Post-TEOTWAWKI: Groups and Retreats, Pt. 2, by E.M.

(Continued from Part 1)
For a group of neighbors who first come together after a disaster has already occurred, many of whom will barely know each other, if at all, the level of cohesiveness and trust will likely be stretched thin. So expect the question, “Why defend your house, and not mine?”

It would be better if decisions about which properties/neighborhoods would be defended were made in advance of a disaster. While apartment dwellers may be very flexible about the issue because they have little skin in the game, for homeowners in the group, the decision could obviously be a point of conflict that would be difficult to resolve amicably. Again, expect the question, “Why defend your house and not mine?” This decision may well prove to be a nonstarter for those who are considering joining the group in normal times when there is no compulsion to do so.

For those who wait until after a major disaster strikes to attempt to form a group (that is, after it becomes crystal clear to neighbors, for example, that they need to come together to meet serious threats), more individuals would likely decide that it is in their interest to join the group, but they will come to the group with different assets. Serious preppers/survivalists could find themselves with months of food on hand for themselves and their families, while other members of the group might join with almost nothing. (The Millennials who refuse to eat canned goods because they prefer to “eat fresh,” for example, will pose special problems.) Unprepared group members will be telling the prepared group members that, as they say in kindergarten, “sharing is caring.”

The issue of group cohesiveness will become a serious issue after a few weeks, if not sooner, when the clothing of some members of the group has becomes baggy and loose-fitting, and when it is obvious that other members of the group are still eating quite well. Trouble will naturally follow. “How can you stand there and watch my kids starve while you and your family have full bellies?”

Of course, an obvious solution is that members of the group can pool their assets and share what they have. The problem with that solution is that a family of four with a six month food supply will now have not much more than a one month’s supply if it is part of a mutual assistance group composed of four additional families who were poorly prepared.

The reality is that, if a family is not part of a mutual assistance group before a disaster occurs, it may well be unable to shop around and pick and choose which group it wishes to join after a disaster occurs. Geography will likely trump everything else.


I doubt that many people would need to come together at a retreat during any of the local disasters mentioned, except to use it as temporary shelter for a few days/weeks. Its use under such circumstances would be for not much more than what a hotel room might offer.

A factor here is the natural inclination for most homeowners to stay in or close to their homes, or what is left of them, after a hurricane or earthquake, and to protect their possessions from occasional opportunistic looters until order is restored. Another reason they would want to stay relatively close to home after a local disaster is that their job might not have been affected by the local calamity, and they would need to stay within commuting distance of their place of employment.

Yes, I realize that homes can be rendered uninhabitable for months following hurricanes and earthquakes and that a retreat might provide shelter during that time. A neighbor across the street was out of her home for six months after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, although I am not sure why. Nevertheless, the security and sustainability aspects of retreats in such circumstances would not be all that important after a local or regional disaster. Order would be restored relatively soon.

On the other hand, access to a retreat could be a godsend after an EMP attack, a massive cyberattack, and, of course, a nuclear war. In a post-apocalyptic landscape, many will decide that the survival contest will be best “played” as an away game.

Security of Unoccupied Retreats

Buying property to use as a retreat obviously presents daunting financial issues for most people. Beyond that, leaving the property unoccupied for much of the year presents security issues.

A friend related to me how a co-worker was building a home in a remote area of the High Desert in Southern California (so it wasn’t exactly a retreat as such). He had a large sea-land container there that held supplies while he worked on weekends slowly building the home himself. Despite the property’s rather remote location, people with bad intentions found it.

The thieves took an entire lift of 2x4s, as well as a large amount of roof shingles. They cut through the rear side of his sea-land container with an acetylene torch. They gave up when they could not move the large stack of plywood at the rear so as to allow them to gain entrance. The thieves went so far as to remove the pump from the cabin’s well. The security camera at the location caught much of the theft in progress, but identifying who the thieves were was impossible.

The takeaway here is that in this era of widespread drug addiction, a significant portion of the druggie population has turned to petty crime to fuel habits, and anything that isn’t nailed down, whether at a remote home’s construction site or at a retreat, may well be carted away whenever the owners are not there.

While it might be possible to find someone who was willing to live at a group’s retreat in order to keep an eye on things, the odds are that this person would probably have to be a retiree if the retreat was very far from urban and suburban areas (which is to say, “places of employment”).

Cost Sharing

Some people suggest that one way to ease the financial burden of building a retreat is for the survival group to pool its assets in order to purchase a desirable property.

Getting friends and family members to invest in beans, bullets, and Band-Aids is difficult enough, but getting friends and family members to spend money to invest in a retreat will be even more difficult.

Beyond that, who would agree to buy a share in a retreat without seeing it first? The result would be that, after they visit the property, each person who turned down the offer to buy a share property will know exactly where the safe haven is when disaster strikes. How many of them will show up at the front gate of the retreat once things turn spicy, hoping to take advantage of years of friendship or a family relationship?

Let’s assume that a few like-minded individuals are actually convinced to purchase shares in the retreat. Those in the prime of life with no serious health issues and with important skills will be among the most useful to a survival group. These people are the very people who will be likely to have additional children. As a result, the burden on the land could become more unsustainable with each passing year if the disaster lasted for a great period of time.

It is common in survival novels and dystopian fiction, in general, for characters to be strangely (and conveniently) out of contact with their families–Dad and Mom died three years earlier after a collision with a drunk driver. The brother and the hero had a falling out ten years earlier and the brother’s whereabouts are unknown. Sis is living with her family in Maryland, etc., etc., etc. Death, alienation, or simple distance removes close relatives from the hero’s concern and from the entangling familial issues that might complicate the plot the author has in mind.

