The start of this new decade has proven to be a tumultuous one. Between a global viral pandemic and worldwide protest and riots in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement, tensions and tempers are high. It doesn’t take much to turn a peaceful protest into a full-blown riot, and civil unrest outside your front door is enough to make anyone want to run for the hills.
Here’s what you can do to help ensure safety if a peaceful protest turns into a violent riot…
When At Home
Information is your best tool and greatest ally. It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore everything that is going on around you, but if safety is your priority, you can’t afford to do that. It’s vital to keep up with current news and understand what’s going on around you, especially when there are riots nearby.
You’ve got two main sources for information during times of civil unrest — mainstream media and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Take both with a grain of salt. Both are going to be biased, though they may lean in different directions. Even so, social media can be useful for learning what areas to avoid or if something might be about to happen. On the other hand, mainstream media can be useful for keeping up with events both locally and across the country.
A better option may be a police scanner app — free on both Android and iOS — can help you keep track of police movements. It will alert you if there is going to be some action in your area, so you can take steps to stay out of their way. There are some states where using a police scanner or app is illegal, so make sure you’re on the right side of the law here. Check your state’s regulations to be on the safe side.
[Editor’s note: Another idea might be something like a neighborhood communication website or tool, such as Nextdoor.com. Oftentimes your neighbors are aware of what’s going on and are usually willing to share what they know rather quickly. I’ve been a part of our Nextdoor.com community for years now and I’m happy to be.]
Secure Your Home’s Exterior
Mob mentality is a dangerous thing. The more people you get in a crowd, the lower their collective IQ tends to become. Add fear, anger or rage to the mix, and the situation becomes a powder keg waiting to explode. All it needs is a match. If your home happens to be in their path, you may find yourself with a few unwelcome dinner guests unless you take the time to secure your home’s exterior properly.
Ensure all your doors and windows are closed and locked and make sure blinds are drawn. If the rioters in your area are fans of throwing things through windows or you’re worried about collateral damage if someone opens fire in your neighborhood, you may wish to invest in storm shutters or other window covers, even plywood can be useful protection against breaking glass.
Consider replacing your exterior doors with something a little sturdier than whatever wood or composite is currently hanging on those hinges. Steel doors are incredibly durable, making up roughly half the market, and will help keep your home secure. Pair one of these with a high-quality deadbolt and reinforced door jam, and no one will be able to break into your home through that doorway, at least, not without some serious effort.
If your house is likely to be in the path of a riot or protest, secure or remove anything outside that could be used as a projectile. Loose paving stones, small plants in ceramic pots and even garden gnomes could come flying through your window. Move any vehicles too.
Installing security cameras could help your case with the insurance company if any part of your home gets damaged or destroyed. Make sure you boost up your Wi-Fi and internet connection to make sure the cameras stay connected even while outdoors.
Be Able to Hunker Down
Unless you’re planning on participating in any protests that are going on in your area–and I wouldn’t suggest doing so–be ready to hunker down for a while. Try to leave your house as little as possible, especially if you’re in the middle of an area with active protests or riots. This means you will need to have a good supply of food storage foods, water, medicine and anything else you might need already available in your home.
Having a disaster supply is always wise even if civil unrest isn’t a problem in your area. Make sure you have at least (the absolute bare minimum):
- 1 gallon of water per person per day for two or more weeks
- Enough shelf-stable food for two to three weeks
- A supply of over-the-counter and any necessary prescription medications as well
- Hygiene supplies like soap and toilet paper (as if we have to remind you of this any longer)
- A fully stocked first-aid kit
- Batteries and flashlights in case the power goes out
- Any items you need for pets in your home
This is a very bare-bones list. The goal here is to survive in your home for as long as necessary to let things calm down outside. In most cases, you won’t have to worry about losing utilities like power or water unless the protests get incredibly destructive, which is certainly possible. Still, it’s always a good idea to be ready for anything, as the last thing you’ll want to do is leave your home during such unrest if you don’t have to.
Be Ready to Defend Your Home and Family
You’ll have to decide whether a direct show of force is the best option, such as the Idaho residents who patrolled their own streets, or whether you prefer to stay inside and defend your family and property that way. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but in either case you’re going to need appropriate firearms, proper training, and the willingness to use deadly force should the need arise. And, like it or not, there may be legal repercussions from doing so, especially considering our current political climate.
For the time being, you may not be able to count on police to come if you call as they may easily be busy elsewhere. It may simply be best to band together with your neighbors (assuming they’re like-minded people) until the threat passes.
