The Beginning of My Journey: Why I decided to Start My Own Meetup Group
I began my journey towards preparedness about 3 years ago. I had wanted to start preparing for an emergency but just didn’t know where to start. It also felt very overwhelming when I thought of all the work I would need to do in order to go from being poorly prepared to becoming truly prepared. However that egging feeling of “what if” kept pestering me. As a San Diego native earthquakes were a natural threat and there was always that fear of the “Big One”. In 2003 and 2007 we had had to evacuate during the wildfires and in 2005 I like millions of others had watched the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and hundreds of thousands who had died or were left homeless and with nothing due to poor planning and lack of outside help. Finally it was during the financial housing crisis and subsequent downturn of economy that I decided enough was enough and I needed to turn my thoughts into actions.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t quite fit the “profile” of most preppers. I was single, did not have a family, and was relatively younger than most preppers I knew at the time. My friends were more into partying and focusing their energy on (in their opinions) more present and near future problems such as finishing college or getting a job. I had tried talking to some of them about disaster and emergency preparedness but some of them treated me like I was being paranoid, others saw the value but were reluctant to do anything about it for themselves. I felt somewhat alone and thought that maybe perhaps I really was being paranoid.
For starters, I knew it would not be easy. I knew that my preparedness skills at the beginning of my venture were in fact quite limited. However I had made a decision not to become a helpless victim and was motivated to empower myself into learning and preparing for a disaster- whatever that disaster might be. The main problem I had was the ability to keep that inertia going all the time. That was when I decided to start my own preparedness group on Meetup.com. At first I was just looking for a few friends to possibly talk to and see how they went about preparing. I got much more than I bargained for. After the first week 12 people joined and now eight months later we are celebrating our anniversary with 175 members as of today.
As a teacher I realized there was a great value in social cooperative learning. Sure you could probably learn all the information you will ever need to be prepared off the internet but there is just something about working together with real live people and learning skills as a group that is invaluable. In addition you learn by doing. Having knowledge and being able to apply it practically are two different things.
With my new found survivalists and prepper friends I have gone through wilderness survival training where I learned to live off the land with just a pocket knife, became educated in wild foods and became a wild foods teacher, became CERT certified, have my Ham radio license and will be taking the Front Sight skills course, as well as a few emergency medical courses.
As a group we have had meet-ups such as: Chicken Butchering Class, Chicken Raising Classes, Primitive Weapon Skills, CERT, Ham Radio License Study Groups, Solar Food cooking and Oven Building, Aquaponic and Hydroponic Demonstrations, Fish Horticulture, Gun Range and Gun Training Meetups, Weapon Cleaning meetups, EMP Lectures with guest speakers, Armageddon Emergency Medicine, Nuclear Disaster Preparedness lectures and guest speakers, Tactical Hike Meetups, Bug Out Bag meetups, Tracker Naturalist meetups, Plant and Seed Exchanges, and the list goes on and on.
Most of these classes are taught by members with special skills or by a specialist at a reduced price (a benefit of having a large group) for our group. My philosophy was that with the resources and skills pooled together by members of the group each member should be able to walk away with a great amount of all around preparedness skills, training, and knowledge. We always convey the pay it forward approach and encourage our members to take these skills home and teach their families, neighbors, and communities.
Growth and Leadership
The benefits and skills that people were learning proved to be invaluable. Out of all the members I felt I had benefited the most. Although I was the Organizer of my own group I actually had the least amount of practical skills going in as far as the areas of preparedness were concerned. However I did have excellent social skills such as teaching, networking and relationship building. I was able to put these skills to work by arranging meetups taught by members with specialized skills and working with members of the community and local businesses to work with our group for free or at low cost.
With the growing group of people I had to have help in organizing events and keeping up with the questions and concerns on the site. I am very fortunate to have 2 other “Organizers” on my leadership team. We also have 3 event organizers who help arrange preparedness meetups. My leadership team is comprised of members of the group that have specialized skills, are trustworthy, knowledgeable and most importantly, dedicated to preparedness. I truly feel that having these people as leaders has shaped the group into what it has become today.
Benefits of Working with and Belonging to a Group
Working together as a group also has many other benefits which include:
Concerns of Belonging to a Group - Operational Security and Screening Process
Naturally as with anything else in life there are always some negative aspects of belonging to a group. Some worry about Operational Security. This has never been much of a concern but the issue does come up. Joining a group does not mean you have to tell anyone where you live. Most meetups are held in public places or businesses. Any information given out about someone’s personal life is made at their own discretion. In short we are all adults and we expect everyone to use their own common sense in making decisions and divulging personal information about themselves.
Rotten Apples Ruining the Whole Bunch
In our group we have a simple screening procedure. This is done by filling out a member profile and introduction. The profile is a simple questionnaire that is required for a member to fill out in order to join. It involves answering a few basic questions about their level of preparedness in different areas such as “beans, band-aids, and bullets”. If a person’s profile seems too negative and “out there” such as proclaiming doomsday and sprouting completely radical behavior they are rejected. As with the latter topic common sense is utilized with this as well; basically what it all boils down to is if someone cannot fill out a simple “pleasant” introduction they will not be allowed into the group.
There have been a few incidences where people had been antagonizing or bullying others on the discussion forum but these people are quickly removed from the group. I have a No Tolerance to ill-treatment of others policy. To put this into perspective out of 175 members I have only had to remove a few.
Getting Involved- How to Find a Group and Get Started
The first step for those who are interested in a local community group would be where to look for one. Naturally I would suggest Meetup.com as my first choice. There are over 92 Disaster Preparedness groups nationwide on Meetup.com and many people have signed up to be notified in case one has been started in their area. Other places to look would be your local Ham Radio club, Wilderness Club, or CERT team. These groups are already into Disaster or Emergency training and may have some excellent resources for you to begin your search.
My advice would be to look into it and see if it’s right for you. The last thing you want to assume is that you are the only one out there. I felt that way in the beginning but soon found out I was wrong.
Helping others toward preparedness leaves one less person dependent on you in times of need. In the end we are all here to help each other. I'll close with a quote: "It seems to me that any full grown, mature adult would have a desire to be responsible, to help where he can in a world that needs so very much, that threatens us so very much." - Norman Lear.