Thoughts on Dealing with Unprepared Neighbors

A woodland cottage
Are our neighbors who visit their vacation homes just a few days a year secret preppers, or is that wishful thinking?

As I was walking the dog Friday morning, a fellow who owns a house down the road pulled into his driveway. I waved, he waved back. I know little about him because he spends less than 20 days here per year. He lives somewhere on the shore of North Carolina, so I expect he was bugging out to avoid Hurricane Ian. He must have driven through much of the night.

As I write this, we have not yet had any rain, but we expect some heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday. We don’t expect any tropical storm winds or other serious hurricane side effects. So he made a good choice in escaping to his cottage here on the mountain.

Prepper or Vacation Home Owner?

Just because he bugged out doesn’t make this guy a prepper. He could be, but I don’t know. I’ve never heard him shooting. He doesn’t come up here to hunt. We’ve only spoken to him two or three times and never been inside his house. I do not know what preps he has there, but at least he was smart enough to leave the eastern shore before Ian hit. I noticed he does not have four-wheel drive and spun his tires going up the driveway. In my mind, he’d have 4WD if he were a serious prepper.

This is one of two vacation cottages on our mountain. (I’m going to call them cottages because they are on the small side and not used for year-round living.) The owners visit for a long weekend to a week a couple of times during the summer months.

Since none of them spend the winter, I suspect they winterize the place each fall, turning off the water and draining the pipes. His house doesn’t have a pile of firewood, an obvious chimney, or a visible oil or propane tank. Hopefully, he has electric baseboard heaters, or he’s likely to be cold this weekend. We’ve already broken out our down comforter as temps dropped into 30s some nights with frost in the valley.

I have also met three different couples who own undeveloped land on the mountain. These are folks who have vague plans for building a house, but have yet to do anything about it. (My guess is that the cost of improving the road and putting in a driveway is stopping them.) One of them camps on their land, the others stay in a short-term rental or motel when they visit, which is rare.

When the SHTF

Let’s imagine a slow-motion worst-case scenario in which anyone who has somewhere to go flees the cities. We end up with eight to twelve people in our house, which is a strain on our resources. My uphill neighbor’s two kids bug out to his place with their families. The family of our full-time neighbors downhill gathers with them. Up and down our mountain, families would double up for the hard times.

We suspect our uphill neighbors are preppers, but neither of us have raised the subject. Everyone who lives in these parts prepares to some degree simply because we face the prospects of getting snowed in for weeks at a time. People here also have deep pantries because the grocery stores are so far away you can’t just run out and pick something up. Many of the old timers understand the importance of canning and putting up food, even if they don’t call it prepping.

My wife and I have good relationships with our closest neighbors and are on friendly terms with all the full-timers on the road. I expect this will carry over to the bad times where it will help if we work together on everything from security to developing food sources. (We’re not the only ones with chickens and a garden, and many of the neighbors hunt.)

What if the Vacationers Show Up?

But what happens when two families who own the vacation homes on less than two acres show up and are largely unprepared? What if and three or more families drive up and want to camp on their land ? Do we turn them away or do we shrug and with them luck? Do we share our limited supplies or let them fend for themselves?

How many supplies do the vacationers have? How long can the campers last, especially in the winter? This is not hospitable land for the untrained, and they cannot fit enough in a pickup truck or SUV to survive for long living in the wilderness. Will these folks be a resource or a drain on resources? Will they start trespassing, causing trouble, and shooting all the game? Are they going to work with the full-timers in the area, or are they going to become the element from which we need to protect ourselves?

If some hungry person tries to steal my chickens six weeks into a SHTF event, they are probably going to be treated like any other kind of predator and shot by whomever is on guard duty.

We Once had a Retreat

As long-time readers may remember, before we purchased our prepper property, we had a retreat. It was a remote house that had been in my family for some decades, and we knew most the neighbors. Besides the regular pantry items in the house, we had pre-positioned supplies there. This included four 5-gallon pails, 12 #10 cans, two rifles, lots of ammo, other prepping supplies, tools, and old clothes. The retreat had a wood stove and several cords of firewood and was close to a stream.

If forced to bug out there, we would have had food for at least two or three months, and would likely have brought more supplies with us. I can only hope the homes of the vacationers are at least this well prepared if they show up post-SHTF. I know the campers won’t be.

My Decision

As of now, my plan would be to give the vacationers and the campers the benefit of the doubt until they do something to remove any doubt. Some of them might remove any doubt right away. This is a tactic I developed while working in customer service. My attitude was, “the customer is not always right, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until they do something that removes any doubt.” That usually meant lie about the circumstances or cuss out a customer service rep.

I’m thinking that we may need to treat vacationers and land owners this way after the SHTF. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove unworthy. What happens next will be up them.