An Overview of Neighborhood Defensive Strategies for Worst Case Situations, by Johnny N.

We’ve read about it in books, watched it in movies, or seen it on the news: People joining together to defend their neighborhood.  The point of this article is to review the general details needed to correctly accomplish this difficult objective.  Successfully defending a neighborhood in a societal collapse is extremely difficult, and it’s not even close to being as easy as it is commonly portrayed.  As you read this, please remember the golden rule of security: it is like being pregnant…either you are or you’re not!  Being partially secured is not much better than being completely unsecured. 

Overview and Expectations

The first part of a neighborhood defensive plan is deciding the type and size of the opposing force.  The majority of potential threats will be related to your demographic location.  Are you located close to a prison or juvenile correction facility?  Are you on the outskirts of a major city that has a high population of gangs or slum areas?  What if your neighborhood is rural but suburbs are located in every cardinal direction? 

Next, how large or small of an area is going to be defended?  The manpower and resources required vary drastically depending on the size of the defended region.  Do you need to defend a single dead-end street, or must two square blocks be secured?  As the defended area enlarges, all other defensive requirements are greatly multiplied.

Finally, how long do you plan on defending the area?  Is it going to be for 12 hours, 2 weeks, 1 month, or 2 years?  The manpower and supplies required expand exponentially the longer the defensive plan.

Knowing Your Neighbors

Now that the decision has been made that a defensive plan must be created, the question needs to be asked: who will participate?  In modern society, we seem to have lost the connection between our neighbors that we had prior to the internet, iPads, cell phones, and other technology which insulates us from each other.  Today, most people have no idea who their neighbors are.  You need to get out and build relationships with the people that live in your area.  This enables you to determine who is reliable and like-minded, who to avoid, and even if you even have registered criminals living close.

The next step is more difficult:  how do you address your defensive strategy to the people you have determined may be “Okay?”  If you are direct, will it turn people away?  Should you start the idea by forming a neighborhood watch?  With the nation becoming the Nanny State, be careful how you approach this topic.

Most importantly, be careful about personal details discussed with acquaintances.  Remember to practice OPSEC (Operational Security).  You should not tell anyone except your most trusted confidants the details of your level of prepping, the supplies you’ve stored, or your defensive tools.  You should never refer to yourself as a “Prepper.”   A good saying to remember is:  “You cannot un-ring a bell,” meaning that once information is provided, it cannot be taken back.  Be friendly, be polite, but be vague about your personal preparations.

Be aware that as a result of your quest to find like-minded people, you are by default putting yourself in the leadership position of your group.  You need to think long and hard about this detail.  Is this a responsibility for which you’re prepared or should you pass this important role off to another person that would be a suitable leader?  If you decide to continue the role as leader, be prepared for the duties that follow.  You will be the person in charge that everyone looks to for answers.  Furthermore you will also be the person that fingers are pointed at for blame.  As Shakespeare says in “Henry IV, Part 1:” “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Who To Select For What Position

Personalities are just as important to a position as the actual position.  Do you want someone manning a checkpoint who only asks “Will we get to shoot someone”?  On the other hand, do you want someone at a checkpoint that refuses the concept of ever being confrontational no matter what the situation is?  You are looking for someone the military refers to as a “quiet professional”.  For defensive positions, you want someone that has a calm temper, sound mind, and possesses logical thought and reasoning: definitely NOT the Rambo type. 

The other consideration is a difficult.  No matter what good intentions people have during table times, you do not know what they will do in hard times.  You cannot blame them, but when faced with danger, people might choose their family’s safety over their sense of duty.  Once you know your potential group members better, you will get an idea of who man their post and who will flee.   In my professional experience, I have found that the people that talk a good game are not always the ones that will stand up and fight.  On the other hand, in many cases the person you think will run away turns out to be the most reliable person on your team.

The Plan: What Is Needed

This section is not about tactical drills, fighting techniques, or weapons handling.  It’s a general discussion to provide a concise and realistic concept for creating your area security plan.

A perimeter must be established around the defended area.  Two perimeters will actually be created: An extended perimeter (EP) and an inner perimeter (IP).  
I have found that the best way to plan the perimeters is to print high resolution screen-prints of the area using Google Earth.  These screen-prints should include the surrounding regions and be printed on true photo quality paper which is then laminated.  In this way permanent markers can be used for planning and then the printouts can simply be cleaned with rubbing alcohol for reuse later.

First you must create the EP.  This is the defensive line that intercepts the first presence of a threat.  All points of entry must be secured (roads, paths, trails, etc.) by establishing barriers & defensive fighting positions.  These positions must not be visible from a distance.  Avoid being out in the open on a road, instead be off to the side and within cover.  When possible, remove anything outside the position that can be used as offensive cover.  Do not make it easy for the possible threat!  

