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SHTF Intelligence: Getting Started (Part One)

This is the first article in a series about using intelligence for preparedness.  I’m starting from square zero in order to introduce a new crop of Americans to the concept of using intelligence, to prove that there’s a need for intelligence, and to get readers quickly up to speed on how to incorporate it into their security planning.  After getting caught up to speed, if you’d like to read more in-depth and put theory into practice, a book entitled SHTF Intelligence will show you the way forward.  You can find a small homework exercise here.


Why do I need intelligence?

Because everyone has blind spots.  A common theme in the preparedness community is beans, bullets, and band-aids.  We need food and water to survive, we need medicine to treat injuries and illness, and we need guns and ammo for defense… but against whom?

In a Shit-Hits-The-Fan (SHTF) or survival situation, if we’re dumping hundreds or thousands or more dollars into beans, bullets, and baid-aids, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should investigate our surroundings as well?

I think so.  I was a military and contract intelligence analyst, and we in this country are likely to face a lot of the same types of situations that we dealt with in Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Our neighbors and the populace — are they for us or against us? What are their politics and attitudes? Which households should we approach to build community security in a SHTF situation?  Which households will be adversarial to us?
  • Key Human Terrain — who wields influence in the area?  Where do the nearest tradesmen, engineers, and medical professionals live in case we need their help?
  • Known bad guys — who are the active criminals and gangs in the area?  What are their activities and how can we identify their indicators?
  • Future bad guys — who’s likely to engage in criminality in the future?  Which parts of the population are going to resort to criminal behavior in a time of need?  Most importantly, in what areas will they be active and how will they affect my community?
  • Law enforcement — how will they respond to a SHTF situation?  If they’re going home, as is often assumed, then where do they live and how can we work with them?
  • Critical infrastructure — what keeps the world spinning in our area?  Do we have critical infrastructure that would invite armed security or suggest an increase in criminal activity?  Where can we get the things we need to maintain our survivability?

These are just a few questions that intelligence can answer.  At the heart of intelligence is the ability to reduce uncertainty.  If you’re concerned about grid-down or financial collapse or the Golden Horde or some other event or threat, then some basic intelligence work should be at the top of your To Do list.

Ultimately, what intelligence brings to the table is an ability to make well-informed, time-sensitive decisions.

Colonel John Boyd, an Air Force fighter pilot, was the first to describe the decision-making process he called the OODA Loop.  Because fighter pilots have to make split-second decisions, their ability to Observe a development, Orient to what that means, Decide which course of action they should take and then Act on it, is a critical part of their survivability in combat.  Similarly, lots of tactical shooting trainers have incorporated the OODA Loop into their curriculum for the exact same reason.

That ability to Observe and Orient is the informational phase of the decision-making process.  Can you imagine getting into a gunfight if you can’t see or hear your opponent?  Yet that’s exactly what many are preparing to do on a larger level.  We’re limited by our field of vision and line of sight, but with an intelligence effort, we can begin to see well beyond just our line of sight.

So what intelligence allows us to do during a SHTF scenario is not just see our opponent, but potentially observe him before a conflict arises.  This is called Early Warning, and it’s one of the two key responsibilities of our community security element.

The second major responsibility is producing Threat Intelligence.  Knowing that a gang is active in your area is a good first step.  We need to move beyond our intuitive approach to information and start using a structured, methodical process to completely remove our blind spots.  In essence, we need to graduate from mere information and start producing intelligence.

The difference between information and intelligence is simple:  information is raw data, and intelligence is the evaluated, assessed, and synthesized information that answers, “So what?”  Hearing that there was a murder in your community is not intelligence; it’s just information.  Identifying the perpetrator and his current location, finding out where and why the murder took place, determining how it’s going to affect the community, and compiling it into a consumable product is intelligence.


We do this through the Intelligence Cycle.  There are five phases and I’ll briefly detail them in order.  In Phase One, we understand our mission, assign analytic tasks and responsibilities, and begin generating our intelligence requirements (covered in the next section).  In Phase Two, we task those requirements out for collection.  Once that information is collected and reported, we start with Phase Three, where we analyze the incoming information.  After filtering out the bad information, and analyzing the good information, we produce the actual intelligence.  We provide predictive intelligence — describing what might or is likely to happen in the future — or estimative intelligence — describing an organization’s strength and capabilities.  Finally, once we produce the intelligence, we need to ensure that it gets into the hands of the right people.  In Phase Five, we disseminate the intelligence to our leadership, our community security team, or the community at large.

Let’s start with Phase One.  We need to generate some intelligence requirements, in other words statements or questions that describe intelligence gaps.

Let’s say that you do have a gang in the area.  What don’t we know about that gang, but need to?  Do we know how many members are associated with the gang?  Do we know where those gang members hang out?  Do we know where those gangs are criminally activity?  Do we know if certain areas are at a higher risk than others (and have we mapped out those areas)?  There are potentially lots of intelligence gaps we have, especially if we expect them to be active in a SHTF scenario.

