Rioting is as old as society itself. Peaceful protests can suddenly turn into vicious rioting and looting, resulting in damage to property and human life. While peaceful protests can be effective in initiating change, among protesters are hooligans looking to take advantage of civil unrest.
Crowds behave differently than do individuals
Personal responsibility is lacking in crowds, and violent perpetrators remain unidentifiable in the midst of a large group of people. Motives are unclear among angry wrongdoers, as they vent their frustrations without immediate repercussions.
When a looter breaks a window, the action sets off a chain of rioting and looting by opportunistic vandals. Self-serving members of the crowd join in the looting. Individual stores are rarely purposefully targeted; rather, the shops in the path of looters are often the ones vandalized.
In the current health crisis, where the coronavirus pandemic has forced many people indoors for months at a time, tensions are high. The resulting stress caused by government-issued lockdowns surrounding Covid-19 only intensifies the reactions of members of a crowd.
Preparing for Protesting from the City’s Level
Given the stress caused by coronavirus, combined with civil unrest, cities should be prepared to handle riots and vandalism. Quelling the violence that accompanies riots should start at the local level. Both police and citizens should take care to return peace and stability to their cities.
Police should undergo psychological testing so that only stable officers enforce the law and control crowds of protesters. Cities should provide emotional support to police to help avoid burnout. Refresher training also helps officers deal with the drop in morale, stress, and exhaustion.
Protesters should be reminded that peaceful protests are far more effective than ones that turn violent. When a protester starts to attack, the majority is responsible for identifying the individual, demanding the violence stop, and if it does not, turning him or her over to the police.
Despite the best efforts of city officials, rioting and vandalism do often occur, and business owners who feel helpless in the midst of the violence have recourse. However, businesses can be protected against looting and the resulting damage to their property. The key is to be prepared for riots and vandalism.
How Businesses Can Prepare for Riots and Vandalism
Check for Vulnerabilities
Business owners are advised to examine their property for gaps in security. Security breaches can occur in the parking lots, surrounding businesses, streets, and alleys. Once high-risk areas are identified, security measures, like hiring a security guard or service, should be put into place.
Hire Security Guards
Hiring security guards may be done on a temporary basis. When protests are expected, it is a good time to hire additional security to protect the premises from looters. If security personnel are already in place, consider adding more shifts or professionals to ensure around-the-clock protection.
Professional security guards have the training necessary to deescalate hostile situations most common among rioters. Experienced security guards are trained to handle emergency situations, including looters and rioters, with composure, thereby reducing the immediate threats and dangers to area businesses.
Business owners who attempt to physically protect a business on their own face serious dangers. Violent situations caused by looters can easily intensify, bringing more damage to the business. Plus, if an individual is hurt during confrontations, legal battles can ensue.
Install Security Devices
Installing security devices can deter would-be looters from destroying a business. Make sure the security cameras and video cameras are fully operational at all times. If necessary, consider installing additional security lighting, which can help identify vandals in the act of looting.
Looters will be less likely to break store windows if they know anything of value has been removed from the premises. Safeguard cash and merchandise by transferring them offsite. Post signs indicating all valuables have been removed, so that potential vandals will be less inclined to loot the business.
Secure the Premises
Looters break storefront windows to access the merchandise inside. Protect the physical components of the business by putting up plywood, or locking down and securing the exterior. Storefront security gates are readily available and provide a strong visual and physical barrier to protect against looters.
Security gates feature steel, vertical bars and scissor gates to provide maximum coverage. These physical barriers stand up to harsh weather, so the gates can be used during all four seasons. Rioting is rarely an anticipated event, so being prepared all year round is necessary.
Involve the Police and Local Government
Start and continue discussions with local law enforcement officials in preparation for the unrest caused by rioters and looters. Ensure the police will respond immediately when protesters or potential vandals block traffic, sidewalks around the store or the building’s entryways.
In addition to involving the local police, consult city officials, including fire, FEMA, and other government officials. Rioting can take place in cities nationwide, making emergency management by FEMA critical. FEMA works with all levels of governments to meet the needs of catastrophic incidents.
Local community organizations and officials are invaluable sources of information. They are available to educate business owners, advise them of protocols set up to respond to emergencies and unrest, help business owners protect their business, and guide them toward rebuilding after a calamity.
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