This is the third 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.
A key part of making a bug-out decision and then implementing it is communicating with group members. You need to be able to have good communication to go through whatever type of consultative process you do so as to decide when to initiate a bug-out, then you absolutely need to ensure that everyone in your group knows about the bug-out, and you will want to keep in touch with them as they move to the rendezvous location.
Layers of Communication Alternatives
No matter what the emergency situation that is causing you to consider bugging out, it is likely that it will be accompanied by increasing difficulties of communication. You should have a group communication plan worked out, whereby you each know how to contact other group members, and you establish a series of alternate methods of communication.
For example, you might agree you’ll try to contact first by cell phone, second by landline, third by Skype, fourth by other messaging programs (Yahoo, ICQ, or whatever else), fifth by text message, sixth by email, and seventh by wireless radio (or whatever other process you agree upon).
There are other ways of getting in touch too – other cell phone type messaging products such as TextPlus and WhatsApp and Google’s messaging program. But these are layered on top of basic cell phone data service – if there is a problem with cell phone data, then they will not work.
It is best that you have a way to send out a group message quickly to everyone, and then if the situation allows, follow up with interactive calls where possible to make sure each person gets the message.
Those people who you can’t interactively contact should be sent messages by all non-interactive methods (ie text message, perhaps through multiple text messaging services, and emails, perhaps to multiple email addresses). You should also send out radio messages – hopefully having them acknowledged too.
The Burden of Responsibility for Sending/Receiving Messages
Clearly, with an interactive message system, you know for sure if the message has been received or not. When you’re communicating via a non-interactive process, you never know if the person got the message or not, and that leaves a very uncomfortable area of ambiguity. Did they get the message or not? And should you keep trying to contact them every which other way?
Now for a very important thing. You and your group need to understand that the responsibility to convey a message successfully lies not with the person sending the message, but with the person receiving it. In particular, if a person forgets their cell phone, or if its battery dies, or if it is on silent mode, or out of coverage, that is their fault, not the fault of the person trying to send them a message.
You as the sender of the message will of course do all you can to get the message to everyone in your group, but once a schedule has been set, there might come a time when you’ve not even be able to reach people before your group is due to depart, or possibly you’ve reached someone late, and they say they can’t make it to the meeting point in time. That is not your fault, that is their fault, and the rest of the group can’t have their plans and safe travel arrangements threatened by the failure of some group members to keep adequately in contact.
Make sure everyone understands these ground rules. If they do, they will become more active and less passive when it comes to being contactable.
Be Careful What You Say
If you are communicating by radio, you should not use real names or addresses, unless you want to have all sorts of uninvited and unwanted guests arriving at your rendezvous point as well.
You need to have agreed upon frequencies for your radio contact, of course, and agreed ‘clear code’ terms to use if communicating by radio on a public channel that other people will be listening to. It is illegal to use code when using radios, and if you do use code, you also attract interest. Better to use plain language that sounds sort of sensible and doesn’t make other people wonder who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing. Just be vague about the details of what you’re arranging. Talking about ‘our club meeting’ instead of a bug-out, and talking about ‘Alan’s place’ as a reference to the first possible rendezvous point, Bill’s place for the second alternate, Charlie’s for the third and so on (the first letter of the name indicating the location number) also sounds normal.
So you could say ‘Peter, do you copy? Did you get our message for our club meeting which will now be held today at 5pm, and Edward’s place? This is Bill, (call sign) calling Peter (call sign) or anyone who can relay to him.’
That sounds reasonably normal, and in the course of the conversation you’ve advised that a bug-out is being called for today at 5pm at the fifth possible location.
Some people would go even further and say you should obscure the time, too – perhaps by specifying a time two hours later than the real-time you’ll meet – for example, if you are meeting at 3pm, you would say 5pm, and everyone would know to take two hours off the stated time.
We’re a bit ambivalent about that. Our concern is that no matter how much you train and practice, there’s a danger that someone will forget about the two-hour time shift and turn up at the wrong time – they will add rather than subtract, or forget to do either. Better just to obscure the location and not worry about specifying the exact correct time.
The message you need to convey to your group members is very short and simple. The group has decided to bug out, and you simply need to confirm the rendezvous point and the rendezvous time. Probably you’ll have pre-agreed upon one or two or three possible rendezvous points, so you won’t even need to spell out the location and directions in any detail, all you need to do is tell them which rendezvous point will be used.
A text message could simply be “GOOD LOC2 3PM” – the ‘GOOD’ being an acronym for the phrase ‘Get Out of Dodge’ (as in ‘we are about to bug out), ‘LOC2’ means ‘meet at the second location’, and do we need to explain what 3PM means?
Keep messages short. You don’t have time to chat – you can do that when you’re safely at your retreat.
A Rendezvous Point
Most people would prefer a rendezvous point to be on the outskirts of the city and on the same side of the city as you’ll be proceeding towards the retreat. It would help if there were somewhere appropriate for group members to park their cars if you were all then going by shared community coach – a park and ride facility would be a good choice. If you are driving in convoy, then that isn’t so much a consideration and you just want a safe place where you can wait until everyone is present.
Depending on the exact situation of your city and where in it your members are located will depend on where you choose as a rendezvous point. You want to minimize the distance that members travel alone to the rendezvous point, but you also want to minimize the time that any of you are in the most perilous inner parts of your city.
Sometimes it might make sense to have two meeting points. This depends on the layout of the city area you live in, where your group members are located around the city, and where you’ll all be traveling to.
If you have two meeting points rather than one, be careful not to make things overly complicated, and be sure that there really is good value in having two meeting points. Usually there isn’t.
If you are grouping together to travel by coach, it becomes more important to protect the safety of the coach, and so to rendezvous a bit further out of the city center.
One thing we suggest you don’t do though is make it a group matter to coordinate things within each family or ‘carload’ of people who are traveling to the rendezvous point. Each group member has their own personal responsibility to arrange their own travel to the group rendezvous point. If some group members want to arrange among themselves some sort of one-on-one coordination of travel plans, that is between them. The responsibility of the group, for the group, only starts when people reach the group rendezvous point.
That’s not to say you would be unhelpful, on the actual day, if a group member said ‘Help, my car is stuck in the parking garage and the door won’t open, is anyone able to collect me?’ You’d of course help them to find any alternate way to get to your rendezvous point, but only if it didn’t delay the departure time or imperil other group members.
To put this another way, the group has one or possibly two official rendezvous points. If people want to create sub-rendezvous points where individuals meet up prior to continuing on to the main group rendezvous point, that is fine, but those arrangements should be direct personal arrangements, not part of the group meeting plan – otherwise, things will become massively too complicated with too many different rendezvous points and dependencies.
The group has its main meeting point or two, beyond that, people do whatever they want, however they want, to get to the group meeting point.
This is the third 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