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Preparing For Civil Unrest

Emergency & Survival GearBy Rob K12

Riots can erupt for many reasons: political, economic, social, racial or religious conflicts. While it’s hard to predict when you might find yourself caught in the middle of civil unrest, there are usually indicators and warnings that demonstrations or riots are about to happen.  If you are able to identify early warning indicators, such as a large gathering of unruly people or police lines being established, get out of the area immediately.  Large unruly disturbances can be just as dangerous as natural disasters.  Oftentimes, rioting leads to looting, vandalism, and destruction.  Just as you take precautions and prepare for natural disasters, you can be prepared to safely get out of civil disasters.  View our Civil Unrest Checklist.

In Your House
If you are unable to evacuate the area and are trapped inside your home during an undesirable situation, ensure you have a family emergency kit, family communication plan, an evacuation plan, and a means to provide security for you and your family.  Lock your doors and windows, and move to a safe area of your house.  This area should be away from windows and provide protection from rioters.

Caught Outside
If you find yourself outside and caught in the mob, stay calm and hide in the open by becoming the “grey man.”  You don’t want to bring any unwanted attention to yourself.   Remove and conceal any easy-to-see valuables such as flashy jewelry and watches. Do not try to walk in the opposite direction of the crowd.  You may get blocked or knocked down and possibly injured. It is safer to walk with the group and peel off into a side street, alleyway, doorway, or building at the first opportunity.  

Know Your Area
Area familiarization is a key element to separating yourself from a dangerous mob.  Study a map and familiarize yourself with your surroundings and identify multiple routes that can lead you to safety.  If it is safe to do so, get out and walk the non-busy streets, alleyways, biking and walking trails and paths.  You don’t need to stay on the main streets.  Identify the locations of safe havens such as police stations, fire stations, homes of people you trust and if travelling abroad, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  

Riots Abroad
If traveling abroad, conduct extensive, pre-trip research on the country and the city you will be visiting.  Go to the U.S. Department of State website and read the travel threats and travel warnings about your area of travel.  Also read about the security status of that city and country.  Once you arrive in country, call the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and inform them that you are in the county, how long you plan to stay, where you are staying, and how they can contact you.  This information is critical in case a civil disturbance breaks out and the State Department decides that all Americans need to be evacuated from the country.  Make sure you have multiple routes to the embassy or consulate and travel those routes before anything arises. 

Things To Carry
Every Day Carry (EDC) items are survival tools that you should carry on your person every day, whether at home or abroad.  They can be held together on a key chain and easily fit into your pockets.  EDC items may include your cell phone, a small pocketknife, small flashlight, fire starter (lighter, or mini-spark rod), paracord, small whistle, small compass, bandana, small amount of cash, and identification.  If you are travelling abroad always carry your passport.  Displaying your passport is the only way you will be able to enter the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  When travelling abroad it may be more beneficial to carry a small backpack so you can pack a few more survival items such as water, snacks, and a long-sleeve garment.  Carry items that fit your needs and your environment.

As with any disaster, either natural or man-made, your best chance of staying safe is to be prepared.  Know your area, pay attention to your surroundings, and by carrying a few simple items in your pocket, you can greatly enhance your chances of survival.  

Rob K12 is the owner and chief instructor at K12 Survival Solutions. He is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has extensive experience all over the world. He is a graduate of the “C” level SERE school and earned his Wilderness First Aid certification from the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.