Survival Psychology – Close Quarters Survival

I want my house back!  Whether you are bugging in or bugging out, eventually you are going to be holed up somewhere.  Most likely you will have a family or a small group around you and that is all.  There may be others outside this small group but those others are “them” and we are “us”.

To avoid conflict there will be a period of time where we will “hunker down” and wait things out.  StormSo how does that work out for you?  Most of us have little understanding of what a true “grid down” scenario is like.  During hurricane Ike, we lost power but never water and sewer so it was only a partial grid down.  That lasted only a couple of weeks but we were still faced with the impact of the loss of electricity.  Fortunately, a cold front blew in immediately after Ike so the house was comfortable with everything open.  There was no collapse of fire and police service in my area so there was limited looting attempted and none in my immediate area.  Nevertheless, it was an interesting dry run and things were learned.

We were essentially confined to the house.  The roads were open but there was no gas available so travel was extremely limited.  The house, front and back yards and the common green belt areas was about it. Much more freedom than if hunkered down riding out a wave of civil unrest of course.  So, what is it like to be in those kinds of close quarters?  Those who live off grid in areas where you are essentially snowed in several months each winter have some experience with this.  For these folks, their life style is planned for this annual event and the people in the house are those that belong there.  For the survivalist, the possibility of additional people increases the stress.

It is rarely the big things that cause problems.  Each of us has our own habits that can send door on refridgerator left openothers up the wall.  Start with loss of room.  My study just became a storage room because the storage room just became a bedroom (a little irritant).  Someone fills up a coffee cup then drinks half of it and pours out the rest and refills.  That is waste that I don’t need (a little irritant).  A refrigerator is opened to see what is inside (an irritant not only because I have to crank up the generator to allow it to cool back down but now we also have an Op Sec problem).  The constant complaining over the lack of A/C or TV or Radio or SOMETHING to do (another irritant).  Having to disposing of extra human waste (dangerous on both the Op Sec and health fronts).

Water management – I often enough don’t drink all the water in a glass and just poor out the remainder.  Ever leave the water running while you brush your teeth?  These are examples of resource management issues that could become a huge issue.  Sanitation water must become garden water for example.  Getting folks who are used to unlimited water into that mind set will be awkward at best.

The problem with hunkering down is that it is possible to develop a “siege” mentality.  While that Under Siegemay be necessary for a while, it can be difficult to alter the mindset once it is acquired.  When the time comes to begin to open up and reach out to others around you, that mentality can make it very difficult.  “I survived this long by myself, I don’t need or want anyone else” can become a way of life.  I’ve read science fiction where this was called “turning turtle” — go into your hole and put it in behind you like a turtle going into his shell both mentality and physically.  That is a dead end to be avoided.

The lack of privacy is perhaps the ultimate big issue. One of the problems with any close quarters environment is that human beings need “their” space.  There does not have to be a lot of it but it does have to be theirs!  Even on the International Space Station the crew members have a private storage area as well as a phone booth size crew quarters.  Not much but it is theirs.  Everyone must respect the space, however limited, of the other members of the group.  Whether it is as small as a foot locker or as large as a room, it is theirs and it is not to be violated without serious cause.   This is also a good time to mention personal hygiene.  Regular hygiene will be absolutely essential to avoid illness in the group.  This may be harder to do on a regular basis than some realize with limited resources but it is very important.  The BSA handbook (prior to the 1970 edition) had excellent sections on survival hygiene.  The recommendations there or something similar should be part of the house rules followed by all.  Something as simple as body odor can make life very unpleasant in close quarters.  Quite a few GI’s have stories of throwing a shower for someone who didn’t stand close enough to a bar of soap.  Consideration for the needs of any ladies in the group for both hygiene and privacy must be built in from the beginning.  Remember, if the mother is not happy, then NOBODY is happy!

Recreation is necessary for mental health.  At the same time, it is difficult for groups. With no power it is games and books.  Musical instruments if you can play and if the Op Sec allows.  Simple games are the best.  A game like “Mexican Trains” is perfect in that it can be as short as needed, almost any age can be part of the game and it encourages friendly talk.  Games such as this do not eliminate players, like Monopoly, so no one is sitting around idle while the others play.  Another plus is that anyone can win right up until the last hand is played.  It requires no electricity and only minimal illumination.  Fun books for everyone — while serious reading is good, escape reading is also important.  I like westerns and science fiction.  My wife likes mysteries.  We read to each other and that helps us get into the plot.  The working on the plot together helps remove tensions.

Maintaining physical conditioning or survival fitness is also critical. Without a gym you are own Keep your body fit during SHTFyour own.  You may not have space for a weight room or even a stationary bicycle.  Going out side for a run may not be an option because of Op Sec.  Review the literature and get familiar with conditioning drills that can be done without extra tools.  Calisthenics or similar exercises work, require little prior investment, relieve stress and help keep you in shape.  They can be done in a living room or back yard so they do not compromise security.

If a source of electricity is available (preferably solar or wind — assuming the grid is down – alternative energygenerator time is too precious) movies are always a possibility as well as some of the game systems like Wii.  Just be sure that if being done after dark the illumination does not pose an Op Sec issue.  That of course applies to all night time activity, regardless of the source of illumination. I would discourage the use of a generator after dark as the sound travels and is easily identified.  In addition, it uses valuable fuel that may be difficult to replace.

After the SHTF you will probably wind up with an ‘elected dictatorship’.  Much like the Pirates of old, the captain was elected and remained captain as long as he did the job.  I may have founded the group and may be the first captain but like the pirate crew, the group could always elect someone else — then the current captain either became a crewman, loyal to the ship, or he left the ship.  (Tough on the old captain if it was mid-ocean)  In a crises there can only be one decision maker. Someone whose decisions are not acceptable to the group must be removed from command or the group will fail; most likely at a critical time when failure is most damaging.  It is possible to follow the American Indian style of leadership where the tribal chief was not necessarily the “war leader” nor the “medicine man”.  Each of these was supreme in his own sphere and such a system did and does work where clear talent in one area should be left to do its job.  If your group has a physician, for instance, his opinion on medical matters is almost absolute.

