When Civil War Starts: 4 Choices You Must Make

September 26, 2020

Choose Your Fate Now

  1. Prepare to Hunker Down 
  2. Prepare to Bug Out – Flee to a Safe Zone
  3. Fight Outright or Undercover
  4. Caught Up In the Storm

2020 has continued to deliver problems and challenges that only seem to compound daily which has led to a sense of unease in our country like we haven’t seen in generations.  Increasing partisanship, a dysfunctional government, widening wealth gap, the rise of extremist ideologies, a pandemic, a climate crisis, zero sum politics, and scorched Earth policies which will undoubtedly intensify with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Each day feels like a new problem arises only adding to the dumpster fire we’re experiencing this year.  In May of twenty-nineteen we published a blog on the seven signs civil war may occur and we covered many of things that we’re now seeing play out in real time in front of us.  The signs are clearly on the wall and the need to get ready has never been more important than now.  If civil unrest continues to escalate to something bigger, will you be ready?  In this blog, we’ll cover the steps you can take now to prepare for what lies ahead.

If things don’t change, could we see an escalation of violence in the streets?  Groups dedicated to the ideological premise of the dismantling of our institutions are fuel to this fire, and our political divisiveness and dehumanization of political rivals burns clear a path to a massive escalation of dissension and violence.  In this blog, we will not look at the signs civil war is looming on the horizon.  We have already done that.  Nor will we examine to what extent it could occur or in what areas it is most likely.  The fact that we can even imagine the possibility so clearly now requires us to look at how you can prepare to survive widespread civil unrest even to the extreme of an all out civil war.  Will you be prepared if a civil war passes through, envelops, or consumes your town, city, or state?  Are your prepping supplies geared to surviving such a man made calamity?  Even if an all out civil war doesn’t occur, numerous pockets could explode throughout the United States.  Many fires are sometimes more difficult than a single large fire.  Be prepared for potentially massive civil unrest.

1 – Prepare to Hunker Down

Your best option is always to be prepared to hunker down for an extended period of time.  If water, power, police, and fire services go out for weeks or months, are you prepared to sustain yourself?  Are your food and water supplies adequate to sustain you.  Do you have a means of water purification or filtration?  Foreign governments that would seek to do harm to the United States will not sit idly by and let us sort things out, and some domestic groups advocating a philosophy of accelerationism have actually encouraged members to attack power grids in the United States, a nuclear power plant in Florida, even natural gas pipelines.  It is more than just a possibility that power and water supplies will be interrupted.  Make sure that you have alternative forms of energy like small solar batteries, a means to heat your home and stay warm during these winter months, and a supply of water.  Have a radio on hand to obtain your news and information with the assumption that televised news, electricity, and internet will not be available.  We recommend having enough supplies on hand to survive for three to four months independent of outside systems.  

Cleanups after natural disasters don’t typically require the same level of supplies as systems are restored and people find new avenues to get what they need to survive; however, large scale civil unrest or a civil war is a grid down and supply lines down situation for months.  The worse it gets, too, the more likely you are to be raided for your supplies.  Maintain OPSEC–operational security– as once people find out you have supplies, the word will spread quickly.

Transportation lines will be dramatically impacted by road closures, pockets of violence, and, literally, highway robbery.  This will mean shortages in stores will be even further exacerbated by panic buying and manufacturing and production supply and demand inequities.  So, if your preferred option is to hunker down, which is probably also your safest option, above all else make sure you have adequate food, water, and other key prepping items and durable goods in your supplies.

You will also need to prepare your house and neighborhood.  First, your house.  You will want to make sure your house does not look unoccupied but is not necessarily occupied either.  You don’t want it to look abandoned, but you also don’t want people seeing the glow of your flat screen television from the street.  The possibility of a heavily armed or secure occupant can be enough for some to want to pass by.  Security signs, true or not, provide you an added layer of protection.  Beware of dog signs, true or not, can be a deterrent.  CCTV cameras and systems, real or not, provide the possibility of any misdeeds being recorded, and can act as a deterrent.  Motion detecting lights, cast light on people who would rather operate under a cloak of darkness.  Draw your curtains, close your blinds, lock your gates and circuit box, put your car in the garage and lock your garage from the inside.  Make your home an unattractive target for would be looters, agitators, or armed forces or patrols.

Beyond this, remove anything from your front lawn that indicates any political, religious, or personal persuasion.  While you may have felt it important to express your political leanings, beliefs, or philosophies in peaceful times, they are merely invitations for conflict during a civil war.  Even the US flag, sadly, could be interpreted as a stance.

