Watchtower Defense – Starting our 27th Month

Since starting Watchtower Defense I have learned some invaluable lessons.  While I have attended some rockstar preparatory training at Jacksonville State and Troy University, nothing could have ever prepared me for life as a business owner.  It seems as if every time we move a muscle I learn something new.  That’s healthy and I appreciate the ‘frustration’ of learning something new every day, but the reality is some business have closed their doors over these ‘frustrations’.  In the end I hope you’ll see these ‘frustrations’ were actually invaluable lessons I could have learned anywhere else but at the reins of a growing, thriving small business.

Never trust anyone who already knows the source of their next meal

I have had so many people step up to the plate offering to help me out since starting Watchtower Defense.  A former boss told me for weeks before I was to leave my old job he wanted me and my new firm on board to help out with some extremely tough projects.  Not only did he not rope us in, he gave me the ‘did my email not make it to you? It had all the details!’ line.  Pretty poor.

A ‘friend’ of mine told me time and again “I will get you so much work you’ll be ready to quit!”  This was over seven months ago.  Admittedly, he wanted response equipment pre-staged near his home – a move which would have cost me thousands of dollars.  Our agreement was then settled at ‘1 call per month for three straight months’ and I will stage equipment wherever he wanted.  Months and months went by — nothing.

I’m 100% certain each of the aforementioned individuals had very good intentions of helping out and putting themselves in place to either 1) help me by keeping me employed or 2) helping themselves by earning extra money.  The reality of each of these situations is: they lacked drive and passion behind their promises due to the fact they know the source of their next paycheck.

You must know and live the YOYO principle: You’re On Your Own

– You will lose so many precious hours of sleep

Sleepless nights will become your new reality due to the fact your wheels never stop turning.  I have sat up for hours on end worrying about finances, how to solve problems for customers, and  how to find new ways to make and save more money.  Prepare yourself and those around you for 24/7 obsession.

But who in the world would stay in a mindless state of mediocrity at a dead-end job to sleep through the night?  Get out there and conquer!  You can sleep plenty when you retire – oh wait, there’s no retirement…now lose sleep about that, too!

See?  Regardless where you turn, there’s something to stress about.

There are certainly more lessons I want to share but today is moving day.  With new growth comes new space requirements.  Neither are a bad problem to have.

Ebola Patient #2 – Remediation Lessons Learned

Below you will find a quick synopsis of our response to Dallas and some lessons learned that – if we don’t lean forward – could become painful for our industry.  This list is not all inclusive.  We need to continue scrubbing our AAR notes for inclusion into our Ebola–specific response SOP.  To be candid, there are some things I will not put in writing due to the nature of the operation and a few extremely important lessons we learned in the hot zone.  Nonetheless, I hope you find it useful in your preparations.
Some of what I’ve included below has created some backlash.  As the owner of, this company, and a leader in my industry, it is extremely important to me that any operation leaves a solid impression of our performance.  However, as a lifelong member of the emergency response industry, it is even more important both successes and shortcomings are identified.  Not everything below will be politically correct and someone’s feelings could very well be hurt.  Just know these notes are 100% constructive – even in the face of failure.
  • People quake in the face of their fears
    • I had three experienced HAZMAT Technicians – 1 retired from the US Army CBRN Corps and 2 from a large metro Fire Department – quit on me after the in-briefing onsite.  The hysteria really has everyone spooked; even those we think have the utmost confidence in their equipment and one another.  I’ll admit – I was scared, too.  But in light of the nationwide crisis, neither Hell nor high water was going to keep me from making entry.
  • PPE stockpile
    • You will not have enough PPE.  Our guidance from the highest levels of the response was to dispose of everything.  As you might imagine, at the end of the operational period all of our PPE was gone.  No boots, no gloves, no masks, no filters, no chem tape, no nothing.  If your WMD-CST gets involved in the response, they will have to have their Log Support from Lexington Blue Grass leaning forward from the very beginning.  Keep in mind, this was a 1-br, 732 sq/ft apartment.  A larger residence would have created a logistical nightmare.
  • Crowd Control
    • There’s no way to keep everyone out.  The press is relentless to get the story.  Others in the complex were allowing reporters into their apartments for an up close and personal look.  Finally, the police came in and established an access control point.  Even then we still had residents brow beating us about their rights.  I understand it completely – it just was not an issue we needed to deal with as entry team members.  Truly, that was someone else’s problem.
  • Operations
    • This is a tough one.  There are a few things I am deliberately leaving out of this email as it is tough to describe our operations after making entry.  Just know your entrants will be required to make on-the-spot decisions and it isn’t easy.  This fact has created a need for an operational change on our end and we are working diligently on that.  I could really go on and on with this but it just isn’t suitable to be written down and disseminated.
  • Barrels
    • The folks we supported spent $74,000 on drums and overpacks for this one operation.  Transporting, hauling, and incinerating those drums was also extremely expensive.  All total – I was told the cost was ~$500,000 just for the lifecycle of the drums.
  • Decontamination
    • Each state’s WMD-CST is capable of establishing a world-class decontamination line.  If it were me, I’d use their guidelines and set up your decontamination line just like they do.  You’ll need to add a lane for the overpacks leaving the hot zone, but that’s easy enough.
  • Contractors
    • I’ll never say a bad word about any business that is willing to answer the call.  However, I have heard some folks in charge of procurement in our state are pretty upset about vendors advertising their services in the wake of this crisis.  It may be like this way elsewhere in the country or it could be an isolated event.  I’m not sure.  I do know the great folks here did a check on competencies and ended up with a couple of outstanding folks working operations in Dallas.

I want to encourage leaders in the emergency response industry to continue pushing their subordinates through extremely difficult training evolutions.  Make them dress out and perform technically and tactically demanding procedures successfully to ensure they become both confident and proficient beyond the wildest stretch of anyone’s imagination.

In closing, I appreciate all of the folks we supported in Dallas and those that supported us.  We worked alongside some of the best teams in the state and I am so proud to have been a part of the response.

Randy Pike


Watchtower Defense

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