Since the presidential election of 2020, there have been more large protests and riots than I can count – and that’s just here in America. Getting caught in a riot would be a nightmare scenario come true. I recall seeing news clip after news clip of vehicles being gridlocked in traffic with large crowds of protestors surrounding and pounding on cars, sometimes even dragging drivers out of their seats and assaulting them. Images of police clashing with rock-throwing individuals have become way too common on social media. The George Floyd riots show just how ugly things can get and, unfortunately, riot survival is not something taught in schools.
Expert Riot Survival Tips
Just imagine being on vacation alone or with loved ones, driving leisurely and turning a corner only to be caught in this kind of chaos. What would you do? If the police are busy fighting back the riot, who would protect you?
I’ve gathered together a roundtable of four professionals who can hopefully shed some light on this potential riot survival situation and answer the tough questions. Among these subject-matter experts are professional urban and wilderness survival instructors, firearms instructors, and former members of our military.
While most of our readers may recognize a few or all of their names, allow me to introduce you to the guys who may just give you the survival tips that get you home alive.
Thanks for joining the conversation, gentlemen! Can you provide a quick personal introduction and tell us what you do?
Kevin Reeve: I’m the owner of onPoint Tactical, in operation for 15 years. We were the first to develop Urban Escape & Evasion and have taught it to thousands of people over the last 15 years. Clients include members of special ops forces, special forces, SEALs, the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Combat Application Group, Marine Special Operations Command, and other government agencies.
James Yeager: My name is James Yeager, and I own Tactical Response. I teach good people to kill bad people.
Chance Sanders: I am former U.S. Marine Corps Infantry and a professional urban survival instructor.
Jim Cobb: I’m an instructor and author who specializes in the disaster-readiness field. I’ve written nine books, some better than others, and I’m a regular contributor to Survivor’s Edge as well as other relevant publications.
Let’s start with a question about vacations or visiting an unknown area. What’s your advice on mindset and awareness levels? Any pre-trip preparedness advice so our readers can avoid potential problems?
Chance Sanders: Awareness is vital, but that alone isn’t enough. You must possess the skill set, ability, and mental toughness to respond to a threat.
James Yeager: If people were as aware of the potential danger around them when in a “good neighborhood” as they are when in a “bad neighborhood,” there would be a lot fewer attacks. Keeping your head up as you’re out and about is more important than any weapon you could ever carry.
Kevin Reeve: Before I travel anywhere, I do an area study. This includes road and transportation info, demographics, resources, culture and language, and enemies out of bounds. I always assume that I’m in dangerous territory until I can prove otherwise. I can go on and on about awareness, but the bottom line is to monitor the baseline and look for variations. Variations are usually predatory in nature.
OK, you’re on vacation many miles away from home. SHTF, a protest or riot breaks out and your vehicle is gridlocked in traffic. What are your first thoughts and actions?
Jim Cobb: My first thought is “Do I have enough space to turn my vehicle and get away?” (Tip: When stopping at an intersection, always stay far enough away from the car in front of you so that you can see the point where their rear tires meet the pavement; that gives you enough space in front of you to clear their vehicle if you turn around.) If my vehicle is truly stuck, I have some fast decisions to make.
James Yeager: I think “drivable terrain.” All of my vehicles are capable of hopping a curb and getting across moderate obstacles. Sidewalks, jogging paths and other types of pathways are all yours for the taking.
Kevin Reeve: My priorities after an event are the following: 1) Immediate security and personal safety; get away from immediate threats. 2) Medical check and self-treatment. 3) Arm up; find a means for self-protection. 4) Physical needs: shelter, water, warmth, food. 5) Communication with loved ones. 6) Transportation to safety.
Chance Sanders: My first thought would be to determine if it’s better to abandon the vehicle and escape on foot. It also depends on who is in the vehicle with me and what their ability level is.
That leads to my next question: What are your thoughts on abandoning your vehicle during a riot?
Chance Sanders: Reading the situation at hand goes a long way. However, a vehicle can act as a weapon if need be.
James Yeager: Abandoning your vehicle is the last resort; that doesn’t mean you should not be prepared for it.
