This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by E. Evans
One way to help protect yourself, your plans, and your survival goods is to avoid letting others know you have them. This is called security of information, which is a fancy way of saying “Keep your mouth shut and tell only those that need to know.”
The information about your preparations (what you have, how much, and where) is often just as important as the items themselves. Once others know you have something of value, then they will want it too, and this makes you a target.
People usually want to help each other, but good intentions can often lead to bad results. By all means, preserve your humanity by helping others, but assess the risks first. Here is a scenario based on real-life events witnessed firsthand that illustrates the problems of telling others what you have – even people you trust.
It’s winter, and the electricity is out. The ice storm has wrecked its frigid havoc across most of the state leaving many homes – including yours – without power. You are left to survive in sub-freezing temperatures until power is restored, which could take weeks.
But you are prepared! You possess a trusty generator capable of restoring the comforts of modern living, so you trek across the icy walkway to the storage shed and retrieve it for use. Just as you begin to fire it up, you hear the rattle of an old pickup truck skidding into the yard.
It’s Cousin Moochie.
“Nice weather we’re havin’, huh?” Cousin Moochie mutters with a forced smile as he pries the truck door open and extricates himself from his old rattletrap. You have not seen or heard from Cousin Moochie in years, but you quickly sense a hint of desperation behind his feigned friendliness. You can tell he wants something…badly, and you can guess what.
“I’ve been talking to others to see how they’ve been making out and they appear to be doin’ okay. Ol’ Jedd, my neighbor, has a propane stove and a pantry to last him another eight months,” Cousin Moochie blurts out loud. His jabber echoes through the eerily silent neighborhood. He has one of those voices.
Cousin Moochie continues. “I’m okay, but I don’t reckon I’ll last much longer without electricity. I remember you sayin’ you had a ‘ginny rater’ a while back, so I was wonderin’…”
That was fast. The ice storm hit only two days ago, and already somebody wants your generator. What a minute. How did he know you had a generator? Oh, that’s right. At the family reunion three years ago, you bragged about the new generator you bought and how comfortable you were during the ice storm that struck earlier that year. You had lights and running water while your neighbors didn’t. You felt superior, and it was your moment to shine.
After hearing his sob story and his promise to return it after two days, you finally agree to loan Cousin Moochie your generator. You don’t really want to, but you do anyway to avoid any feelings of ill-will. After all, he’s family.
Two days come and go, but no word from Cousin Moochie. You try to call him, but the phone lines are out. You need a bath, and you need your generator to get running water.
Just then, a beat-up jeep roars into your yard. Its driver disembarks, and someone you have never seen before struts across your icy yard like a bull with authority. He pounds his fists so hard on your front door that icicles shake loose from the gutters.
“Open up!” he bellows.
Common sense says run to the bedroom and hide under the covers, but not you. You open the door.
“I’m Orgus Fargluk. Moochie’s neighbor. I want food!” he shouts. Another icicle falls from the gutter due to the reverberation from his boisterous voice. His countenance is a combination of anger and desperation. You can tell right away that this could turn ugly.
“I saw that you loaned Moochie your generator, so we got to talking. My family is starving, the stores are sold out, and Moochie says you have plenty of food stockpiled away,” he continues. “I’ll even pay,” he says as he rolls out a dollar bill. “I want three cases. Get it. Now!” He thrusts the dollar into your face.
That Moochie. You recall the passing comment you made about how important it was to have enough food stored ahead of time in case of emergencies. You cannot help but wonder how many others he told.
Of course, you have no intention of giving this uninvited, rude bully anything. You are not running a store, and if you start feeding him now, he will only be back for more when he runs out. He might brings his friends, and…you shudder at the thought of the company he keeps. You do not know how long the blackout will last, so you are reluctant to sell or give anything away. Besides, this man had the same amount of time to prepare that you did. Why should you jeopardize your well-being for his lack of foresight?
You decline, politely at first, but politeness means nothing to brutes like Orgus Fargluk. You hold your ground. After giving you many shouts, threats, and obscenities of intensifying ferocity, Orgus eyes you with looks that could kill and leaves. His final words are “You’ll regret this.”
That was nasty. You hope no one else shows up. More importantly, you want your generator back. Unable to reach Cousin Moochie by phone, you decide to risk your life on the icy roads and drive to his place. Miraculously, you hear the familiar rattle of his old truck.
“Sorry, I couldn’t return yer ‘ginny rater’ sooner,” Cousin Moochie says as he gives every excuse in the book to hide the real reason: he did not want to return it.
The two of you carry the generator to your garage and set it down. You see right away that there is a huge dent in its side and oil is leaking out. That was not there before. Cousin Moochie hops back into his pickup and says, “Oh, it doesn’t work anymore. Just quit this mornin’. No idea why. Thanks!” He drives away as fast as his tires can spin on ice.
Great. You perform a good deed by loaning your generator, but you receive it back inoperable in addition to a madman showing up on your doorstep.
Even though an ice storm and generator are the topics, the principles are applicable to any emergency scenario. So, what can we learn from this?
