What Are the Most and Least Dangerous U.S. States in a SHTF Scenario?

The world is an uncertain place, and the recent pandemic drove home the vulnerabilities many have. Finding creative ways to relieve yourself without toilet paper is the least of your worries if the grid were to collapse, taking with it communication capabilities and stopping supply chains altogether, not just slowing them down. If the SHTF, how safe are you and your loved ones where you are? Where are the best and worst places to be?

Humans have divorced themselves so completely from the natural world that they forget the role climate and resources play in survival. However, the greatest danger you face might come from the human animal. Here are the most and least dangerous U.S. states in a SHTF scenario.

SHTF Scenarios Defined: How Likely Are They?

First, take a deep breath — it’s unlikely that a global SHTF scenario will result in an apocalyptic collapse of all modern civilization. While it’s fine to prep for such circumstances, you’ll probably experience localized disasters, such as hurricanes.

Others may be more widespread, like pandemics, but not so devastating that all is lost. Nevertheless, the following seven situations are SHTF scenarios for which you should be ready:

  • Job loss: This is particularly frightening in the gig economy and as social safety nets shrink.
  • Regional disasters: This includes hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes and floods.
  • Economic collapse: It’s either increasingly likely or unlikely, depending on which economists you follow.
  • Cyberattacks: Modern reliance on technology to run the grid creates vulnerabilities.
  • Pandemic: Humanity is now well-versed — but have you begun prepping for the next one?
  • War: People in the U.S. have been insulated from war’s true horrors, but this is one of the most frightening SHTF scenarios. Rising divisiveness increases its likelihood.
  • Critical power failure: Nearly everything people do requires electricity — what happens when there is none for days, weeks or longer?

Factors to Consider in a SHTF Scenario

Your first consideration in a SHTF scenario is whether to go or stay where you are. How well you prepare helps determine your answer, as supplies reign supreme — a well-stocked storm cellar is a blessing. However, if you haven’t had a chance to become a proper squirrel, you might have to hit the road in search of what you need to survive.

When selecting your escape route, you must consider the following four factors for the journey and ultimate destination.

1. Climate

It’s vital to keep the weather in mind when traveling. When on vacation, you know you can head home if things get too uncomfortable. You don’t have that option in a SHTF scenario — leaving home means staying is more dangerous than going. You’re about to gain a whole new appreciation of unhoused individuals’ daily struggles.

Even with a vehicle to break the elements, you’ll need plenty of blankets and warmers in the winter. If you only have enough cash for one survival tool and know you’ll likely need to travel, a small propane heater can be a lifesaver. Of course, if you’re trekking through the Arizona desert in July, you have the opposite problem — water will become your most pressing need. You’ll need at least a gallon per day, and that’s if you can find shade and travel at night.

There’s also the risk your ride will break down or you’ll encounter an obstacle you can’t bypass, like a severely flooded roadway. Dress in layers and have a well-stocked bugout backpack ready if you must travel by foot.

2. Availability of Resources

Modern humans head to grocery stores when they need food. However, you probably can’t get there in a SHTF scenario — and attempting it could be dangerous if looting runs rampant. You’re in for an unpleasant awakening if you’ve never experienced genuine hunger.

Fortunately, you can forage even in urban areas. However, it’s safer in the wilds since there’s less risk of pesticides and chemicals. If you don’t have a dime to put toward prepping, at least learn what local plants you can eat in a pinch. You can also hunt to meet your daily caloric needs.

3. Natural Threats

Weather and hunger pose your greatest natural threats. Still, it helps to study the terrain along your escape route. For example, what critters might you encounter if you head to the wilds?

4. Human-made Threats

Your biggest threats in a SHTF scenario may be your fellow humans. Desperation drives people to behavioral extremes, and even the most law-abiding soul will steal a loaf of bread to assuage starvation without caring who else they deprive.

