There was a time not too long ago when being exiled from one’s town, village, or tribe was the worst punishment one could experience. This expulsion from society meant a slow and painful death through exposure, starvation, exhaustion, and often violence. There’s a reason most solitary mountain men didn’t live to see age 40.

A life in the wild is endless hard work, and on your own you are at the mercy of predators and unfriendly groups. For this reason and many more, it has always made sense for people to band together during hardships and emergencies. Even when civilizations have “ended” with catastrophic loss of life, remnants have found ways to survive as groups.

Today, an increasing trend in the preparedness community is to create a survival network or prepper group, but it’s not quite as easy as posting a personal ad on Craig’s List. There are three key things you need to consider before you welcome people into your inner circle.

1. Are They Trustworthy? Your most trusted friends and family who survive the “crash” would typically be the basis of your survival network. No doubt, these folks will be a diverse group with a wide range of skill sets, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recruit a few more folks to bolster the ranks. First, though, get to know these prospective group members and take your time before sharing sensitive information with them. They need to prove themselves before you reveal too many personal details. You probably don’t go around trusting everybody you meet now, and it would be even more foolish to do so after a societal collapse.

2. What Are Their Skills? It’s great to have professionals in your network. Former military and law enforcement folks understand the need for security and the ways to achieve it. Doctors and dentists would be worth their weight in gold to a person in need of their trades. Farmers, hunters, and anglers are good at keeping the team fed. But don’t ignore unskilled people who you have found to be trustworthy. You’d be surprised what people can accomplish when they have to do something. The elders in the group can offer their wisdom and experience, and they’ll have a lifetime of skills to draw upon. Even kids can be trained to do important tasks, since their young minds are so adept at learning. Everyone in your group needs a job. Everyone needs to know his or her place. And each person needs to know how to do his or her job well.

3. Are They a Liability? Make sure you play your cards close to the vest with new acquaintances. They don’t need to know right away how many people are in your group, how much food you have, where your bug out property is located, or any other details that you need to keep secret. A new group member might be honest and have skills, but he might also be a blabbermouth or a total nut job. At the end of the day, your family’s personal security needs to take priority over your willingness to gain a larger group size.

Have you built a team or network in case the SHTF? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.