Most people, when they think of a survivalist group, think of the Doomsdayers in their barbed wire survivalist compounds.
That's certainly one type of survivalist group, but it's far from the only kind.
A survivalist group is essentially a group of people who are dedicated to helping one another survive and thrive.
A support group is one type of survivalist group, dedicated to helping its members survive one particular situation and often spilling into other areas of life.
A mom-to-mom group is a survivalist group, helping new mothers survive all the vagaries of being a new mom.
A "Welcome Wagon" is a kind of survivalist group, helping new residents to survive their move to a new neighborhood and providing them with maps, coupons, and introductions to the neighborhood.
The CERT is definitely a survivalist group.
The very best thing that a survival minded person can do, after preparing their home, and developing their own survival skills, is to associate themselves with other skilled survivalists. No one person can know everything or do everything, and almost everyone can contribute something.
Mind you - survivalism isn't just the doomsday variety. As the samples I gave above indicate, survival can be broken down into different categories and it's possible, even desirable in my opinion, to belong to multiple survival groups depending upon your own personal needs. Maybe it's called a support group, or a club, or a clique, or a gang, but if the goal is to help the people in the group to get through one or more situations, then it's a survivalist group. Even dating clubs can be seen as a survivalist group - trying to survive being lonely and single. Food co-ops are also a type of survivalist group - what's more basic than knowing and securing your food base?
I belong to several such groups. Some are mostly on-line, and some are a mix of on and off-line, but the strongest ones are the ones where we put in personal time together, where we meet and get to know one another well. I belong to a food co-op, a service dog group, a hearing impaired group, a steampunk group, a Numenist House, a crafts group, WoodSpirits (kind of like Camp Fire or Scouts for adults, with beads and awards and patches and projects and all), a search and rescue group, and a foodie group.
The best general survival and emergency preparedness group will almost always be composed of family, friends, and neighbors - people you see often and whose strengths and weakness you know well. Don't worry about apocalyptic doomsday type survivalism - that will pretty much take care of itself if you concentrate on your normal, everyday survival needs and bolster that with the information and skills you'll need for dealing with disasters and emergencies in your area: floods, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, neighborhood crime, vandalism, and so on. Band together to deal with those issues with a focus on helping one another thrive, and you'll have a group of people you can trust in case of major emergencies and disasters - even long term ones like the apocryphal apocalypse (I had to type that, isn't it fun to say?).
Survival in groups, even if the group is as small as two or three people, is much better and easier than trying to go it alone.
Survivalist groups don't have to be huge. As few as three people can be an effective survival group. The largest number of people I've encountered who can get together regularly to ensure familiarity and comfort and a good mix of skills and experience is about 15. Any larger than 15 and the group tends to split naturally into smaller groups and to specialize. If you want an all-purpose survival group where everyone knows everyone else and everyone works together, then around 15 is a good size to aim for.
You can specialize your group, or leave it generalized. You don't have to call it a survivalist group. You can call it a support group or a "Got Your Back" club. It should be composed of people who not only share your interests and your goals, but are people on whom you can depend.
Some of the specialties (and this is by no means all of them!):
Safety preparedness (dog attacks, house fires, break-ins, muggings, car break-downs, power outages...)Tips on forming a group:
Self Defense (surviving brief encounters of violence, usually martial arts oriented)
Natural Disasters (brief, intermediate or prolonged or a combination of all lengths)
Economic Collapse (barter, cookery, victory gardening, handyman skills, investment in precious metals, other investment skills)
Medical Crises Oriented (has full field medical kit and the skills to go with, concerned with assisting in accidents and other medical emergencies, has CERT, EMT, Red Cross, CPR certifications and donates blood regularly)
Bio-Chem (swine flu, bird flu, botulism, e-coli outbreaks, SARS, hanta virus, anthrax, sarin, and more - has full bio-hazard suit and decontamination equipment and drills on safety and quarantine procedures)
Rawlesian (prepare for a variety of survival scenarios, has a fortified rural survival compound, well-armed, and with a deep larder - differs from Doomsdayers in that they are also preparing to dispense charity in the event of a disaster or apocalypse)
Doomsdayer (prepares for The End Of The World As We Know It, has fortified rural survivalist compound, stockpiles of arms and ammunition, deep larder, tends to be deeply conservative, and isolationist)
Peak Oil (prepares for a world without oil - often with a rural retreat and practices homesteading skills without the benefit of any oil products)
Wilderness Survival (practices a variety of self-sufficient deep wilderness skills, from hunting and trapping to water distillation/purification, camp cookery, in all terrains and all weathers)
EMPers (Electromagnetic pulse - believes an EMP will destroy computer microchips, disrupt electrical services, leaving the world with computers, cars with computers, computer driven household devices, communications, cell phone service, internet services, and more and prep for that. These EMP can be caused by a large solar flare or nuclear attack, so they prepare for both)
Welcome Wagon (collects neighborhood maps, local business coupons, local phone books, local government information, neighborhood watch information, and community information to share with new arrivals in the neighborhood, organizes block parties and community events)
Support Groups (focused on helping members survive a specific event or situation, such as addictions, phobias, kidnappings, deaths...)
