Whether you are ghost camping or the sky has fallen, and you’re living out the post-apocalyptic dream, you may want to avoid being caught off guard.
One of the ways we can do that is by employing force multipliers in the form of early warning systems and devices.
In this short article, we’ll discuss a few options to consider for your early warning arsenal.
First is old fashioned human to human communication! That could be through a phone call, text message, email, or radio. It could also be through using a distant sound like a car horn, a bell ringing, gunshots, or it could be a visual signal like a column of smoke in the distance. Of course, there’s also the classic face to face contact with someone in your network. All these methods have been employed in early warnings before. An early warning is simply a form of intelligence gathering used to inform you of a potential threat. It gives you time to react and to be ready to deal with the threat when it presents itself. That could be in the form of allowing you time to set an ambush or simply man a defensive post.
As good as all that sounds, we may not have a network of people to give us a warning. So, in that case, we have to deploy force multipliers that will alert us to the things that go bump in the night.
First, we need to establish our perimeter. The perimeter is a continuous line that encircles the area we want to keep secure from threats. Once we have that established, we can put our early warning systems on and or beyond our perimeter.
What kind of items can we use for early warning systems? Of course, there are the classic tin cans with pebbles in them with tripwires attached as an audible warning, but what other options are available to us?
Animals can actually serve as an excellent early warning system. Dogs barking, goats making goat noises, chickens clucking, horses behaving strangely, etc. can all help determine something that is not quite right. Animals will often pick up on sounds, movements, and scents long before you will. If you spend enough time around the animal, you will know what their normal and abnormal behavior is. The important thing is to pay attention to them and not discount their abnormal behavior, however small it might be. It is a clue that something may be amiss. Every early warning system we can utilize will give an advantage and increase survivability.
Early warning gizmos and devices are plentiful on the market as well. If you have the money to spend and are so inclined, you can actually buy portable seismic sensors that pick-up footsteps entering your perimeter. Imagine getting a ping on your phone or device with a live map of what sensor was tripped without the threat having a clue that you are aware of their presence. Now that would be a pretty powerful force multiplier to have in your arsenal! Alas… Such gadgets are mostly beyond my budget. So, what other options out there are more affordable and attainable? Well, that just depends on your perspective and budget, but here are a few ideas to consider.
As we discuss some of these, I feel it is my responsibility to clarify that there is a difference in an early warning device and a boobytrap. Boobytraps are illegal, but, more importantly, unintended people can be hurt or killed by them indiscriminately since the traps are unattended and automated. My advice is to stick to audible or visual signals that alert you to a perimeter breach.
Shotgun shell blank firing perimeter alarms have become pretty popular. They are very affordable, reusable, and a good audible alert that something or someone has entered your perimeter. The housing is typically aluminum and can be taped or nailed to a tree. A tripwire is attached to a cotter pin that acts as the “blocking device” or safety for the spring-loaded firing pin used to detonate the blank shotgun shell. A tripwire is attached to the cotter pin and is extended out across the area of approach and attached to another tree or stake in the ground. A blank shotgun shell is then loaded into the top of the device. When the wire is tripped, the safety pin (cotter pin) is pulled, which releases the firing pin sending it slamming into the primer of the blank shotgun shell, causing it to detonate and create a loud bang for all to hear. You can completely surround your perimeter with these devices or simply cover the avenues of most likely approach. These devices are harmless to anyone around them because the shell casing is not contained inside a chamber where pressures can build and create propulsion for projectiles.
Electronic versions of audible alarm devices that are battery-powered and emit a loud siren with a flashing strobe indicate which of your perimeter alarms were triggered. These devices are great, but of course, they require batteries, which may not be a viable long-term option, especially considering some of these require specialty batteries.
Of course, there are homemade versions of alarm devices that are made by modifying things like rat traps to work the same way as the shotgun shell blank alarm. Another way I’ve seen the rat trap implemented is to nail it to a tree and secure a chem-light or an infrared chem-light to where the trap bar impacts it and causes it to glow, indicating which alarm was triggered. If you are fortunate enough to have night vision, the IR chem light being triggered gives you a visual location for the alarm without the intruder even being aware that there is a glowing light indicating his avenue of approach (assuming they don’t have night vision).
A really cheap homemade device can also be fashioned from a wind chime. You really only need two chimes to make it work. A simple device (a piece of tape and a stick, etc.) between the two chimes to keep them apart and secured with a tripwire attached will do the trick. When the wire is tripped, those two chimes clang together and are likely going to continue to make noise for a minute.
In the movies, we often see trip alarms set up with flares. That’s all fine and good, but it’s important to remember that a flare is creating a blazing fire. Whether it’s tied to a tree or an aerial flare that gets launched, there is a possibility of catching the forest or neighborhood on fire. My advice would be to use careful consideration before employing a flare device as a perimeter alarm. As we’ve been hearing a lot lately…the cure could be worse than the virus.
As long as electricity isn’t an issue, there are beam devices that can be used in a static position like a driveway or trail. In fact, I have used them, and they work great. The device sends a wireless signal to the receiver in the house and chimes to let you know there has been motion in the designated area. Even if you’re just looking for something to alert you when someone is coming down the driveway when you’re in the basement and can’t hear a vehicle approaching, they’re a handy tool to have on the property.
For an electrified home or position, security cameras are hard to beat for early warning devices because not only are you alerted, but you can also get a look at the person or thing in advance and react accordingly. Most home security camera systems even allow you to see in the dark using infrared camera technology. These systems can be bought for anywhere from $100 on up depending on quality, quantity, whether they are wired or wireless, absolutely nothing is better than eyes on the threat, and to do it at a safe distance without the person knowing about it is priceless. This type of early warning puts you in a very advantageous position.
If you scour the internet, you’ll find all kinds of interesting ideas for perimeter early warning devices. My advice is that if you plan on using one when it really counts, get it and start testing it to see how it works. Find its limitations and weaknesses as well as its strengths so you can employ it in the most advantageous way possible.