The rhetoric in the United States is heating up and we’re sounding anything but… well… united. It seems to most media pundits like we are too far down the path to Civil War 2.0 to turn back now. Activists are laying siege to government offices. Threats toward people who disagree are growing in ferocity. It’s ugly and getting uglier. It’s a powder keg that is about to erupt. (Here are some thoughts on what a full-fledged Civil War might look like.)
It is only a matter of time before civil unrest begins to escalate and spread throughout the country. Many people are wondering, how do you keep your family safe during widespread unrest? It’s not about being fearful. It’s about being prepared.
My thoughts on this manipulated division are fodder for another article. (You can find it here.) This article is apolitical (to the best of my ability, anyway) and focuses strictly on what you need to know to survive should the unrest come to your neighborhood.
First things first, you need to understand how this kind of unrest unfolds so that you can see the warning signs earlier. Never underestimate the power, rage, and motivation of a mob.
Here’s the pattern:
An outrage occurs.
Good people react and protest the outrage.
Those perpetrating the outrage try to quell the protest because they don’t think that the outrage was actually outrageous. (And whether it was or not can fluctuate – in some cases, force is necessitated, but in more and more cases, it is flagrantly gratuitous.)
Others react to the quelling and join the protest.
A mob mentality erupts. Thugs say, “Hey, it’s a free for all. I’m gonna get some Doritos and while I’m at it, beat the crap out of some folks for fun.”
All hell breaks loose.
The military gets called in.
The city burns, and neighborhoods get destroyed, and no one in the area is safe.
Cops act preemptively, out of fear, and for a time, there is no rule of law.
If you happen to be stuck there, know this: you’re completely on your own.
Tess Pennington wrote about societal breakdowns in more detail – read her excellent article for more information on these predictable scenarios.
Some people are just waiting for the opportunity to behave in this fashion. They’d love to act like that every single day, but they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in jail. But when a verdict gets rolled out, when a storm takes out the power, when a disaster strikes, they delight in the chance to rob, pillage, loot, and burn. Who can forget the day before Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, when thugs were coordinating looting rampages via Twitter?
I remember learning about “sublimation” in a high school psychology class.
Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kickboxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways. (source)
If you believe Freud’s theory, then it’s easy to see that many people look for an excuse to revert to their true natures. In a situation where “everyone” is doing something, they are able to cast off the normal control of their impulses without much fear of reprisal. The number of looters and thugs far outstrips the number of arrests going on in Baltimore, so there’s a very good chance that someone swept up in that mentality can go burn somebody else’s home or business and completely get away with it.
With situations of civil unrest, it isn’t as clear-cut as disasters like a looming storm or a chemical spill. It depends on where you live. In a small town, far away from riots and protests, your lockdown area could be much greater than your own home. It could encompass your immediate community, too, and life might go on as it always has for you, aside from the need to stay just a little closer to home than before.
However, if you live in a city or suburb, it may become essential to make a decision quickly. Do you lock your doors and stay home? Or do you get out of Dodge? It is a question only you can answer. One thing that is very important is this: if you need to go, do NOT miss your window of opportunity to do so safely. If the entire city feels the same way, you’ll most likely be stuck in traffic and trapped in your car. Protesters have shut down the highways more than once in recent years, and you’ll be far safer behind the brick and mortar of your home than you will be in your car.
By the way, there’s always someone who chimes in with a snide remark about how cowardly it is to lockdown with your family in order to stay safe. Blah, blah, blah. If you want to go get involved in a battle to make a political point, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, my priority is the safety of my family, and as such, I hope to avoid engaging altogether.
If your area is beginning to devolve, the first thing you’re going to want to do is to get everyone in the family home. (Or if your home is in the thick of things, to a safer secondary location.)
In a perfect world, we’d all be home, watching the chaos erupt on TV from the safety of our living rooms. However, reality says that some of us will be at work, at school, or in the car when unrest occurs. You need to develop a “get-home” plan for all of the members of your family, based on the most likely places that they will be.
Devise an efficient route for picking up the kids from school. Be sure that anyone who might be picking up the children already has permission to do so in the school office.
Discuss the plan with older kids – there have been rumors that children could be moved by the schools to a secondary location in the event of a crisis. Some families have formulated plans for their older kids to leave the school grounds in such an instance and take a designated route home or to another meeting place.
