And I do not mean this type of Flash Mob…Flash-Mobs

This is what I’m talking about….


During and after the Zimmerman trial there was much talk about riots. Some places experienced mass protests while in other cities the protests were fairly localized. Just before the verdict was announced, there were concerns of mass rioting across the US. While these concerns have dissipated and it appears that the LA Zimmerman protests were as bad as it’s going to get, flash mobs and race riots are an ongoing threat to the peace and safety for the law-abiding US citizens. And while many of us recognize that we would do well to be mentally and physically prepared to encounter such a mob, how many of us actually know what to do?


In researching this topic, I realized mobs/riots can be separated into two categories: street riots and city riots. Street riots are localized centers of mass criminal activities that tend to catch innocent bystanders unaware. City riots are characterized by large areas of a city being taken over by rioters/demonstrators and police; such as in the LA Riots, Argentine Crisis of 2001 and The Arab Spring). While a few of the tactics recommended by security instructors apply to both categories, for the sake of clarity I will separate them into two blog posts. As street riots are happening all across the US in increasing numbers, these riots are the more pressing threat and thus I will focus on that type for this first post.

Surviving a Street Riot or Flash Mob

  1. Have an exit plan: Any time you and your family are in a large public gathering, identify at least two escape routes. Should a flash mob occur, you will not have time to pick out a safe path to travel. You and your family will need to react very quickly to avoid getting caught up in the violence. As soon as you see large groups of suspicious people amassing, get going. Do not wait for the violence to start or it may be too late.
  2. Be aware: Pay attention to what is going on around you. Identify the norm for that event or area and give strict scrutiny to anyone or anything outside that norm. Listen to your instincts. That uneasy feeling could save your life, don’t dismiss it.
  3. story_mainTrain your family: Just because you’re aware and prepared to flee doesn’t mean your family is. They may be completely oblivious to that sudden influx of urban youth at the far corner of the concert. Training everyone to recognize and react to a code word will speed up the reaction time of your family and increase your chances of escaping unharmed. Also, it is human nature to stop and watch mayhem from a “safe” distance, for the same reason traffic slows to a crawl when there is a bad accident on the other side of the highway. Take this natural instinct into account when you train your family to flee the scene. It is also a good idea to teach your family not to stand behind you if you are forced into gun fight. Even though it is a natural instinct to stand between them and danger, it will also put them directly in the line of any return fire that may come your way. It is strongly recommended for your family to keep running to a predetermined meeting place (such as the car) while you deal with the criminals.
  4. Establish meeting places: Should your family get separated, it is important to pre-establish a meeting place or two. One meeting place inside the perimeter and one outside. The car may be a natural choice for a meeting place outside the perimeter. To ensure your children are able to get into the security of the car as quickly as possible you may also want to give them copies of the vehicle keys.
  5. Be prepared: When you attend a large public gathering, carry extra defensive weapons with you. Anecdotally, OC spray (mace/pepper spray) is great defensive option during a flash mob or riot. Most of the criminals are looking for an easy victim and as soon as you demonstrate your willingness to fight back with a quick spray to the face they tend to move on to find easier prey. In comparison to a firearm, a knife also has the advantages of not spooking the crowd, being easier to retain in close quarters, never runs out of ammo, and will not over-penetrate. In addition to bringing extra defensive weapons with you, it is also a good idea to ensure your family wears the type of shoes which make evacuating the situation a better possibility. Many people prefer to wear flip-flops during the summer, but I’d strongly urge you to trade in the flip-flops for tennis shoes when going to the Braves game or Six Flags.
If, despite your best preparations, you get caught up in a mob, then what?

vancouver riot

  1. Try to be inconspicuous: If at all possible, try to blend in with the rioters. For example, if they are rioting because their favorite team lost (or won), yelling the name of that team might help you. Of course, if the mob you’re encountering is like this one then your best options are fight or flight.
  2. Get your back to a wall: Find a way to minimize your vulnerabilities and reduce the visual area you are monitoring. As an additional benefit, retreating to the wall may get you far enough away from the most violent of the mob and help you avoid injury.
  3. Go with the flow: Mobs and riots are frequently like a fast-flowing river, the middle moves the fastest. If you are caught up in the middle of a riot don’t try to fight the flow. Going cross-current will bring unwanted attention and may also cause you to stumble and get trampled. Go with the flow of the crowd while patiently working your way to the side. Escape the mob as soon as you find a safe way to exit.
  4. Escape, don’t fight (if at all possible): Make every attempt to escape. One man fighting 10 or 20 is never a good proposition. Men, there is no shame in acknowledging an unfavorable situation and enacting a tactical retreat at a high rate of speed. If you are cornered, fight with all that you have. Small blunt instruments, knives and OC spray work best in such environments. Using a firearm should be your last resort. In such an environment, there is a high potential for the firearm  to be taken from you, you may miss or over-penetrate your target and hit an innocent, the sound of gunfire may galvanize the mob, and you may be mistaken by the police as one of the criminals and be shot.
  5. panic in waterDon’t panic–There will chaos, panic, anger, and fear all around you. It is vital you do not give into these emotions or you will lose your ability to safely navigate your way out of the mob. Thinking and praying are key to escaping such a situation, neither one is done well in a blind panic.


Mobs and Riots are best avoided when at all possible, and escaping when not. Fight only when you are personally accosted and save your gun for your last resort. Use your head not your fists, until fists are needed to protect your head. Stay Safe…

My Sources and Other Recommended Readings:

  1. […] How Do You Survive a Flash Mob or Riot? […]

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