Your Bug Out Bag is all well and good, but it isn’t enough to get you through a long term crisis. You are going to need a group, a cadre, a club, whatever you want to call it. Humans have formed societies for as far back as we can find evidence of our existence. There’s a reason for this. It’s because we survive better and healthier when we have people with us to share the work. No matter how good you are, you still have only 24 hours in each day. Even if you were outstandingly good at everything you did, you are still just one person and can’t do them all simultaneously. If you get sick or hurt, you’ll need someone to do your jobs and/or take care of you.
How can you join a group? The answer is easy – you won’t. If an existing group hasn’t already contacted you, they won’t. You might marry into a group. Maybe. You might have a child of yours marry into a group and then they might invite you. The chances of being invited to join a group with whom you have no “ins” is slimmer than remote.
So, how do you get to be in a survival group? Generally, the best way is to just form up a group yourself. You’ll have to talk to others. You’ll have to share information. You’ll have to be strong enough to reject those who don’t fit in after all, and you’ll have to accept being rejected. That last one will really sting if you are the one who gets kicked out of the group you started, but it happens. So you just start another group until you create one you fit into.
Having been down this road a few times, I have some opinions and suggestions on this. If your experience is different, I’d love to hear about it, and if you have suggestions, tell me about them after you’ve done them yourself for a year or two. It’s that experience thing. What sounds good talking about it may be completely unworkable in real life. I blog a bit about what I’m doing, but very, very rarely about who I’m doing these things with. I respect their privacy. So what I talk about is generally broadly applicable. If you want details, ask me privately and I may answer you if it doesn’t breach privacy agreements I’ve made.
You want your group to be local. People you can meet with on a regular basis and actually practice things with. Group members who are hours away won’t make it to the meetings, won’t be able to get together to build the necessary trust and familiarity you have to have. Internet “groups” are so non-starter. You can exchange information and tips and such, but you aren’t going to really depend upon them. You’ll want people you can camp with, people you’re comfortable being around 24/7, people with whom you can build a body of experience and trust because in a long term event, that’s exactly what you’re going to be doing. You’ll want people who are as dedicated as you are. You’ll probably start with your immediate family because you’re already (I presume) comfortable with them and like being around them and you know one another’s habits and capabilities.
Your group needs to be exclusive. I know, I know, this riles up some folks. But really, if you have people coming and going all the time, you will never have the ability to build the essential trust and learn one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has to be able to contribute to the success of the group. An easy way to help limit the membership is to have a definite, clearly spelled out purpose. Since this is a survival group (it is, right?), your purpose could be something along the lines of “To ensure and enhance the survival of members and their immediate families” and you can modify it you want, but I like leaving it somewhat open-ended since we don’t know what traumas and disasters may come our way.
You could decide to just have an open group that would “teach, develop, and/or practice survival strategies and techniques”. You could hold classes, have seminars, establish a kaffeeklatch that exchanges survival stories, and occasionally has group camp-outs to put the teachings to the test. Then, you could invite the more promising people to be part of your inner group, the ones you’ll really depend on. There are some people who are absolutely wonderful, but you’d never trust them with your life, and you want your group to be people you’d trust with your life.
I’d suggest looking at your actual neighbors. If something happens, they are the most likely ones to be Right There, and you’ll have to deal with them then – or now. Now is much better because you can teach them, guide them, learn about them, and develop real relationships with them. You can start by joining or starting a Neighborhood Watch. Call your local sheriff and ask them. Host a BBQ or potluck and tell them you want to start a neighborhood watch and to maybe do things like teach the kids bike safety and maybe set up a safe place for the kids to play their basketball or ride their bikes that isn’t in the middle of the street. You’ll have to strike up conversations, and ask questions, and get involved, and get them involved, and then you can start talking about neighborhood safety and protection form home invasions, and looking out for one another. And then you can suggest survival classes and group gardens and eventually, you’ll have developed a group.
If not, at least you’ll know your neighbors better. You’ll know who to depend upon and who to watch out for. You can look a bit farther outside your immediate neighborhood, but not too far. Look at people with whom you interact regularly – your co-workers, your children’s classmate parents, the people you see in the local park or stores, people at churches.
It will take time. Cold pitching someone with “wanna form a secret survival society?” is a sure way to be labeled weird and eccentric and that crazy lady to stay away from.
Having groups within groups is a good idea. You’ll have your local neighborhood watch and a couple of people who are in your inner group, and maybe you’ll have your library group of survivalists, and one or two from them in your inner group, and maybe you’ll have a co-worker survival group and one or two might make it into your inner group. There might be overlaps in these groups, or not. Maybe you belong to groups that have nothing to do with survival – a writer’s group or a knitting club or a book club, for instance – but there are one or two people in those groups you think might fit into your inner group. Invite them to one of the outer survivalist group meetings. If they act committed and become involved, invite them into your inner group and see how well they fit.
Once you start culling the other group(s) for your inner group, your core group of survivalists, you’ll need to start building your infrastructure, developing plans and actions, practicing techniques, and getting used to spending a lot of time together. It will require commitment from individual members. I don’t want to trust my life to someone who doesn’t care enough to be committed. If they’d rather watch a House, M.D. re-run than meet up to actually do survival activities – weeding, harvesting, distilling water, checking filters, cooking and canning food, practicing drills, and so on – then I don’t want them in my Core Group. Would you?
And this is just the beginning. If you live in a suburb or city, these people will form the core of your Sub/urban Survival Compound and you may all eventually living within a few blocks of one another in order to make it happen. You’ll be a tight-knit group of people and when a new neighbor moves in, you’ll check them out and see if they fit in with your group.
You don’t have to wait for a major, long-term event to go into actions, either. You’ll be there for one another in small disasters like ice storms and tornadoes. If one of you loses a job, the others will be there to help you get another one and point you to micro-businesses you can do, may even hire you for some work. They’ll take care of you when you get sick, and you’ll take care of them. Your neighborhood won’t have an elderly resident who dies at home alone and no one finds them for a year because you’ll know everyone there and their habits. You’ll have checked up on the old one and gotten help or contacted his/her relatives long before the police break down the door to find the body.
Each small disaster or event is a bonding time and a preparation for greater disasters and events. And if those greater disasters never materialize, we can all be grateful and still enjoy the benefits of a group of mutually supportive people.