Chances are if you have been prepping for any length of time you will have had the encounter and subsequent conversation with friends, or maybe even family, that is sometimes a little bit uncomfortable, and other times a little bit sad.
I am referring of course to the conversation where you try to hopefully get your non-believing friends or relatives on board the prepping train so they can better face life’s curveballs, whatever form they may take.
Almost invariably you meet resistance. On the kinder end of the spectrum that resistance may take the form of a “no thank you”, and a swift return to habits that suggest nothing bad will ever happen.
On the meaner end of the spectrum we will see personal derision and mocking laughter, suggestions that we are delusional, paranoid survivalists or worse.
But sometimes, every once in a blue moon, events go badly enough, quickly enough to make even prepping naysayers sit up, open their eyes and start taking things seriously.
These nonbelievers suddenly understand that life is not guaranteed, no one is coming and their survival is now, as it has always been, strictly their responsibilit.
Now our recalcitrant friends and erstwhile family members are all-ears and beyond interested in learning how to prep and do it properly. But the pressure is now on you as the expert to help them get ready and do so in a hurry. Can you do that? In today’s article I will be offering you some tips and guidelines for introducing your nervous new converts into the lifestyle.
No One Ever Thinks It Will Happen to Them
The way it seems to me is that people generally fall into two camps when it comes to preparation.
The first camp, the one that I and likely you, reader, belong to believes in being prepared holistically for all of life’s challenges, not just first world problems, and not just the challenges that come with adulting in the 21st century.
We understand intellectually, if not instinctively, but the primordial challenges and threats to mankind that have persisted throughout history persist to this very day, and nature does not reward those who trust that nature will be kind.
The second camp, which is likely the one that your hesitant friends and family members belong to, seemingly have no fear of disasters, of dangers, of mishaps and of mayhem that can erupt and impose themselves on their lives from any direction at any time.
No, the only problems they are concerned with are purely civilized in nature, things like making the mortgage payment, getting the promotion, getting their kids into good schools, buying the right things to impress the right people (that they don’t even really like or want to spend time with), and all the other baggage attendant with life in prosperous America.
The issue is not one of responsibility, at least I don’t think so. I know quite a few people that actually scoff at the notion of being truly prepared in any material way save stacking cash, but who are otherwise responsible, motivated and attentive.
They work hard, they save, they tend to their families with care and diligence, and are all-around productive, honorable members of society.
It just so happens that they do not think, for whatever reason, that bad things can happen to them. At least, bad things that money or paid first responders won’t be able to fix.
It sounds like lunacy to you and me, and objectively it probably is, even though statistically things are so safe, so plentiful and so affluent in America and much of Europe that most people can get through their entire lives without anything truly disastrous happening to them.
It is a sort of confirmation bias: If nothing bad ever really happens to them, or ever really happens to the people that they know or to their town, then why on Earth would they waste all that time, money, effort and brain power preparing for a problem that is, to them, imaginary?
But They Will Come Around After It Does
You probably already know that trying to convert the unconvertible is the very summit of Hopeless Mountain.
When friends or family blow off your attempts to help them get ready, it is easy to take this personally, or feel like you have failed when you genuinely know better, and have someone else’s best interest at heart.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing for it. Or at least, there is nothing for it until they face a trial by fire.
Sadly, many of our slowpoke friends will only come around after they or someone very close to them is gravely affected by a disaster.
It is a quirk of human nature that so many will only become proactive on increasing their sphere of responsibility in the aftermath of a grueling trial or a near-death experience.
Prepping is no different, and it is no mark of shame for someone to start down the path after they see how close they really came to the edge.
Chances are this is where you will come in. Unless someone is being intellectually dishonest or is just blindingly, confoundingly stupid, they will realize the wisdom of your advice in hindsight.
Chances are, once the dust settles and the rubble has been swept away, they will be heading your way for advice about how to prevent this from happening. In the case of some slow burn scenarios they will likely come to you while the event is ongoing.
Chances are high that they will have seen what their fellow man is up to, and is further capable of, and even those of an unreformable and inveterate sunny disposition will be reading the writing on the wall.
