There will always be enough consumer activity in the US to maintain a fairly stable economic system these days. I don't think there will ever be a collapse severe enough to trigger a panic situation.
Thats just my perspective.
I was talking to a fellow member about "being prepared". We both figured that us being prepared would not be an issue. We could even form a cooperative where you had your various members with expertise or avocations to make it work well in some self sustaining manner. It really wouldn't be all that hard. We also realized that it wouldn't be all that simple. It would be the berzerker masses taking your stuff from you. So you advance to being prepared to defend your little sanctuary ..and we realized that there wouldn't be enough personnel/members that could be sustained by any sensibly sizable footprint with the holding capacity to maintain a community and enough to defend it.
We then figured that you would have to have defined contingency plans to manage all of this if and when they would be required. You would then start actively associating with like minded people ..with the means to do the same.
That narrowed down the number of people who truly could be prepared in any worthwhile manner ..
I did enjoy one survivalist vendor outfit's Christmas sale video. It was very wholesome in appearance ..fireplace ..L. L. Bean flannel..warm and friendly grandfather type acting as though any American worth his/her salt ...with all the right values.. would have all these things ..along with their Montana cabin (and not seen) fully stocked arsenal ..
Given the cost, I'd say that mostly "good people" will be among the prepared.
Yes, it's a bit more daunting than it seems. Being here in Louisiana, albeit far inland from the coast, we have the hurricane issue. This past season, I sprang for a generator. When Ike started toward the North Texas coast, I started buying gas...and buying....and buying....It didn't dawn on my how much of an issue even using a generator was until that point. The amount of gas required is pretty amazing and storing anything beyond a few days worth is probably beyond the average person...
I think it is good common sense to keep a couple of weeks to a months worth of food on hand. I need a better water filter, but the one I have will work ok. Blackouts, industrial accidents, crazy weather are not common occurances but it doesn't take much to prepare for them. I could get by for a month no problem during the warmer months, but the middle of winter I need the furnace to run and keep me warm.
I used to have a roommate who was from Uganda. It took her a long time to stop boiling her drinking water. I never acquired her taste for warm beer either!
I do see some sensible items for temporary issues. I was really dismayed by the time frame it took for return to normalcy with the past two or three gulf hurricanes. They really didn't add up in my head. No one can tell me that the resources weren't available. I'll buy that they were not deployed due to costs. This is where I can see the "vital part of the nation's economy" that the gulf coast serves ..as opposed to the routine tourist trade disruption that appears to provide no reserve for its own sake in Florida. I can live without Disney World or the Daytona 500. I can't not be impacted by disruptions in refining capacity ..and for that matter, seafood and whatnot.
We had an odd issue here. We had 3 days of gentle rain. The problem was that it was over such a wide expanse that it took a couple of days for it to reach us at this end of the Schuylkill. I was sitting pool side at the apartment complex that our family life guarded ..all sunny and whatnot ..while Action News choppers were surveying the flooding that was all around us. It was odd watching people empty businesses and homes that were in the flood planes ..while it was the best weather I could imagine. I had cause to hit the rental center in the recovery end of things. There were people screaming for generators and every swinging piece of barely functional power generation equipment was in very high demand.
We have about 2 weeks of ration'able supplies. Canned goods ..tuna ..and about 40 gallons of bottled water.
Our biggest strategic asset is mobility. Most situations are announced in advance. If they end up doing too much damage ..we should be able to ride out the panic stampede and get where the problem isn't unmanageable. Jeeps and winches come in handy if you need to move stuff out of the way that you can't get around or over. We typically have enough fuel on hand and in storage to manage a couple of hundred miles. That should be enough.