Civil unrest can be one of the most difficult challenges you may face in international travel and may be one of the times when you may truly be a random victim of circumstance. One of the best ways to prepare for civil unrest is to know the location where you are traveling. Some places have a history of political unrest and civil disturbance and there may be patterns and trends that you can learn from. These may relate to particular times of year or trigger events that spark unrest or specific hotspots or focal points where crowds often gather and unrest is likely to occur.
Its important to note, however that this is not always the case and past history is not necessarily indicative of future events. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this was the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring was an eye-opener and in many ways a game changer for many security professionals, governments and businesses. Notions of clearly discernible trip wires or trigger points that would provide significant indication of a deterioration in the local environment were turned upside down.
Perhaps largely due to the use of social media and the rapid flow of information to a wide audience, events during the Arab Spring moved at a pace that was so quick it left many organizations and individuals struggling to catch up. Regional governments that were largely perceived as stable folded surprisingly quickly and governments that endured still face significant challenges that came to forefront during this period.
If you are in a location where civil unrest occurs, and in particular if it is widespread and unfolds rapidly you will normally have two options: evacuate or shelter-in-place. Which option to take will depend largely on the particular situation and circumstances. Many times if you are at a safe location it is best to stay there until conditions stabilize. Trying to get to the airport or cross a border while running a gauntlet of angry mobs or warring factions will likely further jeopardize your safety. Conversely if you are not in a safe location and are not able to get to a safe location or if you have sufficient lead time then evacuation might be the better option. This is especially true if the situation is likely to get progressively worse.