Helping Your Friends Get Prepared in a Hurry
How you handle this long-awaited situation may make all the difference for your friend’s efforts going forward in prepping. It may actually save their life. No pressure!
If you have not already thought about how you will tackle this problem, it is easy to get analysis paralysis, or to focus on minutiae that won’t really pay off for a brand new prepper.
Do you remember what it was like when you were a brand-new prepper? Maybe you don’t, but you can probably remember how frustrating it was.
You don’t want to screw this up. Luckily, there’s an easy template that you can follow, one that can solve all of the big issues that a new prepper is likely facing.
By approaching their concerns and their lack of experience in a methodical and reassuring way, you can give them both the capability and the confidence in themselves that everything will be okay.
No, you cannot simply transfer all your years of experience into them, but you can give them a really good jump start.
You will help get your newbie prepper friend started in a few phases:
- Calm, Reassure, Encourage
- Adjust Expectations
- Take Care of Immediate Needs
- Shift Focus to Survival Priorities
- Stock Up on Basics
- Emergency Planning
- Contingency Planning
- Provide Info and Chart Growth
That might sound like a lot of steps for a basic plan intended for a brand-spanking-new prepper, but it really isn’t. You can cover most of these with a phone call, and can pretty much punch out all of these steps with a short visit.
With your experience, expertise and an understanding friendly face you can save the day for your nervous friend. Let’s go through all of the steps in this program below in detail.
Calm, Reassure, Encourage
No matter why your friend or family member is coming to you, be it from a slam-bang disaster or a looming prelude to one you must keep in mind that they will be dealing with a certain amount of fear.
Only fear is strong enough to move people off their previously held convictions and determinations. You’ll be dealing with someone who is probably anxious and upset even if they aren’t showing.
This is why there’s hardly anything that makes me angrier and seeing a skilled, veteran prepper take the opportunity to rub someone’s nose in it when they reverse themselves or come around to your way of thinking.
It is understandable if the person now begging you for advice and help previously mocked you or made fun of you for your decisions and lifestyle choice.
Lord knows I feel the temptation also, but you should rise above petty revenge, and do the right thing, assuming you want anything to do with this person at all.
Don’t lecture them on how right you were. Don’t mock them for being a helpless idiot in a time like this.
All you will look like is a sad little king on your sad little hill of supplies. Let those bygones be bygones: calm the person down, reassure them that everything will be okay, and that you’ll do everything you can to help them.
Encourage them with a kind word they are definitely up to the task, are good enough, smart enough, and more than capable of learning and doing everything they need to know in a timely fashion.
Address their fear before you do anything else. No matter what they are facing and what they are worried about, you must assure them that there is a solution for it, and plenty of protective measures that they can institute.
Remind them that fear is a liar, and the only reason they are so afraid is because they lack the necessary information to understand the problem in its totality, nothing more.
We all started somewhere, and chances are you might have come into prepping with a few fears of your own. Be that kind teacher that you had once upon a time, or wish you had once upon a time.
Chances are your friend will feel considerably overwhelmed by the prospect of having to take complete responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones during this time of crisis. This is completely understandable!
Have you ever stopped to consider how many diverse skills and complex information sets a prepper should know and understand by heart in order to be truly prepared?
It is an awful, awful lot to take in over a lifetime, and now your friend probably thinks they only have a couple of days or weeks until the sky starts falling. The task no doubt looks impossible to them!
Alternately, they may feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or like a fish out of water, and this could hamper their learning ability.
They may feel like they are not “one of those people” or otherwise lacking in some essential trait, characteristic or skill to do what you and other preppers do all the time.
You cannot learn a thing that you think you know, or a thing that you believe yourself incapable of learning.
This is the part where you need to explain that they don’t have to learn everything all at once.
Common understanding of the most rudimentary survival priorities along with some smart material preparation and some basic SHTF planning (that we will get to later) is all that is needed to survive the majority of what life can throw at them, including whatever the current crisis is.
Now is also the time where you kindly, gently start bringing them around to the idea that life has always been this way, that these skills, plans and preparations that you have spent so much time and energy on were not called prepping or survival skills or anything else back in the day; they was just called life.
