From Tactical to Practical – Tactical Training Being Put to Use in Everyday Life.

This is the first in a series of articles, written to provide real examples of how tactical training was used in everyday life. The articles are extracted from the boring life of one of the Brushbeater students and a proud member of the Mossy Oak Militia.


Oversimplified, PACE planning is a technique used to develop a primary way of action along with three redundant layers of back-up. PACE is a simple acronym that has proven itself to be simple, reliable and effective. While the PACE plan is often used in regards to communications, it can be adapted to a variety of other situations.


The acronym stands for:

P – primary (the main course of action)

A – alternate (the first back-up, in case the primary source fails or is not available)

C – contingency (the second back-up)

E – emergency (the third back-up, and if you get to this point, things are not going well)


I’ve used PACE for a long time and when my kids were at a relatively young age, I began introducing them to the idea of  PACE planning. We took the plan and modified it for our use; what to do if we ever get separated from each other. Basically, we used PACE to identify four rally points.  Our implementation was easy, every time we drove somewhere, we called a PACE plan before leaving the vehicle. At first, I called the PACE, but after the kids became comfortable using this method, I let them call the PACE.   Nearly every time we drove somewhere…we set a PACE. Going to the park to play, we set a PACE. Going into the city to shop, we set a PACE. Heading to church on Sunday, yes, even at church, we set a PACE. We did this until it became second nature, literally.

It was super simple and only took a few seconds.

Our PACE would look something like this:

P – primary, meet inside the store at the same door we entered

A – alternate, meet at the vehicle we arrived in

C – contingency, meet at a place that is close, but not where we would need to cross any major roads

E – emergency, meet at a place that is at least 100 yards away and is easy to see (large and well lighted)


The first time our PACE plan was put to the test was during a simple shopping trip to a large, orange hardware store. It was right after Christmas and we were needing to pick up a few things for a couple of projects. I was needed a few plumbing supplies and my son needed to grab some hardware. As we approached the store, the doors opened and we saw a large group of employees standing around in a circle. They all looked at us we walked in, but I was in a hurry and brushed it off as a morning meeting.


After walking past the employees, we split up. He went to get some hardware on the left side of the store, and I went to the plumbing section on the opposite side of the store. We agreed to meet in the tool section after getting what we needed. I was halfway to the plumbing section when an employee approached and looked unsettled. Nervously, he told me that I needed to leave the store immediately. I asked what was going on and he said the back of the store was on fire and everyone needed to evacuate.

I did a quick assessment and saw that all the lights were still on. Sprinklers were not spraying. No fire in sight. No smell of smoke. No alarms were going off.

The clues weren’t adding up, so I pressed the employee behind the orange apron for more details. He said when they arrived this morning, there was the smell of smoke in the break room, so all the employees were sent to the front of the store to wait for the fire department to arrive. That’s why we got the weird looks when we walked through the door, they were expecting the fire department and not customers! Despite this, not one single employee was willing to ask us to stop and stay out of the store.  The employee said that the store manager was getting stressed about the smell of smoke and just wanted everyone out of the store until the fire department arrived.

I thought about rushing to link-up with my son in the lumber section, but I remembered our PACE plan. It was the plan that he made just a few minutes ago. It was the same PACE plan we have used dozens of time at this exact same store. In reality, I wasn’t too worried about the situation, becasue it didn’t seem all that bad.


I turned and walked out of the store and put our PACE to work. I trusted the plan to work.


The primary point was compromised (meet inside the store at the same door we entered) so I headed to the alternate (the vehicle we arrived in). I exited from one end of the store as he exited from the other and we both headed to the alternate point.  Once we were in the truck, I asked him about the experience.  He said he was nervous when he was first told to evacuate, but he knew we had a plan, so he didn’t get too rattled.   He commented how it was cool to finally see PACE actually work.

Practicing PACE in your daily life will make it second nature when you need it most.  Here are a few ways you could start using PACE:

  1. When you go to large sporting events –  large crowds make it easy to get separated from your group
  2. When you go to work – let your loved ones know your PACE because you never know if you will need to evacuate due to a hazardous material incident, work place shooting, etc
  3. When your kids go to school – you NEED to have a way to link-up with your kids if something goes wrong.  Identify locations on and off of school property

A few pointers for using PACE:

  1. Keep it simple.  Don’t make the plan so difficult that it creates confusion.  Simplicity is best.
  2. Have a way to let others know you have moved to the next step in the plan.  For us, if you don’t see the person at the primary (front door of the building) you just wait a few minutes and then head to the alternate (the vehicle).  If either person leaves the alternate (the vehicle) then the first person to leave flips up the windshield wiper blade.  That signals that someone was there, and for whatever reason, has moved on to the contingency location.
  3. Be consistent.  Call a PACE every time you get out of the vehicle.  Don’t get lazy and just assume that the other person remembers the PACE or that the PACE will always be the same.

PACE planning can be used in everyday life, not just in austere environments.  Start using PACE today and be ready for the unexpected tomorrow.

Jessie Blaine

Jessie Blaine is a former Marine living in refuge somewhere in the Lone Star State.  He is in a perpetual state of learning, which is the second best state to be in, with the Lone Start state being the first. 

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