Why Are Prepper Groups Prone to Falling Apart?

It has been almost a year and a half since I started leading The Cincinnati Survival / Preparedness Group.  The group has about 300 members, of which around 200 rotate in and out of class meetings of approximately 50 people.  However, it was never always this active.  Before I stepped in to lead the group, it was dormant for months without any activity from the organizer.  Many had tried to contact him in order to get the group re-started, but his email account was dead.  It seemed to me at the time that the group was headed to the grave as well.

With this grim outlook, I decided to try to find other preparedness communities in the area.  Day after day, scouring the internet, I could not find a single local group that hadn’t already shut down or was inactive.  How could this be so?  I live in a conservative area in The Heartland of Ohio.  I’m surrounded by other conservative areas like KY and the Southern IN countryside.  Additionally, the steady stream of current events had to dictate that more people were becoming aware and prepared.    Surely there had to be some group that I could liaise with!  Unfortunately, my days of searching were fruitless, and I found myself as the “lone wolf” prepper.

It was by luck and a little leadership that I was able to find the previous organizer’s email on Linked In, and was able to get website control and start it back up.

While I consider the past two years a great success, what about the rest of the country?  Are preppers having as difficult of a time as I did trying to find like-minded people?

From what my readers tell me from all across the country, the answer is a dismal “yes”.  But why are preparedness groups so prone to fail when the world around us is falling apart at an expedient rate?  Something systemic has to be occurring if so many people are complaining about it.  While I may not have all the answers, we can at least explore them since I’ve seen what it takes to be in a successful group.

– Complacency: Some folks that come in to the group have just brushed the surface in truth seeking the world around them.  I do not think they have dug deep enough to see the real and immediate dangers that we face.  Therefore, they are the complacent and end up not preparing the way they need to.

– Apathy:  Some of my members are super eager to get started in our group.  They are fully aware of the world around them, but fear that there is too little time.  With this group of people, I think their fear turns into apathy.  “How can we possibly prepare for something so earth shattering?!”  If this is you, read my article Defeat Prepper Apathy.

– Failure to let go / Denial:  While it’s not completely identical to apathy, I see many preppers who still want to grasp on to the blue pill.  “I cannot prep more because of”….my day job, my family commitments, materialism, sports, school, etc.  Although the world’s on fire, life around me still seems pretty normal.

– Laziness: Similar to denial, laziness gets the better of some because the world keeps spinning.  While other members of the group are putting in honest hard working preparations, others do not.  This is usually a contention point, tensions arise, and the group splits.

– Extremism:   There are quite a few militia prepper groups out there.  There are some that are very balanced, and others that have extreme tendencies.  I have heard of some preparedness groups whose plan it is to take supplies by force if SHTF.  When these folks find their ways into groups, the alpha male tendencies arise and groups tend to split.

– Power Struggle / Control:  Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.  Let’s face it, there are substantially more men involved in the preparedness movement than women.  There are obvious alpha male tendencies within groups of men whereas women tend to be more social/collaborative.  That’s somewhat of a generalized statement, but I have seen several times where men butt heads about how a group is being led.  This ultimately leads to a big power struggle and disbandment of the group.

– Trust: Unless you can band together with close friends and family, inviting acquaintances into your group can be very difficult.  This is especially pertinent when you talk about ownership of land and allowing people to know where you live.

– Lack of Leadership: What does it take to lead a preparedness group?  What does it take to simply be a leader?  I find that many preppers are entirely focused on survival skills and hard assets, but neglect leadership, organization, and improving their people skills.  Let’s be clear, preppers tend to be somewhat isolationists.  This may stem from the fact that prepper thoughts are taboo in our world, and opening up to others is not so easy.  However, if you want a successful group, you need to establish a team of leaders that are organized, have the end in mind, and look for “win-win’s” for everyone.  I have quite a few articles on leadership, and you can start here.

 Notice a Trend?

Groups split because of individual human psychology and human-to-human interactions.  With stress levels high in a SHTF scenario, do you think your group can handle it and stick together?  If you and your spouse are already having issues, will they be exacerbated when SHTF?  This is the very reason why I think preppers need to start thinking equally about “HR” skills in their groups.  Every group needs to have a strong leader that is a “people person”, can be calm and resolve tensions, and be the glue that keeps it together.  Every group also needs to have members that value others and look at interdependence within the group rather than Independence (selfishness).  For more reading on how you can obtain these skills, refer to my article Are You an Effective & Organized Prepper?



  • Mike Edwards


    I agree with all of the points you raise. May I add another?

    You point out the Alpha Male identity as an issue, but I
    also believe there is an “independence” streak that motivates some preppers.
    That is to say, while our Cincinnati-based group has many regular attendees at
    its core, and your leadership and interesting subjects for our trainings are
    clearly working to bring about a sense of belonging, we are still faced with
    the very real prospect of “if the SHTF I’ll need to take care of my family

    I know there are some prepper groups that are based more on
    a family concept (e.g. when the SHTF they all converge on the group compound
    where their preps are stored communally). While that does run the risk of
    developing into a cult mentality, when that can be avoided it leads to a strong
    inter-dependent support group.

    But absent that “family” scenario, I think that prepper
    groups can disintegrate because there is no feeling of “e pluribus unum” and
    instead there is “quid lucrum istic mihi est” (meaning, “What’s in it for
    me?”). In this case people will join a group and enjoy the learning and sharing
    activities but still think of themselves as more of an independent contractor –
    ready to join the group for fun but not to invest wholeheartedly.

