Lessons from Ferguson: Prepping for Civil Unrest and Martial Law

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Any prepared and informed person knows that the threat isn’t always the event itself, which could be anything from a natural disaster to a rioting spree after a sporting event to an economic collapse. It’s the chaos during the aftermath of the event.

If you ever had any doubts about that statement, you need look no further than Ferguson, Missouri.

Today, Governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard.

Martial law has officially arrived in Ferguson.

Of course, this only makes it official. The past week has shown a militarized police force driving around in tanks, wearing body armor, and brutally responding to citizens. Martial law was already there and the Constitution was already suspended.  Nixon just made it official.

This is just the icing on the chaos cupcake, however. It all started a week ago when a white police officer shot a black suspect.  Suddenly, amidst  cries of “racism”  an absolute breakdown of society occurred within 24 hours of the shooting.  People no longer governed themselves according to laws and morals.  Store owners were forced to arm themselves to protect their businesses from a mob that looted with all of the joyful abandon of a lottery winner on a shopping spree.  Cops responded, but were vastly outnumbered. Whether these officers were originally vicious individuals or whether fear of the mob mentality made them brutal, their responses were harsh and ruthless.

This article isn’t a debate on right vs. wrong. It isn’t about whether Michael Brown deserved to be shot or whether he was an innocent victim. It isn’t about the race of the looters, the cops, or the residents of Ferguson. It isn’t even about the Constitutional rights that are being ground under the heels of boots. I’m not getting into any of that.

It’s about watching and learning from the events in Ferguson, because this type of chaos could be coming to a city near you. When society breaks down, it nearly always follows a distinct path.  The main variable is how quickly the situation devolves.

The violence began around 8 p.m. and largely dissipated within a couple hours, though the police presence in the St. Louis suburb remained at war-like levels into the wee hours of the morning.

Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of protesters roamed West Florissant Avenue.

Looters prowled several blocks of the main thoroughfare, damaging businesses and shattering glass in the few storefronts that had yet remained intact.

The list of businesses on West Florissant that were looted on Sunday night included a Domino’s Pizza, a Papa John’s Pizza, an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and a Public Storage facility.

Just west, on Chambers Road, a large group of looters trashed a small store called Dellwood Market. The store ended up on fire, according to a Facebook page called Ferguson Scanner Updates.

“I know that people are upset, but is this the justice for Mike Brown?” the distraught owner asked, according to local CBS affiliate KMOV.

A handful of protesters suffered gunshot wounds and the crowds prevented an ambulance from arriving on the scene.

A large group of people had overrun a McDonald’s on the street. Employees of the McDonald’s were forced to lock themselves in a storage room until police arrived. (source)

Here’s a synopsis of the threats during such an event and what you can do to prepare for them.


In this case, there’s nothing like a good sports analogy. “The best defense is a good offense.”

When the looting began in Ferguson, nearly every store in town was ransacked. Two of them, however were not: St. Louis Ink Tattoo Studio and County Guns.


Mac Slavo of SHTFplan wrote:

It turns out that when violent looters come face to face with people prepared to kill to defend their property, the looters tend to choose a ‘safer’ target.

The take-home lesson here is this: If the situation has broken down to the point that looters are running around carrying TVs down the street, you’d better make it very clear that you are NOT a victim and that you WILL fight back.  There are plenty of people who have been brainwashed by the media to believe that guns are bad who will be far easier pickings for those who want to steal.  Looters will select the easiest targets – not those who are clearly determined to fight back.

The best way to win a fight is to avoid getting into that fight in the first place. Secure your home and lay low, but be prepared if trouble comes to visit.

Here are some tips to make your home less of a target:

Keep all the doors and windows locked.  Secure sliding doors with a metal bar.  Consider installing decorative grid-work 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.

Keep the curtains closed. There’s no need for people walking past to be able to see what you have or to do reconnaissance on how many people are present.

Don’t answer the door.  Many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house.

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.

If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family and your home

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 know how to use your weapon of choice.  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. 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.

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 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.

Plan an escape route.  If the odds are against you, devise a way to get your family to safety.  Your property is not worth your life.

It’s very important to make a defense plan well before you need one.

Violence for the sake of violence

Not every criminal frolicking through a WROL zone is there to steal. Some people want to hurt people just for the rush of power it gives them.

There is no pacifist answer to an encounter like this. If someone wants to do harm because they find it enjoyable, or because they are swept up in a mob mentality, you have to meet force with greater force.

In these situations, firearms are the great equalizer.

