Are You Prepared to Help Your Neighbors?

Have you thought about your neighbors lately? And not in that, “what’s all that racket?” way. Have you thought about ways you How to survivecould help them?  I know, I know, it’s not a holiday, this isn’t the season for such thoughts, but I would argue it should be an every day thought.  Let’s face it, things are not getting a lot better out there, not for most people. And they aren’t likely to turn around much.  And the stronger you can make your community, the better your community (And YOU!) will survive a SHTF event.

By Calamity Jane, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Do you have some time? Lots of parents these days have followed jobs and moved away from extended family. Trying to juggle kids and work without any help can be stressful and exhausting. If you have time and you know of a family nearby, offer some childcare so they can get some more hours in at work or pick up a part time job, or even just get a haircut.

Do you have skills? Maybe there’s someone interested in learning those skills. Schedule a room at a library or meeting hall and put up some flyers (or facebook posts on the local town swap group) to let people know what you are teaching. I’ve done this with seed saving a couple of times it’s gone really well and I’ve met some good folks and I think they learned a couple of things. On the flip side, I know I need to find someone locally who knits, as I’ve reached the point where Youtube videos just aren’t doing it for me anymore.

Also Read: Don’t Be Sheep, People Eat Sheep

In more extreme events, do you have a plan about how and how much to help your neighbors? I’ve talked to people who have boxes already put together for their neighbors, in with the rest of their preps, ready to be distributed when the lights go off and the knock sounds at the door.  I know there’s a wide range of thought on this one though, all the way to the side of no help will be given under any circumstances. I, personally, couldn’t do that one. I think it could really only work for you if A) you live some distance from your neighbors and B) they have no idea that you are a prepped individual.  I fail both those tests, I’m not the best at opsec, my neighbors have seen me cleaning my gun on the front porch, and they see me growing and storing food. We’re friends on facebook and our kids play together. If they need food, I’d give it to them, and I think they all know that.  I’ve even thought that the 90 year old next door would come stay with us if the lights go out and the weather is extreme enough that I’m worried about her.  (Her children are in AZ.)

At the very least I think you should talk through things with your family. Who do you think is likely to knock on your door during a SHTF event? Who do you know that’s experiencing a personal SHTF event? Can you help? Will you help?

Sound off in the comments!

– Calamity Jane

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22 comments… add one
  • Firestar April 24, 2014, 8:11 am

    Been planning this for years !! I have neighbors who are plumbers, electricians, mechanics and carpenters. Some of them hunt and own weapons. I reload, cast my own bullets and have some ammo stored back. We also live in a quasi rural area with field in grass. We also have deer, opossums and raccoons roaming thru our neighborhood at night. There are several very large pond in the area which could be fished and the water used to flush toilets, etc. The real challenge will be getting all these people involved because, much as you would like to think it, it will be virtually impossible to survive SHTF by yourself. Its going to take a team effort for the long haul.

  • Omar Fink April 24, 2014, 8:33 am

    Most of us would agree that we have *some* level of ethical responsibility to help our neighbors. But it has to be balanced against our own needs for survival and our need to protect ourselves against the threat of those who might prey upon us. The most difficult choices are likely to come in the middle of crisis. The best way to decrease the difficulty is to at least partially handle them before the crisis arrives.

    If the power goes off, the 90 year old woman next door will need water even if the weather is not extreme. Advising her to fill up her bathtub with water before the water pressure is gone might both keep her alive and reduce some of the need to help her. Making sure she’s thought about this well before a power failure could be even better. The catch is – we are reluctant to engage too quickly with neighbors we don’t trust.

    There are two things most of us can do ahead of time that should help:
    1 – Begin establishing levels of trust with our neighbors well before any crisis can test the trust.
    2 – Identify and accumulate knowledge that will be needed during a crisis. Evaluate when is the best time for the info to be delivered.

  • Diana April 24, 2014, 9:24 am

    I’m glad you’ve raised this subject as my neighbors are good people, but clueless/in denial. I have thought all along that I’m prepping for them as well as myself since I’m retired and alone and we will need each other to survive when SHTF.

    The idea of preparing a box beforehand for each of them is intriguing and something I will be considering. I have envisioned calling a meeting to inform them of the new facts of life once SHTF as they would never think about not answering a knock on the door, having blackout curtains, keeping a low profile, etc.

    I’ll be very interested in other reader’s comments and suggestions.

