Establishing Roadblocks to Control Post-Disaster Travel

by Pat Henry, The Prepper Journal

Introduction

If you happen to have worked on a military base in the past, I’m sure you’ve encountered guards standing at the guardhouse routinely waving traffic through the gate – maybe stopping the occasional vehicle to ask a question or two before waving them through. Such a relaxed approach may be adequate during peacetime, however post-disaster these procedures will be wholly inadequate. This article will describe how small communities can establish and manage effective post-disaster roadblocks.

With the recent unrest in Ferguson, MO we’ve actually had a rather ugly preview of coming attractions regarding the need to control and monitor the movement of people. The image of a large gang of criminals, intent on looting, migrating to a neighboring community and shooting their way into a locked store, is an image that should be forever branded into the consciousness of every prepper. This is precisely the reason that the movement of people will need to be controlled, and it’s going to require more than a smiling face and a wave of the hand.

In the wake of a major disaster, those living in small to mid-sized communities will be faced with the challenge of quickly reorganizing to cope with new and immediate concerns. One critical need will be to “control the perimeter”, which will involve establishing security checkpoints to control and monitor comings and goings. Without such controls the risk of disease and lawlessness could threaten the community’s very existence.

While, at first blush, it may seem trivial to set up a roadblock (“Hey, you two guys go down the road and check anybody passing through town!”), during times of disaster an effective roadblock requires more serious consideration.

Selecting Locations for Roadblocks

As with many aspects of life, when establishing a roadblock “location is everything”, and factors that should help to identify the best location for a roadblock include distance from population centers, availability of sufficient space to meet the roadblock’s missions, ability to be defended and potential for line-of-sight communications.

Ideally a roadblock should be a minimum of 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometers) from any dense population centers. This distance corresponds roughly to the range of a high-powered rifle. In other words, a defensive perimeter is much less useful to a community if an adversary can effectively shoot at members of the community from outside the defended perimeter (a roadblock should, if possible, be that distance from any location where a member of the community lives or works).

Military snipers have been known to, on rare occasions, hit targets at distances approaching 1.5 miles. Obviously a bit larger safe zone should be considered if one anticipates adversaries having military sniper training.

Roadblocks are staffed by people, and in the long term people require supporting infrastructure. Such infrastructure potentially includes provisions for the sanitary elimination of human waste, protection from the weather, storage of supplies and space to be used to detain travelers without blocking traffic. Any location considered for a permanent or long-term roadblock should address these real-world needs.

The security of those staffing a roadblock should be a primary concern when selecting its location. It is inevitable that there will eventually be security incidents at any roadblock, and the personnel there should be able to ward off any anticipated attack until reinforcements can arrive. The availability of hard and soft cover should be considered, as well as local geography (with regard to both offense and defense). In some situations it may be important to have a concealed shooting position located nearby to provide supporting fire in the event of the most serious situations.

Yet another important factor to consider when selecting the location of a roadblock is the availability of line-of-sight communication to the community. This can be important in case other more conventional means of communication become unavailable. For example, flags might be flown to request reinforcements or to visually indicate other abnormal situations. In some cases it may be necessary for a central headquarters within the community to have a line-of-sight to the roadblock, while in other cases it may be sufficient for the roadblock to be within sight of any population center (from which communication might be relayed to the central headquarters).

In addition to the factors already mentioned, a roadblock should be established at a location that is a natural traffic bottleneck. Otherwise it is possible that intruders could simply bypass the roadblock.

Sandbags are an often over-looked prepper supply that can make very effective cover for fighting positions. Just add hard work.

Facility and Equipment

Without certain basic features necessary to meet the needs of those who will be staffing it, the ability of a permanent or long-term roadblock to accomplish its mission will be significantly degraded. The roadblock station should feature:

  • A latrine or other means of eliminating human waste in a sanitary fashion
  • A source of clean water
  • A structure that provides protection from the weather
  • A flagpole (and various colored flags) for backup visual communication
  • A siren or other device for producing a loud and distinctive audible alert
  • A lockable storage bin that is protected from the weather
  • Sandbags or some other form of hard cover
  • Nearby access to places of concealment
  • A movable barrier to control the flow of traffic
  • A radio or other device for security-related communications
  • Chairs
  • A temporary parking area where one or more vehicles may be detained without blocking other traffic
  • Signs posted at appropriate locations to provide instructions and cautions to approaching travelers

Flags of various colors should be available to, at a minimum, signify abnormal security conditions (perhaps yellow and red), requests for unscheduled personnel rotation and requests for medical assistance.

In addition to the equipment listed above, those who staff the roadblock (and anyone providing them covering fire) should carry weapons that are appropriate to their role. Holstered handguns, along with spare magazines and a good supply of ammunition, are probably a best fit for those staffing the roadblock; with a rifle close at hand in the guard shack. The advantage of holstered handguns is that they leave hands free for signaling and conducting searches.

Communications

Good communications, both among the personnel staffing a roadblock and between the roadblock and other security personnel within the community, is vitally important. Efficient non-verbal communications between the personnel staffing the roadblock can be quite useful. For example, hand signals might be used to guide traffic or to quickly and silently communicate ‘caution’ or ‘danger’ to other personnel staffing the roadblock. They might also be useful in communicating with any concealed locations that are tasked with providing covering fire during times of heightened security.

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