Does Your Group Have A C.O.O.P.? [No, we aren’t talking chickens] – Charley Hogwood

Does Your Group Have A C.O.O.P.? [No, we aren’t talking chickens]

What if a member who holds an important position becomes incapacitated or missing? What will your group or family do if an event happens that causes a serious disruption in your normal situation?


Since pandemic is all the rage right now we’ll use illness as our trigger event.

Today began as any other day with kids going back to school after a long hot summer break. The parents are off to work. The mother is a nurse in an emergency room the father a police officer. The news over the last few weeks has spent so much time talking about sickness in some distant land that we began to ignore it. Every case that pops up over here has been tested negative so far so it’s probably hype anyway. Even still you have taken all the appropriate cautions. You’ve increased the hand washing, stocked your sick room supplies and even prepared your survival group as much as they would listen. But life gets in the way of the best plans.

This morning one of the kids complained of a headache… isn’t that how the story always begins? It’s probably nothing, a new school year with kids coughing all over each other it’ll pass. Next thing you know you or a family member is down for the count. Then another case of symptoms shows up in the city, and another. Regardless of announced test results and cautions people are getting shaky as more become ill.  A protest forms downtown because people are upset that the drugs are being sent to other countries and supplies are low. The protest brings the sick out with the healthy making things worse. Many don’t even realize they are sick because of the possible three-week incubation time. Looting begins and people are arriving from other towns to join in on the spoils of rioting only to take the illness back to their communities.

Civil unrest spreads, food is running low at the stores because trucking is spotty due to rising fuel prices and people are staying home from work. Law enforcement begins to restrict travel, health department workers in bio suits are televised removing sick people from homes and the 24 hour news cycle creates panic by reassuring everyone to not panic. People are avoiding hospitals and staff is hit hard by infection.

You finally convince everyone that it’s time. You begin the group activation only to find out that several members aren’t feeling well and one of your families was injured in a riot while trying to escape their burning apartment building. On top of all this the travel restrictions are preventing your only survival group medic from getting to your retreat location.

What are you going to do now? With the group in such disarray how will you ever pull it together? If the situation persists the group might collapse.


The Continuity Of Operations Plan (COOP) is a contingency that automatically jumps into action when such an event happens.

The COOP is a term borrowed from emergency management. When 9/11 happened the businesses in the WTC and surrounding areas were immediately and catastrophically affected. Because those businesses were a part of the financial fabric of our society, their loss had ripple effects globally. The companies who had the foresight to create and maintain contingency plans were the ones who were able to get back to work the quickest.

So why should a survival group consider such an approach? There are several areas within a group that if disrupted, might cause confusion, chaos or even unsafe conditions. You have already gone to all the trouble of planning for your food, water shelter and other necessities of survival, shouldn’t you plan to preserve all of these efforts if when something doesn’t go as expected? *For the purposes of our discussion we are going to be a little clinical with respect to loss of life and hard earned preparedness so don’t be offended as we proceed. 

We talked about the COOP, now let’s adapt that framework to the survival group. We probably don’t need to worry about some of the aspects of a business COOP such as customers, IT, compliance and such but we do need to keep ourselves in the business of survival.

A Group Continuity Plan (GCP) is like an overall backup plan that pulls everything together and clearly lays out what to do and how to do it. The best part is that once you give it some thought, there is not much to do except work the plan.

The GCP will benefit your family or survival group in the following ways:

  • Loss of life or injury to personnel-
    • You will identify ahead of time who steps in to fill a role immediately after a loss
  • Damage to critical resources-
    • This includes supplies, equipment, shelter location, transportation, etc.
  • Damage to reputation-
    • In a world where projection of power or even imagined strength is a weapon, any perceived weakness could make you a target. Being able to roll with the punches and not miss a beat shows that you are organized, ready and able to fight back.

You may have some plans already such as activation, contingency, or even emergency response plans. That is great and you should have these plans in place. But there is something to remember about plans and General Dwight Eisenhower may have said it best, “Plans are worthless; however the planning process is priceless.”

One of the weaknesses of specific plans is that they are limited in focus and tend to address only certain aspects of the group only to ignore other important areas. Survival requires a holistic approach. This means that everything is somehow connected and tasks should work in concert with each other.  The Group Continuity Plan is more of an integrated approach that ties everything together.

