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Groups and Retreats #170740
06/29/2019 08:38 AM
06/29/2019 08:38 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
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ConSigCor Offline OP
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ConSigCor  Offline OP
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Posts: 19,688
A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC
Post-TEOTWAWKI: Groups and Retreats,

by E.M. SurvivalBlog Contributor June 27, 2019

There are many articles on the internet concerning the benefits of forming a group of like-minded individuals who could support each other when times get “spicy” for months or even years, either in their own neighborhood or at a remote retreat. These groups are sometimes referred to as mutual assistance groups. These articles are based on the premise that choosing a “lone wolf” approach after TEOTWAWKI is unsustainable in the long run, and that even expecting a single family to live and thrive on a remote mountaintop after a societal meltdown is unrealistic and ripe for tragedy in the long term. An important reason for the latter view is that a single family cannot maintain proper 24/7 security while tending to all of its daily needs over time.

A problem with many of these articles is that much of the discussion about forming survival groups all too often involves pie-in-the-sky fantasies and unrealistic platitudes.

Nevertheless, the consensus in most of these articles about surviving a long term apocalyptic event, to borrow a phrase from a certain political figure, is “It takes a village.” (For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that most SurvivalBlog readers’ first choice for the location of the “village” is not going to be a FEMA camp.)

While there is a host of useful information about survival groups and forming retreats for them in these articles, it is clear after serious scrutiny that the “devil is in the details.”


Let’s get the issue out of the way and then move on by starting with the premise that whether a mutual assistance group is located in a residential neighborhood or at a remote retreat, it will likely be discovered sooner or later. Let’s also assume that it will be better for potential predators to conclude that the area occupied by the group is a “hard target,” and that it is not “the low hanging fruit” in the area. Predators almost always seek out the weak and the old, not the herd bull, because the risk/benefit ratio is in their favor.

Now, moving on, the reality is that most people are tied to where they live, either by their immediate family, their extended family and friends, or their place of employment. Moving to a remote and physically secure location several states away where the population is small and very scattered is not a realistic or attractive choice for many. Giving up retirement benefits, accepting the fact that family and close friends will be seen infrequently, and starting over in the labor market at a lower income/bottom rung are huge incentives for most people to stay where they live. This is especially so when the choice is balanced against the actual likelihood of a mega-collapse of modern society.

In some ways, they are like people who assume the risk of buying homes in a 100-year or 500-year flood plain and choose not to buy expensive flood insurance. Many of them will save money in the long run—while others will be wiped out.

For myriad reasons, many people will stay where they are because they want to do so, not because of family or work issues. They are like Hershel Green, the fictional farm owner in the early seasons of The Walking Dead who, when facing the looming arrival of an enormous Zombie horde, said, “This is my farm. I’ll die here.” It all comes down to this: Life is about choices. Choices have consequences. Make your decision and then move on.

Once a decision is made to “shelter in place” and to stay where they live (and perhaps find a retreat that is not too distant from where they live), then that is when participation in a survival group becomes more attractive to many.


I expect that only a minority of those who read SurvivalBlog on a frequent basis are likely to have kept their interest in preparedness completely secret. There is a natural and well-intentioned impulse for most people to reach out to friends and family in order to convince them to take steps now in order to ensure their safety and well-being after a major national calamity. (A similar mindset regarding salvation motivates many religiously-oriented people.) Another reason to reach out to friends and family is the belief that these people “will have your back” if society melts down.

The problem is that most efforts to recruit members for a preparedness group will fail. It is very likely that many readers have approached other family members about becoming active in preparedness planning, only to be ignored and written off as their lovable, but eccentric “Uncle Joe.”

If you’ve tried to recruit friends and family, you’ve no doubt heard some say, “I don’t need to do anything now. I’ll just head to your place!” While this may be said by some people in jest, and it is often simply a way to end the discussion, the inescapable truth is that once it is established that the recruiter is a “prepper who has come out of the closet,” most of those people who turned a deaf ear to the recruiter will know exactly where to head when disaster strikes. And all that many of them will be bringing to the “party” is a knife, a fork, and an empty stomach.

