Two Letters Re: How to Reply to “When the SHTF, I’m Going Over to Your House”, by Rolf in the Northwest

[In reply to Matt’s comments on Rolf’s original letter:] There are a lot of examples to illustrate why each person needs their own disaster preps, and the “insurance” example (“why should your fire
insurance pay for my house burning down, or vice-versa?”) is a good one.
Another is the “personalization” aspect: “Sorry, I’m a single guy; I doubt I’d stock your wife’s brand of feminine protection.” But people tend to think of “disaster preparations” as special or different in some way, because they are not “normal accidents,” and most people have a very hard time thinking outside a fairly narrow range of “normal events.”
Because an “emergency” is outside the “normal” range of events, people will tend to react to thoughts about disasters emotionally, not
intellectually, because that is what people do when dealing with things that they have not trained for (which is why you keep hearing “practice, practice, practice!”). By definition, people reacting emotionally are not acting rationally or thoughtfully, even when they by chance do something right.
If someone starts acting in any way belligerent, and says they are coming over in spite of your saying or implying that they may not be welcome, it might not be the best thing you can do to say something that they might interpret as a threat. Saying you also stock up on ammo has several problems: it scares them by being a veiled threat to their lives or security, which will make them even more irrational and reactionary; it puts you into that “loon with guns” category; it turns them off to being prepared themselves for a lot of reasons, including “we don’t want to be like that
survivalist nut that threatened us!”; lastly, it’s telling them that if they ever do come over, they need to gang up and be sneaky about it (giving them a tactical advantage). You normally want to avoid give a potentially shooting-war enemy any kind of info on how to best take you out. Obviously there might be situations where it would “shut them up,” but it may not get them on the path to independence; it may just make them think they are helpless, and vote for more government programs (and we know how great those are….)
A better approach might be to ask “well, what if when you come over you are the fifth in a line of families who also came over, and they don’t want to share, or there isn’t any left? Or, what if I move away for a new job and the disaster hits the following week? Then what?” You are putting the threat of them starving, or freezing, or whatever into a neutral frame of reference, where you are not the threat, the situation or some unnamed third party is. It is imperative to keep it neutral, so they can think rationally rather than emotionally or defensively, and they don’t think of you as the
enemy, but think of the disaster situation as the enemy. Stress that independence is the goal, and anything that makes them dependant on you hurts both if something bad happens to you.
If they say or imply that they would be willing and able to take your preparation supplies by force (saying “I’ve got guns, you have food. By the end of the day I’ll have both” for example), that’s a whole different turn of events. They have just declared to the world that they are a sociopath, a looter in waiting, with means and motive to attack you in a disaster situation. If you have stocked up on ammo (of course you have, right?), don’t make it a pissing match about who has more or better stuff; a simple “there are likely easier targets you might want to try to take ammo from
than my neighborhood, unless you are really good at detecting booby-traps and dodging lead bumble-bees from multiple directions” puts it terms that they will likely understand. It’s vague enough to not get you into trouble, but implies a lot of things they might take to heart, even if you don’t currently have any booby-trap plans, and you are the only one in the cul-de-sac with a gun and thorough disaster plans. Then immediately leave or kick them out; don’t hang around for them to gather more info about you. Always keep it civil, polite, and neutral. There is no benefit in making enemies; winning friends, expanding your mutual-assistance and mutual-defense circles are the goal, and you cannot do that making threats (direct or veiled), scaring people, insulting people, or making them angry or confused. Once they are onboard with the idea, then you can get into details. – Rolf


I call this the uninvited or self-inviting neighbor/friend problem. “When the SHTF, I’m coming to your house” seems harmless and innocuous, but at the same time, the person who says this is probably testing the waters with you, just to see what your reply is. If you just let it go, he and his family probably will show up, empty handed, at your door one day. I suggest a playful come-back like: “Well, actually I sell tickets for that, $500 a head in advance, renewable each year, same price, or $10,000 per personal at the door, cash only, no-refunds if the World does not end”. This puts the ball playfully back in his court, half jokingly, but makes the cost issue involved clear.

