AO/AI Walkthrough & Google Earth Tutorial – Forward Observer Shop

AO/AI Walkthrough & Google Earth Tutorial

Area of Operations: (AO) The area around our home or neighborhood where we expect to conduct security operations. For most, this is a small area; it’s the boundary of your property or perhaps just beyond your property. Others might determine their AO by the range of their rifle scope. If you don’t foresee yourself venturing farther than a mile from your home, then your AO should be less than a mile radius. If, during an emergency, you don’t see yourself venturing more than 100 yards from your home, then your AO should be less than a 100 yard radius.

Area of Interest: (AI) Once we establish your AO, then we need to establish the boundary of the area around our AO, called our Area of Interest. We don’t expect to operate here, but we may still be interested in what happens here. For instance, my AO doesn’t include the nearest police or fire station, nor does it include the nearest school or Walmart; however, I’m still very interested in what happens there. The AI is the area that we’re going to monitor because what occurs there could indirectly affect us.

This is an important step because it’s going to focus our planning and intelligence gathering within these specific boundaries. Threats are a game of proximity; the father away they are, the less relevant they are to us. But at some point, threats become very relevant because they enter our AI or AO. That’s why we need to identify these boundaries.


1. Let’s start with your AO. On a map overlay or computer mapping software, draw your AO. It could look like a circle, a square, or any shape of polygon. Remember that the boundary of your AO can change, so don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time. As you learn and investigate more through this course, you may need to change the boundaries of your AO and that’s perfectly normal.

2. Next draw the boundary of your AI. Consider the homes, buildings, facilities, and landmarks around your home and neighborhood. One way to determine this is to say, “How far away from me can a robbery occur and I remain interested in that event?” A quarter mile? A half-mile? Or, “What’s in my neighborhood that’s so significant to me that I would want to know about events occuring there?” A police station, a grocery store, a gas station; the list goes on. Identify what would be relevant to you, and then include those locations in your AI.

Samuel Culper 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.

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