My thoughts on post-disaster and PAW salvage

Jerry D Young

Well-Known Member
Trusted Member
My thoughts on post-disaster and PAW salvage

Many people will immediately proclaim that anything done during and after a major disaster of essentially any type that involves taking anything from any place that is not your own property is looting. In many situations they will be right by just about any definition of the word.

However, there are many other words that can be used in those situations that will apply, based on how they are defined. Sometimes people have their own definitions of words, including looting. Looting to many is any act of taking something that does not officially belong to you. Currently, pretty much everything does belong to someone. So, taking it from them without permission would be stealing. Or, in a disaster situation, looting.

I believe ownership is the key factor in the use of words about taking things that do not belong to the person taking them. As in a post-disaster situation or a full post-apocalyptic world situation, what about things that really no longer have an owner.

The original owner is now dead, or long gone and never coming back. No one with familial or business ties with them is still around. That item, essentially, no longer has an owner. So how can taking it be considered looting? The only way, as I see it, is if a higher authority lays claim to everything that no longer has an owner that could reasonably be expected to be in a position to ever lay claim on the item.

Say, the town council, or the county, or the state, or the federal government, or the National Guard, or simply a Warlord that says so. Those entities would consider anyone besides themselves or their agents that took anything from what they consider their jurisdiction or territory a looter. But, in reality, do they have any more real of an authority than a given individual.

That debate will probably never be settled, though it will come up constantly before, during, and after any and all situations where it would apply. So, as always, I am going to provide my own definitions and justifications for what I think I would do in post disaster situations and a post-apocalyptic world in terms of taking items that I do not own that I might find or run across.

So, the definitions:

1) Looting: Pretty much what I said above. Taking something during and after a disaster or in a PAW that does still have an owner, even may not be at hand. Primarily for the benefit of the person taking the item(s).

2) Scavenging: Taking items with no discernable or likely owner that are simply found while in an area. Some minor searching, but not really organized. Primarily for the benefit of the person(s) taking the item(s), and any group they are with.

3) Recovery: A purposeful action of going after highly useful and needed specific items known to not have an owner, from an area where the items are at risk of destruction, damage, or of being taken by others that are likely to use them in harmful ways. Often for the benefit of the person(s) taking the item(s), but also likely to be done for the benefit of a larger group and community.

4) Salvaging: A purposeful action of seeking out and taking generally useful items in areas where there are no owners around. Often for the benefit of the person(s) taking the item(s), but also likely to be done for the benefit of a larger group and community.

5) Mining: A purposeful action of going into an area where there are likely items with no owners, and taking anything and everything that might have a use at some point in time in a pospost-disastervironment or PAW. Often for the benefit of the person(s) taking the item(s), but also likely to be done for the benefit of a larger group and community.

With those definitions in mind, here are my thoughts on what I believe I would do and consider acceptable if I ever wind up in a situation where a disaster has occurred, and people in an area have died or left the area abandoning completely everything they did not take with them with no intent of returning for any of it, or assigning ownership of any of it to someone else.

Once things were settled down, and safe enough to be out and about, for at least a few hours at a time, I believe I would go on a recovery expedition to obtain items that could be critical to survival in the future for myself and for others. Either for use, or in some cases to keep them out of the hands of people that would be likely to harm me or others.

Things such as medical equipment and supplies, for the first reason, and weapons and ammunition for the second. Additional items I would be going after are things that have limited shelf-life and will be wasted if not recovered and used within their useful lifespan. Fuel being a good example, and many foods being another. Everything recovered would be documented. Efforts to document the location and condition of other items in the area will be taken.

Once those very important essentials are taken care of, and time and circumstances permit, salvage trips would be undertaken to obtain useful items for myself and for those with whom I am affiliated and associated, probably with their assistance. The documentation done during the early recovery efforts will be used, as well as thorough searches undertaken to find useful items. Again, everything would be documented, as well as notations of possible assets that might justify mining the area in the future.

Without violating operation security and safety, information would be left at the locations where items were taken, in case any of the items did turn out to have a legitimate owner. If contacted by an owner, every effort would be made to return the item, or compensate the owner for the item.

