Is Your Survival Group On Its Last Breath?

How often do you hear this from your group members?


Man, our survival group stinks.

We’re just a drinking group with a survival problem.

We never do anything cool, all we do is meet every once in a while but nothing ever seems to happen. 


Lucky for you I have some simple ideas how to get our group back on track. You need to start making things happen or your group will fizzle out, they always do.

Fun Fact:

Do you know what the most common problems are in groups?





Why? Well there are a number of reasons but often it’s because it usually isn’t as fun as expected, it truly is that easy. People stop showing up and the people that do show up either do all the work or spend their time socializing or disagreeing.

<<<Caution: Problems being solved ahead>>>

If you want people to spend their valuable time with you building a group, you need to give them something to work with. You must give it an identity and offer people a mission that they believe in. Even if you have a group that has been meeting for a long time you may need to take a step back and make sure you are moving in the right direction. We see groups that have fallen into autopilot mode and that’s not always good.

Championship sports teams don’t just keep winning because they keep winning, they need to re-calibrate and retool their plans, plays and teams to stay fresh and ahead of the game.”

Once we know what we are not doing we can come up with some ideas to get some things done. Those would be called goals. A goal is something that can be accomplished within a reasonable period of time that keeps the ball moving.

I’ll give you an example: have you ever been to meetings where nothing gets accomplished, or you never seem to complete a project, or the team gives up? I know for a fact that some of you right now are nodding your heads because I see it all the time.

“I don’t want excuses, I want results”

This is where the action plan comes in. Once you decide what you want to accomplish you need to take steps to get it done. Did you know that most people who are given responsibility would try harder to complete that responsibility if they believe in the task and know people are counting on them? Especially if they have to stand up at the next meeting and give a status report. You did choose the best people for your group didn’t you? Well you are about to find out.

Let’s get into how we should identify our goals and how to make that action plan so your group is working like a Swiss Watch. We are going to keep it simple and not bite off more than we can chew, for now. Remember, you want people to show up, participate, and go home feeling like they had a good time so they will keep coming back. They probably didn’t sign up for a second job so keep that in mind.

Have you ever heard the saying: “Train as you would fight and fight as you trained?” In order to train for the battle you are expecting, you need to know what you are expecting. Keep it close to the basics because every scenario you can imagine has similar requirements for survival. If you are prepared for an extreme natural disaster you are still pretty well covered in case of a zombie apocalypse. The main difference is the length of time you would need to be self-reliant.

“At the end of the day all you are trying to do is stay fed, watered, healthy and safely sheltered for as long as possible, so just do that stuff.”

How do I get this thing started?

Begin by asking your group a couple of basic questions and see if the answers are at least somewhat similar. If so, you are in good shape. If not then you’ll need to focus your group content at a lower common denominator so everyone is getting what they want from the group.

(Hint, there are no wrong answers, this is just feedback for planning)

  1. What is everyone preparing for?
  2. What are you as group currently doing to get prepared?
  3. Are the families supportive of what you are doing? Why not? What are you doing that turns them off? Maybe you need to refocus at the lower common denominator and re frame the discussion to a vision that is less extreme and more attractive to the layperson to get them involved.
  4. What kinds of things would you like to work on to get better prepared?

Your group is for all intents and purposes an extended family and it may seem like everyone has a different idea on what you should be doing. By clearing up the confusion of the basic stuff you pave the way to doing the cool stuff.

Let’s be SMART about this

Use the SMART method for determining what you want to get done. That’s another way of saying “setting goals.” When you have some ideas of things you want to do, take a moment and see if your idea meets the challenge of being SMART.

Ask yourself, is my idea:






Sample NOT SMART idea:

Let’s go turn Rusty’s house into a fortress! That’s a pretty tall order and could take a very long time not to mention we would all do it differently. Look at the Doomsday Castle as an example of different… and still not done.

Ok, let’s try again:

“How about we go on a camping trip where different people in the group teach skills they are good at to the rest of the group?” Is this a SMART idea? Not yet. It’s the beginning of an idea but not a goal that people can get behind yet. It’s actually more of a thought that will become another lost fantasy unless we nail it down.

How about we try it this way?

Get the leaders to meet sometime before the general group meeting to come up with ideas to get people involved. Then at the group meeting announce that we want to plan a camping trip to Rock Lake Wildlife Area in September where we will have members teach each other skills, try out our gear, cook-out, let the kids play and have some fun.

This meets the SMART guidelines and shows the group is doing fun productive activities.

Now that you have a goal you can put it into action.

The best way to do this is to form a team to make it happen. You can either volunteer or voluntold some people to form the planning team.

They will in turn take the larger problem of organizing the campout and break it into smaller pieces

  • Get available dates for the site in September
  • Get pricing for the site and a list of amenities
  • Create a list of class ideas and instructors
  • Create a time schedule for the event and classes
  • Come up with some social time ideas for the families
  • Plan group meals
  • Make a flyer with all the details for the group

And that’s how it’s done.

By creating good ideas that fit in with what the group is all about and including everyone you will:

  • Increase participation
  • Members will become more committed
  • Families will be involved
  • People will learn new things
  • The teams will work better
  • You will really get to know each other
  • The group will become stronger and more flexible
  • The dead weight of the group will disappear or at least you will know who they are

If you have ideas to share with us of things your group likes to do, post in the comments. People are always looking for good ideas.


