If you live in the city or suburbs, and for whatever reasons (usually family or financial) don't want to move to a more rural area, here is my best advice to you: Connect with trustworthy, like-minded people near you and together start preparing and planning for difficult times. This type of survival network is often called a mutual assistance group, or MAG, and can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be.
Advantages of a Survival Network:
- Provides mutual encouragement and accountability, enabling you to stay on track.
- Allows all parties to draw on different experiences and skill sets.
- Can divide up tasks among members.
- Can divide up responsibilities.
- Can make and split bulk purchases, reducing costs for all involved.
- Can split the costs of certain purchases for which your group only needs one - such as a ham radio.
Many skill sets need to be learned by all group members (examples: basic first aid & CPR, self-defense). But you can assign certain advanced or specialized tasks to certain members. Something like this:
"Sam & Emily, you'll be our medics so you need to get advanced first aid and medical training. John, you'll be our ham radio operator and communications expert, so get the equipment and training. Bill, you have the only pick-up truck in the group, so you need to get a hand truck and dolly and be available to group members for hauling. Mary, since you're already into sewing, you'll be the group's seamstress so make sure you have plenty of supplies to repair our clothing after the SHTF."
You get the idea. When you go it alone, you have to do it all yourself. When you are a part of a group, those responsibilities can be divided up.
You should also plan how you will provide mutual aid to each other both during a disaster and after. Plan for both natural disasters and man-made disasters. Discuss and write down these plans and expectations to prevent misunderstandings. The more detail, the better. Review these plans often.
Who should be in your network?
Well, I did say trustworthy, like-minded people near you. You're not looking for folks with certain skill sets (worry about skills later). Rather, you're looking for folks who share similar worldviews, concerns, and goals. Start meeting people and talking to them. Look first to those already around you: nearby family & friends, neighbors, fellow church-members, co-workers, and so forth.
I say "nearby" because you need people who are physically near your location. Its great to have a survivalist buddy who lives in another state, but transportation with be difficult when the SHTF, and will likely become even more difficult post-collapse as gasoline runs out and infrastructure breaks down. The absolute best situation is someone who lives within eye-shot of your place. Next is someone within reasonable walking distance of your place. You can expand your search outwards from there.
How do you find "like-minded" people?
Look for clues as to their attitudes and mindset. The guy at work with a NRA sticker on his truck might be a good prospect. Your neighbor who still has the "Hillary For President" bumper sticker on his Toyota Prius, probably isn't. Pay attention and you will pick up lots of clues, good and bad.
Once you find a prospect, start feeling them out. Mention watching a hunting show, or a rerun of Dual Survivor, or something similar, and see how they react. Negative reactions, move on. Positive reactions, keep the conversations going. It will probably take several conversations as both parties feel each other out before building enough trust to get into preparedness and survival topics.
Religion and politics do make a difference. Someone diametrically opposed to your views on these topics will make a poor fit for your group. Have discussions on these topics early on. Believe me, you'll quickly figure out if they are incompatible with you.
A few warning signs to watch out for:
1- Addictions. Addictions of any kind are a MAJOR warning sign. Do not make them a part of your group until they have successfully and completely overcome their addiction.
2- Nuts/Crazies. I'm not referring to people who are a bit unusual or marching to a different drummer, but those who have actual serious mental problems. Avoid them. Remember, at some point in a crisis, their meds will run out. Besides, the stress and chaos of a crisis will likely make their illness even more serious.
3- Bizarre or Unusual Requests Early On. If you are just getting to know someone and they hit you with a bizarre or very unusual request, tread carefully. Bizarre requests might include asking to borrow a significant sum of money, or to quickly make a serious commitment, or to do something illegal or unethical.
4- Dishonesty. Its a good thing to be guarded with personal information, and concerned with maintaining your privacy. Its something else entirely to outright lie, especially about major issues. Don't expect someone to completely open up to you and tell you everything about their life, especially early on. But you should expect them to be honest in what they do tell you.
Some positive indicators:
1- Stability. Look for signs of stability, or the lack of it, in their lives. If they are holding a job – its a good sign. If they bounce in and out of work often or spend large stretches of time unemployed - it may be a bad sign. Same goes for other areas of their lives – friendships, relationships, living arrangements, and so forth. Of course, context matters, so use common sense. However, generally speaking, signs of stability in their lives are good, and signs of a lack of stability are warning flags. Look for trends within their life, not one time events.
2- Friendship. If you cannot be close friends with someone, it doesn't make sense to include them in your group, no matter what skill sets they bring with them. You will be working closely together, depending on each other on a daily basis in very difficult and stressful times. If there is something about their personality that annoys you, it will only get worse in any collapse scenario. If you don't like them, don't expect to be able to "put up with" them over the long-term, especially during stressful times. It will go wrong at some point. Some questions to consider: Do you enjoy being around that person? Can you have a good time together? Are you both comfortable around each other?
3- Trust. Do you trust that person? Do you feel you can tell them anything without them judging you, telling others, or spreading gossip? Do you trust them to always tell you the truth? Do you trust them enough to always tell them the truth? Can you trust them to not put themselves above the group in a crisis? Can you trust them to take care of tools and other things belonging to the group, every bit as well as they take care of their own personal property? Can you trust them to make the same commitment of time, effort , and finances to the group that you are willing to make?
4- Reciprocity. By this category, I mean how they treat you and others Is your relationship with them reciprocal (involving give and take on both sides)? Do you get as much out of it as they do? Are they a good host AND a good guest? Are they a giver, taker or balanced? Do they try to live by the golden rule, treating others in the same way they want to be treated? As you get to know each other, do they seem willing to sacrifice (time, money, effort) as much for the group as you are?
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