What To Do If Martial Law Is Declared: Survival Tactics Explained

Chris Thompson Chris Thompson  |  Updated: April 7, 2022
What To Do If Martial Law Is Declared: Survival Tactics Explained

When called for, Martial Law is declared to allow the military to restore law and order during unmanageable social crises. It is applied only as a last resort to rescue a government system at the edge of collapse. 

Since you can’t control what is happening under Martial Law, it is important to arm yourself with the necessary survival strategies. These strategies will strengthen your physical and mental capabilities to cope with the stringent administrative measures imposed by such rules.

But before we get to the survival strategies, let’s first evaluate how Martial Law affects ordinary lives.

When Is Martial Law Declared?

This law is activated if one or more of the following events happen:

  • Large-scale terrorist attacks, such as biological or nuclear warfare
  • Unmanageable social unrests, riots, and protests
  • A war between countries
  • Economic breakdowns, such as the Great Depression
  • Military coups 

Due to the extreme nature of these administrative failures, the military rulers are given almost unlimited authority to “discipline” the entire population into submission. This forces ordinary citizens to make drastic and compulsory legal adjustments.

What Happens When Martial Law Is Declared?

military forces on the streets using tear gas

When Martial Law is declared, the military justice system is activated with all its harsh, one-sided administrative procedures. This situation automatically suspends some of your esteemed privileges. Before you know it, you are constrained on when and where to go, what to say, who to associate with, and how to respond to police searches and arrests. 

Depending on the magnitude of the original issue, the responsible military rulers are authorized to impose any kind of regulation to restore normalcy. So, other than disrupting the supply of food and other essentials, Martial Law promotes the emergence and operation of rebel groups. 

This outcome worsens the chaos as the military government is compelled to apply even a greater force to prevent dissidents from escalating unrest. 

As a result, ordinary law-abiding citizens get caught in the middle of the rubbles. 

Having said that, it is natural to be anxious about what to do if Martial Law is declared. Here are key survival strategies that can help you. 

What To Do If Martial Law Is Declared? Survival Strategies 

Understand the Applicable Rules

military forces manning the streets for riot protesters

Understanding the relevant rules and laws under Martial Law prepares you to face unpredictable events. More importantly, you know what to do and what not to do.

Also, knowing the rules gives you the right mindset to deal with emotional challenges before the actual problems occur. It means you can maintain an empowered state of mind until the situation improves.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to know as many rules as possible to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Ensure you keep track of any regulatory changes; this is important since they are frequent and rushed in such unrest circumstances. This way, you are updated on how to conduct yourself and how you can protect your family throughout the Martial Law period.

Stock Essential Supplies 

Stockpiling essential food and non-food items is the most critical action you can do as you prepare for any uncertainties. You can consider these supplies as your lifeline as you endure crucial stages of uncertain times. 

Having inadequate supplies will limit your ability to withstand physical and psychological challenges. As a result, you could expose yourself to malnutrition and diseases. Sad to say, but you can only survive to the point where your provisions allow!

Go for non-perishable food items such as canned meat, dry cereal or granola, dried fruits and vegetables, long-life pasteurized milk, and high-energy additives like sugar. These foodstuffs remain edible for a long time, providing the much-needed nourishment for survival. 

Keep as much freshwater as possible—do not overlook this aspect. Freshwater is essential for survival even after depleting the primary foodstuffs.

Non-food items include medicines, first aid kits, batteries, and any other necessary materials. Please note that more materials allow you to improvise additional forms of nourishment.

Arm Yourself Against Any Form of Attack

Arming yourself with all manner of defense materials enables you to counter attacks that may arise under the Martial Law rule. From self-defense practices to weapons, these resources are useful shields against spontaneous occurrences in the course of unrest. 

Importantly, self-defense is essential if your fellow civilians pose danger. Often, rogue individuals take advantage of such socio-political situations to loot and engage in other forms of criminality. Arm yourself with simple weapons such as an expandable baton or even an improved weapon to defend yourself and your household. 

Sometimes, troubles made by civilians are more severe than the dangers posed by the original enemies, be it foreign militaries or terrorist organizations. You don’t want to expose yourself and your dependents to these “insignificant” yet deadly attacks.

Note that self-defense also extends to mental preparedness. Thus, you should arm yourself with a strong mentality. You’ll need to be clear-headed and you need to enhance your troubleshooting skills and emotional intelligence.

Avoid Camps at All Cost 

When Martial Law is declared, it is in your best interest to isolate yourself from crowded places, mostly concentration camps. There are logistical problems in these camps that can undermine the people’s collective pursuit for survival. 

So, unless you are physically dragged by the responsible authorities, don’t go near camps or any large-scale holding facility since you might be setting yourself up to a different set of risks.

To understand the magnitude of this problem, try to imagine the logistical nightmares that faced the over 20,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees inside the Louisiana Superdome facility in 2005. To say the least, individuals had to sneak their families away from this camp as they thought that fending for themselves was a better alternative. 

Whatever the Martial Law situation that may arise, you don’t want to go through similar inhumane conditions. So, learn to survive alone, or if it is unavoidable, check into small community centers mostly run by religious organizations. 

Always Maintain a Low Profile

In a Martial Law situation, it’s best to keep a low profile to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. This way, you and your dependents don’t become targets of aggression. 

Individuals and groups that stand out are likely to be victimized, either by legitimate military rulers or by rogue civilians who exploit such lawless occasions to steal from others.

A low profile also safeguards your disaster preparedness since authorities don’t get to scrutinize your arms or property reinforcements. This leaves you in a better position to confront dangers that might arise after Martial Law is declared.

You see, famous or talkative individuals are generally viewed as threatening and non-cooperative. They can easily incite others to oppose the governance set-up. As a result, such personalities often set themselves up for discriminatory sentencing practices that are common in Martial Law settings. 

Avoid Risks of Mass Arrest 

Even as you cleverly avoid the dangers of a Martial Law situation, be cautious of possible mass arrest. Falling into this trap can be disastrous for you and your dependents, especially if you play an essential role in your group. 

Imagine the devastation that befalls a family, whose father has been arrested under such blanketed regulatory environments. Such an eventuality exposes the family members to unimaginable emotional and physical distress.

Circumstances that can lead you to mass confinements include riots, protests, activism, and hasty responses to the authorities’ actions. You’ll be wise to realize that these arrests are mostly baseless. So, don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time! 

Remember, even the slightest provocation of the rulers can land you in a detention facility. Once arrested, you stand the risk of being charged with serious offenses, which, in turn, can expose you and your dependents to further uncertainties. 

Worse still, it is almost impossible to win a case against military rulers. As you should know, once Martial Law is declared, rulers have permission to apply even unconstitutional measures to achieve certain governance goals.

So, understand the extent of risk that you and your loved ones face if you are separated for any reason. This way, you’ll be wise not to underestimate the dangers of the mass application of rules in Martial Law states.

Final Thoughts

Though all Martial Law circumstances are fairly similar, there’s no specific procedure for dealing with the accompanying political and socioeconomic complications. Instead, survival calls for careful application of life skills, mostly to avoid being a victim during this period. Note that victimization can come from authorized rulers or illegitimate civilian-led groups.

So, what should you do if Martial Law is declared in your area? Surviving Martial Law simply involves controlling the extreme “lawlessness” outcomes to realize life’s bearable conditions. Therefore, other than mastering the survival strategies that we have discussed above, you should be prudent enough to detect as well as avoid certain complications resulting from Martial Law. 

Overall, you can lead a fairly tolerable life if you know how to deal with some of the common aspects of victimization, including mass arrests, holding camps, possible unrests, and speedy trials and executions.

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