Recently I received a request from someone wanting me to mention his website on my blog. This is a fairly common occurrence, so as usual my husband and I vetted the website to make sure it was appropriate.
What we found was startling. This person had the most astoundingly good idea, executed in the most astoundingly bad way.
Essentially the deal is this. The website hooks up urban “preppers” with rural counterparts so, if the bleep ever hits the fan, the urban refugees have a pre-arranged place to go.
Sounds real spiffy, doesn’t it? Except here’s the thing: unless it's stated someplace I haven't looked on this website, the urban refugees have to do nothing beyond making these arrangements with their rural counterparts. The burden of food, water, medicine, protection, housing, and other issues falls squarely on the shoulders of the rural residents. In other words, the rural folks do all the work. Sounds suspiciously like ants and grasshoppers.
I can think of a hundred and one reasons why this isn’t a good idea, all of them detrimental to the country people who would be expected to cooperate by taking in what could well be a swell of refugees.
Why a swell? Well, picture this: the bleep has hit the fan and the urban refugee – we’ll call him Charlie – prepares to evacuate to, um, Bob’s farm. Charlie gathers up his wife and children. But wait! His cousin Marty and his wife and four kids live down the block! Charlie can hardly leave them behind. So he gets Marty to come along too. But Marty’s sister-in-law Jane, who is single and has two kids, can hardly be left behind either. No problem, bring ’em along. And Jane begs to bring her elderly mother since, after all, she can’t leave the dear lady behind.
Before you know it, Charlie has amassed fifty or sixty dearly loved and very scared people. Through harrowing adventures they finally make it, breathless, exhausted, hungry, perhaps injured, to poor unsuspecting Bob’s farm in the middle of nowhere.
What can Bob do? He can hardly turn them away since, after all, he agreed to take Charlie and his family in. (I’m being optimistic here. Bob certainly can turn them away, the cad. But let’s assume he doesn’t, for the sake of argument.)
Suddenly, with fifty extra mouths to feed, the year’s supply of food Bob had painstakingly amassed is cut down to a mere week. Sleeping accommodations are shoulder to shoulder across every available floor space. The septic tank, unused to an influx of so many new people, clogs and fills and backwashes. Bob has to get used to a bunch of strangers in his private home.
See the problem?
I can’t blame Charlie, of course. Who wouldn’t grab the chance to save your beloved friends and family members since Bob is nice enough to sign up for this deal in the first place? It’s just human nature to do anything to survive a bad situation, and Charlie will naturally hope Bob is willing to take in anyone, as long as Charlie vouches for them.
Make no mistake – I applaud the concept behind this website, which has the intention of saving the lives of urban people. There are few things nobler than working to save lives. But, in effect, this removes much of the burden of contingency plans and preparedness from the hands of the urbanites and places it, to an unfair degree, on the shoulders of the ruralites. Why someone would think that rural types would be thrilled to welcome complete strangers is beyond me, but let’s work with that assumption as well, for a moment.
It is almost guaranteed that any urban refugees would be arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs. They’re refugees, after all. They are unlikely to bring a significant amount of supplies, food, water, garden seeds, livestock, canning jars, medical supplies, kerosene lamps, and few if any munitions. Not to sound harsh and unfeeling here, but unless there are pre-existing ties of love or affection or blood, how much of a burden will these refugees be to the host family under survival conditions?
Here’s the thing that seems to get lost, too. Virtually all rural folks who are “prepping” – at least every single person I know – already has an extensive laundry list of beloved friends and relatives they will take in if the bleep hits the fan. I doubt there will be many ruralites who would be willing to take in additional people – strangers, no less – by signing up with this website. Stores of food and other essentials will be stretched thin enough as it is. We ruralites will be unlikely to turn away beloved friends and family members, but we’re equally unlikely to welcome complete strangers with nothing to offer. Sorry to sound harsh, but none of us has inexhaustible resources.
Along with this pre-made list of friends and family the ruralites already plan to take in, most ruralites also have in place (or should have in place) food and supplies to donate to charity cases. In other words, if a stranger named Charlie came begging at Bob’s door, desperate for food or medicine, Bob would very likely be able to alleviate Charlie’s immediate needs even though Bob may not invite Charlie to live with him. Most rural preppers, in addition to stockpiling resources for their own families and friends, are stockpiling a little extra to give away to those in need. We are not heartless, but nor do we have inexhaustible resources. Most of us are in a lower economic bracket simply by living where and how we do. We can’t afford to feed everybody.
