Sticky Survival Situation: Family refuse to prepare but plan on coming to my house, Part 2

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Sticky Situation Part 2
Library of Congress: Johnstown Flood


Over the years, I have received this question many times. It’s a sticky survival situation in which family and friends inform us they will just come to our house when disaster strikes. Here’s the most recent example of this question from a reader on Facebook:

I prep for my family of four (I stockpile, coupon, can, and garden) and am considerate that we have extended family who may need our help if things really hit the fan one day, but I’m stuck trying to figure out how to get the message across to friends and family that they really need to think about taking care of themselves.

I hear the teasing (but not really) statement “oh we’re just going to come here if there’s ever a _______ (insert your choice of disaster)” I’d never dream of turning someone away, but at what point and how do you say ‘no’?

They see me doing it and they don’t think it’s stupid but they don’t want to invest the time,effort and/or money to do it themselves. How do I tell them that I’m taking care of mine – they need to take care of theirs? That it’s not my responsibility because they’re too lazy. (Sorry – this sounds more like a rant than a question). I just don’t know how to delicately say “get yourself together.”

A couple of years ago I created this video to address part of this question:

Since this is such a common question, but one that is very pressing to many people, I turned to other bloggers and experts in the prepper and survival niche and asked for their advice. Here is a continuation of those responses. You can read Part 1 here.

Talking to Acquaintances and Those Who Simply Refuse to Understand

By Heather Harris of The Homesteading Hippy:

What I would say is, “Sure, you can always come over, but what happens if you CAN’T make it to my house?  Or, what do we do if that disaster hits and takes out all that I have prepared?  I am not just prepping food and supplies, I am also prepping by learning skills to survive.  A tornado, hurricane, earthquake, etc. can happen at any time.  What will you do if you can’t get to me and you are on your own?

Do mention the most likely disaster scenarios in your area:

For someone you don’t know well or who clearly doesn’t want to understand, this might be a good stopping point and a short conversation may be all that is warranted. Your conscience can be clear that you have tried.

Offer some help, not a hand-out

By Jim Cobb of Survival Weekly and Disaster Prep Consultants.

Try writing a letter to members of the extended family (as well as close friends, perhaps) who have indicated, even jokingly, that they plan to head to your place in the event of a major disaster. This letter should stress:

  1. You are setting aside only enough supplies for your own immediate family.
  2. Anything given out later will only shorten the length of time you will be able to provide for your spouse and children.
  3. You simply cannot financially afford to stock enough food for x-number of people any more than you could buy the regular groceries for them all.
  4. Finally, and this isn’t an easy thing to do, explain that you WILL turn people away, by force if need be, to protect your immediate family. (If you say something less precise like “loved ones”, some people might decide that includes them.)

Then, make a sincere offer to help them help themselves. There are two potential options.

  1. They can invest a given amount of money (weekly, monthly, lump sum, whatever) and you will purchase goods on their behalf, either storing them at your home or giving it to them to keep at their place.
  2. You can give them a list of what you feel they should purchase and let them do it on their own. Offer to help them find good deals and select products that are best suited for their needs.

Approaching the issue from this standpoint serves a couple of different purposes.

  1. You just might get them to “buy in” to prepping.
  2. You will have a clear conscience later, if they show up and you need to turn them away.

Jim Cobb’s recent book, Countdown to Preparedness, covers this in more detail.

Give clear, unambiguous responses to this sticky survival situation

By Chris Ruiz of The Bug Out Bag Guide

First off, congratulations for taking action to prep your family of four. This takes courage and foresight that not everyone is willing to embrace. It sounds like your friends and relatives are starting to cause you stress with their nonchalant reliance on your hard work! You are once again showing your proactive nature by trying to address the situation before it causes tension in your relationships.