Back-to-the-Land (interested in homesteading, buying a farm, family survival, ecology, environmental issues)
Clubs (varies according to focus - a canning club, gardening clubs, baking club, etc. whereby you learn and share techniques, skills, and results with one another)
Neighborhood Watch (localized to protect neighbors from crime, vandalism, etc, and can also be directed to improve the neighborhood and provide civic pride and community survival skills)
1. Decide the type of survival you are interested in - finances, personal safety, handyman skills, cookery, single parent, single in a big city, etc. and use that as your base.Tips on Joining a Group:
2. Start with the people you know best: family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. Talk to them about your interests and see if they are also interested.
3. If you don't have family, friends, co-workers, or neighbors who share your interests, search farther abroad - fitness centers, churches, martial arts centers, food co-ops, wilderness training classes, the internet for survival forums and groups, and other places of a similar nature may bring you together with people who share the same interests.
4. Remember, you don't need a horde, just 2 or 3 others. Start small and let the group grow naturally.
5. State the goal of the group - form a "mission statement" and keep it simple: "We are dedicated to learning how to can our own food". "We will learn how to protect ourselves from random acts of violence", "We will learn and share handyman skills", "We will prepare for natural disasters". You can always expand it later, and having a statement helps keep you on target.
6. Deal with procrastinators, excuse-makers, and bullies gently but firmly - exclude them if you must.
7. Get together at least once a month to practice and implement your goals.
8. Add more members if desired.
9. If this is a general survival group, try to get a group that has a mix of skills.
10. Create rules - I know, some people hate rules, but honestly, if you have rules written down, you'll have a whole lot less trouble down the road, although you may have to deal with people who do rules lawyering. They are easier to deal with than people who come in and ignore everything the group is for and try to high jack it to their ends. Include rules for joining and leaving the group, electing a leader (even in a group of 3 you'd need a leader - someone who makes the decisions and motivates everyone and keeps things on track), managing group equipment, and dealing with difficult people.
11. Have a leader, and a way to change leaders. Good leaders help the group stay on track.
1. Visit the group and get to know the people in a social setting - a picnic or ice cream social, for example.Some common terms, a very abbreviated list of terms you might encounter if you meet or read the blogs of survivalists I have avoided name-calling acronyms, of which there seem to be a distressingly large number. If you want to know what they are, you can search for them yourself:
2. If you like what you see and the people you meet, attend a meeting.
3. If you still like it, ask about their rules for joining, and ask if you could have a trial membership. Some groups require an investment fee or a buy-in fee. If you don't want to buy-in, find a different group.
4. Spend time getting to know the people in the group, attend all the meetings and events, work on the projects, and see how you fit in. If your skills are vastly different from the bulk of the members, or your skill levels are much higher or lower than theirs, you may not be as comfortable in the group
5. Familiarize yourself with their rules. If they don't have any - leave.
ABAO: All Bets Are OffRemember, a survival group doesn't have to be a fortified compound type of survivalist group. It can be any of a variety of support and learning and helping groups. You decide what you need and then join with others wanting the same goals. It's like the Chess Club or the Glee Club, except you're looking for people who'll have your back as much as you have theirs.
ABCD: Airways, Breathing, Circulation, Disability
ALICE: All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment.
Alpha Strategy: The practice of storing extra consumable items, as a hedge against inflation, and for use in barter and charity. Coined by John Pugsley.
ARES: Amateur Radio Emergency Service
ATV: All terrain Vehicle, also called a 'quad"
Ballistic Wampum: Ammunition stored for barter purposes. Coined by Jeff Cooper.
