Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
It would be nice if the success or failure of our preparedness group was able to be chalked up only to those within our inner circles. The people by whom you’re surrounded can strongly affect the outcome of an event, as many of us have discovered during the COVID-19 lockdowns taking place all over the world.
And now, many of us are realizing that there’s also a lot to learn about the folks just outside our inner circles: our neighbors, our co-workers, our extended families, and other communities in which we’re involved like churches or schools.
Behavior outside of the group.
While our connections with these people aren’t as intimate as those within our groups, in some cases they can still threaten an otherwise solid survival plan. Some of the people described below may sound familiar after weeks of movement restriction.
- The people you warned for months if not years that they needed to put some food aside, make arrangements for their prescriptions, and buy some extra toilet paper and soap.
- Folks who know more than you now wish they did about your pantry and who’ve made it clear that they think it’s “greedy” that your family has so much while others have so little
- People we used to really like boasting on Facebook how they snitched on somebody for some innocuous thing they felt flouted the “rules”
- Neighbors taking a sudden and noticeable interest in your garden or your chickens
- People in the neighborhood who are no longer working and now just sit on their porch all day and closely watch what everyone else is doing – including people unloading supplies from their cars into their homes
- The nosy neighbor who demands that everything be “fair” and wants to take a tally of anything – people, water, supplies, guns, you name it.
- That guy down the street you never liked in the first place who is becoming even more unlikeable by promoting himself as some kind of neighborhood watch king, handing out unsolicited advice and warnings, or maybe trying to set up “rules” by which he expects everyone else to abide
- The people who are moving closer and closer to overstepping the boundaries of civil behavior – they’re doing small things dropping their trash in your yard or blatantly looking inside the windows of your car – but it’s an escalation
- The co-worker who asks way more questions about your preparedness level than is really appropriate
- The community group (church, social club, volunteer organization) that wants donations or participation in a way that is likely to threaten your OPSEC (operational security – more on that later)
You know the ones. They’re trying to get just a little too close for comfort. We’ve probably all seen somebody over this period of time and thought, “Yeah, I’m going to have to watch that guy.”
If the situation were to worsen, you would indeed have to watch that guy.
Identify “who” your neighbors and coworkers are
The people around you can be beneficial, neutral, or a threat. It’s best to determine which one they are as early as possible in an emergency.
A beneficial person will have supplies or skills or just plain manual labor to trade for any assistance. These are the folks who don’t feel entitled to a handout and most of the time, they’d prefer not to owe other people a favor. Remember that “beneficial” can mean different things at different times. Right now, things aren’t too crazy so making a deal with a well-armed neighbor to help you with security may seem unrealistic. But later on, that well-armed neighbor may be just the person you want on your side. Think ahead.
A neutral person is just about as gray as you are. They may not be of much assistance but they’re also not a direct threat. This might be the elderly woman across the street, the coworker who keeps to himself and minds his own business, or a member of your church community with whom you simply have little in common. It doesn’t mean they’re bad and it doesn’t mean they’re good. It could go either way but they may be harmless. Keep an eye on neutral people and stay gray yourself.
A threat is exactly what it sounds like. A threat can range from a belligerent drunk to a group of teen thugs to a neighborhood busybody who is involving herself in everyone’s business. A threat might also be more low-key – it might be the guy down the road who watches your daughter a little too closely or the snitch who peeks through the curtains right before the cops roll up every single time. Avoid the threat, but watch them. Watch them carefully. If you’re good at reading people, you’ll often be able to catch some hints before they escalate.
Don’t get too comfortable with the original classification – if someone who you thought was beneficial begins to behave like a threat, believe what you’re seeing. Don’t stick stubbornly to your initial impression.
Some people are just scared.
Some of the folks described above aren’t deliberately malicious. They’re realizing too late that they should have been better prepared, so they want to get closer to those who got ready ahead of time.
Most of their actions are ruled by fear.
They may become inadvertent threats if they become more desperate as time goes on. They may outright ask for some eggs, some toilet paper, a cup of sugar for whatever they’re baking. And your response is like a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. If you help them out, they may expect you to continue doing so. If you do not help them out, they may get angry and talk to others about your “selfishness.” The next thing you know, you have an assortment of angry people pounding on your door.
It’s up to you how you handle this, but I strongly suggest you do it in a manner that discourages future requests.