Make sure that any decorative rocks, pots, or other throwable items aren’t easily accessible to mobs that may seek to create chaos.  If your large front window ends up broken, you are exposed to a breach in your security that could result in looting or violations of your personal safety.  Do realize that in a time of incredible civil unrest, you won’t be able to place a call to have someone come out and repair your window.  Just as people prepare for a hurricane by boarding up their windows, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to also have the plywood, nails, and screws on hand, stored in your garage or other space, necessary to board up all the windows on your lower floor. 

Prepare a safe room or safer zone within your home where kids can be insulated from any conflict that may breach your perimeter.  Prepare for the possibility you may need to defend your home.  Discuss scenarios with your family and the other occupants of your home or apartment.  Begin to define the levels and areas of safety within your home and neighborhood.  Discuss some hypothetical scenarios and what if situations.  Give your trusted friends next door one of your walkie talkies.  Have a plan, and don’t be afraid to discuss it with those you want in on your plan.  Practice extreme caution sharing this information with anyone you don’t know.

It may also be essential for you to prepare your neighborhood.  Blocking off the street entrance to your cul-de-sac as a neighborhood course of action, may be what you need to have people choose a less arduous route.  Cars or felled trees can accomplish this rather quickly.  Forming alliances and courses of action with neighbors, even watch groups and neighborhood patrols, may help to keep the violence from entering your neighborhood or neck of the woods.  It’s estimated that less than ten percent of the population of the time engaged in the Revolutionary War.  A higher percentage of the population engaged in the great Civil War, but in both wars, the majority of people wanted nothing to do with it when it came to their community.  As righteous and just as some people may feel their cause to fight is, there will be even more people who want no part of it.  Unfortunately, there will be some who will view the civil discord and strife as an opportunity.  They will seek to take advantage of the chaos to loot, steal, and cause mayhem.  Clear sides may not be apparent as causes and circumstances and loyalties shift, but neighbors, even of differing opinions and values, can still find a common cause to unite in the protection of their piece of the world.  Even as a civil war is actively waged out there, your neighborhood could remain safe and cohesive.

Your first and best choice is to hunker down, and there are many things to consider when this is your course of action.  Sometimes this course of action isn’t viable or becomes unsustainable.

2 – Prepare to Bug Out

If you are forced from the safety of your home and neighborhood by brute force, or fire, or threat of harm, your likelihood of survival increases if you have a prepared plan in place.  Usually, there is a period of time prior to the necessity to flee where you have a decision to make– do you try and get out of the coming conflict while you still can?  Has the window of opportunity to safely travel to an unaffected area passed?  What are the conditions of travel now and in the immediate future?  Realize that as systems and social norms break down and opportunists and desperate individuals try to seize more than what they need to survive, roads and methods of travel will rapidly become unreliable.  

If you can safely stay ahead of the breakdown and societal collapse, you may want to move back with family or friends in safer zones.  Even during the civil war, for instance, newly conscripted, young Union troops and Confederate troops in Missouri spent time together, even had a great picnic afterwards, before shipping off the next week to join opposite forces and try and kill each other.  Safe pockets around the country will still exist, though their situation may change and they may too become unsafe at some point.  Coming together as a family or pod of friends, can provide you a layer of networked safety from the strife around you.  If aunt Mae lives on a farm in rural Kansas, this may be the time to ask to stay with her.  She will likely love the company and you can be isolated and safe together.

We recently created a blog on assessing the safety of your bug out routes, and we will link to it in the comments below.  As much bravado and ammo you may have on hand and as safe as you may feel, there is always the possibility that you may need to flee the safety of your home or make your final stand there.  That being said, even if you’re fairly confident you can stay bugged in, you need to have a prepared plan to fall back on for bugging out.  You still need a grab-and-go bag to get you to safety.  Foxes usually make more than one den to serve different purposes.  Rabbits build more than one exit from their clutch.  You still need to assess the routes you can take and how their safety may deteriorate in an unfolding crisis.

Realize that when you simply flee without a destination or plan in place, you are a refugee.  You can be robbed, abused, forced to travel through areas at gunpoint, held captive, detained, or even thrown into a government or opposition run detainment camp.  Traveling with stealth and keeping a low profile will be essential to your survival.  There will be checkpoints, marauders, and possibly even the need for travel papers.  Because of the pandemic, the likelihood of fleeing to another country is of reduced possibility.

In these times and given the current circumstances, if you aren’t able to make it to a safe family or friend location, you may want to make a direct route out of civilization and to the woods or country.  You may be able to strike a deal with someone in a rural location to trade goods for rights to squat on part of their land, but that’s a big maybe.  You may be able to go into the deep wilderness of State parks and nature preserves to stealthily live off the grid and away from detection.

