You’re facing some type of SHTF situation and civil order is falling apart. The military is about to step in. Now you’re wondering, where are the safest places during martial law?
Before we get there, let’s go over a few of the martial law basics.
Who Declares Martial Law?
In the United States, martial law can be declared by the President of the United States, Congress, or a State governor. (Note: some people argue the President lacks the authority to declare martial law.)
While the U.S. Constitution doesn’t address martial law directly (courts have addressed it), nearly every state in the nation has a constitutional provision that speaks to the imposition of martial law. The President and Congress can declare martial law for the country as a whole. Governors can declare it for their state.
When is Martial Law Declared?
Martial law is declared when the government determines military forces are needed to maintain civil order during periods of war, insurrection, or natural disasters.
It has been declared at least 68 times in the United States (source). Nine of those instances have been since World War II and six of those had to do with desegregation in the South.
What are the Rules of Martial Law?
There are a lot of gray areas when it comes to what can be done during periods of martial law, but there are some rules:
- The military commander has nearly unlimited authority to make and enforce laws.
- Martial law suspends all existing laws and the ordinary administration of justice.
- Civilians may not be subject to military tribunals if civilian courts are functioning.
- Military personnel operating under martial law must act in accordance with local law.
- Citizens who have been improperly wronged by military power have the right to seek remedies.
Top 7 Safest Places During Martial Law
If civil order is falling apart, we have been attacked by enemy forces, or some other crisis is brewing, martial law may be imposed to maintain law and order. Where should you be when that happens?
The safest place is going to depend first and foremost on the crisis at hand. If an earthquake strikes and the military is stepping in to control looting and deliver clean water, martial might be a good thing.
There are times, however, when martial law may not be such a great thing.
Consider, for example, what the United States did to Japanese-Americans following Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War and military commanders to place Japanese-Americans (most of whom were American citizens) in internment camps.
Do you think Japanese-Americans thought the military was there to help?
One of the most stunning ironies in this episode of American civil liberties was articulated by an internee who, when told that the Japanese were put in those camps for their own protection, countered “If we were put there for our protection, why were the guns at the guard towers pointed inward, instead of outward?”https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/japanese-relocation#background
The best place to be during martial law is going depend on the crisis, where you live, and your personal situation. There is not going to be any one best spot for all instances of martial law. The safest place in one situation may be the most dangerous in another.
I present these places in no particular order…
1 – The Military Itself
It might sound counterintuitive, but the military itself might be the safest place to be during martial law. You are the top priority for receiving supplies, gear, and equipment. You have the backing of the military. You’re on the side making the rules.
Alternatively, if the United States is under attack by an enemy state, being in the military means being a target.
2 – Right Where You Are
Don’t assume the best place to be under martial law is somewhere other than right where you are. If the military is showing up on your street to restore order, maybe you want to stay put. A military presence would mean steps are being taken to get the situation under control.
Bugging out could lead to its own set of challenges. Maybe there’s more disorder where you’re planning to go than where you are.
Make sure you have plenty of water stored, a healthy supply of long-term food storage, and the ability to communicate with the outside world. Stay inside. Stay safe.
2 – Away from People
If you look at history during periods of unrest, it’s not always troops to worry about during martial law. It’s often one’s neighbors.
For example, read The Bielski Brothers, a story about a group of Jewish brothers who started a town of Jews in the middle of the woods during the Holocaust. While Nazis were most certainly a problem for The Bielski community, it was often the locals – their neighbors – who ended up notifying authorities about Jews in the area.
We see the same story unfold in the Hans and Sophie Scholl story A Noble Treason. The development of “the German look”, the act of looking over one’s shoulder to ensure snitches weren’t listening, was necessary to avoid the punishment of a military tribunal for “crimes” against the state.
Examine the Rwandan Genocide of the early 1990s. If you look at the book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, you’ll find it didn’t matter how long somebody had been the neighbor of somebody else – most would turn against their neighbor.
You don’t need to be suspicious of everyone, of course. In some cases, being near people may be best. You could be closer to family and friends who can watch your back. You could be near people working as a community to rebuild.
4 – As Far from Cities as Possible
Going rural is something most people grasp intuitively. Consider the mass exodus from Paris before the 2020 lockdown. Cities are incredibly population-dense areas that are going to be hotspots of military activity during a crisis. It’s simply an economical use of resources and personnel to focus on urban areas during a period of martial law.