Survival Leadership: Taking Your Group From Peacetime to Disaster Activation

All of a sudden a major event happens that directly affects your group to the point you are forced to activate. You aren’t ready; the group has only recently started working together.  How are you going to get this Motley crew all moving as a team?Some members are highly motivated and some still appear hesitant to open up yet. Attendance has been up and down. Before the event the group was more of a volunteer organization, after the event they need to be a family. Such a situation would be a challenge for any leader who is tasked with a team but when the team is not used to operating together the job becomes that much more difficult.

In order to effectively lead other people the leader must understand how they think and what their individual motivations are. Why is this important in a survival group? I’m going to ask you to role play a little in order to see outside of today and into a post disaster scenario.

The Group Member


Begin by imagining yourself as a normal everyday citizen; maybe you have a couple of children in school. You go to work everyday and make the ends meet. Your schedule keeps you always on the go but you realize that the world has dramatically changed and you aren’t sure if your family is ready to go it alone when the lights go out. You’ve met a few people and formed a survival group. The group gets together once a month or so and it’s never convenient. You aren’t in a panic about the apocalypse or anything so if you miss a meeting so what, right?

The leader of the group is all into it and wants to prepare with a sense of urgency, you would like to have the luxury of time and money and be involved but it is what it is right now. You are feeling pressured to do more with the group by several members. A couple others are feeling the same way and the problem is self-perpetuating. Morale is low and you wonder if you are in the right group or if a group is even a good idea.

The Group Leader

Now place yourself in the mind of the leader. You know that time is short and the group is faltering. The usual story of 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work is holding true. What can you do to get this thing turned around? In reality, sometimes all you can do is be very organized, delegate where possible and manage people by what motivates them individually. You may even need to ask someone to leave the group if they are causing trouble. You should also look at yourself and verify if you are in fact the best choice to lead the survival group. Is there someone else better suited to the politics of leadership?

Let’s go back to the disaster event trigger. Your young group was a bit of a mess before the event but will they all snap in line now that it’s for real? Possibly but it won’t be pretty right away. There is a reason for building the group ahead of time.

Imagine if we didn’t have a standing army until war was upon us. Aside from our Constitutional intentions it wouldn’t be practical to wait for war to build an army. We would have our lunch money taken away as a nation by those who prepared and trained ahead of time.

The same goes for the survival group.

The survival group leader should make an effort to operate the group, as close to post disaster as possible so there will smaller adjustments when something does happen. There will be challenges in order to walk this line between charismatic leader and tyrant. The more the group finds ways to integrate into each other’s lives the easier it will be to transition into survival mode. So what are some group planning ideas that will integrate people better?

  • Attempt to choose members all in the same geographic area so they can get together more often
  • Consider having meetings and training centrally located
  • Plan events as far in the future as possible for scheduling
  • Training events should be fun and informative
  • Be organized in all areas so as to not waste people’s time
  • Delegate tasks to others based on their skills and schedules
  • If someone never wants to help decide if they are needed in the group
  • Don’t overwork the cheerleaders, spread the load
  • Choose the leaders who best fit the role
  • Vet your members based on your group goals and needs
  • Have some sort of food or snacks at all meetings.

If an event occurs that your group has to come together it will be important to operate as a team. This goes without saying but many times group members are not used to operating at a stressful level for long periods of time. The leader should realize this and try to strike the balance of how hard to push different personalities.

So what should the survival group leaders be doing now?

  • Learning everyone’s name and personality including their family as much as possible
  • Offer training ideas and schedule learning events based directly on group skill levels and needs
  • Delegate initiatives and research to group members to get them involved and spread the workload
  • When assigning tasks agree to a follow up date with the member or committee to keep things moving
  • Follow up on assigned tasks when you said you would
  • Monitor current events and communicate concerns as needed
  • Create an event calendar as far in advance as possible.
  • Promote the 4-Cs of highly successful relationships at all times
    • Communication
    • Cooperation
    • Coordination
    • Collaboration

The survival group is kind of like a volunteer fire department, the members don’t have to be there in the first place but when they are at a fire they have to be there in mind and body. There can be no compromise. The closer you train to the event you expect, the more effective you will be when the event happens. Members should take their affiliation seriously or bow out and leaders should have the vision, fortitude, and ability to guide the group through dark times.

Martial Law and Your Survival Group: What To Do If It Hits Your Town

Recent events have again reminded us just how divided we can be as a population. Throughout American history we have been challenged to find common ground within a melting pot of ethnicity, socioeconomic stratification and political maneuvering. What will you do when it lands violently in your front yard?

Sometimes the big picture blurs out who are truly being affected. Hint: it’s us the individual citizens and the family next door. If you are reading this it is a safe assumption that you have begun to take your family’s safety and preparedness more seriously.  There has been a smoldering divide in our communities that seems to be flaring up more often lately, most recently, there has been a storm brewing over the militarization of the police at the local level. With the situation in Ferguson Missouri demonstrating a total distrust of police after the shooting of an unarmed black teen and the overwhelming military style projection of force by the state, has the match been lit for emotional contagion?

