Perspectives on Patrolling- Part 1, by J.M.

Patrolling is something you may need to know how to do. In today’s world, if we want to find out what’s going on around us, we typically turn to the Internet, look at TV or newspapers, or call up a friend. In a post-SHTF world, we probably won’t have those options, but we’ll have an even greater need to locate resources and stay up-to-date on what’s happening around us that might have an impact on our health, safety, or well-being. One way to accomplish would be patrolling.

Patrolling Defined

For the purpose of this discussion, I define patrolling as “a planned and organized movement through a demarcated area of operations with defined goals and objectives”. Note that patrolling differs from other activities, such as a hunting trip or running down to the stream to catch some fish, in that it tends to be longer in duration, have a broader set of goals, and involves more structured planning and preparation.


There are a number of reasons you may want or need to run a patrol. The most common ones are reconnaissance and gathering intelligence. There will most likely be a lot of things happening out beyond your immediate area that could have a major impact on you and your group’s survival. Knowing about them before they hit you over the head will allow you to plan and respond much more effectively. Some examples of the types of information you may want to collect by patrolling include human threats, environmental threats, and resources.

Human Threats

In evaluating human threats, you may want to ask some questions. Is there a gang of marauders moving in? How many are there and how are they armed? Which direction are they coming from? How soon will they arrive? Is there a new warlord in the next town that intends to expand her territory? Has someone set up an observation post on that hill a mile away to observe your home base?

Environmental Threats

There could be a variety of environmental threats. For example, is that dam upriver from your house starting to come apart? Is there a pack of wild dogs in the area that have been attacking animals and people? Has one of the tanks in that chemical plant 10 miles upwind from you sprung a leak?


In a post-SHTF scenario, you need to know what resources are available to you. Where are the deer running? Has someone opened up a trading post? Where are some maple trees you can tap? Is there a trail you can use for a cart to help carry what you harvest?

Much Patrolling Material Written By Military

A lot of the material you can find on patrolling was written by the military and focuses on locating, observing, harassing, and engaging the enemy, and it tends to assume you can call in an artillery or air strike or have a larger force available that you can summon when you find the enemy. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume those are not options for you and focus mostly on collecting information.

Adjunct to Other Information Collection Techniques and With Secondary Goals

Patrolling should be considered an adjunct to other information collection techniques. Some of these include radio scanning/Ham communications, observation posts, et cetera.

Patrolling can also have some secondary goals, such as communications, training, deterrence, distribution, and assistance.


There may be other people, towns, or neighborhoods that you want to establish and maintain communications with. If you both have radios with the necessary range, you can provide them with frequencies and call signs they can use to contact your group, or your patrols can act as a postal service.


You may have some people in your group that have never been on a patrol and aren’t trained on your techniques and procedures. Taking them on a couple of low-risk patrols is a good way to provide some OJT.


People that would seek to do harm to you and yours may be less likely to enter your area of operations if they know it’s patrolled by people willing and able to defend it.


You may be in radio contact with another group that’s running low on some seeds of which you have a surplus available for distribution to them. A patrol can deliver them as part of its route.


Your patrol can provide assistance to people it encounters. It can help others out by doing things like providing basic medical care for injuries or teaching them how to forage for edible plants.


There are two types of planning you need to do prior to patrolling – general operational planning and mission planning. General operational planning refers to defining higher-level policies and procedures regarding how and when patrols will be carried out. This should include frequency, staffing, communications protocols, and qualifications.


You must plan your patrol frequency. How often will you run patrols? This can change over time and will most likely involve more frequent shorter patrols for a period right after the event and longer, less frequent ones as the situation stabilizes. You may choose to only run patrols when certain “trigger” events occur, such as a notification over Ham radio that a motorcycle gang is heading towards you. However, this approach will result in a less up-to-date picture of what’s happening in your area.


When staffing your patrol group, consider who is qualified to go on patrol. Personnel can be added and removed from the roster for different reasons, such as injuries or gaining qualifications. In general, patrols should never consist of fewer than three people, as that allows one person to assist one that is injured while the third person provides security. It also allows for two people to carry a makeshift stretcher in the event of a severe injury. In general, 4-6 people is probably the ideal size for most patrols. Keep in mind that smaller patrols may need to avoid more contacts, as they may be outnumbered by a larger group if the contact turns hostile.

Communications Protocols

There must be some communications protocols in place. How will members of a patrol communicate with each other and with the home base? This needs to be documented and everyone needs to be trained on it prior to planning any patrols. Trying to learn a communications protocol the night before leaving on a patrol is a recipe for disaster. There are a number of articles on this subject that can provide a lot more detail. “Comprehensive Crisis Communications Planning for the Prepper” and “Preventing Failure to Communicate” are a couple. (For full disclosure, I’m the author of the second one.) One item you may want to include for any patrol is a portable antenna, which will significantly increase the range of their radios.


What types of skills and attributes are required of a person in order for them to qualify for participation in a patrol? At a minimum, they should possess levelheadedness, physical fitness, training in combat, bushcraft, situational awareness, communications, communications protocols, tactics, first aid, and navigation. Let’s take a look at each of these.


The members of a patrol will be on their own for a long period of time, and they will frequently need to be able to make fast and appropriate decisions while under pressure that may impact the whole group.

Physical Fitness

Patrolling will usually involve a lot of walking and physical exertion while carrying a heavy load, so the members need to be in good shape. They should also have good observational skills and senses (eyesight, hearing, and smell).


The patrol may be forced to engage hostiles (human or otherwise), so they should be able to effectively defend themselves as well as the rest of the team using both weapons and unarmed techniques.


The patrol may need to move through or bivouac in wilderness areas while avoiding detection, or track people or animals moving through the area.

Situational Awareness

Patrol members will need to constantly have their head on a swivel in order to avoid dangerous situations and to detect potential threats before they’re detected themselves.


Patrol member should be fully trained on all standard communications protocols. There should also be someone on every patrol that’s the designated contact specialist, who is the type of person that can approach and talk to other people you encounter and has the skills and personality that can put other people at ease while extracting useful intelligence from them.


There should be a series of standard movement, combat, and reaction tactics defined for the situations the patrol will most likely encounter.

First Aid

Every member of the patrol should be trained on basic first aid, and at least one member should have advanced skills.


Every patrol member should be able to navigate using a map and a compass.

General Operating Planning and Patrol Guide, Started Now

General operational planning is something that should be started now and updated as circumstances change. I recommend creating a “Patrol Guide” using a 3-ring binder that gets reviewed and updated every so often.

We have concluded the section on general operational planning. Tomorrow, we will take a look at mission planning as well as dress and kit and navigation.

See Also:

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  1. I’d add that patrol is something you generally only engage in after other securities and necessities have been put in place sufficient to ensure adequate support. In particular, if patrolling in a hostile/unknown/unsecure environment, especially WROL, you need a secure base which patrols can retreat to and/or call in support from. Lacking that, your patrol is limited to relatively close in perimeter roving. Foraging patrols can be especially risky in SHTF environments.

  2. Great article! Being a Vet myself, I know your mindset is everything Just having this information will make you comfortable and not freaking out when SHTF.

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