If you’re checking the perimeter and you see three or four armed men cutting the fence, there’s a clear threat. In that situation, opening fire is an option you’re going to have to consider in a hurry. But it’s not always going to be so clear-cut.
What if a woman with a couple of young kids, all three of them looking tired and hungry, turn up at your door asking if you can spare them a meal? Are you really going to shoot them on sight?
Your best security as a prepper is to be unobtrusive. If nobody knows you’re prepared they’re not going to assume you have food supplies. It’s hard to hide all your preparations, though. Unless your home is isolated people are probably going to notice that you’re not in the same state as everyone else. The sound of a generator, lights on at night when most homes are blacked out, or the sight of livestock, vegetable patches or orchards – these will all reveal that you’re doing a good job of surviving. That’s likely to attract hungry people. Then there are likely to be others who’re desperate enough that they’ll knock at any door in search of food. The chances of you getting through the aftermath of a crisis without someone asking you for help are slim.
The question is, what are you going to do when it happens? You can’t help everyone that needs it. No matter how much you’ve stockpiled, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to how much food the unprepared millions are going to need. If you share out all you have you might keep a couple of hundred people going for a day or two, but after that you – and they – will be hungry again. Your top priority has to be preserving your supplies for you and your family – and other people might be a threat to that.
Desperate people can be dangerous, and some of them, if they get the idea you have a store of food, will try to take it from you. Any time you meet refugees or scavengers you have to be prepared for it to turn violent. Keep your weapon ready to go, stay close to cover and have overwatch if you can arrange it.
Most encounters won’t turn violent, though. The majority of people are either going to accept that you can’t help them or you can turn them away, firmly but peacefully. Generally there’s no reason to start shooting.
What about taking a proactive approach and opening fire as soon as anyone enters – even approaches – your property? Well, it definitely means nobody’s going to be knocking on your door asking for food. On the other hand it’s probably going to create a lot more problems than it solves.
First, if you start shooting at people, anyone else in their group or the general area is going to think you have something worth protecting. That’s just inviting them to band together, grab some guns and try to over-run you. They might succeed – and even if they don’t it’s going to cost you ammunition, possibly leave you damage and casualties to deal with, and likely attract even more attention you don’t need.
Secondly, there’s the law to think of. The crisis might not be permanent; law and order could be restored at some point. If that happens, and you’ve spent the last year shooting everyone who stepped into your drive, questions are going to get asked. Castle or stand your ground laws might protect you, but there’s no guarantee; you could end up spending a lot of money – not to mention jail time – before you clear your name.
The chances are you also want to keep living in your home once the crisis is over. That’s not going to be a lot of fun if you’ve gained a reputation as the guy who shot at refugees, or maybe even your neighbors.
Finally, if you start killing people, there’s the prospect of a revenge attack. If your conflict is with looters that’s always likely anyway, but by shooting first and asking questions later you raise the risk of provoking more law-abiding people into coming for you. As one comment on our last post pointed out, there are a lot of combat vets in the USA these days. If you shoot someone who just wanted to ask you for food, and half a dozen of their relatives decide to come after you with the skills they learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re not going to have a good day.
Basic humanity means that sometimes we’re going to decide that helping a little is the right thing to do. That woman with the two hungry kids? You can probably give them a meal, and enough food to last them for a couple of days, without eating into your own supplies too much. If it’s an exception, and not the rule, you might decide you can give a little help.
If you do decide to give somebody food, try to avoid revealing that you have stocks. Give them the bare minimum they need, and try to give the impression you can’t spare any more. Also try to give them regular canned goods, the sort of thing anyone might have at home. If you hand over ten packs of freeze-dried emergency meals, you’re basically telling them that you have a stockpile.
Make it clear that anything you give is a one-time donation. Give them directions to a safe area if you can, and encourage them to move on. If they come back later asking for more food tell them you’re sorry, but you already gave them all you can spare. If they’re persistent, tell them they need to leave and not come back. Be as firm as it takes. You really don’t want people hanging round your gates in the hope of getting a handout; that will just attract more of them, and finally somebody is going to decide that if you won’t give them food they might as well try to take it.
Dealing with hungry, desperate people after the SHTF is going to be a challenge; there’s no way round that. There’s also no easy solution. If you adopt a shoot first, ask questions later policy you’re increasing the risk of being attacked during the crisis or arrested when it’s over; if you try to feed everyone who turns up at your door you’ll quickly end up unable even to feed yourself.
The only sensible way through is to evaluate each person that approaches you and take the actions that seem tight. If an armed group comes onto your property and starts trying to break into your stores, a violent response is appropriate. If it’s just a frightened, hungry family looking for food there’s no justification to start shooting. Talk to them from a position of strength, help them if you think it’s the right thing to do, then send them on their way. And in each encounter keep in mind that surviving the crisis doesn’t mean a lot unless you manage to survive it with your humanity intact.
What’s your plan when this happens?
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