Emotional contagion is a condition that spreads when an event happens that gets a community upset enough to protest in the streets in a way that attracts people from other areas to join the cause. After a while there is seemingly little connection to the facts of the original case and now the street becomes the venue to air all sort of grievances.

So what does this all have to do with the survival group? Everything. This is all part of your situational awareness. In Ferguson you have seen the media coverage. What did you notice this time as opposed to other unrest events? I saw that almost every newscast was conducted in a normal middle class looking neighborhood. The cameras were literally broadcasting from the front yards of houses, not parking lots of some big city urban center or some far away avenue where corporate elite businesses were being destroyed. Sure there has been plenty of looting but the battles have moved onto the side streets right outside the bedroom windows of innocent families. Did those people expect a running street war with international media coverage? That’s not all that changed this time around, when have you ever heard of news crews being attacked with tear gas, threatened with violence from police and even arrested just for covering the news?

The biggest difference and the one thing that got my attention was the sniper sitting on top of a SWAT vehicle actively aiming his weapon at the crowd as if scanning for targets, one finger pull away from starting the next revolution. Somewhere along the way the lessons of Kent State have been lost. In today’s militarized society it seems as if we have turned the page on airing our differences. There are a lot of societal reasons that we won’t go into here that are fueling this divide. For now we are just setting the stage to discuss how we will survive and navigate the changing social terrain. Conflict is here and sides are being chosen. For those families caught in the perimeter of such conflicts it would be wise to be ready.

First we need to talk a little about martial law. As we have seen there has been an evolving cast of characters in Ferguson. Initially it was the local police department, then the SWAT team, then more SWAT teams with verified pentagon issued military surplus. The escalation only incited anger as more heavily armed troops arrived with such things as sound cannons (LRAD), flash-bang grenade volleys, clouds of tear gas and various non-lethal weapons backed up by very lethal supporting elements. This arms race has only caused a run on body armor, gas masks and gun sales. Upon seeing the failure to quell the protests the State Police were called in to replace the other forces and shortly it was obvious that wasn’t working either so the National Guard has been deployed.

Does this indicate martial law? Possibly and likely in this case, there is no precise definition of martial law. You won’t find martial law in the Constitution and there is no working definition of how to organize or implement martial law in any State Constitution. It can be inferred that when the military assumes authority to enforce the law we are experiencing a form of martial law. We can also make the assumption based on the progression of events in Ferguson that if the situation persists or emotional contagion spreads to other areas, so will the level of enforcement.

There have been a number of martial law deployments in our history and they have increased in the last fifty years. Often the deployments were in response to impending danger to a community for everything from union unrest to natural disaster to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii was under martial law for two years after the attack. Recently and notably Watertown Massachusetts could be seen as the latest recipient of martial law. In the aftermath and subsequent search for the Boston bombers the entire city was under siege by thousands of agents brought in from all over the country. Citizens were told to stay home and door-to-door searches were essentially mandatory without warrant or probable cause. To my knowledge, such a siege has not been done since the Revolutionary War.

Were there survival group members in the conflict perimeter? For this discussion we will say yes. What should you as a survival group do if this kind of scenario were to burst into your yard? I’m reminded of an old saying, “If you look out the window and 60 minutes is on your lawn, it’s going to be a bad day.”

There are a number of steps to take when this or worse comes to your house. First and foremost immediate actions must be taken to provide for the immediate safety of the family inside and possibly the timely evacuation if the situation degrades quickly.

What do I do first?

