The Importance of Standards in a Group

Group standards, Part 1

I was talking to a friend in the local Prepper community who’s working on a set of Bylaws or Operating Agreement (OA) for a prepper group he’s thinking of starting. Anyone interested in the group would be required to sign the OA before being allowed to join. He’s having trouble deciding how much the OA should require potential members to reveal about themselves in certain areas for security reasons. His idea is that if members disclose certain information about themselves and sign a document promising they’ll abide by group rules, they are less likely to be a security risk to the group. I agree that an OA is important, but relying on it is a mistake for a few reasons. First, there is a 100% probability that something will come up within the group that isn’t covered by the OA – so now what? I know, revise or update the OA… and pretty soon it will start to resemble the Nevada Revised Statutes. The second problem with relying on an OA is that signing doesn’t show anything about the person who signed it other than their ability to pick up a pen and sign their name. It demonstrates nothing about their commitment to the group, nothing about their willingness to abide by group rules or standards, and nothing about their willingness or ability to learn. Finally, a person’s signature is only as good as the integrity of the person signing, and unfortunately in today’s world that means a lot of signatures aren’t worth shit.

A better way to vet potential members of a group is by having a set of standards that one must meet before being allowed to join the group. The OA is still important, but only as a backup to the Group Standards. If the Group Standards are set up correctly, compliance not only helps make sure a member won’t be a drag on the group (by having inferior supplies and equipment), but also shows a potential member’s willingness to devote time, money, and effort to the group, their willingness to subordinate their opinion to group goals, and maybe even their ability to learn. There can be problems with trying to enforce standards (that’s another post) but I still think they’re a lot better for vetting potential group members than a signature on an OA.

Of course, for this to work, the standards need to be reasonable and benefit the individual member as well as serve group goals. For example, one standard might be that in order to join the group, a person must have an amateur radio license of General class or above. Does requiring an Amateur Radio license benefit the individual member? Yes. Getting a Ham license gives a person useful knowledge, the ability to legally operate a 2 way radio on frequencies not open to the general public, and opens up networking opportunities that would otherwise not be available. Does it benefit the group? Hell yes, if your group uses amateur radio for group communications (if not, then just don’t use this as one of your group standards). Does it demonstrate some level of commitment? Yes. It costs $30 in test fees if you’re starting from scratch – $15 for the Technician test and $15 for the General. Depending on one’s background and memorization skills, passing each test will require 10 – 20 hours of study. Study guides with all the answers are readily available and inexpensive. For my group, I have study guides that I loan for free. Anyone can take free online practice tests which just happen to use the same exact questions as the real licensing exams. Is it a reasonable Group Standard? Yes, because it meets all 3 requirements of “reasonableness”: It benefits the member, it serves group goals, and it demonstrates a person’s willingness to devote a little time and money towards the group’s needs. In short, there is no excuse to not get a Ham license, at least if you want to be in my group.

This is just an example, but it should give you something to think about for your own group, whether you’re starting one or joining an existing group. Areas where you might want to impose group standards could be food, water, shelter, communications, firearms, and anything else that might apply to your group.

Happy Prepping…

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