When the Unprepared Come to Your Door: What to Give Them

June 25, 2021

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

When disaster strikes and desperation sets in on your neighbors, friends, and strangers you have never met, your resources could be targeted.  Retaining what you need to see your way through a disaster is paramount, but nobody wants to turn people out into the fires or storms or chaos, knowing they have no hope of survival.  Still, you can’t take in everyone who comes to your door.  It’s possible you can’t take in anyone at all, but is there something you can do to help your fellow human survive another uncertain day?

In a recent blog, I covered the issue of how people will react when no help is on the horizon.  In this video, I will discuss the conditions of giving, and we will construct what some people have called a blessing bag, a handout bag, or a 72-hour survival kit.  I like to call them a Hand-up Kit because it’s just enough to give someone a hand in the worst of situations.  Your Hand-Up Kit doubles as an emergency evacuation bugout kit for you, as well.  You can’t give someone who shows up at your door everything, but you can give them enough to give them hope in even the direst of circumstances.  Hope is the one thing that can help us get through the darkest of times.


Upfront, it’s crucial to establish that giving after a natural disaster has to have some conditions to maintain your operational security or OPSEC.  This isn’t to say that your giving is quid pro quo- a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.  That’s a trade.  I mean by conditions on your giving that you are not compromising your reserves or your chances of survival by giving to someone else.

To maintain your operational security, you should be clear with anyone you are giving to that you don’t have much, and this is all you can spare.  You should never reveal the extent of your stores and preps.  You should be clear that you cannot take them in or shelter them, but you are willing to help them on their journey.  You should never compromise your security or risk being overtaken or someone barging into your safe home.  If you feel that your safety is in jeopardy or your secure location could be compromised, it is always the best course of action to turn whoever it is away.  Preferably, you can hand over your Hand-Up kit without actually physically handing it off.  Instead, you could tell the person to come back in ten minutes, and you will leave a little something for them in front of the door.  You could also toss the kit from a second-story window to maintain your security.

Much will depend on the disaster at hand.  A localized catastrophe that isn’t likely to stretch beyond a few days or a week where relief services are already flowing and everything is on the mend would allow you to be very generous.  A very localized disaster like a tornado isn’t likely to create ongoing, excessive civil unrest and lawlessness, so your personal safety will remain high.  A large-scale disaster affecting a much larger region where services will be offline indefinitely creates a real threat to your personal security.  In this situation, revealing yourself as a source of supplies is not the right thing to do.  As the disaster worsens and people lose hope that any relief or rescue will come, humanity will fade, and they will view you more as a resource to be exploited at any cost.

If the disaster is not a complete SHTF situation, you have the option and ability to help others should you choose to do so.  The uncertainty and estimation of how long the disaster will last will determine both the extent of your giving and your willingness to give.  Finally, I wouldn’t advise helping the same person twice.  Once is a hand-up.  Twice creates a dependency that will have them returning to your door again and again.  Assuming that you are in a position to help someone else and send them on their way with a better chance of survival, I recommend the following Hand-Up Kit.


The container that your kit is in should have utility.  I recommend either a 5-gallon bucket like those available for under $5.00 at your local hardware store or a used backpack that you are looking to repurpose.  The pail or bucket with a lid can carry water later or port out waste.  A Gamma Seal lid is preferable, otherwise do make sure that the lid can easily be removed without additional tools, something like a reusable easy-peel lid.  Whomever you give this to will also find value in the container.  With anything challenging to use or cook, you should include a slight note of directions.  You don’t want the person returning. So let’s cover the items in this kit.


Either a few bottles or cans of water, a few emergency packets of water, water purification tablets for water purification, a sillcock key, or even a Mini Sawyer or Life Straw will provide someone with the means to hydrate themselves through the disaster.  There is a difference between water in hand and water that can be acquired through purification or filtration.  Providing both actual water and the means to purify or filter water covers all the bases.  You may want to also print out some basic instructions on obtaining water.


