Help Protect Your Community from Civil Unrest


Adequate planning and execution can help protect life and property during times of civil unrest.

Civil unrest can develop for various reasons, so you need to be prepared and equipped to respond when it occurs. Identifying needs, gathering resources, training and communicating are core pillars of your response plan and should be ongoing. Consider the following to assist in your preparations.

Steps for Pre-Planning

Establish a Team

The first step to take in pre-planning is to establish a team of representatives from all public agencies impacted. Examples include the following:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Fire Department
  • EMS
  • Risk Management and Safety
  • Attorney’s Office
  • Corrections
  • Utilities (i.e., Water, Wastewater, Waste Management, Gas and Electricity)
  • Environmental
  • Public Works
  • Media Relations
  • National Guard
  • Board of Education
  • Social Services
  • Others as needed

This is a critical step because it involves experts from every department who understand how their departments operate and can identify needs and interdepartmental dependencies. It is important that these agencies come together in a structured and organized way that establishes a collaborative process for the agencies to work together and support each other.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as a readily available system to do just that. NIMS provides a systematic way to plan for civil unrest and to establish an Incident Command System (ICS), which organizes all efforts into one response. FEMA also provides NIMS training and education courses.

Establish Mutual Aid Agreements

Mutual aid is an agreement between one or more agencies that establishes a course of action taken by the agencies entering into the agreement that is mutually beneficial during an emergency response. Typically, Mutual Aid Agreements are made because one or more agencies lack the resources that another agency has. So, the agreement allows the agency to provide those resources to the agency lacking the resource.

Mutual Aid Agreements should be in writing and signed by representatives of each agency involved. They also need to be reviewed annually or if there are any significant changes made with any of the participating agencies.

Gather Resources

Identify all resources needed for the response, record them, and then plan to gather as many of the resources as possible and store them in secure facilities. Examples of these resources include:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • Tools;
  • Emergency lighting;
  • Portable fencing;
  • Barriers; and
  • Signs.

Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are needed to establish a clear and consistent means of carrying out specific operations. This is important in emergency response because several agency operations are happening at the same time. Consistent operations help everyone stay safe.

Examples of SOPs for Safety

  • Formal Evacuation Plans
  • Updated Personnel Contact Information
  • Crises Management Plans
  • Building/Operations Closures
  • Severe Weather Protocols

Examples of SOPs for Property Protection

  • Create building closure/shutdown checklists to be followed.
  • Help prevent unauthorized access with fencing around the property.
  • Establish a procedure for obstructing visibility into the building.
  • Create a procedure for securing valuable data and property.
  • Develop a procedure for installing adequate lighting and surveillance cameras for the night.
  • Set special directives for security and/or law enforcement personnel.
  • Implement a procedure for posting signage prohibiting unauthorized access.
  • Establish a procedure for installing property telematics.

Establish Interagency Communications

Breakdown in communications between agencies has often been cited as a contributing factor to increased severity in past large disasters. Lack of communication significantly increases the risk to your employees, buildings and the public.

It is not enough to plan for communications. You must also provide an effective means of communication. Can all agencies access common radio channels? Are certain channels assigned to certain teams or operations? Do all agencies know how to communicate with one another?

Tips for Adequate Training


Training is a critical part of successfully executing your plans. Without training on and exercising the plans, response personnel may forget what they are supposed to do, how they are supposed to do it and when they are supposed to perform tasks. As a minimum, you should train:

  • All new personnel when hired;
  • Anytime there are changes to agencies or pre-plans; and
  • Frequently enough to maintain unconscious competence thereafter.


Classroom training and discussion are not enough to establish competency in response operations. Personnel must also complete practical exercises and demonstrate their skills. Examples of these exercises include:

  • Tabletop sessions;
  • Crisis simulations;
  • Mock civil unrest activities; and
  • Demonstrations on the use of equipment and PPE.

These exercises are also critical in maintaining unconscious competence over time.


Make sure that your teams/agencies come together after exercises to discuss what went well and what did not. This is valuable information in determining if changes are necessary for your pre-planning efforts. Perhaps it did not go the way you thought it would when pre-planning? Now is your chance to make changes before it’s too late. Encourage open and honest constructive criticisms.

Media Relations

Like it or not, a story is going to be told. Someone from your agency should be telling that story. Therefore, you should consider media relations in your overall response plan.

Establish a Public Information Officer (PIO)

One message from one person, always. Establish a PIO that is responsible for communicating on behalf of your agency and ensure that everyone knows that this is the only person authorized to communicate with the media. Make sure you let media sources know about the PIO and provide contact information to them.

Conduct Press Releases

This is required if you want to ensure correct information is being released. Hold press releases often and be clear in communicating when the next press release will be. Stick with the facts and avoid opinion or premature conclusions. Hold press releases in areas where background noise is at a minimum.

Social Media

Social media can be an excellent way to quickly get updates out. Establish an account owner for each social media platform your agency has created an account on. Ensure you maintain these accounts with updated information about your agency.

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