In order to preserve these relationships it is important to structure your approach carefully:

  • Make sure no matter what you say that it is evident that it comes from a place of love and genuine concern.
  • Don’t attack, judge, or lecture, this will only alienate them
  • Offer to help by sharing information and skills rather than your carefully prepared resources
  • Treat them like a partner rather than a student, they will invest more mentally if they see they have a stake in the endeavor
  • Try to not use phrases like “you do/don’t”. These can sound like an accusation.

Let’s take a closer look at the root of the issues you are having and see if we can come up with a response for the next time the subject comes up.

From your question:

“I hear the teasing (but not really) statement, “Oh, we’re just going to come here if there’s ever a _______ (insert your choice of disaster)” And I’d never dream of turning someone away but at what point and how do you say “no’? “


  • They do not take the threats that you perceive seriously.
  • They are assuming you will have enough resources to care for everyone.

“They see me doing it and they don’t think it’s stupid but they don’t want to invest the time, effort and/or money to do it themselves.”


  • They think these efforts waste of time/money/energy.

“How do I tell them that I’m taking care of mine – they need to take care of theirs? That it’s not my responsibility because they’re too lazy. (sorry this sounds more like a rant than a question). I just don’t know how to delicately say “get yourself together”?


  • Their different assessment of risks and reliance on your hard work is causing you stress.
  • You want to address this with them without causing hurt feelings but are at a loss for words.
  • They have thought about prepping but have numerous excuses.

The setup

I would have a sit down meeting with the head of the family that is causing you the most grief. This doesn’t have to be as formal as a “Family Meeting” but you want a time when the two (or 3-4 depending on the inclusion of spouses) of you can sit down away from distractions and have a quick chat. Make sure everyone is of clear mind and no one was about to head home when you sit down to allow for ample time.

One suggestion for keeping things informal is to wait until the next time you hear a “If anything ever happens we would just come here” remark. Let it pass as it normally does and at the first opportunity approach the person and ask if you can have a word. Consider ahead of time if you want to involve spouses as well, and it is best to separate yourselves from the kids for the conversation to reduce emotional responses and distractions.

The delivery

Framing it as a question sets the tone as less confrontational than immediately stating that you have an issue with their attitude:

“Hey, I just wanted to ask you about your comment a little while ago about “If there is ever a disaster we will just come here.” You know that we prep and that we would always help out family any way we could. The thing is that we are really only set up to support 4 people. Would you want to work together so that we could all be safer? It is a labor of love but if we worked together it would be easy and more cost effective. I would be happy to share my knowledge with you and help any way I could. What do you think?”

Additional points to phrase as you see fit:

  • My home may not even be safe depending on the type and location of the disaster. If both of our households were prepared all of us would have an alternate safe location to shelter in.
  • Working together on this project would make our families even closer.
  • I understand that you may not see the threat of X in the same way as I do but being prepared never hurts.
  • You are all family and I will be there to support you no matter what, working together just ensures we will all be cared for in a disaster.
  • It is really not as expensive/time consuming/physically hard as you think and I am happy to show you how

The Response

There are 3 likely responses here. Yes, Maybe, and No. You need to prepare yourself and your spouse for all of them so that you can best react to whatever the result is.


Good work! You got them on board. The important thing here is to hold them accountable. If you get a yes, move on to a specific date when you will get together to get started. Have an easy project or task ready to tackle as a team the next weekend. Time is the enemy of the “Yes” response. You want to engage your new partners and get started working together before they get lazy and lose motivation. Have your first step together be easy and achievable so they can see results. Move up in difficulty from there.


They may be caught off guard and be uncomfortable with the new ideas you are presenting. This is OK and would be a good time to try to address any concerns they may have with the Additional Points that I listed above. You know these people best, so try to brainstorm their potential concerns before the conversation so you can be prepared to address them.

You can take a similar approach as the “Yes” response and offer to set up a trial project or event to do together so they can see what it is like without committing. Try to get them to commit to a specific date to either do this trial project or have a follow up conversation.


