Cross training prepping skills to better prepare the family or group

I worked in truck transport at one point in my life, staffing, training and managing the office of two trucking companies, in addition to my other duties of load audits.

Before I assumed that position, the staff wasn’t cross trained. Only one person could do one job. 

If someone was away ill, then that position ground to a halt. This wasn’t a good thing for the fast paced environment of truck transport.

I had worked my way through various positions, creating a couple of my own positions along the way and finally was asked to step into this management roll, so I understood the demands of various jobs and the skills required.

I also knew that with good cross training and training manuals that it would be possible to have that office running smoothly, no matter who was away.

The staff loved the idea of cross training. It gave them a chance to learn new skills and relieve some of the job fatigue that can come with doing the same tasks every day.

It also was good for morale, because the staff grew closer as a team, because they could empathize with the challenges of each other’s duties.

The team work took on a life of it’s own when people, who had time, would call out “anyone need a hand?”

Often in families or groups of people that prep together, people assume roles. I do this and you do that. I take care of this and you manage that.

Sometimes that happens because people don’t always like to do certain things and are more than happy to have someone else take responsibility for it.

But, what happens if, during a crisis or disaster, one of the family or group becomes injured, ill or even dies? What if they are unable to cope with their responsibilities due to stress? 

That is why training manuals with clear concise instructions are important. The manuals should be printed on paper and organized with drive back up if it is wanted. A binder, however, is not electricity dependent.

Every family member should be hands on cross trained to perform critical functions, even children can be trained on a common sense and age appropriate basis. You would be surprised what children can do if properly taught. I drove a tractor at 6 years old. 

The training binder acts as a back up guide if someone needs to step into a role and forgets or balks because they are unsure of something.

You will know that your instructions are clear by how well the person can follow them on their own. Break the task down into steps and order them. Keep the instructions consistent in language and terms used and in presentation or arrangement of how information is presented on paper.

Technical communication is not easy to do well. It was one of the toughest writing courses I ever took because it is far more than about the writing. However, you can look up info on how to do it well and get your family cross trained.

If everyone is cross trained, as in physical cross training, you and your family become more fit and strong as preppers.


  • Comments (13)

    • 5

      Ubique, Also a believer in paper manuals. Mine have a specific name and an add-on.

      This is “military country” so I name the zippered looseleaf books a “Field Manual” from the once famous US Army FM series. Recall National Science Foundation and SAMHSA uses FM name also. The add-on is to have a page of paper listing me as Editor and Contributing Author. As soon as one of our group member’s kids or young member joins (only 2 young members), they read the FM and per my asking, they find something worthwhile to add.  I annoint person a “Contributing Author”. This is for their career … their future.  FMs are formatted for eligibility for an ISBN, the replacement number for the old Library of Congress Catalog Number and for copyright. If this person in group will fund project, will get our member the formal status as an author. 

      Indirectly related to manuals; I’m a believer in samples of forms.  Everyone knows how to record a death by looking at sample with deceased name and bio ID covered up.

      • 2

        Bob, For me a large part of prepping is cerebral. I work the scenarios, refine my plans, formulate strategies while I tread lightly upon a shifting landscape. I depend upon myself because that’s just the way it is and I deal in reality.

        My thoughts today were on people who have families and groups. If they are prepping together, cross training should be part of that group effort.

        Gear is great, but none of it matters if only one person knows hows to use it. Or, if people put traditional “roles” over common sense. No matter how much we prep, there is never a guarantee of who will survive any disaster. Knowledge that everyone needs shouldn’t die with one person.

        Well written manuals are a joy to work with. Poorly written ones (and there are many) make excellent tinder.

        I am so used to working with manuals from my years in banking. Everything was covered by a manual. In a big machine with a lot of moving parts, manuals are a necessity.

        Good thinking on the FM, organization and forward thinking on the ISBN.

        I’m right with you on form samples, which is also a by-product of banking.

        I am channeling Clara Barton today. Aside from being a cracker jack nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, she was the type of person who probably liked manuals.


        “I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.” – Clara Barton 1821-1912

      • 5

        Clara Barton worked many areas around here. Besides setting upt the Red Cross, she was one of the US Army’s de facto first “POW-MIA” office officials.  Her commorative postage stamp in my collection.

        A couple of manuals/booklets are here because, besides being useless for knowledge, are collector’s items.  An example: Department of the Army Pamphlet number 21-52 titled “Cold Facts For Keeping Warm”, 1963, at page 34: “If your tent is equipped with a Yukon stove,…”

        —Excuse me, First Sergeant, but like, ur, … you’ve got me on the roster to patrol north of the forward battery when the cold front —

      • 4

        Bob, Clara was something else and had no formal nurse’s training. She was a force to be reckoned with and did so much good.

        Some of the old manuals/booklets are so funny. I truly wonder how some people managed per your example.

