After my last post, one of my readers commented on something, and it’s been rolling around in my head since then… Here’s the comment:
Thank you for all your work. I am always pleased to see one of you emails show up.
I would love to see some discussion on the social skills it will take to keeping a group functional under the condition of a long term crisis. I recently finished an week long hike where a 24 hour virus went through the group three days out. I was shocked how quickly some members became blithering idiots; hyper critical, uncooperative, and rigid in their thinking.
Had this been a long term situation I doubt the survivability of about half of the group. I especially feared for those that decided to skip out at first signs of trouble, unwilling to take the advice of the forest service and stay put. They became sick while alone on the trail. Though we knew it was not a life threatening illness and not food poisoning, it could have been.
Looking back there were so many things we all could have done beforehand and during the crisis to have created and preserved a cohesive working group for the few days we were stuck on the trail. First would have been learning better people management skills, organizing a simple temporary medical care unit for the sick, proper hygiene for camps with both sick and well residents, and just simply how be both a good care giver and a good patient.
There are so many things here, it’s probably fodder for a whole string of posts… Let me start by advising that my small-group management skills were mostly learned by hard-won experience over 20 years in the Navy. There are certain peculiarities in that, some of which don’t necessarily translate well into civilian life, never mind a “random” SHTF scenario.
First, any group needs a set hierarchy. Someone has to be in charge, and someone has to be the second-in-command; below that, things get dicey, depending on the size of the group. In the military, the person in charge (the Commanding Officer, or CO) sets the goals, and the second-in-command (the Executive Officer, or XO) makes sure it gets done. (In real life, there are multiple additional layers–the CO sets strategy, the XO covers tactics, the senior enlisted cover day-to-day operations and the “how,” and the junior enlisted put their backs into the work…)
In any group of, say, five or more, you need a defined chain of command, and you need people dedicated to following it. The “chain” process also provides you with a succession strategy, if someone gets sick (or worse)–everyone else in the chain just moves up one “link”.
Now, I understand that in the real world, you’re going to have people turn into the above-mentioned blithering idiots at the first sign of trouble. Frankly–and here’s where some of my “radical” nature rears its head–the best thing you can do for some of them is cut ’em loose, and don’t think twice about them. Ideally, the group will have discussed this beforehand–coming to an understanding, say, that “anybody who wants out is free to go–but will need to earn their way back in,” or something of the sort.
(Of course, also ideally, the group will have discussed emergency situations and plans beforehand, too–things like, “in the event of one person’s illness, we do X; if everybody gets sick, we do Y.” And backup plans. And communication with others, if any. You get the picture…)
Hm… That seems like a whole lot of words covering a really broad swath very thinly; it’s a good start, though. I’ll certainly ponder this a bit more, and will try to drill down into various bits over the coming weeks. Any questions/comments are, of course, welcome–the more discussion, the better!