Some of these people may actually be welcomed, empty-handed or not. Others? Not so much. Some may be able to lend a hand by simply adding to security efforts. Others may not be of much help at all. And, with regard to all of those neighbors who ignored the recruiter’s proselytizing efforts prior to a major national disaster, count on most of them to view the recruiter’s home as the Neighborhood Supply Depot and the recruiter as the unofficial Neighborhood Quartermaster. The worst case scenario is that they will be standing outside the recruiter’s home after a major national disaster, yelling: “Hoarder! Hoarder!”

Even if a mutual assistance group is formed in advance, the major calamity that would cause the need for a well-organized survival group to come together would have to be a society-changing event. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes would not likely be sufficient. (The level of looting and violence that took place after Hurricane Katrina was not typical of what has been seen in places other than New Orleans.) These events are local or regional disasters. Federal aid would begin pouring into the area–even if this aid did not arrive quite as fast as many people would like. While various neighbors might join together to participate in a “Neighborhood Watch on steroids” for a few days or even weeks after the local or regional event occurred, e.g., armed Korean shop owners during the LA riots, this ad hocorganization would not be likely to rise to the level of being classified as a survival group or a mutual assistance group as defined in articles on numerous blogs.

Given how difficult it is in the first place for most people to find like-minded individuals to join a group, the odds are that members who actually join the group would be scattered geographically, especially if these members were selected because they had special skills. Those who offer not much more than a Bachelor’s of Arts in Women’s Studies or a keen insight into the growth potential of emerging tech start-ups will not be high on the recruitment list absent other skills they might have. Just how many useful survival group members are likely to be recruited within, say, a short walking distance of each other?

Given the nature of the threat after a national calamity, how many likely recruits in the neighborhood will have serious firearms and law enforcement or military training? It is not as if every member has to have experience defending the CIA compound in Benghazi, or defending the mission station at Rorke’s Drift, but it would sure help if most knew how to use firearms well. In Blue States, in particular, this experience is less common—which, of course, is one of the reasons they are Blue States.

Articles about survival groups usually mention the need for recruiting those with firearms training. In order not to be off-putting, something rarely addressed in these articles is that those with firearms training must be actually ready to kill in a heartbeat if the group’s safety is seriously threatened. Call it a warrior’s mindset. Even simple firearms training will come up short if the willingness to kill is missing. Nurturers are fine, and are actually necessary for a group’s success, but without a sufficient number of “shooters” the group is merely composed of victims-in-waiting if the threat level is high.

Who Can You Count On?

Take a look around your neighborhood. Just how many men do you count who could willingly drop the hammer if it became necessary to defend their neighbors from serious harm? How many women do you count? Just because they have a gun and know how to use it does not mean that you can depend on them to do what needs to be done. Consider the unreliable colonial militia that often ran from the fight at the first sign of serious danger. These are not the people you need.

Successfully defending any of the group members’ homes will be dependent on sufficient manpower and firepower. Keep in mind that any stick-built, 2×4 and drywall home is extraordinarily deficient as a bullet stopper and that it is also extraordinarily vulnerable to the threat of fire.

For these reasons, in a Mad Max world, most members’ homes would hardly be the equivalent of Harlech Castle as a defensive position. As a result, it is likely that hard choices will need to be made by group members concerning whose home and street will be defended while others are abandoned. Issues such as amenities and living space, elevation, avenues of approach, and fields of fire, among other matters, would be important factors in the selection. If the group is planning on defending itself from the Golden Horde, or even from a much less potent force, it will be important to avoid at the get-go to choose a location where Col. Travis and Davey Crockett-type results are not likely to be the expected outcome.

For a group of neighbors who first come together after a disaster has already occurred, many of whom will barely know each other, if at all, the level of cohesiveness and trust will likely be stretched thin. So expect the question, “Why defend your house, and not mine?”