This is a tough one but you have to prepare for the possibility of “No” if you are going to address any issue with any person ever. They may be offended or scared by what you say. Sticking to the approach I outlined above (coming from a place of concern, not being judgmental or confrontational, etc) should help to minimize this but it is always a possibility.

If you get a “No” you can again try to respond with the Additional Points I listed as well as any responses that you have brainstormed. Try to end the conversation on a positive note but do not back down. That will only leave them with the expectation that they can rely on your hard work and resources.

You can attempt to close with something along the lines of:

“Like I said, you are family but the idea of supporting X-number of people on the stockpile we have was a challenge I wanted to ask for your help with. If you aren’t comfortable with that now I am happy to talk about it with you at another time.”

This is a tough situation and I wish you the best of luck with your sticky conversation. Remember that you are coming from a place of family love and genuine concern and hopefully they will come around to being a strong partner on your preparedness journey.

Plant seeds now, hope for the right fruit later

By Melissa Willis of Evergrowing Farm

In my experience as an educator, I have found that sharing knowledge is a lot like planting seeds.
You can share information and examples of personal experience, but you cannot force someone to do anything they’re not ready for. The truth is, prepping for any kind of disaster can be very stressful! Most people would prefer to just look the other way/pretend everything will always stay as it is. There will always be food on the shelves, there will always be gas at the pumps, there will always be water pouring from the tap….
So, share your stories and the foundation behind why you do what you do a little at a time without the expectation that it will click for anyone else immediately. You can talk about the natural disasters in your area that are very real and happen all the time, talk about what might happen if the food supply was interrupted by a huge storm and then mention how they can purchase a few extra cans of food every time they go shopping, “just in case”! The more they understand the importance of taking care of themselves, the more they’ll understand that they can’t just pop over and use all your stores if/when the SHTF.
The trick for me has been to approach it all very casually, like it’s just the way it is and something everyone should be doing.  I think it feels less scary that way.  Little by little, you’ll be planting ideas, planting information that they will most likely begin to act on.  Again, this is a process and doesn’t happen for most overnight, but you can affect change!

9 thoughts on “Sticky Survival Situation: Family refuse to prepare but plan on coming to my house, Part 2”

  1. In answer to the half-teasing statement that they will just come to my place, I have replied, in the same half-teasing tone, “you would be welcome in my home, but you better be bringing some food with you.” There are some excellent ideas here in your article. I wish I had thought to follow up my statement with the suggestion that the other people might not be able to get to my house, or that my home might be wiped out and we all need to go to their house. There are great ways to in your article here to introduce the idea that you will limit your assistance in a way that is not offensive and also gets others to think about putting away a bit for themselves, just in case. Good read.

  2. Because I plan on bugging out (if able) and those who have been invited to my BOL are those who I trust to prep and bring something to the table I am not too worried. Although more people means more mouths it also means more hands and back to share in the work of survival…and provide for a division of labor. In general if they make it to me I will feed them even if the portions are meager until we get to full agricultural capacity.

  3. Padre makes a great point about more people means more hands for work, more eyes to watch, more strength for protection.
    I have responded to this question by suggesting that “we could go together and buy bulk, that makes it cheaper for all of us and then you and your family would have the same piece of mind that we do” But pointing out to people that in a disaster there would be lots of work and the need for extra security might make them rethink. People who are too lazy, or whatever, to prep are probably going to think twice when you throw the prospect of hard work at them.

  4. The thought of telling my family, friends, neighbors, or even a stranger “no” while I still have provisions goes against everything in me. I am completely aware that whatever I share will be lost/gone, but I couldn’t live with myself turning someone away. I have family members who are more than willing to take up arms and “shoot to kill” in order to protect their goods. Frankly, I’d rather share or be shot myself than to murder someone over a box a macaroni.

    I’ve heard and discussed all the arguments, they are moot on me.

