The Art and Science of Situation Analysis, by Judy C.

One of the most important skills to master in any crisis scenario is situation analysis.  The preliminary situation analysis is a valuable tool in planning and preparing, while the on-scene analysis will help focus your planned response.

Developing a Preliminary Situation Analysis: Hard Factors

Hard factors are unlikely to vary much from crisis to crisis. Factors such as geography, climate, nearby population, and natural resources will be determined by your chosen location. The only way you can change hard factors is to move to another location. One of the advantages of the American Redoubt is  the set of hard factors the region embodies.

Example: Hard Factors in a Personal Crisis Plan

The planner lives in a rural county in west central Florida, USA.  Location is a safe distance from hazardous coastal weather threats and population centers.  Climate is sub-tropical, so winter heat is not an issue. Nearby population is mostly lower middle class, with large winter influx of snowbirds. Natural resources include ample water, fishing, wildlife for hunting, and sun for solar power. Other hard factors may include access roads (cul-de-sacs may discourage thieves looking for easy escape options), immediate neighbors, and neighborhood “image” (I personally believe that high-end  neighborhoods will be more likely targets for criminals.)

Seasonal and other Predictable Variables

Depending on the location, there may be seasonal or other  variables in hard factors.  In our example, seasonal weather isn’t a major issue, but the presence of snowbirds could be an important variable to consider. If snowbirds’ homes are vacant, they may be easier prey for looters in a crisis. If snowbirds are present, their age and conspicuous possessions may also make them an easy mark.

Soft Factors in a Personal Crisis Plan
Soft factors include factors that you control. Because you control them, you can identify weaknesses and bolster strengths. For example, a wheelchair ramp may indicate a physically weak target. A large dog  blocking the ramp can counter that. (Another large dog barking inside reinforces the image of strength) Compare one neighbor’s shiny new Hummer and professional landscaping  to  the tipped-over gas grill and rusty 10-year-old minivan across the street. Which home is the more likely target? In a crisis situation with civil unrest, you don’t want to be in the nicest house in the neighborhood.
Your basic preliminary situation analysis will give you a head start on the Crisis Situation.  It then becomes a simple matter of adding in crisis-specific factors and developing a tentative procedure for planned response. 

While many preppers anticipate armed hordes of vicious urbanites escaping cities in a social crisis, most experts believe that crisis transportation will be limited.  Your greatest threats are more likely to originate within a 20-mile radius of your home.

On-Scene Situation Analysis Factors

Definition of the situation is the first step in the on-scene analysis.  Factors include permanent damages, temporary damages you will need to resolve (roof leaking in hard rain), and temporary damages someone else needs to resolve (roof missing after tornado). Are you in the aftermath of a one-time occurrence (such as a major storm) or at the onset of a continuing crisis (such as a pandemic).  Potential resources include internal ( your prep storage), extended family or friends, neighborhood, community, state, and federal assistance.

Borrow a term from business and do a SWOT analysis–Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Build on strengths; overcome weaknesses, be prepared to optimize opportunities, and be alert for potential threats.

A few years ago, Hurricane Charlie devastated our neighborhood. There were a lot of strangers around afterwards. While a few were looking to sell overpriced cleanup “services”, many were unpaid volunteers–luckier neighbors and off-duty LEOs offering a hand in clearing streets and fixing leaks.  It would have been a mistake to classify every stranger as a threat. 

Properly utilized, the situation analysis can help you deal rationally with a crisis situation. You may have noticed that I never mentioned guns or ammo or any of the dozens of expedient weapons we have on hand just in case some idiot manages to get past the dogs. One of the primary purposes of the situation analysis is to help you avoid confrontations whenever possible so you can devote your attention to overcoming the crisis.

Situation Analysis: Threat Demographics

While TEOTWAWKI may bring threats impossible to predict, other emergencies can be mitigated by recognizing threat factors.  There are three components of the Threat Demographic Analysis: history, local crime trends, and personal observation.

First, look at the history of crisis situations in your immediate area.  In the hurricane example, the overpriced cleanup scam artists were nearly always male, Caucasian, middle-aged strangers. Most had out-of-state tags and appearance ranged from scruffy homeless types to too-clean con-men types. They didn’t have business cards, local references, trade license or bonding information.

A second component of the threat demographic is local crime trends.  Most local newspapers print local crime statistics. Many local law enforcement web sites display photos of convicted criminals (may be a good idea for follow-up if a listed criminal is near your neighborhood).  Set aside qualms about “profiling” or “prejudice”. If 80% of the crimes in your community are being committed by Hispanic or African-American  males aged 18-25, then that factor should be considered in your threat assessment.

Finally, personal observation can go a long way in identifying potential threats.  A lot of law abiding people (and more than a few LEOs) know where criminal activity is concentrated in the community. Be aware of encroaching gang activity and suspicious situations.  Vacant foreclosed homes can quickly become “clubhouses” for illegal activity. 

Again, doing a preliminary demographic analysis of potential threat factors can help you respond quickly and effectively when TSHTF.       

A natural reaction at the onset of a crisis is panic. Reviewing your preliminary situation analysis and plugging in current facts helps you focus on proactively dealing with the crisis in the most effective way possible.