Most people I know agree that it is important to build your own survival team. Practicing survival skills with a team is not only prudent, but it’s pretty much mandatory. You learn skills and tricks from one another, but moreover, you build trust in your group. Should a major SHTF catastrophe ever actually strike, you’ll know you have a solid group of people that you can not only trust, but with whom you can survive through any situation.
In order to reduce stress amongst your survival group, you’ll want to assign tasks and set ground rules for who is in charge of what areas. With each person having a core area to focus their attention, everyone will have responsibility, but nobody will be too overwhelmed.
Why Are You Prepping?
The first thing you need to consider is the circumstance — why you are getting prepared? Are you concerned about natural disasters, terrorist attacks, EMP, or just a good ol’ zombie invasion? Once you have determined what you’re preparing for and what you’re not, you can move forward.
It is extremely important to make sure all members in the group are focusing on prepping for the same thing(s). If you have a group of 10, and everyone is looking at natural disasters as their foe, you can’t have one person focusing about zombies. News flash — hurricanes and tornadoes will take zombies away, too.
My point here is if you’re in a group, and its members are already at discord on what you’re prepping for, the team is doomed right out of the gate. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to situational preparedness. In fact, you might go so far as to assign key areas for each person to be “in charge of” — which we will discuss a little later in the article.
Start Forming Your SHTF Team
Now that you know why you’re prepping, you can start building your team. There may be dozens of people you know that are looking to join some kind of survival team, or even start their own, but you won’t want every one of them in your group. Why? Because when you just get a group together without much discussion, the group will surely fail — just like it would if you don’t have a plan for why you’re prepping in the first place.
There are a number of factors you should consider before allowing someone to join your team. Things like group goals, number of family members, and your actual bug-in location will play large roles in deciding who gets admission to the group. Get everybody on the same page, and things will start off a lot smoother.
Your Team Members Should Have Similar Goals
Lots of posts that deal with building a SHTF team say “you need to make sure all the members of your team are like-minded people with compatible personalities.” Here’s a reality check — the more people that are on your team, the less likely this is to be possible.
The honest truth is this… You will never have a full group that thinks completely alike… Never.
There will always be some discord between members — even if your team is just made up of two people. However, it is possible to manage the conflicts as long as your group members all agree that arguing will only make matters worse.
With that said, it is possible for you to ensure that everyone in the group has similar goals and can agree to certain rules so that conflicts are dealt with quickly and fairly without hurt feelings. So long as you can make this happen, your group will always be strong.
Where Is Your Bug-In Location
Where will you hunker down? Is it at your house? A friend’s house? Do you know of someone that has a piece of land with a huge cave that would make a good bug-in place? Are you sure the location is properly secured?
The most comfortable location will be at someone’s house — preferably someone who has a lot of land with fences surrounding at least part of the property for some security. If that describes someone’s house other than your own, you know who to talk to first about forming your team. They should be willing to have farm animals and gardens planted on their property (if they don’t already) for survival purposes. Remember, if TEOTWAWKI hits tomorrow, you’ll need to be ready to provide your own food immediately.
If you don’t have access to a location like that, you’ll need to make do with what you have. Wherever you intend to survive, think about security. While it may be easier to secure a smaller parcel of land, it will also be harder to do it in a manner that doesn’t scream “Hey, there’s a bunch of people in here ready to fight!” That may be a good thing or a bad thing. Also, the smaller the location, the fewer people you’ll be able to have on your team. Consider the next issue…
How Many People Does Each Member Bring?
More people means you’ll need more space in your bug-in location. A 1,200 square foot house on an eighth of an acre won’t hold a dozen people and their families. It just won’t… and if you try to force it, someone will go nuts (probably you).
More people at your location also means you will need more resources to keep them all alive, healthy and safe. Do they have their own fully stocked bug out bag or some other form of survival kit? No matter if you have two people or two dozen people, everyone will need some skills so they can contribute, too — you don’t want to be the only one doing all the work to keep your lazy team alive, do you? I didn’t think so.
You may also need to set limits on the number of people each member can bring with them. If a member has himself, his wife and 3 kids, that’s fine… but when you start talking about adult siblings and in-laws, you should probably draw the line. You don’t know all of these people, and you don’t know how they will react to high-stress emergencies. It’s much better to make someone mad by telling them they can’t bring a bus full of people with them that to have that bus full of people upset the delicate balance of an already stressed group.
Assigning Roles Based On Skill Levels
Here’s where things get tricky. Everybody — even the children of the group — needs a task to do every day. Whether it’s constructing new buildings or just cleaning up the house, if everyone is assigned a task, it will make the day go by faster and be a big help to the group in general.
If you have some “not so skilled” laborers, they can rotate jobs as needed depending on where the labor is required. Get a big cork board, section it off with some narrow masking tape into as many sections as you need for the different groups, and pin people’s names where you need them on a given day.
The tasks each person is assigned will depend mainly on their individual skill set. There are some basic skill sets you should try to make sure you have in your group — the rest would be nice, too, if you’re in a really bad SHTF situation and have to bug-in for a long period of time.