I can’t repeat this enough: you must practice. Frequently. If you don’t know how to use a firearm, you shouldn’t have it.  When you handle your weapon awkwardly, it’s very obvious to a person who is trying to intimidate you. Likewise, if you are so comfortable with your weapon that it looks like a natural extension of your arm, that is also very clear. It sends a message that you mean business and that you know what you’re doing. No one wants to get shot. Most thugs will search for an easier target.

Of course, it’s better still to avoid these encounters.  When your city is under siege, it’s far safer to stay home.  Don’t go to work or send the kids to school. Wait until normalcy returns to go about your business.  It isn’t worth risking your life.

Destruction of property

Of enormous concern in these situations is the destruction of property.

For some, vandalizing and destroying property is the order of the day.  Often, times of civil unrest give people of a certain mentality the excuse they need to seek vengeance against those who have “more” than they do.  Tensions erupt between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  When this occurs, often destruction of property is the way these people choose to show their “power”.

While this starts out as purely a property crime, the situation can quickly turn violent. If someone is outside bashing the headlights of your vehicle, it isn’t a far stretch to think that they’ll bash on you if you confront them.

How to respond to this is a very individual decision, and depends to a great extent on your personal skill levels and confidence.

If you are a person who is unaccustomed to physical confrontations, you may be better off staying inside and calling your insurance company after the fact. No possession is worth your life or the lives of your family.

Alternatively, in some situations, it won’t stop with the destruction of your property. You may have to defend your home. Fire is of enormous concern in these types of scenarios.  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.

Be ready for the potential of fire.

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 bug-out bags prepared that contain all of your important documents in them in case you have to grab and go.

Running out of supplies

The most preventable issue in the event of civil unrest is running out of supplies.

If you have to “run out to the store” that makes it far more likely that you will become the victim of a crime. The best advice I can give in all of this is to STAY HOME.  But if you have no food and water, it’s difficult to do so.

Many residents of Ferguson are facing exactly this problem. They are “stuck” at home and have run out of groceries.

Keith Griffin II, publisher of DELUX Magazine, set up a table near gas pump 6 at the QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue, where he is distributing free pizza, chips, fresh fruit and bottled water to protesters and area residents.

Griffin, 37, said he grew up in the area and he’s concerned about the welfare of local residents.

He’s also putting together care packages to people who are stuck because of the protests and curfew, he said. (source: St. Louis Times)

So, after only ONE WEEK, people are running out of food or discovering there is a necessity that they don’t have on hand.


I can’t imagine not having enough supplies to withstand a siege of only a week.  The way this is snowballing, the situation could easily last for a lot longer than just a week.  Even if you think prepping is silly and paranoid, how could anyone watching this unfold not feel as though they need to be stocked up for at least a month?  Ferguson is not a bad neighborhood in New York City. It’s a little suburb of just over 20,000 people. If this can happen in Ferguson, Missouri, it can happen where you are, and it can happen without any warning at all.

Here is a general list of supplies to have on hand. Remember that sometimes power supplies are lost during situations like this. Occasionally officials do this to gain more control over the populace and sometimes it happens as a side-effect of the wholesale destruction by the rioters. Keep the potential for a down-grid situation in mind when preparing.

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Necessary prescription medications
  • well stocked pantry – you need at least a one-month supply of food for the entire family, including pets
  • An off grid cooking method (We have a Char-Broil Offset Smoker American Gourmet Grill, an outdoor burner, and a woodstove inside)
  • 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 and 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

Martial law

It seems that right now in Ferguson, the US Constitution has been suspended. The National Guard has been called in to help police restore order. Like I said above, this is not an article about the constitutionality (or lack thereof) of what is going on down there, nor is it about police brutality or racial tensions. This article focuses on surviving the situation should such an event occur in your town.

teargas ferguson

The reality is this:

While many of the officers involved most likely just want to resolve the situation and go home to their families, the methods being used are not methods most of us wish to encounter.

In a highly charged situation like this, police and military are trained to use the most efficient methods to speedily shut down a conflict. These methods can include tear gas, sound cannons, and outright physical assaults on citizens. It’s important to note that fear can be a powerful motivator when deciding how much force is appropriate when addressing a threat. Cops are just as subject to fear as the rest of us. 20 cops with shields and batons would be quite reasonable to fear an angry mob of hundreds of shouting people.

Your safety when interacting with officials during a martial law situation does not rely on the intentions of police officers and military. It really doesn’t matter if they are trying to crush your rights under a jack-booted heel, or whether they are trying to benevolently keep people safe and re-establish peace and harmony.

Here are some suggestions to help keep you safe when dealing with cops and soldiers.

