Strength in Numbers: Building a Preparedness Team


“Order or disorder depends on organization;  courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.”

Sun Tzu


In late 2008, I owned and managed a successful business in San Diego, which supported our troops with surveillance training and equipment. As a Navy SEAL, I had the opportunity in my career to visit over 60 countries, including some of the most miserable third-world places on earth.  After every trip overseas and upon my return, I so thoroughly appreciated and marveled at the peaceful existence that we enjoyed here in the US, always looking upon our nation as “Disneyland,” compared to the rest of the world.  2008 was also the first year I began to see the “cracks” in our system.

Enter the financial crisis of 2008, opening up my eyes to the fact that this “Disneyland” cannot, and will not, last forever. So I began to research the foundations of our peace and freedom, eventually forming the conclusion that our nation’s trajectory will likely end badly. Couple that assessment with the dangers of living on Mother Earth, and I found myself of the mindset that I needed to make preparations.  As I suspect, you probably feel the same way too…

I was uniquely qualified to build a system similar to what I used in dangerous countries overseas, looking at situations like survival, bugging in, bugging out, and fighting it out. This time, however, I had my own wife and children to protect and consider. That’s when I turned to one of the most powerful models known to man in survival situations-namely teams.

As a SEAL, I had the fortune to be in one of the most effective, efficient, and deadly teams in the world- The SEAL Teams. We could screen our recruits, select the best, nurture them, and kick them out if we had to. (We also got paid to do this!) However, I discovered that none of those advantages would transfer into a preparedness team. Please allow me to share some of my experiences, successes and failures so you can learn from them.

The first thing I did was to make sure my wife was on board, so I shared a few books with her that hit upon the human traits that we learn from stories.  One Second After, Patriots, and a few other select books brought my intelligent wife up to speed.  Then we talked…Which brings up the 1st principle of a teamStart with your loved ones.  After all, you’ve already chosen to survive your current life with them, so make sure they are ready to be with you post-crisis.

Our kids are relatively young, so it was easy to inject a preparedness attitude in them and involve them in our efforts. We had to look at our extended family to consider their role. In America, extended families are not often lashed up together sharing resources, home, and fortunes, which could possibly change in our uncertain future.  No matter how much you love them, you must consider their role in your preparedness team. This is probably the hardest issue to consider in any team, bringing up the 2nd principle of a team.  Family members should not be automatically included in a team.  They may not care about your team and issues.  They may not want to invest in preparedness.  They may not be available.  They could be such a burden that you put your own children at risk.  That’s a lot to consider.

With my family, I was successful in encouraging many of them to prepare, but not all of them.  So once we were able to afford preparations for my immediate family, we put away some food for those who haven’t prepared, but not much as I’m not rich.

Since we live in San Diego and my income source is tied to the area, we decided to stay here. This brings up the 3rd principle- Decide on your location options; commit to a primary and at least one secondary. This will play into your ability to build a team and its composition.

Once you commit to a location(s), then it’s time to build your team. So what constitutes a good team? I put many hours of research into this question. As a matter of fact, it eventually led me to building the Ready 5 program.

To begin to look at the team, you have to ask yourself what elements are needed in order to survive (and hopefully thrive) during and after any crisis.  Then, it’s a simple matter of finding people who can fulfill the joint objectives of the team.  In our lengthy design, we came up with the following elements (we call domains), which are now the core instruction at Ready 5:

The Fundamental Domains of Preparedness

The Fundamental Domains of Preparedness

Situation Awareness




Practical Fitness

Food and Water




Personal Protection

Financial Preparedness

Enduring Mindset

Now that we knew what needed, we initiated simple conversations with folks we thought were of like-mind.  We settled on a few families and held our first meeting, highlighting the 4th principle:  Regular and objective-oriented meetings are necessary.  As a suggestion and to maintain sanity, we settled on monthly meetings, which seem to work for us.

We began the work of building distinctions, roles, and responsibilities for the group.  Once we did that, then we committed to each other specific promises to hold, depending on the situation. This is the crux of the 5th principle we learned:  A team must build common language, distinctions, objectives, roles, and responsibilities that are core to the group.  Then a firm, unbreakable commitment to each other must be given and received.

