Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Escape Route Planning

This article, as with all the other articles on this blog, is strictly intended to be informative in nature. By no means is it a set of instructions that completely cover every legality and every contingency which may arise if you choose to attempt this skill. It relates what my experience has been with regard to these matters and what changes I’ve found in the technology since those times when I’ve had to employ these skills.

If you choose to attempt this skill, you are completely on your own with regard to the consequences which may occur from the attempt.

OK, so you’ve built your caches and feeling pretty proud of yourself.
Well, maybe … just exactly where do you plan on placing those caches?

On public land?

On private land?

… and how do you know whether or not you’ll be able to get to them when/if you’re on the move out of the danger zone?


There’s a little thing they used to teach in the military called the 5 P’s of Command

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

The NCOA isn’t known for worrying about the delicate sensibilities of civilians; neither am I. As a matter of fact studies have found that if it’s a bit annoying, or shocking, that you’re more likely to remember it.

So please, be shocked or offended, just so long as you remember it.

So you’ve made your caches, gathered the materials you need to bury and conceal them and now you’re about to load up your vehicle; drive off and get them concealed against Z-Day, D-Day or whatever other letter of the alphabet you care to use to signify THAT DAY WHEN YOU FINALLY NEED THOSE CACHES.

So where are you going to place them?

Well, for starters you’re going to need to establish what your primary means of transport will be, motorized and what type of vehicle, muscle powered and whether you’ll be on foot or using some sort of bicycle or perhaps even some sort of draft animal, horses or goats. Then you need to take a look at a gazetteer (a sort of map book that shows topographic information and street placement, but not street names) to plan your primary route of withdrawal and at least one alternate route for your primary means of transport.

Well, the first thing you need to cross off the list of possibilities are any highways or other major roads you might have crossing through or near your town. If something like Katrina happens those will be the first place that the National Guard and local authorities will place control points, and if you’ve kept up with documents such as the NDAA and protocols put into place by FEMA you’ll find that your private assets can be seized if they’re deemed to be required for the public safety and good. I know that some of you reading this will scratch your heads and ask, “But I don’t have that much and it’s not the best quality, why the hell would anyone from the government want to seize it for anyone else to use?”
Let me explain a small, minor; possibly even miniscule fact of life that may have escaped your attention.


Does that make things a little clearer to you?

So, are we clear on why we avoid the major highways and thoroughfares now?

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the other possibilities.

Secondary roads are roads that you might refer to as back streets; those are a good choice as long as they lead fairly directly from your residence to the town limits. Dirt roads are also a good choice but a little more care is needed if you select them as your primary route. Often times those aren’t as well maintained as the other three road types mentioned. Depending on the type of emergency causing you to leave your home, there exists the chance those roads will be flooded or blocked by fallen trees or even downed power lines. I wouldn’t say that this should cause you to exclude those routes but you do need to exercise due caution.
Well, now comes the time to look at that damned map again. By now you’ve eliminated the main routes out of town from consideration …


... and you’ve selected the shortest route out of town from the myriad secondary streets and dirt roads around your home …


… and you’ve planned the primary route you’ll need to take to get to your first rally point, again, avoiding as many of the main roads through the area as you can manage.



            Yep … more planning ….

            Your rally point is the first chance that all members of your group who’ve missed the connection at your house will have to re-connect with the group. The rally point, for these purposes, also needs to be within walking distance of the town limits. Do not confuse this with being within walking distance of your home, I would generally advise the location to be no more than five miles from the town limits. If you’re being pursued, or in any way followed you need to avoid proceeding to the rally point. The rally point is a reasonably secure location where a group of vehicles can meet without drawing undue attention to their presence. Which means that no member of your group who is being pursued should go anywhere near it, they should take one of their bail out routes instead. There are measures which can be taken to further reduce the chance that your group may be noticed but those will likely require another article.

At the rally point you’ll wait a pre-designated amount of time for the others to catch up. DO NOT WAIT FOR THE OTHERS FOR EVEN ONE MINUTE PAST THE DESIGNATED TIME. As a matter of fact, the vehicles should be started and idling at least five minutes before you give the signal to move out. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend waiting there for more than about twelve hours, after that, depending on the situation that caused you to decide to leave, they’ve either been compromised or aren’t joining you for personal reasons. What you should be doing during that time is assessing the state of your supplies …

·        Does everyone have their personal equipment?
·        Does everyone have the share of group equipment they’re supposed to be carrying?
·        Is anyone in need of medical attention?
·        Is everyone dressed appropriately for the weather conditions which may come?

Any deficiencies in any of these areas need to be addressed as quickly as possible. This would also be a good time to share a meal and discuss what everyone has seen or heard; that meal should be one which can be prepared without a fire or stove. I cannot emphasize enough, the need for shared information.

