Rally Points: Considerations for Planning and Using Them

by | Oct 1, 2020 | ad-ros, Preparation, Survival

An extremist group attacks critical nodes of the power grid at 0100 hrs and you awake to mayhem on the streets.  City-wide traffic backups are the first indication that this isn’t a typical summer brownout, but the danger is amplified when a five-ton improvised explosive device detonates in front of a Federal building at 0830, flattening the structure while killing 75 and wounding 150 other workers as they arrive to begin their day.

Your daughter is on her way to a college class when the traffic jams begin to pile up and the detonation occurs while your son is on the road after working third shift at a plant on the other side of town.  It is impractical for them to attempt to return to your home.

Emergencies can, and will, strike when least expected.

rally points police carPhoto credit: MSVG (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/0c627e28-b73c-4d5a-ae20-244bb82ef65f)

While the police and first responders re-direct resources to the Federal building, another bomb detonates at the water treatment plant,  effectively crippling the city’s water system.  You could hunker down and withstand the chaos with your stock of supplies, but you decide it may be more prudent to temporarily relocate to a more secure area and ride out the current crisis occurring in your city.

While the police and first responders re-direct resources to the Federal building, another bomb detonates at the water treatment plant,  effectively crippling the city’s water system.  You could hunker down and withstand the chaos with your stock of supplies, but you decide it may be more prudent to temporarily relocate to a more secure area and ride out the current crisis occurring in your city.


No matter how—or when—calamity strikes, it may be impossible for you and your loved ones, trusted friends and other members of your support network, to move as one single group to a place of safety.

It may be necessary for sub-units of your group to meet at an intermediate location, or rally point (RP), before completing the movement to a final safe haven.  For continuity throughout this article, the abbreviation RP will be used, but the term “rendezvous point” or “link-up point” could also be used to describe the location.  In fact, different militaries around the world use their own preferred term for what is basically a pre-planned location you have decided to meet other people at.

A perfect example of an RP is in the 2012 remake of the movie “Red Dawn. Characters Jed Eckert and his brother Matt Eckert swerve to a stop near their father, Spokane Police Sergeant Tom Eckert, who yells, “Get to the cabin!!!” This is a rapid response, quick decision that gets the characters to safety, while they whip up a plan to save their friends who were left behind.  This is a simple example of an RP, but the sons knew what Tom meant when he told them to head to the cabin.

RPs can aid in getting everyone to the final safe haven.

rally points winter cabin


Photo credit: Mænsard Vokser (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/918aad2e-63b1-48de-878a-56f861e60956)

You might be fortunate enough to have that cabin or campsite deep in the woods, or even your own pre-plotted island or sand bar you decide to use to just get away from people during a crisis.  But your group still needs to get there and members might be coming from different directions, at different times, and possibly without the benefit of a means of communicating.  RPs require prior planning, and it is best to follow the K.I.S.S. principle and keep everything as simple as possible.  You might also be disoriented, fatigued or injured, which all raise the stress level and make normal tasks more difficult.

Keep it simple.  Everyone in your group needs to know the RP plan.

land rover Photo credit: landrovermena (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7feb7e89-95d8-4364-8286-2aa90be2b13f)


This article aims to lay out the main issues for consideration when planning RPs.  Take the bits and pieces that apply to your situation, terrain and capabilities, then incorporate them as part of your larger bugout plan.


  1. RP locations must be known to all members of your party—preferably noted on maps, GPS devices, etc. Most importantly, accessing the RP needs to be rehearsed, both day and night. When the situation is critical, you don’t want to discover that members of your party can only visualize what the RP looks like in daylight, but were delayed during movement and are forced to try to reach it during hours of darkness, getting lost in the process.


Ensure all adult members of your party are situationally aware of planned RPs.