  • Secure all the doors and windows
  • Keep the noise levels low in house so you can hear anything that might happen
  • IMPORTANT: take a headcount of all personnel and family members.
    • Never, never assume everyone is accounted for
    • To do a headcount line everyone up and count off. Each person MUST say his or her number out loud.
  • Get everyone prepared to evacuate immediately, just in case
  • Get kids dressed and shoes on
    • Dress accordingly for climate and threat
  • Leash the dog
  • Arm yourselves accordingly
  • Flashlights issued
  • Grab your identification
  • Grab a paper map of your area so you can plot a safe direction later on if your routes are blocked
  • Put all cell phones in pockets
  • Grab a phone charger for later and put in your pocket
  • Issue any gas masks you may have.
    • If you don’t have any masks, wet some t-shirts and wear them as respiratory protection.
    • Also use eye protection for everyone. Swim goggles will help to keep tear gas from eyes so you can see, otherwise use safety goggles that have a face seal
  • If it is hot outside consider wetting your shirt to reduce heat injuries from running
  • If evacuating take some water to drink and rinse your eyes out.
    • Also consider carrying some milk to rinse pepper spray and tear gas from eyes, the cream in milk neutralizes pepper spray
  • Of course grab your bug-out bag but you won’t need all that primitive survival stuff this time, You will only be evacuating the protest area and going somewhere safe
  • Turn down lights to get your eyes adjusted to the dark outside
  • Keep everyone away from windows and stay near floor in case of stray bullets
  • If possible, stage a guard near all entries
  • Position fire extinguishers accordingly and designate knowledgeable users
  • Fill bathtubs and keep buckets nearby
  • Clear paths through yard for escape, move chairs and bicycles out of the way
  • Consider loading some Evac supplies in car and turn the car facing the road, keep keys in pocket
  • Wet large towels to possibly use as fire blankets and cover bodies during a hot evacuation
  • If you have bars on windows do not use that room as a retreat unless you can get out
  • If you have a deadbolt lock that uses a key to get out, place the key in the lock ahead of time
  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire
    • Make them say it out loud
  • Do the same for a neighborhood meeting location. This is important if someone is not home during an emergency or you get separated
  • Activate your Commo Plan even if you don’t think it is necessary. Be sure to reach your out of area contact as well. This is important for concerned family in other areas who cannot reach you
  • If there is a lockdown on your neighborhood no one will be allowed in so your survival group may not be able to reach you
  • Do not evacuate into unknown or dangerous conditions unless your location or home becomes no longer safe to occupy
  • If you are evacuating be sure to approach the line of law enforcement carefully. You do not want to appear as a threat, consider how you might be armed and how they may respond
  • If you are caught in a crowd of rioters or looters try to blend in and not be a target to either side
  • If the crowd is moving, fall to the back or move to the edge to avoid being hit by projectiles from either side of the conflict
  • Law enforcement always leaves an exit for protesters to disburse, find it and use it
  • If you evacuate in a vehicle, be ready at any moment to ditch it and move on foot. This means any packs must be zipped up, kid’s shoes on their feet and tied, no sandals or flip-flops. Someone should be riding shotgun and there is a reason they call it that.
  • Travel light and don’t attract attention
  • Keep in mind that if there is civil unrest in the area, there will be three kinds of people outside:
    • the police,
    • armed citizens protecting their possessions and businesses and
    • protesters/looters.
      • There may also be trigger-happy people armed inside their homes. You do not want to surprise any of these people. Be careful when moving around on other people’s property.
  • When moving as a group or family, assume a patrol style configuration. This means to place all children, vulnerable people and assets in the center of the column and place adults who are able to observe, recognize and react to any threats in the front, back and sides as you move.
  • Remember your headcount and check it regularly to verify you have everyone. Always check the count after running or moving through an obstacle.
  • In a tactical or silent environment the count should be initiated from the front, passed back to the rear and back up to the front. This is done by placing a hand on the person in front of you and whispering the number back up to the front of the line or patrol. Once everyone is accounted for you can continue to move.
  • If there is a separation in the group it is the fault of the person ahead of the lost member. Make it a point to only move as fast as the slowest person and look behind you every few moments.

For a printable version of this post, click HERE

Feel free to print and post this information on your refrigerator or in your Family Contingency Binder as a reference. Hopefully you will never need it but in an emergency, panic and tunnel vision can overcome the best-prepared person. There is nothing wrong with using a cheat sheet because in true survival, all is fair.

Stay alert preppers!

For more information on survival groups and preparedness, make sure you check out The Survival Group Handbook: How To Plan, Organize and Lead People for Short or Long Term Survival, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle here:

Also stay in touch with Charley Hogwood and P.R.E.P. at our website,

Does Your Group Have A C.O.O.P.? [No, we aren’t talking chickens]

What if a member who holds an important position becomes incapacitated or missing? What will your group or family do if an event happens that causes a serious disruption in your normal situation?


Since pandemic is all the rage right now we’ll use illness as our trigger event.

Today began as any other day with kids going back to school after a long hot summer break. The parents are off to work. The mother is a nurse in an emergency room the father a police officer. The news over the last few weeks has spent so much time talking about sickness in some distant land that we began to ignore it. Every case that pops up over here has been tested negative so far so it’s probably hype anyway. Even still you have taken all the appropriate cautions. You’ve increased the hand washing, stocked your sick room supplies and even prepared your survival group as much as they would listen. But life gets in the way of the best plans.

This morning one of the kids complained of a headache… isn’t that how the story always begins? It’s probably nothing, a new school year with kids coughing all over each other it’ll pass. Next thing you know you or a family member is down for the count. Then another case of symptoms shows up in the city, and another. Regardless of announced test results and cautions people are getting shaky as more become ill.  A protest forms downtown because people are upset that the drugs are being sent to other countries and supplies are low. The protest brings the sick out with the healthy making things worse. Many don’t even realize they are sick because of the possible three-week incubation time. Looting begins and people are arriving from other towns to join in on the spoils of rioting only to take the illness back to their communities.

Civil unrest spreads, food is running low at the stores because trucking is spotty due to rising fuel prices and people are staying home from work. Law enforcement begins to restrict travel, health department workers in bio suits are televised removing sick people from homes and the 24 hour news cycle creates panic by reassuring everyone to not panic. People are avoiding hospitals and staff is hit hard by infection.

You finally convince everyone that it’s time. You begin the group activation only to find out that several members aren’t feeling well and one of your families was injured in a riot while trying to escape their burning apartment building. On top of all this the travel restrictions are preventing your only survival group medic from getting to your retreat location.

What are you going to do now? With the group in such disarray how will you ever pull it together? If the situation persists the group might collapse.


The Continuity Of Operations Plan (COOP) is a contingency that automatically jumps into action when such an event happens.

The COOP is a term borrowed from emergency management. When 9/11 happened the businesses in the WTC and surrounding areas were immediately and catastrophically affected. Because those businesses were a part of the financial fabric of our society, their loss had ripple effects globally. The companies who had the foresight to create and maintain contingency plans were the ones who were able to get back to work the quickest.

