From WikiHow

Civil unrest, or civil disorder, is a breakdown of normal society that leads to riots, violence, or other sorts of disorder, and is often ultimately suppressed by armed government officials.[1] Civil unrest can happen anywhere, as recent riots in places as varied as Dubai, Ferguson, Paris, and San Bernardino suggest– all that is required is enough people – and can happen for a variety of reasons, such as political unrest, weather, fire, and socio-economic instability. There are techniques to avoid danger should you find yourself in the midst of a civil unrest at home or abroad, as well techniques to wait out the unrest and stay safe in the aftermath.

Avoiding Danger Altogether

Stay home. Most experts agree that the safest place to be during a civil unrest incident is in your home. Staying home keeps you out of the chaos and also allows you to defend your location, if you need to. Don’t go back out to find out what’s going on, and don’t delay getting home if you’re out.[2]

Create a safe room. A safe room is a specially-designed room in your home that meets Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards and is virtually impenetrable to external problems, such as weather incidents, fire, or looters.[4]

Fortify your house. Many experts agree that you should also fortify your home, whether you choose to install a safe room or not. Fortifying your home means that you strengthen its barriers, just in case the unrest incident spills over to your location.[5]

Stay informed. One benefit of our digital age is that we can stay connected pretty easily and have 24-hour access to the news. Make it a point to read up on or listen to what is happening globally, nationally, and locally. Staying informed about current events and any situations that may potentially devolve into civil unrest gives you more time to ensure that you and your family’s safety.[6]

Developing a Plan

Stockpile resources. Whether the civil disturbance is brief, lasts for days, or even weeks, you’ll need access to basic necessities. This especially important because you won’t be able to go out and replenish your supplies. Plan ahead, think about what your family needs (not wants), and stockpile appropriately.

Form a network. Having a group of people that you can trust, prepare with, and share resources with is invaluable. Should the unrest remain uncontrolled, your group will rely on one another for survival, as you won’t have access to supermarkets or drugstores.[10]

Locate a place to meet. Work with your network, family, and friends to decide where you’ll all meet should civil unrest persist. Remember, cell service will likely not be good in the area, so make sure that you all know exactly where to meet, how to find one another, and when you’ll go to that location.[11]

Practice your plan. Don’t wait until there is a civil unrest incident to find out if your plan to avoid danger and stay safe is effective or not. Practice your plan with your family and your network so that you can work out any kinks and modify your plan as needed. There are emergency plans available on the internet for download that can serve as a good template from which you can develop your own plan.[12]

Defending Your Location

Secure your home. If rioting is imminent, secure your home and business. Rioting often brings looting, and looters can pillage and destroy your property. Make sure your doors are locked, and board up all your windows. Remove small valuables to a safer place if possible, since determined rioters will get in just about anywhere.Check your locks and windows. First-floor windows are more vulnerable than others, and doors without deadbolts are less secure. It’s possible that civil unrest incidents can spill over to other areas, such as your house, and you need to ensure that you have adequate locks on all of your doors and windows.[13]Know the law. It is important to know local laws governing self defense, no matter how you plan to defend yourself and your home. You don’t want to find yourself in trouble after the unrest has been controlled because you violated the law. This is equally important if you are in another city, state, or country.

Travelling abroad

Register your trip. Let your Embassy or Consulate know your trip details so that they can keep you informed if any civil unrest situations occur. Often, they can help you evacuate, should it be necessary, and assist you with resources. Also, they can help you get in contact with your family back home so that you can let them know you’re okay.[14]

Have a plan. You likely won’t know the area very well if you’re travelling abroad. Take some time to learn the layout of the streets, official evacuation routes, the Embassy location, ATM locations, hospital locations, and any other relevant potential sources of assistance.[15]

Know security protocols. Often, local governments will have security protocols for civil unrest incidents that apply to locals as well as travelers. Learn these security protocols so that you don’t put yourself in extra danger and are able to take advantage of any protections the government might offer.[16]

Get travel insurance. You might think that travel insurance is just for missed flights or medical emergencies that happen while you’re on your trip. And while most travel insurance has a specific exclusion for civil unrest, there are policies that you can purchase that will cover this event. If you think that you’re going to an area where unrest is more likely, it is worth the extra work to insure your trip.[17]

Evacuating and Surviving After an Unrest

Avoid public transportation. Because streets may be gridlocked, crowded, and potentially violent, avoid public transportation, especially bus and train stations. These places may become hopelessly – and dangerously – crowded if there is even a threat of impending civil unrest. Airports can also become swamped, potentially dangerous places, so it's best to call the airport or your Embassy in advance to check on the situation there.Don’t fuel the fire. Survival experts agree that if you do need to leave your home, do so quietly. Don’t attract attention to yourself, keep your head down, be quiet, and don’t get involved in the unrest. You don’t want to put yourself in unnecessary danger or delay your evacuation.[18]

