This is the fourth part of a series on coordinating a bug-out action among a group of people who hope to all travel together to a retreat location.
If you arrived here direct from another link or search engine, you might wish to start reading at the first article (‘The Group Dynamic‘) and then work your way in sequence through the rest of the series.
As we’ve commented before in this series, the more people in a group, the massively more complex any attempt to manage and coordinate them all becomes. Add to that the extraordinary high stress level everyone will be experiencing, and add still further some unexpected problems that may be interfering with your bug out process as part of whatever event it is that caused you to bug out, and no part of the bugging out will be easy or simple.
You need to get your group members to accept some discipline and constraints during the bug out process. Right from the decision to bug out being made, everyone’s lives are massively changing and the world has instantly become a much tougher and less forgiving place, and there will be less time for discussion, and a more urgent need for (appropriate and coordinated) action. People have to become responsible for themselves, and realize that there won’t be any second chances or other people to blame for their actions in this less forgiving future.
That’s not to say you should start acting like a parade ground sergeant major in a bad mood, and whatever you can do to give kindly reassurance and to radiate calm yourself will go a long way to help your group members, and give them confidence in you, and help them accept your advice and directions.
Earlier articles in this series have covered how to keep in contact with group members, and how to make and convey a decision to bug out. We’ll continue the narrative from the point where you’ve advised everyone that a bug-out has been called.
Communicating with Group Members On Their Way to the Rendezvous
Don’t think that after having told each group member of the bug-out decision, then you have done all you need to do. It would be very valuable to keep in touch with everyone as they make their way to the rendezvous point. After all, the group as a whole is weakened if not everyone can join up with the group, and conversely, it is strengthened if everyone can join in. So for the good of the group, as well as for the good of the individual members, you want to ‘quality control’ every part of the bugging out process.
Traffic and tactical condition reports can be shared among group members as they make their way to the rendezvous point. That might prove to be very helpful and will help group members make realtime decisions about which route to take to the rendezvous, based on reports from other group members about traffic and safety issues. And, worst case scenario, if something goes wrong with someone, they could tell you ‘Sorry, we’ve been blocked in by stalled traffic and don’t think we can make it in time, don’t wait for us’ and that would free the other group members to leave sooner.
It also means that rather than sitting, waiting (and doubtless worrying), with no idea of where people are and when they might arrive, the group at the bus knows, with regular updates, where their other members are and how soon they expect to arrive. That helps everyone to feel slightly less helpless and slightly more ‘in control’ – or, at least, informed.
Bugging-Out Ground Rules
We precede this with a reminder that group members have an obligation to the group to participate in the bug-out event, and to do so in the most practical and positive nature possible. Each group member both gives the other group members added safety and security, and also receives the same back again, but this concept assumes that all group members have optimized their bug-out actions so as to be least likely to have problems and most likely to be able to participate fully.
So this fairly means that all group members can be expected to conform to certain group norms and expectations.
With that in mind, you should have both a list of ‘mandatory’ items that people are required to have with them when the group bugs out, and also a ‘maximum’ restriction on how much people can bring with them.
If people are bugging out by car, the mandatory items would clearly start with ‘sufficient fuel for the journey plus an emergency reserve of extra fuel’, and might extend to essential spares for the vehicle, perhaps some defensive equipment, bad weather clothing, and anything else that would be prudent or necessary for the journey. The maximum restriction in such a case would probably only be something like ‘no more than you can conveniently fit in your car’.
If people will be sharing cars, then the maximum restriction needs to be better understood. There’s a huge difference in space per person when a car has two, three or four people in it – two people gives each person half the trunk and half the back seat – probably more than they’ll need, but four people gives each person one-quarter of the trunk and no space inside the vehicle at all – quite likely less space than they want.
If people will be on a group coach, then you will need to set limits on the size and weight of bags to go in the cargo bays and to be brought onto the coach.
Needless to say, you probably won’t be obsessively checking every person and their vehicle for all mandatory items, but also needless to say, if a person suffers problems on the journey due to not having some item that was required, then that would be their problem, not a group problem.
This might sound harsh, but it has to be understood and accepted that people who fail to comply with the requirements will be expected to suffer the consequences, and the safety of the group absolutely will not be compromised due to a group member’s noncompliance.
While this might seem to be ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ – as we’ve said before, the group is strengthened by having everyone participate successfully, and weakened by anyone who fails to come, it could also be thought that a person who fails to comply with the clear list of procedures and protocols for the bug-out is likely to pose additional nonconforming problems at the retreat. Consider it ‘evolution in action’ if such people are lost on the way to the retreat as a result of their noncompliance with group policies.
In a post-TEOTWAWKI situation, there will be no ‘safety nets’ and ‘second chances’ for people – or for the groups they jointly make up. If people make mistakes, or do the wrong thing, they may suffer grave consequences – as may also the other people in their group who are relying upon them to do their necessary part of the group’s survival plan. If something is broken through misuse, there’ll be no going to the store to get another one. If something is wasted, you can’t replace it tomorrow.
The concept of being responsible for oneself and one’s actions and their consequences – a concept currently out-of-fashion in many parts of our society – will need to be revived and accepted, for the good of the individuals directly, and for the good of the groups they belong to.
For example, a person can no longer say ‘it is your fault for not explaining this clearly enough and warning me about the dangers’. Instead, the situation will be ‘it is your fault for not asking for clarification if there were things you didn’t completely understand’. That is a huge paradigm shift which you’ll have to clearly spell out to everyone joining you.