The key is to avoid the trap of trying to keep things as normal as possible. THINGS ARE NOT NORMAL!   Accept that and establish a structure for all the group members to function within. Create this structure before the SHTF; let all the group members review it and codify it into a set of ‘articles’.  These articles should define who does what, how jobs are apportioned (especially the dirty jobs), recreation time, code of conduct and privacy zones.  The larger the group, the more detailed some things will be, especially privacy issues.   If possible, practice living the plan for a weekend. Then try it for a week or so.  Modify it as needed.  Some desired changes may be impractical and you need to know that before you need a plan B.

If there is someone who simply refuses to function within the group’s structure then you must decide if they are to be allowed to remain in the group.  This, like the election of the leader, is a group decision.  Once these ‘articles’ are agreed upon, it is not out of line to have everyone sign on.  The old ‘ships articles’ that seamen accepted (even pirates signed ship’s articles) before starting a cruise are an excellent method of making sure everyone agrees with what they will be called upon to do.  Like the sailing ships of old, two months out at sea (or into TEOTWAWKI) is not a good time to decide you made a bad choice and want to go home.  Grousing after signing is simply not allowed.

We all will want our old lifestyle back.  I had the stuff and hobbies I liked and I was comfortable.  Ino electricity don’t want to change and acquire an entirely new, enlarged family.  Unfortunately, I will probably have no choice.  Those that might join the group will also have no choice. Abide by the rules or leave.  The ‘shunning’ that is practiced by some groups may seem harsh but it is how they protect the integrity of their group.  If you move into my house it is by my rules.  If I move into your house, it is by your rules.  The articles are the rules that a SHTF event will force on us.  To survive we will have to work together within our group, even if we don’t like it.

I will want my old house, my old life, back but it isn’t likely to happen.  If I want my group to survive, I must adapt to the new requirements, even though that means some of my prerogatives go away.  If we recognize that our way of life has changed, perhaps permanently we can begin adjusting to our new reality.  Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities helps to ease that transition. Refusing to recognize the new reality ensures you are always unhappy, always irritable and less likely to survive.

Photos by:
Life and Work of People of England: the Fourteenth Century
The Road Warrior
Robert Galloway

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

60 thoughts on “Survival Psychology – Close Quarters Survival”

  1. Very good article. you covered alot of areas. Personally, as much as it pains me to say this cause I like gaming too, I would definitly not be using my resources to play video games in this type of event. I would stick to non resource consuming games like cards or board games, especially seeing that this is more family involved than numbing out to video games. I can relate to you about the resource waste (electricity, refrigerator door being opene, exc) Things like that bug me all the time in normal day life, how would I react when it really mattered…..Overall I think in this type of scenario a routine like you suggest is best, keeping active, hygiene, ext. The more idle time we have the more we think and dwell on things we can't change.

    • actually keeping your mind active will keep personal and group morale up. ulike the other replier I actually believe that once your group, family, etc. gets to a safe place recreational activities will keep your people from going out of their minds from boredom. I've researched several sites last fall looking up what should be done to maintain a positive attitude to ensure survival. all my sources said that having even a simple deck of cards are as valuable as your knife, pack, water bottle, etc. for your survival. they all said that boredom was just as deadly as lack of food or even water.

  2. Another great article pointing out life can change in an instant, and life as we knew it can't go on.
    Maintaining OP SEC and discipline are essential, since these will keep you under the radar and safer in case you're ever discovered…

  3. Well done Capt. One lesson I learned in the military was getting all groups to agree to the rules of the road and the most important rule was call consensus. All members of a group agree to support the leader’s or group’s decision. Even if it wasn’t their idea or they wanted something different. That way all parties work together. Subversion is not tolerated by the group as a whole.
    Abnormal becomes normal after a while… Routines become established and we adapt to our new ways of life. It just takes time. Ever live on a ship? Close quarters make polite behavior a requirement. In Japan people are extremely polite because of the crowded conditions. I grew up on an island… If you weren’t polite you were fighting a lot.
    You bring up a good point about light and noise discipline. How many of us even think about that? Do you have black plastic to cover your windows? Last time we had a blackout ours was the only house on the block with lights on and music playing. The blender makes too much noise too but we had margaritas with our nachos. Of course it was just a transformer down, not TEOTWASKI, so we didn’t need to go tactical.

    • I like the little story about the "margaritas & nacho's" during your last power outage. However, it may come back to bite you! Because, as you pointed out, you had the only house in the neighborhood with power during that routine outage, now anyone who is moderately observant knows that you have a way to generate power when the normal utilities are out-of-commission. This could potentially make you a target for someone during a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI scenario. Even if you don't have someone from your neighborhood "bustin' down your door" to get your generator (in a worst-case scenario), someone might tell the group of "wandering thugs" that comes to their place looking for stuff to go to your place, in order to "save their skin", so to speak. Even if that kind of situation never arises (and I hope that it doesn't), you very well might have neighbors coming over asking for food/supplies (because aparently you are better prepared than everyone else), or as I have experienced in the past, folks might come over and ask you if they can store some of their perishables in your refrigerator/freezer; Also from my experience, this can cause some other issues…
      We had a 2-week power outage after a hurricane a few years back, it knocked-out power across most of VA. The neighbors asked if they could keep some things in my coolers (I was running a rebuilt ice-machine that I got from work, on a power-inverter in my truck, then would use the ice in my big fishing coolers to keep food cold, it worked pretty well, but used quite a bit of my stored fuel reserves). Long-story-short, the neighbors started coming over anytime they wanted, going into our basement through the back door to get to the coolers… not a huge issue, they are pretty good people (so I thought) and I figured they were just getting some food to cook for their relatives that had fallen-back to their house… As it turns out, they were taking whatever they wanted out of any cooler they felt like searching! They ended up taking every last one of my deer-steaks from the previous season, 1/2 of a tuna I caught the summer before, and they even had the nerve to go through some of the rooms in the basement where they "liberated" several canisters of Coleman propane, my "whisper-light" backpacking stove, a few boxes of 12ga ammo and several of my knives! We actually had to get the Sheriff's Office involved! Luckily we got all of our stuff back, the neighbors father came to me and apologized (said that he was disappointed in his son and he raised him better than that, his son, my neighbor never even bothered to say anything!), and they moved shortly after things returned to normal.
      I am always willing to help those who need it, until they decide to screw-me-over! I believe strongly that in a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation strong community ties will help everyone in said community, and I try to prep for my family and set extra aside to help whoever needs it around us… BUT, it's a risk! Not everyone will share the same values as you, they won't necessarily say "thank you" and be on their way, they very well might think that they can take you for everything you have and walk away with a smile! Unfortunately these days most folks mistake kindness for weakness, which means that you should be prepared to show how strong you can be if it comes to it!