- “Yeah, I can spare a couple of eggs now, but pretty soon, we’re going to be eating omelets morning, noon, and night. I can’t believe how the store is out of everything. I haven’t had a full grocery cart during my last three trips.”
- Another option is to offer a trade – “You know, I am out of flour. I’d be happy to trade some eggs for some flour.”
- And finally, you could say, “I’m sorry, we are nearly out of TP ourselves. But I’d be happy to pick some up for you the next time I’m at the store if I can find any.”
Those are just a few possibilities. If you can offer help in a way that doesn’t put you at risk, it won’t hurt to do so. Building rapport among neighbors is always a good idea.
How to help others without putting yourself at risk
If you’re like me, helping others is something that is ingrained. It feels wrong not to help when people are struggling and we’re doing okay thanks to an emergency fund and a stockpile. Here are a few ways you can help without putting yourself at risk.
Shop for others. If you can safely go out and about to hit the grocery store or pharmacy, considering picking up supplies for somebody who can’t. You can shop for a neighbor with immune system issues more than once during this outbreak.
Pick up something at the store to donate. Our local grocery stores have donation bins that go right to the local food bank. You can buy some extra items for the donation bin without pulling from your own stockpile.
Check on other people. If you have a neighbor or coworker who lives alone, give them a call or send an email to see how they’re doing. They may appreciate the contact during this lonely time.
Donate to a charity. If your church is helping others, make arrangements to quietly donate some supplies. Stress that you want your donation to be anonymous. Some foodbanks are taking cash or online financial donations. Stay distant and anonymous when you make donations.
Prepare a meal for someone. If there’s a family in your neighborhood who is going through a rough time, consider taking over a pot of chili or a casserole to provide them with a warm meal, letting them know you made too much. Keep in mind, some people may not be comfortable taking food during a pandemic while others will welcome it.
Cut the grass. While you’re out mowing your lawn, if you notice your neighbor’s grass hasn’t been mowed in ages, take the time to pop over and take care of it for them. They may be ill or scared to come out and do it for themselves.
These are just a few ways you may be able to help people out without putting your own family at risk.
Understand that some folks are legitimately bad people.
Some people just aren’t good. In fact, you could run into people who are bad simply because they enjoy it. In his book, SHTF Survival Stories, Selco wrote:
When the SHTF, a whole bunch of weird and sick folks emerged. The point is that you never know what kind of people are living around you, or even with you.
And to make things worse, as I said, this guy was something like “normal” guy before SHTF.
Besides those normal guys who turned bad, there is a whole army of scum and criminals who are just waiting for the SHTF to happen, so they can go out and be something like small dictators.
You can be sure that they are perfectly prepared for that. They already live in their own version of criminal SHTF, with their rules. When real SHTF they gonna be ready for it, they just gonna jump out fully organized and ready to take over. They are gonna go open and be very mean.
I was surprised, though. I was like, “Why are there so many mean and bad folks suddenly?”
The answer is actually simple. Bad people are all around us. Some of them are aware of the fact that they are bad like organized crime members, gangs etc. Others are gonna see SHTF like their chance to fulfill their secret wishes and indulge in power over others.
So, no doubt once the SHTF you’ll run into a bad man from time to time, too. (source)
It’s even worse if that bad man is your neighbor or co-worker.
How to deal with trouble from outside the group
It’s a totally different ball of wax when you’re dealing with people outside of your preparedness group. These may be people you’re friendly with but not necessarily people you love. This changes the rules. Still, keep the motivators I mentioned in the article about people in your preparedness group in mind when dealing with others. Someone who is normally kind but now behaving terribly may be scared, grieving, or depressed. If you can help them safely without exposing your family to trouble, this may be something you’ll want to do.
Here are some of the people to look out for during a crisis.
There’s nearly always someone who wants to take upon themselves the mantle of neighborhood leader. If they want that mantle then it’s quite possible that they won’t be the best leader. They aren’t necessarily bad people but they can make your life a living hell. Today, they’re calling to snitch on someone walking their dog for not social distancing properly. Tomorrow, they’re riling up the neighbors because they saw another family setting up a barbecue in the backyard while everybody else is going hungry.
Try not to share too much information with the busybodies, as they often want to dole things (your things) out fairly among the neighborhood. Be careful not to provide them with any knowledge that might make your house the target of a hungry, angry neighborhood mob with the busybody in the lead, holding the biggest pitchfork.
