On Sunday, August 10, 2014, a quiet vigil in Ferguson, Missouri quickly turned into a riot. Protestors vandalized and looted more than 12 community businesses. The following morning, one local school closed in fear of students’ safety if they walked to class. As of this writing, rioting, protesting and looting have gone on for 10 days. Protestors have shot at police, thrown Molotov cocktails and burned cars and buildings. Local businesses are remaining closed and law enforcement have set up check points throughout the neighborhood, making leaving for work and returning home difficult. Though not as bad as the 1992 L.A. Riots where 50 people died, another 2,000 injured and over 1,000 buildings damaged, Ferguson, Missouri is in an official state of emergency. Afrika Bryant, a Ferguson resident says, “We were going to get hotel rooms, but now we’re scared that they might start looting houses.”
There is no telling when a riot and looting is going to occur. They happen abruptly and usually violently. Historically, riots happen in bigger cities, when racial tensions are high and people are struggling economically. Due to frustration and anger, a mob acts out in ways lone individuals generally would not. One bad person taking advantage of the situation will begin looting. Because of mob mentality and the mask of anonymity, the crowd follows. Riots are unsafe and volatile situations; you do not want to be caught in the middle of one. Besides the tear gas, rubber bullets and risk of being trampled, law enforcement is overly cautious and cannot instantly distinguish between you and a looter. To learn more about how to survive a riot, read “Don’t Get Swept up in O(mob)ama Mentality: Surviving the Romney Riots.”
If your area becomes a hotbed for civil unrest, experts and survivalist agree—you are safer staying home. Preparing for civil unrest in your town is much like prepping for bugging in during any other emergency or weather disaster. You should have plenty of food, water, batteries, medicine and first aid, an alternative cooking method, fuel and lighting for your family for a week. Though losing power during civil unrest probably doesn’t come to mind, you should always be prepared to lose utilities. Fires during the L.A. riots knocked out electricity and water lines. Deemed too unsafe to work on it, crews could not fix the problem for days. Further, during violent riots and looting, you will need to secure your home to keep you and your loved ones safe.
The following five steps will help you prepare for civil unrest.
1. Hunker Down at Home
At the first sign of civil unrest, you need to activate your plan. You do have a plan, don’t you? If not, read, “Home Invasions, Do You Have a Plan of Action? Part 1” to help you create a plan for home invasions. Your plan needs to include how you will get your entire family home if you are at work and the kids are at school. Will you need to retrieve elderly family members? Have your routes mapped out including how you are going to pick up any family members and how you are going to get home. Include a few alternate routes in case of roadblocks, checkpoints or traffic. This transportation plan also needs to include an escape route if fires rage in your neighborhood. Your first instinct is probably to grab the bug out bag and leave. However, during violent riots many find themselves stuck in traffic, in a sea of people blocking the roads, law enforcement roadblocks and even not allowed to leave.
2. Create a Safe Room
Before any sign of social unrest, prepare a safe room inside your home—much like the safe room you prepared for storms. Ideally, your family’s safe room ideally should not have any windows, have enough room to spread out and room to store essential survival gear. Additionally, for the complete safe room stock it with a defensive weapon, ammunition, a fire extinguisher and a way to call 911. Replace plywood or the hollow interior door of your safe room with a fiberglass, solid wood or metal reinforced door that swings outward. Place security hinges and dead bolts on the door, as well as securing the doorframe to the wall. This makes it harder to kick in the door.
Safe Room Checklist
- Blankets or sleeping bags, pillows and air mattress
- Plastic bucket or camp toilet with liners and secured lid
- Emergency radio
- Landline or extra charged cell phone
- Fire extinguisher
- Food heater
- Entertainment such as books, electronic games, magazines, activity books, games, puzzles and cards
If creating a safe room in your house or apartment is impossible, during civil unrest and violent riots, stay away from windows and the front of the house. Keep all family members and pets in the back of the house where stray bullets are least likely to penetrate.
3. Fortify Your Home
Even in peaceful times, you want to keep your home from being a target of home invasion. This means always keeping your doors and windows locked, installing dead bolts on doors and properly securing sliding glass doors with double locks and bars that stop the doors from sliding. You may also want to consider installing polycarbonate or window film to all glass windows in your house. These plastics protect glass from shattering and breaking—making it difficult for burglars to break in.
First level windows are most vulnerable. If budget allows, you can replace windows with hurricane-rated ones or place decorative iron bars over them. Investing in heavy wood or metal shutters that you can close and lock from the inside is the most secure option. Further, planting thorny rose bushes or cactus under accessible windows helps, too. However, avoid planting heavy thick bushes—these provide hiding places for criminals.
Install motion sensor lights and make sure all patio, front porch, garage and side lights work. Keep them on at night. A dog is a great deterrent, as well. For more on securing your home, read “Home Defense Equipment: Is Your House Secure?”
4. Take Extra Security Steps
- If your property is fenced, keep barbed wire handy. As soon as you know trouble is brewing, install it along the perimeter.
- Draw the shades, blinds or curtains so no one can see in. Cover the windows with foil or black garbage bags if you have to.
- Keep the appearance your home is occupied. Looters are typically not looking to physically harm people—just take your stuff. Keeping the lights on and alternating which ones you leave on, lets those on the outside know you are keeping watch throughout the night.
- Do not answer the door if someone knocks. If they announce themselves as law enforcement, make sure they show ID.
- Keep pets inside.
- Remove combustible material from the front, sides and behind the house.
- In case of fire, wet down the roof, yard, deck, patio, garage, any wooden storage sheds and all vegetation surrounding your home. For more on how to protect your home from fires, read, “Surviving a Wildfire.”
- For those of you, like many of us, on a strict budget may not be able to afford fancy windows and reinforcements, keep wood inside the house, hammer and nails or a drill to cover windows. In a pinch, you can break furniture and use the wood from that to board up windows.
- Keep plenty of plastic and duct tape on-hand to seal up all windows and doors from smoke from fires and tear gas from getting inside your house.
5. Don’t Fuel the Fire
Though you might feel tempted, do not sit out on the front porch with your firearms. Cops will be on edge and they will not know if you are an innocent civilian simply defending your property or a threat. Your display may also summon bad people—not only have you shown the world you have guns, but you also have shown you have something worth protecting.
Civil unrest can severely disrupt your life for days, even weeks. It is unsafe to be outside, stray bullets and fires can ruin buildings, homes and lives. Make sure you are prepared with our five-step plan to staying safe during social unrest, rioting and looting.
Have you lived in an area where people rioted? Share your experiences with others in the comment section.