            This is also one of the main locations you’ll need to place a cache.

            Bet you didn’t see that one coming …

Each cache location should be selected along the main line of travel you’ve planned. You’ll also need to select locations for planned bail out points where you can bolt if anything threatens to stop your main line of retreat. The main caches should also be able to be accessed, with only a minimal effort, from the alternate paths lined out by your bail out points. Whether you place secondary caches in these areas will depend on your resources and your level of comfort with your main route. Just realize that if your plans work out the way you intend, that the caches along your bail out points will usually be lost to you forever.

            The next stop for your group will be the rendezvous point, this is a place which should be better secluded and more secure. This place should be able to conceal your presence for a number of days. It’s the last chance for the members of your group who missed the rally point to make a connection with your main party. Everything mentioned about what to do at the rally point holds true with the rendezvous point, especially the part about what to do if being pursued.

Now, at this point I’m going to interject something about group security, this and command structure are also likely to be the subjects of another article but we’re going to touch on them really quickly here. Whether you like it or not … during a crisis situation there have to be leaders who make decisions and are responsible for them. There won’t generally be time for a debate so make certain that, when you select your leaders, you select people whom you would not only trust with your own life, but whom you would trust with the lives of everyone you know and care for. How you select your leaders is up to you, for all I care you could vote to entrust your lives to the first red haired man under five feet tall that you’re group encounters while retreating.

            My criteria are slightly more demanding than that …..

            In the end, how you select your leaders is entirely up to you … you, after all, must live with the consequences of that decision.

HOWEVER, what I strongly advise that you do is to keep the information about the route, the alternates and the location of the caches limited to as few people as possible. There should also be only one file/document which contains all the information about the group’s main plans.

            Only one person should be thoroughly acquainted with that document.

            There should, of course, be an alternate, but the alternate shouldn’t be reviewing the document until the group has hit the rally point. The alternate should also not be riding in the same vehicle as the primary.
So the rule of thumb is that no one except the section leaders of the group are supposed to know the location of the rally point, and no one except the group leader is supposed to know, at the beginning, where the rendezvous point is, right?


            So … this is the point where most of you are probably thinking, “So how is it that the members of the group who missed the rally point are supposed to meet the group at the rendezvous point, if no one but the group leader knows where the rendezvous point is?”

            I suppose that could be a problem …. so this is where we introduce the concept of the dead drop.

A dead drop is so called because no one is there to hand over, or by any other means communicate, the information that you need to proceed to the next step. The information will be in a concealed location, designed to blend into the background of the rally point. Each section leader should know the place or the indicator to look for the information. The information should not be in the clear, which is to say; it should not be printed plainly, on a piece of paper. The information should be encrypted or otherwise concealed, so that if anyone other than the intended addressee would find it, it would make little or no sense to them. Personally, I’d place the information on a memory stick, encrypted and accessible only if you had a laptop with the correct encryption program on it. What happens next is that the section leader finds the memory stick, hooks it up to a laptop; then enters the password and … voila! … the needed information is revealed, in addition to the time frame they have to get there! There are many freeware programs out there capable of doing the job; one of the many I’ve tried and which seem to do a pretty good job is Crypt4Free. Again, check around and see which program serves your purposes the best.

            Using an encryption program sounds pretty good to me ….

In all honesty you don’t need to necessarily use a memory stick and laptop to conceal the information, the first level of protection for the information is the fact that as few people as possible know it. The second level of protection is the procedure of physically concealing the information from easy view. The third level of protection is encrypting it; for that you can use something as simple as a Vigenere` table or even a substitution cipher. What you need to understand though, is that the only thing which any of these protocols will do is to delay the eventual discovery of the information. Nothing you do will keep information you leave behind from eventually being uncovered. The idea is to make that delay as long as possible.

            Isn’t it interesting how intertwined all these subjects are?

