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 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.

Looting

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.

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.

ONE WEEK.

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
  • 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.

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.

Stay.

Home.

Resources:

The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months

The Anatomy of a Breakdown

Wise Company Emergency Food Supply 1 Month

Bayou Classic SP10 High-Pressure Outdoor Gas Cooker, Propane

Total Breakdown In Less Than 24 Hours: Images and Videos of Missouri Riots and Looting

Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary

Elite Large Fully Stocked GI Issue Medic First Aid Kit Bag

Kidde FA110 Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher 1A10BC

Reprinted with permission from The Organic Prepper.

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