June 25, 2017

Keeping Watch Once It’s Hit the Fan

If society falls apart, even for a limited time, it would be a good idea to post a watch.   This can assure that your family or group stays protected and rested.   In Light, Sound and Smell Discipline I covered some things that should be considered at all times once its hit the fan.  This goes for being on watch too.  Below are other things to keep in mind while on watch.

I stood many watches while I was in the Navy.  Those watches were much different.  There are, however, many principles that are the same.  Please add your suggestions in the comments section below.


Staying Awake

This is probably the most important thing and can be one of the hardest.   In a time when stress and tension are high for an extended period, you might not get a lot of rest.  After a few days without rest, your mind easily wanders off and your body rebels to get sleep, especially when things are quiet at night, but your family and friends are counting on you to stay awake to keep them safe.

Staying awake can be a real challenge.  What works to keep one person awake won’t necessarily work for the next person.  It might help to keep moving.  Your mind may still drift off, but it can snap back as long as you’re awake.  You can’t fall asleep if you’re walking.  Well, I suppose you can, but not for very long!  LOL.  Be thinking of things that help you stay awake now that don’t completely distract you.  Make a note of them.

The trouble with caffeine and other stimulants it is that they can affect you after your watch has ended and interfere with your rest.  The four hour energy “shots” might not be a bad option if they work for you, they just make me yawn louder.  If you do decide to use coffee or other stimulants, limit them so you won’t be awake after your watch has ended and so you don’t have to step away for repeated restroom trips.

Taking small shifts is a must.  In the Navy, we stood mostly four hour watches.  Some of you might be tempted to take a longer watch to give your family more rest.  Don’t.  Everyone needs their rest and your family needs you to be rested as well.  The longer you delay sleep, the harder your mind and body will rebel.  In a training school in the Navy, I had a young man in my class who, for some reason, could not stay awake.  He was told to stand up during a lecture and still fell asleep.  The instructor gave him a three foot 2×4 and made him hold it over his head.  By the end of the day, this young man had two knots on the top of his head.  I share this just to show you that sometimes your body simply shuts down.  Rest when it’s your turn or you’ll be more of a danger to your loved ones.


It’s Called “Watch” Not “Defend”

If you hear something that goes bump in the night, wake others up, depending on how big of a bump it was.  If you go check it out on your own and are overpowered, there is no one to sound the alarm.

If you go with a buddy system you have two sets of eyes and ears to look for what made the noise, and two people to defend if needed.



If you’re standing watch and see or hear something, being able to radio someone to wake them allows you to continue to observe what is going on.  I have recently become an affiliate for Midland radios.  I did so because I have a few Midland products and think highly of them.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will receive a small commission if you purchase from them by clicking on the image to the right or the Midland text here.  The Midland two way radios or any higher quality FRS two way radio would be a good fit here.


Sound the Alarm

If danger is imminent, having a fast way to wake everyone is a good idea.  If you want to maintain the element of surprise, sending someone to give everyone a quick shake might be the only option.  If the element of surprise is lost and you just need bodies fast, an idea I had was for small air horns.  I bought a bunch of them at the $1 store.


Neighborhood watch

If you have developed a neighborhood watch, you might develop have a stationary watch at a main entrance or two, having a roving watch that goes between the two.   This is another area where having radios for fast communication is essential.  Depending on the size and density of your area, a two way FRS radio should work ok.  If not, moving up to a CB is a good option.


Rules of Engagement

Having the response planned ahead of time is crucial.  Now is the time to be thinking about what you might do if society is erupting and you hear a noise a house or two away at 02:00.  Does this response change if there is no established rule of law?

You should also have defined what everyone’s job is, even if it is to stay with the kids and reassure them and keep them as quiet as possible.


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  1. Jim Moore says:

    Good information Chris. Important stuff, as was your Light, Sound and Smell discipline. We take so many things for granted. If things get bad, we’ll have to change a lot of the way we do things. Along the Smell issue; home made lye soap is good, you don’t want the smelly soap in case Joe Dirtbag is sensitive that way. Kirk’s Castille soap is good, as is ivory. If your flashlight doesn’t have a colored lens you can often find colored plastic wrap or even tissue paper, use a rubber band (which is another good prep item) to soften and color the light.
    If it comes to neighborhood watches, there is much info (mostly military) on three person watch being much safer than a two or four person watch.
    I love the Air horn idea, putting it on the list. I have a Large Vintage Cast Iron Farm School Church Dinner Bell for the community on my Amazon Wishlist. A bell would be good for sounding a community alarm. I have a hand-crank siren on my wish list too, but a deep well hand pump has priority first.
    I agree 100%, having the response planned ahead of time is crucial. Hopefully whether it is just your family, tribe or whole community you’ll do a lot of critical thinking and planning immediately after things get bad and adapt as you go.
    Safety First!

  2. Rick Pollard says:

    In using those two way radios, many times they “chirp” that gives away position. There are several throat mikes with ear buds that stop this from happening. The main base would want to have that “chirp” to aleart those maintaining the base comm and early warning systems there.
    If there are the bodies, I suggest 2 Hr watches of 2 or three individuals always in comm with eachother through the radios. But it never hurts to set up early warning devises to make noise if an intruder comes into your permimiter. trip wires with a couple of cans that rattle together to warn of someone comming too close.
    For those bugging in, camoflaging the house keeps the unwanted away because the house will look burned out with the evidence on the front lawn. Smoking the eaves, around windows and doors and then covering them with plywood keeps the look up; remember that you have to reduce yourself to only one entrance / exit. This is achomplished by wraping an oily rag on a stick, setting it on fire and letting the smoke coat those areas. remember to keep smoke stains smaller on lower areas and wider and bigger as you travel up the walls on the outside of the house. It has to look real.
    By burning some old furniture and clothes and dumping them and other items on the lawn it looks uninhabitable, but what is inside is livable.

  3. We experienced the ‘Mustang Fire’ this summer and as the fire moved through the forest toward our place, we altered our sleep habits so that I stayed up 3 hours later than usual and my husband got up 3 hours earlier than usual. In one week, we were noticing diminished cognitive skills…even if we were able to sneak in a nap during the day. As the danger grew closer, we had engine crew assigned to our road to patrol and watch for fire activity and the difference this made was significant.
    I learned that sleeping during the day in a fire camp was not a restful sleep for these men so during their shift, they would take turns taking a 2 hour nap in the truck. The ‘napper’ was geared for action should the need arise but in most cases was better rested because of the dark, cooler, quieter environment.
    What are your thoughts about this ‘on call’ status for watchmen in other situations?

    • Chris Ray says:

      Hi Pam,

      You’re correct about the lack of sleep for even a few days affecting cognitive skills. I have insomnia and after a few nights with little sleep I know I’m not as sharp as I should be.

      The fire fighters have a good idea. Sleeping during the day is hard for some people, to make it easier you can make a sleeping spot in the basement or another cool spot. Make the room dark with room darkening shades.

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