There are many ways to design and build the team, including every element of business, social, political, religious, survival, and philosophical concerns. Some of the ways to look at this can be seen in the political and social structures throughout history.  We looked at what has worked and what hasn’t (Communism, for example). Then we built our own standards, one for entrance into the group (we called it the “ante”) and another for continued participation.

The next, and 6th principal establishes the minimum level of action that allows entrance to the group.  Each group needs to have an “ante” to establish a standard that will allow a prospective member to know what is required before, during and after crisis. Plan to establish basic requirements for food (maybe 3, or 6 months’ worth), water filters, and some basic firearms and training. Your people should also continue to search for and talk with prospective members for your group.  Establishing the ante is very important in the resulting discussion and provides a visible way to assess the seriousness of the prospect.

Once the group begins to form and plan together, continued energy must be expended in order to keep it viable. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’re probably not where you want to be in your preparations, so now you should begin to think and act as a group.  You will establish goals and objectives at your monthly meetings in your efforts to build your individual skills, team skills, food, water, mobility, and other preparations. The 7th and final principle is that the team must continue to grow individually and as a group to build increasing capability in all the domains of preparedness. Our team began to realize that a weakness in one area could be catastrophic to the whole team, so we took a holistic approach and began building in as many options as possible.

The preceding paragraphs outlined our group’s personal journey into building a preparedness team that we’ve come to call our Mutual Assistance Group for Survival (MAGS).  Realizing that there are many different types of MAGS, I wrote an introductory e-book about them for our preparedness students, which is now available to everyone (Building Mutual Assistance Group for Survival (MAGS), on Amazon). It’s a good overview, not a detailed “how-to” book.  There are so many factors to consider that it’s more responsible, I think, to explore the principles and factors that go into a MAGS more thoroughly.  The hard work is still yours to do.  It will be intensive once you really begin to test your MAGS against reality and what may actually happen in our near and medium-term future. People are people, and often don’t get along; so plan for it and build a system that works in all kinds of stressful situations.

I’ve given you some of the fundamental principles to consider in building your team, and want to end this with the most basic of purposes for putting all this work into a team and not to go at it yourself:  Where any two people stand against one, history teaches us that the bigger team will win any competition (survival) or battle. Ask old Sun Tzu, whose favorite odds were ten to one!

About the Author:  Randy Kelley is Head Instructor and a founder of the Ready 5 Preparedness Program ( in San Diego, CA.  He served on the US Navy SEAL Teams as a sniper and surveillance expert until 2005.


Are you prepared just in case? National Preparedness Month 2012

On September 8th, San Diego County will mark the one-year “anniversary” of the Great Southwestern Blackout that affected over 7 million people in Southern California and surrounding states. Where were you on that day? Did you view it as an excuse to grill that steak and open that bottle of wine by candlelight?

Or did you take it seriously?

Maybe you thought about another September 11 years ago and how disaster can strike without warning, no matter where you are. Maybe, just maybe you knew that September has been National Preparedness Month since 2004 and you have actually done something about it.

Odds are, though, you haven’t.

Most people haven’t done anything to prepare for any potential crisis, disaster or any kind of hard times. The average family has about 3 days of groceries, 2 days of stored water, a few hundred bucks in cash and a hope that everything will always be just fine. According to a 2009 study by FEMA and the CitizenCorps there is a major disconnect between how ready people think they are and how ready they really are. For example, many respondents felt they were ready for a disaster (57%) by setting aside food and water, and yet only 14% had ever practiced home crisis drills.

I think I know why people don’t take it seriously… They haven’t felt the pain.

History teaches us that bad thing happen, a lot! Epidemiologists almost guarantee that we will see another severe flu pandemic, geologists almost guarantee the “big one” (earthquake) will hit California, and any study of history will show us that conflict and war are part of human existence. Just read the headlines and tell me things will always be happy and easy for you and your family. You just haven’t felt the pain- yet.

You don’t have to either, not if you really prepare. I’m not talking about a “72 hour kit” either (see If you study human existence and the most likely bad things that could happen, you would come to the conclusion that you only need a finite number of items and resources to survive the majority of bad scenarios that could happen.

Since I’ve studied and taught this material for years, I’ll save you some of the research and share just a few conclusions:

#1. Stop thinking that someone will come to your rescue. They might, but more likely they will be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people needing help. Study Katrina and the Watts Riots as examples. You might actually be the one to help others too!
#2 Stock enough food for your family for a minimum of 3 months. There are lots of theories and suggestions about this but since this is a short article, we won’t open that can of worms (pun intended).

