You are late for watch – why aren’t you ready yet?

You are late for watch

Dreaded words. Despite your best efforts, you find yourself facing a hostile shipmate. Time on a submarine is precious and you just robbed him of some of his by being late. Let’s be honest. It happens to all of us. We think we are going to be ready for the next evolution but too often, time slips away.

A watch is a designated time when you are supposed to be ready to operate or monitor your equipment. On a submarine, we all have duties that have to be managed in order to meet the mission. I think it is part of what makes submariners so conscious of all the things that could go wrong.

Fast forward to this morning. During the daily scare (what some people call the news) we are fed the new information from the government that we should all be prepared to shelter in place as the corona virus continues its progress.

Wait, what??? You slipped that in between the story of the latest trend in kids hockey violence and the heart warming story about a soldier coming home??? Seriously?????

And the panic seems to grow faster than the disease.

Well to be fair, I have set aside a bit of my family’s treasure over the years just in case one of the many pandemic/earthquakes/tornadoes/end of the world events actually came to pass. We live in a fairly remote part of Western Pennsylvania surrounded by farm fields and woods. I picked this place since it is a ranch home with a walk out basement next to a creek. There is a small fish pond on the corner and my closest neighbor is still a good distance. Its quiet and peaceful. We are just far enough from the main roads that I never hear the trucks and I also know someone would really have to want to find us. Ask some of my relatives.

But a long time ago, I got to see the results of a major casualty in southern Florida up close and personal. The people that lived there had spent their whole lives working for the wonderful life ahead and with one giant storm, everything changed. I remember all too well seeing folks in really nice clothes standing in line for food that was doled out in rations from the Army mess tent set up to alleviate their lack of food.

Over the years, I have always managed to stock away some things in case the civilized world stopped being so civilized. I have also learned some good things along the way that make sure Debbie and I will be okay on our own for a while.

The big decisions are always sheltering in place or bugging out. So you make sure you have a plan developed for both and the resources to support either decision. My hope is that we never have to use any of this stuff. Someday when we are dad and gone, the great-nephews and nieces will find the stuff in the Zombie Room and wonder what the hell we were thinking. That is my sincere hope.

So what are the key lessons?

First, have a plan. tells you how to put together basic plans no matter what your situation. Food, medicine, water, basic supplies and so on are probably things you already have. But are they enough? Are they transportable if you are forced to leave your home? Is that part of your plan as well?

Second, Have supplies on hand.

Being prepared means having your own food, water, cash, and other supplies to last for at least three days, and possibly longer if you are in a remote or hard-to-reach area. To be honest, we keep about sixty days worth of food and water now.

When we first started our plan, we included MRE’s as part of the food supply. They are convenient and available commercially with many great food choices. The Army and Marines will tell you which ones to go for but there are plenty of web sites that review them and recommend which are best.

One disadvantage to MRE’s is storage and shelf life. They are bulky and packed in cardboard containers. They expire after about five years and lose their value as a long term food supply. I got tired of recycling them to the Boy Scouts after a few times. They are also heavy and not as easy to transport if you have a number of other things to consider. The biggest advantage is that you do not need to heat them in an emergency.

A better choice for our purposes is the freeze dried option. I prefer Mountain House. Taste, quality and longevity are paramount in this case. The way I purchase them now is to buy bulk as often as possible and pick up specialty or single packs from discount stores as needed.

The bulk purchases give you a few advantages. Each meal is individually wrapped in a foil container. Bulk packaging comes in five gallon buckets which are useful even when empty. They are insect and rodent resistant. They stack easily. Just keep them in a cool dry place and they will last in some cases upwards of twenty years. The variety is just enough for our taste but most importantly they provide the right level of nutrients and protein that you would need in an emergency situation.


This picture shows the amount of food two people would need to sustain the minimum amount of supplies for at least sixty days. The loose pack items in the front are the items for the Bug Out bag.


In the event that you have to leave in a hurry, the Bug Out Bag would be one of two items to grab. The tool box is the second.

The tool box is nothing more than a water resistant fishing tackle box that was repurposed. Inside are a number of fire producing tools as well as simple hand tools that might come in handy if you need to put together a makeshift shelter.


Storage of all the items is critical. We keep ours in a place I call the Zombie Room. Everything is in an room that is sheltered on three sides in the center of the walk out basement. The cabinet is rodent resistant (sealed) and I do periodic checks to make sure the materials are in good shape. The best part is that it is all on one part of the house behind a pretty substantial lockable door. The great nephews are the ones that named it the Zombie Room.

There is a lot more than food in this box. Medical supplies, gas masks, a five gallon bucket from Home Depot for shelter in place supplies and so much more. The checklist to start with can be found at

No Zombie Room would be complete without a few noisemakers. Over the years, we have changed what we selected and use. This is not everything but it represents the three key necessities. Shotgun. Long Rifle AR and Long Rifle .22. The Beretta Storm was an impulse buy but since several of my handguns are also 9MM, I have an excuse to keep more of that type of ammunition. Besides, they are just fun to shoot.

There are a few other weapons strategically located around the house. So if you do come late at night, you may want to call first.

There are other considerations. Water. Several sources of heating the food. Lots of firewood for heat. Its all in the plan. Medicine. Dog or cat food. Special needs for family members… and cash

If you do not have a plan of your own, you are already late for watch. The government has been telling you for years to have at least three days of food and water on hand. I believe that is woefully inadequate. The cook tents were not even set up until day six in South Florida. Until you have a plan, you should consider yourself late for watch. And if you place all your faith in the government, I would only remind you of the response time for Katrina.

UPDATE: Mountain house is reporting limited stock on nearly all of their products as of February 2021… I hope you have an alternative until this crisis passes.

Mister Mac





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