The idea of building a survival team is nothing new. I’ve seen many an article written about how to put a team together and even written a few myself. Most of those focus on the various skills that you need in a team, without really going a whole lot farther. But when I look at the various survival teams that I know, I realize that there’s a huge gap between what people think their survival team needs to be and what it really needs to be.

To start with, a survival team isn’t just about skills, it’s about people working together towards a common goal… survival. For it to work, the people have to get along and be willing to work together. Each member must contribute enough to make it possible for the whole group to survive. In addition, each expert in the team must understand what it means to be prepared to provide their skills to the whole group.

This is much harder than it might seem, and I doubt many groups have actually thought it through. That’s why I’m writing this guide. If you have a survival team or are part of a survival team, I want to offer you the information necessary for you to be able to take a loosely related group of like-minded survivalists and turn them into a working survival team.

This is essential. You can’t wait until a disaster strikes and then expect to pull your team together and function. If you wait that long, what you’ll be doing is setting yourself up for failure, or if not failure, than a lot of infighting in the team.

On the other hand, a well organized team, who knows how to work together, is going to be able to overcome just about any obstacle that’s thrown into their path. They’ll be strong, because they will be holding each other up. There won’t be squabbles and discord, because they’ll all pull together. Much like a Special Forces A-Team or other elite body of soldiers, each will know the strengths and limitations of the others, so that they can properly support each other.

So, let’s get started.

Location, Location, Location

They say that the three laws of retail are location, location and location. That’s probably changed a bit, with online marketing, but for brick and mortar stores, it’s still important. It’s also important for your survival team. The right location can make a world of difference to you.

Where is your team right now? Do you all live in the same neighborhood? Do you even live close to one another? I’ve never met a survival team that all lives on the same street. This is led me to wonder how they are going to support each other in a survival situation. If the phones are down and there’s no electricity, there won’t be any gasoline either. So how is the team going to be able to support each other, scattered all across town?

One of the big concerns that everyone talks about in a time of crisis is social unrest. That’s what we buy guns and ammo for, to protect ourselves from all those hungry people out there, who didn’t think to stockpile supplies for themselves. So there’s a very good chance that the spaces between our homes will become some sort of no-man’s-land. When that happens, even visiting one another could become dangerous. I don’t want to go visit a team member if I have to fight my way to their home.

Okay, so how do we solve this problem?

Build a Team Survival Retreat

Probably the best solution is to buy a piece of land, outside of town, which is large enough to make a survival compound for your whole team. Assume that you’re going to be adding a few people to that team, and make it big enough for them too. Everyone in the team needs to contribute towards the purchase, so that it’s something that you own together. Then start turning it into your survival retreat.

This means that every family or individual on your team needs to build some sort of shelter on that property; preferably in some sort of organized fashion, which provides you with an inner perimeter that you can use for defense. Think “circling the wagons” from the wagon trains of the Old West. In fact, you can make it even more like that if everyone buys travel trailers and sets those up in your survival retreat, as their survival shelters.

In addition to shelters and individual family storage, you’re going to need some community areas. These should include some sort of community building which is big enough for the whole team to get together. Depending on how you decide to operate, that might be your dining hall as well.

In addition to the community building, you need to consider storage, office space for the leadership, medical facilities and workshops. All of this should be within the perimeter you create by circling your wagons… or trailers.

Obviously this is all going to cost a lot, so think it through. Whoever is your team’s builder or engineer should get together with the team’s leadership and figure out a plan that will work. You don’t want to waste the time and effort doing things haphazardly.

Establish Security

As you work on your survival retreat, you need to develop a security and defensive plan. This is the job of whoever in your team is responsible for your group defense. You need to create an interlocking series of defensive positions, where you can provide mutual support while fighting to defend your team. These should be well built and well armored, to protect your team members from injury, while leaving the attackers out in the open.

If you have a large enough an area to work with, try to set up several layers of defense, so that each fighter has both main and fallback positions to fight from. That way, if you have to, you can trade space for time, wearing the enemy down.

The other thing that goes hand-in-hand with setting up your defensive positions is to make a network of obstacles, starting at your perimeter, which will slow down any attackers. At the same time, you want those obstacles to funnel them into your kill zone, so that you can maximize the effectiveness of your firepower.

Finally, your perimeter needs some sort of alarm system, which will survive the disaster and will alert you to any sort of attack. This could be something as simple as having dogs or other animals on the property, which will raise the alarm if anyone comes close. Guinea hens are great for this, as they are very noisy when anyone comes close.

But We Can’t Afford All That!

I’d say that there’s a pretty good chance that you’re saying, or at least thinking, something like that right about now. I’m not surprised. I can’t afford it either. What I’ve briefly described there is what you ideally need; what you should be aspiring towards. The reality is, you probably can’t do it. So what do you do?

