A disaster occurs. People have been without power or running water for a week and are now out of food, too. They show up at your house and ask you to share. What do you do?
I have had this article topic in my ‘drafts’ for about 6 months now. It is a touchy subject that I, quite frankly, did not want to touch on due to the controversy that it can cause. Ironically, that is the very reason that I decided to: it is a subject that is unpleasant therefore it needs to be discussed. Learning how to sail a boat during a storm is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Trying to decide what to do in this situation while it is happening can have some negative consequences.
I do not claim to be an expert on any of this stuff. I do, however, have some very strong feelings about it and tend to look at the situation in a black and white, logical manner. Of course, logic will have little to no bearing when you have 5 people at your door, begging for food they think you have to spare (whether you do or not does not matter). So, let’s dive in.
Most preppers or survivalists have thought about this topic and while some have an idea or plan of what they would do, it is hard to really say until you are in the thick of it. Part of preparing is having the skills and plan to deal with the ugly side of humanity who will be knocking on your door. Even if you have 100% solid OPSEC and there isn’t another soul who knows about your 6 month supply of necessities, they will come knocking. Even if you are like us and aren’t ‘preppers’ per se but lean more on the side of homesteading, they will come knocking. Or just break your door in. Are you ready for that?
For those who have tried to talk to people and wake them up to the need to have some food and whatnot set back just in case, only to hear them say, “If something bad happens, I’ll just come to your house.” you need to tell them loud and clear.
“NO, YOU CAN’T COME TO MY HOUSE.”
It doesn’t matter if they are saying it in a joking manner. It doesn’t matter if it will tick them off or offend them. They need to understand that you are serious and that you are not FEMA, the local government, or their parents. Here is a real conversation I had not too long ago about this very topic at my day job. It was with one of the paraprofessionals I know.
THEM: “Well, if it all goes crazy, I will just come to your house since you have all I would need!”
ME: “Uh, no. I don’t think so. That would not be a good move on your part. I don’t have anything for you at my house or anywhere else.”
THEM: “But you just said you are building a 3 month food supply up. That is plenty extra to share.” (It was at this point my temper started to rise. I took a deep breath and kept my calm.)
ME: “You’re right. I am trying to build a 3 month supply of food for TWO people. How long do you think that will last if you and your 3 kids come? Not only that, even if I only had enough extra for two weeks, what makes you think it is acceptable to come to my place and expect me to take care of you and your children with my resources? Resources that I worked for, saved for, and put up.”
THEM: “But we’ve known each other forever. Would you really turn me and my hungry kids away?”
ME: “Yes, yes I would. You acknowledge that there is a need to prepare and yet don’t. You assume that it is OK for you to come to my house and eat up my food and resources without offering anything in return?” (Of course, the smile was gone from their face at this point and they did not look very happy.)
THEM: “Wow… I guess I never expected you to be so greedy.”
ME: “Greedy? How is it being greedy to work, save, and plan for my family to make it through some hard times and not want to just give it away to someone who didn’t take care of their own?”
THEM: “Well, not sharing when others are in need…”
ME: “OK, let me ask you something. I am out of ammo for my .22 rifle. You have some and I want you to share it. You know you can’t get anymore but since I am in need, I think you should give it to me.”
THEM: *Scoffing* “Well, you should have stocked some up like we did! We need it for ourselves.”
ME: *Looks at them…waiting*
THEM: “That is completely different than if my kids were starving.”
ME: “No, it isn’t. You stocked up when you could and now you have supplies. I am stocking food a little at a time so I will have it if needed. It is not my responsibility to prepare for my family and yours. I am not FEMA and I am certainly not the local charity. I worked, I planned, I have. A lack of planning and foresight on your part does not make a responsibility, emergency, or obligation on mine.”
THEM: *Looking at me, slightly aghast that I would be so inhumane and ‘greedy.’*
ME: “You are an able bodied person who can choose to do the same thing I am or you can expect that the government will swoop in and hand over whatever you need in the quantity you are used to. Because, we all saw how well thatworked during Katrina and Sandy. What world do you live in that makes you think that is acceptable? I am not the government, I am not FEMA and I don’t have the supplies you think I do. Why should I be expected to just freely give over what I have to you? How can you even expect that would be a given or normal thing? Do you just hand over what you have to people without expecting anything in return?”
