Disaster Survival: When is it OK to Steal?

Disaster Survival When is it OK to Steal

Disaster Survival: Pitting Reality Against Morality

It’s easy to sit on a moral high horse while times are good. But when disasters strike, there’s a guarantee that theft will follow.

It’s not always career criminals smashing and grabbing. Sometimes it’s people in tough situations getting critical supplies using the only option available. There’s a fine line between “looting” and “scavenging for necessities.” Where you fall on it will depend on how you answer this question: When is it OK to steal?

To put this into context, Living Ready asked readers on its Facebook page to think about the following scenario:

It’s been three weeks since your utilities went out following a major disaster. Your water supplies are almost gone, and your family is literally dying of thirst. You know your neighbor has more than enough water stockpiled in a nearby garage. You know you could sneak in and take some with anyone noticing. Would you steal water for your family?

Disaster Survival: Is It Ever OK to Steal?

The responses went in a surprising direction. The consensus was that bartering should be the first course of action. Using skills learned ahead of time to purify water was also referenced. It goes to show how important it is to be educated about survival situations before they happen.

“No, I would not steal my neighbor’s water. I have many skills. I have plenty of other stockpiled goods. And if my neighbor was attempting to cut me off from water on purpose and flat out refused to share or trade, I’M STILL NOT STEALING OR TAKING HIS WATER. If there’s no local water and I cannot drill into the aquifer, then it is time to migrate. But I will tell every thirsty migrant I pass along the way about my ex-neighbor’s easily accessible stockpile of water…and the newly empty home next to him.” – William Major

Barter for survival

Jim Cobb gave an excellent presentation on bartering during survival situations in this Online Course from Living Ready University. Click to download it.

“Steal, no. I would, however, offer to trade him something, whether it be useful items, labor to turn his yard into a garden, or taking a few security watch shifts at his house so he can get some things done or get some sleep. And if he refused any of those things, I’d be heading out to the nearest water source – no matter how far or difficult it was.” – Carrie Bartkowiak

“No. Stealing is not the way to gain an ally, but to ensure they are an enemy. Ask, trade, beg or find some way to work together.” – Jeff Tremblay

“Get some sillcock wrenches for your urban bug out bag, you can tap exterior water outlets on commercial buildings. Also learn how to collect and purify water using charcoal and sand filters. Better then stealing!” – Regis Johnson

“If it was a matter of life or death – yes! Then I would have enough to live on for a few days while I search out for water for my family.” – Deborah L. Earl

“If it’s okay to steal water from him, then it is OK to steal everything else he has. May as well just kill him, too. If it’s for my family, that makes it OK, doesn’t it? And people wonder whats wrong with our society. Sheesh.” – Darrel Gill

“Until it happens, people can say ‘I wouldn’t,’ ‘I can’t’ or ‘that’s wrong.’ But look at how emotional parents gets over something stupid. Now add in stress, fatigue, anger, frustration and hunger. Then watch the morals and society fade away.” – Rusty Mallett

What would you do in that situation? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Disaster Survival: When is it OK to Steal?

  1. Smithkowitz

    Is the world really Civilized or have we just cloaked our uncivilized behavior so well that the majority don’t see it?

    I’m already for the bartering game; I know there will be desired services and goods that I and other family members will be able to provide to others in exchange for other life sustaining goods we may be short of.

    Killing if necessary (keyword) but what exactly does necessary mean? I personally believe there are people out there who would sooner die than take the life of another. In a Survival situation, Reality might change our mind, depends what reality is to you.

    The most important thing of all, to prepare now for the possibility tomorrow.

  2. DHConner

    I have a great niece who said she could never kill anybody, no matter what the circumstances were. 10 years later, when her oldest was 12, I asked her if she could kill if somebody was trying to rape or kill one of her 3 kids. “In a heart-beat” was her response. She is a pediatric psychiatric nurse, former instructor at University of Nebraska, Omaha, and a very intelligent and principled woman. See how things change when we begin by recognizing the truth of this homily: “Sanity is reality. Reality is seeing how things really are and acting appropriately”. I would try to barter first, buy second, steal third, and kill fourth. You do not want an extremely angry person living next you from whom you have stolen in order to maintain the lives of your family. So you either move on and hope you’ll find water, or kill him. Harsh? Reality is what it is, and no moral system is going to stop you from doing what you must to survive. JLA is in close touch with reality. Utilitarian needs to buy some new glasses that are clear, and not rose colored. Parents will and have many times over the eons sacrificed their own lives to keep their kids alive, and I don’t think that primal, top of the brain stem “reptilian mind” is going anywhere soon.

    “Civilization” is a very thin veneer just a few seconds old when viewed through the lens of 7 million years of evolution, and can disappear in a flash when the shit really hits the fan. At worst, DO NOT eat your neighbor’s brain. There is a disease called “Kuru” which is the human analogue of bovine spongiform disease. It has appeared again in Syria, NOW–TODAY, where some rebel ate the brain of one of his enemies. Don’t believe me? Look it up for yourself. It’s a nasty way to die, exactly the same as BSE infected cattle.
    Semper Fi Semper Vigilans

  3. Utilitarian

    I would have to agree with what I believe to be something of a majority, that stealing water would seem the act of a shortsighted person who had not done their homework as part of life. In almost any scenario water is all around you, and with the proper skills, maybe some chlorine, or just heat, it becomes quite potable. I think it behooves a real survivalist to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. With skill and knowledge these are challenges, not problems.

  4. JLA

    It’s very easy to sit here and say, “No way, absolutely not, I would not steal my neighbor’s water supplies,” but I’m not thirsty at the moment. We still have plenty of water stockpiled, and I’m not watching my beloved family suffering through the fatal affects of dehydration. I’d be willing to bet that if it came down to steal or die most of those people quoted in the story would choose to steal the water, even those who truly believe that they would not. Of course they might try all that other stuff first, but if/when it all failed I highly doubt they’d choose to watch their children die slow, painful deaths from dehydration if there was anything at all they could do to prevent it!

    It’s like to guy who says “I would never kill, no matter what!” who then bashes a rapists head in with a shovel to stop the guy from raping his daughter. Did he mean it when he said that he would never kill no matter what? Did he believe that he could never do it? That violence was never the answer? Most likely he did, but reality has a funny way of changing our minds when our survival or the survival of one we love is one the line!!!