16 Things You Need to Know When Caught in a Panicky Crowd or Riot

panic crowd riot

What happens if you are stuck in a large riotous crowd?  Now, this can be the result of an evacuation or bug out situation, a protest, food riot or any other mob-ruled violence.

Now, back in the early 70s, I was working undercover and got caught in a couple of the anti-war riots that occurred during this period. Once, I even ended up on the wrong side of a police line, not the right place to be.

Last night I was watching a movie and they showed the people traveling in a large, panicky crowd. Our heroes made several dumb moves. First, they tried to drive through a crowd having the only running vehicle. This does not work unless you are willing to kill people and even then, you most likely won’t get out of the crowd alive. It’s important to know how to safely survive a riot.

If you are on the road during a bug out and there is a large and desperate crowd in front of you, reverse course. Find another route, even if it means abandoning your vehicle. This is why I recommend having a detailed map, like this one, as well as a GPS. Remember, crowds are something to be feared. A panicky crowd will have no conscience.

Going back to our movie, our hero made a second mistake: he pulled a firearm. All this did was result in the loss of the firearm and him almost being killed. If you have a firearm in a crowd, try to keep it out of sight, and for sure, don’t pull it out and threaten someone.

The best solution is to avoid being caught in crowds, but sometimes you have no choice. You may be attending a large public event like a ball game or simply have to work in a bad area.

 So, here are some ideas to help you stay safe in a riot or panicky crowd

  1. If you see people start to mass, don’t get curious and wait to see what is happening. Leave now.
  2. Be familiar with your area. Even if you’re just visiting a location, you should still get to know your surroundings as much as possible. Study a map and have a good idea of where you are, directionally.
  3. Think about your possible escape routes and safe havens before anything actually happens.
  4. If you work in a volatile environment, make sure you know several routes for getting home so that you have a number of methods of escape in the event of a riot.
  5. Carry small amounts of cash with you in case you need to quickly arrange transportation, pay off looters, or address your basic needs.
  6. Remain calm. Riots bring intense emotions boiling to the surface, but if you want to survive one you’d be better off keeping your own emotions in check. Your adrenaline and survival instincts will kick in, but strive to think rationally and pursue safety methodically. The book, Left of Bang, delves into this and is a good read as well.
  7. Avoid confrontation by keeping your head down. Think “gray man”. How could you blend in and not attract attention?
  8. Walk at all times at a casual pace. If you run or move too quickly, you might attract unwanted attention.
  9. Keep your loved ones close. If you’re not alone, then the first thing you should do is grip the hands or lock elbows with all of the people who are with you. If you’re with a child, hold them in your arms so they aren’t trampled. Sticking together with your loved ones should be your first priority
  10. Don’t get involved or take sides.
  11. Try to get out of the crowd, don’t try to move against it, but try to work your way to the sides at an angle and find a way out.
  12. When you get to the side, either leave the area or find a safe spot in a building. Just by moving inside a sturdy and controlled building, you may find protection. The first thing you should do if you enter a building is look for an escape route or back door.  Hopefully this will let you out onto another side or alley that is free of the crowd. Don’t hide in upper stories.
  13. If you find safety in a building, don’t watch the riot from the windows, this may attract attention and will increase your chances of getting hurt.
  14. Look out for fire. If the angry mob turns toward the building, it can be a target. Try to have an escape route.
  15. The best thing to do is to get as far away from the crowd as possible. But as you are leaving, watch to make sure no predators are following you. If you have a firearm this is when it will be most useful.
  16. Depending on the circumstances, the police and authorities may or may not be your friend. Avoid them if necessary as they may assume you are one of the rioters. If they are in limited strength and under attack, stay away from them.
See also  How to Use Google Earth to Make Your Home More Secure For Your Family

Hopefully you never get caught in this situation. Planning ahead and living and working in good areas, can help keep you and your family safe. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done!


Updated in July, 2020


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12 thoughts on “16 Things You Need to Know When Caught in a Panicky Crowd or Riot”

  1. Good and timely advice. As we can expect to see more “spontaneous” riots during political events and other large outdoor gatherings in the runup to the elections we should all be thinking about what we will do if we have the unfortunate timing to be caught in one of these.

