Risk Management Strategies for Civil Unrest and Rioting

Property & Casualty, Risk

Maintaining ‘situational awareness’ will help keep you and your employees safe in instances of civil unrest. Aim to continuously gather information so that you know what happened yesterday, today, and what will likely happen tomorrow. Developing an understanding of ‘situational awareness’ – the ability to observe your surroundings and make detailed assessments about your environment – is incredibly valuable during a crisis.

Risk management practices to prepare for civil unrest:

  • Refer to your local news on a regular basis, seeking stories regarding possible demonstrations or anticipated problems around your facilities or in areas where your employees may be traveling.
  • Understand the ‘pulse’ of the situation. What are your employees talking about? What are the people in your community discussing? Oftentimes you can determine if there are upset groups and trouble may begin in the near future. Remember, listing to your gut. If you feel there may be trouble, go with this gut feeling, and take appropriate safety and security controls.

Develop a Plan to Deal With Civil Unrest…
and Have a Plan to Back Up That Plan

Think ahead and have your team consider and prepare for potential violent scenarios as well as your immediate response to the crisis.

  • OSHA specifically suggests that your emergency plan should include:
    • An evacuation policy and procedure
    • Workplace maps that outline routes, floor plans, and safe or refuge areas
    • Preferred methods for reporting emergencies
    • Contact info of individuals within and outside of the organization for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan
  • Ensure employees understand the egress routes out of your building. During a crisis, one or multiple exits are often unavailable to exit the building.
  • Ensure employees understand the egress routes out of your area and neighborhood.
  • Employees should understand how to quickly and safely access main roads, hospitals, police stations, and public buildings.
  • Ensure employees carry money for transportation if they can’t get to or become separated from their vehicle.
  • Consider developing ‘safe zones’ away from the unrest or violence where employees can meet. These pre-designated meeting areas can be monitored by company management. These ‘safe zones’ can be used for reunification areas with co-workers and family.
  • If possible, do not carry exposed items on the outside of your body. These items may be stolen from you when moving through a mob of people. Keep items such as cell phones, purses, wallets, or keys hidden on the body under your clothes.

Physical Controls if Caught in a Mob

As stated earlier, it is important to have a plan and a plan to back up that plan. Remaining calm during a crisis situation allows for better decision making.

  • If possible, always try to move away from the danger. If caught up in a protest involving a large group of people, try to remain on the edge of the crowd. It is here where you have multiple options to move depending on the actions of the crowd.
  • When leaving a mob of people, attempt to walk away, not run. This will draw less attention to you.
  • Look for the opportunity to enter a nearby building or entrance way that provides protection and removes you from the mob.
  • Always attempt to stay clear of buildings with large glass windows or moving vehicle traffic.
  • If you are caught up in a large mob of people, you may be able to create some ‘breathing space’ by tightly grasping your wrists in front of your body and bracing your elbows away from the sides of your body.  Attempt to slightly bend over – this should create some personal space.
  • If pushed or knocked to the ground, roll yourself to a large object – a wall, a car, etc. – and cover your head with your hands until the mob moves past you.
  • If gunshots are heard, immediately drop to the ground and look for ‘cover’ objects, large objects that will block the shooter’s view and also stop bullets.
  • Never attempt to drive a vehicle through or near a mob of people. Back up, turn around, and look for a side street to exit the area. If you are unable to drive away, park, lock, and leave your car. Cars can be replaced – people cannot.
  • Ask employees to confirm or update their contact information so they can be easily reached.

Facility Protection

During civil unrest, your facilities and operations face the threat of looting, damage, and arson.  To protect your facilities, consider the following:

  • Request that all employees remain vigilant for unusual activities or behaviors near your company facilities. Ask employees to report unusual actions which can be investigated by management or law enforcement.
  • Ensure your burglar/fire protection and emergency lighting systems are working properly.
  • Assess windows, doors, and other points of entry to determine if further controls are needed. This may include the installation of extra door locks and boarding up windows.
  • If possible, remove combustible materials from around the exterior of the building. Additionally, remove any objects such as pallets that could be used as fire starters or thrown through windows.
  • Advertise the presence of video surveillance cameras with brightly colored signage.
  • Consider using a private security company to provide round the clock surveillance.

Develop a Business Continuity Plan

Maintaining an updated business continuity plan will assist your company in resuming ‘normal’ operations as quickly as possible after a civil unrest disruption. An effective business continuity plan will outline:

  • Preparatory steps that can help limit losses.
  • Company emergency response procedures to take when disaster threatens.
  • Recovery steps to get your business back on track as quickly as possible.


Proactively implementing solid risk management practices can help your employees determine the best course of action when faced with situations of civil unrest. To engage in detailed discussion on how this specifically impacts your organization, contact your M3 account team.

Back to Insight Center