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First contact

There you are. The world has ended, well the civilisation part anyway, and you are just starting to accept the fact. You have supplies to keep you going and plans to make sure you are not only going to survive but to actually live a very reasonable life. Sure, its not what you wanted which was to be on a boat off the coast of Florida spending all day fishing and getting drunk but you do see a reasonable life ahead of you and your family. You are looking at the ground deciding whether to put one snare or two on the path when you hear a voice and turn around. A few yards away is a total stranger asking how you are ‘Hello there. How are you?’ How do you react to that first contact?

It is worth thinking about because in an event it is going to happen. One day, sooner if you are in a suburb or later if you are out in the country, someone is going to come across you in your retreat. How you react will have repercussions and some of those may not be what you would want if you do not prepare ahead of time. So that you do not panic or overreact you should carefully sit down and think what you want to do in the circumstances now while you can.

How do you want to handle the situation?
Think about it. Most of us handle the situation at the moment with an almost automatic response of ‘I’m fine than you. Yourself?’ Unless you are up to your waist in quicksand or hanging by your fingertips from a roof it is a perfectly good response. You should simply use it. What happens next is going to be the interesting bit. In normal circumstances we would pass a minute or so chatting about the weather or some other inane subject. This time though the subject matter will be more along the lines of food, water, medicine or where to get some. It may not be though. It could be they have a retreat a mile way, have heard and spotted you out and about and want to touch base to trade or cooperation. Maybe they have a need for something they think you have. Maybe they just want to meet the neighbours. Maybe it was even an accidental meet on shared hunting grounds.

There is no single bit of advice anyone can give to you in this situation. It will be an opportunity for both of you to make friends, barter, to help another human being or a very dangerous risk. It is unlikely you will know up front from how they look or what they carry.

Timing
You have to consider several different situations. The same person will respond differently at different times depending on the issue and as the saying goes timing is everything. It is just as true here as when you are telling jokes or in business. There are a few critical times that you need to consider.

  • Right before an expected event
  • During an event
  • Just after an event
  • A short time after an event
  • A several months after an event
  • Years after an event

People will react differently, want different things and will take different risks at different times depending on their situation. You won’t know straight off what they are and you will have to be careful in what you say, reveal or do. The situation right before and during an event are special and need to be treated as such in their own article. This article is really looking at times after an event to get you thinking.

The questions you need to think about to prepare you for this situation are pretty straight forward though. You know what you have in supplies, you know how they will stretch over your requirements and you know what you are going to be growing or collecting in the near future. You also know what responsibilities you have and you will have a good idea how it is going to work out.

You need to find out what that person wants; is it food and boarding whilst they pass through on their way home, is there a large group of refugees behind him looking for food, water and a place to stay as well. Is it your next door neighbour, your best friend, someone you don’t like, a neighbour you are aware of but don’t know? Depending on the timing and your situation you will undoubtedly handle the issue in different ways.

Questions to consider

  • Do you know this person?
  • Can you trust them?
  • What do they bring to the group, skills, supplies?
  • Can you afford to let a third party see what you have?
  • Do you have somewhere safe to receive visitors?
  • Is your retreat secure from invaders?
  • Could you help someone for a meal and point them on their way?
  • Could you help someone in the short term, for a few days?
  • Could you help someone in the medium term, for a few weeks?
  • Do you have the capability for adding another contributor to your group?
  • Do you have the capability of looking after another person without them contributing?
  • What about a group?
  • A family?

It is impossible to predict what the situation may be. Where are you? On your retreat? Out in a field? Or by somewhere else? Are there children there? Your children? A family you know? A lone individual? A obvious tough guy or a librarian look alike. Armed or not? In a vehicle or not? Close or far away? It is all relevant to the situation and most of it cannot be predicted ahead of time unless you initiate the contact.

Risks
The risk you take is that the person you talk to is planning to steal your stores or even kill you and your family and possibly move in. This is not an insignificant risk and should not be dismissed lightly. I’m of the belief that most people are moral, decent human beings but extreme events change people and they, and you, will be driven to do things that may disgust us or make us ashamed but we will do it to live and keep our families alive. You just have to play it by ear and see how it goes. Depending on the timing and the situation it may not be an issue.

On the other hand this conversation could be with you at the business end of a knife or a gun. What would you do in that situation? First of all you need to survive it. It isn’t guaranteed. Some people may just kill you to be safe. To survive this you would need to be prepared. Armed and ready to do what is necessary to regain control of the situation. You should discuss scenarios with your group, prepare traps and plan for taking control or evacuating if they have a superior force, one you cannot handle. Consider someone approaching your retreat and how they could take control of individuals outside unprotected. If you have resources for someone to be a sentry they could simply shoot the intruder at a signal or if they start firing on your group. Plan and plan for everything you can. Plan to secure from invaders, remove or manage any places they can put snipers or spy on you from.