      Sorry if I come off as pessimistic, but those former neighbors really put "a bad taste in my mouth" for trusting the folks outside of my family/close friends. I honestly hope that you never need to consider these scenarios, but it's far better to think of them and never need to apply anything, than to be caught "with your pants around your ankles"!

      • This is one of the best "real life" stories I've read about "real world" survival. Thanks for sharing this story with us and no, you are not coming across pessimistic. Understanding human behavior (our own and others) will help us get through these types of unfortunate situations.

      • Hey Chef… How’s it going? Thanks for the story… Capt’s article made me think about how I was operating and what I could improve. Like the black out plastic… I don’t have any. Got a few black trash bags but not enough to black out the whole house.
        Don’t have or use a generator… I use solar, power inverters and deep cycle rv/car batteries. I’m working on linking batteries in series in order to keep my refrigerator and freezer going 24/7 on solar.
        I have 2 neighbors who I trust enough to come in my house when we are not there. We are the backbone of the neighborhood. We have pledged to keep it safe and law abiding if the SHTF. Everyone should seek out the trust worthy individuals in their own neighborhoods and discuss roles etc.
        Ice maker is a good idea. How do you store fuel? I have some jerry cans but not enough to be a real fuel source.

        • instead of black plastic for darkening windows, use "black out drapes"

          it is drapery material that can/will prevent light from coming in or going out of a window/door area that also has insulating (temperature) and can also aid in preventing sound from traveling out of a room.

        • Sorry Rescue7, whenever I hear/read about someone having power when the grid-electricity fails for some reason my mind always goes to gas/diesel/propane generators… Don't really understand why…
          So I have to ask, because I am interested in setting up a solar system as a back-up at my place… What kind of system do you have? What can you run, and for how long? If you don't mind me asking, how much did you pay for your system? (please don't answer the last question if you don't feel comfortable doing so) Thanks, any information you would be willing to share would be appreciated!
          Your lucky, I used to have folks living nearby that I trusted like that… However they all moved and the folks who bought their houses won't even say (or even just wave) hello when you walk/drive past them! Unfortunately several of them have EXTREMELY different perspectives/ideology from my family, my friends and myself. They especially don't care for the fact that I own firearms, but the "vegans" next door absolutely despise the fact that I hunt. They have called the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (game wardens) on me several times claiming that I have violated game-laws, and of course because I am in school to become a Game Warden when they come out everything is in order! They actually invited several of their fellow vegan-PETA-"crunchy" friends over one time to stand in their back yard and hurl insults at me while I skinned the 2 deer my buddy and I had hanging. Again, your lucky… I wouldn't trust those fools with a dead hamster… let alone being in my house whether I am home or not! Not to say there aren't a few folks nearby that I wouldn't trust like that, but certainly not the neighbors who live in closest proximity!

          As far as fuel storage… I have 2 55-gallon drums (used to be 3, my brother took one), which I keep full of fuel, I rotate the fuel about every 3-5months, and I use a fuel stabilizer in it (which I get from a friend of mine in 1gallon containers… 1gal-stabilizer/55gal-fuel) the stabilizer is supposed to keep fuel in good-shape for use in vehicles for up to 2 years, but I try to rotate often to avoid problems. I am planning on purchasing another 2-3 of the 55-gallon drums to double (or more) my fuel storage, but it's gonna be a while before I can afford to do it..

          • I've seen the stuff from Solutions from science ( ) and it is a solid basic system. You are looking at about 1800 watts (1.8 KW for around $1700) it is not a bad setup. I think they also have a 4KW or so but it is nearly $7,000. You can build your own cheaper but this system is a little more portable. They were at the Survival Conference in Dallas and it looked pretty good. I'm sure there are others.
            If you want to be able to run everything like you do now, only off grid, it will be a LOT more expensive.
            During Ike a neighbor of my mother-in-law had one of the automatic on generators that ran from natural gas. The neighbor had bugged out and everyone else saw her light controller switching things on and off and heard the hum (it was quiet but the entire neighborhood was REALLY quiet) of the unit. There was some angst about their cell phones going out with no way to charge them, no coffee in the morning, etc. I suggested that if they took a power cord over and used just the outlet by the front door, then there was probably no problem using the power that was just going to waste. Next time I was over there were a dozen cell phone, a bunch of rechargeable flashlights, and a couple of coffee makers plugged into the front porch. While that was cool for the Ike SHTF; not exactly good op sec for a TEOTWAWKI event.

          • I currently have 50 watts of solar panels, 5 truck/rv batteries, & 3 power inverters of different size. You can use the car batteries in you vehicle(s) to start. You can find 45 watt solar panels for $170 at… and the 750/1500 watt power inverters are $30 at . If you get AAA’s magazine they have 20% discount coupon every month as well. This month I got a heavy duty, 11X18, silver colored tarp for $13.
            I can power a compact florescent bulb in a regular lamp and a boom box with 1 battery and a small 200/400 watt power inverter. This system will work for the life of the battery. We don’t run the light or boom box 24/7 and the battery gets charged all day. For the fridge and freezer I use 2 batteries each and a 750/1500 watt inverter for each. I’m not sure how long this will run. It has never stopped working. I use 1 battery until the low power signal comes on then switch it over to a charged one. That way we always have 2 charged batteries or two being charged. Again the compressors don’t run 24/7 they only turn on when needed to maintain temp.

          • check around with folks who receive tomatoes, etc in 55 gallon drums…clean and with lids, they sell for $10 in TX

        • sounds like a good system. You might consider one of the small, portable generators like the Honda "luggables" –… – at nearly 50 lbs not exactly portable but it is 2 KW of power anywhere. The solar is great but as my favorite survivalist screen hero (Burt Gummer, Tremors movies and series) once said, "Backup, backup generator".
          While I like solar, the ability to run electrical stuff away from the house could be very important.