The busybodies are to be avoided as much as possible, but some of them are darned determined. There are two ways to handle that. You can be gray and act as though you’re as destitute and hungry as everyone else, or you may have to be a bit more harsh with a person who is overly pushy.
Kids right now are bored stiff and boredom can lead to unbecoming behavior – even in our own kids. If there is a group of young people in your neighborhood rebelling against the rules, it may be a simple matter of them feeling constrained. They may be content to just ignore social distancing rules.
Alternatively, they may push things further. You could wake up to find your garden vandalized, your car windows smashed in, and empty beer bottles all over your yard. Your options are few – you can talk to their parents if you are certain of who did it, or you can sit outside on your porch, waiting to shine a big spotlight at them.
The young offenders may be harmless or they may destroy important property. Identify them early on. If you can afford it and do so without letting them see the extent of your preparations, offer them some work like cutting your grass in the front yard. If they’re destructive, you may have to take turns standing watch to scare them off before they damage something.
The bad people
Other people, as described above, are just not nice people. They’re the ones who may already be criminals or the ones who would be criminals if they weren’t worried about getting caught. These are the people you really have to keep an eye on. They may be out to get your supplies or out to get your family members for all sorts of illicit purposes.
Contrary to popular belief not all criminal types are stupid. They may be sizing you up exactly like you’re sizing them up. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security due to familiarity. Be prepared should they arrive at your door unexpectedly. Pay attention so that you recognize all the folks who come and go from that person’s place – including spouses and children. Often these are the folks who are the first to act out when things go sideways. Other times, they seem to be teaming up with the busybodies.
Take a few precautions.
Make your home as secure as possible and have a plan for securing it further if things get worse. Prevention is better than defense every single time. Consider some of the following precautions.
Keep your blinds shut. Make sure people walking past can’t peek into your house at night. Keep your blinds closed and curtains drawn. Nobody needs to see what you’ve got in your house.
Hide your supplies. We try not to tempt fate so our supplies are well hidden away even inside our home. We keep normal things in the kitchen and have our big stash elsewhere in the apartment.
Don’t let people watch you bring in purchases. We pull our car around to the back of the house at night to unload purchases. If you’re obvious about the fact that you’re well-stocked, even the nicest neighbor will come sniffing around when they’re desperate.
Don’t answer the door. Remember, lockdown gives you the perfect excuse not to open your door to anyone. If you respond to someone knocking you can let them know there could be a sick person in your home so you can’t open the door. Most home invasions start with a knock at the door. Then the invaders overpower the person and burst inside.
Harden your home. Have some plywood on hand for ground floor windows and be ready to use it if things get bad. A bar across the door can make it very difficult to break into. Spotlights can be pointed to entrances for convenience now and then directed away from your home to light up potential intruders while keeping you in the dark later. Lock your doors and lock your gates. People may still get through but every second you slow them down is a second for you to grab your weapon and get vulnerable family members to safety.
It’s almost always better to avoid the fight than to engage in it.
No, this isn’t me being cowardly. Remember, criminals often have criminal friends or relatives, so you may not be done after dealing with the main offender. Others may follow for payback. (This is something Selco discusses in this book and that Jose wrote about in this article.) Treat an altercation as the beginning, not the ending, of your trouble with the criminal. A firearm is incredibly important during times like this.
Make sure that all your family members know what to do in the event of a home invasion. Some family members may be ready and willing to engage, while others may need to get to a safe room to get out of the way. This article has detailed instructions on how to create a safe room in your home or apartment.
We aren’t currently in a situation in which the police are not responding to violent crimes, although in some larger cities police responses are extremely slow or non-existent as more and more first responders become ill. If we reach the point when the justice system is no longer operating, it will be up to use to keep our families safe from the people who want to do them harm.
Have you noticed anyone who seems like trouble?
We’ve got some neighbors across the street I have my eye on. They have older teens who were caught trying to break into another neighbor’s car and the entire family is generally disrespectful of others, honking horns and playing loud music late at night. Hopefully, they’re just boisterous, but it pays to be watchful.
During the COVID-19 response period, have you experienced anyone who makes you uncomfortable? Were they merely unprepared or were they aggressive? Are there any people you plan to keep a close eye on while times are difficult? Share your insights in the comments below.
Daisy Luther writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.