What to Do When Martial Law is Enacted

October 1, 2020

Surviving Martial Law

  1. What You Should Have Before Martial Law
  2. The Early Phases of Martial Law
  3. The Arrests & Seizures
  4. Your Escape or Return to Normalcy


With the U.S. elections right around the corner, there is a sense of dread of what might play out.  There really isn’t a scenario that is off the table.  As stable as you might imagine your area or region of the country to be, any number of things can occur to spark a greater conflict that could lead to a declaration of martial law.  If the year twenty-twenty has taught us anything, it is that there is a tremendous amount of dry tinder out there in the form of deep divisive politics and opinions.  It would take just a spark or two to ignite larger conflicts which would require federal forces or state forces to restore order.  That restoring of order could lead to mass arrests in areas you might live in or pass through.  Even though you aren’t involved, you could be swept up into it all.  In the interest of restoring peace, houses could be searched, weapons could be seized, and people can be thrown into prison without a clear justice system or trial, as that too can be suspended.

When armed forces roll into your neighborhood, will you be capable of surviving through it?  In this video we will look at the four periods of martial law and what you need to know to survive them.

1 – What You Should Have Before Martial Law

Martial law in one or even a few major US cities is a thing a country can recover from.  Large scale, national curfews, lockdowns or nation wide deployments of militarized federal forces, however, indicate a government that is losing control and desperately trying to hold onto that control.  This can easily be the start of an avalanche that can destroy all established order.  It is possible that a country never recovers from that extreme of martial law.

Before marital law is declared, you may have some indicators that things are going south.  If you do, double and triple check your food, water, energy, and durable goods supplies.  Gas up all your cars and vehicles.  Fill in any gaps in medicines you may need or anything else in anticipation of a lockdown that could be mandated.  Even without a lockdown, it may be in your best interest to stay inside for as long as you can. 

Just as you might prepare for a hurricane, having the wood on hand to board up your windows may save you if conflict comes to your neighborhood.  Having a fire extinguisher and locks on all gates and windows may keep you from being forced to flee.  Having a backup power source such as a generator may prove crucial, at a minimum a large amount of batteries.  As we approach winter in the United States, having extra blankets and an alternative form of heating is also very essential.

Before martial law or military forces role into your town or city and block all roads and exits, you may want to bug out.  If you decide to do that, make sure you have a clear destination or two in mind.  You want to avoid being caught up as a refugee, and you want to avoid any potential conflict zones.  If you wait on this decision, though, it will be too late.  Once martial law is in your area, you will not find easy passage out.  If that time has passed, you will want to hunker down for as long as you can, regardless of how safe things may appear outside.  Use radio and any other means of communication still available to you to find out what is going on outside.  If you live in an apartment complex, this may be the best time to get to know your neighbors on your floor and form a kind of cohort.  Never reveal your supplies, though, because many of them will have failed to prepare.

Remember, in a lockdown situation you can reduce your food intake because you aren’t burning a tremendous amount of calories.  This will stretch your food reserves even longer.

2 – The Early Phases of Martial Law

In the early days and hours after martial law is declared, you need to ask yourself, again, the question “Should I stay or should I go?”  If you decide that you are safest if leaving, you need to bug out before violence erupts on all your escape routes or the military establishes road blocks.  After martial law is declared you may be required to show special paperwork or letters of transit.  You have only a small window of time to make this decision to leave.  If you decide to stay and hunker down and potentially wait it out, you will not likely be able to reverse course at this point.

In order to survive genuine martial law where freedom and democracy are suspended and may not return, prepping for disaster will have been the best choice you could have made. Your stocks of survival food, water, water filtration means, and durable goods will be of great use to you when the municipal water stops flowing, gas and electric lines are cut, and the ability to replenish your food stops. 

Initially, all normal activity would likely cease if a genuinely major crisis occurred in the US. Don’t worry about going to your job, catching the metro, or even grocery shopping, or going out for drinks.  Everything will be shuttered.  When martial law or any armed security force has locked down an area, everything is shut down until that force perceives that some sense of order has been restored.  The travel restrictions in the early days of a military lockdown would prevent you from being able to safely leave the city.  They may prevent you from going out at all.  The intensity of the martial law will be based upon population.  The larger the population in your area, the more likely the lockdown will be enforced–the more likely pockets of civil unrest or fires may occur.  As you move out to the suburbs, exurbs, and country, the less intense things will be.  These areas, though, will not be without their own struggles.  In times like these neighbors can turn on neighbors and emergency response services will be non-existent.

When people are out of work and food supplies are significantly disrupted, government rationing and civil unrest leading to potentially even stricter lockdown requirements are all likely.  Desperate people adopt desperate measures.  Many systems we take for granted may be bypassed.  Habeas corpus, or your right to report and challenge an unlawful detention or imprisonment, may be suspended.  Instead, on the spot forces or a military tribunal could decide your fate in an instant.  If you are caught outside when a curfew is in place, whatever reason you have to be out may not be considered.  You are errant of the laws of that moment and, just like that, you could become a prisoner in a detention camp or a casualty.  

