Community Security Notes on “Civil Defense: Urban Analysis” – Forward Observer Shop

Community Security Notes on “Civil Defense: Urban Analysis”

I have roughly 30 gigabytes of collected manuals, guides, white papers, reports, and other documents on intelligence, security, defense, and warfighting in PDF. On a new site revision, I’ll make a lot of those available for download. One thing I’ll start doing today is reading through these documents, commentating on their content, giving readers a frame of reference as to why a particular section is important for intelligence and community security, and making the download available.

Today, I’m flipping through Technical Manual 8-1 Civil Defense Urban Analysis, published by the now-defunct Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1953. (DOWNLOAD) Somewhat surprisingly, for being published in the 1950s, this manual contains a lot of great information for analyzing urban terrain.

Context: One of the most difficult aspects of fighting in urban terrain is its three-dimensional nature. Not only do soldiers in urban battlefields have to worry about what’s behind and ahead of them, but they also have to worry about what’s above them. One really great example of this happened during the Russian conflict in Chechnya, where Russian tanks invaded Grozny. A line of tanks would occupy the street, and rebels would cause a road block, stopping the tanks. Then the Chechen rebels would fire RPGs out of second- and third-story windows in the buildings above and destroy the tanks. If we were to apply this concept to community security, the same effect applies: this is a characteristic of our operating environment that we need to take into consideration.

Principal Uses for Urban Analysis

Starting on Page 1, the manual outlines the reasons to pay attention to urban analysis:

(a) To identify by target analysis the area or areas which any enemy may consider most profitable in terms of maximum casualties and structural damage.

(b) To develop a web defense or other sound tactical organization of the ground for the most effective dispersal, use, and control of civil defense services and community facilities.

(e) To develop a program for reducing or eliminating as many physical hazards as possible in advance of an attack.

(f) To determine location of the city’s critical features which may be potential targets for attack.

This manual was written during the Cold War, when the risk of invasion, sabotage, or warfighting on the home front was exponentially higher than it is today, but this doesn’t make these lessons any less important. Any kind of security or movement in an urban or built up area means accounting for the buildings and structures above you.

Starting at the bottom of Page 2, the manual lists off some features we’ll want to consider. Here are the highlights. (Also, you should be tracking this information and including it in the appropriate sections of your Area Studies.)

  • Industrial plants
  • Plants and facilities dealing with highly flammable or explosive materials
  • Industrial storage plants using or capable of generating poisonous gases
  • Public shelters
  • Public buildings
  • Population distribution
  • School population
  • Military installations
  • Police stations and communication system
  • Fire stations and communications system
  • Rescue units and locations of stored tools
  • Water distribution system and auxiliary sources
  • Sewerage system and garbage collection and disposal services

This list overs well over 50 features you’ll want to identify in your own areas. (If you want to learn how to put together a professional Area Study, check out our Area Intelligence Course.)

Chapter 2 covers maps, but it does bear some updating. I recommend having 24″x36″ topographical, imagery, and street maps. You can learn more here: The Ultimate ACE Startup Guide

Chapter 3, starting on Page 9, is on identifying potential targets and the effects of an atomic bomb — not entirely relevant to this blog.

Chapter 4 is entitled, “Method of Estimating Damage to Structures and Facilities”. Unless you’re doing battle damage assessment or determining the potential effects of battle damage, this chapter is not very relevant.

Chapter 5 is on the potential for fire, and it does contain a good section on fires and fire season (Page 27-30).

Chapter 6 is on estimating casualties during a mass casualty event, depending on city population and time of day. Page 32 features an interesting graph on the topic (posted below).

Chapter 7 covers “Maps Used in Planning Operations” and contains good general information on considerations for infrastructure, public services, and roads and highways.

In all, this is a really useful manual, especially that first chapter. It’s a great building block for SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Guide to Community Security.

If you want to get head and shoulders above your competition, then do an Area Study. We’ve built out an e-course that makes this process easy and efficient. Put in the work, and you’ll get the results that will help you navigate emergencies, whether they’re national or local.

If you enjoyed this article and want more of my thoughts on intelligence, security, and defense for an uncertain future, be sure to subscribe to my email updates.

Always Out Front,

Samuel Culper


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Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

1 Comment

  1. I would strongly suggest that urban conflict is Four (4) dimensional!

    All cities have sewer systems and many have subways. Therefor you must guard against attack, etc. from six directions N,S, E, W, above and below!

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