Introductory Note: I wrote this plan as the local Neighborhood Watch Captain and instructor for a nearby monthly Preparedness Workshop. I’m convinced of the value of having a written plan to follow in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or crisis. I’m sharing this for those sheepdogs who do not yet have a plan in hand – start with this and edit it. Make it your own. But have a plan. When it gets crazy this may help you get through it all.
Be Prepared. Trust God. We can do both!
FIRST 15 MINUTES
Walk / bike / drive through the neighborhood and call everyone together at the (neighbor’s name) garage/barn. Ask each family to bring a chair and something to write with/on.
Make it clear: “I am not in charge, but will help organize. We will vote on someone to lead when we return in one hour.”
A. Pool what we know:
1. Begin with Psalm 127:1-2 and pray for God’s guidance and protection
2. Discuss speculations and ideas. Write it down on a big tablet: What We Know
3. Immediate problems? Medical, livestock, family, etc. Everyone accounted for?
4. Benefits of cooperation: pool tools, knowledge, encouragement, mutual defense
5. Fire control (candles / heaters) and safety are critical at this point. Slow down, think.
6. Designate a Watch Center (barn, home, shed, yard, vehicle, etc.) as a central meeting point
B. Plan to collect more information, can anyone share the following:
1. Monitor battery / solar-powered radio in Watch Center
2. Monitor TV if power available or someone has a battery powered one
3. Who has handheld radios? One to monitor at Watch Center, one to send with corner/intersection Watch(s), one with scouting party
4. Centralized news post [“What We Know”] on flip chart / large paper and someone responsible for maintaining it. Neighbors gather information from their outside contacts. As information comes in mark the “Reported” information as “Confirmed” (by two or more sources) with Dates (and sources if possible). Post in a common area at Watch Center.
C. Send everyone back to their homes, come back in one hour, one representative per household:
1. Reassure their family members
2. Review available supplies and note what they’ll need in the next 7 days: “Basic Four”: Security, Shelter, Water, Food. Also: lights, medicines, special needs
3. IF they’re going to arm themselves they MUST keep a low profile: handgun concealed, long gun in vehicle
4. Contact their immediate neighbors who may not have checked in
5. A couple of people volunteer to come back with coffee (?) and cookies / snack (?)
D. Upon return, quick vote for temporary Neighborhood Emergency Coordinator. Facilitator and coordinator only, all neighborhood participation remains voluntary!
E. Share and post any new information on WWK. Discuss the possible course as the incident develops for brainstorming and mental preparation. Begin to formulate a plan – write it down.
F. Voluntary family status reports: immediate needs, needs/shortages in the next 7 days
1. Coordinator begins keeping track of neighborhood needs
2. Volunteers to help with immediate neighborhood needs (next 24 hours)?
3. Any family members unaccounted for? Any chance neighborhood group could go find them?
4. Agree to a Daily Meeting time and place? Neighborhood pot luck?
G. Suggested General Neighborhood Watch Rules [Post at Watch Center]. Add to this as needed:
1. Golden Rule! Survival is a team sport, do your part. We are in this together and we need each other.
2. All participation is voluntary
3. Even though this is an emergency/disaster we are not going to break the law, nor the Constitution, nor human rights, nor violate personal or family privacy.
4. Information security: Minimize radio chatter, VERY careful what we say to passersby
5. The Watch Center phone number (if phones available) is: ________________________
Interoperable radio settings?
6. Light and noise discipline until we know what we’re up against
7. Low profile: no rifles or shotguns visible, handguns carried but concealed at all times
8. Emergency signaling with phones, whistles, air horns, or tire rim gongs.
One, slowly repeating = gather for information
Three quick = security emergency
Five quick = fire emergency
H. Scouting Party: ask for 3 volunteers to check the main roads in each direction, contact the State Patrol / Sheriff’s district / Police precinct / local fire station, look for areas or buildings with power, check the area gas stations to see who can pump gas and what conditions are like there. Contact neighbors who have any overlooks or high points on their property and see what that view is. Radio on only to report and only if it can’t wait. Low profile, weapons out of sight.
I. Use signaling / phone calls to call a brief meeting when the Scouting Party returns.
1. Based on information available decide whether or not to start an Observation Post, Quick Response Team, or Roving Patrol.
2. Pick a time to meet the next day. Morning? Evening? Both?
3. If information is available by radio or TV consider asking for a volunteer to monitor them at least every 2 hours overnight. If there is information that cannot wait until the next day’s meeting, this person should contact the Neighborhood Emergency Coordinator by runner/phone or sound the general “Gather for Information” signal.
J. Open every general meeting with a brief Bible verse and prayer. Summary and update of what we know. Agree when to meet next.