Don’t make this a lecture; it helps to give them some advice to the effect that they are responsible, and have been responsible, for everything else in their adult life.
They have done so successfully. This is no different.
Take Care of Immediate Needs
I would hope any prepper is not just prepping for themselves alone, but also for their friends, family and loved ones, so that they can come through in a pinch and save the day for the people that you care about.
I am not saying you have to serve as a food bank or armory for every single person in need, but chances are you are not an island unto yourself.
No matter what is happening to your friend who has suddenly come around on the idea of prepping, if they are woefully unprepared and facing an uncertain or scary future, or left absolutely in shambles by something that has already happened be the Savior that they need in the moment, and give them the supplies or the assistance that will get them out of trouble.
So what do they need? Do they need food, water, medicine? Do they need clothing? Do they need a safe haven? Give it to them, if you can.
Do they need something to defend themselves from growing hostility or a specific threat? Provide that for them assuming you have reasonable assurances that it will not be a bigger danger to themselves than the bad guys.
Shift Focus to Survival Priorities
After you have addressed their immediate needs in the wake of or ahead of a disaster, it is time to shift focus, yours and theirs, to covering all their bases when it comes to the fundamentals of survival.
Every single person, no matter where they live and what they are facing, no matter what environment they are in requires at the minimum just four things if they want to survive or five things if you want to be really inclusive.
In order of importance, with importance being codified as how long you can go without any of them before you die, those survival necessities are air, shelter, water, food and security, with the need for security, of course, being pretty variable.
If someone doesn’t have clean air to breathe, or isn’t getting any air at all they will die in minutes. A lack of shelter will lead to exposure, and exposure can kill you in just a couple of hours if the conditions are terrible.
Dehydration resulting from a lack of fluid intake can kill in just a couple of days and incapacitate somebody significantly before then.
Most of us can go quite a long time without any food, but a lack of incoming calories will sap mental and physical performance significantly.
Lastly, security against threats may prove to be absolutely mandatory depending on the situation.
Humans have been killing each other for as long as we have trod the Earth, literally, and it is important that your friend understands that no matter how grim and scary a prospect that might be.
That being said, they are far, far more likely to be imperiled in most situations by lacking any of the other survival necessities.
Explain this survival hierarchy to them, and how they should prioritize obtaining each of those things depending on the specific situation.
If you stop to think about it, it is a fairly easy thing to come up with most of them with just a little bit of know-how and a little bit of prior preparation…
- Access to air will almost never be a concern for most people, and tainted atmospheres can be defeated by respirators or gas masks.
- Shelter can be had in their own home, or provided by field improvised simple shelters.
- Water is found in abundance all over the planet and can be made drinkable using a variety of techniques and affordable equipment As well as stockpiled ahead of time.
- Food is also easily stockpiled ahead of time and is found growing or running around all over the planet.
- Security can be provided by learning how to fight or arming yourself with a weapon and knowing how to use it as well as found in the safety of a group setting.
Stock Up on Basics
If your friend is coming into this prepping thing literally on Square One (meaning they have no more supplies in their home than what is typically found in their pantry and medicine cabinet on any given day) it is beneficial to give them a jump-start by providing them with a list.
A quicker way is to just donate to them a standard 3-day disaster readiness kit consisting of a three day supply of food, water, a basic first aid kit and other necessities like flashlights, a disaster radio and some basic tools.
This will go a long way towards giving them some confidence and helping them take control of the situation.
There are all kinds of recommendations and variations on the basic, starter 3-day survival kit, not the least of which are provided by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, as well as dozens of articles on this very website that will explore the topic in detail.
If you have been prepping for any length of time you might think a basic kit like this is frankly inadequate, and not much as far as material preps are concerned.
You aren’t wrong, but, statistically, most disasters that befall people are concluded, win, lose or draw within three days and this foundational stash will serve as the core other survival supplies they will continually build off of going forward into the future.
So much of the fear and anxiety that people feel when they are facing an encroaching disaster or they have lived through one and are dealing with new realizations in the aftermath comes from not knowing what to do in order to mitigate the situation, or minimize the chance of a negative outcome. It sounds rudimentary, but it is true.