No matter how many people you have in your group, someone has to take on the mantle of “leader” for the group. It’s often a thankless job, and some people will buck your authority from time to time, but you’ll need someone that can be the one to make final decisions.
You don’t necessarily want a dictator, but you need someone in the top spot. Think of it like this — if you have an “elder tribunal” (which we’ll talk about next), your group won’t need to rely solely on your leader, but that person can moderate the tribunal to make sure things run smoothly and can be held accountable for keeping up with the heads of the other groups.
Think of the group leader like an orchestra conductor — there are section leaders over the woodwinds, brass, strings and percussion that make sure their sections are practicing and coming to rehearsals on time, but the conductor is the one that makes sure they all play together in harmony.
Keep this in mind moving forward. Someone may be suited to a leadership role, but would they be better off as the leader of a group they have a lot of experience with (like gardening or security), or should they head the elder committee? …and honestly, you may not even need this role at all if your elder tribunal all gets along fairly well.
You can call this group anything you like — cabinet, committee, senate — but the point of this group is to make sure the leader doesn’t try to rule with an iron fist, and to make sure all the inner groups are represented. This group should be made up of the heads of the other groups so everyone can be on the same page when it comes to leadership and how to direct each group the most efficiently.
When issues arise within the colony, this group will convene to decide what should be done to remedy the issue. They would also be in charge of setting the ground rules and staying on top of things in general so nobody gets out of line. While there will be disagreements throughout the group’s compound, you can’t have arguments breaking out all the time. The elders would need to understand that there may come a time that someone should be voted out of the group altogether.
In all honesty, if you have a tight enough elder tribunal that gets along well and are all on the same page for the most part, you may not even need a leader — let the tribunal lead the team. They’re already in charge of their respective groups, so this may make more sense in your individual situation.
The security force will obviously be in charge of the safety of your location, but there’s more to it than that. It is their job to make sure that everyone inside is safe and secure by not only securing the perimeter of the compound, but also scouting outside the perimeter to make sure they know what is within a certain radius of your location. Are you near food and water? Are there other houses around you, and if so, are those people panicking? Knowing what’s around you will prepare you for what could be coming your way.
Trained military personnel, police officers and even security guards would be best suited for this position. Of course, it’s important to assign a Chief of Security so someone is responsible for the activities of that team.
Here’s another area where the number of people will heavily come into play. Naturally the more people you have, the more food you will need. If you and your clan have food stored, that’s great — but you will eventually need more. Hunting and gathering are primal skills that we all have to some degree or another, but the breakdown of these skills into specialized areas should definitely be looked for in potential team members.
- Gardener – So long as the area you’re in isn’t contaminated, you should be able to grow a lot of your own food. Vegetables and herbs as well as fruit and nut trees will help feed your group and can potentially provide feed for any animals you may have.
- Forager – It’s good to have someone on your team who knows the wild plants in your area well enough to determine which are edible and which are poisonous. This will provide supplemental food for the group. This skill may also come in handy to provide herbal medicines for medical personnel.
- Hunter – It’s always nice to have someone that is not only proficient with some form of weapon (gun, bow, blow gun, etc) but may also know the habits of animals that are indigenous to your geographic area.
- Trapper – This person would also know animal habits as well as how to set traps and snares. This skill may also come in handy for security personnel.
- Tracker – Your tracker would be proficient with tracking animals, knowing the different types of animal tracks, and knowing the signs that something or someone has been in a certain area. Their skill set also comes with the knowledge of animal habits. This skill may also come in handy for tracking people.
- Angler – Fishing is often done as a hobby or a form of relaxation, but in a SHTF situation, you may need fish as a form of food. Knowing how to set trot lines and fish basket traps are suitable forms of catching fish when you don’t have time to use your rod and reel.
- Cook – Obviously once you have your food, you’ll need someone to cook it. Your camp chef should also know multiple forms of food preservation — canning, smoking, dehydrating and proper freezing techniques will help preserve any food so it doesn’t go bad. If you’re in a SHTF situation, and you actually need the preservation part of this skill, you’ve done the hunting and gathering well!
A doctor is one of the most overlooked professions of the survival team. Having a general practitioner will assure that you have someone that can treat most anything that comes up — including minor surgery. Nurses, trained EMTs and people certified in first aid will be support staff if you have a licensed doctor — or they may be the core of the medical staff if you aren’t lucky enough to have a doctor friend.
Additional Skilled Personnel
Now that you have the main skills covered, time to think about things you may not have thought about before. These people aren’t necessarily mandatory to have on your survival team, but I’m betting you already have at least one — if not more — people with some of these skills.
- Bushcrafters/Survival Experts – Surely at least one member of your team considers themselves a bushcrafter, right? Someone who knows how to make do off-grid will help your crew not only survive, but thrive! They know how to make primitive tools, primitive shelters, and can start a fire just about any way you can think of (and some ways you may not know).
- Mechanic – If you have a running vehicle, you can guarantee it will break down at some point in time — probably when you need it the most. Mechanics can also work on farm equipment and generators, too. Basically, if it has an engine or motor, your mechanic should be able to fix it.
