Understand how to carry out Route Recce’s.
Know the different types
What to look for and how
The reasons for taking time to carry out route reconnaissance are many. Obviously, we want to know the way to go. We might want to know how long a move is going to take. We want to know how vulnerable we are to particular types of attack on particular routes.
Route recces are always carried out with a very low profile and as covertly as possible. Anti-surveillance drills should always be exercised to ensure that you are not being followed. Any terrorist or criminal that realises you are carrying out a recce will know the route that your principal will be taking and will have an opportunity to surprise you on it. If the move is important and considered high risk, then several different routes may be looked at.
Route Recce Cards
A route recce card of a planned route can prove invaluable. For short distances and especially in cities the linear route recce card is probably the best choice. Linear cards are very simple to produce and copies can be kept in the cars and the operations room. They are written in such a way that anyone can grab a card and follow the route. They always read from bottom to top, and even when you turn, clarity is achieved by the road always remaining straight, even if in reality you are turning left, right and about. Further clarity is achieved by placing all the driving directions on the right and all the other information on the left.
The details of a computer navigation programme are very simple and each line is a single instruction. These instructions can also be printed along with the corresponding maps. Linear route recce cards and computer programmes, such as AutoRoute Express, are excellent aids to help you get to your destination, but neither should replace maps, which should also be carried. Once you have produced the recce cards then use a photocopier (colour is best) to reproduce the recces. Large prints of the recce can be placed in the ops room and A4 or A5 paper sizes can be kept in the vehicle.
Before you venture out on a recce, look at a map. Get a ‘feel’ for the route, the general direction and the terrain. Never ever, rely on Satellite Navigation (Sat-Nav) alone. No matter how good your system is, it will let you down. You will lose a signal or the machine will freeze and need a re-boot, just when you really need it. Sat-Nav is a fantastic aid to navigation; it is great for working out alternative routes in the event of road blocks and accidents. But it should never be used on its own; always have maps of the area that you are operating in.
Choosing the right route
Whenever a road move is necessary we will take as much care as possible, not only to choose the safest route but travel on it at the right time. We need to plan for when things go wrong, and things will go wrong! Ambushes and attacks might well happen and these need to be anticipated. You also need to plan alternative routes in case of accidents or other road blocks, as well as a plan for mechanical failure.
The faster we are travelling, the more difficult it is for someone to attack us. However when we are driving on the roads we are, of course, governed by the law, the traffic flow, speed restrictions, roadworks, and many other natural hazards that will slow us down. We are far more susceptible to attack when we are slowed down or are stationary. We can be stopped by a roadblock; we can be slowed by corners and bends; and we can be stopped at junctions and lights. Be aware that always letting your Sat-Nav choose your routes will make them easily predictable.
Detailed route checking
Whenever possible we should carry out a detailed check of the route on which we are going to travel on. By doing so, we are aware of any hazards on the route and how long the journey will take. Just as importantly, we reduce our chances of getting lost enroute. Doing a U-turn, and having the Principal ask, “Are we lost?” Is crushingly embarrassing.
The things that we note on the recce are numerous and are mostly common sense. The use of a Dictaphone can help if you are on your own. Otherwise, a second person in your vehicle taking notes is ideal. Remember to keep a low profile. Look at any feature that might slow you down or stop you, e.g. traffic lights or junctions.
High risk targets
If you are in a high risk area with a risk of being ambushed then you should take particular care to note all of the likely places that might have roadside or culvert bombs. Examples include tunnels and bridges, culverts and steep banks, etc. Snipers can hide in thick scrub and trees or any overlooking features such as hills, cliffs, or tall buildings.
Note the time
When making the actual trip with the Principal you should have a very accurate idea of how long it will take. If you are taking the Principal to an airport you must get him there not too early so he has to click his heels in the airport for hours, but not so late that check-in is just closing! By completing the recce, keeping to the speed limits and travelling at a time that enjoys similar traffic conditions, you will know when to leave the residence to arrive on time. It is best if the recces are carried out in similar traffic conditions to the actual trip. Checking a route from your hotel to the airport late on a Sunday evening is not going to give you an accurate estimate of how long the journey will take in Monday morning traffic!
Calculate the correct distance
Set the trip meter at the start of the recce, so at any point along the route you know the distances involved. When the Principal asks you, “How much further?” A reply such as “Seven miles, and we will be there in ten minutes, Sir” is infinitely better than “Not sure, Sir, but it shouldn’t be much further.” By being aware of exactly how long a trip should take and the distances involved, you are in a much better position to take the correct action if something goes wrong or more simply to answer your Principal when he asks, “Have we got time to get a coffee?”
Check for communication black spots
By making regular radio checks enroute and monitoring your mobile signal strength, you will discover any black spots and poor mobile phone coverage. Communication black spots might be a favourite ambush location! You should never plan any stops for fuel or refreshments in a black spot. These areas should be marked on all maps and recce cards so that everyone knows about them.
Should you have an incident or accident enroute, where is the nearest hospital that takes casualties? At all times on your route know where this is. Remember that not all hospitals take casualties (although the doctors at a maternity hospital might be able to offer first aid, which is better than nothing). If your Principal or any of your team need a doctor then you will receive much better care at a hospital with an Accident and Emergency department. Accident and Emergency hospitals are normally open every day of the year.
Nearest safe havens
Police stations and military barracks make good ‘safe houses’ to rush the Principal should you be being chased or attacked. You should note the whereabouts of any safe refuges, on or near your route. Remember that police stations are not always open for business. Racing towards a police station that is closed is not going to make it a safe haven!
Anywhere that you are forced to stop could be turned into an ambush point for the terrorist or common thief. Road works, sharp bends, and temporary traffic lights are all potentially dangerous. Roadworks and cones are generally installed at night, especially on motorways. Your recce might be great today only to find ten miles of cones and a single lane motorway tomorrow morning. Do your homework and check with the highways department and motoring organisations. They will tell you if roadworks or slow moving large loads might mess up your road move.
Your destination or venue
If your destination is unknown then your recce card should note useful information about the destination or venue. For example, are the entrances gated and open? Where is the safest and or most convenient place to debus? Can the cars wait at the location?
What if your route to a venue is compromised or is just blocked by an accident. How will you get the Principal to the venue? You must have a plan and be aware of any alternative routes, how to get on them and how long this other route will take. On a detour, the first thing that your Principal will ask is, “How long with this route take?” Be professional and know the answer. Sat-Nav is great in this regard. It can re-route you and give you a new arrival time in a just a few seconds.
Refreshments on Route
A recce should give you an idea of suitable refreshment stops enroute, especially on long road moves. If you find a place that is suitable, then make a note on the recce card. Tell the Principal that the place coming up is the last place to get a good coffee for the next fifty miles. It shows the Principal that you have done your homework, and that you are professional. Never miss an opportunity to empty your bladder. You cannot concentrate on your job if you are sitting in a car with the principal and you are cross legged and cross eyed.
Places of Interest
Should the Principal have some time to kill, he may ask you to take him somewhere interesting for an hour. Where will you take him? If your route takes you past a large medieval castle on a hill, the chances are you are going to be asked, “What castle is that?” Knowing this information is much better than not knowing. If you have the time, then find out this type of information. Your Principal will thank you for it.
All advance work must be done covertly and with a very low profile. You should ensure that you are not being followed. Gather as much information as you can and use it intelligently. Computer programs and Sat-Nav are great aids but they should not replace maps entirely.