Nobody has a crystal ball so it is difficult to tell if lawful protesting will turn violent. Learn to prepare for civil unrest because once it starts there is no way of knowing when it will stop. There are steps you can take to put you and your family in the best situation possible but there is no perfect solution other than pulling up stakes and moving off-grid.
I’m not trying to fan flames or be overly dramatic but current events are too obvious to ignore.
What is Civil Unrest?
Civil Unrest (Civil Disturbance or Civil Disorder) is defined as civil disobedience, where participants become hostile or violent toward authority. It may lead to environments without the rule of law. Police may have difficulty maintaining public safety and order. Citizens and business owners are often collateral damage.
Three Stages of Unrest (prepare for civil unrest)
Riots may evolve from peaceful protests but they can also start spontaneously, and independently of peaceful protest.
- Public Disorder: Disrupting the flow of things around the group, blocking traffic and sidewalks, and generally causing the disruption of daily events.
- Public Disturbance: Turmoil on top of disruption. Chanting, yelling, singing, verbal intimidation, and voicing opinions
- Riot: Public disturbance that turns violent and may lead to the destruction of property, physical assault, and loss of life.
Peaceful Protest to Civil Unrest
- Most protestors are law-abiding citizens with no intention of being violent. A peaceful demonstration or non-violent protest is a fundamental right protected under the U.S. constitution.
- Protest planners may have ulterior motives and push an otherwise peaceful protest toward violence.
- Certain Groups or Individuals involved in a demonstration may be more willing to cause disruption, incite violence, destroy property, and provoke authorities.
- Outside groups may hijack peaceful protests to further their cause.
- Agitators or criminal infiltrators may be planted, leading a peaceful crowd to violence.
- Looting is a crime of opportunity. During riots, criminals use riots as a smoke screen for criminal activity.
- Media coverage of authorities enforcing laws and responding to violent acts may give a false picture of events.
“Crowds provide individuals with the idea that their moral
responsibilities have shifted from themselves as a person to the crowd
as a whole.”
Prepare for Civil Unrest
- If the situation allows staying in a locked building is always the best option. Unless someone is lighting it on fire, you are safer behind locked doors than running around on the street.
- Pull drapes and drop blinds
- Stored food, water, and supplies are at your fingertips, and you can more easily monitor what’s going on in your area.
- Under most circumstances, a secure building is safer than walking the streets.
Leave If You Must
- Once you leave the safety of your home everyone in your group is more vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if you are in a car or not.
- If you have advance notice and the resources, lock up and leave.
- Have multiple routes planned and know that you may end up on foot or changing routes to avoid crowds.
- Before you leave pack a lightweight bag with some supplies, in case you end up on foot.
Trapped In a Car
- Avoid driving through a crowd.
- If possible, turn down a side street or reverse your vehicle and go around.
- If there is no way to get around the crowd, i.e., you can’t turn down a side street or back up, don’t roll up to the crowd, get out of your car and leave it.
- Maintain a neutral demeanor, don’t antagonize
- Keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full at all times. If you feel the tension in the air fill your gas tank.
Store Emergency Food, Water, and Supplies (prepare for civil unrest)
- Store 3 months’ worth of food and water. Enough food to get you through a long event.
- If you have sufficient Emergency supplies on hand, you can avoid going out, and it gives you time to plan when and how you’ll leave.
- Local stores and shops might be closed or, worse, burned to the ground, so don’t plan to depend on them in emergencies.
- Prepare bags or containers of supplies for walking out on foot or leaving in a vehicle.
To learn more about collecting food for emergencies check out Ready Squirrel’s article, How To Start Long Term Food Storage: The Basics
Plan Your Movements
- Don’t come and go as if everything is normal. Before you leave the safety of a building, know where you are going and plan your route. Have contingency routes in case one is blocked.
Don’t Go Out At Night
- It’s harder for you and security forces to tell what’s going on
- The Crazies come out at night
Avoid These Locations (prepare for civil unrest)
Stay clear of these areas during looting or riots:
- Government Building
- Police Stations
- Retail Stores and Strip Malls
- Grocery Stores
- Big Box Stores
- Drug Stores
Avoid Crowds, Masses, or Groups of People
- If a group is doing something criminal, you don’t want to be associated with them
- People are more likely to commit heinous acts in a group
- Maintain situational awareness: if you hear a large group of people or see them from a distance, change direction go around them, or take another route to reach your destination.