So why should a survival group consider such an approach? There are several areas within a group that if disrupted, might cause confusion, chaos or even unsafe conditions. You have already gone to all the trouble of planning for your food, water shelter and other necessities of survival, shouldn’t you plan to preserve all of these efforts if when something doesn’t go as expected? *For the purposes of our discussion we are going to be a little clinical with respect to loss of life and hard earned preparedness so don’t be offended as we proceed. 

We talked about the COOP, now let’s adapt that framework to the survival group. We probably don’t need to worry about some of the aspects of a business COOP such as customers, IT, compliance and such but we do need to keep ourselves in the business of survival.

A Group Continuity Plan (GCP) is like an overall backup plan that pulls everything together and clearly lays out what to do and how to do it. The best part is that once you give it some thought, there is not much to do except work the plan.

The GCP will benefit your family or survival group in the following ways:

  • Loss of life or injury to personnel-
    • You will identify ahead of time who steps in to fill a role immediately after a loss
  • Damage to critical resources-
    • This includes supplies, equipment, shelter location, transportation, etc.
  • Damage to reputation-
    • In a world where projection of power or even imagined strength is a weapon, any perceived weakness could make you a target. Being able to roll with the punches and not miss a beat shows that you are organized, ready and able to fight back.

You may have some plans already such as activation, contingency, or even emergency response plans. That is great and you should have these plans in place. But there is something to remember about plans and General Dwight Eisenhower may have said it best, “Plans are worthless; however the planning process is priceless.”

One of the weaknesses of specific plans is that they are limited in focus and tend to address only certain aspects of the group only to ignore other important areas. Survival requires a holistic approach. This means that everything is somehow connected and tasks should work in concert with each other.  The Group Continuity Plan is more of an integrated approach that ties everything together.

As you begin to think about how to create a GCP follow these concepts:

  • Consider risks to your group. A hazard analysis will identify what could go wrong and how it would affect you. Think of ways to reduce these risks or recover quickly from them. This is important.
    • What could happen?
    • How likely is it to happen?
    • Identify by priority
  • Consider the impacts to the group
    • Who would be affected?
    • What would be affected?
    • Do we have a backup person, piece or place?
    • Prioritize by importance
  • Group continuity strategy
    • Identify options to work around the impacts
    • Assign alternate roles
    • Identify back up equipment
    • Combine with existing contingency plans to make solutions flow more easily
  • Develop Group Continuity Plan (GCP)
    • Make sure everyone knows and understands their primary and alternate role
    • Make sure everyone knows where things are and where back up locations are
    • Try to pre-position alternates of critical resources in another location if possible
    • If there are any legal concerns you may need to consider such as child custody, financial account access, etc. you may need to draw up delegations of authority or Powers of Attorney.
    • Make sure everyone knows when to perform their alternate roles so there is no down time while waiting for someone to make a decision
    • Communicate everything to everyone as much as possible while keeping OPSEC in mind
  • Test your plans
    • Conduct training and exercises to make sure everyone understands what they are supposed to do
    • Testing the plan helps to identify problems and solutions
    • Surprise testing or drills is very effective at reinforcing correct actions
  • Maintain your plan
    • Any time a person is changed or a technology is upgraded you must update the plan
    • Plans must include contact information as well as procedures and must be kept up to date
    • Anytime a new version is created, the old version must be destroyed to avoid outdated information
    • Plans must be shared between everyone involved. A plan is no good if kept on a shelf and hidden from the people who are expected to participate

While it may seem like too much trouble or too high a level for a small survival group, coming up with some ideas to keep you moving is well worth the effort. Don’t let all these acronyms and concepts worry you, at the end of the day all we need to do is create a well-considered backup plan to keep the survival group safe and healthy.

What should the survival group/family leadership be doing at this time?

  • Identify threats and hazards to your group and location
  • Prioritize those hazards beginning with the most immediate danger to your safety
  • Figure out the critical who and what might be affected if a hazard happens
  • Figure out who would automatically replace that person (and tell them both)
  • Figure out where to fall back to if your location is damaged or compromised (retreat)
  • Account for any special concerns such as contagion
  • Teach and train everyone in the family/survival group the skills to operate in both primary and alternate roles
  • Gather the stuff you need based on the average skill level your group has (Don’t overestimate skill levels)
  • Keep on the lookout for changes and problems at all times. Keep information current
  • Write down technical instructions, Information and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Share latest version of all information with everyone. Don’t assume everyone understands everything. Ask review questions and make them say it out loud

What should everyone else in the survival group be doing?

  • Stay current on events
  • Continue to focus on your preps
  • Avoid complacency, crisis usually comes as a surprise and no one operates effectively when caught off guard
  • If a new hazard threatens, such as a pandemic, adjust your efforts by collecting the proper skills and equipment to address the changing conditions
  • Ramp up you preparedness in accordance with the situation. It is far easier to methodically work up to a higher level of ready than to go from zero to OMG
  • Listen to the group leaders. You chose them to do a job and they must have your support to get it done
  • Take the initiative when you see something that needs to be done. You are part of a team; the 80/20 rule cannot be in effect in a survival situation. The survival group will require a 100% effort to be successful

If your survival group or family is not interested in planning for a possible continuity disruption, it will be like herding cats for a bath when crisis strikes. Bring up the subject at your next meeting and be prepared to make a sensible case. Many groups already struggle with leadership but when it’s not there in times of emergency everyone misses it.