Don’t think that you are immune from being thrown into a detention facility during martial law.  In two-thousand-one the President issued a military order involving the detainment of non-citizens in the war on terror.  Many of those enemy combatants are still being held today.  There are several detention centers on the US border with Mexico.  In both these instances, these are non-citizens, but it shows how easily a government can seek to detain large populations.  During a time of martial law, broad sweeping strokes are made to retain or reestablish order.  Many can be caught up in those broad strokes.

It is during this initial phase of military law, that you are safest if you are hunkered down and don’t have to leave your home for any reason, even during allowable times.  Even without a full declaration of martial law or a military force, there are times we can see from history where hunkering down is the safer choice: The Zoot Suit riots, the Watts Rebellion, the Detroit Riots, the Los Angeles Riots, the Tulsa Race massacre.  One doesn’t have to look too far back in American history to see where staying in place and keeping as low a profile as possible is the best option.  One doesn’t have to look too far into history to see how one small incident can be the spark to light the tinder of a community consuming fire.

3 – The Arrests & Seizures

If law and order isn’t restored in the early phases of Martial Law, the next thing to expect are massive arrests and seizures.  Those mass arrests are all people in an area.  You may not share the same motives and ideology of the people being incarcerated, but because you are in the area, you will be guilty by association.  Military forces are not likely to consider even the most truthful and valid of excuses.  You could be outside a pharmacy with a prescription in hand, but that is no guarantee the soldier arresting you is going to believe you.

If you do have to venture out, even during seemingly calm times, have a clear plan,  and clear route.

If you do have to go out, do make sure someone knows where you are going.

If you do have to travel out, use the usual logic to stay out of the storm.  Avoid conflict or potential conflict zones.  Avoid potentially confrontational gatherings or any groups of desperate people.  If you are not forced to go out alone and it is still operationally feasible, go as a group of two to three individuals. Communicate within your network your plans.  Just as you always let someone know your route before hiking into the wilderness, you also want that knowledge of your route, intent, and whereabouts amongst your friends and family.  They may have to attempt to find you.  They may be able to warn you if there is a brewing conflict in your area.  Support networks increase your individual senses and security.  They expand your eyes and ears.

If the government forces come to your home to search it, they won’t need a warrant.  You can comply or you can fight, but it’s not a battle you will win.  You may find yourself, locked away or dead.  It is best, when presented with overwhelming forces, to comply with the search and not agitate those soldiers doing their jobs, even if you disagree with it.  They are there to search and seize and not likely to outright want to kill you.  Make sure, even in your own home, your prepping supplies are spread out and well hidden.

If they come for your guns under the guise of restoring peace in the community, it may be in your best interest to surrender them during a time of martial law.  A standoff simply provides a reason to attract a more heavily armed military to your doorstep.  The guns can be replaced, assuming they confiscate them all.  You will have other goods you can trade later to reobtain firearms, and in the United States, firearms are in abundance.  You are not replaceable to your family and friends, but your guns are.

Flying under the radar during a time of martial law really is the key.  Being the gray man, if you need to venture out, will allow you to move unnoticed.  Making your home as non-descript as possible from the street view and removing any political signage will make your home less of a target for conflict.  If you have an NRA sticker in your window, do realize that you will be the first stop if guns are seized.  Make sure that at night, interior lights can not be seen from the street.  Outdoor, automatic, security lights are still great for providing protection to your perimeter.  Consider blocking your driveway and walkway to your home in a subtle but effective way.  This can also deter people from approaching your home.

4 – Your Escape or Return to Normalcy

During this time you will need to monitor your radio channels and rely heavily upon your prepped supplies.  As a rule, when you think it is safe to go back outside or the all clear has been given, you should give it a few more days to err on the side of caution.  When people can leave their homes, so too will any agitators or defenders or opportunists or anyone else.  One small incident could reignite a conflict and result in even stricter lockdowns, curfews, restrictions, or confiscations.

If your plan is to use this opportunity to escape to safer areas, realize than most people will have this same plan.  Make sure your bug out bags and vehicles are packed.  Be ready to travel with as little fanfare as possible.  You will want to slip out of town on the predefined routes to your bug out locations.  You may still encounter roadblocks or searches.  Try to be as relaxed, casual, and nonchalant as possible.  Come from a place of nothing to fear.  Say what you have to.  If things are looking bad, appeal to the compassion of whoever stops you and impart you want to get out of that craziness and get your family to safety.  Tell them the destination you know is safe, but not the actual destination.  Say anything. 

Discuss with your family members a reuniting plan, should one or more of you be arrested or unable to get back home.  Know where you will try to get to when you deem all hope is lost, and have a place in mind to meet up in months or years when it is safer.  Many from the holocaust reunited with long separated family and friends through this method.  It’s not the romantic “We will meet in that cafe in Paris”, but it may be “If we are separated, I will try to get the cabin in the woods and I will wait for you.”  Things will, eventually, return to a normalcy or calm, even though your world may look very different.  Have a plan to restore your family network.