The threats amplify if you’re female or disabled — it’s an unfortunate reality. Another way to prepare if you have no money is to learn how to defend yourself. Although it’s best to attend live training and run through drills with a qualified instructor, there are plenty of free channels on YouTube with techniques you can practice with a partner. If you’re comfortable using a weapon, train with it regularly to make its use intuitive in a pinch.

The Most Dangerous U.S. States in a SHTF Scenario

You may not have had the time, money or resources to stock your home for survival. Perhaps you’re planning on relocating with potential SHTF scenarios in mind. What are the best and worst places to be? Here are the most dangerous U.S. states to be in during a disaster.

1. Major Metro Areas

The first spot on this list isn’t a specific state — it’s more regional than that. Regardless of your state, major metro areas are your worst bets in a SHTF scenario. Consider this: In the past 50 years alone, more Americans have died from gunfire than in all the U.S. wars combined. It’s not an exaggeration to say other humans may pose your biggest survival threat.

There’s also safety in numbers with those you can trust. If you reside in the city, your best prepping bet may be to organize your core posse, coordinating where you will all meet if evacuation becomes necessary.

Stocking your home for supplies is still valuable — it will help you survive SHTF scenarios like job loss, pandemics and regional disasters of limited scope where cleanup efforts take weeks. However, the sheer hordes of people in cities assure there will be plenty who don’t take such measures and will seek what you have if circumstances become dire enough. Prepare to stay, but plan to go.

2. Florida

Florida sees more than its fair share of natural disasters, so it deserves the No. 1 spot on this list outside urban jungles.

3. New York

Parts of New York are quite rural — and gorgeous. The problem is the severe weather extremes in such areas. Sections of the state are tucked between the Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard, which are among the snowiest regions in the U.S. Even the hardiest survivalist struggles in a blinding blizzard.

3. California

What makes California so dangerous is its population size. It’s the nation’s most populous state, with an economy larger than many small countries. An economic collapse here could lead to severe repercussions, and while there are plenty of helpful folks, there are also more hell-bent on causing chaos and harm.

4. Texas

You might want a firearm for self-defense, but not every user is responsible or humane. Texas has more mass shootings than any other state, and the U.S. leads the world in these events. There are plenty of open spaces, but is it worth the risk? Furthermore, in 2018, Texas had the most motor vehicle fatalities, followed closely by California. You could find your escape route hopelessly deadlocked.

The Least Dangerous States

Where should you go to reduce your risk and increase your survival chances? Here are the four least dangerous states in the U.S. in a SHTF scenario.

1. New Mexico

Two factors make New Mexico the ideal place to be in a SHTF scenario: climate and population. Plenty of wide-open land with no one on it gives you ample areas to boondock until some semblance of normalcy returns. Although the northern part of the state sees extreme cold, driving south for a few hours puts you squarely in the sunshine.

2. Arizona

Arizona is more populous than New Mexico but still offers plenty of wide, open spaces. You’ll also find some of the best boondock camping anywhere if you must flee the Phoenix or Tucson metro areas. You’ll enjoy the perfect climate, as you’re always within a few hours’ drive of comfort.

3. Montana

Extreme cold poses a threat here, but you’ll find plenty of open lands that teem with natural resources. Hunters can survive quite nicely.

4. Utah

The deserts of Utah don’t see as much snow as the mountains. Temperature extremes aren’t too severe in some regions, and abundant campsites and natural resources exist.

Most and Least Dangerous States When SHTF

Although you’re unlikely to experience a SHTF scenario, it pays to prepare. What are the best and worst states to live in during a survival situation?

Forewarned is forearmed. Consider these tips if you’re seeking to relocate or are strategizing what to do if the SHTF.

Written by

Martin Banks writes about survival, gear, and the outdoors. He’s also the Editor-in-Chief of Modded.

