OCOKA is a military term that stands for – Observation and fields of fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, Avenues of Approach. When setting up retreat and home defenses OCOKA should always be kept in mind and each principle addressed. Following these five key principles, you will greatly improve your security and survivability. Let’s take a quick look at each in more detail.
Observation and Fields of Fire
You need to be able to see a potential threat at the earliest opportunity, if you can see the threat early, and hopefully before that threat see’s you, then you can make the correct decisions to either make contact, hide, or prepare to defend your area with force.
Can you observe all avenues of approach from your retreat? Do you have a full 360 degrees of view around your property? Are there areas that intruders could exploit to get close and possibly steal from, loot or attack you without being seen?
If forced could you fire upon an attacker from all angles without them being able to hide from view or without you possibly accidentally, shooting your neighbors or damaging key resources? If not then you need to get to work clearing obstacles that limit your view and ability to fire upon an attacker if you’re forced to do so.
Cover and Concealment
Cover is protection from bullets and concealment is something you can hide behind where an attacker cannot see you, but concealment offers no protection from gunfire. No matter what you’ve seen in the movies, car doors, kitchen tables, typical home entry doors, or the bed mattress isn’t cover and will not reliably protect you from being struck by bullets as they pass through.
If there isn’t any natural cover at your retreat, then you’ll need to get to work now constructing something that will protect you from bullets. You could build some decorative concrete or rock walls, tall raised flower or garden beds. These could provide effective cover and still allow your home to bend in with other homes around you and not look like a fortification.
It’s also a good idea to have a supply of sand bags on hand that can be filled with sand and/or dirt to provide an effective way to put up cover quickly in needed areas. Even unused trash cans that are filled with sand or dirt can work well if you have several to work with. Just remember that the area between the cans doesn’t provide effective cover, only concealment, no matter how closely that you push them together.
Obstacles are meant to slow or stop an attacker or to force him to go in a different direction either away from you or into a position where he is more vulnerable to you; preferably, into an area that offers him no means of cover or concealment.
One of the simplest and effective obstacles that you can put up is a fence. Don’t wait until a disaster; get to work putting up a fence now. It will increase your security and probably, your property value. The key, to success here is to take a look around at the other houses in your area and note what types of fencing is already in use and put up a similar type around your property. The key is to blend in with everyone else; this will help you to avoid becoming a target.
Obstacles can also be used to stop vehicles from entering your property or neighborhood. For example falling several trees closely together in an interwoven pattern can be a very effective obstacle that can even stop tracked vehicles, if done correctly.
No matter how strong the obstacles that you put in place are given enough time an attacker can work through and remove that obstacle if given enough time by being unchallenged, meaning that key areas and avenues of approach should be blocked by obstacles and covered by observation – this will give you and your group early warning and time to escape or mount an offensive attack against the trespassers.
Key Terrain is any piece of terrain that offers an advantage to whoever controls it. Think the high-ground. If you can take the high-ground it can drastically increase your observation, and offer an advantage it your area comes under attack. Take control of and retain that key terrain, you don’t want a potential attacker to gain control of that area and be able to use it to watch you, or worse use it to attack you or your area. One lone sniper could use the advantage given by such key terrain to wipe-out your entire family, group or community, with a few well-placed rifle shots.
Even if you’re in an urban area or the ground for miles under your feel is flat any taller than normal buildings can be viewed as key terrain, or the high-ground. Control these and use to your advantage.
Avenues of Approach
This goes hand-in-hand with observation and fields of fire – look around and note the most likely avenues of approach that an intruder or attacker would take to reach you. Watch roads, pathways, waterways and open areas that lead up to your property, key terrain as mentioned above will offer a huge advantage here. And remember the father you can see the threat the better, distance will give you more time to decide what needs to be done and how to do it, depending on the threat presented.
OKOKA: Observation and fields of fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, Avenues of Approach. Memorize it and use it when setting up your retreat defenses. Now let’s look at a few more key defensive strategies and points.