Finally, if you have bugged out or escaped along the way, when you think it is safe to return to your home, wait another week or two.  An abundance of caution and methodical, decisive action is what will see you through most survival situations.  It’s better to be in the middle of the herd instead of the front or back when you travel through wolf country.


The period of naivety in this century should have passed by now.  This year we have seen lockdowns, quarantines, curfews, protests, violence, and fires in our streets.  Governments feel that they have an obligation to suppress conflict when it threatens citizen safety or property.  Right or wrong, that means martial law, even without a formal declaration of it.  You can survive this tumultuous period in your history.  Like other hotbed periods in history, it will probably pass and our country will find itself, hopefully, on a stronger, more peaceful path.  Your survivability, however, depends in no small part on your preparedness.

If you found this blog informative and helpful, please like and share it with your friends, family, and community.  We invite you to explore this website or visit our website CityPrepping.com to learn more and stay informed.  

As always, please stay safe out there.

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Justin Potter Library
Justin Potter Library
2 years ago

The President, if necessary will impose the same restrictions that Lincoln used in 1861, plus, he will arrest/detain the ringleaders that are supplying orders/money to the criminals.

“Cut the head of the snake off”.. Simple & acceptable politically

2 years ago


2 years ago

As a former USMC veteran… I am on the side of USA PEOPLE…AND OUR CONSTITUTIONAL freedom . People are people all over the planet , If you burn down a republic-democracy .. what is it replaced with? Then what? Beware the Tyrants you put in power.. they will consume you also…SEMPER FI.

2 years ago

I am terrified that the current president is so unstable that he will declare martial law and dismantle our democracy. He has turned up his nose at most norms and does what he wants rather than what is legal. There were 74 million people who voted for him in 2020. I believe they will take up arms should he declare martial law and the rest of us are in deep doo-doo. I, for one, have my guns and ammo ready to take this country back if necessary from any group that declares a coup.

Mike romano
Mike romano
2 years ago
Reply to  KAB

You are an idiot, can you not see how bad the Democrats cheated? Trump won in a landslide and the dems had no choice but to dump millions of ballots for Biden. Those machines and poll watchers were complicit in this fraud… even Biden said before the election to the American people “I don’t need your vote I’m going to win anyway” how do you explain that kind of talk.., stop listening to CNN and other news outlets and get to 1 conservative news outlet then see how you feel about the election. This was a mass fraud by a desperate political party. If I’m wrong call on your congressman to let everyone to examine the machines

2 years ago

Finger prints for voting . Stop the cheaters. I’m this country didn’t get bad overnight this country’s been bad since 1934 Roosevelt he put the Communists to work for the USDA the AAA to control our food supply to put us under Soviet farming Trump said we were Soviet farming he’s right I have over 20 years in research I see it USDA is the second largest Federal to the government and the most corrupt the small family Farmers didn’t stand a chance in this country USDA was set up to help the American Farmer put food on our tables but you know the big good old boys got in there and Robbed the small family Farmers prize land. it was a set up and I sell out. I have 13 days of transcripts from all over the United States when the USDA Held meetings in 1998 it’s unreal what they have done to our farmers and the employees of the USDA even employee of farmers home administration plowed up Farmers crop to get his land. The agent sitting behind the desk is the one that had it plowed up he wanted it he didn’t get it though. Another agent Farmers home administration filed his own land option in a RMC office on a farmers land that was financed with Farmers home administration Farmers never even signed a document land option. This is a very corrupt system. you know the small family farmer could have grown our food in America but the small family farmer is gone now we now only have big farmers which will be easier for the Communists to take down it’s already been set up I feel like what’s going on now is going to be the end of it America is going to have to fight for freedom like they have never fought for in their life. No Farms No Food. the American people need to wake up and realize what’s going on in this whole system it is corrupt from the top to the bottom. The American people’s being robbed of their hard-earned money for this corrupt system. I have no faith in a corrupt system that don’t work for the people we the people own the federal government is ours it’s been bought and paid for with our tax money and we’re not getting what we paying for it’s too much cheating lieing stealing corruption the good old boy system getting rich it’s a shame and they get caught and go to Federal Court well they just destroy the paperwork and they’re set free when you got a federal employee a federal lawyers and a federal judge you got conflict of interest. They ain’t nobody on the other side to trial. Only one sided I have a case out of federal court oig office of inspector general USDA lawyers Federal lawyers destroyed documents. And the judge federal judge they destroyed the records and he went along with it he didn’t do anything to him so he was just as corrupt as they were all of these should have went to jail and prison but they set the Federal boy free and this is what’s going on in our court system it’s rotten from the bottom to the top. I am sick of a government that can’t work for its people you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours that’s the way this system is. Trump’s going to drain the swamp can’t wait for him to pull the plug I think we’ll have to build some more prisons. I think we’re going to need some more prisons cuz I don’t think our prison can hold all the corrupt people. If it takes martial law to straighten out this country then so be it. Go Trump Go


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