Many of us have affiliations with larger groups that we expect to depend upon in times of crisis. I am not talking about a support group of Facebook followers consoling you on a bad haircut here; I am talking about your very own survival group. For every person fortunate enough to have groups of friends you train with on the weekends, have purchased land and outfitted a bug out retreat, there are hundreds more who aren’t as lucky. I would bet that most people who consider themselves preppers simply don’t have a survival group they plan to rendezvous with and caravan to their bug out retreat in the woods along a route already provisioned with hidden caches of supplies.
For me the idea of a group of dedicated, trained compatriots with a secluded, sustainable place to go far removed from the nearest population centers and even further removed from likely risks seems to be the best solution for a prepper. The benefits of a larger group are numerous. There are more hands to work, more brains to think and more eyes to see. Larger groups have many advantageous over a single family or couple when it comes to survival.
I do think though that even if you don’t have a survival group of named members with a secret handshake right now, if you plan to survive for any length of time you will need to partner with other people eventually. Maybe this starts out with your neighborhood. Strength in numbers isn’t just a quaint saying; it makes perfect sense to me. This post is not about finding a survival group but addressing the issues of supporting a larger group when you do find yourself either in one, or leading one. When you have a group of people you are counting on for defense and survival, what considerations will you have in taking care of your army?
How will you feed your Army?
This past weekend I went to my local membership store and bought 2- 25 pound bags of rice, 5 – 12 pack cans of Tuna, 3 pounds of Salt, 3 pounds of coffee, some other spices and a giant 52 roll pack of toilet paper. I am sure I had some other small things in there too, but they slips my mind. I spent $129 and the supplies I purchased would feed my family for about a month if we stretched things out. We certainly wouldn’t be getting 2000 calories a day I know that, not without augmenting our freeze-dried foods or canned storage, but it is another step forward in preparedness.
When you have a larger group there will necessarily need to be more food. This involves more planning because you can’t simply cook a small pot of rice and feed 20 people. You will need larger capacity for storing the food as well as preparing the food. No amount of paper plates and cups will last forever so dishes will need to be washed, possibly several times a day and there will need to be some schedule for all of this work. Who will be in charge of the meals, making sure that the food levels in the pantry are monitored, food is being stored properly and rotated and possibly procured? Will you have to think of creative ways to cook without power?
Even a group of 10 people might be a lot for one person to handle. Sure I know plenty of people; my relatives included who come from a family of more than 8 siblings. You have an advantage with family that you don’t with friends so food preparation for a large group should be one of the first things that is taken care of to ensure your people are fed and in the best health they can be. Water is just as important if not more than food for initial survival so having a plan for clean, disinfected water for all of the members of the group on a daily basis will be crucial.
How will you take care of the poop after it hits the fan?
It is one thing to have a Luggable Loo if you are only talking about 4 people in your family. Imagine 20 people waiting to use the pot after the 3rd meal of beans in a day? Imagine the volume of poop that would be? Larger groups will need a plan for sanitation from the outset. Waste should be kept far away from any water sources and cleanliness will keep disease down. Hand sanitizer is an option, but knowing how to make your own soap will be a better long-term option. Hand washing will have to be a discipline everyone follows because after TEOTWAWKI, there won’t be any hospitals you want to go to.
For a group of any considerable size you will need to dig ditches or holes for the waste, add lime, sawdust or ash to the pile to help it decompose and reduce flies as much as possible. Someone will need to make waste removal a priority. This goes for human waste as well as any trash you generate. Burning is one way to deal with trash, but that can give away your location. I think in a survival situation that is brought about by a SHTF event, there likely won’t be much trash as even an empty soda can makes a good survival stove.
You also have to consider bathing too and that goes back to the water situation.
How will you keep in touch with your Army?
One of the main benefits I see of a large survival group is defense. For this to be as effective as possible, you will not be able to all stay locked up in the house. Teams of people will need to venture out for reconnaissance, possibly to hunt or to man defensive positions away from your location. You may need to go help another group out and all of these will likely require your group to rely on radio communications to keep in touch. That is unless you have mastered the art of carrier pigeons.