The only slightly counter-balanced concept to this is that the loss of a person weakens the group as a whole. The group needs to protect itself wherever possible and prudent, but the degree of risk the group will accept in order to save a member will be ‘appropriate’ rather than extravagant.
To rephrase that last statement another way, the current concept of ‘there is nothing more precious than a(ny) human life’ will need to be revisited.
These are concepts very much at odds with today’s mainstream thought. You need to understand the reasons for these changes, and get them accepted by everyone in your group. We’ll talk more about this in other articles, outside of this specific article series.
Coordinating the Vehicle Load Out
If you have multiple vehicles all traveling to the same destination, the chances are you’ll end up with one vehicle that has only one or two people in it, and others with three or four. It makes tactical sense to have the same number of people in each vehicle, or at least to have a minimum number in each vehicle – a minimum of two, three is better, and four better still (see our article on convoys for a discussion of each person’s duties/role).
You might consider having some people leave their car behind and consolidating into fewer vehicles with more people per vehicle. If there is room in the vehicles (after whatever supplies might be loaded in) and if there are already a reasonable number of vehicles in the convoy, this would be good, but if you have very few vehicles, you probably would prefer more vehicles in case any get disabled on the journey.
Needless to say, if consolidating, eg, a vehicle with one person and a vehicle with three people, don’t automatically assume the person by themselves should go join the group of three. Make that decision based on the suitability of the vehicles, and perhaps also based on who you’d feel most comfortable leading the group. Maybe the group of three should go join the individual.
You might also want to equalize stores over vehicles, for even loading and even dispersion of critical supplies, meaning that if something bad happens to one vehicle, you don’t find yourself having lost your entire supply of some vital thing.
One more thing about stores. Ideally, everything you need is already at your retreat. The only things that your group should be bringing with them now are ‘comfort’ items (and some perishable fresh food, perhaps) that aren’t an essential part of ensuring a comfortable life at the retreat. By all means, if there is spare space in a vehicle, and if it doesn’t slow down the bug out process, of course people can bring more stuff with them, but the priority, in coordinating the vehicle load out, is to get at least two, preferably three, and ideally four people per vehicle, and if you do that, there’s unlikely to be much remaining space for stores.
A note of realism too – the chances are that you won’t have much time to finesse these details – as soon as everyone is at the rendezvous point they’ll quite understandably be keen to move out. So the more that is pre-planned prior to the bug-out, the better.
The Need to Practice, Practice, Practice
We again return to the fundamental truth about how group dynamics become massively more complicated, due to the growing nature of the group and its lack of experience interacting closely together with each other. This needs to be anticipated and avoided, as much as possible.
One of the ways of countering and controlling these complications is to have as many things as possible planned and specified in advance, and we’ve been talking about many of these issues in this article.
But, invariably, there will be many things arise on the day that you had not earlier considered or planned for. So, what do you do?
You carry out ‘dress rehearsals’. You do practice drills, at different times of the day and night, and on different days of the week, and in different weather.
You can’t push too aggressive a schedule of drills of course – consider how sullenly many people respond to fire drills to see how some people will quickly be turned off by army drill type repetitive practice.
You can also selectively practice with just one or two group members. Maybe you have an arrangement whereby when you hold a full group practice, the last two car loads of people to arrive will be required to do an extra practice the next week, or something like that, so as to motivate the group members. A fun thing like ‘the first third of the people who arrive will have drinks bought for them by the last third’ would also add an edge to the event, but probably there will be some people who just because of their location relative to the rendezvous will always be first.
The practice times should be in morning and evening rush hours, on weekends, late at night, on hot days and in the snow.
We suggest that the group should agree on a window of time, at some point during which, a practice rendezvous will be called. The broader the window of time, the better, so people aren’t ‘cheating’ and being ready to rush out the door, all ready to go.
There’s another, more subtle reason for practicing (and planning). The bug-out process will be high-stress for everyone. The more that people have practiced, the more comfortable they will be with the ‘real thing’ and the better they will perform. That much is perhaps obvious (but can’t be overstressed). The more subtle thing is that the more practiced you are, as group leader, the better you will be able to lead, and the more calm and confident you can project yourself. This will calm and soothe your group members, and also encourage their compliance with your requests.
Sometimes you might just practice having everyone get to the rendezvous. Other times you might then drive some distance in a convoy too. Perhaps you might even create some ‘thought experiments’ and announce that roads are closed and require people to divert, and randomly declare vehicles to have problems. For sure, you want to have everyone skilled at changing tires, and maybe you could have an occasional fan-belt break scenario too.
When people turn up in their vehicles at the rendezvous point, you should also do safety checks on the vehicles and their spare parts. Are all fluids topped up? Are fan belts and hoses in good order and condition? Sufficient tread and inflation on the tires? And so on.
Remember the saying ‘Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance’. Remember it, and then adopt it!
This is the fourth part of a six part series about bugging out as a group. Please now read on through the other parts of this series.
Part 1 – The Group Dynamic
Part 2 – Initiating a Bug-Out
Part 3 – Communicating the Bug-Out Decision
Part 4 – Managing the Bug-Out
(The final two parts will be released in the following days, please come back to read it, and consider getting our site updates sent to you via RSS or email or Twitter (choose your preferred method from the box near the top right of this page headed ‘Get Free Updates’).
Part 5 – A Policy on Uninvited Guests
Part 6 – Traveling in Convoy