  • Leon Pantenburg April 24, 2014, 10:14 am

    I think you’re in Iowa? If you’re near Iowa State in Ames, Karla Moore teaches all sorts of fiber skills for ISU, from carding wool, to spinning yarn to knitting. She’s one of the most savvy homesteaders I know. You can contact her at or email at at

  • Don April 24, 2014, 11:11 am

    I read about this same topic awhile back. A prepper got into a discussion with a person who said that when the SHTF she was coming to his house. he promptly told her, NO you’re not. I tend to agree with him
    As Omar said, we may feel some moral obligation toward our neighbors, but that MUST be balanced with your moral obligation to your family. At what point does your altruism stop so as to have enough to keep you and your family safe, warm, and fed?
    Every prepper needs to consider this question before the SHTF. if you are part of a group, then the whole group needs to be in on this discussion, and OPSEC has to be considered. One possibility is the anonymous drop off of a box of supplies with some typed notes on various considerations for food, water, fire, security, medical needs, etc.
    YOUR morals and ethics should lead you to the correct answer for YOU! follow that after considering all the consequences and you probably won’t be sorry.
    as for knitting, look for a group of knitters, possibly at your local craft shop. They probably know some knitters who would be more than happy to show off their craft to a new comer

  • Pineslayer April 24, 2014, 2:25 pm

    Like Diana said, I have some nice neighbors who I will try and help, but they are of a different mindset. I am trying to be able to help about a dozen people, that’s a lot of work. After that I can possibly supply 5 gallons of water to each house for hydration and cooking per day. Then I tap-out. Those people in the area that I currently believe are better used as dog and hog food will receive no quarter, they are the ones to be worried about at first. Those dozen slots are already spoken for, so it will be tough times if things get that bad. At least I can help with one important aspect of survival. I believe that if it gets really bad, like grid down, most around me will bale down to the cities and those of us that can get by will form a tight group and do what we need to.

    As far as giving food boxes out, that is OK if things are going to get better and the problem is only temporary. If it is long term you are only prolonging the agony of those that have to make tough decisions and putting yourself in a bad spot. It all comes down to how bad the situation is and if you are willing to go down with the ship. My family and close friends come first. I would love to be able to say that I am going to help everyone, but that is not realistic.

    Falling Skies had a great episode about this scenario, #30 I think.

  • Novice April 24, 2014, 3:41 pm

    My thought has always been to offer help in the moment but not a handout for life (take notes Fedgov). If someone stopped at my house I wouldn’t have a box already packed. That would only make someone suspicious that I have lots more boxes to hand out. Instead I would offer to share “what little I had” for dinner with them and allow them a place to sleep if they were from out of town but in the morning they must be on their way. I think that’s the best balance between being a scrooge and becoming a target at the risk of your families safety.

  • Michael April 24, 2014, 5:41 pm

    I just finished filling out the paper work to volunteer with my towns reserve medical corps and will be taking classes to be a severe weather volunteer in the near future.

    I really don’t see me doing much helping, other than for family and very close friends, that isn’t part of some sort of structured, official role.

  • Marc April 24, 2014, 10:06 pm

    I have an old guy neighbor lives by himself, I plow is driveway every year, I will watch over him. Anyone else comes around looking for stuff, hit the road! It’s not like any normal person hasn’t heard that things might be going down hill the last ten years. Don’t try for yourself don’t look at me

  • Chuck Findlay April 25, 2014, 5:25 am

    I won’t be handing out food or prepping supplies as I (none of us) can feed others for very long before we deplete our own food and then will be looking for handouts. I don’t get the vibe that any of my neighbors are prepping

    But I will do what I do now, I can repair and fix almost everything in a home or auto. I help people now and will continue to do so. I almost weekly have someone wanting something made out of wood, a break job on an auto, a repair of some electronic item or some kind of home repair. A lot of it I do for free or a very low price. I did the breaks on my next door neighbor lady and only allowed her to pay me $10.00 that I used for a can of break-clean to replenish what I used.

    I don’t have the newest computer, smart phone, HD TV, I drive a 14-year old truck not a new one every 2-years like a few of my neighbors, my lawn mower is one I found on trash day that I tuned up. My vacations are local tent camping trips, not a trip to Vegas 3-times a year like the couple across the street from me. One guy takes a cruse every winter, and surprise, he never invites me along for a cruse on his dime.

    I’m sure all my neighbors make more money then I do and it seems they choose to spend their money on new electronic toys, new autos, big TVs, expensive vacations and who knows what else. They don’t take me to Vegas, loan me their new autos or let me park their 5-foot TV in my living room. Why should I take my hard-earned money and give them food that could literally keep me alive?

    Not to sound cold and uncaring, but I can’t feed a whole street of people. And just because I choose to buy food and forgo all the things they buy doesn’t make me a bad person if I decide my food is for me, as they are not bad people for not taking me to Vegas. They may not see it this way if it does hit the fan and no rational explaining will work at that time so I keep my preps out of sight and don’t talk about them.