          • Just as an aside, if EMP is one of your scenarios, the solar array is more vulnerable than the generator. While it is hard to find good data ( I suspect the hard answers are classified and I no longer have a clearance ) The physicist in me says that the various junction points in these solid state devices are toast along with the controllers and anything else in the system that has circuits in it. The generators usually run off of magnetos so they stand a reasonable chance of surviving the EMP event. To the best of my knowledge there is no way to protect a functioning power system. A full backup solar power system that is kept in a Faraday cage would be your alternative.

          • Personally I was looking at the Champion Power Equipment 46534 4,000 Watt 4-Cycle Gas Powered RV Ready Portable Generator With Wheel Kit (CARB Compliant) $399.99 with free shipping and no tax at Amazon. Perhaps I’ll get one for Fathers Day.
            My system isn’t exactly light weight either but it makes up for it’s weight by not needing gas. The panels weigh around 30 lbs. the batteries weigh around 40 each but the inverters are light… like a pound each.
            By the way, what is the most commonly accepted idea as to how the bad guys would be able to generate enough power to create that big of an EMP? I’m betting our event is going to be a big earthquake. If I’m wrong we’ll just have to go more cave man and use lanterns and candles. I’ve only seen a Faraday cage in the movie with Nicholas Cage. I’ll bet you $1,000 my wife wouldn’t allow it on the roof anyway.

          • The reason for the luggable generator is to provide power in areas where your primary power system isn't available – out in a field for example. Your house would be tough to make into a Faraday cage – no wires in or out and complete coverage, roof to basement. Not a likely modification to a normal house. Selected items can be protected by a small size cage; a radio, any electrical medical devices, etc. The army kept a complete set of backup radios in a lead safe for instance.
            The techniques to generate big EMP always involve air burst nuclear weapons. I can think of several ways to accomplish that if you have the technology but employment techniques are not something I'd feel comfortable discussing in an open forum.
            Depending on location an earthquake can be the most likely scenario. I tend to think that some type of epidemic coming across the boarders is most likely were I am. If you're along the Pacific Rim of Fire a big quake is a given, only a matter of when. The other likely scenario, in my not so humble opinion, that is highly likely is that a large number of people will panic as 21 Dec 2012 approaches. Not that I expect any real event but sheeple will panic as sheeple are likely to do. When they panic, commerce will stop and things will start to break down. All of our big cities are 3 days away from starvation without resupply so civil unrest will shut everything down for some time even without a triggering event. That is always assuming there is no Black Swan.

  4. Good article, raises a lot of important points to remember. Although probably not of much use for smaller kids, I think a radio could be used quite a bit, depending on power options. I have a small S/W-AM-FM radio that uses two AA batteries, and a small solar battery charger. With a little sun, that could provide news/music for a few hours a day. I like to read and have plenty of books that've been neglected, so I'd be ok.

    • A really good short wave receiver could be extremely valuable. There are web sites ( for example ) that help you find English language broadcast from foreign broadcast stations. The ability to listen to what's going on from other than the "official" party line (PRAVDA anyone?) sources could/would be very valuable. A few days "heads up" on problems could make a big difference in your comfort/survival level.

  5. I agree that you need to have everyone in your group "on the same page" when it comes to the "law of the land", so to speak. I also think that it's a great idea to handle this ahead of time if at all possible, but I also think that there needs to be an agreement ahead of time in case someone does something to endanger the group or decides they don't want to play-along with said rules anymore.

    This can be a pretty "touchy" subject, the folks who will compose your group will likely be family/friends… So what do you do if they decide to "mutiny"? Are you gonna send them packing? How are the rules to be enforced? What are the "punishments" for breaking them? Are you/the group willing to "stick to their guns" about following through with the agreed punishments? Who will administer said punishments? What if that means sending someone out to fend for themselves? Will you be able to live with yourself knowing that because of their transgressions, you were forced to send them out on their own? If you do have to send someone away from the "homestead", what will you do if they come back with a pack of less-than-savory characters?

    I know that I may be going a little overboard with thinking this out; but I am the kind of guy that likes to think of all the possible outcomes, no matter how crazy or upsetting, and then decide how to proceed. I like to look at the situation from all possible angles, find the easiest way to get to the most desirable outcome, and then work on obtaining the desired goal. I am having a hard time picturing how I would handle such a situation, and I imagine that going into it at the time would only be more difficult to deal with, without having tried to imagine it before hand. What are your thoughts on this CaptBart?

    • Those are the tough questions. Think about the aftermath article – YOU don't expel anyone; they expel themselves. There is in Canon Law the idea of laetae sententiae violations. The literal translation is "given sentence". As used, it means by the very commission of the act, the sentence follows, automatically with no formal action required. I bring this up because willful endangerment of the group must result in laetae sententiae expulsion. You aren't doing it, they did it to themselves. Early into TSHTF they may be readmitted if the group decides but it must be made clear they are expelled first and must be readmitted. Late into TEOTWAWKI, it may be that they are not let back in. These kinds of crimes against the group should be clearly discussed.
      Once they are expelled, they are no longer part of the homestead. If they come back with their new 'friends', they are treated as any other threat. Only the group can decide how much risk they are willing to endure.
      There may be a time when you must leave the group, even if it is in your own house, because the group decisions are no longer choices you can live with. My house, my rules absolutely apply before TEOTWAWKI. Afterward, it is an elected dictatorship. The tough ones will be if your family is on one side of the issue and you're on the other. Part of the articles should address what (if anything) someone leaving the group is allowed to take with them. A 72 hour kit seems reasonable but care must be taken with firearms so that they don't use them to 'change' the groups decision.

      • (continued)
        I suspect most groups will not 'stick to their guns' early on. As the situation worsens, they will either become harden or dissolve or die. Sleeping on guard duty on day one is just as serious as sleeping on guard duty on day 73 but I suspect on day 1 everyone will be more forgiving than after the aftermath has hit home.
        Actual criminal behavior is tougher. WROL you must do it yourself. Since you have no jail, expulsion or some form of work discipline is about the only things available. Execution for a capital crime would be tough at any time, always illegal and beyond what most people are capable of doing. If there is no law enforcement those are your choices. If the Rule of Law still exists, turning over a member of your group to the police would still be tough. One of the reasons the Military has a range of courts is to give the commander options from Article 15 (non-judicial punishment) up to a General Court Martial. Article 15 is a slap on the wrist to snap a good soldier out of bad behavior before it gets serious. The others can get you jail time and dishonorable discharges.
        Did I answer your question? If not, I'll try again.