THEM: “Well no but you are talking about the grid being down or some other disaster. People need to help each other get through it.”
ME: “Yes, people do have to help each other to make it. But first, they need to help themselves. I’m not saying that I would be ‘that guy’ who just turns people away on principle. If people are willing to work with me and the group for the betterment of all, then I am right there next to them but the people who just expect you should share without contributing anything or even trying to barter, will not be welcome.”
Needless to say, that person is much less friendly toward me than they used to be. I consider it worth it if they started to think about what I said and began planning for their own family’s needs.
Now consider having this conversation with family members. Your lazy cousin who spends more time trying to get free entitlements from the government than they would if they just got a job. The aunt who lives high and mighty in her huge home worth half a million dollars but only shops for food once a week and never has anything extra. Your siblings who tease you constantly about being a ‘doomsday prepper’ while they go into debt just to get the latest iPhone. All of these people will come to your home when they run out of food (or even before, hoarding what they have but expecting you to share all you have) and other supplies. How will you handle it? There is no perfect answer here. The worst solution you can go with is to just freely let them in because it puts your immediate family in jeopardy of not surviving the disaster.
There are solutions that can be worked out beforehand though! Offering to store supplies for them (if able) is one. Giving them a shopping list of extra stuff to buy here and there and then storing it at your home is a great way to make sure that the people you know will come have been accounted and planned for. Even if it is a little, that is better than nothing! One of the things I have personally done is to buy preparedness items as Christmas and birthday gifts.
Of course, these are only to those I really care about and worry over (or just know in my heart that they will come running if the SHTF). I explain to them what it is and why I am giving it to them. I explain that since they will not listen, the items are their ‘key’ to being let in. They will not come empty handed and will contribute to the group overall. They were very grateful actually. More than one commented about how it was kind to think of their emergency needs and supplies. I would like to believe that people will band together and do whatever they can to help each other and there will certainly be that….at first. When your 3 year old is so hungry that they don’t even cry for food anymore and just stare with a dull, blank look – what would YOU do? That’s right, whatever it took.
There is a large risk with any of the above suggestions, of course. It is likely that these people will tell others “I have 20 pounds of rice and beans stored at my cousin’s house in case of a disaster.” That causes less security for not only them but you as well. The people they told will show up either with them or alone, and when you tell them you have nothing for them, will say, “But so and so told me you have all this food.” When you tell them no again, they will likely get ticked off and come back with more people to take what you may or may not have. You could be telling the truth when you say you have nothing left but hungry people aren’t thinking logically. They will not believe you (or care) and are bent on getting inside to take whatever they believe you have. It is really easy for people to be generous with supplies they took from someone else (or were given by the government).
I find myself getting hardened to the prevalent mindset of people today. Particularly those who only consume and do not create or contribute. They don’t try to learn how to preserve food or provide for themselves at all, only consume. What really gets me is the people on food stamps who spend a fortune on steak and lobster dinners but refuse to get a 20# bag of rice, beans, and oats to make sure they have enough food in a bad situation (like when there are no more food stamps accepted or the stores are wiped clean). Now, before you get all twisted and think I am getting down on people who use food stamps, just stop right there. I use it to make a point of how people these days focus primarily on the now and never consider the later because there will be more on the card the next month.
The majority of the population never considers that during martial law, stores can and likely will be shut down completely. In a large disaster, there may be no 911 to call. No police will come to your rescue when hungry mobs are breaking into your house to take the last grains of rice. Law officials will be either dealing with something else or taking care of their own family. If the power goes out for a long time, say goodbye to having clean, running water.
When people get desperate enough, they will go out looking for whatever they can find. That sweet teenager who helps mow your lawn every summer could turn into a gun toting looter if hungry and desperate enough. We here in America are so used to seeing these things happen on TV and in ‘other places’ that they couldn’t possibly fathom it actually happening here and to them.
And that is their first mistake.