Building a survival team is important, especially for major events that can cause a breakdown in society. If we should ever be faced by such an event, those with the biggest chance of survival will be those who have a well-developed and trained team.
The problem is threefold. First there are the tasks that you need to accomplish in order to survive. Trying to do all of those on your own means having all those skills and taking all that time. In many cases, doing the task for six people wouldn’t be any harder than doing them for one. Then there’s the whole issue of knowing the skills. Really knowing how to survive on your own requires learning an awful lot of skills. While I won’t say that’s impossible, it’s hard. I’ve been at this for years, and I still can’t say I know everything I’d like to know. Finally, there’s the issue of defense. If you’re by yourself, defending against an attack, you could easily be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Having a team to help you defend your home or base camp increases your chances of survival.
When most people talk about forming a survival team, they talk about the skills needed. But I want to start by talking about something else, the type of people you need. You see, just because someone has the skills you need, doesn’t mean that you want them in your survival team. They could be the best at that skill and the biggest pain in the rear you’ve ever dealt with.
Skills can be learned, but personalities can’t be changed. So, I start by looking at personalities. Hopefully, I’ll find the skills I need, housed in people who will work well as part of my survival team. But if not, someone in the group can always learn the necessary skill.
So, what makes the right personality type? Well, that depends a lot on you. But there are a number of things I think are critical, in order to make sure that the person can fit into a team well. Here are some of the most important character traits I see:
- Self-starter – There’s going to be plenty of work for everyone to do. You don’t need people who have to be supervised. If someone is lazy or only does what is asked of them, everyone else will eventually resent them.
- Not selfish or self-centered – Some people think everything is about them and has to be about them. Those people aren’t team players. You can count on them to cause trouble. They will hog resources, even stealing things that belong to others. They will always expect their way and expect everyone else to cater to them.
- Hard worker – Survival is hard work. Everyone is going to be worn out at the end of pretty much every day. But if everyone works hard to make things a success, then your chances of survival will be better.
- Amiable – Being in close proximity to a group of people for an extended period of time is a guaranteed recipe for friction. Just look at marriage. Two people who supposedly love each other get into fights, because of differences of opinion and close proximity. Well, if married couples fight, how much worse would it be for non-married people? Better to have people who are the type to try and get along, rather than the type who have to get their way.
- Positive – Negativity is contagious and can sap people’s energy, making it harder to get done what needs to be done. A positive attitude is necessary for survival, as it will cause people to push through the difficult times, with the knowledge that they can do it.
- A strong person – I’m not talking about physical strength here, although that is useful; I’m talking about the strength of character to face difficult things and not quail. Survival is hard, there’s no way around it, and it’s going to require that we all face things we’d rather not. Having someone on the team who everyone has to pander, because they “can’t take it” just adds to everyone else’s burden.
- Not rebellious – Your SHTF survival team is going to need a leader and people have to be willing to follow what that leader says. That’s especially important in a defense situation, when you are under attack. One who questions everything could cause some of your team to die. This isn’t to say that they have to be yes men, but merely that they know when to question and when to obey.
You may be able to add some things to this list, but this is a good starting point. If you can find people who meet all these personality requirements, you’ll be doing well. Then it’s up to finding out if they have the necessary skills or can at least learn them.
You don’t necessarily have to have all skills in your SHTF survival group. Some things, like gun-smithing and medical care, will probably still be centralized, rather than included in every team. People will tend to protect doctors, simply because they will need those services themselves. So the doctor probably won’t be bothered even by the worst of the gangs. That makes it so that you’ll be able to barter for those services. But at the same time, you should have someone in the team who knows a bit more than just how to put on a band-aid. Proper SHTF first-aid is critical in many cases.
So, what skills do you need? The list can literally be endless, especially if you are thinking of rebuilding after something like an EMP. But there are some skills that take higher priority, such as:
- General leadership – You have to have someone who is a natural leader, as well as having the wisdom and knowledge to lead your team well. This may be a touchy area, because some people will think they deserve leadership by virtue of who they were pre-disaster. But the leader has to be a survivalist, above all.
- General survival skills – At least one person in the group needs to be well-versed in general survival skills, so that they can train the rest of the group. This person will know how to start fires, find water, purify water, build shelters and a myriad of other useful skills
- Military skills – For common defense
- Medical skills – At least good first-aid for trauma (wounds)
- Bartering – One good wheeler and dealer can make a huge difference for your survival team
- Gardening/farming – You’re probably going to have to raise your own food. That’s not as easy as it seems. One person who has a gift for gardening can train and supervise the rest of the group (read more: Post-apocalyptic Gardening)
- Animal husbandry – Raising livestock, even just chickens, will be necessary in order to have a source of animal protein
- Plant recognition – Being able to recognize edible wild plants can provide a further source of nutrition
- General repairs – You’re probably going to be faced with the need to repair just about anything you can think of at some point in time. You might even need to build some things. People who can repair and build give your survival team the chance of making your post-disaster life more like your pre-disaster life
As you can see, this list is fairly lengthy; and it’s just the basics. There are a lot of other things we can add, such as the building trades, blacksmithing, gunsmithing and midwifery. I’m not trying to build a comprehensive list here, just a basic one. Once you have your basic team together, you can think about adding those other skills to it.