        • You certainly did answer my questions, thank you. The point in asking them was to give other folks who might not know quite how to articulate some concerns with the topic at hand further insight. I myself am of a similar mindset as you, and most everyone else here seem to be. My family/friends plan is laid-out similar to a decentralized police departments structure. We will have certain folks who's expertise covers particular skills that are in charge of those aspects of our group (i.e. I [Chef] will be in charge of food production, procurement- hunting/fishing/gathering, storage and preparation AND because I am a Certified HVAC Mechanic, I am in charge of electrical systems including generators and plumbing; My brother [Caterpillar Mechanic] will be in charge of vehicle/equipment production, procurement, maintenance; My best friend [former Marine MP/Grunt] will be in charge of security; Another friend ["water-boy" in the Marines] will be in charge of water and waste treatment/management), for big decisions, the leaders of the different skill-sets will come together and vote on where to go from there; Of course big decisions like removing someone from the group will be presented to everyone for a vote. Also, as many of us know the best made plans are often subject to Mr. Murphy and his PITA law! So we have already begun drawing up plans for different organizational structures to handle whatever situations we can think of; For example, if there comes a time where the group is faced with a large group of "mutant zombie bikers" (or just a bunch of pissed-off/hungry/desperate folks), who are looking to take what we have, destroy what we have/plan to build then our or just feel like some general mayhem/destruction; the"Security Captain" will take charge and distribute our assets in an appropriate manner to deal with the threat. If we have a situation where food that is curing in the sun is at risk from an approaching storm, then I am in charge and will distribute tasks among our group. If we have structures in need of reinforcement/repair/construction, then our "Fabrication Captain" will "take the reins"… and so on.

          One of the biggest plans we have, that I don't often see mentioned is cross-training people. This is especially important when we are discussing the possibility of having to expel members of the group. What will you do if you are faced with a situation where your medic/doctor or even worse, the person in charge of security is "on the chopping block"? Will you sacrifice the safety/welfare of the entire group for one persons transgressions (if they have done something to endanger the group you are in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation… If they are expelled you have no doc, what happens if someone gets sick/injured?… if they stay, they may endanger everyone again! IF it's the "head of security", then they know the strengths/weaknesses of the group, structures and entire area. So again DIYD-DIYD! If they leave pissed off, they might come back and know just how to expose the soft-spots in your defenses, they might also own some of the firearms the group relies on, will they take them with them? Again if they stay they may endanger everyone again). Cross-training helps to alleviate at least some of the stress involved in having to make such a decision. Granted, the persons "apprentice" may not have the level of skill that their trainer possesses, but at least you won't be stuck completely without someone of that particular skill-set! For example, everyone in my group has first-aid/CPR training, I know because I taught the Red-Cross course that they took… All of our group has AT LEAST basic knowledge of firearm use and maintenance (for the firearms we have)… The "Security Captain" re-loads his own ammo and is in the process of teaching myself and 2 others how to re-load all the different calibers and types (we have various shotgun shells- shot, buck, slugs, sabot-slugs, bean-bag, "rubber-buck", flares, flechettes etc. Rifle- steel penetrating, "soft-point", JSP, FMJ and even some tracer-rounds. Pistol- hydrashocks, hollow-points- Both of these are "hot loads", and standard loads of SJHP, FMJ, etc.) of ammo we will need. Our goal is to have everyone able to perform at least 2-3 skill-sets, which will come in VERY handy if/when TSHTF!

          • Excellent plan, sir. The strength of the special ops guys is that everybody is cross trained into one or more other disciplines. The idea of redundancy is excellent. In the computer world there is a way of putting multiple disk drives together (RAID 5 ) that allows one disk to be removed from the stack without out loss of information. The computer never knows there was a failure. No disk mirrors another exactly (disk 2 data resides on disk 1 and disk 3 for example) but the contents of every disk resides on several of its RAID companions. If you have enough people to have full duplication of effort, that is great but most likely, you'll have to have multiple people cross trained in multiple disciplines. You have a great plan laid out and your concerns are well placed.

  6. Good works Capt. The role of the Benevolent Dictator cannot be over emphasized. We all would like to think responsible adults would act accordingly but alas they do not. Even when articles are signed as in my base camp operation, someone will always break the membrane. At that point ALL the remaining BOD needs to back up the rules. This is where my group falls down. In this world there are two kinds of takers. One takes everything they can for themselves from the collective, from you, from anybody and they give nothing back. The 2nd taker does exactly the same thing, except they give a little back to you. Purge all takers……

  7. Fortunately, I'm the authority in my group regarding security and security personnel, however my "orders" come from our "council." My group is odd that I have 6 military age males (myself included), average age 17.5 years, high fitness level across the board (one weak link who is steadily improving), to three adults average age 48, with a low fitness level; 10 miles a day across gentle terrain with young persons carrying all equipment is wishful thinking. You may have guessed that the "council" is comprised of the elders. My plan regardless of whether my personnel are visibly or discretely defending is 8 hour 2 man observer/marksman shifts on the rooftop with a mosin nagant, binoculars, whistle, and walkie talkie. The other shifts are a Quick Reaction Force to pre established positions, with "civilians" ensuring rear security. (maximum line of sight is 100 meters in either direction on two rather disadvantageous avenues of approach with "loot this block, get shot" signs; high skill not required. Just life or death judgement from a 17 year old.) 9 people to a 4 bedroom house isn't too bad, but it is agreed that the "Fort" will be run in a military manner, i.e. wake ups, chow hall, canteen time, etc. I'm always surprised by the lack of ruggedness these guys have. They will however be assigned a "rack" , have designated duties aside from guard duty, take military "classes", be subject to barracks inspection and uniform standards etc. The hard part is getting this discipline in place *PRIOR* to the need for it. They reason they they will "rise to the occasion". I reason that if they cant get out of bed to get to Drill? They wont stay up their whole shift. And that if they cant remember their General Orders? They probably won't remember the current Rules of Engagement or even Exterior Guard Duty Standard Orders. We'll have our work cut out for us; some how I predict that boredom will be the last of our problems.