If you find your group activated in such a scenario it will be important to communicate to them that just because it seems the world is collapsing on the outside, you cannot afford to sit back. The group will require more commitment, more discipline and more teamwork than before in order to make up for all the lost comforts of pre-disaster life.

Want more info on survival groups? Check out my book: The Survival Group Handbook: How to Plan, Organize and Lead People for Short or Long Term Survival, available in paperback AND Kindle here:

Pandemic Planning For Your Survival Group. Part 2

In part one of our pandemic series we addressed some basic planning issues and talked about personal protective gear (PPE) for the group. Here in part two, we’re going to address some basic social protocols and focus on group leadership. Remember, for all of these plans, it’s important to make sure that everyone in your group is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Social Distancing For The Group

The goal is to reduce exposure to illness and changing some of our accepted social norms can do this. Handshakes, hugs and cheek kisses upon greeting each other should be replaced with non-contact greetings. One community in Africa has had success in replacing these norms by placing the right hand over the heart and offering a slight head bow. This is just an example, you should feel free to use whatever works. The important thing is that everyone follow suit or it will not be as effective

As time passes the survival group will inevitably run into nutrition and exercise deficiencies. It is important to keep the immune system as strong as possible for many reasons other than mass health emergency. If the survival group allows itself to become lazy in their health all the other tasks of daily survival will also suffer further perpetuating the condition and morale of the group.

What Should Group Leadership Be Doing?

Leadership should be involved at every level of group operations whether in daily family life or full on survival group activation. In the case of a pandemic activation the leadership must establish a culture of awareness and respect for the contagion and general health of the group. This will be done by setting rules for members to strictly follow with respect to hygiene and contact

When you face an indiscriminant enemy such as contagion you cannot afford to be at all complacent. Leaders must lead by example and be able to achieve buy-in by all group members by demonstrating a solid vision that directly relates to the group’s goals.

In the case of potential pandemic, leaders would be wise to establish a team dedicated to coming up with solutions for dealing with possible infection such as health awareness and monitoring, isolation and quarantine settings, establishing inventory of supporting supplies and education of the group, this must include all family members. It would also be a good idea to select a member or two to monitor the news cycle from multiple, reputable sources for situational information. The group should already have an ongoing education effort but there should be enough flexibility in the training schedule to address emerging threats such as this. Included in the training should be a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the security plan in how to deal with outside contact and how to react to possible contamination. The SOP should include action drills to expose any problems

As a backstop against rash decisions in fearful territory such as contagion it would be wise to establish one member as the Devil’s Advocate for all major issues and decisions. The reason for this is to prevent groupthink. This is a condition where a seemingly good idea or train of thought gets fast tracked because it feels like the thing to do. The Devil’s Advocate is tasked with finding reasons to object. If the D/A can’t find solid reasons to object and convince the team to slow down, then the idea moves forward. This should help to prevent paranoia or false information from derailing the group’s efforts, which is a likely problem in a pandemic scenario.

Finally, leadership should also convey an open door style policy in which members are not afraid to bring concerns. By creating this openness, team members will be more likely to communicate issues that might become serious if concealed.

The list of hazards seems to be growing everyday. Something stuck in my mind that changed my way of thinking with respect to planning. I was reading a global security report on predicted threats from a geopolitical perspective. This was back in 2012. There were all the expected concerns such as trouble in the Middle East, Africa becoming more terror related, global food problems, Euro crisis, China expansion, etc. The thing that stood out was the summary from an American military planning officer. He was quoted as saying that no matter what we predict and plan for there is always something that seemingly comes out of nowhere and changes everything.

The moral of the story here is to plan for all the most likely problems but be aware that something can come out of left field at any moment. Your family’s survival may hinge on your ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

Pandemic Planning for Your Survival Group

How Does A Pandemic Affect A Survival Group?

Your survival group was created to be a cushion between you and society at large should something serious come along. As we attempt to prepare at the family level we only have so many resources to work with. So what do we do when of all things, something like Ebola pops up? Most of us already consider things like the Avian Flu but Ebola can pop up like gophers in the garden. Influenza is tracked with some predictability and we usually have a pretty good idea when it’s most active and what we should do to be ready. Ebola seems to be more along the lines of a bioterror event in that we may get very little if any warning that it’s in our community until symptoms are recognized and tests are verified. This is due to its potential long incubation period of upwards of 21 days. By then it is possible that the number of infected is cascading.

So what does this mean to the survival group?

Timing is everything if your plan is to wait and see what’s going to happen. The gamble is that if you act too soon you may have committed your resources and now what do you do if nothing happens? On the other hand if you wait until cases begin popping up randomly across the country you may get swept up in the panic or possibly something the government likes to call “containment.” An additional concern is that if your group is like most everyone else going to work and school everyday, how do you deal with the potential of introducing illness into the group once activated. Is it practical to isolate every member for 21 days? Another level of awareness to have is to understand the time the virus can survive on a surface. In the case of Ebola, the virus is said to be viable on surfaces for several days. In Africa they are trying to sanitize everything, even spraying disinfectant on the sidewalks. So in the event of a major outbreak should we be concerned with our just in time commerce system moving the virus around on boxes and vehicles? See how easy paranoia can slip in?