So we can take these questions and start a list:

  1. How many members are in the Leroy Jenkins Gang?
  2. What are the known hangout spots for Leroy Jenkins Gang members?
  3. Identify all high-risk areas for Leroy Jenkins Gang activity.
  4. Et cetera…

If we’re building a house — in our case, an intelligence product, then this list of requirements represents our building materials.  This is all the information — the lumber, nails, bolts, roofing shingles, doors, and windows — we need to finish our intelligence estimate.  Without knowing what we need, we won’t build a very good house.

And thus ends lesson one.  Head on over to our homework page for a practical exercise.  I’ve also posted a video that will step you through the process of analyzing your community from multiple angles.

Addendum: Class Schedules:

9-10 July – Birmingham, AL – SHTF Intelligence (

16-17 July – Waynesville, NC – SHTF Intelligence (

24-25 September – Colorado Springs, CO – SHTF Intelligence (

Samuel Culper is a former military and contract intelligence analyst.  He’s currently the director of Forward Observer, a private threat intelligence, conflict monitoring, and trends analysis firm.



Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now runs Forward Observer, an intelligence services company.



  1. As a note: I’m seeing “Wayne’sville, NC” is not NC…it’s SC. Correct me if I’m wrong. Thanks OK.

  2. Of the shtf with government overreach or declated marshal law we will need infiltrators to intelligence. Of course this will be very dangerous. You can also bet the opposite will be true with them infiltrating any opposition. I would like to hear more about this tactic along with ideas of ways to identify people who can be trusted. This will be one of the most important tactics and will have to be a small trusted ring and provably one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish.

    1. “… marshal law …”

      Look at the good side, and there is a good side to this declaration or for any declaration of “emergency powers”. Both emergency powers and martial law are the exact opposite of the US Constitution. Not one branch or office within a branch was ever delegated that authority.

      So why is a declaration of one or the other, or both a good thing? It is an open declaration of TREASON being committed and you now know exactly one of the enemies of the American people the US Constitution, our nation. What it also does is bring to the light those traitors willing and ready to enforce it – knowingly a traitor or not, that Oath makes them personally responsible and they should have known. They are then a *terrorist acting AGAINST the American people, our nation openly also. Knowing exactly who your enemies are is always important.

      28 C.F.R. Section 0.85 Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

    2. Jeh Johnson, head of Homeland Security is a Muslim. According to a recent article in “The New American,” Abdel-Hafiz, a former FBI counter terrorism agent would not record another Muslim. He has stated in the past that “A Muslim doesn’t record another Muslim.” He wasn’t fired nor was he repremanded, but has since been promoted to a position as homeland-security advisor to President Barack Obama, who himself has a problem calling Islamic Jehad by its proper name. Do you need look further to find enemies of the Republic, or are they already well at hand.?

      1. If Obama (and H. Clinton) were put into place as candidates with election fraud ( ) and here

        Outstanding research by blogger jbjd here, here, here, and he re, with summary here, showed that Nancy Pelosi and Alice Travers Germond , as representatives of the Democratic National Committee, had signed one Certificate of Nomination for Obama and Biden that was sent to 49 states (correction: most states), and another that was sent only to Hawaii. Only the certificate sent to Hawaii included a statement that Obama and Biden were Constitutionally qualified to serve as President and Vice-President.
        That certificate of nomination for Hawaii is the ONLY statement in this nation signed by somebody besides Obama which claims that Obama is Constitutionally eligible to be President. (Note: I am currently checking into whether the South Carolina Democratic Party also signed a statement of Constitutional eligibility.

        In 2008 the HDP signed their certification – with the Constitutional eligibility language removed – at the National Convention, on the day BEFORE Pelosi and Germond signed the DNC certificate. They then apparently gave their HDP certificate to DNC Attorney Joseph Sandler, who then had a special certificate created and signed by Pelosi and Germond just for Hawaii (since the HDP refused to certify eligibility) and then sent both certifications, with his own letter of transmittal, to the Hawaii Elections Office (Correction: sent or gave his certification and transmittal letter to the HDP who relayed it to the Elections Office).

        So tell me again how this person who did NOT meet all three requirements to be a presidential candidate is the US President. Obama is not now, nor has he ever been the US President. He never qualified, and he ha multiple lies, etc that the traitors within our government ignored and/or assisted in covering up.

        Am I being told that since it was discovered AFTER THE FACT that he is in actuality the US President? Because if that was true then there should be very FEW people in jails and prisons as all crimes are pretty much discovered AFTER the fact; unless they are manufactured.

        He is not now, nor has he ever been the US President. But he has been committing the impersonation of a US Presidential candidate, of being the US President, Identity Fraud, First Degree Murder – multiple counts, Treason, Terrorism, etc.

        But lets just ignore this also? Why not we have for almost 8 years.