I’m going to assume here that nobody in your team lives out in the country, with enough land to do what I just described. If you do, that’s great. You might be able to create that ultimate survival retreat after all. But then there’s the rest of us.

You’ve got to figure out how you can improvise with what you have. Start by looking at where everyone in your team lives. Are there any team members who live close together? Who has the most land? Who has the biggest house? You’ve got to take an inventory of what you have to work with and figure out how to make it work.

The last thing you want to do is have a team that’s scattered all over. Maybe you have two guys who already live close together. Are there any houses for sale on the same block? Is there anyone on your team who can buy one of those houses and move? Somehow or other, you’ve got to get your team physically co-located, or you’re not going to function as a team.

Another possibility is to pick the best home in your team to use as a base and plan on everyone bugging out to there, if a disaster strikes. Say one of your team members has a huge home. That might become your base. Or it might be that someone has plenty of land, even though they don’t have a really big home. That one could become the base, if everyone bought travel trailers.

Again, you’ve got to find a way to get your team co-located in the event of a disaster, or it’s not a team. So spend some time on this and come up with a plan. You need it.


The next thing you need to look at… or maybe the first thing you need to look at, is the personalities on your team. This is actually rather simple to do, but extremely important. How well does everyone get along? Are there any rivalries that could flare up if you’re forced into close proximity? Is there any risk of conflict?

Let me make it more personal. Can any two random families in your survival team live in the same house, in overcrowded conditions, without being at each other’s throats? That’s critical. In any survival situation that you can imagine, you’re going to be forced into close proximity. So you need to know that you can live, sitting in each other’s laps, without fighting amongst yourself.

Taking it a step further, you’ve got to ask how well everyone accepts the team’s leadership. Does everyone on the team trust them? Are they willing to follow their orders, even if they don’t like those orders? Will they support the leaders no matter what?

This has to be true of each person on the leadership team. A proper leadership team may have several people in it. One is the military leader, responsible for defense. Another is the work leader, who makes sure that everything is done. Then there’s probably going to need to be a top-level leader, who manages the government of your little community.

For some reason, the dual points of everyone accepting the leadership and everyone getting along are always overlooked in those articles on building a survival team. But in many ways, they are more important than the skills that people have. You can always train people on skills or get them to train themselves; but you can’t change someone who has a contentious personality. They have either got to be willing to change themselves or you’ve got to forget them.

Don’t be afraid to exclude people from your survival team based upon personality. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are, if they’re going to be a constant source of friction, they’ll ultimately destroy your team. Any benefit you could expect to gain from their skills won’t mean a thing then.

Gung Ho!

One of the biggest problems with a survival team is that it is ultimately a form of socialism. You know the saying, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” But sadly, it’s going to have to function that way, if you’re going to survive. Each team member is going to have to do everything that they can to provide for the team, regardless of whether they are receiving as much as they are putting in.

Actually, for this to work, you’ve got to have a team made of people who are all willing to give their all to the team. Sadly, that goes totally against human nature. We are selfish creatures, who expect others to do for us, while we aren’t all that concerned about doing for them.

I’ve seen this show up more than once in a survival team. A couple of times, I’ve talked to people who were their team’s communicator. When I run across someone like that, I always ask the question, “What else do you do for your team?” Which usually earns me nothing more than a blank look.

I’ve been at this for a long time, and as far as I’m concerned, being the team communicator isn’t a full-time job. At best, it’s an additional duty. Yet these people apparently thought that their share in a survival situation was going to be to sit by their radio, listening for the news, while others fed and protected them.

The Marine Raiders in World War II adopted the Chinese term “gung ho” to describe their attitude. In today’s vernacular, we understand that to mean someone who is enthusiastic and eager, especially about taking part in a fight. But that wasn’t the original meaning of the term. In Chinese it means “everyone work together.”

Think of a huge tug-o-war. If everyone on the team doesn’t pull together, that team is going to lose. Winning actually isn’t as much about overall strength or even the total weight of the team members; but rather, how well they could pull together. Likewise, for your team to win, you’re going to have to learn to all pull together.

Have You Got Enough?

We all know that stockpiling is a major part of prepping. You’ve got to have enough food, water and other supplies to keep you going, or you’re not going to survive. That goes for your team as well. You need enough team supplies to make it work, or your team isn’t going to survive.

I was invited over to visit a member of one survival team. His skill that he was brining to his team was aquaponics. He had built an aquaponics garden and wanted to show me his setup, which I was interested in seeing, as I’ve never done one myself. There it was, behind his house, with fish swimming in the bottom part and plants growing in the top. It was actually fairly impressive and I told him so. He was pleased with my compliment, until I asked the next question.

That question was, “So, where are the materials to scale this up, so that you can feed your whole team?”

I could actually see him deflate, just like pushing a pin into a balloon. The pride he had displayed a moment before was gone, replaced by an almost embarrassed look. Somehow, he had thought that learning how to do aquaponics farming and demonstrating that with his four foot square “farm” was enough. He hadn’t done a thing to be ready to expand that to the point of feeding his whole family, let alone his whole team.

