One of the most important aspects of preparedness is the process of establishing a group of people who you can count on when the chips are down. But what does that mean when the situation comes down to really basic survival, when there will be no power, accessible fuel, food or medicines for the foreseeable future? What if every stranger you encounter represents a potential or real threat to the safety of your family and/or to your community, whether large or small? What if the tasks of achieving and sustaining security become the collective responsibility of individuals rather than local government? If that happens, who can you trust?
I have not chosen the word “trust” lightly. Trust is performance based. For the most part, it is objective and, therefore, measurable. Even where it may become subjective in nature (such as an assessment of someone’s character), it will be based upon standards that you have developed over a lifetime. I may have faith in an individual, but even that term owes its existence to a steady build-up of confidence, like building blocks, which ideally leads to rock-solid trust. Is such a thing possible? I think it is, but it requires you to assess individuals in a way that you may have never thought about – at least in the context of survival. Importantly, it is a process that must begin long before you are confronted with a life threatening crisis.
If you’ve raised any children you already know that every degree of trust that you give to them is based upon the demonstration of prior, as well as continuing, progress in every aspect of their growth, training and development, character and conduct. So it is with individuals that you choose to stake your survival on. Stated differently, if desperate circumstances forced you to throw in with a group that you had no prior knowledge of, you would be casting your fate to a far lower standard called “hope;” which can alternately be defined as desperation.
I want to emphasize that effective assessment of survival group participants is really a long-term process. You have the benefit of knowing your immediate and extended family over a relatively long period, and it affords many opportunities to observe. In urban settings, neighbors may come and go. Some may not be very sociable, or you may only get opportunities to learn more about them at infrequent intervals. That can make it difficult to assess their strengths and weaknesses as potential survival partners. Don’t rush the process, but don’t neglect the need and value of building a survival support network, either. The larger your support group is, the better off it will be for you and them. It should go without saying that you can quietly assess people without disclosing your prepper orientation and objectives. Final Prepper and its contributing writers have touched on this issue numerous times over the past few years.
If you are married, your spouse must take an active role in helping select individuals or other families that will become part of your survival group. Trust your instincts. If, after assessing their prospects, either of you has a gut feeling that says “no” it’s best to pass on that individual, even if they demonstrate some aspects of prepping skill. Your reasoning for accepting someone into your group has to be as rigorous as your rationale for declining someone.
There are four sources of mutual support that you can potentially draw upon during a temporary or sustained crisis:
You may think that your family members, by virtue of a blood relationship, automatically fit into the “trusted” category for survival purposes. That could be a fatal assumption (more on that, later). In similar fashion, just because you enjoy the company of a neighbor for his or her friendliness at a Friday night poker game does not mean that they possess the qualities needed to enhance your survival prospects, or even their own family.
The context that I use for friends is confined to individuals that share long-term common interests and skills as they pertain to survival. For example, a hunting, fishing or backpacking partner. In my experience these tend to be deep relationships that stretch over many years. You may have known that person since childhood or developed a deep friendship and common interests with someone at work.
The concept of “community” might be a bit vague, depending on whether you live in densely populated urban areas or less populated rural settings. That distinction is important however, and your prospects for developing a successful support system may diverge in very dramatic ways between those two settings.
I’ll come back to these mutual support sources later, but first, let’s examine what I believe are the essential building blocks of trust. Your list might be longer or shorter, but here are my top five “starter” categories that should get you thinking.
These five criteria, and others that you may wish to add, provide the basis for establishing a level of trust about individuals that you may wish to include in your survival group; whether they be family, friends, neighbors or the community at large. My list comprises more than these five, and includes a shared religious faith in God. Your list may include other diverse requirements that are perfectly valid for the circumstances that you envision.
I think it is important to say that trust is something that you confer to an individual, rather than to a group. In other words, the trust that you develop with one person should not automatically extend to his or her associates, particularly if you don’t know them. Simply stated, you are ultimately responsible for assessing the trustworthiness of every member of a group that you may choose to form an alliance with.
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