for example. Some of the commenters are so self-deluded they will be dangerous to themselves and everyone around them.

TACTICS. The bad guys might use human shields. Shoot them or die.

Selco writes, “Most of the fighting in the city was like shoot and hide, fight while moving, like fighting with shadows, they are everywhere and each shadow can kill you. You often fight people who you do not even see good, so to walk or run lightly was key. Often you do not see enemy and shoot at whatever. Sounds bad but in lot of the situations very good thing was to shoot at anything that looks even close to suspicious, and in most of the situation not even stop later to check.”

Now, in time of peace, is a good time to practice evasive action and recognizing cover. As we drive or walk down street, we should look for places that provide cover so that it becomes second nature in the event we really need to do it. [Gerold comment:] I did something similar for decades of winter driving in Northern Manitoba. I scanned for obstacles in the ditch and clear escape routes for defensive driving in slippery conditions. Motto: “the ditch is my friend,” and I used it more than once.

We must practice situational awareness to anticipate real or staged events to increase our chances for survival in an increasingly insane world.

Even if we’re well prepared for a long SHTF, Selco says it’s not wise to hunker down until we run out of preps. By that time, we’ll be behind the learning curve and dangerously unaware of the situation at the street level. We must limit bartering, but we need to mingle without attracting attention and learn as the situation changes.

Selco says learning tactics from YouTube videos or TV programs are questionable. He gives the example of safe river crossing videos most of which are in wilderness areas whereas urban river crossings may include pollution, garbage, wreckage, ‘mud hell’ and most dangerous of all: other people. Good luck finding a fallen log when we need one. He writes, “Check your survival plans (you bug out route for example) and see what kind of rivers are there.”  A bridge crossing is preferable, but watch for ambush, checkpoints and exposure to sniper fire.

He pans “APOCOLYPSE MAN” YouTube video as mostly fiction although it has an interesting premise; the Man heads to, not away, from the city because that’s where the stuff is. Premise: most city dweller’s ‘flight response’ will have them evacuating. Flaw: not everyone will be gone. Flaw: food is not produced in cities. Flaw: the sound of a running generator attracts unwanted attention. Flaw: entering a dark building with a powerful flashlight makes us a target. Flaw: not many people are capable of leaving a high-rise down the elevator shaft. Flaw: sewers have toxic gases and fester with bacteria and all it takes is one cut… Lots of flaws although it makes a good case for improvisation.

Selco says a better documentary is History Channel’s “After Armageddon”1:27:23

TERROR is a psychological game. Selco writes, “Terror is advanced level of trash talk in sports where one opponent tries to make the other one angry that he loses focus. When it comes to terror it is just fear that is used as weapon.”  That’s how ISIS succeeds in the Mid-East.

Terror can overcome even the most well-armed and organized group. “In the movies folks will fight to the last, but in reality most of the folks will simply run.”

He writes, “First you need to accept your fear and terror … Be aware of your fear and terror but also confident in your abilities to face this enemy. This is attitude that you need to show openly also to all members of your group. In groups emotions always get amplified … Terror needs to be dealt with brute force, before it spreads way too much to be contained. It is like disease … This is why we prepare, practice and learn to focus on what matters to achieve our goals. Terror only works if you give it power.”

TERRORISTS come in different colors, religions and nationalities including our own countrymen. Terrorism in our own countries could have been brutally nipped in the bud years ago, but was deliberately allowed to grow as a means of destroying our freedoms to make us easier to control. [Gerold comment:] Notice the Amerikans “accidentally” dropping weapons to ISIS. Notice that 90% of the so-called “refugees” that the West is accepting are young Muslim men of military age.

In the ‘frog in boiling water’ fable, the premise is that a frog, thrown into boiling water will immediately jump out, but if the frog is in tepid water and then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will cook to death. Whether that’s true or not, it illustrates how we gradually or incrementally accept threats that arise slowly rather than suddenly. Terrorism is a threat that has become commonplace. Selco calls it a “series of events that may look like nothing too serious if you look at it one by one problem, but all together it is something that is bigger than us.”