Latest comments
  • This is pure conjecture. An opinion on your part. You state some valid points and ideas.
    But, any and/or all of them could change based on the SHTF Scenario?
    Just an example…If and when SHTF…All the leftylibpinkofagweirdos will shortly thereafter cease to exist. The mentally deranged will run into the same issue. T
    here may be some mass shootings in the beginning but they will be ended…permanently, without the cowardly police leadership to protect them. I suspect 2 or 3, because they are not that smart, so it will take a couple to teach them that this won’t be tolerated any longer.
    The bleeding hearts will be to busy stopping their own bleeding to have their sorry backs.
    The District of Columbia will be ‘THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE IN AMERICA’, for politicians…fish in a barrel.
    Following what I’m putting down?

    • Lolololol! Leftylinpinkofagweirdos? Best reply ever, thanks for the laugh

  • I’m from the Midwest and lived in Florida for 44 years.
    Without air conditioners and ice makers, Florida would empty out. Without mosquito control people would die off by the millions.
    If there’s a SHTF scenario where power goes down, I couldn’t agree more that Florida would become a killing field.

    With all that’s going on in the world, it’s time to put Florida in the rear view mirror.

    • Geez…how did people survive before air conditioning, ice makers, and mosquito trucks?

      I was born in Florida, and lived there a total of 37 years before moving to New Mexico, and then to Arizona. I grew up without air conditioning, and didn’t have air conditioning until I was 26. My parents had never had it until a couple of years after I did. My dad’s mom went most of her life without it, and was in her early 80s before she even allowed my dad (after he insisted) to install a window unit. We were just used to it, and it was no big deal.

      I survived fine without an icemaker, and never even had an icemaker until I bought my house in New Mexico. Even then, I didn’t want one, but it just happened to come with the refrigerator I picked.

      And mosquito control? I spent 20 years living (and working) in Florida phosphate country, a huge part of central Florida where manmade ponds and lakes left over from phosphate mining far outnumber natural ponds and lakes. And many of them mined before 1970, when regulations didn’t require reclamation, have stagnant water, where mosquitos love to breed. Yes, I survived mosquitos just fine, as have a huge majority of Floridians.

      With Florida having relatively easy access to drinking water, abundant fising resources, natural plant life for year round food, the ability to grow crops during winter which doesn’t happen in most states, a very significant amount of small game, and mild winters, I’d rather be surviving in Florida than where I’m at now in Arizona.

  • The way Arizona borders are being overrun right now, it’s no longer a safe place to live. I agree about choosing a climate you can survive in, but I’ll stay in the UP where we get 6 months of cold and snow. Lots of gun toting Trump loving patriots here.

    • I disagree 100% about the majority of Floridians surviving under the conditions you’ve described.

      You’re going to have a huge advantge over most of the current residents who would start packing if it were in the summer and the AC quit working..

      I’m not saying Florida isn’t a place certain survival types wouldn’t not only survive, but would thrive.

      I am saying the place would empty out voluntarily and via sickness and heat exhaustion and the subject of dysentery from flies breeding off all the garbage hasn’t been introduced into the conversation.

      When garbage service stops and idiots keep throwing their garbage anywhere, the windows get opened and the screens aren’t in place or damaged because their windows haven’t been opened in years, natural selection would wipe out millions.

      From my understanding, the majority of the population would die off from dysentery in the first 6 months.

      I’m talking about the summer months which is the great equalizer.

      Florida is a harsh place to live in the summer months, but it’s doable and a paradise for that small population who know how to live off the land and in harmony with nature.

      • However, I disagree Florida is not a good place to live because of natural disasters. Hurricanes can be managed, it’s the poor construction over the past 80 years that’s causing problems.

  • Haha,ha, “Leftylibpinkofagweirdos” is so hilarious and so accurate!

  • Something that is, unfortunately, not adequately addressed by the author when assessing states for survival purposes is the extraordinarily important issue of water availability. If the aqueducts stop flowing–and they will if there is no power–states like Arizona and California (at least a huge part of both) will experience massive problems in obtaining access to water from reservoirs, initially, and from rainfall after the reservoirs are emptied.