Let’s take a look at the potential for disruption in a pandemic event. We won’t go too far into this but just to give you a refresher. The following list will help you in planning. Some of these things may not be as high priority depending on your level of preparedness and proximity to urban areas. With that being said, there aren’t many things that will empty a city but lack of essential services and raging contagion might be pretty high on the list so take transient populations into account as you plan.

The short list of hazards to think about for contagion:

  • Panic buying
  • Civil unrest
  • Containment/quarantine/travel restrictions
  • General paranoia
  • Medical centers overwhelmed or avoided all together
  • Unwillingness to seek medical care for other health conditions out of fear
  • Workers staying home
  • Services spotty or non-existent
  • Commerce interrupted/truckers stay home
  • Food and water shortages
  • First responders affected/over worked

In the National Pandemic Strategy the US government estimates that as many as 40% of workers may stay home leading to severe strain on essential services.

So what is the plan?

First there are plenty of things you can do. Take a look at your supplies and ask yourself; can we survive for at least three months with no outside contact? Three months is the projected time a pandemic wave is expected to last in a community. Next think about your possible exposure. The best thing to do here is to promote a healthy culture of hygiene. Make hand washing a requirement for everyone you come into contact with. Now is the time to beef up your personal protective equipment (PPE). You should already have supplies or get home bags in your vehicles and work spaces be sure you have a good quality respirator mask such as a 3M brand N95 mask rated for medical procedures. Cheap dust masks usually don’t hold up to moisture and will not seal adequately. For those of us with facial hair you should know that even a 5 o’clock shadow would prevent a seal and allow sneeze droplets or splash to enter the mask. Technically, even an N95 mask should be fit tested and taught how to put on and take off correctly and safely.

Part of your supplies in each location should include disinfectant or bleach. But remember that liquid bleach begins to lose effectiveness in 6 months so don’t buy large quantities unless you think you will need it.

In a group survival location you will have many people in a small area, which could act as an incubator for germs so you may want to create a plan for regular decontamination of all living spaces and common equipment. For example, there will be a lot of traffic in the kitchen area as well as places like HAM radio rooms, guard posts, vehicles and common lounging areas. The group should have a medic who constantly monitors each member for signs of illness. The medic should work with group leaders to establish an area where isolation can be set up. As part of your planning you should have hard copies of information on how to set up a hot area for isolation and a decon area for those who care for patients. The isolation room should be away from other common areas as much as possible.

Once the group activates due to mass contagion it is essential to make every effort to prevent the illness into the survival group’s retreat location. To better secure your members, establish a security buffer around the home or buildings that you use. This buffer will need to be monitored for intrusion at all times. If an infected burglar were to infiltrate the home, disease could be introduced.  All personnel who may find themselves in contact with outsiders should carry at least the basic PPE of mask, sealed eye protection and nitrile long cuff exam gloves.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Pandemic and Your Survival Group series, where we will talk about survival group leadership and other contingency plans for your group.

You can always check out a copy of our book, The Survival Group Handbook on Amazon at

Survival Groups By The Numbers: How Many People Do You Need?

Once you’ve made the decision to start or join a survival group/community, you will have to make a couple of fundamental decisions.  Usually, the first question that comes to mind is “How many people do I need in this group?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.  You can’t just run down to the people store and get a price quote on the difference between 4 people and 40 people.  Instead of focusing on the numbers, I suggest focusing on the goals you are trying to achieve and the situation that you are planning for.

Things to Consider

First, you must consider your own goals and situation then you will try to get an idea of how many people are going to be in the group? Second, how will we decide on membership? Survival groups can range in number from single families to thousands, so where will your group land on the scale? One of the benefits of a survival group is the division of labor.  This gives the group the ability to complete tasks that would be impossible for a single person. My suggestion is to build a group based on member skills to make sure that you have the best available candidates. You’ll want a group that is able to perform a variety of tasks, including, but not limited to:

    • Medical trained personnel
    • Mechanically inclined personnel
    • Food Production / Farming / Livestock
    • Child / Elderly care
    • Education / Teacher
    • Blue Collar Skills
    • Cooks
    • Hunters and Trappers
    • Scavengers
    • Seamstress
    • Military/Security/Self Defense
    • Ham Radio/Commo
    • Primitive Survivalist or Homesteaders
    • Toolmaker/Engineer/Blacksmith
    • Gunsmith/Reloader
    • Mechanics

You as the group will need to decide how to fill those slots as time goes on. Until then you’ll need to make due with what you have. It’s much easier to plan for these positions pre-SHTF, and you can use the search for these skills as part of the new membership vetting process. Try not to be too ambitious when you start out or you may create more problems than you solve. It is important to identify your priorities and only advance into new projects when the manpower, time, resources and conditions permit.

Begin by taking account of what you already have. Start with your existing operations and personnel. Think about the people that you would like to join the group, what skills do they have, if any. Make a list of skills that you feel would benefit the group, and that would help the group reach it’s goals.  For example, some groups wish to live completely off grid, so a ham radio operator may not be in high demand, while a blacksmith may be a very important person.  For other groups, communication with the outside world and community building is a priority, so ham radio operators are very sought after.  It all depends on you, your group goals, and your group’s plan.

