There are many articles on the internet concerning the benefits of forming a group of like-minded individuals who could support each other when times get “spicy” for months or even years, either in their own neighborhood or at a remote retreat. These groups are sometimes referred to as mutual assistance groups. These articles are based on the premise that choosing a “lone wolf” approach after TEOTWAWKI is unsustainable in the long run, and that even expecting a single family to live and thrive on a remote mountaintop after a societal meltdown is unrealistic and ripe for tragedy in the long term. An important reason for the latter view is that a single family cannot maintain proper 24/7 security while tending to all of its daily needs over time.
A problem with many of these articles is that much of the discussion about forming survival groups all too often involves pie-in-the-sky fantasies and unrealistic platitudes.
Nevertheless, the consensus in most of these articles about surviving a long term apocalyptic event, to borrow a phrase from a certain political figure, is “It takes a village.” (For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that most SurvivalBlog readers’ first choice for the location of the “village” is not going to be a FEMA camp.)
While there is a host of useful information about survival groups and forming retreats for them in these articles, it is clear after serious scrutiny that the “devil is in the details.”
Let’s get the issue out of the way and then move on by starting with the premise that whether a mutual assistance group is located in a residential neighborhood or at a remote retreat, it will likely be discovered sooner or later. Let’s also assume that it will be better for potential predators to conclude that the area occupied by the group is a “hard target,” and that it is not “the low hanging fruit” in the area. Predators almost always seek out the weak and the old, not the herd bull, because the risk/benefit ratio is in their favor.
Now, moving on, the reality is that most people are tied to where they live, either by their immediate family, their extended family and friends, or their place of employment. Moving to a remote and physically secure location several states away where the population is small and very scattered is not a realistic or attractive choice for many. Giving up retirement benefits, accepting the fact that family and close friends will be seen infrequently, and starting over in the labor market at a lower income/bottom rung are huge incentives for most people to stay where they live. This is especially so when the choice is balanced against the actual likelihood of a mega-collapse of modern society.
In some ways, they are like people who assume the risk of buying homes in a 100-year or 500-year flood plain and choose not to buy expensive flood insurance. Many of them will save money in the long run—while others will be wiped out.
For myriad reasons, many people will stay where they are because they want to do so, not because of family or work issues. They are like Hershel Green, the fictional farm owner in the early seasons of The Walking Dead who, when facing the looming arrival of an enormous Zombie horde, said, “This is my farm. I’ll die here.” It all comes down to this: Life is about choices. Choices have consequences. Make your decision and then move on.
Once a decision is made to “shelter in place” and to stay where they live (and perhaps find a retreat that is not too distant from where they live), then that is when participation in a survival group becomes more attractive to many.
FORMING A SURVIVAL GROUP
I expect that only a minority of those who read SurvivalBlog on a frequent basis are likely to have kept their interest in preparedness completely secret. There is a natural and well-intentioned impulse for most people to reach out to friends and family in order to convince them to take steps now in order to ensure their safety and well-being after a major national calamity. (A similar mindset regarding salvation motivates many religiously-oriented people.) Another reason to reach out to friends and family is the belief that these people “will have your back” if society melts down.
The problem is that most efforts to recruit members for a preparedness group will fail. It is very likely that many readers have approached other family members about becoming active in preparedness planning, only to be ignored and written off as their lovable, but eccentric “Uncle Joe.”
If you’ve tried to recruit friends and family, you’ve no doubt heard some say, “I don’t need to do anything now. I’ll just head to your place!” While this may be said by some people in jest, and it is often simply a way to end the discussion, the inescapable truth is that once it is established that the recruiter is a “prepper who has come out of the closet,” most of those people who turned a deaf ear to the recruiter will know exactly where to head when disaster strikes. And all that many of them will be bringing to the “party” is a knife, a fork, and an empty stomach.
Some of these people may actually be welcomed, empty-handed or not. Others? Not so much. Some may be able to lend a hand by simply adding to security efforts. Others may not be of much help at all. And, with regard to all of those neighbors who ignored the recruiter’s proselytizing efforts prior to a major national disaster, count on most of them to view the recruiter’s home as the Neighborhood Supply Depot and the recruiter as the unofficial Neighborhood Quartermaster. The worst case scenario is that they will be standing outside the recruiter’s home after a major national disaster, yelling: “Hoarder! Hoarder!”
Even if a mutual assistance group is formed in advance, the major calamity that would cause the need for a well-organized survival group to come together would have to be a society-changing event. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes would not likely be sufficient. (The level of looting and violence that took place after Hurricane Katrina was not typical of what has been seen in places other than New Orleans.) These events are local or regional disasters. Federal aid would begin pouring into the area–even if this aid did not arrive quite as fast as many people would like. While various neighbors might join together to participate in a “Neighborhood Watch on steroids” for a few days or even weeks after the local or regional event occurred, e.g., armed Korean shop owners during the LA riots, this ad hocorganization would not be likely to rise to the level of being classified as a survival group or a mutual assistance group as defined in articles on numerous blogs.
Given how difficult it is in the first place for most people to find like-minded individuals to join a group, the odds are that members who actually join the group would be scattered geographically, especially if these members were selected because they had special skills. Those who offer not much more than a Bachelor’s of Arts in Women’s Studies or a keen insight into the growth potential of emerging tech start-ups will not be high on the recruitment list absent other skills they might have. Just how many useful survival group members are likely to be recruited within, say, a short walking distance of each other?
Given the nature of the threat after a national calamity, how many likely recruits in the neighborhood will have serious firearms and law enforcement or military training? It is not as if every member has to have experience defending the CIA compound in Benghazi, or defending the mission station at Rorke’s Drift, but it would sure help if most knew how to use firearms well. In Blue States, in particular, this experience is less common—which, of course, is one of the reasons they are Blue States.
Articles about survival groups usually mention the need for recruiting those with firearms training. In order not to be off-putting, something rarely addressed in these articles is that those with firearms training must be actually ready to kill in a heartbeat if the group’s safety is seriously threatened. Call it a warrior’s mindset. Even simple firearms training will come up short if the willingness to kill is missing. Nurturers are fine, and are actually necessary for a group’s success, but without a sufficient number of “shooters” the group is merely composed of victims-in-waiting if the threat level is high.
Who Can You Count On?
Take a look around your neighborhood. Just how many men do you count who could willingly drop the hammer if it became necessary to defend their neighbors from serious harm? How many women do you count? Just because they have a gun and know how to use it does not mean that you can depend on them to do what needs to be done. Consider the unreliable colonial militia that often ran from the fight at the first sign of serious danger. These are not the people you need.
Successfully defending any of the group members’ homes will be dependent on sufficient manpower and firepower. Keep in mind that any stick-built, 2×4 and drywall home is extraordinarily deficient as a bullet stopper and that it is also extraordinarily vulnerable to the threat of fire.
For these reasons, in a Mad Max world, most members’ homes would hardly be the equivalent of Harlech Castle as a defensive position. As a result, it is likely that hard choices will need to be made by group members concerning whose home and street will be defended while others are abandoned. Issues such as amenities and living space, elevation, avenues of approach, and fields of fire, among other matters, would be important factors in the selection. If the group is planning on defending itself from the Golden Horde, or even from a much less potent force, it will be important to avoid at the get-go to choose a location where Col. Travis and Davey Crockett-type results are not likely to be the expected outcome.
(Note: This is the first of a three-part series. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)