Getting put under lockdown is certainly no fun, but can also be very unsettling, and can seriously cramp what survival plans you may have for dealing with the event that caused the lockdown in the first place.
A city, state or nationwide lockdown will order civilians to shelter in place for the duration of the event, weeks, months or possibly even half a year or longer in order to hopefully buy time for governments to get a handle on a bad situation.
Once the call goes out for a mandatory lockdown it will be you, your family and what supplies you have managed together already for the duration until it is lifted. Maybe you’ll be allowed to go out for more supplies at certain times, but possibly not at all.
Lockdowns can be somewhat permissive or extraordinarily strict. Do you know what you will do about being placed under lockdown? Do you know how you will survive and maintain your sanity as well as your survival plan if it goes on for weeks or months at a stretch?
It is possible to survive and even thrive under lockdown conditions, and in today’s article we will be providing you with information, context and tips for making it through one intact.
Why Are Lockdown Orders Issued?
Most people think that lockdowns are issued only in case of epidemics, pandemics and certain terrorist threats, but they can actually be issued at the state or federal level for all manner of incident control and pre-incident safety.
At any level, a lockdown will always include a shelter-in-place mandate, and sometimes they will include curfews or other “temporary suspension of rights and civil privileges. It is hard to make the case that they are rights at all if they can be temporarily suspended, huh? Never mind that for now.
Far and away the most common cause for lockdowns is in response to the spread or release of harmful chemicals or some kind of pathogen.
It is much more difficult for any biological, be it bacterial or viral, to spread rapidly and exponentially among citizens if mass gatherings and free movement is halted.
By reducing the number of potential vectors for the virus or bacteria the spread is slowed, buying time for medical professionals, and disease control specialists to respond.
In a similar vein, a chemical weapon attack or an accidental chemical spill resulting from an industrial or transportation accident will be another reason to keep citizens buttoned up tight in their homes.
Your average residential home is in no way air-tight, but it does afford some chemical resistance if citizens are prepared and take the correct steps to keep the chemicals from getting into the inside air.
It should go without saying that you are afforded more safety inside a structure than you would be in the open-air with potentially lethal vapors and contaminants drifting invisibly towards you.
Another, sad, common reason for the issuing of lockdown in the event of a terror attack, or received intelligence indicating that a terror attack is imminent.
The reasoning goes that the less people are grouping together forming big, juicy targets for terrorists who want to sow mayhem, fear and panic. Then there is less likelihood that an attack will occur, and if it does occur the casualties will be limited.
One must also consider the tactical situation: if a city is experiencing typical road and foot traffic that will make it much easier for the terrorists to blend in while they infiltrate or attempt to exfiltrate after the attack.
If traffic is stopped and the streets are clear, anyone who is moving around in the open will be far easier to spot, meaning that hopefully the terrorists will be bagged.
There is one more nefarious reason why governments may issue lockdown orders to citizens and it is to protect themselves from unhappy citizenry.
When citizens get angry enough with the job that their government is doing and start agitating, protesting, demonstrating and even rioting for change, governments that have grown tyrannical may try to stuff a cork in it by issuing a lockdown order.
The reasoning is that such an order will make it illegal for citizens to be in the streets at any given time, and if someone is caught in the streets after an order is issued they might be arrested under the false pretenses of “safety”.
Safety for the government, of course, not for the citizens…
What Happens When a Lockdown is Issued?
In any form, a lockdown will bring the typical comings and goings of civilians as well as the gears of commerce to a grinding halt. Citizens that are not allowed to leave their homes cannot fulfill their functions in society as consumers and as labor providers.
That means no shopping, no one manning the cash registers, no one picking up the trash, driving the buses or anything else unless the government deems as essential to the continuation of society in relation to the crisis.
That is a highly contentious and debatable point, but that is how it goes.
If everyone is bottled up safe and sound in their homes, it does indeed make the government’s job easier whatever their purposes are. Government vehicles and government personnel can move around unhindered with clear avenues of approach and departure.
Anyone who is not in uniform, and is spotted moving around under a lockdown order is automatically suspicious and easy to spot.
Aside from whatever personnel are allowed to be operating while a lockdown is in effect, you can expect towns and cities to take on that eerie, deserted look that is so popular in horror movies: no buses, no taxis, hardly any traffic of any kind, barren sidewalks and dark, shuttered storefronts.
But no matter how sound of the reasoning of the government is, no matter how pressing the crisis, the suspension of commerce in totality or nearly so is always highly deleterious to the economy.
Citizens will not be able to access goods, services and other hallmarks of commerce in anything like the frequency they are accustomed to. Many small businesses that closed for anything longer than a month or so will probably not reopen.
Citizens who are not working at those businesses (that are closed) are probably not making any kind of income, or at the very least enough to pay their bills, including leases, mortgages etc.
During a lockdown your movement may be limited to certain hours, limited to movement for certain purposes or constrained entirely.
If you get caught out and about moving after curfew or for a non-permitted reason you could face punishment in the form of a fine, or even incarceration.
