Tips to Survive When Civil Unrest Comes to Visit

When Civil Unrest Comes to Visit

The willingness of opportunistic criminals to hijack peaceful protests and compromise the First Amendment rights of others is frightening. When civil unrest comes to visit today, it turns into riots and assaults on innocent citizens that dominate the news. The thoughtful speeches delivered before criminals gain control of the streets get lost in the din.

Calls for social change do not hold an exclusive on the danger, either. Hurricanes and other natural disasters are more common catalysts. Criminals understand the chance of getting caught are minimized when law enforcement coverage is dangerously thin. Angry mobs maximizes anonymity.

When civil unrest comes to visit, it’s a different opponent. Each situation is unique, but if the unthinkable visits your neighborhood—as it has in the suburbs of Chicago—here are a few exposure-reducing tactics.   


Quality self-defense courses deliver this message multiple times. Avoid confrontation at all costs.

Stay put until you’re absolutely certain it is safe to venture out. Even a short drive to the store can get you caught up in a situation like this. What you may think is a perfectly safe trip can turn dangerous. On Oct. 11, for example, the Portland Historical Society became the scene of violence. Thankfully the statues of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln toppled at night, now during hours when schoolchildren visit.  

Do not wander into the parking lot or front yard, even if you think something is amiss. You may live in a state where you can lawfully protect your property, but you’ll be outnumbered and outflanked by attackers. Plus, in the confusion law enforcement could mistake you for an armed criminal. Your possessions can be replaced, you cannot.

Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations or locations, even if you’re just driving through. Stopping to help a victim is a wonderful thing, but even that’s fraught with peril.

Avoid protests, including peaceful ones. Law enforcement will be blocking interchanges, increasing delays and driver frustration. Add 30 minutes to your commute by taking another route rather than risk exposure and complicating the scene for authorities.

That, of course, requires staying up to date with the latest news. It’s unpleasant, but the details it provides are a powerful self-defense weapon.

In the House

Maintain homefield advantage by keeping yourself and family at your residence until things are completely safe. You know the turf and, in theory, have a safe room where everyone can survive until the cavalry arrives. Double check those supplies and batteries in the flashlights.

Charge your cell phones. Your home-defense firearm should be within arm’s reach at all times, loaded. Home invasions are lightning fast. Lock all doors and windows. Don’t open the door to strangers.

Coordinate with neighbors beforehand by exchanging phone numbers and, if you’re comfortable doing so, bugout emergency plans. If urban unrest comes to visit, they can confirm if the cat just wants back in or it’s a prowler under your bedroom window. Return the favor when asked.

Fill your vehicle’s gas tank beforehand and back it into the driveway or garage if you have one. Hurried evacuations should not begin in reverse gear or with a stop at the neighborhood filling station.

Do not, however, pre-load vehicles with your bug-out bags. Criminals may invade the garage or break into the cars without touching the house. Don’t risk losing critical survival gear. You should always, but particularly during unsettling times, also have a bug-home bag to help reach the house and your family safely.

If you have time, police tools, loose bricks, garden gnomes, lawn chairs and objects from the yard. Don’t leave impromptu projectiles laying around.

Round Up

If a teen or young adult in the family is out when violent unrest breaks out, call and provide details of the safest route home. Prearrange a rendezvous point if bugging out is imminent. Remind them not to shut off the motor while waiting. Turning that ignition key consumes lifesaving seconds if attacked.

In many emergency situations cell phone networks get overloaded and voice calls drop or will not connect. Text messages, however, require less bandwidth and often wiggle their way through the bottleneck. They also stage, retrying automatically until a certain number of attempts fail. It’s a great way to punch information through when civil unrest comes to visit. It also keeps your hands free for other duties.

When travel is unavoidable—collecting the younger children, for example—go armed if legal and with a partner. An extra pair of eyes and ears is invaluable and, if the unthinkable happens, they’ve got your 6.

If it’s a natural disaster, get a solid report on conditions prior to leaving. If the power’s out a reliable source like this battery-powered radio from Midland is a good source.

Escape—Final Option When Violence Comes to Visit

The final option when civil unrest comes to visit, one we all hope to avoid, is to bug out to a location away from the crime. Once again, plan your route around potential bottlenecks and monitor news reports to ensure the destination is safe. Just because it was when you left the driveway doesn’t mean it will be an hour from now.

Most of the violence has been visited on major metropolitan areas, but criminals can hijack the First Amendment for their goals anywhere—including rural America. And there’s a contentious Presidential election on the horizon.