How To Escape During Times of Civil Unrest

October 2016 Lesson: How To Escape During Times of Civil Unrest

Predator: Jess T., Police Sergeant, New York City

Discussion: Justin Carr stopped on his way home from work to be part of the experience. Little did he think that would be his last act, and he would never see his unborn son. Carr was shot and killed during the Charlotte protests earlier this year.

Speaking about the upcoming presidential election, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke recently said it was “pitchforks and torches time.”

As rhetoric continues to escalate on political and social issues across the United States, Jess T., a police sergeant in New York City, offers the following tips to help keep you safe if you’re caught up in civil unrest.

Always Have a Plan to Escape Civil Unrest

  • Plan ahead of time, and think about scenarios that might occur. What actions would you take in a crowd to keep safe?
  • Have an exit strategy at all times. Plan your exit in advance, before heading into any situation, especially one where there is the potential for civil unrest.
  • In any location, what sort of cover might you use to your advantage?
  • How can you blend in, rather than stand out, to avoid attracting undesired attention?
  • Be careful of unintended non-verbal meanings with clothing and other personal attributes. For example, when traveling overseas, western women should fully dry their hair before venturing out. Wet hair can convey a “permissive” signal in certain Arabic cultures, as can certain forms of dress for women.

Avoid the Danger

  • Avoid potential areas where there’s a danger of a disturbance or riot!
  • Keep updated on developing situations by listening to the news and monitoring developments online and via Twitter.

In the Middle of Chaos

  • Keep calm and carry on, with the goal to get out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.
  • Get out, BEFORE all else fails (yes, this is repetitive. It can’t be repeated enough).
  • If you really, really want to be in the place where it happens, survey your surroundings. Start from high ground or the high floors of a building. Look and listen before moving to lower grounds where crowds are gathered.
  • If trouble occurs, go with the crowd flow. Work your way to edge of the crowd – slowly, stealthily and without calling attention.
  • Again, assess potential areas if you need to seek a safe place. Avoid dead-ends like bathrooms. Know the difference between cover and concealment.
  • Avoid law enforcement. This may seem like the opposite of what you should do, but remember that law enforcement has no way of distinguishing between law breakers and those who need assistance. Use extreme care when approaching police or other security officers. Obey any and every request.
  • Avoid confrontations. Again, blend in. Now is not the time to argue or become confrontational.
  • The person who can yell the loudest can usually sway the crowd. (This is especially true in Arab cultures.)

Be aware of your surroundings at all times, identify potential risks and set invisible thresholds, especially during times of civil unrest. Take action if threats cross the thresholds you have set in advance.

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