Creating a Survival Team Charter, by L.K.R.

In the event of a SHTF event, my family and friends have long intended to co-locate and pool our skills and resources. While this was a great idea, we never documented how this group would be organized or how we would share responsibilities. Two things motivated us to formalize our arrangement: 1) A new family made it clear that they were committed to mutual support and started a more detailed discussion of how this would work. 2) We came across a new book, The Survival Group Handbook by Charley Hogwood.

Hogwood does a great job of discussing the practical issues we will all face if co-located with a group of like-minded people who nonetheless will have very different personalities and problem-solving approaches. The book covers a wide range of subjects including group leadership, defining your objectives, dealing with social conflict, establishing a retreat location, defining roles for group members, how to use group projects to build teamwork, planning for contingencies, decision making approaches, how to activate the group, communication, meetings, new members, resource distribution and dealing with the outside world / threats.

We used this as a basis to create a Team Charter for group discussion and agreement. The structure of this charter is outlined below along with a description of what content is needed in each section.


This is a brief statement of why we are working together. For our situation we chose – “We come together to form our own community in the event of physical or social disruption. This is done to provide mutual support and protection – where our numbers and various skills can be utilized to compensate for the absence of modern infrastructure.”

What we are NOT

It was very important for our team not to be labeled as anti-government gun nuts. Our statement is – “We are not creating this community with any religious, racial, political or other philosophy. While people might recognize that we are conservative in our views and support our second amendment rights, we are in no way anti-government or attempting to create a militia.”


What are you looking for in new members? For us, ‘character’ was the most important factor – including honesty, emotional control and respect for others. We also want people with a strong work ethic and a bond to the team that will allow them to risk their lives for each other. Our team members also need to be pragmatic – although we believe in foundational principles (Ten Commandments, Bill of Rights) we must also be willing to act decisively to defend our lives and property when threatened


Beyond the fundamental aspects of ‘character’ outlined above, what do team members need to bring to the table. In our case, we expect team members to:

  • Bring useful skills to support the community
  • ‘Pull their weight’ within the limitations of their physical abilities.
  • Be willing to work for the good of the community even if this doesn’t directly benefit their family unit.
  • Ensure open communication without ‘drama’ – resolving differences with rational discussion rather than emotion and accusations.
  • Respect the privacy of others (difficult given communal living).
  • Respect for personal property.

We are not looking for friendly folks along for the ride. All are expected to contribute. We also made statements about the ability of all team members to assist with basic defense and with large projects like gardening.


We used the Native American tribes as a model for leadership. These people had respected senior leaders but used the sense of honor, community and peer pressure to motivate hard work and selfless dedication in the face of high risk.

We chose to organize with a group coordinator leading a council of representatives. These representatives might consist of:

  • All team members if the team is only 6-10 people or
  • All task leaders (see below) or
  • One representative from each family unit or
  • Some combination of the above to ensure that major functions and family units are represented

This council would discuss everything from policy decisions down to daily living problems. Decisions should be reached by consensus (or majority vote if needed). Given the broad array of skills required for self-sufficiency, we also created task teams to focus on specific areas of expertise. These teams have task leaders that are responsible for the allocation of resources and successful accomplishment of their mission. They will make day-to-day decisions, train team members and track progress of their respective areas.


Team Members

Core / Local / Committed

List of all team members committed to the group.


Supplemental / Potential

List of folks that would be included if they can make it to the retreat location.


This was the best fit of skills and available people within our team – yours may differ.

