Any number of things may cause civil disorder. It may be a single cause or multiple causes. The events can be planned or they may be spontaneous. They can happen at a moment’s notice and without warning.

The benchmark of civil unrest is when a protest staged by a large gathering of people goes from free speech to violent action. The motivations for that action is proportional to the reason for the protest. Agitators can manipulate the crowd to incite violent action.

An overreaction by authorities can also act as a precipitating factor. Agitators are aware of this and will often attempt to trigger an overreaction.

Emotional contagion influences crowd behavior by providing a psychological sense of unity. It provides cover for individuals to do things that they would like to do but otherwise would not do. Once unlawful and disruptive acts occur, the crowd effectively becomes a mob—a highly emotional, unreasonable and potentially violent crowd.

 

A Soldier with the Ohio National Guard looks on as protesters peacefully demonstrate in Columbus, Ohio. Peaceful protests can quickly turn violent.

 

A man stands on a burned out car as fires burn behind him in the Lake St area of Minneapolis, Minnesota during civil unrest following the death of George Floyd. Anyone can rapidly become a victim of a mob.

 

Protesters with Molotov Cocktails in Kylv, Ukraine. Civil unrest is a growing problem worldwide.

 



 

ASSESSING THE SITUATION

Obviously the best option is to avoid unrest altogether. If you are aware of when and where a protest is planned, you can avoid it. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible.

Unrest and protests can be very unpredictable. Law enforcement and emergency preparedness planners know it’s important to expect the unexpected and manage every situation in its own context.

It’s crucial to stay up to date on any potential or unfolding events. The social media, television and radio are all critical sources of information. Radio and local television may be the best real-time source of information for rapidly unfolding local events.

Pay attention for any specific alerts, warnings, cautions or all clears being issued by local emergency agencies. Are there any hot spots? Are there any safe zones that have been set up by authorities for essential services?

SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

Situational awareness is always key to personal safety. It’s the foundation of good decision making. It accomplishes several things. It gives us a tactical advantage by being prepared for things before they occur, keeping us ahead on the action-reaction curve. It also serves as a deterrent. If a bad guy knows that you are onto him, it eliminates the element of surprise and makes you less likely to be a target.

Situational awareness allows you to take control of your environment, assess your options and take decisive action. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Distraction is a common technique utilized by terrorists and criminals to target individuals.

 

A Go Bag or Get Home Bag is essential. Vertx bags and packs are a popular choice. Not only are they very well made and low profile, they’re designed for concealed carry and insertion of ballistic armor panels. Photo: Vertx.

 

Where lawful, a concealed carry firearm along with less-lethal/non-lethal options and proper training is an important component of a prepared individual’s EDC. SIG SAUER P365 XL high-capacity 9mm pistol shown with ROMEOZero red dot optic combines micro-compact concealability with full-size shootability.

 



 

SAFETY IN YOUR VEHICLE

You may think that a vehicle will provide you with safety. In reality, it doesn’t. So what should you do if caught in civil unrest while driving?

If you see that unrest is occurring or imminent, you need to secure yourself in your vehicle. Make certain your doors are locked and your windows are rolled up. Turn off the ventilation system in your vehicle to prevent any chemical agents that may be employed by law enforcement to control the crowd from getting inside.

Don’t wear your seat belt. This may seem counter intuitive but it’s important because it will hinder a quick escape from your vehicle should you need to do so.

If someone is in your path and you have no other alternative, drive slowly forward and once they see that you’re doing that they hopefully may step aside. You can’t use your vehicle to hit people or run them over except in justifiable self-defense.

If you reasonably feel in danger for your safety, then you can do what’s necessary for self-protection. The term “reasonable” is the key. What it really comes down to is the demeanor of the crowd and whether you are actually threatened. You should always use the least amount of force possible.

 

Feeling the heat during OC training. Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, although some restrictions may apply. It can be a valuable less-lethal tool during civil unrest.

 



 

GETTING TO SAFETY

In any disaster or crisis, whether natural or man-made, there are two basic options: shelter in place or evacuation. The circumstance will determine the appropriate response.

The goal in evacuation is to get to a place of safety. You not only need to know where you are but the route and alternate routes to get back to safety. You also need the right tools and most importantly know how to use them. Tools without training will do you little good.

EDC is simply what you carry every day. It’s what you have on your person. A go bag or get home bag is a small bag designed to get you where you need to go. A go bag differs from a bug out bag. A bug out bag is designed to help you survive for a longer period of time. They’re typically larger, multi-day packs.

When deciding what you should carry you need to consider a variety of factors. These include how long it’s going to take to get to safety, distance, potential threats and other hazards, environment, weather, your level of physical fitness, any medical requirements or personal needs and clothing. Keep in mind that mobility equals survival. Size and weight do matter.

CONCLUSION

We are living in troubled times. The nation is divided. Civil disorder is likely to continue. The keys to staying safe during civil unrest are assessing the situation, avoidance where possible, situational awareness, preparation and training.