Preparedness allows you to live and perhaps even thrive within a disaster-ridden environment, but it can be tough going if you are alone or in a small group. There will likely be others, lacking in supplies but not immediately given over to looting and destruction who you could assist and thereby gain their assistance. However, if you take it upon yourself to become a mini relief group you will also have to deal with the potential negatives of assisting desperate people. Let’s look into how you can assist people and maintain order without putting you and yours into a risky situation.
Before you begin, know what you’re willing to do.
Much like when you’re starting a medical procedure with limited supplies, you have to know how much assistance you’re willing to give and who you’ll give it to. Even if you live in a tiny town with a few hundred people within a 10 mile radius, that is most likely far more than you’d be able to support with whatever supplies you’ve managed to cobble together so you’re going to have to make some decisions.
Here are a few examples from my personal philosophy in this regard:
- Trade rather than give charity whenever possible. It may seem cruel in some ways (are you really going to force your neighbor to ransom his family’s life with the wood in his shed or a few boxes of nails?) but it puts both groups in the proper mindset. Charity encourages dependency or even an attitude of entitlement, while trade and barter put each group on fairly equal footing with each giving value to the other. If I wanted to help someone but they lacked goods, I might also trade them for their time since I can imagine a thousand projects that need nothing more than a strong back!
- Remembering that “honest” people can change during a disaster, try to give primarily to hardworking and trustworthy people. Unless major help is coming very soon you may well be the only “charity” running, meaning that you will not have the ability to feed every helpless soul that you come across for more than a day or two. As such, focusing resources on those who will use what you give/trade to bring additional order and productivity to the local area provides maximum benefit to you and everyone else nearby.
- Try to give a means of supporting themselves over endless trading or charity. Some seeds and a few extra tools give a helpless homeowner the ability to turn his lawn into a productive garden and feed himself. Not only does this reduce a perpetual drain on resources, but it gives that person/household a reason to stay civil. A producer wants things to stay peaceful so that their precious livestock/gardens/fruit trees aren’t harmed and they produce all the food possible.
- There are reasons why I might stop giving charity or cease trading even if it leaves those people destitute. Resources will be scarce, even for preppers and the lazy, the thieves, and other destructive people cannot be allowed to eat up resources that need to go to the folks who will actually bring civilization and production back.
- Ammunition and Weapons are high-risk trade items, and should only be dispensed at greatest need. I never want to be shot with my own stuff, and unfortunately arming desperate people can give them ideas. If you have a truly trustworthy neighbor who can assist you or someone like that you may want to consider handing over some ammo, but otherwise don’t make it available.
And so on. The main thing is to know your limits, and know them well, before you start handing out goods. You’ll be in a highly emotional situation and you’ll need to know what you can and cannot do.
Know the dangers
Strange as it may seem, helping others may well be more dangerous than hoarding all your wealth in many situations. Sadly, there are many situations where desperate people simply lose their minds when they see food or water being distributed. This can manifest in several ways depending on the level of desperation and the temperament of the individual. Some will simply make note of who brought some goods for trade and otherwise behave fairly honestly. Others with less patience may draw on you when you roll up and demand everything you have. Still others (particularly those who know where you live) may take your goods…then show up specifically to loot or straight up destroy all the stuff you have. Bizarre though it may seem, sheer jealously will drive desperate people to destroy guarded storehouses of food simply because they don’t have any.
As such, there are some steps to take before heading out:
- Engage with families or groups rather than setting up in a public place. At least then you are on somewhat more even ground and they have a greater interest in keeping your visit secret. You’re visiting them and a few others, not the whole friggin’ neighborhood, so they are less likely to go blabbing to everyone else!
- Bring very few goods, and minimize extras. You do not want to look like a Red Cross truck rolling in with 30,000 bottles of water. You want to be a guy who really, really, really has to have this item and is willing to trade a few water bottles or a small pail of food for it. You’re a poor man trading precious things with another poor man, not Richie Rich. If you can, sell things that are numbered (i.e. have 3 pails labeled “day 1, 2, 3″) to give the impression of minimal stock.
- Plan your route to disguise where you are from. Obviously this isn’t going to work with neighbors, but people just a few blocks down might not know you from Adam. Come from “out of town” directions instead, and leave in a way that points away from your home. Keep an eye out for stalkers and the like, and don’t tolerate people trying to dig out where you’re from.
- Come in force, be ready to defend yourself. Even if this is the 10th visit, always have a few lookouts whose whole job is to guard you on your trip. If you’re alone you’re in a much more dangerous situation so minimize trading at all in that case. Regardless, have a weapon at the ready (make it obvious or keep it hidden as circumstances and norms will dictate) and be properly paranoid. It’s better to be a little jittery than it is to be shot in the back because you thought everyone was friendly now.
If you keep these few tips in mind you will still be able to assist others without putting yourself in much danger. Hopefully you’ll help build the community or gain some allies!