If a general can use 5000 men to control 500,000 people in a city versus 40,000 in a large county, where do you think he’s going?
If you live in a city now and uprooting yourself for a permanent move isn’t possible, at least know how to bug out from a city and know where you’re going to find refuge in advance.
I also recommend Combined Arms Operations in Urban Terrain for anyone that lives in a city. The book will give you an idea of what to expect as the military steps in to restore law and order.
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Army, Department of the (Author)
Another book I recommend is Civil Disturbances. This book “provides discussion and techniques about civil disturbances and crowd control operations that occur in the continental United States.”
- Army, Department of the (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
Know that if you plan to suddenly show up in some rural area during martial law where no one knows you, the locals will wonder what you’re all about. You may very well end up with more eyes on you than if you stayed in the city in the first place.
5 – In the Mountains
Bugging out to the mountains isn’t going to work for everyone. In fact, it’s going to work for very few. But if you live in the mountains already, or you’re looking for a safe place to hunker down, it’s hard to beat the hills.
For the same reasons it’s generally safer in rural communities during martial law than in urban communities, mountainous locations lend themselves to being safer.
There’s a reason that Bin Laden escaped to the mountains of Tora Bora, Afghanistan. They’re hard to navigate and difficult to cross. Mountains are logistical nightmares. You have much more space to disappear in the hills.
On the other side of the coin, how are you going to get supplies when you’re isolated in the mountains? Food runs out fast. It’s colder in the hills. Mountain survival isn’t easy.
If you have some bushcraft experience you’ll do better, but if you have bushcraft experience, you already know how hard it’d be.
6 – The American Redoubt
James Wesley Rawles of Survival Blog is famous for building up the case for Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho being the perfect locations to retreat within the continental US. Rawles is well-respected in the prepper community, so his suggestion is worth noting here.
Rawles points to decreased population density, fewer cities, independent-minded folk, good cropland, and heavy mountains as being the main reasons these are great states to reside in for any disaster. Idaho in particular has long been known to attract preppers.
Note, however, that this region – Montana in particular – has a large number of missile silos. If we were facing a nuclear exchange, this area could be a target. If you’re living in this region, consider using our free designs to a build low-cost fallout shelter.
7 – In Hunting Cabins, Tiny Homes, Bunkers, and Other Hidden Retreats
Houses are publicly listed addresses with all your personal information attached. The only way around this is to follow the advice listed in Bazzell’s Extreme Privacy.
- Bazzell, Michael (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
However, some people have small hunting cabins, tiny homes, bunkers, or other forms of hidden permanent shelters that nobody else knows about in secluded land away from the rest of society.
If there’s one more thing we see throughout history it’s that human rights essentially go out the window during a period of martial law. Confiscation of supplies from “hoarders,” forced labor, intimidation, rape, and other atrocities increase exponentially.
You can get away from it all by getting away from people, but you need shelter. A remote cabin can serve that role.
Additional Tips to Stay Safe During Martial Law
There’s more to staying safe during a period of martial law than just finding a safe place to relocate to. A safe place without the right supplies or know-how could be worse than getting stuck in the wrong place with plenty of supplies and skills.
Be Prepared in Advance
This is going to be obvious to preppers, but if you’re new here – get prepped today so you’re ready for tomorrow!
Stock up on food and water first and foremost. Know how much ammo you might need and how to store it. Stock up on precious metals like silver and know where to hide it in your house.
Be Ready to Bug Out
Even if the safest place during martial law is right where you are, things could change in a second. If you decide to bug in, be ready to bug out just the same.
You never want to box yourself in. Have options. Be able to stay mobile. Have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup plan to your backup plan.
You likely already know the gray man concept of blending in, seeming like everyone else, a nobody. That applies here.
Don’t brag about your preps. Don’t show off your stockpile during a crisis. If your town has run out of fuel, be very careful about driving around or running a generator. That would attract attention.
Don’t make yourself a target. No matter how prepared and well-off you are, appear on the outside to be in the same boat as everyone else.
Unless you’re facing forces that are putting you and your family’s welfare at risk, or if there’s a war at hand where you have to take a stand, stay neutral.
Siding with one side inevitably means making enemies with the other side. Avoid making enemies.