K. The first night should be pretty quiet. If trouble starts overnight begin an improvised armed Roving Patrol until morning. Discuss the rules of engagement so everyone understands what’s expected, and we don’t break any laws. Discuss the Force Continuum or pick people who already know what that is. Decide whether or not to staff the Watch Center 24 hours a day. Based on updated information decide whether or not to start an Observation Post, Quick Response Team, or Roving Patrol:
L. Observation Post (optional): Ask for 2 persons to park a vehicle for four hour shifts at one or more intersections controlling access to the neighborhood
- Supply with: paper, pencils, handheld radio, cell phone/air horn, binoculars (firearm)
- Send with TWO “Neighborhood Watch” signs and wire to post/hang them.
- Will need something to occupy themselves (books, magazines, articles).
- Write out instructions (Post Orders), list supplies to pass on to the next shift: Contact passersby who stop to get more information and/or direct them to the Watch Center. Watch for anything unusual, groups in vehicles. Radio on only to report. Report to Watch Center.
Get volunteers for the next “relief” Observation Teams so that Post is manned until sunset and a new team takes their place at sunrise.
If OP approach is helpful or informative consider continuing it.
M. If circumstances warrant the Observation Post people could also function as a Quick Response Team to check out activity they see on the road or in the fields, to respond to requests for help / alarms for security, medical, and fire. Will require a vehicle, bicycles, or people who are fit for quick response. Consider centrally pooling firefighting equipment.
QRT could also function as an armed continuously Roving Patrol if we’re getting a lot of people on foot or there has been a high level of trouble without outsiders. Intensive Patrol could cover neighborhood at random intervals, perhaps at a minimum of once an hour.
N. Anyone who would like a refresher on safe firearm handling, simple IFF rules, and Use of Force, and combat handgunning could voluntarily get together for a quick class / orientation. Everyone carrying a firearm into the Watch Center or performing any “official” duty needs this refresher.
O. Review in greater depth the Four Basics (Security, Shelter, Water, Food). Discuss options for: sanitation, keeping insulin cool, developing medical problems, trash disposal, etc.
P. Carpooling / team / group for trips into town? (security in numbers) Obviously depends on the incident and needs…
THREE TO SEVEN DAYS LATER
Q. Issues. If the incident has lasted several days, if circumstances warrant, or if the nature of the incident makes it clear it will be long lasting or generate civil unrest, discuss the following issues at one of the Daily Meetings:
1. Repeat Scouting Parties, or ongoing Roving Patrols?
2. Establish a continuously-staffed Watch Center?
3. Non-family/friends as Refugees: Screening/Probation? Space? Integrate/Separate? Save as many as we can! Growth is healthy. Uncontrolled growth is cancerous.
4. Escort people passing through the neighborhood?
5. Community bartering needs? Daily/weekly meetup for bartering?
6. Potential need for evacuation, family decision, pros and cons of entire neighborhood evacuation / bugout, distribute a Recommended Bugout List so people will take essential items and aren’t loaded down with non-essentials [People should assemble BOBs now!]
7. Switch to weekly informational meetings?
8. Contact with / coordination with other adjoining neighborhood groups / organizations?
9. Make plans for contact with hostile gangs / looters? Hide / Confront? Low/high profile? Caching. Rules of engagement. Signaling. Weapon and movement training. IFF. Checkpoint / roadblocks?
10. Long-term issues on the horizon: cold, rain, food preservation, special needs, supplies holding out (Security, Shelter, Water, Food)?
11. Distributing charity / food and water assistance. Centralized distribution is safer!
12. Plan for ecumenical worship services?
13. Plan weekly potlucks?
14. Expanding the number of families included in our group? Merging with other existing groups? Reporting to or being supervised by outside government agencies?
15. Identify to the group who is available to help with gardening, maintenance, livestock, food storage and preservation, etc.
16. Set up a centralized daycare to free up parents to work? Daycare area could be extra secure location for children during expected encounters with raiders.
17. Plans for detention / punishment for thieves, raiders, etc. Set up basic legal process.
18. Agree on outer neighborhood perimeter, inner perimeter. No “fort” mentality – fixed defense will fail. Central location for children and livestock when warned of trouble?
R. Ask for volunteers to assist the Coordinator – or have the Coordinator pick – who will form the Leadership Team. The titles below are meant to be solely functional, pick your own! (The less they resemble military or police or government position titles the less these volunteers are likely to get carried away with their role.)
1. The neighborhood should elect an Assistant Emergency Coordinator to be involved in all leadership discussions, fully briefed, and be able to fill in for the Coordinator if he/she is (1) incapacitated or (2) offsite. Authority falls to the AC only under those two circumstances and then only if it is a time-sensitive decision.