Keep a get-home bag in the trunk of your car in case you have to set out on foot.
Stash some supplies in the bottom of your child’s backpack – water, a snack, any tools that might be useful, and a map. Be sure your children understand the importance of OPSEC.
Find multiple routes home – map out alternative backroad ways to get home as well as directions if you must go home on foot.
Find hiding places along the way. If you work or go to school a substantial distance from your home, figure out some places to lay low now, before a crisis situation. Sometimes staying out of sight is the best way to stay safe.
Avoid groups of people. It seems that the mob mentality strikes when large groups of people get together. Often folks who would never ordinarily riot in the streets get swept up by the mass of people who are doing so.
Keep in mind that in many civil disorder situations the authorities are to be avoided every bit as diligently as the angry mobs of looters. Who can forget the scenes of innocent people being pepper sprayed by uniformed thugs in body armor just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Know when to abandon the plan to get home. Sometimes, you just can’t get there. Going through a war zone is not worth it. Find a different place to shelter. Pay attention to your instincts.
The reality is, family members are likely to be at work or school when things start to break down. You need to have a plan laid out in advance to get everyone together and you need to be flexible enough to know when to go on to Plan B.
Once you make your way home or to your bug-out location… STAY THERE.
By staying home, you are minimizing your risk of being caught in the midst of an angry mob or of sitting in stalled traffic while looters run amok. In most scenarios, you will be far safer at home than you will be in any type of shelter or refugee situation. (Obviously, if there is some type of chemical or natural threat in your immediate neighborhood, like a toxic leak, a flood, or a forest fire, the whole situation changes – you must use common sense before hunkering down.)
This is when your preparedness supplies will really pay off. If you are ready for minor medical emergencies and illnesses, a grid down scenario, and a no-comm situation, you will be able to stay safely at home with your family and ride out the crisis in moderate comfort.
Here’s a quick checklist:
Check your pantry and fill any gaps in your food preps.
Order emergency food buckets
Get your water preps in order
Get cash in small denominations out of the bank.
Make sure you have enough garbage bags, pet supplies, and toiletries.
Pick up a copy of a comprehensive preparedness guide like The Prepper’s Blueprint
Check your supply of candles, matches, and lighters. (This article has more information)
Flashlight and spare batteries and/or dynamo wind up flashlights.
Make sure all electronics are fully charged and keep them charged during the lead-up to an event
Make sure any cell phone battery packs are fully charged.
Fill up your gas tank up to the max.
If your vehicle isn’t in a garage park it trunk end in as close to a wall as you can. This makes it harder to get to the tank to either steal the fuel or set fire to it.
Check your home security – walk around looking at your property as if you were a burglar and take appropriate action to improve security if required.
Have something on hand for the kids to do in case of school closures.
Make sure you have a fully stocked first aid kit and enough OTC medications to last the family for at least a month.
Check and clean your firearms and be prepared to defend your family if trouble comes to you
Pick up some extra ammo
Plan to keep pets indoors
Make sure you have enough of needed prescription medications to last a few weeks
Staying home is the number one way to keep yourself safer from during a civil unrest situation. If you find yourself in an area under siege, the odds will be further on your side for every interaction in which you avoid taking part. Every single time you leave the house, you increase your chances of an unpleasant encounter. Nothing will be accomplished by going out during a chaotic situation.
Your best defense is avoiding the fight altogether. You want to stay under the radar and not draw attention to yourself. The extent to which you strive to do this should be based on the severity of the unrest in your area. Some of the following recommendations are not necessary in an everyday grid-down scenario, but could save your life in a more extreme civil unrest scenario.
Keep all the doors and windows locked. Secure sliding doors with a metal bar. Consider installing decorative gridwork over a door with a large window so that it becomes difficult for someone to smash the glass and reach in to unlock the door.
Put dark plastic over the windows. (Heavy duty garbage bags work well.) If it’s safe to do so, go outside and check to see if any light escapes from the windows. If your home is the only one on the block that is well-lit, it is a beacon to others.
Keep pets indoors. Sometimes criminals use an animal in distress to get a homeowner to open the door for them. Sometimes people are just mean and hurt animals for “fun”. Either way, it’s safer for your furry friends to be inside with you.