Know the official evacuation routes. If you live in a weather-incident prone area, your local government may have pre-established evacuation routes. These may be a good option for you, but more than likely they will be at a standstill with everyone trying to leave en masse. It’s a good idea to ask if the state or county has any secondary evacuation routes mapped out and to keep those in mind as well.[19]Seek assistance. Whether the civil unrest incident was brief or lasted for weeks, your life will be disrupted to some degree. After the situation is controlled, relief organizations may come into the area to offer food, water, and medical treatment. While it’s still safest to stay home, seek assistance from hospitals and relief organizations if you need it, only when it’s safe to do so.[20]

Sources and Citations


How to Survive a Riot

Though it may seem dramatic, an angry mob can be just as dangerous and unpredictable as just about any natural disaster. Thousands of people are killed in riots all over the world each year, and these riots erupt from a number of racial, religious, economic, political, or social causes that cannot be predetermined. If you've found yourself in the middle of a riot, you may not be able to run away immediately, but you can take some measures to protect yourself from harm. If you want to know how to survive a riot, just follow these steps.

Method 1

Surviving a Riot

Be prepared. If you know you're in an a riot-prone area but have no way to avoid being there, then taking a few simple precautions can have a big impact on your life. Though it's easier to assume that a riot won't happen in your area, it's better to be prepared for the worst. Even the calmest crowd can turn dangerous when its members are in a frantic, angry mood. Anger and hysteria are contagious, so it's best to know how to avoid these situations if they arise.

Remain calm. Riots bring intense emotions boiling to the surface, but if you want to survive one you'd be better off keeping your own emotions in check. Your adrenaline and survival instincts will kick in, but strive to think rationally and pursue safety methodically.

Keep your loved ones close. If you're not alone, then the first thing you should do is grip the hands or lock elbows with all of the people who are with you. If you're with a child, hold him in your arms so he doesn't get trampled. Sticking together with your loved ones should be your first priority -- your second should be finding a way out. Reassure the people you're with that you have strength in numbers and that you'll be fine if you stick together.

Don't get involved. If you're caught in a riot, the last thing you want to do is try to take sides, help out, or stand out. In fact, you should stand out as little as possible as you move to the outside of the mob and away from the action. To do this, stay close to the walls and other barriers, though avoid bottlenecks, or any areas where a lot of people are squeezing through a small space.

Drive appropriately if you're in a car. Unless your car is the focus for the angry mob in the riot, you should stay in the car and continue driving as calmly as possible. Try to keep to the streets that are clear of riots, and avoid the main roads that are more likely to be occupied. Keep moving forward and don't stop to assess the situation. If someone tries to block your car, honk your car and keep driving until he gets out of the way (of course, this doesn't mean you should hit the person.) Drive at moderate speed so they have time to back off and realize that you mean business.

Move away from the riot as calmly as possible. If you're on foot, you should move away by going with the flow of foot traffic, not against it. If you go against the traffic, you're much more likely to stand out, to get stampeded, or just to get pushed or blocked. If you feel that you may fall down in the big crowd and get trampled, use your elbows to push down on the crowd so that it carries you. Though you may want to run for your life, you should move calmly and relatively slowly.

Avoid heavy-traffic areas. To maximize your chances of safety, you should avoid the areas that are most likely to be crowded and show stay off the beaten path so you don't put yourself in a dangerous situation. Even if the heavy-traffic areas are your quickest path home, they won't be safest path if they are the targets of any rioters. Here's what you should do:

Move to a safe enclosed area. Riots most commonly happen outside on the streets, not inside buildings. Just by moving inside a sturdy and controlled building, you can protect yourself from the brunt of a riot. Any building with a basement, or even a sub-basement, can help you hide from a mob. Being in any safe building at all is safer than being out on the streets. Look for homes that can serve as "safe houses" in advance if you're really concerned about finding a safe space in the event of a riot. If you can, talk to the owners first.

Stay informed. Use the social media to alert you as to where to stay away from, as well as the local radio and news. Just as the rioters have started using social media and texting to alert one another where to go, you can flip this on its head and ask people to help you know where to stay away from. Messages informing you of which streets and areas are currently being targeted provide you with instantaneous warnings of where to avoid.

Method 2

Additional Precautions for High-Risk Areas

Wear safe clothes. Wear clothes that minimize the amount of exposed skin, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, when you go out. Do not wear clothing that could be interpreted as military or police wear. Do avoid wearing anything that looks like a uniform. Furthermore, if you do not want to be mistaken for a rioter by the police, avoid dark colored clothing, especially black hooded sweaters, since this type of clothing is associated with rioters in many countries around the world.