I would like to expand a little on this topic, as to the morality of this highly uncomfortable issue, as I think every survivalist must consider it before TSHTF. Since, the early 1960s in the US, the unprepared neighbor knocking on your bomb shelter door, when nuclear war looks imminent, is a common, and even favorite question for college philosophy and ethics students. Your answer of course depends on several facts, and also the standards you use, or the philosophy/religion you chose (the rules you apply) to find the answer. In real life this can be a delicate and dangerous situation. Television shows such as The Twilight Zone and even The Simpsons have addressed it, in both cases it being a false alarm, and people are left feeling pretty bad as to how they behaved. Keep the false alarm issue (facing your neighbor later after your turned him away), and what can happen in the heat of the moment in mind. Be diplomatic. In decided how you are going to handle this, I would like to offer a few thoughts and standards to consider:

Utilitarianism – is usually the simplest and easiest one to start with, the greatest good for the greatest people, simple concept. This is the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few,
however, if by helping the many, you risk the lives of the few, any everyone, you have to step back and re-adjust your thinking don’t you. Often then people then put in the additional rules, help the many if it doesn’t kill anyone, or risk killing anyone, or adversely affect the few, etc. Thus this philosophy goes is often added on to with these caveats, and it’s really up to your and your beliefs as to where you drawer certain lines and exceptions.

Triage – this a painfully pragmatic concept in healthcare treatment, which basically says you treat the most critically injured first, unless they are unlikely to survive. This commonly accepted philosophy tells healthcare professionals, that in situations of crisis, with limited resources, you are in going to have to ignore the people you probably can’t save, and focus on those you can, only, in order starting with the worst off.

The Law – Legally speaking, in the USA at least, you do not owe a duty to your help you “fellow man”. If you walk by a guy having a heart attack and ignore him, you have broken no actual law. Are you a jerk for not doing something? Most would probably say yes, especially if you are trained or have a cell phone, but this doesn’t make you a criminal. (BTW, some medical training, including EMT in some states does obligate you). However, you are legally responsible for your minor children, so legally their health and welfare can be a legal basis for your decision making. This is often called “Best interests of the children” and it almost always trumps everything else in Court. Look at politicians, it’s always “for the children” (even when the teachers go on strike, right?)

The Charity Issue
(religiously based or just moral ) – my suggestion here is that 10% is a nice percentage for charity, and is historically supported. So – if you think you must or should provide charity, I suggest you set aside 10% of your supplies and call that Charity. Otherwise, you get on a slippery slope to not having the 90% that is yours after all. Remember that there is also another option to charity: wages. If they are already outside, they might work for food – and do some basic stuff, chores, scouting, etc. to earn food. Remember that option.
Rational discussions with people, especially friends and family who show up after – remember, if days after people knocking on your door the are in bad shape, hungry and thirsty, overtired, sick, suffering, – they are not in a state for a rational discussion of fairness at that point. You might consider giving them a meal, and some basic stuff, maybe get some sleep, and once they have themselves together, you can have a conversation about this.
Not a time for socialism – Here is a fear of mine when it comes to really nice people who are survivalists – they let in a regular used car salesman type neighbor and his family, and the family on the other side. Pretty soon the fast talking neighbor decides that they should form a “democracy” to determine who is in charge in your retreat, and how the food and supplies are split – “fairly”. This is the type that would probably cut a secret deal with the other neighbor too. Never lose sight of the fact that it is your stuff. Your stuff is not up for re-distribution. Remember the new golden rule. Those who have the gold make the rules. Not very Christian? Well , I disagree, you can, and I think should, give charitably, but that most certainly does not mean surrendering to others and becoming an indigent in short time yourself, and more so, putting your family in that situation.
Finally, let us also admit here that letting people you our retreat/home/bunker can be dangerous. We all must sleep, and are vulnerable when we do. The very last thing you want to do is wake up to someone holding your gun on you. Consider security, be charitable, but guarded, especially as to whom you grant your trust. – Rourke