There’s also the problem of living with people. It’s tough enough getting along with people we know and love. How do we know we’re going to get along with people about whom we know nothing beyond reading an internet profile and emailing back and forth a few times? We have no idea what they’re like, and we’re inviting them into our home to live with us through the most dire and stressful of circumstances? NOT!
Yet another problem – possibly the biggest – with this website hooking up urbanites and their rural counterparts is the notion of “OpSec.” OpSec, for those unfamiliar with the term, stands for “Operational Security.” It refers to keeping one’s (cough) “hoard” of preparedness supplies secret so as to avoid being besieged by the “Golden Horde” of urban refugees ravaging and pillaging across the countryside post-bleep. (“Hey Charlie, where are you going?” “I’m bugging out with my family. Want to come, too?” “Sure!” And before you know it, there’s a “Golden Horde” of urban refugees following the yellow brick road to their own personal Oz…namely, the homes of rural preppers.)
Incidentally, many folks have expressed concern that I’m so outspoken and obvious about our prepping. They’re right – I’m using my real name and have made no secret about our concerns for the future of our economy. We who have chosen to publicly inform people of the coming dangers recognize that our operational security is therefore compromised. That’s our choice, based upon what we believe our God-given calling is. But because it’s too late to “hide” or start using an alias, we’ve decided to use whatever modest influence we have to urge people to stop denying the social and economic troubles that are looming, and become preppers too. As for placing ourselves at risk post-bleep… well, we’ll see. After all, OpSec means not letting everyone know everything.
So what’s to be done about the very real problem of urbanites being trapped in cities during times of strife? What if they want to bug out to rural locations? This is a dicey issue worth examining. Here are a few ideas.
1. If you want to escape from the city, make your own private plans and do not broadcast them to every Tom, Dick, or Harry of your acquaintance. Send supplies ahead of you. Send lots of supplies ahead of you, well before the bleep hits the fan.
2. Make yourself valuable. I know a wonderful man who is a fine theater actor. But he himself admits acting is his only skill. What advantage would he be at a rural retreat during times of extreme strife? Answer: very little. Whereas your average doctor would almost certainly never be denied refuge. See my point?
We – meaning, those of us prepping in rural areas – will be more likely to take in those with useful skills. If your most useful skill is shopping or meditation or social activism, don’t expect us to be thrilled to invite you into our prepped home because, frankly, you’d be useless. But if you have practical skills – medicine or defense or mechanics or food preservation or animal husbandry or veterinarian skills or something similarly needed – you’re far more likely to find an open door. So start learning something practical NOW.
3. Prepare the way. If you’ve arranged a private refuge in advance, one thing that will guarantee welcome is for you to help fund an expensive project that might otherwise be out of reach for a rural family (because most rural families are low-income and often can’t afford fancy improvements). Perhaps you could pitch in to buy a windmill for the well, or install a solar array, or help build an underground bunker.
4. Do things contractually. If/when the bleep hits the fan, folks (urban and rural) are likely to a lot more hysterical than normal. Having your plans in writing ahead of time clarifies all the obligations, expectations, and limitations between the two parties (i.e., you’re not allowed to show up with fifty extra people in tow). This contract can also include what the urban person can and cannot bring. Pets should be included in this list. If the rural refuge is not prepared to handle your yappy Pomeranian because he has three aggressive German Shepherds, you need to know that in advance.
5. Don’t lie about your skills or abilities. If you state with confidence that you’re an expert at hunting and butchering – but have never held a rifle or dispatched a steer – that will be discovered soon enough. Learn those skills first before you claim knowledge. Duh.
6. Get used to hard physical labor. Those of us living on farms and homesteads already work our tails off, and even so we often have crop or livestock failures due to circumstances beyond our control. If you’re not willing to work your butts off, don’t come knocking at our door.
So how do my recommendations differ from the efforts of this website to hook up urban and rural folks to provide refuge? Perhaps they don’t. Maybe this website just needs to better clarify the obligations of all parties involved. But I do know that, as a rural prepper, the idea of signing up on a public website to voluntarily provide refuge to strangers strikes me as foolish to the point of idiocy. I, for one, wouldn’t sign up for something like this in a gazillion years because it opens a Pandora’s box of trouble. And I’m saying this as an already public prepper with my OpSec already blown.
If this website maintains its current format, I foresee a slew of enthusiasm from urban folks and a significant reluctance from country folks.