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Surviving Civil Unrest

I can't recall a time in my life where civil unrest has been so prominent in the United States and around the world. 2020 has been a year from hell, with just about every SHTF scenario imaginable playing out in real life.

The streets around the country are filled with people protesting, looting, rioting and causing chaos. Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, New York City and many towns in between have dealt and are dealing with civil unrest.

Being a prepper, it is our job to learn what this means for each of us personally, and how to best handle civil unrest in our town, state or country.

We recently did a podcast on this very subject which you can watch here.


Let us start by defining what we mean when we talk about civil unrest. One of the legal definitions we found said that civil unrest is "violent activity such as rioting or fighting in public places, especially involving many people"

This can be anything from protests to riots to demonstrations and everything in between. We have seen this play out across the country this year for many different reasons - race, COVID19, politics and economic strain. Because of this, we have seen destruction, supply chain delays, more economic stress, violence and straight up anarchy. We saw the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle where protesters basically declared a section of the city "cop free" and began their own occupation with political and social demands. People lost their businesses, violence was rampant and crime became commonplace with no policing to stop it.

Is more of this in store for the future?

It really doesn't look good moving forward for the country. An upcoming election, economic strain, and a virus that just won't go away seem to be a recipe for continued unrest.

Because of this, we decided to put together a podcast and this article to help you prepare and survive the civil unrest that is happening now and unrest that is to come.

Although we briefly talked about what happens when civil unrest comes to your town, lets look at it a little more in-depth.


Basic Disruption - Could be a blocked street, stores shutdown, supply chains broken, communications lines cut. Protests and demonstrations. Strikes. Screaming, yelling, being annoying. You may not be able to make it to work or to someplace you need to go. Events may be shut down. Civil unrest can derail your daily life.(like our life is so normal now)

Basic Crime - Mob mentality takes over and looting starts. We’ve all seen it. Riots almost always include looting for some new NIKE’s. This can be in stores, homes and public places. Trespassing. Assault. Take your pick.

Destruction - Whether to prove a point or just to act out, civil unrest and riots can include destruction of property - public and private. Fires, broken windows, cars tipped over, graffiti.

Violence - When the mob gets really stirred up, and anyone gets in their path, violence becomes inevitable. Bottle throwing, bricks, rocks, thrown punches, kicks, sticks, dicks and guns.

When civil unrest becomes a full out riot or even widespread anarchy, the authorities will attempt to keep or take control (most of the time). When they do, here are a few things they may utilize to contain the crowds.

  • Riot gear, like batons

  • Pepper Spray

  • Rubber Bullets

  • Tasers

  • Tear Gas

  • High Pressure Water

  • Long Range Acoustic Devices

  • Aerial Surveillance

  • Police Dogs

  • Mounted police and much, much more.

These are all good things to be aware of just in case you get caught or happen to be traveling through an area with an event like this occurring. The police or National Guard will be on high alert and in a high stress situation, so you will most likely want to avoid them as you will look like any other rioter. Especially if you prepped your hook hand and microwave.....

Now, lets talk about worst-case-scenarios in this situation. If civil unrest continues and/or becomes worse with no end in sight causing major disruptions, the government may get really upset. And, when they do, they may decide enough is enough. Enter martial law.


What is martial law and what is it for?

Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an occupied territory.

Typically, the imposition of martial law accompanies curfews; the suspension of civil law, civil rights, and habeas corpus; and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunal (court-martial).

Martial law is basically the last line of defense to keep control for the government. This is a bad situation that we just don't really want to be in. Your rights become non-existent and things get dicey. Martial law is a whole thing itself to prep for. Check out our episode on this for more info.


  • Always start with the basics - Water, food, first aid needed, sanitation, meds. Civil unrest can mean so many things, your regular preps will probably be super handy.

  • EMERGENCY PLAN - This will keep you and your family(or group) on the same page if civil unrest breaks out suddenly or if a smaller isolated incident happens and you are not with each other. Where will you go? How will you contact each other? Talk about civil unrest with your kids. Let them know what it COULD be.