    Overcoming the feeling of absolute independence will make a
    group stronger and more sustainable. It is precisely as you say, ‘you need to
    establish a team of leaders that are organized, have the end in mind, and look
    for “win-win’s” for everyone”. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Mike Edwards

    • If you’ve taken the 7 habits class, the people you are looking for are those that have reached interdependence. If you’ve really mastered that phase, you can work with anyone, family or not. There’s some bosses like that, and people just naturally gravitate them.

  • mountaingypsy

    Great article. i was just on another prep site, discussing a group or the lone wolf idea. Basically it was about sharing resources, and some leadership. Most planned on being selfish totally, to any in or out of a group! It was all about them and their hoarded stuff. They did not like a group concept, even though military, tribes, settlers. and others do form groups to survive. They rejected the need to not be alone, if they had to share stuff. Crazy! It started from the ‘conflicted tuesday’ scenario of one with a weapon they did not know how to use, and if the group should take it or what. It lead to as THEY worked and paid for stuff, they were not sharing any. I can understand how a large group, like you led could be difficult and have issues. I feel small groups could be effective. And join together if needed, but be independent otherwise. (like little towns do) Also, as you wrote, or I observed, from several sites, the ultra secrecy is making any and all groups impossible, as well as the egos of self appointed leaders! It is going to make people get together somehow, AFTER it hits the fan. The distrust, suspicion, selfishness is rampant! Many seem to judge every citizen based on dislike of welfare, needy, homeless, political party, non prepper types, and not as survivors, in this together. Perhaps, they need a tattoo to label each other other? lol I suspect, many will be scrambling and need to find anyone to help live. Most animals are in groups, but preppers refuse? Interesting….

    • Thanks for the great feedback! Small groups are definitely more effective. The Cincinnati group is not a “band together” type group. It’s more of an open forum for networking and skill set learning. There are however several small bands of groups that have formed for people that “click” with each other.

      • mountaingypsy

        I have not specifically pursued a semi local prep group, if there is one. I am still reading and learning, but have observed as I mentioned the secretive selfish nature of some writers. A learning group just for skills and networking sounds interesting. That group could maintain its OPSEC, or some relationships could develop. I just know the loneness is not good for survival, now or in the past. We are in a rural neighborhood, but who knows if there are other preppers there?!! (can’t knock on doors and ask…lol) Thanks again for a great article.

  • Problem Solver

    One important piece is missing. That is outside of a high level idea of needing to prepare many of the people involved in a prepper group may not have anything in common. One only has to look at so called prepper land development communities. Many fall apart because the people really have nothing in common. An important part of any social media or meetup group is the ability to build community. If you look at the The Cincinnati Survival / Preparedness Group. One can see the events held and get a rough idea of the attendance of those events. One can also see comments before and after the events. If you look closely you will see community slowly being built. You will also see differences in what people are willing to attend. If the focus is on one area these people are likely to attend. If the focus is on another area these people are likely to attend.
    One thing is clear is that by the people in the above group are interacting more and more as they are building trust and community. Now will that relate to helping one another, collaboration, cooperation, feeding of the synergy a group can create? That remains to be seen.

    • Good observations. As I mentioned to mountaingypsy, the group is not a “retreat”. It is an open forum for people to learn survival skills and network with others. For those members who find the right people that have values and ideals similar to one another, they form small groups. It must be mentioned that these are not isolated “cliques” in the group. We all acknowledge that at this point in time that 300 people cannot possibly form a community.

  • obxster

    IMHO if we go back to the beginning of why a person becomes a prepper we can find many different reasons. In my search for information on how to be a prepper the training and emphasis has always been on becoming self sufficient. Being able to provide for themselves and their families. In that quest I’ve started accumulating the goods needed to be self sufficient. In participating in forums and different groups online I’ve run across a lot of individuals who are like minded but also a bunch who are downright crazy. The crazy ones always have answers that include violence. They are the ones who shoot first to protect what is theirs. I’ve also read so much about Opsec to become almost paranoid. So the prepper movement itself seems to guide an individual towards isolation. Only after many years prepping does an open minded individual realize a family can’t survive alone in a totally collapsed society. There are a lot of law abiding people who own guns. How many of them will remain law abiding when their families are starving? Do they have the moral fortitude to remain law abiding. I don’t think so.
    Only a group of like minded individuals with morals who bring the many different skills needed for a community to survive will have a chance to make it.

    • Problem Solver

      I could not agree more. Only only has to look at third world villages to understand that it takes of certain number of people to be a viable community. When the population level of any nation, state, city, village goes below a certain point that organization can no longer function effectively and fails.

  • Sideliner 1950

    I realize yours and his are not quite the same things, and I could be wrong, but maybe you could speak with this person and share your experiences.


  • SlideNoMore69 .

    At one point I lead a group of preppers. They were overall a good group of people. One of the first things I noticed is every person has a different idea of what preparedness is. When I tried to standardize the group I hit instant resistance. They were all prepared for different things and didn’t want to change. As in some of the comments reflect below everyone is very independent in the prepper community. Just being a prepper automatically means the person is thinking outside the box. Third, many preppers I have met are just bat shit crazy. Enough said. Fourth is the marauder prepper. These people are down right dangerous and if they know it or not will end up praying off the less fortunate for their lack of vision on the front end. I will end on that most preppers think they do, but don’t have a clue how to survive. They love the whole idea of preparedness but don’t want to invest the time it takes to actually develop any skill. After a complete failure during a survival camp in bad weather conditions, I liquidated the group and back to square one.
    In a SHTF situation a person or couple can’t survive alone but I don’t know if I could though all of that again either. I figure I will just see how things play out in the future.

  • Michael Storey
  • LanDroid

    Perhaps if you had focused on prepping instead of batshit crazy crap like “Pope Francis is the Anti-Christ” your group would have endured. But no, evidently they could not even handle that as the The Cincinnati Survival / Preparedness meetup group no longer exists.