Living in our modern world feels a lot like sitting on top of a powder keg while holding a match. We’re all holding our collective breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering which fuse will be the one that sets off an explosion of civil unrest.
It could be anything — from politics to pandemic — but regardless of the source, one thing is certain: the world WILL become far more dangerous than it already is, and we’ll have to take some steps to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. What do you need to do to stay safe during civil unrest? Here’s some thoughts…
Stay Informed With Technology and Your Phone
During civil unrest, attitudes and actions can change so quickly that they become nearly impossible to keep up with. The mob on the street could be angry at law enforcement officers, but if you walk outside and your skin color or even clothing doesn’t align with their preconceived views, you could quickly become their next target.
Thankfully, we live in the information age, and while some riots and other types of civil unrest might spring up without warning, many are planned days or weeks before. Hundreds of organizations use the internet and social media to coordinate their events.
You can also use these tools to stay informed about what’s occurring in your area and any places you plan to travel to. Information is going to be one of your most valuable tools during periods of civil unrest. It sounds corny, but knowing when and where riots, protests and other events are likely to happen can help you stay safe so you don’t have to worry about becoming collateral damage!
Sites like ResistanceNearMe.Org can help you keep track of local protests. If you are aware of a group or organization in your region, look them up on social media. You might be surprised at how much information they’re willing to share with their followers and fans online.
[Editor’s note: I would encourage you to use your smartphone to keep up with disasters too. Interestingly, some free emergency alert apps have “civil danger” or “civil emergency” as an alert option, among many others.]
Stay Inside Until the Danger Subsides
When that powder keg ignites, a lot of things are going to happen all at once. Depending on the situation and the details of the protest, they may even begin damaging property or getting violent. Law enforcement will respond — up to and including the National Guard — if local government officials deem it necessary.
These two events will begin to mirror one another — the more individuals who gather, the more law enforcement officers who will arrive and vice versa. It won’t take much to turn a peaceful and legal gathering into a full-blown riot. Once things get violent, they will only escalate, with riot police eventually resorting to using tear gas and other hopefully non-lethal methods to subdue an unruly crowd.
The best thing you can do during these situations is to stay indoors, especially if they’re happening nearby. Lock your doors and windows, and stay away from the windows whenever possible. Don’t be tempted to peek through the curtains — if someone spots you, you could easily become a target. Stay in an interior room and monitor the situation outside via the internet and a police scanner app, which you can also download for free on smartphones.
There’s no telling how long such unrest might last once it starts. It could end quickly and quietly overnight, or it could last for days or weeks, depending on the number of people participating and the causes they believe in. Remember the “Occupy Wall Street” protests? Imagine something like that happening outside your home.
In any case, this type of situation is one where preppers get mocked for having a stockpile of food, water and other supplies, but if there’s a violent riot going on outside your front door, you’re not going to want to head to the corner store for a bottle of milk, that’s for sure.
If you’re trying to stay safe during civil unrest, you need to make sure you’ve got all the necessary goods on hand before things go bad. That means at least a two-week supply of food, water, medication, weapons — which we’ll talk about more in a moment — hygiene supplies and anything else you might need if you won’t leave your home for a couple of weeks.
Include communication equipment — radios or police scanners — and lighting solutions like LED flashlights. These will come in handy in case the riot reaches the point where people start knocking down power poles or damaging the electrical grid. A backup generator can keep your fridge or deep freezer running even after the power goes out, but a simple high-wattage inverter is easier and less expensive.
Be Able to Get Out If Necessary
If you’re not home when all hell breaks loose, or your home is damaged by rioters, sheltering in place isn’t going to be an option. If you’re in an area prone to civil unrest, the best thing you can do is get out before things go critical. That means packing up yourself, your family and everyone’s belongings and bugging out ASAP. Walking out on foot may be your only option, in which case you’re going to want a quality bug out bag and supplies.
If you have time and need to take more supplies, renting a moving truck isn’t going to be an option, which means you may want to think about investing in a truck and trailer that you can load with everything you’ll need. Make sure you’ve got a vehicle capable of towing a fully loaded trailer and do a test run of your ability to pack everything up in a timely manner or, at the very least, have a list of everything you want to take.
FYI, you can figure out how much your truck is capable of towing by evaluating the vehicle itself, as well as how much your trailer weighs when fully loaded. Add your gross vehicle weight to your loaded trailer weight to discover the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating. Then subtract your truck’s curb weight from that to determine your automobile’s towing capacity.