As you begin to think about how to create a GCP follow these concepts:

  • Consider risks to your group. A hazard analysis will identify what could go wrong and how it would affect you. Think of ways to reduce these risks or recover quickly from them. This is important.
    • What could happen?
    • How likely is it to happen?
    • Identify by priority
  • Consider the impacts to the group
    • Who would be affected?
    • What would be affected?
    • Do we have a backup person, piece or place?
    • Prioritize by importance
  • Group continuity strategy
    • Identify options to work around the impacts
    • Assign alternate roles
    • Identify back up equipment
    • Combine with existing contingency plans to make solutions flow more easily
  • Develop Group Continuity Plan (GCP)
    • Make sure everyone knows and understands their primary and alternate role
    • Make sure everyone knows where things are and where back up locations are
    • Try to pre-position alternates of critical resources in another location if possible
    • If there are any legal concerns you may need to consider such as child custody, financial account access, etc. you may need to draw up delegations of authority or Powers of Attorney.
    • Make sure everyone knows when to perform their alternate roles so there is no down time while waiting for someone to make a decision
    • Communicate everything to everyone as much as possible while keeping OPSEC in mind
  • Test your plans
    • Conduct training and exercises to make sure everyone understands what they are supposed to do
    • Testing the plan helps to identify problems and solutions
    • Surprise testing or drills is very effective at reinforcing correct actions
  • Maintain your plan
    • Any time a person is changed or a technology is upgraded you must update the plan
    • Plans must include contact information as well as procedures and must be kept up to date
    • Anytime a new version is created, the old version must be destroyed to avoid outdated information
    • Plans must be shared between everyone involved. A plan is no good if kept on a shelf and hidden from the people who are expected to participate

While it may seem like too much trouble or too high a level for a small survival group, coming up with some ideas to keep you moving is well worth the effort. Don’t let all these acronyms and concepts worry you, at the end of the day all we need to do is create a well-considered backup plan to keep the survival group safe and healthy.

What should the survival group/family leadership be doing at this time?

  • Identify threats and hazards to your group and location
  • Prioritize those hazards beginning with the most immediate danger to your safety
  • Figure out the critical who and what might be affected if a hazard happens
  • Figure out who would automatically replace that person (and tell them both)
  • Figure out where to fall back to if your location is damaged or compromised (retreat)
  • Account for any special concerns such as contagion
  • Teach and train everyone in the family/survival group the skills to operate in both primary and alternate roles
  • Gather the stuff you need based on the average skill level your group has (Don’t overestimate skill levels)
  • Keep on the lookout for changes and problems at all times. Keep information current
  • Write down technical instructions, Information and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Share latest version of all information with everyone. Don’t assume everyone understands everything. Ask review questions and make them say it out loud

What should everyone else in the survival group be doing?

  • Stay current on events
  • Continue to focus on your preps
  • Avoid complacency, crisis usually comes as a surprise and no one operates effectively when caught off guard
  • If a new hazard threatens, such as a pandemic, adjust your efforts by collecting the proper skills and equipment to address the changing conditions
  • Ramp up you preparedness in accordance with the situation. It is far easier to methodically work up to a higher level of ready than to go from zero to OMG
  • Listen to the group leaders. You chose them to do a job and they must have your support to get it done
  • Take the initiative when you see something that needs to be done. You are part of a team; the 80/20 rule cannot be in effect in a survival situation. The survival group will require a 100% effort to be successful

If your survival group or family is not interested in planning for a possible continuity disruption, it will be like herding cats for a bath when crisis strikes. Bring up the subject at your next meeting and be prepared to make a sensible case. Many groups already struggle with leadership but when it’s not there in times of emergency everyone misses it.

If you find your group activated in such a scenario it will be important to communicate to them that just because it seems the world is collapsing on the outside, you cannot afford to sit back. The group will require more commitment, more discipline and more teamwork than before in order to make up for all the lost comforts of pre-disaster life.

Want more info on survival groups? Check out my book: The Survival Group Handbook: How to Plan, Organize and Lead People for Short or Long Term Survival, available in paperback AND Kindle here:

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