One of the many things that I see largely ignored on the prepper sites is the subject of inter-group relations and communication. It doesn't matter if you're bugging out or sheltering in place, eventually you're going to meet or see other people and you need to have a plan on how to react to those “others”. It doesn't matter if you're by yourself or in a group, unless you've managed to find Gilligan's Island there will be others around and you will have to interact with them at some level.
These are my (somewhat random) musings on making contact with others after TSHTF, without any attempt to put them into any specific order. I am throwing them out there to spark conversation and thought instead of trying to tell you what to do.
The old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” holds true in a post-disaster environment in my opinion. If you're going to act like an ass, expect to be treated like an ass. Also, remember that a lot of people will be armed after a disaster, so be as civil as you can.
In the period immediately after a disaster, most people are going to be suffering some form of shock and won't be acting “normal”, but there will come a time when your life is not in danger every second of the day and that's when you need to take stock of your contacts. Find out who's around you and what their situations are. Even if you can't/won't help them, knowing who is around you is just as important as knowing what is around you. Personally, I'd very much like to know that the family in the house next door isn't the local front for a Mexican drug lord or criminal gang. If there are any forms of communication left after the disaster, I'm going to check on family and friends just to remove the doubt about them and to let them know my situation.
Personal contacts and the ability to network are going to be vitally important after any disaster, as knowing the people around you and being known by them is going to play a big part in deciding who to help and who to ask for help. Being able to barter with your neighbors is only going to work if they're willing to trade with you. I have made it a goal of getting to know a few families in every town in my rural county. This eases social contacts because once you have established something in common (a common friend, that you went to the same school, ate at the same diner, etc.) people are more willing to talk to you. It also spreads out my options to trade and work with the people in my area so I'm not forced into a deal or trade that is not mutually beneficial.
This can be modified by the city-dwellers quite easily. Make friends with, or at least get to know, people in different areas of your city. If you have a bug out plan, do you have any contacts along the route from point A to point B? Once you get to your retreat, do you know the people that live around you? If not, then you're the stranger that everyone will approach with caution.
Humans are predators at the DNA level, and unless they have been turned into figurative zombies by their culture they will fight for their survival. Tired, hungry, scared, and hurt people are going to be more common and more dangerous after a disaster. I don't have much use for zombies myself, but your mileage may vary. If you have huge stockpiles of food and are looking to start a harem, you'll probably have your chance. Anyone who will refuse to attempt to survive is going to be way down the list of people I'm going to be interested in helping, and they probably won't still be around by the time I get that far down the list.
Initial contact with strangers is going to be the most dangerous situation for both sides. Walking up to a house and banging on the door is not a good way to make friends. Shooting at people as they walk past your place is not very neighborly. If at all possible, initiate contact at a safe distance. Standing in the street or driveway and announcing your presence would be polite, as would telling someone to stop before they got to your door. The concept of “neutral ground” should be explored if your group is going to meet another group for the first time.
Rules of Engagement (ROE) are going to vary by your situation. ROE, for those of you without a military background, are a set of guidelines for when it is OK to open fire on an “enemy” or any other stranger that enters your area. The military sets very specific (and sometimes stupid) restrictions in their ROE in today's climate, where public relations are a part of fighting a war. A guard walking a fence line around an air base may not even be given live ammunition for fear he might shoot someone and sully the local reputation of the air base, but a sniper may be told that any male seen carrying a weapon on the street is a viable target. Your ROE are going to probably fall somewhere between these two, and I'll leave it up to you to decide your own rules. Be aware, however, that the guys on the other side of the fence have their own ROE and it may not be the same as yours.
Each of these concepts could/may be further explored in individual posts in great detail. If you have thoughts or ideas, let me know- I'm looking for feedback and conversation, since I know that I don't know a lot of things.