It would be better if decisions about which properties/neighborhoods would be defended were made in advance of a disaster. While apartment dwellers may be very flexible about the issue because they have little skin in the game, for homeowners in the group, the decision could obviously be a point of conflict that would be difficult to resolve amicably. Again, expect the question, “Why defend your house and not mine?” This decision may well prove to be a nonstarter for those who are considering joining the group in normal times when there is no compulsion to do so.

For those who wait until after a major disaster strikes to attempt to form a group (that is, after it becomes crystal clear to neighbors, for example, that they need to come together to meet serious threats), more individuals would likely decide that it is in their interest to join the group, but they will come to the group with different assets. Serious preppers/survivalists could find themselves with months of food on hand for themselves and their families, while other members of the group might join with almost nothing. (The Millennials who refuse to eat canned goods because they prefer to “eat fresh,” for example, will pose special problems.) Unprepared group members will be telling the prepared group members that, as they say in kindergarten, “sharing is caring.”

The issue of group cohesiveness will become a serious issue after a few weeks, if not sooner, when the clothing of some members of the group has becomes baggy and loose-fitting, and when it is obvious that other members of the group are still eating quite well. Trouble will naturally follow. “How can you stand there and watch my kids starve while you and your family have full bellies?”

Of course, an obvious solution is that members of the group can pool their assets and share what they have. The problem with that solution is that a family of four with a six month food supply will now have not much more than a one month’s supply if it is part of a mutual assistance group composed of four additional families who were poorly prepared.

The reality is that, if a family is not part of a mutual assistance group before a disaster occurs, it may well be unable to shop around and pick and choose which group it wishes to join after a disaster occurs. Geography will likely trump everything else.


I doubt that many people would need to come together at a retreat during any of the local disasters mentioned, except to use it as temporary shelter for a few days/weeks. Its use under such circumstances would be for not much more than what a hotel room might offer.

A factor here is the natural inclination for most homeowners to stay in or close to their homes, or what is left of them, after a hurricane or earthquake, and to protect their possessions from occasional opportunistic looters until order is restored. Another reason they would want to stay relatively close to home after a local disaster is that their job might not have been affected by the local calamity, and they would need to stay within commuting distance of their place of employment.

Yes, I realize that homes can be rendered uninhabitable for months following hurricanes and earthquakes and that a retreat might provide shelter during that time. A neighbor across the street was out of her home for six months after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, although I am not sure why. Nevertheless, the security and sustainability aspects of retreats in such circumstances would not be all that important after a local or regional disaster. Order would be restored relatively soon.

On the other hand, access to a retreat could be a godsend after an EMP attack, a massive cyberattack, and, of course, a nuclear war. In a post-apocalyptic landscape, many will decide that the survival contest will be best “played” as an away game.

Security of Unoccupied Retreats

Buying property to use as a retreat obviously presents daunting financial issues for most people. Beyond that, leaving the property unoccupied for much of the year presents security issues.

A friend related to me how a co-worker was building a home in a remote area of the High Desert in Southern California (so it wasn’t exactly a retreat as such). He had a large sea-land container there that held supplies while he worked on weekends slowly building the home himself. Despite the property’s rather remote location, people with bad intentions found it.

The thieves took an entire lift of 2x4s, as well as a large amount of roof shingles. They cut through the rear side of his sea-land container with an acetylene torch. They gave up when they could not move the large stack of plywood at the rear so as to allow them to gain entrance. The thieves went so far as to remove the pump from the cabin’s well. The security camera at the location caught much of the theft in progress, but identifying who the thieves were was impossible.

The takeaway here is that in this era of widespread drug addiction, a significant portion of the druggie population has turned to petty crime to fuel habits, and anything that isn’t nailed down, whether at a remote home’s construction site or at a retreat, may well be carted away whenever the owners are not there.

While it might be possible to find someone who was willing to live at a group’s retreat in order to keep an eye on things, the odds are that this person would probably have to be a retiree if the retreat was very far from urban and suburban areas (which is to say, “places of employment”).

Cost Sharing

Some people suggest that one way to ease the financial burden of building a retreat is for the survival group to pool its assets in order to purchase a desirable property.