The main takeaway here is that martial law is not a safe time. If things were stable, there wouldn’t be martial law in the first place. The safest location is one that won’t place you in constant contact with troops, neighbors, and others.
No matter where you go, you’re going to be at an increased level of danger during such a time. However, if you’re looking for as safe a location as possible, I believe these are the locations that will keep you safer than many other spots.
Don’t delay personal preparedness!
Resupplying your retreat, whether a remote cabin or your suburban home, needs to be taken into consideration for such an event. It does no good to have a fantastic underground bunker in the Adirondacks if there’s only a week’s worth of water inside and you’re 100 miles from civilization.
If you’re looking to read more into this subject, try Joel Skousen’s Strategic Relocation.
- English (Publication Language)
- 348 Pages - Self (Publisher)
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my suggestions? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below!
I had personal experience with martial law when I was 14. In 1967, Detroit had a very nasty and deadly riot and the Michigan National Guard and civilian police were struggling to keep a lid on things. The governor of Michigan asked President Johnson to deploy federal troops. He declared the Insurrection Act in force and two battalions of infantry were deployed from the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. They primarily guarded government facilities (federal, state, and local) and controlled major street intersections relieving the Guard and police to do actual law enforcement duties. I found the Army troops to be very polite and civil, but no one screwed with them either. Many were Vietnam vets. To the best of my knowledge they let the police do the arresting when necessary and just stood by as backup. I actually enjoyed interacting with the soldiers as I was with a group distributing food and drinks to them, the Guard, and police. Now, the Guard and police, I stayed away from except when bearing food as gifts.
Thanks for that historical perspective. I think many associate martial law with an overreach of authority, but that’s not always the case.
I live in the Free-State of Florida. We have something similar to mountains…..The Swamp. Years ago my Dad built a small shack far into our local swamp. Very few know it even exists. It’s not much maybe 30×30. I recently updated it with solar power and some “Security” measures. The fishing is good, there is always plenty of wild hogs around and gator is tasty. The ground is surprisingly fertile and I’ve planted veggies out there to see if it grow and it worked very well.
Sounds perfect. Let me know if you ever want to help turn it into a blog post. We could post pictures of it and describe what was done without giving away its location.
everyone thinks they will bug out to somewhere but the advise here to stay in place is much better. For anyone that read one second after they could have taken that straight from where I live. Small mountain town of about 4k. Next biggest town about 18k 20 miles away. next one a couple of 100k about 50 miles away. They had everything about right. Outsiders are NOT going to be welcome if they come. Unfortunately that’s going to probably include people that have vacation homes in the area. Just because you own property doesn’t make you a local. Not trying to be rude to anyone just explaining the facts
Outsiders are definitely not going to be welcome, particularly if there are limited resources. Just look at what happened during the initial Covid lockdown. People with out of state plates here in Maine were getting yelled at.
replying to poorman. its funny, but locals in the town I have property couldn’t wait to take our money. they will sell their mothers to make a dime. and living in Florida, and being a many generation “local”, its a good thing we are the welcoming type. all we ask is that you dont bring your northern ideas down here and try to make this the same as what you fled from. I dont consider myself an “outsider”. and I am fully self sufficient. I dont need anything from anyone in my second home. I would not come empty handed in a crisis and I might even share what I have if asked nicely. we have a deluge of northerners who are fleeing the lockdowns, snow , etc. if we were like some, we could make their time here a living hell. they clog our roads while we are trying to get to work, as everyone has to hit the golf course or beach at 8am, the banks at noon, and the restaurants at precisely 4:30pm. it is the price we pay for living here. and I dont want to hear how they help me and the economy. I dont own a business. they dont help me one bit. we did just fine before the 80’s hit. didn’t have many here. now we are approaching the 500,000 mark. cattle and tomatoes are a thing of the past. new developments, condos, golf courses are the new norm. forget buying land,. it is gold here now. some is available about 40 miles out of town, but there are no stores, hospitals, etc out there. rents for apts are close to 3,000 per mo. for a tiny little place, 700 sq ft. so yes, I know the devastation newbies bring. but we still are polite to them anyway.