Role or Task Team Sub-Groups
Group Coordinator n/a
Site Logistics Food Production / Preparation


Mechanical / Electrical / Vehicles

Security Communications

Equipment & Training

Medical Water / Sanitation
Policy Statements
  1. Location – We listed our primary and backup locations.
  2. Resources – This is a discussion of what each family unit is expected to bring to the party. These resources might be located on-site in advance or brought when the team is activated. In all cases, each family is responsible for personal items like medications, glasses, clothing (all seasons, including rain gear, boots, hats and gloves), etc. This will likely generate a discussion regarding the fairness or equity involved in providing resources for the community. We chose to recognize that people cannot all afford the same level of investment and we were willing to value “skills” as much as “stuff” in determining a person’s contribution.
  3. Team Activation – What situations warrant team activation? How will you communicate? Since each family has to decide on whether to relocate and may not act immediately – what happens if a family waits too long or cannot transport their resources – do you mount a rescue operation?
  4. Leaders Authority – As a volunteer organization, we cannot compel team members to perform a specific task against their will. How are these issues resolved?
  5. New Members – How will you vet and agree on new members?
  6. Ejecting Members – What circumstances warrant expulsion – we made this a last resort if a team member / family refuses to perform required duties, is continually disruptive, is caught stealing resources, becomes physically abusive or otherwise displays disloyalty to the group.
  7. Operational Security – We made it clear that the site location, team members, resources, procedures and team charter were only to be shared within the approved team.
  8. Rules of Engagement
    1. Contact with Individuals and groups – how will you deal with intruders once you have collocated? We based this on both the general level of threat in the area and the demeanor of the person coming onto the property. Two levels of community status were defined:
      1. State of Alert – although some serious event has caused us to collocate, there are no indications of hostile activity in the surrounding region.
      2. Lockdown – hostile activity has occurred within ~25 mile radius.”


The protocol is:

Threat Level State of Alert Lockdown
Non-Hostile Intruder – white flag, minimally armed, not in stealth mode (trying to avoid detection)

Define actions

Define actions

Hostile Intruder – heavily armed or armed group, operating in stealth mode

Define actions

Define actions

B. Interaction with the local community – Depending on the severity and duration of an event, you may need to interact with the community to gain information or resources. How will you proceed if you decide to scout the area, contact other groups or otherwise seek resources?

C. Interaction with formal authority – This would include contact with local / state police, national guard or federal resources from Homeland Security or the military. We chose to represent ourselves as friendly but having minimal resources. How will you react if this escalates to the use of force to inspect and potentially confiscate resources?

Operating Procedures

A. Council

What are the details regarding regular meetings, meetings to resolve specific problems, approach to reaching consensus, delegating tasks, etc.

B. Site Logistics

This task leader will coordinate all activities required for the care and wellbeing of the community – including:

  1. Food Production & Preparation Sub-Task – basic procedures for dealing with stored food, renewable food and work details.
  2. Energy Sub-Task – use and maintenance of heating, electrical sources, fossil fuels and batteries.
  3. Mechanical / Electrical / Vehicles Sub-Task – use and maintenance of all vehicles and motorized equipment.

C. Security

1.) Overall – Site and team member security will be your first priority. Although there may be a designated security team – all people on-site need to assist in this effort and, if required, serve as the last line of defense.

2.) Definitions – terms used by the security team.

3.) Communications Sub-Task – Inventory, maintenance and training for radios.

4.) Equipment & Training Sub-Task – Inventory and maintenance of firearms, ammo and support equipment. Outline tactical skills and exercises in support of the team leader.

5.) Awareness – Community members are expected to be in “condition yellow” – listening and looking for abnormalities that might indicate a threat.

6.) Surveillance – list resources and procedures for alarms, video, etc.

7.) Physical Security

a.) Building Security – What is in place and how will it be used on a daily basis

b.) Light and Noise Security – How will you prevent detection or looking like a good target?

c.) Fighting Positions – How will you defend from inside and outside the home?

d.) Area Denial – How will you restrict entry and optimize your defenses.

8.) LP/OP – Listening Post / Observation Post – Will you man one or more outside positions? Where are they? How do you get back and forth? Who stands watch?

9.) Quick Reaction Force – Will you have additional security forces armed and ready to support the LP/OP?

10.) Response to contact – static position, no rounds fired – How do you react when your security staff sees a potential threat?

11.) Response to contact when coming under effective fire (exposed on property or while patrolling) – What is your protocol for communicating to the team, activating the QRF, returning fire, seeking cover, etc?