- Weapons Specialist – This person may be part of your security staff. They’ll know how to break down and clean any weapon you have, and put it back together blindfolded. If push comes to shove, they will probably also know how to make some homemade weapons from stuff you have lying around.
- Handyman/Carpenter/Plumber/Electrician – Generally anybody that knows something about how to build and repair a structure. You will typically find that any plumber or electrician knows a good bit about general construction, making any one of these people a “jack of all trades” — which will always come in useful.
- Alternative Power Specialist – Someone that thinks outside the box when it comes to power — solar panels, windmills, water wheels, and other things will be right up this person’s alley.
- Quartermaster – For you civilians out there, this is the person who is in charge of inventory. Anything from air filters and blankets to yarn and zipper pulls will have to come from the quartermaster. He (or she) is the person that will keep track of everything and reorder, restock, or recon anything that needs to be replenished in the inventory.
- Communications – If you have someone that is HAM certified and knows their way around a radio, this will most likely be your comm expert. They’ll be in charge of making sure people stay in touch when they’re out on recon missions or wherever they go.
- Animal Husbandry – Animal husbandry is the technical term for raising animals. I guess this probably could have gone under the food category above, but some people will opt not to worry with any kind of livestock — and by “livestock”, I mean anything from chickens to cattle. If you or someone in your group is comfortable with animal husbandry, you can keep animals that will keep you fed and clothed.
- Teacher/Child Care/Elderly Care – At some point, you’ll need to continue schooling the little ones, and someone will have to keep track of the older ones that can’t help out as much anymore. This is where homeschooling parents will excel — even if you don’t really consider yourself a prepper or a homesteader.
- Seamstress/Tailor – Anybody can use a needle and thread, but just like anything else, it takes someone skilled to use them proficiently. Things will rip and get torn, and things will need to be repaired and even made (especially if you have sheep or alpaca that will supply you with raw materials for clothing).
How to Build Your Own Survival Team for SHTF/TEOTWAWKI
Now that you’ve vetted a bunch of folks, you know how many people they’ll be bringing with them, and you know what general and specialized skills they all possess, it’s time to start building your team.
You didn’t actually think that building a team was just saying, “you’re with me,” and magically you’re all working as a team, did you?
Noooo… there’s much more to it than that. Don’t worry though, that doesn’t mean this article will go on ad infinitum (that’s “forever” in Latin… learned it and now I love working it into a conversation every now and then…lol).
Here’s the hard but fun part — learning to work together as a team. Finding out where everyone actually excels in the moment is best done with some team building activities. Schedule “survival weekends” so your team can go out into the woods somewhere (or at least to a campground) and try to survival with less and less each time. Start it off as a camping trip the first time. While you’re out there, figure out what you each packed, and then decide what you might be able to live without next time. Did you really need your iPod, the extra pillow or the case of beer? …okay, maybe the beer… but you get the picture.
Each outing, make it tougher and tougher. Then make the outing longer and longer. When you schedule it, don’t let weather stop you. If it rains, go anyway. You don’t think you’ll always have bright, sunny days when it all hits the fan, do you? You should even plan some outings when it’s cold. Even in the snow. The tougher the terrains and situations get, the tougher your team gets.
Don’t go to the same location each time, either. You’ll build too much familiarity. Vary it up a bit. Go to the mountains, the lake, the deep woods — anywhere you can think of that will give you some different challenges and hone your problem solving skills.
Yes, I said vary your location, but if you or someone you know has a great location that you might think about bugging out to when “the chaos” begins, you could make that your “training camp” of sorts. Go there every other time. Really get familiar with the terrain and the wildlife, and make plans for what you might do for security if you had to camp there for a while in an emergency situation. You might even create survival kit caches and bury them around the area in case you need them in the future.
Think about zombie survival, too. I know — some of you just said “Are you kidding?” No, I’m not. Even if zombies never come, if you’re ready for zombies, you’re ready for a lot of things you may not have thought about before. Make your fake zombie scenarios vary, too — Walking Dead slow… I Am Legend runners… World War Z climbers — let your imagination go wild. It’ll be fun, right? Right! (Just say right, and go along…lol)
Form a Facebook Group or Other Online Forum
Now that you’ve got your team assembled, and you’re gearing up to start your training, it’s a good idea to start a Facebook group or some other form of online forum just for your group. This isn’t something you want the whole world in on — just the members of your survival team. You might not even need to let their family into the group. That’s totally up to you.
We’ll say — for the sake of this article — that you started a Facebook group. Great! Now you can all communicate at once without having to string together a ton of phone calls to get your outings scheduled and planned. In the beginning, I would challenge you to take your team out at least twice a year. Then, you can work up to once every three months, and then to once a month.
A monthly training camp would be fun and informative for the whole group. Let your foraging expert lead the group on a gathering one day to teach them more about edible plants, and let your communications expert teach everyone how to properly operate a HAM radio — you can get good HAM radios like these for a really good price, and getting licensed isn’t hard to do.
Will you build your own survival team?
Maybe you already have. Leave a comment and let me know anything you think I missed, or something you totally agree or disagree with. We’re all here to learn from each other — I even enjoy learning new things from you!