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Linking up with your family after an incident: an important part of your safety and defensive planning!

Linking up with your family after an incident: an important part of your safety and defensive planning!


The link-up or meeting plan is a staple of disaster preparedness. Did you know it’s a great tool for defensive situations, like a mass attack in a mall, as well?

There’s been an incident, and you’ve survived. How are you going to determine whether the rest of your family did, and how are you going to get everyone out of what may still be a danger zone? The link-up plan, that’s how!

Link up plans are a staple of disaster preparedness. I live in earthquake country, and we’ve had buildings (including a school) destroyed by quakes in my lifetime. It’s possible, even likely, that at some point in the future — the near future, if seismologists are correct — we’re going to face a massive quake that will destroy larger infrastructure, like bridges. Given that we have several major rivers and a bunch of minor ones in the vicinity, and rely on the bridges which carry us over those rivers, this is not something I take lightly!

Because it’s likely that my family will be separated in such a quake and be unable to easily communicate or travel, a big part of our contingency plans include ways for us to meet (either in person or through prearranged communication.) We need to know where the others are, if they’re in need of medical care, and we need to make sure that they have evacuated what may still be a very dangerous area (aftershocks kill a lot of people!)

For simply being able to get in touch with each other, for instance, one plan starts with using our cel phones; if those are jammed or inoperative, we have a set plan to try text messages, landlines, ham radio (starting with specific repeater frequencies then working down to simplex communications) and, finally, notes left with disaster response agencies. These plans are designed so that even if miles apart we know what the others will do, and in what order, so that if we don’t meet one way we know everyone will go on to use the next method.

The same is true for physical meetups. Each possible method of crossing the various rivers the lay between our jobs and home is identified and put into the list. I know that if an earthquake occurs and my wife is at her office, that she’ll try each crossing point in turn and that I’ll try each “landing point” in the same order to meet her.

This is pretty standard stuff for disaster response, and we revise these plans over time to account for changes in threats, job locations, and infrastructure. Surprisingly, though, I’d never thought of such a plan for a more immediate, localized, and unpredictable incident — what we usually think of as a self-defense type of incident like, say, an attack in a shopping mall.

When you think about it, a mass attack in any sort of venue (from a mall to a sporting event to a county fair) has some of the same issues as a natural disaster: you may be separated from your companions, may not know their condition, and you all need to exit an area where the attack may still be in progress. To do that, you can put together a very “quick and dirty” version of the link-up plan.

Jeff Gonzales at ITS Tactical has penned a good article on the idea of making a quick link-up plan for something like a shopping mall. If you’re going to any large venue where you’ll be splitting up, you should always agree in advance that you’ll meet at a specific place at a specific time for your exit. This avoids getting to your car and wondering where someone else is! Meet at a point inside the venue so that you can all leave in safety.

Of course people get distracted or involved and sometimes forget that meeting, so make a contingency plan: “we’ll meet at this point; if you’re going to be late, send a text to everyone else explaining the situation, or call {insert specific person here} and tell him/her.”

It’s also a good idea when dealing with kids of any age to make sure that they check in via text message at specific times during the trip. The electronic link-up is quick, easy, and allows everyone to be sure that everyone else is safe!

Now it’s a simple matter to add a piece to deal with an attack (or something else that poses a danger, like a fire): in the event of an incident, agree that one person will receive text messages from everyone else as to their whereabouts and their condition. Also agree to head to a pre-planned safe meeting point within so many minutes of the start, and if that can’t be done (or someone doesn’t show up), head to a secondary safe point.

Some may not be able to make it to the primary meeting point because it might require crossing a danger area. That’s fine! Let’s say you can’t make the primary meeting point; go go immediately to the secondary point and stay there. Anyone who makes the primary and waits the prescribed time will then head to that secondary point automatically, knowing you have as well.

These kinds of meetup plans can be scaled to match the venue, likely threats, and even the maturity/intelligence level of the participants. Scale up or down as you see fit, but use the key concept of fallback meeting points and/or communication methods on a preplanned and shared schedule.

-=[ Grant ]=-


  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On March 11, 2014

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