When a natural disaster of any kind threatens your area, you have the choice of hunkering down in place or getting out to safety. Either way, looting is likely going to be a concern. In most cases, looters are going to target businesses in order to do their “shopping”, however, some of them are going to be intent on stealing from residential areas. For this reason, you must be prepared to protect yourself, your family, and your home.
Why do People Loot After a Disaster?
What is it that makes these people turn to looting?
I am not a fan of David Cameron but he summed rioting and looting up as:
Criminality, pure and simple.
Although there is an element of truth in those words, I think looting is much more complex and impossible to sum up with as few words as that.
We certainly do not condone such behavior but if you have ever been caught up in a mob that was agitated about some injustice, you know how contagious it can be.
Everyday people get swept up and do things that they would never normally do. It could be shouting, shoving, throwing rocks, smashing windows, and, yes, even looting.
Some people take advantage of the chaos around them by smashing glass, prying open doors and looting businesses.
Riots will usually erupt following an incident, such as a disaster or the police attacking or killing somebody as was the case in the London Riots of 2011. They continued between 6th of August and 11 August following the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan.
With any riot, once it begins, the mob has a life of its own. Deep-seated resentments and rising frustrations lead people into action. The mob provides cover which makes it easy to act out of the norm.
They become immersed, engulfed and for many, it becomes a way of releasing long suppressed emotions and can very easily get out of hand. The powerless for powerful.
With large groups that are relatively anonymous, you can essentially do anything you like. It all comes down to safety in numbers. There may only be 20 or 30 people who are leading the trouble but the presence of several hundred onlookers makes it far less likely they’ll get caught.
Prof John Pitts, a criminologist who advises several London local authorities on young people and gangs, said that some of those taking the lead in the looting will be known to the authorities, while others are swept along.
This may seem like I am in some way trying to justify their behavior but that is not true. Everybody needs to understand that when frustrations build, we could all become “hooligans” ourselves.
Newsweek once said:
If there’s one underlying condition that these movements share, it has to do with unemployment and bitter poverty among people who desire to be part of the middle class, and who are keenly aware of the sharp inequality between themselves and their country’s wealthy elite.
These are young people with “nothing to lose.”
Distracted by the flames and the looting, we can easily forget that these are, as Newsweek put it:
social revolutions with a small ‘r,’ protests against social conditions that have become unbearable.
Loot – steal goods from (a place), typically during a war or riot.
Looting doesn’t just start following a natural disaster. In 2011, England saw what was to become the worst display of civil unrest in 30 years resulting in over 3000 people being arrested and the streets awash with looting, arson, and violence. The disorder started in London and then branching out to other cities. The riots began after 29 year old father-of-four Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police. Raw footage of the riots can be seen in the video below:
During this guide, I want to try and take a look at what you can do to defend yourself and your home should you find the looters coming your way following a disaster.
Your Life May Be On The Line
As you can see from the footage above that it doesn’t take much for the police to be outnumbered. During these times, you cant expect to be able to pick up the phone and have police assistance at your door when you’re in trouble. You have to be willing to protect your life, the lives of your loved ones, and your home. Whatever form of self protection that you prefer, are you prepared to use it when the time comes.
Don’t Give them a Reason to Enter
Looters are less likely to enter a property if they believe that there is nothing of value. Following a disaster, they may not be after your new TV or fancy jewelry, they may be after your supplies. The idea is to make your home look like it has nothing that they want. Consider making your home look like looters have already paid a visit and left nothing else to loot. When speaking with others, be careful what information you talk about. If they are desperate enough and know that you have food or supplies that they need, it could leave you vulnerable.
Get a Dog and Train It
Looters want an easy in and easy out without the risk of injury. Not only will the barking give you advance warning of anybody that shouldn’t be there, but they can be trained to attack when they think that you or your family is in trouble.
Make it Hard For Them to Get Near
The more obstacles that you can create between the looters and them getting through your front door, the better. This can be anything from thorny bushes to deadbolt locks. Get rid of any hiding spots around your property such as shrubbery and any kind of large debris in your yard. Don’t make it easy for them.
Here in the UK, we have a law that states that anyone can use “reasonable” force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. Householders are protected from prosecution as long as they act “honestly and instinctively” in the heat of the moment.
Victims do not have to wait to be attacked if they are in their home and fear for themselves or others. These guidelines also apply if someone, in the spur of the moment, picks up an item to use as a weapon. The law very clearly says that a householder is not expected to weigh up the arguments for and against in the heat of the moment – but they have to show that their actions were reasonable in the moment.
Looters are most likely to try and enter through a door or a window so these need to be dealt with first.
- Doors – all doors should be replaced with solid doors.
- Locks – Double deadbolts and double cylinder locks are highly recommended.
- Windows – reinforced glass and/or steel bars.
You can see more on protecting your home in our guide here.
If the looters can’t get in to the property, there may be those that try to smoke you out. If you choose to hunker down during times of disorder, make sure to have fire extinguishers on each floor of the property. Along with owning them, understand how to use them.
If your home is breached, where do you plan to go? This may be a small hidden area you can use to wait out the intruders, or a fully constructed safe room that is impossible to break into where you can wait it out until the authorities arrive. For more on creating a safe room, check out our guide here.
Two parts of this guide that I have decided not to write about is the use of guns and the setting of booby traps, both of which are illegal in the UK. Guns can be had with a licence which is not too difficult to get and the setting of booby traps can land the homeowner in jail if the intruder gets injured from it. That being said, I would do ANYTHING to keep those that I loved safe from harm.
What are we missing? Share your own tips in the comments below.