1. You Will Be Remembered
When you tell others about your stockpile, they will remember you when times are bad. Sure, your generator might be collecting dust in the storage shed during 100+ degree weather in the summer. Nobody cares then, so what’s the harm in telling?
The harm comes from hungry people who become surprisingly creative during an emergency. Their survival is at stake. Somehow, they will recall the conversation they had with you last summer when you tried to tell them to prepare for the future. You mentioned how you always kept a three month’s supply of food on hand. You urged them to buy a generator while they were still available. Big mistake. Not many people discuss preparations, so you stand out, and thus, you are quickly remembered.
Most people will never prepare ahead. According to their reasoning, why should they prepare for themselves when they know you have it? The real life character on whom Orgus Fargluk is based summed it up, “Why should I prepare for myself when I can just take it from you?”
If people do not know you have something, then they cannot make plans to take it from you.
2. Word Spreads
—-“I’ve been talking to others to see how they’ve been making out and they appear to be doin’ okay.”
When the disaster first hits, people are friendly. They call everyone they know and compare stories. They spread the word about they are doing, how their neighbors are faring, and – you get the idea. This is where information is leaked. Resist the temptation to brag about how you saw this coming months ago, and give the impression that you are just as forlorn as everyone else. Blend in. Avoid telling about your stockpile, spare cash, gasoline reserves, bottled water, and whatnot that you spent months preparing for. If others do not know what you have, then they cannot tell others.
3. Strangers Might Know What You Have
—-“Ol’ Jedd, my neighbor, has a propane stove and a pantry to last him another eight months”
Guess what? You have never met Ol’ Jedd, but now you know he has heat and plenty of food. If your supplies deplete and you become desperate, whose place will come to mind first? You know where Cousin Moochie lives, so Ol’ Jedd shouldn’t be hard to find.
There will always be someone with greater desperation, so you had better get to Jedd before someone else does. Oh, wait. What are you thinking? You would never harm Ol’ Jedd, but how many other hungry strangers would? The temptation is there, and Jedd’s supply is known. If Moochie told you, who else has he told? Who will those people tell? Word gets around.
Ol’ Jedd could be you.
This point cannot be overemphasized. Your friends have friends you have never met. Your relatives have neighbors you know nothing about. Even though you might trust your friends and your lone neighbor living six miles away, they, on the other hand, might tell people they trust who you have never met. Can you risk complete strangers knowing your secrets?
—-At the family reunion three years ago, you bragged about the new generator you bought…
You never know who might overhear your conversations. Sure, you trust Cousin Moochie, but what about nutty Uncle Orwell who believes in big government and hates people like you? He attended the reunion too and overheard your conversation. What about the stranger in the next aisle in the supermarket? How about that little old lady sitting in the church pew behind you?
People pick up quickly on things that interest them, and they will remember your information and relay it to others. Maybe not intentionally, but they do eventually during casual conversations.
The little old church lady might tell her rebellious grandson who is on parole. Nutty Uncle Orwell might report you to the State. Crazy people exist, and you do not want to risk a desperate lunatic following you home for a can of beans just because he heard you tell someone else you had some food stored away. If a lunatic does not know you have food in the first place, then you reduce your chances of being a target.
5. Relatives Can Be Problematic
—-“After all, he’s family.”
Family and relatives can be an area of weakness partly because of a sense of obligation. Do you turn away your own kin? It’s an awkward situation. Relatives can be a blessing or a curse, and family grudges stemming from a refusal to help can last a lifetime.
There are nuts on every family tree, and often, relatives can be worse than belligerent strangers. While some relatives will have your best interests at heart, there are always those relatives who feel entitled to take advantage of you and your hospitality because they are related. They will drive in unannounced and expect you to feed them. If they
borrow something from you, they may return it broken and leave you holding the bill.
This poses a threat to your survival during an emergency because these kinds of people act as leeches who gradually deplete your resources. They will always remember how well-prepared you are, inform others, and…here they come! If you turn them away, then they’ll bear a grudge against you for eternity. When it comes to most relatives, it’s usually better if they have no knowledge of your preparations just to keep the peace.
Relatives are a personal decision, so decide in advance how you will deal with them. It’s too late if they show up on your doorstep during a calamity. Somehow, they expect you to help them, and when you don’t…
6. People Are Reluctant To Give Up Necessities During an Emergency
—-“Sorry, I couldn’t return your ‘ginny rater’ sooner”
Once people acquire a comfort zone, they will be reluctant to give it up – both in good times and bad times. Can you risk loaning an essential piece of your survival gear if doing so causes you discomfort and threatens your long-term plans? If you loan something important, how easily can you get it back when you need it?
7. You Lose Control Over Your Loaned Items
—-You see right away that there is a huge dent in its side and oil is leaking out. Cousin Moochie hops back into his pickup and says, “Oh, it doesn’t work anymore.”
Keep in mind that when you loan something out to Cousin Moochie, you lose your control over your valuables. He now has the power and the bargaining advantage. You are at Cousin Moochie’s mercy.