One of the factors in your timing and decision to flee has to be your knowledge and health.  If you are unhealthy or advanced in age, this may not be a possibility for you late into a conflict.  You may not have this option anymore after a certain point.  If you are healthy and know how to and have experience surviving in the wilderness, your choice as to whether to flee can be deferred for a longer period of time.  My advice to the elderly or frail is either hunker down or decide early on to go visit younger, healthier relatives who will be able to assist you through a prolonged period of civil unrest.

3 – Fight Outright or Undercover

Though not our first or second choice, one of your viable courses of action is to stay and fight outright or covertly.  You may feel that you cannot stay idly on the sidelines or that your cause is worth dying for right now.

Remember that everything changes in war.  Even the most noble of causes can be cheapened and horrible acts of violence can be inflicted in the name of perceived right.  If you have ever been to a war zone, like we have when we were in Afghanistan in 2003, or ever talked to a refugee from a war, you will easily pick up that war changes everything and the fight for a perceived just cause can swiftly become murky, at best.  You can talk to a veteran of a foreign war, and they can provide you the perspective of a heavily armed and supported fighting force.  The perspective of an organized war is important, but civil wars are a little more chaotic, forces are more widely varied, lines are not as clearly drawn, enemies are perceived.  To really understand war you need to talk to its victims– often the civilian population.

If you are determined to fight, wait for clear signs and places as to where to be recruited and join the fight.  If you merely set out to find a place to join you may be viewed as a hostile combatant or an armed refugee and caught up in the scrum and chaos.  Know what you are choosing to leave behind when you go off to fight, and know what you may be asked to do.

You may fight covertly as a type of organized resistance.  Criminal groups or armed groups may be able to seize control of areas when chaos abounds throughout the country.  Protective forces may be called elsewhere or no longer in existence in your area.  You may need to fight to hold on to whatever order and stability you can, either individually or as part of a group.

While fighting overtly or covertly as a type of resistance is a possibility, it is not without significant personal risk.  It is far from a game, and the consequences to you, your family, and your community cannot be undone.

4 – Caught Up In the Storm

Whether you stay in place, flee to safety, or choose to fight, you may not have any control over where you end up and the choice you want to make.  If you hunker down the fight may come to you.  If you flee to safer areas you may have to fight along the way, or you may find the area you were going to is no longer safe.  If you choose to fight overtly or covertly, you are putting yourself willingly into the storm.  Regardless of your plans and prepping, you may find yourself unwillingly and uncontrollably swept up into the melee and bloody conflict.

Again, make sure you have the supplies you need to provide yourself options.  In those supplies, you may want to consider some lightweight ballistic protection.  In any civil unrest projectiles from bullets to gas canisters can be shot indiscriminately.  Rocks and bricks are thrown.  It is safe to assume that you will not be guaranteed medical services for you or your spouse or your children.

We’ll provide some links to several lightweight forms of ballistic protection systems in the description section below, and if you think it is at all possible that you or someone you know might be drawn into or caught up in the conflict, please consider getting some personal body armor.

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.  You may also find that critical medicine you are going to risk life and limb for is also taken by a friend’s neighbor who has a good supply.

If you do get swept up into the conflict, do what you can to get out of it.  Conflict zones often move like wildfires.  The area you find yourself in may be free of conflict in a little while if you can hunker down safely.  If you see the opportunity to escape a conflict zone, take it, even if it means you are moving away from home.  Circling back through other areas is safer than trying to move through a conflict zone.


There are no winners in large scale civil unrest or a civil war.  Knowing this, it doesn’t matter if the conflict comes to your doorstep, forces you to find a safer area, to fight for survival, or sweeps you up into it as an unwilling victim.  Prepare now for the possibility that things could go south very quickly.  Peace and calm can swiftly erode into violence and chaos.  We have seen it before.  We have seen it in other countries, and we may be on the cusp of it today in the United States.  Use this time to prepare for that possibility.

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

As always, please stay safe out there.

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Juanita Narkawicz
Juanita Narkawicz
2 years ago

Things I might add …. a radio, batteries, solar chargers, oil lanterns…

connor worsley
connor worsley
2 years ago

you could make a crystal radio so you don’t waste batteries

Eric SCionti
Eric SCionti
2 years ago
Reply to  connor worsley

crystal meth so you can stay up and fight longer.

Jay Aracich
Jay Aracich
2 years ago
Reply to  Eric SCionti


2 years ago

we could have some stuff to entertain ourselves

2 years ago

After the deadly riot at the Senate and with the inauguration nearing, what do you think our chances are of possible civil war?

Eric SCionti
Eric SCionti
2 years ago

This sucks…It seems to seem more likely with each passing day.


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