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How To Prepare for Civil Unrest: 30 Steps You Can Take Now

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: September 1, 2022
How To Prepare for Civil Unrest: 30 Steps You Can Take Now

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During these uncertain times, a lot of people are thinking more about what they can do to prepare for civil unrest in their area. Over the years, BDS has put together the list you see below.

You May Also Be Interested In: Preppers Guide

30 Steps to Help You Prepare for Civil Disturbance

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, slingshots, 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 are candles, batteries, food, sanitation supplies, and first aid items are good to have a hand for barter as are fresh eggs and homegrown 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 lockdown, they may become fearful and panicked.  Stowaway 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 during times of civil disobedience.  This may include an emergency radio, a shortwave scanner, a HAM radio or something else.  Your gear will do you no good if 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. Law enforcement agencies will treat you much better if you don’t give them a hard time. It will not do you any good to resist but it could cause you a lot more trouble than you could imagine.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Learn some basic self-defense

There are countless videos, books, classes, etc 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-defense 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 skillset. Remember that situational awareness is your first level of defense and will allow you to avoid a lot of situations that might lead to physical confrontation and harm.

  1. 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 are different than going it alone, not that it is a bad thing either.

  1. 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 milk ( 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.

  1. 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 the danger passes.

Avoid protests and other potentially volatile situations during times of civil disturbance. I would actually recommend avoiding them during good times too but if things are tense, a protest is one of the last places you want to be. A lot of protests turn into a civil unrest incident or even a riot.

  1. 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.

  1.  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.

  1. Be aware of the issues in your community

Sometimes localized events can cause civil unrest that the rest of the world simply isn’t affected by. While I am not advocating being really nosy, if you hear something then give it the attention it deserves. For example, if you hear or see signs that there is some type of criminal activity going on in your area then that is relevant. While this could lead to localized unrest, it is also important to know what type of people that you have in your immediate vicinity so you can be prepared to deal with them in the best way possible.

  1. Reassess your security protocols

Are you a really predictable person? Do you always take the same route home at the same time? All of these things could be noticed by someone else and used against you. If you can, vary your routine a bit and be aware of your surroundings. A little observation can often let you know if someone is following you or otherwise acting suspiciously. Consider getting some security cameras that allow you to observe different parts of your property remotely or at least look around when you are in a single location. This can give some warning if someone tries to breach your perimeter. Check out my post on perimeter security for some tips on how to best fortify your home, property, or business.

  1. Educate your children about civil unrest

Kids can handle a lot more than a lot of people give them credit for. Kids and teens need to be given the chance to be fully aware of a situation. Civil unrest is a time for honesty and not trying to shelter them too much. Trying to hide a situation that is right outside your door is dangerous and futile. Explaining a situation is going to make it easier to justify telling them that everyone needs to stay in rather than going about business as usual.

  1. Plan for water needs

Water supplies can become disrupted during civil unrest. Store some water. If you have a filter on hand it could be just rainwater that you can filter as needed. If you hate the idea of doing without hot water then make sure you have some stock pots on hand or an on-demand propane heater you can run off a grill tank.

  1. Keep your most valuable items as secure and hidden as possible

Now is not the time to flash around what you got. Don’t leave valuable things out where others can see them. Windows that have the curtains or blinds pulled back are essentially peepholes for criminals. Even just a change jar can be incentive enough to arouse the curiosity of criminals that may wonder what else you have in your house.

  1. Dress and tone it down

Let’s be honest and just admit that what you wear is going to cause some assumptions to be made about you and attract some degree of attention.  During civil unrest looking a bit grungier than usual and ditching any flash and bling is going to be to your benefit.  Now is the time to get out that old flannel and distressed jeans and save the designer fashion for better times. This goes for everyone in your family too. Showing too much skin, wearing bright colors,  or anything that attracts a lot of attention should be considered off-limits.

  1. Be careful who you trust and let in

We all like to think we really know people but hard times can bring out the worst in someone. This means you should carefully evaluate who you let within in your home or around your family during said hard times. Try to look outside the box. It can be hard to admit that someone you kind of like is not be trusted during an event but your safety and well being can depend on it.