12.) Patrols – Does the team know how to move as a unit in a hostile situation?

13.) Battle Drills – What infantry tactics and skills will the team have?

14.) Coordination – How do you prevent fratricide?


D.) Medical

  1. Overall – Responsible for the physical and psychological health of team members
  2. Resources – What supplies do you have?
  3. Emergency Care – Who has what level of training? Where and how will they care for injured team members.
  4. Routine Healthcare – The medical task leader should be informed of even minor injuries or illnesses to prevent a crisis that consumes resources or jeopardizes the overall team.
  5. Wellness / Morale – Monitor the comfort, privacy, fitness, fatigue and psychological health of the team.
  6. Water / Sanitation Sub-Task – Details of water quality and use, personal hygiene resources and care of clothing and bedding.

We found that drafting this document required a lot of thought to flesh out how the team will function. It was very valuable in terms of finding gaps in our preparations and in getting other team members to think through how they will work with the group. It strengthened our bond with some team members and made us recognize that others are unlikely to show up until the crisis is totally out of control. Hopefully you get similar benefits if you choose to become more disciplined about how your team will function.


  1. Excellent article. As many have said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

    I think a key part of forming a retreat group is regularly training together. It builds skills, teamwork, reveals weaknesses such as personality issues and relationship problems (even between spouses.) Stress of BO will only fuel existing relationship problems. Last but not least, saying isn’t doing. Training will reveal actual commitment.

    1. Hank, I did not interpret this to mean they hate militias. They’re saying that forming a militia is not their primary purpose, but that they will use security to achieve their mutual survival & protection. I don’t see one’s approach to a militia as an either-or, or black & white choice. I do agree with your comment that militias are a constitutional means of local self-defense. But there are a spectrum of choices regarding militias & means of security & self-defense.

    2. Unfortunately, the common perception is that militias are “anti-government gun nuts”. The statement is meant to clarify our objectives in today’s environment rather than to reject the historical definition.

  2. This is very well thought-out, & the fact that your group developed this together, increases the chances of your group’s mutual survival & last many years together. LKR, thanks for sharing this.

  3. Hank, I don’t believe any “hate” was intended. The reason many groups and individuals steer clear of the “Militia” issue is because of the general ‘current’ negative ‘general’ connotation of the term. Remember the populace, as a whole, has been brainwashed against many of the basic understands of the founding fathers. I often use the following question as an example. If you asked George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, “What is your citizenship?”, they would have never answered, “I am a Citizen of the U.S.”. They would have said, “I am a citizen of Virginia!” In this case the concept of “State Citizenship” has been completely usurped by “Federal Citizenship” I don’t know of any one of the founding fathers that would have stood for such a concept. There are hundreds of such situations! Asked the average “U.S. Citizen” what form of government the Founding Fathers gave us and 99% will answer, “A Democracy.” and 99% would be wrong….Ben Frankin said, in answer to that question, ” A Republic, if you can keep it.” We all need to be a little more understanding and educate as many people to truth as is possible. “I know few things, I believe many things, I assume most everything.”

    1. I agree with everything you said. I looked up and copied this. I believe it reinforces what you have stated. I think the point where States seceded from the Union, and the USA waged total war against them to stop this, is the point where we went from united States to USA. ” Abraham Lincoln offered Lee the command of the Federal forces in April 1861. Lee declined and tendered his resignation from the army when the state of Virginia seceded on April 17, arguing that he could not fight against his own people.”

          1. Bob, Cadets Haynesworth and Pickens, if I recall correctly, though my days of memorizing Knob Knowledge are long past. Only made it through 2 years at The Ashley River School for Wayward Boys before the out of state tuition got to be too much, but those 2 years made quite an impression on me.