THREAT. Fear is a very powerful emotion. Watching, scouting and being constantly alert mixed with the delirium of sleep deprivation makes people jumpy and prone to shoot at anything. We can use fear to our advantage. For instance, stick a pipe part way out a window or between sandbags to look like a rifle.

Selco writes, “Level of threat is going to be a BIG shock to you in the beginning, if you survive that shock it is good because then you get yourself into the mode of real surviving. No matter how well you are prepared you will go through that shock, with good preparation and correct mentality you can minimize that shock and make it shorter, and that is the point of preparing.”

TOILET PAPER. Like duct tape and ammo, we can never have enough toilet paper, but it’s difficult to stockpile more than a few months’ worth because it takes up room. Invest in some “Toilet Ducks” (squeeze bottle with a Z-neck) and stockpile rags that can be boiled clean. Using non-potable water is an option but can still cause infections depending how dirty it is.

TRUST and loyalty are difficult in SHTF. Don’t expect to be able to trust more than a few including family. Most people, including family, friends and neighbors will sell us out, abandon us or stab us in the back. Be prepared to be disappointed and betrayed.

Trust and loyalty are a two-edged sword. Selco says, he lost an old friend “simply because he did not wanted to leave his wife under the ruins of collapsed house, he was trying to save her until the moment when rest of the building collapsed and kill them both.”

He writes, “people often think if they are good folks by the nature, everybody else is good by default (until proven otherwise?)… Through my experience I adopt opinion that everybody is bad until proven different (even if I am good guy.) … Or let me put it like this, in really bad times, when everything going to s…t you’ll see more bad folks then good folks, so be prepared for that…”

UN FORCES in the Bosnian/Yugoslav war were patched together from different countries. Selco writes, “… they did horrible job because they were under armed, desperately badly coordinated between different contingents and without clear cause and function and political support… there were good people there, but horrible organization behind them.”  Individual members sometime disobeyed orders to help civilians. Only the U.S.-led International Force with massive firepower later made a difference.

VIOLENCE is not a solution and should be used only as a last resort, but we must be prepared to do violence without hesitation if there are no other options to protecting ourselves. As well, Selco writes “Doing acts of violence will shock you hard, and depending what kind of person you are deep inside and what kind of training you have be prepared to suffer consequences because of what you did.”  

He also writes, “you do not know what kind of man you are and how you will act before you find yourself in SHTF situation.”  We expect gangs, criminals and addicts to do violence, but we must be prepared for SHTF to bring out the worst in what we thought were decent people. We might think we understand human nature, but we will be surprised at what people can do. When the SHTF, the sooner we learn to accept violence the greater are our chances of survival. It won’t be pretty and we’ll never be the same again.

Selco writes, “Nothing that I saw or read before could have prepared me for the level of violence and blindness to it, for the lives of kids, elders, civilians, and the innocent… the thing that is important for readers is that we were a modern society one day, and then in few weeks it turned into carnage… Do not make the mistake of saying ‘it cannot happen here’ because I made that mistake too.”

Selco experiences in his own words:

-People who never used violence before, doing some ‘hard’ violence: normal people, dads and mums, killing folks in order to save their families.

-Certain groups of people who looks like they are just waited for the SHTF so they…can fulfill their own fantasies about being kings of the town, imprisoning people, raping women, torturing folks in the weirdest ways…

-Strange groups organizing in whatever the cause they choose name it, again only to gain power in order to have more resources…through terror over other people or group of people.

-Irrational hate towards “other” (whoever “other” could (or might) be (other religion, group, street, town, nation) because it is very easy to manipulate groups of people through hate and fear (from and towards “others”), if someone manipulate you that your kid is hungry because “others”, he can do a lot with you.

Real life examples I saw:

-People being burned alive inside their homes (And people ‘enjoying’ watching this)

-Private prisons were made where you could go and torture other folks for fun, or simple rape women as a “reward”

-Kids over 13 or 14 years of age were simply “counted” as grown up people, and killed as enemy

-Humiliation of people on all different ways in order to break their will, for example forcing prisoners to have sex between same family (like father and daughter and similar)

-Violence was everyday thing, you could go outside and get shot not because you were ‘enemy’, but only because sniper on other side want to test his rifle.