Avoid Approaching Security Forces During Unrest
During a riot, Police officers and National Guard members are in fight or flight mode.
- Avoid becoming collateral damage and stay clear of security forces.
- National Guard or Law Enforcement Officers can’t tell who is a friend or foe. They may see you as a threat.
- Rioters can use you as a shield
Blend In-Gray Man (prepare for civil unrest)
Try your best not to attract attention, be as low-profile, and inconspicuous as possible.
- If you have to leave the protection of a building, your goal is to appear average and go unnoticed
- Don’t wear tactical-looking gear
- Wear neutral-colored clothing
- Don’t wear cologne or perfume
- Avoid wearing jewelry and accessories
- Don’t make an unusual amount of eye contact, too little or too much
Conceal Your Weapon
- If someone sees your weapon, you’ve given up the element of surprise
- If security forces discover a concealed weapon, how will you distinguish yourself from a rioter? This is an excellent reason to stay in place if the riot is going all-out.
- To blend in, you need to look like those around you, which makes you indistinguishable from the rioters. Yeah, this is a Catch-22 scenario.
Think of Possible Scenarios Before Civil Disobedience Strikes
Look at these different locations and determine likely scenarios of SHTF. Come up with a plan to handle them, what kind of supplies you need, how will you communicate and etc.
- What if SHTF goes down when you are at work?
- How will you reach your kids if they are in school?
- How will you communicate with other members of your family and where will you meet if you can’t make contact?
Know Your Triggers (prepare for civil unrest)
When will you know that you have to take action during civil disobedience? This is part of the plan. Once things are burning around you it may be too late. Go through scenarios in your head and plan accordingly.
- How bad do things have to get before you decide to bug out?
- When will you decide to stay home from work?
- When will you decide to keep the kids home from school?
Have Back-up Plans and Alternate Routes.
- Plan for multiple safe locations, i.e. a family or friend’s house or apartment
- Come up with a household plan to stay in touch if you become separated; have a meeting place and update it depending on the circumstance.
- Plan for Safe-routes
Network With Friends and Family Before SHTF:
- Communicate so everyone is on the same page
- Share supplies
- Share security detail(s)
- Determine meet-up locations
- Assign Tasks
- ATMs and banks may be inaccessible or located in riot zones.
- Power could be out in your neighborhood, so credit card machines and ATMs may not work. If stores are open, they may only take cash
Concealed Carry License and Training
- If it is legal in your state consider getting a CCW License
Determine Your Best Method of Self Defense
- Research and acquire the supplies you will use
- Get training
- Know your local laws for the “use of force.”
- Know your local laws for the use and purchase of firearms
Install Security Equipment
- Install metal security doors
- Cover windows and Doors with Exterior Grade Plywood 5/8″ or thicker
- Install Metal Shutters
- Remove anything of high value from plain site
- Remove items that could be used to gain illegal entry
- Secure or conceal trash receptacles, so they aren’t lit on fire
- Protect roof access
- Relocate Vehicles
- Stay Closed
- Hire Security
Avoid Urban Areas (prepare for civil unrest)
- Civil unrest can and will hit small towns, but protests tend to occur in large urban areas.
- If you are playing the numbers game, bet that it’s safer in outlying suburbs or the countryside.
- Move to a safe location if you can or start planning to move.
Track local News and Social Media
Take everything you read and hear with a grain of salt. There is a lot of disinformation floating around when it comes to civil unrest. Do your best to stay informed.
- Social media like Facebook or Twitter. Be aware that the media has reported protests when individuals are burning, plundering, and shooting people. Read between the lines.
- Police Scanner
- Ham Radio
- Local News
- Wireless Emergency Alerts: Messages sent by state and local public safety officials to your mobile phone
- Five alert categories: imminent threat, public safety, AMBER, Presidential, and test messages.
- Keep in touch with friends in the area
First Aid or Trauma Kit
- Obtain a basic first aid manual and
- Get some basic first-aid training from the Red Cross
- Stow first aid kits in go-packs, everyday carry bags, bug-out bags, and vehicles.
- Have extra prescriptions on hand
Be Out By Dark
- If protests are happening near your work location or near the only route to getting home be out of the area before the sun goes down.
- Plan to shelter in place.
Everyday Carry Bag (EDC)
This isn’t a bug-out bag. This bag contains just enough gear to get you where you are going.
- Avoid using a bag that looks tactical or that looks like it might hold a firearm.