Getting friends and family members to invest in beans, bullets, and Band-Aids is difficult enough, but getting friends and family members to spend money to invest in a retreat will be even more difficult.

Beyond that, who would agree to buy a share in a retreat without seeing it first? The result would be that, after they visit the property, each person who turned down the offer to buy a share property will know exactly where the safe haven is when disaster strikes. How many of them will show up at the front gate of the retreat once things turn spicy, hoping to take advantage of years of friendship or a family relationship?

Let’s assume that a few like-minded individuals are actually convinced to purchase shares in the retreat. Those in the prime of life with no serious health issues and with important skills will be among the most useful to a survival group. These people are the very people who will be likely to have additional children. As a result, the burden on the land could become more unsustainable with each passing year if the disaster lasted for a great period of time.

It is common in survival novels and dystopian fiction, in general, for characters to be strangely (and conveniently) out of contact with their families–Dad and Mom died three years earlier after a collision with a drunk driver. The brother and the hero had a falling out ten years earlier and the brother’s whereabouts are unknown. Sis is living with her family in Maryland, etc., etc., etc. Death, alienation, or simple distance removes close relatives from the hero’s concern and from the entangling familial issues that might complicate the plot the author has in mind.

The reality is, however, that the majority of people have family members and in-laws who live reasonably close. What does the group do when one couple who are shareholders in the retreat shows up at the retreat with their elderly parents, their in-laws and kids, and even lifelong friends? Will such a situation be the flashpoint that results in the group’s first use of lethal force? I don’t think so. The extra mouths to feed will simply make it more complicated.

And then there are the expenses that need to be shared by the group. The best intentions in the beginning often fade with time. (That the interest in prepping has been reduced since the economy began booming in 2016 has been commented upon by many.) One of my brothers purchased and renovated a nice cabin on a broad creek in rural Indiana. Each of the cabin owners in the area was supposed to pay an annual road maintenance fee of a modest amount. Most did, but some didn’t. The fee was important for upkeep of the access road, but the fee was also small enough that it didn’t justify the expense of hiring a lawyer to collect the fee each year.

After TEOTWAWKI, it will “take a village,” but the devil is still, most assuredly, in the details.

"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861
Re: Groups and Retreats [Re: ConSigCor] #170741
06/29/2019 08:57 AM
06/29/2019 08:57 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 19,688
A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC
ConSigCor Offline OP
Senior Member
ConSigCor  Offline OP
Senior Member
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 19,688
A 059 Btn 16 FF MSC

(Continued from Part 1)

A friend of mine in Southern California lived for a few years in a cabin at a location served only by a power company’s dirt access road. The original access road crossed a property that ultimately changed hands and the new owner denied access.

As an alternative, the landowners who lived near my friend’s place were asked to contribute money for additional maintenance efforts concerning the Southern California Edison access road which they began to use. The road was usable, but it was rough. Some landowners refused to contribute. I suppose that they decided that if S.C. Edison didn’t maintain the road well enough, they would simply let their vehicle’s shocks take the pounding while traveling to and from the highway on three miles of dirt road. It may also have been the case that they believed that the other landowners would have grading performed anyway, so they would sit back, wait for others to act, and use the improved road anyway.

Imagine a retreat where shareholders plead hardship after a couple of years, citing unemployment, tuition expenses, unexpected medical bills, or unexpected repairs at home. How does the group successfully insist that they sell their membership, and exactly to whom do they sell it, who will benefit the group?

After that, what happens when a prepper couple gets divorced? One spouse may have provided useful skills, e.g., gardening, welding, military training, etc. The other spouse may have been simply a burden with little to offer. Which one of them keeps the share of retreat ownership in the property settlement, and exactly how is the group benefited or harmed by the result?

Finding anyone to buy a share of the retreat the first time would have been difficult. How often does lightning strike twice? The first right of refusal is just that, the first right. After that, the new purchaser who takes possession may have no more interest in preparedness issues than you or I do in Nigerian soccer league championship results.

