Preparedness Chain of Command

Preparedness Chain of Command

Dangerous situations are no time for rule by committee.  The time it takes to whip out your Roberts Rules of Order and ‘call the [first] question’ is enough time to lose your key preps to fire or theft or worse… someone in your family or preparedness group could be injured or killed.  Today’s discussion is on the necessity of a Preparedness Chain of Command.

What is a Chain of Command:

“Chain of Command” is a military term for the clearly defined leadership hierarchy where a single leader is in charge of all efforts by a unit and/or within an area of operations.  Subunits or echelon’s each have their leader who must answer to the next higher leader.  An non-military example of a chain of command is the Roman Catholic Church where the Pope (senior leader) works through his cardinals (lower echelon leaders) who lead through their bishops (still lower echelon leaders) who in turn lead through the parish priests to eventually reach the congregants.

How does a Chain of Command Work:

Ruined BridgeA well functioning chain of command ensures unity of effort and maximum survivability by facilitating communication.  Essentially information (including situational awareness) comes up through a chain of command to the senior leader (and staff in many cases) and orders and policies are disseminated down through that same chain.  One of the most important tasks of each leader is to designate who will take over in his absence…in sequence.

Using our Catholic example above the parish priest may tell his congregation that when he’s on vacation the parish’s senior lay leader takes over followed by the next senior lay leader and so on.  It is important that these designations be explicit and expressed.  The leader can identify subordinate leader’s by name or position.

No leader should be indispensable to an organization.  Let’s look at another example…this time from the corporate world.  The new president of a corporation is going to be recuperating from surgery for a few weeks.  He remembers that the corporate bylaws dealt with succession so he looks them up and discovers that in his absence the vice-president takes over then the treasurer (if the vice-president and president are unavailable) then the secretary (if the treasurer, vice-president and president are all unavailable).  Even if the leaders start dropping like flies…the mission of the organization should continue.

Now that we’ve discussed the hierarchical nature of chain of command as well as the fact that no leader should be indispensable let’s discuss information flows and obedience.  Subordinates are generally tasked with being the eyes and the ears of their leaders and may be subject matter experts.  Subordinates must pass information up through the chain of command to assure that leaders make informed decisions but once a decision is made the subordinates must obediently carry out the orders without second guessing or arguing (yes there is an exception in military circles for illegal orders but that topic is beyond the scope of our discussion today).  This is called discipline.  In dangerous situations there may be no time to argue fine points or explain all the issues that the leader has had to weigh before making that decision.

Let’s use a military example this time:  A four man team is conducting reconnaissance (watching and reporting) on the intersection of two roads when they see a man they know to be on the HPT (High Priority Target) list and responsible for the deaths of fellow unit members walk up with only one body guard.  Even though their mission is to watch the intersection they have enough combat power to detain or kill this HPT so they radio back to headquarters and ask permission to do so.  After a short wait they are told to stand down and continue their reconnaissance mission…leaving the HPT to continue about their business.  Discipline allows the soldiers to overcome their emotional need for justice (or revenge) and leave the HPT unmolested.  These soldiers may never know the reason they were ordered to let the HPT escape, but the soldiers’ company commander knows that the HPT was actually on his way to a secret negotiation to demilitarize his guerrilla band potentially bringing peace to that part of the host country’s province.

A Preparedness Chain of Command is Critical to Your Survival

I don’t know about you, but most families have very convoluted chains of command for day to day operations.  There’s a two person household I know well where the husband is in charge of setting the budget and allocating time for work while the wife controls the social calendar and the families major political affiliations.  This type of situation is great for a marriage and the normal day to day but in a dangerous situation or TEOTWAWKI event you must revert to a clearly defined chain of command in order to maximize survivability.

Thoughts on Creating a Preparedness Chain of Command:

To safely weather a crisis you must institute a clear chain of command and here are some considerations to take into account:

  • Clearly defined with successive leaders identified.  In the family this might go something like “Dad’s in charge unless he’s off the property or asleep in which case the chain of command goes to Mom, Uncle Mike, oldest kid, middle kid in that order.  In a preparedness group you will need to put a great deal more thought into how to appoint and if necessary replace your leaders.  I suggest considering some kind of bylaws or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) that clearly express the appointment and removal process but don’t even consider changing horses (leaders) in the middle of the race (dangerous event).  Wait until the immediate danger is past if you need to fire the boss.
  • Clearly defined expectations:  Everyone in the family or preparedness group must understand that they are to respond to the orders of those senior to them with discipline and in a rapid manner.  If you need to complain… you do it later when the situation is safer.
  • Clearly defined trigger to TEOTWAWKI chain of command:  While you could discuss events that would trigger a switch from day to day family operations to crisis mode I propose a simpler solution…establish a trigger word or phrase like “Alas, Babylon” or another innocuous phrase that can be uttered in the presence of others without alerting them to the change in your readiness.   Identify who can initiate the trigger or use it as a danger code word as well and give any family or preparedness group member the latitude to initiate.  For example a family member could utter the trigger phrase while walking up to the home in the company of strangers and the senior  person (and everyone else) knows that the family member is under some kind of duress and all our ready to rapidly react to the orders of the leader without argument or hesitation.

One last comment on chain of command…a well run chain of command will make the dangerous more survivable but a well run chain of command will also assure the unity of effort needed to accomplish the mundane tasks that also lead to greater survivability.  Examples of some mundane tasks that might be needed during civil unrest or a suspension of the rule of law are maintaining a 24 hour watch (brutal task for a small group), maintaining noise and light discipline, assuring compliance with sanitation rules, etc.

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