As long as there are items that might be used to aid in the recovery and rebuilding of the community, the recovery, salvage, and mining operations would continue to gain possession and control of items that would otherwise go to waste, or be taken and used against the community, unless the items were safe where they were. And again, everything would be documented, to allow any owners to be compensated, and to simply establish a historical record of the times.

That would be the process. Some of the places that would be of initial interest would be (as listed in the article) restaurants, taverns/bars, schools, hospitals, libraries, office buildings, factories, and warehouses. For the reasons given in the article, but also for several more in each case, primarily in the later stages, though given opportunity and time, some of the additional items would also be taken.

Lightbulbs, for instance. Any and all writing instruments and useable paper. Computer and communications equipment. All for use in the future.

If there were some immediate needs above and beyond the things listed in the article, items such as doors and even their frames. Plumbing items. Some types of furniture. Shelving and storage gear.

I would add to the list in the article several things for the initial trips.

1) Medical clinics for the same reasons as the hospitals.
2) Medical equipment businesses.
3) Office supply stores: many have food items, maintenance and cleaning items, bottled water, storage items, and quite a few other immediately useful items in addition to the ‘office’ items.
4) Hardware stores. Too many items to list of things that will be needed.
5) Welding supply stores. Same as hardware stores.
6) Specialty stores such as Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Hobby Lobby/Michaels, Baby-R-Us, Farm & Ranch stores. All have items that will be needed, some of them relatively soon, others later on.
7) Truck stops. Probably not for fuel initially, as there will be a great deal of competition for it, which will probably prove dangerous. But there are plenty of other things that will be useful, from lubricants to communications gear, to tools and hardware.
8) Garages and Auto Parts stores. Tools and parts galore.
9) Marinas and water sports stores. Any number of useful items, with fuel treatment items among them.
10) Sporting goods stores. A huge number of useful items. And some will have weapons and ammunition.
11) Gun stores. Pretty obvious.

And a few that will be highly controversial. Use your own judgement, based on your morals and beliefs, on whether you will take anything from the locations on this list:

1) Coin shops and any stores that deal in precious metals in coin or any other form.
2) Jewelry stores and any stores that deal in gemstones and jewelry making supplies.
3) Government facilities, primarily police stations and National Guard locations, and possibly fire department facilities and city/county/state maintenance facilities.

Now, I debated on where to put Pawn Shops. They will be a great resource, if abandoned, and even if heavily picked over. The hesitation is the same as the first two locations in the list just above. Precious metals and jewelry. Do you or do you not. And they often have weapons, though little ammunition. But lots of tools and usually some useful communications gear. Take what you are comfortable with if the situation arises, and leave what you are not comfortable with.

And there are many more that will be specific to an area, and places that will have items that apply to specific situations that different preppers will have.

Now, some general thoughts on the whole process.

1) Unless there is a very specific reason to go alone, do not.
2) Scout any area you think might have items you want or could use.
3) Make a plan based on the scouting information.
4) Always be ready to defend yourself getting to a location, during the operation, and when going home. Both convoy defense, group defense, and individual defense.
5) Best to have guards posted, including an overwatch.
6) Have what is required to get things back to where you want them to be.
7) Consider using staging areas if large areas are being worked.
8) Be prepared for confrontations and have a plan on how to deal with them.
9) Be prepared to leave an area immediately if it becomes obvious that others have a claim on the items, legitimate or not.
10) Be extremely thorough.
11) Depending on the actual scenario, be aware of any environmental dangers, such as radiation; lingering chemicals or biological elements whether military or simply leaks; damaged buildings; falling hazards; overhead hazards; enclosed space dangers; etc.
12) Have the tools and other equipment to safe get what you want. Do not take risks that could get you or anyone hurt during any recovery effort. If you cannot get something safely with what you have with you, go get it first, and then make the effort.

