Some of you may know my story. For those of you who don’t, to put it succinctly, a great part of our preparedness journey as a family started because of the Ferguson Riots. We lived them. But now violence is erupting again in Minneapolis and many other cities across the country.
During the Ferguson riots, if we walked out of our front door, we could smell the teargas. Hearing gunshots – that was a regular occurrence. A crowd in our front yard? Check. Police helicopters overhead? Check! Bugging out once because of danger to our family and another time because of planned protests? Check and Check again!
Guys, it was not fun. It was scary “as all get out.” My littlest guy who was 3 at the time stopped sleeping in his own bed. My older kids wouldn’t leave the house. This was real.
If you are living near the location of the riots, what should you be doing now?
For those of you who live near the location of the Minneapolis riots or any of the other locations of civil unrest across the country, my heart breaks for you. I’ve lived it first-hand. The riots burned down my Wal-Mart, Sams, Little Caesars, Walgreens, and Shop and Save. Most of these were less than a mile from my house. Some were less than 1/4 mile.
I am not here to comment on what started the riots. I have rock solid beliefs, but like most of the discussion of COVID right now, it will only produce fighting. Let’s talk about something productive that we can all be on the same page with.
1.) Pack your bug out bag.
If you live anywhere near the riots, you should have your bug out bag ready. Don’t know what a Bug Out Bag is? It’s a bag that you put things together so that you’re ready to leave at a moment’s notice. During the Ferguson Riots, before we knew about bug out bags, we kept packed suitcases in our vehicle so that if we couldn’t get home, we had the necessary items to go somewhere else. Be ready. Keeping your BOB in your car is an extra added plus.
Another thought that will help you get out quickly if you need to is that you need to back your car into your driveway or garage. This will allow you to pull out of your garage or driveway as quickly as possible.
2.) Know where you are going to go.
Are you going to a friend’s house who lives outside Minneapolis or Atlanta or Portland or Columbus or any of the other locations of civil unrest? Do you have a relative that lives in a neighboring state, and could you go there? Are you going to stay in a hotel? Plan that out NOW. Not only that but get permission from the people you hope to stay with NOW. That way there are no surprises when you show up by yourself or even with your kids in tow.
3.) Decide what event during the riots will trigger your departure.
There should be something that happens so you know when to leave – some type of trigger. Do you plan to leave when the violence gets one mile from your house? Do you plan to leave when there is a planned protest near your house? As a family, do you know it’s time to go when you hear of violence on a specific street that you know can spread quickly?
Have this talk with your spouse or significant other NOW! You may THINK that you’re on the same page. You probably aren’t. I know from experience! The more settled the two of you can be on this NOW, the better off you’re going to be when it comes time to leave. This article will give you a lot more to think about in regards to WHEN you plan to leave.
4.) Use Twitter.
Twitter? Yes!! Use Twitter. People will take pictures of what’s going on and post it to Twitter – probably with the #MinneapolisRiots or #[insertyourcitynamehere] riots. Twitter was a better tool than the police scanner was for us when we lived through the Ferguson Riots.
We had people being pulled from cars at an intersection near our house. We had to know what was the safest way to get out of town. Twitter gave us a really good picture of what was going on, where it was going on, and how to avoid the troubled area.
Do a search for #minneapolisriots and you’ll see exactly where the action is and what the safest route out of town is.
5.) Please, please understand that “Normalcy Bias” can get you killed.
Resist it!! What is normalcy bias? It is believing that everything will be the same as it always has been. How do you fight against Normalcy Bias? This article has a whole section on what it is, how it can affect you, and how to combat it.
6.) Help prepare your kids for what’s going on.
Parents if you find yourself living through these riots, it doesn’t matter whether your kids are 15 or 3, you can talk with them in an age-appropriate way about what is going on. Help them feel as safe as you can. Tell them that you’re going to leave if you feel that their safety is threatened – and then do it as soon as you need to. Help them pack their bug out bags. Make sure that you include a “Lovie” for your younger children. It will absolutely help them feel safer!
Learn to notice the differences in your children between how they used to act and how they are acting now and do what you can to help mitigate what they are going through. If you can’t actually stop what they are going through, then do what you can to help them have a sense of normalcy in the midst of it. For us, routines helped. It was also helpful to learn where we could go that was safe so that our children could get their energy out. Extra time talking with parents or extra snuggle time with those children who need it is also vital.
7.) Take a video of you walking through your house and record EVERYTHING in it.
If, heaven forbid, you leave your home because of the riots and come back to a charred house, you’ll need that video for insurance purposes. You may think that you’re going to remember what brand of china your grandmother gave you so that you can replace it. You won’t. Which brand of printer did you have? Yeah, you won’t remember that either. You’ll forget about half of the clothes in your closet. And I bet you don’t remember which brand of TV or Blueray player that you have either. Walk through your house with your phone and take a video of everything, making sure that you catch their brands.
This PDF contains a guide for documenting your belongings for insurance purposes.
8.) Realize that you’re going to mourn. It’s normal, and it’s okay.
Once the riots had turned more violent, I completely lost my sense of security even in my own home. That might sound like a “DUH,” moment, but until something like this happens, it’s hard to realize just how deep your sense of security had been and just how much is now gone. It was that ‘normalcy bias’ that I talked about earlier. It was then that I realized things weren’t going to get better quickly.
With our sense of security gone, practical things changed for us. we could no longer sit out on our porch swing. Our children weren’t allowed outside. The blinds were kept pulled all day long. We didn’t leave the house unless we absolutely had to. At night we could literally smell the tear gas that was being hurled at people.
And you are going to MOURN over all this in your heart! It’s okay to mourn it! It’s okay to feel it, but don’t let that feeling paralyze you!
9.) Unfortunately, this is probably going to continue for a long time.
Most people don’t realize that the Ferguson Riots went on for more than a YEAR after they started. I have friends who still live in the area. They were telling me that there was still violence in the area up to the TWO YEAR anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
But time continued on. Despite the fact that there was still unrest almost every night, television stations stopped broadcasting about the riots. Everyone was tired of hearing about them, so all of a sudden, in the media, it was like the riots didn’t exist. But they did for us.
These riots were what eventually moved us out of the area to where we live now. And while living in Central Illinois has its own set of challenges that is likely to move us on again, it was better than our children living in the midst of constant violence.
10.) Take time to get your car ready now.
Having items that you keep in your car all the time is VERY helpful in case you ever need to leave quickly. We keep various tools, foods, drinks, first aid kits, and more in our family vehicle. You never know when having them in your car is the difference between you having something and you having nothing. I have a whole series on how to prepare your vehicle.