An additional question to consider for preparing a position or check point is what type of barrier do you want to use?  Such items as cars or farm machinery can be used to make movable barriers should you want to keep the ability for friendly vehicles to pass.  Another important detail is the need for designated areas for bathrooms and locations for rest and sleep.  If possible, a good idea is to build a shelter to protect you from the elements.  People’s motivation and enthusiasm can quickly disappear when they are made miserable by the elements.           

Once the positions are set up and all points of entry are secure, observation post (OP) is required if you have the manpower for it.  This position should preferably be in an elevated location and forward of the OP to spot threats before they get to the defended area.  Simply put, they are the early warning system.  3 people staffing the OP are the minimum requirement.  After 1 hour, it is difficult for the average person to stay 100% alert in an observation position.  You need a rotation established to keep one person watching, one resting, and one “at the ready.” 

Creating range cards is the next step to establish sectors of fire.  The last thing you want to do is be in a position where you might have to engage and risk casualties via friendly fire, range cards can prevent this tragedy.  In addition to factoring in the skill of your team members, you must consider the geography.  If you are in an urban area, there will be houses and neighboring communities outside your perimeter.  Knowing the range of your weapon is part of this as well.  For example, a bullet from a firearm as small as a .22 LR travels up to 1.5 miles.  A 5.56 mm NATO round exceeds 3,000 meters.  Keep these details in mind when planning your sector of fire. 

Outfit each OP and checkpoint with the following minimum list of items:

  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment: body armor, eye protection, etc.)
  • Form of communication and signal between OP and residences inside the IP
  • Defensive Tools
  • Appropriate manpower
  • Retreat route to IP (Primary & Secondary)
  • Optics
  • Food, water; stimulants
  • Runner between posts (reduces the need for a guard to be absent)
  • Lights

Pulling guard duty is extremely tiring.  Maintaining focus for extended periods of time becomes difficult and eventually staying awake is challenging as well.  Remember, you will be under a great deal of stress, and stress will wear you out just as fast as physical activity.  Stimulants are a good to have on hand, but there are good and bad stimulants.  Coffee and other liquid diuretics should be avoided.  They quickly cause urination, and since you should not urinate inside your position, you will be forced to leave your position which allows you to be seen and heard by the enemy.  Possible alternatives are caffeine gum or pills, natural vitamins, or similar.  In the past, as a Ranger, I found a method that sounds a little extreme but works.  Take a can of long cut snuff, add a capful of whiskey, and let it sit for a few days.  Insert the tobacco in your mouth and while the residue is on your fingers, rub your eyes.  Trust me, it is as unpleasant as it sounds, but it’s nowhere near as bad as being the person that fell asleep while on guard duty.    An important detail to factor in is the “crash” that happens after the substance wears off.  Remember, the more powerful the stimulant, the greater the crash.

The next step is to plan your IP.  The purpose of the IP is to provide the last line of defense in case the EP collapses.  In the center of it are your supplies and non-combatants.  People that are classified as non-combatants are: children, elderly, and those that are physically unable to actively defend the lines.  If you are fortunate to have medics or doctors in your group, keep them there as well.  Why risk the few people who are medically trained on the front line? 

The previously mentioned list and other details also apply to the IP.  The IP however has no defensive fallback plan.   If the EP collapses, and all positions retreat to the IP, you are in serious trouble.  At this point there are then two choices:  retreat if possible, or, re-enact The Alamo. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
            Think of SOPs as your team’s play book.  SOP’s are living procedures and thus always evolve.  Some details will change over time and others will not.  It is important that everyone knows what the group SOPs are, and they should always be available for reference.  SOPs must thoroughly cover all operational aspects of your group, thus they require a great deal of time and thought to create.  Listed below is a simple starter list of topics:

  • Escalation of presence and force (amber, red, black)

At what point will it be decided that the neighborhood needs to get together?  Will you start by being low-profile and later have the appearance of a hard target?  How will the activation process be initiated?

  • Established combat load for guard force (for each threat level)

At the Amber level, do you want people to have assault style weapons slung over their shoulder?  At Red level, do you want people in tennis shoes with only a pistol in their waist band?

  • Dealing with noncombatants at checkpoints

How do you handle people that want to pass through?  What about people that want to enter?  What if they are people living in your neighborhood that do not want to take part in the defensive plan? 

  • Dealing with LEOs

What image do you want to give Law Enforcement Officers? (should they still be active) 

  • NEO Plan (Noncombatant Evacuation and Repatriation Operation)

If a retreat is something you see as being inevitable, how are you going to evacuate your children and elderly?  Where are they going?  What equipment and manpower will be needed for this?  At what point will this be needed before it is too late?

  • Roles and responsibilities

What roles will be needed in your plan?  What is expected of them?  Will people be cross trained with a certain level of standards for skill set?

  • ROE (rules of engagement)

At what level of force will you meet each threat?  Will it be able to be justified later in time?  Was it an equal level of force? 

  • Outline of leadership

This is needed!  Without it, there would be no organization within the group.  Who is in charge?  Who is next in command?  Who is in charge of the positions?  Who is in charge of the people within the IP? 