Avoid crowds. If you are in the midst of a crowd, you’ll be considered part of the crowd and treated exactly like everyone else in that group. If they get tear-gassed, so will you. It’s guilt by association. If the crowd is violent, and you are part of the crowd, you will also be considered violent, and you’ll be dealt with accordingly. Legally, you are actually guilty if you are part of a group that is violent. GO HOME.

Be polite. If you have to interact with officers, be courteous. You won’t restore the Constitution by arguing with them or threatening them. It’s fine to assert your rights – you don’t have to allow them to search your house without cause, for example, but do so civilly. Belligerence will get you nothing but a beat-down.

You don’t get to explain. In a highly charged situation, the cops probably aren’t going to listen to you when you try to explain that you’re just taking that baseball bat in your hand over to your nephew’s house so he can hit some balls in the backyard. No matter how innocent your intentions are, if you’re walking like a duck, you’re going to be treated like a duck. Training will kick in, and perceived threats will be immediately neutralized by whatever means the cops find necessary.

Stay home. It really isn’t worth risking your physical safety to go see what’s going on.

Underneath the uniform, cops are human.  I’m not justifying the brutality, the methods they’re using, or the assaults on journalists. Cops are just as likely to be swept up in a herd mentality as thugs are during a high stress situation. By understanding this, you can be better prepared.

Just stay home.

I really can’t repeat that often enough. It’s the number one way to keep yourself safer from every single threat mentioned in this article. 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.

And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t go to a protest and take your children, even if it’s supposed to be peaceful.

Residents, many with children in tow, had turned out for what began as a peaceful protest Sunday evening seeking justice for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot six times by a police officer who allegedly stopped Brown for blocking a residential street.

The protesters marched toward a police command center set up in a shopping mall parking lot when heavily armed law enforcement fired on the crowd using tear gas and rubber bullets. An MSNBC reporter witnessed children suffering the effects of the gas, including two young African-American girls – one dressed in a pink tank top coughing as she struggled to push the shirt up over her mouth and nose while a woman rushed her from the scene. (source)

I can’t even wrap my brain around thinking THAT was a good idea.




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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • LEOs are likely to perceive an armed, or unarmed individual at the scene of a crime a threat to officer safety. Waiting at the scene till the police arrive might get you killed. It might be a better idea to let your attorney dial 911 after you, and your dog are safely away from the scene.

  • Hi, I’m watching the events in Ferguson with great concern.Two of the concerns I have is 1- it may spread to other cities 2- a concern that I haven’t heard anyone address. I was watching “Drugs Inc.” on NatGeo,what I’m talking about is drug addicts and dealers. In a SHFT or anything related you are not only dealing with hungry, thirsty, But also strung out which I think is worse. If you haven’t experienced such maybe it’s something to consider to become informed about.

  • Did I miss something, Officer Wilson appears to be white in the photograph i saw, when did he turn out to be black? I don’t support the protesting going on, it is hard to figure out what happened in this mess and prosecute anyone that may be at fault.

    • Curtiss – I’m not sure – I just looked up that photo too. I have no idea the race of the officer now. Everything I read earlier stated he too was black. Sigh. It really shouldn’t matter, should it?

      I’ll update the story to remove that reference. Thank you!

      • Absolutely not, if the officer was wrong color is of no consequence. It is however a shame that the investigation into this event is tainted with all of the chaos from the community, how can they expect justice amidst all that.

      • The website “The conservative treehouse” has the best info and videos on this. You are thinking of a later protester shot by a black cop. The site has the video of the liquor store robbery by Brown where he made the clerk bounce 10 min before he was shot. It also was the source of finding video background conversations that support the officer, and has the autopsy report. It turns out the “hands up” witness was on the liquor store robbery and had a warrant for his arrest. The liquor store was one of the first places torched to hide the video evidence.

  • A timely post, for sure. I stand amazed that so many people refuse to be self reliant and eschew any learning curve for a real skill. So many wish to remain children being told what to do and how to act by government. I would call that socialism.

    Hunkering down and bugging in place is an excellent idea, making sure the residence is on a “lock down”, and blacked out from the outside.

  • Great post as usual Daisy. All good common sense suggestions particularly avoiding large crowds of protesters. It takes only one fool to trigger a violent response from scared police or NG.

    I’m old enough to remember the riots after Dr King was assasinated and the resulting riots in black urban neighborhoods. I recall downtown Lima OH burning and the NG setting up check points and my Dad having to get a special permit that allowed him to pass thru various check points so he could get to the refinery.

    There were 2 shot guns in the house, one by the back door and one at the front. The thing that really pissed off a 6 year old is not being able to play outside after 5pm!

    The situation finally calmed down a couple of weeks later and got back to normal but that was then and this Ferguson is now. I’m not quite sure what to make of the Ferguson MO spectacle. Could this be the catalyst to a nationwide race war?