  4. LKR,
    Good luck finding all of those noble attributes in people nowadays. What we are witnessing generally in this country and across the world is a lack of moral compass a departure from Judeo-Christian belief and a simple belief and following of Jesus Christ formally of Nazareth historically of 2000 years ago. I’m convinced that the only way to gather a community as you suggest is a return to 1st century Christian Community as practiced in the New Testament. To garner and produce the attributes, moral character, drive, worldview, outlook, resolve, abilities, inner constitution, is to return to Christian Community of the original Apostles and local church Community as outlined in the New Testament that has been grossly abandon from the second century on until present day. It, (the first century believers) produced a world changing group of individuals that shook the world. Anything short of that will fail in the present circumstances we find ourselves.
    I submit just a few details of that early Church that in no way remotely resembles present day church small c. I am not attacking the present way of doing church I am just pointing out the glaring differences.
    First century A.D. Church: They met house to house primarily in seclusion in many areas due to persecution. They did not have a church building that they went to. They met in a rotating basis in each members house. So they did not have the expense of paying for a special building and maintaining it. This produces community plus no one remains anonymous and everyone knows the inner spirit of each family if you know what I mean. They ate their meals together. They pooled their money together primarily to help those in need among them and support other poorer churches and the 5 fold ministries. They did not have a pastor or a guy who did “the ministry”. But had a plural group of elders or pastors not in hierarchical authority over the group but guiding from behind in loving relationship. The word pastor occurs once in the N.T. in Ephesians 4:11 in the plural pastor[s]. There is NO biblical support in the N.T. for the single pastor. The Greek word translated pastors is poimen. It means shepherds. Pastor is a metaphor to describe a particular function in the church not an office or title. Christian Pollster Frank Barna has documented that approximately .86 cents of every dollar collected in Christianity goes to pastor singular, staff, building,church property owned, and maintenance of church property leaving a pitiful .14 cents of every Christian dollar for expenses not incurred in the first century church which changed the world. I have so much more to say about present day church but I won’t at this time. My point is if you want to accomplish what LKR is suggesting there is only one way to do it. By retuning to the first century Christianity and apply it to the model of the prepper community.

    1. Oly

      Your interpretation of the early church is through rose colored glasses and is NOT accurate. Read Pauls Epistles. Then read them again. If we assume (as most scholars do) that Paul’s conversion took place somewhere between 35 AD and 60 AD, then we already know that Jesus has ascended less than 30 years and Christians were already being admonished for corruption, pettiness, evil, sexual immorality and virtually all manners of vice that still plague us all today, as part of our evil sinful nature. I do not say that to denigrate your faith, bc it is a faith we share. But you somehow imagine that the early church was a pillar of perfect community and righteousness, and that just isn’t so. The sinner scribbling a fish symbol in a Roman catacomb 1950 years ago is the same sinner as is sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday. I know, first, because God tells us this and second, because I’m that sinner in the pew on Sunday. God Bless

  5. L.K.R.,

    Thanks for the article. It sounds as if your organization put a premium on everyone in the group being “equal”. I commend that but just have a few questions that I was hoping you could answer.

    1. Is the groups Primary and alternate BOL property of one group member or was property purchases by the group or are BOLs public property like forest etc. if they are the property of group memebers how are individual’s property rights protected? Can team members make permenent improvements to another’s property? What happen if the person leaves the group is there any compensation?

    2. Are there group purchases? If a person leaves the team is there any compensation for group purchases?

    3. One of my concerns about a MAG or group coming to my location as a BOL would be that they show up with basically nothing. Pastor Joe Fox of Viking Preparedness had a great video on how they handle people who want to use his property as a BOL. Stuff is stored on site in a shed that the person buys and if you leave you get to take your stuff but the shed stays. Pastor Joe points out that buy having the shed this helps insure that the people are truely putting food and other preps away versus just saying they are. Just wondering how your team specifically handles this issue.

    3. What type of training calendar do you have? Training once a month? Each person teaches to their area of expertise? Do you have minimum standards?