    • John,
      A good start. I would suggest a couple of things to you. First you might reconsider the 8 hour shifts. If you had the man power, 4 on and 8 off would be ideal. Without it, a 6 hour shift is probably better. Seven hours into an 8 hour shift and one hour before dawn staying awake is really tough. There's a reason it's called the dog watch. The other thing to remember is you are dealing with civilians bound together by common interest. THEY DID NOT JOIN THE ARMY. While what you are doing is for their survival and is important, if they get discouraged and quit or simply refuse to obey, what are you going to do? I learned really early in my Army career that you NEVER give an order you know will be disobeyed. If the troops learn they can refuse, you've lost them when it counts.
      Your system sounds a lot like the one that developed in the American Indian tribes. A council of 'elders' ran things but there were war chiefs and medicine men to handle the special things. Also remember, if any of your guards actually has to shoot someone, or see their team mate killed, the shock will be huge. They will be ineffective for a while (most likely) so have a plan to cover for them.

      • Sir, unfortunately I'm painfully aware of the caliber of individual I'm working with. I really wish I was more dynamic to a non-military leadership situation, but I'm just not; I also wish that I was a better qualified "war chief" but the responsibility is there whether I like or not. I've spoken with my two "lieutenants" about convincing their brothers to submit to serious training. I've informed them that I have no interest in training them in any more combat tasks without a "basic training" mental phase. The reality is they if they cannot withstand a solid week of military style training they wont have the humility to work through interpersonal pride issues or function in the extreme duress of a life or death situation, most notably a kill or be killed engagement. I know that survival isn't war, something I have no knowledge of anyway, but I define two armed groups trying to kill each other as combat, not self/home defense, therefore I will need to train accordingly. I've seen first hand how a half ass military discipline scenario in the form of officers and NCO's trying to be nice disintegrates without reaction time; in my experience, discipline is like a dam, one little crack erodes into a collapse. In the words of COL David Hackworth USA (Ret.) "I don't want my men to think of me as a nice guy, I want them to think of me as a good man." I've also seen people trained in the actual tasks of Soldier Combat Skills fail to perform when their feelings were hurt by a few unkind words. Thankfully, It looks like I will have the opportunity to condition them before any more hands on skill training. It's a pretty bleak reality check all things considered.

        • John you sound like a very well read young man who want's to do the right thing for your group, I don't know what type of training you have had through your 17 ish years. But no matter what you have done always try and get more, if you think you can deal with the current commander & chief….. try and do a 2 year stint in the army go infantry you will learn more in that 2 years about real life tatical skills than 10 years of reading and learning from 1 or 2 prior military friends. As for boredom not being a problem you are very wrong even if no one is trying to kill you or steal your hard earned stuff you will have the "daily grind" that gets old real quick and if you are repelling theives and thugs after the adrenalin rush is over and the bleeding is done its even more inportant that you have something to relax you and call fun.

          • Good advice, sir. It is amazing to me how the human mind adapts to strange circumstances. I knew a guy who fell asleep during a mortar attack. It happened so often to him that it was no longer 'note worthy'. Boredom is relative and rest is critical.

            Military training is best done by the pros – your recommendations are a good ones.

          • Sir, I don't mean to claim to have training of the same caliber as a Soldier, but I have had hands on familiarization with Light "Infantry" operations. I have lead, and been part of a "Fire" Team executing night security patrols and executed battle drills against Active military Opposing Force and had Military advisers in the formation. I have been chewed out by a Drill Sergeant for weeks straight living in a barracks and had my room's fan thrown out the window because of dust on the window sill. My Cadet Ranger Instructor was former Special Forces and taught us various weapon systems, Troop Leading Procedures, and Leadership philosophies. He also threw quarter inch sticks of dynamite into our barracks as a wake up and reminder that we had 3 minutes (if I remember correctly) to go from boxers to full battle rattle and perform as a QRF to incoming fire. Even after saying all that, my only point is that although I am not as qualified as I could be, I feel capable of training my peers. It's just my philosophy that without the mental conditioning like I've had, none of them will function through Duress, Fear, Interpersonal Conflict, or Chaos. I've put these guys through "watered down" versions of training before as a test, and the results were outstanding. I have experience training people and wont be going at it blind. I already have (what I call) a 'Basic Defensive Course" Syllabus pulled right out of FMs and my personal experience. I'm not claiming to be a pro, but just wan to illustrate that I'm no JROTC Cadet. I've ran 3 miles in the mornings, Done Ruck Runs to the brink of vomiting, and Rappelled through crippling fear.

          • JohnDoe,
            My point is to remember that not everyone who is willing to be part of a survival group wants to partake in military boot camp. Not belittling your training or experience, sir, just pointing out that folks who can volunteer in can volunteer out and that becomes an op-sec issue. Also, you are much younger, perhaps, than some in the group. That can be an issue for some for both physical and psychological reasons. At 62, no way I can keep up with you physically; mentally perhaps, but each person is different. I've know well trained individuals who cratered when the situation exceeded their training. I've also know poorly trained, out of shape folks who rose to the occasion and were as tough or tougher mentally and emotionally as myself. I've heard of an AF fighter pilot who had an engine failure who committed suicide because he thought he wouldn't be found in an intact aircraft. His body was found in side of 2 hours. I also know of a person outside of Phoenix who went to see the desert, got lost and survived 5 days. It is about mental attitude as well as physical condition.

          • Yes sir, I'm definitely considering my steps carefully because of the OPSEC concern, while trying to maintain a sizable force; it's a dillema: have a sizable group that I trust, with the sacrifice of OPSEC? Or have OPSEC with a minimal force? (In my experience 4 people is the minimum requirement for the almost pack like group mentality to occur, while being small enough for the all important interpersonal bonds) Whatever I do, I assure you that it will be done with responsibility as a cornerstone. I apologize for ranting defensively over training/experience that is by comparison a joke; I go somewhat overboard in my comments on this site, thank you for bearing through the idiocy Sir.

          • Ya sounds like a hitler youth camp pinned up in a house to me , but to each his own , Im a bit too Confederate to put up with that kind of life or people for long . Structure and a plan is good …… Tyranny , dont think so . Would work for awhile but long term ? I smell a rebellion in the air . ” screw you ! get out of my face ” Bullying only goes so far and you have to sleep some time 😉 People do or do not join the military for a reason .