#3. Buy one really good non-electric-powered water filter and several backups. Can you imagine losing water in San Diego and not having something to filter what polluted water we can find?

#4. Be prepared to protect your home, family and supplies. You may not hear others recommend this, but the realities of our world speak to us every day if we only listen. You must, however, seek competent self-defense training and follow the complex laws of California and San Diego, though.

#5. Purchase and practice alternate forms of communication with your family like FRS radios or HAM radios. Build a communications plan to use in the event of an emergency.

#6. Build emergency plans for the most likely situations: Earthquakes, fires, floods, pandemics, and economic or political chaos. Practice them once a year. You can find some good templates at

#7. Begin to build skills in all these areas by practicing with like-minded people or make a hobby of it. Search for groups you feel comfortable affiliating with and get active with these skills. As a former SEAL, I put much more stock in embodied skills than in stored gear to get me out of a tough situation.

These are some very basic starting points as we look forward to a whole month dedicated to preparedness. Use this month to activate yourself to build some real peace of mind that you can be prepared to thrive and help others when crisis arrives at our doorstep.

Randy Kelley is a former Navy SEAL and Head Instructor at Ready 5, San Diego, a preparedness program focused on skills and training for everyday folks. For more information, visit

Using Triathlons, Mud Runs, and Other Races to Prepare for Crisis

This last weekend I participated in my first triathlon.  As a 40-something with 2 kids and several businesses to run, it was a challenge to find time to train. On top of that, I’m a prepper. But alas, I thought, why not mix it all together and take care of all the concerns?

As it happened, I got the flu and then pneumonia, which abated a full 24 hrs before the race.  After 4 weeks of coughing and not training, my wonderful wife said, “Why don’t you just go watch?”  She had this fear I might end up on the trail in coughing fits.  I have to admit, I did too.   I followed through with the race, however, for very philosophical reasons.   As a prepper, you see, I believe that when crisis occurs, it won’t happen when I am ready.

As I got ready and learned about the race and process, I couldn’t help but see the benefits and parallels to preparing for crisis.  Let’s explore them and start with the parallels:

1. Consequences:  An event will happen and it will affect you.  Your preparation in the past will determine how it will turn out for you.  If you forget your socks for the bike and run, you will get blisters.  If you forget to store canning lids, you won’t be able to can your vegetables.  I’m sure you can imagine much worse consequences of not properly preparing for crisis.

2. Reality hits:  The race is on a certain day.  The earthquake knocked out power for 4 days.  It doesn’t matter if you are “ready” or not.  You are now in the mix.   It’s time for action.  There is no option to say no or “postpone” it.

3. Pain and discomfort will be standard fare:  OK, complain for 1 minute and suck it up the rest of the time.

4. Food and water make the body go:  The more that is available, the better!  Just make sure it’s good for the body and that you actually have it.

5. You really have to think about the future:  What will it be like to come out of the water and transition to a bike ride?  How can I lay gear down in order to move faster?  What will I do when my neighbors come to my house asking for food after disaster?  The list really goes on and on here, mostly for crisis preparation, since we don’t know EXACTLY what will happen.  Thinking through skills and equipment are the keys here.

6. Recovery is very important and better if done quickly:  In crisis, the faster you accept the shock of what happened and what needs to happen, the faster you can prepare a plan and accomplish it.  For the race, I kept thinking how would I do if I had to fight some zombies once I finished the race.

Those are the major parallels that jumped out at me.  Now let’s explore the benefits of these types of races:

1.  Committing to running a race forces you to confront the fact that you must prepare in order to lessen the pain and suffering of the race.  It focuses your mind to see into the future, speculating on what is needed to succeed, and designing a program to build your capacity to finish the race without killing yourself. If forces you to action!

*If you think about it, most humans don’t move to action unless they are forced to.  We are lazy by nature.  By paying a little money and promising yourself that you will finish a race, you use the power of force, or more specifically, consequences, to get your butt up of the couch.  What a cool tool!

2.   You are getting into shape so you are able to act better when crisis, disaster or chaos ensues.   This is a no-brainer.  That’s why this is one of the fundamental domains of preparation in the Ready 5 program.   If any of the 11 fundamental domains is not taken care of, you will feel pain and possibly die.  Yes, it sounds melodramatic, but those are the logical consequences and you/we cannot deny them.

