Intelligence is a poorly covered topic in our the preparedness community, largely because there just aren’t enough former intel guys willing to teach on the topic. Although the work of intelligence can consume your life while preparing for SHTF, there are several small things you can do today in order to become more prepared. If you’re spending hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars on things but aren’t studying the threats in your area, then there’s a good chance that you will suffer from strategic shock; in other words, you may be exploited in a way that you hadn’t anticipated.
Here are five ways that you can better prepare for community security through intelligence.
- Maps – You simply must have maps of your area of operations (AO). In order to understand the mission of community security, you’ll need to identify just what your AO is. In other words, you need to know the boundaries of what you’re going to protect. Identifying the AO is the first step in a line of several steps that we’ll cover later in the article.
Step into any tactical operations center, or TOC, in Iraq or Afghanistan and you’re likely to see several types of maps of the AO. The first map we’ll need is a topographical map at 1:24,000 scale available from the USGS. Printing off a map at your home or office printer is better than nothing; however, what’s best is having a large map hung up on the wall. You’re going to need at least a 24″x36″ map, if you want to be the best prepared. You’ll also be interested in having plenty of street maps and imagery of the AO, too.
- Police Scanner – Scanning local emergency services frequencies is the absolute best way to get up-to-the-second intelligence information during an emergency. Unless you live in an area where this traffic is encrypted, you’ll have access to some of the same information that law enforcement does. When it comes to making informed, time-sensitive decisions, a police scanner will be your best friend. They’re expensive, however, I highly recommend the Uniden Home Patrol 2. It’s my police scanner of choice for several reasons, one of which is because, unlike other scanners, its screen shows me what agency is transmitting. That goes a long way in my ability to determine the area of transmission.
- Intelligence Preparation of the Community – I modified the Army’s Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield for civilian use in my book, SHTF Intelligence, and designed Intelligence Preparation of the Community (IPC). Once we have our maps and map overlays set up, we need to identify and mark on our maps any critical infrastructure in the area, along with what’s called the human terrain. Critical infrastructure includes police and fire stations, government buildings, power plants, and fuel depots (among many others), and the human terrain includes community leaders and demographics (among many others). We need to pay attention to the people, places, and things that keep life-as-we-know-it up and running, and we need to not only know exactly where they are in relation to our AO, but also how they’ll affect our AO. Doing the legwork now in order to understand the community is a top priority for the S2, and this step never ends.
- Threat Analysis – We need to begin identifying threats in our AO, which includes threats from outside the area that have the potential to migrate into the AO. Threats are broken down into four categories: conventional, irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive. Once identified, we begin developing intelligence requirements so we can learn more about each threat and provide better analysis. If you don’t know the threat, then you can’t defend against it, and if you can’t defend against it, then it’s going to eat your lunch. In other words, understand each threat as he understands himself. In the Military Intelligence Creed, that would be “find, know, and never lose the enemy.”
- Early Warning Intelligence – Once we’ve identified and analyzed current and potential threats, it’s imperative for us to find ways to provide early warning for them. For current threats, our greatest early warning, in general, will be the effects of the SHTF event, which are likely to cause criminal behavior. But beyond that, how can we develop tactical early warning intelligence? Having “eyes on” our community’s avenues of approach is one of the best ways. Through our threat analysis, we should know from what direction these threats will migrate and, therefore, we need to identify these threats as they’re migrating as quickly as possible. For potential threats – that is, threats that have yet to arise – we need to begin looking for “indicators” of their activity. We might begin looking for tagging on signs and walls, gang-related clothing and hand signs among the populace, noticeable surveillance of potential targets– anything you’d expect to happen before an attack occurs. If we can identify these indicators soon enough, then we’ll be a leg up on the competition and know they pose a threat to us before it’s too late.
Samuel Culper is a former Military Intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst who spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s the director of Forward Observer and the author of SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Approach to Community Security.