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The Pros and Cons Of Prepper and Survival Groups For A Long Emergency

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 1, 2019
The Pros and Cons Of Prepper and Survival Groups For A Long Emergency

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There are many that say that without a group you are dead during a real SHTF scenario.

I have read all kinds of advice about forming groups and the ideal types of members.

I can’t help but see some major flaws in the idea of prepper groups for real SHTF scenarios. This is not to say that it is a bad idea to join a group. People just need to realize the challenges and the reality of group situations so everyone gets the best experience.

People often don’t get along with each other as well as they would like

If you can find 10-15 people that you can get along with very well now and that are interested in prepping and close to you, then you should feel lucky. During an SHTF scenario you will want people around you that you can handle being in close quarters with for days at a time. Most people don’t test this type of thing out ahead of time.

There are plenty of people that would say that they have that many people that would be alright to be around during an emergency and all too often I think they would find out they were wrong.

Things that can help:

Be careful before you commit or join up with any group. Go to a few meetings and spend some time learning skills or at a bug out retreat before you offer up more of your time, skills, or plan to meet up in case of a long emergency.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to relationships and prepper groups are the same way. It takes time to know if you can spend time with someone and get along. Don’t rush into a group and expect that it is “the one”. You may have to spend time with a few different groups before you find the one that is right for you and your family.

Lower your expectations to a realistic level

No group is perfect. There will be disagreements and arguments. Harsh words may get said but the difference in a successful group and an unsuccessful one is that a successful group will learn to work through and beyond those moments quickly.

In the modern world it seems like there is a tendency in some to expect others to 100% agree with them. That is silly and unrealistic. You do not have to agree with someone on every little thing to get along with them. Don’t discount someone just because they are not exactly like you all the time.

There is no guarantee that those in any group you join are really the people they appear to be.

It is easy to hide some characteristics that are very important. The internet has made people more connected in many ways but it has also allowed people outlets to become involved with all kinds of things. You can be part of a group for a long time and still not really know a person as well as you would like to before a long emergency.

People could brag about having a food stockpile for their family or say they have it to contribute but that doesn’t mean it really exists or is as large a contribution as everyone is led to believe. This is just one example. There is also the possibility that someone is in your group for other reasons such as gaining information that could be used against others in the group.

Mental illness or psychiatric disorders are not something that you can pick up on easily in a lot of cases. There is also the issue of medications being available to treat these conditions during good times and then disappearing during SHTF. I am not saying that you should treat people badly or exclude them just based on mental illness but it is something that is important to consider when planning out preps and how to deal with things in a group situation.

Things that can help:

Background check services are cheap and while they don’t tell everything, they do allow you to see if someone has actually been in trouble that was documented. This may sound extreme to some but when you are talking about planning out you and your families survival, it is smart to watch out who you let in your life.

If I was planning on being in a survival group for SHTF, I would want to know if I was joining up with a group that had some criminals in it. Some crimes I would discount but violent acts like assault against a female, being involved with major drugs during recent times, or any sexual act, would send up a red flag that this was not someone I wanted to rely on or plan with for SHTF.

At the same time, remember that a clean background check may just indicate that someone was sly enough or lucky enough to not get caught. Use your own observations and senses in addition to a background check.

Government infiltration of any type of group that is considered a “fringe group” is common. The informant may have little or nothing on their record. It can be quite hard to tell a if someone is a trained government informant.

There are also those that are turned informant as part of their plea bargain and they are possibly not trained at all and may be easier to spot in some cases but that is not guaranteed. Lots of inconsistencies in stories and facts is a sign that something is not right with someone. A deal that is too good to be true is another sign. This is sometimes called the “honey pot”. They will offer you something that is oh so tempting.

Spend time together as a group regularly. I don’t just mean online either.

If prepper or survivalist groups just meet online, it is really impossible to get to know each other well. Meeting for a dinner once in a while is great but you need to spend more time than that to pick up on who people really are or get a sense of them. Time at the retreat or at an assigned retreat location are great ways to get in practice and gain confidence that you are prepared for what the future might bring.

People live too far away from each other to actually be of any assistance

Yeah, yeah, there are all kinds of prepper fiction books where everyone had a well done plan, and all met up together and it was grand but the reality is that a lot of prepper groups seem to have members that are very scattered.