Sadly, that’s not all that uncommon a situation to find amongst team members. They seem to think that bringing a certain skill to the table is enough. Nobody seems to take it any farther, figuring out how to apply that skill in an actual survival situation and what they’ll need to have in order to scale it up to that point.

Regardless of what sort of skills someone brings to the table, they also need to bring the equipment and supplies necessary to apply those skill. I don’t care if they’re a medical doctor. A doctor without any band-aids or aspirin isn’t going to be able to do much.

The first step here if figuring out how much their skill is going to have to be scaled up to meet the team’s need. For the guy with the aquaponics farm, that would mean figuring out exactly how much food he can produce in each four foot square area and then calculating how much area he needs to have, in order to feel the whole team. From there, he can start working out the materials needed to build that larger aquaponics farm.

Chances are, that guy won’t have enough money to be able to buy enough tanks, pumps and whatever else he’s going to need, to take care of the whole team. In that case, he’s going to need to present his proposal before the team, delineating what is needed, how much it’s going to cost and how he arrived at that. Then the team together will have to figure out how to meet that need.

Basically, that probably means that each family in the team will end up buying certain materials and storing them at their home, for the eventual day when they are needed. But don’t forget, those families are going to be hit by the same thing, for each and every area of responsibility. So it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to finance all those needs.

Squad, Atteeeeeeen-Hut

Last but not least, a true defense can’t just be a bunch of guys with guns. If that’s all you have, than the first time a bigger group of guys with guns shows up, you’re all going to be dead. A true military unit isn’t just about the guys and guns, it’s about unit cohesiveness.

What does that mean? It means that the unit has trained together to the point where they know how to work and fight like a well-oiled machine. That only happens with time, training and practice. If your survival team has never spent time together, training in basic infantry tactics, you’re nothing more than that bunch of guys with guns.

Your defensive coordinator or defensive leader is one of the most important people in your team. After all, don’t we form survival teams first and foremost for mutual protection? So that defensive coordinator needs to come up with a defensive plan for every situation he can conceive of and train the team in how to fight together to overcome it.

This doesn’t mean just time on the range, shooting up ammunition. Yes, range time is important, so that we can all improve our individual skills. But that’s not the kind of training I’m talking about. I’m talking about mutual fires support, fire and maneuver, communicating by hand signals, developing ambushes, setting up defensive perimeters, establishing fire lanes and a host of other basic infantry skills. You’ve got to learn those and practice them together, to the point where you know what each other are going to do and how well you are going to do them, without looking.

Training is a force multiplier. That’s why military history is filled with stories of small units of elite soldiers who were able to take on much larger units of the enemy and come out on top. You might very well be faced with impossible odds at some point in time. But you can’t just give up when that happens. You can’t ask for a recess so that you can get your act together. You’ve got to be ready.

One of the best ways of conducting actual training is using airsoft guns. There are airsoft teams all over the country, who regularly conduct mock fights against each other, using real military tactics, real military gear, and fake guns that look real. At times, these teams come together for larger event involving hundreds of people, conducting a mock battle based on some scenario.

This is some of the most realistic infantry training you can find, outside of the military. Part of that, is because you are actually shooting at each other, even if it is with 6mm plastic BBs. So the unpredictability of real combat is there, as well as the element of people being taken out of play, becoming casualties. You can’t contrive that, so you end up with a much more realistic training exercise than you would have just going “bang, bang” at each other.

Of course, before you even try competing against another team, you’ll need to spend some time working and training together, learning your infantry skills and how to fight together as a team. You’ll need to develop some standard tactics, such as how you spread out, once you enter a building. Those things are critical when clearing a building, and if you don’t figure them out in training time, you end up dead on the field.

The nice thing about this, is that everything you do in airsoft translates directly into real combat. The kind of small-unit fighting that you can expect to see, defending your survival retreat. So by investing the time now in building your fighting ability, you’ll be making yourself ready for the time when you have to do it for real.

In Conclusion

There’s actually a whole lot more that I could say about making your team actually work together and become a true survival team. But I’ve picked what I think are the most important areas. If you can overcome these, you’ll probably be well on your way towards turning your bunch of preppers into a true survival team.

But I’d like to say one final thing, which I hadn’t mentioned yet. That’s the willingness to learn. A large part of prepping and survival is about learning new skills. Anyone who has been around for a while knows that. So don’t just depend on finding people with the skills you need; be willing to learn them yourself. Get others in your team to learn them too.

This is so important, that I’d make it one of the criteria for being part of the team. People who aren’t willing to learn and take on new responsibilities are probably going to end up being more trouble than they’re worth. So if they don’t want to learn, it’s time to say goodbye.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment - As always, please let me know your opinion in the comments section below. It's your opportunity to share some tricks with the community!

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Added to cart!