Planning is important, and you should have a number of different plans: communications, getting home, bugging out, supplies purchases and rotations, etc. In this article, we are going to look at a getting home plan in the context of civil unrest.
Civil unrest can present with some challenges, but nothing that we can’t factor into a good plan. It will require us to do some homework, or intelligence gathering.
When planning routes home there are several different factors that we need to consider, such as: different routes, possible threats such as gang and drug areas and activities, known safe areas, resources such as gas stations, grocery and fast food, police and fire stations, hospitals, types of roads such as asphalt or dirt, etc.
There are a number of different sources we can use to gain intelligence and information.
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
Google and DuckDuckGo search on keywords like ‘gangs’ (don’t just use one search engine) – you can probably find city maps with neighborhoods marked as to which gangs operate or ‘claim’ them. You can also find pictures of various gang signs which you should add to your intel packet and look out for in your area.
- Google alerts (google.com/alerts) will send you daily emails on what you tell it to search for, such as news on gangs, or power outages, etc.
- Local city web site will also give you demographics, addresses for police and fire stations and other public buildings. Your emergency management agency page might give you information on CERT teams and other programs.
Human Intelligence (HUMINT)
Drive different routes or through areas you could possibly use to get home. Use a dash camera to record the area you are driving through (they are fairly cheap these days). You can then review the routes and will be able to identify things that you may not have noticed when driving. Using a dash camera is much less conspicuous that holding your cell phone and filming while driving.
Stop in to the grocery stores and gas stations to get an idea of who lives in the area by observing who is there. Drive through at different times, especially late evening and night.
Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)
Investing in a scanner, such as the Home Patrol 2 (highly recommended). It will provide you with sources of information such as what local law enforcement are responding to, much of which doesn’t get into the papers or police blog, plus you’ll be hearing it real time. It’s important to take the time to listen before SHTF so you learn their ‘language’ such as codes, districts etc.
Check www.radioreference.com for your area – it will tell you what kind of radio system your local police, fire etc. are using. In many areas, they are using trunked radio systems, which will require a trunk capable scanner such as the Home Patrol 2.
You can also find the frequencies for utility companies, such as power, which can provide you information when the power it out. News agencies frequencies will also be listed; you may hear chatter between the reporters in the field and the studio before they go on the air, as well as their studio dispatching them to incidents.
This information will give you information on what is going on – having a portable scanner will allow you to be aware during civil unrest and make changes to your route as needed.
Imagery Intelligence (IMINT)
Maps are like gold, the more you can find the better, although it’s getting harder to find them. Truck stops and larger gas stations on interstates are usually great places to find maps. You can usually find the large book maps for your state, you can pull the marked pages out when needed. Online sources include:
- USGS.gov and www.mytopo.com for topographical maps
- Imagery maps from Google Earth (one of the best image resources)
- Street maps from Google maps, Garmin OpenStreetMap and other sources
- Garmin Basemap (software for their GPS units)
Mark up paper maps with your different routes. Use color pencils to mark the different routes, but first check which ones you can still see under a red night (saves your night vision). You will probably find that red colors will not be visible, so use other colors. Highlighters tend to bleed through, so be careful if using a map that is printed on both sides.
Garmin’s Basemap program allows you to create routes and way points for your GPS (I have the Garmin 64ST hand held and it’s great for this). Once you create different routes, you can save them to your device, again using some kind of color or other code reference.
The images of the area allow you to make resources and threats. You can use a color coding to indicate the level or threat.
- Red – threat, such as gang areas
- Yellow – moderate areas, gas stations, stores and other resources. You would still have to use extreme caution as the situation could change.
- Green – These folks support the rule of law and may be willing to help. This could include friendly neighborhoods.
- Blue – these are Patriots, members of family, friends or others who would be willing to assist you.
Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT)
Geospatial intelligence is intelligence about the human activity on earth derived from the exploitation and analysis of imagery. It is closely tied to imagery intelligence. Using sources such as Google Earth can provide some very good images of the buildings, fences, road types, alleys, etc. Combined with the information from other mapping programs you can build up a very good map of the routes, terrain and other obstacles.
When creating your maps and routes, consider different routes for walking versus driving. Also consider whether it is a route you should only take during the day or at night. You may also need to include routes that stop by locations to pick up family members, such as your spouse’s place of work or children’s schools. Obviously, the area of disturbances, roads closed by police or local neighborhoods will all factor into your decisions and some of this may not be known until the situation occurs.
Color coding or otherwise naming your routes will allow you to communicate that to other family members. You might not want to tell everyone what way you are going (operational security (OPSEC)). Using names for your routes that you can use in a normal conversation over the radio is a good idea. Such as “I’m going to stop by the pizza place and pick up a large meat pizza” where the type of pizza is your route, allows you to say this over ham radio.
You should consider caching some supplies depending on the distance you might have to travel and your routes. In urban areas this might not be possible, unless you have friends or family along the way. It might be easier if you have rural areas that you pass through. Make sure you know where you have placed caches, record it both on paper and any GPS unit.
Cache items might be food, such as protein or granola bars, emergency ration food bars, dehydrated food, etc. Water might also be an option if you use cans or the mylar pouches. You could add the beverage powder from MRE’s but don’t store MRE food. You could add batteries appropriate for your ham radio and/or flashlights. Perhaps a spare ham radio already programmed would be useful as well.
While there are commercial tubes for caches you can also make them from large diameter PVC pipe with a seal end stop one end and screw cap the other. If you are over cautious (you should be) you can put a smaller pipe inside or pack in Food Saver or other well sealing bags to further protect.
Keeping plans up to date is also important, especially with road construction/repairs, new housing developments etc., so have a regular cycle to update GPS units and your maps. Subscribe to any local sites that provide information on construction in your area.
Planning routes home is as important as any other aspect of prepping. Remember “two is one, one is none.” However, in cases of civil unrest, we should have at large number of possible routes home, some of these might take us away from home to get around the situation. Instances of civil unrest are always a very dynamic and rapidly evolving situation. Situational awareness must be maintained at all times, moving carefully and deliberately avoiding dangerous areas. Careful recognizance and intelligence gathering of all the possible routes and areas will give you a much better chance of getting home.