    Thanks again for the article

    1. In response to your questions:
      1. The BOL’s (primary and secondary) are owned by group members. As a result, we don’t have ownership issues. If the property were owned by the community, I believe we would need to assign “shares” of ownership based on contribution and have some arrangement to buy-back shares if someone wants to leave. It certainly creates a whole new set of challenges.
      2. Rather than group purchases, we encourage members to buy and pre-stage items on site. These remain their property and they can reclaim them at any time. Shared items such as food would become communal property if we activate the group while personal items such as clothing would be theirs unless loaned or given to another based on mutual agreement.
      3. Per 2 above, we encourage pre-staging but don’t demand it. Some members don’t have the means to do this but have skills and the mental / physical ability to work hard. We view this as equally important.
      4. We formally live and train together once per quarter. We informally get together as a couple of families for social reasons and do some casual prep / training at these times.

  6. Native tribes and bee hives have something in common. From the day of birth til death the tribe comes first and everyone is committed to the tribe and would give up their resources and their lives for the tribe. Teams, not so much. You may be able to put together a couple dozen people not all related and not all having long and close relationships that will work well together, but probably not. The best sized team is two. Three or more will always break up into coalitions with different goals and different leaders. Without a single strong and fully supported leader every problem and every issue will cause division and hidden resentments. In the end there will be a divorce and it may not be a friendly separation.

    1. I’m not an anthropologist but I’ve never read of the Native Americans being totally selfless. They were organized by basic family units (mom, dad and kids), clans (extended families based on blood and marriage) and tribes (a collection of families / clans that shared common values, culture, language, etc). They did own personal property and they were not forced to participate in tribe activities. The tribe was held together by common interests and respect. Behavior was governed by the desire for respect, acceptance and praise of others. Bad behavior was discouraged by everything from ridicule to disbarment from the tribe.

      I agree that putting together an effective team – especially under conditions of extreme stress – is challenging. You must thoroughly understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and develop mutual trust and commitment. This can be done, however, and it is essential for survival. A team of 2 is very unlikely to survive a prolonged disaster based on the breadth of skills required, the sheer work load and the need to simultaneously provide for effective self-defense.

      1. All native tribes not just American Indian tribes. In your counter argument you made my point that the tribe enforced their laws and traditions. But you miss the point. people act in their own interest and any group of people will inevitably form cliques and alliances and once this happens all decisions after that must be a compromise or worse.

        “A team of 2 is very unlikely to survive a prolonged disaster based on the breadth of skills required”. Surprisingly I don’t disagree, however the same thing is true of a team of 10 or 20 if you don’t have all the skills required. BUT: where a team of two shines is surviving the first weeks and months. It may not seem obvious but you MUST survive the first 90 days before you worry about surviving two or three years more. Large teams fail early and often (exceptions being where there is a strong and absolute leader and everyone else is committed to following him). A team of two is the perfect number to survive the first 90 days and arguably the first year too. A team of 20 is almost guaranteed to split before the first 30 days and divide their assets IF they don’t shoot each other over those assets first.

        The problem is we, in the West, are not raised and taught to function as a team and NOT act in our self interest.

  7. Hi all ,,,very well though out ,,our group (about 200 ) has much the same compact agreement , we also plan on up to 1000 total if need be ,7 landowners are final say , we have 28000 acres between us ,like Joe Fox we lease /rent spots for sheds and mobile homes ,or RVs ,,I have not locked the doors on my house in 25 years ,in fact there are no locks on the doors ,, the trading post is run on the honor system , it’s nice to know the the people before something happens ,trust is earned , I will refer today’s article at next group meeting ,,,the Amish likeness is good ,


  8. Thoughtful article. Our family approach is to take what makes sense for us, and to compile ideas that might not be applicable right now for use in the future. Thanks for sharing.

  9. LKR thank you for such a thoughtful article. One suggestion, or question, if I may? On the Threat Protocol framework at the very beginning of the article, you list two main kinds of threat.

    1. Minimally armed, not in stealth mode.
    2. Heavily armed, in stealth mode.

    I was wondering about something “in between” those two. Namely heavily armed, NOT in stealth mode. Like, a group of 5 men, well armed, approaches your front gate, quite openly, and state that they want to talk with you. They have lots of questions, and you think they may be there to scout you out, or as a precursor to asking you for some of your resources, but you are not sure yet. It could be even further divided into two kinds of groups, namely armed civilians, or armed government forces such as Sheriff’s Deputies saying that they are making “wellness checks” and they want to enter the property to “see if all is well.”