Even living 10 miles apart can seem vast during a dangerous SHTF style scenario. Unless it is people that are within a short walking distance, there is a good chance that it will be pretty hard to meet up the way everyone had it planned. Not impossible, but a lot harder and possibly without some of the gear and supplies that were planned for. Distances can be even harder to deal with for those that have disabilities or lack the physical fitness to move a great distance in a short amount of time.

Things that can help:

Multiple bug out transportation options

A good vehicle with a topped off gas tank and extra fuel is great but what if you cannot use your vehicle or have to abandon it? All situations are different so I cannot just tell you what alternatives you specifically need to get. I did an article on “Alternative Bug Out Transportation “that covers some options and goes into more detail. Some alternatives could even be strapped or stashed in your vehicle.

Becoming familiar with the geography of your region and planning alternative routes

Every prepper would do well to study some maps and geography and keep a good map or two on hand. GPS is a computer and they may not work so well during a long emergency. If you like GPS, fine, but have a real map as a backup and know at least 2-3 routes to get where you need to go if you are trying to meet up with people. Have a compass or two on hand for navigation.

Try to find preparedness groups that are as close as possible to you or start one yourself. Creating your own group allows you to limit the area that you draw from

There are more and more prepper groups popping up all over the place. The alternative is to set some rules and start your own. Being a group leader takes some time and planning but it will allow you to set some guidelines for the group initially. For example, one rule could be that to join a person or family must live in a specific area to ensure that everyone has the best chance of being able to help each other and meet up regularly to learn skills. I know that this is not realistic for everyone but it may be helpful for some.

Unequal abilities and expectations

People can expect too much out of each other and when skills and abilities are deficient on one side or there is a feeling of unequalness, this can lead to problems.

What if someone is part of your group and they simply get it in their head after a short rough time that they will let others do everything? How do you deal with this without creating and enemy in the midst?

Things that can help:

Check out my post about appreciating the skills and abilities of others for some ideas to deal with these issues in a healthy way no matter what your role in them happens to be. It is a full length post but the subject cannot be covered in a mere paragraph.

  • Take a few seconds to consider the impact of your words before you say them. This is an increasingly rare skill in a society where people regularly say very rude things to each other online.
  • If you have a high proportion of people in your group with little experience or that are limited physically, consider this now and work with it. Those that are highly skilled should make efforts to teach others.

Here is an idea I have read and heard thrown around that I want to discuss.

Idea: Several families can jointly purchase a big house and some property and outfit for a survival retreat for SHTF

First off the financial burden of this is well beyond what the majority of people could ever afford with the economy in the state it is. I recently saw an article on that indicated that 70% of people cannot even afford to buy a home in the area they live in now, let alone dropping $50,000 or more to buy a share in a survival retreat, even in an inexpensive area.

On top of the expense, you have to think about who would be willing to invest that kind of money with you.

There are other considerations too. For example, is one family planning on adding more people? Even if you buy a retreat and start setting it up, the numbers could change a lot over the years.

If you have 3 families that are on board and buy a house and property and they each have an average of one child, a few years down the road there could be an average of 2-3 kids. All of a sudden your prepper retreat that is jointly owned needs to accommodate 9-12 people rather than the 6 that was previously planned. I am not saying you cannot plan for additional people but it is something to consider.

Over the years some people may have parents that they must care for. Using the example above that could mean up to 18 people that must be accommodated instead of the initial 6!

Another consideration is security and upkeep. A house with indoor plumbing needs heat in the winter and some areas will need to be kept clear by mowing or weedeating. Stashing a bunch of supplies can be quite risky without adequate security or protection. Will one family live there all the time and keep an eye on things? How will you split up maintenance costs and labor?

Things that can help:

Purchase some land and build infrastructure together as the group can afford it.

Instead of spending a ton of money up front, purchasing a parcel of land together and working together to build shelters and add all the systems and preps required for a retreat, means you will know how to work together before a SHTF scenario. That is a huge accomplishment and will increase the odds of survival dramatically.