And, based on the last item in the list, here are some Recovery, Salvage, & Resource Mining tool ideas:

Cold Steel Oda sheath knife
Leatherman Surge multi-tool w/bits
Channel Lock 88 rescue tool w/pliers & wire cutter
Multi-tip screw driver
Glass cutter
Set of hand tools
8” Bastard cut File
Stanley 12” Wonder bar
Stanley Entry tool 18”
Stanley Entry tool 30”
42” bolt cutters w/extra cutting heads
Concertina cutter
Cold Steel Special Forces e-tool
Duraworx mini-planting too (a mini pick ax)
Blazer PB 207 2500 degree micro torch
Chain link fence climbing steps
Tyrepliers to pull tires off rims so you don’t have to carry the entire thing
Lkgoodwin PE2 6 ton chain fall w/20' lift
Lkgoodwin PE2 1 1/2 ton chain fall w/20' lift
Lkgoodwin GT-2000-65 cable come along w/65' pull
7/16” x 100 braided nylon rope
5/16” x 50 braided nylon rope
12’ sling rope w/carabiners each end
Wespur light block and tackle
Wespur heavy block and tackle
Keeper 02933 3" x 30' recovery strap
Stake down type winch anchor
100' 3/8" extension cable
Set clevis', shackles, winch anchors, snatch blocks, tie-offs, etc
Hi-Lift First Responder Jack w/Jack-Mate
30" D-handle round point shovel
48" straight handle round point shovel
8# sledge fiberglass handle sledge
16# double jack
5# pick/mattock
Iltis Oxhead double bit felling axe
Bauer 12" x 8' aluminum 28# scaffold plank
Bauer 24" x 8' aluminum 41# scaffold plank
12-16-168-05 14'x16"x6.25" 12K cap 115# weight bridging ramp
Little Giant 21626 13'-23' multi purpose ladder w/levelers 71#
Husky 395XPW 36" chainsaw
Case, protective gear, spare parts
Multi-tool for chainsaws
Concrete/steel cutting engine powered saw
Oxy/acetylene torch kit
Oxy/acetylene 100' automatic hose reel
Oxy/acetylene portable tank & carrier 20cf oxy/10cf acetylene tanks
Complete thermal Lance set w/back pack
Rapid Fire thermal rod starting cartridges
3/8” x 18” 25# box thermal rods
3/8” x 46” 25# box thermal rods
Porta-power hydraulic system
Portable air compressor (or onboard air in the vehicle)
Set of air powered tools
Portable hydraulic pump & tank (or onboard hydraulics in the vehicle)
Set of hydraulic powered tools
Portable tripod hoist

And, if you really want to do some serious recovery, salvage, and mining work, a good PAWV (Post Apocalyptic World Vehicle) set up for such things, as well as other things, might just be useful. If anyone is interested I will post up my Rufus list. (Rufus being the name I have given a theoretical PAWV)

Just my opinion.

And some additional thoughts on the subject, as well as other topics.

####### said:
I've talked to a lot of preppers and survivalists as well as reading on here. I've noticed a lot of people will have absolute zero problem breaking the law. Even without punishment there is surely still a sense of morale in all of us. But maybe not as strong as I once thought. I know I'd be one to break morale if needed (nothing extreme at all) to defend my family. Maybe that's the one common factor i haven't accounted for. Children and family. Theres nothing, shy of rape or murder, that I wouldn't do to keep my family safe. Just wondering where your line in the sand is drawn. I see people posting about indirectly becoming looters and thieves, mercenaries, etc.

This discussion is very difficult, for a variety of reasons. The biggest problem I see is simply a matter of semantics. Primarily of definition. One of the biblical 10 Commandments was quoted as, "Thou Shalt Not Kill". However, if one researches that back far enough, I believe you will find that the translation of that commandment has changed from the original wording, and most especially of the meaning. The original commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder".

This is a far different concept. All murders are killings. By no means are all killings murders. In fact, if one looks at all the cases of one person causing another's death, that only a rather small percentage are actually murder. Given the definition of murder is "The unjustified killing of a person." If the killing is justified, as in self-defense, that is not murder. And the law (when it admits to self-defense) agrees. Most people agree.

The same way that the law has levels of homicide, from premeditated murder on down, only the very top ones are murders, by the above definition. There is manslaughter and so forth. Things like accidents that cause a death, unintended consequences that cause a death, deaths that result from justified wars. Those are not murders. BY THE STANDARD DEFINITION of murder being an UNJUSTIFIED killing.

