Methods and strategies of moving through urban environments for operational security, escape / evasion, surveillance, and survival.

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Methods and strategies of moving through urban environments for operational security, escape / evasion, surveillance, and survival.

Cities are specifically designed to be navigable, whereas the wilderness requires observation and awareness to deduce location and direction.

For tradecraft navigation beyond looking at maps and street signs, you can utilize and adapt the methodologies of navigating the wilderness and apply it to navigating cities for optimal movement.

History of a City

Newer cities tend to be built systematically, while older cities are built to follow some type of pattern related to the cities original function, so knowing the history of a city and its relative age is useful.

What was the city built for? Such as, if a city was part of a major trade route, main infrastructure lines will run this route. If there has been a decline in any specific historic industry this may present locations for blending in or avoiding contact with more “upright” citizens; hiding in deserted structures or industrial sites. This may tell you how the city was developed.

What is the city built next too? These facts can tell you a great deal on how it was developed by what the city is aligned too i.e., cities built along rivers, large lakes, or the coast will usually develop from these commerce routes.

Terrain Features in Cities

Cities will also generally follow terrain features, such as hills and mountains, which can make travel and navigation confusing, but pre-knowledge of this may help you to avoid this confusion.

Obviously an urban evader should take advantage of any natural aids to navigation such as water ways, terrain features, vegetation, prevailing winds, the sun, the moon, and anything else that may help.

Using Terrain Features

Urban Landmarks

Is the city known for any specific landmarks or identifiable features? This may always give you a line of direction no matter where they are. Notice the city’s lines of communication and commerce.

You should try to identify a specific pattern. Is the infrastructure running specific directions? Is there a pattern to the street names or routes?

Look for these things to determine any aids to your urban navigation. A simple example is in cities and countries that have not switched to modern analog VHF and UHF TV frequencies television aerials may be directed towards the television station, which historically have been located near the city’s center.

In the case of TV satellite dishes, they will tend to all be pointed in one general direction within a given city, once cardinal direction has been determined, you can continue to use that as a navigational aid.

For example in South East Asia, they are pointed easterly and in South America they are pointed westerly. Another simple tool is using telephone poles and antennas like a giant-sized stick and shadow to get cardinal directions. In many ways, just modifying known field navigation techniques work.

“Known Point”

When you’re moving through a city, no matter the situation; establish a known point, use it as a reference to help maintain orientation.

This “known point” will depend on the situation that you find yourself in, it could be your hotel, the embassy, or some identifiable landmark in the city.

You should use this “known point” to help maintain a mental map of where they are going and if needed, how to get back. This is considered a primitive means of navigation. The more modernized system is to establish cardinal directions, determining what general cardinal direction the individual is traveling in.

The best technique is to combine the two together, this way each system is reinforcing the other.

Add the mental map and the cardinal directions, so from the “known point,” you can figure out where north, south, east and west are. As you move, you need to continue to draw a mental map of where you are in relation to this know point; mentally recording turns and additional recognizable features and updating it with cardinal directions.

Doing both of these decreases the chance of getting lost; the more visual stimuli that supports navigation tends to decrease the likelihood of getting lost.

City Architecture in Navigation

In addition to overall city architecture in navigation, you can also use individual buildings to help.

Historically, architects would orient buildings to take advantage of sunlight. In the temperate and colder climates of the Northern Hemisphere, buildings are generally oriented facing south (direction of greatest sunlight). Living rooms or main rooms will generally face south to take advantage of warmth and light while the kitchens will usually be on the north side.

In the temperate and colder climates of the Southern Hemisphere, buildings are generally oriented facing north (direction of greatest sunlight). Living rooms will generally face north to take advantage of warmth and light while the kitchens will usually be on the south side. In areas with strong cold prevailing winds, many older homes have doors and windows on the side facing away from the wind or to the side away from it.

In hotter locations the orientation of homes is focused on avoiding the sun and taking advantage of the prevailing winds. Houses may align to take advantage of the wind and provide shade to living quarters.

So following the constants of the way structures are oriented may aid you in maintaining a direction of travel. One potential compass rose in Europe, Central America, and South America are churches.

Christian churches historically were oriented east to west with the rising sun shining on the altar. This may give you a quick reference to cardinal directions.

Direction Indicators

Cardinal direction from bleaching and weathering effects. With modern aspects of heating and cooling newer structures may not attempt to use the sun or follow any type of tradition.

You then may be able to determine cardinal direction from the bleaching and weathering effects of the sun to paint (especially on darker colors) on buildings, fences, and other structures. Corrosion of iron works and structures may be used, but you must keep in mind that the combination of sun, wind, and precipitation may make this harder to judge.

Also plants growing in a city will tend to grow towards sunlight; this may give you an indicator of cardinal directions even during cloudy and overcast days.

Either way, multiple examples are always best when possible. Studying which sides of a structure shows bleaching or corrosion may lead you to determine cardinal directions or aid in maintaining a “heading” of travel without drawing attention to an evader’s actions even in situations where the sun is not visible.

Signs of Direction

Urban evasion or avoiding contact can take on many facets, who, what, why, how, and where are too numerous to mention, but like any survivalist principle the more knowledge and facts you can bring into a subject the sounder your decisions are.

Urban navigation aids are the same, specifically orienting your focus, training yourself to look for those signs of directions can easily make the difference between return to friendly forces or captivity.


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Published 2 years ago