Make sure to pack up anything you can’t stand to lose, including essential paperwork that you don’t have copies of and anything with sentimental value. Examples of documentation you might bring include your passport, medical records and birth certificate. If possible, opt for a closed trailer that you can lock. Open trailers might weigh less, but if you find yourself surrounded by rioters, they’re easy pickings for anyone who wants to make off with your stuff.
Arm Yourself Now
The best thing you can do to stay safe during civil unrest is to stay indoors and away from other individuals, but that isn’t always possible. Rioters might break into your home, or you might have to leave due to safety concerns. You’ll need something to protect yourself from potential violence which means arming yourself and learning how to use your weapon of choice.
Your first instinct might be to buy a gun and stock up on ammunition, but when you’re dealing with civil unrest, you’re not fighting against some foreign enemy that has invaded your country. You’re dealing with your friends and neighbors, members of your community, and you don’t want the burden of shooting one of them on your conscience.
As such, you may want to opt for non-lethal defense mechanisms, like pepper spray or a baseball bat which can be incredibly useful as well, both as a weapon and as a deterrent. Rioters pushed to violence are more likely to attack someone unarmed than they are to target someone brandishing a weapon. Sometimes a show of force is all you need.
That said, there’s also the very real concern of (1) rioters not being deterred by less than lethal options or (2) you being overwhelmed by sheer numbers. In this case, it’s always wise to have lethal means of defense in the form of firearms–whatever your choice is–along with the ability to use them competently. After all, it’s YOUR family’s safety at risk! Be prepared to defend them.
Blend In, Then Get Out
To quote Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K in the 1997 movie Men in Black, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.” Individually, the residents who lives on your block or in your town might be decent human beings, intelligent and capable of rational thought. Once they start to gather, however, that intelligence tends to vanish as mob mentality takes over.
If you do have to be outside during a riot, stay safe by blending in. Study the people around you. Are they dressing a certain way, carrying picket signs or wearing the same angry expression? Do your best to mimic those behaviors so you can blend in whether you agree or not.
Even if these are acquaintances you’ve known for years, once that mob mentality takes over, you’re just as likely to become a target if you stand out. Try to avoid crowds, if at all possible. But if you find yourself caught up in a rush of angry individuals from your neighborhood, do your best to blend in until you can make your way to safety.
Then move slowly and steadily. Don’t bring attention to yourself while you’re moving. Once you get to the furthermost corner of the mob, walk away as calmly as possible. Even if your fight-or-flight response is dying to kick in, don’t run, or you could become a target.
While you’re trying to get out of the mass, stay away from fences or walls — any places where you could get pinned. People aren’t often aware of what they’re doing when they’re following a mob, which leads to them crushing others against walls or trampling individuals. Stay on your feet, move slowly and steadily and avoid letting yourself get shoved against a wall.
Bonus: Be Aware of Subtleties, Practice Situational Awareness
When you’re out in public, how aware are you of the people around you? Practicing situational awareness might not seem like a necessary skill in your daily life, even though it is. Sadly, it’s not a skill most think to practice. However, during civil unrest, situational awareness can be crucial to your safety, preventing injury or even saving your life. You can learn a lot about your surroundings by paying close attention to how others are acting.
By observing how people move, carry themselves, speak and treat one another, you can anticipate how they’re going to react to new situations. During civil unrest, passions are running high, and folks are likely to lash out, especially if someone or something catches them by surprise. Avoid being trapped within a dangerous situation by observing people’s mannerisms and escaping the premises before things get worse.
Drive Confidently If Caught Up In a Flash Mob
You generally want to avoid areas where riots are taking place, but they spring up so quickly that this can be difficult. If you happen to be in your car when a crisis kicks off, you may end up driving a massive metal target for all these angry people to aim for.
They might try to pull you out of the vehicle, steal it, flip it or light it on fire. The possibilities are only limited by the mob and the resources they have available. It’s tempting to floor it to try and get out of the press of rioters as quickly as possible, but that will just end with you hurting or possibly killing truly innocent bystanders.
Avoid panicking, keep your doors locked and your windows rolled up and drive slowly and steadily. You don’t want to run anyone over or hurt them, since most individuals will get out of the way of a moving car. You can use your bumpers to nudge them gently in that direction if they’re not keen to move on their own.
Running over rioters or protesters won’t help you escape — it will only make them angrier. And after the chaos is over, it may result in murder or manslaughter charges for you.
No one wants to think about civil unrest occurring near them, but it could easily happen as the recent past has shown, especially in such chaotic times. The best thing you can do is ensure you’re always prepared. Gather supplies to help you shelter in place or bug out, and work on sharpening your situational awareness skills. Do these things and keep your wits about you if you get caught up in a riot, and you’ll have everything you need to stay safe if civil unrest happens near you.
[Note: This was a guest post.]