    • Make sure your meeting places are as far away from urban areas as you can

    • Make sure they aren't near government buildings, police stations, hospitals, grocery stores

    • Make sure you have several routes available

    • Stash supplies in Kids Backpack - water, snacks, emergency plan

  • Have a Detailed Bug Out Plan

    • This will be really important if civil unrest forces you to leave your home-base.

    • Have your bug out bags for all family members ready to go.

    • Have detailed bug out routes.

    • Avoid major roadways and urban areas.

    • Consider a resupply plan if needed - Caches.

    • When it gets this bad, timeliness is key. You will want to be quick.

  • Security/Defense

    • This is crucial if riots or widespread civil unrest breaks out.

    • Its also crucial if you’re accidentally caught in an isolated civil unrest incident.

    • Have a security system at home.

    • Looting and robberies could become widespread as mob mentality takes over and/or resources become scarce.

    • Have locking gates.

    • Home security weapons - shotguns, handguns, AR, rocket launchers.

    • Know your neighbors and look out for each other.

    • Be in shape. I'm talking to you fatty.

    • Know some sort martial arts or know how to defend yourself hand to hand.

  • Don’t wear flip flops everywhere.

  • Be ready for fires - Riots could mean fires. Have a way to fight fires and be ready at your home

  • Situational Awareness - again, this could be isolated civil unrest incidents. Be ready and watch for them. Know when to get yourself out of a situation or to avoid it all together.

  • Communication

    • Keep up on the news as much as possible. Stay informed.

    • Having communication will be critical in these times.

    • Make sure your phone is always charged or you have a backup charger.

    • Texts usually do better on a congested network during bigger, widespread incidents.

    • In your emergency plan, have all of these options listed out.

    • If power is lost or cell towers go, have an emergency radio to gather intel.

    • Keep emergency apps on your phone to get the info as soon as possible

      • I like the Red Cross Emergency App

      • The FEMA App

      • Local governments will sometimes have an app or an alert system to sign up for

    • Backup comms like 2-ways, CB or HAM.

    • If data/internet is available, social media is a great way to keep informed.

    • Facebook has the Marked as Safe feature. Use it if you are unable to contact family or friends. You know they cant resist scrolling their feed every ten minutes.

    • Change your outgoing voicemail to say you’re OK.

  • Fuel

    • Keep your tank at least half full at all times!

    • Fuel or time may be in short supply.

    • You will want to be able to leave as quick as possible if things get bad enough.

    • Or just avoid the gas stations.

    • Have additional fuel stored at home.

  • EDC

    • Your EDC kit could become an absolute Godsend if caught in a bad civil unrest situation.

    • Some sort of personal defense item - gun, knife, crossbow.

    • FAK.

    • Backup USB Charger.

    • Face Mask/Bandana - Tear gas defense, cover your face, incognito.

    • Water - hydration, First Aid, Wash out eyes.

    • Food - What if the roads are shut down and you can’t get home or find other food?

    • Cash - small bills.

    • Identification and copies of I.D.

    • Get Home Bag Could be just as handy.

  • Know Your City

    • Understanding your city and surrounding area can be crucial in these situations.

    • Having some road and/or topographical maps.

  • Knowing alternate routes when things are shutdown.

  • Knowing the areas that are safer and those that just aren't.

  • Alternate routes home.

  • Vehicle

    • EDC and GET HOME BAG in your vehicle is great.

    • Fire extinguisher could save some lives in a riot or Civil Unrest.

    • Have a spare tire and know how to change it.

    • Keep it running well, last thing you need is for it to break down it a critical situation like this.

  • First Responders May Be Busy

    • Remember that 911 may be slow or useless.

    • With a widespread civil unrest situation, you may need to fend for yourself.

  • Avoid Confrontation

    • Just keep your head down and stay safe.

    • Politics aren't worth it.

    • Pride isn't worth it.