          • Well, even in a chain of command people have rights, and punishments are not as draconian as most people think, and they are pre-agreed upon and follow a rule book called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military leadership is also extremely misunderstood by most people; men don't respect someone they resent. Ultimately I'm not trying to become a military dictator, so the governing responsibility and authority to implement pre meditated violence is not mine (the best example of what I mean is: The decision to go to war is made by a President, how the war is fought is decided by the Generals); I'm just trying to prepare my people for life or death violence the best way I know how.

      • Aye that Cap’n !!!!!!! My family history has at least 23 people that fought the civil war wearing Confederate grey . They also settled the west as pioneers after . Questioning authority is very very ingrained . There is always some jackass that wants a little power over another . The reasons are many but as you pointed out , The best leaders are the ones that inspire those with them to do what needs to happen , not harass and bully . That sows the seeds of discontent, animosity and possible mutiny , especially when those in the situation would rather be elsewhere . On foreign soil your nationality is a big factor in binding you together more than you normally would , on your own soil , thats not the case . Look at it more as a colonial militia instead of a Hitler youth camp . Qualifications of being in a colonial militia were generally simple , Are you willing to die if needed in defense when called ? are you willing to share in the daily labor ? Do you have a gun ? ….Yes ? … your in ! the rest of the bullshit is of little importance and not much more should be asked of any free man . Leadership is not easy but those that inspire can achieve amazing results in adversity even when it goes bad . Washington , Robert E Lee , Col. Moore in vietnam , etc.
        . Troops begged Lee to let them try again at gettysburg because the felt they let him down . Suffered Valley Forge for Washington , etc. …….. your approach seems more like Captain Bligh , and may achieve the same ill results or Benedict Arnold , that ended up being despised and distrusted by Both sides , even though he was a better soldier than Washington , all because of ego . Positive leadership , not tyranny . Your planning is well thought out and well meaning but it may be worth the time to reconsider a new strategy in dealing with people . I hear a lot of the lack of caliber of those you plan to ” lead ” and how they dont meet the expectations . That is negative thinking from the get go ! Not to be condescending but honestly , you just haven’t lived long enough to understand certain things and why they are . When a person is in a situation where what they are doing isn’t a necessity or a reality , they may not give it their all , but when its REAL , they may step up with enthusiasm . The only thing you can depend on , is things not going the way you intended them to go . Your well meaning and obviously very intelligent , but listening and being flexible will get you far in a crisis . If so and so , doesn’t want to stand at attention and participate in an inspection ( which is horse-shit anyway ) .. So what ! , if somebody doesn’t want to go to mess hall to eat…….who cares ! it really isn’t important in the big picture ! just give that person his/her daily ration of food to eat when they want to with the understanding that its all there is till the next day , problem solved without problem so you can move onto what is important . Or if everybody then decides to do it that way … who gives a Crap ! I travel a lot for in my job , when the crew first gets into a new place , we hang out together and do things , after about 2 weeks , that goes away and we do our own thing alone . we see each other enough on the job site . Your talking about being cooped up in a house together .The saying ” it is what it is ” isn’t apathy , its acknowledgment of the situation or person , not necessarily bad . Adjusting to the situation rather than trying to force it which goes bad more often than not . It may surprise you to find out how much democracy was in the army and militia during the revolution , quite a bit by modern standards .

    • I would recommend the Marine Reserves. You go through training but can stay home most of the time. Infantry is okay, Recon is the best.
      It’s probably better to run your group as a civilian organization rather than try to make it military. Agreeing to support the popular choice can help to keep hurt feelings from taking over the group. Keep the group focused on mission instead of feelings.
      Deadly force is something that should only be utilized as a last resort. We are talking about fellow citizens not enemy combatants. You shouldn’t shoot someone over a can of beans. Mr. Jones coming up the street to ask for a gallon of water for him and his wife is not cause to shoot. If they pose a physical threat to someone’s life, which rarely ever happens, then deadly force is called for. You should learn more about the laws in your area regarding the escalation of force all the way up to the use of deadly force. Negotiations and public relations are also highly useful classes to have under your belt. Rule of thumb is you shouldn’t burn your bridges… Mr. Jones down the street could be a Doctor, Dentist or have a huge survival cachet under his house.

      • Rescue7,
        good points, sir. One more thing to consider; if the training becomes too military in nature, you might end up on Homeland security's militia list. Not a nice place to be. Nothing against anything John is doing, just remember that it is survival and not military operations that are the goal. To run a full military security requires a lot of people if you also intend to do other things. No one can be on alert 24X7 and stay sharp. An infantry company can give you some down time – nine guys really aren't enough to secure an area larger than a few acres and even then the exhaustion factor quickly figures large.

        • Noise makers and a dog or two are a lot better than being on post forever. Dogs with ears that don’t flop over have the ability to rotate their ears… Like a horse. They have much better senses than we do too.
          Note to file: Regardless of your security systems you become more vulnerable when the weather turns bad especially at night. When it’s raining sideways someone could literally walk right up to you and your dog without either of you knowing it. Good reason to have a hardened structure. Somewhere to lock the doors and be safe in.
          Sounds Like a good excuse for another article Capt. B. Hardening your structure.

          • Spot on, sir. The Tibetan monks understood this; the Lhasa Apso's job was to wake up the Tibetan Mastiff whose job it was to eat the intruder! Even a sleeping dog is often better than a wide awake human – especially the little 'alarm dogs'. You are also quite correct about the effects on weather to reduce detection range whether the detector is human, animal or mechanical/electronic doesn't much matter. Sufficiently bad weather and the alarm system is approximately useless.

  8. On another site , somebody brought out the tof an INCH bag . Dont worry , I never heard of that either . An INCH bag is a” I’m Never Coming Home” bag . Like a BOB but instead of survival things , its full of sentimental things when you know you will never be going home again and dont want to be lost from memory or posterity . Family heirlooms , photos , whatever . Stupid ? Not really , you have to start over at some point and moral is important . This was in reference to the forest fires in AZ where people lost everything in their homes both monetary and sentimental value . Made me stop and think . Many situation could make you leave your home with a slim chance of ever coming back to it .