    All I know is that I’m as fully prepared as I’ll ever be to wait out a full blown race war or any other calamity. I’ll be sitting on the porch with my shotgun, a cold beverage, and laying low.

    Snake Plisken

  • Good post. I was in LA when the Rodney King riots broke out in 1992. People were burning every area of the city but it started in So. Central LA. The sky was black with smoke and their were National Guards everywhere. Very scary how fast it escalated. We moved out of LA a year later. That was the tipping point. I was already tired of the crime, traffic, smoke, and millions of people.

    • You could have just moved to near the Asian shopkeepers that kept the peace with rifles on rooftops. For some strange reason Asians committee even less crime than YT.

    • I live in the real south central la and there were no NATIONAL GUARDS in or around south central LA Donna. my uncle was at FEDCO who is a marine and they had NO BULLETS the rest were down town my family is mostly military so I know first hand, we brought our family members cigs, candy, food, soada , and they were deployed with no BULLETS FOR THERE WEAPONS I live off central ave near Jefferson high school.

  • In times of civil unrest and societal turmoil, have a smile and kind word for everyone you meet…and a plan to kill them if necessary.

  • “A diverse survival guide and first aid manual (hard copies in case the internet and power grid are down)”

    Paradox! Why would you want to survive in a world without internet? I need my cat videos! 😉

  • Should you be prepared? Yes. This just proves that. Let’s get something straight, at no point did we have tanks on the ground in Ferguson. Even with the national guard in town I have yet to see tanks. The media outside of St. Louis have been reporting miss information, and it looks like you are taking it as 100% truth. Please don’t make this situation worse than what it is. Your ‘Brutally responding to citizens’ is inaccurate at best. What exactly are officers suppose to do when Molotov cocktails are being thrown at them? I guess they don’t need body armor when they are being shot at? After a week of businesses being burned down, and rioters shooting at other rioters they really had no choice but to call the national guard. Operation hug-a-thug was clearly not working. Please don’t try and act like a journalist because you have missed the mark on this one.

  • Not sure why they are calling this Martial law, I guess to scare the shit out of people. A State of Emergency was called. Nixon called off the curfew, had this been actual Martial Law, he would no longer be in command and the highest ranking Military official would be giving orders. The Highway Patrol was calling the shots on the ground. FUBAR none the less, Batteries, Wind up flashlights are great as well. I always tell folks to have a good, comfortable pair of boots and socks and be dressed long before someone shows up at your door if you can. Cover for your head and hands is great too, if you have to battle or skedaddle, one small cut could fuck up your lunch plans, especially if you are not up to date on your tetanus shots. With us having a special needs son who depends on electricity, we are planning on moving out of the city so we can use alternative means. to me this whole event is methodically random, if you know what I mean……………..Z

  • What a well researched post! I teach for the state about abusers and you got it right on about how they feel powerful when they are hitting or destroying. It is a trait of all abusers.
    This is such an unfortunate situation and we do have to be aware of how dangerous these kind of gatherings and situations can be. All we need to do is look at the riots in CA after the Rodney King issue.

  • Divide and Conquer: Why don’t the black people understand that the people in power have being using it for thousands of year.
    It’s not a racial issue.It’s the poor people being abused by the people in power.THE PEOPLE black white red olive brown are getting
    F_ _ _ _ every time there is a racial problem the people in power used that to DIVIDE & CONQUER.
    They did it in the 60’s man Many poor very few in power the wrong people in power for some reason they can;t see the TRUTH

  • Fox news. How bad is Obama. 90% of the time that’s what there news is. No Obama no fox news. Wonder what fox news would be with out Obama.

  • Did anybody see the video of Mr. Brown charging the police office saying shot me shot me. One day 5 times on t.v. Never again on t.v. nobody talks about that video. O what happen!O what happen!
    LOOK AT the video ass hole.Look at the TRUTH before you report O I don’t know you look so stupid.
    Hey if any of you seen that video please let me know. Or do I have a special t.v. Thanks Ben

    • @ Ben Franklin

      You don’t have a ‘special tv’, lol! That was a different guy. He was shot in St Louis proper, iirc, a few days after the Ferguson protests began.

  • I fully agree that the safest place when angry mobs roam the streets is barricaded in your home … with your well-armed neighbors preventing violence from entering your neighborhood.

    The problem with that approach is that the safest place for your neighbors is barricaded in their homes as well.

    Oops, nobody is protecting the neighborhood.
    One by one your household faces a violent mob.
    One by one you are taken out, pillaged, burned to the ground and/or whatever else the marauders choose to do. All of you except Rambo have your fates decided by the worst humankind has to offer.


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