Flip on the TV or spend 5 minutes on any social media site right now, and you’ll see that we’re living in a deeply divided nation. No matter your stance on politics and the recent election, it’s clear as day that hate and anger are overflowing — online, in the media, and in the streets. Most say that this extreme reaction will subside in the coming weeks, but others fear that it’s only going to get worse as the protests build momentum.

In Issue 14 of our print magazine, we addressed the topic of anarchy and civil unrest.

In Issue 14 of our print magazine, we addressed the topic of anarchy and civil unrest.

As a survivalist, it’s important to prepare yourself both mentally and physically to deal with any credible threat. That’s why this week, we’re posing a Survival Scenarios question that hits a little closer to home. What would you do to survive politically-motivated urban rioting: bug-out to a safer location, or bug-in and stay put to ride out the chaos?

In case you’ve missed our previous installments of Survival Scenarios, here’s how it works. We ask you how you’d handle a difficult choice in a hypothetical survival situation. Previously, we asked whether you’d prefer to be snowed-in or snowed-on in a fierce blizzard, or whether you’d rather have a flashlight or a firearm in a dark flooded urban area. As always, today’s post ends with a poll where you can make your choice, and see how others felt about the scenario.

Background Info

Civil unrest protest riot police city 1v2

Before you decide whether you’d choose to bug-in or bug-out, we’ll provide some details about the setting. As with previous Survival Scenarios, in either case, you’ll need to survive for a full 7 days, and you will be alone. The location will be near the center of a densely-populated major American city, though this time we won’t specify which city — it could be anywhere. Winter is approaching, and it’s getting cold outside, but hasn’t snowed yet.

You live alone in a rented room, on the second floor of a small house 3 blocks from the city center. Housing costs are high in the city, and you just moved into town last month for a new job. So, you’re temporarily renting this room before finding a place of your own. The elderly couple that owns the house (and rents the room to you) is on vacation this week, so you have the house to yourself.

However, due to the small room you’re renting, your belongings are limited. Most of your stuff is still in storage several hours away, aside from the bare essentials. The entirety of your emergency gear consists of your bug-out bag stashed in the closet, with the following items inside:

Zyon Systems Professional Pack bug out bag 14

  • Two MREs
  • A stainless canteen full of water, and some purification tablets
  • Basic first-aid kit, pain/allergy medication, and tourniquet
  • Fixed-blade knife with sheath and ferro rod
  • LED headlamp with batteries
  • Miscellaneous consumables: paracord, duct tape, tinder material, pen/paper etc.
  • A change of clothes, wool cap, gloves, and a winter jacket

The pantry of the home is pretty much empty at this point, except for some dry pasta, oatmeal, and condiments/spices. The homeowners don’t see disaster preparation as a priority, so the home has no other emergency gear to speak of. As far as transportation, your old Jeep has been on its last legs for some time now, but it’s still operable. It’s parked on the street, but you didn’t have time to fill it last night, so it has maybe 1/4 tank of gas left. One of the injectors has been acting up lately, so it misfires, idles rough, and goes through fuel quickly.

Civil Unrest

Civil unrest protest riot police city 4

You heard on the news yesterday that some protests were being held in front of city hall, in the wake of the presidential election’s results. Some of the protesters seemed to be peaceful ideologues, while others were openly hostile to reporters at the scene. From the limited local news footage you saw on TV, it was obvious that tension was thick in the air. Police officers were on site observing from a distance, and most of the protest consisted of chanting slogans and holding signs, so you figured it was under control.

This morning, you turned on the TV while getting ready for work, but the screen revealed a completely different view of city hall. Not only were hundreds of protesters still crowded out front of the building, but their numbers had grown substantially. The crowd’s tone and intensity had also taken a turn for the worse. Scattered beat cops you saw last night had now been replaced by officers in head-to-toe riot gear, many of who had formed a line to contain the crowd. Then, as news cameras recorded from a distance, you watched tear gas canisters cascade into the center of the group.

Civil unrest protest riot police city 2

iStock / camacho9999

The crowd scattered instantly, clashing with police and breaking through the line. The news camera cut off abruptly, returning to the studio anchor, who commented that the feed had been interrupted and that citizens may want to avoid the downtown area. At this point, you knew that it was time to make a choice.

Should you lock up the house, and stay put at home? Or grab your backpack, take your Jeep to get some gas, and head out of town?

Bug In

Civil unrest protest riot police city 6

If you decide to stay put, there are a few factors to consider. First of all, your position is not far from the protest. City hall is only a 15 minute walk from your house, and that’s at walking pace. If you’re unlucky, looters could be on your doorstep in ten minutes. Secondly, your position is not easily defensible. A single brick through the large ground-floor windows would allow entry to the house.

The upside to staying put is that you won’t be directly exposing yourself to danger on the street. You have food and supplies in your backpack, and you can lock and barricade the door to your upstairs room. Your only means of self-defense is a knife, but against a crowd of angry (and possibly armed) individuals, it won’t do much. You’ll have to lay low and hope you’re overlooked or ignored until things die down.

Bug Out

Civil unrest old Jeep truck suv

If you decide to get out of Dodge, you’d better get going immediately. Your bug-out bag will give you a source of food, water, and first aid, but transportation is the biggest issue. Your Jeep isn’t very reliable, and it’s almost out of gas. You’ll have to stop at a gas station almost immediately, and hope to go unnoticed.

If the engine doesn’t start, stalls, or runs out of fuel, you’ll be in serious trouble. You do not want to end up carrying your pack down the street on foot, as you’d be an easy target for the violent mob. You’ve got no means of self-defense aside from your knife and fists.

Survival Scenarios boots or bug out bag NYC 2

Obviously, getting away from the epicenter of the protests will distance you from danger. But based on what you saw on TV, the situation is already spreading. For all you know, you could be heading through an even more dangerous area on your way out of town. Police blockades and otherwise-obstructed roads could also be an issue. However, if the crowd starts going house-to-house, you don’t want to be a sitting duck when it happens.

The Decision

Knowing you have only minutes to decide on a course of action, what would you do: bug-in or bug-out? Enter your decision into the poll below, and feel free to justify that choice in the comments section.


Survival Scenarios is a recurring feature on OFFGRIDweb.com, and will ask you to make a difficult choice between two or more hypothetical situations.

We don’t just want you to read our posts silently—we want to hear what you have to say. That’s why we’re working hard to provide more interactive content like quizzes, polls, and giveaways. Got any suggestions? Post them in the comments below, or head over to our Facebook page.


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