    1. I simply don’t go into crowds, any public gatherings, rallies, sporting events, concerts, etc. No reason to. I run errands and shop early in the day, pay bills, etc. Am more of a social recluse, don’t need excitement. I gave up on going to the polls (local or nat.’l) thirty years ago.

  2. pepper spray cannisters are a non-lethal tool to aid in your defense if you need to defend you & your family from harm.

  3. Illini Warrior

    blend in – especially if it’s a racially bent looting spree more than pure riot ….

    pull up that hoodie and scarf that face – grab a box eazy to handle and run like hell …

    sounds bad – enough to give a PC luving liberal shivers – but something you never see is one looter giving another trouble – there’s more booty to be had ….

  4. Excellent advice, and prescient, given that the Orlando mass shooting occurred just a few hours after this post.

  5. That movie made my brain hurt for hours after it was over. It was basically a case study on what not to do… ever.

  6. This is great advise, I follow it all the time just in case. But the number one thing I do is double check that I have a round in the pipe ready to go!

  7. John Schlindler’s assessment of the Orlando attack in the NY Observer is a very good read which I recommend:


    “The United States had been lucky, having avoided truly mass casualty terrorist incidents since that awful day 15 years ago, through a combination of luck, inept enemies, and excellent intelligence work. But the Orlando horror demonstrates that attacks on soft targets in public places can cause huge numbers of casualties, here as well as in Europe, like last November’s assaults on Paris that killed 130 people, 89 of them at the Bataclan theater, where a hostage situation resulted in a bloodbath. Something similar has just happened in Florida…”

    …Nobody should be shocked that a murderer swearing allegiance to ISIS makes gays his target – particularly during Ramadan, when the group has exhorted its followers to make war on infidels with enhanced intensity…

    Since he was known to the FBI, it seems likely that U.S. intelligence had questions about that too. Regardless, since the Islamic State has commanded jihadist wannabes worldwide to take action by themselves, without any direct orders from the group, it’s quite possible that this killer was simply doing what he thought ISIS would want him to do in their name…

    There’s also a disturbing question about how Mr. Mateen managed to keep working as a security guard despite having been twice investigated by the FBI. He had been employed since mid-2007 by G4S, a private security firm that does work for the U.S.
    …Department of Homeland Security. How he kept this job even though he was known to Federal authorities for suspected ties to jihadism is something that has to be asked – and answered.

    Within hours of the massacre, progressives and jihad apologists were insisting that the Orlando attack was “really” about guns – and certainly not about Islamism or jihadism. The Pulse massacre was about guns the way that the 9/11 attacks were “really” about box cutters and the 2013 Boston bombing was “really” about pressure cookers…

  8. Hello Howard, enjoyed your article and some of it’s more salient points.

    I would suspect that a person in an urban environment would have a couple of hours to make good on an escape plan from work to get home safely if you keep your wits about yourself and don’t panic…..don’t run! Predators in the wild and urban jungle seem to be genetically disposed to chasing panicked prey.

    I recently took another job with a company that is a 20 minute drive into a large town and is near a ghetto. I would have to walk for hours to get home so I bought a non descript student type book bag that has some essentials. 2 water bottles, 4 granola bars, matches and a rain poncho. Comfortable walking shoes are a must as well. My other job is at a big box store which is only a 7 minute drive from home and I can cut thru fields and cross criks to be home in 2 hours or so.

    I also carry a handgun that packs a big punch for it’s relatively small size but would never display the weapon unless it was a life or death situation. I think I’m as about prepared as I can reasonably be for a riot. A little common sense goes a long way.

    Like one of your other posters said I avoid soft targets like malls, movie theaters or events where a riot could break out any second without much provocation. Alchohol seems to often be a prime


    Snake Plisken

    Ps. May G-d bless the folks and family murdered in Orlando. I don’t condone the LGBT lifestyle but I can’t ever recall being threatened or harrassed by anyone from that community and they deserve to live their lifestyles in peace. G-d how I hate Islam.

  9. Just curious, What was the movie that you where watching? I recall a movie where that happened but I can not remember the movie tittle!

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