    In general, coastal areas in Southern California, say, perhaps 60 miles inland, do not see measurable rainfall from mid-October to mid-April. Areas further east are mostly worse. Southern Arizona has its summer monsoons, but for most of the year, Southern Arizona sees no appreciable rainfall. In both states, depending on capturing rain from roofs is simply not a year-round option, nor is it a viable survival strategy for anything but the short term.

    • That is a great observation.
      I live in Florida and I’ve been rainwater harvesting for about four years and have found out there’s a lot of rain for use and I store lots of water during the spring, summer and early fall.. From about December to late April to early May, it’s about as dry as Arizona, where I lived for two years.
      The solution to not running dry is 3000+ storage capacity or a deep well that gets down into the Florida aquifer.

  • I’ll take my chances in the Midwest prairie and low lands. Plenty of fresh water, fish, birds, and a rather short, but quite abundant growing season. There are many trees, caves, hill sides, and thick brush to make living places. There are row crop fields, ponds, and lots of mammal life. Preparations for winter are necessary, however, there are an abundance of resources to work with. I prefer Illinois, at least a hundred miles from Chicago, or Missouri, Indiana, or Kentucky. There are reasons settlers did very well in these places.

  • Those big snowstorms and cold winters helps to keep tropical vibrants away. They will come for free stuff, but will not tolerate the weather without handouts

  • The Middle and Upper Regions of New York State are not only rural Farm land, but also offers great hunting and fishing that can enable people to get by quite well. People there are much more fiscally and socially conservative than those in the Cities, regardless if the City is New York, Buffalo, or Rochester. Cities seem to be magnets for those social misfits, drifters, gripers, slackers, and scam artists, and these people will not do well when the meal tickets such as Welfare, EBT cards, and Free Lunches all come to a sudden stop. The Police Departments and Sheriff’s Offices are all supported by the residents in these areas, and many people would volunteer to help them if they were asked.

    I also noted what another Poster had written. Without hand-outs from Uncle Scam, and Liberals in State Government, these tropical dwellers will most likely leave areas like New York and New Jersey,. as well as New England, because the winters are too severe for them to adapt.

  • I think the water issue is just as important as the cold frosty winter farther north. The desert areas mentioned as ideal climatesi might not be so ideal in SHTF situation where one has to find his own water

  • No one thinks about the 5 territories that the US has control of… Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, The Marshal Islands and American Samoa. Most of these territories are in temperate zones with warm weather and plenty of natural food… MOst are covered by Jungle and provide lots of natural resources…

  • New Mexico, what a joke !!!!!! I am in rural Texas with no large cities close by. Water, wild game and a good field of fire. We can carry open or concealed.

    • Yep. We live in a big-ass state. No way to generalize such a diverse state this large. The metro areas do fit the example #1, but the areas west of I-35 are every bit as safe as NM and AZ, and a hell of a lot more conservative.

  • I’ve lived in Texas since 1981 and there are plenty of acres uninhabited or very few people around. I like that! I, also, practice my 2nd amendment rights every time I left my home. Being a 69yr old woman (with all family gone now) I only have myself to depend on. And, I feel much safer carrying when I left the house. I feel much safer & it helps that feeling of fear because I am unable to physically protect myself. It was much worse when I lived in Dallas. The only reason I felt somewhat safe is because I was much younger. Dallas became a hellhole, IMHO. We had to leave! My mother grew up there. But we moved to a much smaller town in West Texas and my gun beside my hear helps me sleep very well. Thank you! But I do believe the best thing to do in a SHTF scenario, the first thing I would do is get outta Dodge and quick. My car is always packed with necessary items to help me, and friends, make a real go of it. And, one fiend from my survival group has a farm in the middle of nowhere in N.M. So, we’ll be heading there, I would assume. But, I absolutely agree that big cities are not good places to be stuck in. I’m, currently, in a city with a population of around 1/2 million. That’s still too many people for me. Thus why I live in one of the farthest areas away from the city’s center. It’s quiet and there are less people out here. I feel like I will survive a SHTF scenario. But all members of my group are preparing for it. FBJ

  • Personally, I would stay a minimum of 800 miles from the Yellowstone Caldera. It could blow at any time.
    800 miles puts you far enough away that you would be safe from all but the slowly drifting ash cloud.
    Epicenter out to 150 miles, instant death. 200 to 300, fires and wind blast. 400 to 600, some wind and farther out mostly falling ash.
    Just something to bear in mind when choosing a bugout local.
    I would choose a state in the Midwest, somewhere close to the mighty Mississippi River and far enough South to avoid the harsh winter months, Southern MO, AR, TN, AL.