You have no guarantee that Cousin Moochie will return your generator (or whatever you loaned to him) in good condition. Why should he? It’s not his, and he has no investment in it. When you need to use your own generator, will it still be in working condition? Do you trust Cousin Moochie to take care of it?
Also, you have no idea who he, in turn, might loan it out to. Even if Cousin Moochie cares for your generator like a cute, fluffy kitten, he might loan it out to some cantankerous old cuss who treats it like an old mule and breaks it in the process. Worse, someone else in Cousin Moochie’s neighborhood might hear the sound of the generator and steal it during the night. Can you live with the loss?
Of course, if Cousin Moochie doesn’t know you have a generator, then he probably won’t show up to borrow it in the first place.
8. Unexpected Guests
—-“someone you have never seen before struts across your icy yard like a bull with authority and pounds hard on your front door.”
When others know you have something of value, then they will want it too. Whether it be a generator, a can of beans, bottled water, or money. If you are not a target, then others will not likely aim for you.
Do you notice that Orgus did not go to some other neighbor in your area? He went straight for you. Why? Because Cousin Moochie told him. Who told Cousin Moochie? You did. By telling Cousin Moochie, you indirectly told others. The conversation does not end when you stop talking.
Be careful who you tell since you never know who might learn about your secrets. You do not want an uninvited stranger asking for a handout because he heard from “a friend of a friend” that you had food stored away.
9. Mounting Tensions
—-“I’m Orgus Fargluk. Moochie’s neighbor. I want food!” he shouts. His countenance is a combination of anger and desperation. You can tell right away that this could turn ugly.
The longer an emergency drags on, the less civil people become. At first, there is a spirit of camaraderie as people converse with each other and offer help. They have the “we’re all in this together” attitude, and treat the emergency like an adventure.
After a few weeks or even a month or two of harsh conditions with no relief in sight, people are no longer cheery, and they try to avoid others. Why? Because their own resources are running low, and they wish to avoid confrontations with others seeking relief.
This actually happened during a real ice storm lasting a little over a month. Many went without electricity, running water, and heat for several weeks. At first, neighbors and relatives were calling one another and offering help. People are surprisingly chatty during a power outage, and strangers will talk to others they would normally ignore during good conditions. Confined to their homes with plenty of free time, people were eager to talk to anyone.
Some contact is warranted, such as checking on an elderly relative, but most of the time, people are excited and they just want to swap stories for fun. “Are you doing better than I am?” “You know that big tree around the block? It’s gone.” “We have enough drinking water to last a month.” “We’re just sitting near a window making puzzles. How ’bout ya’ll?”
But the merriment dissipates. A few weeks later, the only phone calls were cries of help. “Could I borrow your generator? The one you told me about?” “My pantry is bare, and I can’t get to the store. Will you lend me some of your food?” “You have drinking water, right? I need enough for a family of six. I’m coming over to your place now. Have it ready.”
The problem was those who had supplies needed them too. The well-prepared folks stocked up in the first place to feed their own families, not to feed the neighborhood. Ice storms tend to last. Their supplies were running low, so they had no choice but to refuse aid to others. The result? Grudges were created as some neighbors refused to help. Others felt slighted. Some had the entitlement mentality: “If you have it, then you owe it to me! How dare you refuse!” Threats were made, and feelings of animosity were nurtured. These feelings were not forgotten when the storm passed, and those who made no effort to keep their preparations secret became the biggest targets for handouts.
There is a saying that goes, “If the bomb doesn’t get you, your neighbors will.” This is why.
Preparing for an emergency includes protecting the outflow of information regarding your supplies in addition to the supplies themselves. What you say – or do not say – is just as important as your possessions. To an extent, words and secrecy while blending in with others can protect your valuables just as much as weapons and security systems.
Even when times are good, remain silent and avoid revealing what you have except to those close to you who have proven their trustworthiness and who absolutely need to know, and even then, reveal only what is necessary. That way, during a future emergency, you can reduce your chances of becoming a target who Cousin Moochie remembers.
People generally want to aid others in distress, so it is a shame that we must learn to be this secretive and distrusting of people. However, a little caution is better than great regret. While not all people may mutate into savage marauders, one is too many – especially if that one knows about your stockpile. Better safe than sorry.
While keeping quiet about your activities might not eliminate all threats, it is one added strategy that will help put the odds in your favor.
This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:
First Prize) Winner will receive a Nomad – 1 Person Standard Survival Package courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply, a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms, a $150 gift certificate for Remington Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com and a EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves. A total prize value of over $875.
Second Prize) Winner will receive two (2) Rothco Sure Paks With Heater courtesy of Camping Survival, a Wise Food Vegetable bucket courtesy of LPC Survival and a Wonder Junior hand grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $509.
Third Prize) Winner will receive 3 – 27 Variety of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds, 2 – Fruit Pack of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds and 2- First Aid Kit with Sutures in a Waterproof Resealable Bag courtesy of Be Prepared Now. A total prize value of over $215.
Contest ends on March 30 2012.