The P.A.C.E. Plan

Learn how the PACE Plan can affect your preparedness.

What is a P.A.C.E. plan? The P.A.C.E. Plan is a methodology originally developed for building a communications plan for an operation or task. It determines both the means of communication and the order in which they are to be used for all parties to be able to make contact. P.A.C.E. stands for PrimaryAlternateContingency, and Emergency. Although originally intended for a communications plan, you can apply this planning methodology to several other aspects of your life, travel, or even your business. At a minimum, I would apply the P.A.C.E. methodology to your communications plan and your route selection or transportation plan.

P.A.C.E. Communication Plan

Using P.A.C.E. in planning out your communications requires us to recognize the methods of communication available to the group. This might be as easy as identifying which cell phone to call or whose cell phone to call. Lots of us have a work cell phone and a personal cell phone, and if we are lucky, they are on different carriers, which will give us a better coverage area. When we travel to other countries, we check the service plan and phone coverage. We also bought SIM cards for unlocked, local, or regional phones to make sure we still had communication capabilities. We have used old phones and tablets to communicate via Wi-Fi using apps for text or VOIP calls during our earlier trips when cell phone use was cost prohibitive. Don’t forget the good old landline that most businesses still utilize.

F.R.S. radios can be used while in the United States, on cruises, or when you are going to be within a mile of each other (like hiking and camping) G.P.S. personal locator beacons now have a text/email service that can work over satellites. Some more primitive means might need to be used when there is an interruption to power or cell towers or no access to them. Leave notes and have designated communications times or windows. Pre-designate visual signals when you can be within view of each other, like flags or hand and arm signals. When it gets to this level, it may include the distress signal using three fires or piles of brush in a triangle or three blasts from a horn or flashes with a light source.

Sample P.A.C.E. Communication Plan

Now that we have identified available means of communication, we need to prioritize them. It depends on your mission or activity, so let’s build one for camping with the family.

Primary – Cell phone, direct to each other

Alternate – F.R.S. radios on Channel 5

Contingency – Text via Satellite messenger service device

Emergency – 2 horn blasts (or flashes from a strong flashlight to the sky) means come to us, 1 horn blast (or flash from a strong flashlight) is everything is go

P.A.C.E. Travel Plan

We can use P.A.C.E. planning for route selection between two locations, like home and work or hotel and restaurant. Google Maps already allows for alternate routes, or we can make changes as we drive when we hit traffic. You can select routes that shorten the time it takes to travel, reduce traffic, avoid tolls, avoid construction zones, or pass specific stops like gas stations, medical facilities, or police stations. This type of route planning can also be used for counter-surveillance or surveillance detection. We can use other map applications or web-based maps to plan our routes, or we can utilize old-school road or street maps like Rand Mcnally. One of the benefits of using road or street maps is that the smaller roads won’t disappear when you need to “zoom out.” Plus, they don’t require power.

When planning our routes, we must decide how to prioritize the different routes. Depending on available routes we may need to use some of the same parts of a route or overlap them. Sometimes there just isn’t another route we can use. If the routes are being chosen for security reasons, then we will have to vary other aspects of our travel. Let’s prioritize travel time from home to work and use the contingency and emergency routes if there is construction on our primary and alternate routes.

Sample P.A.C.E. Travel Plan

Primary – Most direct route, more than likely utilizing the highway

Alternate –  A parallel way that is almost as fast, using arterial roads or highway access roads

Contingency – If we can create a parallel route on the opposite side of our primary route

Emergency – A route that avoids highways and arterial roads but still is a direct route

From these examples, you can see that you probably already have these plans for your daily life; you just need to formalize them and share them with the other members of your group or family. If we are doing hasty planning, I would include at least a Primary and an Alternate, then add Contingency and Emergency if we have more time. Identify the methods or parts and then prioritize them.

Additional Resources:


The P.A.C.E. Plan

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Brook Bowen

Brook Bowen started his career in the Army, serving in 2nd Ranger Battalion before attending college and getting hired as a Federal Law Enforcement officer. He has spent more than 21 years in the same agency and 18 of those years developing and delivering firearms and tactical courses to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, foreign law enforcement, and military units. He has 13 years of combined operational experience serving in special operations units in both the military and federal law enforcement. Brook currently instructs federal law enforcement officers at a national training center in multiple disciplines, including pre-deployment skills. When not working, Brook enjoys traveling and seeing the world with his family. Brook is the owner of Two Bravo Training Solutions, a firearms and security training and consulting company.

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