  • Dealing with prisoners and casualties

What will you do with people that might have to be detained?  Will they be treated humanely and have proper quarters to keep them?  What will you do with casualties (friendly and not friendly)?  What about their supplies?  What will done with their bodies? 

  • Escorts and convoys

If the situation dictates the need to lock an area down, but stores are still open with what few items they have left, how will personnel move their safely and back?  Will one small group go into the store while another guards the vehicles?  Will you take the same route back and forth?

  • Passwords and information security

Do you have a challenge and password made for the IP/OP?  What about a running password?  Are passwords put in code phrases or left with normal verbiage?

  • Situations Dictating Actions

At what point do you collapse the EP into the IP?  When will you start evacuation (if possible)? Under what conditions will a retreat be called?

Other Considerations
Another form of protection that is usually overlooked is CYA (cover your a**).  If all hell has broken loose, and you are forced to protect yourself and the people around you, you need to protect yourself for the possible future ahead.  What I mean is that when the environment stabilizes, you may be made to answer for your defensive actions.  What if you are accused of assaulting someone who walked up to your check point?  If lethal force was used, was it justified?  Can you remember the name of the officer who visited your EP?  These facts should all be documented in a logbook.  Any and every incident should be logged, no matter how large or small.  You want to be as descriptive as possible.  When you are writing this, imagine you are trying to tell a judge your side of the story, because you very well could be using this logbook to do just that!  Ensure dates, times, who was involved, what happened, what actions were taken, and how every means possible was used prior to any type of force are all recorded.  This should be written down as soon as possible while the information is still fresh in your mind.  Details are the key to an effective report.

Another serious consideration is that after you have the area secured, what happens to the families that live inside the established perimeter that do not want to be part of what’s going on?  Will you protect them should the need arise?  What if they have family members attempting to break into the perimeter?  Are you going to deny access?  These are very difficult questions to plan for and there is a fine line between doing the right thing and self-declaring martial law on your street. 

The last point to consider is not specifically related to the previous discussion.  It is about the image you present to others.  It is not just about the clothing you are wearing.  Nuances ranging from body language, physical approach towards someone, facial expressions, and your overall demeanor can greatly affect the tone of the interaction you have with other people.  You most likely will meet more people that are non-combatants then are threats.  Is the head-to-toe camouflage approach the one you want to give as a first impression?  By appearance alone, you made yourself a potential combatant to others.  What type of reaction do you think you will get from police if they see you in all the latest tactical gear with a military style rifle slung over your shoulder?  What about the mother with kids in hand that you encounter?  At this point in time, everyone will have at least some level of fear in them.  Anybody that says differently has never been in a threatening environment.  Why escalate the situation if not necessary?  There is a time and place for camouflage and other gear, but in most cases dressing in practical civilian clothing (like cargo pants and overly large shirt concealing items you might have on you), along with a friendly but cautious personality will be most effective.  Simply put, when it comes time to decide how you want to appear and act towards others, ask yourself how you would react if you came across someone who looked and acted just like “you?”  Personally, if I was approached by someone dressed like ninja, armed, and had an attitude…I will be reacting much differently than if they seemed approachable and wearing earth tone non-tactical clothing.


You need to think long and hard about the realistic possibility of accomplishing this objective.  Yes, in movies and books it seems easy to accomplish:  most of the time the “good guys” always win.  After reading this article you should realize that it is much more complex then it seems.

The amount of manpower, supplies, and equipment needed are extremely difficult to obtain for a long term defensive strategy.  To provide a real life example, while living in an unsecured area (Red Zone) in Iraq, we needed a guard force of over 100 men to protect a large house 24/7.  That sounds like a lot, but as mentioned previously, a position does not have a single person; a guard rotation is required.  In our case roughly 50 men per 12 hour shift were necessary for the EP and IP to view in all cardinal directions and to provide protection for the non-combatants. 

With that in mind, how many people will you need to guard a small section of your neighborhood?   Continuing with another personal example, I was part of a force that guarded an urban compound in Baghdad which covered a space roughly 1 by 2 city blocks.  To protect it in a high threat environment we needed 300 static guards (12.5 hour shifts 7 days a week), 9 Quick Response Teams (consisting of 6 men on each team), and enough gear, supplies, ammo, water, and food to sustain everybody.  This doesn’t even consider the resources and supplies needed to establish a secured perimeter.

Another factor that hinders the ability to guard a neighborhood is the group of people available.  You will probably find more people not interested than those that are interested.  The people you do find will be in various ages and physical shape, some might have military or police training, some will not.  It will probably be a “ragtag” group.  Many will like the idea of defending their territory, but will not or cannot plan or practice.  Chances are you will not be fortunate to find yourself living in a community of ex-commandos ready to take tackle this matter head on. 

In conclusion, the reality of defending a neighborhood is that it is not practical and is better left as a fantasy.  I’ve only touched on a very few factors to consider, and there are so many more factors working against you.  It will be nearly impossible for a group of citizens in various states of health, with little or no training, even if they are enthusiastic, to successfully defend a neighborhood.