  1. Stay off social media

Social media can be great for staying in touch with friends and family but posting every little thing during hard times is not going to help. Try to keep kids and teens off of it too. Letting too much info slip out is easier than you or they might think. This goes along with keeping your lips sealed but any more social media is where so many people air out their feelings and situations and not everyone may use that in the best way. During a long period of social unrest, you are probably going to go back and forth from your house and other locations and you don’t need to let others know when you are going to be gone.

  1.  Have a lawyer in mind to call if necessary

Ok, so you are not the type to cause trouble. Well during the civil unrest that may not matter and you may find that you need a lawyer. If you get caught up in something unexpectedly then it can be helpful to have a number in your wallet to call if you need it. There are countless reasons you could become a target for arrest during uncertain times.

  1. Don’t talk about politics or sensitive subject

Even a basic opinion can seem inflammatory to some. During civil unrest is not the time to be voicing all your political or social opinions. Don’t voice things publicly. Try to appear neutral enough to keep others guessing as to what your alliances are if any. If civil unrest is related to a specific subject then definitely steer clear of discussing it if you can.

A Word About Civil Unrest

As you read through this list, keep in mind that according to Army field manual FM 3-19.15:

“In these modern times, demonstrations, civil unrest, public disorder, and riots happen for a number of reasons.

Some of these reasons are economic hardships, social injustices, ethnic differences (leading to oppression), objections to world organizations or certain governments, political grievances, and terrorist acts. An event can be triggered by a single cause or a  combination of causes.”

If nothing else, this should give you something to think about as you adapt your preparedness efforts to survive civil unrest.

At a Glance, Steps to Prepare

PrepsLevel of Difficulty
Double check basic preps and suppliesEasy
Re-Supply First Aid kitEasy
Learn Homesteading skillsDifficult
Conduct security vulnerability assessmentModerate
Set up personal self-defense systemDifficult
Form of a community of like-minded people for mutual aidDifficult
Stockpile cash in small billsEasy
Accumulate goods for barterEasy
Prep your pets!Moderate
Invest in reference books and reading materialEasy
Acquire communications equipmentModerate
Develop family emergency planModerate
Practice staying calm!Easier for some than others!


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25 Responses to “How To Prepare for Civil Unrest: 30 Steps You Can Take Now”

  1. on dressing during social unrest, you do not want to wear bright colors or camouflage or red. Look to dark browns, grays and green shirts. Darker blues should be ok as well. Not a time to be wearing Dockers so wear older blue jeans or work pants. I like to buy used work uniforms as there are cheep and blend in if you are wearing mix sets. As for foot wear a good pair of worn steel toe work boots you do not want to be wearing any high prices basket ball shoes or sneakers. You want to be the Gray Man not standing out and slipping by unnoticed

  2. I have not seen a great deal said on prepper sites about air pollution eg: rotting garbage, sewerage, decompositing flesh, toxic smoke from fires etc. Any advice? Rodents, insects, thoughts? This is a great article, THANK YOU 🙂 The point about BBQs is well said. I’ve often thought smells are overlooked.

    • Hello Aussie Mum,

      Those are good questions and when things have gone bad and there is no more government services, then we must find a way to address these issues.

      On the air pollution and toxic smoke issue, if you can avoid these areas then do so otherwise, a gas mask or some other way to cover your nose and mouth will have to be found.

      On the garbage issue, you will have to separate what can be burnt, what can be composted, and what can be salvaged. Anything that doesn’t fall into these categories will have to be buried.

      On the sewage and decomposing flesh issues, these will have to be buried.
      Burning or cremation would use up too much valuable fuel.
      When burying sewage and decomposing bodies, have it at least 100 yards away from your water source or you will poison your drinking water supply.

      On the rodent and insect issue, cleanliness is key to keeping these critters away.
      Clear away any clutter that is close to the house.
      Keep leaves from piling up too close to your home, trim back any bushes that are too close to your home, remove anything that might attract these critters.

