The concept of martial law is a terrifying one for most of us. The notion that law and order might be placed in the hands of the military, no matter how high our opinion of them, is usually enough to make most freedom loving people very apprehensive, and with good reason.
Though it is a rarity in America and much of the West in particular there is a precedent for it, and history furnishes us plenty of examples of just how badly things can go when martial law is in effect.
As preppers, this further complicates what is likely to already be a challenging and chaotic situation. Where will you go? How will you get there? What threats, risks and challenges will you face for the duration?
How will your plans change knowing that your civil rights have been suspended for the duration of martial law, and that any bad outcome when interacting with uniform soldiers could see you detained indefinitely with no hope of retrieval?
Surviving and even thriving in spite of martial law is possible but it is definitely going to increase the complexity of your survival plan.
More than most other situations, you can make things geometrically worse by staying or heading to the wrong place when widespread martial law has become the norm. And this follow-up article to our previous one on martial law we will provide you with a list of five places you should definitely avoid for the duration.
Whose Interests Does the Government Have at Heart?
To understand what is at stake under martial law it is important to first understand why it is declared and implemented, and to what purpose.
As mentioned above, martial law is simply the military taking control of civilian governance and law enforcement in a given region. This could be a place as small as a city or county, or it might be as large as a state, an entire region or even the whole country.
As to the why, that part is also comparatively simple: The government will institute martial law when normal systems of governance are inadequate or seen as ineffective for gaining control over unruly populace or restoring order and the aftermath of some calamitous event.
For instance, martial law might be enacted in the aftermath of a massive natural or man-made disaster, military action against our country, or just a prolonged period of civil unrest or rioting that is not politically endorsed and expedient to the government’s own ends.
You can also count on martial law being implemented instantly anytime there is a legitimate attempt to remove ranking officials in the federal government from power.
The bottom line is that the government is attempting to exert control, influence and order. Chances are very good that it is the citizenry (writ large) that is considered part of the problem, even if they’re status as part of the problem is discretionary or unknown.
No matter what you think of the members of our military, no matter how much of a patriot you are, or how supportive you are, interactions with uniform soldiers under martial law will only ever increase the chances that you will have a negative outcome.
What is a negative outcome? It could be detention. It could be incarceration, and incarceration with no benefit of representation or even a scheduled date to plead your case before a judge. Yeah, losing those constitutional rights under martial law sucks, huh?
You might be stripped of your possessions, forced out of your home, or forced to surrender property for the purposes of the military or just for security. You could even be shot, on purpose or accidentally. That’s just the way it is.
Want to avoid this unhappy outcome? You need to avoid troops and all members of the military for the duration. That means you need to go someplace smart and avoid areas where they will be found in great numbers and also carrying out their orders with enthusiasm.
Assessing Your Next Move
Before you take off for the wild blue yonder when martial law is declared, you need to assess where you are going and whether or not it will be worse, about the same or significantly better than where you are. It would not do to leap out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Before we get into the list of places you definitely shouldn’t go, let us consider the criteria that would disqualify a location or area from consideration except under the most extreme circumstances or need.
If our objective is simply to avoid interaction with the military, or keep interactions to an absolute minimum, it stands to reason we can simply go where they are not or where their presence is sparse.
It will also help if the troops in a particular area are not particularly worried about doing their jobs well, worried about their safety or any other factors that might keep them on edge.
The more stressed out they are or the higher the stakes of failure the more likely it is that they will act concerning troublesome individuals first and then ask questions later.
This primary consideration informs our list of places you definitely want to avoid when martial law is in effect.
Any place where members of the military are likely to be under threat, actively having to corral unruly citizens, protect infrastructure of political or strategic importance or control movement in or out is a place where you can expect a very high or even certain likelihood of attention.
As mentioned above, attention turns into interactions and after enough interactions you’ll probably have a bad outcome.
5 Places You Shouldn’t Go During Martial Law
#1. Areas with Military Base / Camp / Staging Area
You had better believe that the military is going to be at a much higher state of overall alert and readiness during any declaration of martial law then they will be normally, especially when it concerns the movements and activities of civilians.
Believe it or not, they are probably keenly aware that their mission will be, in fact, extremely unpopular with certain sectors and that people might want to do something about it.
Considering the overall size, lack of density and general freedom of movement afforded to civilians in America troops are going to be paying far more attention to who is coming, going or loitering near military bases under martial law in case they are planning something nefarious.
If you don’t want to skyline yourself and get shaken down you need to stay far away from these places at all costs.
The same can be said for any military camp or staging area set up in support of Martial law operations for the duration.
