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Defending yourself after a natural disaster

Concealed Carry And Self-Defense After Natural Disaster

Natural disasters can bring out some of the best in humankind, but also some of the worst - which is why self-defense in the wake of natural disasters is certainly something a person should be aware of. After a natural disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane or tornado, there may be some measure of unrest and it may fall to you to ensure your own safety.

What should a person do?

First, you need to forget what you've seen in the movies. A level head, and a bit of planning and awareness are going to take you farther than a private arsenal will. Safety, as it's said, will be in numbers rather than anything else.

Where Will The Threats Of The Disaster Come From?

Obviously, the greatest threats from a natural disaster aren't actually the threat of violence; first is the event (flood, hurricane, etc.) itself followed by depletion of resources such as food and water. Then you have the loss of medical infrastructure - such as access to necessary medications - contamination and other environmental hazards.

However, there may be human threats as well.

Most obvious is the threat of rioting and looting.

Looting during the aftermath of a natural disaster

This can take several forms; the mass-looting of department stores and so on that get so very much news coverage does occur, but so does a scavenging form of looting where people comb through a ruined neighborhood looking for valuables to recover from presumably abandoned homes.

It isn't even limited to obvious things like jewelry, electronics and so on; part of the Katrina aftermath was a rash of copper thefts from houses and businesses.

The lack of police presence can be an inducement for some criminal activity, as can the appearance of opportunities for material gain through criminal activity.

Safety Is In Numbers

You need to forget what you've seen in the movies where a lone action hero gallantly staves off dozens of crazed bad people. Safety is going to be in numbers.

You'll need to have a good working relationship with your neighbors. If you live in a neighborhood affected by a disaster but cannot be evacuated, your first, best chance to stay safe is to work together with the people around you. Not only should this be for obvious benefits (food, water, shelter, etc.) but also to monitor for strange activity and the presence of possible malefactors.

You Loot We Shoot

Police presence may be interrupted, so defense of yourself may fall into your hands. Should it become necessary, it's also a good idea to form something like a community defense plan.

If you want to be able to keep yourself safe...you're going to need people around you. Other people are going to need you with them. As Kipling said, the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Concealed Carry Remains The Best Practice

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, people are under more strain than normal. Openly carrying can just as easily antagonize people, such as friends, neighbors and so on. By all means carry, but keep it concealed. While the theory that "open carry is a crime deterrent" makes sense on paper, the reality is that a handgun on your hip can just as easily make you a target.

Lawful authorities, if present, will not be amused.

Carrying Concealed

Again, carrying is definitely a good idea for your protection and for that of those around you, but it's also better to stick to concealed carry at all possible times. Encourage anyone else who is lawfully able to conceal to do so as well.

Looting And Property Insurance

As a pertinent aside, some might wonder if looting is covered by property insurance.

It actually is! Almost all homeowner and rental insurance policies include provisions for theft, which looting would be an example of. However, there are a few things to be aware of.

Theft policies require a claim to be filed within a specified time period.

Additionally, there are usually defined coverage limits on specific types of personal property, e.g. jewelry, so no claim will pay more than those limits. Check your policy for specifics.

Why is this relevant? A common convention is that you can't claim self-defense if you shoot someone in defense of mere property. While the fabric of society is easily disrupted by natural disaster, insurance companies will still be taking claims. While you need to defend yourself, your family and your neighbors, there is something to be said for that.

Disaster And Gun Confiscation

After Hurricane Katrina, a certain number of firearms were confiscated by police and National Guard personnel, many of which from otherwise law-abiding private citizens. The idea behind the gun confiscation was to preempt any acts of random violence, despite mostly ordinary citizens being the ones deprived of their firearms.

Guns were confiscated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Initially, the city government denied it had done so but eventually admitted to having maybe taken some guns from people when a lawsuit was lodged by the National Rifle Association. The state of Louisiana lost the suit and had to return the firearms to their rightful owners.

Various states (more than 20 in fact) passed laws preventing this kind of action, including the state of Louisiana.

This was followed by the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006, signed into law by then President George W. Bush as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007.

Now called the Vitter Amendement (initially a standalone law, it was attached to that appropriations bill at the proposal of Senator David Vitter), it prohibits confiscation of legally possessed firearms during a disaster However, the law does provide that a person who is being evacuated or rescued can be ordered to temporarily surrender their gun(s) as a condition of entry into a rescue vehicle.

In other words, FEMA can't take your gun (nor can anyone else) but CAN ask you to surrender your sidearm if you're catching a government bus out of the disaster area. You'll get it back later, though.

Vigilance Is Essential After A Natural Disaster

Necessities for survival

After the necessities - such as food, water, shelter and so on - what's important is stay vigilant after a natural disaster. Be sure to keep an eye out for suspicious people and activities. Keep an eye out for your neighbors and ask they do the same for you.

To keep yourself safe and alive, you will need to look out for yourself, any loved ones and anyone else in close proximity.

However, don't be entirely disheartened. One of the few bright spots is that acts of altruism are known to increase during and after natural disasters as well. Though some of mankind will use any excuse to live down to the worst of humanity's reputation, there are often many more people that will live up to the best.

Sam Hoober
 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.