  5. Consider first what these people bring to the table.

    My “jokers” in addition to being close family have skills I would want and need if SHTF
    -better at gardening than me
    -military experience
    -food preservation
    -cooking from scratch
    – medical experience
    – hunting / fishing

    There is more but those are some of the stand out qualities our jokers have. Rice and beans are relatively cheap and store for a long time so I account for the extra people when I stock those items. Other things like meat, vegetables, fruit etc are more costly so I so far only store enough for us.

    I’ve made it clear they are welcome to come here, I live in a double wide (family of 6) so space is an issue, they will need to figure out something to sleep on and there will be no privacy. It’s my home, my rules. I’m the one who started prepping not my hubby so when it comes down to it I am the boss period. And everyone will have work to do, all chores will be shared and rotated.

    I’ve already recruited them even if they think I’m nuts. The one with carpentry skills frequently gets asked to help me build things, the one who gardens is great at growing, not so good on the harvest and preserving (gets too busy to do it) so I help harvest, the one who’s good at preserving helps me can it all and we share it, the one who’s good at cooking from scratch i frequently pick their brain for recipes and tips in the kitchen. We are getting the one with military experience to go on a week long hike/camp trip (well it’s bug out practice for us) so he can show us some of his survival skills.
    The other things I tell them…
    I don’t have a pet and if they bring theirs they bring food for it or share their food with it.
    Do Not show up empty handed, bring whatever you can with you especially food, and clothing for yourself
    Bring a gun and all the ammo you can because everyone is responsible for defense and security.
    Keep in mind if we have to bug out we may be coming to your place instead.

    They may tease and call me nuts, but I have noticed better stocked pantries, they more often buy in bulk, they don’t squawk as much when I ask for help with a prepping project etc. so while they may not be there yet they are starting to come around.

  6. As the family matriarch, I am uncomfortable with the priority given to the nuclear family. Over the years I have been able to invest in enough property and storage space to accommodate more than just my aging husband and myself. The younger members of the family who do not have the financial resources, the time, the space or the inclination to prep all contribute by sharing home-cooked meals, helping in the garden and around the house, and a variety of other ways according to their skills and ability. A grandchild will be here soon to do my mending-a chore I hate. There is as likely a chance that I won’t survive a disaster as that they won’t, but they all know the locations of survival supplies should they need them. The nuclear family idea stems from viewers who are in that age range, but why not also prepare for those who cannot. Displaced children, older people who have been forced to downsize because of age-related limitations, those who prepped but whose supplies were lost, and those who might have been traveling through the area and can’t reach home. We don’t stop prepping for families when our children leave home. As for skills, people who just make us smile or give us optimism in difficult times valuable to the group as well. I speak as someone who was born in Germany in the 40’s to a family threatened by the government and heard first-hand how people hide (bug out) and still help others survive. While there are times you can’t do it all by yourself, there are times you can do more. The key is to have multiple sites so get as many involved at some level as possible. It all evens out over time and no one has to worry if one locations loses supplies. If you can’t save a year’s worth of food, go plant a maple tree for the survival of future generations. Natural disasters require less survival prep than manmade ones. In the case of a disaster not created by nature, we want to avoid a survival mindset that mimics the self-centered mindset of the oppressors. My last note: Year ago we had a root cellar and work bench but not a media room and three car garage. We didn’t call it prepping. We called it common sense.

  7. I understand both sides of the issue. I would never deny someone food I had, but it discouraging when you others refuse to work. You could remind them of the story of the 10 virgins in the Bible. The 5 wise virgins were unable, not unwilling, to share their oil. In cases of emergency or just a difficult situation, the peace of mind that comes from a preparedness can’t be shared. If the listener is willing to listen than I would explain. If they refuse to take it seriously, than I would just ignore it. Do your best, share what you have, but you can’t force others to prepare. If they refuse to listen, than they may have to learn from their own consequences.

  8. My thoughts are first, tell them that they will work for their meals and work hard. Second, I will tell them that they will live by my rules 100% of the time, I am absolutely the boss and I will have no problem kicking them out.
    I believe you must set expectations up front or there will be a lot of unnecessary problems.

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