13 Steps to Prepare for Civil Unrest [UPDATED: Now 30 Steps]

NOTE: This article has been revised and updated for 2018.

BDS originally starting covering prepping for Civil Unrest years ago, but the threat of unrest remains and perhaps is heightened in the current political climate.

These are still uneasy times.  The names and faces of the powers that be may be different but the actions are the same.  Normal, ordinary middle class families are still struggling and corporate corruption, hidden agendas, and cover-ups are still commonplace.

The threat of an Ebola or other pandemic, global economic collapse, severe water shortages, and immigration/border woes simply add to our concern about the future.  Fear, sickness, and deprivation evoke chaos, and as we reach that tipping point, it seems only prudent to prepare for civil unrest, riots, looting, crimes against persons, domestic terrorism, and more.

Today I take another look at the potential for a perfect storm.  In doing so, I have updated and expanded upon the steps we can take now to prepare for civil unrest.

13 Steps to Help You Prepare for Civil Unrest

1. Ensure that your basic preps and backup supplies are in order.  This includes an adequate supply of food, water and sanitation supplies.  Two weeks is a bare minimum.  Three months or more is better.

2. Take stock of your first aid kit and medical supplies including necessary prescription drugs.  Medical supplies, remedies, and prescription drugs will likely be in short supply if there is civil unrest.  For ideas, see the first aid section of this article.

3. Learn homesteading skills and self-sufficiency skills regardless of whether you are living in an apartment, condo, house, or rural homestead.  Read 12 Ways to Homestead in Place for ideas.

4.   Inventory the security features in your home to determine weaknesses that need to be strengthened.  Read A Dozen Home Security and Crime Prevention Tips for the Prepper for tips.

5. Set up a personal self-defense system.  If you own a firearm, apply for a concealed weapons permit, stock up on ammo and practice shooting at the range.  Invest in pepper sprays, bully clubs, sling shots, and other tools that will arm you against the bad guys.

6. Form a community of like minded people that will band  together for protection and safety during times of chaos. This is going to be tough because trust will be an issue when your back is to the wall.  A good book to read for ideas is actually a piece of fiction by James Wesley Rawles, Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse.

7. Stockpile cash in small bills.  In a massive and chaotic riot situation, ATMs and banks are likely to be inaccessible, closed,or inoperable.

8. Accumulate goods for barter.  When the shelves are empty or the stores are closed, you may need to call on others for the supplies you need but did not anticipate.  Have something to barter.  Spirits (including beer, wine and good old Jack Daniels) are always good choices as as are candles, batteries, food, sanitation supplies, and first aid items are good to have an hand for barter as are fresh eggs and home grown garden vegetables.  See 40 Items to Barter in a Post-Collapse World.

9. Don’t forget about children, the elderly and pets.  In a riot or lock down, they may become fearful and panicked.  Stow away some amusements and comfort items for them as well.

10. Invest in a reference library of books, manuals, and survival guides.  Don’t forget to include fiction as well as non-fiction plus reading materials suitable for a variety of different ages.

11. Acquire communication equipment so that you can keep in touch with family members and the outside world.  This may include an emergency radio, a shortwave scanner, a HAM radio or something else.  You gear will do you no good it you do not know how to use it.  If it is too complicated, create a cheat sheet or find something simpler to use. Practice often!

12. Develop a family emergency plan so that everyone knows what to do and where to meet in the event the worst happens. See Survival Basics: 10 Steps for Preparing a Family Emergency Plan.

13. Keep a level head and your mouth shut.  If, during times of unrest, you are pulled into a police net, the first thing you should do is call a lawyer.  Be courteous and polite and do not resist.

Print out the following and keep it in your wallet and in your car along with your registration:


1. First, ask to call your lawyer.
2. Be courteous; do not resist.
3. Do not consent to search or entry.
4. Do not talk about anything; do not admit OR DENY anything.
5. Ask if you are free to go. If you are, GO.

The ACLU also has a printable card you can download and keep with you: What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police.  For more information, you can also download the booklet Your Rights When Encountering Law Enforcement.

14. Prep for pets

We love our dogs and cats and it is impossible to not consider them during civil unrest.  Try to have a few months worth of dog or cat food put back. While it may seem expensive, dried dog food is available in 10 lb boxes that rehydrates to 40 lbs. It actually doesn’t cost as much to feed as a lot of dry foods and if you have a small or medium sized dog you can stash a lot of food in a small space. If you stockpile dry dog food then you can put it in a barrel and seal it up with diatomaceous earth.

15. Learn some basic self defense

There are countless videos, books, classes, ect that you can utilize. If you need to then grab a friend and practice some motions. A lot of local community centers and YMCAs have affordable self defence classes that can help you learn and set aside the time to learn essentials. Even if you have been in a tussle or two, it never hurts to brush up and also improve your skill set.

16. Be in the best shape you can

I know that those reading this are going to vary in levels of physical fitness and ability but the principle of making sure that you are in the best shape you can, is one that everyone should embrace. You might have to do more physical labor or do without some foods or medicines depending on how well prepared you are and how long the civil unrest or long emergency actually lasts. You don’t have to look like a bodybuilder but strapping on a day pack and walking a few miles here and there isn’t going to hurt. Sometimes finding a friend to do things with can help. Good conversation and a hike is different than going it alone, not that it is a bad thing either.

17. Be honest about your health and create a strategy to be as healthy as you can be

In the USA some of the biggest health issues can be avoided or the severity can be drastically decreased. We live in a country where a lot of jobs are sedentary, foods come in big portions, and the plethora of cheap fillers add extra calories.

My father is a Vietnam Veteran with amputations and diabetes as a result of shrapnel and Monsanto’s Agent Orange. Over the years we have actually reduced the amount of diabetes medication he takes to levels far lower than a lot of people half his age. How was this done? Well he actually changed his diet to one that would be a lot healthier for most people to take up too. He eats a lot of vegetables, fish, and grass fed meats. Protein rich almond and cashew milks ( no lactose) and natural fruits either fresh or packed in juice.  A lot of people don’t change their major lifestyle habits when they find they have a condition. It can work wonders if someone can.

I realize the severity and circumstances of a physical illness vary greatly but it can’t hurt to look at ways to improve health and reduce dependence on pharmaceuticals for survival during a short or long term emergency.

18. Practice sticking to your own

One thing I remember when talking to others about living out in the country and not being in the thick of it in the city is them saying “ I tried that but I need people and places to go”. Well during any incident you really need to get over it and learn to stay in place and not have to be in the thick of it all the time. This is really important. Sure it is fun to socialize at times but as someone that has honestly been on the side of a mountain for a decade putting every dime towards building a house and business I can tell you it can be done. During civil unrest it might not pay off to be a social butterfly. Stay at home and safe as long as you can until danger passes.

19.Target and other weapons practice is essential

Ok so you have a gun but are you any good with it? During good times is the time to get yourself more familiar with your gun and other defenses. Even paintball can help. The point is that you get used to your firearm or know how to utilize your knife, pepper spray, or any other weapon you have. If you are at a loss as to what type of weapon you might want to have around, check out my post on Non Lethal Weapons or Tactical Pens.

Get your whole family in on this. Everyone young and old needs to know how to defend themselves during a major situation.

 20. Keep tabs on the news and events

At least one person in your household needs to be keeping an eye on what is going on out there as far as current events and news goes. I have a tendency to ignore this more than my husband but we have a rule that he will keep me in touch if something is really going on that I need to pay attention to. Don’t get me wrong, I keep up with what is going on more than average but he does it much more than me. Whatever your system, you need to know what is going on at least somewhat.

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