You must also keep in mind that modern sensors, facial recognition technology, information tracking and digital “fingerprinting” are extremely effective, and pervasive, and that means you could be detected and flagged by one of any number of mechanisms well before you are in sight of anyone manning a gate or a checkpoint.
If that’s the case you won’t have to look for them because they’ll probably come and find you…
#2. Conflict Areas
If martial law has not been declared as a direct result of a major catastrophe or some outside threat, it has likely been declared due to mass civil unrest that is about to boil over.
Most of us have seen what large-scale, long term rioting and other destructive activities entail, and once there are no longer politically expedient for controlling factions or that activity threatens their interests you can bet your bottom dollar they will deploy the military to squash it.
You can call it “restoring order”, pacification, “peacekeeping operations” or any other such politically correct terms but the bottom line is they will be in there cracking heads, enforcing curfews and detaining anybody who gets out of line or is even suspected of getting out of line.
These are places you want to avoid for obvious reasons.
It is not out of the question that you could be detained, beaten, or even shot over a case of simple mistaken identity or even being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you are a suspected associate of a person of interest or a known agitator you’ll be scooped up right alongside them.
Remember what I said above about digital fingerprinting? You might already be flagged as a person of interest or agitator yourself! Troops will be all too happy to roll you up if that is the case.
You’ll be wise to avoid conflict zones whether or not they have degenerated into an outright warzone because the military will definitely have the gloves off in these places. That means your chance of a negative outcome upon interaction is correspondingly very high.
#3. Industrial Centers, Power Plants and Transportation Hubs
No matter the situation, no matter who started it, and no matter what the “prognosis” is, there are some areas that are universally important on the regional and national level at all times.
Places like industrial manufacturing complexes, power generation and distribution centers, and any transportation hub of any form is likely to attract a dedicated military detail to ensure that it remains open, safe and policed of troublemakers or those who would upset the new status quo.
The first two, industrial centers and power infrastructure facilities, will be strictly cordoned off and only essential personnel or those guarding it will be allowed to come and go.
Understand this protective detail is in all likelihood going to be far more than simple “close protection” at the perimeter of the site.
You could be stopped, searched or even detained just for traveling down the highway that runs adjacent to the road that leads to the service road that actually takes you to one of these facilities!
Transportation hubs, be they rail, sea or road are a little bit different, as it is possible (even if it is not probable) that you will still be allowed a certain amount of access to these places assuming there is not a full travel stop order in place.
But one thing you will be able to depend on is that identities will be verified, goods will be inspected and many, many questions will be asked of people traveling via or along these installations.
#4. Seats of Political Power
The very first thing politicians will do the moment martial law is declared is parcel off some troops to protect themselves, their seats of power and any other places or installations that are important to the running and continuation of the government.
This is of course eminently logical, as every government wants only to consolidate its own power and ensure its own continued existence.
For us, this means we have to avoid state capitals, Washington DC, and any other place where significant members of the government can be found residing or doing their jobs. Here more than any other you can count on members of the military being extremely diligent and carrying out their mission.
Your identity will be vetted thoroughly and searches will not stop until they reach the back of your teeth. Expect any transgression to be met with summary detention, duration indefinite.
You might have to deal with more of these locations then you would first think, however, because there are a variety of installations around the United States that exist only to serve as fallback points for government operations or shelters in case of extreme danger.
You may not be aware of the existence of these installations but it is fairly likely they will be guarded nonetheless, even if members of the government don’t anticipate needing them. Beware!
#5. Transitional Areas
Transitional areas are one where any clearly defined space starts to shift, change or merge into another one.
This could be something as simple as the bad part of town slowly transitioning into the commercial or good part of town.
It could be the suburban sprawl surrounding a dense city center, or a residential area surrounding a capital (or a capitol building!) or some other seat of political or military power.
These areas are likely to be guarded, checkpointed and otherwise watched closely because they serve as natural points of demarcation, a way to contain, monitor and filter people based on where they are supposed to work or otherwise reside.
This is standard procedure for any force that is attempting to control the movement of people or otherwise force them through checkpoints to make them easier to track after verifying their identities, where they are going and what they are carrying.
If your survival plan entails you having to move through or back and forth across these spaces, you might want to recalibrate and go somewhere else.
Any declaration of martial law is going to be cause for intense concern, but if you are a prepper it is more significant because it is only going to complicate an already complicated endeavor.
Under the circumstances, you can’t necessarily cheer for the “home team” because they have a job to do and that job involves keeping civilians, like you and me, accounted for, under control and, if called for, dealt with.
Things would be a lot better for you and yours if you minimized or eliminated the possibility of interactions with uniformed troops, and the best way to do that is by avoiding places where their presence is significant.
Make sure you take pains to avoid these likely places of military concentration should martial law ever be declared, and find safe haven in one of these other places.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.