Talk about the future and the size of families

Things happen. Not everything is planned or controllable. At the same time if you are forming a survival group and trying to create a retreat to ride out hard times, it is good to have a general idea of where people see themselves in the future. Adding additional family members is one consideration.

If someone says “My husband and I plan on additional children”, well that is good to know so you can be better prepared. Consider how many have parents that may need to be included too. You can’t expect everyone to have all the answers and things may change, but you can get a rough idea of additional people you may need to plan for.

Come up with a plan in case one family wants to sell later on or has to move far away

Owning property together means having a lot of names on the deed or at least partitioning off a section that each family owns. If someone wants to sell their share and everyone’s names are on the main deed, then everyone has to agree to the sale! It can turn into a real mess.

This is why a lot of people just find a chunk and have spots surveyed off.

For example a 10 acre property would be split into 4 2.5 acre parcels for 4 families. This means one families name on the deed for each parcel.

Some groups may want to have paperwork that promises that other members of the group get first rights to buy out the other families so they can avoid having outsiders move so close to their survival retreat.

Regardless of the rules you all desire, get it in writing and make it official so you can save everyone hassle later on if things change.

Discuss security and upkeep in advance. Be realistic about time constraints.

If no one is going to live at the retreat all the time, then you need to have some major security measures in place. James Wesley Rawles of Survivalblog suggests a shipping container that can be locked and bolted for storing supplies in if you cannot have someone there to watch out.

Any retreat should be visited occasionally just to check things out. Even if you stop working on major infrastructure for a few months, it pays to check out your investment occasionally. If you are serious about having a survival retreat, then families should just go there and stay sometimes during good times and not necessarily when there is just major projects to be done.

Those in our area that have vacation homes hire private security firms to check up on their place. This is probably pretty expensive and a lot of retreats are going to be a long way from any type of service like that. If there is adequate power, you may be able to install a camera system that allows you to check on things from a distance.

There are some positives to prepper groups as well.

Look I am not going to say that it is bad to have a group of friends that you gather with to discuss prepping and learn and share skills. Groups can be a great way to learn and have some friends during good times. I just think that people put too much faith in that the group they choose will be the ones around during a long emergency.

While intentions may be good, there are so many things that can happen that prevent the best laid prepper group plans from working out during a SHTF scenario.

Groups are also a good way to involve kids and introduce them to other kids that are interested in gaining skills too.

Farm and prepper kids sometimes don’t have that much opportunity to interact with others like them at school and it can be even harder if they are homeschooled.

I imagine going to public grade school and saying that you helped butcher something or practiced with a knife a lot over the weekend might not be okay in modern times. It seems like schools are pretty sensitive nowadays.

People move more often than they used to

When people start considering who to have in their group, they may want to consider that a lot of people move around for work. There are not as many people staying in one place for a decade or more as their used to be.

Major cities are starting to lose population as people tire of the crime, living conditions and lack of opportunities. Just because they leave the city, doesn’t mean they are going to settle down in one place for a long time.

This mobility can make it hard to form long lasting connections with a group. When you move, you have to start all over unless you are just moving a very short distance.

At the same time if someone is involved with one group and then moves, they will have skills and experience working in groups so the transition may be easier.

Being part of a group can mean losing some of your privacy

A lot of preppers I see talking online say they would never let anyone know the extent of their preps. I can see their point. I write and talk about this stuff all the time so others can learn and I am aware of the increased exposure. It is something I have to accept if I want to write and teach others.

If you are a member of a group, then it is going to expose you more. Being too cold or protective can be seen as a lack of trust and that is not an unfair observation. Trust takes time. I am not saying that you have to expose everything about yourself in a prepping group but if you are really serious about having a core group that relies on each other, some level of openness is going to be required.

Medical and mental health disclosure

If you were going to be part of my group during a major survival situation, I would want to know a little bit about your medical and mental health background. The reason for this is that I would want to have information to help in case of an emergency and also so the group can be prepared to meet everyone’s needs as much as possible.

I agree these are very intrusive questions but how do you expect your core group to be able to help you during an emergency if they don’t know some background? These are not questions to just volunteer, I mean these questions to be those you might ask if you have found the people that you want to be your core group during SHTF.

Questions I would want to know include the following.

Have you ever experienced severe and debilitating depression or anxiety?