    • Gray Man is KEY!


  • Stay calm

    • Don't try to get out of it in seconds, shoving, yelling, pushing through a crowd isn't going to help you.

    • Blend in as best possible - hook hand etc...

    • Try and get a sense of where police etc might be, don't run to their side like red rover.

    • Slowly move against a crowd as best you can to the edges for an easier escape, try to walk away.

    • Don't resist arrest, may be your best chance of getting to a safe place.

    • Sunglasses - easier to survey and not look paranoid etc...

    • Move past your morals and feeling to help.

  • Get home bag

    • This is an expansion of your EDC. It has more gear and it is extremely important for those of you who work away from home, deep in the poo hole of a city.

    • Consider change of clothes - walking home during a riot in a suit and tie makes you a bit of a target for $$$.

    • We talked about gray man clothes - consider plain t-shirt, jeans, and a good set of shoes to walk home in. Crappy Amazon dress shoes like mine will kill you.

    • Women - look ugly, this was highlight of our last riot episode, and again sadly this may take no effort for some, but hey, this is to your advantage in this case.

    • Probably avoid wearing your MAGA hat or political shirts.

    • Tacti-cool isn't a great option here. Convenient for carrying gear, but looking like Indiana Jones or Macgyver may give others the wrong impression.

    • Hook hands are harmless.

    • Make a microwave out of a quick cardboard cutout? Just an idea.

    • Consider goggles or protective eye wear, should be carrying a mask now, but tear gas is nasty.

    • Radio - try to listen to whats going on and where.

  • Avoid large areas of gathering even if they appear peaceful, things change quickly.

    • I’ve avoided gatherings for this reason forever, keep telling my wife that., riots, funerals….no, riots.

  • You may need to pass through these areas to get to where you are going.

    • Blend in - clothing helps - hoodies are suspicious.

    • Keep your back to the wall, avoid alleys and choke points.

    • If you have a backpack, keep it in front of you passing through these areas.

    • Avoid going up to police, fireman etc - they don't know what your purpose is, they are on high alert, best to avoid them too and get past the area.

    • Avoid restaurants, police stations, embassies.

    • Consider Coby's house for shelter and supplies first, avoid use of your own.

    • Coby ain't got shit. Go to Cam’s house. He has that good good.

  • Shelter

    • If you need to wait it out, consider church buildings - no one uses them anymore anyway.

    • Hotels can possibly be useful, schools, museums, rec center. Hell, take a swim, bust out some reps while you wait it out.

    • Dumpsters seem easy to hide in, but wait till you are laying there and a molotov comes so gently in at your side - people like to burn trash during these riots.

  • In Vehicle

    • Keep distance from car in front, in case you need to turn around.

    • Very controversial subject, stay in car, get out, keep moving forward, park and get out, lock turn of engine stay inside...depends on the type of crowd what is best.

    • Highly consider pepper spray in the car to spray aggressive folks.

    • DO NOT show hostility, you are driving a potential weapon.

    • If you have a weapon in your vehicle, put it on you in case you get pulled from the car, you don't want to lose both.

    • Remove seat belts, you wont be going very fast, you need quick escape.

  • Other Items to Carry

    • Make sure you safely carry some cash - can get you a lot further in a crisis - plastic will likely be problematic.

    • Flashlight.

    • Slip cock. Spit cock. Silcock.

    • Lock pick.

    • Weapons can be great, but dangerous - consider carefully what you feel you need - spray, stun gun - would likely be the safest option for you but depends on your city.

  • Stay in shape

    • Easily left out of planning - take me for example.....

    • Quicker getaway - run is always the best plan in most scenarios.

    • But if it gets physical - you want to have that endurance.

    • Combat, self defense skill.

  • Situational Awareness

    • Lots of videos on this, check them out can learn some really good stuff

Whew! That was a lot of information. This was taken directly from our show notes for episode 104 - Surviving Civil Unrest if you'd like to hear more.

Don't Panic. Prep on and Stay Survived!


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