If one looks carefully at the use of various words that come into play when morals and laws are discussed, there tend to be many differences and discrepancies. (An example in the OP is the use of “morale” rather than “moral” or “morals”. Morale is how a person feels during a situation. Happy, or at least acceptable amounts of food, water, sleep, and comfort, and people’s morale is good. If they are grumbling because of lack of water, high temperatures, not enough or poor tasting food, and not enough sleep, their morale will be low.

Whether or not a person will do something that the majority of other people believe is either right or wrong, is what a moral is.

That out of the way, look at the terms; stealing, theft, burglary, looting, fraud, salvage, scavenge, recovery, rescue, embezzlement, larceny, piracy, robbery, poaching, rustling, and banditry.

Every one of those words can describe the same thing. Taking something that does not belong to one. Most have fairly specific modern legal definitions. Many are being used in ways that are not consistent with the current legal definition, and in many cases, not consistent with the way the words have been used over the years. Often centuries.

Piracy was once only done on the high seas, and involved ships of some kind. Now it can mean taking music off the internet without paying for it.

Rustling was the taking of stock animals such as horses, cattle, and sheep. (Someone might have rustled some chickens at some point, but I have not heard about it anywhere.) Now people rustle up a meal, quick like.

The afore mentioned commandment “Thou shalt not kill” versus “Thou shalt not commit murder”.

Salvage, for centuries, had a fairly precise meaning. It mostly concerned recovering items lost at sea. If the owners of the ship and/or the owners of the cargo, did not state that they would themselves be recovering the items within a certain time frame, and did not, within another time frame, then the ship and all it carried were considered abandoned property and anyone willing and able to recover any or all of it was entitled to it.

There were a few relatively minor exceptions, not to mention the owners were often willing to give those that salvaged the stuff at their expense, a pretty good amount for returning things to them, since they did not have to expend any money to do it.

Now, of course, that has changed a bit in most countries. Most governments, be they Federal or state, or the equivalent, claim everything that someone does not have a clear title or some type of provenance that proves ownership. It is no longer finders keepers. It is finders, give it to the government or go to jail.

But since we are talking about, and ONLY talking about when there is no rule of law in place, one that is agreed upon and accepted by the majority of the citizens in an area, that complication does not apply. (Someone claiming authority might try to make it so, but it is the PAW, or this would not be happening.)

For a discussion of taking certain actions, and whether or not the majority of people would consider them moral, or legal, or both, everyone has to agree on the definitions of each of those three words. Moral, legal, and the actual action.

Otherwise, nothing will be agreed upon, and it will be very difficult for individuals to come to even their own conclusion of what is what.

For the OP’s thread, I would offer up the following definitions:

Legal: That which the residents of a given area have determined, by vote, through a governmental process, is acceptable to the overwhelming majority of those people, and documentation has been recorded that so states. Or there is no evidence that it has been made illegal, in the same manner.

Illegal: That which the residents of a given area have determined, by vote, through a governmental process, is NOT acceptable to the overwhelming majority of those people, and documentation has been recorded that so states. “The Law”

Moral: That which the overwhelming majority of people in a given area have shown, by word and practice, is acceptable behavior and actions.

Immoral: That which the overwhelming majority of people in a given area have shown, by word and practice, IS NOT acceptable behavior and action.

Now, that is what other people think as to morals. Most people have their own code, which can differ somewhat from what the majority considers moral or immoral. But the principle is the same. Is an action acceptable or not? If it is, then it is moral to the person. If it is not, then it is not moral to the person.

Depending on whether it is God judging you, or a human jury (or one single person that has you under the gun) judging you, will that action be allowed to stand without punishment, or will the person or persons that took that action be dealt with in some way that could be anything up to death.

As for the actual actions, I will only get into a few of them that are the ones that usually come up in these prepper discussions.

Looting: The taking of something that does not belong to the person during a period of crisis, unrest, or during an event that prevents normal societal restraints from preventing. Such as law enforcement is not around. I think most people will agree that taking something that does not belong to them is not right. Especially if it is being taken from the person making the judgment. Looting would, therefore, be not only illegal by law, it would not be a moral act in most peoples’ minds.