Carry a solution for rinsing your eyes in case you're exposed to tear gas. If you're worried that you may be exposed to tear gas, you should have a solution of half liquid antacid and half water (spray is better than stream and it's available in many drug stores and larger stores) and use it to rinse eyes in case you are exposed to tear gas.

Keep your documents on your person if you're traveling abroad. If you're traveling abroad, register with your country's consulate and carry your passport and/or visa with you at all times. Even domestically, have ID and emergency contact information on you in case you are arrested or become unconscious.

Carry an extra cell phone. If you're walking around a high-risk area, you should take your telephone, two if possible (one in your pocket and one in a bag). If one is lost or taken, you still have another one.[2]

Have sugar candy on hand to keep up your energy. Adrenaline will drain you of energy quickly and a sugar hit will help you move out faster.[3]

Avoid being hit by riot control chemicals or weapons. Police may deploy riot control agents (tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, for example) to disperse a crowd. These weapons and chemicals can cause severe pain, respiratory distress, and blindness. Try to stay away from the front lines of a riot, and learn to recognize the signs that a riot control agent has been used and how to handle exposure.



Things You'll Need

Additional Advice


The first three days after a crisis is relativity calm and it can be called a gracious period where people help others and provide a hand up to the less fortunate. Rules are followed and pilfering supplies or looting a grocery store is far from people’s minds at this point. Survivors are thinking in the back of their mind that the authorities (government) are marshalling troops to provide disaster relief.

The chaos caused by the disaster itself can however, pale in comparison to the turmoil that certain citizens themselves can cause after three days or more. Once people realize their government is ill equipped to handle the situation desperation creeps in. Antagonists and others sense this and begin whipping up crowds with the guise of demanding support from the government when in reality the so-called anarchists simply want to take advantage of the situation. They want to further the notion that government should be abolished, by emphasizing the lack of response thus far. Demonstrations turn into riots.

Demonstrators for the most part do not even know why they are marching; someone is doing their thinking for them. This is mob mentality. Collectively they will destroy buildings, cause physical harm to others and try thwarting any kind of authority and yet, many as individuals would never dream of doing such things. If you do not believe this can happen where you live, remember hurricane Katrina and super storm Sandy, and watch the world news to see the riots and mobs gathering to protest governmental policies. During a crisis many turn to their government for help, and when that help is not forthcoming those same people will turn against their government and then each other.

Prepare Yourself

People panic because they do not know what to do next. If you are prepared for a crisis, you will know what to do next. However, you may be caught up in civil unrest and it may force you to evacuate your community. You may have to relocate within your own city if evacuation to a safe haven outside the city is not possible.

You cannot become trapped on the upper floors of an apartment building. You may experience power disruptions and once you lose electricity, the stairwells and hallways become ambush points. Find a vacant apartment at ground level, and take it over for the time being. You need to be at ground level to escape if looters or others set fire to your building or otherwise make it too dangerous to live there. You need a quick escape route. If the crisis is, city or countrywide many will have already fled so there will be resources you can use for the time being.

Push heavy furniture against entry points and tape or nail nylon or canvas tarps, sheets of plastic or blankets over all windows to slow down an intruder long enough for you to escape. Do not barricade yourself to the point you do not have a way to escape however. You may not be able to stop a determined intruder but you can slow one down enough for you to get away. Unless you are specifically targeted, some if not most looters will move on to an easier target if they meet resistance, so make it difficult for them.

Having emergency supplies means you would not need to venture out, and even if you did, you may find most of the stores are closed or have been looted.

Some Interesting Facts about Riots and Looting

According to eyewitnesses and from police records, food items are the last to be looted during civil unrest (rioting). Drugs specifically pain killers, diapers, alcohol and tobacco products are the first to go and then weapons and ammunition. Food remained on the shelves in some cases untouched for three days or longer during major riots. After four or five days, people begin trying to steal gasoline and even generators along with vehicles. After a few days of venting frustration at the government, rioters will find others to vilify thus, excusing their actions. Retailers and bankers will be next and after four or five days into the civil unrest, you are next on the list.

Protect Yourself

Stay off the streets particularly at night and if you have to venture out do not go near commercial areas because that is where looting and other criminal activity will be most active. Ideally, you will know your neighborhood so you do not become trapped in dead end alleyways, and you know where all the dead end or cul-de-sac streets are.

When traveling or evacuating make sure you map out your routes so you do not have to use pedestrian walkways on bridges and that you avoid tunnels and overpasses, as well, to keep from becoming trapped.


Prepare for civil unrest just as if you would for any disaster, have adequate supplies of water, food and other essentials and always keep the possibility of evacuation in mind. Make sure every member of the family has a backpack with survival essentials. You may have to leave on foot so prepare for this possibility as well. Successful evacuations only happen if you prepare and leave before there is a mass exodus from the city.