The concept of planning is one with which we should all have some relationship and be able to grasp the concept; after all everyone makes plans. We plan for the long and for the short term, usually making and changing plans throughout every day. Even before we go to sleep we likely have a plan for what will come the following day. Taking the planning concept a step further, what about having a strategic plan contingent on the environment and for all your activities? All the planning in the world does not stop something bad from happening. Human and natural disasters are always about, lurking in the shadows trying to catch us off guard. Part of your continued warrior mindset and situational awareness includes a contingency plan for planned or unplanned separation. GOTWA is an acronym that stands for Go-Others-Time-What-Attack. This is a quick five-point contingency plan acronym and is used by every military leader to include smaller, elite SOF units when they need to split forces to conduct reconnaissance.
It’s certainly a useful tool in the prepper world, as we never know when our family or community may be split up, or perhaps as a unit you’ll need to conduct your own reconnaissance in the future. Here is a more detailed example of GOTWA:
• G – Going, where am I going? (I am going to conduct a reconnaissance of an area to the North of our location)
• O – Others, who am I taking with me? (I will be taking Frick and Frack with me on this mission)
• T – Time, what time will I return? (It is 1900 now and we will return at 2000)
• W – What happens if I do not return? (If we do not return at 2000, wait one hour and move to alternate link up point)
• A – Attack, what happens if you or I get attacked? (If we get attacked during the reconnaissance mission we will move and meet up with you at the alternate link up point no later than 2200, if you are attacked you will move and we will meet you at the alternate link up point no later than 2200.
As preppers, we can once again learn from our SOF community and utilize tools that work to our benefit. This is hopefully way over what you’ll ever need but it demonstrates a basic understanding of how it works. You never know where or when something could strike and having a quick, but well-thought, out contingency plan may be the difference between going home that night or being in the hospital… or worse.
Here’s another example that demonstrates an everyday practical use of GOTWA. As I set this situation up, consider you’re traveling internationally and your cell provider does not service this area of the world, so neither you nor your family have any working phones. You have two children, (a son, age 12 and daughter, age 15) are visiting a new, major theme park. Of course, your children want to go their way and not be cramped by mom and dad. Usually, mom and dad will say, “Hey let’s meet here at 1200!”. This may work in most cases, but does that provide enough information for the “what ifs”? You also need to consider your children’s mindset and how well they listen to you. This is an important few minutes that requires everyone’s attention, so ensure you have their attention before explaining this to them. Go over the plan prior to reaching the park, or better yet, prior to your trip about why we need to use GOWTA. Or maybe you just call it a contingency plan. You want your kids to have fun and understand they’re going to bounce all over the park. They understand they’ll stay together, but also at some point they may need to separate to use a washroom, or to get a snack, so they may issue an additional smaller contingency plan of their own.
So, now you’re in the park and near what’s called the “Main Village” with a big village clock. This is your primary link up point.
• Go – you kids have fun, here is $20.00 for each of you.
• Others – you two are going to explore the parks together and mom and I will enjoy our time.
• Time – the time is 0900, we will meet back here for lunch at 1200.
• What – if we cannot meet at 1200, each element will remain at the link up point for an additional hour. After, that we’ll check back here every hour and will check in with park security and medical for any reported medical issues after the second link up time is missed.
• Attack – in case of emergency, we’ll attempt to reach the primary link up point at the clock. If that’s impossible or too dangerous, we’ll meet at an alternative link up point (already established).
Keep this as simple as possible and ensure everyone in your family understands the correct course of action for different events: active shooter; natural disaster; fire; or any of the number of actions that can take place. This contingency plan is good for everyday living at home and away from home. Your family members should always have pre-arranged link up points for multiple situations. Plan for link up points outside your home as well, in case of separation. No communication (No Comm) plans are critical. Need I remind you that on 9/11 we lost all cell coverage for a few hours and for the next week it was intermittent at best. Think of alternate means to communicate with loved ones near and far. With a contingency plan in place, you up your chances for success, this also allows your mind to rapidly plan and adjust to environments. You may be split in a hotel, restaurant, concert event or any multiple venues where you will need to find one another is separated.