It is my view that if someone approaches you and holds you a gunpoint then at the first chance you get you put them down. No appeal. It is fair enough being careful and being armed but to hold someone up on their own property while they weigh up the situation says something. Something I don’t like. I don’t think taking control and then just letting them go because there is no justice system is the best thing to do. They will be back, prepared and ready to ensure it they get control this time. Ask yourself if you can kill someone in cold blood? Killing while fighting doesn’t count. It is gaining control and then deciding you cannot feed them, you can’t keep them forever as you are not geared up to look after prisoners so they may escape and they simply know too much. I can’t at the moment even though our justice system is laughable at this time but believe I could in that scenario if it is just for my family’s protection.

You have to hope that whoever walks up to you are merely intending to be friendly. It will get more likely it will be so the more time that passes after an event but you can never be certain and you have to play safe. You pointing a gun straight away will not endear you to them and they may start something to protect themselves. Seeing you as the threat.

If it is you walking up to someone, don’t surprise them. Make noises, call out, don’t wave a weapon around if you have one, keep it holstered or stowed away. You may be interested in talking but they will have the same concerns you will have if it was them walking up your path. Don’t frighten them. They may not have thought it through and decide to play safe by giving you lead injections.

Talk and find out what their intentions are before you do anything. Hide your situation and capabilities and be sure you don’t reveal everything at your first few meetings, not what you have, how many of you there are, how your group is made up and how many weapons you have. Let your talk indicate what is going on. They will be in the same situation as you are and just as paranoid. Arrange further meetings as required at a mid way point or back where you are. Don’t let them bring too many nor you take too many people to the meetings. Be careful and don’t stop being paranoid. Power struggles take place all the time among people who are friends and have met up with all good intentions.

However, consider that they may have seen you and kept away, only approaching you because of desperation. It may be something you can help with and you should if you can even if they do not appear to have something to barter with at that point. Some food, water or even medical supplies might make the difference between life and death to them and yet not be an issue to you. You don’t want to make your neighbours desperate and unfriendly to you if you can afford to help. At the same time don’t overstretch yourself and consider verifying. Send someone over to help rather than sending over supplies. See what the situation is like. You never know if something goes wrong you could be in the same situation yourself soon and the kindness you show is a better investment than a social security pension. Alternatively, it may be you approaching them out of desperation. Be honest with them explain what you need and what you can exchange, food, water, your labour or even a projected harvest. Be reasonable as well. Nothing has a price tag now and you will not have a price list you can use.

There is usually something you can do and you should help where you can if it is not a risk to you. Key words where you can and without risk to yourself. Human decency insists on it.

Morals
In my view morals will not feed nor clothe you nor keep you alive if you squander your resources needlessly. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do and you are just delaying the inevitable. People will hate me saying this but don’t waste medical supplies on someone who is beyond help. However, there is basic humanity where you should help another human being in need if you can. I keep adding that caveat on, and for good reason. Be careful, consider the pros and cons and do what you can afford to. No more no less.

Considerations
It is always better to meet people off their home turf. For example if you see someone hunting in a field. Shout to him and say hello. Share some bread or your pemmican and chat. If you have had a successful hunt then consider giving him one of your kills. Go on your way but not directly home from there and don’t follow him either. A first contact like that is worth something if you are forced into approaching their home for emergency purposes.

To this end you should always scout out the locations you identified previously as being worthy of inspection. Someone may be there and you can avoid the place, warn the rest of your group and keep a watch out. When ready you can instigate first contact on your terms. Perhaps leave something on a hunting spot to inform them that others hunt there as well. It will concern them but followed quickly up with a ‘Hello Neighbours chat’ under the carefully hidden watchful eyes of one or two of your snipers will break the ice. No surprises, sudden moves or too many people. If one or two of them are out hunting one of you shouts to them across a field with your hands visible. Any bullets start flying your snipers take them out. Any more than two and I would leave it for another day. They are clearly as paranoid as you should be. If the shout is met with a general response and wariness then you slowly move closer to talk. The intention is to break the ice, let them know you are friendly and then arrange a meeting for another day. ‘See you again soon’ is a perfectly good way to leave a first contact. If they indicate a need for something you have plenty of then leaving that as a gift will benefit you in subsequent talks.

In a survival situation, first contact will be a very dangerous time. You will be out there, alone, almost defenceless and unknowing of their intent. Be careful, flexible, non threatening and remember that you cannot make a second, better first impression if that first contact goes pear shaped even if bullets don’t fly.

Conclusion

  • Keep OPSEC prior to an event
  • Keep your head down during an event
  • When able to explore the surrounding area very carefully
  • Note where others live and their hunting and farming areas
  • Ensure everyone keeps away as much as possible
  • Don’t let first contact happen by accident. Plan it out: location, intent, who, how, what to say
  • Initiate first contact on your terms, on your timing and under your control

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