For the past few weeks, I’ve made Area Studies the primary focus of the blog and social media presence. If you want to get started in local intelligence for disasters and emergencies, the Area Study is your starting point.
For those new to SHTF Intelligence, here’s a progression of intelligence products, skills, and tasks you should be doing.
1. The Area Study – This intelligence product is the foundation of local intelligence efforts. It’s here, most importantly, where we learn 1) the significance of “Intelligence Value” and 2) the importance of identifying your intelligence gaps.
“Intelligence Value” is what what we assign to information that’s relevant to our mission. The more critical a piece of information is, the higher its intelligence value.
For instance, if your mission is pulling your neighbors out of flood waters, then knowing who needs to be helped and where they live becomes mission-critical information. During this mission, identifying these neighbors becomes one of your top priorities. Other information of intelligence value could include: future flood stages, anticipated depth of area flooding, debris in the area that could pose a hazard, other areas that could be affected by flood waters, how long the flooding will last, and the list goes on.
If flooding is a risk, then you’re going to want to put local flood zone maps in your Area Study.
An “intelligence gap” is literally a gap in our knowledge. These gaps are things we need to know but don’t. Identifying your intelligence gaps is a critical step because it’s here where we identify what we need to collect. All intelligence gathering is directed through these intelligence gaps in the form of Collection Requirements. Once we have our Collection Requirements, then we can focus on collecting.
Through our Area Study, we want to identify threats, assets, fault lines, and vulnerabilities, among other things. Intelligence reduces uncertainty about the future. If I don’t understand my Operating Environment, then I won’t understand my assets and liabilities. I can’t plan for preparedness and security if I don’t understand who and what will affect my community’s security.
If you want to get started on an Area Study, the best and easiest way is to take my Area Intelligence Course.
2. Build Local Networks – While doing your Area Study, with a particular focus on the Human Terrain, you’re going to want to start building your local intelligence network.
In our Area Study, we should be identifying our neighbors and other important or valuable people in the area. If you don’t know your neighbors, go meet them. I recently moved to a new area and started taking walks when my neighbors are getting home from work. It gives me an opportunity to introduce myself and start learning more about them. I’m building rapport with them and looking for signs of like-mindedness. (I started a Neighborhood Watch in my previous neighborhood, which allowed me to go door to door and get contact information to begin this process. I highly recommend doing that. Joining a website like NextDoor will also give you opportunities to meet and communicate with your neighbors.)
In my Area Study, I need to separate these people into three categories: A) develop, B) inform and influence, and C) monitor.
A. I need to develop like-minded people. At a minimum, that means building a relationship with them. The end goal is to develop these neighbors into valuable and cooperative members of a neighborhood watch and/or preparedness group. If you can build enough trust and rapport, invite them to the gun range or other training with you. Get them “bought in” to developing tactical, medical, communications, intelligence, and/or other skills, especially if they share the same concerns about the future.
B. I need to inform and influence my neighbors who are indifferent towards preparedness. People are busy and get distracted. Between work schedules, their kids’ football practice and karate, Netflix, news propaganda, and other things, it’s easy to completely ignore the country’s fault lines. Many times, these people would be very concerned if they knew about the risks and dangers. It’s our job to inform them and then influence them towards preparedness. (My parents are a great example. I’ll relay to them information that concerns me and they can’t believe FoxNews isn’t talking about it. Over the years, I’ve worked on informing and influencing them towards preparedness. Last time I visited, my dad had a closet stacked floor to ceiling with food and water. It’s a start.) Share information in NextDoor, invite these people over for dinner, get your kids on the same soccer team; whatever you have to do to gain access and start building trust and rapport with these people, do it. Once you can prove that a) you’re not a weirdo and b) that you’re an intelligent and competent human being, then you can being sharing information to inform and influence. (Ask for their opinion on these things. See where they sit. Confirm their suspicions, encourage their own self-study of these threats, and, most importantly, don’t become “that guy.”)
C. I want to monitor neighbors who are sketchy, involved in criminality, or could otherwise oppose or disrupt our efforts for community security, especially during a disaster or emergency. (I’m not saying to peer out your window or to conduct surveillance. Just keep an eye out.) Familiarity is a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s always good to get to know your neighbors, but it’s not always good for them to get to know you. Identify these people. If you have to, run background checks. See if these people are “familiar faces” to local law enforcement. Ask your like-minded neighbors what they know about these people. Determine the threat level of the people in this category, add that information to your Area Study, and make considerations when planning for disasters and emergencies.
What we ultimately want to do is move people up the chain: turn B’s into A’s, and develop A’s into security partners.
Once we’ve done our Area Study and identified our collection requirements, we can start relying on our A’s and security partners to, wittingly or unwittingly, provide us with information of intelligence value.
C. Get Your ACE in Gear – The Analysis & Control Element (ACE) is our local intelligence cell. It’s the control room of our intelligence efforts. We’ve demonstrated the value of running of an ACE numerous times, including Operation Urban Charger (2015) when we battletracked the Ferguson riot.
During a disaster or emergency, we’ll need to produce real-time intelligence. If you expect to make decisions, you must be well-informed. You only bridge that gap through an intelligence effort.
This is why I, as much as possible, steer preppers away from accumulating more stuff and towards developing a local intelligence network and building an ACE.
When this disaster or emergency strikes — be it a hurricane, flood, wildfire, EMP/CME, grid down, protracted conflict, whatever it may be — I want to have my preparedness group form an ACE to direct collection, monitor the security situation, and produce real-time intelligence. (Read my Ultimate ACE Startup Guide here.)
In the ACE, we need a central repository for information and group members who know what to do with it. This means that I have to train up my preparedness group in intelligence skills. Much of intelligence collection is intuitive — you have questions, you need answers, and you go find that information somewhere with the skills and resources you have.
What requires some education and training is running an entire network and getting your information turned into actionable or predictive intelligence. Improving your intelligence gathering skills means more efficient collection of a greater intelligence value. Improving the way you analyze information means more accurate and timely intelligence. That results in improving your security, surviving, and/or winning a conflict. This is why I teach intelligence collection and analysis for a living.
You can find my training schedule here.
If you’re the “intel guy” for your preparedness group, recruit a reliable partner and share the load. It’s a lot more work than it seems. Collection and analysis are a group process, anyway.
If you don’t have an “intel guy” in your group, then you need to find one. Start reading a ton of free information on this Forward Observer Dispatch blog, or sign up for the Area Intelligence Course (online) or a Tactical Intelligence Course (classroom) for accelerated learning.
I hope this helps give you an idea of where we’re going. It all begins with your Area Study, so start there.
Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. Iraq(x1)/Afghanistan(x2). He now studies intelligence and warfare.
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This content was originally published here.