December 17, 2017

Protecting Yourself and Your Property After a Disaster

Scenario:  Jerusalem has been devastated by war and is in ruins.  It’s walls have been broken down and it’s gates burned by fire.  Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes’ cup bearer, has received permission from the king to go to Jerusalem and rebuild it.  Their enemies have plotted to catch them unaware, kill them and stop their work.  Nehemiah has discovered this and decides:

Neh 4:16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 4:17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 4:18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. 4:19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 4:20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” 4:21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 4:22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.” 4:23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

In every medium to large scale natural disaster there are people who come to the area to loot.  There is a second group of people; “disaster tourists”.  These are people who want to go to the disaster area to see, in person, what they have seen on TV.  One of these is obviously a criminal but the other isn’t as nefarious, at least not on purpose.



These dirtbags pray on the misfortune of others during what might be the worst time in their life.  I have heard of people both sneaking around and stealing items that have been relocated by the event, as well as people dressing up, pretending to be representatives from utility companies.  I have also heard reports of items gone missing once a restoration company is hired, the home owner believing their contractor’s employees stole from them.

I think the default tactic most people go to is “I’ll guard my house, gun in hand”.  This may be an option in some circumstances, but it might not always be.  Imagine if there is massive destruction and, God forbid, your home is destroyed.   Your family is okay and has relocated to a nearby shelter on the night of the destruction.  You have nothing but the clothes on your backs.  When you attempt to go back to your home the next day, there is a police officer parked on the road leading into your neighborhood.  He will not let anyone enter without proof of residence.  Remember, I said you only have the clothes on your back?  This scenario is a very good reason to have a copy of the important documents stored away from your home.

Now let’s say there is a smaller amount of damage but still too much for you to feel comfortable letting your family stay there.  Would you put them up in a hotel room and guard the house alone?  Remember, after Hurricane Sandy, there were many people who didn’t have power for over a week.  While that might not be a stressor for some of you, do you want to put your family in a position not only be without power, but possibly face looters and other dirtbags?  Not to mention, whatever destruction is in the area, such as flooding, debris from destroyed homes and businesses, etc.

If the damage in your area is minimal and the biggest problem is lack of power, you might choose to stick it out and guard your home.  If so, the following are some things to keep in mind.  There is safety in numbers.  You might choose to form a group with other neighbors who have stayed behind, forming a neighborhood watch.  Have a 2-4 hour shift from sundown to sunup every night, rotating people so everyone gets enough rest.  If possible, I would want two; one stationery and one roving watch.  If there is trouble, the stationery watch would alert the others.  Having two-way communication would be a huge plus.  Another option for the roving watch is to carry an air horn, giving three blasts if they find trouble, everyone heading for the source of the noise.  I realize this gives away the element of surprise, but if it’s all you have, it is better than nothing.

I’m not a big fan of the “Looters will be shot” signs.  Why tip your hand?  It might also invite Joe Dirtbag to use overwhelming force.  Whereas, before, he might have just snuck around to see what he could steal, now he expects trouble.  He might just shoot you and take what he wants.  On a side note, this is also the reason I don’t open carry.

Nehemiah expected trouble from his enemies.  He also knew that with the limited resources he would need a citizen army, which meant each person would pull double duty as guard and laborer.  He told those who lived outside the gate to stay inside to help stand guard.  They slept in their clothes so they could act immediately.

If we had a modern day example, I think it could look something like this; each family is armed and prepared to defend their home and their neighborhood.  There is a neighborhood watch that had a stationery watch and, depending on the size of the neighborhood, either one or multiple roving watches.  You might think this is overkill, but Nehemiah’s enemies didn’t defeat him.  They could see they were ready for battle by the ever-present sword or spear, with plenty of people on the lookout.  This isn’t to say that everyone has to be armed.  The presence of people will often deter Mr. Dirtbag and company.


Disaster Tourists

As I said, these people aren’t nefarious on purpose, but they can be harmful unintentionally.   If you read the Fox News story on “disaster tourists”, you’ll see that the home owners said the gawker traffic was much higher earlier in the week.  If the roads are in bad shape, there might only be a few routes to use and they are congesting them.

One of the people interviewed for the Fox News article said she felt violated.  I can understand that, I wouldn’t like it very much if people wanted to come and “tour” one of the worst events in my life.

The disaster tourists also can be a means for Joe Dirtbag and friends to blend in to case the neighborhood for later looting.  This would be the reason that police are often posted near entrances and refuse entry to anyone who cannot prove residency.  If law enforcement is stretched too thin, you could always do this yourself.  Most folks will understand if you tell them only residents who can prove residency are allowed in.  Keep in mind that you have no legal ground to stop anyone who demands entry, even if they cannot prove where they live.  You could ask if they know someone in the neighborhood and find that person to vouch for them.  You could also have someone follow them to their “home”, to see if they do, in fact, live where they say they live.

Going back to Nehemiah, having people who take turns working on cleanup and standing guard/watch is a great idea here as well.  While the tourists might not mean you harm, keeping tabs on those not helping to “rebuild the wall” is still a good idea.

Do you have any other ways to protect oneself and property after an event, from looters and disaster tourists?


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