You can drastically increase your chances of surviving and escaping a disaster by banding together with people and supporting each other with resources and specialties. There’s no reason you can’t organize your own survival network with like-minded people who share a sense of community, clear goals and procedures.

In a disaster, it’s not a lack of people that prevents a group’s survival—it’s a lack of community. You want your network to be a group of people who actually care for the ultimate well being of each other. Starting a survival network should be like starting a family. This deeper concern and bond can help commit people for the group’s survival when the stress of a disaster seeks to pull everyone apart.

Linking Up

Certainly, a good place to start is with your loved ones, like your immediate family. Friends who you can trust are important, as an established sense of camaraderie can be critical in keeping the network together. Even if they are not your happy-hour buddies, co-workers who you already have an effective operational dynamic with can be good allies. And many neighbors, including the ones with tall fences, are worth consideration, as you already have a history of living communally.

Start to link all of the members of your network together by establishing a call tree or a phone chain. Also known as a phone tree, it is a communications chain for notifying a group of people of a problem or message. More of a loop than a tree, each person contacts the next person on the list, and that person contacts the next person until everyone has been reached. If someone can’t be reached, that person is skipped over for the next reachable person. And the last person finishes by calling the first person. Through this phone chain, people can get activated in their specific roles or contributions to the network.

When city telephone networks are tied up, you may have an easier chance of dialing out to an out-of-state location. This designated contact, who ideally has a landline, may be a communications depot for your network where people can check in and relay messages.

Establish Goals

The goal of your network, versus a cabal (which is also an option), is to allow people to survive with a sense of independence. Leadership will always find its own presence. But a network may be families or individuals whose primary subscription to each other is strength by numbers, not a pre-established authoritarian.

Therefore, keep in mind that the goals of the network are to create relationship bonds for survival. A clear mission statement that 1) everyone would rather survive together than alone, and 2) everyone brings something of value to the table, can make many complications surprisingly simple to solve.

Your survival network will be stronger if you find people with the following specialized trainings. Medical training in your network will remain crucial. Even those with American Red Cross first-aid certification can make a difference. Those with engineering experience, both mechanical and electric, are important to restore and sustain certain infrastructure. That friend you have who has a ham radio license will find new vocations in your community. Radio/communications with the outside world will become necessary in any disaster scenario.

The art of hunting is strong throughout many rural communities but remains largely elusive in urban and suburban areas. You may be clever enough to clobber a duck, but dressing it properly for consumption is a whole other matter. And even if you were handed a fully automatic rifle, taking down game is far from easy.

Speaking of guns, the possession of weapons does not make your network safe. If you have the luxury, you should seek those who know how to protect (law enforcement, military) and those who know how to train others in security and use-of-force multipliers.

Train Together

It’s important to conduct occasional training exercises. Things are different when you go from theory to practice. Make these practice runs fun and engaging while understanding their serious nature. Go through different scenarios, mapping out procedures and contingencies. Urban environments may require different strategies than rural ones.

Perhaps most importantly, use these opportunities to strengthen bonds and dedication to one another. Oddly enough, a backyard barbeque may be just as important to the survival of your network as a military-type drill. Your neighbors and family will build a strong foundation through camaraderie to stay together and outlast any disaster event.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Fall 2015 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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