Governments that are running amok with power and looking to suppress their citizens are notorious for shooting people who are moving around during lockdowns.
The most civilized nations including all of those in the first world will typically tolerate short-duration lockdowns if they are done in pursuit of the civic good, things like an imminent terror alert, during a pandemic or epidemic, or in response to an industrial accident.
Unfortunately, most people are just not okay being trapped at home with just themselves or with their family for company, and will quickly succumb to cabin fever.
Additionally, people start agitating severely as soon as the economy starts tanking in response to a prolonged lockdown.
Recent Major Lockdowns
Lockdowns are not a theoretical exercise. They happen regularly on the small scale at the local level in response to various threats and happen less frequently but still often enough at the city level, even nationally.
The 20th and 21st centuries have seen their fair shares of major lockdowns, and below you can catch the highlights on a few of them.
Worldwide Viral Pandemic Lockdown, 2020
A virus that jumped from animal to man originating in China raced from localized outbreak to worldwide conflagration in the first quarter of 2020. Entire nations from Italy to the U.S. locked down entirely in an effort to halt the contagion.
Business closed, hospitals faced shortages of necessary supplies and implements and mass shortages of home goods and commodities like toilet paper rocked the world. Gatherings were banned, travel restricted, maintain distance, the works.
International agencies and national disease control specialists worked round the clock to ascertain the extent, effects and spread of the virus. A coordinated, rapid response of this magnitude is rarely seen, and people took notice.
When the initial reports came out, many people, including governments, did not act with the decisiveness they probably should have, and the virus spread geometrically in a matter of just a few weeks.
In no time, the same authorities who were downplaying the virus and the citizens who were largely ignoring it found themselves smacked in the face with an arguably necessary total lockdown: go home, stay home, and leave only for groceries or health care.
The results were predictable: major shortages resulting from runs on commodities, fear-motivated mass purchasing of guns and ammo, a surge in interest in preparedness and subsequent fear-mongering.
It remains to be seen what the long-term effects of this unprecedented global lockdown will be.
Brussels, Belgium Lockdown, November 2015
An expansive citywide lockdown was initiated in Brussels, Belgium back in 2015 in anticipation of a suspected terrorist attack, one that was due to occur very shortly after the infamous ISIS attack on Paris earlier that November.
The lockdown was done in support of public safety, and an extraordinarily expansive manhunt for a terrorist operative, himself a member of the terror cell that pulled off the Paris attack.
Not since wartime had a lockdown of this magnitude been instituted in Belgium, and the thoroughness of the government response was massively disruptive to the city, and to the civilians living inside it.
For five days citizens were confined to their homes, banned from gathering in public and living in a city that was virtually stilled and muted.
Schools, businesses and many other public and private institutions were shuttered for the duration. Public transportation, including buses, trams and subways, was halted.
In the aftermath, citizens described an eerie city that was seemingly traveled only by armored vehicles and squadrons of uniformed, paramilitary police.
Even social media networks were shut down at the request of the police in order to prevent the deliberate or inadvertent revealing of police concentrations, activities and movement to the subject of the manhunt and his sympathizers.
Boston, Massachusetts Lockdown, April 2013
Instituted immediately after the dreadful Boston Marathon bombing, Bostonians were put into an enforced lockdown that saw the entire city stop dead in its tracks while police hunted down the two terrorists who perpetrated the bombing.
Nearly every business was shuttered, citizens were ordered to remain inside and not come out, and public transportation was halted with the one notable exception of the airport.
After chases, some rolling shootouts and several close calls, the massive police deployment eventually closed in on the last remaining terrorist culminating in house-to-house searches in the Watertown neighborhood of Boston.
This lockdown saw both police and citizens riled up and left on edge as armored vehicles took to the streets in support of police operations and SWAT teams cleared house after house searching for a suspect they were sure was hiding nearby.
Some citizens were even detained in a case of mistaken identity before everything was all over.
Effects of a Lockdown
For introverts, misanthropes and work-from-home types, a lockdown is probably no big deal, but for the rest of us, including preppers, lockdowns can range from major aggravation to legitimate emergency situation in their own right.
This goes double if you are not prepared for an unknown duration stay trapped up indoors with little in the way of supplies.
In general, the longer a lockdown goes on, the larger and larger impact it will have on society, and the greater the chance that the situation will become untenable.
Let’s face it, some people just cannot stand to be in a room with themselves, or trapped inside their own head with nothing to do and no internet access. Cabin fever can indeed turn deadly, with rising tempers giving way to irrational behavior.
You can help minimize your need to go out as well as increase morale by making sure you are well supplied with all the food, household goods and other provisions you will need for a lockdown that may last weeks or months.
And you won’t just be dealing with just personal problems during a lockdown, either. No lockdown, unless it lasts for a day, maybe two, will ever do anything less than significant damage to a local economy.
Any lockdown that shuts down businesses, services and all the other gears of commerce will cost citizens and cities millions of dollars in waste and lost revenue.
The total or near total loss of income will see many people full dreadfully behind on their bills and even lose their homes.
