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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Doorstep Problem

end of the world: two blocksImage by Anthony Citrano via Flickr
"If the world ends, I'm coming to your place!"

We've probably all heard some variation of the above before. Family and friends who plan to show up on your doorstep when the stuff splatters on the fan. I like to call this the "doorstep problem."

In some ways, I suppose having this problem is a compliment--family/friends recognize that we're prepared, they aren't, and they'll need to rely on you in a bad situation. But really, how to respond to this? Let them use up your limited preps, eat you out of house and home? Turn them away?

Well, we're all about being prepared before trouble hits, so the doorstep problem something we need to think through and prepare before trouble hits. If TSHTF and your lazy, unprepared extended family member X shows up on your doorstep, you should have your course of action thought through and prepared beforehand.

The way I see it, there are three possible strategies for address the doorstep problem: leave them hanging, plan to support them or convert them to prepping.

Leave 'em Hanging
This is a pretty cold way to be, and likely to not be viable unless you're a cold heart or particularly dislike your relatives/friends. Basically, you plan, on purpose, NOT to help anyone out when TEOTWAWKI strikes. Not just the random refugees, but even your family, friends--anyone. You've got preps for your family and that's it.

Some survivalists "soften" this approach by flying under the radar. They pretend to be just as unprepared as everyone else and prep in secrecy -  generally a wise strategy anyways - and keep everyone not in your immediate family or survival group oblivious to your supplies. They avoid the "I'm coming to your place!" but will face the same decisions in the end--to help or not.

Others let friends/family know about their preps but make it very clear that they've only stored away enough for your family and there will be NO handouts after TEOTWAWKI. They say things like "I don't care who it is, I'm not going to give away my limited resources  to people who were too foolish to prepare for themselves."

Either way, you'll be confronted with the problem of helping these people out if TSHTF. It could be they show up on your doorstep after TEOTWAWKI, despite the warnings that you've got nothing for them. Or, if you've managed to keep your preps a secret--and can keep them a secret during a disaster-- you will have to sit by, doing nothing while your friends/family suffer, starve, remain in danger, or whatever. Both are pretty cold hearted, and you might be able to live with it, but you need to make sure your immediate family is on the same page. Will your wife be able to turn away her brother, sister, best friend--parents? Will you? Probably not.

And hey, if things are desperate, they probably won't leave. You're a starving refugee on your brother's or best friend's doorstep, and you know they've got food, water, guns and ammo, etc. Are you going to give up and head to the Superdome, or bang on the door, shout, complain--heck, maybe try to force your way in and try to talk some sense into 'em? As the prepared person in this scenario, looking to turn your unprepared loved one away, you may need to be ready to do so at gunpoint.

Aside from taking a cold heart, turning away friends and family is just not the smart strategic choice. With a few exceptions, friends and family are an important asset - more manpower, experience, expertise, skills, and people to watch your back and look out for you in a fight. You can't be everywhere at once, stay awake 24/7 and have every possible skill. These are people you already know and trust. You'll need all of the help you can get to survive and keep ahead of the goblins and zombie biker gangs out there. Not utilizing that asset--turning it away--is just plain foolish.

Plan to Support Them
In this strategy, you accept the fact that your family and friends won't prepare and will look to you when TEOTWAWKI comes. You prepare accordingly, storing away additional food, water, guns and gear for them to use. When they show up, you can feed 'em and put them to work.

This communal approach to survival may be more expensive, but it also enables you to capitalize on the extra manpower and expertise that more people can provide, and it also acknowledges the fact that you will have to accommodate them anyways.

Cover your family's survival bases first, and then look to build up your supplies to accommodate your "doorstep crew." This doesn't need to be top of the line stuff--they're handouts, so make them cheap but durable and functional.

For food, add in more buckets of bulk staples. For gear, buy used, army surplus or keep around old stuff that you've replaced and upgraded. For guns--well, many survivalists that I know have gun safes packed to the brim. They could outfit a small army without too much trouble. If you're not in that group and looking for low-cost "handout" guns, I'd pick from .22 rifles, Mosin Nagants and inexpensive pump shotguns. Plus several hundred rounds of ammo for each, plus some basic support gear, which could be as minimal as a satchel of some kind.

Aside from conventional survival supplies, think through the logistical and community-building aspects. Where will new comers sleep? How will you divide work? Make decisions? In a pandemic scenario, do you quarantine them? How? How can your little community thrive and stay ahead of competing/combative groups?