2. The Coordinator (and staff) must select a trustworthy and experienced Security Advisor for internal welfare to watch for people who are not handling the stress well and might crack, become violent / abusive to family, leave to contact raiders/gangs/drug dealers. Watch for internal theft, coercion, scams, keep an ear out for rumor control. This person would enforce light and sound discipline.
3. Designate a volunteer Medical Advisor for neighborhood medical oversight. Will discretely monitor individuals for malnutrition/dehydration and illnesses. Organize neighborhood health emphases, training, clinics.
4. Designate a volunteer Defense Advisor to begin implementing defense plans agreed on by the Neighborhood or by the leadership (depending on how fast leadership develops, how fast the neighborhood boundaries expand to include new families, and how fast defensive capacity needs to be available).
5. At some point an Operations Advisor might need to be chosen by the Coordinator to oversee the general function of the neighborhood, food distribution and preparation, sanitation, etc.
6. Someone should volunteer to be the Neighborhood Chaplain to facilitate worship services and see to the spiritual health of the neighbors.
7. If and when the Watch Center is continuously staffed 24/7, and there are potential identified threats, the general staff above could “officially” create the position of the “Staff-in-Charge” in the Watch Center to coordinate and oversee immediate responses to security or fire emergencies until the Defense Advisor can arrive to take charge. The SIC will oversee the Observation Post(s), the Quick Response Team, and any Roving Patrols and will notify the Watch Coordinator and Defense Advisor of any emergencies.
A PERSONAL NOTE TO THE EMERGENCY COORDINATOR
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." - Edmund Burke
1. Expect new pressures when you take on a leadership role. Be prepared for old struggles, temptations, and spiritual warfare to intensify and new issues to come up including struggles with self-image, self-esteem, and self-doubt.
2. Be careful not to take on more responsibilities than you can handle, or to take yourself (and your ideas) too seriously. Humility and perspective are absolutely essential to leadership. Delegation to capable persons is the secret of good leadership.
3. Don’t get in a rut. What worked in the past might need to be modified for your present situation, or might not work at all. No two experiences are identical. And for that matter try to let go of the guilt and fears from your past leadership experiences. Be fresh and creative.
4. Even though you’ve got “inside information” now doesn’t mean you’ve got all the facts about everything going on in the neighborhood. Go ahead and share your concerns and questions with those in leadership with you. Your input is important, but accept the possibility that they, not you, have got the “big picture.”
5. You were chosen to lead, not to be the moral and political watchdog of the neighborhood. It is a dangerous thing to try to read the inner motives of others. “Watchdogs” can easily and accidentally sow suspicion, kill trust, and destroy any good they could do as leaders. Instead, treasure relationships, and show love and mercy to all. (But know when to be firm! :)
6. Everything changes sooner or later. Sometimes change is rapid, at other times imperceptible, but this always requires flexibility. Keeping your head, not taking things personally, and not advertising your insecurities will help the rest of the group feel better about the transition.
7. Watch out that you don’t “share” problems with the wrong people. Some things might not be appropriate at the time to tell even your spouse or family. Get your facts straight and avoid misunderstandings.
8. Your identity is more than your job description. Whatever God wants, wherever he puts you is the best place to be. You don’t have to feel threatened when someone else does a great job too, or when you’re asked to change jobs. This isn’t a contest, its life in community, serving God and others. Surrender that competitive spirit to God.
9. Sooner or later you’re going to discover that those in leadership with you are human too and have their share of struggles and shortcomings. We’re all in process, all growing in Jesus, and all at different stages.
10. Frustration, anger, a constantly critical attitude – these are signs that you are expecting too much out of others and have taken your focus off God’s sovereign leading. Have faith in Jesus that he is at work in the people around you. Get your expectations in line with scripture.
11. The Constitution is still the rule of law and the Bible is still the standard for determining right and wrong. You’ll make difficult gray-area calls that you may regret later, but keep your foundation!
12. Odds and ends: the crazier the crisis the more structure it needs. Make lists and follow those lists when bad stuff happens and it will help you stay focused and not miss something important. Seek God in everything. Trust God with the outcomes. It’s not all up to you. No plans are foolproof. Anticipate as much as possible the shortcomings of human nature. Recognize mob psychology. Expect Murphy’s Law failures, always have a Plan B. Long-term strategy is essential. One-time solutions can be traps. Swallow your ego. Leaders serve. Treat others like you want to be treated. Cut people some slack. Delegate, but hold people accountable. Don’t give people too much responsibility too quickly. You don’t have to know or do everything – let other people shine. Be genuine. Lead by example. Communication is absolutely essential! Communication starts by listening. Without communication hatred and resentment will be the natural outcome even in good people! Keep morale high, but tell the truth. One lie will undo your credibility and undermine your efforts to save as many as you can. There will be a terrible price for lying… Do the best you can. No one can ask for more.
You can do this.