Americans have always been fond of starting groups to solve problems or face threats. As Alexis de Toqueville noted shortly after the American Revolution:
The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.
— “Democracy in America”
So how natural is it, when preparing for disasters natural or manmade, that Americans would create Prepper mutual assistance groups? One can even find convenient step-by-step directions for doing so.
I would opine, however, that there are better and safer ways to accomplish the same goals.
There are better ways because traditional prepper mutual assistance groups have one major shortcoming: in a true disaster, you must be physically close to one another to lend aid. If electricity is out or travel is restricted, you’ll neither be the giver to nor the recipient of aid from others in your group if they are more than a few miles from your home.
Such groups are great for informal information sharing and perhaps even work projects, but they will not likely serve as a mutual aid society after a significant disaster.
For the “safer” part, let’s just say that Prepper groups attract “doomsday” preppers. While you’re talking about water purification and how to best use plywood to protect your windows from enormous hailstones, there’s going to be that guy always talking about Agenda 21 or the ZOG or how some politician is fixing to throw everyone into FEMA camps.
He may even be right, who knows? But there’s a different problem: “Doomsday” preppers are magnets to the metal shavings of Feds and federal informants. He gets to talking about how some bad cop needs to go, you politely nod, and the next thing you know you’re on trial for conspiracy to overthrow the government*.
If you are in a prepper group, don’t talk about Tannerite, modifying semi-autos, any of that stuff, even in ways that are perfectly legal. You will do your family exactly zero good sitting in jail when disaster strikes. Even under Trump, the FBI is looking for a few good “white supremacists” to put in the newspaper. And you will serve that role just as well as the next guy. It’s not paranoia, it’s just politics.
Instead of trying to create a one-size-fits-all group, a better approach might be to implement a many-size-fits-me strategy. Start local, then look for mutual assistance in several specific ways.
1) Shut up and go to church. Don’t just become another member, become an asset. Befriend the men, teach the kids, mow the lawn, donate your time and money. The best mutual aid society you can have is the one that has accomplished that for 2000 years. The body of Christ should and must take care of its own.
2) Join a gun club. Meet the guys and learn who knows how to do what. Is this guy a retired mechanic? Maybe ask if he wants to work on your tractor for cash instead of calling CASE. Does this guy farm organically? Ask him about the best ways you can improve your garden yield without chemicals. Learn how you can help the guys and how they could help you. Yes, you can talk about guns. Lots of guns. You can even talk about modifying guns. You can even shoot some Tannerite. Just avoid that one guy who’s always trying to turn your conversations toward military and political threats.
3) Join your local volunteer fire department, your local garden club, Ham radio club, any organization that puts you in contact with people who have skills that would be valuable following a disaster. Learn and teach and make friends.
In short, if you want to be prepared for disaster, and you plan to remain in your home unless physically driven out**, become an essential part of the local web that will serve as the basis for recovery.
Individuals do not recover from disaster, communities do. The best mutual assistance is to be part of an established, trusting community that is working to recover together.
* The FBI will even provide you with free fake bombs.
** “Bugging in”, so to speak.