The willingness of opportunistic criminals to hijack peaceful protests and violate the First Amendment rights of those attending has been on frightening display. Looting, arson, riots and assaults dominate the news instead of thoughtful speech, and the needless violence has spilled onto too many innocent citizens.
Calls for social change do not hold an exclusive on potentially dangerous civil unrest, either. Hurricanes and other natural disasters are more common catalysts. Perpetrators know the chances of detection are minimized when law enforcement coverage is dangerously thin, and angry mobs maximize anonymity.
Shooting Illustrated brings you lifesaving tips for the armed law-abiding citizen from experts in the field, but civil unrest’s sheer volume makes it a different opponent. Each situation is unique, but if the unthinkable visits your neighborhood here are a few things you can do to reduce exposure.
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 outside. 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 rioters or looters. Plus, in the confusion law enforcement could mistake you for an armed criminal. Possessions can be replaced, you cannot.
Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations or locations, even if you’re just driving through. 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 to their anger 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.
Having multiple escape-route options is always a good idea, as you never know what might happen.
In the House
Maintain your home-field 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.
When civil unrest is nearby or a natural disaster is imminent, make sure you charge up your cell phones. Keep your home-defense firearm within arm’s reach at all times, loaded. Home invasions are lightning fast. Lock all doors and windows.
Coordinate with neighbors beforehand by exchanging phone numbers and, if you’re comfortable doing so, bugout emergency plans. If urban unrest spills onto your yard, he or she can confirm if someone is lurking under your bedroom window—a blind spot when you’re inside the house—or if the cat just wants back in. 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 your 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, store tools, loose bricks, garden gnomes, lawn chairs and other objects in the yard securely. Don’t leave impromptu projectiles laying around.
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.
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 while keeping hands free.
When travel is unavoidable—collecting the younger children, for example—go with an armed partner, if legal. An extra pair of eyes and ears is invaluable and, if the unthinkable happens, they’ve got your six.
The final option, and 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 recent violence has occurred in major metropolitan areas, but criminals can hijack any cause for their goals anywhere—including suburban and rural America.