10 Rules for Surviving an Insurgency


This article was prompted by a reader question. It was a simple question, but the phrasing of the question made me take notice. So much of what I write in regards to tactics is for people who already have a good base of knowledge. This wasn’t a question about how to perform a technically advanced maneuver. It wasn’t posed by a militant. It was posed by a mom. “Will you write an article on how to survive an insurrection?” The question isn’t about how to fight and win an insurgency. It wasn’t about how to overthrow a government or complete some revolutionary goal. It was simply asking how to make it through.

By:  Justin King

This article first appeared at TheFifthCojumn

These guidelines are for people who don’t want to become involved. They are for those who are simply getting caught in the crossfire of the revolutionary fervor circling the globe. Many of those I asked for input for this article were a bit snippy. Statements like “they should get training” or “they need to pick a side” were common. As I have pointed out repeatedly in articles dealing with insurgency, untrained or undedicated people do one thing really well in combat: die. It’s not our place to force people into conflict. More importantly, we need to remember why these revolutions occur and why militants take the stands they do. A John Adams quote springs to mind:

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Not everyone is prepared or willing to make the study of politics and war their lives. Without those people, what would we be fighting for? So this article is for them. Those who just want to live, and it’s dedicated to every artist, teacher, poet, musician, or shoemaker who died in the crossfire of someone else’s war.

Very Basic Preparation:

The odds are you won’t be prepared when it starts. To be honest, you can never really be prepared large scale civil unrest. You’ll have the items you have in your house and little more. Hopefully this article will encourage you to make some basic preparations for an emergency, but we won’t assume that. Your normal household contents need to be stretched to last you a month. As will become a common theme in this article, you aren’t supposed to be comfortable for a month. You just need to survive without outside assistance.

When an insurgency starts, it typically begins with a flash of heavy violence that lasts anywhere from a week to a month. Then things start to normalize into the new status quo until the resistance truly organizes. During that first flash of violence, unless you can completely escape the impacted area, your best bet is to shelter in place and not leave your home.

Food and water are your primary concerns. You have to stretch the contents of your pantry to last you until things calm down. It should be noted that with a little bit of smart shopping, $100 to $150 can purchase enough rice, canned goods, and other cheap foods to keep a family of four alive for a month. Add $20 per week to your grocery bill and you’re stocked within two months. If you have that base of survival rations, any extra food in your home becomes comfort food.

Image Source: Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

Unless water treatment facilities are attacked, they usually last through the first month of insurgency. Those fighting need clean water too. You need between 32 and 64 ounces of water per day to survive. The more you can intake, the better. Only taking in 32 ounces of water per day for extended periods will leave you weak and susceptible to illness. Aiming for 64 ounces of water per day means a gallon jug will last you two days. Assuming you wanted to stock up on water for a situation like this, the cost would be $15 per person. Not too expensive. Keep in mind this is just for drinking, you may need water for a medical emergency and will certainly need it for sanitation. Remember that any preparation is better than no preparation. Assuming you have no stores of bottled water on hand, when an emergency situation starts, you need to fill every clean container you have with fresh water. The average bathtub holds about 70 gallons. That gives a family of four enough drinking water for a month. Buckets, additional tubs, empty bottles, pots, and so on can all be used to greatly lengthen your supply of fresh water.

Medical supplies become the next major consideration. Hopefully you have a first aid kit or two in the house. If not, you really should purchase one. Prescription drugs also become a worry. Obtaining enough to last is something you should probably look into. This needs to be done ahead of time. Pharmacies are often targets for looting in the opening days of violence.

Weapons are always a sensitive subject. In your home there are hundreds of weapons. Make sure they are available if you need them. Everybody should have some form of weapon on them at all times. If you have a firearm, that’s wonderful. It should become a part of your body. It should be with you so often that you feel odd without it, and you should never be without it. If you’re new to firearms, read this.

Ten Rules for Surviving an Insurgency:

  1. Mobility is Life. You may be able to ride out the entire incident in the comfort of your own home, but it’s unlikely. You need to be prepared to move with little or no notice. That means everybody should have bags packs with necessities. You need to draw maps if you don’t have any because your electronic devices will not work long. Come up with several different plans for evacuating you home. The reasons you might have to flee are too numerous to list, but range from your neighborhood becoming a battlefield to a fire a mile away burning out of control because of the lack of city services. You always need to be ready to move. Always.
  2. There is no front line. In most war movies, there always seems to be a rear area where people can relax. There’s always a safe zone. In the real world that doesn’t exist. Sleep in shifts and always be prepared to flee or fight. Even though things may seem calm outside, a trip down the road could place you on an IED or in the middle of an ambush. While the ability to move is life, doing so needlessly should be avoided.
  3. Keep circles small. Your family and immediate personal relationships are all that matter. Don’t take on the responsibility of additional people unless they provide benefits far exceeding the cost of sustaining them. It might be worth feeding a trauma surgeon, it probably isn’t worth taking care of an insurance adjuster. The less people who are aware of your plans, supplies, and even your existence, the better off you will be.
  4. Try to look unimportant. There’s a joke in the army that states you should “try to look unimportant because the enemy may be low on ammo.” In a society where everything is supposed to be new and shiny, it’s worth noting that people who look poor, dirty, and underfed are rarely robbed. You don’t want to present yourself as a threat or target when in public. Try to keep as low a profile as possible. Do not get involved in conversations with strangers and certainly do not get involved in the conflicts of strangers.
  5. Comfort items are worth their weight in gold. Most suburban homes have a ready supply of soap, shampoo, toilet paper, candy, razors, and other sundries. These items will be valuable for trade or bribes. Obviously, so will your actual valuables, but in many cases a 4-pack of soap or a new toothbrush will get you further than a ring or necklace.
  6. Everything that doesn’t breathe can be replaced. Do not risk your life or the lives of others for material possessions. The silver picture frame holding your wedding photo with the little hearts etched by hand by your great grandmother that you love so much means nothing. Discuss with your family members what is important.
  7. Every weapon captures ten more. Many homes have weapons in them. If you’re trying to stay out of the fray, they should rarely be used. If they are used, two things should happen immediately. You should gather the supplies and weapons of the opposition and you should leave the area. The only exception is when you are absolutely 100% certain that there will be no reprisals for the people you just killed. If there is any doubt, take their weapons and equipment and leave.
  8. Engage the opposition on nobody’s terms but your own. If you did not decide the time and the place for the fight, run away. Men should take special note of this rule. It’s typically men who don’t want to back down. If you have to choose between fighting and running, you should always run. Only fight when lives are stake, otherwise move on and wait for another day.
  9. If you must fight, use speed, surprise, and violence of action. If you are placed in a situation in which you have no alternative but to engage, your attack should be a surprise, it should be quick, and it should bring down all of the available violence you can muster. Do not engage in a fight unless you can do this.
  10. Survive. There are no rules. Do whatever you have to. In situations of civil conflict, moral questions arise every single day. It is always preferable to feel guilty about your actions or a failure to act that resulted in the death of stranger than it is to feel guilty because one of your family or friends died because of your actions or failure to act. Always side with caution and safety.

This article was designed to prepare your mindset. For advanced tactics, check out The Fifth Column’s Tradecraft section.

This article first appeared at TheFifthCojumn