No doubt about it; the surest way to survive a fight is to avoid getting into one in the first place. Too many preppers have an offensive mindset when it comes to retreat defense. Sadly, many will suffer for it. Forget about the macho BS, there is no shame in hiding until a threat passes by, in fact it’s the smart thing to do.
As a family, or small survival group you cannot afford to risk injuries or worse casualties, because you let your ego driven Rambo fantasies guide you into taking offensive action when it could have been avoided it. However you should be ready to violently, defend your area and retreat if a confrontation cannot be avoided.
A combat multiplier is anything that makes you and your group more effective or more difficult for an attacker to defeat. You should amass as many combat multiplies as possible now, before the time of need. You don’t want to wait until the marauders are coming through the window to start thinking about it, then it will be to late – don’t put off until tomorrow what should be done today, your life depends on it.
Things like knowing your terrain, improvised alarms, holding key terrain, having long-range weapons, night vision equipment, body armor, two-way radios, semi-automatic weapons, putting in obstacles or reinforcing natural ones, camouflage, mobility, trained guard dogs etc. are all combat multipliers and should be considered in your retreat defensive plans.
Funneling the Attack
Funneling the attack in the simplest terms means using roadblocks (both natural and man-made) to “guide the attacker(s) into a place of your choosing and where you have a definitive tactical advantage.
Ambush and the Element of Surprise
An ambush can be used as both an offensive and defensive tactical maneuver, for example an ambush could be used to attack a convoy in an offensive maneuver outside of your perimeter, and also to defend against an attacker or attackers, that have entered your property or home. Hide and wait until the attackers have reached a predetermined position where they are most vulnerable, then spring the ambush.
An effective ambush doesn’t always mean shooting and killing those being ambushed, while gunfire is an option depending on the circumstances, you can also us an ambush to capture potential attackers and then make a decision on what to do with them after you’ve gained more knowledge though questioning or interrogation.
Early warning is a must
The sooner you know an intrusion is going to happen the better, time will allow you and your group to make a decision to stay and fight or make a speedy get-a-way. If you decide to stay and fight, early warning will hopefully allow you the time to get into the best possible defendable positions, or to plan an effective ambush.
Early warning for trespassers or attackers can come from a number of different options. For example; informants, lookouts placed in key locations that lead up to your retreat, dogs, motion activated lights, improved alarms, spot lights, security cameras etc.
It’s best not to rely on just one type of early warning device because it might be bypassed or could fail. For example you could have a lookout a mile or two away with a two-way radio overlooking a road or trail that leads into your location, and then improvised alarm devices a little further in, and then guard dogs on the outskirts and perimeter of your property or retreat location.
You should divide your area into three layers of defense – the outer layer, intermediate layer and the inner layer. The outer layer could be the area as far as you can see out past your property line, the intermediate layer could be anywhere inside your property-line and the inner layer would be your home. With each layer providing increasing levels of security and protection.
You will have a plan of action for each layer of defense. For example your outer layer could be a watch and report area only with no action being taken against anyone that wonders inside that layer – unless, of course, you know that they are planning to attack and loot you at your location, then defensive action could be taken to prevent them from ever reaching your second or third layer of defense.
Your second layer would probably be your property line; this would preferably be marked by a chained link or barbed wire fence. Anyone crossing into this area is probably up to no good and should be dealt with aggressively; the extent of your aggression will depend on the depth and length of the disaster.
Your third layer would be inside your home and in most cases deadly force can and should be used here.
The key to an effective layered defense is for you and your group to know where each layer begins and ends and to have a predetermined plan of action for each layer when that layer has been breached, and to practice each scenario until it can be done effectively, even when you’re tired and hungry.
Misinformation is simply, leading anyone your group to believe something that you want them to believe that isn’t true. Let’s say for example that you know or suspect that someone or a group is listening in on your two-way-radio communications, to gain Intel before they loot or steal from you. You can use this fact to your advantage, by feeding them false information via your two-way communications or through know informants.