Salvaging: Salvage, by pretty much all historical records, is the recovery after loss of something that the owner no long has a claim, either by their death with no dependents, their death and lack of an estate process that can continue to own and service the item; the owner has given up claim to the item by choice and stated such in some form that is recognizable by the majority of people hearing or seeing the claim made; there is no way to determine ownership and there will not be a way in the foreseeable future by the majority of people aware of the situation; and the general likelihood of anyone being able to return to claim the item is so remote as to be considered impossible my the majority of the people aware of the situation.

Now, that mostly applies to an individual or small business being the original owner. When it comes to large corporate holdings, or government holdings, they may not care about any law or anything else, if the item has great value in whatever situation is occurring, whether they are anywhere near the area or not. To most, if they cannot recover something for fifteen or twenty years, or even more, they still do not want anyone else claiming it and taking or using it. In these cases… well… just exactly what is a person willing to risk? Being in the right legally and morally has not prevented people from being punished or killed for doing something that someone did not want them to do.

It comes down to the definition of those two words. Is it illegal and immoral looting, or is it legal and moral salvaging? To me, going by the definitions above, all actual looting is illegal and immoral. And all salvage is legal and moral. By the definition. If the action fits the definition, how can it not be that?

On to the other big one. Killing someone during the time of a world without rule of law. And only then. When there is not now, and will not be for a generation or two, a legal body that can pass laws, enforce them, and judge the application of them, does the following apply. Otherwise, it is whatever the law that is in place says.

If you kill someone that is trying to kill you outright, either to just eliminate you so you will not interfere with what they are doing, or use up resources you want, or to take something of yours, it would seem to be a case of clear self-defense. Killing that person would NOT be a murder. It would be a justifiable killing. Legal and moral by almost all definitions.

Now, if you are the one killing someone just to eliminate them so they will not interfere with what you are doing, or so they cannot use up resources you want, or you want something of theirs, then killing that person would seem like a very unjustified killing. Highly illegal and most definitely immoral. By the stated definitions.

I could keep going, pointing out the difference between various words, using classic accepted definitions, and insisting that people stick to them to analyze if something is legal or illegal, or moral or immoral. But I do not think many would read much further, if they have even read this far.

I will add one last thing, however. I go by a set of values. Morals. My (currently) 12 commandments. And I take action, and believe I will take action if the time comes, based on them, and on the traditional definitions of words.

I usually refer to the following as my personal ethics. But I consider them to all be moral actions or stands.

1) I will not commit murder
2) I will be faithful to my companions
3) I will not steal by either direct action or indirect action
4) I will not falsely accuse others of crimes
5) I will not bear false witness
6) I will treat others as I wish to be treated
7) I will honor my commitments
8) I will accept responsibility for my actions
9) I will pay my lawful debts
10) I will treat fairly all whom I meet
11) I will not be hypocritical in my speech or in my actions
12) I will defend my myself, my family, my community, and my country to the best of my ability

Note number 1), number 3), and number 12). Those will cover most of the situations that will likely come up in the PAW that have to do with what we seem to be talking about in this thread.

I will not murder someone for food. I will not kill someone just for food for me or my family. However, if someone is knowingly doing something that will severely injure or kill me or any member of my family or group, then the situation is different. Killing the person might be justified. If it is, to save me or mine, then a killing would occur. A killing. Not a murder. I will not kill someone without it being to protect someone, or something important enough that most people would make that choice.

Same with stealing or any of the other situations that are discussed. As hard as it would be, I would not violate my own morals and ethics to safe myself or my family from hardship. Even death. Because I know, that if I do, there are consequences far beyond what benefit I would receive.

Not to mention, there are many, many ways to get people to do what you want them to do, in PAW situations. When I have played the Conflicted Card Game, and this type of subject comes up, I will usually just say, in a very poor Italian accent, “I will make you a deal you cannot refuse.” And leave it at that.

It will not involve killing them. Or even harming them a little bit physically. But there is a 99.99% chance that they will take the deal I am offering, in plenty of time to make it acceptable to me. I can be very creative when I need to be.

Just my extremely looooong opinion.
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