Coordinating a Community Bug-Out Event Part 1 – The Group Dynamic

Coordinating and controlling a group of people in a high-stress bug-out situation will be difficult.
Coordinating and controlling a group of people in a high-stress bug-out situation will be difficult.

This multi-part article series follows on from our series about a group using a bus as a bug-out vehicle.  We have written this article series so it applies both to a group traveling together in a bus, or to a group traveling together, in a convoy, but in separate vehicles, individually.

If you are planning to bug-out as a group with other people, – maybe all in a bus, or maybe all in private cars, then it is good that you will have other people to support your bug-out process, but the new group dynamic exposes you to some new potential problems.

It is close to accurate to say that the complexities and challenges of organizing a group of people increases with the square of the number of people in the group.  In other words, if you double the number of people, you multiply four-fold the challenges; if you triple the people, you make the problems nine times larger!

But your challenge is not just the added complication of ‘herding cats’ – or, in your case, getting a group of probably fairly independent self-willed people to work in unison; your problem is also that the group will ‘think’ and decide issues on a very different basis to what you are used to either in a family or work environment.

Group Dynamics and Decision Making is Very Different to Family Type Scenarios

In your immediate family/personal social group, you have, over the years, established unspoken but understood roles and processes for resolving issues.  Maybe the wife generally handles some parts of the family’s life, and the husband focuses on other aspects, and the children know what they can and can’t do and when they need parental permission.

Furthermore, the family has both a history and a future.  That means that, for example, a married couple creates a series of ongoing compromises and swaps – ‘I’ll agree to this thing you want, because you agreed to the thing I wanted last week, and I know you’ll agree to another thing I want next week’ – that sort of thing.  So each conflict or decision/compromise is not a ‘stand-alone’ issue, it is part of an ongoing process.

It is also fair to say that most decisions or conflicts in a family environment aren’t of huge massive life-changing importance.  Do you paint the bathroom green or pink.  Do you eat chicken or beef tonight?  Do you want channel 45 or 76 on television?  Do you vacation in Mexico or Florida next?  You could probably live with either choice in all these scenarios.

Now compare these dynamics to your group deciding when to bug-out.  This is a huge high-stakes decision, almost literally a life and death decision, and also a one-off decision.  The thought of ‘I’ll compromise about this and let the other guy get his way, because he did a favor for me last week/next week’ doesn’t apply at all, and the perceived downside ‘cost’ of accepting a ‘wrong’ decision is huge.

So when you and some other people all get together to discuss and debate things as an amorphous unstructured group, you invariably get one of two different, but both dysfunctional outcomes.

The first outcome has everyone being painfully polite, and deferring to everyone else, with the group ending up in what seems to be happy and consensus agreement on an issue, with some sort of middle point compromise.  That might seem like a good thing, but studies of group dynamics suggest that this compromise is probably an outcome that no-one actually wants.  This is best encapsulated in the fascinating and amusing story of ‘The Bus to Abilene‘.  If you’re involved in any type of group decision-making, you need to guard against your group taking its own ‘bus to Abilene’.

The second outcome is quite the opposite but still ends dysfunctionally.  With the second outcome, people ‘stand their ground’ and refuse to compromise or consider other perspectives at all; vociferous arguments fly around the room, and people almost come to blows.  Either the group ends up agreeing on nothing at all, or the group splinters with people saying ‘You do whatever you want, but I’d doing this’ for their respective preferences.  Sounds a bit like Congress, doesn’t it.

Neither of these outcomes is acceptable when you’re trying to get agreement on when to bug out.  In the first case, you end up ‘agreeing’ on a strategy that no-one actually supports and which is probably inappropriate.  In the other, the group fragments with people doing their own thing their own way, and the underlying premise – ‘we all bug-out together for mutual safety and support’ is destroyed.

So we know that families can usually (but not always) agree on things, whereas ad hoc groups often (but not always) can not.  There’s one other form of group to consider, and you’re familiar with it already – a workplace type group – a structured group with a clearly understood hierarchy, authority, responsibilities, duties, accountability, obligations and consequences.  It is in its clearest form in a military organization of course, but just about every workplace, unionized or not, ’employee owned’ or not, still has a clear hierarchy and all that goes with it.  While we know plenty of cases of companies (and armies) making colossally bad decisions – there’s no guarantee that a corporate or military hierarchy will get things always fully correct – at least they can and do make decisions, and at least the members of the company or force then comply and implement the decision.

In your case, you want your group to be able to make an appropriate decision, in a timely manner, and to have the group members then accept the decision and comply with it.  An amorphous structure clearly won’t guarantee this, a family structure is not feasible, and so that leaves the concept of a hierarchical structure as one which the group should adopt.

Your group should create a structure that delegates decision-making authority to a designated leader, rather than requiring amorphous consensus style decision-making.  When TSHTF the last thing you want is a lengthy existential debate about should you/shouldn’t you be bugging out yet.

Create a consensus list of parameters for what constitutes a bug-out event, and then designate one, two, or three people to be the committee who decides, on behalf of the group, when to pull the trigger and initiate a bug-out, and, most of all, get all group members to solemnly agree to then abide by that decision, whatever it is, and whenever it is made.

When People Allow Another to Decide For Them, They May Switch Off Their Common Sense

There is another important factor to appreciate – one we have way too much personal experience of, and if you’ve not been in a leadership role in the past, you might not yet have encountered it.  We’re not now talking about decision-making, but rather about how the people in the group behave when implementing the decisions.

The classic example we’ve seen is on group tours.  You get a group of sensible, capable, aware and experienced travelers, all of whom have traveled by themselves in the past, but now they are on a tour bus with a tour leader, they seem to switch their brains off.  They become like helpless little children, needing to be told everything (repeatedly!) and not thinking for themselves or for that matter, thinking about the others in the group.  The tour leader needs to shepherd them from the bus to wherever they are going, keep them together, and make sure they all get back to the bus before it leaves – the individual people seem to lose their ability to plan for themselves, to find their way, and definitely lose all sense of time.

The thing is that their thought process – whether consciously or unconsciously – goes ‘I don’t need to pay attention, I don’t need to be focused, because I now have someone who is responsible for ensuring that nothing bad happens to me’.

When you add the truly mind-numbing shock of TEOTWAWKI, you’ll find that the people in your group will require a high degree of ‘hand-holding’ and you’ll need to reduce your assumptions about the degree of self-responsibility and initiative your people will display.

Even if you were counting on people ‘fending for themselves’ you need to assign duties and responsibilities and coordinate things.  Otherwise, you’ll find clusters of too many people all choosing to attend to some tasks, while other tasks go largely ignored and overlooked.

Things will improve once people create a new comfort zone (ie at the retreat) and a new routine and everything else, but for the bug-out process, you’ll need to provide a carefully structured process for them, where everyone understands exactly what they should and should not be doing and what is expected of them.


Group dynamics and decision-making can be very different to those in corporations and families.  You need to understand these differences and then structure your group so as to minimize the pitfalls and maximize the efficiency of the essential decision-making processes associated with initiating and managing a bug-out procedure.

You do this by structuring the group in advance, anticipating what issues will exist, and creating agreed upon procedures and a hierarchical system of leadership.

Traveling as part of a group can be great, but only if the inherently anarchistic elements of such a group are tamed and controlled.

This is the first 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

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