Panic attacks and depression can be crippling but there are ways to manage this effectively. If someone has a history or if they are currently an anti depressants, this is an important thing to be aware of.

What medical conditions do you have that requires treatment? What medications do you take daily?

All is not hopeless when it comes to treatment and medications during SHTF. I would advise anyone in my group to keep a stash of medications. Knowing what others need treated for also allows for planning out alternatives if standard medications are not available.

What food allergies or special diet needs should be planned for?

Allergies and food sensitivities are unquestionably more common in the United States than they once were. During an SHTF situation an allergic reaction could be a lot more serious due to lack of major medical services being available.

Special dietary needs are important to consider at the beginning of food preps. Some are harder to prep for than others. There are some foods that pretty much everyone can eat if they have to do so. These foods are things like beans, rice, and many grains. Wheat seems to be the most common grain that people are sensitive to.

Example: Counterculture Communes of the 60s and 70s

At 36, Matt and I were some of the last kids born to the baby boomer generation. We both knew about communes when young and even as a kid it was clear that they just didn’t work out most of the time. Many of the reasons discussed in this article played a role in the failures of communal living in the 60s and 70s.

However there are a few examples of communes that were successful and part of the reason for this is that they had good rules and guidelines and stuck to them. I am going to list the two I know of that appear to be thriving. One is an older commune, and the other is quite modern.

The Farm

Summertown, Tennessee

Founded in 1971

There is so much knowledge to be gained by those at the Farm. Ina May Gaskin runs a school of midwifery that has an excellent reputation. It would be a good course to take for a career post SHTF. They also offer mushroom spawn and classes on how to grow gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. I could go on and on but you should just check out their site for yourself and see what ideas you get from their success.

Earthaven Eco Village

Black Mountain, NC

Founded in 1994

Earthaven is a lot like a gated community in some ways because everyone owns their own house and land but they have some communal spaces, meetings, and their own weekly markets. People have livestock too. There are a lot of different skill levels and people are very friendly. You can even rent small apartments, cabins, and huts for a low price to see what communal living is like and take some of the many classes offered. To really experience what it is like to live there you would need to plan on a few weeks or a month so you get a chance to take part in the community work required of each resident.

Are you part of a prepping or survival group? Have you had a negative experience after joining a group (please keep group names out of comment)? What have been the biggest challenges for your group?

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3 Responses to “The Pros and Cons Of Prepper and Survival Groups For A Long Emergency”

  1. Mostly family, so we’ve had decades and generations of practice being together, and making do with each others’ idiosyncrasies. And some family friends known again for decades and generations. I bought my forever farm, others have helped out. Of the siblings I retired first, and the rest of the group know this is where to land JIC. Always hoping it’s never needed as anything other than the near-beach hangout.

  2. Groups will only work if each unit in the group are capable of standing alone. Otherwise there will be takers and givers instead of simply sharers.

    People are selfish when pushed to their limits. People can justify the most atrocious things if they need to.

    My neighbor accidentally let me see he has a ton of basic camping/survival gear and food/medicine supplies in his basement when he asked me one day to look at his electrical. He had the totes labeled cryptically. Most wouldn’t notice it but I saw a pattern. I told him he needs more ammo. He said I was the first person since college that caught on. He asked how much… I said you need enough ammo to wear out the barrel or 10,000 rounds of each firearm you own ready to go, plus ideally supplies to reload. He laughed.

    He has finely honed skills I’m jealous of because I don’t have more than the basics on things like butchering. I have the tools and equipment to fix just about anything that doesn’t require exotic materials.

    He has no idea how “prepared” I am but I told him 11,000 primers fit nicely in a .50cal can while I showed him AR7s and 10/22 takedowns I have in a bucket I took over to his barn. He was asking about what kind of .22 for backpacking. He told me that was more .22s than he has backpacks and I said “these are spares in case of failure”. We can each stand on our own. We have never discussed our preparedness or mutual assistance because it isn’t necessary. I pity the fool that tries to take from either of us and get away from it unscathed.

  3. Interesting article and having reflected on all of the above considerations my preferred group would be, me the dog and a full bore rifle! My personal ethos regarding groups is, ‘Earn your place and respect my space’. Regards

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