      Of course if you have chickens you will want to attract insects so your birds will have a treat but of course you would want to do that away from your home.
      I use an old piece of plywood laying on the ground, after a few days the bugs will gather under there and all you have to do is flip it over and the birds will do the rest.

      Hope this helps

    • If you have access to a cover material like wood chips or sawdust, human waste can be easily and safely composted as described in The Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins. Not only does it solve the disposal problem, but you get a payoff in the return of a valuable resource.

  3. I would recommend a better knife than one costing $ 8.63. Below is information from United States Rescue and Special Operations Group. Note I am NOT a member of there group. However, I do like to take advice from experts in the field. Included is information about knives. I have had good luck online from the and Both have good prices and good service.

    United States Rescue and Special Operations Group

    The following are custom production and common production blades that we carry on a daily basis. The upper end blades on the list can be abused and stand up to the wrath of God. There are some in the lower end that will produce just because they are cheap and you don’t care about them. When you don’t care about a piece of gear it just seems to last forever. That isn’t the best mindset to have but it still seems to be true. Then there are lower end blades that should NOT be abused but do a fine job when kept in their prescribed parameters of use.

    Fixed Blade Knives

    They are tough basic designed blades that are built from great steel. Their fixed blades are tops on our list, Trailmaster, SRK, Recon Scout and Recon Tanto.

    the entire line of blades are “good steel.”

    good steel, good designs.

    their combo kits are worth more than a mention. They are built to be real lightweight and with fine steel. Their designs are classic as well as innovative. If you do a lot of field dressing of wild game these blades are top self. We use them a lot.

    the new stainless USMC style blade and the Warthog.

    probably the best hollow handles on the market.

    for the money they can’t be beat, the Bowie has been a great blade for us.

    Utility Tools
    The most carried multi-tools or pocket survival tools that our cadre use are the LEATHERMAN series. The SUPER TOOL 200 is a stout tool, with full sized tools that are commendable.

    Folders and Back-ups
    The top of the list of folders is the AL MAR SERE 2000 because it is tough and versatile. Ready for the field or to be used as a defensive blade. Also on the list of folders is the entire BENCHMADE line. The AFCK and Mini AFCK being two of the best. The 154 CM and or ATS-34 blades stay sharp and are rugged. We stay generally with the straight edge blade for field use. Serrations are great but tough to use when whittling a trap trigger. The handles are tough and the cross-lock a must. The BLADE TECH Professional Hunter is an awesome all around folder. BUCK has a few, from Odyssey to Lightings to 760 Summits to Approaches in ATS-34. Again for the cost they hold their own for skinning game and light duty.
    Grab an E-Z Lap diamond stone to attach to all of your blades sheaths or shove it in your pocket and you are ready to deal.

  4. This is the comment at the Amazon web site. What is wrong with this radio? What feedback have you received?

    Design: UV-5RA

    More Stubborn Case, More Rich and Enhanced Features
    Frequency Range: 136-174 / 400-480MHz; 25KHz/12.5KHz Switchable
    128 Channels 50 CTCSS and 104 CDCSS; Channel Step: 2.5/5/6.25/10/12.5/25KHz
    Dual-Band Display, Dual Frequency Display, Dual-Standby; A/B band independent operation
    Comes with all necessary accessories, backed up by 12 Months Seller Warranty

    Item Under Review

    While this item is available from other marketplace sellers on this page, it is not currently offered by because customers have told us there may be something wrong with our inventory of the item, the way we are shipping it, or the way it’s described here. (Thanks for the tip!)

    We’re working to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

    • Thank you for alerting me to this. There is nothing wrong with the radio that I know of. What has happened is that Baofeng has been acquired/rebranded as Pofung and my guess is that is what is shipping; thus a mis-match.

      I am going to change the link but like I said, I do not believe there is anything wrong. Mine works fine subject to operator error LOL.

  5. The part about the police is golden. Getting locked up during a collapse or even a disaster could be deadly. Jail is the last place I want to be in with a collapsing government growing more tyrannical

  6. Bill, if your addressing my previous post i do appreciate what you are saying. I really do. I grew up in S AZ and I suspect the people of Wyoming are the types of persons I would fit in with although I’ve only driven through your beautiful state.

