There were a couple of comments to a recent article about how to handle guard duty. This is something I have given some thought to, so I thought I would share it with you. There was some talk of how things have been handled in various prepper fiction books. I enjoy them and have gotten several ideas from them, but on this topic many of them are just that, fiction.
Let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who is in tune with the fragility of the systems holding society together. This lends to you probably being apt to see things going sideways sooner than many, which probably means you’ll not find many people willing to help keep watch, at least in the beginning. Many of the prepper fiction books also have a force that repels Joe and his merry band of Dirtbags. You’ll also probably have few people who know how to stand watch, or who have the gear to do so.
These challenges don’t mean that we shouldn’t try. It just means we need to take an honest look at what is actually possible with where things are now and what the actual potential of our circumstances are.
Any neighborhood can start a neighborhood watch now. I think these are often made up of people who are open minded, knowing that bad things can happen near them. These are the people who will probably be the most willing to agree to stand watch or participate in guard duty when things go bad. There are several websites that can help you get started with a watch. Police departments are often willing to come and speak to your group as well.
Guard Duty or Standing Watch
I believe these are two different things. To me guard duty is someone armed to defend a position and watch duty is someone who keeps watch for danger and reports it. I think we would all like to have a mix of both but the truth is, the best we might be able to do is get a neighbor or two to join us in keeping watch and reporting anything hinky to the other families who’ve joined in keeping watch.
A posted guard is a visible deterrent. In a short term situation, a guard post could be a car parked sideways blocking the flow of traffic. This gives the guard or guard’s concealment and a little cover behind the engine block. If a guard is posted to prevent passage of people into your neighborhood, they should only let people through who can have someone from inside the neighborhood come to the guard post and vouch for them.
I would have to place three of these types of positions in a “T” formation to limit traffic for a few blocks. As you can guess, this could limit the flow of traffic but would take between three and six vehicles, and people to guard each location. I would not just put this type of guard post up on my own. I would get a consensus with others in the neighborhood first.
In a prolonged situation, it might be a good idea to have a hardened location to offer more cover. This could be done by removing the tires from the vehicles, and filling the cars with dirt. The tires could then be used to build berms filled with dirt in other locations.
As I said above, to me, a watch is just that; someone who watches. There are a few different types of watches. A posted watch is someone who is in a set location and reports activity. A roving watch is either someone who roams between posted watches, or just walks a set path.
It is very possible that in the beginning of a situation, there will not be much interest in having a neighborhood watch. It might just be you and your spouse taking turns in case the need to defend your home or bug out arises.
A person on watch generally doesn’t want to bring attention to their position. Therefore, keep sound and light discipline. Don’t have anything that smells different than what is expected. For instance if you are cold and drink a hot cup of cider, the smell can give you away. Light from a flashlight can help you see but is also a dead giveaway of your location. If you use a red lens or color a clear lens with a red marker, it doesn’t provide quite as much light, but is much harder to see at a distance. It also has the benefit of not taking away your natural night vision.
A roving watch can obviously be more visible. They can be used to keep an eye out for things going on between locations. They can also be relief for posted watches who need to take a break.
The reality is, your watch might just be you and your spouse or maybe another family or two. If it’s just you and your spouse, keep watches to 4 or so hours. If there are more families, rotate the watches to give people an uninterrupted night sleep as often as possible.
While we don’t want to be forced to flee, the goal of having a watch posted might be to give enough time for you to do so safely without engaging an armed force. Because of this, have a fallback plan in place, a designated place where people should meet if needed.
I think the more time that passes by, or the worse things get, the more people will open their eyes and be willing to join in the watch. When this happens, consider using the buddy system. Each guard post has multiple people, as well as the roving watch.
A command center stocked with coffee or other caffeinated beverages to assist the sleepy and help those taking a break refresh is a good idea as well. This could be the garage of someone in a central location.
If you have this many people, there should be training on how to stand a watch and on firearms if they’ll be carrying them.
You’ve probably seen the FRS radios that advertise 30+ miles, which is only in a flat open area. The real range in the average suburban house is probably closer to a mile or two, and even then things can be static. A second option might be DB, which would be more than sufficient in these ranges, but is more expensive. Yet another option would be MURS radio. These also have motion sensors, which can trigger an alarm at the base of the radio. None of these options require a permit to operate.
One idea I’ve come up with is using air horns for alarms. If you have three guard posts, define them one, two and three. If a situation develops at a guard post, they could let one blast for post one, two for the second post and so on. This could let everyone know there is a situation and where.
Rules of Engagement
The rules of what to do in various situations should be clear. If it’s just your family, you might want the person on watch to simply wake everyone else. If you have a guard posted at an entrance into your neighborhood, it should be clearly defined what to do when people demand that you let them in, as well as what to do when someone brandishes a firearm or makes threats.
You’re just not going to have enough gear for everyone. You can buy some extra affordable items now. You’ll need to make a judgment call if you share your firearms with others who stand guard duty or a watch.
I recommend having some less than lethal options available. You can buy a large can of pepper spray that is meant to deal with crowds. I’ve seen paint balls adapted to shoot pepper spray as well.
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