We’ve all seen programs that follow the adventures and misadventures of individuals in survival settings. Sometimes, one or two rugged survivalists will successfully survive an off-grid challenge (sometimes naked) for a period of time. Despite this, having seen the results of extended time alone in hostile backcountry, I come away with the feeling that isolation is a bad thing for human beings.
Let’s imagine that a monumental disaster has occurred, and you have survived. The power grid is down, and is unlikely to be up again for years. You, however, have prudently stored food, medical supplies, farming tools, and hunting equipment. You’re safe alone in your shelter. You are a fine, young, reasonably intelligent person with no medical issues.
It sounds like you’ve figured out the formula for success, but you haven’t. The problem with the description in the last paragraph is one word: “alone.” Lone wolves are considered to be resourceful and tough. And they are, for a while.
Unfortunately, the lone wolf usually ends up a pretty miserable creature. Face it, wolves should be in a pack. The sad creature in the above photograph is a Thylacine, sometimes called a Tasmanian wolf. Despite the name, it’s actually related to the kangaroo.
Why did we choose this animal to illustrate our point? This specimen is certainly much less impressive than a gray wolf. Heck, it’s not even a real wolf. The reason is simple: Because the Tasmanian wolf is extinct. If you try to go it alone in a long-term disaster, you will be too.
The most basic way to help assure your medical well-being is to have help. The support of a survival group, even if it’s just your extended family, is essential if you are to have any hope of keeping it together when things fall apart.
Off the grid, you’ll have many responsibilities. You will have to stand watch over your property and supplies. You will have to lug gallons of water from the nearest water source. You will have to chop wood for fuel. You’ll have to search for food. To get a real idea of the situation, just fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and carry it around the block. Piece of cake? Now chop some wood, but do it after staying up all night outside your house.
Maybe you can accomplish the above for a few days, but on a daily basis for an extended period, don’t be so sure. Just do it for one day and you’ll begin to understand what I mean. For most of us, it would be the very definition of a miserable existence.
It wouldn’t take very long before your health would suffer. Exhausted and sleep-deprived, you’ll be an easy target not only for marauding gangs of desperados, but marauding bacteria as well. Since your immune system weakens when exposed to long-term stress, you’ll be at risk for succumbing to illnesses that a well-rested individual would easily weather. Division of labor and responsibility will make a difficult situation more manageable.
You can imagine how much easier this would be if you have a group of like-mindedurvival individuals helping each other. It’s not just the physical exertion: You can’t possibly have all the skills needed to do well by yourself.
For example, we are medical professionals that graduated from the Master Gardener program for our state. We have a working food and medicinal garden, have ham radio technician’s licenses and have even raised tilapia in ponds as a food fish. We have some skills, but have never done any carpentry or raised livestock. Neither have we ever been in charge of the security of others. There are those, however, who have done these things, but could use some of the skills we possess.
Put enough people together with differing skills, and you have, even in the middle of a devastated city, a village. A village filled with people that will help each other in a crisis. A rugged individualist might be able to eke out a meager existence in the wilderness alone, but a society can only be rebuilt by a community.
There’s no time like the present to communicate, network, and put together a group of like-minded people. How many? The right number of able individuals to assemble for a mutual assistance group will depend on your retreat and your resources. If each of these people have accumulated food, medical supplies, and other essentials, you’ve got a pretty good start.
The ideal group will have people with diverse skills but similar philosophies. This is difficult to accomplish after a disaster has occurred. Before the you-know-what hits the fan, however, you can work to find like-minded folks that wouldn’t have an argument every time something needs to be done. Identifying people who you can work with before a catastrophe hits pays dividends down the road.
Unless you are already in such a community, you may feel that it is impossible to assemble a group of people that could help you in times of trouble. That isn’t the case. Whether online or in person, there are others who think like you do. Start at your local place of worship, civic club, or similar groups and you will, over time, find them.
It’s not enough to just be in a group, however. The people in that group must have regular meetings, decide on priorities, and be ready to set things in motion. Devise a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C and decide what trigger events that would set them in motion. Keep lines of communication open so that all your group members stay informed.
In normal times, it’s easy to become complacent about this stuff, but during many disasters, things go downhill fast. If your group isn’t on the same page, especially about what to do if a trigger event occurred, some of your members may not make it to, say, a backcountry retreat. This results in your community losing some important skill sets. It just takes a road closure or two to block the success of a mutual assistance group.
There’s more that goes into a successful survival group than just being, well, a group. Consider a copy of Charley Hogwood’s excellent “Survival Group Handbook” for good advice on how to navigate the ins and outs of a harmonious survival community.
Joe Alton MD
Learn about more than 200 topics in survival medicine with the Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide For When Help Is NOT On The Way, available at Amazon in black and white or in color at store.doomandbloom.net.