BDU: Battle Dress Uniform, camoflauge clothing
BFO: Blinding Flash of the Obvious. Coined by J. Rawles
BG: Bad Guy
BIB: Bug In Bag
Black Swan: An extreme, unexpected event. Coined by N. N. Taleb
BOB: Bug-out bag.
BOGO: originally "Buy One, Give One" whereby you bought one and the company would then donate one to a needy family. Marketers stole to and turned it into another way to say half-off sale or 50% off sale (Buy One, Get One)
BOL: Bug-out location.
BOLO: Be On the Look Out
BOV: Bug-out vehicle.
CONUS: Continental United States
Crunch: A general term for a major, long-term disaster.
C-Store: Convenience Store
Deep Larder: Storing enough food for a group for 2+ years
DIY: Do it yourself - often instructions on how to make it or do it yourself
Doomer: A Peak Oil adherent who believes in a Malthusian-scale societal collapse.
Doomstead: a survivalist retreat or fortified camp
DUG: Doom and Gloom, a riff on the German Sturm und Drang, coined by J. Rawles.
EDC: Every Day Carry. What one carries at all times in case the end of the world strikes while one is out and about.
ELE: Extinction Level Event
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival
EOTW: End of the world
Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) - an extreme level of electromagnetic energy sufficient to burn out computer chips that may be caused by solar flares or by atmospheric nuclear explosions. Such an event would disable the Internet, telephones, computers, and devices that rely on computer controls, including automobiles, the electrical grid, and household appliances.
FAK: First Aid Kit
FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency
FFTAGFFR: Food For Thought And Grounds For Further Research
GMHB: Get Me Home Bag.
G.O.O.D.: Get Out of Dodge (City). Fleeing urban areas in the event of a disaster. Coined by James Wesley Rawles.
G.O.O.D. Kit: Get Out of Dodge Kit. Synonymous with Bug-Out Bag (BOB).
GWOT: Global War on Terror
Heller: DC vs Heller court decision, June 2008, that determined the right to bear arms is an individual right of all citizens
HIPS: Hide In Plain Sight. Claimed to be coined by J. Rawles, but usage predates his birth.
Hubbert's Peak: The presumed peak in oilfield production that is supposed to occur approximately in 2015.
IAW: In Accordance With
INCH Bag: "I'm never coming home bag". Designed to support the life of its owner indefinitely, as opposed to other BOBs which are oriented toward gaining short term advantage and sustaining life for a fixed length of time.
In Town Retreat: A survival retreat located inside or adjacent to city limits and depends on some city infrastructure
JASBORR: Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy. Coined by Richard Daughty
JIC: Just In Case
JIT: Just In Time
MGTEOTWAWKI: Multi-Generational The End OF The World AS We Know It
NINJA: No Income No Job or Assets
Off grid: a home not connected to commercial power supplies or city utilities
One Trip BOB: same as INCH
PIK: Payment In Kind
Potable: Drinkable or safe to drink
Prepper: Someone who is preparing for survival situations - usually apocalyptic or doomsday ones. 70's they were called "retreaters" and in the 90's "Y2Kers". Regardless of era, they are also called "survivalists"
Shelf Stable: preserved foods that can be stored for long times at room temperatures
SHTF: Shit Hits the Fan.
SIP: Shelter In Place
TANSTAAFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Coined by R. Heinlein
TARFU: Things Are Really Fucked Up
TEOTWAWKI: The End of the World as We Know It. Coined by Mike Medintz.
TPTB: The Powers That Be
WTSHTF: When the Shit Hits the Fan.
WROL: Without Rule of Law. Used by preppers anticipating a total collapse of government/society and the presumed ensuing lawlessness.
YAMA: You Are Much Appreciated
YOYO: You're On Your Own
I will give you a caveat - those fortified compound groups? Aren't as common as the media would have you believe. There aren't many organized survivalist groups out there, and many of them fall apart within 2 years. I believe it's because they are all focused on TEOTWAWKI scenarios and they can't maintain that level of stress and preparedness. Practical survival groups tend to last longer, and are much, much harder to find because they tend to be composed of family and a few friends and rarely talk about what they do or how they're doing it. Your best bet is to start your own, and then use the resources of the internet to gather information and plan your own drills and outings and social events and such.