What Does SHTF Mean? Common Acronyms Used By Preppers and Survivalists

It doesn’t take very long for a new prepper to realize that we speak and write in a language all our own.  It’s a language that was adapted from military personnel and involves creating shortened acronyms for damn near every item or phrase imaginable.  Well, maybe not EVERY phrase, but certainly a lot of them.  We’ve created this handy list to explain most of them.

SHTF:  Shit Hits The Fan.  This refers to the chaos that ensues after a disaster of some kind. When preppers talk about being ready for SHTF, their meaning is that you must be ready when there's no one but yourself to rely on. “When the SHTF you’ll want to have your vehicle packed and ready to go…”

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TEOTWAWKI:  The End Of The World As We Know It.  Refers to the breakdown of society, communications and general commerce as a result of a catastrophe. Nothing will ever be the same.  “An in-depth knowledge of first aid will be invaluable after TEOTWAWKI…”

BOB:  Bug Out Bag.  Referring to the bag you keep on hand and stocked with several days’ worth of supplies.  “Kids, we’re bugging out, grab your BOB…”

GOOD:  Get Out Of Dodge.  Refers to leaving ground zero of whatever disaster is occurring at the moment. “The city is now under martial law, time to GOOD…”

OTG:  Off The Grid.  Refers to living without the dependency of government utilities or aid.  “After they took over the city, I’ve been OTG….”

EDC:  Every Day Carry.  Refers to items you have in your pockets or bag on most days.  This can include pocket knives, lighters, multi-tools, etc.  “A pack of gum is a staple of my EDC…”

BOL:  Bug Out Location.  Refers to where you’re going in the event you need to evacuate your primary residence.  “The SHTF; time to get to the BOL…”

EOTW:  End Of The World.  Shortened version of TEOTWAWKI.  “If that crazy SOB pushes that button, it’s EOTW…”

AO:  Area of Operation.  A military term referring to the general zone that a group or individual conducts their business.  “I was hiding behind a building when these guys rolled into our AO…”

OP:  Observation Post.  Another Military term referring to a location designated for observing activity of some kind.  A lookout.  “I have to head out to the OP for a four-hour shift….”

ETA:  Estimated Time of Arrival.  When you’re expecting to get somewhere.  “We’re bugging out now, ETA two hours…”

CQB:  Close Quarters Battle.  Refers to a shootout where the participants are in close proximity to one another, usually within 30 meters or so.  “After we entered the city it was non-stop CQB…”

NBC:  Nuclear Biological Chemical.  Refers to potentially dangerous contaminants, often in weaponized form.  “Grab our NBC gear, just in case we get into some nasty stuff….”

EMP:  Electromagnetic Pulse.  Refers to a painless (to humans) blast that renders all electronic equipment useless.  “Once our nation was hit with the EMP it was TEOTWAWKI…”

OPSEC:  Operational Security.  A military term referring to the confidentiality measures of a particular mission.  “Stay off the phones, we’re in a heightened state of OPSEC…”

SITREP: Situation Report.  Another military term referring to the conveyance of a particular situation.  “OK, the firefight is over, get on the radio and give the base a SITREP…”

Stick around preppers long enough and you’ll pick up more acronyms.  Eventually you’ll be able to carry on entire conversations without saying an actual word, but in the meantime, this list should help you make some sense of what you may be reading. Just know that learning the meaning of SHTF or any of these terms isn't enough. There's a lot of work to do to get yourself fully prepared.

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