Scavenging in a Post-Disaster World

The whole idea of disaster preparedness is to ensure that you have what your family will need, in order to survive, when and if a disaster strikes. Some preppers spend years building an extensive stockpile of supplies, as well as buying equipment to allow as much of an off-grid lifestyle as possible.

But what if you don’t have enough? What if you’re caught unaware and you’re not ready? Or what if the stockpile you have isn’t enough to meet your needs? What then? Is it okay to turn to scavenging, in order to find what you need in order to survive?

This is a complex question and one which doesn’t have any easy answer. In reality, the line between scavenging and looting is a very fine one; so fine that it’s often impossible to see. That’s because the only real difference between the two is whether you are taking something that someone else needs or taking something that would be considered scrap. But how do you make that determination?

Adding to that confusion is the fact that there really is no way of determining if someone else needs the item you think you need, especially if they aren’t there to ask. I’m sure that if you asked the looters who were stealing big screen televisions during the devastation Hurricane Katrina, they would tell you that they were just scavenging things that others didn’t need. They could point to the fact that the televisions were abandoned by their original owners, whether that was a store or a private citizens.

Anyone who is scavenging in a post-disaster world is going to be seen by the authorities as stealing, at least during the early part of the crisis. It won’t matter if they are taking food home to keep their kids from starving or taking a television home in the hope that the electric power comes back on. They will be taking something home that doesn’t belong to them. By definition, that is stealing.

But could that ever change?

To start with, there will be government agencies who are stealing, I mean scavenging. There are a number of executive orders which give the FEMA the right to seize resources in the event of a disaster. They will be trying to beat the looters to the punch, collecting food and other critical supplies from stores, warehouses and manufacturers.

Since the government doesn’t like competition, they will prosecute anyone who tries to do the same. Only the government is allowed to redistribute the wealth; nobody else is. Apparently if they do it, it’s okay, but if you or I do, it’s bad.

Of course, things could be so bad in some situations, such as in the wake of an EMP attack, that the federal government ceases to function effectively. In that case it will probably be municipal governments which will be seizing those assets, rather than the feds. But for you and I, the results are essentially the same.

There is an exception to this; I can see one situation where scavenging will become acceptable in a post-disaster world. That is in a situation which is so grave, that it kills off a large percentage of the population. Mostly the realm of apocalyptic fiction writers, the loss of the electric grid, due to an EMP, would most likely put us in that sort of situation.

In that sort of case, after a large portion of the population died off, scavenging would probably become a way of life. But by then, it won’t be about scavenging food, it will be about scavenging tools, clothing and other necessities. People will scavenge because the things they were using will have worn out and they will be scavenging from people who aren’t around to complain about it.

For you and I, the solution is to avoid scavenging altogether. The only way we can do that, is to make sure that we have adequate supplies to feed our families and take care of their needs. That means stockpiling lots of food, like our emergency food kits, and other necessities.

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Jake Buckland

Honors. B.A. Criminology, M.A. Disaster and Emergency Management. 10 years Army (7 years Communication & 3 years Intelligence). 7 years Federal Government (Public Service & Emergency Management). Expert Author - Practical Emergency Kits

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