The phasing of a society's Collapse - My cut at it. I often see folks arguing over what to do "during SHTF" and often they are all correct even though they worry about different things due to thinking about different aspects of surviving a collapse. This is often due to thinking about a different timeline. So I see timeline of (attempted?) survival may best be understood as occurring in 3 broad stroke phases: - Phase 1 SHTF has started but in away thats not yet provoking the population at large to react yet. In phase 1 of a major pandemic (just as an example) power may still be on... gasoline may still be available, but hospitals are full and infection spreading., maybe schools closed.. The population at large will stay where they are and try to maintain jobs as long as possible. They usually have nowhere to go anyway. Preppers will start to retrograde to their BOL (if they have them and not living there already) or making final preparations if they live at the BOL . Or in a grid down situation (again just as an example) in phase 1 the bulk of the population may still be waiting for the power to come back on.. But preppers would be bugging out. So in summary Phase 1 is a time where the start of of a quick slide is obvious to some but not to all, a sense of moderate normalcy is still had by most .....police still operates and road travel is still possible without firearms. I would say this phase could as short as a couple of days days (grid down) or a slong as a few weeks (pandemic). (I am deliberately excluding a economic slide because that can take decades and doesnt meet what we are trying to describe So in phase 1 of a collapse preppers will be enroute to their BOL or if living in the BOL buying their last supplies before hunkering down. In this phase travel by vehicle in the may still be possible in the country without excessive risk (given proper armed precautions and a bit of stored gas) . Some small degree of police coverage may also still exist. -Phase 2 will be the highest physical threat phase. This phase will be marked by the population centers emptying themselves.. and millions of people are on the march to "the countryside" or "the hills" where they feel they may be able to survive. . And the nice friendly family father you chatted with at a rest stop 100 miles away a couple months ago, will now be a raving beast willing to kill anyone who stands in the way of feeding his family.... Some guys banding together may form dangerous but small gangs who may act collectively. (though they are likely poorly trained... and the groups wont be very large as feeding a large group via scavenging is near impossible.... the ex-military trained or led 200 member biker gangs so beloved of novelists may never materialize in our county..even in this phase.... especially as bikes too need gas and if such large groups ever do exist they can be expected to invariably break up eventually since in order to feed a large group via scavenging you need to cover distance.. impossible w/o a reliable gas source...so there is a physical ceiling for group marauder size in a collapse and its not a high ceiling... especially for mobile groups not possessing a reliable source of stored food....) Those large populations are now fanned out from the cities... out over the countryside and "into the hills".. No matter how tucked away in the hills ...many starving people will come find us in this phase.....and by this point many of them will be armed in some fashion.... Even though numbers may be attritted already there will still be a LOT of them potentially overwhelming poorly armed or trained homesteads. Another marker of phase 2 is any semblance of collective security as provided by police/gov't will have broken down completely (no more gas for police cruisers etc) and police cannot be relied on in any way to do anything positive. But on the whole this phase will be marked by the greatest threat of physical violence to us and the nicer homesteads with plenty of animals can expect frequent shoot outs and near daily/nightly attempts at our animals almost right away. Eventually even the less supplied retreats can expect frequent attacks from starving people. Luckily preppers should still be able to still operate 100% on stored food at this time making our tactical burden more manageable.. as we can afford to (and likely must) focus on that threat as no one will be able to perform agriculture... Going out with a tractor or a horse drawn plow on the field would immediately unleash hordes of starving people from the bushes that will kill you to eat your horse or take your fuel. With so many people still alive but starving security will be everything. Expect some retreats to have changed owners after phase two. This phase will likely last many months and phase 2 is essentially that by now everyone has figured out collapse is happening but most are still alive and fighting for survival. 3) Phase 3 will be marked by the disappearance via starvation of most unprepped people.. In other words.. the industrial society that existed before.. allowed for many more people to be supported than after a collapse. A collapse of society will also mean the collapse of the ability to feed a lot of people. When the population number have collapsed due to starvation and violence to a point where the much reduced size of the population now matches the resources of food production.. then you have entered Phase 3. This will GREATLY diminish the constant threat .........and firefights should be very rare at this point ...(even though retreats perceived as week may still be victimized by other less scrupulous folks) Agriculture will have started up again to the extent capable to feed the now much reduced population.. the disappearance of the starving masses will make it finally possible to till a field with a horse without being attacked by 100 starving people wanting to eat your horse. IMO that is a key marker of Phase 3. Food production is possible again on a larger scale due to diminished violence has the great majority of the population had died. Via fair trade one might even cross level some specific specialized supplies or skills. Again those retreats without enough boots-on-the-ground or too little ammo or too untrained in use of modern firearms.. will likely have changed owners during phase 2. A just moderately competent group can overtake almost any retreat that doesn't not have proper security at night.... with little difficulty even if the attackers are not many.. ....in many cases they will have simply taken over a retreat in a surprise attack at night and killed most of its inhabitants likely sparing only very few ......the young women as non threats will almost certainly be kept and may even adapt into relatively loyal members of the "new" retreat , (Stockholm syndrome as a common survival mechanism) especially once they had children from the attackers..., .. look for society becoming much more medieval in culture as medieval society was adapted to a low resource pastoral lifestyle+ plus violence) So in summary the final and only stable phase, Phase 3 will be marked by a roughly functioning society that has found a balance between the number of people alive and the ability to work the land via reduced efficiency in grid down. Its hard to say what timeline might be ... I think the fundamental reason folks on internet often argue what the best survival strategy is after a collapse , is they are all thinking about different phases of a collapse as the SHTF based on the novels they read the most. PS: I do Disaster Analysis for a living.