Kevin Reeve: Very situational. If it’s working and the roads are clear, then why give it up? But post-EMP or something similar, the vehicle is now a paperweight and useless for the sake of riot survival. Also, if you’re in a complete gridlock with no end in sight, then bail.
Jim Cobb: The vehicle offers some degree of protection, but a lot depends upon the situation. If things get ugly, getting away from the crowd is the priority.
How do you work through a rioting crowd?
James Yeager: If the crowd isn’t rowdy, keep your head down and push through. If it is rowdy, take the long way home.
Jim Cobb: For this type of riot survival, don’t try to fight directly against the flow. Move perpendicular as there will be less resistance. Keep moving until you reach safety. If not traveling alone, link arms with one another in a line and move across the crowd.
Chance Sanders: Always try to move 90 degrees off the flow of aggressors. City blocks tend to funnel people. Side streets or alleys can offer a means of escape.
Kevin Reeve: I always stay on the periphery of crowds. Don’t try to fight against the flow. If they’re moving, move with them and work diagonally toward the edge. Go with the flow.
Let’s change the scenario. You’re out sightseeing on foot. You turn the corner and an angry mob or riot is heading your way. They seem to be everywhere—what actions would you take for riot survival?
Kevin Reeve: Always move at right angles to a mob. If they’re coming towards you, do not try to outrun the mob. Find an alcove in a building if nothing else.
Chance Sanders: Move offline and escape or negotiate obstacles (seek the high ground or dead space) or prepare a hasty defensive position.
Jim Cobb: If I’m in an area with stores, I’d duck into one and either hunker down there or head out through the back door. Failing that, if it’s feasible for me to blend in with the crowd, I’d do so until I could extricate myself. If that’s not a realistic option, look for the path of least resistance.
James Yeager: One option is to just stay where you are, hoping they’ll pass by. Another is to blend in and then peel off as soon as possible. Regardless, going in the opposite direction is not advantageous.
What advice do you have about evasion during a riot?
Jim Cobb: The easiest way to evade a threat is to avoid it from the outset. By that, I mean don’t muck about in areas where you shouldn’t go, keep your head on a swivel always and do your homework before heading into unknown territory.
James Yeager: Concealment and distance are your friends. Do not travel in a straight line for very long. Keep moving.
Kevin Reeve: Work the problem. You have a set of priorities. Work them. Focus on problem-solving. Compartmentalize and focus, focus, focus.
Chance Sanders: To quote one of my instructors, Kevin Reeve of onPoint Tactical, “Training trumps gear, and friends trump training.” Learn how to recruit strangers to your cause.
People talk about becoming the “Gray Man.” What are your thoughts?
James Yeager: I don’t suggest dressing loud or wearing provocative images or slogans on clothing, but I’m not going to dress like a dork either.
Kevin Reeve: Only a few can be a true “gray man.” It’s all about not creating stimulus. I’m too big to be a gray man. He is entirely without any significant stimulus. His energy is withdrawn—completely ordinary. It’s very hard to do.
Chance Sanders: I think the term is widely used and just as widely misunderstood.
Jim Cobb: Being a “gray man” means you’re actively working to not be an anomaly in your environment. Blending in with those around you is the goal, so pay attention to those people.
If you couldn’t shoot your way out of a scenario, what are some other ways you would fight?
James Yeager: A V-8 beats a handgun 10 times out of 10.
Chance Sanders: Get off the X! Plan forward. If all else fails, fight with whatever is at hand. Be a hard target.
Kevin Reeve: We do a section on improvised weapons—something as simple as a rock in a sock. I always carry multiple knives as a backup. On the street, an AR is a huge advantage, but if we’re fighting in a closet, I’d prefer a knife.
Jim Cobb: Elbows, knees, improvised weapons from my surroundings.
Give your best advice to our readers on how to get out of a riot alive.
Kevin Reeve: Make the decision that your survival is essential to your family and then do whatever is necessary to get back to or protect them. Then, have a bias for action. A Delta operator friend said that the most important thing he learned was that movement is life. Always work on the problem and maintain the initiative. Movement is life.
Jim Cobb: Stay calm, use your head, pay attention to what’s going on around you and act accordingly.
Chance Sanders: Understand the terrain and how to use it to your advantage.
James Yeager: Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid shit and you’ll never have to enlist riot survival measures.