      • My rule is one item in my family. For me, it's a single family photograph. I've already told people that I wont carry their ten pounds of family albums.

    • Good point. Trouble with the INCH bag is just as Rescue7 notes, it can get HUGE in a hurry. Still, some things might prove to be invaluable emotionally if not physically. We survive both emotionally and physically or we don't truly survive as ourselves.

      • Ya , your situation will most likely dictate what and how much you choose to take . A simple natural disaster , you would more likely have a lot of things if you had a bit of warning . I say simple as opposed to a complete societal collapse situation .

    • I just came across your comment; my apologies for the long delayed response. There is no simple answer. It depends on the duration of TSHTF, the type of event, who the person is and what the effect of their unwillingness is on the rest of the group. The easy response is, you don't comply, you have chosen to place yourself outside of the group. I don't boot them out, they boot themselves out. Of course, having grandma crying on the front sidewalk is an impossible situation. Ideally, those that won't be contributors are known before TSHTF and are never brought into the group. Second best is it is a short duration and we can put up with it. If they are endangering the group and there is no easy answer/it is TEOTWAWKI then really drastic measures may be called for. If the group refuses to protect itself, it won't make it so at some point the decision must be made that the group is more important than the individual. If the group is incapable of making such a choice, it may be that you have to leave the group for your own survival. Tough choices all. I pray I never have to make them.

      • It still begs consideration for the decision. What if it's a teen child that cannot be put out to fend for themselves. A child with issues that can cause desention against the rank of authority. One who at times can be disrespectful or a slacker that is a part of the family you cannot get rid of. What do you do when the two boys you have spend a lot of thier time fighting with each other. I know in my heart they would rise to the occasion, but it could take some time for them to realize this is for real. I am very vocal with them about WTSHTF scenarios and prepping, but Mom thinks I'm crazy. The younger boy, 13, thinks it's cool and doesn't have a problem with the possibility of it actually happening and I think would be my right hand man so to speak. But he is one that would want to be the hunter, security type and probably resent having to do other "work" and would more than likely fight it at times. I have explained to him the importance of his role in our bid to survive such an event and the fact that we all would absolutely have to work together as a team and do WHATEVER is necessary for us to LIVE! That means work we wouldn't normally do.

        • Prep,
          Tough issues. Of course the fact that it is not TSHTF at this moment mitigates the problem some. In the early years, a "kid" of 13 was often doing a man's job but now we try to keep them kid's until they are 21. Tough knowing how fast and how far to let go. We never know how we'll face a real SHTF event until it happens; you may find the troublesome one the most reliable. In any event, I pray that you never have to find out for real but if it comes to one or the group, the group must be the first priority. Perhaps it will take the realistic possibility of expulsion to focus the attention of your problem child. He doesn't think this is serious, and won't until it gets personal, then and only then will he begin to shape up. I was faced with a similar situation with one of my own children; took her 2 years to come around but she has and is a valuable member of the family now.

  9. The older boy, 15, would do whatever we ask of him. He is very cooperative and helpful, from KP duty to defending what we have and members of our group, he would be a huge asset. Problem is I couldn't trust them not to kill each other as much as they fight and the temper of the younger one when he gets picked on or pushed beyond his limit by his older brother. I certainly wouldn't want the two of them walkin around every minute of each day carrying firearms that they might use on each other in an argument. So what kind of punishment could or should be implemented for such a situation.

  10. A very well thought out and well written post to say the least.
    Some times I think folks expect that in a bad situation that most things will remain the same with a few exceptions, But I do not thinks people have ever grasped the magnitude of what could happen, while it may only be a few days without power or our normal daily expectations it could be an EMP type of event that takes us from the 21st century to the early 1800s in seconds.
    No more calling the police or fire department, no calling anyone peroid.
    It is best to set the guide lines now while people are in a good state than to wait for calamit to ensue and hope people are in a receptive mood.

  11. A very insightful article, I agree with Capt. Bart. The trouble is that since the end of the 19th for America and 1945 for Europe and Japan no one has had to live with the possibility of life as we know it being turned upside down in a major way unless you live in areas prone to disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters that affect a large area. Most modern people have no clue about the possibility that life can become terror and horror in an eyeblink. We live very comfortable lives knowing if we are hungry and need more food we just go down to the grocery store or the nearest restaraunt or fast food place to get it. For water we all just have to turn on the tap. In out society as it currently is only those who are homeless live their lives daily with the specter of want and death hanging over them. Outside the undeveloped world that is much the story of civilization. I once read in one of Louis L'Amour's novels that when it comes down to it we are all just one disaster from living a savage existance.

  12. You just have to develop a flexible enough mentality that can allow you to tough it out and open up when things ease up. You might want to consult an expert on how exactly to pull that off though.

  13. Knowledge Dispels Fear. Experience comes from doing. The ability to Communicate ideas and skills and to speak to a gathering of people is so vital, and along with this is TRUST.
    I honestly do not know where to begin with this topic.
    20 years in the Australian SAS Regt , working in 5 man Patrols , where everyone is cross-trained to such a high degree Med, Sigs, Explosives, Weapons, and that anyone could take over leadership of the Patrol etc that trust was an accepted part of the deal.
    Seen and committed enough carnage .
    Seen whole countries systems break down { Rwanda, Somalia etc} Qual in PysOps and Pysch Profiling of individuals and groups, trained in teaching guerrilla warfare to others, sniping etc etc.
    ALL of this is wasted unless you have done the 7 P's, in Prepping and Group Prepping.
    I would like to revisit this topic CaptBart and give my perspective of what I learned AFTER the Mil and within Civilian society and how I believe you can get a balance with Larger Groups down to 5 or 6 people.
    Danica above said Mental Strength, this is vital, as is having all the good gear, kit and stores.
    KansasScout also alluded to the "real world" we live in today.
    I MUST COME BACK and write a diatribe, sorry if I have rambled, but for writer "deleted5598229" do not be upset by what others say, remember what I said at the top {Leonardo Da Vinci actually said it}
    Knowledge comes from Experience and Experience comes from Doing , you are lucky, your young and enthusiastic with much to learn, soak it up, in 10 years you should know a min of 2 other languages….truly vary your learning
    sorry anyone if I offended, I am a crust old Aussie


Leave a Comment