Modern FRS radios, CB radios and Ham radios work great for grid down communication options. They each have their advantages, but share the same disadvantages. Any channel you are on can be monitored by anyone with the same type of radio. FRS radios have probably the lease range of any option and don’t be fooled by the 20 mile range frequently advertised. Geographical considerations will lower the range of any radio and Ham only wins out by bouncing signals off the ionosphere for truly long-range communications. It is likely that no repeaters will be in operation if you are worried about defending your castle from invaders.
Your survival group will need to stay in contact and provided you have a good COMSEC plan even the simple walkie talkies can be used to effect better communications with members outside of the base location.
Who will be the leaders of your Army?
I’m the leader! No, I’m the leader because we voted on it… A true democracy that is successful is a rare thing and people generally need a leader. Someone has to be in charge and however it is decided is outside the scope of this article. The fact remains someone must be responsible for making the decisions the group will have to agree to follow.
You could have more than one person in charge if that seems better. Group discussion and agreement is how some people prefer to operate. Regardless of your organizational structure, there must be leadership and everyone will need to follow the direction of leaders, right or wrong.
- Chain of Command – Once groups get large enough that managing every person and situation becomes more than the leadership can effectively accomplish, a chain of command should be formed. Those with the most maturity or experience in a given area would seem to be likely candidates although someone showing great promise could be better leader than someone with years of experience who has personality issues.
- Delegating duties and responsibilities – The chain of command will help disseminate the instructions or orders of leadership and make communication up and down the chain much easier. The chain of command will be responsible for the people under them to make sure the assigned responsibilities are carried out professionally.
Who will keep your Army from walking away with supplies?
Obviously I am talking about dire circumstances here, not a weekend without power on your street. At some point, possibly very early in a disaster situation it may be necessary to procure supplies. I have shared my thoughts on the difference between looting and scavenging before but however you come by the supplies you have, someone will need to make sure that they are used wisely and not indiscriminately.
Let’s say you have a group of 4 families living together. You are all lifelong friends with a similar outlook on life and preparedness in general. Each family has brought all of their prepping supplies, food and water to the group retreat location and you are all in it for the long haul. The supplies each family brings to the group would likely then become property of the group to be used by the group as a whole.
Each person will have a ration of food for example and you can’t have your buddy Bob going into the pantry whenever he wants, grabbing bags of chips and drinks and eating more than his share. If that happened and food was being rationed in the first place I would bet someone would want to bust Bob in his fat face really soon. Keep it all separate you say? That will work fine until Bob runs out and is starving and living in the same house where everyone else is eating.
Food, medical supplies, clothing, ammunition, even entertainment in a large group situation could require some management. In the Army we had S4 who handled supply and logistics. All of the equipment was itemized and accounted for. This benefits the greater group so that someone is responsible for making sure there is an awareness of current levels of supplies and to ensure nobody is taking things they shouldn’t which could harm the group at some point in the future. If you just have an open cabinet and anyone can take anything they want, the food could run out without anyone knowing.
Rules and Punishment
In order for large groups of people to play nicely with each other there should be some framework of rules laid down. Rules help people know what is expected of them. You might have rules that look like the following:
- No single person leaves the retreat. Everyone must have a partner when they go outside.
- Each person will work in the kitchen one day a week (schedule posted) unless approved by leadership
- No bringing new people into the group location. New members will be evaluated by a process outlined… you get the point.
The other side of rules is that they are only good if people follow them. Rules that are broken need to have consequences or even in a room full of adults you will have someone eventually challenge you on one of your rules.
How will you deal with infractions of the rules? Are some infractions worthy of more severe punishment? What is the greatest amount of punishment you will be willing to enforce? Who will enforce it?
I think if we do have some horrific SHTF event in our future, just surviving the event may be the easiest part. It is growing and thriving as a survival group of people who share responsibility for one another, of growing a larger community and rebuilding society that will be much harder. To get there though you have to take care of your Army and this requires a lot of thought. What do you think?