When preparing for emergencies in our lives, preppers often tend to focus first on reactionary needs. We can envision the possibility of a disastrous event happening and we plan for and prepare a response for that event. If we are unable to make it to the store for some reason, we store food and water to take care of our family’s most basic needs. Should we be attacked, we train for self-defense, acquire tools and supplies to even the odds and make plans to defend our castle in the worst case scenario. Many preppers view their plans as solid and naturally expect the other 90% of the population who (we are convinced) hasn’t made any preparations to eventually, some day, show up and try to take what they have. In this case, there is always the expectation of conflict and we routinely discuss how we envision that ending.
But what if we could modify our thought process for a while and first plan on avoiding conflict when SHTF instead of considering violence as the inevitable outcome of the prepper haves versus the unprepared have-nots? For those of you who have been reading the Final Prepper since we started, no I haven’t gone all soft. I still very much expect and prepare for violent action if necessary, but I think too often that is the default prepper or survivalist’s response. I certainly don’t want to ever have to defend my life with deadly force, but I believe in my core that I will do what is necessary to protect the lives of my friends family and any strangers I see who need it. I thought this latest installment of our Back to Basics series could focus on some alternatives to conflict that could end up saving lives in the right situation.
The scenarios I mention below and what usually flavor most articles on this site will assume that some massive disaster has happened. The SHTF event you have been preparing for has occurred and almost instantly you have choices to make. How you decide to handle each situation could mean the difference between coming out alive or suffering needlessly.
Why should we try to avoid conflict?
There are many reasons I can see for eventually engaging in conflict, especially when we are considering a true SHTF scenario. I would argue that there could be just as many if not more reasons why should be avoiding conflict at all costs. Perhaps it’s simpler to say that conflict avoidance should be the first tact you try. Escalations may be a foregone conclusion, but only when you have no other options. Some readers and commenters will say that when lives are on the line, it’s safer to simply blast someone in the face than try to bargain or negotiate but I would argue that taking that approach goes against some of the philosophy that I believe most preppers believe in.
Preppers want to live. The want to succeed, to thrive, to overcome obstacles. Preppers and prepping is about hope even when the events we seem to fear would lead many to feel hopeless. I believe that there is a reason we are prepping and it isn’t simply to see how many zombie bodies and empty shell casings we can pile up at our feet. We want a different life perhaps, but it doesn’t automatically come at the expense of everyone else.
Conflict with another person, or people will take a toll on you. Sometimes that toll is lives. Other times it could be the loss of close friends or family. It could be a deal to trade goods that goes the wrong way, the loss of someone who can support you, or the loss of a resource you may need to survive. In a true SHTF scenario, your little survival group is going to need all the help it can get so playing nice as much as is prudent will be to your advantage.
Avoiding Conflict with Looters
I think that one of the first effects of a major SHTF scenario will be migration out of the major metropolitan areas. Looting will follow as the people who stayed behind scrounge for supplies they want in homes and businesses. Any location that appears to have resources the looters need will be a target when the threat of incarceration is gone. When there is no longer any rule of law, even little old grannies will be looting if they want to survive.
Looters in the days closely following the SHTF event will be looking for targets of opportunity. They certainly won’t take on an armed group at first but as the situation deteriorates, they could come back and with more practice and armed with greater numbers. Sure, you could put on a show of force, but you might want to save that for later.
The concepts of the Grey Neighbor come into play here and by simply making your house appear to already have been looted; you might avoid someone viewing your house as a target. Throw some trash and clothes in the yard. Smash a window – provided you can seal that back up with some black plastic. Spray paint some graffiti on the front wall and rip the screen door off one hinge. It may work just enough to make lazier looters skip on past your house.
Avoiding Conflict with your neighbors
This one is trickier because looters might not live next door to you, but your neighbors will be able to watch what is going on at your house all day long. The last thing you want is to have your neighbor working against you. They could turn you in to the authorities as a hoarder and all your supplies could be confiscated. Or, they could form a group against you to take what you have by force, citing the common good. Neighbors would ideally be part of your larger group well in advance of any conflict, but that still could arise if they are desperate.
After the event has settled, check in on your neighbors and see if they need help with anything. It will arouse much less suspicion to dole out some charity early on in the form of food and water when normal supplies would not be exhausted. Offer to let them use some generator time possibly. If you wait for 3 months after the stores have been closed and offer them a sack of rice and some beans and then will be very curious as to why you still have supplies and what else you might have. Help them out and if you feel you can trust them, invite them into your group for mutual aid. They might only be able to contribute extra, willing hands but it would be better than having them as your enemy if you can afford the burden. As with everything else, you will have to make choices about who you open up to.
Avoiding Conflict with your survival group
Many of us already have a stocked bug out retreat ready to go. Even the most prepared group is going to have high levels of stress when you are forced into a less than ideal situation after the SHTF. Tempers will flare and there will be decisions that are met with disagreement. In a very toxic situation, the group could splinter leading to power struggles and worse.
Any survival group that is going to succeed will need to have a set of clearly defined rules and everyone’s strict adherence will be necessary. The longer you have been a group and the more times you have been together the better off you will fare but the larger picture is that the group’s survival depends on each member contributing and sometimes sacrificing for the good of the overall group. Negotiation skills and open communication will be key.
Avoiding Conflict with your family
For most of us, our survival group is simply our family. We don’t have a cadre of ex-mil buddies who have been training for years and have fortified bunkers under our ultra-rural enclave in the hills. We will just have the people we are around every day, maybe a couple of friends or extended family that you take in. For people in this situation, I think that fear will be more heightened for the majority of them; they won’t have had the opportunity to think anything through as you have potentially. The unknowns and worry will be huge stressors that they will have to come to grips with and you as the leader will have to manage.
As a leader, you are going to need to exhibit a greater sense of calm than you probably ever would in your day-to-day life simply because everyone will be looking to you for answers. If you are the go-to prepper in the family, there will be many questions. Every decision you make will likely be questioned because the people you are surrounded with don’t know what you do and bring their own opinions and beliefs to every situation.
In the very beginning, as soon as it is practical, you need to sit everyone down and tell them everything you know, what you plan to do and why you think your decisions are best. It may be necessary to get group consensus or create a micro dictatorship for a while. It really depends on the crisis, the people you are dealing with and your style. The main goal is to keep everyone safe and these are probably the people you care most about. Let them know they will be fine, you have a plan and you are prepared. Then prove it with your actions.
Avoiding Conflict with other survivors
Lastly, if you have made it through the disaster, you will be dealing with other survivors. I believe neighborhoods will form communities very quickly post-disaster but due to geography, neighborhoods might remain somewhat isolated. As time goes on, you will meet other people and hopefully form friendships, perhaps barter or simply form a larger community to share resources. Every other group has been through their own tragedy, they have their own fears and securities. Understanding this and helping them mutually, after precautions have been made will be better than some turf war over the garden.
In almost every situation I can think of besides someone kicking down your front door, or shooting at you from the wood line, there is a very good reason to try to avoid conflict. Strangers can become friends. Even enemies can let past grievances die. In a SHTF scenario, if you want to live, avoiding conflict will be one of the highest priorities.