Five Intelligence Essentials for Community Security – Forward Observer Shop

Five Intelligence Essentials for Community Security

There are few greater examples of leadership right now than preparing your community today for tomorrow’s emergency.  Here are five areas where veterans, patriots, and preparedness-oriented Americans should work together to build an intelligence capacity for community security.

If you’re not very familiar with intelligence, then it’s your job as a leader to become familiar and get someone on your team trained up to fill the role of S2.  We’re not talking about being James Bond or leading top secret missions; instead focus on conducting threat analysis and developing early warning intelligence.  It’s the S2’s job to immediately begin contributing to these areas for a future SHTF event.

Here are five ways that you can better prepare for community security through intelligence.

1) 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, 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.

2) 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.  And 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.

3) 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.

4) 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.”

5) 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.

Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper

If you’re concerned about where we’re headed as a country, whether on the near-end of the spectrum or the far end of the spectrum (social, political and economic instability; domestic conflict; or collapse of empire), and want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, then I invite you to try us out. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting and training area here.



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. Great article, i always learn something from your podcasts and website. I like that you are not the first person to mention that scanner so it must be a good option. I hope keep up the good work. I am now a subscriber to your magazine also, can’t wait to get the first one! The USGS website has a link to look up your area and print it or order it. Super easy!


  2. Stealth try HP clear film. It is sold by the roll for large format plotters and can be easily cut to size for custom overlays.

  3. Excellent subject, especially usable for the small rural communities of a few dozen to a few thousand inhabitants.
    I live in a town on the eastern plains of Colorado and the people as a norm here remains clueless of what to do or the need to do anything, let alone the possibility of any the event of a hostile disturbance. My fear is that of hostile elements hitting the rural communities fast and hard, and the unprepared will suffer in countless ways.
    Do you have any suggestions for the generation of community interest for the training and setting up a community security program?

  4. Great article. Here in Florida were are about to hit head on or get drenched by a hurricane called Matthew. Because there was no law and order after Jean and Frances hurricanes the armed national guard was out on US 1 North (I drove through them going south) taking men off the road going into Ft. Pierce Fl. (who did not live there) and the locals did not know it happened. Since getting your emails I have tried to stir up interest about community security and the locals could care less and even less about a neighborhood watch to begin with. Keep up the good work.

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