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How to Set Up a Lookout Post During a Disaster

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When Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, it was the strongest storm in the Atlantic since Wilma in 2005 and was the strongest storm on record in the open Atlantic Ocean.

Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 season, causing widespread and catastrophic damage, particularly in the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys. It was also the most intense hurricane to strike the continental United States since Katrina in 2005.

During Hurricane Irma there was widespread coverage of the aftermath and devastation by countless media outlets around the U.S.

One particular journalist, Henry K., was living out of his news truck while his team covered the massive damage left behind from the hurricane.

While covering the aftermath of the storm, Henry and his co-workers witnessed people looting sneakers and other goods from a sporting goods store and a pawnshop. TV images showed the alleged looters running in and out of a store through a broken window carrying boxes of sneakers.

To be clear, these people were not looting bread, milk, water, or any other things needed to survive. Henry and his team quickly relayed the information and descriptions of the looters to local police from the safety and mobility of their vehicle.

Luckily, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said the group was arrested later as the storm roared across South Florida. Maglione called the idea of stealing sneakers during a hurricane “a fairly bad life choice.”

After the Fort Lauderdale arrests, the Broward Sheriff’s Office posted on Twitter: “ATTENTION LOOTERS; Every incident will be investigated. Evidence collected will be used to pursue charges after the fact.”

The reality is, since people do stupid things during a natural disaster, you need to be able to observe any threats in the area and hopefully notify your loved ones in advance of anyone moving towards your location.

The fact is, Henry and his team of journalists were able to provide information to police, while being safe and inconspicuous from their vehicle.

Of course, observation posts are commonly set up by the military, but they can also play a critical role in the civilian world if you’re trying to protect your home or another location.

So, I want to share with you some ideas for setting up a lookout post during a disaster to help keep you safe from looters and other bad actors.

Go high. Obviously, the best place for a lookout post is on or near the crest of a hill. You want to make sure that you choose the best terrain possible and avoid valleys and areas prone to high water. You want to be as elevated as possible, to see as much as possible.

With that being said, if you have a water tower nearby that is incredibly high this may not be the best choice since other people might be drawn to that as well. However, you could use hilltops, a 2nd story balcony or window or even a rooftop to help you see what is coming your way.

In addition, you need to develop multiple routes to and from your post so that you aren’t followed or making an easy to follow path. (Always run a surveillance detection route.)

Take turns. In a perfect scenario, you want two people at the lookout post, one for observing and the other for documenting anything you see. They should switch roles every half hour so there’s always a fresh pair of eyes looking out for any incoming danger.

Every four hours, the two people in the post should be replaced so they don’t get burned out. However, there should be plenty of food and water in case they have to stay for longer than four hours.

Now, if you are a family of four, you may only have one person in the lookout position at a time and then simply rotate every hour or so depending on the circumstances. The key is stay observant and let your loved ones know of anyone headed their way that may be looking to do harm.

Communications. Having someone positioned in a lookout post is worthless if they have no way to communicate with the rest of the team. For this reason, I recommend using two-way radios such as the Baofeng UV-5R.

These are inexpensive but quality radios that each family member can keep with them to communicate with one another.

Whoever is on duty in the lookout post needs to regularly update the rest of the team with current conditions or impending threats. Another option is you can also send a runner to relay messages, however if you are a smaller group this may not be the best use of energy or time.

The bottom line is, if you ever find that your city or town is dealing with riots, looters, or any type of natural disaster, consider setting up a lookout post so that you can keep your family updated on the latest threats.

Also, make sure you’ve got good binoculars, a good spotting scope or something similar to see off in the distance.

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