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survival meal lanner and cook: this is someone who knows how to feed the group from your storage and fresh food without making too little or too much. Includes an ability to plan, prepare and serve so each team members gets the required calories to stay healthy while trimming off those excess pre-scenario pounds. Depending on your group size, these may be two or more jobs. The plannning is a different skill set than preparation, especially if a mix of food storage and constantly changing fresh meat and produce. May require altering the meal plan mid-day if fresh meat arrives!
This is a great observation. Was it Napoleon who said “An army travels on its belly?” Appetizing food makes you want to eat enough to stay strong, healthy, and alert. Not everyone is up to the task of cooking, which, in truth, takes most of us years to master. Besides, preparing fresh vegetables, or even casseroles, from scratch can be really time consuming. There won’t be any automated potato peeling machines when SHTF!
I agree with the analysis at the 30,000 feet level, but I have trouble at ground level. Groups are formed by association, not by job applications and personality tests. My group is primarily family, and there are screwups, egotists, and so on. Maybe that’s what they are saying about me.
Friends who have been helpful to me are on the list, but not all of the current “members” like them. And so on. Sure, I could decide that a son-in-law is too much trouble, but I still have a daughter and grandchildren to worry about.
Am I the wrong leader? I bought the land, the tools and most of the prep. I’m not too wild about someone like the son-in-law deciding he needs to be the new boss.
My point is that most of the time, groups form in a variety of ways, and there will be ties that are too hard to break.
Our team is looking for a few good people to share our 91′ French coastal patrol boat we picked up. She’s war tough and can accommodate a reasonable size crew. Service is in Florida, and survival/cruise destination is likely the Caribbean… For more information contact southseascaptain @ gmail
This article really packed a wallop for me. I have been viscerally pondering how well my guy of 8 years could get along in a SHTF world. He has Asperger’s, and has had a hard time getting along in school, in jobs where there are groups, in sustained relationships. He has managed by being around and helping out for a week or two, then either has a planned destination, or goes up in flames about something inexplicably unfathomable to others and splits for a week or a month. Not dependable. I think I would add “Dependability” or even “Trustworthy” to this excellent list. He does know how to repair almost anything mechanical, although getting his attention and interest in doing it is amazingly frustrating.
I would meld what Scott and Lucy both said. Leadership comes in many forms and with lots of responsibility and teeters delicately upon the shoulders of the members of a group. Their disposition (and many times allegiance, loyalty and dependability) is foremost based on the example set by the leader. Members have to be integrated, given a value and appreciated publicly. The “Hey you!” system never works, nor does the “Let’s group hug.” scenario. A leader has to provide direction, purpose and the environment for motivation. Everyone needs to know why THEIR function in the group is critically needed and pursuing its perfection strengthens, prepares and defends the group. I would add – When contemplating selecting members for a Survival Team the key is their “character” and I’ll weigh that higher than technical ability in most cases. The only way to judge character is to observe them when everything is, has and imminently going wrong and see how they react, cope and/or thrive in the environment. You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you pee down your leg in a true survival/SHTF situation, you severely endanger the entire group in a serious situation. And everything you’ve prepped for is all for naught, wasted cannon fodder. I constantly quietly observe and assess potential candidates this way to add to the group. Lastly, per Scott – Family is Family and they are never left behind – UNLESS. They will be an asset or become one quickly in one way or another. The sooner the better and they need to be told point blank if they have thick skulls and acting like oxygen thieves. I’m having great success with all this and purport an enthusiastic outlook because of it. I wish the same good fortune for and upon all of you too.
Mine is just my wife and my sons and my dog. That’s it. Me, one of my sons and my dog are good for hunting and protection. My wife is the survivalist so that is her job if shtf. My other son, bless his heart, loves to cook.
We all have our jobs and we will do it.
Sounds like you’ve really got this thing figured out… I totally agree with you on the “family team” thing. I can’t foresee any issue with betrayal, undermining of leadership etc that would happen in your tight-knit, sensical group.
For me, I’d pick people from my Boy Scout troop. Everyone there has basic survival skills, they’ve been tested together and I know that they’d follow well. In fact, I just spent an hour putting together the perfect SHTF / Zombocalype survival team.
great idea but in practice it dosent work.
any SHTF group started now will collapse long before any event ever happens, family, jobs, house moves, any number of things will cause it.
and post SHTF is NOT the time to start trusting strangers.
the only group that will hold together is a family one.