Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Tensions are incredibly high in the United States right now. I realized that over the past three years, I’ve written that they’re “at an all-time high” far too many times. So, I’ll just say, they’re high enough that all hell could break loose at any moment given the right (wrong) application of fuel to the flame. The number one thing you can do for this situation to keep your family safe is to be prepared for lockdown.
Pretending that it isn’t happening or hoping to hug it out is not a rational response to the chaos that is coming. I know that some cling to their misguided views on the way the world works with the ferocity of a mother bear protecting cubs, but for the rest of us, there’s this thing called reality. When we accept it, we can prepare for it.
People near the border are quite reasonably concerned that if thousands of immigrants push through our border illegally, they and their families could be at risk. People in other parts of the country are concerned about the aftermath of whatever happens when these people arrive at the border. Regardless of what occurs, somebody is going to be unhappy. Add in the fiercely-fought midterm elections and the threat of civil unrest is high.
Are you prepared for lockdown?
Which leads me to a very important subject. As the situation in the United States devolves, how prepared are you really? If you had to go into lockdown mode and keep your family safely at home, how long would you last with the supplies you have on hand? If the answer is “a few days” or “a couple of weeks” you need to work on that. Immediately.
By planning ahead, we can avoid the fear, panic, and confusion that leads people to rush to the store and clear the shelves like a horde of hungry locusts. We can stay away from the angry masses, the rioters who will use any excuse to steal, and the hungry people who are determined to feed their kids no matter who stands in their way.
Whether the next few weeks lead to pandemonium due to violent protests provoking some type of martial law, a prepared mindset, a defense plan, and a well-stocked home can help to keep you and your family out of harm’s way.
Keep in mind that the decision may not be entirely in your hands. In a martial law situation, it’s not unusual for the authorities to force people to stay in their homes. Remember in Boston when law enforcement was searching for the young man who, with his brother, was accused of setting off the bomb at the marathon? Residents were not allowed to leave their homes due to a “shelter in place directive.” The directive was presented as voluntary, but if you didn’t wish to have SWAT teams pointing guns in your face during this period of de facto martial law, staying home was the only option. Some people ran out of supplies the same day. Don’t be one of those people.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the potential need to lock down. It’s a viable response to a variety of crises. For example, had the Ebola cases on US shores turned into a pandemic, a lockdown period would have been the very best way to keep your family safe.
With situations of civil unrest, it isn’t as clear-cut. It depends on where you live. In a small town, far away from riots and protests, your lockdown area could be much greater than your own home. It could encompass your immediate community, too, and life might go on as it always has for you, aside from the need to stay just a little closer to home than before.
However, if you live in a city or suburb, it may become essential to make a decision quickly. Do you lock your doors and stay home? Or do you get out of Dodge? It is a question only you can answer. One thing that is very important is this: if you need to go, do NOT miss your window of opportunity to do so safely. If the entire city feels the same way, you’ll most likely be stuck in traffic and trapped in your car. Protesters have shut down the highways more than once in recent years, and you’ll be far safer behind the brick and mortar of your home than you will be in your car.
By the way, there’s always someone who chimes in with a snide remark about how cowardly it is to lockdown with your family in order to stay safe. If you want to go get involved in a battle to make a political point, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, my priority is the safety of my family, and as such, I hope to avoid engaging altogether.
First, get home.
If you happen to be away from home when violence erupts, your first task is safely navigating your way home. In a perfect world, we’d all be home, watching the chaos erupt on TV from the safety of our living rooms. However, reality says that some of us will be at work, at school, or in the car when unrest occurs. You need to develop a “get-home” plan for all of the members of your family, based on the most likely places that they will be.
- Devise an efficient route for picking up the kids from school, camp, or daycare. Be sure that anyone who might be picking up the children already has permission to do so.
- Keep a get-home bag in the trunk of your car in case you have to set out on foot.
- Stash some supplies in the bottom of your child’s backpack – water, a snack, any tools that might be useful, and a map. Be sure your children understand the importance of OPSEC.
- Avoid major thoroughfares. If you need to go through the city, avoid the areas that are most likely to be the subject of unrest. Listen to the local news and traffic reports to help avoid the worst areas. Take the safest route, not the shortest route.
- Find multiple routes home – map out alternative backroad ways to get home as well as directions if you must go home on foot.
- Find hiding places along the way. If you work or go to school a substantial distance from your home, figure out some places to lay low now, before a crisis situation. Sometimes staying out of sight is the best way to stay safe.
- Avoid groups of people. It seems that the mob mentality strikes when large groups of people get together. Often folks who would never ordinarily riot in the streets get swept up by the mass of people who are doing so.
- Keep in mind that in many civil disorder situations the authorities are to be avoided every bit as diligently as the angry mobs of looters. Who can forget the scenes of innocent people being pepper sprayed by uniformed thugs in body armor just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
- Know when to abandon the plan to get home. Sometimes, you just can’t get there. Going through a war zone is not worth it. Find a different place to shelter. Pay attention to your instincts.
Prepping for lockdown
Once everyone is safely home, you need to commit to your decision to lockdown. This could last a day, a week, or longer. There’s really no way to predict it. It’s most likely that you will have electrical power throughout this crisis, but you should be prepared just in case the grid goes down due to damage during riots or attempts by the authorities to gain control of the situation.
