How to Be a Good Refugee

You’ve been reading this site (and others) and you’ve heard the alarming reports in the news, but you’ve been busy and just couldn’t seem to get started in your preparedness.  Or, you’ve taken some concrete steps (you have a rain barrel to collect water and you’ve started buying extra non-perishables each month) but you live in the city and now it’s too dangerous to stay.  You’ve got to get out.

What do you do?

I hope you have given thought to what you would do if you couldn’t stay where you are.  If you don’t have a back-up plan, now is the time to make one.

If you had to flee your home (think forest fire, rioting, flooding, chemical spill, etc.), where would you go?  Do you know anyone with an extra room or two who lives far enough away from you to be unaffected by your problem, but close enough to get to quickly?  Do you think they would be willing to take you in during a true emergency?  You need to find out.  (And be sure to make them the same offer if roles are reversed).

What should you take?

The answer to this depends on a few things:

  1.  How long will you need to be away from home?
  2. What do you have to contribute?
  3. What are you able to transport?

Length of Stay

If you expect to need a place to stay for a few days (like until utilities are restored after an ice storm), you are pretty much packing for a long weekend.  Take clothes, toiletries, medicines, cell phones & chargers, etc. and money to purchase other items as needed.

If you think your stay may be extended, of course take the above items, but try to think about how you can make the time better for everybody by contributing to group.  Try to anticipate your own needs so others don’t have to meet them.  Then see how you may be able to ease the load of the kind people offering you shelter.

What if lots of other people have the same idea?  If you are part of a large extended family, it could be that Uncle Bob’s cabin in the woods is suddenly really popular.  Do you have a camper or tent in case “there’s no room in the inn”?

If you know you will likely not come back for a long time, think in terms of what you need for the next 3 months or more.  Make sure you have any documents you may need (birth certificates, proof of residency, mortgage info, and the like).  Bring all the cash you have on-hand, your checkbook, and any other valuables.  Take a good selection of clothing for the next season.  If you have tools, boots, flashlights, radios, fishing poles, guns, and so on, bring them.  It would probably be a good idea to bring all the non-perishable food items you can fit also.


Do you have a freezer full of food that will likely go bad anyway?  Put it in coolers and bring it along.  Do you have a stash of candles you could share?  Do you have some good diversions for the children that will be present?  If it’s harvest season on the farm, bring your gloves and work jeans along and plan to help out.


If at all possible, you will want to drive your own vehicle(s) to your destination.  Have you considered what you would do if that’s not possible?   Do you have bicycles, wagons, or some other way to take what you need?  Do you have backpacks you can fill up?  Is there any reliable mass transit system you could use?  What route would you take?  Is it the same one that everyone else will be trying to use at the very same time?

This is really just the beginning of the things you should consider.  Everyone really should have a Bug Out Bag in their vehicle or ready to grab at all times, but that is a topic for another time.  If you were going to take in refugees, what would you want them to bring along?

A Final Thought

If your stay at your emergency location is short, people may act as if they are on a get-away weekend or “camping adventure.”  Having fun is certainly a fine goal, but please remember that you are a guest and show your gratitude.  Uncle Bob may be thrilled to have a family reunion at his place, but be ready to pitch in and chop the wood for that campfire, offer to wash the 30 dinner dishes, or anything else that needs doing.

If your stay turns out to be extended (extended civil unrest, no water/electricity, etc.), plan on seriously earning your keep.  While your family/friends may be glad you are there, that will quickly change if you are a burden rather than a help.  You are not on vacation-  you are being graciously provided shelter (security, food, etc) by people that put aside supplies to provide for their own families and are sharing with you.  It’s important that you not take that for granted.  The welfare of the group depends on each member.

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22 Comments on “How to Be a Good Refugee”

  1. David Nash Says:

    Been waiting for this post, all sorts of people tell me, well if it happens I’m coming to your house… I’m like how much food are you going to bring, or what kind of work can you do…
    Thanks for the valuable information. I love your site.


  2. Joe Says:

    Thanks David. Yes, that’s one of the perils of talking to others about prepping. If you they hear you, really hear you and understand the need, you’ve done them a great favor. They will prepare and be ready themselves.