            The final goal, your sanctuary is what we’ll discuss next … as you may have already guessed the Sanctuary will share many of the same characteristics of the first two stopping points. The major points where it will differ are:
·        Distance … Your Sanctuary should generally be at least fifteen miles from your rendezvous point. There are myriad reasons for this but the main one is to discourage any OpFor (Opposing Forces) from even attempting to locate you. First of all, for whatever, reason most people who are attempting to conceal themselves do not travel more than seven miles from their last known location. Second, even the best military unit, unless given a strategically sound reason, will have second thoughts about a search area of seven hundred six or seven miles (given a minimum radius of fifteen miles).
·        Concealability … The place which becomes your Sanctuary must have enough parking area, sheltered from both ground and aerial observation, to hide all vehicles you plan on keeping with you.
·        Water … Water must be somewhere nearby; ideally it will be some sort of spring with sufficient flow to support twice the number of people in your group. Otherwise work at avoiding ponds that once had industrial waste flowing into them or bodies of water which place you downstream from any industrial or medical facility. This is probably the most crucial aspect of your Sanctuary so take the time and cross check all your information.
·        Defensive Posture … This just means you have to be able to defend yourself once you’re in place. Whether you’re going to defend your Sanctuary from outlaws or from governmental forces this is a question to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Because if you’re going to defend yourself there’s a pretty good chance lives will be lost. On both sides.
·        Food … This is pretty self explanatory, so I’m going to keep this relatively short. First of all, unless you are searching through abandoned buildings give up any thought of scavenging for supplies, if you’re caught by LEO’s or the military you’ll be lucky if they just arrest you. Given recent events I would not be surprised nor would I blame them if they decided to simply shoot you instead. You need to take, and cache, sufficient supplies to keep your group isolated for at least six months longer than the longest period you believe you’ll be out there. If you have reason to believe you won’t be returning once you leave you’ll need to obtain training in foraging, hunting, trapping, fishing and general farm work.

            I can already hear someone out there, reading this article, who’s complaining, “Hey! This was supposed to be about getting my escape route set up; what’s with all this other stuff?” Real simply put, all these instructions are necessary because when you first begin to scout the areas you plan on using for all this, you’ll need to do all these things but on a lesser level. Get a notebook and use it to take the first notes you need to create the plan; don’t dispose of any notes you make about this in your trash, shred it and burn it in your BBQ grill instead. If it’s good enough for the security of classified government documents it’s just dandy for you. Remember, according to the US PATRIOT Act our 4th and 5th Amendment rights have gone bye-bye and they no longer need search warrants or other such niceties if they make the decision that you’re an “enemy of the state.” Any effort to make yourself, or your group, self reliant can lead to your being harassed by the government even if you advocate for adherence to Constitutional standards and peaceful (e.g. voting and legislative change) revolution. They can even go to your home, search through the contents without your permission or even your presence; take anything believed to be part of your ‘operation’ and leave … all without even a kiss before they @#$% you long and hard.
            They probably already have my page bookmarked but not for any good reason

After you have your route selected and the bail out points chosen the next step is to scout it all out as thoroughly as you can. You’ll want to walk these pathways at different hours of the day and night to be certain they’re as quiet as you need them to be. Go to the rally point, rendezvous area and sanctuary and camp for two or three days in each one, keeping your campsite as low key as possible without any attempt at camouflaging it. Ideally you should be on public land and preferably somewhere you’re actually allowed to camp. On the other hand, and facing up to the reality of life in our modern world, the chances are pretty good that the areas best suited to your needs are going to be on private land.

            What you do, or don’t do, is between you and your conscience

            Don’t attempt to involve me on even the slightest level

On a more personal note … I’ve been known to offer to act as a steward/game control agent for the owner of a farm I wanted to use for a rally point, I only had to prove that my skills at keeping my camp/presence clean and low profile were up to his standards of performance. If my peoples’ skills weren’t up to those standards we were going to lose a valuable resource, and the fault would be mine because I was the leader.

            When you’re in charge, you’re in charge of the successes and the failures.

            No one else


            … and here you thought that being in charge meant that you could duck responsibility for everything … suuuuccccker …

            Now … to review … your cache placement is going to depend on your preferred method of transport and the route you select for your line of retreat. Your bail out points and their subsequent alternate route may or may not have caches but you should still maintain access to the caches on your main route, from the alternate route. Any caches you might place on your alternate route should be small and able to be abandoned, which is what will happen to most of them.
            Your rally point should only be known to your section leaders; the only person who should know the entire plan, backwards and forwards should be the evacuation boss, the alternate evacuation boss should be briefed on everything but only after the group departs from the rally point. Any personnel who are late arrivals to the rally point should know to look for a dead drop for the information about where the rendezvous is located. There should also be a means to let the late arrivals know whether they should destroy the message or not, this is why I prefer an encrypted memory stick. As a protection against the group being compromised the evacuation boss and the alternate should ride in separate vehicles from the rally point to both the rendezvous and the final destination, the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary needs to provide all the advantages of your home, the rally point and your rendezvous. It also needs to supply access to either potable water or water which can be rendered potable with a minimum of effort. There also needs to be concealment for the vehicles which you retain. The defensive posture of the Sanctuary is important but you also need to consider that you may want to have two escape routes. Something very important to remember about escape routes is, that they can also become lines of attack for the OpFor if you fail to camouflage them and set guards to watch them.

            Believe it or not, this is only a quick overview of running an evac operation. But, if you do a little homework and apply yourselves to the project with an analytical approach, it should be enough to get you through the worst of it.

So, until my next posting, keep your steel sharp and your powder dry …..


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