Because the group is likely to be composed of members with significantly different ages, some will leave the group due to mortality. With the passage of time the burden will become more onerous on the younger members who remain. Posting a notice on CraigsList for a replacement does not seem like a great way to mitigate the loss.

The physical size of the retreat, the amenities available at the retreat, the food-producing capacity, and the local threat environment would be important factors in assessing the number of members needed in the group. A serious emphasis on security would be necessary, but there would also need to be a substantial part of the group’s man-hours dedicated to food production, food preparation, household chores, and childcare, as well as simple sleep during each 24-hour period.

Would a group composed of perhaps 30 people, mostly able-bodied adults, be sufficient? You decide.


The best solution that I can imagine is for one person or one couple, with the available financial means to do so, to buy a retreat and for them to then extend an invitation to people who can contribute to the retreat’s success if “the balloon goes up.” And, again, the optimal solution would also involve the offers being made to relatives or, at least, good friends. Human nature being what it is, it is unlikely that the owners would want to invite a large number of total strangers to join. Admittedly, finding the right person/couple with such financial resources would not be easy.

Potential recruits who received invitations could visit the property after proper efforts were undertaken to ensure that they didn’t know exactly where the property was located. While I certainly have ideas about how to go about this, I will leave it to readers to determine exactly how it might be accomplished.

For some retreat owners, age might motivate their decision, their view being that having a group of younger individuals on the property would help to secure it far better than they could by themselves.

Retreat Ownership

On the downside, there is a potentially thorny and obvious issue: the sole ownership of the retreat. The owner of a yacht usually makes the decision about where it sails, and it is said that “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” The owner of the retreat will likely expect to make the important decisions once the group occupies the retreat and the routine of daily life is established.

Hopefully, the owner will approach his or her responsibilities in a way that makes it a benign dictatorship, not a petty fiefdom in which the members are treated as mere peasants. Human nature being what it is, however, the owners’ negative behavior could lead to resentment and even rebellion. Among the members themselves, there could be negative results from the courting of favor and jealous competition with others. Now we have a whole new “kettle of fish.”

A Sudden Realization

It is quite likely that many property owners who are not currently concerned about the chances of a national calamity occurring will change their attitudes after one occurs. They will have serious motivations to seek assistance from others after the threat to them and their property becomes serious and obvious. For them, it would simply be a matter of basic self-interest, even if helping others was, in fact, a part of their motivation.

If certain individuals were known in advance to be actively preparing for “bad times,” they might not even be told about the retreat and invited to join the group only after disaster struck. This alternative assumes, of course, that there would be a way with which to communicate with the prospective participants post-disaster. The decision to wait until after the disaster occurred before making the offer to prospective members also poses a risk that the offerees will decline the offer for a variety of reasons, thereby leaving the group short of the desired number of members, or short of members with desirable skill sets.


Note that with this last alternative the problem of members arriving at the retreat with additional family members or friends is not eliminated. This alternative also presents the risk that, because they would not be able to pre-position preps at the retreat prior to the disaster, individuals who were selected might not be able to transport a significant amount of their own preps to the retreat in their Ford Edge or Toyota Camry. As a result, they would relatively quickly become consumers of the retreat’s finite resources, rather than be contributors to them.

Of course, if some experts’ estimates are accurate, no one’s Edge or Camry will be going anywhere if the disaster involved is an EMP attack on the country, and that presents yet another dilemma.


The preceding discussion was not intended to provide a be-all and end-all solution to the problems that survival groups might face. I really don’t have one. But by pointing out problems and spotting issues, however, I hope that the article has stimulated thought and further study of the matter by those who are interested in the concept.

While implementation will be problematic to some extent, it seems clear that a survival group, either with or without a retreat, will have a much better chance of survival when times get really tough and when the rule of law is a distant, fond memory.

As I said at the very beginning, after TEOTWAWKI, it will “take a village,” but the devil is still, most assuredly, in the details.

"The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon, and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Gen. T.J. Jackson, March 1861

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