You should be set up with the following (at the minimum – hopefully you have these supplies and more):
- Necessary prescription medications
- A well-stocked pantry – you need at least a one-month supply of food for the entire family, including pets
- An off grid cooking method like an outdoor burner, a barbecue, a fire pit, or a woodstove)
- Or food that requires no cooking
- A tactical quality first aid kit
- Lighting in the event of a power outage
- Sanitation supplies (in the event that the municipal water system is unusable, this would include cleaning supplies and toilet supplies)
- A way to stay warm in harsh winter weather
- Over-the-counter medications and/or herbal remedies to treat illnesses at home
- A diverse survival guide, a very thorough preparedness book, and a first aid manual (hard copies in case the internet and power grid are down)
- Alternative communications devices (such as a hand-crank radio) so that you can get updates about the outside world
- Off-grid entertainment: arts and craft supplies, puzzles, games, books, crossword or word search puzzles, needlework, journals (here are some more ideas to keep the kids entertained.)
If you are completely unprepared for this type of thing, order some buckets of emergency food. Keep them in the back of your closet – they last for up to 25 years. This is absolutely the fastest way to create an emergency supply.
Try to stay under the radar.
Your best defense is avoiding the fight altogether. You want to stay under the radar and not draw attention to yourself. The extent to which you strive to do this should be based on the severity of the unrest in your area. Some of the following recommendations are not necessary for an everyday grid-down scenario, but could save your life in a more extreme civil unrest scenario.
- Keep all the doors and windows locked. Secure sliding doors with a metal bar. Consider installing decorative gridwork over a door with a large window so that it becomes difficult for someone to smash the glass and reach in to unlock the door.
- Put dark plastic over the windows. (Heavy duty garbage bags work well.) If it’s safe to do so, go outside and check to see if any light escapes from the windows. If your home is the only one on the block that is well-lit, it is a beacon to others.
- Keep pets indoors. Sometimes criminals use an animal in distress to get a homeowner to open the door for them. Sometimes people are just mean and hurt animals for “fun”. Either way, it’s safer for your furry friends to be inside with you.
- Don’t answer the door. Many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house.
- Keep cooking smells to a minimum. The goal here is not to draw attention. The meat on your grill will draw people like moths to a flame.
- Keep the family together. It’s really best to hang out in one room. Make it a movie night, go into a darkened room at the back of the house, and stay together. This way, if someone does try to breach your door, you know where everyone is who is supposed to be there. As well, you don’t risk one of the kids unknowingly causing a vulnerability with a brightly lit room or an open window.
- Remember that first responders may be tied up. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you. You must be prepared to save yourself. Also keep in mind, as mentioned earlier in the article – the cops are not always your friends in these situations.
For more discussion or to get questions answered about securing your home, pop on over and join the discussions at our forum.
Be prepared to defend your family.
If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family. Sometimes despite our best intentions, the fight comes to us. (Have you seen the movie The Purge?)
Many preppers stockpile weapons and ammunition for just such an event. I know that I certainly do. Firearms are an equalizer. A small woman can defend herself from multiple large intruders with a firearm if she’s had some training and knows how to use it properly. But put a kitchen knife in her hand against those same intruders, and her odds decrease exponentially. I know this is true about the firearm, because I have been in this situation personally, and the gun in my hand was enough of a deterrent to make 3 men leave.
When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation or borrow a cup of sugar. Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force.
- Don’t rely on 911. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you. You must be prepared to save yourself. First responders may be tied up, and in some cases, the cops are not always your friends. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some officers joined in the crime sprees, and others stomped all over the 2nd Amendment and confiscated people’s legal firearms at a time when they needed them the most.
- Be armed and keep your firearm on your person. When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea. Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force. Be sure to keep your firearm on your person during this type of situation, because there won’t be time to go get it from your gunsafe. Don’t even go to the kitchen to get a snack without it. Home invasions go down in seconds, and you have to be constantly ready.
- Know how to use your firearm. Whatever your choice of weapon, practice, practice, practice. A weapon you don’t know how to use is more dangerous than having no weapon at all. Here’s some advice from someone who knows a lot more about weapons than I do.
- Make sure your children are familiar with the rules of gun safety. Of course, it should go without saying that you will have pre-emptively taught your children the rules of gun safety so that no horrifying accidents occur. In fact, it’s my fervent hope that any child old enough to do so has been taught to safely and effectively use a firearm themselves. Knowledge is safety.
- Be ready for the potential of fire. Fire is a cowardly attack that doesn’t require any interaction on the part of the arsonist. It flushes out the family inside, leaving you vulnerable to physical assaults. Have fire extinguishers mounted throughout your home. You can buy them in 6 packs from Amazon. Be sure to test them frequently and maintain them properly. (Allstate has a page about fire extinguisher maintenance.) Have fire escape ladders that can be attached to a windowsill in all upper story rooms. Drill with them so that your kids know how to use them if necessary.
- Have a safe room established for children or other vulnerable family members. If the worst happens and your home is breached, you need to have a room into which family members can escape. This room needs to have a heavy exterior door instead of a regular hollow core interior door. There should be communications devices in the room so that the person can call for help, as well as a reliable weapon to be used in the unlikely event that the safe room is breached. The family members should be instructed not to come out of that room FOR ANY REASON until you give them the all clear or help has arrived. You can learn more about building a safe room HERE. Focus the tips for creating a safe room in an apartment to put it together more quickly.
Even if your plan is to bug in, you must be ready to change that plan in the blink of an eye. Plan an escape route. If the odds are against you, if your house catches on fire, if thugs are kicking in your front door… devise a way to get your family to safety. Your property is not worth your life. Be wise enough to accept that the situation has changed and move rapidly to Plan B.
If trouble comes to your neighborhood and you decide to stick around, stay home.
It’s the number one way to keep yourself safer from during a civil unrest situation. If you find yourself in an area under siege, the odds will be further on your side for every interaction in which you avoid taking part. Every single time you leave the house, you increase your chances of an unpleasant encounter. Nothing will be accomplished by going out during a chaotic situation.