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How to Stay Safe During Civil Unrest

Staying safe during civil unrest

Civil unrest has doubled worldwide over the past decade, with general strikes, violent riots, and nonviolent demonstrations all increasing. 

The US experienced unrelenting bouts of unrest during 2020, with over 10,600 demonstrations taking place between May and August alone. Several factors contributed to the unrest, including the Covid-19 pandemic and racial tensions, both of which accounted for more than 80 percent of demonstrations. 

Due to the dramatic increase in unrest throughout the year, the country saw a fall from 91st to 34th place on the Civil Unrest Index, a sobering statistic for all Americans. While unrest is expected to subside by mid-2021, it’s unlikely that it will fall to pre-2020 levels, leaving the US in the high-risk category. 

Living through these unprecedented times can feel frightening, especially when events can easily turn violent, risking harm to individuals and the community alike. Having a civil unrest emergency plan has never felt more necessary.

How to prepare for civil unrest

Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare for and protect yourself from civil disturbance. Having a civil unrest preparedness plan is crucial to keeping yourself safe.

Know when civil unrest is approaching

There are a few ways to know that unrest might be approaching.

Watch the news. When you turn on the news, look for any signs of increasing hostility toward one group, company, or area. Moreover, if coverage of one topic increases or becomes consistent, you should begin to prepare for unrest – especially if the stations are national or worldwide, which means it could impact more than just your community.

Log onto social media. Oftentimes, social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram can provide breaking information faster than traditional news outlets. 

In addition to posts from traditional media and other residents, local governments and emergency services often have social media accounts. These provide up-to-date and reliable information from a trusted source.

Be wary, however, of fake news: A study by MIT found that fake news is 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true news. In addition, it takes true stories six times as long to reach 1,500 people than it does for fake news. 

Pay attention to legal and political happenings. Look for increasing hostility around hot-button topics as well as propaganda that stems from both sides. 

Invest in the proper gear

Having the correct equipment within arms’ reach is critical. While many think just of items such as food, water, and first aid gear, some other things will be helpful to have, including:

  1. Flashlight
  2. Small radio to keep current on events
  3. Extra batteries
  4. Basic outdoor survival gear (e.g. survival knife or multi-tool)
  5. A small bag with items such as clothes, toilet paper, money, documents, and any necessary medications

As a general rule of thumb, you should be prepared to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours – more if you expect the situation to be long-term. Prepare a full emergency preparedness kit that you can grab in a hurry should you need to evacuate quickly.

Determine an easily accessible meeting location

When unrest breaks out, you must have an easily accessible meeting point where you can reunite with friends or family. You might even consider having a backup plan in case your meeting point becomes inaccessible due to the event. Regardless of the point you choose, it should be easily accessible from several locations and situated in a non-congested area.

Prepare a safe evacuation route

Should the need to leave the area arise, you should be prepared and know how to do so quickly and safely. When creating your evacuation plan, include one that is driveable and another that provides a safe walking environment. 

If you’re driving, try to avoid major highways or thoroughfares. Your walking route should avoid busy sidewalks and retail districts where looting could easily happen.

Secure your home

Most apartment- and condo-style buildings are secured with locked doors and, in some cases, doormen or security teams. However, if you live in a house, it can be difficult to know how to protect it during civil unrest. 

Enhancing your security measures is a must. To truly fortify your home, consider installing fencing and security cameras for extra protection. If you have the means and the time, certain breeds of dogs are another great security solution and can provide excellent advanced notice of intruders.

How to stay safe when unrest breaks out

Should civil unrest break out in your area, above all, stay calm. Following these civil unrest safety tips will help to keep you as safe as possible:

Stay home

Your own home is generally the safest place to be in times of unrest. Stay inside – do not go outside to “get a better look,” as the last thing you should do is get involved in the chaos. You should have enough food and water to last at least 72 hours (three days).

Avoid the situation

In the case that you’re away from home when unrest breaks out, act quickly and return to your home. While returning home, you should actively avoid areas with demonstrations or large protests and do not involve yourself.

Once home safe, if you must leave, continue to obey local curfews, ordinances, and regulations. These can easily be found on news networks, city websites, or via social media.

Find smaller crowds

Should you find yourself in the middle of a demonstration, work to identify and get to a place with fewer crowds and more chances of refuge. This may be a large building (e.g. hotel or business) or any space with a basement or sub-basement. 

As you move toward protection, keep to the outer edges of the crowd where it will be safest. Should you become injured, seek medical attention immediately. 

Stay in your car

Your car will offer protection and shelter during a demonstration, but you should never attempt to drive through a crowd. Instead, find a side road or turn around and drive away as calmly as possible.

If driving away from the situation is not possible, park, lock, and leave it instead to find shelter in a less dangerous area.

If neither option is available and you are unable to get out of the situation in any capacity, stop the car and cut the engine. Stay in your car with the doors locked instead. 

Be prepared for civil unrest, but don’t look prepared

While it’s critical to have safety supplies during periods of unrest, it’s equally important not to advertise the precautions you’ve taken, especially around large crowds. Work to keep a low profile: your supply bag should be discreet, with muted colors and supplies like knives hidden away.

At LifeSecure, we’re passionate about keeping you as safe as possible during all types of emergencies. That’s why we specialize in emergency survival kits such as first aid and emergency backpacks for all situations, including urban emergencies and terrorist attacks. Reach out today to learn more.

author avatar
David Scott
David Scott
David co-founded LifeSecure in 2005, just a few months before Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that one can go hungry and thirsty in America and even die before help arrives. For over a decade David has focused on developing and discovering superior emergency and disaster survival solutions - kits and supplies. He has trained community groups in emergency preparedness, helped non-profit organizations prepare emergency kits for needy individuals, conducted community emergency response exercises, and developed emergency plans for non-profit organizations. David makes an ongoing study of how best to prepare for and respond to various natural and man-made disasters, and his mission has been to help others “live Life SECURE” every day by preparing for what may come someday.