Why Consider a Survival Team?


There is a bit of a tendency to romanticize the survivalist. Hollywood has given us plenty of images of the lone-wolf survivalist, whether he be a mountain man like Grizzly Adams or a warrior like Rambo, we have seen people surviving insurmountable odds. But we can’t place all the blame on the actors of the silver screen. There is plenty of post-apocalyptic fiction around, showing the lone-wolf survivalist beating all odds to survive when nobody else can.

But is all that realistic? That depends. There have been enough cases of a single person surviving a disaster or being lost in the wilderness, that we know it is possible. But in almost every one of those cases, we’re looking at people who had extremely good survival skills or who found supplies that they could use.

When we look at survival situations, we can see three distinct timeframes:

  • A short-term wilderness survival situation, such as being lost in the woods
  • Surviving a natural disaster and its aftermath, where normal supply and services are gone
  • Living in a long-term survival situation, where you have to become self-sufficient

Each of those is different, with different needs. Anyone lost in the woods is going to have to survive with what they have, while waiting for rescue. Those living through a natural disaster will need to live off their food stockpile, especially during the aftermath, while they are waiting for services to be restored. But a long-term situation, where things don’t return to normal for months or even years puts us in a different situation. For as long as that situation lasts, we would have to grow, hunt, fish and gather food, because no matter how big our food stockpile is, chances are that it isn’t big enough.

On the other side of that coin, the chances of such a situation happening are much less than personal disasters or natural disasters. Of all the TEOTWAWKI events which can happen, and EMP is the most probable, launched by a rogue nation like North Korea or Iran. But it would be a risky move for even those nations to take, as the cost of our retaliation, assuming we could, would probably be enormous.

But it is for just that sort of situation that the idea of survival teams exists. I seriously doubt that the members of a survival team would all abandon their homes to gather together at their designated survival retreat, except perhaps in a case where there is a general evacuation because of a Category 5 hurricane. But even in that case, it would only be for a matter of days, until it was safe to return home again.

So, while there is definitely a place for being a part of a survival team, it is not an absolute necessity. There’s no rush to join the first team you run into; which is probably good, as I’ve seen a lot of survival teams that there’s no way I’d want to be part of.

What Does a Survival Team Need to Succeed?

When preppers talk about survival teams, they usually talk about the skills that are needed, with the idea that you look for people who have those skills. So let’s start with that. Here’s the minimum skills needed by any survival team:

  • Survival
  • Infantry or defense tactics
  • Growing food (plant and animal)
  • Hunting, fishing and gathering
  • Preserving food
  • Medical or at least first-aid
  • Someone who is a good leader
  • General repairs

In addition, it would be good to have the following skills as well, if you can find them:

  • Communications
  • Midwifery
  • Blacksmithing
  • Woodworking
  • Tanning/leatherworking
  • Teacher
  • Sewing/weaving
  • Scavenging/bartering

Obviously this list is not all-inclusive. There are other “forgotten skills” which would be useful as well. Some people look at that list and try to say that they fulfill one item on it, as if that were enough. For some reason, I see that with people who have “communications skills” aka “ham radio operator” more than anything else. But that’s not a full-time job. In fact, none of those are full time jobs, unless it has to do with making sure that your team has enough to eat.

So what you really need, are people who have a combination of those skills. Some skills will have definite overlaps, like people who have survival skills, defensive tactics and can grow food. Most of your team will probably fit that description. But where it really becomes critical is in the harder to find skills, like people who can act as a team medic.

Even so, there are other things which are even more important than having the right skills. I’d call these things which are more closely associated with having the right personality and character. It doesn’t matter how skilled someone is, if they’re a thorn in the side of the entire team, you don’t want them.

If your team is going to survive together, you’d better be able to get along. That also means that you’re able to trust one another. For example, someone who is a known womanizer or sexual predator would be a problem on any team, as you couldn’t leave them alone with any woman in the group.

Everyone needs to have an equal commitment to the group. I’ve seen several groups where there were team members who were the team’s expert in a certain area, but didn’t have enough of that one thing to cover the needs of the whole group. A medic who doesn’t have enough medical supplies stockpiled to take care of the needs of the entire team isn’t really a team medic. The same can be said for a gardening expert who didn’t have enough seed and fertilizer on hand to grow food for the entire team.

To be honest with you, I have yet to see a team, where any of the specialists had enough equipment or supplies stockpiled to meet the needs of the entire team. Nor have I seen a team where everyone in the team had bought and stockpiled things off a list prepared by one of their specialists. I’m not sure where those people think their equipment and supplies are going to come from, when a serious long-term disaster happens, but it’s clear they haven’t fully thought it through.

The other problem I commonly encounter is that of location. I know of only two survival teams that have a piece of land outside of town, where they will gather in the event of a serious disaster. One of those groups is in Canada, and they have gone together to buy a piece of property. Each team member is building their own survival shelter on it, based on their own needs and what they can afford. The other team is in South Texas, and the team leader owns a small ranch outside of town.

Every other team I’ve seen lives scattered around town and hasn’t come up with a solution to the problem of working as a team while living in diverse locations. If they don’t have gasoline to drive back and forth between their homes, it’s not really going to function much like a team, regardless of what they call themselves.

So, the idea of a survival team isn’t a bad one, but it isn’t a necessary one. The big thing is, don’t bother doing it if you can’t do it right. Having a bunch of people who are depending on you, when you’re not sure that you can depend on them, could end up being a major drain on your family and your resources; a drain that you wouldn’t need in a time when you’re trying to survive.