Along the way you will begin to see some opportunities for interdependency. This is to say that some jobs will naturally dovetail with others. For example, most tactical, security and hunting work utilize similar personnel and equipment. Farming can combine animal husbandry and gardening.

You can always follow the Rule of 3’s as a quick rule of thumb reminder of what’s most important in survival. If you get off track just ask yourself if what you are currently doing contributes in a necessary way at this time. If not, you may want to focus on something that gives you more bang for the effort for now then revisit the other project later.

Security Operations

You’ll have plenty of ongoing daily chores and activities but you must also provide for the task of security. Remember: SECURITY IS PRIORITY NUMBER ONE! Without the appropriate level of security for your situation you do not actually own anything you have, you are only holding your stuff until someone else comes along who wants it more. We know that security never takes a day off. 24 hours a day 7 days a week, the security plan must be performed with discipline and proficiency. Too often, people overestimate their abilities and underestimate their situation.  We are wise to choose our battles whenever possible. Since all is fair in the truest sense of survival, seek out every opportunity and take every advantage available to you.

There are a number of ways to develop a security plan to meet your needs. Keep in mind that your security will need to adjust as your situation changes. This is to say that as your personnel go about their daily tasks and movement they will need to keep a theme of self protection running in the back of their minds at all times. The key to remember in developing your plan is that you must completely and accurately understand your situation, location, threats and assets. At the end of the day you want to achieve these three goals to the best of your abilities, deter, delay, and defend. As you can see by these three concepts, you will want to improve your abilities through selecting the right personnel, the right defensive measures and have an ongoing situational awareness so you know as early as possible if trouble is heading your way.

Surviving in a difficult environment can be an exhaustive ordeal both mentally and physically. Over time you will wear down until you can find a way to spread the load with others. It is important that you do not underestimate the situation or overestimate your skills. By taking action now to understand your hazards, prepare your family and plan for life’s disruptions, you will gain peace of mind for yourself and spread confidence among those who will be with you should danger approach.

Dealing With Diversity In Your Survival Group

Bringing People Together

Every group of survivors/preppers is unique. There will always be a variety of experience, personality, skill and ability within the survival group, but, the members do have one thing in common, their survival situation. This can be a nightmare when it comes to planning and logistics, and can very quickly go from calm to chaotic. It is sometimes a wonder that anything gets accomplished when we put people together. In a survival situation, it is even more important for the group leader to have an understanding of group dynamics, and how to deal with multiple personalities and survival goals. Remember that while you are all ultimately working towards “survival”, as we’ve all seen, there are many ways to reach the same destination.

A Bit of Real World Example

Recently I was in a classroom situation with a group of people from many professional backgrounds in a state sponsored emergency management training session. The class objective was to learn how to conduct a rapid assessment of community needs immediately following a major disaster. The class consisted of members of law enforcement, fire services, health workers, emergency managers and many other first responder organizations. This is a situation that you think would be easy to organize because surely everyone would want to work together to move towards the goal. However, the differences between individuals and organizations became very apparent, as the various backgrounds and missions of these different agency personnel was a serious obstacle to our ability to complete a common yet unfamiliar mission. For example, law enforcement personnel had a very specific mission, they were only concerned with perimeters and containment and making sure that post disaster, each community remained in place and movement between regions came to a halt. On the other hand, fire rescue and EMT personnel made getting into and moving between regions a priority in order to get to those who needed medical services. Clearly, two very different objectives, though both made claims that they were there to help, first and foremost. So how do you create and maintain a relationship between these two agencies post disaster?

It’s not enough to merely understand the overall goal, communication will be key to making any group run smoothly. In our class, it became clear that the team members who both understood the fluid conditions and multiple objectives and were able to communicate their plans and objectives, gained the confidence of the other members and rose as leaders. Almost everyone in the class knew how to accomplish the same tasks but knowing and leading are two separate concepts.

But what does it all mean for me?

Now, let’s get back to our survival group situation. Notice the similarities? A survival situation is likely to be a series of challenges that are constantly changing. The people you are with will have different backgrounds and differing perspectives of the situation but will have a singular mission. What does this mean? This is where strong leadership is essential. The leader, or leaders must know the people involved and their motivation. Then, they must convert that motivation and expertise into a workable plan to get the group working together toward common goals. Keep in mind that there’s an added level of difficulty with survival groups in that almost every member of a survival group will experience something we call The Independence Conflict. As we are all interested in self preservation in hard times, we have all stepped up to lead our families to safety. The Independence Conflict is the personal struggle to trust someone else with you and your family’s survival decisions. It can be hard to let go and have someone else take charge.

Traits of a Good Leader For Your Survival Group

A good leader will work gain the necessary trust of group members by always balancing the group goals while still tending to the morale and individual safety and needs of the members and their families. A good leader will also be able to communicate their survival plan in a cohesive and understandable way. Sometimes this means explaining the goal one way to one part of the group, and then using a different tactic to explain the goal to another part of the group. This is a process similar to the way that siblings can have vastly different pesonalities, so the way that one child is taught and disciplined can be quite different from the way that a parent deals with the other child. It’s important to understand these differences between group members, and to use this knowledge to your advantage as the group leader.

Want more information on survival groups? Pick up THE SURVIVAL GROUP HANDBOOK on Amazon at

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