  • I’d say the States picked…are just conjecture. It all depends how things go when it hits the fan. I would, though, stay far away from large Leftist run cities and areas. When it hits the fan it is not going to matter what the statistics say about ‘mass shootings’ as everything will change. It almost sounded like an anti-firearm rant on Texas. I live here and it’s not as bad as the media would have you believe and most of it is in the Leftist controlled areas.

    • I agree. Just like how Florida was ranked as worse than Texas. It has more abundant water than at least 3 of the states (if not all 4) on the “least dangerous” list, wells are easier to drill and don’t need to be as deep, there’s very common naturally growing plants that produce food year round and plants that produce food during winter when other plants aren’t in season, and I had very few (and very minor) problems with hurricanes. With heat not being needed as much, that helps free up resources that would normally be used for heat, and free up time that would otherwise be used to get firewood for heat.

  • Wonder if the stats on Texas motor vehicle fatalities are ginned up the same way the covid19 deaths were? Was that a motor vehicle fatality, the guy who died of a heart attack while eating his 4th big mac in the parking lot? Just like the bullet to the head didn’t kill that person covid19 v47 did! Why do people continue to use statistics when they are found over and over to be manipulated for a particular agenda?

  • As someone that was born in Florida and spent a total of 37 years there, then liived in New Mexico 10.5 years, and now living in Arizona for 1.5 year, Florida is getting ranked worse than it should. Yes, there’s hurricanes, but I’ve had very few problems with them, and the few problems I did have weren’t major and were quite manageable. They aren’t all like Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Ian, not everyone lives where storm surge is a problem, not everyone lives on barrier islands that get washed away, and not every house is weak. It’s not hard to find better places to live. It’s not hard to keep trees away from a house. And yes, there’s overpopulated urban areas, but there’s still plenty of places that aren’t like that.

    Advantages are:
    *Although many naturally growing plants that produce food have seasons just like any other state, unlike most or all snowy winter areas, Florida has a few plants that can produce food year round. And during times when some naturally growing plants aren’t producing food during winter, there’s others that are. And the good thing about a lot of them is that most or all naturally growing plants that produce food would be overlooked by most people, and most people don’t know what to look for. So that would increase the chances of someone like me finding plants for food.
    *Unlike many states during winter cold, Florida has crops that can be harvested during winter.
    *Florida has abundant water resources. Even during drought, water is going to be way easier to find in Florida than places like New Mexico and Arizona. And wells in Florida don’t have to be anywhere near as deep as they are in many states, such as where I now live in Arizona. And the chances of water being frozen when you need it is very slim, unlike Montana (on your list of preferred states) and many other states.
    *If you’re using solar panels for power during relatively low solar output short winter days, you aren’t near as likely to need power for electric heat. Even where I am in southeast Arizona (70 miles from the Mexican border) gets way colder on average during winter than Florida does. Yes, I’m aware that it’s a good idea to have at least one alternative to electricity for heat. But the fact that heat isn’t needed as much in Florida is still a valid point.

  • Despite the nitpicking I see among readers, the article should give pause to folks; always weigh pros & cons…rural areas, in my opinion, offer the best survival scenario. AZ [at least the Phx Metro area] has been over run by Californians in recent decades & have added their peculiar brand of socialism to the Valley AND water has become a precious commodity. If I were to move back, I would look at northern areas of the state [Cottonwood-Flagstaff]