An increase in crime is another companion to long-term lockdowns, with both crimes of passion and of opportunity rising while a lockdown is in effect and lasting a while after a lockdown ends.
Police, already being burdened with enforcing a lockdown or pursuing the duties that saw the lockdown get started in the first place, will often ignore calls regarding crimes of lesser nature, such as robbery and shoplifting.
Shoplifting often goes hand-in-hand with the stampede on stores that invariably follow the announcement or rumor of a lockdown.
Ultimately, lockdowns that run on too long, especially those featuring curfews if they are otherwise permissive, will usually result in significant civil unrest that culminates in clashes with police or military that are operating under the lockdown’s umbrella.
Perhaps the biggest problem with lockdowns is their suddenness: with the rare exception of growing civil unrest being a sure prologue to a lockdown, you will have no way of knowing when a lockdown is coming, how stringent its requirements will be, or how long it will last.
That means it is in your best interest to get prepared for a lockdown of extraordinary lengths as a prepper if you want to make it through.
Preparing for a Lockdown
For most lockdowns, most of the time, the single biggest thing you can do to get ready for them is to just be materially prepared with everything that you need:
- Basic home goods (cleaners, disinfectants, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.
- Ready supply of cash
- Weapons for defense (just in case)
- Alternate comms methods (radio, satellite phone, etc.)
- Entertainment items (books, board games, etc.)
The good news is that if you have been a prepper for any length of time, chances are you have all of this stuff in abundance already.
Most lockdowns don’t last for months, and the average one that lasts any length of time will only be a couple of weeks, perhaps a month, in the case of an epidemic or pandemic.
With just a little luck, you’ll have everything you need, and will be able to enjoy yourself more or less while you wait for the lockdown to be lifted. No need to go crazy or buck the system.
But if you are unfortunate in that you did not stock up in time on supplies, you are going to need to grab the essentials as fast as you can when the lockdown notice arrives since everyone else in the county will be doing the same.
If you are already nearby, you can probably hit up your typical grocery store or big-box store to get what you need while it lasts.
If you are far from these typical stores try instead to hit gas stations, out-of-the-way or smaller chain grocery stores and backroads general stores since they are less likely to be targeted by teaming throngs of panicked shoppers.
The next thing to consider is what kind of travel restrictions the lockdown might place you under. A relatively permissive one will allow you to leave the house without difficulty if you need groceries or medical attention.
A very strict lockdown will have a no-movement order attached, meaning you had better not be caught out of doors unless it’s a real emergency.
Governments know this type of lockdown is untenable and will expect agitation, so you’ll generally only be dealing with those in cases of extraordinary threat or when your government actually turns on you.
A situation like the latter is where you’ll have some serious decisions to make as a prepper. What can you live with? What can you put up with? What can’t you live with? What can’t you put up with?
If you have to make a supply run are you willing to risk being arrested and imprisoned, or even potentially shot? If you determine that the lockdown is part of the problem, not the solution, do you have an escape plan and are you willing to risk escape or would you rather wait it out?
If you have been paying attention the whole time, that intelligence will pay off. Knowing who you are up against in that case, meaning who is doing the enforcing during a lockdown, will inform your plans.
Going Mobile under Lockdown
If you decide to be on the move during a lockdown and set out when you should be at home you need to keep a few ground rules in mind. The first and probably the most obvious is that you should take pains to avoid moving by foot or vehicle on any major roads and paths in your city.
It will never fail that these are the most heavily patrolled and watched, and you are almost certain to get into trouble. You should also try to move well before dawn or after dusk so long as you can still accomplish what you need to.
Before you set out, take a moment to analyze and plan your route, on the way to your destination and on the way back. You should have a minimum of two possible paths for both in case you run into a problem and need to detour.
Make use of any and all terrain that can help hide you from those who will hassle you if you are caught moving out of doors.
If you are in a city, this means you should move down secondary streets, through alleyways, underground and even through buildings if you are on foot.
If you are in a rural or suburban area, stick to the back roads, take long, looping paths to avoid major intersections and highways, and take advantage of any distractions you can.
This is another good time to remind you to account for the type of people enforcing the lockdown: local police, especially those in smaller cities and towns, are less likely to have any optical or sensory enhancements like night-vision to potentially catch naughty people like you moving around when they shouldn’t be.
You can definitely depend on standing military forces having such devices in abundance, which means that the darkness could be less than no protection for you and so you will have to plan accordingly.
The proliferation of drones at all levels of society also means that air surveillance and tracking are affordable and within the reach of everyone, including civilians.
Lockdowns can be enacted for all kinds of reasons in our era, and range from short, minor inconveniences to lengthy, scary impositions.
Ultimately, if you believe the lockdown is for an otherwise justifiable reason and the government has no plans of truly abusing or using punitive measures on the citizenry, you should take the time to get prepared and just wait things out in the interest of preventing a bad outcome for you and yours.
But if the opposite is true, if the government has given in to tyranny, you will have to make the call on when and if you try to escape the confines of the area that is under lockdown before doing so truly becomes impossible.