The reality is, however, that the majority of people have family members and in-laws who live reasonably close. What does the group do when one couple who are shareholders in the retreat shows up at the retreat with their elderly parents, their in-laws and kids, and even lifelong friends? Will such a situation be the flashpoint that results in the group’s first use of lethal force? I don’t think so. The extra mouths to feed will simply make it more complicated.

And then there are the expenses that need to be shared by the group. The best intentions in the beginning often fade with time. (That the interest in prepping has been reduced since the economy began booming in 2016 has been commented upon by many.) One of my brothers purchased and renovated a nice cabin on a broad creek in rural Indiana. Each of the cabin owners in the area was supposed to pay an annual road maintenance fee of a modest amount. Most did, but some didn’t. The fee was important for upkeep of the access road, but the fee was also small enough that it didn’t justify the expense of hiring a lawyer to collect the fee each year.

After TEOTWAWKI, it will “take a village,” but the devil is still, most assuredly, in the details.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)


  1. Re: Food

    Some folks pile up the guns and ammo, medical gear, radio gear, or whatever, that is good to have if you can afford it, but they are short….FOOD! This is typically the weakness area in most prepper plans, and it could be the Achilles heal that could have easily been avoided. I’m doing my best to drive home the point that, none of your preps can serve you better than food. If you can turn potential threats, unwise neighbors, into assets by simply storing up lots of extra dry staple goods, that cost little in comparision to expensive #10 cans. Those are good to help avoid ‘appetite fatigue’, but only after one has a deep supply for others who refuse to act responsibly. I did not stock the nice yummy expensive stuff until I could take care the many other persons with lots of rice, beans, and wheat. Expensive and very desirable night vision, or other such fantastic force multipliers is very good to have, but if you do not have the minimum man power to defend yourself, what good is it? Most preppers do not have enough help to provide 24/7 security! Food= manpower.

    I could get real excited about this topic. Even well balanced, or sensible preppers are short sighted. If you are short some things, but have lots of friends to help, you are not short the most important resource you are gonna need most….friends ! Unless your small number of friends are a team of highly trained and motivated special forces grade solgiers, your are gonna need numbers. There is great advantage with numbers that is hard to substitute.

    Charity? Call it enlightened self interest….wisdom. God’s word is wisdom. Don’t fall into the mindset, ‘I got mine, you get yours’. Otherwise your’s could become their’s.
    I am poor by most standards, yet I accept that I may have to feed others who are worth millions. They can waste in a weekend, what I could live on for a year. But I might be stuck with them, or need to use a contigence plan. If I did not have the extra, I would not have a contingency, or alternate plan should my much better plan fall apart. Use what the military uses in their planning, PACE (primary, alernative, contingnecy, emergency.)

    Without an additional food to locate at least at an alternative location, one is wide open. Have extra for friends to come to you, and for you to go to them. Extra food opens up all kinds of options I’ll leave to your imagination. Food is key. If there is anything you do in excess, it should be food. As the Bible advises, have enough extra to be charitable. I say, very charitable. Get more.

    1. Tunnel Rabbit, yes indeed, “Food is key. If there is anything you do in excess, it should be food”.

      There is a huge benefit to folks setting ‘their tribe’ and defining basic rules ASAP. If you wait to come together you tribe will quickly devolve into conflict between the ‘ants’ and the ‘grasshoppers’. Rules could address resources, such as ‘minimum food, ammo etc.). It seems that realistically once a tribe is ‘activated’ resources must be shared. Otherwise a tribe will morph into an Orwellian ‘Animal Farm’ of unequal’s.

  2. The lack of food will easily create conflict between families. There will be disparities. This why we should anticipate that. This is why it is essential to have options. Yes, have a basic understanding, a minimum level, yet I have found that most will under perform. If we see it coming, and restructure our priorities, we can fix a fatal flaw. If there is More than enough food, other problems will be easier to deal with. Real preppers, or anyone that you can trust, are very hard to come by. You may have to work with what you got. If they got something you need, but they lack food, bring food to the table. If all strive to be apart of the solution, there will fewer problems, but sadly most will have an excuse. That is how most people are these days. Again, if this very poor boy can provide, you can provide… Ask God for help, and you will be surprised by the results.

    1. According to my reading of first-person historical accounts, that is the way most people are all these days. Apparently, this is one aspect of human nature, to choose denial and passivity, or as you note TR, excuses, over action.

      I appreciate your insights, esp. asking God for help.

      Carry on

  3. Always drove older more reliable cars and trucks and saved tons of money over the years working hard at doing what nobody else was willing to do . Get it down to 5 or 6 guys at the top of a very rare field of employment and the bucks roll in while you’re healthy and strong enough to climb a 1000 foot ice covered tower at 30 below with 70 mph winds and fix the German rarity hang up there . Now that I am retired and stocked up for most anything man or nature can throw at me I’m not of a mind to share it with just anyone that pleads gibsmedat . Especially those who have supported the destruction of my country and suckled on the teat of socialism .

  4. Some will be hungry. Some will have food. And some will just eat you once a bullet has found its mark. Food will always be available if you are really hungry… and you hunt for it..

    Never under estimate what hungry men will do to live… things that most have never thought of.

    If you have a family you HAVE a weakness that can easily be exploited. Just ask randy weaver..

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