Emergency Preparedness: How to Form a Survival Group—and Why It’s Important

Emergency Preparedness: How to Form a Survival Group—and Why It’s Important
Inviting someone to have a cup of coffee is an easy way to open the door to a possible friendship. (fizkes/Shutterstock)

The mythologization of the Lone Ranger is just that: a myth. And yet, it persists in movies and novels because it’s something many people aspire to be—a rugged, self-reliant individual who overcomes the worst adversities with his or her talent stack of survival skills and vast knowledge of nearly everything.

In reality, the Lone Ranger is more likely to end up alone, injured, and dead, with no nearby friends or tribesmen. The fact is, we all need a support system, and back in the day, that system would’ve been our clan, tribe, or extended family. In modern communities, as most families are spread across a country if not a continent, it’s difficult to find a new “tribe” in which you not only fit in but your values and worldview are shared as well.

The truth is that when a crisis hits, the first thing on your mind is, “Who can help me?”—and the answer isn’t your stash of freeze-dried food or a garage filled with survival supplies.

People are paranoid about this, but in a crisis, everyone will need others. The question now, ahead of time, is: Do you want to hope that random strangers will come to your rescue, or do you want it to be people you know and trust?

Building a community of trusted and like-minded people doesn’t happen by chance or overnight. It’s something that requires focus and purposeful action. It’s difficult, and you’ll likely end up with only a small number of people in your closest inner circle. But eventually, this might be your most important survival prep.

Begin With Who You Know

They could be family members, coworkers, or casual acquaintances you seem to “click” with. Chances are that right now you know at least one or two other people who fit this description. Keep a list of anyone who embodies some or all of these characteristics:
  • Reliable
  • Similar interests
  • Compatible political and religious beliefs
  • Gets along with your spouse and family members
  • Has a variety of practical skills
  • Interested in learning new things
  • A history that demonstrates trustworthiness
This isn’t a comprehensive list, of course, but will give you a starting point as you move toward purposefully creating that support group.

Rediscover the Lost Art of Hospitality

It’s a lost art in a lot of circles, but simple hospitality goes a long way in forming close friendships. And hospitality isn’t confined to your home or apartment; inviting someone to have a cup of coffee is an easy way to open the door to a possible friendship. For families, meet up at a pizza or burger joint where the kids can play while parents chat and get to know each other.

You’ll soon know if this person or family will become part of your circle of close friends or remain as friendly acquaintances. Those acquaintances could become a lifeline in a major crisis, so it’s as important to build and maintain a growing circle of these as well as establishing an inner circle.

Often, and especially in an emergency, the most helpful response is “I know a guy,” and having a large circle of acquaintances increases the odds that you’ll ”know a guy“ who’s the right person with a solution. Even better, there will be situations in which you'll be ”the guy” who’s ready and able to help with your own set of skills and knowledge base.

The Rule of Reciprocation

The Rule of Reciprocation, as defined by Psychology Today, is: “The universal tendency in human beings to feel compelled to repay or reciprocate when given a gift whether it has come in the form of a material object, a kind deed, or an act of generosity.”

You undoubtedly remember a time when someone was especially kind or generous to you or a family member, and they did it with no expectation of being repaid in kind. Yet you might’ve responded with something in kind, such as returning the favor or offering a helping hand.

When quid pro quo is the expectation, the Rule of Reciprocity can become a tool for manipulation. There, it creates the opposite of the environment that you’re hoping to establish: a small community built on mutual respect and trust.

Instead, apply this rule in your daily life. It need not cost anything, and it opens the door to new or deeper friendships, which might lead to finding someone else to add to your inner circle.

Apply Survival Mom’s Platinum Rule

If your goal is to create a group of like-minded people who are focused on prepping for survival in a worst-case scenario, trustworthiness is key.

You’ve invited someone for a cup of coffee, and you really hit it off. Your personalities click, family members get along with each other, they have a valuable bank of skills, and it seems that you’ve finally found your “tribe.”

This is when you must apply Survival Mom’s platinum rule: Would you trust this person alone with your children or grandchildren?

If not, why would you trust him or her in a time of peril, when emotions are high and life-or-death decisions must be made?

Somewhere in your gut, you probably already know the answer to this question. And when you’re forming your inner circle, there can be no question about the answer.

Combine an Inner Circle With a Web of Acquaintances

Children make friends instantly and without question, but as adults, we know the wisdom of being slow to trust. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist and friendship researcher, says that most people have just five very close friends and only two in their innermost circle.

Don’t be surprised if, after extending hospitality, applying the Rule of Reciprocity, and devoting hours and many cups of coffee to the search, you find only two or three truly compatible families that you know with certainty you can count on when the final chips are down.

You still have all those friendly acquaintances you’ve come to know better, and they’re still part of your web of friendships.

Unlike the Lone Ranger, your new tribe is there for each other when or if the worst happens. Until then, enjoy a full social calendar—and lots of coffee!

Lisa Bedford is the author of “Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios.” She founded The Survival Mom blog in 2009 and continues to teach families around the world how to be prepared for life’s challenges.
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