    But if they don’t see the need, if they refuse to believe that prepping is a good idea, they will know where to go when/if it does hit the fan. They are coming to your house because the remember that you’re prepared. Hat in hand they will knock on your door, admitting that they should have prepared and now they have nowhere else to go.

    I hope that everyone will be a good refugee. I hope that they will arrive ready to help and willing to pull their own weight. But, unfortunately, that cannot be taken for granted.

    In stressful times such as a mini-TEOTWAWKI event, adding interpersonal conflict to the mix only heightens the level of anxiety. And that’s the last thing that’s needed.

    Thanks for the comment, David! I’m curious. How do you handle those people who know you prep and are unwilling to do it themselves?



    • David Nash Says:

      I tell them that I love everybody but I love my family more, and if they choose not to prepare, they are also choosing not to come to my house… But if they do, they better bring at least 400 pounds of food, 1000 rounds, and be willing to work. Sometimes they grouse and mention Christian charity but I point out free will and how we both make choices and have to reap what we sow. I know it sounds harsh, but I I cannot prepare for everyone, and every extra unexpected mouth is food out of the mouths of the people I have a responsibility to prep for… On the other hand, several of my prepper friends know that if they loose their preps they are welcome, and they feel the same toward me and mine… Its all about priorities If you work you eat – if you buy season tickets to the titans you can afford some bulk wheat…


      • Joe Says:

        “Sometimes they grouse and mention Christian charity but I point out free will and how we both make choices and have to reap what we sow.”

        I like that, David. Great point.


      • Laura Says:

        “Priorities” is right!

        I feel the same way about big TVs, game systems, manicures, Starbucks, and mall shopping that you do about Titans tickets. I won’t have much sympathy for those I warned who indulged in those things but tell me later that they couldn’t “afford” to prepare.

        Foregoing a meal out for the average family of 4 will buy you a bucket of grain. Passing up season tickets will buy you a quality water filter and a whole lot more.

        I had a maddening experience just yesterday watching the people in line in front of me make very poor choices at tax payer expense. I think I may just have to write a post about it to get that out of my system.

        By the way, in regards to the recent post on your site, we have decided to get a Mastiff as a guard dog. I’m sure eventually I’ll get a post up about that too.

        Have a great weekend.


  3. Padre Says:

    Ok, so admittedly someone who worries about all the worldly pleasure while forgetting to plan for the worst is in a word stupid. And your right, if you honestly believe you can’t spare the food then your first duty is to your family, but, don’t knock Christian charity.

    They say it is better to give than to receive and this is especially true in a moderate to long term WROL situation. Can you and your family REALLY defend your home and resources 24-7-365? Can you do it against a semi-organized threat like a gang? Can you do this and scavenge/farm/prepare food etc.?

    Humans are social beings for utilitarian reasons and because God made us to love others; and while charity does have its limits we should always strive to give till it hurts, even if that only means a few cans of food and well wishes.


    • Laura Says:


      I appreciate you weighing in on this topic. I am in complete agreement with you that it is our Christian DUTY to be charitable. We try to plan for that, but as I think David was trying to say, it’s just not possible to provide for everyone.

      Believe me, I lie awake at night sometimes uneasy about the idea of ever having to turn anyone away. I have images of every member of my church/community lined up at my door asking for help and having to turn them away. While it may (hopefully) be within our means to provide for 10, it is not within our means to provide for 300.

      I’m aware that not everyone has the same opportunities to prepare that we have been blessed with, but many do and they choose to ignore their own responsibilities and indulge themselves in luxuries.

      I’m also aware that some people have so many problems- live literally trying to get through the next custody hearing, doctor’s visit, house payment- that they not only can’t prepare right now, but they are truly oblivious to the need. As far as they are concerned, what happens in the Treasury is of no relevance to them when their own bank accounts are almost empty because they lost their jobs- they don’t even listen to the news. I have sympathy. A dear friend of my own is in this situation and we plan to take her in if the need arises.

      I think we have to balance several things- security, taking care first of the ones God has given us responsibility for, and charity. I don’t want the county crackheads to know we have food and medicine, but I would want the truly needy to feel they could come to us for help.