It is a needed, but depressing realisation, that people, even regular folks can become so cruel, so fast, BUT it is an very important thing to be aware of for anyone truly involved in ‘preparedness’.

One reader with combat experience who puked his guts out after his first fire-fight wrote, “You don’t shoot to kill the enemy. You shoot to live.”

Selco says the best way to avoid violence is not stand out. “Do not be interesting (or attract attention) when the SHTF.” See ‘GREY MAN’ in Part 3.

WATER was more important than food. The rule of threes; you can last 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 30 days without food.

Selco says that water containers and canisters were precious because they hadn’t stored any before SHTF. In other words, it pays to stockpile water containers.

[Gerold comment:] I use 25 liter (6.6 gal. U.S.) plastic camping jugs. I first prepare them:

– By filling them entirely with cold water for 15 minutes to set (seal) the plastic to prevent leaching,

– After draining them, I add ¼ cup of baking soda aka sodium bicarbonate (I recycle fridge deodorizer) and a bit of water, swirl around all sides for a minute,

– Then drain, rinse several times with water,

– Then fill with fresh water.

– Store, and then drain and refill after 6 months.

Selco says they should have stored water ahead of SHTF as a cushion rather than waiting for rainwater. His group collected rainwater from the roof and filtered it through gauze, but impure water still caused much disease. He recommends stockpiling nylon tarps for water collection and numerous other uses.

Water is also a morale booster especially when it’s warm soup or hot tea or coffee. Boil for at least one minute or filter questionable water to prevent disease. Lugol’s iodine is available at health food stores and cheaper (for cattle) at livestock/country stores. With 2% Iodine add 5 drops per quart of clear water or 10 drops per quart of cloudy water (adjust per strength.) 

Look for water sources before SHTF and scout possible sniper nests to avoid them because snipers wait for victims at water sources. Expect the bad guys to control water sources for tribute. Also, consider caching extra supplies of water close to home or part way to our Bug-Out Location.

Hard plastic water containers are good for storage but carrying them advertises we have water; we’re worth robbing and reveals our water source. Consider collapsible containers for carrying outdoors as they’re easier to conceal and transport empty especially if we need to bug-out.

Water is heavy (8.34 pounds or 3.78KG per U.S. gallon) so a 25 liter (6.6 gal. U.S.) jug weighs 55 lb. (25KG.)  Larger containers of water are difficult to move. Also, do not store an abundance of filled containers in the same spot as it may overload the structural capacity of the floor.

In Selco’s case, they did not buy filters before the SHTF so they made ‘bottle’ filters with gravel, sand, charcoal and cloth. He writes, “If water was visibly contaminated (particles) we would repeat the procedure until the water looked satisfying for us.”  Boiling water was a problem because of lack of fuel for the time it took to boil. He writes, “We drink it, sometimes even without boiling and filtering. I survived it, but I was sick many times, probably because of that.” 

[Gerold comment:] One could write a book on water filters. The internet is a good information source. I have a portable Katadyn ‘Pocket’ filter along with a SweetWater Silt Stopper pre-filter as well as paper coffee filters & tie-wraps (pre-pre-filter for turbid water.) Remember to always disassemble and dry thoroughly before long-term storage to avoid mold.


GUNSSelco writes, “You and your hand kill, weapon is only tool. I have seen fight when man with knife is killing the guy with rifle. He had mastered fighting with knife and had will to kill. Other guy had a rifle only, and he ends up dead.”

The best weapon is the one we have, the one that we’re comfortable with and have practiced with because “in real life you might be in a situation to use a weapon while you are tired, dirty, and hungry and while someone is screaming (in pain) next to you… It is going to be maybe when you are not ready to do that, maybe in pitch dark, maybe after you have been awake for 48 hours.”

Bullet placement is more important than caliber or ‘stopping power.’ However, Selco says that in many combat situation there’s little aiming; it’s mostly ‘spray and pray.’ That’s why we need lots of ammo.