Poorman, I agree that staying in place is generally a better idea. I am a big city boy (Detroit, as I mentioned above) and I was a police officer in a city next door to Detroit. I feel reasonably comfortable in a city. I do live in the Orlando area now. I am prepped to operate in a urban environment. Thanks to military service, I could get by in a rural area too, but that is not my preference.
with the current political situation – there could very little difference between a declared martial law and open civil war warfare ….
hate to disagree with you but a non-rural location is sometimes the only safe place – especially when there’s a “cleansing” aspect to the civil war or social disruption – during the Croatian Conflict entire small towns were marched to nearest ditch and “cleansed” – also the location allowed for heavy weapons fire and armor support with any restrictions ….
with the current US situation – both coasts are allied with Biden’s DC and their “enemy” sandwiched in between minus the various friendly city & urban areas >>> 3/4 of the US could be a free fire zone open to everything from ground search & destroy to weapons of mass destruction …..
Don’t worry about disagreeing with me, Illini. It’s an open discussion, for sure. What I tried to convey is that the safest place to be really depends on what the situation is. These were just general guidelines. Every situation is different, and yes, there are certainly times when being in an urban area could serve one best.
Cannot believe that you mentioned, and endorsed the American Redoubt. Talk about a self-serving and self promoting individual.
James, how is this self-serving and self-promotional? I don’t even live in the American Redoubt. I stand nothing to gain by mentioning it.
Brutality is not something most civilians are equipped to deal with. It’s not something even warriors want to get use too but it’s a hard truth. I’m figuring 10 days with no food most will be walking dead. So 10 days to collapse, 10 days without. Off the beaten path not likely to have to deal with hordes of 2 legged locusts or bandito’s. I like mine and about 80 million similar minded folks chances.
I think the safest place to be is in an isolated area. no one knows you are there. as mentioned, you can hunt and fish for food. it will be a little harder for me as I am disabled and rely on drugs to get out of bed. but I would try. to wean myself off them. I love the woods, and would be happy by a nice stream and some flat ground to grow vegetables on. what to do with my furry loved ones? I stock at least a month ahead on their food now, and have since the pandemic hit. I feel like I am prepared for anything now. friends have talked about buying some acreage and making a commune… sounds better every day. I do have some land bought already. they can keep my house. I am proud to say I live in FreeFlorida also. my governor is the best. I agree with 101st screaming eagle.
The ‘Gray Man’ concept cannot be overemphasized in all this. During martial law, you do ‘not’ want to stand out and be ‘remembered’, especially by the military authorities. Martial Law is nothing anyone should hope for or want. Martial Law is different from ‘humanitarian relief’, where they distribute food, water, blankets, etc., although, sometimes, you will find them, at least partially working together.
America has turned into a bunch of sissy wimps. Even listening to a snowflake liberal idea means you are one of them. Rules need to be followed, especially by snowflakes. I think most people think the same. The media keeps printing garbage to keep everyone afraid to not obey them. This is another one to promote fear and sell survival books. People who have no anchor, no constitution, no values, no God, make me sick. Have fun killing each other in the streets. You won’t be missed.
Nothing wrong with listening to liberal snowflake ideas. It doesn’t make you one of them. Quite the opposite. It makes you well informed of the goofy stuff they are thinking. Know thine enemy.
you are so right. funny how the ones who think America can’t stand up for itself are truly disillusioned. there are plenty out here who dont beat their chests and act like Rambo. the quiet ones are the ones you need to fear. they act, not broadcast their true nature. I dont look for trouble, but I am always aware of my surroundings. self preservation is a wonderful thing. I firmly believe you shouldn’t judge or lump folks together that you dont know. someday they may save your butt in a clinch.
You say in point #1 that the military may be the safest place to be, but I have known veterans who were used as lab rats for biological and/or psychiatric experimentation. I knew one peace keeper who was given 7 vaccines in one day, and had to be sent home to recover/build up body mass. The one who had had psychiatric experimentation (to turn him into a killing machine) is still crippled by personality disorders and accompanying health complications.
The point referred to being in a martial law situation. Not everything you do in the military is safe and you should never expect it to be. BTDT. Admittedly, the military has done pretty crappy things to the troops in the name of “science.”
Know your neighbors!! Enough said!
I would like to add my version of mr. turners comment. know OF your neighbors. my motto is never get too close. like many countries today, people are encouraged to “rat” on their neighbors. the less they know, the less of a threat they can become. even the best will fold for enticements.