For example; you could make them believe that your group is larger or better armed than you are or lead them to think you’re going to be in one place but in reality you’re setting an ambush, or planning your escape. The key is to make it believable and have a workable plan where you can use their response to your false information to your tactical advantage.
False or misleading information could also be used to make your neighbors think that you are worse off than they are. For example; you could show up at their door begging for food, when in fact you have a well-stocked pantry. Just don’t be too aggressive by demanding that they share whatever they have with you because, you might get shot if they mistake you as a threat.
Official looking signs can also be used to good effect when planting seeds of false information, for example; you could post official looking “Food and Water 5 Miles” with an arrow pointing down the road and away from your location. Use your imagination and I’m sure that you can come up with other ideas for signs that will mislead and confuse strangers that wander into your town or onto your property.
Most homes were not built to defeat gunfire and bullets will pass right through the walls and riddle anyone caught in between. It is best to defend your home from the outside where you have more visibility, and mobility. This is where your early warning devices come into play, by knowing when someone is approaching your location but before they get there, you and your group have time to get into a defensive or ambush position.
Sandbags are very useful and effective when setting up defensive poisons that offer ballistic cover. They are cheap enough (or can be improvised) that you can stock up on hundreds of bags for under $100 and can be filled with sand or dirt that you dig up from your property.
Although; you don’t want to defend your home from the inside it’s still a good idea to build up the area around and near the windows with filled sandbags. This will offer cover if for some unfortunate reason you were surprised and trapped inside the structure.
Lining the area inside your pouch up to the railing with filled sandbags is also a good idea. This will offer a protected shooting position that can be occupied quickly, if an attacker or trespasser were to get inside your second layer of defense before you have time to man your main defensive positions away from your main living structure.
Your main defensive positions should be set up in key locations around your property and can range from hardened pillbox type structures with thick reinforced concrete or rammed earth walls to simple spider holes, or a mixture of both.
Don’t look like an easy target
Don’t be an easy target, and even if you are, you can use misinformation to make would be looters or attackers think that you’re far stronger and better armed than you really are. If they think you are a hard target hopefully they will think that going up against you is not worth the risk, and move on in search of an easier target.
OPSEC – Operational Security
We here this all of the time in prepper and survivalist circles, OPSEC aka operational security and it is very important now and will be a major factor toward keeping you and your group secure after the balloon goes up. The number one rule of OPSEC is to keep your mouth shut – everything should be done on a need-to-know basis and most people don’t need to know anything about what you and your group are doing.
A Plan of Retreat
No matter how well prepared or strong our defenses, we could be faced with a superior force that greatly outnumber and outgun us, where staying and fighting would be suicidal. You need a plan of retreat, preferably, a way to retreat without being seen or confronted by the superior force. An escape tunnel from your home that leads to a hidden and safe evacuation point would be idea. But most preppers don’t have the room or the resources to put such a plan and tunnels into place.
Again; this is where early two-way-radio warning lookouts and alarms can save your life. If you know a threat is approaching you have time to evaluate the threat and make a decision of whether to stay and fight or retreat. You should have a predetermined destination where everyone in your group knows to meet up if you’re forced from your retreat area.
Also having caches of first-aid, water, food and ammo along the way and at the safe location is a good idea. Get those into place now, before the time of need. Also each member of your group should have an escape or “bug out bag” that can be quickly grabbed as the escape plan is being put into action.
I know many survivalists / preppers will resist the thought of retreating from their retreat, preferring to stay and fight even if defeat and death are certain. You know; take out as many of those SOB’s as possible before they take your location and while this is admirable, it isn’t the best decision.
The escape can be used to buy you time to get better organized and plan for a counter attack where you can ultimately, take your property back from the aggressors. I’ve talked to several preppers who have their main food caches hidden on their property, while having a separate smaller cache out in the open for looters to find if they make it that far.
But the surprise is that those preppers have poisoned their “decoy cache” of food items ( I don’t advocate doing this but it is what some preppers are doing). So they plan to retreat, wait, then come back and remove the looters / attackers after they have died of the poison.
Reprinted with permission from The Survivalist Blog.