        Some years ago, I gave a manual from the 1960’s, with some other books to a neighbour in the military who collects these items.

        It was “How to spot enemy aircraft.” It belonged to my husband and he no longer wanted it.

        I remember it was a bizarre little manual with the most extraordinary depictions of aircraft. 

        Still, with that manual, if you ever saw something that looked like that coming over the horizon…

      • 4

        ROFL.  I remember the “How to spot enemy aircraft”. This manual , with the same solid outlines – on an issued  deck of cards  somewhere here – along with the rest of the collector’s items, were surely prepared by those who haven’t been working outdoors except to attend the aeroplane show at the field which is now housing the Pentagon building.

    • 5

      Cross training my family has been an ongoing project for me. In just our day to day lives, I’ve been trying to teach my wife how to access different online accounts and use the computer how she might need to if I was ever sick or died.

      I’ve been working on a document called “Jay’s dead… Now what?” in this document (will be attached to my will) it goes over where all of our assets are located, in the real world and digitally, and how to access them. It goes over accounts that need to be closed and other things step by step that only I know how to do. Sure it will be good to cross train my wife on these, but I don’t want her to lose out on some money from a bank account that I told her about 5 years ago and she forgot about. This document will be pretty clear cut and anyone can do what they need with it.

      It’s important to train all your family members on certain aspects of bugging out. All of my kids know how to set up the tent, stake it down properly, and put on the rain fly. They know how to clear the ground of sticks and rocks, and look for widow maker tree branches up above. This could be valuable if we need to set up camp and can have the children do that while my wife and I provide security and lookout for danger or search for resources like water.

      Even a basic thing you can do for really young ones is to teach them how to gather firewood. Teach them to only collect the dry branches and can be a fun game for them. “Ok Sally, go get all of the sticks you can find that are the size of your finger. After that get the ones that are the size of your arm”

      • 6

        Jay, You’ve got an important and difficult document developed re the “final days”.  Good for you.  Most neglect this stuff and the wealth flows to the politicians.

        Here, we’ve also got the “Living Will” law … difficult to develop and never really completed mine to my comfort-level.

      • 5

        Thanks for the compliment Bob. 

        What are some of the things holding up your Will from being at your desired comfort level?

      • 7

        Jay, In reply, just one example I can place on the web; Besides the will and “Living Will” law, Virginia also has the related “Do Not Recessitate” (“DNR”) law. Completing a form in compliance with this law allows wearing the Virginia version of the DNR bracelet or pendant on a neck chain. Virginia does not reconginze some out of state DNR directives and some states do not recognize Virginia’s … so I was informed.  This info is a few years old so don’t know if this is current status of law/regulation. 

        To synchromesh all this without funding a law firm’s building expansion is a major headache, at least for me. I’ve had some people tell me the law was not written clearly for a private citizen to work with. 

      • 5

        Hi Jay, What you are doing for your family is so important. A simple set of printed instructions (like training instructions for a job) could really help her if she is stressed and trying to remember everything.

        Your “Jay’s dead…Now what?” document is exactly what I had to do when my brother went through my widowed Mom’s savings and she came to live with me. I had to find a way to protect her from ever relying upon him again.

        I had clear, simple instructions about how to access our joint accounts (I put her on my bank accounts for ease of estate transfer if I died). 

        I typed out every instruction for financial management, how to handle estate matters including my life insurance with the names and contact info of everyone. I also included the names of trusted people I knew who would help her. My last words were to keep what you have from me private and never tell my brother or make it look like you have money.

        I really like your approach to how you are training your children for BO skills. What a great idea to have them collect the dry branches. Such a good approach to teaching them. Well done and I hope others note this info.

      • 8

        There is a movie that came out in 2018 called ‘Searching’. In this movie, the teenage daughter goes missing and the father doesn’t know where to start looking for her. They grew more distant since the passing of his wife. It is a really well done movie that is filmed in a neat way that I’ve never seen before. Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that for a good chunk of the movie the dad is going through her laptop and trying to find out who she was friends with. He then tries to talk to those friends to find out where she is.

        Having a paper contact list of friends and family can really save you in a pinch.

        Really great movie if you have some time to watch it. I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil it, but it is suspenseful and has a nice message to it of connecting with your family.

      • 3

        Jay, I will add “Searching” to my movie/book/reading list. 

        Every family should know who their children’s friends are. It can save precious time in a crisis. Plus, it is good practice to know at the best of times. Some friends can take a child/teen down the wrong road.

        Their online involvement is important to monitor as well. Too many predators out there.

        The paper contact list is a very good idea.

        Even with my Mom being ill as a kid, my parent’s always invited my friend’s in for tea and snacks. Some of the kids came from difficult situations and they were happy to hang around with my family.

        I like the message in Searching about connecting with your family – it shouldn’t happen during a crisis, but before one ever happens.