      Another way Joe and I (and David, I think) are trying to live out that Christian duty is by writing this blog. Joe and I feel called to help anyone who WANTS help. We are trying to wake people up and get the message out while there is time- I think my family may be blocking my emails by now. But we can’t endanger our own if they choose not to listen and act.

      Thanks for your thoughts.


    • Laura Says:


      Was that your Faith piece I read on SurvivalBlog? It was good. I agree that “foraging” will most likely become a most basic element of survival in some situations. Being Libertarian by nature, I would strongly resist having living, present people’s belongings “redistributed” for the common good. BUT, I think I would be unable to allow people to starve knowing there was a warehouse full of food going to mice instead, just because there is no way to contact the owner for permission. And I would hope that the owner would wish to do what was within his power to help his fellow man. Restitution should definitely be attempted, though, whether it is in labor or goods.


  4. David Nash Says:

    Hey, I’m not knocking Christian beliefs… And I have no problem with people doing with their money what they want to do with THEIR money… But I have co-workers that have season tickets to the titans, and go on trips couple times a month, but think my prepping is a waste of energy… Those guy know they cannot come to my house, but the other day they told me that wasn’t very Christian of me. Well, God gave us free will and showed us what he expects, and if we choose not to follow his word, he lets us suffer the consequences. Its pretty obvious we are in a dependency spiral, and the Greatest Depression is on the way. And yes, I understand the 24-7-365 need for defense, and I know I cannot shot EVERYBODY, so I am trying to organize my neighborhood. If people choose not to participate, I have no problems with grasshoppers, but they don’t get to hang with the ants.


  5. SurvivalWoman Says:

    This is a necessary and important topic that has not been discussed very often online. While reading your article, I flashed back to the 20 years we had a large, 50 foot boat and the number of guests who would invite themselves for a weekend on the water, come aboard, plop themselves down, and enjoy the ride so to speak. In those days I was too nice and too polite to say “sorry, no room at the inn”.

    There was no offer to participate in the chores (of which there were many), nor the expense (which was great especially with guests aboard). I ended up writing a little handbook to give to our guests. Perhaps I should resurrect it, change the wording a bit, and title it “How to be a good guest in a survival household”.

    I hope you continue to expand upon this topic. I will do the same.

    — Gaye


    • Joe Says:

      Ah, great real-world analogy. Revising and updating the book sounds like a great idea to me, SurvivorWoman!

      One suggestion, though, and it’s a nit-picky one. I’d change the word “guest” in the title. It implies that you are the hostess and will tend to their needs. I’d use “participant” or “tenant” or something along those lines. That would subtly convey that they are expected to carry their weight and should not expect you to tend to them as if it’s Thanksgiving dinner.

      Just my 2 cents….



    • Laura Says:

      Thanks for the idea SurvivalWoman! That’s a good one- write out some ground rules.

      I agree that I haven’t seen much on this topic out there. When I first thought about writing about this, I talked myself out of it, assuming that anyone actually reading it would not really need to. It occurred to me that those people may forward the info on to the ones they know need to think about it.

      The sites I’ve frequented usually assume that if you are reading them, you are truly actively preparing. That is probably not entirely true- readers may have a resistant spouse or can’t seem to get started for some reason. I suspect that there are also a lot of people who will find they did too little too late.

      Back to your idea- Joe and I have often talked about how we would handle those who may show up. A well-thought out written agreement would undoubtedly save a lot of headaches (or at least give us something to point back to later). Maybe I will write a posting on those things we had discussed, which included division of labor, discipline of refugee children, use and choices of food, etc.


  6. SurvivalWoman Says:

    I know from the number of emails I get that there are a lot of prepping newbies and wannabees that follow Backdoor Survival so they are probably following Prepping to Survive as well.

    I need to get some work done today (after all, the bills need to be paid LOL) but perhaps next week we can pursue this concept a bit further. BTW, the name of my little book was “A Guide to Getting the Most Afloat on the Honey Bear”. Honey Bear was the name of our boat. I kept it light but serious and while the original intent was to provide some rules to the freeloaders, it was also a tome on safety while on the water.

    — Gaye


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