Photo credit: Neal Herbert (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/efef95be-9e55-401d-bbeb-caf651cbb662)


  1. Avoid natural lines of drift (where humans are most likely to walk, drive, travel, etc.). It’s not wise to park in the middle of a crossroads while you wait for others to arrive. If you are trying to make yourself more visible to friends and family, you’ll also be more visible to people who are not in your circle of trust.  The RP should be located away from these natural lines of drift so that you aren’t easily noticed by others.  It may mean waiting in a thicket or close stand of vegetation that does not look like an obvious hiding spot.


  1. Plan your RPs so that you access them by covered and concealed routes which limit others from observing you. Balance this with achieving clear lines of sight that allow for good visibility of the surrounding terrain. If you cannot find ground that offers cover (i.e. a barrier to protect you from say, hostile fire), at least get a minimum of good concealment.  Camouflage mirrors, windows and windshields.


Take the path less traveled to get to your RPs.

Photo credit: Bold Frontiers (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/1a39f20d-a10f-4e6c-9a94-0e8e8572483a)


  1. A security plan must be agreed upon and initiated by the first person(s) to arrive. They should make a visual inspection of the RP from a distance, to ensure it is safe to approach and not occupied by others who might mean you harm. Once the RP is reached, it must be physically inspected as well. Until that is done, the RP is not secure and you are not safe there.


  1. You must be able to defend yourself, even if you only intend to occupy a RP for a short time before you start moving again. Select locations where you can exploit natural obstacles such as elevation, bodies of water or thick vegetation, to your advantage.


Never let your guard down.  Security is critical at all times.

Photo credit: Bob n Renee (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/9239b7ab-564e-44aa-979a-224329e55382)


  1. Develop a simple signal plan that allows for easy identification of friend or foe. The arrival of other members of your party can be the most dangerous phase of their movement to the RP.


  1. Plan an emergency RP in case you discover, through scouting, that the original RP is occupied, or access is blocked. Simple contingency plans, such as “relocate 500 meters due north”, work best and may be easiest to remember. You don’t necessarily need to deviate to a follow-on RP that could be dozens of miles down the road. Remember, your strength is in numbers and you want your party to get together and move together, as soon as possible.  WWII British commandos, operating behind enemy lines in North Africa, would often discover that the enemy were searching for them after they had raided a German or Italian-held port or airfield, and were sometimes parked right on top of the RP!  They would avoid the enemy by moving to an emergency RP, then wait until the rest of their unit arrived, or time had run out and they needed to move back to friendly lines.


rally points phone appPhoto credit: Markus Spike (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/970390a0-3715-411b-b786-ab2e2ab63e76)


  1. Establish a “no-later-than” timeline. If the RP is just a temporary place for a link-up before continuing movement as a larger group, you need a preplanned course of action (COA) if someone in your group does not make it to there within the agreed period of time. If your COA means you go looking for them, do it.  If your COA calls for you to abandon the RP and keep moving, then keep moving.  If you have planned them properly, you should already have a series of RPs marked along your route to safety.  If you need to keep moving, there will be opportunities for other members of your party to join you at another RP, further down your route.

Everyone must understand when they are expected at the RP

rally points clock facePhoto credit: Ell Brown (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/a09c8a24-e8f9-4b7c-9c13-b3d677cf65d5)

  1. Plan RPs for your bug out location as well, in case it is compromised while other members of your party are away scouting and you need to evacuate the location. If you do not have direct communications with them, warn the others by a pre-arranged signal that you leave behind.


  1. Cache critical supplies at important RPs, like food, fuel or medical supplies; you may have picked up unexpected additions to your group. Despite our best plans, it happens. These cached supplies will be a buffer that allows you to get to your destination.


rally points medical Photo credit: dlg_images (https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/ed058911-84a2-4012-8180-951d63c80f8c)


Modern military forces have successfully used rally points for well over a hundred years, allowing for units to gather at decisive locations on the battlefield.  They require careful planning to be effective, but once the people you are protecting are familiar with how they fit into the bugout plan, they will increase your group’s safety, ease of movement and security.

What would make for a good RP?  The center of the inhabited area, or on the fringe of town?

Photo credit: NCRS Montana

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