For this, I recommend long-term mylar stored rice, beans, dried fruits, oats, hardtack, bouillon cubes, or high-calorie food bars.  Think of enough to get a person through 72 hours.  Believe it or not, many people can’t cook either rice or beans, so you might also print out and store in the food basic preparation instructions.  For sustenance or continued ability to acquire and use food, you might also include a small fishing kit with a map of local ponds and lakes.  You could include a small printed guide of edible wild plants in the area.  This will depend on the area in which you live, but the idea is to provide the person with the means to acquire other food sources away from you and your generosity.  Finally, consider a small cooking pot and a few utensils or a cheap camping cook set designed to be compact and lightweight.  A manual can opener with instructions will help a person with long-term survival.  You can include canned goods in your kit only if you plan on cycling them out and keeping them fresh, as they can expire and eventually explode.


Something as simple as a lighter packaged in a ziplock baggy along with some basic kindling is enough to help someone light a fire in a disaster’s aftermath.  Though you will probably need to provide instructions, a 9-volt battery in a Ziploc baggie then packaged with steel wool in a large pill container or vitamin bottle is another easy-to-light fire medium.  If you have never lit a fire with a 9-volt battery and some fine steel wool, you should try it.  The nice thing about this method is that the steel wool can be completely immersed in water before you try to light it, and it will still burn with the touch of a battery, hence the need to secure the 9-volt battery in a Ziploc away from the steel wool.  A flint fire starter or matches, believe it or not, will have the average person struggling to light a fire.  Solid fuel tablets or even a can of Sterno will provide a person with a shelf-stable, ready catalyst to build a more significant fire.


Exposure to the elements is how most will die after a catastrophe.  I always think of shelter as the external structure and the garments we clothe ourselves in to protect ourselves from the elements.  A simple six-by-eight tarp can be had for less than 5 dollars.  Plastic sheeting takes up very little space but will completely protect someone from rain.  Emergency mylar blankets are inexpensive.  A bundle of paracord is cheap and can be used to build a shelter or a host of other purposes.  An emergency or compact blanket will be of great use, but it will also help pack the contents of your kit securely.


Water, food, fire, and shelter are the basics of what you should provide in a hand-up kit.  Here are additional items to include that will increase someone’s odds of survival tremendously.  A few trash bags and ziplock bags will provide a multitude of waterproof and water containment uses. A fixed blade, pocket knife, multi-tool, or even a razor box cutter will allow for cutting.  Sunscreen and insect repellants are helpful.  An LED, penlight, or glow sticks will enable the person to navigate and function in low-light situations.  Personal hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, small soap strips, moist towelettes, and alcohol swabs can help a person out.  A roll of toilet paper will be a lifesaver.  A basic first aid kit with just a few pills of Ibuprofen, Aspirin, anti-acid, and an anti-diarrheal will be a lifesaver for many. BandAids, gauze, and cotton balls are sometimes all you need, along with some antibacterial ointment to prevent deadly infections.  A small amount of salt and pepper will take up almost no space.  Of course, a roll of Duct Tape will complete the kit.  If you’re feeling extra generous, you may want to consider adding the SAS survival guide.  With this information, you can prevent them from returning.


This kit serves as both an item you could grab if you had to go and a kit that you can give to someone else.  Assuming you already have some of the items on hand, a Hand-Up Kit can easily be constructed for relatively cheap depending on how much you want to add.  You could build one all at once from new items, or you can repurpose and recycle items from your own inventory to build kits out slowly over time.  You can easily store several kits that can be handed out to different people under different conditions.  If disaster strikes in a region proximal to you, you could drive the kits over and hand them out to those affected by the disaster.  Think of what you would need if you were desperate and needed help.  Put that in your kit.  Accepting someone into your home after a disaster isn’t realistic in some circumstances.  Think of your home as a tiny lifeboat meant to hold four people.  A 5th or 6th person would thin resources and reduce the amount of time you could stay afloat.  A 7th person or more will completely sink you.  A Hand-Up, Grab-and-Go kit that is thoughtfully designed will give a person a much better chance of survival.  It will provide them with hope.  It’s the same as tossing a life preserver to a drowning man.

When you give, you also give hope.  It’s inhumane to turn someone away who will die without our help, but that may be the hard reality you face one day.  A Hand-Up kit makes your decision easier.  What do you think?  Have I left something out of the Hand-Up kit?  What would you include in yours, or what kits do you have designed to help others? 

As always, please stay safe out there.

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