When Away From Home
Beware of Instigators
Peaceful protests are one thing, but when they devolve into violent riots you need to really start looking out for yourself and your family. Unfortunately, this devolution doesn’t always happen naturally. As is the case with the George Floyd protests, many people are accusing local police departments of using instigators to incite violence, triggering riots to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s a term for these individuals — agent provocateur — which is French for inciting agent, and they’re clearly wrong about who’s starting what.
In any case, beware of these instigators. Even with peaceful protests, emotions are running high, and it doesn’t take much to shift a demonstration to a riot. All it takes is one thrown brick or one window broken and things will deteriorate on their own. It’s sometimes hard to spot the true instigators until they start looting stores or picking up bricks to throw at police officers who are there to keep the peace.
If you’re attending a protest or even if you merely stumble upon one as you make your way home, pay close attention to your surroundings and beware of instigators attempting to incite violence because they’re the real troublemakers.
Practice Situational Awareness
Situational awareness is probably the most important skill one can have when it comes to protecting yourself during situations of civil unrest. Situational awareness means you’re aware of your surroundings at all times, including where everyone is, their body language, any potential weapons and exits.
It’s a skill that most neglect, but in situations of civil unrest, it can make an enormous difference – perhaps THE crucial difference. Situational awareness allows us to read the crowd and get a feel for the mood of the gathering. From there, you can better determine how to handle the situation. You’ll want to do whatever is necessary to keep yourself and your family safe if things start to devolve because they often do so quickly.
Situational awareness is something you can practice in any situation, even before things start to go wrong. Anytime you’re in public or around other people, make it a point to practice and hone your skills as they could save your life.
[Editor’s note: At a bare minimum, keep your head up and stop looking at your phone every three seconds!]
Use Mob Mentality to Your Advantage
Mob mentality is clearly a dangerous thing, but if you’re keenly aware of it then you can use it to your advantage. This becomes especially useful if you’re caught up in a large group of protesters. At the very least, attempt to quietly blend in and nobody will look at you twice. You don’t have to carry a sign or take up chanting, but generally do whatever it takes to make you look like everyone else around you because the last thing you want is to become a target of their rage.
Work your way toward the edge and once there, simply walk away. Don’t run. If you run, you may make yourself a target and draw unwanted attention from the crowd.
Be Able to Defend Yourself
Ideally, we want protests to be calm, respectful events. Having a peaceful protest is outlined in the Bill of Rights, after all. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. You need to be ready to defend yourself. Traditional self-defense courses teach you how to protect yourself from one attacker at a time, but if things turn violent and you find yourself on the wrong end of a confrontation, you’re not going to have the option of fighting just one person.
And, while the obvious goal should be to escape from the situation, if that isn’t possible then knowing how to defend yourself can mean the difference between life and death if you find yourself trapped in a mob.
Of course, you should always try to deescalate the situation, but if that’s not an option, take a few seconds to study the group that is threatening you. Assess the situation, figure out who the leader is and target them first. You’ll need to defend yourself from multiple attackers, which is exactly what will happen if you’re caught in a mob and it turns on you.
[Editor’s note: The honest truth is that if you find yourself being attacked by multiple assailants, and in a mob no less, you’re in very serious trouble. The best plan should be to attempt escape at all costs if deescalation simply isn’t possible.]
When you strike, make it spectacular and intimidating. Sometimes, taking out the leader is all it takes to slow things down enough that you can escape. In the words of Ender Wiggen from the book “Ender’s Game,” “Knocking him down won the first fight. I wanted to win all the next ones, too. So they’d leave me alone.” Don’t worry about the rules of battle or anything you might have learned in your childhood karate class. Hit hard, fight dirty and do whatever it takes to survive.
If the recent protests and riots are any indication, you shouldn’t count on law enforcement for help in such situations for a variety of reasons. In fact, if you’re caught in a mob that starts to turn violent, you may even want to avoid law enforcement for a while. Focus on protecting yourself and your family, and making your way out of a clearly dangerous situation.
Your Family Should Always Come First
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, protests have sprung up around the globe to force the conversation about policing and civil rights. But protests aren’t what you need to defend against. It’s when things turn violent that you need to be concerned about your family’s safety, which should always come first. Protect them and everything else will fall into place, even if the world is falling apart around you.
It’s up to you to make sure you and your family stay safe during periods of civil unrest. Be prepared for anything, and nothing should surprise you.
[Note: This was a guest post.]