- Always have it with you.
- Try not to leave it in your vehicle because you may be able to get back to it.
Typical items in an EDC Bag
- Personal Defense Item(s)
- Water bottle with a filtering system
- Light-weight Poncho
- Space Blanket
- Individual MRE Heater
- Face Cover or Mask
- Cliff Bars/Power Bars (You don’t need a lot of food, just enough to get you a hit of energy if you’re on foot
- Minimalist First Aid Kit
- Electrical Tape
Store Big Stuff In Your Vehicle: Trauma kit, Quantities of Water, Camping Gear, Sleeping Kit, Tool Box Etc.
Threatening Body Language
Have you ever watched a video where a police officer suddenly handcuffs an individual but it appeared as if the person was doing nothing wrong? More than likely the officer is reading body language and knows aggressive behavior is about to pop off. Here are eight signs someone is ready to attack you.
- Clenched fists
- Clenched jaw
- Breathing in short rapid bursts
- Intense Staring or glare
- Placing a hand on top of the head or back of the neck
- Redness of Face
- Finger Pointing
- Feet spread apart
- Know what action(s) you are willing to take if life is at stake
- Be confident in your personal belief system or philosophy
- Determine how bad things have to get before you leave the area.
Psychological Reaction To Stress
Stress is a good thing in an emergency situation if you can control it. Freaking out reduces your ability to make sound decisions.
To learn about the psychology of survival and emergency situations check out the Ready Squirrel article, “#1 Survival Skill: Survival Mindset And Reactions To Stress
Regardless of the situation bugging-in, bugging out, working, or traveling know what is going on around you.
Situational Awareness is observing your surroundings and making the best decisions based on observation and common sense.
In the case of riots or civil unrest, avoid confrontation, or altercations.
11 Tactics Used By Rioters to Defeat Authorities: Situational Awareness
Be aware of what may be going on the streets around you. Look and listen if you are on the move. Avoid crowds; avoid driving your vehicle. In the best-case scenario, stay in your house or apartment.
- Construction of Barriers to protect rioters from the control force
- Molotov Cocktails: to cause bodily injury or property damage
- Feces and Urine: To demoralize law enforcement
- Verbal Abuse and intimidation to demoralize law enforcement
- Smoke Grenades: to disguise action
- Feinting and Flanking Actions: faked frontal assault followed by an assault on a weak flank
- Using innocent, weak, or young as pawns. May be moved to the front of the crowd as a barrier. If they are injured, this is good press for the rioters.
- Throwing Objects such as bricks, rocks, or frozen water bottles
- Vehicles: used to drive through a crowd or lit on fire and pushed downhill into the control force.
- Fire: Setting anything and everything on fire
- Firearms: can be used from a sniping position, using the crowd as cover to fire into the control force. Individual officers or civilians may be targeted when not in the direct vicinity of the actual riot.
- Explosives: Can be used as a diversion, to kill, maim, or injure control forces or to damage property
12 Causes of Civil Unrest: Situational Awareness
When Civil unrest starts, it can seem like chaos to the casual observer. Highly social-emotional or social issues can spark unrest at any time. It’s good to know the types of problems that may lead to Civil Disturbance to maintain Situational Awareness.
If tensions are unusually high in a specific area it only takes one event to light the powder keg.
- Economic Hardship: Economically deprived individuals may feel they are underserved or ignored by the government leaders
- Food Shortages: Hunger
- Lack of Civil Authority: Police may be overwhelmed and lack the resources to protect the general public
- Religious Based
- Social Injustice: Lack of employment opportunities, poor housing, ineffective policing, and ineffective public services.
- Ethnic Differences: For more information, read about the Bosnian Civil War.
- Objection to World Organizations
- Objection to Government Rule
- Political Grievances
- Terrorist Acts: Terrorists may use peaceful protestors as cover
- A Single Cause or a Combination of Causes
- Civil War
U.S. Army Civil Disturbance Operations: Manual FM 3-19.15 PDF Click Here
U.S. Army Training Institute: Situation Awareness and Adaptive Decision-Making, Research Report 1889 PDF Click Here
Before, Now and After the Event of Terror: Situational Terror Awareness for Civilians in US Homeland Security, Kerrina-Sina Arfsten, Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law PDF Click Here
Proactive Preparation For Civil Unrest And Rioting, Beecher and Carlson Insurance Risk Management PDF Click Here
Emergency Alerts, Ready.gov