It finally happened. Three weeks ago the grid went down and societies’ unraveling has begun. At first, banks closed and people stopped going to work. When this happened essential services were at first hampered and now they are non-existent. Without getting paid for fuel or their work, deliveries stopped, food dried up and now we are in a full blown panic mode that is sweeping over the country despite the authorities promises to restore order.
You being the good prepper are relatively unaffected though as you now find more time to work in your garden which is starting to see the fruits of this year’s harvest. Your company told everyone to stay home until further notice because they could no longer afford to pay anyone and sales had stopped the moment the banking crisis started. Your backup solar panels are working full time to provide power to your home for minor appliances and lights for the evening. There have been some impromptu meetings with your neighbors and even though some have left to live with relatives the ones that remain are still unsure of what will happen and slowly the comments about how prepared your family appears to be are getting a little unnerving.
OPSEC is a term used to describe operational security. When you boil it all down for preppers it really means at its most basic, keeping your details about your preps to yourself unless you are looking for unwanted attention. OPSEC works great while everything is fine. When the power is on and everyone (well, mostly everyone) can find a job to pay the bills and keep them relatively happy no one needs to know about your quiet purchases of stored food. There is no reason to share the steady accumulation of tools, firearms and ammo to go with your medical supplies, stored water and filtration methods. When society is chugging along more or less normally, your preparations can easily go unnoticed so there is no reason to telegraph having supplies for your family.
If the grid goes down though, OPSEC changes and becomes vastly more important. Not many people will care that you have a years’ worth of freeze dried food and a garden if they can still go to McDonalds for their favorite meal. Few people are going to give a rip if you have firearms and ammo if they can still go down to Gander Mountain and buy a shotgun for themselves. It is when the ability to acquire tools and equipment to survive is gone that you need to worry more. When people run out of food because the stores are closed, they will remember you telling them about your purchases. When they are worried that looters are coming down your street they will think back to how you said you stocked away thousands of rounds of ammo. Even if you have been a good little Prepper and have kept all your supplies and preparations to yourself you can still get into trouble and that is part of what this post is about. Once it all goes to hell you are going to need to practice noise and light discipline to keep your family and your preps safe.
Have you ever walked outside when there is a power outage and noticed just how quiet everything is. You still have the ambient sound of the birds and the breeze, but the normal low background noise you have grown so accustomed to is gone. What you might hear in my neighborhood if the outage lasts more than a couple hours are generators. The last outage we had I don’t even think we had gone without for 2 hours before I heard the first generator fire up and that was a pretty good way from my house. Sound travels much farther than you think and sounds can give you away just as easily as knowledge of what you have if the SHTF.
Noise discipline deals with the act of trying to be as quiet as possible so that the enemy doesn’t know your position or gains intelligence from your communications. This routinely is a topic that soldiers on patrol employ to avoid detection but it could just as easily apply if you are trying to remain low-key and keep your preparations secret from your neighbors or people wandering through who might want to relieve you of your extra supplies.
Some basic concepts of noise discipline:
- Avoid unnecessary movement – This applies more so to hiking in the woods where your very footsteps will give you away, but it can also apply to urban environments. Movement even in and out of your house can cause noise (slamming doors) and can alert others to what you are doing.
- Keep your equipment from making noise – This could apply to generators just as easily as all the go to war gear you have strapped to your back. In the Army we would take steps to tie down loose equipment, buckles and metal items as well as possible so that we wouldn’t make noise when we walked. A generator will need to be used as the situation demands but know that the noise an average generator makes could be heard for great distances.
- Talk only when necessary – If you are standing guard or even working in your garden and you are trying to keep a low profile, talk only when necessary and use a low tone of voice. You wouldn’t believe the conversations I hear my neighbors have when I am in my yard. Sound carries…
- Use radios only when necessary – This is a different type of noise discipline, but essentially anything you broadcast on the radio waves can be heard by others. Each transmission can be tracked with the right equipment so keep conversations brief as possible. In most cases a simple squelch response is better than an OK or Roger or my favorite “10-4 good buddy”.
Light discipline covers the visual side of our senses and like sound, light travels a long distance. In your neighborhood, when the lights are out a single cigarette can be seen from extremely far distances. I have heard some people say 2 miles and maybe with the right conditions that’s right but even if it’s only 200 yards, that is plenty close enough for someone to see you in the darkness and devise a plan to sneak up on you.
- No Smoking – If you want to smoke, do it during the day, inside or under a poncho.
- No Campfires at night – This should be a no brainer. Fires can be seen for miles and if you are going to cook, you should do this when its daily. Another option is to build a Dakota Fire Pit.
- Conceal Flashlights – The high powered tactical flashlights and headlamps that I love so much will make you an easy target if there is a blackout and people are looking for you. Make sure you have red lenses for your lights and that will greatly reduce how visible you are. It will also reduce what you can see, but that is part of this game. Try to limit flashlight use as much as possible outdoors if you are worried someone is watching you.
- Cover reflective surfaces – If you are moving in the woods, you want to blend in as well as possible. It makes perfect sense to dress in full camo if you are trying to be stealthy, but if you have a big white face, that will show up regardless of how mil-spec your trousers are. The same thing goes for that nice chrome barrel on your AR15 tool. Cover any shiny surfaces so they don’t reflect light. We would actually paint all our old Alice gear so they wouldn’t show the shiny metal underneath.
- Conceal light in your house – So you have solar panels and you have plenty of light at night to see. That’s great, but everyone who doesn’t have light now knows that you do. To keep this on the down low, you can cover your windows with heavy black plastic. It’s best to purchase this now along with plenty of duct tape and test carefully to ensure no light escapes.
- Use natural concealment – the best camouflage is what nature provides. You can make a ghillie suit, but natural cover will work great too and can be easier to modify in a pinch.
Hopefully that gives you some ideas for how to keep unseen during periods where you want to avoid unwanted attention as much as possible. What ideas do you have?