Don’t answer the door. Many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house.
Keep cooking smells to a minimum. The goal here is not to draw attention. The meat on your grill will draw people like moths to a flame.
Keep the family together. It’s really best to hang out in one room. Make it a movie night, go into a darkened room at the back of the house, and stay together. This way, if someone does try to breach your door, you know where everyone is who is supposed to be there. As well, you don’t risk one of the kids unknowingly causing a vulnerability with a brightly lit room or an open window.
Remember, first responders may be tied up. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you. You must be prepared to save yourself. Also keep in mind, as mentioned earlier in the article – the cops are not always your friends in these situations.
If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family. Sometimes despite our best intentions, the fight comes to us. (Have you seen the movie The Purge?)
Many preppers stockpile weapons and ammunition for just such an event. I know that I certainly do. Firearms are an equalizer. A small woman can defend herself from multiple large intruders with a firearm if she’s had some training and knows how to use it properly. But put a kitchen knife in her hand against those same intruders, and her odds decrease exponentially.
When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation or borrow a cup of sugar. Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force.
Don’t rely on 911. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you – you must be prepared to save yourself. First responders may be tied up, and in some cases, the cops are not always your friends. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some officers joined in the crime sprees, and others stomped all over the 2nd Amendment and confiscated people’s legal firearms at a time when they needed them the most.
Be armed and keep your firearm on your person. When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea. Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force. Be sure to keep your firearm on your person during this type of situation, because there won’t be time to go get it from your gun safe. Don’t even go to the kitchen to get a snack without it. Home invasions go down in seconds, and you have to be constantly ready.
Know how to use your firearm. Whatever your choice of weapon, practice, practice, practice. A weapon you don’t know how to use is more dangerous than having no weapon at all. Here’s some advice from someone who knows a lot more about weapons than I do.
Make sure your children are familiar with the rules of gun safety. Of course, it should go without saying that you will have pre-emptively taught your children the rules of gun safety so that no horrifying accidents occur. In fact, it’s my fervent hope that any child old enough to do so has been taught to safely and effectively use a firearm themselves. Knowledge is safety.
Be ready for the potential of fire. Fire is a cowardly attack that doesn’t require any interaction on the part of the arsonist. It flushes out the family inside, leaving you vulnerable to physical assaults. Have fire extinguishers mounted throughout your home. You can buy them in 6 packs from Amazon. Be sure to test them frequently and maintain them properly. (Allstate has a page about fire extinguisher maintenance.) Have fire escape ladders that can be attached to a windowsill in all upper story rooms. Drill with them so that your kids know how to use them if necessary.
Have a safe room established for children or other vulnerable family members. If the worst happens and your home is breached, you need to have a room into which family members can escape. This room needs to have a heavy exterior door instead of a regular hollow core interior door. There should be communications devices in the room so that the person can call for help, as well as a reliable weapon to be used in the unlikely event that the safe room is breached. The family members should be instructed not to come out of that room FOR ANY REASON until you give them the all clear or help has arrived. You can learn more about building a safe room HERE. Focus the tips for creating a safe room in an apartment to put it together more quickly.
Again, even if your plan is to bug in, you must be ready to change that plan in the blink of an eye. Plan an escape route. If the odds are against you, if your house catches on fire, if thugs are kicking in your front door… devise a way to get your family to safety. Your property is not worth your life. Be wise enough to accept that the situation has changed and move rapidly to Plan B.
So many times, when interviewed after a disaster, people talk about being “shocked” at the behavior of others. Their level of cognitive dissonance has lulled them into thinking that we’re safe and that we live in a civilized country. They are unwilling to accept that civilization is only a glossy veneer, even when the evidence of that is right in front of them, aiming a gun at their faces, lighting their homes on fire, or raping their daughters.
They refuse to arm themselves and prepare for an uncivilized future.
Accept it now, and you’ll be a lot better off when the SHTF.
Look at what happened during the Ferguson riots. Look at the behavior of the stampeding masses on any given Black Friday shopping extravaganza. Look at the horrifying rhetoric espoused by people angry about the politics of our country.
Then tell me again how “civilized” our country is.
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