  3. I live in Santa Monica ; I’ve done some Information gathering ; It appears that 90% of the people are either brain dead or they are my enemy and that 10% is thinly spread out , they probably can be trusted because once in a well I bump in too one and they tend too be Patriot’s but if I go sniffing around I know that I am exposing myself and most likely my enemy real know what I’m up too I’m completely surrounded in the location where I live 70% chance that I will talk too one of my enemie’s first or I will taik to a mindless babbling mouth piece that dose not know when too shut up ; Love it !!!

  4. I am concerned that these courses are not being constructed and located near the RNC and the DNC coming up as they would be the perfect opportunity to put these methods into full action?

    1. Seemingly unrelated rant —
      In the best of all possible worlds, the classes would be supported and made available in every population center, and the sooner the better, imo. But allow me to look at a tangential abstraction, which I’m sure some readers here shall grasp for what it is.

      I would not want to state this as a fact, but it may be that future history will reveal that the DNC and RNC and all their little party games are merely aspects of the greater facade, illusions of distraction sold to an unwitting public. Ah… no one this side of the future can say for sure, but he who knows that the future is cast from the past can ascribe to repetitive things the nature of patterns, so my guess is that the vast, mostly-unchallenged “two-party system” is no more than a control device enacted unconsciously by the will of the deceived themselves in their unconscious drive to believe they need an external “authority”, a leader, a ruler — anything other than taking full responsibility for their own lives as self-governing individuals with unalienable rights.

      Some good patriots have turned away from the cities of man and their government-worshiping statism. Political games now are, for some, irrelevant aside from seeing their usefulness to the globalists who would control willing subjects. The hour is late. As Bob Dylan puts it, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” And as Neil Young put it, “Are you ready for the Country? Because it’s time to go.” And wasn’t it John Prine who sang, “Blow up your tv; move to the country…”?

      Perhaps I’m wrong, and I’m not suggesting anyone else live as I do, but I have walked away; turned my back on the facade; have no truck with Democrats or Republicans, nor with any other system of statism. I choose freedom, and neither party is talking about that, so they’re not for me. [/rant]

      Thanks for letting me muse for a moment.
      Elias Alias, editor

  5. The basic concept is good, but the application is useless.
    The idea of knowing which gang is in your area, numbers and hangouts is useless. In a SHTF situation, that will all change very quickly.
    Say the local gang hangs out at Joe’s bar, Well once the booze runs out, they won’t be around that area any more. New things will take priority, like finding food and water.

    The problem here is the normalcy bias at work, expecting things to remain the same or similar to what they are now. It causes people to underestimate both the intensity of a disaster and its overall effects.

    New gangs, new leaders, new tactics, new areas of operation will be the new “normal” for a SHTF or Martial law scenario The same goes for intelligence gathering methodology.

    As for determining Key Human Terrain: Many people will bug out, be killed and the formerly influential or important people are likely to be the bums and outlaws of a SHTF economy. The same goes for law enforcement and all public sector employees.
    Most people who are well suited to life today will have a hard time coping in a SHTF world. This will render them useless or dead. Others who are currently overlooked and unknown will become the new leaders. Because they will be prepared for this and will understand what is needed.

    As to locating Critical infrastructure: is likely to be destroyed by rioting and looting making it inoperable, especially considering much of it will be without fuel, electricity, etc and the infrastructure needed to deliver it. So identifying it and knowing it is close by will be of very little help to you.

    So all prior intel on this will be not only useless but potentially deadly if relied upon without post SHTF re-verification. Now unless you have plenty of people and lots of time on your hands that will not be possible to do.
    Most of this gathering of intel and planning can only be properly accomplished by a large agency, like your state government, FEMA or the Military.
    No small group or neighborhood will easily adapt and use this system in a post SHTF scenario. It is a dinosaur from another time and another place. IMO

    1. The application certainly is not useless. It’s extremely relevant in all but the doomsday scenarios. There’s a high likelihood that the demise of the American Empire does not involve an overnight TEOTWAWKI event that suddenly destroys everything. In this case — the most likely being a gradual decline with bouts of systems disruption along the way — everything I describe is of critical importance.

      Doing intelligence now is important so we can reduce uncertainty about what an SHTF situation would look like. What will your community look like within the first 12 hours? Within 96 hours? Doing our homework now is going to go a long way in producing a realistic expectation of future conditions in the area. That feeds back into the mission, so we can plan around likely conditions. Otherwise, we might be planning for a very unlikely scenario.

      You make the case for a doomsday event, and that would indeed change everything. But that doomsday event from coast to coast is very unlikely. What you’re saying is that doing these things are pointless because your critical infrastructure will be gone. Really? 100% of the nation’s critical infrastructure will cease to operate? Like I said, very unlikely. Intelligence information will be critical for anything outside of that doomsday scenario. That’s why we need intelligence; to gain an informational advantage on the threats for the most likely of scenarios, not some doomsday fantasy where the world stops. If you don’t think you need intelligence, then don’t follow my advice. Be well.

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