The best weapon is a common one because if we lose it, we might be able to pick up another one we’re likely familiar with. Also, there’s commonality of gun parts, ammo and we look like everyone else. Avoid rare or one-of-a-kind weapons. Try to have the type of gun and ammo that’s popular so there’ll be a lot of them common to ours to barter or scavenge or steal.

A reader suggested pump-up air rifles for small game, birds and eradicating vermin. Ammo is compact, with long shelf life, cheap and not loud. It’s also an excellent and affordable way to learn how to shoot.

KNIVES – Selco writes that because of Hollywood movies, “people imagine a knife fight is like two guys doing a whole bunch of fancy moves. In reality it is mostly about who pulled their knife first and stick it into the other guy.”  If the only weapon we have is a knife, we don’t have much. Unless we are well trained in knife-fighting, it “means that you (almost for sure) going to get hurt, get at least a couple of cuts from your opponent. Remember even a small cut when SHTF can kill you.”

Most of the knife fighting Selco saw was done with kitchen knives. Speed and intention are more important than the type of knife so don’t fall in love with a fancy ‘fighting knife.’ Distance is also important so, if there’s time, make the knife into a spear.

Sneaking up on someone and quickly stabbing them to death only happens in the movies. An opponent will fight for his life and could do a lot of damage before he bleeds out even from multiple wounds. Modern medicine refutes Captain Fairbairn’s (1942) ‘timetable of death’ as much too short. Doctors’ attending the French Revolution’s guillotining’s “documented the presence of vital signs in the body for up to two minutes”  and we’re unlikely to cut someone’s head off. “Much of the information being propagated in the martial arts, self-protection, and combative industry specific to unconsciousness and death as a result of a knife attack, specific to blood loss, is inaccurate.”  [Link]

WILL TO SURVIVE. Selco writes, “Few days of fearing for your life is problem, few weeks is crap, few months and more can easily take all will for survival from you and leave you empty.”

“At the end it all comes to the will to survive and will to protect your family-group, and do whatever you have to do.”

CONCLUSION: Regarding his time during SHTF, Selco writes, “Yes, finally it was ended by foreign troops, and peace agreement that was implemented and guarded from “outside”. That is one of the reason why i think that next time it is going to be bigger and harder. No one gonna come to help. I do not think it will be forever, but it will be long.”

A friend asked me if we will ever be in a real SHTF situation. I said that I hope not, but if we are then we’ll have a better chance of surviving if we learn Selco’s lessons. As useful as his practical advice is, the real value of reading Selco is the mental preparation, the psychological conditioning he provides. That alone makes reading Selco worthwhile because if the SHTF, we won’t do ourselves or our loved ones any good if we panic or are paralyzed by fear.


It’s fortunate I saved Selco’s articles because they are no longer available on his blog, however, his later ones are on Daisy Luther’s The Organic Prepper. As well, I highly recommend Selco’s online course here:  It costs $147 U.S. and it’s worth every penny. Disclosure: I have no financial interest to bias my judgment.


January 23, 2019

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About gerold

I have a bit of financial experience having invested in stocks in the 1960s & 70s, commodities in the 80s & commercial real estate in the 90s (I sold in 2005.) I'm back in stocks. I am appalled at our rapidly deteriorating global condition so I've written articles for family, friends & colleagues since 2007; warning them and doing my best to explain what's happening, what we can expect in the future and what you can do to prepare and mitigate the worst of the economic, social, political and nuclear fallout. As a public service in 2010 I decided to create a blog accessible to a larger number of people because I believe that knowledge not shared is wasted.
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2 Responses to Selco’s SHTF Survival Lessons – Part 5 – ‘S’ to ‘W’

  1. Ann says:

    Thank you for transcribing all these notes. It looks like a lot of hard work. I appreciate your labors because I learned a tremendous amount. Thank you again. Ann

    • gerold says:

      You’re welcome, Ann. I’m glad you found the articles useful.

      Full disclosure: I did it for myself as well as everyone else. I learn and retain more by studying something, putting it into my own words, and then writing it down (or telling someone about it.)

      – Gerold

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