You should also make it clear to friends and family that if they show up at your house looking for help, you're going to be in charge and you're going to put them to work. No free rides. Set the expectations beforehand.


Finally, few people--even unprepared ones--are totally useless. People have some kind of interest, asset or skill that you can capitalize on in a disaster scenario. Encourage your doorstep crew to bring that along with them if disaster strikes. So "yes, you can show up here, and we'll share our food with you, but I'm going to put you to work, and I want you to bring your welding gear/guns/attack gerbils/ATVs/whatever with you." Get whatever value you can out of them in exchange for the security you'd offer.

Convert them to Prepping
This is kind of the "ideal," but also the most difficult to achieve for unmotivated friends/family. It's hard because getting someone to go from being an unprepared sheeple to a self sufficient sheep dog is a big change of attitude and behavior. But that behavior change starts with something simpler, a change in belief. If you want to get someone to prepare for themselves, you've got to get them to believe that they need to.


In my experience, if a friend/family member has zero preps and the "doorstep" attitude, they probably believe something like the following:
  1. Nothing really bad will ever happen and there's no need to have food storage, survival gear, etc.
  2. Even though I think something bad could happen, I can't afford/don't have time to do anything about it.
  3. If something bad DID happen, I have my good ol' buddy/relative, the police, the government, etc. to depend on.
WE can see through this reasoning pretty easily, and honestly, most people that I've known can too. Most people, deep down, feel some desire to be quasi-prepared for hard times. But they use the above reasoning to rationalize that feeling away.

"That will never happen" or "that could never happen here/to me" is the most prevalent, and often tied with "you're paranoid to think something like that COULD happen!" Of course, the news provides us with all kinds of great opportunities to point out the crappy things happening to people around the planet. Sometimes the doom and gloom approach works--opening peoples eyes to the fragility of society and all of the horrible things that happen can be a powerful and necessary thing.

Other times, the doom-and-gloom approach just doesn't work. Yep, you can point out all of the bad things out there, but again, they can say that it won't happen to them, they can't afford it, whatever. So, you have to be able to take alternate routes to change those beliefs. Here's a few ideas:
  • "It's your responsibility as a man/father/woman/mother to be able to take care of yourself."
  • "It's practical to have an emergency fund, food storage and a firearm for home defense. Use examples of how they've come in handy in your life or provided peace of mind."
  • Get them interested in something peripherally related to preparedness. Canning, sewing, hunting, fishing, shooting, reloading, camping, hiking, martial arts, knitting, mechanics, personal finances, whatever. 
  • Give prep-related gifts, especially those that can influence their beliefs and attitudes vs. getting put in a closet. EDC gear (that they will carry) is also a good belief changer--learning from experience that it's good to be prepared.
  • Discuss the economic benefits of preparing, mention great deals you've gotten, etc. Persuade them that they can afford to prep/it will save them money.
  • Along with the above, share survival related media with them. It gets the conversation going and can open people's minds. Books are good, but they can be overwhelming or too doomy-gloomy (Patriots is a good example here). Movies and TV shows are usually more approachable.
  • There's a variety of religious motivators for preparing, too, though scripture alone isn't enough to motivate many.
If you can convert someone over to the prepper ways, you've won the battle. If they show up on your doorstep post-SHTF, they'll be a valuable allies to your group, able to provide for themselves and pull their own weight.

A Combination Approach
Life is generally not as clear cut as we'd like it to be, and addressing the "doorstep" problem is the same way. You will probably have to use all three strategies as you deal with this problem.

There will be people you'll have to turn away--the neighbors, Bob from the accounting department, etc. Think that tough decision through beforehand, but realize that there will be some people you just won't be able to send packing.

You should prepare handouts and extra supplies for those who you do take in, so that you're able to take full advantage of the benefit additional people can provide. Take care of the needs of your immediate family first and then make inexpensive preps in this area.

As you can, motivate your "doorstep" contingent to prepare--work on changing their beliefs about preparing and surviving. Take multiple approaches as needed and work to motivate them to be able to take care of themselves in a disaster. Turn them into valuable allies.

"I'm coming to your place!" is a big concern and headache for many survivalists, and needs to be handled with thought and care. But, if handled well, you can capitalize on the manpower and skills bring to the table, and hopefully convert a few into well-prepared allies along the way!