When "systems" fall, what's your Plan B? Now is the time to prepare!

SHTF: When The Unprepared Comes Knocking on Your Door

In an unpredictable world, preparing for the unexpected is crucial. Whether it’s a natural disaster, economic collapse, or any other catastrophic event, having a stockpile of food, water, and other essentials can make the difference between life and death. However, preparedness isn't just about survival gear and canned goods; it’s also about navigating the complex social dynamics that arise when others haven’t prepared.

Cynthia Jordan

6/14/20244 min read

Woman staring through broken window
Woman staring through broken window

In an unpredictable world, preparing for the unexpected is a prudent approach. Whether it’s a natural disaster, economic collapse, SHTF or any other catastrophic event, having a stockpile of food, water, and other essentials can make the difference between life and death. However, preparedness isn't just about survival gear and canned goods; it’s also about navigating the complex social dynamics that arise when others haven’t prepared.

Preparing for the Unthinkable

First, let’s acknowledge that preparing for a disaster is a journey. It involves foresight, planning, and often, sacrifices. You've spent months or even years gathering supplies, learning skills, and mentally preparing yourself and your family for a potential crisis. You’ve likely tried to warn others—friends, family, neighbors—about the importance of preparing. Some listened, but many did not. When the unthinkable happens, the unprepared will inevitably come knocking at your door.

The Knock at the Door

Imagine it’s been a week since a major event turned society on its head. Your neighborhood, once a peaceful place, is now a landscape of desperation. The first knock on your door is from a friend. Then a neighbor. Soon, strangers are coming too. Each face is etched with fear and hunger.

Your heart aches as you turn them away. It's one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, but you know that sharing your limited resources could endanger your own family's survival. Here’s how to handle these encounters humanely and effectively.

1. Communicate Clearly and Compassionately

When you open the door, communicate with empathy but firmness. Explain that you have just enough supplies for your family and that you can’t afford to share. Acknowledge their plight and express your sorrow, but remain resolute. For example:

“I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling. We’ve prepared just enough for our family, and we’re worried we won’t make it through if we share. Please understand this isn’t personal, it’s about survival.”

2. Offer Help Without Sacrificing Your Supplies

While you might not be able to provide food or water, you can offer other forms of assistance. Share information about local aid stations, if they exist, or survival tips. If it’s safe to do so, offer basic first aid supplies or advice on finding and purifying water. These small gestures can show your goodwill without depleting your critical resources.

3. Set Boundaries

Clearly state that repeated visits will not change the situation. People often hold out hope that persistence will pay off. Firmly but kindly, set the expectation that coming back will not result in a different answer.

“I wish I could help more, but please understand that we’re in the same difficult situation. Coming back won’t change that. Take care and stay safe.”

When Desperation Turns to Danger

In extreme situations, some may not take no for an answer and might return with the intent to take by force what they could not receive through charity. It’s a distressing reality, but one you must be prepared for.

1. Strengthen Your Home Defenses

Before a crisis, ensure your home is secure. Reinforce doors and windows, and consider installing security systems if possible. Post-disaster, make your home look less inviting by keeping lights dim and minimizing noise. Avoid cooking outside or doing anything that signals abundance.

2. Form Alliances with Trusted Neighbors

If you have trusted neighbors who are also prepared, consider forming a mutual defense agreement. There is strength in numbers. Together, you can watch each other’s backs and present a united front to potential aggressors.

3. Develop a Warning and Response Plan

Have a clear plan for what to do if someone tries to break in. This includes having an early warning system (such as a dog or improvised alarm), a safe room for your family, and a way to call for help from your allies.

4. Be Prepared to Defend Yourself

This is a last resort, but if someone is determined to take what you have by force, you must be ready to defend yourself and your loved ones. Ensure you have the means and the knowledge to protect yourself, whether that’s through self-defense skills, non-lethal deterrents, or, if you are comfortable and legally allowed, firearms. Always prioritize de-escalation and avoidance, but know your limits and your rights.

Navigating the Aftermath

After a confrontation, whether it was averted or occurred, it’s crucial to reassess and reinforce your preparations. Here’s what you should do:

1. Reevaluate Your Security

Analyze what happened and how you can improve your defenses. Did they exploit a vulnerability? How can you reinforce that weak spot? Use the experience to strengthen your overall preparedness.

2. Maintain Vigilance

Stay alert. People talk, and word might spread about who has supplies. Keep a low profile, avoid discussing your preparedness with others, and always be on the lookout for suspicious behavior.

3. Support Each Other

Internally, it’s vital to support each other emotionally within your household. Such experiences are stressful and can be traumatic. Regularly check in with your family members and provide the emotional support needed to get through tough times.

4. Reflect and Adapt

Finally, reflect on what happened and adapt your strategies. Every encounter, every decision, offers a lesson. Use these lessons to improve your preparedness and resilience.


In a world where the unexpected can become reality overnight, being prepared is essential, not just for survival, but for making difficult ethical choices. Handling friends, family, neighbors, and strangers in times of crisis requires a balance of compassion and firmness. Protecting your resources and your family may sometimes mean making heartbreaking decisions.

Remember, your responsibility is first to those you have prepared for. But even in the toughest times, maintaining your humanity is crucial. Communicate clearly, offer what help you can without compromising your survival, and be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. By staying strong, vigilant, and compassionate, you can navigate the harsh realities of a world in crisis. Stay safe, stay prepared, and hold on to hope.