How to Survive a Riot

July 8, 2013 by | 7 Comments

You may think you’ll never find yourself in the middle of a riot because you “don’t go to dangerous places.” You probably don’t live in a third world country, attend violent protests, or visit the ghetto, so the chances of  becoming engulfed in a sea of flailing fists, boots, and weapons of all sorts seems unlikely. But it’s not.

Riots happen exactly where you would expect, but they also happen in quaint towns across America, at an increasing pace. Usually, it’s over something stupid, like sports; a bunch of drunk buffoons decide they’re so pissed their favorite team lost that they have to vandalize and burn their city, or even more ignorant, their favorite team wins and they celebrate by vandalizing and burning their city. Other times it’s because of cultural issues, as in the 1992 Los Angeles riots—which lasted for 6 days—over the  the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. Sometimes, it’s for no reason at all, like the recent trend of “wilding” mobs where large groups of teens and young adults organize violent mob  attacks via social media simply for entertainment.

Our society has changed. We must accept that and prepare for that if we want to keep our families safe. Today that means, among other things, knowing how to survive a riot.

It’s always better to avoid a riot in the first place than to survive one

This means avoiding places where they are likely, such as sporting events, concerts, protests, anywhere large numbers of drunks congregate, and high-crime areas, to name just a few. You also need to be aware of current events that could cause riots. The George Zimmerman trial is a perfect example—as the evidence continues to back up Zimmerman’s story, the number of people inciting riots continues to increase. The threat is so significant that the Sanford Police Department has prepared for riots upon the verdict of the trial.

Maintain situational awareness around crowds

A simple disagreement between two people can turn into a full-blown riot in a matter of seconds and if you’re unaware, you can end up in the middle of it. I saw this happen in a Walmart parking lot—big surprise, right? As my wife and I walked from the store to the SUV, I observed two men standing 40 feet or so from each other. To everyone else in the parking lot—including my wife—it was just two random guys standing around, but their body language and facial expressions indicated something very different to me. I mentioned to my wife that they would end up in a fight before we could get all of our groceries into our vehicle, and that’s exactly what happened. In less than 30 seconds, they were beating each other senseless, and as our SUV pulled out of the parking lot, the friends of both men joined in. Pay attention to conversations around you, but also look at body language, mannerisms, and how groups of people move and congregate. Situational awareness is a highly perishable skill learned and maintained by constant practice. If you don’t have the type of formal training that you would receive in the military, intelligence, or law enforcement communities, you can teach yourself by paying attention to your surroundings, noticing and remembering details, and trying to anticipate the actions of others. You might be surprised by how much you can learn this way.

Always have a way out

Front row seats are almost a guaranteed better experience than the nose bleed seats, but they also make it a hell of a lot harder to get out in a hurry—especially when surrounded by a panicked group like you’d have if a riot broke out. The front door is your first and most logical exit plan, but you need at least a plan B, and ideally a plan C. Whenever possible, I plan for three potential ways out; for example, in a restaurant, I have the front door, an emergency side exit, and I almost always sit near the kitchen so that I can exit through the back of the building if I need to. You can apply the same logic nearly anywhere. Before the need arises, find several side and/or back doors, windows, fire escapes, unlocked gates, alleys, and any other paths that to escape through if a riot does break out. You should position yourself near one of these exits, preferably the least obvious one, because the crowd will rush to the most obvious exit, stampeding and crushing innocent people by the dozens or hundreds. We’ve seen this played out each November on Black Friday; if people act like this to save a little money, imagine how they’ll act when they’re trying to escape a violent mob of rioters.

Put space and/or objects between you and the rioters

If you can’t get out of the area, find cover and/or concealment. This may mean locking yourself into a bathroom, hiding behind an overturned table, or even climbing a tree. Make it difficult for people to see you, and if they do see you, make it tough for them to get to you. Toss furniture over. Spill that nearby mop bucket. Shut off the lights. Your job isn’t to prove how tough you are by taking on a crowd, Jason Statham-style; your job is to get home, preferably with all of your blood still on the inside.

Be prepared to defend yourself

Most rioters are cowards and will only attack easy targets, so if legal, carry a firearm. When the first rioter to attack you falls with a few well-placed shots in his chest, his buddies will almost certainly scatter like cockroaches. If they choose to continue their attack, most standard capacity magazines hold 15+ rounds, so you do the math. If a firearm isn’t an option, many everyday objects can keep rioters at bay, such as a shopping carts, chairs, broken bottles, or umbrellas. You’re only limited by your imagination. The key is to inflict massive damage quickly; this will eliminate the immediate threat while encouraging other rioters to move on to easier targets.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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  • Charlie says:

    Always carry firearm (I prefer a large “.357” revolver instead of a magazine semi auto to avoid jamming) and locking knife (blade that locks open) for protection. Also this knife I carry had a “handled” grip that I can hold like the military knife used by the military for “slashing” motion in a knife fight. I always look around in any building I enter as well as I always park near exit at any parking lot I park at. Always looking around my surrounding and or eye contact with people. Watching especially their hands.

    Done this for years since most people are tunnel vision in building they enter and parking as close to doors as they can. Most people don’t like guns or knives so I know if any event happens I can’t rely on others to help protect me. 1st option is leave. 2nd hiding behind or another area but if necessary stand my ground as last resort with my weapons gun in one hand and knife in other, making sure my 6 o’clock is covered. I live in a state that allows “open” carry and has the “stand your ground” law.

  • William Mayes says:

    Problem areas that large scale fights/disturbances break out have a no gun rule enforced by cops at the gates. Good thing games are over priced and I don’t go!

  • James says:

    I’d like to see Charlie fire his “Large .357” in his one hand while keeping his knife in the other!
    A better option is .357 in both hands and knife ready in the pocket for the time the ammo runs out.

    • Buck says:

      I can fire my .44 magnum one handed with relative accuracy. firing a .357 magnum with one hand would definitely be plausible. I agree 2 hands is better, but to act like it’s impossible is going a little too far. Also I don’t think he was indicating that he would use both at the same time, though again it is possible.

  • Evan says:

    I think avoiding a semi auto because of the possibility of jamming is good ol fashioned 70’s mentality. That’s like saying I prefer a sword because it doesn’t run out of ammo. Also a mob + LE quality pepper spray = no mob. So does one single gunshot though.

  • Big D says:

    Anybody worried about a semi – auto jamming ought not to be carrying ANY firearm as your training level requires a vast improvement…modern day tools & techniques reduce this from happening to “almost” zero.
    Volume vs size (mote the magnums mentioned)..hands done quantity wins…we’re talking riots/civil disorder here!!!!! Lots of people doing stupid things requires lots of bullets ..potentially.
    Hmm….6 shots plus 2-3 speed loaders = max 24 rounds vs any decent semi – auto plus 2 reload mags = approx. 45+ rounds.
    Knives are good but you must know how to deploy them effectively… common misconception is to slash….. A skilled adversary
    In a mob will take it from you and STAB you !!!
    But it can be used to cut an alternator belt of a car and use it as a distance advantage…ever been struck by one?????? Try it I guarantee it is not pleasant!
    Whatever you have or plan on utilizing… sure to be better than proficient ad it won’t be enough when the SHTF.
    AWARENESS ( all aspects) of your environment is the key.
    If you don’t have a plan …. don’t pretend to be able to instantly adapt to a situation. You will be winging it at best and using up your luck which may be required for something or someone later if you don’t extract you & yours out of a bad situation

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