Fear is one of the strongest emotions, and the strongest kind is fear of the unknown. If you can mitigate your friends’ fear through education and teaching them what to do in the situation they are so afraid of, you will do much to boost their confidence.
This is most easily done by addressing the situation at hand or the situation that is perhaps soon to occur.
If they just had their town or perhaps even their household obliterated by a tornado, start putting together an emergency response plan with them for a tornado warning and go over it with them step by step.
If they are worried about major civil unrest, teach them what to look for, what the signs and symptoms of an impending riot are and how they should deal with that depending on its proximity to them.
If you have been prepping for any length of time chances are you are already pretty seasoned with this sort of emergency response planning. You don’t need to get unnecessarily complex; keep things simple.
Go over pre-disaster steps, disaster-in-progress steps and post-disaster steps. Do a few drills or dry runs with them to make sure they have things down pat. Make a checklist for them that they can study, and rehearse on their own time.
If the emergency planning step does not seem like it is too much for your errant friend or family member to process in one go, you might also address a few secondary concerns or hazards that could result from the primary disaster.
It would not do for someone’s emergency plan to break down because of unforeseen consequences or circumstances far outside the norm, and then be left sitting on their hands wondering what in the heck they’re going to do now.
Most preppers are intimately familiar with the idea that no plan, no matter how carefully crafted, will go off without a hitch or without on-the-fly modifications.
For this reason, you should address contingency plans with your friend so they know how to deal with curveballs that crop up on the regular in any kind of emergency situation.
Things like what they should do if they cannot access their survival stash, or if it gets destroyed in the process.
If they have planned an escape route to head to an alternate safe location, and their route is blocked or is not safely passable do they have an alternate route?
How about a backup safe haven? Why not both? If they plan to leave or plan to stay in order to deal with a disaster but they wind up having to do the opposite do they have plans for that contingency?
More than any other step in getting your friend up to speed with prepping quickly, this one has the potential to overwhelm them. If you start stacking contingency upon contingency upon contingency, most people’s brains will shut down quickly.
You cannot eat an elephant all in one go, and so you cannot equip someone in a very short period of time to deal with everything that they might possibly need to be ready for, just in case.
The best bet is to arm them against what is most likely to occur, and then what secondary effects are most likely to occur as a result of that.
Provide Info and Chart Growth
Like anyone who is suddenly faced with a gaping hole in their own personal data banks, your friend or family member is likely going to have a bazillion questions, just like a small child.
It is in your and their best interest to steer them in the direction of vetted, correct information on survival topics and on prepping in general.
This can let them fill in the gaps at their own pace and will also help boost their confidence since they know they can have their pressing questions answered at a moment’s notice.
Assuming things have not completely fallen apart yet, you should definitely direct them to this website. With hundreds of articles and deep archives they will be able to learn and grow at their own pace.
That being said, you can never go wrong with a good, printed, survival manual of which there are many to choose from. One of my favorites, especially for brand new preppers, is Cody Lundin’s When All Hell Breaks Loose.
An extremely informative book, it is written in a simple and easy to read style that does not take itself too seriously.
Make no mistake, though, it is a serious survival manual, and could easily save someone’s life in a bad situation.
After you give your friends a jumpstart into prepping, check in with them later in the day or in a couple of days (depending on the time table of the event), and see how they are doing.
See what new questions they have for you that you can answer and reassure them that they are doing them right thing. Tell them they are doing fine, and that they will make it through whatever they are facing.
Once they seem to have the fundamentals of everything you taught them well in hand, keep them motivated to keep learning.
Remind them that prepping is a lifestyle, not a certification that they can obtain and then forget about. They should always be learning, growing and looking for the next potential problem that they can get ahead of.
Having followed all of the steps above you will have taken your friend or family member in need from knowing nothing, and being completely unprepared and scared of what the future might hold to reasonably forewarned, educated and capable of taking care of business if and when a disaster occurs.
They have not gone from zero to hero, they are not suddenly a prepping superstar, but they will have taken those all-important first steps on their journey thanks to you. You, who they had in their time of need, and that is something that you can be proud of.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.