3.  It helps build the skill of preparing.  This is a skill and practice is necessary to build competency (see my previous blog) in any skill.  How you think ahead, buy gear, test it out, practice with it, take care of it, and build a program of building race-specific skills (running, biking, swimming, etc) will help to build your capability to prepare.

4.  You can choose to go-it-alone or get help with a team, coaches, friends and the like.  I can tell you that in the prepper’s world, you want a team- and a good one!  Take that principle and apply it to a race- for example a mud run- and enter, train and complete the race as a team.  You will learn a lot about teamwork and the pros and cons of it.  Better yet, you will be building experience in teamwork, which we all need…

5. By varying the type of races (i.e. mud runs, triathlons, 5ks, swims, bikes, etc) you are building your endurance, strength, and power in all of your different muscle systems.   This is very important in preparing, as we never really know what crisis will affect our lives and how we need to react to it.  It also keeps us from over-working specific muscle systems as well as keeps boredom at bay.

In conclusion, races are a powerful, effective, and low-cost way to trigger our lazy butts to get up and prepare in multiple domains.  It’s consistent with and supportive of a prepper’s objectives and may indeed save your life one day.  Take away all the seriousness of this post and heck; these races are just plain fun!   Now, what race are you going to do next?


Great Sources of Preparedness Info

Are you getting ready for a possible crisis?   If you read the headlines these days, you might ask “Possible, don’t you mean probable?”.  I agree. Hurricanes, economic disruption, unemployment, increasing crime, heck, you name it….

People are turning to books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and more in an effort to get their families prepared for coming crisis. No rational human wants these crisis to occur, but we want to be prepared, really prepared, just in case.   So in that effort some of the following sites are getting mucho exposure:

and more!

These and all the related books, gadgets and gear are flying off the shelves just as gold continues to go ballistic.  Most of your who know the mechanics of the phenomenon know that this is just rational humans looking to take care of thier future-no matter what happens.

I want to draw a distinction though, that there is a major difference between reading about something and actually PRACTICING that skill.  Most of these sources help us understand what needs to be done, but they don’t help us to actually embody this knowledge.  To embody any skill requires 1. Knowledge, 2. Actions, 3. Coaches, 4. Feedback and 5. Recurrence in order to actually turn it into a skill (and keep it!).

The Ready 5 program is designed to help people prudently do all of those things, but no matter where you are, you need to practice the skills in order to actually make them yours. Otherwise, it’s a great scholastic exercise that won’t do crap to save your life in the coming crisis.


Physical Fitness in a Crisis

Why do you workout?

Why don’t you workout?

These two questions should really bug the crap out of you.  Why? Because most people who don’t ask them and answer them honestly spend time, energy, money and lost opportunities doing what may not be what they are really after.

Let’s start with the first question.

If you work out to lose weight and look good, great!  That means you are in the market for someone of the opposite sex.  That is, in fact, one of our most basic drives as humans. We are all attracted to sexy bodies and working out to lose weight to build muscle does that for us. I have no beef with this.

If you workout to stay “healthy”, what does that mean.  Let me guess. No injuries, strong heart, no excess weight, and to keep your energy level high. What are your goals then?  How do you orient around them?  Do you attain your goals? Consistently?  My experience here is that most people fail at this when this is their goal. Why?  Because it really isn’t a defined and realistic goal.

Now, consider a new goal.  Consider that a crisis is coming, that you may need to fight for your life, or your kid’s life.  Tell yourself that it IS going to happen, and the only thing to keep you or your kids/wife/husband alive is your ability to do something.  Like drag them from a burning car. Carry them to the hospital.  Run from gunfire. Carry 5 gallons of water from the lake (40 lbs). Pull your kids out of the ruble of a collapsed building.

If you really imagined these things, does it really motivate you to work out?  It does for me!  I know I have three lives that depend of my actions right now. In a crisis, I had better have the strength, endurance, flexibility, and mindset to help them. With that motivation, I practice the workouts that most simulate these actions and build up my capability. Crossfit comes to mind, but there are other options too. Here’s a link to another blog on the topic.

If you don’t workout.  How can anyone rely on you?