    This is not a critique of your article, because I realize you guys are still developing the protocols, and in writing an article you can never really be exhaustive in all the possibilities. But, your article stimulated this further thinking in me, so thank you!

    1. You raise good points – the intermediate case of armed but not openly hostile forces is certainly possible. In our case, we would view such an approach with extreme suspicion. We would scramble all team members into a defensive posture and look for an approach from another direction while we were distracted at the gate. I would expect to engage in conversation from a position of cover / concealment with multiple resources covering the potential threat. It would take some serious convincing for me to approach them for a personal chat. In all cases, I would be probing for information on the surrounding community. For armed civilians, I want to know where they are from and their intentions. For armed government forces, I would be willing to discuss our status only in the most general terms. In no case is anyone coming in for an inspection. There is a history of preppers being viewed as hoarders and that being used to justify forced redistribution of resources.

  10. Jason,
    I have no allusion that the 1st cent church was perfect and I did not infer that. My total point is that the 1st cent framework of Christian community relates perfectly to producing the people that LKR says is necessary to populate the prepper survivalist community. Scholars agree that Paul Apostle started writing much of the N.T. in that period. Ephesians 4:11 is not a rose colored statement. It is just one example Biblically of how far we have diverted from the original Apostles establishment of the church by Jesus Christ. I give a very big example of the diversion of the meaning of Eph. 4:11. The word pastor in one solitary verse in the entire N.T. is a pitiful piece of evidence to base the entire Protestant faith on. A derivative form of the word poimen is used in Acts 20:28 and in 1 Peter 5:2-3. My point is not to attack the present Christian church. But to point out large departures from Scriptural truth so people can be established in the truth of the Bible which is the most likely vehicle to produce the type of people to survive SHTF/TEOTWAWKI and thrive. Jason the Epistles support my contentions.

  11. Assigning roles to people in advance is always advantageous because you can specialize people to start practicing needed skills now.

    In 2008 when the economy crashed we were approached by some mutual friends who wanted to form a group for the times ahead. When we got into deep discussions about resources and roles it turned out it was 4 gun guys wanting to control all firearms and inventory our gunsafe.

    No thank you.

    No construction, farming or medical experience.

  12. While I support the council led by a group coordinator model outlined, if there is one thing history, specifically military history, has taught us, there has to be a leader who gets to make the final decision. Consensus is an admirable ideal for a functioning group, but unfortunately it cannot always be reached. Someone has to be vested with the authority to make the final call, particularly with regard to matters of security. This authority needs to be express, and everyone who wants to remain in the group should acknowledge and agree to it.

    1. Fully agree – that’s why our security chief has final authority in that area. If not time sensitive, we can discuss options. If an urgent matter – we do exactly as instructed.

      We have also added more authority for the property owners in matters that affect their resources.

  13. This is for reflections rather than drawing a specific conclusion. With all of the “helicopter” parents who resolve matters for many adults between 18-28 as their rubric, we believe that some sort of conversational training is required to establish calm ways to have a dialogue and lots of patience and restating goals and objectives are required. Since we assume that any community will have a sprinkling of ages and family members, we are thinking that crafting a goodly amount of our charter makes sense but perhaps allowing for a white board session to neck down into some norms and values via a conversation is an effective way for folks to appreciate the whys around a charter rather than just handing it to people.

    Need to think about the content (which is on the string) but also the process once our group is established (which is not entirely covered by these strings. Thoughts are always welcome.

    We just hosted a number of friends (and their college age kids) and observed a wider than expected bell curve around how resolve differences (e.g. some of us want to go hiking at 5am to get started at the trailhead vs. others who wanted to sleep in) and the usual lethargy around who does chores cheerfully vs. who doesn’t, etc. The main learning was the defensiveness from parents around this kid which my husband pointed out at age 23 is not a kid.

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