    I have seen many post on prepper blogs about how could you turn a family away that has small kids that are hungry and in need. My answer is that I can’t feed the world and it’s the parents job to provide for their kids. One trip to Disney World would buy at least 3-months of food, if parents are too stupid to figure this out, it’s not my problem.

    And as far as a care package, once you feed a person that has no other place to find food you just inherited a dependent and his or her family. And the word that you are handing out food will spread faster then a fire in a dry wood pile. They will keep coming to you till they bled you dry. And when you finally do say “No More” it’s going to get ugly as they MUST have food and will do anything to get it. It’s better to look to be in the same boat as them, if they are going to a food bank or some kind of government hand out station, you best be doing the same thing if you know what is good for you.

    Offer help in the form of labor and advice YES, Offer food, NO way in Hell.


    • JayJay April 25, 2014, 10:17 pm

      Chuck–I hear you loud and clear…and I can feed the street of people.
      What I can not do is feed their boyfriends, girlfriends, grandparents, sisters and their families, brothers and their families, friends and their families, church groups, college friends and their families, PTA, and that is what will happen if you feed the street neighbors.

    • JayJay April 25, 2014, 10:20 pm

      I Timothy 5:8….Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

  • Justin April 25, 2014, 7:51 am

    I am with Chuck on this one. My family comes first. I put back food for my family and that’s all. I will play the roll and go to the food bank to look the same as everyone else. I have a neighbor that i have tried to talk to about prepping. He seems like he wants to try but his wife will have none of it. She thinks that if you carry a gun you are a bad guy. I thought at one time to try and set some supplies back for them but the more I think about it the more I told myself NO. That is my hard earned money that I put up for supplies. He knows that I have a few guns but that’s all he knows I refuse to tell him anything else. I have tried to get other neighbors involved but no one is interested it. So screw them I will look out for my family only. I have a few friends in my county that think the same way I do and we have a meeting place. But other than that, that is all.

  • JWB April 25, 2014, 8:23 am

    I wish it were that easy. I am retired military and now work for the government in a civilian capacity. I started prepping a couple years before I retired from the military (2009). My military counterparts thought I was crazy back then (that I prepped). My civilian counterparts now (for the most part) think I’m goofy prepping. I live in rural PA and most of my neighbors (which aren’t many) are family, and zero of them are prepping. My priorities are my wife, my children, and then myself. If these other people are too blind to see what’s happening out there, then I say, “screw them!”

  • Omar Fink April 25, 2014, 9:14 am

    The problem with taking the hard line as a loner is that sooner or later, we will need some help ourselves. Even if we think we are invincible, it’s better to have a larger support group than a smaller one. It’s better to have a large group planting more crops and sharing the harvest so if one fails, the group continues to thrive. The same idea works for water, defense, medical needs and throughout the list.

    We all have neighbors who aren’t prepared and are ignorant of their own needs and the fragility of the networks that supply them. Most of them won’t listen to good and common sense advice. Our task becomes defining how and when to change those attitudes. The moment when they are most likely to listen is when their needs are greatest, and this means after the actual crisis is ongoing. If we can offer help in that moment, we change their attitude, gain their trust and begin forming a group.

    It seems obvious that we can’t simply supply water and food and medicine to everybody who needs it around us. But there are some things we can do. A lot of it involves knowledge and instruction lists. Telling our neighbors to fill their bathtubs while there is still water pressure available, makes them less reliant on our help and more willing to listen in the future. Having extra seeds to hand out, along with planting instructions, is more effecting than sharing food because it makes them self reliant. Planning a community herb garden with plants that have medicinal qualities might reduce the need for antibiotics. A few books and some packets of herb seeds is something that can be shared with neighbors and may actually be more productive maintained by a larger group.

    We need to identify the critical knowledge and other resources that might be needed and consider stockpiling them to be shared. If we can figure out how to spend a couple hundred dollars on supplies that could keep a neighbor alive until they become self-sufficient, we’ve accomplished far more than simply sharing a bottle of water or a meal. (a work in progress)

    • Anonymous April 25, 2014, 10:03 am

      OK..this is a start…it will not be easy ….much like Noah must have agonized hearing the cries and pleadings of those who were not on board…when jim phillips and wife visited my home for a week…he taught us that we were no more prepared than our neighbors….in a sense this is very true…I am fortunate to live on a road where everyone is on the same page…and now we are all branching out to the whole town…we are pooling resources, especially defense plans…I have been making “Bishops Barrels ” for some years now…these are open top plastic barrells that can float, filled with MRE’s I make myself, enough for family of 4 for 30 days…If my LDS minister or womens president calls and asks…it can be quickly rolled on to my truck, trailer, or back of auto and shipped to whereever…I have used these several times already…because disasters happen to anyone at anytime…in one case a young couple needed preservative gluten, dairy free food, with wife pregnant and out of work in bed and husband last semester grad student..they were about to lose their home, and he his chance to graduate quickly…the few months of this food, healed her enough to get back to work and he graduated…they joined with my Church congregation as a result….my joy in this was beyond description….YOU BET WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT OUR NEIGHBORS

  • Dirk April 25, 2014, 11:00 am

    We live on a street with a mixture of elderly and young. We have saved and planned for years now to assist those who are willing to do their part.

