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Law, Order, and Rules for Your Survival Community

by Survival Dispatch Staff

Do Survival Groups Really Need Rules?

The purpose of law is to protect rights and property. Unfortunately in this day and age, sometimes the cart is put before the horse and law is used to legally plunder the very things that it exists to protect. I understand if the word law grates on you.

A survival group is a cooperative effort to maintain civil society in a volatile environment. Civil society cannot exist independent of rule of law. Groups must have rules and structure. As Locke pointed out, “…, where there is no Law, there is no Freedom”.

On the simplest of levels, rules are some of the very first things taught to children in school.

It makes me think of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten list.

  1. Share everything.
  2. Play fair.
  3. Don’t hit people.
  4. Put things back where you found them.
  6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  7. Say SORRY when you HURT somebody.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat.
  9. Flush. …”

The rule to not hit people and don’t take their stuff may sound basic, but I imagine that every one of us knows people who never learned these lessons. That is why survival groups need rules.

Rules remove the ambiguity from running a survival group. Some examples:

  • If you hit somebody, then punishment X is going to be carried out by the person in role Y.
  • If you steal stuff, then punishment A will be administered by person in role C.
  • If you don’t keep your commitments, then this is what is going to happen.


Standing Operating Procedure or Standard Operating Procedure, depending on whether you hail from military or business circles respectively. SOP is a set of detailed instructions governing complex routine actions in step-by-step format.

SOP involves a whole lot more than just communications plans. It has become the de facto format for codifying law, order, and rules for survival groups.

Both businesses and the military use SOP to achieve above average results even with below average employees or soldiers. Imagine what you could do with a highly effective SOP and outstanding group members! A small group can punch far above their weight class.

With great SOP, there isn’t a lot of wondering how things should be handled.The guy or gal responsible for that consults the SOP, which explains both the spirit and letter of the law. Then all they have to do is follow the steps. The SOP is revised as the organizations matures and grows.

Rules, Laws, and Order for Survival Groups

We need rules, but what should they be? I’ll list some examples of rules and areas that should be covered to get you started. However, which rules are right for your group naturally depends on composition, mission, location, education, politics, religion, and so on. I wouldn’t presume to dictate what many of those rules should be.

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, …” James Madison, Federalist 62.

While ignorance may not be an excuse, laws must be both understandable and limited enough to be understood in order to be effective. Don’t get lost in the minutia when creating your SOP. Cover the big stuff that is life and death but don’t sweat the small stuff. I have yet to hear of a survivalist dying because their boots were not spit shined or their BDU’s aren’t bloused just so.

Rules for Survival Groups

Getting In & Out. When, where, how, why, and under what circumstances new members are vetted and accepted. Also how new or existing members are rejected/ejected. What’s involved in both processes must be spelled out. Do minimum group gear requirements need to be met? How about during an emergency?

OPSEC & PERSEC. OPSEC (operations security) involves the security of the entire group. What needs to be encrypted? What method does the group use to ensure OPSEC? Everyone makes mistakes but how will you deal with them? How will you deal with members who willfully betray the group?

Physical Security. Physical security for survival groups is deadly serious business and rules must reflect that. What happens when someone falls asleep on watch? What will happen when someone is late for picket duty? What about violations of light or noise discipline?

What Goes to a Vote and What Does Not. Tactical threats must be handled through the chain of command. There isn’t time for voting and committees in combat but there are other times when there is time to vote. The group needs to draw a clear distinction between the two.

Sanitation & Hygiene. Not only does it affect morale, it affects the health and safety of the entire group. Also consider that if someone gets cholera, giardia, or strep the resources used to treat them will likely be irreplaceable at that point. It’s a waste of resources when it could have been prevented with good hygiene practices.

Austere Medicine. Austere medicine means making very difficult decisions. Do you use supplies that cannot be replaced to treat a patient who will die? An example is the terrible judgement exercised by physicians during Hurricane Katrina. Groups need to consider topics such as euthanasia beforehand. When is it OK and under what circumstances? Or is it?

Crime and Punishment. How will theft be dealt with? How about assault? Domestic violence? Murder? Sex crimes? What if a minor is involved?

Looting vs Scavenging. What is considered looting and what is considered scavenging? Under what circumstances? Do we loot? If we don’t loot what is the difference? What do we do with gear liberated from enemies or stripped from the dead?

Rationing. Eating more than rationed when rationing is in effect is stealing at bare minimum.

Duty Roster Issues. What will happen when group members are late or fail to show up at all for duties that don’t directly compromise group security?

Failures of Leadership. How will the group address them? Where, how, and when will leaders be punished? Under what circumstances?

Drinking & Substance Abuse. What is the group’s tolerance for alcohol, tobacco, and drugs?

Safety. How will the group address safety violations? Is it more serious if they harm someone than if they endanger them? How about accidental discharges? I had to terminate an employee for accidentally discharging his firearm in one of my places of business. It’s not fun to deal with some of these issues but they must be dealt with for the good of the group.

The Law of the Land. Will the group enforce the laws or former laws of the land or require members to abide by them? If so, which ones?

Make your group’s SOP now, before the SHITF. Believe me, you don’t want to be coming up with laws while also trying to survive. Make it unique to your group. It should also be clear to every member. This is something that will really help your group to run smoothly. Everything can be falling apart around you, but your group will be operating and functional.

Expert Takeaways

Make your group’s SOP now, before the SHITF. Believe me, you don’t want to be coming up with laws while also trying to survive. Make it unique to your group. It should also be clear to every member. This is something that will really help your group to run smoothly. Everything can be falling apart around you, but your group will be operating and functional.

  • Civil society is predicated on the rule of law.
  • Effective SOP removes ambiguity from decision making.
  • The apocalypse isn’t the place to be deciding group values, it’s the time to try to hold on to your humanity. If you wait too long to establish group values, your morals will be challenged by the ordeal at hand.
  • “No murder” isn’t a good law. They must specify consequences
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