    No, at my age ( a youthful 52 YRO) I’ve built a really super home on 1.4 acres, have bountiful gardens and wonderful neighbors and will not give up what I’ve built over the last 15 years. I will fight to the death to protect what i’ve got sweat equity and hard earned cash into. At my age I do have the capability of knowledge and life experience to be smart enough to handle most situations but understand I’m not without blind spots in my prepping. I’ll stick here my friend even if it’s to my detriment.

    Now that’s a rancher/farmer mentality isn’t it? 🙂

    Best, Snake Plisken

  7. You could leverage all of the above by simply moving to Wyoming, where no permit is required to carry any way you want. In particular, Cody, where there are more guns than people, and it quite routine to see someone walking around with one on their hip, but no badge or uniform in sight. When the SHTF, and the rest of the United States becomes a giant concentration camp, our CLEOs will take care of the riffraff with the help of ad hoc posses and common law grand juries.

  8. Hi Quiet Prepper. One of the most important issues ( to me anyway ) is giving yourself away by BBQ or a cooking fire even if it’s just to boil water. That will be the cattle call for the Zombies after three days of no food even in a semi rural area where I am. I have a coleman stove and plenty of propane bottles to last a couple of months provided that I’m only needing to boil enough water for a good hot meal. Even then I’ll probably use the thermos method of cooking hot food in it so no cooking smells waft around the neighborhood.

    I don’t know what the average age of my fellow preppers is on this site would be but I’m old enough to clearly recall the 1968 riots when MLK got assasinated. I was 7 years old and my dad worked at a BP refinery in Lima OH. We lived just a couple miles from the city center which was ablaze from the rioters. Shootings, stabbings and looting was rampant and the NG came rolling up with their shiny new M 16’s and posted pickets at every couple of blocks and my Dad had to get a special pass through the checkpoints because he worked in critical industry.

    Even at 7 years of age I knew there was something awfully wrong. Why would people burn down their own homes I wondered. Why are the armed troops here? And for G-d’s sake, why do I got to be inside the house at 5 pm?

    I don’t remember being afraid but I do remember seeing a couple of shot guns and handguns and rifle scattered through out the house. My mom was an avid hunter as a kid and she could shoot the balls off a squirrel at 30 yards so maybe that was why I felt safe!

    Anyway, whatever the trigger mechanism is for temporary or longterm SHTF I hope I’m ready for any civil unrest.


    Snake Plisken

    • Right on, Snake Plisken!

      Your recollections should help others who are on the fence as to whether or not they should take preparedness seriously or not. That is why Backdoorsurvival is so important and timely for folks to learn and pick & choose what THEY should be doing… ahead of any SHTF extravaganza that may suddenly appear. Who knows, they might even be so impressed with the merits of being prepared… that they are able to encourage their extended families, friends, and neighbors to do so, too.

      All said and done, the ultimate preparedness and survival tool is to be able to think… keep your balance… and to not lose your cool to FEAR.

      Enjoy life in the meantime, regardless of the perpetual lies, deceptions, and fear-mongering being splattered on us.

  9. Hey, I wanted to vote for you but I’m not smart enough to maneuver through all the stuff required to check your name. Sorry, someone needs to simplify this immediately. Also cudos on your 13 points. The concealed carry permit has already saved my life once. Keep up the good work and thanks.

  10. Well said… and still timely. Thank you for your efforts to help others be prepared and to help alleviate FEAR.

    An additional suggestion might also be to try to have your place “staged for show” with only an appearance of a common everyday existence… while also having the most of your survival stuff concealed for only you to “know”.

    By doing that, whether you are at home or not to greet the expected desperate folks who are breaking your door down for your water, food, etc… you will know that you still have all YOUR stash hidden in or outside your home after they take your “show” stuff. What’s more, that will likely alleviate the need for gunfire or physical confrontation… and the desperate looters will again be desperately be on their way.

    In the first couple of weeks of chaos… it might be a good idea to keep a low profile and keep the lights and the BBQ aroma to a minimum.

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