    We have purchased many Seed Vaults, to distribute to the elderly. The plan works sort of like this. An elderly couple,,and a younger couple link up, till and plant a garden. Split 3/4 of their crop, and place 1/4 of their crop into a block co OP, for a reserve.

    Hopefully those teams will see the wisdom in team work, cooking a community meal amongst themselves, and for protection. It is our hope that the old will mentor the young, in some of the old ways.

    We see it kinda like the old , given them a fish, they eat for a day. Teach them to fish, they eat for a lifetime.

  • Snake Plisken April 25, 2014, 11:17 am

    I have to help my neighbors because I’m single. I have 4 200 serving 5 gallon buckets of dehydrated food. One for the elderly ladies across the street ( they don’t know I prep ), one for my best friend’s grandparents,and two for my buddy down the street because he has 4 mouths to feed. The last two i mentioned know that I prep and we have made some contingency plans put together in a grid down situation. They do NOT know that I have these additional food caches that I’ll hand out at the appropriate time so I can preserve more of my food, water and other supplies.

    Two of these person’s in my ‘ tribe ‘ are excellent mechanics with good electrical skills and I’m a carpenter/millwright by trade so we complement each others skills. I also have an extensive garden that I need help with and will share the produce if they help.

    I will help these people because they have skills and will help to defend the property and will pitch in when asked even though they haven’t done much in the way of prepping although one of the mechanics parents have a HUGE stockpile of food that I can access thru barter.

    We will have to circle the wagons and be fully prepared for the city folks who will be half starved and dangerous. I will NOT help anyone who I don’t recognize as a neighbor and several of them won’t get any assistance either. I would have a very bad time turning down a woman with small children that need some help but if you are an adult you need to get off my property and not come back.

    I have given this topic a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that I’ll probably have to make some very hard decisions that may haunt me the rest of my life but I’m convinced that the ‘tribe ‘s ‘ well being comes first and everybody else comes second.

    Snake Plisken

  • JayJay April 25, 2014, 10:00 pm

    This topic is where preppers and I part ways.
    This neighborhood has nothing to offer me now; why would they when TSHTF??? Been here 6 years and all have made it abundantly clear; they stay in their yard–I stay in mine.
    Oh, unless they want something. I don’t answer the door. Or lie–last Saturday I didn’t have a chain saw. It is in the attic in its new box.
    You watch twice while my husband is lifted into the emergency van and never even bother to ask then or later if I need anything…I have no chain saw.

  • JayJay April 25, 2014, 10:04 pm

    *** I know there’s a wide range of thought on this one though, all the way to the side of no help will be given under any circumstances. I, personally, couldn’t do that one.***

    Good luck with that attitude–when will you say no??
    Will it be the 25th friend of your neighbor??
    How about the entire family of the neighbor’s daughter’s boyfriend?
    Oh, how about the family of the neighbor’s babysitter and here entire family–including the grandparents, cousins, and church family of all??
    Oh, how about the entire class of the neighbor’s 5th grader??
    You are extremely naïve.

  • Anonymous April 25, 2014, 11:24 pm

    keep in mind that things can spread. just as your neighbors will notice you have food, your neighbor’s neighbors may notice them with some goods. pretty soon, you’ll be hosting a neighborhood-wide potluck dinner except it’s the kind where nobody brings food.

    it could quickly become a situation where the neighborhood eats good for a day or a week, but then you are sapped dry of your supplies and the crowd moves on looking for the next picnic. you would then be left high and dry with your kids starving.

    it depends on how bad the situation is and what sort of government distributed food is available for example or if there is a limited supply of food in stores. if it’s the more extreme situation, then you need to keep in mind that you can only fit a set number of people in a life boat. if you try to save too many people, then everyone dies.

    i think it’s important to work out an approach to varying degrees of crisis and define the line in your mind of how much you have, how many heads it will feed and for how long. setting charity and barter items aside are great as long as they are clearly separated from the supply that is intended to keep your family alive. it’s too bad that we can’t convenice everyone to prepare, but ultimately we reap what we sow and our first duty is to your children/family.

  • irishdutchuncle April 28, 2014, 10:11 am

    I can’t even help myself, most of the time.


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