When Looting Becomes Survival

One of the biggest fears many of us have in an emergency situation is the all-too-real danger of looting. All it takes is a protest to get out of hand, and before you know it, people are breaking into businesses and homes to take what they want. This only gets worse when you add in a true disaster that may never be recovered from. It’s times like these you have to ask yourself if what’s going on is simple looting or if it’s for survival.

Take, for example, Hurricane Katrina. This SHTF-level event laid waste to an entire city, leaving thousands of people stranded for days without help. In this situation, would you consider taking supplies from local businesses for looting or survival? Is there even a difference?

Looting vs. Survival

The truth of the matter is there’s a very big difference between taking supplies for survival and merely looting. Sure, for a typical riot your best bet is to steer clear as best you can and avoid the area until it’s done with, but what about a city-wide event that you can’t avoid?

Most people that would be considered looters take for fun or for their own gain. They look for items that are far from necessary like televisions, stereos, computers, and of course, money. It’s these people that you need to be guarded against and avoid at all costs. These people fall under mob mentality and lose their sense of right and wrong. To them, it’s considered fun to run amok, break anything, and take what you want.

Taking for survival, on the other hand, is very different. In a case where you must take supplies without a method for payment, taking only what you need and damaging as little as possible is key. The act of taking an item that doesn’t belong to you is stealing, no matter what the reason, but in the case of a major disaster in which your life is in danger, it’s understandable.


Now, don’t take this as me telling you to go ahead and steal if you need it. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you is a crime no matter the reason. If you take something, even if it’s for survival and are caught, you will be charged with theft, plain and simple.

That being said, cases of extreme duress shouldn’t be made worse by not taking what you need. The difference in this case is taking what you need versus taking as much as you can carry. For example, let’s say a major earthquake has struck, and all safe paths out of your city are cut off. You should have supplies at your home, but if you’re cut off from home base, or your home is destroyed, you should feel justified in heading to a grocery store and taking 72 hours’ worth of supplies. This includes clothes, food, water, and medical and travel supplies.

The medical supplies are one of the most important aspects here. In a major survival situation there won’t be a hospital to go to if you need stiches, so you need to plan ahead. Don’t forget to check out the pharmacy for supplies, too. While most people will loot pain pills and other narcotics, you should focus on antibiotics and other helpful medicines. Pain relief pills are important too, but while you can bear quite a bit of pain, you can’t convince yourself you’re not getting an infection.

Remember, someone with a family full of kids won’t play by the rules and wait for help to come, so why should you?

Where NOT to Loot


Food, clothing and travel supplies are all great items to “liberate” in an emergency, and with these in hand, the next logical step is to head to a gun shop to get a weapon and some ammo, right? This is not something you want to do. Remember, anyone in that shop probably doesn’t want to share, and they’re all heavily armed and possibly well-trained. Instead of a dedicated gun shop, think of a big box store to get what you need, as these aren’t as likely to be as dangerous.

Remember though, this is still stealing, so all bets are off once you do. Don’t attempt to loot from any location you don’t feel is safe, and don’t loot unless it’s absolutely necessary for your survival. You may have to account for your actions at some point, so make sure you feel comfortable with whatever you do.


Simply put, looting is illegal. Nobody likes a looter, which is why you probably cringe every time you read that word. Looter. If things go from bad to terrible, however, you may not have a choice in the matter if you want to survive. Think about the consequences of looting and how they align with your need for survival and your want to be a good person.

Looting is far from safe, too. Expect to meet some resistance to varying degrees when looting, and understand that while you may not want to do it, the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) calls for drastic measures.

So, what’s the difference between looting and survival? It’s the crossing of a line that only you can draw to know when you must act. Draw that line now and act on it when you must; just be prepared for what comes next.

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